Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm back!... and homeschooling stuff

UPDATED to fix some mixed-up links!

Isn't that a great title? Yea, I was pretty proud of it myself... (not really...)

Thankfully, Grace is now back to her ornery, monkey-like self. I've had the joy of having my little ankle-biter (oh, you think I'm kidding, don't you?) follow me around the house today, attacking me whenever I stand still!

[I'm really not kidding: when I met Chris Cash of the Catholic Company at the recent Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta, Grace crawled over to him and attacked his shoes while he was explaining the finer points of the Catholic Reviewer Program. Oh yeah, she made herself memorable...]

Many kudos to Helene, who successfully diagnosed her via my blog as having roseola.  I know that's a fairly common childhood disease, but to my recollection none of my other children ever had it. The high fever is pretty darn scary!

Anyway, she is well now (thank God!) and we are back to normal (again, thank God!!). I even had a chance to make it to this place over the weekend (with dinner afterwards here) with my friend Malia. The university, while fairly well known for it's anti-Catholic stance, has a PHENOMENAL art museum. If you are ever in the area, I highly urge you to go. It is worth the trip and the 3 hours you will spend inside, drinking in the beauty of the artwork they have collected. 

So, on to homeschooling stuff...

I've been wanting to post this for quite some time... I'm not sure why. I guess it's because I so often second-guess myself and and choices I have made. I thought it would be good to list "What I've Done Right" in terms of homeschooling. If it helps you (or piques your interest in any way) leave a comment and let me know!

First: I am having my children maintain their own homeschooling journal this year. I have written out their weekly assignments (thanks to Suburban Cowgirl for her immense inspiration in this area! She just rocks. Trust me.) and am having them file away all the papers that they need to keep and/or review. I was having difficulty in years past because all the homeschooling stuff was on our shelves, and the kids NEVER took it down to look at it, except to do their assignments. I wanted them to be able to review what they had done, look over their accomplishments, read their "notes" that they had taken, etc. Other options just didn't work for us, but this did. Anything I want them to review over the year, such as books of the Bible, or spelling rules (see below), or their history timeline, will be in this journal. They are responsible for taking it down, maintaining it, reviewing it, etc.

Religion: I can't begin to say enough about the Faith and Life series. Amazing, incredible catechism books that are written beautifully at an age-appropriate level, and present the teachings of the Faith in a clear, concise manner. I don't have my children memorize each question at the end of the chapter, but I do want them to be able to understand (and convey back to me) the answers given. 

Language Arts: For teaching my children how to read, I have loved Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I think it's rather like olives -- you either like 'em or you hate 'em. We here at Chez Ouiz love this book! It's a bit hard to describe on-line (as opposed to sitting here with me and looking at the book together), but here goes: words are written in a sort-of phonetic notation that helps children immensely when they are first learning to read; for example, blends are joined together, silent letters are printed smaller, long vowels have horizontal lines above them, etc. As the child progresses through the book, the text becomes smaller and smaller, and all the visual "helps" are slowly taken away, without making any mention of them. By the end of the book, children are able to read fairly difficult passages -- just as you would find them printed in a book -- without any visual cues at all. 

Around lesson #50, I start introducing the phonograms from The Writing Road to Reading. This is a fairly difficult (at least to me!) book to follow, but oh. my. goodness! The effort is worth it. Trust me. Mother of Divine Grace offers a Starting a Spelling Notebook, and Wanda Sanseri has Spell to Write and Read, that offers help with this system. I am thrilled to say that my children have learned how to spell exceptionally well through this system. Spelling rules are explained thoroughly, and taught well, so that English words aren't such a mystery!

What works for me: This year, I finally sat down and REALLY went over all the spelling notebooks "rules pages" that I've kind of fudged over the years. This is soooooooo helpful! However, I did NOT ask my children to write this all down while I dictated to them. Instead, I created my own charts, which they are filling in, which gives them the spelling rules and a nice, neat, and orderly way of writing it all down.

I also highly recommend Primary Language Lessons, Intermediate Language Lessons, and all of the Language of God books.

Latin: Prima Latina and Latina Christiana. I had always heard that Latin improves your grammar/vocabulary skills, but now I'm seeing the fruits of it. My oldest (Sean) is getting an amazing amount of English grammar lessons through his study of Latin. In our rather short lessons (less than 10 minutes) I am able to teach him both a new language AND the finer points of English grammar. I was going on faith before, but now I see why Classical education folks stress the importance of Latin. If your kids are even slightly inclined, GO FOR IT!!

Poetry: You know, when I was younger, I never would have thought that I would say that I enjoyed poetry; however, the Catholic parochial school that I attended stressed memorization of poetry, and IT STUCK. Even now, I am able to recite various poems that I was "forced" to memorize in middle school, and I am so thankful. With that in mind, I have "made" my children memorize poetry as well, and it has been such a blessing to our family!! I highly recommend Laura Berquist's Harp and Laurel Wreath for a great anthology of poems that will appeal to all ages of children. [as a side note, if you don't have The Spider and the Fly yet in your home library, what are you waiting for??? This is my Marie's (2) and Thomas (4) favorite poetry book and is AMAZING. Run, don't walk, to your local libary or bookstore and pick up this book!!]

Math: Saxon. Hands down. I love this series, and it has taught my children well. It isn't colorful, but it is thorough, and well-designed. 

History: .... I'm still up in the air on this one, but I think I will follow Mother of Divine Grace's suggestions for this year and focus on colonial history. With that in mind, may I say a hearty THANK YOU to Elizabeth Foss and group for offering THIS study on Colonial history on her Serendipity website?? Thank you,  thank you, thank you! I have ransacked my local used bookstore and gotten so many of the books suggested for this time period. I've have to let you know how giving the kids assigned reading in this area has gone... we're using Story of the World, Our Pioneers and Patriots, the suggestions from Laura Berquist (Mother of Divine Grace) and the various Vision series books that have the stories of the saints from this period. 

Science: anything from Catholic Heritage Curricula has been a huge hit. I highly recommend Behold and See (their third grade "textbook.") I am seriously considering using that for all the kids, and just giving Sean extra reading to do. All of our other options have fallen flat... not because he's not interested in science -- he really is! -- but because the other options we have tried are just not appealing to me at all.

Art: I  think I've mentioned this before, but Drawing Textbook, while rather small and unassuming, packs a big wallop in terms of teaching your kids to draw "correctly" (in terms of scale, perspective, shading, etc) This is easy to do and well worth the time! I also bought Art 5 For Young Catholics this year from Seton, and it looks very promising!

I have a gazillion other books to recommend, but due to the lateness of the hour, I think I will stop for now. Again, if you have any suggestions... or are intrigued by what I wrote... please leave me a comment and let me know!


Amy said...

Thank you Ouiz! I love when a real mother in the real trenches of homeschooling reviews curriculum.

Now, we know you like 100 Easy Lessons, but the real question is, do you like olives?? ;-)

Ouiz said...

Thank you, Amy! I have gotten sooooo many good ideas from other moms, so I hope my list will do the same for someone else!

And yes, I love olives!! :-)

chris said...

Glad that Grace is doing better. I would hate to think that she would not be able to attack my ankles again if I were to see her (even though she will surely be so done with ankles the next time we get together....) The constant carrying around sounds too much like when my littlest was diagnosed with diabetes it took me back a bit (no fever with that though).

Amber said...

Wow, what a great list! We've used or are going to use a number of these materials. I really liked 100 Easy Lessons too, but that being said I think I'm going to start my next one with the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. It is somewhat similar in that it is scripted, but it goes further and it doesn't have the text mark-ups that 100 Easy Lessons has. My daughter had a very difficult time when those mark-ups went away, and it made it so that she was essentially learning the mark-ups and then the rules for pronunciation.

We're starting with the Faith and Life series this fall and I'm curious to see how it goes. It seems sort of, well, easy... but then again, I sometimes over-estimate what level I should be teaching at! (Can you tell I'm only HS'ing my first child so far?)

I'm also a big fan of Prima Latina too. We'll be starting the second half of it this fall. I love how easy it is to work English grammar into our Latin lessons, and how it seems to make sense and stick too!

Oh, one question I wanted to ask - at what age do you start having them maintain their own notebook? And how much oversight do you have to do for this? I'm intrigued by this idea, but I'm thinking that my daughter (6, starting 1st grade) is probably too young.

Thanks for taking the time to put all this together! I want to look more into that drawing book, btw, that sounds neat.

Ouiz said...

Amber, sorry I couldn't respond to your comment until now! (Grace is NOT sleeping, and it's getting difficult to get any computer time!)

I am having my three oldest children (10, 9, and 7) maintain their notebooks. My first grader and kindergartener do not. I'm not sure Christopher would be interested in it, truthfully... but that's just him.

The Faith and Life book for 1st grade is rather simple (compared to the older grades), but it has given Christopher and Thomas a starting point for some great kitchen table discussions about the Faith. By 3rd grade the material presented is MUCH greater, and the 5th grade book is wonderful for my son and I to go through. I'm actually pairing it with the Baltimore Catechism (2), which is raising the bar even further.

Forgive me for not addressing all that you brought up... but my daughter is really not cooperating this evening!

God bless!

Amber said...

No problem! I'm planning on using the Baltimore Catechism too, but I haven't figured out exactly how yet. I figure I'll read it a bit with her and talk about the questions and see how it goes. Thanks for the info about the Faith and Life series, it is good to know that it gets more detailed and better as it goes along.

I think I will shelve the notebook thing for this year, and revisit the idea next year. Thanks for your response - I appreciate you giving it a try even with a squirmy daughter!