Monday, December 28, 2015

Our Math Choices for 2015-2016

(This post has random pictures from the last few months that didn't make it into another post. It was this or pictures of math text books.)

Last January I wrote this review of Saxon Math. I just went back and read it and still agree with most of it. Yet, we went back to Math-U-See this year.

For the most part I don't regret using Saxon last year. Both boys needed something different. They were uninspired in math and a temporary change was necessary.

The only thing I would change in my review from last year is saying Saxon is conceptual. It is a little, but not consistently. I've learned for true math knowledge and mastering a topic that a student must know why and not just learn the procedure, otherwise it is quickly forgotten after the test or lesson. Saxon occasionally throws in some conceptual learning but after going completely through two levels, I learned it's sparing and they depend more on procedural. I also saw that my kids didn't understand what was going on (the why)and could not master certain math skills. 

Did I tell you that we adopted a cat in October . . . . but had to take her back after 10 days. The dog went crazy over the cat and couldn't learn to calm down which scared the cat. We are still upset over this. Lesson learned that Lucy is too high energy for a cat.

Caleb really struggled towards the end of that Saxon book last year. So much that we just finally gave up at the end and didn't complete it. I purchased the Saxon algebra book back in March to start reteaching algebra to myself. (Algebra was one of my favorite classes in high school, but that was a long time ago!) I quickly discovered that Caleb would not be ready for this book and I was struggling with the understanding of it myself. That is when I knew that we needed to go back to Math-U-See. Luckily, I had held onto a used algebra book that I had bought previously. 

I had planned to start our school year with Caleb doing Math-U-See and Tyler doing Saxon 6/5. A very long story follows in which at the end I realize that Tyler is still struggling with the multiply digit multiplication and long division and we hadn't gained any ground in the past year. I also learn that the silly amount of problems in each Saxon lesson has pushed both Tyler and I over the edge. After going over things with him (and doing a placement test with Math-U-See) I also learned that he would need to pick up in Math-U-See in the same spot we left the program . . . . . and this is where I feel like we wasted a whole year in math!  : (

We did get a little snow back in November. It didn't last long and we haven't had any more snow, yet. It's been raining for days and it's flooded . . . . I would rather had the two feet of snow instead. No one likes a cold December rain.

Turns out Tyler likes those DVDs and Mr. Demme again. Tyler did get off to a good start in Epsilon because he did learn a little something about fractions in Saxon last year. 

I still think both boys just needed a change last year. I did learn some lessons through all of this. Next time we should just take a month (or two) off from the program and do something different for math instead of changing programs completely. Second, it doesn't hurt to have more than one resource on hand for math. This is a good resource for when a student doesn't understand a concept and you can look it up in another resource and perhaps a different explanation will work. And third, slow down and take the math pace that your student needs. Completing a level and getting it done is not the goal. Understanding for mastery is the goal.  

Tyler loves rocks! He found this one in the creek during our early December nature hike. This picture got lost while I was trying to upload it for that blog post.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Early December Nature Study {2015}

We had some favorable December weather (last week) and were able to go out to our favorite nature study spot.

Tyler decided to bike the trail.

One of the two trails we hiked. It was a noisy walk with all the leaves on the trail.

The woods were a dull gray and brown and then there was this sun lit green spot.

I zoomed the camera in for a closer look.

And of course we detoured off the trail to check it out. Pretty awesome patch of moss. It added beautiful color to the woods.

Perhaps some moss reproduction going on here . . . I don't know anything about moss.

Oddest thing we found in woods was this tree. Our in home naturalist wasn't sure what kind of tree this was. I need to go back and mark this tree to find in the spring. It was covered in several of these things . . . it reminds me of damaged caused by cutting back a tree too much. (I will have to ask around and figure this mystery out.)

The bark on this tree caught our eyes. Scott thinks it's an Oak (but with an odd bark pattern). (Note to self to get the book on identifying Missouri trees in winter!)

I love finding holes in trees. These holes went under the tree and come out on two sides. I could not get my boys to stick their hands in the holes to see what they could find. Scott said there wouldn't be anything hibernating in there. There was sign that something was using it earlier this year.

Dead and rotting trees provide excellent habitat for all kinds of small critters (mostly insect variety) and are favorites of boys to explore (and dogs too until they get insects on their nose).

Creek exploring is a favorite of ours. This creek was very dry on October 2nd! Lucy was retrieving rocks that the boys were throwing. She brought it back to me . . . . I don't think she got the right one but it's hard to tell.

Tyler loves rock collecting and he did find a neat one on this trip but I have seem to have lost the pictures somewhere on my computer . . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fall Nature Study Round-Up {2015}

I did not get our family farm fall nature study pictures posted last month. I like to put them on the blog for reference and comparisons between the years. Since I waited so long I don't have much commentary nor can I tell you when they took place (mid-October/early November) or much details.   ; )

My favorite grass of all time (if you can have such a thing) is broom sedge. I love the glowing coloring.

Can you find the puppy?

Fall pond study . . . . a walk around the pond is always enjoyable.

The path on this side of the pond was not mowed. We usually get covered in dried seeds and weeds. Always lots of animal trails. This path did get mowed when we came back before deer season.

Cloudy day during this nature hike. I was admiring the clouds that day. Must have been mid-October since the leaves look mostly green.

Turtle study (three-toed box turtle) . . . . we learned that Lucy can pick up a turtle in her mouth. We had to distract Lucy and take her for a long walk so the turtle could get away. Every time we go back to the lake after that visit she goes to find that turtle!

One mad turtle!

Has anyone seen a turtle around here?

Tyler was too tired for much nature study on one of our fall visits. Good thing napping in nature counts for nature study.  ; )

Caught taking pictures of him napping!

One of my favorite trails to nature hike. This trail gets mowed before fall hunting season (leads to my Dad's hunting spot) and we get to take the long awaited walk.

The cedar trees were gorgeous on this trail.

A dry creek bed is always fun to explore.

A sure sign of fall.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Term 1 Review {2015-2016}

We have wrapped up term 1 of our school year and are a few weeks into term 2. You can find our original school plans here and here.

(Pictures in this post are random pictures I took during term 1.)

It was a good term and we are certainly enjoying Ambleside Online curriculum. Tyler has had the smoothest transition and he is moving right along. It has taken Caleb a little longer to settle into the book list.

We have followed Tyler's original book list almost completely. I can't believe it!  We did drop the Using Language Well book because I just couldn't fit him into the program (he was at different grammar and dictation levels). We also changed his math program, but I will save that for another post.

Tyler said his favorite books are all those on his free reading list and Life of Fred. His least favorite is The Story of Inventions because the chapters are too long. ; )

There were a few changes made to Caleb's original book list. Science took the biggest hit. First Studies in Plant Life and The Amateur Naturalist are the only books from the original plan still being used. We've added in Fabre's Book of Insects and The Book of Trees .

History has stayed on track but I did drop Light to the Nations mostly because there was no time. I added in a shorter church history book to go along with the British history book.

I also dropped How to Read a Book because of time issues and Caleb wasn't really getting it. This book is schedule in AO over a few years so it will be picked back up next year. I was enjoying this book as I read it out loud to Caleb. It is certainly a must read for students!

The only thing that has been a complete failure is Spanish. He has completed fourteen weeks of school (and Spanish) and Caleb knows zero Spanish. I honestly don't know what to do at this point and this is on my list to pondering during Christmas break. 

Caleb said his favorite book has been To the Heights. I got no comment on least favorite. I think he is enjoying most of his books . . . . the IEW writing gives him the most grief. 

As I said earlier, we are loving AO. My only complaint is that there is a large learning curve. The website is loaded with information but it is a struggle to navigate. I know I came across AO in my first year of homeschooling and I couldn't make sense of the website and never took a second look until this past year. I'm extremely thankful that I finally took that second look. After a few months I learned that our placement into AO could have been a little different but overall I don't think it matters much.

Please leave questions or comments in the comments. You can also email me at  tendingpumpkinpatch at gmail dot com.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent Quick Daybook {November 29. 2015}

I'm still here! Sorry it's been so long. Just too much to get done and of course my favorite thing got put at the end of the list. I thought a quick daybook would be helpful to get back into the blogging habit. I have a few post waiting in draft to finish up in December. Pictures feature some of the Advent decorations we put up today (please excuse the quality since it's dark today).


Outside my window it is cold and rainy. It looks to be a colder than average week.

I am hearing Advent music! It warms my heart to hear it and it's been a long wait. 

I'm thankful for time with extended family during the Thanksgiving holiday. It's hard to find time for that currently in this season of life. 

It has been slow going around the house. I was able to deep clean Caleb's closet last weekend. He has been doing a good job of keeping it clean (minus the dusting) but I needed to move furniture to dust behind and sweep under. I also need to locate his scout book that went missing . . . . found it! I need to make my list of cleaning projects to do during Advent.

This week we are back to school. Otherwise it's a very light week and I hope to get some extra projects done.

I'm working to complete our Advent plan and hopefully everything will run smoothly during this time of waiting and preparing anticipation. My list includes a reading list, family prayer time, family Advent activities, preparing the home for Christmas, preparing our hearts for Christmas, shopping for Christmas, and how to keep the season low-key (or a plan to keep celebrations to a minimum until Christmas).

In the school room we are in the last three weeks before Christmas break. We will probably take all of the Christmas season off. I'm still fine tuning the school plan for term 2 while we are living it. I have some post coming up that are all school related.

I am struggling with working in a timely fashion. It seems like it takes me at least twice as long to get things done than it should. Is it age? It seems like my mind is a cluttered mess and it takes a long time to settle into a task and then stay focused until completion. It's a daily struggle!

I'm pondering the homily at church this morning. (We didn't have our normal priest today.) Father Greg kept using the word anticipation to describe how to prepare for Christmas during Advent. I really enjoyed all he had to said. Nothing new but it was refreshing and a great message for the first Sunday of Advent. It definetly gave me some ideas for Advent plans. 

I am reading A Child in Winter (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander) by Thomas Hoffman for daily devotions. Today's reading had a quote from The Reed of God (p38), "In the season of our Advent-waking, working, eating, sleeping, being-each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world." I like that thought.
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