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.