Friday, February 17, 2012

Report Cards

I was a dork.

I fully admit it.

I actually enjoyed report card day.  I loved the chance to read comments from my teachers, and to see my grades in black-and-white.   Now, I pretty much carried a good grade point average, so I'm sure that had something to do with it, but, still....I loved report cards.  

For our home study for the adoption, I have to provide the agency with documentation regarding our homeschool curriculum (considering we use a "boxed" curriculum from an accredited company, this isn't a problem), proof that we meet state guidelines (super easy in AZ, as the only guideline is that I register and provide instruction in basic subjects), and report cards for each of my students.  I asked around and found these beautiful report card templates last week, and sat down last night to fill them out. 

It was a lot of fun - stepping back and trying to objectively examine where each of the big boys was, academically, and where we needed to go, moving forward.  There was a lot of good, some bad (or "needs improvement," as I titled it), and a lot of satisfaction in our family life and chosen lifestyle.  

I realized that it's been quite a while since I've updated this blog with a homeschooling review, so I thought I'd take a minute to share what we've been doing in the schoolroom with all of you.

Baby #1:

It took us a little bit of time to adjust to each other, as this was my only child who had experienced full-day, traditional grade school before coming home.  Now, however, we've found a groove that works well for us, and accommodates both our personalities, and our daily lesson plans.

Baby #1 is very artistic and creative, I've come to discover.  He "thinks" best with his hands and his eyes, so allowing him to manipulate objects really helps him to understand concepts.   He can - and does - learn from rote memorization, but that is not ideal when trying to break down a new concept for him.  

This child is very well suited to projects and experiments.  He is a budding scientist or engineer, I think.   After "playing around" with a concept, he is very able to apply that concept to a thinking problem.  Evaluating his understanding means that I need to be creative myself, and give him a "real-life" opportunity to apply the concept.  He's a mental workout for me, that's for sure! 

Where we are with Baby #1: He just recently grasped the concept of multiplication, so we are working on broadening his understanding of that math concept.  He's recently begun piano lessons, and is thriving with that instruction.  He's very interested in Church history, so I've been including Saint biographies or historical contexts in our catechesis lessons, which is a lot of fun.  We're still working really hard at improving penmanship and writing abilities (he writes like his physician father!), and will continue to focus on this for the future.   Science and history at this age, is mostly project-based.  We've had a lot of fun designing experiments and walking through the scientific method, and he's created quite a few book reports and art projects after reading biographies of famous historical figures.

Outside of the home, Baby #1 is taking weekly, 90 minute gymnastics instruction from members of the Arizona State University men's gymnastics team.  Finally, he's learning a bit of body control - and is getting quite strong in the process!

Baby #2

Baby #2 is just starting out this year, working through a kindergarten curriculum.    The program that we've chosen to follow spends most of this age level focusing on reading and comprehension, which is perfect for him.  

He was incredibly enthusiastic to begin homeschooling this year, which I've come to recognize as an aspect of his introverted temperament.  This child is perfectly happy with just a handful of friends, and staying close to home.  He seems to become overwhelmed in large groups, and I've noticed physical symptoms of stress whenever we are in a large group setting.  He's not shy, and doesn't have any problems with social interaction, so I truly believe that this child is a true introvert by nature.   

Currently, Baby #2 is enjoying gymnastics lessons, as well as outside religious ed classes, for his extracurricular experience.  Both are small class sizes (5 in gymnastics, 10 in religious ed.), and he seems to thrive in that setting.   We will definitely be continuing these outside lessons, and possibly adding music instruction next year.

In the schoolroom, Baby #2 is quickly learning to read.  One of my biggest fears with homeschooling was teaching him how to read (I can't remember NOT knowing how to read, seeing as I learned before even heading to school as a child), and it has been a much more pleasant experience than I anticipated.  He is truly curious and loves learning, and is very willing to put in an all-star effort when learning a new concept.   At the beginning of the year, he could recognize letters and their sounds....but that was it.  The only words he could spell were names common around our house (his, his brothers', mine, etc).  In a few short months, he's reading simple sentences and books, and has started acing spelling quizzes.

He also is a huge fan of mathematics.  His favourite assignment is a math worksheet - he actually cheers when he sees one in his assignment folder!    We've mastered simple addition and subtraction, and are starting to work on skip counting, in preparation for multiplication tables in the next year or so.  

A complete opposite of Baby #1, this child does not enjoy art projects.  He will do them, as assigned, but works through them very quickly and carelessly.  I'm trying to impress upon him an appreciation for art in all its different forms, and trying to emphasize a need to slow down and do his best work.   This is a child who focuses on quantity, not quality, and this will be something we continue to focus on for the rest of the school year.   Field trips to exhibits such as this one, where he can experience art through many senses, have become a regular on the rest of the year's lesson plans. 

Baby #3:
Baby #3 just recently turned 3, and he doesn't really have a set curriculum to follow.  Instead, we've been working basic skills, in preparation for starting him on a preschool program next year.  

We've been working on basics such as letter and number recognition, colours, shapes, and counting....and were recently interrupted by his desire to start potty training.  Now, potty training ranks up there as one of my least favourite parenting duties...but if he wanted to do it, I wasn't going to stop him.  We're exactly a week into the training....and have officially only  had 2 accidents (one of which was at the Science Center, while he was playing, so I think it was more of a distraction issue). 

His potty training, and his excitement towards "his school work" (what he calls his projects during the day - which includes activities such as water colours, puzzles, and play-doh), lead me to believe that he'll be jumping right into our daily school schedule this coming fall, and he'll thrive.   
Outside of the home, he takes swim lessons once a week, and is doing marvelously.  He is in a small class of 3 children to 1 (sometimes 2) instructors, and has already started swimming completely on his own.   Once potty training is complete, I hope to enroll him in preschool gymnastics classes at the same facility the big boys take classes, so he can also work on body control and strength building.  I have no doubts that it will be successful venture for him!

So, there you have it.  An school room update on all three of the rascals.  Homeschooling is still the best fit for our family, and has become more of a blessing than I ever thought possible.  I don't think we'll be changing anything any time soon....

Baby #2, spelling out sentences that I dictate to him

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