Friday, October 16, 2009

Done with Round One!

Today marks 8 weeks of homeschooling, completed.

We're now 1/4 the way done with our school year! Cheers all around.

Next week, we will take our Fall Break, at this convenient spot. I also tidily finished a unit in American Literature and a unit in American History, just in time. Didn't plan it that way, but it was nice.

So, it's time to outline for all my eager readers what we have accomplished thus far in the year. For Julia, she has completed her study of Ancient Egypt in literature and history, and is now heading into Ancient Greece. She loves this method of study, which involves extensive reading of both fiction and non-fiction accounts. We buy some books, to ensure that she has high-quality material, but also check out piles of books from the local library to extend and reinforce the information. And we have a few "bedrock" books -- large history encyclopedias, for instance, that keep us on task. She has learned how to summarize chronologically what she's reading with good detail, and how to outline concepts in the reading. She's done 4 science experiments on the Earth and Moon, summarized the material, hypothesized answers and then found them. She's learned some Latin, a bit of logic, a bit of note-reading in music, done quite a bit of dictation, covered 3 chapters of grammar, and done creative writing. Oh, and she's covered 3 chapters of math. I must say I've been disappointed in her math skills. In 5th grade, a child should have a solid grasp of basic arithmetic facts. I started the chapter on multiplication, and she could not even do the first page. She had no idea what 3x4 was! I was stunned. I asked her if she'd ever learned her multiplication tables. "In 3rd grade," she said. I asked if she did multiplication in 4th grade. She didn't remember using it then, she said. {{Mama Gasp}} Now, I don't know whether her memory is correct, but regardless, what are they doing in elementary school these days? Why does my daughter have NO MEMORY of her multiplication tables? She's not dumb, she's not particularly naughty or rebellious, and she loves to learn. Well, moving on ... I printed out tables from the internet for her to practice on. At first, we had to ADD so that she could fill out a blank 12x table. Then she did many scrambled tables, to reinforce the facts. It's slow going, but I think we will regain the ground she lost. But we could not proceed in the textbook until she had those multiplication facts down!

Anna and Peter are beginning their study of Emerson, Thoreau and the other New England writers after Fall Break. Both are in the middle of writing their research papers for this semester. They've almost completed their memorization of "Paul Revere's Ride." They've written 5 good essays. We've watched some great videos in both literature and history. We're looking forward to a trip to Monticello soon. In American History, we're heading into the Revolutionary War period. We just completed watching "A More Perfect Union," a good video about the forming of the Constitution. The work on the telescope continues, as they've finished the grinding and are almost done with polishing the lens. Peter's doing quadratic equations; Anna is working on linear equations. On his own, Peter is also digging quite deeply into developing arguments against Evolution. He's researching and writing on the subject because it interests him so much. Both have almost completed their summaries of the chapters of their books of the Bible; Anna is doing "Luke" and Peter is doing "Acts." They'll head into making maps and timelines next, and then memorize an extensive passage. They're also singing in the community chorus and our church choir each week, and learning a lot about music there.

Homeschooling is a lot of work. But its strength is in the parents' ability to customize the education to the child. However, if you've read me for long, you'll realize that I think this is also its weakness -- what! Customizing education! Let me explain: the customizing of the education should be to challenge the child, not to coddle him. When I say "customize," I mean that the parent can accelerate the material to keep the child challenged, and to encourage him to excel in a field that piques his interest. Other than this heightened material, the remaining material that the child studies should be doggedly set to hold him to the standard (at least) for his level.

So, although we cannot reduce the difficulty level for any of the children, I can give Julia additional reading, and more creative writing. Peter will spend hours more in science, and Anna will labor over her literature papers. So, instead of being restrained in these areas of interest, they can fly ahead.

I'm encouraged with our year thus far. I pray we will continue in success!

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