Saturday, December 02, 2006

Odds and Ends...

On this eve of the first Sunday of Advent, I thought I'd pull together some thoughts about how our school year is going so far.

A bit about Advent, first. I owe such a debt of gratitude to all the wonderful families of the 4 Real Learning blogs. I have learned SO MUCH! Gotten so many ideas my head is spinning, and I've fought the urge to get completely overwhelmed. I'm trying my best to take the ideas that I think will work for us this year, file the rest away for the future, and realize that the goal of all of this is to bring my children closer to Our Lord. Stressing out, giving into a virtual homeschool "keeping up with the Joneses" inclination - this simply would not do, and would be far, far from what these wonderful ladies intended when they share their thoughts with the rest of us. So I am vowing today to relax, enjoy the anticipation of Advent, give myself over to prayer and the penitential aspects of the season - all while doing my best to bring the season alive for my children. I will post later on what we're doing (or depending on time, what we have done, lol!) It is a point of pride in our family that we make no Christmas preparations - no decorating, no blogging, nothing at all, until Advent starts officially! Then, and only then, does our Christmas season begin! :-)

Let me recap some of our school year so far, since I'm fairly behind in the "record keeping" aspect of this blog.

J1 is having a good year. He will finish Saxon 5/4 by Christmas, the way we had hoped, and I need to order Saxon 6/5 for when we start back to school after the Epiphany. Saxon seems to be a really good fit for J1 at this point in time. We don't do every single problem, I let him do odds one day, evens the next, in the "mixed practice" section, as long as he shows improvement and mastery of the concepts. Occasionally, we fight carelessness, and we have had several talks about how important neatness, attention to detail, and diligence is as you get into higher level maths. J1 has actually made great strides in the last few weeks, I'm very proud of him! We've also just about finished our unit on the Human Body, and it has gone well. We haven't done as many experiments as I had hoped, but J1 has still learned a ton, so I'm satisfied with our progress. We will start a unit on nutrition after the Christmas season, followed by a unit on survival skills in the spring. We're all really excited about that one! History is going well, though not quite as exciting as I'd hoped. We're studying the Civil War, and as we live in the South, we're surrounded by this history. I thought we'd do more field trips, but it just hasn't happened. I am glad that we will be going through two more cycles of American History so we can catch more of the local history!

I've decided to drop spelling this year. J1 has aced every single spelling test we've taken so far, and at this point I don't feel it's something we need to focus on. I'm trying to stop any unneccessary "busy work", and right now, this year, spelling falls into that category. We'll include spelling in some of the other work we're doing. Grammar is not going well at all. The work-book approach of CHC's materials just isn't sinking in with J1. We're working on finding mistakes in sentences, in capitalization, commas, quotations, and ending punctuation. It's just not going well. I suspect it's the "attention to detail" issues that I believe are common in young boys. So, after the Christmas season, we'll do something different to study grammar. I'm thinking more copywork and dictation. We'll see - I'll keep you posted on what I decide!

We've also done some great work on our "life skills". Most recently, J1 learned to make oatmeal. It's great, because now most mornings he can make a nutritious breakfast for all of us, and I have one less thing to do in the mornings - always good for this confirmed night owl! :-) So far J1 knows how to make oatmeal, toast, and sandwhiches of all kind. Next on the list is mac and cheese and scrambled eggs. We've worked on bathroom cleaning techniques with all 4 boys, and all 4 boys are getting really good at unloading the dishwasher. Finally, J1 and I did a really fun exercise where we took the grocery store inserts from the Sunday paper, and J1 was tasked with creating a 3 day menu plan and showing how much everything would cost. It was challenging for him, but a great real-life math demonstration!

Finally, we're not happy with our Latin program. I had heard such great things about "Latina Christiana", and we liked Prima Latina just fine last year. But we are just *not* getting Latina Christiana. J1 needs more details, more quickly. LC moves very slowly, and yet at times throws in a concept or vocabulary that isn't covered for several more chapters - how are we supposed to know it if it hasn't been covered yet? It's maddening, really, and we've both had enough. Our Latin study is important to all of us, so I want to do it right. I'm looking at other programs to switch to. Most likely at this point is "New Missal Latin" from Kolbe Academy. Since we're attending a Latin Mass Parish (one that's faithful to Rome!!), this might be a good fit for us. Anyone have any experience with this book? I also got dh and I "Learn Latin", so we can learn more Latin ourselves, in the hope that we'll be better teachers - and also enjoy learning it, too!

I continue to struggle mightily with teaching my younger kids. I just have so much trouble teaching multiple children, it's so hard to divide my time! I think we're doing OK. A2 will know his addition and subtractions facts by the end of the year, and probably start learning multiplication, too. He is reading, though he struggles, and isn't at all fluent. We are making progress, but I wish I spent more time helping him. We're slowly - veerrrryyy slowly - learning handwriting, too. Did I mention that progress is slow? ;-) He has developed a real love for learning about animals, and he's fascinated with the knights and swords of medieval history. I think, as usual, we're learning way more than I think we are! But I'm starting to make it a point to really focus on him. S3 and N4 are hungry to learn, and I hate to put them off - but there are only so many hours in the day, and A2 needs my attention more than they do at this moment.

S3 is reading better than A2 right now - though he also isn't what I consider "fluent". N4 is doing all sorts of wonderful, age-appropriate activites, like play-dough and pattern blocks, helping mom and playing with his brothers.

We're really working on cutting back - drastically - on our TV viewing. Dh is behind me - in fact, he brought it up! The kids are complaining bitterly, but I think that it is all going to come together, and I'm very excited! Those of you who know me know how I hate the TV!

So, now that it's officiall Advent, we will start our Christmas preparations. Schoolwork will be cut back to the minimum - handwriting, math, reading and religion. Then I have any Advent activites planned, which I'll detail later. We'll work until Dec. 22, then take off completely until January 8th, after the Epiphany. I love our Christmas break, the way we lighten our load during Advent and take an entire couple of weeks off for Christmas. It's always good to get started back fresh into our normal routines in January.

Blessings to you and yours as we begin our Advent Season of preparation, waiting, and hope!

1 comment:

Margaret in Minnesota said...

Dear Mama Jen,

I saw your comment on Elizabeth's blog and stopped by to say Hello from Minnesota!

What a collection of handsome faces awaited me! (We have two boys and three little girls so far.) It was fun to visit.

A blessed Advent to you & your family. Enjoy this time of preparation.