Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Twelfth Week

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford

Last week was a lesson in accepting defeat, and waiting to see what sort of phoenix would rise from the ashes of my failed plans. What is one to do when everything is all wrong? Why, fix it, of course!

My plan of attack was twofold:

Part 1 – repair the damage from last week’s fighting.
Part 2 – do some serious research!

This week we took it easy. We meandered through some Life of Fred, some history, and some literature (we started reading the Old Testament this week, as part of our Ancient Near East unit). One afternoon we all baked chocolate chip cookies together. The kids bonded, and Lillia learned some things about baking (measuring, how to read recipes, etc). So, when in doubt, make cookies!


In terms of research, I checked Hoagie’s Gifted for language arts recommendations. Then, I spent quite a while surfing for books on Amazon (something I do on a regular basis, anyway). I found lots of great language arts books that are not a “curriculum,” per say, but could work well together, and ordered them. Don’t let anyone tell you that homeschooling saves you money.

Here’s what I ordered:

From The Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program targets reading comprehension skills in high-ability learners by moving students through an inquiry process from basic understanding to critical analyses of texts using a field-tested method developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. Students in grades K–9 will be able to comprehend and analyze any reading passage after completing the activities in these books.

Using skill ladders connected to individual readings in poetry, short stories, and nonfiction, students move from lower order, concrete thinking skills to higher order, critical thinking skills. All of the books, geared to increasing grade levels, include high-interest readings, ladders to increase reading skill development, and easy-to-implement instructions. The ladders include multiple skills necessary for academic success, covering language arts standards such as sequencing, cause and effect, classification, making generalizations, inference, and recognizing themes and concepts.

This sounds like just what we need, and since Lillia’s major academic strength is language arts, I think that a gifted program will be challenging enough to keep her interested.

From It’s Shel Silverstein meets Strunk and White and the results are both hilarious and instructive. With over 120 illustrations and gobs of delightfully goofy examples and exercises, this book provides a lighthearted and ludicrous guide to the essential elements of language and grammar…not to mention a few writing tips thrown into the mix.

Grammar has often been taught as joyless process of memorizing rules and diagramming phony sentences, but most writers will tell you that grammar actually promotes a love of language. Not only can the study of grammar be fun and joyful, this unique primer can also be used by adults everywhere who simply need a single volume at the ready to keep them on the straight and narrow…and laughing all the way!

I have high hopes for this book. I hope it’s not too silly, because there is a fine line between treating a subject with humor and deliberately dumbing it down.

From Kids climb to new heights in reading and writing with these engaging, reproducible word building games! Kids read clues on each rung, then change and rearrange letters to create words until they reach the top. All the while, they’re boosting decoding and spelling skills, broadening vocabulary, and becoming better, more fluent readers.

I bought this book mostly because it looked like a lot of fun. You start with one word (for example “vegetable”) and you either add or subtract letters as you go up the ladder to create new words. We’re not doing a formal spelling program, but I think if we did one word ladder a week, Lillia’s spelling would definitely improve. You have to spell the words right, or they don’t work in the puzzle.

From If you believe that teaching creative writing should be done creatively, you’ve picked up the right book. Don’t Forget to Write for the Elementary Grades offers elementary teachers 50 creative writing lesson plans developed by the imaginative and highly acclaimed 826 National writing centers. The book is designed to be a handy teacher’s aide that can help reach and inspire all students ages 5 to 12 (even those most resistant to creative writing). The lessons range from silly (“Brains! or, Writing with Zombies”) to practical (“How to Write a How To”), from sports to science, music to mysteries, and everything in between (yes, there is an academic purpose to having Harry Potter and Spiderman battle some evil ninjas). Each lesson is written by educators, 826 volunteers, celebrated authors, actors, and writers, and all are linked to rigorous writing standards.

The book’s activities are based on proven pedagogy that can help students develop the skills to organize their ideas, craft their arguments, revise their work, state their points of view, and peer-edit, all while having a blast and learning an awful lot about the joy and hard work of writing.

Since none of the writing programs I have tried so far have even remotely interested Lillia, I figured we’d go with an entirely different approach. This book is endorsed by Daniel Handler (a.k.a Lemony Snicket), and it looks really, really good. Here’s a nice video about it:


So, that’s the roundup. I will certainly be sure to write about our progress with the books as we use them.

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Filed under 2013, Books, Planning, Weekly Update

The Eleventh Week

This week’s post is more of a confession than an update. Homeschooling is hard. I mean really hard. At least 60% of the time, I feel like a complete failure. The other 40% of the time I think Lillia might be learning something, but it’s hard to tell.

Mostly, I think Lillia is bored. I can’t seem to find a Language Arts curriculum that really engages her. Everything is either too easy, or too hard, or not applicable to life. When I think about what I want for her, in terms of this subject, all I really hope is the following: that she will learn to love her native language; that she will be be able to use it effectively and creatively; and that she will gain confidence in her ability to express herself in speech and writing. Right now, we are not meeting these goals.

But, I can’t just give up because I know what the alternative looks like, too. A few nights ago, Lillia entertained us with a description of the reading book she used last year in second grade. She said it was called “My Time to Shine!” and had a picture of a chipmunk singing on the cover. She told us that, even though she was in the highest reading group, the book was ridiculously easy for her.

Today, I broke down in tears, after a morning of fighting with her over her Language Arts worksheet. My poor parentified child then had to console me, which actually made me feel worse. Despite our difficulties, she was adamant in her desire to continue homeschooling. She knows as well as I do that she needs something more challenging than singing chipmunks.

In my life, I have been nothing if not tenacious. I am not afraid of doing things differently. Challenges really do make me stronger.

Still, I would like to put it out there that I am struggling, and I am willing to admit it. I am standing at the “Gate of Great Doubt” and I know that the only way is through. I just wish I had a map or a guide. I feel a little lost.

image via.

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Filed under 2013, Weekly Update

The Tenth Week

I apologize for the pathetic Weeks 8 & 9 post, but it was the best way I could describe our progress, which was virtually non-existent. This week, we’re back on the wagon!

Mathematics: We started Life of Fred: Dogs, and so far we have been learned a lot about doubling (including what happens when you divide a piece of spaghetti in half 100 times…it’s a BIG number). Lillia learned how to do double-digit addition in school last year, but she seemed confused when it came to three(+)-digit addition. Although not in the book, we went over how to add multiple digits to multiple digits and she was pretty proud of herself for figuring out how to add 87,654,321 to 87,654,321. It’s always fun to watch her gears turn.

Language Arts: We are making progress in the Classical Writing Primer. This week our passage was a poem by Emily Dickinson. Lillia also drew a picture of the view to the South of our house (she has previously drawn a North view, and an East view) and worked on doubling consonants when adding -er to a word.

by Emily Dickinson

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

History & Geography: We started a new unit on the Ancient Near East, and have been learning about various Mesopotamian civilizations. I am hoping to do some map work with her next week.

Literature: We are reading Gilgamesh by Bernarda Bryson. This is a great version of the Gilgamesh story that is very much appropriate for children. The violence and sexuality of the original story are very, very subdued. I would say Bryson’s version is appropriate for just about any age child. We will also be reading the Geraldine McCaughrean version, Gilgamesh the Hero. I downloaded a nice literature study for the McCaughrean version from Beautiful Feet.

Miscellaneous: We’re still plodding our way through the cursive alphabet. We’re now on the letter F. Also, we have finally finished all of the Latin letters and diphthongs, and will hopefully be moving on to some vocabularly. These are the two hardest subjects for Lillia because, well, honestly, they’re not very fun. But, some things just have to be practiced.

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Report Card – Semester 1

When we first decided to homeschool Lillia, I was adamantly opposed to giving her grades. I wouldn’t have dreamed of giving her a report card. But, after talking with my mother-in-law (a high school French teacher) about people who are completely externally motivated and how difficult it seems for them to muster up the willpower to do a good job, she suggested that maybe I try grading Lillia. So, I gave it a shot, and the response was interesting. She actually argued with me about some of the grades! But, overall, I think it is a great way to gauge how she is doing so far, and give her a little push toward trying harder.

Also, we have started using a behavior chart, so she will earn a star each day she does her best work (meaning no whining, or writing things like “I hate Anne of Green Gables” on the border of her language arts worksheet…). If she earns enough stickers, she can trade them in for a prize. It always amazes me how much she thrives on rewards. I’m mostly internally motivated, so I never needed this type of reward system. It’s really important for me to remember that we are different people with very different temperaments.

Here’s her first semester “report card”:
(click on images for larger size)

11-05-2012 04;28;50PM2
back and front

11-05-2012 04;39;37PM

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And, just because it’s way too amusing not to share, here is the “report card” she made for me! A “C” in “funness” and a “D+” in “time with kid.” Looks like I have some areas in need of improvement! Though, I notice I did get an “E+” (E=Excellent) in “Allowance.”

11-05-2012 04;27;31PM
back and front

11-05-2012 04;28;50PM

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The Eighth & Ninth Weeks

Weeks 8 & 9: Kind of a slog.

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Filed under 2013, Weekly Update