Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fresh Start

Ah, January. It's a good time to evaluate how things are going. How grateful I was for Christmas break this year to take some time and make some changes. I think what works for me and homeschooling is to steadily make gradual improvements by tweaking areas as necessary. It's really hard to change up a LOT of things at once. Keep what works, fix what doesn't.

Spud is rather behind in writing. After trying a variety of different approaches, I was able to figure out that he needs the following:
1. Clear instructions
2. Predictability
3. Not to feel pressured to be overly creative
4. Not to feel worried about mistakes in spelling and other mechanics

I asked for input on the Well-Trained Mind forums and had several people recommend Essentials in Writing as a potential fit. I read some more detailed reviews and it was mentioned to be good for the reluctant writer. We have been taking a Brave Writer approach to more things, but I realized that the writing assignments given were a bit too open ended for him to feel very confident with them, and it was a bit too dependent on me to give very clear instructions, which is not really my strong point. I can explain things well, but Spud wants things EXPLICITLY DETAILED, and he has very little patience for adding things like, "Oh, I should have mentioned XYZ," or the like. So a scripted curriculum works best. We are two days into Level 3 of EiW (I opted to start a grade level below so as to give him more chances to succeed before it gets beyond his understanding) and so far so good. I actually asked him if he would be willing to do two lessons/day since they are short (at this stage) and he agreed to that.

To address his other major issues with writing, handwriting and spelling (the big one!), I ordered a Handwriting Without Tears cursive book and pulled out the Logic of English materials I bought 3 years ago but didn't really get into at all. It was too much for Spud (then a 1st grader) and wasn't very essential for Noodle (then a 4th grader), so I shelved it. I actually think it's going to be really beneficial for Spud now and he is going along with it nicely so far. He is actually excited to be doing the cursive book, which is kind of amazing since he's never been a fan of handwriting. I told him I wanted him to learn cursive so he could at least read it, even if he chooses not to write in cursive. I think he likes the novelty factor of it.

Both Noodle and Spud have been using Teaching Textbooks for Math this year.  Sometimes it would go well for Spud, sometimes not. Finally, after another math meltdown yesterday I told him we were returning to Math-U-See for him, because he did well with it and it worked. He got very frustrated with the spiral nature of TT, with a ton of review in each lesson. I told him that with MUS it was set up to be a lot easier to move forward once material is mastered, so I think he will be glad to use it again, even if right now he's still kind of bothered about it.

Sprout is doing Math Mammoth 1 for Kindergarten math and he likes it quite well. He is also doing Dreambox, which he likes okay. I was doing Life of Fred with him, too, but he didn't seem to love it.
Additionally, he is working through Explode the Code 1.5, HWOT Numbers & Letters for Me, Rusty & Rosy Learn With Me (we paid for a subscription because it worked so well for him for preschool), reading BOB Books and I See Sam books, and joining us for Story of the World - Ancients and Spud for science.

The twins are going to a babysitter in the mornings for about 2.5 hours. From Sept-December they went 3 days a week, but that sitter moved and we found a new one, so now they are likely to go 4 days a week. It has been a huge help to have them out of the house while we do Math, Language Arts, and History/Science. Since they still take pretty good naps, we get another 1.5 hours or so in the afternoon to have some good school time. It has been a sanity saver.

Oh, just to finish out what we are doing for curriculum: Noodle is using Uzinggo for science, which I have been pretty impressed with. We are focusing on Life Science this year, and I think they do pretty great coverage for a middle school level.  She isn't super into science, but she enjoys it well enough.

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