Tag Archives: Second Grade

Spring Fever

I’m still trying to figure the direction in which this blog is moving. I just can’t bring myself to do weekly round up-type posts. Although I enjoy reading them at other blogs, I find them boring to write. I already do something similar for my records, albeit in a very abbreviated format, and cannot get myself to do another, more detailed version here. I prefer to have something interesting and stimulating to write about; witty if I can manage it. But lately our homeschooling just isn’t providing adequate material for posts. We have a routine, and to be honest our homeschooling is a bit like an old married couple: comfortable, unexciting (usually), and a little dull. You might even say we’re in a little bit of a rut.

We’re really enjoying spelling (cause it’s new) and science, but everything else is just a little stale. Even history isn’t thrilling us anymore. Esa’s disappointed with the colouring pages in the Story of the World Volume 2 activity book, and I have to agree that they’re not that great. (The ones in activity book 3 are even worse; the drawing is terrible.) Math is going well, but we’re not doing much supplementing with stories or activities. We’ve not done art or poetry in weeks. He really dislikes Writing with Ease, in particular dictation. I think it’s a fantastic curriculum, but it can be a little dull. Okay, very dull. He enjoys the narration, and the reading selections have provided us with introductions to books that we otherwise might not have discovered, which is great. Handwriting is a boring but necessary evil. We’ll be starting cursive writing soon, which will liven things up a bit.

I think the real problem is that we’re feeling a little burnt out. If I made a little more effort to supplement, or take him on educational visit somewhere, we might be able to inject some life into our homeschool. But I just don’t have the “umph” for it right now. Spring is here, the garden is blooming, we’re planning to go to the US in a few days, and my mind is just elsewhere. Maybe what we need is to just unschool for a while. Lots of read alouds (also lacking right now), lots of time in the garden (if only it would stop RAINING!), read about herbs using A Kid’s Herb Book, maybe do some nature journaling, and just have an overall relaxed approach for now.

In other news, I have started yet another blog. 🙂 My interest in veganism is providing me with a lot of material to write about, and since I don’t want to bore my readers, who mainly come here to read about homeschooling, I thought a separate blog was a good idea. If you’re interested, here’s the link:


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All About Spelling

I have learned that the worst thing you can do…a sure-fire way of ruining a curriculum…is to tell everyone how great it is. At least, that’s been my experience. Several times I have posted about a curriculum, singing its praises to the sky, only to find a few weeks later that it’s no longer working for us. Okay, this hasn’t happened every time, but it’s happened often enough that I should know by now to hold my tongue until we’ve used something for a good long time and are sure we’re going to stick with it.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. And a few months ago, I ranted and raved about Sequential Spelling, which we were half-way through at the time. Well, guess what? We’ve dropped it.

It just became such a drudgery. We both dreaded doing spelling and there was evidence that not much learning was taking place any longer. It became necessary to do a lot of drill because there isn’t enough built-in review. One of the things that I really don’t like about the programme are all the homophones. Lesson 97, for example, contains all these:

  • Heel
  • Heal
  • Peel
  • Peal
  • Steel
  • Steal
  • Serial
  • Cereal

Then, a few lessons later:

  • Brake
  • Break
  • Steak
  • Stake

And it continues, throughout the book.

How on earth is a young student supposed to keep all of those straight? It’s craziness.

Esa and I both became so sick of it. It was eating into our time to do other things, and as I said, the lessons just weren’t sticking very well.

We dropped spelling and the sun came out once again. It was like this huge weight had been lifted…we both looked forward to lessons more and we had so much more time for other things.

However, I wasn’t comfortable having no spelling in our homeschool for too long, so I decided to have another look at All About Spelling.

I was tempted by  this programme before because I really like the idea of learning the rules behind spelling. There were times during our phonics lessons when I wondered why a certain pattern is followed…I could see the pattern, but I didn’t understand why.

We’ve begun with level 1, and even though Esa can already spell all of the words presented in the first level, there are skills and rules presented that he doesn’t know. He also couldn’t tell me all the sounds that the letter “A” makes…or any of the other vowels. It’s also a good way of getting him used to the programme before moving on to more difficult material. We’re cruising through the 24 steps, doing about 2 a week. We’ve just finished step 4 and so far Esa’s enjoying it. I’m allowing him to do all the writing on the dry erase board, which makes a nice change from paper and pencil. It’s too early to say if it’s working, but it’s fun.

We’ve been doing a lot of phonics review because even though Esa’s reading well, there are certain phonics rules he’s forgotten or hasn’t mastered. I was going to order Explode the Code and work through that series from level 4 onwards, but AAS is not only a spelling programme, but works to reinforce phonics instruction as well.

I wasn’t really looking forward to using manipulatives and cards, but it’s not as fiddly as I’d feared. It’s scripted so I don’t have to spend ages reading and planning the lesson ahead of time.  Esa really looks forward to spelling, and honestly, so do I. ♥


Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Second Grade, Spelling


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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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Focus (Part II) (Or: I’ve Always Gotta Be Tinkering…)

I’ve been thinking a lot about where we’re headed as well as Classical Writing and Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition (which I hadn’t heard of until recently…Harvey’s, that is) which we plan on using later, and realised that we’re leaning more towards a Latin-Centred approach, which I’m quite happy with. I strongly believe in the concept of multum non multa– not many, but much…in other words, quality, not quantity.

Although our homeschooling is going well, I think it could be better. We’re doing a lot, and sometimes we’re digging in deeply…but not as often, and not as deeply, as I’d like us to.

I was looking through the curriculum presented in The Latin-Centered Curriculum (refered to here as The LCC, which is different from LCC, which just means a Latin-centred curriculum) and I found myself, eyebrows furrowed, frown in place, searching the table of contents and index for any mention of spelling. There’s no spelling! I hissed. No grammar, either, from what I can see!

No, there’s no spelling or grammar curriculum in The LCC, because those things aren’t needed when you’re using Classical Writing, although the authors of CW recommend Harvey’s and the use of a spelling programme…so I’ll have to take a closer look and evaluate as we go.

Could we really drop spelling and grammar?

Well, we’ve dropped grammar (First Language Lessons) for now, until Homer, then we’ll begin using Harvey’s, which is supposed to be the best, most thorough grammar programme ever written.

Spelling? Yes. We are going to drop spelling when we begin CW. Sequential Spelling is fantastic, but I think with CW it’s just going to be overkill. Plus, spelling takes about 30 minutes each day. That’s a lot of time in a homeschooler’s day. If I see a need for a separate spelling programme, we can always add Sequential Spelling back in. But with all the writing and Latin he’ll be doing, I don’t think we will need it. CW takes a total of an hour a day, plus we’ll be spending about 30-45 minutes each day using Lively Latin and Minimus. Plus we’ll have handwriting practice and reading. That’s around 2.5 hours each day of English and Latin, and we’ll still need to do science, history, and math. Something’s gotta give, and it’s going to have to be spelling.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, what I’m about to say may come as quite a shock, but here it is: I don’t think studying grammar at this age is necessary. We’ve spent over a year doing grammar, and Esa pretty much knows what a noun is, but he’s still shaky with verbs and shakier still with pronouns.  I’ve been taking a close look at Harvey’s, and it starts from the very beginning with nouns, what a sentence is, and the different types of sentences. What is point of doing it now and doing it later, when we can just do it later? I’m not going to teach him to read twice, so why should I have to teach grammar twice? When he’s a little older, it’ll all make much more sense and the information will stick, because he’ll be able to practice the concepts more. The time previously spent on grammar will be much more wisely spent on something like math or reading.

I’m also thinking of making some changes to our history studies. Well, more so when we begin our studies of the ancients again, in fifth grade. I like some of the resources recommended in The LCC, and I’d like to take a slower, more in-depth study of the great books. The Well-Trained Mind recommends a dizzying number of books to read each year. I know they don’t intend for the student to read all of them, but when I look at that list, it suddenly becomes a necessity and I feel I’m leaving something vital out if I don’t.

I really like the idea of taking our time and going slowly through the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. I also want to learn more about Greek and Roman history, and  from next year make Latin our main focus, now that phonics instruction is complete. The following passage from The LCC really struck a chord with me:

Classical language study increases our knowledge of the past and of our own history. It’s quite impossible to study classical languages without delving into classical history. What is a ‘gladiator’? (If you know the meaning of the common second-declension noun gladius, you’ll have an important clue.) Who was Caesar? What is an aqueduct and why were they built? What is the meaning of ‘democracy,’ and where was it first practiced? This history is our history, the history of the West. We cannot understand the roots of our own government, legal system, or religious traditions without reference to Greece and Rome. (emphasis my own)

Many of the resources recommended in The LCC are Christian, so inappropriate for us, and the study of science isn’t seen as important and is fact-based in the early grades, so The Latin-Centered Curriculum won’t be our homeschooling bible, as such, but we will probably follow it more than we do WTM (which I still love).

The changes I’d like to make aren’t huge, really. We’ve already begun leaning towards a Latin-centred approach without really trying. I’m just going to give it a little nudge. To sum up, here’s what I’m planning:

  • Math: Continue with Singapore. This programme really instils and promotes mathematical thinking and mental math skills. This curriculum comes highly recommended in The LCC.
  • Writing: Continue with Writing with Ease for now. Re-evaluate at the end of second grade. Move on to WWE level 3, or progress to Classical Writing.
  • Poetry: Continue enjoying and memorising poems. Begin Poetry for Beginners in fifth grade.
  • Handwriting: Continue as we are with Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting. We have just begun book C.
  • Grammar: Stop FLL. Restart grammar in fifth grade using Harvey’s.
  • Spelling: Stop spelling when we begin CW. If spelling becomes an issue, resume Sequential Spelling and omit the spelling element of CW.
  • Latin:
  • Science: Continue with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, having one lesson per week, or every two weeks and one day of science reading.
  • History: Continue as we are with SOTW, cutting back on the supplementary reading. Instead, we will read Greek and Norse myths, medieval tales, and fairy tales this year. We will also continue working through British history, very slowly, using Our Island Story audio book, The Usborne History of Britain, and Britannia: 100 Great Stories from British History
  • Reading: Phonics instruction is complete. We are going to make a phonics chart to help cement learning. I allow Esa to choose his own reading material, but he often goes for the same books over and over, so I occasionally choose for him.
  • Art & Music: Weekly art lesson from Artistic Pursuits, plus plenty of self-initiated art projects. Esa’s recently expressed an interest in learning to draw realistically, so we may pick up Drawing with Children again. We play classical music during art times. For picture study, we’ll be using the Page-a-Day Art calendar.

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Focus (Part I)

When we first started out, I had this dream that Esa would learn to read quickly, love to read, love to write, love grammar, love foreign languages…in other words, I wanted him to like what I liked. Although he loved being read to, and had an amazing working vocabulary, he was very interested in history and science during first grade and we spent a lot of time on history. Science was a little hit and miss, unfortunately. Reading was a hard slog and not enjoyed much. He didn’t mind writing, but learning to read was slow and painstaking.

Gradually, towards the end of first grade, I began to notice some changes, and over the last few months those changes have become more pronounced. He still enjoys history and science, but he seems more engrossed in words- reading and writing. (Remember the book?)  He’s even picked up my habits of list-making and eating during meals, and he almost always has an audio book playing.

And he writes. A lot. Last week, for instance, he said that instead of doing science, he wanted to write and draw a comic. He spent hours on this project.

Making Arrays

He’s also loving math. It’s pretty much his favourite subject and he’s asking to do more and more. He’s also making up his own math problems and adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing any numbers that get thrown his way.

And this got me thinking…

When he asked me if he could ditch science to do this writing, I hesitated…but only for the merest fraction of a second. Yes, science is important (and it will get done), but we need to have a focus. I’m not terribly worried about well-roundedness. I don’t want him to just touch on things lightly. I want him to dig into something and not just be good at it, but be great.

I think part of this stems from the fact that I, myself, am fairly well-rounded. I’m good at several things, but I’m not great at anything. I can write, draw, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, bake, sew, read music…but I’m not fantastic at any one of those things. I don’t have a focus. And although I’m happy that I can do all of those things, I’d love, really love to be truly proficient at just one of them.

So, if he wants time to develop his budding talent for writing, I’m going to give it to him, even if it means something important, like science, gets postponed.

I’ve also been thinking about a Latin-centred curriculum again. The Well-Trained Mind is very well-rounded. It has everything. Its focus is more on language and history, but it covers all the bases, and covers them well. Once you reach the high school years, however, the child does get to specialise and drop a few things.

But I want to take it further than that. I want to pick just a few subjects and really dig deeply, savour, and master them. I want for us (and I do mean US) to be fluent in Latin and maybe another language…to not just read, but immerse ourselves in the best of the great books and be able to discuss them intelligently…to understand mathematical concepts and go beyond basic algebra and geometry…I want us to have a good grounding in logic, and most of all…I want us to be able to write…really write, proficiently, persuasively, and with authority.

In order to do that, we must be focused. We cannot give equal attention to all subjects. I’ve been trying for too long to dig into science and history as much as we do math and English, and it just won’t work. I get caught up in others’ enthusiasm for science and history and think we must be missing out on something. But by trying to do it all, we’re missing out on almost everything, because we haven’t the time to get to the cream of any one thing.

As for myself, I think I know why I haven’t settled on any one thing and really pursued it. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of only ever being mediocre. Some of my hobbies haven’t become passions for good reasons: waning interest, cost, practicalities. But for a few of them, writing and painting in particular, I’m terrified I’ll never really be very good.

This is a guarantee if I don’t focus on something and apply myself.  (I’ll be addressing this in another post.)

Let me ease up on the octane for just a minute to make something clear. I don’t intend to become a pushy, obsessive teacher who insists on academic perfection. I’m thrilled that he has a bent for writing, but I’d be just as supportive if his interests laid elsewhere. And if his interests do change, well, I’ll be right behind him. I may not pursue the subjects with the same vigour, but I will help him to.

I’m also not saying that we’re dropping science and history- certainly not. They are very firmly placed in our schedule…they just won’t be the focal point. We probably won’t do much in the way of supplemental activities or reading. And I still love the WTM…it certainly isn’t getting pushed to the back of the shelf.

So, what changes will we be making? I’ll talk about that in part II.


Posted by on December 26, 2010 in Latin Centered, Second Grade, Writing


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BFSU: It’s Good to Be Back

Returning to BFSU was an excellent decision. Last week’s lesson, (C-4) Distinguishing between Matter and Energy, was a lot of fun. We first spent some time reviewing the concepts from previous lessons in the C thread (physical science), then we got on to the lesson. Esa really enjoyed investigating energy to determine whether it was matter or not.

He shined a flashlight into a balloon to see if we could inflate it with light energy. This proved that light does not contain particles or take up space- but matter does.

We compared the weights of batteries- one fresh and one drained-  with a sensitive kitchen scale to see if electrical energy has weight. Both batteries weighed in at 25g, proving that electrical energy does not have weight- but matter does.

We ran a few other tests, such as trying to trap light in a box, but alas energy is not matter.

We both enjoyed this lesson thoroughly. I felt so much satisfaction at having spent the time to carefully prepare for the lesson and actually do the lesson- and on a Monday. It was a great start to our week.

To aid reference, I propped the book up in a book stand, which made things so much easier.

Another great tip: use these multi-reference bookmarks to keep tabs on the separate threads. These sure beat those little post-its that curl up and tear.

I’ve also gone through the previous lessons and prepared narration sheets to facilitate review. Feel free to download these and use them as you wish (see below). You’ll  notice that I’ve not used closed questions. I’ve phrased the questions in such a way as to encourage full sentence answers and discussion. I will add more as we go along and I’ve added the ones below to the “Our Curricula” page.

This lesson was so engaging that there was no need for me to find additional activities or adapt it in any way. A few days later, we read a little from the Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia and felt very satisfied with our science studies for the week.



Posted by on December 12, 2010 in Narration, Science, Second Grade


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How It Works for Us: Sequential Spelling

We’re now a quarter of the way through Sequential Spelling level 1. Spelling is done daily, and takes around 20-30 minutes. I’m not actually sure as I don’t time our lessons or set time limits.

Sequential Spelling is a phonetic approach whereby the child learns to recognise spelling patterns. The child doesn’t memorise random words, or words with a theme (animal names, foods, colours, etc)  In this way, the student doesn’t need to learn to spell every word in the English language- just a few for each pattern. Sequential Spelling does not take a workbook approach; the child learns spelling by spelling words-  on paper and out loud.

An example of a few words from lesson #29

  1. spatter
  2. platter
  3. splatter

Lesson #30

  1. spatters
  2. platters
  3. splatters

Lesson #31

  1. spattered
  2. splattered
  3. mattered

But before all of that, the child would have learned “spat” and “mat,” and the progression to “spattered” and “mattered” would be a natural progression.

The daily lists are 25 words long. You can eliminate a few of these words, or replace them with words that follow the same pattern, if you wish. I usually omit 2-4 words each day, but occasionally we do them all, if I feel he needs the practice.

This is such an easy-to-use programme. It’s non-consumable, inexpensive and it requires no prep work and no space-consuming, fiddly manipluatives; each level is one slim volume. To make it even more svelte, it’s available as a Kindle download, which is how I’ll probably purchase level 2 as it’s difficult to get hold of here in the UK. You don’t need a Kindle to take advantage of this; the Kindle for PC software (UK here) is available to download for free from Amazon. This software enables you to bookmark pages, highlight words, and do other nifty things.

The only other supplies you need for this programme are: a pencil and paper for the child (you don’t need their response book) and a dry erase board with markers.

There are no grade levels to this programme; you begin with level 1 no matter what grade your children are in. This means that if you’re just starting out in homeschooling, or are new to Sequential Spelling, you can teach spelling to all your children in one session per day.

If you’re following the Charlotte Mason method, this programme fits well with her philosophy of learning to spell through writing and not drill. However, children do see words misspelled.

But this is one of the things that I love about the programme: kids learn that it’s ok to make mistakes. So many children are reluctant writers because they “don’t know how to spell it” and they’re so afraid of making a mistake. With SS, you have to make mistakes. And then you correct those mistakes. The programme forces the child to try, and if they get it wrong, hey, that’s ok; we’ll fix it. You’ll probably get it right next time, and if not, we’ll fix it again.

Sometimes I find that Esa needs extra practice with certain words or patterns. I keep a small sheet of paper tucked inside the SS text and write any words down that I feel he needs extra work on. After our lesson, he comes up to the dry erase board and I give him two “bonus words” from the list to write on the board. He really enjoys this and it gives him the extra practice he needs without overloading him with pencil and paper writing.

Who this programme may not be for: children with serious pencil-phobias and those needing a game-like approach for spelling (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that…we need a “fun” approach to certain things, such as Latin). My son likes to write, he doesn’t grumble (too much) when we do spelling, so SS works for us.  SS does not use games, manipulatives, or songs; it does not entertain. It’s simple, but requires the student to work hard. I imagine the programme could be adapted. A moveable alphabet could possibly replace the pencil for some of the words. However, the act of writing the words helps commit the words to memory far better.

Just to let you know- I’ve not been asked to do this review, nor am I benefiting from it in any way. I just like to review stuff.

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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in How It Works for Us, Second Grade, Spelling


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