Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Swede It Is

In conjunction with our Classical Conversations geography memory work, we've been reading lots of books set in northern Europe (see side bar for our list of books).  Their favorites are those by Maj Lindman.  Maj Lindman books feature two sets of triplets who live in Sweden (Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and Flicka, Ricka and Dicka)
This book, part of our own library, bears a notation "Royal School 1955."  This refers to the one-room schoolhouse where my mom spent her elementary years.

These simple stories written in the 1930s and 40s contain wholesome messages (such as, working to earn money, setting aside wants to benefit someone in need, and returning what doesn't belong to you even if you don't want to).  It really makes my heart swell that they enjoy these books.  I take it as a sign of their innocence and purity that these stories appeal to them.  There is not a hint of mockery toward these boys in their beanie caps and 'stockings' or towards the goody, goody girls with the ridiculous sounding names.

Inspired by the Swedish Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and their cake-baking efforts in Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake, I decided to make a Swedish Visiting Cake from my favorite baking book with the kids.  (Find the recipe and a description written by Dorie Greenspan herself here.)  I don't bake with the kids nearly enough, which makes no sense because one goal I have for them is to be competent bakers and cooks at an early age.  This was a perfect baking project because this cake is made of simple ingredients and with simple methods.  My four-year-old daughter said, "I always wondered how to make a cake.  I thought it would be hard."  Here's the result:

Despite its ragged appearance, it is delicious with its lemony flavor and gooey-butter-cake texture. We'll polish it off tonight topped with whipped cream and paired with peaches frozen from summer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mid-Year Assessment, Part 1

As we're getting into the swing of the second semester, I wanted to assess how the first part of the year went.  This was the original plan.  Here's the update:

Classical Conversations:  He's finished 13 weeks of Classical Conversations.  It's going well.  For the memory work, I think he has about a 75% retention rate.  The English Grammar is his Achilles' heal.  I've just about concluded he isn't going to keep all of those pronouns straight--there are so many types that are so similar.  I am not throwing in the towel, but I find myself thinking more about NEXT year.   Classical Conversations does the same math and timeline memory work every year, so we've been really hammering those two areas to make for an easier first grade year.

Handwriting:  He's finished Handwriting Without Tears.  Now, we're relying on our Phonics Road spelling to give him the handwriting practice he needs.  He is not fast, but he is neat.  I'm kind of a stickler when it comes to handwriting.  I require him to be neat.  He responds well and rises to my expectations.

Read-Alouds:  I've been feeding both kids a steady diet of good books.  I try to read them  three picture books a day.  Sometimes it's more, rarely is it less (I was a little sporadic at Christmas time).  I usually have a chapter book going, too.   I'm keeping track of the books we've read in 2011 on the sidebar.  Even if we read a book several times, I'll only list it once.  Reading aloud is something easy for me to do as we all enjoy it, but I think we could read together even more.

Reading and Language Arts:  As I mentioned before, we've been engaged in 'basic phonics re-training' to nip word-guessing in the bud.  It has gone really well.  He's learned around 50 letter and letter-team sounds WELL.  He can say each of these sounds by sight using flash cards and dictate the sounds if I say them.  He does this as part of the Phonics Road curriculum.  He's to the point of putting the sounds together to form words (i.e. spelling).  I've read that a child will learn to read words a lot easier if he also learns to spell the world.  That would be fine, if his writing wasn't so torturously slow.   I'm too impatient to just plod through reading by connecting it with spelling.  So, although we are going to keep plugging along with the spelling, I'm also going to get his fluency up by returning to reading actual books and doing daily lessons in the The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

We skipped the first 40 lessons, and the next 100 lessons or so will be review.   However, we're going to go through those 100 or so review lessons to further strengthen his reading foundation.  To spice things up, he's going to read a book a day.  But, I am going to take the extreme-ish measure to cover the pictures so he doesn't fall back into bad habits.  We've started back with the most basic beginning readers to get him rolling.  I'm going to keep track of the books he's read in the side bar.

Music:  His violin is going very well.  The daily (that means EVERY day) practice is really the key. He's practiced every day since starting in May, more than 200 straight days.  There is often moaning and groaning when it comes to practice, but he says all the time, "I don't like school.  I only like violin."  I find that so interesting.  He's not a terribly ambitious kid, except when it comes to the violin.  With it, he always wants to push so that he can move on to the next song.  

I'm pooped--more updates to come.