Here is, finally, part two of the Winter 2011 version of What's Working at Our House. In part one, I focused on what is working best for my seventh grader. This one will feature Jane, whose summer birthday puts her in Waldorf grade three, or PS grade four.
Jane has two great loves: animals and art. She is our go-to font of fauna-related facts, and is never happier than when she has a paintbrush in her hand. Her learning style is similar to Jazz's--like him, she needs to see the big picture before things make sense, and prefers to get her information visually vs. aurally.
Jane is finishing up First Language Lessons Level 3, and the program has been good for her, even though she doesn't really enjoy it. It lays everything out very plainly and I feel like she has a good grasp of grammar as a result. But what's missing is a love of words and a playfulness with language that is important to me, even at this stage of the game. My plan is to transition her to Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts in the fall. If, for some reason, she doesn't do as well or needs extra work for reinforcement, we'll utilize whatever parts we need to use of First Language Lessons Level 4.
We finished up Writing with Ease Level 2 early in the year, and haven't yet gone on to WWE3. I need to take a look at the next book before I decide if she should continue with it. The style of the series feels a little artificial to me, but perhaps we need the deliberateness of the program to keep going with narration. Jane still does copywork almost daily, using Penny Gardner's Italics, Beautiful Handwriting for Children, supplemented with the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting program and, when the time is right, holiday-related passages or quotations I find for her.
I admit to some bouncing around with math curricula. Sigh. We have never quite found one that meets everyone's needs. Right Start Math is a good match for visual-spatial learners, but with three children I found that I couldn't make the time to sit down with each child every day for the length of time it took to complete this one subject with this particular curriculum. Combine that with the fact that we find it to be a hard series to pick up and do after a break, and we've fallen a bit behind. Jane is currently doing a combination of Singapore and the self-directed Math Mammoth (on sale through the end of this month through the Homeschool Buyers' Co-op), but I plan to take a closer look at Teaching Textbooks for her soon.
Oh dear, this is turning into a "what doesn't work" post, isn't it? Or rather, what is okay but I wish could be better. Let's see if I can put a positive spin on the rest.
While Jane usually chooses her free reading (Puppy Place books being her favorite of favorites, even though they are "too young" for her), she is willing (most of the time) to take a look at my suggestions, as long as animals are central characters. Books by Beverly Clearly, Meindert DeJong, Walter Farley, and other authors of classic children's literature have made it to her bedside table. I'm still waiting for her to pick up Harry Potter, but I guess Hedwig doesn't play a central enough role for her taste. The literature selections from our secularized Sonlight Core 5, Jane's required reading titles, have been just right. She never would have voluntarily picked up any of these books (most, if not all, of them have had human protagonists), and yet she has read, enjoyed, and learned from each one.
For other learning in relation to Core 5, Jane does map work, which she does neatly and about which she doesn't complain (hurrah!), reads non-fiction books about the country we're "in," and usually finds out something about the animals from that area of the world, as well. We use Schlessinger Media dvds toward the end of each unit to wrap up.
Jane isn't too old to enjoy the Let's Read and Find Out science books, so we've been using the ones having to do with energy, motion, force, etc. this year, and plan to do the experiments in Physics Experiments for Children, which recommendation came from The Well-Trained Mind. I've looked through the book, and it seems very doable. She also enjoys the free monthly Science in the News pdfs from Science A-Z (look in the left-hand sidebar of the main page) and both National Geographic and National Geographic for Kids magazines.
While she doesn't mind learning about art, Jane really prefers to do art. We've done some lessons from How to Teach Art to Children, and we both love the kits we've gotten from Hearts and Trees. But most fun of all seems to be when I clear the table and put out paper, brushes, and paint, and let her go to town. Our valentine exchange families (via Secular Homeschool) saw the fruits of her labors, and family members often benefit from them, as well.
Jane's continued music education involves Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers series of books (Jane loves the humor in the cartoon-like drawings that appear in the books. Note to self: I should really get some of the Artists books for her, as well), Classics for Kids podcasts, and listening to her mother blather on about whatever happens to be on the radio that strikes a chord. ; )
My plan for Jane for the remainder of the year is to finish FLL3, master (or at least not melt down during) multiplication and division and other 3rd-4th grade math-type subjects, continue her journey through the Eastern Hemisphere, not injure herself while doing the experiments that go along with all that science reading she's done, tolerate some new music, and keep enjoying art.
Up next: what works for JJ, in which I attempt to justify "trickle-down" homeschooling.
My pal, Alex, has been posting about what works for her kids, as well, over at Canadian Home Learning. She's got reviews of some fabulous-looking resources, some of which have already made their way into my Amazon cart or onto my Rainbow Resource wish list.