Saturday, September 15, 2012

Expecting More of the Kids

   I am constantly expecting too little of my children and they are constantly proving that I can safely expect a lot more from them.

   Catherine is reading ancient great books this year. She whipped through Gilgamesh (she thought the bit where Gilgamesh and Enkidu behead and disembowel the Bull of Heaven was hilarious) and then moved on to a good slice of the Old Testament. I gave her a choice between the Good News Bibles and my huge Oxford Annotated NRSV. I thought the Good News Bible was a better choice for a first read because it's written in plain language and the Oxford one is dense and filled to the brim with even denser foot notes.

   After a quick review Catherine choose the Oxford.

   Turns out she found the plain language of the Good News Bible flat and uninspiring. I let her know she could skip the foot notes and off she went to read.

   A couple of hours later I went to check on her progress. She said it had gone really well and her eyes lit up as she told me that she loved the foot notes. They had made the stories much richer and given her connections between Genesis and Gilgamesh that she might not have noticed otherwise. She was also greatly surprised to learn details like the fact that, absent a Christian lens, the serpent was likely more of a mischief character then an evil one.

   So lesson learned yet again. I should never limit my children by what I think they might be able to handle. I should never hesitate to push of offer materials even if I think they might be a bit beyond my children.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And Now For the Grade Five Line Up

   Yesterday I outlined the programs and resources my daughter is using for Grade Nine. Planning for my son has been a little easier as we're simply continuing with many of the things we had success with last year. I've finally learned what I think is probably one of the most important lessons in homeschooling, it's not the curriculum, it's the commitment. I can be swayed by all the fun and fancy programs out there but ultimately the ones that bring the most success are those I simply keep puttering away at and refuse to give up on even when they get boring and hard for Harry and I.

   English is finally starting to feel like a real subject. Harry is finished the Dancing Bears reading series and is now a confident and capable reader. He's still working through Apples and Pears spelling from the same publisher and will likely finish the last two levels during this school year. For grammar it's back to KISS. Yes, the site is hard to navigate and yes, there's a lot of printing but it's free and probably one of the best grammar programs out there. So far he's enjoying it. For writing It's Writing With Ease which he definitely isn't enjoying right now but I don't care. I've learned the virtue of pushing him through things he's not found of because he eventually reaps and enjoys the reward.

   Math became a bit of an issue because I was skipping back and forth between Singapore Primary Mathematics and Math Mammoth. Harry liked both but I kept running into issues where one would work for one concept but another was better for something else. I solved it this year by going with the Key to...Series. Since Harry understands arithmetic we'll keep it fresh with drills and occasional worksheets but otherwise he needs a more specific and in depth program for each of the concepts that are starting to pop up in math.

   History may finally get done this year. I'm back to Gombrich's Little History of the World. It's a magical book that seems to work well for Harry. Bringing Up Learners offers it's Mosaic World History program for free and LHotW is one of the two spines you can use. I'm modifying it quite a bit as it's a bit young for Harry but it's still a great outline for us to follow.

   Science is, as always, the toughest subject for me. There's nothing out there that is really written for homeschoolers from a secular perspective. With Harry I'm simply going to read lots and have him do some notebooking.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grade Nine Line Up for This Year

   Another year, another lineup of programs to use with the kids. So far this school year has been a doozy because on top of the planning I had to do for my two older children I also have a 10 month old on the verge of walking who I have to chase and a husband who's incapacitated and out of work until sometime in the new year due to a shoulder injury. I am busier then I've ever been at any other point in my marriage but despite that, or more probably because of that, I'm more focused and productive then ever. So on to the show...

   Catherine is in Grade 9 this year and we've simplified English a great deal to cope with the increasing workload (hers and mine). Instead of the multi-year writing program she was doing last year, Writing With Skill, she'll be going through The Lively Art of Writing. After that her writing will simply be the reports and essays she'll have to produce for other subjects. Later in the year she'll also complete Jensen's Grammar to put the finishing touches on her grammar skills and any practice after that will come from editing her work and possibly her brother's. She's still doing Jensen's Vocabulary and the MCT 4 Practice book but those are ten minute a day things that will have to fit in around the more fundamental work. She's reading ancient literature as well (just finished Gilgamesh) a la The Well Trained Mind.

    For math we're working with Foerster's Algebra 1. In Canada, as with most of the world, our math is integrated and not portioned out into sections like pre-algebra and geometry, but Foerster's fit so well with the no-nosense, clear, sidebarless texts that Catherine likes that I choose to use it and follow the American math sequence. There will be no fun add-ons, no supplementation. Foester's is it and it seems to be working well so for.

    History will consist of Catherine reading The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer. She will learn to take proper notes and finally keep an honest-to-goodness timeline. We've tried them before but never found a method that really worked. Either we were dealing with a Book of Centuries that would get put up and forgotten or something along the wall that was hard to access and inevitably fell down. I've got a new method now that works like a charm and I'll give details in a further post. She'll likely also be listening to Teaching Company lectures, I haven't got the details around those sorted out quite yet.

    Science will be Hewitt's Conceptual Physical Science. It's a college level texts that should provide a good introduction to some of the science she will be studying in later grades. I decided to keep it as simple as possible, have her read a chapter and take notes, discuss it and go over the review questions. I could do all sorts of neat labs and supplementary activities but science is one of those subjects that always seems to slip away on me to I've reverted to a Keep It Simple Stupid strategy for this year.

    Latin is Lingua Latina which I've owned for awhile now and has turned out to be perfect for Catherine. It's a program which, aside from the College Companion book, is written completely in Latin. The goal is to have her be able to read Latin as if it's her first language rather then to have her translate as she goes

    That's the core of her year. Beyond that she'll have her violin practice and lessons and she wants to continue learning how to program in Python but beyond scheduling a bit of time for violin I'm not going to be pressuring her on those two subjects. With those, she can start to learn to set aside some of her leisure time to pursue those interests.

    Simple and straightforward work best with Catherine. She doesn't appreciate too many rabbit trails in a program (in discussion afterwards is another matter) and all of my picks this year seem to match with that preference and provide her with a good fit. I am really hoping that this will be the year that we end with everything we started with. Tommorrow...Harry's Grade 5 line up.