A Homeschool Update {Just Because It’s Been a While}

I haven’t posted a homeschool summary since 18 December (Week 25) so I guess I’m due to share what happened during weeks 26-29.

We didn’t actually “do” school for about half of that time. We took the entire week of Christmas off and then traveled to visit relatives the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We’ve been home and supposedly back on track for two weeks now though, so I have no excuse for not actually writing things down other than, laziness.

At any rate, here are some of the school-ish things we’ve been up to.

Math: We prefer using several different grade-level workbooks for math, opposed to following a set curriculum, so the Agents are working through their favorites. Agent E (4th grade) has been doing multiplication, division, probability, and basic geometry. Agent J (2nd grade) has been reviewing addition and subtraction fact families, learning basic division, and working with place value. I’ve also been trying to help Agent J get better at telling time, but I find it more difficult than when I taught Agent E. I think this is mostly because of their personalities; Agent E is just like me in her future orientation and concern for punctuality, whereas Agent J is totally focused in the moment and not as burdened with details. 

Language Arts: For some reason, Agent E has always found writing to be a painful experience. (Unlike her Momma, who finds it to be sanity saving.) Lately she’s started branching out a bit, though, so we’re rolling with it. Both girls having also been studying the usual grammar, sentence structure, spelling, vocabulary, etc. We are reading through the Basher books on Grammar and Punctuation. Agent J is enjoying her Star Wars Reading workbook and Agent E is making her way through the writing section of Brain Quest 4. We also decided to add Shakespeare into the mix, starting with Romeo and Juliet. Our library carries several different “Shakespeare for kids” series, so we’ve read three slightly different versions. 

Spanish: We’re currently using book 2 of the Brighter Child Spanish workbooks. This week we covered parts of the body. After much procrastination, I finally set the girls up on Mango (free through our local library) as well. I downloaded Duolingo onto my Kindle for me to brush up a bit, but I’m not sure if the girls would like it as much as Mango.

Geography: We finished up rocks and minerals and have moved on to water. So far we’ve covered the water cycle and rivers and valleys. We’re taking a minor detour now to discuss the Amazon rainforest in more detail. I was concerned that the spine book we chose for this year was getting a little dry for them, but they both said they wanted to press on and continue.

History: We’re finally “up to” the beginning of the common era. We’ve been spending a lot of time lately on the Roman Empire, because Agent E has determined that ancient Rome is fascinating. We’re also beginning to add in Greek and Roman mythology, which both Agents love. Two silly books we have enjoyed reading are You Wouldn’t Want To Be a Roman Gladiator and another Basher selection, Mythology: Oh My! Gods and Goddesses.

World Religions: A while back we decided to buy the book What Do You Believe? (after maxing out our renewals at the library). We started with a basic introduction and then looked at several of the more prevalent world faiths individually, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. From there we intended to move on to Sikhism and then others. But it felt kind of rushed. So, instead of plunging ahead, we decided to step back and start over. We re-read the introductory sections of the book, and then went back to Judaism and read a few more books and talked about it again. We’re finishing up our second look at Christianity now, and then we’ll move on.

Science: Human evolution, Charles Darwin, and animals continue to be our core topics. The book Animals Charles Darwin Saw was a recent favorite. Other evolution books we have read and enjoyed this year can be found in this list. We had been working through the mammals section of our animal spine book, but decided to break from that and study penguins, per Agent J’s request. We also started watching The Life of Birds on Netflix.

Health: We wrapped up our study of the respiratory system just before the break and have moved on to the digestive system. This is one of the longer sections in our human body book, as it also covers nutrition and vitamins. One of our most-used online human body resources is How the Body Works on KidsHealth. The Agents love the videos and the quizzes. 

Art: This year we are doing more of an art history overview, using The Children’s Book of Art as our guide. We’ve found a few other books we’ve liked, including 13 Sculptures Children Should Know and 13 Artists Children Should Know. Up next in our queue is 13 Art Techniques Children Should Know. (Notice a theme here?) I have to admit we haven’t spent as much time on free time creative art play as I would like. Trying to change that going forward.

Music: We finished up the section of our music spine book that covered early world music, and now we are moving on to the Classical era. Most recently we’ve covered Bach and Handel, as well as violins. Agent E continues to learn more music on the keyboard (completely self taught as I know nothing). She’s also working her way through the book Help Your Kids With Music. (So in our case it would more accurately described as Help Yourself With Music. Ahem.)

PE: We have tried to continue our daily walking (we were up to two miles at one point . . . not bad considering one of my walking buddies is a distracted five-year-old) but this New York weather is not always conducive to our goals. We’re working right now to come up with a Winter Plan that can be done indoors. I have to say, though, the days when it is too cold or too icy or too whatever to get outside even for a short time, it definitely affects our mood. Thirty degrees Fahrenheit is about our limit, however, and we don’t go out at all if the sidewalks are covered (i.e., slippery). We are missing spring/summer around here.

Kindergarten: Just a brief note here about Agent A (age 5). We are “doing” kindergarten with him this year even though he has a late birthday (November). Mostly we read a lot with him (here’s a list of some of his favorites). And by “a lot” I mean since July he’s racked up 231 books on his Goodreads list as of this writing, and most of those he’s read multiple times. We don’t do anything formal or structured at this age/grade. That’s not to say we don’t do anything, though; I recently wrote about the ways we encourage literacy in our homeschool kindergarten if you’d like to check it out. In the past few months he has progressed to reading early chapter books (think Henry and Mudge or Frog and Toad) quite well. 

We’re firmly into the third quarter of our school year now. (We go year round and advance a grade in July.) So far things seem to be plugging along mostly as expected. It won’t be long before visions of next year (with a 5th grader, 3rd grader, and 1st grader) begin dancing in my head.

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