So, academics are fun once again. I decided that we don't need to do things the way anyone else does them. We have our own awesome way of learning and we love it.
Saxon Math: W does the mental math problems before each lesson as fast as he can. Then we go over the new lesson. I use a 1.5'x2' dry-erase board with lots of colored markers. W then does all the practice and regular problems on the dry-erase board. He zips through the whole lesson so fast this way. He doesn't even bother writing in the workbook - we just check off the page. He's mastered the word problem, too. I love Saxon.
Sequential Spelling: This is perfect to use a dry-erase board with. I write all the spelling words out, using a different color for the inside root sound. He reads them all and then takes a spelling test - again right on the dry-erase board. His handwriting is neat and I don't think he's spelled any words wrong yet. In the workbook, he does the exercise that goes with that day's list. This program is noticeably helping with W's reading. Love this, too.
Hake Grammar & Writing: There hasn't been any significant writing with this book yet, so we just fly through a chapter verbally. I point to each exercise and he tells me the answers. Without the tedium of writing things down, he is enjoying and retaining almost all of it so far. I love Hake since it's set up the same way as Saxon Math is. It has the same repetitive vibe to it that W does well with. Heavier writing assignments will certainly be written out when they come up.
The Story of Mankind: This is just fun to read aloud together. He writes key terms, names, and events down on the dry-erase board. I believe writing things down helps you remember them. Then he narrates back the whole chapter. He remembers everything, in order, and makes his own connections. Whatever we read about in history we like to watch a documentary, do a project, and/or go to a museum to see things up close and get a better understanding.
Apologia General Science: We're trying to make this a lot more interactive and interesting. I'm using it as a readaloud and W (just like with history) writes down key terms, names, dates, etc. We spend a lot of time doing the experiment and this involves more writing, drawing conclusions, and opening ourselves up to further investigation. Again we'll use documentaries and field trips with the lessons.
We have other workbooks we use here and there, too. These are more for variety, though, and include art, Spanish, vocabulary, poetry, editing, and puzzles. He's starting a few computer programming courses as well. I'm feeling so good about his academics. We're in a good flow and we're both enjoying ourselves and getting things done quickly.
I did some reading on the Common Core and how everyone is up in a panic about it. It pretty much looks like what we've been doing as homeschoolers anyway. I mean, it's natural for our lessons (and lives) to contain a lot of critical reading/thinking, conceptual understandings, broadened worldviews, cogent reasoning, use of evidence, mathematical understanding and coherence, mathematical reasoning, and thinking statistically. There's nothing in our way, like endless testing, nor do we need to do any accommodating for a classroom of kids - with all the varying abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels. I honestly believe homeschoolers may have the advantage here. In NYC the 7th grade tests at the public schools that are needed for entry to most public high schools will soon conform to Common Core. The SATs will as well. I'm not worried at all.
J has decided to part ways with her dance studio. It was a good 8.5-year run. She learned a lot, experienced a lot, won a lot, and had a lot of fun. She'll miss teaching her babies, but the world holds a lot more out there for her. First and foremost is focusing on her studies at school. History, Science, English, & Math are key right now. She is also in the advanced tap class, learning to choreograph, and taking tons of ballet and modern in her 15 hours of dance at school each week. She is working on a project with another girl (and a new one with a boy) before and after school for her choreography class. Her Junior Project is coming up soon, too, where she has to choreograph and perform an original dance worth half her grade. Summer can now be filled with dance intensives and advanced classes, and she will start going on auditions and making career choices in senior year. She went out on a high note, though, as last week she competed in NJ and came away with 6 High Platinum awards (the highest) and several overalls. One High Platinum was for her new solo she choreographed completely by herself (just as she did last year). Competitions are always great and it's so fun having a high award to validate all your hard work, but she's ready for the next stage of life. I can't be more proud of her dedication and the fact that she knows exactly what she wants and is taking the steps to get there.