Sunday, November 18, 2007

MS 2007-2008, Part 2

Along with our Core 3, MS listened to the Geography Songs tracks that relate to what we're reading about (I left some for this year when scheduling last year), and has now moved on to the relevant History Songs.

For handwriting this year, MS is re-doing Handwriting Without Tears "My Printing Book." His handwriting is probably typical for a rushed, first-born 8yo boy, but I wanted him to get more concentrated practice on correctly forming the letters (he did not do a handwriting book last year). It's helping a little, but I think this is something that I'm going to constantly be reminding him about (and letting go of).

When I looked at the math curricula Sonlight carries way back when (and researched other math options, as well), their pros for both Singapore and Miquon options fit very much my desire in teaching math: introducing mathematical thinking (Singapore) and math self-discovery (Miquon). I also knew that the repetitive nature of several other curricula (like Saxon and Abeka) was not a good fit for MS.

So, this year, MS is working through Singapore Primary level 3 this year. We do the textbook pages when he hits a snag in the workbook or when it teaches a new mental concept.

He is also doing Miquon Blue, which is a decent amount below his level. I made the mistake of scheduling too few Miquon pages over the past couple of years for him, so he has not progressed in the books at the pace he is capable of. I don't want him to miss any of the concepts covered, so I have both stepped up the pace of what I've scheduled and offered him an extra incentive to complete the book quickly. I have the first few books in the Keys to... series for after he completes Miquon.

Continuing on the topic of math, MS is working his way through a second round of the multiplication memorization songs on the Multiplication Vacation CD. We also have the accompanying DVD. It is one of the lowest-budget, goofiest, 90's-feel, bad-special-effects productions I have ever seen...and the kids absolutely love it, and they're learning from it (geography and history concepts thrown in, as well), so I do not regret the purchase one bit. MS has a good deal of visual in his learning style, so I think having the images from the DVD as pegs to hang the song lyrics on helps. I put together a workbook of multiplication drills for each set (1-13 x's) from free options on the web, so the last day of each week, he demonstrates his knowledge from the song listening by doing those.

[Speaking of song memorization, I've made a note to post soon about the system we've settled on for making sure this happens.]

A final math item that MS is working through is a Rod and Staff math drill tablet for 3rd grade. It begins with a review of addition and subtraction and moves on to multiplication and division. It is consists of 30 or so problems on each sheet with room on the back to re-work missed problems. I have him check his own using the calculator on the computer and circle and re-write those missed. He does these three days a week. Just a little extra practice for math facts.

Speaking of Rod & Staff, I'll go ahead and review what other products of theirs MS is using.

I purchased the 1st grade level of one of the R&S music programs (Beginning in Music) for MS to do in 1st grade, because it had the cut-and-paste aspect he enjoyed from some of their preschool books. I continued to use it basically on the it-can't-hurt principle. However, this year with the 3rd grade program, I am seeing that what seemed like mindless cutting and pasting actually had a very tangible purpose in slowly introducing students to concepts (the Do-Ti scale, which is called something like "sofedge," but I never remember seeing it written down, just spoken in high school choir, so I don't know how to spell it; sorry) that they would later cover in more depth. I am pleased I stuck it out and am seeing a little of what I'm missing out on by not being able to go to curriculum fairs where I could have thumbed through books and figured this out a lot sooner.

I also ordered MS the R&S Artpac 1 in 1st grade but abandoned it after a few projects as being too time-consuming for me and a little above his motor skill level. He is firmly on grade-level in his motor skills now, so I decided to give the line another try. However, I ordered the Level 2 pack, instead of jumping to the one for his grade level. I am very pleased with that decision and will to continue with the next couple using this series a year below grade level. Even for those on-par in motor skills, using a year below enables them to do the projects much more independently, something I highly value, since I am a project-impaired homeschooling mom. (There, I said it.)

This year, MS is working through the R&S 3rd Grade Social Studies textbook. I try to pick one R&S subject like this each year to the end of a goal I have: that my children will know how to learn from a textbook. Strange goal, I know, but I think it's valuable. Really, the rest of our learning is centered around authentic books, like SOTW and Usborne science texts, where they are engaged by the quality and layout of the publication. I have nothing against R&S's textbooks, because this could, in a round-about way, sound like a criticism of their textbooks in particular. I like them, as far as textbooks go. It's just that I'm not a fan of textbook-based learning in general. But I won't go into that right now.

The point is that, at some point, my children may have to learn from a textbook in a graded, classroom situation. It may be in college. Or it may be that at some point we choose to or need to put them in school. To that end, I am having them use a read-and-answer-questions (and, this year, take-tests-that-review-the-material) set to learn this skill. To boot, MS is learning a lot about a farm-based community (R&S is a Mennonite company :-). And last year, he learned some important facts about "health," such as how to carry a knife. I'm pleased with how the set-up is working.

In a world that is increasingly computer-based, I see typing as an invaluable skill, so I set out about a while back to find a typing program that would work well for our kids. For a while we used Read, Write and Type!, which is a phonics-based, combination reading and typing program. It was okay, but MS didn't need the phonics aspects of it, and the graphics were extremely dated. When we upgraded our operating system, and it wasn't compatible anymore, I decided to find another program altogether (everybody say, "I decided to find another program;" extra points to those that get the reference).

I wanted something game-based, because I didn't want to have to push this subject, and, bottom line, I just wanted MS to have fun. What we ended up with is Typing Instructor for Kids, and we recently upgraded to Version 3 (only available, as far as I can tell, as a download, unless you're running Vista; not available for Mac, unfortunately). MS absolutely loves the game. I need to get him to blog about it. It's amusing how enthusiastic he is. But the ultimate issue is: the kid can type. Correct finger positioning. Roughly 17wpm. 93ish% accuracy. Pretty good for a fun game, I say.

MS has been using Rosetta Stone Arabic, Level 1 for over two years now. Only this year did the vocabulary seem to be sinking in. However, that may just be the cumulative effect of him using the program. We bought the updated version of the software and brought it back with us this summer. It took a while to get the computer set up just right to install the software, and now we've hit a user snag. A mommy-user, that is. I need to sit down and set up the program to run and progress the way I think is best for MS, and so far, that hasn't happened. So, for now, his Arabic learning is coming from his lessons, and Mommy is going to get to that task soon. :-/

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