Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homeschooling update

It’s nearing the end of the school year and high time for another homeschooling update. In the course of the year, my daughter has finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Little House books, the Narnia books, the Jungle Book I and II, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, and the 6th Harry Potter book (all but the last of which were part of my own childhood cannon). Just recently she’s finished Classic Myths, Story of the World Volume II, and Singapore Math 6B, and has moved on to the Arabian Nights, Story of the World III, and Singapore Math’s Challenging Word Problems for 6th grade (which I purchased several years ago along with the 3rd -5th grade Challenging Word Problems when I heard they were mysteriously going out of print).

Besides this, she’s summarized readings, constructed and diagrammed sentences, cycled weekly through self-made vocabulary flash cards (derived from unfamiliar words in her readings), mapped the world’s continents, rivers, mountain ranges and empires, read about molds, fungi, and insects, and watched David Attenborough on the oceans, mammals, birds, bugs, and dinosaurs. She’s continuing to work through a traditional French ALM grammar book and to follow Mireille and Robert in the very non-traditional French in Action (Pierre Capretz is decidedly not a fan of ALM).

For extracurriculars and social activities there’s music (piano, organ, violin, and trio practice), gym (consisting of several weekly 1-3 mile bike rides back and forth to music lessons, roller skating, ping pong, and hiking), art (Draw 50 Animals; pottery at the neighborhood art school; independent projects like cartooning and dioramas, which she loves doing when they aren’t assigned to her by other people), creative writing (at the neighborhood art school), girl scouts, and formal and informal play dates.

We certainly have our moments of frustration and getting on each other’s nerves. But this continues to be a huge improvement over regular school, and I continue to feel very lucky to have a flexible enough schedule. I probably spend about the same amount of time working with her now that I did back when she had Math Investigations assignments and monstrous projects that she lacked the motivation and organizational skills to do (most recently her classmates had to write 30 poems, 5 in each of 6 genres--the PSSA state test writers being obsessed with genres), but instead of prompting her step by step through uninspiring, low-ratio-of-effort-to-learning tasks, I’m relearning history and mythology, engaging with challenging word problems (which, as they get harder, are starting to feel like the kind of mental workout that could provide the same long-term cognitive benefits as crossword puzzles), and brushing up on my French.

I was at a party this weekend talking with someone who specializes in the theme of abandonment. His focus is on the trauma of abandonment and how it informs religion, so I mentioned the various babies left in baskets in rivers or raised by wolves who became future leaders, and all those heroes of children's literature whose adventures depend on the absence of parents.

"How do you know all this stuff?" he asked me.

"I'm home schooling my daughter," I replied.


TerriW said...

Well, that's the end of the road for Singapore. What are you going to do next? NEM? Dolciani? Something Russian? AoPS? MathUSee? And there's always Saxon.

FedUpMom said...

Dang. Your daughter is learning so much more than either of my kids!

Katharine Beals said...

TerriW, I'm open to suggestions! I've not heard good things about NEM. I've heard that the latest editions of Dolciani aren't good. I'd love to get something Russian but preferably not in Russian--am having trouble finding such. I'm less familiar with AoPS, MathUSee, and Saxon.

TerriW said...

Well, I must say that I love MathUSee -- right now, we use it hand in hand with Singapore, and they go together quite nicely. (My kids are 8 and 6 and the 8 is very math-gifted.)

MUS is mastery based, so much so that I know a few folks that it has turned off in the early years. Heh.

The first elementary book -- Alpha -- covers single digit addition and subtraction, and it hits it hard and serious -- for instance, a single chapter will be the +1 facts or the +2 facts or the "make 10" facts, etc, and you don't move on to the next chapter until you have shown mastery of that fact family. You keep a chart of all the single digit facts and mark them off as you work your way through the book.

So, some chapters (say, the +0 facts) go very quickly, and some take much longer. We'd do one page of Alpha per day, and also do Singapore alongside it -- it allowed us to "go sideways" with Singapore when we were not going "forward" with MUS. But the two worked together powerfully, I found -- MUS is also very big on place value, mastery and application/word problems. In a way, it's "big" on manipulatives, but only the colored unit blocks (not a collection of various things) -- both my daughter and my son took right to them and were able to clearly wrap their head around the concepts and adapt them abstractly.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about doing MUS solo, so I'm not 100% sure what we're going to do when we hit the end of the road with Singapore. I've recently picked up Art of Problem Solving's new Elementary series (Beast Academy) which is fun, but it's more of a sideline.

Which, speaking of fun math on the side: check out Life of Fred. We LOVE it. And that goes up at least through Calculus.

Anyhow, I also got AoPS's Pre-Algebra curriculum which I'm starting to preview. I don't think I'd want to do it solo, but it feels like a good "companion" to MUS, like Singapore has been.

TerriW said...

More, because there are some questions that I just can't shut up about once you start plugging quarters into me:

Art of Problem Solving is interesting. For one, it's heavily focused on prepping kids for competitions such as MATHCOUNTS and the like. (Which made a *ping* in my head go off and think: "Hey, we're homeschoolers and will live or die based on our SAT score. We should check this out!")

Now, if you check out the pdf samples on the site, you will see that the chapters begin with a problem set for the student to grapple with before proceeding on to the instruction ... and yet, it's handled well. For one, it's just a couple of problems that they can try their hand at; two, they don't get left hanging -- after those few teaser problems, they dive right into how to solve it. And commentary about how to solve it. And common pitfalls to avoid.

Now, there isn't nearly enough practice problems for my taste, but, again, I see it as a nice companion to MUS, which is much more nuts and bolts, ensuring that you see how it works, and then practice until mastery. There aren't quite as many flights of fancy -- but that's why I have Life of Fred and AoPS.