Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Assessments 2014--S11

Language Arts:
S11 did copywork and dictation from Spelling Wisdom Book 1.  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.  S11 moved through the passages at a rapid pace of 2-4 per week.  She's an instinctive speller.  (I've tried for 2 years to get her to enter a local spelling bee--I even took her to watch some friends so it wouldn't feel so threatening, but the word list intimidated her too much.)  Each day I checked her copybook to see where she was and find any errors that she might have missed on her own.  I also checked for efforts at best handwriting.

I'm not sold that this is the best method for learning.  I do like the exposure to great ideas, and I did notice an improvement in her spelling when she writes on her own that did not occur when we used traditional spelling programs in the past; however these copywork exercises have not improved her punctuation when she writes on her own.  Because S11 does copywork when she reads from the scriptures, this system feels redundant in our homeschool.  Next year we'll be dropping this activity in favor of a Language Arts program with more direct grammar instruction.

S11 wrote a 5,000 word "novel" (story) this year during NaNoWriMo.  It is a fantasy story about kids who become mermaids and have great adventures trying to save the ocean.  Together we've edited the first few chapters, but our move knocked us out of rhythm in completing that project.  I've promised to self-publish the book when it is finished.  She began a new story last week.

Math:
S11 started the year in Life of Fred: Dogs and moved reasonably successfully through the elementary series and into the intermediate series until she got to Life of Fred: Kidneys.  Along the way she failed to memorize the times tables.  Though these books instruct the kids to make flash cards and not move on until the times tables are memorized, S11 didn't do it--and I did remind her to work on them!  By Ice Cream the math was too advanced to do without having the times tables memorized, so I told  her to do 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.)

However, the drills weren't working, and S11 got more and more frustrated.  By the time she was half way through Kidneys, I stopped her and had her work solely on times tables drills.  This took months of work and tears.  She'd cry and say she was too stupid to learn, and I'd say she was smart and that she could do it and to just keep trying.  I'd point out every single percent gain, but she'd just say she was stupid all over again.  Suddenly one day the times tables clicked.  She went from completing 200 problems in 15 minutes with 56% accuracy to completing 300 problems in 15 minutes with 98% accuracy almost overnight.  It was amazing!  It really was just a mental block that she had set up for herself.

These activities saw us into April at which point I enrolled the four oldest girls in Khan Academy.  S11 took the "pre-test" (one of the most random things I've ever witnessed) and got to work.  I've required S11 to do 30 minutes of math a day at this site on each formal school day, and she's learning well.  Sometimes she needs help from me to understand a concept even after watching a video, but she's trying out, practicing, and mastering lots of math concepts.  We'll let Khan Academy keep S11 fresh in math over the summer, but we'll plan to work through a paper and pencil math program this coming fall because there aren't enough hours in the day for all of the kids to do all their work at the computer.  I'd like to see S11 pick up where she left off in Life of Fred, but she's thinking she'd like to switch to Saxon. I actually prefer Saxon math, but S11 is bright and a good puzzle-solver, and I think that Life of Fred might be the better fit overall.  We'll see as we get closer to the fall.

Literature:
S11 read and kept a journal (a summary of each chapter read) on the following books:
Betsy and Tacy go Downtown
In Grandma's Attic
Follow My Leader
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Witches
The Story of Thomas Alva Edison
Number the Stars
Island of the Blue Dolphins

There ought to have been more, but we had quite a gap in our school year because of the move.  S11 fell in love with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Fablehaven books this past year.  She's read each series at least once, and some of the books 2 or 3 times each.  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!)


In addition J10 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:
S11 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.  I think S11 might have been a little too old for this book.

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.  S11 got quite passionate about guinea pigs for a time and read and journaled about (along with her sisters) almost every guinea pig book our library system owns--which is why we now own a guinea pig.

S11 loves sharks and surfing.  She's read all of the books about sharks our library system owns.  She's watched documentaries about sharks, and she's constantly searching for new information about them.  Sometimes I wish we still lived near an ocean so she could indulge her love for ocean-centered learning.  It was such a blessing last August when Daddy's old friend, who is a surf-bum-turned-dentist, took our family surfing.  S11 only needed 10 minutes of instruction to stand up on a board and ride a wave.  A family wedding this summer will get us back to the beach for just a day this coming August--we're going to have to make the most of it!


S11 spent quite a bit of time studying books about rocks and minerals.  It was fun that we were able to attend the gem and mineral show in our city this year. 

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.

History/Geography:
S11 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 S11 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:
S11 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, S11 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. 

S11 attends church each week and participates in bi-monthly church-sponsored activities for 8-11 year old girls. She is so excited to turn 12 this summer and move from the children's program to the youth program.

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

She prays with our family and on her own.

Handicrafts:
S11 steers clear of most handicrafts.  She knows how to clean a bathroom and is quite good at sweeping a floor until it is truly clean, but she's not a fan of such activities.  She sewed an apron at a children's church activity in March--she put in every stitch herself--but it was enough that she did it; it did not light a desire to do more sewing.  She's willing to help cook a meal, but she's not confident in how she moves through the kitchen, nor does she hang about hoping for an opportunity to get her hands involved.  Writing this makes me think I need to encourage her more--give her more positive feedback for her simple efforts.

Music:
S11 loves music! 

She has had no formal music lessons except for her participation in American Rhythm this year in which she learned a number of folk dances from the American 19th century and some fun 50's rock and roll numbers. She was chosen to sing a solo in one of the numbers, and several audience members found her after the performances to tell her to "keep singing."

At the piano she learns best by picking the notes out by ear and can recreate tunes that she's heard even long ago.  Just this afternoon, she played the melody to one of Papageno's songs.  Sometimes, when she really likes a song, she'll also try to figure out how to add simple chords as accompaniment.  She quickly picks up new songs on the recorder--often bypassing her faithfully practicing sisters in a single 5 minute session of "messing around."

S11 has a powerful set of lungs and a sweet voice.  She was able to sing in a local children's choir for a semester, but had to quit when we moved.  It broke both of our hearts to pull her out of that, but she sings in the church choir now (I'm so glad our director welcomes children). 

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.  S11 loved it and wants to hear more!  She was also able to watch video recordings of The Magic Flute and Handel's Messiah.  She's not good at sitting through long performances, but after we watch one, she recreates the music for a long time afterward

Art:
S11 is not much of an art creator, but she colors and will participate in a craft activity if she's invited.   

Physical Education:
S11 is a wiggly worm of a kid.  She must be active or die.  One of her favorite activities is to put on some classic rock (her dad got her into that) and sing and dance her heart out.  She hasn't gotten to participate in any organized sports this year, though. 

That said, she did complete a 5K run/walk in May, and she does go with us on nature walks and hikes with Explorer's Club.

Foreign Language:
S11 needs to learn a foreign language.  I can't think of one incident this whole school year of her being interested in another language.

In General:
S11 is smarter than she thinks she is.  She gets frustrated when others can do things better than she can, but she's bright and capable.  One of S11's gifts is making friends; she's astonishingly outgoing and caring.  People just plain like her because she just plain likes them.  She's a good reader and can remember things even when I think she's not listening.  I'd like to see her gain confidence and skill in some homemaking arts.  I'd also like to see her continue to develop her writing skills and her musical talents.

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