Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekly Review, Week 29, 2011-2012

Finished Week 29.  We're doing a full week next week, and then taking a week long Spring Break.  Yay!  After that, we have 6 more weeks before I'm considering this school year DONE.  This is the first time I've organized our schooling into 36 weeks, and then grouped them into 6 week chunks with a 1 week break.  That has been an awesome way to organize our year, and I've felt more organized overall doing it that way.  I think we've accomplished more this year than last year.  So next year will definitely be grouped similarly.  Once our 36 weeks are up, however, we won't necessarily stop schooling, or stop counting our schooling.  I'll just feel like we have some wiggle room going into next year.  For one thing, we could drop all the subjects that make me question their usefulness (spelling, grammar).  Another thing, we could do a high focus month on a subject or two that I feel has been neglected (ahem, writing/composition).  Alright, this post is supposed to be a REVIEW, and so far it's been a glance ahead.  I'll save my scheming for another day.

The "real" Review:
We tried something completely new this week.  I had been feeling that rushing through schoolwork and getting done in 2 hours or less was less than desireable for a homeschool.  So, we focused on Time/Subject Chunks instead of Assignments.  The theory was, if they were spending 40 mins on a single subject, they should be able to get a lot further on that subject, and spend serious time studying it.  For instance, instead of rushing through Science and getting it done in 15-20 mins, they should be able to read and delve into Science, easily completing their regular assignment and having time leftover for the things they would enjoy doing in science (science experiment books & videos, pleasure reading, etc.).  Wouldn't you know, we didn't complete any of our science assignments, about half of our LA assignments were completed for the week, and we had no time left over for any enjoyment learning.  In other words, this was a total FAIL.  We had added in Time 4 Learning, and I gave this assignment in chunks, as well (40 mins on one subject of choice from T4L, 2-3 different T4L subjects).  We started school faithfully at 9am, but by 3pm's arrival, we had less done than on our usual 2hr school days.  We all hated it, and instead of feeling like our day was scheduled and organized, I felt like I was scattered and unaware of what the kids were doing in their subjects.  So, back to the drawing board.  At least they worked hard for 4-6 hours each day last week.  They were troopers with the new system, so I applaud their efforts.  The schedule flop was not their fault.

Why did we return to T4L?
  1. the kids were asking for it, and I want my kids to enjoy their learning, as much as possible.
  2. I convinced a friend to use it last year, and she has now convinced me to return. (She also helped inspire the schedule - which I will be tweaking to make work)
  3.  T4L had an offer in March that if we returned, we could get a month free.
  4. I needed more work for the kids to do, and T4L seemed an easy way to add more work without me having to spend more hours planning (I had discovered that the more I added to the kids schedule, the more *I* had to work & research to make it happen - I was running out of man-hours to accomplish this).
Without those 3 factors, T4L wouldn't have happened.  It was only our first week back.  I insisted that they work on one subject for 40mins.  I also insisted that low scores on assignments must be redone.  The kids were allowed to pick 3 subjects to work on.  Z picked Math, LA, & Art (she loves the art!).  A picked Math, LA, & LA Extensions (she'd prefer the art, but I have to renew the subscription).  One bonus is that I insisted that the Math Workbook (Horizons) is mandatory, so they completed 2 different math programs this week (T4L Math was optional, but they like the animations). 

Outside of T4L, we worked on Math and some Language Arts.  In Math, A took a few of the tests to see where we should start lessons in Horizons 6.  I think we are skipping the first 40 lessons, and this seems to be a good place for her.  If we need to go back, we can, but she seems to understand large numbers, ordering by size, multiplication and division by ungodly sized numbers (14,673 / 1,506, or 4,321 x 1,389 --> those are some ugly math problems, but she handles them fine, albeit slowly). 

Z also tested out of the first 40 lessons and we started at lesson 44.  She was frustrated at first with Factor Trees.  And then I noticed that Horizons 4 teaches it in a weird order.  They introduce Factor Trees AND THEN teach Prime Numbers.  So I switched those lessons - Primes first, and then Factors.  Ahhhh, makes more sense.  She can do Factor Trees fine now. 

I believe the kids accomplished 1-2 days of Spelling.  We did some Grammar (Adjective and Adverbs).  Adverbs threw all prior knowledge out the window and is giving all 3 of us fits.  The problem comes in when you learn that Adverbs can include time.  "Tomorrow, we will go to the zoo."  Tomorrow is an adverb (time).  However, "We painted our walls on the weekend," weekend is a noun.  Stupid Grammar.  We also did some Daily Paragraph Editing.  But overall, we did not get a whole week's grammar, editing, & spelling completed.  Writing happened, but not as planned.  The kids did some random interest writing; we didn't end up working on the goals I originally had.  The kids did Encyclopedia and we've added in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (Daddy's assignment). 

I had hoped to get more serious about writing, learning real paragraph writing.  I had also hoped to include some good literature reading.  Not much of this happened.

Oh well.  I think I just need to take a chill pill for now and figure out my priorities.  Or let all those darn priorities go and take it on faith that the kids will turn out OK. 

We did Science!  Here, Georgie likes using the small tweazers "bird beak" to pick up raisins
Oh, and BIG SUCCESS: we did Science experiments, yay!  Our science friends came over and we worked through Unit 4 experiments.  We made mock fish bladders.  We taste-tested, learning about the reptile Jacobson's organ.  And we tried out different bird beak styles to find out which ones are better at picking up different kinds of food. 

Monday was Gymnastics, Tuesday was our Last MI History (they played a Jeopardy game with MI History facts and I let them study beforehand), Wednesday was AWANA (one color night), and Friday was our second-to-last day of co-op classes.

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