Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Year 4.0, The Halfway Point

This post was inspired by...
The realization that we're about midway through our first semester of Year 4. Where does the time go?

Here's a look at what we've been doing so far.

Number theory...
Isn't going the way I thought it would. For one thing, I'm in no shape to facilitate kiddo's learning of this math topic, having done zero number theory myself and not having a passion for numbers like he has. So, I've left the choice to him. He may continue to use the Introduction to Number Theory book from the Art of Problem Solving or he may choose from his shelf of other number theory-themed books or problem solving books or explore his own ideas. I do leave an hour a day scheduled for math, and he's free to choose to use it to explore number theory, problem-solving or some other topic. For now, he seems to have decided to use the daily hour to begin high school Geometry, and focus on number theory (or not) during his leisure hours in the afternoons/ evenings.

The German Online program from Oklahoma State University is okay. I give it a 3 out of 5 stars for the moment. We had some initial bugs (for e.g., the program works best on Firefox vs Internet Explorer) and the accompanying Skype sessions (OSU offers these free of charge) haven't presented the amount of conversational benefit I'd hoped they would but the video/ animation lectures and complementary worksheets are a success.

Kiddo prepares to sketch appropriate drawings for the German verbs he's learning.
Kiddo started Visual Latin a week ago. Took a lot of cajolling to get him to agree to this. Despite his reluctance, I've been quite persistent about doing Latin. I see its benefits for a child who loves vocabulary studies but dislikes learning grammar. Prior to finding Visual Latin, I decided to leave Latin for later. After finding this program, I thought I'd try to persuade him one more time. Having started it, he seems to like it. Always helps to have video and humor I tell you. I don't think he'd have agreed otherwise. So far, we both think it's a great way to learn Latin but we're only on Chapter 2 so it's early yet. If you are a secular homeschooler, do be advised that there are translation exercises involving biblical passages. I look at it as a way to enrich our limited knowledge of the Bible -- it doesn't feel overtly religious to us as a result. But again, only time will tell.

Kiddo has been assembling a glider made of balsa wood, using his Exploration Education kit. We've been watching Impossible: Physics Beyond the Edge (a Teaching Company course) and he discusses the lectures with Dad. We're also reading aloud Mr. Tompkins in Paperback by George Gamow for fun.

And a few other things...
We've started a relaxed, informal study of art history using The Private Life of a Masterpiece series. I'd suggest parental guidance--or at least a parent who is present and paying attention--if you decide to use this series with a young child. We like the series, some "PG-13" warts and all--it offers kiddo a nice treat to look forward to in the afternoon after working hard every morning. So far, we've watched clips on Rembrandt, Vermeer, Boticelli, da Vinci, Uccello and a few others. It isn't available via instant viewing on Netflix so we use the DVDs instead. After this series, we'll move on to other materials listed in this post.

Kiddo (with raised oar) kayaking with buddy
under watchful eyes of Dad (left).
Our study of the comics-genre is progressing a little less quickly than I'd hoped but I'm also trying to tell myself that we've at least started (ha!). To make it more exciting for kiddo, we began with Calvin and Hobbes. The plan is to read a little Calvin together and then take full advantage of kiddo's happy mood to help him write creatively, using comics as inspiration for characters, plot etc. (insert evil grin).

We've dropped Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings. Although it was nice to see a fat bunch of completed worksheets in his binder, I decided that as thorough as the program is, it doesn't make me comfortable asking kiddo to fill in worksheets when he could be spending that time enjoying the story itself. There's plenty of time yet for literary analysis and vocabulary studies of that sort.

Kiddo continues to swim despite the cooling weather (thank goodness for the heated pool at his swim class) and he's started kayaking this fall at the pretty regional park about a half hour away.

We've been very fortunate this semester to participate in an online volunteer relationship with a bunch of kids in Honduras. We Skype the kids every week and usually precede the Skype session with ideas for a cooperative, hands-on project. So far, we've made some origami crafts to show them.

Keeping it real...
I've realized that I often don't discuss the nitty-gritties of our home learning journey on this blog. I guess as an inherently cheerful person, I rarely remember to when typing the post into the blog editor but the reality of it is that every day, I face an inevitable routine of trying to balance dawdling with results, or my nagging with my internal fight with myself to nag less. Today in particular, I made it clear that if we are going to continue to homeschool, I need him to do more for himself and not depend on me to do it. That it's his wholehearted choice to stay home from school and that I am giving up some of my own wishes by staying home with him. So together with everything else we are focusing on this year, I want to add that kiddo is going to be learning about responsibility. And I hope to learn to get out of the way more often so that he will have a chance to exercise that responsibility.

Wish us luck! :)


  1. My son (8 1/2) and I struggle with how much he will do independently, too. It's a work in progress, and I know from experience that his younger brothers will do things earlier than he does because they see his example. Sometimes I have to sit next to him *while refusing to help* to keep him moving on something that I know he can do, but he's not sure so it's uncomfortable to try without help. It's nice to know we're not the only ones!

  2. I think it is hard to teach responsibility in a homeschool setting because the teacher is the parent, and as a parent we want to be there for our child. But I agree with you that it is so important, especially as the child gets older.

    Love all the work your son is doing. It sounds like he is having a great year.

  3. Only kiddo would do number theory in his leisure time :)

    Good luck with the respoonsibility bit - its an ongoing battle here too.

    I didn't know he was doing kayaking - cool :)

  4. It's good to review what's working and what's not. I suspect most homeschooled children who have *never* been to school do not fully appreciate the flexibility they have by learning at home. At least you know you're not alone! :-)

    Thanks for sharing all the fantastic resources that you're using. It looks to me that kiddo is getting a great education that is tailored to his needs and interests.

  5. Thanks for visiting ladies! You know, when we started this semester, I was so bummed that all the planning I'd done over summer was falling flat. Nothing seemed to be working. But I think it just took the month of September to get over and voila, October seems a lot more promising! So be assured that all these resources we're using needed time to be "broken in" so to speak. So far no curriculum, save a few audiovisual ones, have worked without hitches for us.

    And so good to know we're not alone. :)


Comments are moderated and I will approve your comment as soon as I can. Thanks for taking the time to write a note!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...