Okay, I never got around to posting my last quarterly report, because it fell within my blog hiatus, but I cannot skip two in a row.
Because we promote grades in June, back-to-school for everyone else means that we have just finished the first quarter of second grade. We took a full month off this quarter for day camp (two weeks at the Walters art museum) and vacation, which worked well. I am a strong proponent of year-round schooling, but Alex has started feeling the injustice of it. She was happy to get a long break, and she didn’t forget as much as I feared.
Language Arts: This category has grown large enough that it probably ought to be split into separate subdivisions: reading, writing, grammar, and spelling.
Reading: Since second grade began, Alex has read four of the books on her required second grade reading list. I’m not sure that I have the difficulty level quite right, because she’s burning through them pretty fast. It usually goes like this:
(1) She moans and groans about having to pick an assigned reading book. I make her read the first couple of chapters at the rate of one chapter a day.
(2) She gets completely involved in the story, speeds through, and finishes the rest of the book in a few hours.
(3) I attempt to point out that see, the books on the assigned reading shelf are good. They are not an attempt to torture her. She reluctantly agrees.
(4) She moans and groans the next time I ask her to pick an assigned reading book.
I wonder if the books are too easy for her – A Lion to Guard Us seemed particularly early-readerish – but then again, the point of the assigned list was supposed to be broadening her horizons and providing subjects for literary discussions, not necessarily stretching the edge of her reading ability. And I did want to leave most of her time available for reading books she chose herself.
In her free time reading this quarter she’s been working her way through the first five Harry Potter books, so I guess that her prior timidity about long books with small print has been resolved. She also continues to love graphic novels. Zita the Spacegirl, the Amulet series, and Rapunzel’s Revenge have been particular hits.
Writing: I recently posted about Alex’s spectacular writing progress, so I won’t say much more here. She is now writing frequently for pleasure; she particularly enjoys writing notes to people, sending letters home from Hogwarts, and doing “Hogwarts essays” similar to the ones Harry and his friends are assigned. In her curricular writing life, she’s almost two-thirds of the way through Writing With Ease 2, where she is improving her grasp of writing mechanics through copywork and dictation. She’s also gaining skill in summarizing a passage of writing. Her grammar program also has a writing component which we are just beginning to explore. She’s written a couple of poems and has really enjoyed it.
Grammar: Alex is getting a double dose of grammar these days, from Michael Clay Thompson’s Island books and from her Latin curriculum. I really appreciate this cross-reinforcement. Grammar is probably her favorite subject these days. The MCT program has the grammar book front-loaded for completion in the first couple of months, and indeed we have already finished Grammar Island. Over the rest of the year, we’ll be working our way through other aspects of language arts, including advanced grammar concepts, writing, vocabulary, and poetics. I want to make a separate post explaining more about MCT language arts, because they are amazing.
Spelling: Alex is twelve lessons in to All About Spelling Level 4, which puts her almost halfway through. I don’t love this level the way I have loved the previous levels, but I have to admit that, for the most part, Alex’s spelling has gotten pretty good. She’s taking dictation with sentences like “I read that the weather would be stormy” and “Did you wrap the birthday gifts in purple paper?”
Math: The last time I posted a quarterly report, we were still waiting for Beast Academy to be released. Now we’ve finished the first half of the third-grade curriculum and are almost one-third of the way through book 3c. I am really impressed with Beast Academy. It encourages very deep math reasoning, and the comic book format not only keeps Alex engaged and excited, but it also models problem-solving strategies (like coping with a problem you can’t solve) in a way that is extremely beneficial on an emotional level. I feel like the authors of Beast Academy really get my kid – as a person, not just as a math learner.
The agony of Beast Academy is that they simply can’t release the levels quickly enough. They anticipate releasing a year’s worth of math about every 16 months, which means that they’re going to fall further and further behind the speed at which Alex is moving forward. We had about a three-week gap between 3b and 3c, which I filled in with some material of my own devising, but ultimately we are going to need another math program – and there is just nothing like Beast Academy. We can go back to MEP, which also encourages deep math reasoning, but it’s hard for me to figure out how to use it as a fill-in because it has such a spiralling structure. And Alex doesn’t love it. I just don’t know what we’ll do.
Latin: We are three-quarters of the way through the phenomenal Lively Latin curriculum, and still going strong. Alex has mastered the present, imperfect, and future tenses of first conjugation verbs and has learned to decline first- and second-declension nouns. (The only noun cases Lively Latin teaches her to use in the first book are nominative and ablative of place where, but it presents the other forms for memorization. They’ll be explained in Lively Latin 2.) She has learned a hundred or so vocabulary words as well. She’s starting to see her first little stories to translate – just a few sentences long. She continues to enjoy Latin very much and is making great progress.
History: In Story of the World, Vol. 2, we have progressed as far as Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal. Michael does most of the history teaching these days, so I’m not as aware of how things are going, but it seems like we’ve picked up the pace and are sailing along more smoothly. Joan of Arc was a particular favorite of both kids. Michael also gave a stirring, Branagh-aided presentation of Henry V and the battle of Agincourt. I came home from work and the whiteboard was covered with battle plans.
Science: We are nearing completion of Real Science Odyssey: Chemistry, which we have been doing with Alex’s friend B. We’ve just wrapped up a very good unit about matter and states of matter and are about to start the final unit, on chemical reactions. I have mixed feelings about RSO Chemistry. A number of the experiments have been very good, but the text written to the kids talks down to them and can be pretty superficial. When we finish, we plan to move on to something much more customizable. I think that will work better for us.
For extras, Alex has been doing a variety of things: art history day camp, Irish dance, boatloads of building and making projects, and of course, Park Quest. We squeeze in religious education and nature study here and there. She’s joined a soccer team and starts practice tomorrow – I’m hoping that it will be a good experience for her. And I’m on the lookout for a good Brownie troop. Alex is one busy, happy kid.