Quarterly report.

2012-10-28 16.35.57

Another quarter has passed. A number of our books and programs are coming to a close, all in a stretch: in about a six-week period we’ll finish math, writing, spelling, poetry, science, and Latin books. I don’t really want to embark on too many new projects before Christmas, so as we finish some subjects we’re setting them aside until the New Year and filling in the extra time with music, crafts, and games.

Language Arts:
Reading: Alex is working her way through her seventh book from her second grade reading list: Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a fantasy inspired by Chinese folk tales. I’m happy with how the reading list is going. It’s not overly obtrusive – she has plenty of time to read her own choices – but it is consistently introducing stories and genres she wouldn’t have chosen herself. Each time she finishes a book, we go to a cafe and have a conversation about it, just to move her gently in the direction of analyzing books rather than just gulping them down.

Writing and Grammar: Alex has been racing through Michael Clay Thompson’s Grammar Island series by leaps and bounds. We’ve finished the grammar and poetry books, and only have some of the writing book left because grammar is the first thing I skip when we are short on time. (I don’t want to move on to the next level too quickly.) She does a great job with what MCT calls “four-level analysis” – analyzing a sentence for the parts of speech, parts of a sentence, and, to the extent that Island level includes these, phrases and clauses. She does one of these analyses independently each day we do grammar, and it winds up looking like this:

2012-12-06 22.37.23

She enjoyed studying poetics much more than I imagined that she would. In the Island-level poetry book, Music of the Hemispheres, MCT focuses almost exclusively on the sound of poetry rather than the meaning, so we did a lot of work with rhyme and meter and alliteration and choosing words whose sounds evoke particular moods or subjects. Alex wrote a few poems during the course of studying the poetics book, but she found it intensely stressful to be assigned a poem, so we didn’t do as many as I intended. She has the all-too-common attitude that writing either flows flawlessly from your fingertips as a perfect finished project, or it’s too terrible to contemplate.

In her more prosaic writing curriculum, Writing With Ease, Alex is just about finished with Level 2. She’s taking dictation of fairly long and complicated sentences and learning to punctuate thereby. She’s also making great progress in providing a coherent oral summary of a passage she’s read. (For example: “Bilbo was standing at his door smoking his pipe when Gandalf came. Gandalf said he was looking for someone to share an adventure with, but Bilbo didn’t want to because adventures made you late for dinner.”)

Spelling: Alex finished All About Spelling Level 4 yesterday and started Level 5 this week. Somewhere along the line, she’s turned into a pretty good speller. Level 5 looks like quite a jump up in difficulty – new words introduced in this book include bruise, assignment, thieves, business, receipt, and recession – so I think we’ll probably be slowing down a little.

2012-12-06 22.18.50

Math: We finished Beast Academy 3c this quarter: variables, division (including mind-bending problems like “find the remainder when 99 x 98 is divided by 97″), and measurement. They don’t expect to release 3d until the end of January. In the meantime, we have gone back to our old math program, MEP primary – jumping ahead to level 4a. It’s been a rough transition for Alex. She struggled quite a bit initially, seeming to have forgotten much of what she’s learned. We’re not used to see-sawing back and forth between two very different approaches to math! Recently things are leveling out better, in terms of both math performance and attitude. I think that ultimately it will be good for her to use both programs, but we do really wish that she could just keep going with Beast Academy.

2012-10-01 10.26.13

Latin: Alex has finished the first Big Book of Lively Latin! It got considerably harder towards the end, as she was asked to diagram Latin sentences, read simple stories and answer questions about them in Latin, and translate sentences like “There are beasts under the fierce waters.” We’re planning to just do a little vocabulary review for the rest of December, and start with Lively Latin 2 in January. I anticipate that her progress is going to slow down quite a bit; already she’s struggling to keep everything in mind when she constructs sentences.

History: We continue to move through Story of the World, Vol. 2 at a snail’s pace. We’ve gotten as far as the Renaissance and Galileo. There are just a few chapters left in the book, but we’re more than a month behind where I expected us to be. Alex seems to enjoy being read to from SOTW, so I don’t know why it’s been so much of a slog.

2012-11-23 13.57.29

Science: We finished Real Science Odyssey: Chemistry at the beginning of November and have been taking a break from formal science since then. On balance, we enjoyed studying chemistry, but I’m not sure we would do another RSO course. The experiments were great, but the text was superficial, and too often written in a cutesy tone. (And in Comic Sans, to add insult to injury.) After the break we’ll be starting earth science. I’m looking forward to a change!

Extras: This quarter Alex competed in a neighborhood soccer league – her first organized sport. She goes to Outdoor Games group, Religious Education, and Irish dance; plays with her friends; reads almost anything she can get her hands on, but particularly, graphic novels; builds and crafts constantly; and will have a featured role as Imogene Herdman in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in church on Christmas Eve. Check out this awesome ornament she sewed:


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11 Responses to Quarterly report.

  1. Ashley says:

    I know it must be frustrating not to be able to continue with Beast Academy indefinitely since their publishing schedule will lag behind. But when your daughter is ready (maybe fourth or fifth grade), definitely try The Art of Problem Solving’s Prealgebra book. It’s published by the same people as Beast Academy and, while it doesn’t have the fun comic book format, it’s amazing in terms of math rigor and problem-solving. In the meantime, Edward Zaccaro’s books (like Primary Grade Challenge Math) are very good. They’re in comic form (though black and white) and lots of fun.

  2. Julie says:

    I really like this post, it’s fun to read what others are doing. Alex is amazing! I just love that you go to a cafe and discuss a book after she’s read it. I love what you’re doing with poetry, too, I think my oldest would like that a lot. What are you using for Earth Science? I know what you mean about slogging away with history, I feel like we are doing that too, with my oldest, but maybe we should go back to SOTW. We took a detour with Joy Hakim’s books this year.

  3. The poetry sounds really intriguing; I’ll have to look into that end of it rather than analysis when D starts with it.

    Can I just say that the Herdmans and Best Christmas Pageant Ever is probably my all-time favourite Christmas story? That picture you took is perfect!

  4. Kim says:

    It’s amazing that A is at almost the same point in the Practice Island book as L. He does fairly well with it, and loved Grammar Island and Sentence Island, but finds P.I. to be tedious and so we didn’t move through that as quickly. We’ve finished the other two books, and are finishing up M.O.t.H., but P.I. feels like it’s taking forever. Meantime, we’re working on Logic of English which has a grammar element, and some dictation and composition [though just of phrases so far].

  5. tinderbox says:

    Kim, we’re not actually doing Practice Island in order. I let Alex pick whichever sentence she wants to do. That helps somewhat with the tedium factor. ;-)

    Julie, we are going to be using Intellego core curriculum units for earth science. I will probably post about the Intellego approach in January.

  6. Kyndra says:

    Sounds like you/she are making lots of progress! When did you start the Big Book I? I’m looking at it pretty hard for my first and second graders…K

  7. Stephanie says:

    We’ve been in a similar situation with a curricula publication lagging behind where we were. It’s very frustrating. Are you at all familiar with Life of Fred? A year or two ago they put out the entire elementary line at once. Perhaps you could try one of their books while waiting for Beast Academy. My kids have really taken to LoF; and I must admit that when Lynx’s new LoF Algebra arrived last week, even I had a hard time putting it down! (and I’ve never been a fan of algebra)

  8. tinderbox says:

    Kyndra, we started Big Book 1 last February, in first grade, two months before Alex turned seven. I had to do all of the writing for her then, and I still do most of it, but other than that it was a fine time to begin for a child who likes languages and memorizes well.

    Stephanie, I have always been interested in LoF because Alex responds so well to narrative, but I haven’t been impressed with the actual math instruction in the snippets of the book they make available as samples – although it’s hard to tell, since it seems like so much of the book is not math instruction. I’d have to read through a whole text, I think. I’m also not sure where she would start.

  9. DeNae Leverentz says:

    I’m very impressed with the improvement in her handwriting, too. It took me until 6th or 7th grade to get handwriting than anyone (including me) could read.

    If she’s enjoying graphic novels, has she found the Babymouse books yet? Heidi’s Kay is really enjoying them, and I’m starting my niece Lina on them. Lina hasn’t yet found the book that really starts her reading interest.

  10. Nolly says:

    The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been one of my favorites since elementary school. When we did the play when I was in HS, as part of a community theater program, the director ended up tweaking the script a bit so I could play Gladys. (I was originally cast as one of the church ladies, but I guess either they had trouble casting Gladys, or the original casting fell through.)

  11. Professor Dumbledore says:

    I wish to remind students who attended the Hogwarts Orientation Session at the Baltimore campus last summer, that underage magic is not permitted under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery.

    Yours sincerely,

    Professor Dumbledore

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