Oct 4, 2013

Plans for the school year

A month into the new school year, it's time to finish this draft as I do want to share what we are doing this year.  I was going to do school year-round but opted for a break in August and it has been a good time for me to do some curriculum research and get excited about what is possible.  So much is possible!  So many goals tend to fade over time as real life hits, but if you never set goals, if you never raise the bar, you will never improve.  It is better to aim for the stars and hit the tree tops than to aim for the tree tops and land in the mud, so to speak.  So when I set goals, I also give myself permission to adapt and change them.

You know my "read 2013 books in 2013" goal?  I did so well the first few months, but then my 2-year-old stopped requesting that I read to him because he likes to do it himself, and we stopped recording what I was reading.  We still read a lot, but I bagged the goal.  Honestly, I didn't read much to them at all over the summer.  Oops.

Nevertheless, I am setting goals again.  I have been very blessed to have been able to purchase some choice curriculum recently, and I have the responsibility to follow through and use it.  So here's what I hope to accomplish this year.


Ruth is my only child who isn't reading, so we will continue to use Little Reader, MonkiSee, and Your Baby Can Read to get her reading.  This is an exciting year for her!
My 3 older children need lots of new materials to wet their appetite, which we will accomplish by going to the library weekly for story time and filling our book bags up.  Patrick is still working on his fluency, so I need to practice with him more.  My older two need to be read to and encouraged to read chapter books.  I also want to dig more into speed reading, which we will do in part with the Wink program- more on that later.


I am working on counting and one-on-one correspondence with Ruth.  We do "Little Math" from BrillKids, count little bears, and play with the abacus.  Mostly we simply try to talk about numbers a lot in our conversations.

Patrick loves Mathtacular and I am using it as my "spine" to work with him.  When I want to formally do math with him, we watch a clip together and then practice what we saw, with a goal to get completely through the first DVD this year.  Mostly I just try to get the math manipulatives out and play with him.  He also plays Timez Attack, but I tell him the answers, it's a number recognition game for him.  However, next time around, (they LOVE this game), I'm going to do flashcards with him and do coloring/storytime activities from Multiplication.com.  There are other 3-year-olds who have memorized their multiplication this way, and even 2-year-olds, so we'll get to it this year.

Helen knows her multiplication tables from Timez Attack.  Wahoo!  She often substitutes for me when Patrick plays by telling him the answers.  She isn't quite finished with the abacus workbook from HEV academy, so we're going to finish that and then start on Anzan training.  More on that...

Peter has finished the HEV academy abacus book, now I want to help him memorize his multiplication tables.  He is working through Timez Attack.  I made flashcards of everything he has been exposed to in the game and we run through them as a "pre-math" lesson.  Before he plays the game, I have him read the silly story for the new fact from multiplication.com (we bought their book/e-book combo, I more especially recommend the e-book for the coloring page.  The book was mostly intuitive, although there are flashcards in it I could copy and make, but I haven't used it much.)  His assignment is to work through a new level every day, or work his way back to the big boss of the "zone" if he didn't make it before.

I really want to do Anzan training for my kids, but I have also recognized my own limitations in that regard.  There are no abacus schools in my area, nor could I likely afford them if there were.  I don't know how to do it myself.  Still, the appeal of mental abacus training is great and I am going to do a sort-of compromise.  I printed and laminated the anzan cards from www.sorobancymru.co.uk.  My personal plan as a non-mathematician doing my best to plan out a course of action, is to work through Ray's Arithmetic with no paper writing, only mental work with the imaginary soroban to help them.  It starts out simple enough, I think it will work.  We'll see, I'm not even there yet.  The older kids also like to play on Hoodamath, and we have the Hands on Equations app that I would like to get to.  Ultimately I would like to get both of them into Saxon 5/4 within a year as they will be amply prepared for it after Ray's Arithmetic.  All you need to know to do well in that book is to know how to borrow and carry and do your basic multiplication, and both kids are well on their way.  I feel that devoting some time to mental training will be beneficial to them, so we're slowing down for that.  I plan on checking out Benjamin Arther's mental mathemagic when the kids are a little better prepared for it.  I want to do it for me too!


Peter, Helen, and Patrick are in the Cache Children's Choir.  We are working through the Piano Wizard curriculum, which is great.  I want to slow down a little and really dig into the theory this year.  We are cycling through semester 1 in Little Musician again- I think it's great review for my older children and is the heart of Ruth's education.  I haven't taken the time to edit semester 2 for movable Do, and I don't think I will at this point, so we're doing semester 1 again.  Ruth loves it and has really taken off with it.  For a non speaker, her solfege singing is thrilling to me.  She loves it.  Anyway, I've got a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to music.  I'm hoping to make a music theory DVD course this year, which my children will naturally be guinea pigs for.  Of course.  Stay tuned- I'm excited about my little project.  :)


I love how our local public schools are doing an immersion program.  Half of the school day is in Spanish.  This alone was almost enough to make me want to send Peter to public school.  Almost.  In the end, it was just good motivation to get going on this.  I can't compete with a half-day, but we can still get our feet wet and that will be good enough.  We have Your Child Can Speak and Kids Start Spanish that we are working through.  I am teaching the children the songs from these cute DVDs, Michael is working with the kids once or twice a week (he learned Spanish when he served a mission in Mexico), and we check out Spanish children's books from the library.  The kids watch their favorite shows in Spanish sometimes, and they enjoy watching Salsa.  Every little bit helps!  Their vocabulary is increasing.


We purchased the Kimochis curriculum and toys for our children and are working through the activities.  It was a bit of an investment to be sure, but one that Michael and I feel was very good for our children.  Emotional intelligence is very important to us, and was an area that we were struggling with.  This has really helped!  Peter's favorite is Cloud, Helen's favorite was Cat but is now Lovey Dove, and Patrick loves Bug all the way.  Ruth has been unofficially assigned to Huggtapus but prefers to play with the feelings.  This is a such a cute program and I am amazed at at the difference the little activities are making for my children.  It was worth the investment to us as our children are small.


I plan on doing a full review of Home Art Studio soon, as I LOVE this program.  In short, we are doing one project a week and I am very pleased with the results.

Photographic Memory and Speed Reading

Another subject that deserves it's own post.  We are working through the Wink Program, which is fantastic, and are doing other memory activities.  We are memorizing scriptures and poetry, utilizing YouTube videos to this end, remembering resources like Memory Magic, and using our MonkiSee flashcards for Schichida-ish training, to the best of my untrained abilities.  This is a regular subject for us.


We are going through "All About Spelling", which I purchased from Rainbow Resources.  Writing is something we are tackling for the first time this year.  Oops.  They are formally learning their letters from the TV Teacher (also from Rainbow Resources- my new favorite go-to place as they have great prices and free shipping for orders over $50, as well as a HUGE selection.)  I've made a few writing assignments online, but have decided to hold off until they are more comfortable with the correct way to make their letters, as well as dictating words with our spelling program.

 Science, Geography, History, etc

There is only so much time in the day and I feel like I have my plate full with everything else, so I am formally putting these subjects in the "unschooling" category.  We have a science kit we haven't exhausted, so we do experiments now and again.  We subscribe to Netflix and watch a documentary with popcorn once a week as part of family night.  We check out a lot of non-fiction books from the library that give the kids exposure.  We hove the TweedleWink videos and try to branch off of the whatever lesson we are on that week.  The children have access to "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego", "Liberty's Kids", "Magic School Bus", Peter Weatherall's DVDs, and other educational videos that we cycle through.  The first two are more especially "edutainment", but they are a great springboard for discussion, and that's what I wanted them for.

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  We start out the day with a religious devotional which goes straight into our "together school", ie, the things we do together, such as Kimochi lessons.  Then the kids get to play while I take the kids one by one for their personal work.  By the time they are eight, I want them to be doing their personal school on their own and come to me for help, but we are not there yet.  I should note that I do not do all of these subjects every day.  The subjects I push hard to do daily are reading, math, piano, and spelling.  Most of the time we do and fit in a few others or attend classes such as choir, story time at the library, or gymnastics (we are so lucky- they have a discounted homeschool class with punch cards).  On a day where spelling doesn't get done, I don't fret about being behind.  I do my best and know it, and I can't be weighed down by guilt or nothing ends up getting done.  Instead, I simply start with spelling the next day, and again try to do everything.  In this manner, the most important subjects are still being done consistently, if not daily.  Likewise we try to do everything else every other day but if it doesn't happen we don't sweat it.  It sounds like a lot, but my kids actually have a lot of free time throughout the day.  Peter loves to play with legos, Helen loves to do crafts, Patrick would play starfall.com all day if I let him (I don't).  Ruth finds a friend to play with or entertains herself with toys or books, or takes a nap.

Well, that's about all I've planned for this school year.  That and welcoming a new baby next Spring.  Babies are lots of fun and provide an educational experience all of their own.

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