Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Big Changes

Without revealing too, too much, there are some big changes that are occuring in the Mathis household. 

We should know something in the next 2 weeks, but until then, I can't post out of respect and fear of jeopardizing the possibility!

I'll be back shortly to fill you all in and start posting much more regularly!


Friday, February 01, 2013

School Update - A Month Late Progress Report

Hi friends!  I realized the other day that I had neglected to do our yearly progress report on how school has been going for Caleb and Piper.
In order to keep this somewhat brief and to the point, I'm going to break this up by the subjects that we've been working on.  So, here goes:

So, this year in Bible, we've been studying the names of Jesus based on the scriptures.  Basically, what this looks like is that we read the memory verse, which usually is the same for a couple of weeks, we read corresponding verses from the Bible and then talk about the concept.  There is also a visual component where the verse is printed on a picture that is visually representative of the verse (like Jesus is the bread of life printed on a picture of a loaf of bread), which is colored and taped onto a poster where we are collecting all the pictures.  I've been amazed at Caleb's recall of these verses, often he's able to quote them exactly after a couple of days of not seeing them.  Piper listens when we are discussing this and often chimes in with her point of view, which can be pretty enlightening for a 4 year old.  She's got such a sweet spirit and understands these things far beyond her years.

This is a new subject for us this year, as the last couple of years spelling as has been integrated into the other subjects we've been working on.  This year, our spelling comes from Rod and Staff, a Bible based spelling curriculum and is just wonderful.  I've noticed from our friends that go to public school that they are often assigned words that just aren't useful for a 7-8 year old to know at that point in their lives.  Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against having themed spelling words based on what the child is studying, but I hardly think that a 7 year old needs to understand the ins and outs of things such as morgue and Iwo Jima, and Vietnam.  All words I've seen on friend's spelling lists.  I'm not going to pretend to know why those words were on 1st and 2nd grader spelling lists, but I do know I can pick our words, and morgue will not be one of them for a very long time.

In English, Caleb has been learning the basics of the English language, which makes me very, very happy.  We've learned a myriad of things in this section of our course work, including things like the differences in to, two and too, and there, their and they're.  Caleb understands and uses all of these correctly now, something that makes my English loving heart happy (sidenote: my first college major choice was English.  I love, love, love it!)  Honestly, even though these concepts seem to come fairly easily to my boy, English is often where our conflicts occur.  Even though he grasps these ideas, writing is still a struggle for him.  His handwriting is actually still quite poor, but he's working on this everyday.  He just really, really, really dislikes writing a lot, but I've seen quite a lot of improvement this year and I know we'll see more!

In History this year, we are doing an actual study of the history of the United States, complete with a study of each state.  We haven't really had a specific study of history until this year, and honestly History is NOT my favorite subject normally, but this has been really fun for us.  I did not enjoy history when I was in school, but seeing all the interesting things that we've been able to learn about this year has opened my eyes to another view of the subject.  This year's study of the United States has really made me want to take the kids on an extended trip around the US to show them all the things we've been studying.  True to what I expected, Caleb LOVES history time, but then again, his dad LOVES all things history too, so it comes naturally for him!

Math for us this year has been from Singapore math, a method of learning math first by visually processing it and then working the problems in a sequential manner so as to build on each concept.  Most of the year, this method of learning has worked well for Caleb and we've covered a wide range of topics.  He still loves math and looks forward to working on the subject.

Ok, so I have to be honest here, I do not see the need, nor do I want to teach a specific art curriculum to my kids.  We completed the first half of this curriculum that taught how to draw certain things, which was somewhat fun for them, but they just didn't care, nor did I, so I dropped it from our regular set of work.  We do crafts and painting and coloring and building things, etc, so I feel like they are getting the appropriate level of art knowledge.  We also go to the art museum and study works of art, so they are exposed to paintings, sculptures and other art pieces, so I'm ok with that.  I know some people will think I'm doing the kids a terrible disservice not delving deep into this area of study, but honestly, I feel like I'm doing so much more than a lot of public and private schools, so I'm ok with that.

About a year ago, I got a fabulous deal on a keyboard and stand at a consignment sale.  Ever since the keyboard made its appearance in our house, the kids have been either trying to play it or begging me to play it.  I feel like that they need to have some formal training in how to do this, so I'm teaching Caleb first how to read music.  I bought a very simple book on music and how to read it and am working through this with Caleb until he understands the basics and I can start teaching him how to play.  I'm excited about this as musical ability runs deep both in my and Jes's family, so I feel like both of the kids will pick this up pretty well.  Caleb has exceptional tone and ability to match tone with his voice, so he's got the potential there, I just want to tap into it.

Caleb has always been a skilled and voracious reader.  This year, Caleb has really bumped up his reading level and has completed some chapter books that are far beyond his 2nd grade status.  With his curriculum this year, in conjunction with the studies we've been working on in history, Caleb has been reading books such as Squanto, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, etc.  He's enjoying the stories and I'm loving seeing him branch out into other genres of literature.  Other than his assigned reading of various books, there is a set time between history and math called book basket time where he is allowed to read anything he would like for a set amount of time.  For Caleb, this is akin to a palate cleanser and allows him to rest a bit and just escape into a book.  Often, he is reading a book from the library on ninjas or Star Wars or some such.

So, that's what Caleb's been up to during school.

Piper, on the other hand, is a completely different story.  I've been playing a little fast and loose with her school work, letting her dictate when and what instead of me setting a rigid schedule and time table.  Before the school year started, I did purchase a preschool workbook with basic skills in it and she's mastered many of those skills.  She's not yet reading, but I've heard so many good things about the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, so I ordered it this week and we should be able to start that this next week.  I'm not pressuring her at all, but I do believe that if she can read and read well that her Kindergarten year will go much more smoothly.  We will use the same curriculum that we did with Caleb during his first year so I know what to expect there and can anticipate somewhat how the next year will go for her.

That's where our school year stands as of now!  We will continue on with what we're working on and finish on point by mid-May so we can take the summer off and just work on fun stuff and enjoy our time together!