Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mid-term evaluation: 2013-14 Term 1

I really haven't been able to get this blog going the way I had hoped.  Shortly after I began writing, my computer broke and we haven't replaced it.  Needless to say, I had to re-think some of my curriculum plans - particularly in the areas of music, art, and Spanish.  I have a whole series of posts about Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education sitting in a spiral-bound notebook waiting to be revised, typed, and posted.  Hopefully someday I'll actually get around to sharing them.

Time has really been flying, and we are half-way finished with our first term of school.  I'm using Ambleside Online's "Year 0" as a base for John's kindergarten.  (Curriculum here; Book list here.)  I've chosen a couple of additional chapter books - Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen Taylor, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, and depending on how the year goes I have The Wizard of Oz sitting on my shelf as well.  We're also using B is for Buckeye (Sleeping Bear Press) to learn a little bit about Ohio, referencing a road map to find the various locations mentioned.  We've begun short and simple lessons in reading, spelling/phonics, writing, math concepts, Spanish, Bible, music, art, and science/nature.

Some highlights of our first half-term:
  • Every-other-week sketches of the pumpkin growing in our garden.  At first, I had to point out details for the children to observe and monitor their choice of crayon. (Sally wanted to color her pumpkin purple.)  This week, before I even said anything, John pipes up: "Mom!  It's bigger!  And orange - but not all orange, I'll need a dark green, too.  And look, look - the flower fell off!"  This is exciting because, of course, the lesson's not really about the pumpkin - it's about seeing.
  • Reading lessons.  Or rather, the lack of them.  I started off trying to very carefully stick to a Charlotte Mason based reading curriculum as outlined at Jen's blog. (here - I was doing "Stage 3: Average") But even though I started at just the right point in his book - challenging, but not impossible - John's abilities quickly outpaced my lessons and he was getting bored reading just 2-3 lines a day.  SO . . .so, so, so . . . I stepped up the pace to 1 story a week, with lots of review and practice.  He finished the Treadwell & Free primer this week, and we'll be moving on to their Reading and Literature: First Reader on Monday.  I plan to phase back in the actual lessons now that the literature is a little more challenging, but using the "Stage 3: Advanced" methods.
  • We memorized Psalm 100, and while singing a hymn at church last Sunday night John pulled on my arm "Mommy!  That's my Bible verse!  We're singing my Bible verse!"
  • Learning to write his name.  (Well, almost.  There's one letter that is still tricky.)
  • Adjusting to slow readings of long books has gone easier than I expected.  Nearly every day our lesson ends with "But, don't stop - what happens next?"  Much of the children's free time involves Narnia, Winnie-the-Pooh, or Little Christian.
Challenges for the second half-term:
  • Music study so far has all been selections the children have loved since they were small.  We're going to be foraging into some less familiar territory - both for singing and for listening.
  • They don't seem to be connecting to the Bible lessons very well.  Memory work, yes.  Stories, not really.  I'm wondering if two stories a week in school (one Old Testament, and one New Testament) is too much when layered over bedtime Bible lessons from Daddy (in another part of the Old Testament), Sunday School (in yet another section of the Old Testament), and sermons in church.  I might be better off backing off on the "planned" curriculum for the time being and just reinforcing what they are learning elsewhere.  I don't want to cut Bible lessons out of school, but the glazed expressions are telling me that I need to change something in my approach.
  • I'm trying to implement "picture lessons" in Spanish, along with singing songs.  That is, showing them a picture, talking about it (in Spanish), and having them narrate back to me or answer some simple questions.  Still trying to work out how to meet John half-way on this so that the lessons are stretching him but not frustrating.