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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Term 1 Review

**The following is rather long, this post is an honest look at homeschooling in a large family.

Looking back over my plans I’m rather surprised to discover that we generally stuck to task this term. This is indeed no small matter!! Diligence and self-discipline were learnt for a starter. Progress was made:)

Highlights include :
Poetry- We will definitely continue with poem memorisation next term. The children learnt a number of pieces, their own and often their siblings. They enjoyed this and I believe it is a wonderful part of their education.
A formal poetry morning didn’t happen as often as I intended, I believe I need to change our time slot here.

Serendipity Lively Language Lessons– I introduced these towards the end of the term and they were a BIG hit, I was rather surprised (and pleased.) The previous grammar program (our first attempt at a formal program) held no appeal for them at all. – Re-trying this program again this year with Carpenter was a success! For the first time maths is no longer a dreaded subject!! This is a major, major achievement. Bill Handley’s Speed Maths book also helped immensely with his confidence. I would like to find time to progress more with it.

Reading- Michelangelo and Princess are reading chapter books!!!!

Steady Progresses:
Catechism- We were diligent all term working individually working our way through the Baltimore Catechisms. I’m undecided as to whether we will continue next term, I’m not entirely sold on the effectiveness of this approach.

Fitzroy Spelling– After seeing great improvements in spelling after introducing Fitzroy Word Families we continued this term. I do still see a difference in the ability of the older children compared to the younger children. I am totally sold on consistent spelling effort from 1st grade and have deep regrets I didn’t with the older children. I don’t really think any program is going to produce a magic answer, although certainly some are far better than others. But the biggest factor is consistent effort.

Times Tables – Another daily drill component and another in which I regret being inconsistent with years ago. Michelangelo and Princess at 9 and 7 just eat up memorisation, it is play for them, for the older children it is more akin to work. However consistent effort paid off here this term and great progress was made.

Type Tutor – We were diligent in typing practice but I feel we will give this a break in Term 2.

Great Editing Adventures – We consistently did a lesson a week. Carpenter took more care with his Editing this term. Both older boys are now very quick at picking the errors. I am planning on 2 lessons a week next term.

Dictation- Koala through to Michelangelo, I am a firm believer in its many benefits. We will go back to dictation 3 times a week next term.

Mixed Results:
American History- Using the Serendipity booklists as a jumping off point Koala and I designed a program. This was the first time she took such an active role in designing. In many ways this was a success as I believe she learnt, and more importantly understood an incredible amount regards the American War of Independence as was evident in an oral narration she delivered to PC and I. Our weak area continues to be the lack of essays. She did write one essay on Christopher Columbus ans I was very happy with the quality and content (length was a little short.) But when I suggested she write and essay on the War of Independence I was met with resistance.
Formal writing is a skill that I haven’t taught as well as I should have, PC and I are seriously considering purchasing TWISS from IEW.

Australian History- Frankly the boys were not enthused, perhaps the fact that I decided to have them narrate from a core book weekly killed any interest. But they were not even enthused enough to read their assigned readings, not even Einstein. Michelangelo however was wonderful in narrating and illustrating each week. He is in fact an incredible narrator who always picks up all details, ones I even miss and I’m the one reading. Although pretty much a bust in the interest area, for the first time Einstein was writing his own narrations, and we were diligent in reading our core books. Carpenter had to be constantly prodded to write also. He can write wonderful creative stories but writing related to subject area is extremely minimal.
Definitely needing to go back to a more unit style approach next term, but I still need to address the lack of written work to show progress.

Australian Geography – We worked diligently through Evan Moor’s Australia book. Frankly it was dull and the children found it dull or perhaps it was the approach. We did learn a little but it didn’t engender an enthusiasm for the topic. Michelangelo and Princess were very diligent, the older boys had to be constantly pushed. We will try a different tack next term.

American Geography – Koala designed her own program here. Using a project book, every week she has studied a different state of America, tracing a map and marking with a few important cities. She has also researched pertinent facts about the state, population, industry etc. She has put a lot of hard work and effort into this work. She will be continuing this study next term.

Science- The older children read some texts from the Creation Science publishers, they found them very interesting. Nobody was interested in answering the questions or taking notes though. I also tried some ideas from the Classical approach of reading the Young Scientist to the MMs and having them take notes. They were good about doing so but I didn’t feel that a connection was really occurring. Einstein started John Hudson Tiner’s History of Chemistry and really enjoyed it.

Faith- A positive was Lenten Lapbooks for Catholics used by the younger two. The older children were not interested. We did spend some weeks reading The Life of Our Lord and narrating, once again Michelangelo was very good about it, Princess fluctuated.
Einstein enjoyed Schuster’s Bible History although he refused to answer the chapter questions, he negotiated to do a narration instead at the end of each chapter.
I tried a couple of things with the older two but we never hit our stride. One book I bought was The Gospel of Mark Study Guide by Scott Hahn, neither child liked it. At the end of term Carpenter tried a Fr Laux book and didn’t mind it, I’m going to get K and C to work on it next term.
Our biggest problem was Faith was to be on a Friday but it was often rushed as we had to get ready for Mass by 11am.

Literature- I never got around to writing an assigned list, I didn’t read nearly as many picture books as I would have liked and we only read one chapter book (The Penderwicks) However the younger two are reading!! Carpenter is reading something other than Ranger;s Apprentice and LOTR, he is reading GA Henty. Koala and Einstein of course never really need to be assigned anything they continue to gulp down books.

Handwriting- It did not work at all only having this once a week, it never was done.

Our daily schedule continues to create far more peace than previously. Some days are not as good as others though. Jelly Bean knows 60% of her letters and all her numbers up till 10. Jack Jack has a wonderful concentration for stories. They are far happier which ultimately is the aim. Plans afoot though for next term.

Perhaps I am too hard on myself, PC says I am. If I look at the bigger picture I know have two new independent readers! Carpenter’s attitude has improved immensely since last year, he is more confident and willing to give things ago. Maturity is a wonderful thing. Koala is putting in far more effort. Einstein is very bright, albeit lacking challenge. Michelangelo had a wonderful can do attitude this term he has just jumped in leaps and bounds. Princess had a lot of good days. A good start to the year.

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