I’m almost a week late writing Alex’s quarterly progress report. Good thing the due dates are just self-imposed, huh? We’ve had a great summer, with plenty of time for new friends, hanging out, and playing, but also some good academic progress. It’s nice to feel ahead of the game going in to fall – we’re moving in October, so we’ll be losing a lot of our time to house projects and packing.
Language Arts: Alex discovered comic strips this summer, and spent most of her free reading time with Calvin and Hobbes collections. Those things actually have a high vocabulary level and require a lot of ability to make inferences, so it’s not a step down as far as reading practice is concerned. She’s also been happily working her way through the American Girls historical fiction series and various middle-grade novels. I continue to get piles of picture books that “go along” with our Five in a Row book of the week, but it’s rare that I read them aloud anymore – Alex reads them on her own, and then shares the science or history facts she’s picked up. She continues to test at a mid-fifth-grade reading level.
As I reported recently, Alex’s writing has really improved this summer. She’s started to do some free writing of her own accord, and is using my scribing services less during math lessons. We’re on track with where I’d like to be, but I think she’d still struggle with the quantity of writing required if she went to public school.
This summer, Alex came close to finishing All About Spelling Level 1. We’re on the second-to-last lesson and have begun to hit some challenging concepts. Alex has mastered concepts such as choosing k vs. ck at the end of a word and c vs. k at the beginning of a word. She can spell simple short vowel words reliably by breaking them down into component sounds. Her spelling skills don’t necessarily transfer to free writing, but I think that’s pretty normal at this stage.
Math: Alex finished MEP 2a this summer and started 2b. Most of her time this summer went towards developing a really thorough understanding of two-digit addition and subtraction. There were some interludes with measurement and easy geometry, which provided a welcome break.
It’s been interesting to me to see that her curriculum hasn’t presented the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction yet – what we used to call “borrowing” and “carrying,” but is now called “regrouping.” That doesn’t come up until 3b. Instead, the main focus is on mental math techniques. She adds 38 + 46 left-to-right by figuring 38 + 40 = 78, + (2 + 4) = 84. It sounds cumbersome, but she’s pretty quick. I think she’ll wind up with a better conceptual foundation, and a better ability to calculate on the fly, than I had as a child.
I’m not sure what our math future will be beyond MEP 2b. Looking ahead, it might be wise to slow down our rapid forward progress and go deeper and wider instead. Art of Problem Solving, a company which produces advanced math texts for high-performing middle and high school students, is putting together a new curriculum called “Beast Academy” for grades 2-5. The textbooks are in a comic book format with a strong narrative, and people who have reviewed a sample chapter say that the lessons go very deeply into higher-order reasoning. If we integrated Beast Academy and MEP after we finish 2b, that could keep the challenge level up while slowing us down so she doesn’t hit algebra at age 10. And I think Alex would respond very well to the story format.
Five in a Row: This quarter we studied eight FIAR books, plus one extra study that I put together on Plains Indians and buffalo. We’re actually starting to wind down Five in a Row; I planned out our books for the fall quarter and realized that after Christmas we’d only have a few books left in Volumes 1-3. I do have Volume 4, which includes more extensive studies meant to be completed over two weeks, so we’ll start that this winter. But I’ve been feeling lately that FIAR occupies a less central place in our day than it used to. I don’t know whether that’s because Alex is starting to outgrow it, or if it’s just because after 30-some books I’ve lost some of my excitement about all-out planning. We’ll see how the fall goes, and then the jump to Volume 4.
History: I thought we would finish up Story of the World, Ancient Times this summer and be ready to start the Medieval Era in the fall. Instead, with one thing and another, we just haven’t done much history this summer. We’ve just hit the rise of Julius Caesar, after taking a break from the early history of Rome to tour ancient India and China. We’ve got another six chapters or so of Rome to go, and that will finish the book. Alex continues to love history. A highlight of the summer was her Roman story.
Latin: Latin is going great. We’re about halfway through Song School Latin and going strong, plus both kids have learned their amo amas amat thanks to a silly YouTube video. We may be finished with Song School by Christmas, so I’ve been shopping around to find where to go next.