If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What We're Up To...

I realized I haven't posted a weekly report in a little while, so here's a quick run-down of what we've been up to!

She's been working this week, and a little last week, with Reading Horizons, specifically the ages 10 and up version. This is an Orton-Gillingham based program, meaning that it is multi-sensory and very sequential. She spends about 45 minutes a day working on it, and in about a week has gotten through the first chapter - 13 lessons - with scores of 92% and higher. There are six chapters, and I estimate that with her working at it like she is, she'll finish it by the end of our school year, which this year will be at the end of June. My friend Jessica really recommended this program to me, and so far, I really like it!

We also switched up math for her this week, moving her to Saxon Math like her brother. I got level 5/4 for her, and so far it is mainly review work--I think it will be a really good fit. Both my kids like that there are a mix of problem types in each assignment... it isn't a whole page of one type of problem.

And we're reading through the Ramona Quimby series (again) together.

The Boy:
The Boy is really enjoying Saxon Math, although he says "it's pretty easy".
So, hopefully next week, I'm going to test-run a higher level with him (7/6 instead of 6/5). If it works, great. If it's too hard, we can always drop back down!  Instead of bumping him up at the moment, I think I am going to take Kim's advice, and give him the tests until we reach a point where 6/5 is challenging, but not too much so.

And this week he's been working in Writing Skills, which I bought a while back, put on a shelf and forgot. I've noticed that he'll happily write ten or more sentences now, whereas last year he'd balk at three!

He finished off The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and loved it, so I went ahead and picked up The Restaurant at the End of the Universe for him. Like his mom, he really enjoys that odd British humor! It has been a joy lately to discuss books with him. And yes, he's still into all things Steampunk! I swear there are Steampunk-inspired sketches all over the house.

We're moving along in history--we'll finish up Egypt next week and then move on to ancient China and India. I'm really looking forward to this because we haven't studied either of those in any real depth.

We read another chapter in You Are the Earth this week (and will hopefully be reading another chapter in Dr. Art's Guide to Science today!), learning about the water cycle, and what role water plays in our lives. Then we watched Bill Nye's video on the water cycle, and then his talk about why creationism should not be taught in schools. It was really interesting, and both kids were very intrigued with what he was saying. That led to a video clip of a news interview with him, in which the reporter mentioned that one senator thinks the idea of evolution is "from the pits of hell." Hmmm... anyhow, I digress. One thing I like about the book You Are the Earth is the way it integrates everything, so the water cycle isn't limited to nature/the great outdoors, it is connecting us to nature. We are a part of that cycle, and that cycle is a part of us.

Also in the past week or so, we've hatched and released butterflies and mantises, which has been a fantastic experience!

In "literature", we are reading a lovely book of Scottish fairy tales, and we started Linnets & Valerians this week, an older and fantastic book - with homeschooled kids! Which, by the way, was the norm in those days, far more than kids being "in school". In fact, one of my favorite quotes ever about education comes from that book: "Education is a mosaic of beauty. The various colored fragments are interrelated." (Uncle Ambrose, Linnets & Valerians)

My Thoughts:
I started out this year with a fairly clear picture of what I wanted school to be for us. And as always, life got in the way, and I lost sight of that picture... it became muddled. I wrote the following on a private group message board I belong to, and it really shows what I am thinking right now:
This has, overall, been a good year for us, at least so far. It has been a time or trial and error in some ways, but has helped us settle on what works and what is important. We made a completely fresh start in January, going from more or less unschooling/child-led to a much more rigorous approach.

As I mentioned above, we have found that K12's Human Odyssey is a good fit for us. We're back to using the sample weekly schedule from Great Books Academy, so we're reading a chapter each week in history. I found us drifting all too easily back into way too many historical books--too much hist. fiction, too many topical books, etc. I've cut that back again!

Math was quite the journey this year as well. We started out trying to do living math only, with Life of Fred. And for us, it did not work. Neither child felt they were retaining enough, and it felt very disjointed. I know these books really work for some families, just not ours. We have now truly come full circle on this, and are back to Saxon, which is what we started with when the children were small! We're a little behind, which is sad for me because when they were little, we were a full year "ahead". I am trying to keep in mind that we can, and will, catch up. The Boy is working in 6/5 at the moment. The Girl started 5/4 just yesterday (she's been doing Math Mammoth for a while now), and like her brother, she loves the book already! I think for them, a spiral approach, with plenty of practice, works best. I am happy with it as well, as I find it to be a very solid program, and I like that it goes all the way through high school!

We did read a number of good books this year, but that too felt disjointed, so we're prepping now for my Narnia lit list, which we will happily dig into in the fall. If that goes well, I'll work out a similar study for The Hobbit and the LoTR for the following year. Other authors I would like to work with in the future include Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. And I love the idea of good lit forming the backbone to our homeschool!

As for science, you can read about my ideas/plans for that here. Basically, I am integrating BFSU, Prentice Hall Science Explorer texts, and living books! Add in informal nature studies, and we're good to go!

I feel that despite all the beginning of the year conversations on the ... group, we lost focus, and instead returned to our old habits. Lately, I feel re-focused, like all the pieces are coming together. If only I can decide on writing programs for the fall, I'll be set! Oh, and I need to work in more art. Maybe Waldorf style main lesson books will finally get their chance!
Hope you are all having a good week!


  1. I don't know if it will help, but when were doing Saxon, I found a website where it was suggested to have your child do the tests that come every 5 lessons or so instead of just starting at the beginning. Then, if they do well on that, you can skip the lessons leading up to it. We tried that and it really helped us "catch-up". I wish my kids liked Saxon. I do think it is a very thorough and good program!

  2. I'm so sorry I haven't been around lately -- I want to stop back and re-read this post...but in the meantime I'm going to remind you that you are doing a great job. It can feel chaotic sometimes when we get off track but we always find our way back, don't we? ;)

  3. Anonymous11:16 PM

    Ah, Ramona and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - excellent choices! You're moving along far more efficiently than we are. :)


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