Friday, August 10, 2012

What worked and what did not during the 2011-12 School year

After our decision to continue homeschooling for the 2012-13 school year I started to analyze and experiment a little to see what would work for our situation and D's learning style. Here is a summary of what worked and what did not work for us during the 2011-12 year.  Please keep in mind that we took off 2 1/2 months earlier this year during our vacation abroad and have had a very relaxed summer schooling.


Reading: Montessori worked amazingly well for us! In the last year, D completed the Dwyer Reading Scheme and had started to independently read books.  We moved away from readers and into a lot of picture books and non-fiction.  This past year we did not have any assigned reading times, but D just read out of interest.  D always has her head inside a book in my house other than the times she is playing outside or doing some kind of school work!  Books are read in the dining table as well as in the bathroom!  I am so happy that I followed the child and this in turn did not kill the interest D had in reading, instead aided her with the right tools and encouraged her to follow her interest.

Spelling: We started All About Spelling last year and we still love it.  We did one lesson once or twice a week and finished Book 1 at amazing speed.  We started Book 2, but since we took a break we are are only done with 11 lessons in this book.  At this point, D already knows most of what is taught and catches on easily any time new concepts are taught and always loves Spelling time!  We are definitely keeping this one for the next year!

Handwriting: Another area where following the child has produced amazing results!  The sandpaper letters and metal insets laid a good foundation for D in terms of letter formation and pencil control not to mention the awesome practical life exercises that had provided enough fine motor strength.  So when D was ready to write she could not be bothered with endless handwriting worksheets!  I had to find a way for D to practice her skills without worksheets.  In comes CopyWork!  D loved copying meaningful words first, then sentences, to a couple of lines of poetry!  Now her handwriting has improved tremendously, plus she is getting first hand experience at how good literature and poetry are written.  CopyWork is another keeper for the next school year!

Grammar: I love Montessori Grammar and D loves it too.  We just followed the sequence laid out in Karen Tyler's language album to introduce the different parts of speech with any new interesting ideas thrown in from the internet.

A new thing that I tried during the end of the last year was a few lessons from First Language Lessons after seeing it at a few of my favorite blogs.  The grammar portion of it moves painfully slow for us, but we love the poetry, reading and picture comprehension that are tied in to the lessons.  We do not do this everyday, but when the mood strikes we complete 4-5 lessons.  Each lesson simple, short, scripted and easy to complete in 5-10 mins.  One good thing with following this book is that I don't have to hunt for poetry every month, it is right there in the book, a new one introduced every 4-5 lessons.


We've had a similar experience in the Math area too.  For a while last year I tried the RightStart Math program, thinking that it would help her in progressing steadily in Math and provide me the peace of mind that we are doing Math everyday.  Don't get me wrong, it is an awesome program for the right child and the right parent!  D and I don't do well with scripted lessons!  She needs the freedom to choose and do her work and I tend to hover when we work together.  This did not work well at all with us.  We were frustrated and D refused any Math time with the program.  I realized this quickly and took some fine concepts from the program, like recognizing numbers in groups of five, the abacus, playing games to re-inforce concepts, etc. and created Montessori trays.  Amazingly, it worked!  It rekindled D's love of Math and she started progressing on her own!  So, we worked with the static and dynamic operations using the golden beads, then progressed to the stamp game.  We also started some memorization work using the Addition Strip Board which we practiced using the card games from RS. We started working on our skip counting facts using the bead material too.

I stumbled upon the Singapore Math Textbooks 1A, 1B, 2A, 3A and 3B for a really low price in one of the used curriculum sales!  Since the memorization was going painfully slow for me(!) I introduced the 1A and 1B textbook to D during this summer.  Since she can read, she could go through the textbook by herself and work out the problems.  She easily flew through 1A and is now half way done with 1B.  All this in our relaxed summer schedule!  I like how different strategies are introduced to solved the same problems and this has helped D in computing facts that she has not yet memorized!  Since we own the next few in the series, my plan is to continue to supplement Montessori Math with strategies from Singapore.


We did start of the year with some amazing Physical Science work using Karen Tyler Albums, but I kind of slacked off creating new trays.  D loved what we did, so one of my goals this coming year is to follow the sequence laid out in her albums so D would have a strong foundation when we start Montessori Elementary the following year.  For Geography we worked on some of our continent boxes, but again, I slacked off and did not create anything interesting for D in this area.  To be honest, most of the knowledge D has gained in the Science and Geography areas are by reading books that have piqued her interest last year.  I know, bad mommy! I do plan to rectify this in the coming year!

One new thing we tried, since D is such a sucker for a good story is Story of the World.  We love it.  I supplement each chapter with a ton of books from the library and D devours those!  I also own the CDs and activity book and this is where we get our Art fix taken care of!  This is another keeper!


I loved the concept of this but creating a whole bunch of activities after every book is not my cup of tea.  With all that was going on last year, we just read the FIAR books and also a bunch of other books related to each theme.  I loved how it introduced us to different kind of books which we would never have come across if not for FIAR.  We might keep this next year, but limit ourselves to only reading and discussing the books.

So after this big analysis we have decided to stick with all things Montessori that work awesome for us.  I am not jumping into elementary yet.  D would be turning six in December and we might see how our situation turns out, but we sticking to final year primary and early elementary for the next year.  We might add in a few other curriculums like Singapore Math, Story of the World, etc. depending on where our interests take us.  So it is going to be mostly Montessori with little bit of Classical mixed in!

Stay tuned for my next post on our curriculum plan for the next school year!

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