Tuesday, October 4, 2011

So, what are we doing?

Shannon's last homeschool unit was on "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was fun, she liked it more than the last time we attempted to read that book a year or so ago. The corresponding science unit was fun as well, if poorly timed. We studied dirt, plants, trees, photosynthesis, pollination, and all kinds of other planty stuff we could stuff into three weeks. fThe biggest drawback to that unit was half of the experiments involve "Plant this in a cup and watch it for the next 3 weeks. Have the student write in their journal what happens." Um, the first problem with that is that.... have you ever tried to buy a small packet of grass seed or veggie seeds in September? Nearly can't be done (conveniently) ... I'm willing to go to about 2-3 places to try but after that, the experiment is abandoned. The second problem is that by the time anything interesting actually happens, we've moved on. Slow experiments do not catch a 3rd grader's attention. Ah well.

This week we're starting "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Speare, with a corresponding unit of social studies on Native Americans. I'm really looking forward to this unit, as it gives us an excuse to go to Tillicum Village next weekend. :) We have a basic overview of 3 or 4 basic cultures of Native American life in different parts of the continent. Sadly, the prepackaged curriculum does not spend a closeup on Pacific Northwest cultures, though the book we're starting with does. This is the joy of homeschooling, I get to do my own research and see what supplemental materials I can find for local flair. Yesterday's introduction to the topic she was most fascinated by Southwest tribes... the clay houses of the Hopi with ladders and no doors particularly fired Shannon's imagination.

So far, I'm still loving this literature-based curriculum. As much as I'm normally in the "you can't tell me what to do!" structure camp, I really need daily lesson plans spelled out for me. I find it's all too easy to slack off when we don't have a specific list of things we want to do. We're writing (well, I say "we" loosely) a lot more than last year, she has a book journal where she answers questions independently. Each unit I add just a little more structure to how she performs a task, so I haven't gone straight from no writing to formal book reports.

We had a bit of a breakdown on spelling a couple of weeks ago. I've been using the AVKO Sequential Spelling units where, instead of providing the student with a list of words to study for a week, you actually "test" them every single day on a group of related words. The next day you begin to add suffixes to the words. So you might start Monday with steam, gleam; Tuesday is steams, gleams; Wednesday is steamed, gleamed; and Thursday is steaming, gleaming. You give the word, they write the word, they spell it orally for you, you make corrections if necessary right away. Then move on to the next word. 20 words per day with variations. I love it because it teaches patterns instinctively instead of teaching "rules," you make corrections along the way, it appeals to "Audio, visual, kinesthetic, and oral" styles of learning. Unfortunately, what works for the teacher does not always work for the student. Shannon cannot STAND to get things wrong, ever. Whenever she made a mistake, she would get very angry, no matter how many times I explained that this wasn't a "test" and she was getting it wrong.... this was a necessary part of learning, it's better to try and fail than to never make the attempt. But, after a few weeks this year (plus much of last year) ending in tears, I decided that a more traditional "study these 15 words for a week" approach would have to be tried. We'll see how this goes.

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