Saturday, June 05, 2010

Reviewing the Year: 2009 - 2010 Edition

Long time no blog, eh?

We sort of had a learning meltdown near the end of April, and since then we have completely revamped.  We spent our final month of the "school year" back in a really relaxed manner, exploring Shakespeare and mostly just pursuing whatever interests the boys had.

2009 - 2010 was an interesting year for us.  We all learned a lot.  We did an impromptu 10 minute fraction lesson yesterday and I have no doubt that the basics of fractions have taken hold.  Common denominators and reducing fractions are no longer foreign concepts, and more importantly the boys have a strong sense of fractions being parts of wholes.

J-Baby moved from competent reader to someone who enjoys reading.  He still mostly chooses non-fiction for himself, but he does enjoy fiction.  I learned that the hardest part for him is choosing a work of fiction; it isn't as simple as knowing that you want to read about neutron stars or volcanoes.  He actually appreciates it when I am the one who does the weeding for him and find books that I think will appeal to him.  I mostly stick to the classic books for his developmental stage.

T-Guy really jumped ahead in his math skills, easily memorizing his multiplication facts and quickly getting a strong grasp on long division.  It's kind of funny that both of my boys find long division far simpler than long multiplication.  He read hundreds of books and easily listened to 50 more.  He's moved into creative writing and wanting to write more in general.

Last year I did a year in review and I really enjoyed looking back later and seeing how much we had done, so I am going to do it again.  It is impossible to cover everything we did/learned so I will list the more traditionally academic learning.


History/Social Studies:  This year our focus was on American History.  Using the A History of Us series by Joy Hakim we finished Vol. 2 Making Thirteen Colonies, did Vol. 3 From Colonies to Country, and got started on Vol. 4 The New Nation.  The boys viewed the entire Liberty's Kids series.  While American history was our focus we also studies some Viking/Norse history during our Norse Mythology block, and the boys watched various PBS programs on subjects that interest, such as ancient Egypt.  T-Guy says History is his favorite subject and we really love watching him and J-Baby make connections between historical and current events.

Reading:  I stopped trying to keep up with everything T-Guy read this year.  He reread many favorites, discovered some new books such as the Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr, the Hardy Boys, and the new series by Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles, the first book out being The Red Pyramid.  J-Baby checked out and read hundreds of science books, some aimed at children and some aimed at adults.  Both boys enjoyed their assigned reading, including The Search For Delicious, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, The Earth Dragon Awakes, and the many books I found to support our blocks studies on Norse mythology and Beowulf.  The boys did projects for Stuart Little and The Search For Delicious.  This year the boys both participated in their first book club at the library.  Part of the club was reading out loud at each session and both boys did really well with this; Thomas in particular improved his fluency and inflection when reading out loud (J-Baby is rather dramatic and already had this down).  They also participated in book-related discussion, games, quizzes, and art projects.

Language Arts:  This year we studied grammar with an emphasis on parts of speech.  The boys learned the basics about nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs; plus prepositional phrases, interjections, conjunctions, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms and homophones.  They learned verb tenses, sentence and paragraph construction, and creative writing.  Each boy wrote his own heroic epic and a short essay.  The boys developed spelling skills as I worked with them on their phonics skills and spelling rules.  Recently the boys have been watching The Electric Company and this has also helped with developing spelling skills.

Science:  J-Baby lives and breathes science!  There isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't have his nose in a science book or that he isn't explaining some sort of scientific theory to me.  We continued with science experiments this year, some simple exploration with books and some more elaborate experiments with kits.  There was a lot of work with electricity, including parallel and series circuits.  We grew crystals and explored basic chemistry.  We continued to spend time in nature learning our local flora and fauna and went deeper into research using books.  Each boy did research on a local animal, writing an essay and drawing pictures of the animal, it's habitat, home, and food.  We started a garden again this year and revisited our learning on seeds and plants.  One thing we focused on was recording observations and the boys took notes on their experiments, making predictions and recording outcomes.

Math:  Grade 4 was focused on two main subject areas in math, long division and fractions, and we made amazing progress in both.  We also practiced skills in addition and subtracting with regrouping, long multiplication, and multiplication facts.  We informally explored numbers systems and basic algebra.  We observed geometric shapes in nature and described objects in nature with both objective and subjective adjectives.

Foreign Language:  I'd love to be able to say that we moved forward with Spanish this year, but the boys still don't have any real interest in speaking another language.  Informally we spent time talking about word origins and I still use basic Spanish with them, which they understand more and more.  We also explored the culture of Mexico and Mexican-Americans through music, food, and holiday celebrations.

Health:  This was the big year for learning the basics of human reproduction.  We also continued to focus on nutrition, exercise, food chemicals, and more.  We talked about emotions in ourselves and others, personal safety, and exercise/sports safety.

Fine Arts:  Both boys improved in their drawing skills, in part due to natural developmental progress and also our work with drawing using OM4 and Draw Write Now.  We did a basic guitar course and worked on singing in parts.  Both boys really got the hang of knitting and they also did weaving work.  We also continued to attend plays and musical performances.

Physical Education:  This was the year of baseball skills!  Both boys worked on hitting, running, and catching, and T-Guy played his first year in Pony Baseball, which brought a deeper knowledge of baseball rules and strategy.  The boys also worked on learning new mountain biking skills.  Throughout the year we walked, hiked, and swam, with the boys learning three swim strokes (freestyle, butterfly, and breast) and also egg-beater style water treading.

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