Monday, August 17, 2009

Review of our past year

With the start of a new "school year", I've become reflective of the work we've done in the past year. I see some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses.

In favor of keeping on a "test prep" path, we've cranked out the workbook pages. But we have ignored certain skill sets in order to stay on course. Writing skills and math facts have been ignored with the focus on getting those workbook pages done.

The workbook pages have been invaluable for covering materials that I never would have thought about covering. It definitely helps fill in gaps and keeps us moving forward. There is a lot of repetition within the books, and this helps us learn and practice these concepts. However, those 160+ lessons seem to stretch out forever, and we have yet to finish a workbook in less than 11 months time! This gives a sense that the work never ends and that we are always behind.

I would like to focus more on developing skills, rather than just filling in the blanks. We'll continue to use the workbooks, but (hopefully) with less of a focus on getting them done so that we have a big stack of finished workbooks to prove our success. I would rather have children that can write, read, and do basic math functions successfully than a stack of workbooks that have had every blank filled in.

My biggest goal has been to get the girls reading and enjoying it. We have definitely accomplished that goal! This summer alone, we signed up for 2 library reading programs, and breezed through the required number of books in almost no time. The kids continued reading, picking up whole series to read at a time. We've read through every available Rainbow Magic Fairy book, the Dragon Slayer Academy books, and have now embarked upon the Tiara Club books. (Uh, sure twaddle you say? Read on...)

The main reason I used BJU's Reading curriculum was so that the kids would learn to read. Now that we have that accomplished, I think I'd like to assign good and classic literature for reading instead. Once Alaithia finishes Reading 3, I will start assigning "real" books instead. I still want Zoiya to work through Reading 2, because I think phonics instruction is important in 2nd grade, even though her reading is probably 3rd grade level or higher.

Our quality of writing is rather poor, with very little effort. Actually, all of the effort is put into the thought of "what shall I write, and how can I put that in as few words as possible?" Much time is spent thinking of the shortest sentence possible, LOL. I would like to remedy that! I am going to put the Writing portions of BJU's English aside (for now) while we develop our writing skills and overcome our pencil phobia. I'm going to start small with the girls and then gradually increase. My goal is to have the kids read a passage and then be able to write a short summary of that passage. We'll start off on this orally, and begin adding more of it to the page each time. I'm going to read Writing With Ease by Susan Wise-Bauer, because I think that will help shape my expectations.

Our grasp of math concepts is beautiful. The girls do a great job of learning new math principles. However, we do need to work on those math facts. I plan to incorporate a short, timed math facts practice every day to learn basic math facts (addition and subtraction for Zoiya, multiplication and division for Alaithia).

History and Science
Eventually, I'd like to do History and Science 4 times per week, but that is always the first thing to drop off of my list! This year, I may just load up on library books for any given topic and require reading and narration (and perhaps eventually a written narration! but we'll see on that! A mom can dream, right?) With a new baby and revamped schooling, something may need to give.

Our school days
I'd like us to work a little longer and a little harder every day...but, I'd love to then transition to a 4 day per week school week with extra, fun classes on day 5 (co-op, field trips) or library days. If we are gaining skills well, then I also think having some scheduled vacation days would be a nice reward for hard work! Right now, our non-history/sci school days last about 1-2 hours, and our vacation days are on an emergency basis. Eleven months of schooling and I still feel behind. I think this needs to change.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I love reading your thoughts on curriculum and learning, and seeing the evolution of your learning theory as your kids grow and change. I've been thinking about an "official" 4 day week too.