January 3, 2012

Starting a New Year

Yeah it's January and a new year has begun! I like change, I like all the possibilities change can bring. This year I am excited as usual to begin a new year. So when I saw Sheila's challenge over at Living books curriculum I was thrilled! She asked us to answer two questions:

ONE: What is working? (IN YOUR 2011-2012 SCHOOL YEAR)
TWO:  What didn't? (IN YOUR 2011-2012 SCHOOL YEAR)
I am going to do it. You can ask why it didn't work and why it did but I want to keep it simple and just take inventory by asking to two questions above.

What worked:
  • Latin once a week with fun games and activities to remember the words we learned last year.
  • Reading through the Elson Readers. The stories are wonderful.
  • Learning math via the abacus. Once we got to place value they understood it so easily with the bars on the abacus being avisual for the place values.
  • Making an astronomy book using lapbook mini books glued onto cardstock pages to review the reading from our text.
  • Experiments!
  • using public domain materials.
  • Setting up the phonics rule so the boys could do it without me.
  • doing the phonics rule at the end of the day so there is an incentive to work through it quickly.
  • making egypt pockets and all the things that go in them.
  • reading from Opal wheelers stories about the composers.
  • Classical kids music CD's
  • playing the storm the castle game for math review.
  • Coloring the works of artists to encourage the boys to notice details like color and form and what is in the paintings.
  • Using canvas boards for copying paintings.
  • reading about one mathematician from Mathemeticians are People Too, the last day of our week
  • Kathleen Krull's famous scientists series
  • reading a few chapters from a Trailblazer book by Dave and Anita Jackson to begin our lessons.
  • Reading our read alouds after dinner and before going to bed.
  • Audio books and music played as they are going to sleep or when they are sick.
  • stopping lessons when their attention wanes.
  • havng space inspection to finish off our lesson time each day.
  • buying them sewing kits and lots of felt to practice sewing in the afternoons in their free time.
  • buying a trampoline so they can jump off the jitters before lessons.
  • Do chores before breakfast
  • keeping lessons to 20-30 minutes
  • variying lessons so there is alot of variety in the day and in the week.
  • egypt map drill and the solar system map drill, they are really learning the maps this way.
  • using montesorri cards to learn the names of paintings we are studying in our artist studies. We play concentration and they must be able to name the painting to take it as a pair.
  • The egyptian game! so much great review and learning packed into this game.
  • my oldest son reads aloud with his dad while I hear the twins read-aloud to me.
  • keeping short accounts with polite behavior so that it remains thus.
  • Having the boys narrate what they have just read aloud has been the best way to encourage and see them suceed in narrtion which we just begin doing this year.
  • limiting the amount of writing so they can produce good writing.
  • focusing on only three habits which all things submit to: habit of attention, habit of obedience, and the habit of perfect execution.
  • listening for the signs of their interests and building my future lessons around this. a good example was when I noticed that the boys liked the birdman in the opera by Mozart The Magic Flute. So we learned his song and made bird masks and lip-synced the song.
  • returning to Charlotte Mason's original writings to get more refinement on her ideas. When I do this I find her methods work better. It is easy to miss the point.
  • reading the historical fiction books the year before I read them to the kids.So this year I am reading greece and rome books while we study egypt.
  • making my own materials.
  • returning to more reading of literature of all kinds and eliminating busy work.
  • encouraging curiosity by asking questions instead of giving answers. using statements like, "I don't know, what do you think?" or "let's see?" "What happens if?" or "let's see what the book says?"

What is not working:
  • Using a book about teaching your child how to read to teach reading. Learning some rules and reading aloud  TOGETHER has been better approach for us. It was what my kids asked for. I added the teaching books. Good to listen to our kidos. It sure pays off.
  • requiring too much handwriting. the boys began to become sloppy in their printing.
  • narrating stories above their comprehnsion level. They learned very quickly to narrate once they narrated stories they had read themselves. They also like narrating where before they didn't. Makes sense we tend to like what we can do well.
  • doing a map drill for Egypt every week. they are doing much better when e do it every other week.
  • Letting them HAVE their sewing kits. When I kept their sewing kits in my cabinet and lent them to them when they wanted to sew, they took better care of their tools.
  • coloring too many pictures of artists work. This is detailed and long work. I did it with them many times. SO we break it up and try to do only two or three for each artist trading off with painting one on canvas board or playing the concentration game with the montessori cards. we do three artists a year.
  • reading aloud when they did not have something to do with their hands. I can now read to them for hours when they are building with legos or coloring a picture etc. while I am reading.
  • doing more than 6-8 math problems out of the book in a lesson.
  • having them work on math or copywork while all at the same table. best to split them up.
  • doing the same kind of lesson over and over. even within the same subject they are much more attentive if one day we do math problems in the book and onther day we lay a math game like storm the castle, then on another day read a story about a mathematician and back to problems in the book etc.
  • introducng the mini books for our astronomy book one at a time. They need to have all the mini books at once so they can place them onto the pages at the same time. In this way they can place them and see that they all fit before they glue it down.
  • scolding doesn't work, natural consequences do.
  • long lessons. wordy lessons, and irrelevent lessons.
  • Busy work doesn't accomplish much in the way of learning.
I am sure I could add more to each one of these lists...but for now that is my inventory. What is working for you? what didn't work? I would love to see your list if you have made one.

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