Monday, June 25, 2012

Swimming Lessons

We are taking a break from most school work this past week and this week, and all 3 kids are taking swimming lessons at the local city pool. It is going better than I expected! My daughters are both scared of water, or at least, they have been. My oldest daughter was supposed to take swimming lessons last year, but after the first 10 minutes or so, she refused to get in the water any more.

This year, she has stayed in the pool.

The instructors are so patient, and have been guiding her very gently into doing more. Today, she actually got off the steps (don't laugh - this is a big deal for her!) and let the instructor glide her around the pool. She also practiced what they call the monkey crawl, where they hang on to the edge of the pool and inch along one hand at a time to make their way to the nearest ladder to get out. And, she even dunked herself completely under water! And came up smiling! We have 3 more days left of lessons, and I am very happy with her progress.

I thought my younger daughter would do great in her lessons, with her adventurous, more outgoing nature, but last week was not the best. She cried and even screamed whenever they tried to carry her into the deeper water off the steps, and refused to do the monkey crawl. By Friday, she said she never wanted to go swimming again. However, she calmed down over the weekend, and today, she did not cry one single bit! And she let them float her around, and did the monkey crawl several times! I'm not sure what brought about this change, but she now says she can't wait for her next lesson.

My son, the youngest, has taken to the water like a fish. He absolutely loves it. The first day, he was scared, and it took a while for me to coax him into the pool, but after that, he has never looked back. He kicks away, holding onto a float board, does the monkey crawl all by himself back and forth, and is even starting to swim a few strokes all by himself.

The younger two are taking the preschool class together, while my oldest is in the level 1 class. I am very impressed with the instructors and the whole set-up, and it is even much cheaper than many of the other swim classes around (plus it's close to our house). The level 1 class is limited to 8 kids, and at the original time we signed up for, there were 8 kids in the class. The coordinator noticed how nervous Rebekah was, and how shy she seemed, and suggested that we change to the class 1 hour later, as there were only 3 in that class. So we did, and it has been perfect. The preschool class at this hour only has 3 kids, including my 2, so it is really nice too.

Now, if only the weather would cool down a bit - 101 is too hot for me, and they won't let me jump in the pool!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Telling God's Story

I bought Telling God's Story, Year One, a month or so ago, to use this coming school year for the main part of our Bible curriculum. I got the electronic pdf files from Peace Hill Press, which is the store front for the Well Trained Mind material. Telling God's Story is written by Peter Enns, and is planned to be a full 12 year Bible curriculum for 1st-12th grades. So far, he just has published years one and two. Even though my oldest is starting 2nd grade, I bought year one, for one reason, because year two hadn't quite come out yet. And for another reason, I wanted to start at the beginning of the series. And for yet another reason, I want to try and do it together with all my kids, and thought year one would be a good compromise for combining a 2nd grader and a kindergartner (my youngest, who will be 4, may just have to tag along).

I've been going through the lessons recently, writing out a lesson schedule to input into my Homeschool Tracker software. And I really like what I see in this material. I can see similarities to the Well-Trained Mind teaching style: some memorization (books of the Bible, names of the disciples), and some narration-type questions. I was very happily surprised to see some nice art history tied into the lessons too, with some beautiful religious art paintings to study. There's a little bit of music study too. But there are also a wide variety of other activities to go along with each of the 36 (plus 3 supplemental) lessons. Some activities are more suited for larger groups, but most are suitable for a single student, and even most of the larger group ones are going to be easy for me to use as is or to modify slightly for 3 students.

I plan to use this curriculum 3 times a week (with some reading from Leading Little Ones to God 1 day a week), so I've been picking out which activities for each week that I want to do - ones that I think will be suitable for my children's ages, and my inclinations (I don't really want to do many of the cooking ones, for example). For many of the weeks, I want to do all of them! We'll see if we have time. Most of them will be fine for all 3 of my kids, though my youngest might need a little help with some things, or some slight modifications. None of them will be too childish for my oldest either. So I think it was a good level to pick for my kids' ages.

I think they will enjoy most of the activities too. There are a lot of craft ideas (which my oldest really seems to like), the art and music history I mentioned, hiding or scavenger hunt type activities, mazes, secret messages, model building, prayer and service/ministry ideas, and even science experiments. They probably won't like the memory work, and my younger 2 may not be up to that, but I think it will be very good for my oldest to try. The wide variety of activities should keep my kids' interest, and I think will also drive in the message from the story. I plan to read the story part (in the instructor's guide) and let them color the story picture on day 1. Then we'll do 1-2 activities each on the other 2 days.

I plan to start the beginning of August, so I'm sure I'll write more after we've been using it a while.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Missionary Games

I overheard my girls playing today with the Legos and cars that are always piled on our "train" table. I was reading some things at my desk, so it only gradually dawned on me what they were playing. They were pretending to be missionaries (or pretending that their cars were missionaries, I'm not sure). My oldest was saying something about "but no one here is a Christian" while my youngest was trying to tell everyone (or every car and Lego man) about Jesus.

It made me smile, that's for sure! Whether it's due to the GAs and Mission Friends classes at church, or the missionary biography stories we've been reading for school (mostly from Hero Tales), or a combination of everything, missionary work is on their minds. I had just been telling my oldest, at her bedtime last night, about an article I had recently read. It told of a missionary to a small village in a remote area, where not only was no one a Christian, but they were overtly hostile toward Christians. But thanks to months of prayer, and God's miraculous healing power, a church was born there, with 35 or more new Christians. They began to make a huge difference in the village, where drunkenness and spirit (demon) worship had been common.

I have really ended up liking the stories in Hero Tales, which was suggested by Sonlight, in an older version of Core A. They are amazing stories, and make me quite emotional sometimes, which makes them hard to finish reading aloud. I wasn't sure how much my oldest was getting out of them, but I guess she really is listening.

I like the title of the book too - Hero Tales. Missionaries really are the type of heroes I want my children to admire, and perhaps emulate. How hard it is in our culture to imagine giving up the little luxuries that we take for granted (or even big ones, like running water), to live in another culture, with little income, with no thought for career advancement (at least here on Earth). How rare it is for someone to aim for such a life, instead of a career as a lawyer, engineer, computer specialist, scientist, doctor, athlete, etc., with the accompanying big house, 2+ cars, etc. (And how many parents truly want that for their child? Do I, really, when I really think about it? I'm reminded of the verse where Jesus said it was harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.) How hard it is to go through with such a life, instead of just thinking that being a missionary would be "neat." Perhaps the drive to become a missionary starts now, in childhood, and with continued exposure to the real-life miracles that those who are fully committed to Christ may see every day. Perhaps such an emphasis might even change the parent....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Music Co-op

I went to an informational meeting tonight for a new music co-op that is starting up in our area. There is another music co-op about 45 minutes away from us that I have been contemplating for over a year now, ever since we started homeschooling. Music is such an important part of my life that finding some sort of music group for my kids to join has been near the top of my to-do list. (Music really needs to be done in a group setting, at least for some of the time.) But this other co-op would be quite a drive for every Friday, 45 minutes each way (especially starting at 8:30 in the morning). Plus, my younger kids were really too young still to do much besides stay in the nursery. So we didn't join this past year.

Then, just this past month, I got a surprise email announcing this new music co-op! (I actually mentioned it a couple posts ago too.) Right down the road from us! Maybe 10-15 minutes away. It is an offshoot of the first music co-op, as many more people were interested in the co-op, but just weren't willing to make the drive. I was so happy! This really just seems perfect for us. They plan to offer choir, band (and recorder and rhythm band for younger ones), music theory, sectionals (like for woodwinds, brass, etc. - once the kids get old enough to pick an instrument), plus other stuff in the afternoons, like drama. From the meeting tonight, it sounds like we will have plenty of interest, and a good number of qualified teachers. This is a co-op, so the parents do the teaching (and other jobs, wherever their abilities are a good fit), which makes the cost considerably less than a group where you just drop off your kids.

I have not been too interested in other co-ops, as I don't really want to teach, and I usually don't like at least some of the curriculum choices of most co-ops. I know it would be good for my kids to be in a class with other kids, at least some of the time, for social opportunities as well as for learning how to participate in a classroom setting (and to spend some time away from Mom!). But I really didn't want to sign up for any of the "core" educational co-ops available locally. If I were going to "out-source" any academic classes, I'd choose to send them to a University-Model school or a class here or there, where I could drop them off and go run errands myself.

But a music co-op - that's something different! No problems with curriculum I don't like. And it sounds like my contribution to the co-op will be playing the piano for the older choir, maybe organizing the music library, and maybe teaching a theory class. I wouldn't mind playing the piano for various groups all day, if they'd let me! What a perfect fit! It will be a big chunk of time, of course - all morning every Friday (we don't plan to do the afternoon classes). But I think with our curriculum choices for next year, that won't be a problem, especially while my kids are all still so young (and don't have heavy course loads).

Now, I only hope that my kids will all love it as much as I know I will!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Test Results

I really need to get back to posting more often. I got out of the habit, and now I tend to just not think about it. Even though I have plenty of things I could write about!

So, to start with tonight, I'll update you on my 1st grader's standardized test experience. We did the test over 3 days, doing 2-3 sections a day. It really didn't take too long, and my daughter ended up enjoying it too. She wants to do it again now! I made sure she knew that some of the questions were meant to be too hard for her to answer, and that it was mostly just for fun, for us to see how much ahead of 1st grade work she really was, and how much she had learned. It was interesting to me, too, to see what kinds of questions they asked, since that gave me an idea of what "standard" 1st grade students were supposed to know. The social studies and science questions were particularly interesting, since those topics are more random really, than the basics of math and reading. I knew that we hadn't covered exactly the same things as were on the test, so I wasn't worried about her scores in those areas. I know that we will get to everything in time, whether or not we do it in the same order as public schools.

The main area of interest to me, as far as her score goes, was reading. That is really the biggest thing for 1st grade, and Rebekah did excellent - better than I expected. The test placed her at a 2.8 grade level, which is the 8th month of 2nd grade (and the 90th percentile). Her vocabulary and listening scores were also extremely good. Her spelling, on the other hand.... Well, I already knew spelling was one of her weaker areas. We'll be trying a different approach for 2nd grade.

Her math was not as good as I'd like either, but it was obvious that her main difficulty was memorizing her basic addition facts. I have not pushed her with flash card drills nearly enough, since she protests them so much, and she didn't get enough fact review with her math curriculum this past year. Again, this is an area we'll be doing differently for 2nd grade.

For science, she did not score very high, and that bugs me a bit, since science is the one subject I like the best, but I know it's just because we covered different topics than were on the test. She left too many blank on those questions - not wrong answers, just unknown to her. Then for social studies, surprisingly, she scored the best of all the subjects, coming in with a grade equivalent of 3.2, and ranking at the 94th percentile.

So, overall, combining all the subjects, she ranked comfortably above average, with a grade equivalent of 2.1. Considering that she still had almost 2 months left of 1st grade material to cover when we took the test, I'm pleased with that!