This isn't the first time I've tried to do exams. The first time I tried was a huge failure. It was my own fault. We ended our term at the end of a week, and I tried to start exams at the beginning of the next week, after I had told him that our term was completed. I tried to sell them as a special event and a way to share with his Papa what he had learned. I even got out the video camera to record his answers. Bad, bad idea, at least with this child.
This time, I took the lessons I'd learned from that fiasco and made the exams as much like our regular school routine as I could. The only difference was that I wrote down his answers. It went much more smoothly.
I know some of you aren't familiar with Charlotte Mason or Ambleside Online, and are wondering why on earth I'd do exams with a homeschooled Grade 2 student. After all, I know what he knows, right? I've been right with him as he's been learning it. The answer is that these exams aren't really like any test you'd be familiar with from school. The best way I can think of to put it is to say I'm taking a snap-shot of where he is right now.
The value of exams for him:
-A sense of accomplishment as he himself realizes how much he knows.
-As we do them regularly, a realization that the things he learns today are not expected to be forgotten tomorrow.
-An exercise for his long-term memory.
The value of exams for me:
-A sense of peace that these methods are working and he is retaining what he has learned.
-An assessment of anything that needs to be adjusted in the future, particularly areas we neglected.
-A record of progress from term to term and year to year.
I'll be honest and say that the true reason I haven't done exams regularly until now is because deep down I had a fear that I would find he hadn't retained what he had learned. That fear was unfounded. True, there were some answers I was disappointed in, but overall I was encouraged.
We did lessons from both the Old and New Testaments this term, beginning Genesis and Matthew. This is his answer when I asked him to tell about the flood.
"God told Noah to build the ark and to bring seven pairs of the clean animals and one pair of the dirty animals. And it rained for forty days and forty nights. Then Noah sent out a raven. ("I don’t remember the name of the bird." “Dove,” I told him.). Then Noah sent out a dove, and it couldn’t find any land. Then he waited seven days and sent it out again and it came back with a leaf in her beak. And he knew there was dry land nearby. And the ark was resting on a rock. And then God told them to go out and to scatter and fill the land."He did not do as well when I asked him what Matthew says about the birth and early life of Jesus.
"He was born in Bethlehem.Then God told them to go to different places.And then after a time they lost Jesus, and they searched for him and they were surprised to find him teaching."(That last part is not even in the Matthew account.) I told him later I was surprised he didn't say anything about angels, or wise men. He said, "I do know that, I just couldn't find the words."
We've been reading Pilgrim's Progress after breakfast almost every day. We are almost finished with it (I think it was supposed to last us the whole year? Oh well.). Instead of our normal narration, I simply had the boys tell me what to draw after each episode. This meant that they highlighted the events more than the conversations in their narration. I think we will go through Pilgrim's Progress several times over the years, no doubt with different levels of understanding. They really enjoyed it. Here is what Seth said when I asked him how the pilgrims ended up in Doubting Castle.
"Hopeful said they should not go off the way. And Christian wanted to go off the way onto that path. They met another person, and he said it went to the Celestial City. And then he fell into a pit. And then they thought they should get out, but they almost got drowned. They slept beside the path, and then the Giant Despair saw them and took them and locked them in a dungeon. Then he said he would check for key-locks. (I don't think that's the right word.) And then they talked, and then Christian said, “I have a key that can open any lock!” And he tried it, and it fitted. And they opened the lock. But one lock, the gate, creaked so loud that it woke up the Giant Despair, but he couldn’t get out of bed and run after them. Then they went back into the way."Another highlight this term has been Understood Betsy. I asked SA to tell me about little 'Lias, a character in the book.
"Betsy made some clothes for ‘Lias because he was all dirty and didn’t have any clothes. Then they went to the door and put the clothes on the doorstep, rang the doorbell, and ran. (Rustled in the grass, and lots of other things that make noise in the night.) A person came to the door and picked them up. They looked through the window. He looked like little Molly with no one to feed her. They hoped Mr. Pond would adopt him. The next day at school they saw that he was dirty and didn’t have any new clothes on. Disaster had happened. After little ‘Lias had said the story, Mr. Pond looked over their shoulders. And he said he will get some clothes for ‘Lias. They met him in the Hall in new store-bought clothes."History
We have been studying British history, going steadily through Our Island Story and a few chapters of Hillyer's Child's History of the World. We learned about William the Conqueror in both books, so I was a little surprised at SA's response when I asked about him and the Battle of Hastings
"William the Conqueror or William the Red?" he asked.
"William the Conqueror," I said. "William Rufus was his son."
"Harold waited for William the Conqueror.He sailed across the sea to Harold’s kingdom.They pretended they were going away, but then they ran up again and they killed him."
This took all of fifteen minutes to get out of him. On the positive side, it did include elements from both books. Our Island Story mentioned how long Harold waited for William to come and attack him, and Child's History of the World told about how William and his forces pretended to flee during the Battle of Hastings, then turned and defeated Harold.
I also asked him about another story from Our Island Story, the White Ship. At first it seemed as though I would not get anything. Finally I decided to prompt him. "King Henry was in Normandy, and when he was going home, someone wanted him to sail on his ship, but he couldn't go." That opened the floodgates.
"King Henry said, “The prince may go on.”And they were sailing and they laughed. And the boat suddenly stopped and the laughing stopped. And they cried for help.King Henry heard it and he said, “I hear people far away,” and they said it was a little bird.But he spoke so sternly that they went back. And many people crowded onto the small boat. As the boat overturned, two people were left clinging to the mast. And they cried for help. And one said, “Goodbye, God be with you,” and he slipped into the sea and drowned. And his clothes were made out of satin. The other person who was left wore sheepskin clothes. Just about when the sun was going to go up. And he clung to the mast until some fishermen came, and they saw the person clinging to the mast. And they brought him home. And then he said that Henry’s son died. And they said, “What terrible news to bring to England!” And nobody told the king for three days, and then they pushed a boy in the king’s room and he mumbled out the story. And the king fell down on his face, and they laid him down on a bench. When he opened his eyes again he didn’t have a happy look. Nobody ever saw him smile again."
(If that doesn't make sense to you, there is a gap in his telling...it was the prince, in a little life-boat, who spoke sternly and told them to go back for his sister.) I was struck by the details that had captured his imagination: the way the laughter stopped, the clothes that enabled one man to survive, and "Nobody ever saw him smile again."
This was a fail for me. I didn't cover the concepts I was supposed to because I assumed SA already knew them. At the same time, this showed me the value of exams... now I know I still need to go back and do it with him! I asked him, "Do you know what a compass is? Describe a compass and tell me what it does."
"A thing that tells you which way you’re going. Its little arrow turns to different directions as you turn. It is round, with an E for East, N for North, W for West, and S for South. It tells you which way we’re going."He didn't know about the magnetic needle and how it always points north. Oh well, now he does. :)
We had a spider project this term, and I asked SA to tell me about it.
"We caught spiders with our spider net. And also we found them on webs and caught them with a cup and we wiggled the cup to keep them from running out. We put them in poison or freezed them. We gave them to the spider lady.And we could catch them in a spider trap uncovered or covered with a piece of cardboard. And we could check it the next day from making the spider trap and putting it in the dirt. My favourite spiders were the argiopes." (We found two types.)SA also read and narrated from the Burgess Animal Book. This was the first book he started reading on his own for narration, and he always narrated very well. I kept the lessons very short this term (ten minutes per day, four days a week), and as a result we only got through half of the assigned readings. We will pick up speed over time, I know. I asked him to tell me about a squirrel.
"The flying squirrel. He goes about and he flies in the night. And he goes up a tree to the top of a tree, and then he jumps and flies off. His tail helps him keep his balance. And he can steer so he won’t bump into things until he lands on the tree he’s going for. And then he goes up the tree to do it all over again."Technically, this is not correct (flying squirrels don't fly, they glide). I know he knows this. I assume the name tripped him up...
I chose a few questions from his Singapore Primary Math 2B workbook, including simple multiplication and division, geometry, diagrams, and word problems with money and subtraction. He answered them easily.
The only question that tripped him up for a second was "David has 8 quarters and 12 dimes. How much money does he have altogether?" He asked me how much a quarter and a dime were worth. I told him, and he had the answer immediately. $3.20. The three was written backwards, but he included the dollar sign and the decimal point.
It wasn't quite fair of me to include that question anyway, as we didn't do the money unit in the book yet (I plan to get some Canadian money for that and haven't gotten to it yet.).
I had SA copy a line from our Bible memory passage this term, Psalm 139. "Lead me in the way everlasting." While I normally set the timer for five minutes and have him complete what he can in that time, I wanted him to complete the line for his exam. I put on the stop-watch so we could see how long it took him. Well. It took him 21 minutes. (I estimated that he is capable of doing it in seven.) At least it was neatly done. There is work to be done there, but then I already knew that...
Looking back over the term, there are a few other things I want to take note of:
Narration has progressed. At the beginning of the term, SA still needed to narrate after every paragraph. Now, I can read several paragraphs or even several pages in the easier books (like Understood Betsy) before stopping for narration.
The choice to slow down and work on our atmosphere and discipline at the beginning of Year 2 was a good one, but I could have picked up the pace a little as we went on and gained our balance. The first twelve weeks took us fifteen weeks including exams and one week off at the end of August. Daily, we did two readings with narration of fifteen minutes each, and one of ten minutes (that he read himself). I didn't include Bible and Pilgrim's Progress in that count, as we put those into Circle Time. I'd like to go a little more quickly as we head into winter. I'll start with the same pace in our second term, but increase the minutes per lesson to twenty over time (fifteen for the lesson he reads himself).
We skipped Parables of Nature this term. I felt I needed to cut something, and that is the book I never learned to love over the year we've already spent with it (So. Very. Wordy.). However, SA asked me about it yesterday, as he noticed it was never checked off on the schedule. He would like to read those stories, so I think we'll add it into Circle Time again once we're done with Pilgrim's Progress.
The boys need to do more chores. I haven't done a good job with that this term.
And now, it's time to take a week off! We're going to visit my mom and dad, yay!