Friday, November 18, 2011

2 Field Trips

We went back to the Paley Center of Media (the old Museum of Television & Radio) on Monday for a great class.  It was called "The Fine Art of Persuasion" and it was all about advertising.  We watched and discussed different commercials - from different decades.  We learned about target audiences, how ads are the reason most TV shows are on at all, tricks of the trade, exaggeration, what companies what to convey, etc.  I learned a lot.  The adults enjoyed it as much as the kids did.  And the kids were so into it - all the kids had their hands raised constantly to ask and answer question.  After the class, I heard the instructor tell the trip coordinator that these were probably the smartest kids she's ever seen.

On Tuesday we did a guided tour of a local supermarket.  I love these kinds of trips.  It makes you pay more attention to what's going on in the normally boring places you regularly go to.  We were brought to almost every food section and the kids got a baggie of stuff to eat from each of them.  Topics included:  organics, artificial colors & flavors, locally-grown produce, types of bread/grains, MyPlate (which replaced the food pyramid), unit pricing, understanding ingredient labels, and healthy living.  I think W got a lot out of it.  Both of the trips this week were for 5th-8th grade.  I'm really happy there are so many trips and classes for this age group.

J's school is performing Guys & Dolls next month.  If you'll be in the city for any of the show dates, I encourage all of you to experience this.  It's Broadway quality and only $20/adults and $10/students - you can order them right on the website.  Other than that, J's doing really well again this year.  She still loves it more than anything.  At the dance studio, they're in the throes of new choreography for the 2012 competition season. There will also be plenty of workshops, conventions, and outside classes this year, too.  K is enjoying college and doing great and she's still in training at her new job.  Her birthday is next week - on Thanksgiving!    W is still going very strong with karate.  Three days a week doesn't seem enough for him.  I have every Friday off in December so all month he can do 4x/week if he wants.

We'll be staying with fractions now for a while.  First we're reviewing the basics.  He gets it and seems to like fractions (he's probably just glad to be away from all those multiplication and division drills, lol).  I'm using a lot of different tools:  online videos and games, workbooks, manipulatives, using fractions throughout our day, and we took out the big blackboard.  I don't want it to get boring.  Spelling Skills was another 20 words along with categorization and "if-then" exercises.  In the bridge book he did a page on synonyms and using a thesaurus and common abbreviations.  And we read about fruits and vegetables in Science Lab in a Supermarket which  went nicely with our supermarket field trip.  He he did a written narration with this.  We started reading The Landing of the Pilgrims (w/a narration).  W did more independent reading as well.  We mailed the first quarterly report out this week - same format since 2005.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This Week - Academics & Karate

I still feel good about letting go of curriculum.  I thought I'd have doubts, but I'm good.  

W's favorite book is Spelling Skills.  I agree with him - the book has everything.  This week he learned 20 new words and did a bunch of definition and antonym stuff with them.  Then he proofread a paragraph, finding the spelling mistakes and adding correct punctuation.  He also learned about "subject" and "predicate" and did a page on those - and when a word can be both a noun and a verb (e.g. poison, soil, etc) and how it gets listed in a dictionary.  38 more pages and we move on to the next level.  

For math, we started out the week with the Flash Kids 5 and by Thursday W asked to go right to TT7.  We're starting it in the Fractions section (Unit 4, Lesson 28).  He's done very well with the previous weeks' multiplication and division review.  He has the tables memorized and zips through long division with no problem.  I do feel he's ready to move on.  The great thing about fractions, decimals, percents, etc. is that all the math basics will constantly be used.  And even in the fraction lesson, TT7 threw in a few large-digit multiplication and division problems.   

He also did a few pages in a geography workbook (earth's makeup, other planets), a reading comprehension exercise in a summer bridge book - which I knew he'd be great at thanks to all those narrations over the years, and lots more independent reading.  We're going to focus on colonial and pioneer life this year for history - from about the late 1600s to the late 1800s.  I have a gazillion books, websites, and documentaries saved for this.  For science, we're going to try and spend a week on each worldbook topic (biological adaptations, biotic communities, animal and plant classification, etc) along with regular nature study (notebooking).  It's easy this way - we'll be using the  NY Hall of Science a lot, along with workbooks, websites, and science shows.  Gotta keep it simple.

Karate and fitness are W's new obsessions right now.  He goes to karate 3-4x a week and to the track 2x a week.  At karate, he's learning the 20 moves in the Kihon Kata, and the basics of Kumite (sparring) and in about 2 months he can take the test for his yellow belt.  At the park, we run around the track twice, then W does a bunch of reps and sets on all the exercise structures that are found every 50 feet around the track.  It's mostly sit-ups, leg-raises, push-ups, dips, lunges, pull-ups, and stretches.  Hey, it's good for him and it's starting to branch off into nutrition and other healthy living.  I love when he gets so into something.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Changing it All Up

We have been using Ambleside Online for a few years now.  I love the whole concept, but little by little we have been whittling away at the AO books.  We first eliminated the religious stuff.  Then a few books that were just dreadfully boring.  Now we're paring back even more due to W's glazed-over look when we read them.  Soon we'll have hardly anything left.

I've been focusing mainly on math and reading lately anyway, even though W wanted to spend less time on those this year.  I have found that he does better when he reads books that actually interest him - duh - and even "twaddle" isn't bothering me so much.  Being able to follow a general subject outline and using books of our own choosing is what I believe will be most effective.

Copywork, dictation, oral and written narrations, nature study, short lessons, and a history timeline are all things we're keeping.  We'll also be using lots of workbooks on various subjects since W likes them.  Trips to the library will be more frequent and of course lots of field trips and classes all around NYC.  We'll do more projects and hands-on stuff.  We will now cover a topic as in-depth as we like without feeling we must move on to stay on track with the curriculum.

The Worldbook  Typical Course of Study has been the main part of my IHIPs for a long time.  Now I'm going to print it out and use it as our guide.  Already I'm feeling a lot of stress being lifted.  We're both at that point where we just want to be free of a set curriculum and start using our own various and fun assortment of materials.

So, right now our list of materials we have on hand that we're keeping include:

Who was Marco Polo? (Holub)
The Complete Book of Maps & Geography
Basic Series Map Skills (Grades 6-8)
Basic Series World Geography (Grades 6-8)
Basic Series US Government, Economics, & Citizenship (Grades 6-8)
Everything You Need to Know About Geography Homework - Grades 4-6 (Zeman)
American History Homework Survival Guide - Grades 4-6 (Kantor)
Science Lab in a Supermarket ((Friedhoffer)
The Handbook of Nature Study (Comstock)
ScienceSaurus (Houghton-Mifflin)
Science Homework Survival Guide (Dylewski)
Basic Series Science (Grades 4-5)
Basic Series Life Science (Grades 6-8)
Simply Grammar
Writing Strands
Spelling Skills 4 & 5
Word Study & Phonics 5
Basic Series Grammar & Usage
The Heroes (Kingsley)
The Princess and the Goblin (MacDonald)
Flash Kids 5
Life of Fred Fractions
Teaching Textbooks 7
LiveMocha Spanish
Instant Immersion Spanish

And if W doesn't click with something, we'll toss it.  I'm not worrying about it anymore.  Homeschooling needs to have that click.  I've always believed that kids can only learn (really learn) when their interested in the subject matter.  This is something we have to do.  I feel at peace with it and W is very eager to begin our new journey, too.

Monday, November 07, 2011

MOBiA & Karate

The Museum of Biblical Art (MOBiA) was where we went with the homeschool group this week.  It's another one of those places I'd never been to or even heard of.  It was really cool.  We looked at a bunch of very old family bibles (from the 18th century) and talked about what families kept in there - such as pressed leaves, locks of hair, important dates, etc.  We saw some fancy covered bibles that salesman went door-to-door with and how families could purchase a nice bible 1 book at a time.  Afterwards, we all made our own books with beautiful fancy covers.  The pages were accordion-style from construction paper and the covers were heavy frame-backing cardstock that we glued foam shapes onto.  Then we covered the whole thing with shiny gold or silver foil paper that molded to the foam shapes underneath.  It did look like a fancy bible cover.

Halloween was fun, as usual.  J had several parties at the dance studio on the weekend and her high school always does Halloween pretty big.  They even open up the dressing and locker rooms 15 minutes before and after school so the kids can get into their costumes when they arrive and out of them when they leave.  After school is a grand Halloween parade/contest in the school's smaller theater.  Always a packed house for that.  W went up to the main avenue with a friend.  At 10 years old I think they've figured out that the stores are easier to hit and they give out cool stuff.

Academics this week included more long division practice in the Flash Kids workbook.  I'm confident W's got that down now.   I might have him do 1 long division problem a day just to keep him on his toes.  All in all we just stuck with math, spelling, and reading this week.  Halloween, B's birthday, my sister's birthday, my niece's Christening this weekend, and the official start of the holiday season has kept all of us a bit distracted this week.  We'll get back on the AO track next week.

Oh, and W finally started taking karate classes (that I've only been promising him for about 2 years).  We found this amazing place with great prices and great teachers.  He took an introductory class on Thursday and absolutely fell in love with it.  I think he was a natural - very strong and sharp and he gave the sensei his full attention.  His 1st official class on Saturday was about an hour and a half long.  W learned punches, blocks, and played a game with round kicks (out of 25 kids, he came in fifth place - not bad for his first class!  Saturday was a combined class.  His usual class will have only about 15 kids in it).  The sensei was impressed.  W will be going 3x a week (we pay for unlimited, though, so we'll go more days when we can).  I am really loving his enthusiasm about it.  I hope it's everything he wants it to be.

And here's 2 pictures of my beautiful 4-month-old niece.  Her Christening was this weekend.