Thursday, March 20, 2014

Winter Term Goals and Wrap-Up

I made some goals back in January for our winter term. It may seem a bit much to have such elaborate goals for what really amounts to less than an hour a day (not counting Nature Study), but hey, I'm a beginning homeschooler and this is still fun.

Bible: The Goal
-To read a Bible story every day, beginning at Genesis 1 and continuing through Judges using selected passages from Penny Gardner’s list.
-To memorize Psalm 100 and the Beatitudes from the Bible (ESV).
-To memorize one hymn per month:
January: Trust and Obey
February: All People That on Earth Do Dwell
March: How Great Thou Art

Bible: The Reality
We did read a Bible story every day, beginning at Genesis 1. We did not follow Penny Gardner's list after the first little while, choosing instead to simply read the chapters consecutively. (I did skip a few names...). As a result, we are still in Exodus instead of all the way in Judges. I am not unhappy with this. I feel that for the first time, they are really learning the stories. We memorized Psalm 100 with ease, but are still working on the Beatitudes. I simply read the passage for memory every day until they are able to say it with me. We memorized the hymns we planned, but are still in the middle of "How Great Thou Art" because "Trust and Obey" took more than a month to learn with its multiple verses. We also began work on the Children's Catechism, and while I haven't been as consistent with this as with the Scripture and hymn memory work, we memorized up to question 18. I am so thankful to have been introduced to Songs for Saplings songs based on the Children's Catechism. It amazes me how easily my children pick up these songs, even though they still can't carry a tune in a bucket! All of these items were memorized by simply taking five minutes after our meals every day to review them. Now I need to figure out a system to rotate review of things we've memorized in the past so we don't forget them.

Habits: The Goal
To learn habits of attention.
January: Listening to the Bible Story each day
February: Paying attention in church

Habits: The Reality
Attention did not end up being our focus, as I noticed that obedience needed some attention. This ended up being quite difficult for me. Creating practical habits (such as putting away toys or getting dressed before breakfast, as we did in our Fall term) is fairly simple. Creating moral habits such as obedience require a much more constant vigilance and much more wisdom (which I may or may not have very much of...). I think we made progress. I found a way to communicate with my 3-year-old about it that we did not have before, a light-hearted way to get his will on my side.

In other habits, I began having the children do chores after breakfast each morning. They clear the breakfast table and collect the laundry.
I also am working hard on getting SA to sit quietly in church and participate in whatever he can. This also is not easy. He is a fairly calm person, but, boy-like, he does have a hard time sitting still.

Reading: The Goal 
To spend 10 minutes each school day in focused attention on learning to read. Use books that are interesting to SA. Teach sight words, then related phonics rules on alternate days. Use fun games as often as possible.

Reading: The Reality
Shortly after the term began, SA took off with reading. I got as many good, easy-to-read books from the library as I could, and allowed him to read them as he pleased. We recorded the books he read on "reading ladders" and later on a large poster. He is currently at book #30 since January. During this time, I have not done a lot of phonics (maybe once a week, casually, rather than every other day). I will have to pick that up again during our Spring term, but I'm not sorry I dropped it during our Winter term.

Math: The Goal
To introduce a math game from Games for Math once a week (on Mondays).
To spend 10 minutes three times per week in focused attention on learning math concepts presented in Miquon Math.

Math: The Reality
We did introduce a new math game almost every Monday. This was a happy success, and I really feel it helped to continue to build their "math sense." Kalah remains SA's favourite game, and we still play it often. We also did Miquon Math, continuing with the concept of addition and subtraction, and introducing the concept of multiplication. In just the last couple of weeks, SA became interested in adding and carrying, so I taught him that as well.

Pencil Skills: No Goals
SA did some printing incidentally, mostly numbers in his math. He is very neat and accurate. I don't feel the need to push this yet.

Read Aloud: The Goal
To read and enjoy several books from Ambleside Online’s list for Year 0. Begin reading from the Winnie the Pooh series this quarter.
-To read and enjoy poetry at a daily poetry teatime.

Read Aloud: The Reality
Poetry Teatime continued to be one of our favourite parts of the day. The boys memorized several poems. I simply read the same poem (from The Harp and Laurel Wreath) every day at the beginning of teatime until they could say it with me, then went on to the next one. They learned:
The Little Turtle (Vachel Lindsay)
Once I Saw a Little Bird (an old nursery rhyme)
Rain (R.L. Stevenson)
Bird Talk (Aileen Fisher)
At the Seaside (R.L. Stevenson)
Of course, we enjoyed many other poems and nursery rhymes as well. They were always excited to choose what they wanted to hear.
We did read Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, which they loved. (They preferred the first to the second, though. I'm not sure why.) We have also begun to read from When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six, and will continue with those into the next term.

Nature Study: The Goal
To spend time each week observing and learning about nature, choosing from the Outdoor Hour Challenges found at To buy a birdfeeder and observe and learn about birds there.

Nature Study: The Reality
After reading more from Charlotte Mason, I ended up making much larger goals of spending time outdoors. I failed to meet my lofty goals (10 hours a week). However, having these goals meant that we did go outdoors for at least an hour almost every weekday this winter (barring extreme wind chill conditions). This is an accomplishment to be celebrated, since my usual mode in our Canadian winter is hibernation.

We did get a bird feeder, and it was a wonderful, wonderful thing to see the boys so excited about the birds we saw there. Even MM shouts "Chickadee!" whenever he sees a bird. We saw a couple of unusual birds: a brownheaded cowbird and some snow buntings. We learned about the difference between crows and ravens.
We did not follow many challenges at the Handbook of Nature Study blog. To be honest, most of our outdoor time was spent shoveling snow or playing games of hide and seek tag. But I began my own nature journal, which I hope will be the beginning of a family hobby.

Field Trips: The Goal
To learn from people and activities outside our home. Examples might be homeschool co-op events, or trips to Opa’s bakery.

Field Trips: The Reality
I ended up being without a car for most of the winter, so we just stayed home. We made it to one Co-op event, a Valentine's party. I think SA in particular needs to get out a bit more. We went out this week and he got more and more anxious the farther we got from home. New and different situations take practice, with him.

I felt very happy with this term overall. I think I deepened in intention to do little things every day, and in understanding of how all those little things add up over time. It was exciting to see SA's reading take off, and his enjoyment in numbers and patterns continue to grow. I felt less satisfied with our work on habits, and I'm thinking of how to improve that this Spring.