Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Day

We got about 6 inches of snow last night, so I gave the boys the day off and they're having a blast building a fort, throwing snowballs, and sledding.

When the boys were younger, I mistakenly thought that time in my day would be freed up as they got older.  "After all," I reasoned, "they won't need me for as much direct teaching."

Boy, was I wrong.

Sure, Luke & Ezekiel don't need as much direct teaching.  They read, they write, they translate, they do their math.  Direct teaching takes up maybe an hour, then they do their work.  Much of our 1:1 time is spent in discussion about literature, history, and logic.  However, I didn't take into account that someone would need to grade (or at least check) all of the work they did on their own.  And while Jacob, Micah, and Nicholas need more direct teaching from me than the older two, they also have a fair amount of work that I need to check.

I've always got a stack of work to check.  I should check this work immediately, but it's difficult when the hours are taken up with teaching, cleaning, cooking, laundering, and chauffeuring.  All that time I dreamed of when the boys were younger is nonexistent.  I'm forever behind.

Guess what I'm spending this snow day doing?  

Do any of you have any great tips for staying caught up with grading/checking work?

Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears is a gentle handwriting program for children.  This program goes from Pre-K through 5th grade.  I was sent the First Grade Teacher's Guide ($9.25) and Student Workbook ($8.25) to review.  

HWOT 1st grade Teacher's Guide HWOT 1st grade Workbook 

I used this program with Nicholas, who is in first grade.  He's not reluctant about writing at all, and never complains about having to write anything down.  However, he taught himself how to form most of his letters. To say his letter formation is unconventional would be an understatement.  However, he's also boy #5, and while I've always got plans to fix his penmanship, it's difficult to find the time.  Handwriting Without Tears states that handwriting can be taught in 15 minutes a day.  I found that it didn't even take us that long.  

The Teacher's Guide is 182 pages long, and contains the philosophy, teaching tips, and lesson plans for the first grade student workbook (sample pages can be downloaded here).  There are suggestions for extending the handwriting lessons into other areas; for example, on the lower case "h" page, you are to encourage your student to color the horse on the page and add grass and hay, make a list of words that begin with h, and count the horse legs and try to figure out how many legs there would be if there were 2, 3, or 4 horses on the page.  The Teacher's Guide also provides a passcode so you can access online activities:  downloads, practice pages, remediation guidelines, and more.

My Printing Book is the name of the Student Workbook for first grade.  It is 94 pages long, and is printed in black and white (sample pages can be downloaded here).  The amount of writing required per page is minimal.  The student is encouraged to do their best on each and every letter.

Nicholas made it through about the first 25% of the book.  We usually did a page per day, focusing on correct and well-done letter formation.  He enjoyed the lessons, and his penmanship for the letters we covered is improving.  I didn't find the Teacher's Guide to be very helpful, but that might be because I'm working with a non-reluctant writer.  If you're nervous about teaching penmanship, or if you've got one who doesn't like handwriting, then you should check out the Teacher's Guide for ideas.  I think Handwriting Without Tears is a well done penmanship program, and I'd recommend that you check it out.

Handwriting without Tears Logo

For more reviews of Handwriting Without Tears, visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Reveiw Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 22

Slow and steady wins the race.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

How many times have I said this to myself?  Or someone else?

It's true.

We're making progress.  Day to day I often wonder what on earth we're doing.  How can {unnamed son} not do {task we've done a gabillion times before}?  Am I failing them?

Then I look at the long road behind us.  And I realize we are making slow and steady progress.  It's not always in the neat, tidy, and linear fashion that I would prefer, but progress is there nonetheless.

All this to say that we kept the course this week.

Most surprising of all is the repeating of Luke:  "Mom, Till We Have Faces is really good.  You need to read it."  My oldest son is telling me I should read a C.S. Lewis book.  Wow.

I also discovered Luke & Ezekiel can translate Latin faster than I can.

And I really took a good look at the plans I made over the summer.  As I've mentioned, our fall was not good--we were seriously overbooked and didn't make the progress I'd hoped.  Because of this, I'm planning on going through June and taking July off.  It looks like our June schedule will be light if we keep on like we've been doing this semester.  That was a nice feeling for February--seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Weeks 20 & 21

We've had two fairly productive weeks, despite the fact week 20 was spent looking for a New to Us Van after our Previa blew up.  Well, it didn't exactly blow up, but when I was out running errands a stinky steam started coming through the vents.  I pulled over, called Craig, and he was able to get it to the repair shop where we found that it wasn't worth it to repair it.  It's always stressful when deciding how to spend a larger than normal sum of money, but we really felt that God's hand was in the provision of the New to Us Van, and we're all enjoying it.

As far as school goes, we're plodding along.

Luke & Ezekiel finished The Codes of Hammurabi and Moses, and have moved on to Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  For writing, I started them in A Writer's Guide to Powerful Paragraphs, and they worked on writing a definition paragraph this week.  Ezekiel switched math programs, and now instead of doing Saxon 8/7 for prealgebra, he's working through Lial's Basic College Math.  I think he's enjoying the change of pace.  They're moving along in Greek, and we hit the 3rd declension in Latin this week.

Jacob is really enjoying the Science Explorer Electricity and Magnetism book, as well as the Snap Circuit experiments.  His headaches and migraines have increased, and I think that's making focus even for him more difficult than usual...that and being 10. His progress is slower than I'd like, but it's still there.  I'm trying to remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Micah took his first grammar test this week.  It was a lot of writing for him, but he did well.  He turned 9 this week and received Kingdom Lego and several books on knights.  He's declared learning about medieval times to be his new hobby.

Nicholas is such an eager student.  Not necessarily because he wants to learn what I'm teaching him, but because he knows that if he finishes quickly he can play.  He's attempting to read Redwall on his own for fun. 

We've made it through the letter L in cursive, and the four older bothers finished Prince Caspian this week.

Time to plan for next week!