Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Plastic Cup + Poker Chips = Simple Small Motor Activity

Cup & poker chips
lazybusy parent's solution to an easy small motor activity. Plastic cup, slit cut in top with scissors, poker chips (or coins, checker pieces, Damien even was sticking plastic alphabet magnets in there, whatever fits).

Simple, cheap, kept Damien busy for a good amount of time!

Damien is currently 1 year, 7 months old (19 months)

Monday, January 28, 2013

5th Grade Progress (Age 7, Hunter)

5th Grade Progress

"I finished 4th grade," Hunter somewhat nonchalantly informed me, after I asked him how he did in math today.

That was in mid December, after he had just turned 7 years, 9 months old. (Under a normal schedule, he would've been a little less than halfway through 2nd grade.)

So we celebrated with a pack of gum, a pat on the back, and jumped into the 5th grade coursework.

5th Grade Progress

So far everything has been working out well. Math has kept him focused with the new things he is being introduced to and, to date, he has completed three of the ten units for this grade level.

The animated lessons are doing such a good job in explaining the new concepts that he rarely needs my assistance and seems to catch on quickly enough.

5th Grade Progress

Screen shot of the 5th grade math for the online curriculum we are using, Time 4 Learning.

We also jumped straight into the rest of the 5th grade work, including language arts, science, and social studies. He hadn't completed all of those for the previous grade yet (the only subject he 100% completed was math), but very adamantly wanted to move up to be a full "5th grader" in his own eyes, so I went with it.

I know there will be time and space later on to fill in any little "gaps in knowledge" he may have by skipping some things, and I don't worry too much. Especially since most if not all concepts are repeated and learned more in depth in later grades.

Writing Samples

Catching Up

The jump has been encouragingly satisfying - for him as a student and for me as a teacher.

I feel like finally, after such a long and somewhat difficult time, we have arrived at a place where he can be appropriately challenged on all levels of the curriculum.

Last year's experience with the online charter school left us both in somewhat of a daze. When I enrolled him, they only let him enroll one grade level above his age group, and the [2nd grade] work was far too easy for him.

As a result, the year ended up being spent having to devote ludicrous amounts of time on work that was for the most part far too easy for him, and left little time to do work that was genuinely challenging. The result it was a year of somewhat stale progress.

So in turn, ever since the end of last school year I feel like we have been trying to "catch up" to find a level that is really and truly challenging to him on an appropriate level, and to great relief, I feel like we are finally there.

Writing Samples

Asynchronous Development

His academic development is definitely asynchronous. Meaning, he's definitely not developing at the same rate in all areas.

In math he is definitely at the 5th grade level, or something like that. I was actually having him start to go through an 8th grade pre-algebra book but realized I was getting ahead of myself, even though he was blazing through the first few lessons in the book quite easily.

I decided to put the text away for awhile and just focus on the Time 4 Learning 5th-7th/8th grade math first. He could certainly go through pre-algebra book without much trouble at all, but I felt like he needed more practice solidifying the basics that he is learning now.

Because even though he catches onto the new concepts quickly, he doesn't always remember them in full a week or month later, and I want his basic math knowledge and skills to be solid.

He is reading probably at least at a middle school level or above and has been for a while. I don't really know how to gauge his "grade level" in reading when he can read (and mostly comprehend) pretty much anything that gets set in his hands.

For grammar and writing, he is probably at only a 3rd or in some cases even 2nd grade level. The above picture is a writing prompt taken from a state writing test for 5th graders. I suppose his response was appropriate yet not with the proper thoroughness or certain other skills expected from 5th graders.

His handwriting is this funny thing where he can form letters quite well, yet doesn't always choose to. The above two samples (the cursive alphabet and the writing prompt) were both written within the same week - he can form letters well but doesn't usually choose to as he writes stories and paragraphs.

5th Grade Progress

I made my own version of Time 4 Learning's scope and sequence charts, so he can check off the lessons as he completes them and write down the date and score. I will be using these charts for record keeping of his daily work (for his portfolio). The skill / content learned that coincides with the list of lessons will help strangers (and myself) know what he was learning as part of each assignment.


As we delve into this new level for him, I am excited.

I am hoping to strongly focus on his writing skills (and handwriting) to bring him up to par so that it is more in sync with the rest of his academic work.

For math I am going to encourage him and just let him fly. At the rate he is going he will more than likely be done with 5th grade math midway through spring.

For reading I am hoping to start a more structured approach and, while still letting him read whatever he likes during his free time (and encouraging that) to start intentionally going through most or all of the middle school and high school age recommended classics (not that we will finish the whole list this year, by any means, just start). Some he will read on his own and some I will read aloud to him, so that we can have discussions and check for comprehension.

Perhaps I am most excited about the scope and sequence of Time 4 Learning's science and social studies programs, which we are going to start using. Previously we had been using Time 4 Learning mostly for language arts and math, but we are going to start using the other two subjects now and I am excited about the comprehensiveness of it all.

In social studies Hunter will be learning about some more ancient history, a very comprehensive overview of American history, US and world geography, political science, and economics. Science is looking exciting as well, and we will be using that along side his biology lessons.

8402596763_a10b8a5afe_o copy_new

I am looking forward to a good next half year for us, as we really focus on his 5th grade work.

This is a huge relief and new to me, since as I have mentioned before, I tend to jump all over the place in curriculum, doing whatever interests us but never going very thoroughly through an entire scope and sequence.

It is a very comforting feeling to be able to focus on that task at hand - completing all the 5th grade work with excellence and thoroughness - instead of constantly worrying about what I should be doing and when.

We will hopefully be working at a rate to begin 6th grade by the end of spring or sometime in the summer.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15
Hunter is currently 7 years, 10 months old

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Things I Wish I Would Have Blogged About... And Why I Didn't

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Things I Wished I Blogged About Hunter stretching, and perhaps dawdling a bit, while reading his pre-algebra book[/caption]
Going through old blog posts recently, I have certain regrets about the many things I failed to write about.

My biggest regret? Not writing more about the personal journey side of it all.

About how we were growing and developing as a parent-child, teacher-student team. About where I was at that moment in time in figuring out how to organize it all, how to adapt to my child's ever-changing needs, how to find enough hours in the day, how to find balance and peace and sanity.

Because it has been such an adventure.

I have felt that regret for a while now. And I always think, "Oh, I should start writing more about the behind-the-scenes, organizational, parenting type stuff. I should do a weekly journal of everything that is going on in my 'life as Doman Mom'."

But I never do.

I always promise myself that I will start, but I seemingly always fall short, and to be honest to myself, I know the reason why.

It's because life isn't usually very glamorous.

What I Wish I Would Have Blogged About

It is so hard for me to see the beauty in the struggles, the progress that really has been happening even though it all too often feels so stagnant.

I always feel like I could be doing more or doing better. And writing about everything, at least in the moment of it all, feels like airing my dirty laundry and proclaiming my constant failures.

But when I look back and think, "Holy cow, how did Hunter get to 5th grade language arts so quickly? And when did Damien suddenly learn all those colors and letter sounds? And bygone, look at how far I've come in my household organization."

And I realize that I'm not a constant failure. I realize that I have come, and continue to come, a long way.

The journey is such an important part of it.

The struggles, the triumphs, the painfully slow progress, the little projects in between those big ones, it matters.

Even if it's not always glamorous, it's worth documenting.

Cause there is always more to the story than the finished product.

"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"
Philippians 1:6

Hunter is 7 years, 9 months old
Damien is 1 year, 7 months old

Friday, January 4, 2013

Learning About Electronics with Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits Damien (19 months) tends to be far more interested in Hunter's toys than his own these days.

Snap Circuits

For Christmas Hunter got a Snap Circuits kit. The big, giant kit that comes with 80 pieces and 750 projects.

Snap Circuits

Hunter has been tinkering with the flying saucer the most.

Snap Circuits

Adding circuit after circuit to see how powerful he can get it to be.

Snap Circuits

Damien is super interested. If perhaps just with the fact that it's something that his brother is doing more than anything else.

Snap Circuits

I have no idea how it all works. I have repaired a few broken wires in my day and can set up a lot of things. But I've never learned the ins and outs of wiring and circuits and whatever else goes into the electronics I use every day.

Snap Circuits

Here's to hoping that, through play, tinkering, and experimentation, these boys can go further in learning than I will ever hope to.

"As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth." Psalm 127:4

Hunter is 7 years, 9 months old
Damien is 1 year, 7 months old (19 months)