Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week in Review - The One Where We Threw Away Our Lesson Plans!

It's Sunday and I am FINALLY getting around to writing this post.

We basically took the month of December off, and as I wrote about here, I had a chance to really think about what I wanted our homeschool life to look like.  I basically threw our lesson plans out and just went with the flow...which feels great!  The result of which is that we end up getting swept away in our learning and spending more time on it...and we did school Monday - Saturday because the girls were enjoying some things and we wanted Jason to be part of them!

Math - The girls did their Teaching Textbooks throughout our break.  This week, I decided to spend reviewing multiplication tables, since our school system spends about 2-3 weeks in 2nd grade on multiplication tables (which I find to be a short time to learn the multiplication of 2-12).  To be fair, they spend a week or two on multiplication tables in third and fourth grade.   I was pleased to see that A has a good handle on her multiplication and can recite the tables 0-12, got all of her quizzes correct, had fun with the games on that site and did well on all of the worksheets that I created.  P on the other hand needs work, this week we worked with 3 & 4; next week we will add the 6 times tables and when she is ready the 7s and so on until she has mastered them, as I believe this is something that she needs to master.  Next week, A goes back to Teaching Textbooks, which she is already complaining about, saying it's too easy and she doesn't like doing math on the we may be searching for a new program.  I like the idea of the aleks program that Jessica is using, but it is on the we may try the free trial on that this week.  We are finding that P loves using the computer and A...not so much.  Math-U-See is another option.

Language Arts - I was going to start Writer's Notebooks this week, but instead we worked on writing How-To and Narrative paragraphs.  On Wednesday I could see that P needed more time with the How To paragraphs, and that is what prompted me to ditch the lesson plans.  We worked on the concept until I felt she had a good understanding of it.

Spelling - we have once again changed our approach, as I did a LOT of research over our break.  I spent time over the week re-organizing our classroom.  We created a word wall, which faces the girls and on it, we write the words they spell incorrectly as well as words that they ask me how to spell or words that we just think they may need to write for a particular assignment.  I would like the girls to keep a list in their binders as well, but that didn't always happen this week.  All in all, I am finding that if I ask the girls to review their work for spelling errors, that pretty much find them all and correct them without prompting, thus I think many of their errors are just a matter of them trying to get ideas down and not concentrating so much on spelling...I know it will all catch up in time.

Vocabulary - I am finding that dictionary work is a touchy subject among homeschoolers, but I am a big believer in knowing how to use the dictionary and in looking up any word you don't know the meaning of.  This week, I created a rather elaborate chalkboard for our word of the day.  I went on line and found a list of words that all fifth graders should know and I pick a word a day from that.  The girls look up the definition, write it in their binders and we all take time using it in a sentence.  We review the words from the day before each day when we add our new word.

Reading - Both of my girls are voracious readers.  We have implemented something that they are really enjoying.  When they finish a book, they either write a review of the book OR they write about what movie or song or TV show they think the character would like and back that up with details from the book and write the page numbers in the book so I can verify the information since there is no way that I could keep up with their reading (A reads on average a chapter book/novel every two days and P reads a book every 5 days, on average).

Also, over the break, I bought a book from the American Education Publishing Series, Reading Comprehension.  It was inexpensive and it's wonderful.  The first unit was on Fairy Tales, which worked in great with our history this week.  So far the girls have read fairy tales and answered questions that range from comprehension to prediction to writing your own ending to the story.

History - We got back to Story of the World, our beloved history program.  We started the week with an open book quiz on the first 9 chapters.  The girls did well.  I am toying with different testing ideas.  I believe that always being conscious of testing impedes learning, but that learning to prepare for a test is important.  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.  We read about Ancient China and got Chinese take-out one night.  We learned more about how rice grows in very wet soil.  We learned about the Yellow River Valley.

Science- We've decided just to use science kits and make observations and research why certain things happen for this year.  I am attending a Homeschool conference in the spring where I plan to make full use of the curriculum tables and find a science curriculum.  But for this week, we did spa science and thought about how various scents make us feel and made facial scrubs.

We've been getting walloped with snow this year around here.  On Friday, Jason left work early.  I knew we would be starting our unit on Africa and that folk tales were a big part of that unit, so I called my awesome co-worker and asked her to pull some African folk tales, as usual, she came through a hundredfold!!!  When Jason got home, we curled up in bed and read about Ancient Africa.  We were all fascinated to learn that the Sahara was lush and green at one time and that archaeologists have found pollen and seeds of plants buried deep in the sand.  We all took turns reading African folk tales and discussing the moral to the stories or what we thought they were explaining.

 I love our little remote control thingee that lets us take photos like this :)

After snuggling in bed all afternoon, Jason and I (cooking together is something we enjoy) created an African feast:

We made some fried plantains:

and we made 
chicken with lemon and figs,
papaya fried rice
all from 

 The girls LOVED everything!
They asked when we could make it all again!

I had planned to do Science again Friday, but we got so caught up in our study of Africa, that the Science didn't happen until Saturday, when Jason just spontaneously decided to make some non-Newtonian fluid.  I am planning on doing a whole post on that, just because it's so cool and easy.

After Science on Saturday, the girls asked if we could read some fairy tales.  So, we popped some popcorn and curled up on the couch and read Fairy Tales and folk tales all afternoon.  This lead spontaneously to a discussion of the differences and similarities between fairy and folk tales and some internet research...

I think we are FINALLY getting somewhere 
I am FINALLY finding my groove
and things are starting to unfold the way that I had hoped :)