Category Archives: Math

Midway Through Third Grade

I thought I’d do a little update. I’ve been super-duper mega busy lately. I’m working on a degree in English, taking a short story course, and writing as much as I can, all while homeschooling. I’ve entered a few writing competitions and have works in progress and ideas for more.

Our curricula has changed quite a bit. We’re no longer using as many of  Susan Wise Bauer’s and Jessie Wise’s books.


We’re still using Story of the World, but we’re not nearly as happy with volume 3 as we were with the previous 2 volumes. The narrative isn’t as good, the illustrations are poor, and there isn’t a pronunciation guide in the book itself; it’s in the activity book. It’s sad, really, because history used to be Isa’s favourite subject.

Writing & Grammar

For writing we’ve switched to Classical Writing. We were getting so bored with Writing with Ease. It just didn’t seem to be progressing and I didn’t usually like the selections. I found it strange that one day the lesson included practice writing direct quotes, and then that was it for a few weeks. It’s a bit like teaching multiplication one day and then not doing it again for two months. Some of the dictation sentences were ridiculously difficult to memorise. The whole purpose of buying the workbook was so I didn’t have to go searching for dictation sentences or choose selections for narration, but I ended up doing just that, and quickly tired of it.

I’ve had Classical Writing sitting in a box for about a year, so I thought we’d give it a spin.

First impressions are good. It is quite teacher intensive and is not pick up and go. There’s a lot of prep work when you first get it out, but it’s worth it. I feel like we’re really digging into the literature selections. I’ve incorporated what I’ve learned about writing, so we discuss conflict, motivation, plot, resolution, etc. Classical Writing also includes grammar work, which is good because we gave up on First Language Lessons a long time ago. I’m very pleased to see it includes sentence diagramming.

First Language Lessons was another disappointment. Isa dreaded it (and so did I, actually.) It either skipped around too much, or made your eyes glaze over with boredom. He retained nothing from it. I decided grammar wasn’t a matter of life or death at that moment in our schooling, but that saving ourselves from drowning in a sea of ennui was.


We’re still using All About Spelling, which is without a doubt my favourite curriculum. We’re just starting level 3, and I love it. Isa’s spelling is progressing and he’s retaining what he learns. The customer service is amazing, too. I placed my last order on a Friday and it arrived on Tuesday. From the States. To England. The shipping’s not cheap, but I order 2 levels at once and it’s more economical. I also emailed them because I’d run out of magnets and didn’t realise I’d need more. I didn’t want to pay over $20 for magnets and shipping. I received a reply within a few hours, offering a half sheet of magnets for free plus a nominal fee for shipping. They then shipped the magnets the same day. With tracking. I can’t recommend AAS highly enough (and I’m not being paid to endorse them).


We’re on level 3 of Singapore Math. It’s going well, and would have gone better over the past 2 years if I’d had my head screwed on tighter. Isa was forgetting skills. We’d do addition for a few weeks, then subtraction, then multiplication, etc. Then when we came back to addition, he’d forget how to carry over. Or how to borrow when subtracting. Whenever we’d come to review pages, I’d have Isa do them all that day. It occurred to me that instead of having him do all of the review on one day, I’d have him do a few problems everyday as a warm up. Problem solved. Seriously wish I’d thought of it sooner.


Science has been kind of lacking. We hit a point with Building Foundations where we were getting confused. Not just Isa, but me as well. We were reviewing things, but it just felt too complicated. I got tired of wading through the text to figure out what we were supposed to do. I’d really like an outline or some bullet-points and some little boxes that paraphrase the scientific concepts being taught. I’d created study sheets as we went on, and they were helpful, but only up to a point. BFSU is high on concepts, but low on content. I think we need some factual learning on which to hang the concepts; it’s too intensive as-is. All of these scientific concepts are going in, but falling out. We’re not engaged. We’ve put it away for now and we’re reading through the Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body. He reads a 2-page spread, then gives me an oral narration. I’ll push science more in 5th grade when we use Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series.


His reading skills are good–to the point where I can give him something to read, like science, and he can go off and do it by himself, and he can give me a written narration without help.


We’re using Lively Latin. As it should be, Isa hates it and I love it. Okay, he doesn’t hate it, but he doesn’t enjoy all the drill. No matter what programme you’re using, there’s drill in Latin. But it’s good for him. Although, I told him the other day that when we have our next break from lessons, he still needs to do his math review and he said, “I’d rather do Latin!” Not sure if he was kidding or not.

So, yeah, our lessons aren’t fun-filled laugh extravaganzas. They’re hard work. For both of us. But it’s one of those “it’s hard work because it’s worth doing” kind of scenarios. Hard work, but rewarding. We love it more than we hate it.

Looking to the future

I do think Isa will go to school, but not for another 4 years. There are some excellent secondary schools in our area, and I want him to have more of a social life. I’m not very good at getting him into activities. We don’t have time during the day and weekends are hit and miss. The schools also provide academic opportunities that I cannot. We’ll see. It’s a long way off yet. But I know it will go quickly.


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Latin, Math, Reading, Science, Third Grade, Writing



Half-Way Through the Year

We’ve been plugging away happily with our school work, and we’re three weeks shy of the midpoint. Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:


We have just begun Singapore level 2. I cannot emphasise enough how great his curriculum is. It truly does develop mental arithmetic skills. Esa does not work out math facts on his fingers; he is able to add and subtract 2-digit numbers in his head. My own math skills have even improved. He has nearly all of his addition facts memorised now.


Song School Latin is such a light and fun introduction to Latin. The little stories with Latin words mixed in help to bring it to life. If there isn’t a story for the chapter we’re doing, I make one up. Esa really enjoys doing SSL, and he especially enjoys the online drill.


We’ve done lesson B-4 of BFSU, but this one was a bit of a dud for us. It was on life cycles and it didn’t really cover anything Esa doesn’t already know. However, I chose not to go into too much detail with regards to human life cycles. Esa’s very innocent when it comes to the differences between boys and girls and knows nothing about the birds and the bees, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while; I’m just not ready for that innocence to be quashed, and I honestly don’t think he’s ready yet, either. He’s not asking questions. Well, a while back he did ask me where babies came from, and I just told him, “from God,” which is the truth according to our beliefs. When kids ask this question, they aren’t always looking for a full breakdown, complete with diagrams and a viewing of “The Miracle of Life”. He was satisfied with this answer and hasn’t shown any further curiosity. When he does, I’ll go into a little more detail.

Lesson B-4A is one of those on-going ones, so I’ve taken a few notes and I’m preparing for lesson D-4. I’ve posted the study sheets for B-4 and D-4 on the curricula page. I’ve also posted our sequence of study.


Esa’s moved on to book C in the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series. In all honesty Esa’s handwriting isn’t great. It can be beautiful when he takes his time, but it’s often a mess. The italic font is lovely, I just wish he’d make more of an effort to use it when he’s doing his spelling, copywork, and dictation.


Esa’s reading well, but he gets sloppy sometimes. He often forgets some of the phonemes, so we’re going through The Road to Reading and reviewing everything briefly, focusing on weak areas.

He’s currently reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and is addicted to The Secret Garden. He listens to the audio book for at least an hour a day and he has me reading it aloud in the evenings. It’s his new favourite.

I knew some things needed to be cut out of our schedule, and although I was loathe to do it, I have put the axe to a few things. Here’s what we’ve cut and why:

British History: This was always scheduled for Friday, and for the past several weeks it’s been omitted because we’ve needed to finish up something else that got bumped earlier in the week. I’ve decided to leave British History until we’ve finished our survey of world history, then do a year of BH, go through world history again, then do BH again. By that point Esa will probably be doing A-levels..

  • Picture Study: This was such a great addition to our homeschool last year. But for some reason we’re just not into it any more. ARTistic Pursuits contains some picture study, so for now we’ll content ourselves with that.
  • Handicrafts: This has been on my lesson plans sheet since we began homeschooling 3 years ago. We’ve never done any handicrafts, so I’m ditching it until Esa’s older.

I’d like to say that these cuts have lightened our load, but they haven’t; these things weren’t getting done anyway. However, I feel less over-scheduled and less guilt over missing so much out, now that there’s less to miss out.


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Five Weeks Down

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


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Back to School Excitement…(a little less than) One Week to Go!

(This post was written on Sunday.)

It’s a beautiful day today. We’ve had several days of lovely weather, in fact. (Sadly, the weather is now horrendous.) Although the near-constant rain sometimes gets me down, I must say that I don’t miss the scorching temperatures and stifling humidity of Ohio. I did my best to spend very little time outdoors during the summer because it was just so flippin’ hot and miserable. English summers are much more inviting (when it’s not raining). You can’t help but want to go out.

Esa and dh are outside  now, breaking in the new jet washer. Suddenly, everything is filthy and in dire need of being blasted with water: rubbish bins, car mats, empty plant pots, bike, windows, rocks, slugs, neighbours…

As I look out the window I can see Esa in his high-visibility jacket, huge sponge clutched in his little fist, wiping our car’s parcel shelf. I can tell he’s itching to finish the scrubbing so he can blast it with the jet washer.

I’ve not spent as much time outdoors this year as I did last year. Partly because we’ve had a pretty miserable summer, but even on nice days I’ve just not felt like going out. I do regret that. I did spend about 5 minutes outside today repotting an aloe plant. And lovely as it was, I just didn’t feel like staying out. I don’t know why, although I do know that when the cold weather hits I’ll be cursing my stupidity.

Dh has this whole week off. Normally I groan when he’s at home for a whole week and we have no real plans, but I’m looking forward to it this time. This is the last week of Ramadan, we have Eid this week and no lessons, so there are some preparations to be made. We’re planning to take Esa to a museum in Manchester to round off our prehistory studies and we need to do a little shopping. I’m hoping to get some time for my artwork, but best of all I’ll be finalising our preparations for our first week of second grade, which begins September 13th.

I’m so excited about school…but a little apprehensive. Ok, a lot apprehensive. I’m worried that I’ve gone overboard and all this work I have planned is just going to be stuff we have to get through. I’m afraid that there’s too much writing. I’m terrified that he’s going to hate it.  The fact that I go all googoo eyed when I steal glances at our books doesn’t mean Esa’s going to share my enthusiasm. And if he hates it, I’ll end up hating it, too.

Well, we’ll see how it goes and make adjustments as necessary. Nothing new there…

Here’s a partial list of what I need to do:

  • Hole-punch the SOTW 2 activity book student pages, skim through books and teacher’s pages for chapter 1
  • Read through the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting teacher’s manual for books B & C
  • Read through our first Minimus Latin lesson and make notes, photocopy worksheets, etc.
  • Remove cat from stack of papers
  • Get out the delicious Writing with Ease workbook 2 and read through the first lesson, tear out student pages and hole-punch
  • Prepare paper for Sequential Spelling lessons (Use student writing paper I already have? Or make paper using Italic Handwriting printables from manual?)
  • Reprint any pages cat has shredded
  • Get out Singapore Math books, which have been collecting dust and select review pages/new material to cover the first week. Math drill? Math stories to read? Math games?
  • Read through next science lesson, take notes, gather any materials & books we’ll need
  • Brush punch-outs from cat’s fur
  • Choose phonics lessons from The Ordinary Parent’s Guide
  • Look through web links for any relevant websites, book recommendations, activities, etc.
  • Make note to send cat outside the next time I need to do any planning

That ought to keep me busy for a day or two.


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Two and a Half Weeks Left and Counting

Lately I’ve been casting wistful glances at our mountain stack of books for second grade, wishing it was time to get them out and flood the room with new-book smell. Sometimes I allow myself a few minutes with one of them…I’ll sit down with one and leaf through, relishing the crispness of the clean, unmarked pages, sighing with anticipation at the delights that await us…even the paper cuts I accumulate are all part of the fun.

That Writing with Ease workbook is particularly captivating…it’s 3 centimetres thick. I’ve covered it with book-covering film so the cover is oh-so-glossy and sturdy and hopefully with stand up to Esa’s attempts to destroy the book once he realises it’s really an instrument of torture.

I’m even more thrilled about second grade now that I’ve managed to save the SOTW Volume 2 Activity Book to my computer. If I’d bothered to read the downloading instructions, I wouldn’t have wasted 4 of my 5 downloads. But I thought I Knew What I Was Doing, so didn’t read the instructions. That’s not really like me at all, but vanity doth cloud my judgement at times…

I’ve also been perusing some of the audio books and lectures on Peace Hill Press. I bought a few (download versions…the ability to save files went to my head) and I’ve really enjoyed The Joy of Classical Education (only $.99!) This is definitely one I’ll listen to again and again, particularly if I need a little homeschooling pick-me-up.

I’m also thrilled I found the audio stories which supplement SOTW. These CD’s are pretty expensive to buy in the UK, and I prefer downloaded versions in order to save space AND you get them immediately. We’ll definitely buy a few of these as we go along. And next year I’ll buy the SOTW 3 audio book download from them as well; far cheaper than buying the CD’s. It crossed my mind that I won’t be able to resell them since they’re MP3’s and not CD’s, but then I realised I probably won’t want to resell them anyway; I can see us using these for a long time, so downloaded versions are perfect.

Esa’s getting really excited about second grade, too. Poor boy…he has no idea how much torture work awaits him this year.

I am a little concerned with the workload. We may need to cut something out if it proves to be too much. Oh well, tweaking is a specialty of mine.

Speaking of tweaking…

I’ve recently done some tweaking to our second grade schedule. It dawned on me that I’d only worked in a total of 8 weeks’ holiday. Now, if it were a year ago, I’d be finding a way to reduce that (silly, homeschooling-crazed mother that I was am was am was…oh, who am I kidding…?), but I found myself looking at that schedule and nearly hyperventilating at the lack of lines on the spreadsheet reading ****HOLIDAY****. It now has many more holidays worked into it (and my defibrillator can get a  much-needed rest.)

One more week (after this week) of prehistory/phonics review/math facts memorisation, then a week off, then we shall begin second grade.

Speaking of memorising math facts…

Ugh. This just isn’t going anywhere. I knew it was going to be hard work, I knew it was going to take time…but what I didn’t know is that after memorising 12 facts, as new ones went in, old ones would fall out, despite the repetitive drill. I thought if we did one set a week, introducing 3 new ones each day for 3 days, reviewing them all each day,  that he’d have them down. It started out well, but then our little house of flash cards came crashing down. He’s getting them confused and we’re only on 3’s. There’s just no way we’ll make it to the 9’s the way we’re going about it. I’m not really sure what to do. Not knowing his math facts is slowing him up when he does his work. Not sure if we should just persevere, try something else, or leave it for a while.

Maybe I should have him write a set out 10 times each day. That’s what one of my teachers did. (Ok, it was 4th grade and for multiplication tables, but it did work.) I do think a multi-sensory approach may be better, though. Will have to do some googling.


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Second Grade Plans

We’re officially finished with first grade. We’ll have a few weeks off, then have a few weeks of light summer school, working on reading, math facts, pre-history, science, and a little handwriting. That sounds like a lot when I type it out, but we won’t do everything every day and it will be very relaxed.

My thoughts have now turned to second grade. I’ve been doing lots of planning, sorting, and arranging. Out with the old and in with the new. 🙂

Second grade sees the addition of a few subjects. Here’s what we’ve got lined up:


For a gentle and fun (and inexpensive) introduction to Latin, we’ll be using Minimus. Now, I believe in parts-to-whole learning, but looking back on phonics instruction, I know that kind of learning can be a bit boring, especially in the early days.  I want this first year of Latin to be fun and engaging; I’m not terribly fussed if Esa doesn’t walk away being able to read Cattus Petasatus after this first year. Minimus is whole-to-parts and quite lively. I think it will be much enjoyed.


Last year I purchased Writing with Ease. I didn’t purchase the workbook because I wanted to choose the copywork and narration selections myself and I also wanted to keep costs down. The result was that after a few weeks I stopped using it. I came back to it, but it got dropped again. It was too much work and I wasn’t sure I was “doing it right.” So for level 2, I’ve decided to purchase the workbook. I don’t think we need to begin at level 1; he’s done lots of copywork and narration, plus he’s gone through FLL level 1 which dovetails with WWE level 1, so we’ll dive in with level 2. I’m very excited about this for some reason…I’m not sure why. After all, it’s just a workbook and the WWE programme isn’t new to me…but there’s something about it…it feels weighty and substantial. We’re not in Kindergarten anymore, Toto.


In first grade we began using Sequential Spelling. I stopped this because although it was great and Esa was learning to spell, it was a little too much and since he wasn’t doing much writing apart from handwriting and copywork, I worried that he would forget what he’d learned. In second grade he’ll be doing more real writing (he’s currently writing a book called “Lego City Police Story”) and will have more writing assignments and I think spelling instruction will be beneficial.

Here’s what else we’ll be doing:


Phonics instruction is more or less completed. We’ll be reviewing things from time to time because although the point of phonics is to get them reading, I don’t want him to forget the rules. Why? Well, I was taught by phonics, but I’d forgotten many of the rules. Since teaching Esa, I’ve found some of those rules to be beneficial to me. I want him to know these rules because reading instruction never ends; even as an adult he’s going to come across words he doesn’t know, so having a good grasp of those rules will be helpful in his reading and his spelling.

He’s been reading a lot of Mr. Men books. These are fun, lively, and challening. We’ll continue with these for the time being. Mostly I’ll let him choose his reading material, but I will steer him clear of twaddle or too many easy selections and there may be times I assign him something to read. I want him to read a variety of things, including non-fiction, which he likes to read, anyway.


We’re currently in the middle of Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Book B. We’ll plug away at this and move to Book C whenever he’s ready.

World History

We’ll be using Story of the World Volume 2: Middle Ages. I have the activity book, purchased as a download from the Peace Hill Press website. (Big mistake; they don’t allow you to save it to your computer and you’re limited in the number of times you can download it, so you have to print off all the 400+ pages…not very economical.) I also purchased the audiobook, which we’re very excited about.

British History

I was planning to do British history alongside world history, but I’ve decided not to do that. When we’ve worked through all four SOTW books, we’ll then spend a year or two working on British history, then we’ll do four years of world history again. The educational system works differently in the UK, so I probably won’t be homeschooling via the classical method all 12 years. During his last few years, he’ll be working on A-levels, which may not even include history, so we’ll probably only have two history rotations.


We’ll be continuing with First Language Lessons. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with level 1. Nouns went on for an eternity, but then pronouns and verbs were barely touched upon. And some of the lessons were, in my opinion, downright useless. I also didn’t like how the child was to learn the months (in order), but yet the poem which teaches how many days are in each month (what 6-year-old needs to know that, anyway?) gives the months out of order! We skipped that poem and I taught Esa the knuckles trick, so that if he does want to know how many days are in each month, he can work it out.  However, level 2 looks more promising, so we’ll keep using it.


We’re about 2/3 of the way finished with Artistic Pursuits book 1. This has been a nice curriculum, but not spectacular. Some of the lessons are better than others, and if you want a pick-up-and-go art programme, it’s fantastic. But because we do a lot of art, including art appreciation, this hasn’t been the must-have curriculum that I imagined it would be. However, I do think the upper levels will be more useful to us and we will continue using it. This is a book that I know I can sell on, so I don’t feel it’s a waste of money.


I’m not totally sure in which direction we’re headed with math. Second grade could see us adhering strictly to Singapore Math, we may use a little of it, we may use a different programme altogether, or we may just unschool math completely. I just don’t know. I’ll have a better idea of what the plan is come September. I don’t really like the idea of buying another curriculum. Math curricula is expensive and who knows whether it will be any better. There are some great things about Singapore:

  1. It truly has fostered Esa’s mental math abilities
  2. I like that you can skip around a bit; you don’t have to do everything in order
  3. It’s challenging and thorough

What I don’t like about it is that it’s a little boring. So, it’s one of those programmes that we will probably continue using, but we’ll supplement with other things, skip around, and take breaks from it.


We will continue using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. This is an amazing curriculum and is suitable for all, regardless of your views on evolution because it’s not covered in this programme. It is quite teacher-intensive, but since everything else I’m using is pick-up-and-go, I don’t mind. I think science needs to be this way, at least in the early years. Once Esa’s a bit older, he’ll be able to take on some of the responsibility of initiating science activities himself.

My only complaint with this programme is that it could do with a little fleshing out via literature. There are book recommendations, but they’re all non-fiction selections, not always the greatest, and our library doesn’t usually have them. I think reading about science (in fiction and non-fiction format) is a great way to cement and supplement the learning, and Esa loves science books. I know once his reading skills advance a little more he’s going to be clamoring for science materials to read.

I think it would also be nice if for each lesson there were some sort of outline to ensure certain key points were covered. It’s a little too fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants for my linking. I don’t want it scripted, I just want to make sure I cover all the bases. I do make notes for each lesson, but I still worry that I’ve left something out.

I also need to devote more time to Esa’s science instruction. We only do science one day a week, plus read a section from The Story of Science, but because this book is being read out of context, it’s not much of a supplement. We’re not getting any nature study in, which I feel guilty about. I just don’t know what to do. We go out, look at a few plants and bugs, and I just don’t know where else to go from there. There’s nowhere within walking distance that will provide more diversity. (I’m working on getting my UK driver’s license, which will broaden our horizons quite a bit  more). I need to make more of an effort with this. And as I write this, I feel more determined to do so. It’s summer and we need to be out there exploring. I’d also like to start doing something about those nature journals.


We haven’t done a whole lot with this. Esa is learning a little food preparation and he helps out a fair bit with housework, but this winter I’m hoping to begin him with some easy sewing or cross stitch and maybe crochet. I tried him with some cross stitch several months ago, but he wasn’t quite ready for it.


We will continue with our composer study. Well, there isn’t much “study” involved. I choose a composer (usually whoever I’ve manged to pick up at the charity shop) and we listen when we feel like it. Esa likes classical music, so I count this area of our homeschooling as a success.


This tapered off a little at the end of first grade. We were using this set of discussion starters, but this died out.  We were studying Kandinsky and our library only had a few books on him, none of which contained the paintings I wanted to study. I allowed Esa to choose most of the paintings, but I did choose one or two, including a watercolour. 🙂

I’m hoping get back to our discussions, and I’d like to study a few watercolourists, including J.M.W. Turner.


Although we faithfully memorised several poems (I say “we” because when you’re child is memorising a poem, you can’t help but memorise it yourself!), the reading of poetry for fun waned. I want to revive this. It’s just laziness on my part, really. (“It’s almost time for lunch…we don’t have time for poetry now.” Etc.)

Our days will take longer, I can see that. I don’t think it’s going to be realistic to expect to finish before lunch. I think we may do 2 hours before lunch, and 2 hours after. Four hours is a lot, but we will have little breaks here and there. (“I need to put the clothes in the dryer, let’s have a little break” and so on.) And breaking it up like that will hopefully allow us to get a good balance of quantity and quality; I want to take our time with things and not rush, but I also want to get it all in…or most of it, anyway. I always feel guilty when I rush things and I learned to cut out certain things and go  more slowly rather than rush through everything. This is partly why nature study and poetry often get missed out. But I need to make more of an effort to include these things.

We will begin second grade on….er, sometime in September.


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Wrapping Up First Grade

I didn’t realise what a big deal the end of the school year would be. Esa’s excited about finishing first grade and being ‘in second grade’ and I feel…lots of things. A sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, relief, sadness, excitement. I’m so proud of the hard work we’ve done, I’m relieved to be winding up phonics instruction, and I’m excited that we’ve (nearly) finished Story of the World volume 1 and will be moving on to volume 2.

When we first began homeschooling, I spent so much time planning first grade that I didn’t give second grade much thought. The thought of the end of first grade made me sad; I didn’t want it to end. That’s how enthusiastic I was. 🙂

But we’ve done so much, worked hard, played hard, and made the most of it, and I feel good about it. There’s very little that I would do differently. I do wish I’d had more patience at times, but I feel good that I made the changes that I did and did my best to make this a good experience for us both.

We now have 1 week of SOTW, FLL, and phonics instruction left. We will then spend several weeks doing pre-history and reviewing phonics. Esa knows most of the phonics rules, but he often forgets to apply them when he comes to a new word, so we need to work on that.

We have a lot to finish in Singapore math, but I’m not bothered about that. We’re taking our time and working through it at our own pace, taking detours when needed. Since easing off the curriculum his enjoyment of math has returned and I can see that he’s getting many of the concepts that we worked on.

Esa needs to work on addition and subtraction facts, so I bought Snap-It-Up; a fun card game that drills math facts. He also needed to work on patterns, so I set up some patterns for him to work out and finish:

These were challenging for him (not made any easier by the busy carpet beneath), and even though he didn’t always get it right, he began to see how to work it out. He just didn’t understand before that the pattern repeated.

During our summber break, we will continue with/do:

  • BFSU
  • Reading practice
  • Pre-History
  • Math: stories, activities, facts
  • Art (self-initiated)

We will have a break from:

  • Grammar
  • Handwriting
  • SOTW
  • Artistic Pursuits
  • Artist study
  • Composer study

I’ll be posting about our second grade curricula, which I’m quite excited about, soon.


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