Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reviewing the Year

We are bringing our "school year" to a close tomorrow.  I know I have generally been against the idea of learning having a time to start and stop, but I can't deny the pull that summer has over me each year.  Even in this hot place, where some of our friends school throughout the summer just because it is so miserable outside, I still think of summer as a time of relaxation and renewal.

This has been a life learning, or natural schooling, year for us, broken up at times with focused lessons and attempts to get into rhythm.  We are moving in a different direction next year and plan to have much more focused learning.  Life learning is a wonderful model and I think I would have loved to have grown up learning in an unstructured, natural schooling manner, but my boys need something different.  That's okay with me.

I thought I would take some time to look at what we did do this year, in order to see where we will go next fall.

History/Social Studies:  We listened to and discussed The Story of the World Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.  We read When the World Was Rome as well as A History of US: The First Americans (Prehistory - 1600). Currently we are listening to The Story of the World Vol. 3 and we are reading A History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies (1600 - 1740).  We've started watching the PBS American Experience Series We Shall Remain and will continue with that through the summer.  We studied several old testament bible stories.  We really enjoy history and have approached it as a story with many fascinating events rather than as a list of dates, places, and names to remember.  The boys also increased their knowledge of United States, Canadian, and World geography.

Reading:  T-Guy continued with his voracious appetite for reading, especially fantasy series. He read the Harry Potter series, the Eragon series, the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, and many, many more.  He easily reads several books each week.  J-Baby is less interested in fiction and more interested in books that tell him something.  He did get interested in the Magic Treehouse books this year, as well as comic books.  One book he loved was The Pocket Guide to Boy Stuff.  He also loves to pore over several Smithsonian/DK Adult books we have including Universe and Animal.  J-Baby has fluid read-aloud skills.

Language Arts:  We didn't use a formal LA program this year.  The boys have used inventive spelling when they want to write and I have seen their spelling improve as they read more.  We did some work in spelling workbooks.  We talked about parts of speech and the boys used Mad Libs to practice.  Much grammar instruction this year has been gentle corrections of oral grammatical mistakes.  The boys spend time listening to audio books daily and have increased their knowledge of fiction classics as well as newer children's fiction.  Both boys have increased their written and oral comprehension as well as their summarization skills.

Science:  Science comes pretty naturally to us as a family.  We spend a lot of time in nature and we also view the world through a scientific lens.  The boys learned a lot about electricity by learning to operate model trains at the railroad museum.  We also worked with various kits they received or bought throughout the year; they built a solar car, studied physics, and worked with light and electricity.  Currently J-Baby is tumbling rocks.  I coordinated a nature co-op this year and we worked with two books, I Love Dirt and Sow and Grow.  We enjoyed star-gazing, observing weather, talking about animals, and identifying plants as well as hiking in nature, visiting zoos and gardens, and doing monthly growing activities.  As a family we visited the Da Vinci Experience at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and we also visited the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and San Diego Zoo several times, as well as the San Bernardino County Museum.  This year we brought in the PBS series NOVA and we all learned about subjects we might not have naturally pursued.

Math:  Our biggest goal this past year was learning the multiplication tables.  We used Timez Attack which was particularly successful for J-Baby.  One natural learning area for math has been following sports; T-Guy is very good at understanding averages in baseball, and he also follows basketball.  We formally introduced addition and subtraction with regrouping.  It is difficult to quantify all the math knowledge the boys picked up this year, as it is so tied in with living, but I feel satisfied that they both increased their knowledge of a variety of math concepts and are ready for more focused study.

Foreign Language:  Because we live in an area where Spanish is frequently spoken we have the opportunity to discuss Spanish words often.  The boys have learned to count to 10; to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you; have learned some color words; and recognize the many written words around them that come from Spanish.  As is true with children acquiring English as their first language, the boys have better receptive skills in Spanish than they do expressive skills, and they take many directions in Spanish (come here, hurry up, stay with me, etc.).

Health:  We spent many hours this year talking about food and nutrition, basic personal hygiene, the role of exercise in health, germs, and much more.

Fine Arts:  This year we saw a separation of interests, as T-Guy began learning the guitar and J-Baby took a deeper interest in drawing, painting, and modeling.  Both boys draw on a regular basis.  We sing together as a family and work with rhythm instruments.  We've explored handwork such as knitting and weaving.  T-Guy had the opportunity to attend the symphony, and both boys attended various dance, theater, and musical performances.

Physical Education:  The boys continue to mountain bike and improve their biking skills. They participated in a semi-competitive basketball league.  We walk and hike often.  They are learning skills and rules pertaining to basketball and baseball.

Those are just the seven branches of study (+ foreign language) that the California Education Code requires us to offer instruction in.  The reality is that we are learning about so many things all of the time, whether guided or not.  J-Baby learned some basic cooking skills this year which would also encompass math and health.  Both boys have been involved in caring for our dogs.  I couldn't possibly list everything we have done and where it fits into the picture.

I feel satisfied that we had a very successful year and am looking forward to 4th grade in the fall!

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