Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Home Schooling: What's working?

As I've said before, this is not an Autism Blog. It is a blog about our family's life together. Autism is a big part of our life, but it is not our whole life. Another big part of our life is home schooling. And that is one reason I haven't posted much lately. This is the time of year when I do our taxes and plan the curriculum for the coming year. If that doesn't interest you, skip this post. I'll return to autism and my other favorite topics shortly. The planning usually consists of three parts: What's working? What's not working? and Where do we go from here? So I'll start by listing what's working.

Since we school year-round, and they start a new book in each subject whenever they finish the old book, and since neither boy is necessarily in the same grade level in all subjects, there's no sharp and arbitrary division between school years.

For GL:
Reading: We continue with reading real books, mostly from the lists in the Sonlight catalog. He's made great strides in reading over the last few months. He's working through the Readers 2 Intermediate list, which means basically done with second grade, but not quite ready for third grade.

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears. Because of his fine motor delays, handwriting has always been a huge struggle for him. He's about halfway through My Printing Book. He needs more practice than the book provides, so I scan a few pages, print them, and have him practice them every day for a week before completing them in the workbook.

Math: After trying several different books, none of which worked for him, I ended up designing my own program. I had him listen to Addition Songs-CD (Audio Memory) every day. I would quiz him with flash cards, not holding them up, but laying them on the table a few at a time and having him match them with answer cards, since handwriting is such a struggle for him. If he didn't know the answer, he would work it out with Numicons. On the Numicons page, I went to Home > Free Resources > Display Resources > Numicon Shapes, printed out the largest size on card stock, cut them out, and laminated them.

When we first began addition facts, he would give a right answer, then several wildly wrong answers to the same problem. After about four months, he said, "Oh, you mean it's the same answer every time?" He apparently thought that since we kept asking the same questions, we must want different answers. He also had a good deal of difficulty counting objects because he tended to scatter them randomly rather than line them up (unlike his toys) and tended to count them in random order. He kept losing his place, forgetting which items he had counted, and getting different answers. I'm not sure we've entirely convinced him that the same group of objects contains the same number of objects every time you count it. After all, he seems to get a different number every time!

Numicons reduced, but did not eliminate, this difficulty. After a year of working with them, he had memorized 1+0 through 1+9, but could not see the pattern. After another year's work, he had memorized 2+0 through 2+9. He still does not see a pattern.

For BB: He started the year behind in reading, handwriting, spelling, and grammar, so we have focused on those areas this year.

Logic: Building Thinking Skills, Book 2 This worked pretty well when we used it, but this was one subject that tended to get crowded out, so he didn't get very far. I need to decide whether to skip to the next book, continue this book and order the next so we have it when we need it, or wait until we finish this book to order the next.

Math: Finished Saxon Math 7/6. We alternate Singapore and Saxon. BB started Singapore Primary Mathematics 6A in December; I expect he will finish 6B in May or June, and then proceed to Saxon Algebra 1/2.
BB was two years behind in grammar. This series has been working well for him, and he is catching up.

Reading: BB was also behind in reading. We're using the lists from  Sonlight, and he is making good progress. He is currently working through the Readers 4 list.

Handwriting and Spelling: Ever since he heard that Toy Story 3 was coming out, he has been working on a script for it. Once he found out how the movie turned out, he decided to continue writing his version, which eventually evolved into a Toy Story 4. I decided to offer him the choice between copying a paragraph from a book I choose or half a page of his script. He usually chooses to work on his script. When he's done, I correct the spelling, and he copies the misspelled words five times each. When he is not sure of the spelling of a word, he asks me how to spell it, and I spell it in the phonetic alphabet, which he needs to learn anyway for Civil Air Patrol. He has a long way to go in spelling, but is starting to correctly spell the words he uses most often in writing more consistently.

Science: Since we've focused on reading, writing, grammar, and math this year, science has been on the back burner. We read the occasional book and watch the occasional DVD about science, and listen to recordings like Space SongsLyrical Life Science, and Nature Corner. As an aside, I am tired of people who equate scientific literacy with acceptance of the current evolutionary dogma without considering actual knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics. The same people equate religious belief in a Creator with scientific illiteracy, again ignoring actual knowledge of science. Then they accuse religious schools and parents of substituting indoctrination for science. That's hypocritical. Why bring this up here? "Uncle Bob", the host of Nature Corner is a young-earth creationist. Get over it.

Art: Drawing with Children.

Typing: Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing

Map Skills: Map Skills for Today, Grade 6: All around the World Map Skills has often been crowded out this year, too.

Both Boys:
History: Story of the World Audiobook CD The link is to Volume 1. Both boys have listened to all four volumes several times through. They love these CDs, which tell history as a series of interwoven stories. Be sure to get the version read by Jim Weiss. The first two volumes were originally read by another reader who wasn't as good. Jim Weiss read volumes three and four, and his reading was so popular, the publisher had him go back and record volumes one and two.

Music: Home Discipleship Hymnbook.

Music Appreciation:
Classical Kids: Collection For each composer, there are two CDs: one with his most notable works (or excerpts from his longer works) and one with a dramatized story (historical fiction) about a child living in his time, built around actual events in his life. The last track on the music cd is always a teaser for the story. I have them listen to the music cd each day for several days, and by then they are begging for the story.
Masters of Classical Music (Box Set)

Art Appreciation: How to Use Child-size Masterpieces for Art Appreciation The boys enjoy this, but it usually gets crowded out by other subjects.

Grammar: Grammar Rock (Remember Schoolhouse Rock? These are all the grammar songs.) Conjunction Junction, what's your function?

Bible: The Daily Office podcast is a daily Bible reading you can download from iTunes or

Catechism: Westminster Shorter Catechism Songs

Next: What's not working.

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Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

We homeschooled our kids through high school using an eclectic approach similar to yours. That your son is tackling the writing of Toy Story 4 tells me a lot about what IS working in your homeschool. :)

February 9, 2011 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Wow...that is an impressive curriculum. I love grammar and am just old enough to remember when those Schoolhouse Rock's were originally playing on TV. I remember actually using them to remember certain rules...

February 10, 2011 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger joelle said...

Wow so much to check out. Thanks for sharing this post with us. Coming from HBH. Also your newest follower.

February 10, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Mari said...

great informative post. though I do not use currics, I will share this on my blog.

February 16, 2011 at 11:04 AM  

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