So this will be my first homeschool report since moving to Japan and starting Kindergarten, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee before you start reading what I am sure will turn into a novel. Given my past history.
We have been doing school for about 9 weeks now, a total of 50 days. This actually puts us about even with the local DoDDS school here – I checked, because I was worried that we were getting behind.
Overall, I am really happy with where we are right now. We definitely started out a little slow in September, for multiple reasons, but mainly because I was having second thoughts about whether we were making the right choice, or whether Madison should even start Kindergarten this year. It also didn’t help that I didn’t receive some of our books until October – they took two months to arrive – you really can’t predict shipping times around here.
It’s easy to say we’re going to homeschool when we had a preschool age child, but once Madison was old enough to actually start school, I kept feeling like I was going to mess this up somehow. And since her birthday isn’t until October 25th, she wouldn’t be starting school if we lived almost anywhere in the states, but here in the DoDDs school system, the cutoff date for Kindergarten is October 31st. After a lot of consideration, we decided to go ahead and start her with Kindergarten now. And I do feel like that was probably the right choice for us right now. She is definitely doing great with school, and most of my apprehension is gone now (which is not to say that it won’t return in the future…).
So here’s where we are:
We have continued with Bible Study Guide for All Ages where we left off at the end of preschool. We are about a quarter of the way through Unit 2. I am still really happy with this program. I’m really impressed by how much she remembers, and I am learning from it too. I especially love that it goes through the entire Bible teaching the facts at the appropriate age level. We are still using the Beginner Level, which is for ages 3-K, and I plan to continue using it until we get through all 4 Units, which should be the end of First grade, and then we’ll start over using the next level.
We finished up with Headsprout. Her reading skills are definitely not as strong as I’d hoped they would be at the end of this program, but she is definitely reading, which I am thrilled about.
We are about halfway through Book Two of Explode the Code, which is helping reinforce what she learned through Headsprout. I’m hoping to get through Book 4 by the end of this year. We are also doing ETC online in addition to the hard copy books. It’s basically doing the same thing twice, but she enjoys having computer time and I think the extra practice is good for her.
I also added in First Language Lessons for Little Ones. The main reason I wanted to add this is for the picture study and the poetry appreciation, but it also teaches phonics rules and has copywork, so it’s extra reading practice. We started with Volume Three and I think that was a good place. We didn’t get the book until about a month ago, but we are already on Lesson 42. And Madison loves it, which is surprising because reading is not normally her favorite. I think I will probably move on to the next book in this series next year for language/grammar/copywork for first grade because so far we are both really enjoying it.
Also for reading we are, well, reading. Madison read most of the books that went with Headsprout, most of the Bob books I have, and now we are just picking leveled readers from the library. I try to have her read two new books each day, and then she has to choose one to reread to Dad when he comes home from work. But, sometimes I do just let her do just one chapter or one story because some of those leveled readers are long. I also purchased McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer and have her read a few lessons out of there at the end of each week.
And finally, I also read to her every day. We have read My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, The Dragons of Blueland, Meet Kit, and now we are working on Anne of Green Gables. We’ve also read tons of picture books.
Initially, I didn’t plan to do any formal handwriting; I thought I would just add it in other areas. But after watching her writing develop, I thought it would be good to teach her how to correctly write letters. We are using Handwriting Without Tears about three days a week (up from two days a week at the beginning of the year). She really likes it, it takes less than 5-10 minutes each day, and I have definitely seen improvement in her writing. After I teach her the “correct” way to write a letter, she generally remembers and writes it that way, which is normally neater and quicker. We just finished with capital letters and will start on lowercase letters next week.
I’ve also done a few lessons from Draw Write Now with her. She loves doing them, but we just add it in for fun on Fridays when we have time.
We continued with Right Start Level A where we left off at the end of preschool. We are on Lesson 38, which is not as far as I hoped we’d be, but like I said, we got off to a slow start. I love this program. I actually think it moves a little slow for her right now, but I’m happy with that too. I like that there’s hardly any worksheets and there is a lot of hands on. And I really feel like it’s sinking in. Previously, we did the first half of Horizons Kindergarten, and she got all the answers right, but I didn’t feel like she was actually getting it. That may or may not have been true, but I am much happier with the feel and the pace of Right Start. We do Right Start 3 or 4 days a week, depending on our schedule. There are also a lot of games that go with the program, so Madison and Matt play some of the math games each night for extra practice.
We are also supplementing Right Start with Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math. The main reason I added that is because I didn’t want her to learn to answer questions for Right Start; I wanted her to have practice doing math a different way. She loves doing the Singapore because it is so easy for her. I ordered the Level 1A and 1B, which were ovbiously too easy because she did both of them, for fun, in three weeks. She calls Singapore her “Fun Math.” So then I ordered Level 2A and 2B (those four books comprise Singapore’s Kindergarten math program) and we are working through them now. We got the books on Tuesday and we are on Lesson 4 in Book 2A now.
Five in a Row (Social Studies and Science)
This is probably the one thing about our Kindergarten curriculum that I am not sure about. I know that a lot of people use it and love it, but I am really not feeling it. We’ve still done it every week, but it’s just not what I wanted it to be, if that makes sense. Basically, Five in a Row is a curriculum where you read the same book each day for five days, and each day you do a different activity based on the book. For example, one day we talk about the geography – where the book takes place – and we find that place on the map. Another day, we talk about the type of art used in the book and explore different mediums. There also normally language activities, math activities, and science activities. We do the geography and art every week, but we don’t always get to the science. That is probably the subject that has gotten the shaft so far in Kindergarten. I even bought some science experiment books, but we just haven’t really gotten them off the shelf yet.
One thing we did that Madison and I both loved was pumpkin week. We spent the whole week studying pumpkins and cooking with pumpkins and made a pumpkin lapbook and it was wonderful. I enjoyed it so much more than FIAR, and I think Madison did too, because it was her idea. So I’ve decided to stick with FIAR except for once a month when Madison will get to pick a subject that we study for a week for fun. Some of the things we’ve talked about doing are apples, oceans, butterflies, etc.
Originally, I had wanted to enroll Madison at the DoDDs elementary school for specials so that she could go in each day for an hour, be with other kids and get her art/music/PE time in, but after a lot of thought, Matt and I decided that we didn’t want to commit to that this year. The time wasn’t great for our schedule, and I really didn’t want to have to fit that in when the baby is born in March. But we did still find some other activities for Madison to essentially serve the same purpose. She is in ballet once a week, we go to Storytime once a week, she is in Girl Scouts which meets every two weeks, and of course, she has bible class at church. We also just started an art class which meets twice a week. I don’t know if we will continue to do the art thing, right now that is just on a trial basis. I don’t want to overwhelm her, but so far, our schedule is pretty relaxed. Almost everything we do away from home is on Wednesday, which makes for one crazy day, but the rest of the week is great. I’m also looking into Japanese lessons (I’m waiting to hear back from the instructor) and would like to start music lessons after the holidays, but in order to start those things, we may have to cut something else…
So that is pretty much where we are with homeschool for the year. I’d like to commit to writing weekly reports, but I just don’t know if that is going to happen. No promises. I will say I am very happy with where we are as far as Kindergarten goes, and I think that Matt and I made the right choice to go ahead and start her.