Here we are at almost Christmas – and it seems like a good opportunity to look at how our first year of homeschooling is going! If you remember, Paprika would be in First Grade this year at school – (she is 7 years old, and has a Fall birthday).
This post is basically for me to look back on in the future and see how we were doing “in the beginning.” I am sure that years from now, this post will seem interesting in ways I can’t even imagine right now. Ha!
I promised myself that the first year of homeschooling, I would be gentle on myself – because, let’s face it – homeschooling is a huge responsibility! So, I know I am not doing everything perfectly (who can?!) – and I am doing my best.
I am “homeschooling” all the girls (obviously) – this post is just about Paprika and what she’s doing in her schoolwork as we approach the semester mark! I will update with the other girls later. 🙂
Depending on the assessment, Paprika reads at a 6th to 8th grade reading level. Yes, you read that right – five to seven grade levels above First Grade. It has been challenging to me to find books that are at her ability level that are also at her maturity level! I went through a phase where I had her reading The Little House on the Prairie books – but truthfully, she’s not a fan of books that don’t have a lot of pictures.
I was frustrated by this and thought she SHOULD be reading Chapter Books – and then a few weeks ago, I had a breakthrough. We were watching the original Disney movie Alice in Wonderland and Alice sighs and says: if she wrote books they would have all pictures and no words instead of all words and no pictures.
When dear Alice said that, I felt like I was listening to the voice of Paprika. A lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that perhaps in picture books I could find everything Paprika needs at this tender age!
Paprika’s BIG dream is to one day be a writer and illustrator of Children’s Books – so we have set out to study them. All at once, her love of reading has been reignited. We’ve studied the illustrations – and oddly enough, the reading level of MANY of these picture books is quite high (6th or 7th grade!)
Since we put down the chapter books and picked up the picture books again, Paprika is in love with reading and will sit with books for hours studying them. I check up on the reading level using the Scholastic website (it’s free) – and anyway, I don’t worry too much about it after that.
We have also been doing read-alouds under the Christmas tree at night – something about sitting under the tree has a little bit of magic to it. Right now we are reading A Little House Christmas Treasury, which has all the Christmas stories of the series right there in one book. Sometimes when we’re reading, I see our own family reflected in the hopes and dreams of the Ingalls and know that the themes are universal.
We are using Rosetta Stone Spanish, and it’s like pulling teeth, y’all. She does NOT like it. Even so, she is doing it! She does a few minutes per day, and it’s pretty amazing what she’s picked up. I minored in Spanish in undergrad and did my study abroad in Spain – so that helps. We practice around the house quite a bit. When we go to the park (which you know is A LOT – haha) – she always strikes up conversations with the nannies there. The first time I was nervous, but they all seem quite delighted with her.
As I have written about before, Paprika does NOT have a love affair with Math! Ha! Even so, we press on – and so far, the best program I’ve found for her (the one she tolerates best) is Teaching Textbooks. She started 3rd Grade this Fall and just finished the whole year officially yesterday! She’s now doing 4th Grade Teaching Textbooks – and what can I say, it is what it is. It is quite easy for her – she just doesn’t LOVE it. Does that make sense?
I actually gave her the option to STOP doing Math entirely (I know that sounds crazy). I said we could sell Teaching Textbooks and take a math break for a year. She cried and said that she LOVES Math and Teaching Textbooks – which I found odd.
I think the reality is that she loves having DONE Math and not actually doing math. Kind of like how I feel about healthy eating and running! Haha.
This area has been a bit of a struggle! We read books and we also have subscriptions to Brain Pop and Brain Pop, Jr. (That’s her “watching TV” treat – tricky, tricky!) I wanted something more formal for history, so we tried Story of the World. We did the Audio CD version at bedtime for awhile, and it was okay – but I wanted something beefier.
Then we tried the Veritas Press Online Self-Paced History course – it’s is pricey but they had a free two week trial, so I thought I would try that out. It’s a five year series, and Paprika LOVED it. Seriously – she would do it all day if she could.
The big drawback we had with it is that I wanted a HISTORY course and I found out that it was heavily teaching history from a Biblical perspective. Paprika started the first year course – which I later found out was basically an Old Testament course. I walked in on her learning about Cain killing Abel and I realized it was not going to be for us! Plus, they kept referring to the world as being only 5,000 years old and Paprika started saying things at the dinner table like: is Evolution even REAL?
So, back to the drawing board with history!
(sketch Paprika drew in the car the other day when we were driving)
All that being said, Paprika really does have quite a strong faith – and she reads her Children’s Bible (New Testament) on a daily basis. For her, I think she loves the stories – and finds great meaning in them. I want her to keep her faith – I just don’t think she’s quite ready for all the dark themes of the Old Testament yet. 😉
Paprika started taking weekly piano lessons in August 2012 – so over a year ago! She practices about 30 minutes 4 or 5 days/week – and loves it. It is a real joy to see her progressing, and to watch her love of music unfold. That picture above is Paprika at her piano lesson last night!
Art continues to be a huge part of Paprika’s life. She has free access to paints and art supplies and loves to create all the time – whether it’s sketches, illustrations for her books, painting, or sculptures.
Because the weather is so good, we spend a lot of time painting outside. Nothing like creating in the sunshine. 🙂
She took a few art classes, but the short time frames and the class sizes were sort of a problem. Instead, she likes to work in a quiet space where she can concentrate. Thankfully, she has found great instructional resources online like Thrive Art and also (believe it or not) free YouTube videos!
For art history, she loves to thumb through big art books. I have bought quite a few used art history books for pennies on Amazon – I leave them laying around the house, and then will find Paprika studying them later. She also watches BrainPop movies about artists, and reads children’s books, too.
She is most fascinated right now by children’s illustration and she wants to learn how to make her own pop up books! So, that’s what she’s up to this week anyway!
We are using the Handwriting Without Tears series of workbooks. Truthfully, Paprika gets a lot of handwriting practice just naturally, so I am not too worried about handwriting (or grammar) right now.
Mr. M graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Chemistry – so, I leave the science curriculum to him! Haha. But seriously, I have posted before and will post again about the fun science experiments he does with the girls. My time with them is less experiment focused – and more “natural history” focused. We try to spend as much time in nature as we can, and learn about the world around us experientially.
Even so, Paprika loves to set up her own science experiments at home. Just last week she made a xylophone out of glasses with water and I found her explaining sound waves to her sisters. 🙂
Right now, Paprika is busy doing Theatre through a local community troupe and Swim Team four days/week!
We have had a lot of opportunities to do more extracurriculars – but really, just Theatre and Swim Team is MORE than enough. Paprika loves having free time to have fun and be a kid! For example, she and Ginger have been practicing their own version of the Nutcracker for weeks. They have been dancing to Tchaikovsky in the backyard…
creating costumes, and even making invitations for the neighbors! It’s been fun!
There is much more to say, and MUCH more that we do! This post is getting LONG…and well, I have three children calling my name…so that’s it for now! I can’t believe we’ve been homeschooling only a semester – in some ways, it feels like forever, and in other ways it’s flown. I guess that’s just a little bit like life – Ha!