Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some New Things

W started going to a media lab in a museum once a week for stop-motion animation instruction.  It's for 6th-9th graders, there's a couple of instructors, and the kids get to use the equipment.  He likes it so far and I'm glad he's making movies again.  He is making them at home, too, using some new clay, the video camera he got for Christmas, and some free software he downloaded on his computer.  I love coming across these kinds of educational and fun opportunities around town.  

I went to the Scholastic Store the other day to get W a couple of bridge workbooks (we love these and the Scholastic ones are wonderful).  I found a 6th-7th grade one and a 7th-8th grade one.  I also grabbed a couple of books for W to read:  War Horse & Farm Boy (which is the sequel to War Horse).  W loved the movie, so I figured he'd try reading the book.  Scholastic gave me a FIFTY PERCENT educator discount on the workbooks and a 25% discount on the novels.  I couldn't believe it.  I am so going back there for more stuff soon.

I'm not crazy about Story of the World at all.  It's boring.  We started using The Story of Mankind instead (from our Ambleside stash) and we like it a whole lot more.  We just read it together and he narrates.  It's fun to use the chapters as starting points for further study, too.  We're also getting a bit tired of Apologia.  It's ok and the experiments are great, but we're just falling asleep reading it.  I think it would be better if we use our own books/websites/documentaries/trips that pertain to each subject in order from the Apologia book and do the corresponding experiments.  So we'll still be using the book and experiment supplies mainly because I really hate wasting money.  We do love Sequential Spelling (although I'm also thinking about trying All About Spelling since it's much more multi-sensory).  I've pulled out a few of our Basic Series books as well.  These are for the "middle grades".  The pages look terrible, but the activities are actually fun and thorough.  We have one for World Geography, one for Government-Economics-&-Citizenship, and one for Map Skills.

I was doing some research on the Common Core curriculum that NY state will now be using in all the public elementary and middle schools. It seems a lot more advanced than what they used to use.  The tests that W will have to take at a school in 7th grade will be using this new format.  I checked out some samples and I really think that many kids are going to have a hard time with this.  The ELA part is not so bad.  It uses a lot of critical thinking skills rather than black & white answers.  That's what W and I have been doing since he was in 2nd grade via the CM method, Ambleside books and creative narrations.  The 7th grade math samples looked a bit overwhelming.  It's not that they are particularly difficult, but they take so many steps to get the answer.  The 6th grade samples looked a lot more reasonable and pretty much align with where W is right now.  If we keep on the way we are with math, W should do ok on the test next year.  I don't like this kind of stressful testing at all, but if W chooses public high school, he needs these grades.  I swear, as I discover more and more of the amazing things NYC has for teens, and what a wonderful education W would get outside school walls, I truly wonder why we would even consider anything else.

Math:  Adding & subtracting mixed numbers, Review of ratio, percent, fractions, average, perimeter, GCF.
English:  Helping verbs, Sequential Spelling, Independent reading (War Horse)
Social Studies:  Story of Mankind chapter 1, Hemispheres, Continents, Oceans
Science:  Review of scientists (names, years, beliefs, findings, etc) from Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


We've incorporated some of the big, yellow, 6th-grade Complete Curriculum book into our week.  One thing we're using it for is some gentle math review.  After months of only Saxon, this is like a little reprieve from the plain pages.  The yellow book is a bit more colorful and the problems are nicely spread out on the page.  This week we spent some time reviewing fractions:  equivalent, reducing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, & dividing.  In Saxon, he's up to percent & ratio.

The big, yellow book was also used for the reading comprehension section.  W read some passages and answered questions.  This is keeping him on his toes and is a nice break from narrating.  The other thing we focused on this week was reading aloud.  Since his acting class started in full force this past weekend, he wants to be confident in his reading skills - especially in front of others.  So, we found the old Aesop's Fables book (Milo Winter) and he read to me.  The trick was to use a story-telling tone and create the voices and personalities for each character.  His first attempt was choppy - he skipped words, stumbled through it, and nothing made sense.  Then I remembered the blue overlay.  Once he read the words through the blue colored plastic, it was close to perfect.  He only hesitated at 1 or 2 large, unfamiliar words.  He decided to bring it to the acting class and use it with his scripts.  Thankfully, he's not shy about things like that.

The acting class was fantastic.  He got there a little early and decided to go up to the instructor he had for the  past trial four weeks to tell her he has dyslexia.  I guess he just wanted to get it out in the open so no one would wonder why he reads so stumbly for his age.  She listened to him and then told him she had dyslexia too.  She said that words get all mixed up and she reads slowly.  W was so happy someone actually understood.  I got all teary-eyed when I heard this.  He'll be fine.

We got Sequential Spelling the other day.  We're starting with the first book like the website says since it doesn't correspond with grade level.  I like the multi-sensory way it's done.  I might go pick up another dry erase board and markers - but crayons/colored pencils/markers and white looseleaf work fine, too.  It looks like a good program and I've heard a lot of great things about it.  He seems to like it so far, too.  The daily spelling tests and various writing assignments in the Student Workbook are just what he needs.

I keep reading and researching everything I can about dyslexia and visual processing disorder and one thing that stood out to me was that these kids need a break every 15 minutes or so while doing academic work.  I haven't been doing that, so I guess it explains W's eye-rubbing and yawning and glazed look sometimes.  I certainly will be taking short breaks with him from now on, though.  The article suggest he get up and walk around during the break. This is another reason I believe homeschooling through high school would be so much better for him.  I keep going back and forth.  He still has no idea what he'd rather do.  Like I said, I'll go through the motions of applying to everything and whatever he's accepted to, he can decide then.  

J started tap classes at her high school and is in the advanced group.  Yay!  Being in advanced anything in this school means a lot.  She's also in a choreography class this semester.  Soon they start their Junior Projects.  These are student choreographed numbers that the kids perform and count as a huge part of their grade.  I can't wait to see these.  At the dance studio, she is still teaching and keeping busy getting ready for all the competitions coming up.  As one of the teachers, she went with the studio owner to another dance teacher convention.  She spent a whole day at various classes that teach how to teach.

K's internship is more than she could have imagined it would be.  It's a small office and she fits right in.  They even invited her out with them for after-work drinks (no she won't be drinking, lol).  She is already corresponding with clients, tagging along on face-to-face meetings, writing dozens of promo spots for social media sites, and she landed 3 new clients for them on her first attempt!  Needless to say they are impressed with her - she got claps and congratulations from everyone there.  She loves being in Manhattan 3 days a week, too.