Homeschool has been back on track, which I absolutely love. It was so difficult during the months of January and February and part of March, with illness and extenuating circumstances. I was losing hope in my ability to make it happen. We did what we could, but we seemed to be fighting so many battles and just trying to survive. Whatever we couldn't do, we always read, wrote, had phonics instruction and did music. But things seem to have let up a little and we are going again. I just kept telling myself, it would have been worse if she were in the public schools missing so many days for illness and doctors appointments.
We are studying ancient Greece right now, and the girls are enthralled. We are reading a retelling of Homer's The Iliad called the Blackships over Troy. It is quite graphic in prose and illustration, but nothing more intense than you find in the Bible :). Ellery eats it up. Callista is not as crazy about it.
We have been listening to some fantastic stories on CD by Jim Weiss. These include many of the Greek and Roman myths, and learning about Archimedes, Copernicus and Galileo. This makes educational time in car to and from gymnastics.
The girls are becoming quite the pros in the ancient history. They can babble on and on about the Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians etc. Given a map of the ancient Near East, they can point out all the major civilizations, rivers, and bodies of water. In my opinion, this type of information is so much more valuable then the social studies taught in the public schools. Knowing all about Ashurbanipal, the first librarian and the library of Nineveh, Nebuchadnezzar's hanging gardens, Cheops, builder of the pyramids...I just feel it is such a rich education.
Reading and Phonics
Ellery is finishing up On the Banks of Plum Creek. She has read the first two in the series already. Choosing her independent reads from books she loves, which we have already read together helped her take a huge leap in complexity and length. The familiarity of the stories and characters and writing style allowed her to have confidence reading a book which may have intimidated her otherwise.
Callista reads the Little Bear series and Frog and Toad series. I also purchased a set of leveled readers from Spalding. They were an excellent purchase. These readers allow me to choose "just right" books for her independent reading time and more challenging books containing phonograms she is still learning when we read together.
We continue our Writing Road to Reading program. Phonics is not the girls favorite time of the day and Ellery still battles spelling. She would much prefer to just hurry through a word rather than take the time to think it through. However, I will continue with the program, because I feel it is valuable at the lower and upper levels of phonics instruction.
Math has really taken a back seat the last 4 months. We have been enjoying some fun math activities from books like ZooMath but not much else. We plan to hit it hard this summer, and ease a little on the phonics instruction for a few months.
Callista's art class will end this month. It has been a wonderful time for her to explore painting and pottery. Ellery's musical theater class continues through May when they will culminate with their performances. These classes are once a week during the school day. They are offered to homeschooler's through a local arts program. They have been a worthwhile investment and a good time away from mom.
Ellery's talent in the piano is blossoming. Even though practicing is probably my biggest challenge as a mother. Usually, once we get her to the piano and going, things are pretty smooth. But not always. Callista begins this Summer. Wow. How will handle practicing with them both? Callista assures me she will never complain or whine. Can I get that in writing?
The flute is a slower road, but we don't practice more than 3-4 times a week for 20 minutes.
The school choir has completed its regular season. For the most part, the girls enjoyed running over there 2x a week for 45 minutes to participate. There is a Summer choir which will begin soon.
I purchased an excellent book as a resource to our writing program, Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer. It has helped me work out many of the kinks and missing links in my writing and grammar curricula. I realized I was trying to do way too much writing with the girls. Several sentences are sufficient for copywork rather than entire pages and passages. I can do less, and be more effective. We are working now on training them to listen to a selection, identify the most important details, and summarize in 2-3 sentences. It is far more difficult than anticipated but the inherent value in the skill is apparent as they progress towards essays in the distant future.
This hasn't worked out as well as I anticipated. Our sweet tutor is not very demanding with the children. She speaks a lot of English with them. I don't know that the children are picking up much. But they are exposed to a different culture and there is value in that. Also, the 5 hours she spends on Wednesday with us allows me to drive to art and piano lessons and accomplish miscellaneous errands and grocery shopping.
Embarrassing to admit, but we have hardly done any Science this year. As a former Biology and Earth Systems teacher it is shameful! However, Science is another focus for our Summer months the girls are very excited about.
Gymnastics has been our major get-moving activity. We spend quite a bit of time at the gym. With the girls both in different levels, and each attending 2x a week it makes for lots of trips. They are both really progressing well, to my surprise. They were asked to try out for the competition team in a week and a half. We will see how they do. As long as they love it, I am happy to enable their participation.
Ellery had a fantastic day today by accomplishing two skills she has been working hard on, her windmill on the bars and back handspring on the trampoline. It was so refreshing to see her ecstatic about these feats. She is so reserved, she didn't want to just start jumping up and down in front of others, so she would flash me these gigantic smiles when no one was watching and throw me a thumbs up. Priceless.
The balance and flexibility, combined with the grace and strength offered from gymnastics is unbeatable. Attaining these skills as young children will benefit them their entire lives. Every time I go to yoga I wish I had started working on those things when I was young, because they are so much more difficult to obtain as an adult.
We have been keeping up all our old poems and scripture verses. We have scattered a few new poems in here and there, but have done less new work during the difficult 3 months.
That about sums it up. My method of homeschooling is very hands on and time intensive. It usually takes us the entire day. But we squeeze in lots of play time too.
Ellery is on a more aggressive lung-treatment therapy. For the first time we seem to have found a medication that is actually helping her clear her lungs. Her pulmonologist described listening to her lungs like the sound you hear when you blow through a straw into a glass of milk. Unacceptable to him. With her new regime of 2x daily vest treatments and nebulized mucous thinner, she actually has some moments with dry coughs, incredible!
Ear pain is still a constant struggle, but we taking it one day and different doctor at a time, always praying for answers and relief.
All the children's ear tubes have fallen out. We are going "tubeless" for a while. We will evaluate hearing, infection, pain, and speech development in the coming months and decide how to proceed.