Saturday, May 24, 2014

Assessments 2014--E14

Language Arts:
E14 did copywork and dictation from Spelling Wisdom Book 2.  For a time we had very formal lessons in which I pre-tested her by dictating the passage, helping her find the errors, practicing specific spelling words, having her copy the passage a few times, and doing a final dictation "test."  That got cumbersome and also held all 4 older girls to working at the same pace.  After a few months I just handed them the books and said, "Copy it until you feel that you know it.  Test yourself if you feel inclined.  You'll know when you've got it."  And I think it began to work.  E14 found her own rhythm as she copied the passages as many times as would fit over an open 2 page spread in her journal.  The longer passages were copied fewer times, the shorter more. Sometimes it took her 2 weeks before she moved from one passage to another, but this slow pace was good for my oldest and (seemingly) least conscientious student.  The frequent repetition and long study of a single passage led to greater accuracy and more internalization of good writing than I've ever seen in her before.

Of all of my children, I think copywork benefits E14 the most.  I do think that E14 does need to add formal spelling and grammar instruction.  After giving both E14 and M12 a pre-test from the Words Their Way spelling program I've discovered that they are at approximately the same skill level in spelling.  I think I can call them a "class" and have them work together in direct spelling instruction.  In addition, E14 will begin work on formal grammar as well.

Partway through the year (in November) E14 picked up an old McGraw-Hill Spelling 6 (it's old enough that I can't even find a link to show what it is) workbook that was on our school shelf--something that we'd gotten free as a hand-me-down from a friend.  She asked if she could work on it.  I said yes, and she did.  I didn't see any spelling improvement as a result of using it, but at least she was exposed to prefixes and suffixes, irregular verbs, homophones, plurals and possessives, etc. in a "formal" manner.

Late this winter we found an old, begun-but-abandoned, Wordly Wise C vocabulary book from years ago when the physical act of writing was simply too hard for my girl to do.  I pulled it out, and she worked through an exercise each school day.  The vocabulary wasn't challenging, but it made her think and spell a bit in ways that will come up on the standardized test that loom all too soon in her future.

Math:
E14 abandoned the Life of Fred books some time ago--I think it was before this school year officially began, but last year and this one rather blended together, so I don't have an exact date.  E14 is a die hard fan of Math-U-See.  Because she, like her younger sisters, had never mastered her times tables while working through Life of Fred, we started with Gamma.  She worked her way through every single page in the Gamma book and then moved on to Delta.  Seeing that the concepts were clear, I began "editing" her Delta book, removing extra practice pages that she didn't need (these are the pages that I handed over to J10).  The goal we had set (at her insistence) was to work quickly through the basic skills that her peers had mastered a few years ago so that she could "catch up" and do the math that was "grade level."  E14 cares very much that she is the same as her friends. 

In addition she practiced daily drills at mathisfun.com.  (This is the only site I could find that actually drilled kids on a 12 X 12 grid instead of only up to 10 X 10.  Other features I like are how the kids can set their own time limits; it gives them a statistical breakdown of how they're doing; if they input a wrong answer it gives them the correct answer and immediately asks the same question again; and it doesn't waste time with goofy game graphics.)   E14 never liked doing these drills and it took monumental effort on my part to get her to do them.  Then when she did, she wasted much of her time staring off into space, letting her timer expire with little to no progress.  Eventually I let this exercise drop by the way for E14.  She was learning better by doing her Math-U-See pages anyway.

I also enrolled the four oldest girls in Khan Academy.  Though she resisted at first because it was extra work, seeing and hearing her sisters work at it piqued her interest.  Eventually E14 took the "pre-test" (one of the most random things I've ever witnessed) and got to work.

As E14 finished the Delta level in Math-U-See she was due to begin the Epsilon and Zeta levels next.  However, sensing that she only needed to work through about half of the pages and adding up the financial cost of purchasing both levels, I searched out another way for her to learn fractions and decimals.  At our local homeschool conference I found a second hand curriculum dealer.  As I browsed the shelves I found Developmental Mathematics.  At only $6 per book (second hand) I could get the self teaching student manual and answer guide to both concepts at a fraction of the cost of both Math-U-See programs.  I purchased them.

What a waste.

They do not work for E14.  She'd read the instructions and come to me furious and frustrated because they made no sense.  I'd then try to teach her when she was in a wretched mental state of being.  It was a recipe for disaster.

We dumped the Developmental Math books after only 2 weeks.

She's been using Khan Academy to try to learn fractions and decimals, but just last week she came to me and asked if there was any way we could please, please, please return to Math-U-See and just work through the system she knows and loves.

Yes.

Literature:
E14 read and kept a journal (a summary of each chapter read) on the following books:
The Rumpelstiltskin Problem 
Beauty
The Once and Future King (section 1 only)
Mimus
Flowers for Algernon
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
A Day No Pigs Would Die
Mere Christianity
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass  

In addition to journaling, E14 wrote a mini-essay about Anne Frank.  It was a sort of pre-test for me to see if E14 is ready for formal writing lessons.  I think she is. 

 E14 fell in love with the Percy Jackson books this past year.  She's read the books repeatedly.  She's a voracious reader of fantasy.  She also read the marvelous book Wonder; I consider it a life-changing book of phenomenal beauty, and I hope my children read it again and again (even if the 10 year olds in the book seem a lot closer to 14!).  Other good books I've seen E14 read are by Madeleine L'Engle, Robin McKinley, Orson Scott Card and Jerry Spinelli.  Her all time favorite book is The Two Princesses of Bamarre.   Something about it speaks to her.  I need to get her some more books by the same author.  Overall, I've seen a hunger for reading in her this year that I haven't seen in the past.

In addition E14 participated in our family read aloud list for 2013-14:
Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilber Riemer
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman
The Complete Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
Caroline and Her Kettle Named Maud by Miriam E Mason
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Cappyboppy by Bill Peet
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannon Stiles
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Usborne Stories from Around the World retold by Heather Amery
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco
Daniel Boone by James Daugherty
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Socks by Beverly Cleary
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Science:
E14 participated in Explorer's Club--our homeschool science club.  I'll post details about that when our year is over (late June)

At home science took a back seat, and the only formal instruction we had consisted of beginning The Storybook of Science.  The older girls and I met around the kitchen table to read, discuss and journal interesting things we read about.  E14 was definitely a little too old for this book.  But she did grab George's Secret Key to the Universe from my family read aloud pile and devoured it on her own. 

We also took some nature walks, watched some interesting videos about animals on YouTube, and checked out library books about astronomy, earth science, and animals.  E14 got quite passionate about chihuahuas and rats for a time and read and journaled about almost every rat and chihuahua  book our library system owns--but we do not and (gulp--I hope) will not own either of these.

In addition, E14 gets to attend the church girls' camp for the third time this summer.  She's had to learn and pass off several increasingly complex first aid skills, wilderness survival skills, and campfire cooking skills.

We've already begun our summer study of botany, and we've taken a nature walk and a field trip to a botanical garden to kick off our studies.  We're going to really have a great summer of science to make up for the dearth of science fun in our past school year.

E14 loves being out in nature.  She denies it vociferously, but she's a born naturalist as evidenced by the past posts about the baby robins (1, 2, 3).  We live very near a wonderful nature center that offers a junior naturalist program.  I hope she'll let me enroll her in it.

History/Geography:
E14 participated in our brief family map studies--we practiced reading map keys and especially pored over a state road map of our home state, studying it's most interesting (to us) geographical features.

We discovered www.geoguessr.com this year.   At least once a week, we play this super fun game as a family, and along the way we've learned lots about the similarities of various country climates across the world.  We've also begun to learn about architectural differences on different continents and about different alphabets the world over.

Formally E14 has participated with her older sisters in reading and discussing The Landmark History of the American People.  We only got up to just before the Civil War, but we'll continue with this one in the coming school year.

Religion:
E14 participates in family morning devotionals in which we work on memorizing The Articles of Faith (she knows them cold), memorizing Moroni 7:45-48 (she knows it fairly well), and listen to and discuss inspiring scriptures, stories, and general conference talks.

In January we took up a Book of Mormon reading challenge, and along with her sisters and me, E14 reads and copies a favorite verse from her reading each day.  This challenge will last through the summer and into the coming school year.

The older girls and I read and journaled The Stories of the New Testament.  I used the scripture references to organize how we read the stories, but we actually read them from the KJV of the Bible. 

E14 attends church each week and she loves participating in the weekly youth lessons and activities.  She is not faithful at all about working on her Personal Progress.  We've set completing Personal Progress as a standard for her to earn the privileges of both dating and driving.  She wants to do both, but she resists doing the Personal Progress work.  I think she simply does not like being told what to do.  However, obedience is an eternal principle that we must learn regardless of age.

She also participates in our evening family prayer and scripture reading/discussions.

She prays with our family and on her own.

E14 is frequently seen welcoming teens that are less active and/or more unsure in their church participation.  Though she likes to be seen as tough and cool on the outside, I can tell that my girl has a good heart. 

Handicrafts:
E14 hates handicrafts with a passion, but she loves to cook.  If she's allowed to bumble her own way through a recipe, she makes good food.  Her fine motor skills are a terrible struggle for her.  I'd like to see her get out and build large projects--like the treehouse she's started but given up on.  She's a good designer with an artist's eye for beauty, and the large projects that require gross motor skills are right up her alley.

My favorite story about E14's designer's eye is from her church leader from before we moved.  E14 was early for an activity held at this leader's home.  The leader was trying to move some furniture around in her living room after repainting it.  She asked E14's advice.  E14 spent a few minutes studying the space and made 2 or 3 recommendations citing her reasons which included the following, "You see how the light comes through the window in the front door?  If you put the shelf here and position the flowers like this, the natural light will highlight the flowers creating a focal point."  The leader was astounded--it was a solution she'd never thought of, but it was a perfectly lovely solution, and she followed E14's advice.

Music:
E14 has fought against every music lesson she's ever had.  She had guitar lessons early in the school year, until her young teacher left to serve a church mission.  I let the matter drop after that.

At the acquisition of our piano after our move, E14 has begun to play it.  She picks out songs by ear.  She plays with composing her own bits of music, too.  She's asked me for lessons, "Mom, help me make the piano sing!"  I've offered a pointer here and there, but have held back for fear of driving her away from the piano again.   Instead I've begun using flashcards for 2 or 3 minutes at a time to teach her how to read music on her own. 

The older 4 girls and I attended a performance of La Boheme this school year.  It was a joyful exposure to classic opera beyond that of The Magic Flute.  E14 enjoyed it and wants to hear more!  She was also able to watch video recordings of The Magic Flute and Handel's Messiah.  She's talked and talked about the music for a long time after each experience.

Art:
See handicrafts description--E14 resists most forms of art, though she does appreciate looking at it.  

Physical Education:
E14 got to join a formal homeschool soccer team this year.  She had a good time and learned a lot.  She's aggressive (in a good, sporty way), and coach says that if she will work on her footwork she could be a fine forward. 

She was a member of our American Rhythm dance group this year.  She was in the "oldest" group, and as such did some of the hardest and most physically demanding dances.  Her rehearsals were 2 hours long or longer, and those clogging numbers are high energy!

She also completed a 5K run/walk in May, and she does go with us on nature walks and hikes with Explorer's Club. 

Foreign Language:
E14 needs to learn a foreign language.  She's shown no interest in any languages thus far, though she did do some Latin lessons a year or so ago, and she has plans to work on it again

In General:
My E14 is so terribly, terribly smart, and she is so terribly, terribly unsure of herself.  Her early delays in reading, writing, math, and fine motor skills have left scars.  She is a far better reader than most of her peers, but she doesn't think so.  She's covered more math skills in a year than most kids cover in 2, and she's worked out a plan with me to get all the way through calculus before she goes to college, but she still worries that she's "stupid."  Her writing is intuitively fluid and beautiful from her lifelong exposure to good literature, but she resists writing because her mechanical skills are delayed.  She's a beautiful athlete, moving with a grace and style that most of us only dream of, but she resists the hard work of skill drills that could allow her to achieve true excellence.  She has the heart of an artist but refuses to practice because in the past she's failed to make her hands do what her mind sees.  If only my girl could see herself as I do . . . or better yet as God does--a beloved daughter of infinite potential.

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