Five Weeks Down

19 Oct

We’re on holiday this week. Well, supposed to be on holiday. My husband is doing some DIY and every 5 minutes he’s calling me to help him with something. On day one I was pretty patient- he did need my help and I was so thrilled that he was finally getting the work done that I was happy to help. But it’s now day two, the work’s only ¼ of the way finished, and I’m getting fed up. I want to draw and paint, not hold boards above my head, measure things, and assess brightness of lights. Then again, if I don’t check on his progress every now and then I certainly can’t complain that things aren’t right once it’s all done.

So, in between stints of being Barbara the Builder, I’m writing.

Right, enough moaning, on to homeschooling.


I’ve decided to drop Latin for the time being. We’ll pick it up in 6 months or maybe at the start of 3rd grade. Lively Latin is too advanced for Esa as it contains writing and grammar that he’s yet not ready for. I thought we’d have another go at Minimus, but our schedule is just so full that something had to go. The funny thing is, I had a little premonition that we wouldn’t be doing Latin this year. I was sitting at the computer, just before the start of second grade, doing some planning. An evil little voice whispered in my ear, Latin’s going to wind up getting dropped. I banished the voice with: No! We will do Latin. Latin’s cool and will add style and panache to our homeschool! (forget the academic benefits, right?)

But, alas, my instinct was right. Something had to go and I think he’ll get more out of Latin if we wait 6 months or even a year.


Math facts: the bane of our mathematical pursuits. When we first began using Singapore Math, I had every intention of having Esa memorise his facts. Later. Next month. In the summer. A year went by and apart from 2+2 and 5+5, he didn’t have any facts memorised.

So, we did the flashcard thing. Within a week we were both dreading those 3×5 cards. He didn’t learn a thing.

I thought we’d just leave it then. Maybe he’d pick them up as we went along. Maybe it wasn’t necessary for him to memorise facts; I’d teach him to count on his fingers, which is what I did do.

No, no, that’s no good. I don’t want him, at 30, still counting on his fingers. Can you imagine it? Well, I can, because his father does it, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight.

Ok, so we’d ditch the cards and take it slowly. But what would be actually do? Then I had a brainwave: chanting and dry erase. Chanting is pain free, kids seem to like it, and it works. We’d chant some facts, pointing to them on the dry erase board, with no pressure to memorise, then when he had some down, we’d add more.

I began with the facts that make ten, omitting the 1+’s and 0+’s. I also presented them using the commutative property, so we’d chant 2+8=10, 8+2=10. Done this way, there were only 4 sets to learn:

2+8, 8+2

3+7, 7+3

4+6, 6+4


He learned them quickly and easily and he can recite them in his sleep. But best of all: he enjoys our few minutes of chanting and quizzing and it is helping him with his work.

We’re now adding the other doubles (3+3, 4+4, etc). Once he has those down, we’ll fill in the rest. He’s also noticing more patterns. This is working a treat.


Prior to 2 weeks ago, we had only done science once in our homeschool since second grade began. It’s just not happening. How could it be that I have this great science curriculum, that I’ve praised to the hilt, but we’re not using it?

Simply put, it takes a lot of prep work. It’s do-able, but it’s time-consuming to prepare. And with everything else I have to do, it’s just getting left out. You know how it is: you do math, handwriting, reading, spelling, grammar, copywork, and history, and you’ve saved science for last because it’s going to take an hour or more and you wanted to make sure you got all the essentials in for the day, then the time comes to actually do science and you look at the clock and sigh and say, “we’ll do it tomorrow.” The next thing you know it’s Friday, something comes up at the last minute and you have to be somewhere and science just doesn’t happen.

Next week, repeat.

At least, that’s how it works in our house. Despite how much we love science, it’s getting left out. And all that prep-reading and set up are killing my enthusiasm. BFSU takes a lot of prep work. There is a lot of reading to do, and it isn’t scripted, so you’ve got to take notes because the instructions are interlaced with the science-y bits. I often have to read through the lessons 2 or even 3 times to make sure I’ve got it all and I know what I’m doing. There have even been times when I’ve left something out, or had to stop mid-flow to refer to the book, and that’s a big momentum killer. I need something with a little more hand-holding.

So, I’ve decided to give R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey a try. This was my second choice after BFSU. They have great try-before-you-buy samples that don’t require any registering or obligation; you simply click on the link and a pdf file opens up.

I’d heard lot of negatives about R.E.A.L.: that it was babyish, the labs didn’t always work, it’s not in-depth enough, needs supplementing, and some of the labs were downright pointless.

But, I decided that none of the those negatives matter… he’s six and this isn’t our only shot at science. We’ve got lots of time to go more in-depth, read, and explore. But if the programme we’re using is too much hassle and it’s just sitting there and science isn’t getting done, then it doesn’t matter how great it is.

The most important criteria for a science programme for us are:

  1. It’s enjoyable
  2. It’s easy to implement and doable
  3. It ignites a love of science
  4. Promotes the use of the scientific method
  5. Leads to further scientific study

RSO, from what I can see so far, meets all of those requirements.

Initially, I agreed with the views that RSO was babyish. The funny drawings and tone of the lessons did make it seem a little young. But I now see it as lively and fun. It’s a very sound curriculum and there is a lot of overlap between it and BFSU. The main difference with BFSU is its seriousness. There’s not a single picture or drawing in the book (since it’s geared for the parent), and although the tone is inviting and encouraging, it’s very sober and no-nonsense. But my son is 6. He’s energetic and silly and giggly and thinks science is fun. So where’s the fun? I want him to love science.

BFSU is too grown-up for us right now. Too controlled and managed. It’s not messy or silly…or fun, sadly. Maybe it is; maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m making it not fun.

The biggest problem of all: Esa’s losing his interest in science. I’m really shocked that this is happening, but it is. Week after week he asks me, “when are we going to do something in science?” The lessons in BFSU are more like demonstrations and discussions. There’s little for him to actually do. I find myself saying to him, “Once we get a bit further on in the programme, it’ll be more exciting.” But we’re nearly 1/4 of the way through and if anything, there’s been less for him to actually do. He’s bored. Yes, he’s learning about scientific concepts, but he’s uninspired by it.

To be fair, not all the lessons are this way. Some have gone well, and some of the lessons Esa really enjoyed. But he wants to make things and mix things and feel like an explorer. R.E.A.L. Science will give him that. When I look at RSO I can see the fun.  BFSU volume 1 has no chemistry activities. I’ve told Esa that we’ll only be doing Biology for now, but that we will later be doing chemistry…a whole year of concoction-making, mess-making, kitchen-science fun.

So far we’ve done the first 2 units and Esa’s really enjoyed it. We’ve spent 2-3 days each week doing science, supplementing with The Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encylopedia and library books. Science is getting done and we’re loving it.

Update: We’ve since gone back to BFSU. RSO wasn’t the great curriculum it first appeared to be. It was truly a fact-based learning programme and we very quickly became bored with it. We’ve realised just how great BFSU is and I’ve made a few adjustments (it *was* my fault that it wasn’t fun) to how we do our lessons and it’s now working beautifully for us. Science is now fun and inspiring and now that I’ve realised just how great this programme is, I don’t mind the extra work involved. The things worth doing often do entail hard work. 🙂

I am not being paid or otherwise benefiting from this review. I simply want to share our experiences and opinions. Chances are things will change as we go…as they often do. We could be back to BFSU before you can say “fickle homeschoolers.”


Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Family Life, Latin, Math, Science, Second Grade, Time off


Tags: , , , ,

8 responses to “Five Weeks Down

  1. Clare

    October 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Love your updates Michelle, as always! Can’t tell you how helpful they are, with J only one year or so behind. Thank you 🙂

    • whimsyway

      October 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      You’re welcome, Clare. 🙂

  2. Michelle

    October 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    We gave up Latin and haven’t gone back to it. We tried Minimus, but didn’t get the teacher’s guide (too expensive). I keep thinking if we get the teacher’s guide we would do it, but there is just not enough time in the schedule…

    We have been doing science once a week on a day that we don’t do history. It helps a lot that it has its own day. We were doing science twice a week, but I wanted a day to do poetry, or music, or art. We do history 3 times a week. It works out well and I feel like we are covering a enough.

    • whimsyway

      October 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      The teacher’s guide is a nice addition, but not necessary. I felt it was overpriced, too, but I’m pretty sure I can resell it and get back nearly what I paid for it. I’d like to pare history down to 3 days a week, too, but for some reason we do it 5 days a week. Fridays we do British history and SOTW takes up 4 days. What are you using for science?

  3. Suji

    October 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    So nice to hear your update 🙂 Have wondered how you guys are doing. We dropped Latin and BFSU for the same reasons (as if we don’t already have so many similar experiences!). I still toy with introducing Latin back but something or other keeps getting in the way and usually it feels like something a lot more fun that the kiddo and I will stick with.

    I think fickle is good…it’s important to keep testing different waters isn’t it? Someone please agree with me LOL.


    • whimsyway

      October 20, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      I agree! 🙂

  4. Neo

    October 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    We’re totally with you on science! 🙂 Whatever works for you and Esa is the programme you should use. I, too, had a hard time letting go of BFSU initially, but like what had happened with Esa, Tiger stopped asking to do science! That set off my panic button, and now we’re trying out R.E.A.L. too and it has been working well.

    • whimsyway

      October 20, 2010 at 6:47 pm

      It’s strange how guilty I feel giving up on BFSU (for now anyway…we may come back to it later.) I’m not sure why that is. I’m glad R.E.A.L. is working for you, too. 🙂


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