Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2010-2011 wrap-up (better late than never!)

Yeah, I know how late I am with this (but really not TOO awful considering that we didn't finish our school year until the end of July!). We can blame it equally on my computer and my camera, both of which are giving me fits. Throw on top of that the fact that I feel like I've spent the entire summer in the car driving the boys from one camp to another and everywhere in between, and let's just say it's a miracle that I got anything posted this summer at all!

BUT! We DID manage to wrap up our school year last year by binding our good books, as can be evidenced in this photo. As usual, the boys just loved getting to review everything they did, sort it into meaningful formats to them, and put the entire school year to bed once and for all.

And now to do some quick summaries of the progress in various educational areas from the past year:

READING: Both boys transitioned over to "real" chapter books this year. (As in, books that take more than a couple of hours to finish.) J is currently working his way through the "39 clues" series, slowly but surely. He's not a huge fiction fan (although he'll tolerate realistic mysteries), he'd rather spend his time reading histories of the White House or studying atlases and identifying major geographic and demographic facts from each country, or reading scientific articles. To each his own! Zoo Boy, on the other hand, is a voracious fiction reader, and keeping him in books has been a challenge -- he spends several hours a day reading and will whip through a standard chapter book intended for ages 9 to 12 in just a couple of days each. He's currently reading the "Molly Moon" series --he especially loves mystery and fantasy. I did a bit of informal reading comprehension testing with them this spring, just for my own information, and both are definitely reading above a 3rd grade level (probably well above that, but the specifics don't matter so much to me), so that's good enough for me to know they are on the right track.

HANDWRITING: I'm trying to remember if we started cursive with J this year or any case, his handwriting is just lovely, and he clearly has a firm grasp on sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. In fact, he competed in his first spelling bee this past spring and came in 2nd place, missing on a 5th grade level word.

Zoo Boy's handwriting has come a long way as well. I'd say it looks pretty typical of what you'd see from an early 2nd grader, which, given his slow start and struggles with the actual act of handwriting, is pretty danged impressive. He's certainly not resistant to writing anymore (although he'll tell you it's his least favorite thing by far). I even gave him a real "summer break" this year without any handwriting practice since we finished up our year. We'll see how much I regret that once we start up again.... He's not as confident a speller as J, so we'll be working on getting him more comfortable with that this year (although he honestly does just fine, it's just in his mind he doesn't think he's good at it). He also still occasionally struggles with spacing and planning his page, but I'm more apt to just let him continue to fiddle with that -- I feel fairly confident that these sorts of things will come along on their own with continued copy work and practice. I do not plan on introducing cursive to him this year, that really needs to wait until he's feeling more comfortable and confident about writing in general.

CREATIVE WRITING: This was approached primarily via the boys' weekly journals. The journals are a 'safe place' for them to write -- I don't require cursive from J or lower case letters from Zoo Boy, they are allowed to write with whatever implement they want (Zoo Boy still chooses a crayon for this), and I do not correct spelling or anything else with these. Zoo Boy has really embraced journaling this past year, and spends a couple hours each week on his entries. He's still mostly doing copy-work and drawing from books for content. J tends to draw more from his own life experiences. But I do not direct what they can and can not write about --like I said, it's a totally 'safe place' for them to express themselves however they wish. Journaling will, of course, continue next year.

HUMANITIES/HISTORY: This year we studied Harriet Tubman (African American culture and pre-civil war history), Benito Juarez (Mexican culture and history), John Muir (British Isles culture and naturalist movement history), and Stalking Wolf (Southwestern Native American culture and history). The culture work was primarily hands-on crafts, cultural songs and dances, and the reading of culturally appropriate Trickster Tales. The history work was indirect and via the Sage Stories themselves.

MATH: For new formal concepts, we worked on place value, long addition (with carrying), and long subtraction (with borrowing) this past year. In practice work, the boys did worksheets on addition and subtraction, and both oral and written word problems with simple multiplication and division as well. But their informal math work far outreached what we did formally, and mostly via plain old games and life. They both worked jobs (J for the neighbor across the street managing his chicken flock, Zoo Boy for me managing our flock) and got some practical experience with money matters, both earning and spending, as well as saving. They learned how to calculate simple percentages via the game Monopoly (both the standard version, and their super-cool Pokemon version). And recently they began playing around with algebra, apparently just for the fun of it. (You know, 12-n+4=7, what does n equal? Honestly, I have NO idea why that ever came up, I'm sure one of them read something about it somewhere....) We'll get to it all in a more formal way eventually, but it sure shows you how unschooling (letting the child direct their learning) works. In general, my kids wind up figuring stuff out on their own LONG before I get around to addressing it.

SCIENCE: This year we diverged from the Enki Education approach to science. In part because J does so much scientific reading that he could hold reasonable conversations with grad students on most of the topics, in part because the boys both already feel like they have a very firm grasp on natural science and ecology (which is mostly the Enki focus at this point), and in part because J TOLD me what he wants to learn about for science. So we started a little casual science exploration co-op this past spring, which will shift to a more formal format for Chemistry this coming year. And Santa brought the kids a ginormous Snap Circuits set so they could explore electricity. And of course we spent untold hours of independent learning at the fabulous CT Science Center. So that's what we did for science. Honestly, it's just not an area I put much effort into, because the kids are already light years ahead of the average schooled student in this particular area of study.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION: We totally rocked the Phys Ed world this past year! J danced. And danced. And danced. And participated in a homeschool sports program. And swam. And danced.

Zoo Boy ran during J's sports class, and he swam, and he designed his own workout program, and, hooray hooray, he began Karate. And what 3 years of formal OT (plus countless hours of me working with him at home) didn't do for him, Karate has. He's more physically fit, he's more comfortable crossing his midlines, his balance and coordination has improved 100%. I love karate!!!! And more importantly, HE loves karate.

Ok, a couple of other quick areas to touch on:

MUSIC: J began guitar lessons, then added piano, then obsessed greatly over piano, then I convinced him to drop guitar because, after spending hours a day practicing piano, there was just no time left to practice guitar. He has a guitar, he has some books, and he has a chord chart, I have no doubt he'll get back to it eventually. Meanwhile, he has a real talent for the piano, and his musical knowledge WAY outweighs mine at this point, so I'm glad he has a professional guiding him. He also participated in the Youth Chorus during the spring semester. He'd like to continue with them, I just don't see how he's going to have the time. And of course there's dance. Dance. Dance.

Zoo Boy has yet to settle on what he might like to play for an instrument, so we'll see. He enjoys music very much, I have no doubt he'll choose something eventually.

ART: Seriously? Our weeks are absolutely filled with drawing and crafting and origami and occassionally painting. I'd still like to find the time and motivation for some scultping....working on that....

FOREIGN LANGUAGE: I suck. I've tried. And I've tried. And I've tried. And we started 3 separate programs, all of which ceased to continue to run after one session. I OFFICIALLY GIVE UP on foreign language. In a couple of years, I will plug my children into the computer with a Rosetta Stone Spanish program, and I have no doubt they will learn at least a rudimentary form of Spanish. But I give up on trying to find them anything more formal, it's been nothing but frustrating for me. The only thing I can say in my defense at quitting is that the kids in our town don't get foreign language until highschool, so while I don't find skipping it ideal, I also don't think I'm making them miss out on something they'd have access to otherwise. SIGH.

THERAPY: We tried speech therapy again this year for Zoo Boy, and again it's a bust. THEY claim he doesn't have a problem. Tell that to the hundreds of adults and kids out there who have trouble understanding him! But given that nobody can seem to tell me what to DO for him, I guess I'm just going to tread water and see if things come along on their own as time passes. I gave it a good, honest effort, but there doesn't seem to be anyone that can see the problem and figure out what to do about it.

However, on a good note, we did find a really useful Social Coaching program for J, which we will be continuing for the coming school year as well. We do have to change facilitators, which has me a bit concerned, but it's at the same facility and she uses the same philosophy and he's paired with the same kid for the group, so I am hopeful that I'll be as happy with it this year as I was in the spring.

OK, that's it!! (I think....did I miss anything?) Coming up next (when I recover from posting this --maybe in a few days ;) I will discuss our plans for this coming year, which officially begins on Friday!


MM said...

Does J still have difficulties with story comprehension? Could that be part of why he doesn't read as much fiction?

Harvest Moon Farm said...

Ah, very astute question! That's exactly why I did the reading comprehension testing durnig the spring, to make sure I wasn't missing a struggle there. (With the way we approach story work during our lessons, I should have easily caught any problems, but I wanted to make extra sure.) But it's not a comprehension problem, he just prefers non-fiction.