Wednesday, May 24, 2017

State of the Homeschool we are, at the end of Eli's Kindergarten year, and the beginning of Itty Bitty's two year old year.

On the whole, even though I thought we would be homeschooling full time this year, public Kindergarten was good for Eli. His school is incredibly unique, and all of the adults do an amazing job trying to meet his needs. He's really matured a lot, and it forced us to really deal with his sensory issues in a new way.  His six months in OT this year were also very well worth it!  While he still has some problems, he has really begun developing healthier coping skills.  Though he still struggles somewhat with friendships and with understanding social norms, and he is very sensitive to criticism and teasing, he's made amazing progress.  Our plan is to go back to this school in the fall for his first grade year; I recently even found out who his first grade teachers will be : ).

Preschool has also been really good for Itty Bitty. His teachers have challenged him in ways that I wouldn't have thought of on my own, and it's resulted in a lot of new skills!  It's also great for him to hear all of the other children talking/trying to talk - it's helping him to try more to speak.  He's really learned better self-feeding skills (including improving his use of spoons/forks and CUPS), and he's already trying to "read" books (by turning pages and babbling to us) and trying to count (he approximates the words one, two, three, and sometimes four). He still receives therapy services in three areas, with the hope of dropping a service in June.

So, with the satisfaction that we have with public school/day care, it may seem unusual to some that I still write homeschool posts. Eli, though, still has an insatiable desire to learn - and he's so far ahead of grade level in so many areas that we are definitely still 'afterschooling' (as well as sending appropriate work to school) to meet his needs. Itty Bitty's needs/delays at this age are still so significant, we have to work with him extensively at home to help him overcome his rough start in life.  I'm also a big believer in Montessori-ing everything I can at home, as I believe it's the best way to help little ones learn and become more self reliant.

Because our homeschooling/afterschooling year is definitely year-round, I thought I'd just go ahead and share where we are today, and our plans for summer. During the school year, for Eli, we tend to do math, reading, writing and music 3-4 days per week, science and social studies at least once per week. For Itty Bitty, we do therapy exercises every day, and have begun incorporating several practical life activities a few times per week.  Most of the 'work' I'm planning to do with Itty Bitty is more of a playful introduction; at his age, mastery would be great, but isn't expected : ).

Eli is several years ahead of his age group. This school year, his teacher and I have been supplementing/adapting his work to meet his needs throughout the year. In math, he functions around a 3rd-4th grade level, with exceptional logical reasoning skills.  He completed the gifted second grade problem-solving course from Noetic Learning (Challenge Math) this spring with a 98%. He's currently working through Art of Problem Solving's "Beast Academy" books for grade 3; and we should be finishing book 3A in mid-June and will continue into book 3B.  We paused on Life of Fred for a little while, as he needed time to practice some skills before he continued in the series. We will resume with Life of Fred 'Farming' and the 'Making Friends with Numbers' series next week.

Itty Bitty is just beginning some math concepts that we are going to work on this summer. He's learning to count by rote, and we're trying to teach him to sort objects by an attribute (like color or shape) and learn to follow daily routines. In addition to quick, simple Montessori trays, we will be using iPad/Kindle apps like "Bugs and Buttons" and "Starfall".

For the most part, with reading, we are simply encouraging Eli to read a variety of books. We started out with a reading challenge this semester, but changed it midway, when it really wasn't meeting our needs (more about this later). In a few weeks, our library will begin its summer reading program, which requires children to read 24 books. Every other year that we've done this, I've required Eli to stay in the ballpark of his Lexile range. This year, I've simply told him that he needs to make reasonable choices and that I'd like him to read at least 6 nonfiction books. His personal goal is to read the first Harry Potter book : ).  I'm assuming that I'll need to suggest some books to get him going...but he's already told me several books that he's picked out :)!

For literacy for Itty Bitty, we are doing the library's summer read-aloud program (which also requires 24 books). I've already selected most of the books we will read together - most of which were favorites of Eli at this age!  We will begin to work on learning lowercase letter sounds and shapes, too.

We are slowly working through Cursive Logic for writing, and Eli LOVES it; he only has one more section left, and takes a lot of pride in his work. I'm going to order him the "Art of Cursive Logic" for summer, along with a new set of felt tip markers.  We are also going to practice writing in cursive for some of our copy work.

Itty Bitty has recently learned to scribble!  This is a skill we've been waiting on, and I'm excited. For writing, we're going to practice using a variety of tools to scribble and color, so that he can strengthen those fine motor skills! I'm also going to try to find a few fine motor skill-based Montessori activities that he really enjoys, so that we can encourage him.

Eli will continue working on piano and will probably continue violin. We took a complete, month-long break from violin while we've been busy. We are going to start back next week, as life slows back down a little. At this point, he is still (a year later) learning from Suzuki book 1 for violin, and it's slow going because we are both beginners. I'm on the lookout for quality supplementary material for young violinists!  Piano is going extremely well, and Eli continues to make huge strides in learning. We are currently using a mixture of Faber's Piano Adventures 2A (theory, lesson, and sightreading), a chord/scale book, and Alfred's combined level 2/3.  We also have a variety of easy sheet music, and a couple of level 2 supplementary books. Eli's interest in piano has been seriously spurred on by his success at playing prelude in church; he's working on another song to present, as well.

Itty Bitty can repeat/hum many of the songs Eli plays on piano. We're going to continue working with him on singing/learning songs with words through frequent use of repetitive songs. We also have his xylophone and drum that he can use when he needs to/wants to.

I picked up a copy of a book called "Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers " that is an amazing resource for science at home. We're going to do some inquiry based science at home, but we're also going to work in a few programs from local parks and our zoo, so that we have some field trips :). We are also going to re-read Pre-Biology Level 1and Pre-Chemistry Level 1 from Dr. Rebecca Keller to go along with everything else.

Itty Bitty will get to watch the experiments we do and participate as much as he is developmentally able. We will do some pictorial nature scavenger hunts with him, to help him learn to match and classify simple items (like sticks, pine cones, leaves).  Right now, Itty Bitty is really into things that fall, can be thrown, or that roll, and he's constantly experimenting with his racecar track to see what he can roll down it!

History/Social Studies: In history, I think we are going to rely heavily on trade books and field trips (including one to our state's history center!) for both kids. Our state parks have a robust history programs that I think would be a good fit for us. However, I've not really seen a gifted history program that I think Eli would really love. I'm open to suggestions here!  I'm thinking of working a little on Native American history, since that's what our state parks focus on.

Art: I actually plan on having an art project almost daily, which is a change for us. Eli is now really into painting and making things, and I've found a lot of good resources for ideas online. I also found an interesting book on painting with acrylics that, if it works out, I'll share some of our projects here : ). Itty Bitty is now enjoying coloring/scribbling, painting, and experimenting with different materials.  I'm hoping to teach him felt/paper weaving (though I'm wondering if he might not be ready for it), simple scissor use, and using stickers.

Foreign Language:  Eli has shown HUGE interest in learning other languages. He's definitely interested in learning Korean and Japanese.  We've found a couple websites/materials to help us get started with Japanese, and I've had several resources in Korean, just waiting for him to be ready for them.  He's mildly interested in Spanish, too, but it's so often taught in schools, that I think it's more important to work on the other two.

Itty Bitty is still learning to speak, though he definitely understands the Korean words I use with him. I plan on trying to use more Korean vocabulary with him, but most of his work in language will be working on his speech exercises and learning how to speak, as he has some significant delays in this area.

Practical Life: As always, I try to take summer time (as well as a couple weeks in the winter) to rearrange the boys' spaces to make them reflect where the kids are developmentally and what they want to learn.  For Eli, the biggest changes will likely be in the kitchen. I'm planning on having him work a lot more on learning cooking and am going to rearrange the kitchen a little to help him out.

This is the bulk of where Itty Bitty's work will be. Itty Bitty is working on self-feeding with a spoon, getting dressed, and potty training. He loves to 'help' by pretending to sweep and vacuum, and he loves water play (including pouring). He has the ability now to start learning to scramble eggs with supervision, to help remove clothes from the dryer, to match socks, and to do quite a number of other pretty cool things.

This is all in addition to a REALLY busy swim schedule. Since Eli made both the year-round and the summer swim teams at our local pool, he has 3-4 practices a week! Overall, it's been very beneficial to him, and helps him to stay calmer and happier. He's really learning a lot of positive character traits, and I think he often feels like it gives him an additional sense of identity to be part of a team.  His first actual meet is soon!  Itty Bitty will also be learning some swimming this summer, as we will be doing a parent/child class.  We're hoping it helps him loosen tight muscles, learn to enjoy the water, and coordinate better. I really feel that this is one of the things that made such a difference last year. I already have his swim diapers ready!

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