Here we are, roughly 6 months into our school term, and I thought it would be good for posterity (or even just me) to look at what's working this year for home school and what isn't.
Our Charlotte Mason-Inspired Bible Memory Boxes are far and away the most successful program I implemented this year. They are really working well. I mean, I might even be learning the verses if I was using a box like the kids. ;) But seriously, James recited 22 passages on our review day at the beginning of the month. He's always been a strong memorizer, but finally having a formal system for practice and review has taken him to the next level. It's working reasonably well for the girls too.
There are things that have been found difficult and skipped, or found difficult and tweaked. First, I don't find that most of the kids will actually review their even / day-of-week / day-of-month verses without a reminder. Which I don't always remember to give. Neither of the girls are going to be able to recite as many of the verses as James either. Second, I am still not insisting very strongly on getting the passage memorized along with the verses, so mostly the kids have the verses in their heads without a good way to find it again in the Bible. Except for a search box. So I really don't waste much time worrying here! Finally, managing the box with all the moving around of papers and dividers every week is a little much for Lucy and even Grace. Probably I should be doing it for Lucy. We reached the end of the box a couple weeks ago and need to start doubling up verses for certain days of the month. I don't think she's figured this out, and when I do get into her box I suspect there's going to be a bit of a mess. Anyway, no biggie. We'll definitely be sticking with this method for the school years to come.
Using Life of Fred as our core for math is working better this year. James is using it exclusively and independently. The girls are using it with me reading the chapters out loud and working through most of the "time to play" problems, and it's happening about twice a week on a good week. Other days they practice with old fashioned drill-and-kill worksheets from TheMathWorksheetSite.com.
James technically completed fractions and decimals last year using Master Books curriculum, but had never done the Fred books between H and M. He tore through those in double-time, and then slowed way down when he got to Fractions and Decimals. Turns out those subjects were not really mastered last year. So while I was looking forward to him starting Pre-Algebra early this school year, it looks like we won't be there for another few weeks - say, around Spring Break. I'm trying not to be frustrated about this, because it Feels like he could go faster, but it really would not be the right thing to push him. Decimals really need to be internalized.
Grace is struggling in math, period. She is still fighting her multiplication tables tooth and nail, with lots of stress and angst. It's not that she can't cough out the 7's and 8's with enough time (and calming techniques), it's that when it comes time to apply them, she really doesn't know them out of order and continues to confuse division and multiplication... it's a mess. There may be some intervention we need to do eventually. For the moment Fred is still a mostly bright point in her math lessons. We did immediately re-start "Honey" instead of moving on to "Ice Cream" because I really don't feel the topics are mastered. The next problem is that Lucy is nearly done with "Goldfish"...
The All About Spelling program is working very nicely for both girls. We are doing it together, and have reached the 4th or 5th lesson in Level 3. That's moving far faster than we would have if we'd started it when either of them was a 1st grader, but so far I feel like they're handling it.
We are definitely NOT using the program exactly as written. First off, we've ditched the flash cards and the review box. I know that's technically a huge part of the program, but so far they simply have seemed unnecessary and a drag on our time and emotional resources. So we quit. I did not even buy the student kit for level 3.
I am open to reconsidering this for level 4 or 5, though, as I know things get trickier.
We also are doing less than half of the spelling with magnetic tiles recommended by the book. Again, it gets tedious. We have not tossed it out entirely (again, it's a big part of the program!), but no-one is eager to spend lots of time on it and I am not seeing enough benefit to force it.
Instead we are spending our spelling time with sentences. We use the AAS book to teach the concept. We build a few words on the board, and talk about exceptions. Most of the week's words are copied into their notebooks. And then we make up lots and lots of silly sentences. Grace loves to illustrate them. Lucy is perhaps a little out of her league - there's a real chance I will need to separate them next school year - but still mostly keeps up.
I am afraid that I will be back to hunting for science programs next year. I am only OK with Crosswired Science. As suspected, though, the primary problem for us is that I hate using videos for school. As soon as the screen goes on, all attention is sucked into that little black hole, and it's nearly impossible to transition to a new subject afterwords. This is true for me as much as any of them, but it makes me understand I have got to go for a traditional book next year. We are usually only getting to science once a week at this point.
Anyway, content-wise there's some good stuff in Crosswired, but the presentation is only So/So, with a moderately difficult to navigate site and very few experiments that I am willing to exert myself to perform. So we will definitely come away this year with a foundation in fluid dynamics and sound, but it's not a program I think we will repeat.
As mentioned in a previous post, The Tuttle Twins didn't work out for us. Too young. James is enjoying "What Ever Happened to Penny Candy," a book on similar themes.
I tried out a "Beautiful Feet" geography / literature program that is built around the Holling C. Holling books from the late 40's. I, personally, am in love with these books, and I think they deserve a place in nearly any curriculum even if they are just read once or twice independently. The lesson plans built around the books are easy to use and - I feel - not too overwhelming. But I've gotten a lot of grief from the kids on the subject. No-one seems eager or, often, even willing to fill out the maps. This seems crazy to me, as it really isn't difficult per-say, but it's a sore point. They also don't love keeping a glossary / dictionary or most of the other ancillary stuff.
This is one of those places where I don't really care what they think. They aren't going to find a more interesting history and geo program anywhere, is my guess. I really like it and am learning a lot.
We are alternating the Holling books with a variety of read alouds and associated lesson plans from SchoolHouseTeachers.com. So far we have read "Call it Courage," "The Year of Miss Agnes," and are in the middle of "Strawberry Girl."
At no point am I even pretending to use more than about 25-50% of the lesson plan. We are limiting ourselves to discussion and narration, vocabulary, and a little analysis of plot (identifying rising action, inciting incidents, climax, etc.) Every once in a while we throw in a few coloring sheets, verbal research projects on an interesting tidbit, etc. Right now both Grace and James are building a "double pen dog-run plank Cracker house" in Minecraft.
Once again I get a little grief on these. James isn't eager for the read-aloud time for some reason, but usually ends up engaged in the end. I plan to stick with this general plan for the next school year, even if he ends up reading things alone. I am running out of books though. I wasn't willing to do a tear-jerker like Where the Red Fern Grows or even Island of the Blue Dolphins, and we've already done Narnia outside of school. There aren't a lot left on my site. Hopefully someone will add more this year, or I will have to go out on my own!