We are at the end of our first week of "real" homeschooling, which was still homeschool "lite" because of summer late nights and sleeping in. However, we managed to touch on everything in our curriculum and get copious amounts of reading done. We are alternating science with geography, hitting each one every other day, and yesterday we reviewed what we had done two days prior. We are beginning with the basics...what are continents, oceans, and other smaller bodies of water. I quickly realized we have a little problem when Angela and Olesya both questioned what earth was, and although they had obviously learned a little about our solar system, they had no clue that we live on planet earth...and no, it was not a translation problem. There is a real "connecting the dots" problem with both of them at times. They have been exposed to material and memorized terms, but are clueless what they mean in context. Sooooooo....we begin at the beginning.
I am using a curriculum called "Around the World in 180 Days" as well as a workbook about maps and globes, my own additions, and have created binders for each of the kids called "Cruisin' the Continents". We are going to study the world continent by continent, learning a little about many of the countries on each one, exploring the famous landmarks, and then creating a country sheet where they map it and look up population information, mortality statistics, draw a picture of the flag, etc.
We are starting with Africa and I went to the library and got a couple of beautiful coffee table books with photos which we spent about 20 minutes looking at (And yes, the boys giggled a bit at the bare breasted women! Hahah!). We talked about the animals found there, saw various forms of houses, etc. Angela revealed that she thinks black people are beautiful but she is scared of them...she has never really seen them before and the very first black person she and Olesya ever saw was in the airport in Frankfurt. She and Olesya both loved looking at the photographs of faces.
What fun it is to do this and see the sparks of recognition or to be able to instantly follow the trail of thought and provide information! For example, we looked at Google images of Victoria Falls which totally wowed them all. Joshie commented that it would be cool to jump off the falls and we all talked about how dangerous that would be as we looked at the foot of the falls. I then quickly Googled Mexican Cliff Divers and we looked at pictures of them and discussed it. None of the kids had ever heard of them and were amazed that anyone would have the courage to do that.
What totally, utterly blew me away though, was Kenny. At the beginning of our session yesterday we reviewed what we had talked about the first day...what are the names of the 7 continents and the 4 oceans. Oh. My. Gosh. Kenny was the only one who rattled them all off without hesitation. And after he did, he looked at me with what can only be labeled complete astonishment, and you could almost see him wanting to ask "How in the world did I do that?". The entire room got quiet as we all looked at him, then we erupted in cheers for Kenny and determined he deserved the Special Plate that night. Angela earned the right to the other special plate when she correctly spelled the word "beautiful" in her writing.
Joshua surprised me with their writing this week, producing what...for him at his level...was very good material. Joshua is definitely going to be a writer, he loves, loves, loves it and goes on and on. These days he is showing skill at being a good story teller and it seems he has taken a real leap in terms of skills. Or maybe it is that I have all these older learners who are working at a much lower level and so my ability to compare is a bit skewed.
But then, who needs to compare, right?
The girls are amazing in their abilities. We are now just creeping past 4 months home, and when I think back to the first couple of weeks as I began to work with them,I marvel at all they have soaked up. I also am so glad we are far enough down the road that I am not petrified every morning when I arise, wondering what in the world I can do with them to move them along. Other than math, they are both working at a 1st grade level in spelling and phonics, as well as reading. We finished Kindergarten in about 3 months, and are working steadily through 1st grade material.
Olesya is the one for whom vocabulary is coming easily. She works so hard at communicating, and she is the one who feels free to explore, play and create...and is doing so daily. Yesterday she made a dog out of aluminum foil and kabob skewers! She and Kenny have had long, detailed discussions about the businesses they will have together as she has become fascinated like he is with entrepreneurship. Yea...you know what is coming next...she is already bugging me to set up a lemonade stand and when at the summer "Main in Motion" event in town last night she excitedly chatted about them making a booth and selling something.
Angela is a very methodical and determined student, and is reading like a fiend these days. I got a movie detailing children in pioneer days from the library and she really enjoyed that. She is finding a freedom to begin to explore things she is interested in, and has recently talked about being a nurse. We got a book from the library about nurses and that further intrigued her, so I guess a visit with a friend or two who are nurses is in order. It is the first career she has mentioned outside of being a PE teacher, and suddenly that has been abandoned completely as she sees the possibilities are wide open for her. I expect she might return to that, as it actually would be a great job for her as she loves sports and is wonderful with children (another new discovery), but what I had hoped to accomplish has finally occurred...she is seeing her whole self rather than just a good ball player imposed upon her by orphanage life. She is a talented artist as well, and I am so glad we have access to great classes here in our small town where she can work with those gifts.
Matthew is quietly helping everyone as we cover some material he already knows, and fill in gaps of what he hasn't studied. He never had a full geography course as most kids don't at this grade level, but he has studied so much on his own as he reads about wars that he is familiar with some of the material. However, he is my "go to" guy, and will quickly Google things, and he taught about the equator yesterday as Dominick had long ago explained it to him. He is enjoying being able to learn more about the things he has a basic understanding of, and is discovering that he may know some things but the next layer is new to him. We did a word search of the African countries that I found on edhelper.com, and he learned how to pronounce them and we looked them up on a map. He also learned about African village fortification as we looked at photos and talked about why they structure their villages the way they do.
Joshie is doing a great job and he is easily keeping up with his older siblings. While of course he might not retain all of the material presented at this age, he will come away with a lot more than we might expect. Seeing his little maps labeled next to the neater ones of the older kids, I am reminded that we often don't see the value of younger kids learning from older ones...and the value in older ones teaching the younger ones. Olesya and he worked together yesterday on their continent maps, and she gained a lot of pleasure from knowing enough to be able to help him.
We are blessed to have a wonderful companion for a few hours a week for part of this summer. A young college student we know has offered to come work with our family and is listening to kids read one on one with her, playing games like US States bingo and Sight Word Go Fish with them, and just spending time with them being a good sport getting wet when they are playing on the slip and slide outside. She was valedictorian of her class and is a very bright young lady whom we are privileged to have working with the kids. It has allowed me time to correct workbooks, look things up online, spend one on one time with each of the kids, and get out yesterday for awhile. The planning that goes into all of this and trying to find more interactive or visual tools is very time consuming, but interesting.
With the cancellation of Kenny's surgery it has left our schedule open to attend the homeschool conference in Denver this weekend. While we will not attend any of the seminars, I wanted to check out the curriculum fair with over 200 vendors, so we are all heading over for a brief overnight trip. I am hoping I can get some ideas for how to better engage my visual learners, and looking for some better reference materials, and maybe find some educational games which our kids LOVE to do. Also I am very interested in learning about a company called "College Plus" which steers your students to an at-home college degree utilizing challenge tests and dual credit classes for high school/college. Knowing we have no funds to put towards college for any of the kids, we need to explore all the options for those who might wish to pursue a career that requires a degree. I like the idea of combining high school and college classes, especially since we have learners who are years behind their peers...this might allow them time now to solidify the basics, and still be able to accelerate later on.
Kenny's surgery has been rescheduled for September, which we had hoped could be sooner but half expected would be around then. He is feeling better, still coughing a bit but there wasn't much we could do to avoid the cancellation. So I guess it is Chicago in the early fall for us.
Sorry no photos today, we'll try and do something interesting to post pictures of soon. For now, it is daily life, which isn't exactly all that exciting to anyone (as this post shows! Hahaha!) but is for us.