Over Christmas Stephen and I spent some time talking about our homeschool priorities for the rest of the year. Ok, well I spent a lot of time blathering endlessly and he talked rather less but with much more purpose about how we could meet our ‘targets’ in 2013. Basically we decided that I would devote January to reading, reading and more reading.
Over Christmas I noticed that Huwyl was having more trouble with his reading than really seemed reasonable, he’s bright and interested and really likes books, but it just wasn’t ‘clicking’. When I thought about it I realised that our devotion to learning reading skills had been less than it should have been to help him be successful and, as reading is the cornerstone of everything, we decided that until that was sorted nothing else was important. So January was allocated as reading month. And read we did.
I was pretty astonished to see how quickly this approach bore fruit, we went from very fractured and laborious reading to, well, reading! January is the perfect month for some good sofa time so it was no chore to sit with the boys for hours each day, reading with them, to them and near them. They loved it and so did I, a great way to start 2013.
At the beginning of January I also invested in a bunch of Star Wars DK readers, Huwyl has developed a sincere and abiding interest in Star Wars and so it seemed the perfect tie in, it worked like a charm. Though there was a little Charlotte Mason voice nagging inside me (twaddle! she cried) the important thing was that my little boy was reading and interested in the stories, that’s all that counted to me. He’s moved from struggling to reading pretty easily (for his age) and is now enjoying a good rate of progress, he’s even requested to move on to chapter books, his confidence is so high.
Alongside the reading we worked on Writing With Ease 2, a complete writing programme that includes narration, dictation and copywork, using great excerpts from children’s literature. We really enjoy it and the narration part particularly plays to Huwyl’s strengths so it doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s been lovely to hear him reading the copywork sentences with ease now, he does it without even thinking; it’s amazing what practice and confidence can do for a child!
As this approach worked really well I began thinking that working in blocks may just be the way forward for us, certainly for grade 2. I really like the idea of immersing ourselves in a subject before we move on, getting much more deeply under the skin of it and increasing confidence and skills at the same time. With that in mind I’ve made February Maths Month. While we are not leaving our language work behind entirely we’ll be spending a good hour or so a day working just on different maths activities, from place value to spelling maths words.
My hope is that by giving ourselves more time we can cover a greater breadth of work, revising concepts we’ve been working on since September (place value, time, addition and subtraction) but going into them in much more depth, exploring them more fully. As with reading I think it is crucial for a solid foundation to be built before moving on and I think this is where we have the edge as homeschoolers, not only can we whizz along when it suits us but we can slow right down and take our time when necessary too.
For this month we’ll still be working on our Writing With Ease and some First Language Lessons (combined they take about 20 minutes) as well as continued work on reading each morning. Huwyl is finishing off Explode the Code 3 and Neirin has just begun Get Ready for the Code book A which he is enjoying but we are taking slowly. My other preschool resources come from Confessions of a Homeschooler and lots of lovely apps for the ipad that allow him to practice letter tracing and matching, something he really seems to enjoy!
This block of work is what I’m thinking of a ‘core’ skills, this is the ongoing work that needs to be practiced a little each day; the second block of work will be maths and maths only, so we’re not currently practicing that in the core block. In March, when our second block is history, I’ll include maths in a core block to practice the skills we’ve been learning in our maths block, make sense? Excellent!
It all makes sense in my head I promise.
So for the rest of this month we are spending a big chunk of our day working on maths, I know that might sound like some kind of hellish demon dimension and there was a time that I would agree with that assessment. When I was at school maths was my least favourite and least successful subject. I even had to retake my maths qualification when I decided to become an English teacher and spent many hours and weekends working with Stephen to pass my exam. I duly did but maths was never going to be my favourite subject.
But I’m determined that the boys will have a different experience than I did. If something isn’t gelling then we will slow down until it does, I really want them to truly know their maths concepts rather than just paying lip service to a ticky box list of ‘nice to haves’. I think that if they have a truly strong foundation, maths need not be the horrid torture that it is for so many people, it can be a joyful revelation into a magical world of knowledge.
Well at the very least I’d like it if they didn’t cry when the word maths is mentioned ; )
So I’m approaching our lessons in different ways using lots of different resources. I’ve set aside our Singapore Maths for now and instead I’m using Jump Maths (right now we are using the Jump at Home book 2 as a sort of revision book) as well as some great resources that I’ve purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers. If you haven’t discovered this site yet get over there! There are some truly fantastic resources at extremely reasonable prices (and lots of free ones too!) and you are paying the money directly to the producer, always good news in my book. We’ve been particularly enjoying Snow Much Fun Place Value which explores 2 and 3 digit place value, number bonds, greater than and less than and recording. Not bad for $5! Here is a list of the other resources I’ll be using this month;
This month we are going to be working on skip counting (2’s, 5’s, 10’s and 100’s), place value, number bonds, number words, time, measuring, money,patterns and a bit of foundational algebra skills. We’ll also keep working on double digit addition and number carrying using Math Bingo and good old fashioned pencil and paper! Some of these things will just be the work of an hour or two, others are concepts we will keep returning to and revising for the next few years.
So far I’ve found it so much easier to organize my morning and my brain around just one subject. I’m trying to make sure that we move between different mediums (computer, pen and paper, manipulatives, games…) as well as different areas of focus. This keeps us from getting too bogged down and encourages me to branch out, nervous as I am of ‘getting it wrong’.
Has anyone else tried teaching this way? How did it work out for you?