Hi all! We’re about halfway through our homeschool year, so I’ve been releasing mid-year updates (with videos!) on various areas of homeschooling. If you’re interested, check out how we’ve been doing in history, science, fourth grade, and first grade. If you’re super-busy and need something to watch while folding your laundry, check out the videos on my YouTube channel, instead. I hope that you find them helpful!
Today I’m sharing with you how the school year has been going for my four-year-old. He’s doing pre-k work, similar to what he might do in a preschool environment. I have work for him in his workboxes four days a week. He also usually participates in group learning with his older brothers. It’s a good life – lots and lots of playtime, with the opportunity to “do school” like a big boy!
Biggest Pre-K Curriculum Change – Reading!
My four-year-old started off the school year focusing on letter sounds. He could identify most letters, both upper and lower case, before he turned two (thanks, Leap Frog Letter Factory!). Letter sounds were a little slower in coming, and I didn’t want to rush him. So even though he asked me several times when he would get to start reading, I held back.
He was usually in the schoolroom when I gave my first grader his spelling lessons, and it turns out that he was listening pretty closely. He came to me and spelled several CVC words, so I thought that it was probably time to get him reading!
I started him on the kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics, just like I did with my older boys. And he’s doing so well! It’s interesting to me that all three of my boys have developed reading skills in different ways. They keep life interesting. 😉
Biggest Surprise – Depth of Learning
My four-year-old constantly reminds me to not underestimate him just because he’s “only” four. For example, I’ve been shocked by how much Spanish vocabulary he’s picked up. Honestly, it’s been a bit frustrating for his older brothers to see that the little one picks up words so quickly. I guess it really is true that young children are naturally more adept at languages.
He’s also doing so well in science! Science isn’t something that I teach him formally. We’ve been learning scientific concepts together as a group, but I’ve targeted all of the work to his older brothers. A lot of the time I felt like he wasn’t really paying attention. And yet, he surprised me by communicating very easily how sound waves move through the ear. I need to remind myself not to underestimate him!
Biggest Relief – Pencil Grip
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as a homeschool mom is correct my middle son’s pencil grip. I learned that not everyone develops the correct pencil grip naturally and require intervention. It took almost a full school year before he was using the correct pencil grip on a regular basis, and there are still times that I have to remind him.
I was really concerned that I would have the same issue with my four-year-old. I think that the work I did with my older son, and the lessons I learned in teaching him, helped me with the youngest. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t long before he was using the correct pencil grip on his own! It was rough at first, and he’s still working on not using his entire arm and resting his hand on the page, but we’re getting there. 🙂
I hope that this glimpse into my four-year-old’s pre-k curriculum choices has been helpful!
We’re about halfway through our school year, so I thought it would be a good time for a little update on how we’re doing with our first grade curriculum choices. If you’re interested in all of the specific curricula that my first grader is using this year, please watch our current curriculum choices video.
We did make some changes in our group subjects, so check those out, too!
But today is about my first grader. We had one big change, a couple of successful completions, and a plan for an addition to our first grade curriculum choices before the end of the school year.
Biggest First Grade Curriculum Fail – First Language Lessons
My first grader’s biggest change has been that we stopped using First Language Lessons. If you’ve seen my curriculum choices video, this won’t surprise you. I was ready to let it go a long time ago. It’s a curriculum that I tried with my oldest when he was in first grade, and we dumped it that year, too. At the time I thought that the issue was a difference in learning styles, and that was definitely a problem. But this second time around, I realized that the main issue with this curriculum is that it doesn’t teach from the known to the unknown, which is an educational tenet that I live by. We do continue to use the poetry memorization selections in our group learning, but the rest of it just didn’t work for us.
Instead, I switched my first-grader to Kumon Writing Grade 1. He’s working out of it twice a week, so he should finish the workbook in March. Do I love it? No, not really. I feel that it’s too advanced for most first graders to fully absorb the information, but, truth be told, I think that it’s ridiculous to teach grammar above basic sentence structure at this age. Grammar is a state requirement for us, so we’re going to stick with it just to check the box. But I’ll most likely find something much simpler for my youngest when he’s in first grade.
Biggest First Grade Curriculum Win – The Beginner’s Bible
My first grader is almost done reading through The Beginner’s Bible. This is my favorite Bible storybook because it simplifies Biblical stories for children without dumbing them down or adding extraneous fluff. My first grader has loved it, too, and has changed so much in his view of God. Before reading the Biblical story for himself, he’d been pretty resistant to spiritual things. That has all changed in a big way, which just goes to show that God understood the power of storytelling before we all figured it out.
Success – Spelling You See
My first grader completed Level A of Spelling You See before Christmas. He’d begun it about midway last year, and I decided to complete it this year. Level A is pretty different from the upper levels of Spelling You See, lacking a lot of the uniqueness that Spelling You See is known for, and I didn’t love it at the end. Teaching spelling rules works much better for my kids so far.
My first grader is also maybe halfway through Level 1 of All About Spelling. I’m resisting the urge to fly through this curriculum. Even though my first grader could already spell the words we’ve covered so far, I feel that it’s important to acclimate him to the systematic approach used by All About Spelling in order to give him a good foundation for our future spelling work.
To Be Started – Writing
Since my boy has been learning some about writing in his handwriting, spelling, and grammar curricula, I’ve been holding off on doing more in this subject area. But after he completes the Kumon Writing workbook in March, I do plan to try a couple of WriteShop Primary projects with him. After doing WriteShop Primary with my oldest last year (check out my WriteShop Primary review video), I feel like I have a grasp on the general ideas and strategies implemented, so will adapt them and do a scaled down version of the suggested lesson plans. I’ll work with my son to choose the projects that interest him…I know that the shape book is high on that list, so we’ll probably begin with that.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this peek into my first grader’s year!
Now that it’s February, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how things are going with our 4th grade curriculum choices this year. (Check out my video sharing this year’s curriculum choices.) I’ve already published a couple of posts about two of our group subjects, complete with successes and failures.
Today I’ll share some thoughts about how things are going with my fourth grader, along with our biggest success and biggest failure so far this year.
Something New – Mental Warm-Ups
The first thing my fourth grader does each day is work out of his Morning Work binder, which contains calendaring and copywork materials. This fall I also added a mental warm-up section. It currently contains analogies, simple word searches, and logic problems. The purpose of the mental warm-ups is to get my son to sloooowwww dooooowwwwwn. He tends to rush his schoolwork and not pay attention to details, which results in careless mistakes. I thought that starting out the day by doing work that requires him to slow down his thinking could help him in other subjects. It’s hard to be sure, but it seems like it’s helping.
Successful Change – Math
This year I moved my fourth grader from Teaching Textbooks to Math-U-See. He’d used Math-U-See in first and second grades, but I switched to Teaching Textbooks for third grade. I thought he would enjoy the lessons online, and I liked the idea of not having to check his math work.
I was so wrong! The lessons on the laptop totally didn’t work for my non-auditory learner, so I had him read the lessons and do the work in the workbook. That seemed to work well, he was getting A’s on every assignment and seemed pretty confident.
And then he had trouble one day, so I sat with him to go over the lesson and watch him work. That’s when I noticed that the confidence he had after completing a lesson was totally not there while actually doing the math work. This surprised me because, based on his grades and the fact that most of each lesson was purportedly review, he should have had a lot of confidence in doing the work.
After digging deeper, I attributed this disconnect between his lack of confidence in math last year and his great grades to the fact that new concepts do not have enough practice problems. Out of the 20+ math questions in each lesson, only a couple of them pertained to the new concept just covered, and they were often not even the first couple of problems! So there’s a full page describing a new concept, and then instead of getting to practice that concept themselves, the student is given questions that might not have anything to do with that concept.
So yes, Teaching Textbooks has a lot of review questions in each lesson, but I contend that they’re not really review because the student wasn’t encouraged to learn new material well. Instead, I felt like my student had to go through the stress of re-learning each concept over and over again. This wasn’t immediately apparent to me because Teaching Textbooks gives a student multiple chances to get a question correct before it’s marked as wrong.
When it was time to make our 4th grade curriculum choices, we couldn’t wait to move back to Math-U-See! I did change the way we use it. Instead of doing one worksheet a day, I give each of my boys two worksheets – one for practicing that week’s new concept, and the other containing review questions. So he’s doing pretty much the same number of questions that he did with Teaching Textbooks, but actually has the chance to internalize concepts before moving on.
New Favorite – IEW
This is our first year using IEW resources and I was curious about the hype. But I’m now a convert and have a deep and abiding love for IEW resources! I would say that the IEW philosophy is the educational version of “gentle parenting.” The resources we’ve used so far are intended to be low stress for the student, but still give great results.
Fix It! Grammar – Grammar has been a struggle with my fourth grader. While he has learned to enjoy reading, he does not have a natural bent toward a love of words. So he really couldn’t care less about parts of speech. Fix It Grammar works for him because the focus is on a developing story, not boring rules. He doesn’t have to memorize any rules because he can refer to the included flash cards at any time. And the lessons are short because he works on only one sentence a day. And it’s working! I’ve noticed that he refers to the cards less and less, and he’s learning so much. This one has been a big hit for us.
Student Writing Intensive (Level A) – I’ve gotta be honest – the name really scared me. I assumed that the great results people got with this program would be attributed to a high-pressure curriculum. And it’s totally not that. You can move through this curriculum as quickly or slowly as your student needs. Since my fourth grader is not a natural writer, we’re taking it pretty slow, and I’ve even purchased extra source material. I love that it teaches note-taking via the key word outlines. I have had to change my thinking quite a bit. Parents are encouraged to help as much as needed (you can’t help too much! they’ll tell you when they don’t need your help!), and to edit drafts without comment or lecture (they’ll internalize your corrections during the re-write!). This took some getting used to, but I now see the wisdom in those suggestions.
Biggest Failure – Code Ninjas
Even though I made a living doing software development, we enrolled my son in Code Ninjas because I thought he might have fun meeting other kids with similar interests. Unfortunately, the location we chose was not well-run, which caused several frustrations. Also, the kids were required to attend for either one hour or two hours at a time, which was super boring for my son – partly because of the uninspiring environment, and partly because of the distractions around. Add to that my opinion that it’s way over-priced for what you get, and we decided to cancel our membership after a couple of months.
Since then, I’ve had him working in his Coding with Scratch workbook (similar) once a week. It has been a much more positive experience. He spends the same amount of time or more that he would have at Code Ninjas, but he is learning more and having more fun with coding. And we don’t have to drive anywhere! #introvertwin
Biggest Win – Cub Scouts
Yes, I’m counting Cub Scouts as part of our 4th grade curriculum choices! We liked the idea of putting the boys in Cub Scouts both to make friends and to learn responsibility. I’m glad to say it has exceeded our expectations! They are learning so much, everything from respectfulness to health and safety. My husband and I have a deal that he handles the Cub Scouts since I’m busy with homeschooling, so it has been great for the boys to spend that time with Daddy. It has been more involved than we expected, but we’ve seen it as an opportunity to take part in a positive community experience.
I’ll probably have another update at the end of our school year (this summer, since we school year-round). I hope that you enjoyed this peek into my fourth grader’s school year so far!
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Hi, I’m Leslie!
Once upon a time, I was a single woman with an engineering career (Bachelor of Computer Engineering, Summa Cum Laude, University Honors Scholar, National Merit Scholar) and a lot of time to myself. Read More...