Thursday, November 29, 2012

Time to Simplify

Now that we've pretty much gotten through the first third of the school year, I have a better idea as to what is working, what isn't working, and what new things I'd like to try with W.  If someone a few years ago would have told me I would be using Saxon, Hake, Apologia, and Story of the World one day, I'd say they were crazy.  But that's where we are now.  Like I said before, if W decides to attend public high school, he wants to be completely ready.  He's looking forward to some new stuff, and I'm looking forward to more structure.  The good thing about what we've chosen is that most of it continues through high school.  For now, though, here's our plan for the remainder of 6th grade.

6th Grade
  • Hake Grammar & Writing 6
  • Daily Paragraph Editing Gr. 6+
  • A Workbook for Dyslexics
  • Spelling Skills 5 and 6
  • Read & Understand Poetry Gr. 5-6+
  • Classic Literature (various) with oral and written narrations
  • Saxon Math 7/6
  • Story of the World 1 (This will be independent reading and we'll be using the activity book with it)
  • Apologia General Science (along with the Student Notebook, the Daily Lesson Plans, the companion CD Rom, and the full lab kit.  We may stretch this into 7th grade)
  • Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book 1 (1st half)

I'm excited to try these new things and I hope W likes them as well.  It's easier to stay with a program year after year rather than having to keep looking aimlessly for what might fit.  We may hate everything after a few weeks or we may love it and use it all the way through high school.  You never know what's in store for next year.  

In the meantime, W is doing very well academically.  He is doing a lot more creative and dictation writing, aces his 2x/week spelling tests, and is a natural at math.  He has always been great at reading silently - he is quick and has full comprehension.  And I have noticed recently that his out-loud reading has improved tremendously over the last couple of months.  This is huge.  It seems he has learned to "fix" most of the reading issues he was having.  He still does these things - but just a lot less often.  It's wonderful to see his confidence now.  That's one of the reasons I'm going to start with SOTW 1 - it's an easy independent read.  I may even use it for more readaloud practice.

We're really looking forward to Christmas!  I have about 75% of my shopping done and we'll be decorating the house this weekend.  I have already decided that the new year will be all about simplifying everything in my life.  I want to live as materially minimalist a lifestyle as possible.  I'll begin with a huge decluttering this weekend.  I'm so ready.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Writing, Schedules, & J

Ever since the storm, we've cut back on our field trips and have been spending more time on academics.  W is doing wonderfully with Saxon Math.  I still can't believe I didn't try it sooner.  As far as reading, it seems that persistence, a varied choice of resources, and one-on-one interaction is working wonders. We're using the dyslexia workbook, paragraph editing, the 6th-7th grade bridge book, websites, and tons of hands-on and life-skills learning experiences.  Reading is everywhere in everything and W has firmly refused to be an outsider looking in.

W has also started writing essays.  Up to now, his writing has been made up of simple narrations, lists, and workbook stuff.  Orally narrating back what we read together was (is) also a part of learning to write creatively.  This week I decided to go for more.  W's first essay was about why he thinks he should get a new laptop for Christmas.  Apart from some basic technical stuff, it was very good.  He hand-wrote that one.  The second essay he did this week was a more involved narration on a bio of Thomas Edison.  This one was typed out.  Again, some spelling and sentence structure need some work, but overall it was a great essay.  He seems to naturally know how to be continuous and creative with a defined beginning, middle, and end.  So, do I need to bust out the writing workbooks?  Do I need to teach him the 5-point essay?  He's doing great on his own.  J was never taught the mechanics of writing and she consistently gets As on papers.  I think I'll go with my gut on this one and let him develop his own writing style.  

I have also come up with a new schedule for science and social studies.  I've decided to just follow the Worldbook layout for 6th grade (like my IHIP says anyway) but we'll alternate science and social studies every 2-3 weeks.  We had just spent a few weeks on classification of living things and basic ecology.  Next week is social studies and we'll take a few weeks learning about some continents, countries and cultures.  Then, the next couple of weeks will be all about microbes, algae, and fungi (then 2 weeks on Native American culture, then 3 weeks on the Human Body, and so on until June).  We'll be using text books, workbooks, documentaries, field trips, websites, projects, etc.  I plan on making this as fun and interesting as possible.  We'll see how it goes.

I think for 7th grade I'd like to try Apologia Science.  Although I do prefer a more secular approach, I like how the series is set up.  We'll try their General Science and if we like it, we may use the rest of the years as well.  Since W is still unsure about public high school, I'm making sure to get all my ducks in a row just in case he opts out.

We went into Manhattan on Thursday to go to FAO Schwarz.  W loves that store.  We don't go to buy toys, it's just so fun to wander around and experience everything.  W hung out with the Myachi guy for a while, learning new tricks and getting some cool advice.  I love that the creators of this toy are the ones in the store demonstrating it for everyone.  After she got out of school, J walked over to FAO to meet us.  We hit the second floor of the store together (she loves it, too) and then we went for lunch at TGI Fridays.  This weekend J had 2 birthday parties:  a sweet 16 in Staten Island and a celebration in Bryant Park with ice skating.  She is working the dance auditions again tomorrow at her school.  The dance director said she did a great job last weekend and should return this weekend - and then 2 more weekends in December.  J enjoys it a lot.  She said all the 8th graders look so little and that she feels like it was just yesterday when she was auditioning. At the studio, she's still learning some new choreography for the season.  They're doing a brief version of The Nutcracker in a couple of weeks, too (J is the Arabian dancer).

I'm so excited for the holidays.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween Sandy

Well OK then.  What a strange week.  NYC just had the biggest storm and most destruction...ever.  I'm lucky, though.  I live in a virtually unscathed part of Queens.  There were huge trees down everywhere, no public transportation, and closed roads, but we still had power.  By day 2, the downed trees were chopped up and either loaded onto trucks or moved off the roads.  The roads were clear to drive - I drove to work on Tuesday and Wednesday - no problem - not even one delay.  The lingering problems now are that no gas stations have gas and we are on empty.  Also, the subways are actually up and running already (although nothing below 34th St in Manhattan, which doesn't affect us) but there are delays.  We're also lucky that B had off from work all week, K & J are off from school (and dance) all week, and K works in walking distance.

J posing with the tree in the road

On the other hand, about 80% of people I know are still without power and/or flooded (including my mom & sister out in Long Island).  J and her friends plan on donating clothes and books to the folks in Breezy Point (Queens) who got hit pretty badly - 80 homes burned down and the whole neighborhood is just gone.  It's so great to see most neighborhoods come together and say they're grateful their families are safe and that they plan on rebuilding and getting their neighborhoods back together.  On the other hand, you see people in other neighborhoods who complain, loot, do nothing, and demand others help them.  It's a weird contrast to see on the news.  Most places in NYC are, thankfully, the grateful, get-things-done type and because of that, they will probably get the most donations and help.

Halloween was in full-force around here, despite being in this "aftermath".  We must have had over 100 kids trick-or-treat at my house.  W had a great time trick-or-treating with his friends.  His football player costume was just his jersey and black lines under his eyes, but it looked great (W has always kept his costumes low key - sometimes just a new mask every year worn with a hooded sweatshirt - scary and creepy is his usual Halloween tactic).  He then helped MIL give out her candy, sitting on her porch with the aforesaid mask and hooded sweatshirt and huge candy bowl in his lap.

J got together with some friends and they all dressed up as ninja turtles.  They went around trick-or-treating, too (lol).  K has been getting over a cold and fever all week.  She went to a big Halloween party at a club in Brooklyn last weekend dressed all in black with Dia de los Muertos face makeup.  She looked awesome.  She feels better today and went to work.

We laid off most of the academic bookwork this week.  The girls and B have been home, so we couldn't really get anything done.  Today we picked things up again, though.  W did some of his dyslexia workbook, some Saxon Math, some paragraph editing, and right now, B is reading a chapter of Prince Caspian to him.  W's Monday animation class was cancelled and will pick up next week.  I'm planning on driving out to my mom's tomorrow to see my aunt who's visiting from out of state (great week for her to come, lol), but with no gas, I'm not sure what to do.