Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Creative Curriculum for 5th Grade

We are doing so many things this year in our homeschool! Many of the topics don’t take long to complete, usually less than a half-hour. This is good for Ian because he gets bored pretty easily. About the only thing taking us any longer than that is all of the reading we are doing together. And, since we’re doing that together, Ian actually enjoys it! Here are a few of the things we are doing:

Reading living history books. My favorite so far has been one about the life of Squanto – why isn’t there a good movie out there somewhere about his life? The dude has a phenomenal story.

Law & Government. We just started this one as a family. It basically consists of a textbook, two CDs and a DVD. The textbook has a two- or three- page introduction and an outline for each lesson, along with questions and suggestions for further reading. This is going to be an interesting course. Unfortunately, we can only do it on Wednesdays when Jesse is home with us.

Reading. This subject has been the biggest surprise this year. Ian has been a good reader for a long time, albeit a slow and reluctant one. This year alone, he has tripled his reading speed (thanks to watching movies in Spanish with English subtitles), and has gone from dreading the subject to loving it. I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to happen for him, but we finally found a book series that he enjoys, and now, he reads anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours every single day. He only has two books left in the series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I am starting to search for more books he may enjoy.

Math. Ian’s math skills have developed in leaps and bounds this year. We have been using the Memrise app for multiplication and Spanish. I no longer have to drill him anymore, yet I almost always remember to casually quiz him throughout the day on one or two math facts. I was amazed at how well this works! His math book is almost fun for us now that he is better at facts.

ControllerArt. Ian has been drawing lots of MineCraft-related pictures on graph paper. It’s perfect for someone who isn’t confident in their skills as an artist because you only have to draw one block at a time. Last night, he began working on a Mario-based art project. He drew a whole level, complete with secrets and switches and pipes – the whole nine yards! And the level was fresh from his own imagination. I was blown away because he created an engaging, challenging world that I would enjoy playing. I have been sending him to his room at 9:30, at which time he does something quiet, so he has been drawing. Then at 10:30, he can either read for an hour or go to bed. He’s been reading, and that makes me happy. 🙂

Python. We have been learning the Python programming language together using a book that I found at a computer store. The program allows you to make small changes to the MineCraft code and alter the game in fun ways. We are having a blast! I have been wanting to teach Python to Ian for a couple of years now, but the first time we tried it, it was above his head. (It was okay until we got into integers.) But now is the perfect time for teaching him, especially since we can use MineCraft as a starting point!

Well, those are a few of the things we are doing. We don’t do them all everyday. Our everyday subjects are reading, Bible, guitar, drums, dictation, typing, and Memrise (Spanish and multiplication). If you would like to read some ideas for language arts or science, you can find those in previous posts.

I hope you find some of these subjects and ideas helpful as you explore your own adventure in homeschooling!

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Spanish-Learning Update

I have finally settled into a routine as far as my Spanish learning goes. If you are interested in acquiring a new language, check out these resources for your language:

Duo-Lingo – a really fun and FREE language-learning app and website that has taught me more in the last 6 weeks than everything else I have ever learned combined, including a high school class, 1 semester of college-level Spanish, and cramming for the CLEP. I cannot believe this program is free. I am making way better progress here than I did with Rosetta Stone, although the programs are similar. After soaring through the first 14 levels (out of pure excitement and addiction), I am now continuing to learn and reinforce at a much slower pace, but I am still satisfied with my continual progress. This program mostly teaches you new vocabulary and how to translate back and forth between English (or some other language) and Spanish (or some other language, lol). In addition, you have the option to use the microphone and/or the speakers to practice speaking and listening skills. There is also an immersion aspect, but I haven’t checked it out. I spend about 30-40 minutes with this program each morning before my son gets out of bed.

Memrise – this free program is open to so many possibilities! I have brainstormed several ways to use this spaced-repetition flashcard website and app for my own self improvement and homeschooling ideas. I have been using it for nearly 4 weeks now, and have not lost interest. The flashcard deck I have chosen has nearly every word recorded by several different native speakers, and the program randomly chooses one to play each time you encounter the word. It’s great for improving vocabulary, and it keeps track of the words you miss the most often and reviews them frequently. I spend about 10 or 15 minutes a day on this program, ideally right after finishing Duo-Lingo.

Anki – this is another spaced-repetition flashcard system that has tons of user-created flashcard decks available for download to your computer, phone, tablet, etc. I have been using this one for about 4 weeks as well. In contrast to the Memrise and Duo-Lingo programs, I have not figured out if you are able to share your progress across different platforms, so I have a core set of decks that I study seriously from my laptop, and a few fun ones that I study from my phone if I get bored when I’m out and about. The great thing about Anki is that you can download flashcards with pictures on them, so you get used to associating a Spanish word with what it actually represents, instead of merely translating in your head from English to Spanish or vice versa. I think some of the decks contain audio as well, but I don’t personally have any of those downloaded. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour studying the flashcards with this program, later in the day while Ian is working independently. It’s fun and I always look forward to it!Headset

Tunein – this is a fun radio station and podcast listening website and app that has tons of programs in other languages, some of which are designed specifically for the language-learner. My husband introduced this program to me about a week ago. In addition to talk channels, you can also listen to music in your favorite language – complete with commercials, which are not so annoying when you are hanging on every word trying to understand what they’re selling, lol. For instance, I’ve been listening through the News In Slow Spanish channel. I’m covering one or two episodes a day, and although I try pretty hard to listen attentively, sometimes I find myself tuning out and getting distracted. That’s ok! I am acclimating myself to the sounds, even when I’m not actively listening. I usually turn on Tunein while I am exercising, which I have always had trouble making time to do anyway, so now I’m killing two birds with one stone. It’s also fun to listen to while cooking or engaging in any other quiet activity. If you are a homeschooler, you could listen while your children work on an art project, etc.

Learning New Things

Today, Ian and I embarked on a new journey. Well, old and new, of sorts. I scheduled our lives down to the minute for the first half of the day, until 2pm. I’ve done this before, and it always works, but it’s been a while. I left the end of the day open to avoid getting burned out too quickly. That allowed us to get most everything done that we had to do, school-wise, cooking-wise, etc. We knocked out all of the undesirable subjects right off the bat, and it felt really good to get everything done at a decent time. At 2 o’clock, we tore into one of Ian’s new toys that has been sitting around patiently on a shelf. It took us 2 hours, but we were able to get his Arduino up and running, download all the software, drivers, and extras, run an example program and figure out how to do a couple of different things by making small changes to the existing code. It was really fun for me. Ian knows  more about electronics than I do, and I know more about code-writing than he does, so it was kind of neat to both be learning something that mixes the two skills together. I can’t wait to go deeper and learn new things!Circuitry