Homeschooling 4th Grade Curriculum

To celebrate the autumn equinox, we visited Dauset Trails and enjoyed exploring their trails and a small zoo.
To celebrate the autumn equinox, we visited Dauset Trails Nature Center and enjoyed exploring their trails and a small zoo.

This is the third post I’ve written about homeschooling the fourth grade. I wrote about our schedule and how I will decide what to work on each day in my last post.

Our Curriculum

Language Arts

My main priority is reading good literature to my boys. I think reading is the best way to learn how to write, and you can learn about almost everything through books. So I make a point to read to my sons, although we aren’t one of those families who spend all morning on the sofa reading. I usually read 1~2 chapters of a book I’ve picked in the morning, and in the evenings we read something they have picked. I also encourage my son to read books silently to himself, which he does sometimes. He likes to read comics.

I don’t follow a curriculum that tells me what books I should read to my son, at least yet. I guess one good thing about having a Bachelor’s degree in English is that I know how to pick good books. I don’t like being confined to someone else’s idea of what books young kids should read, or more particularly, in what order. Instead, I pick what I think will engage my son or what I want him to experience. I also want to read it for the simple pleasure of reading it — not because I’m teaching grammar or making him learn what “alliteration” means. There is a time for that, but I don’t think it needs to come early in a child’s education unless the child wants it. I’m currently researching several language arts programs for a review I’ll be writing in home/school/life magazine. I’ll write more about that later. But I will always want to make reading for pleasure one of my top priorities.

I wrote in my first post how my son doesn’t like to write, so I’ve been going slow with him on this. I’m going to try a few different things this year to get him writing. The first thing is letting him work through a free keyboarding program so that he’ll have more options when it comes to writing. I’m also dusting off an old Star Wars writing workbook, which is full of creative writing prompts. This was his choice out of several writing resources I have, and I’m adapting it to his needs. It’s going surprisingly well. He’s suddenly writing and spelling like he’s been doing it for years! I’m very happy I went slow with writing.

Dauset Trails, Jackson, GA
Dauset Trails Nature Center, Jackson, GA

Math

We are continuing math with the Life of Fred books because my son loves them. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll know we started from the beginning, and now we’re moving into Honey.  I hope to complete Ice Cream and Jelly Beans this year too. After that, I’ll assess if we need more math.

Science

This summer we began our very first science curriculum! If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that my son has loved science since he was little. This house is all about science, and frankly, I have discovered a new love for the subject, which I’ll write about another time. Sadly, since we began this science curriculum, my son has told me he doesn’t like science anymore. Should I laugh or cry? That’s a great testimony for self-directed learning, but for the last year, he’s gotten very serious about playing the piano, so I’m not surprised he has less interest in science. I don’t think his love of science is entirely gone. He still loves the science documentaries we watch, and many questions he asks are science-related. And, when we read our science curriculum assignment, I think he likes it a little. It’s really cool to see how much he already knows, and how many of the experiments we’ve already done. But it’s more work. It’s more details than he’s used to having to learn, and there’s a lot he doesn’t know. To be honest, I think this is good for him.

We are using Biology for the Logic Stage by Elemental Science. This is a middle school program, but I picked it because he already has a strong background in science, and I thought the lower level would be too easy. In order to make Biology for the Logic Stage appropriate for him, I’m not requiring him to fill out any of the reports. I do make him label the sketches, and I’m considering that a win. We also do the experiments or activities, read the assignments, watch videos, and work on memorizing some terms.  I will write a more detailed review of this curriculum after we are finished with it, but so far, I like it.

Those are my priorities this year. Although I hope to incorporate art and a foreign language this year, and I have a few other things I throw in (see my last post for the details), I’m not stressing about these things because I want to stick to what is most important and the most doable while my son does his real work, i.e. that thing he’s most interested in right now: the piano.

We take the 10-year-old to many free faculty and student recitals and concerts at the nearby university. This was our view the other night.

As I mentioned before, my son is practicing piano two hours a day. We barely have to remind him anymore to practice. He seems to have hit a stride and a serious mindset about learning how to play classical music on the piano. He has developed his own taste and ear for music and sound. He notices how much more complicated classical music is to, say, pop music. He did not like the sound of the upright pianos in the practice rooms at the music store in Chicago. I think it is really cool to see my son develop into a musician and take this work seriously.

This work takes a lot of time and energy, and we also spend time working through a piano theory book and reading about the lives of famous composers. So I consider it my job to round out his music education with the fundamentals as well as preserve time for playing and getting creative in other ways. Fortunately, homeschooling gives us time to do all of that. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that we’re homeschooling?

We were playing in the front yard the other day, and the 10-year-old decided to make this bug out of things he found in the yard.🙂

In the not too distant future, I’ll write about what my younger son’s 1st grade looks like this year.

Homeschooling 4th Grade: Our Schedule and “My Master List”

desktop-1
My desktop. I keep my daily attendance charts and my master list right in front of me so that I don’t forget to use them.

As I wrote in my last post, it’s hard to believe we are beginning to homeschool fourth grade. I’m slowly making my way to the harder stuff, but as I sit down to think about the priorities I have for my boys, I’m sticking mostly to the basics with a few exceptions. The great thing about homeschooling is that I can tailor my curriculum to their needs, so this post reflects not only what I need to teach my 10-year-old but what I feel he needs the most. It also reflects what he’s most interested in doing right now too.

Our Schedule

If you want to see a well drawn out schedule (and chart), then you’ll need to refer to my post about his 1st grade schedule and curriculum. That worked well that year. Now there’s more to teach, and our days are more full because my son practices piano 2 hours a day (1 hour after lunch and 1 hour after dinner), and he has one or two piano lessons per week (depending on his needs and our money situation), and my other son has two appointments per week plus a class at the botanical garden he will be attending once a month. We have appointments Monday-Thursday, but luckily most of them are not long, so I still have most of the morning to teach. However, it’s still a lot, and this makes me wonder how other homeschooling families get any lessons done when I hear about all their extracurricular activities!

I sat down at my computer and I made a rough sketch of our week, plugging in appointments, and then I tried to add the lessons according to what I felt I could accomplish on each day. We do all our lessons before lunch so that after lunch we’re free to pursue other things, and now that I’ve been homeschooling a while, I have a pretty good idea how long it’ll take to get through a lesson. In general, it always takes longer than I think it will. I began to realize that there’s not enough time to do everything in a week. Is this something new? No, no it’s not. Sigh.

Not having enough time is the way of Life. But I still need to teach the basics, so as I stared at my list of priorities and those extra things I’d like to teach, I decided that instead of having a daily schedule, I’m going to rotate the lessons or either use my own judgement as to what is important to work on that day. (See below for more detail.) This means it may take me a week and a half or more to get through all the lessons I want to teach. It’s an experiment. I’m going to try it, and I’ll let you know how it goes. 

My List

Before I share our curriculum, I’ll share the “Master List” I keep in front of me at my computer. I wrote a list like this in the summer, and it worked well as a simple reminder of what we are working on and what I’d like to work on when we get some free time or need a change. I refer to it each morning when I decide what we’ll tackle that day.

There is always something that jumps out at me on that list, and it will say, “You haven’t worked on this in awhile.” That’s pretty much how I decide what to work on. As I mentioned above, it’s basically a rotation of sorts. But sometimes it might say, “You really need to keep working on this.” If so, we’ll do that. I will also jot down ideas that the boys want to do, and I’ll also rotate in time spent outdoors, baking together, or anything else that seems important.

First, I wrote my priorities.

Priorities for the 10-year-old

piano & piano theory & music history
math
science
writing/spelling/keyboarding

Work on everyday or rotate, if possible

read aloud
times tables

Extras

News-O-Matic & election news
Amazon prime shows
citizen science projects
art
foreign language

I will probably take turns starting the day with a read aloud or the times tables. Then, I will rotate working on our math curriculum, science curriculum, and my son’s effort to write, spell and learn keyboarding. He will practice piano everyday because this is his thing (a.k.a. he wants to!), but I also have to make time during our lessons for him to fill out his piano theory book. I’ll try to do that once a week. He also loves to read about the lives of the great composers, so we’ll throw that in frequently.

The “extras” are just that – extras. I will throw them in when we need a change. My son enjoys looking at News-O-Matic, and the Amazon prime shows are short (15 minute) educational shows that I have them watch when I’m not quite ready in the morning, and I need 15 more minutes to throw in some laundry or what-have-you. The citizen science is a big, personal project of mine, and I try to include the boys in it as much as I can. It’s usually a good excuse to get out into nature.

After I feel like we’ve got a good hold on our schedule and curriculum, I will probably begin “Art Fridays” again or something similar to it. It’s always been my intention to teach a foreign language, but that’s been tremendously hard to do since I don’t speak another language. I’m going to be spending some time researching curriculums and coming up with a plan for this, but it remains low on my priority list this year. Still, we might throw in an episode of Salsa now and then.

I think this post is long enough, so I’ll write about the curriculum resources we’re using in my next post….

 

How did we get to the 4th grade? And my new definition of child-led learning.

I can’t believe I’m here: homeschooling fourth grade. Although I’ve always planned to homeschool for the long-term, I’m not sure that when I started this blog I thought I would see the words “fourth grade” on it. At that point, anything beyond 1st grade seemed so far in the future. For that matter, “age 10” seemed light years away, but here we are. It comes fast.

It’s not just fun science experiments and readalouds anymore, although we still do those things too. But I’m at a point where our homeschool looks much less child-led even though in so many ways, it is. (I think this post will explain how, but in a big general sense, our whole lives are centered around our boys’ interests and unique abilities.) I also want to make sure my kids get a solid education, and I’ve decided that unschooling is not for us (I never thought it was). It’s all very hard to balance.

There are only so many hours in the week, so only part of our time is spent doing exactly what my boys want to do, but I do try to make sure they know we can stop and focus on a project, if they have an idea they want to pursue. Their biggest interests, however, have weaved themselves into our daily lives, so I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough to make room for new stuff, but I think if there’s something they really want to do, it’ll happen.

The other part of our homeschool life is like “I see you’re interested in this, so I’m going to make sure you have a solid foundation in these things that will help you with that,” and then sometimes our homeschool looks like “I feel this is an important thing for you to learn. How can I teach it so that you will enjoy it? Or at least do it without crying?”

I have been getting some e-mails from moms thinking about homeschooling or just beginning to homeschool. (Thank you! I love hearing from you.) One thing I’ve tried to impart is that when you homeschool, you can spread out the learning over years. That is, unless you are planning to put your child into a more traditional school setting in the near future, there is no timeline for when you need to teach X, Y and Z: those specific subjects and details you might see listed in a “What Your 2nd Grader Needs to Know” book.

I’m not saying to not teach anything. (Or, if you’re unschooling, to not follow your child’s interests and help facilitate the learning.) What I’m saying is that you can focus on the things that comes easier to your child, and you can wait on the things that might torture him. This is because as your child gets older, he will 1) be more mature and easier to reason with, 2) may be more ready to learn the material without difficulty, and 3) may be able to tell you why the material is so difficult and perhaps help find a new way of approaching it. This is, in my opinion, part of the reason why schools fail. They do not (and cannot) tailor education to the needs of the individual child, and I do believe every child (in an ideal world) should have an individualized education.

I have followed this approach for the most part because in the beginning I made the mistake of trying to teach reading too early, and then there have been things I’d really love to incorporate into our homeschooling day, but as I enthusiastically began my lesson the boys began to look as lively as the dried up, wilted tomato plants in my garden right now, and I realized that they would learn nothing, if I proceeded. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. There is no point in teaching something when a child has absolute no interest in it. A child at the very least needs to understand the reason why it’s a good idea to learn it. Otherwise, I don’t think they will retain much of the information, so I’ve concluded that it’s a waste of my time and theirs to try to teach it.

Now that my son is ten-years-old, I’m going to dust off some of those “I’d really love for you to learn this” subjects, and we’re going to start anew. The challenge I have with him is writing. He can write, but he doesn’t like it, and he thinks he can’t spell, so I’m going to be experimenting with a number of ideas I have to get him more comfortable with writing and spelling this year. I will tell you some of those ideas in an upcoming post, but I’m also going to be willing to ditch any of them, if they just don’t work. And I don’t mean I’m going to let him not work. There is a difference in my opinion between how a child acts when he’s just being stubborn and when the task is seriously going to wreck his self-esteem. I’m going to have to figure out what will work for him even if he doesn’t love it, but I’m not going to torture him either. I would love for him to love writing, but if he doesn’t love it, I want him to at least feel confident that he can do it. We will move forward slow but steady.

I spent a couple of days after we returned from Chicago to think about my priorities for this year, and how we’ll spend our time to get the work done. It’s a constant work in progress to find the right balance in our days. But I’ll tell you what I’ve come up with in my next post…that is, the compass I’ll use to get me started. We may change course throughout the year, but it’s always good to have a compass in case we get totally lost.🙂

Are you starting a new challenge this year? Please tell me about it.

A Visit to Chicago

taken from a window in the Field Museum
taken from a window in the Field Museum

I’m learning that, no matter how much you love home, you need to get away sometimes too. We spent the first two weeks of September in Chicago visiting relatives. Despite being sick for half the trip, and my poor husband was sick pretty much the whole time (and working too!), it was still nice to get away. We didn’t do everything we set out to do, but we still did a lot thanks to some reciprocal membership programs that we’re part of.

The Field Museum. “Sue” is the largest and best preserved T-Rex specimen ever found. This time we visited her with the knowledge of how she was found and the controversy surrounding her after watching the documentary Dinosaur 13. Fascinating stuff.

We went to the Field Museum, which we’ve been to several times now. It’s my favorite place in Chicago, I think, and I never get tired of it.

Museum of Science and Industry. This museum is also home to the U-505 Submarine, a German sub that was captured on June 4, 1944. It also has a great exhibit on the weather with a large, simulated tornado, and my personal fav exhibit is on the human body.

We also went to the Museum of Science and Industry. That was our second time there. It’s a great museum, if you haven’t seen it, and especially if you like airplanes.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden. Ahhhhh….

My other favorite place is the Chicago Botanic Garden. I wish I could spend a whole day there by myself, but I love going with my family too.

My boys spent some time with their Polish relatives, which is an education in itself! I sometimes feel like I’m going to a foreign country when we visit family in Chicago. I love the flowers in my in-laws yard and all the home-cooked Polish food.

It was an odd time of year for us to go away, but that’s the nice thing about homeschooling. You can be flexible and go when you want to go.

Since we went away, I had to put off our homeschooling plans for a while longer, and now that we’re back, the boys caught yet another illness (when will it end?!), but I’m slowly inching myself toward normality again. Very soon I will write about my plans for this year.

I have also written more extensively about the places we’ve visited before in Chicago in past blog posts. You can access those by clicking on the Chicago tag.

I hope you are doing well. Have you started a new homeschooling year, or are you continuing forward with your everyday life?

Right Along Here

When I was young and traveling somewhere by car with my dad — and I think my Aunt Carolyn said this once too — I would ask, “Where are we?” and he would answer, “Right along here.”

When I thought about writing something today this seemed like the perfect title for this post because quite frankly, I don’t have any focus for this blog post. We have finished up our homeschool year, and we’ll be getting to the new one in due time. We just had birthday week, but we all got sick, so it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting (and that’s okay), but it has driven me off the course I was expecting to go. I am not ready for anything. I have nothing checked off my to do list. And now I need to get ready for an upcoming adventure that I will tell you about another day, but none of that has anything to do with planning lessons, keeping house or getting work done. But that’s okay.

We’re right along here.

When I think about our daily life as homeschoolers, I realize that Life can interrupt us quite a bit. We get sick once or twice a year, or if we’re unlucky, more times than that. Some major house repair or a cleaning spree suddenly needs to happen. I realize we need to go shopping for clothes because everything is getting too small!  (Did I mention I have a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old now?! Wow. Just wow.) Or, I get tired, and I need to take a few days off. I need to watch Poldark on Amazon Prime. Life can toss you a wrench in many ways.

In short, Life is our routine with a series of bumps and interruptions that we navigate around and climb over constantly. And while sometimes that can be a little frustrating, it’s also good. It’s Life. Those bumps and interruptions make it more interesting, and we must embrace them.

We’re right along here.

So despite being sick, the boys had pretty good birthdays. My seven-year-old decided to first come down with the virus on his birthday and then give his brother and me the gift of illness. But he wasn’t that sick yet on his birthday, so he enjoyed a day of visitors and spending his birthday money, homemade cake and going out to dinner, etc.

My 10-year-old, however, was just about as sick as he could be on the morning of his birthday, so I did hear him said, “This is the worst birthday ever,” which I had to agree with, but by the evening, things improved. Now we are all recuperating and slowly getting back to normal.

Luckily I wasn’t as sick as I was in June. (Yes, this was my second summer cold. Hmfp.) You know, there are illnesses that make you go flat on your back, and then there are illnesses where you can walk around and do simple things, but please no thinking involved. This is how I felt. So on the first day when I just had a bad sore throat, I was able to at least walk around the yard, and I visited the praying mantis that lives on my son’s carnivorous plants (he’s a smart praying mantis, I think), and I found those beautiful little mushrooms, and I sketched a Carolina Chickadee. I haven’t been very good about sketching every week, but I do try to get the sketchbook out now and then. These down days are perfect for that.

Before we ever got sick and before the birthday week, I happily helped my son begin a new building project. He hasn’t wanted to build anything in a long time, and I think that’s because he’s so focused on piano. But I’m glad to see that when he has time, that urge creeps back up. Unfortunately, he never went back to finish this project, and I doubt he will. But, still, yay for the creative morning.

As I mentioned before, this summer didn’t quite feel like a summer. It was so hot that we didn’t get to venture into nature as much as I would have liked. But we did make it one day to Zoo Atlanta when we were pining to get out of the house. It was deadly hot, but the zoo has a lot of shade, and we were delighted to see that the flamingoes had babies!

It’s time for me to think about some posts describing plans for our 4th grade year and 1st grade year, and I’m sure somewhere on my to do list I have plans for other posts, but like I said…

We’re right along here.

Where are you?

What the Summer is Boiling Down to

Photo taken from Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. You can see all the way to the Smoky Mountains.

I am sitting here wondering where the summer is going. It’s already late July, and here in my county, children will start back to school on August 1st. Luckily, we’re homeschoolers, so I can start our new “school year” any time I want. On the official paperwork, I pick September 1st. But in reality it’ll be sometime in the beginning half of September.

Both my boys were born in late August, exactly one week apart. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s turned out to be convenient. It’s at the end of our school year, so we take time off, and when the celebrations are over, it’s time to start a new year. There is a catch, however. Since the local schools start school August 1st, some of our outside appointments begin again in August. So we will be getting busier just as I’m planning birthdays, winding down one year and thinking about a new one. Oi.

This summer has not turned out to be exactly as I imagined it would, but that’s not all bad. I always think of summertime as a time to be outdoors, but we’ve been having the hottest summer that I ever remember living through in Georgia. (I’ve lived here for twenty years.) Starting in early June, temperatures soared to the high 90s and it’s stayed there. Most afternoons it’s between 95-99 degrees F. That’s way too hot for the boys to play outside. So we’ve been inside almost everyday, all day long.

Except for one day last week. We drove up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. It was very cool on top of the mountain! Hopefully we’ll take some other day trips soon too.

It’s a very steep .6 mile climb from the parking lot to the top of Brasstown Bald.

I have tried getting the boys outside to play early in the morning, but 1) they like to sleep late, and 2) if they have to do lessons, they want to get them over with in the morning. Sometimes I just skip lessons and make them go outside, but would you believe it, my six-year-old is going through a phase where he really doesn’t want to be outside. So he’ll pout on the porch for a long time and then finally start playing just as it’s time to come back inside.:/

Despite being inside most days, I am actually enjoying the summer. (At least, after I finished the terrible cold I had in June and the heart-breaking task of euthanizing my cat.) I get up early in the mornings before the boys, and I either take a walk (nice and cool then!) or I do some yoga and write.

I water the garden by myself on most mornings and evenings. There was a time my boys fought over who got to water the garden, and it makes me sad they aren’t interested anymore, but it’s also quite peaceful standing outside watering all by myself. We’ve been having some good rain this year too, which has made growing flowers and vegetables much easier.

I feel good when I can keep my early morning schedule up. I am finally digging my heels into a medium-long writing project, but I will tell you about that another time.

I’m also enjoying the light lessons. We either do some science or practice multiplication tables, or the boys work in their apps. I have some workbooks I do some days with the six-year-old, but I’ve been lenient on this. It’s nice to not worry about accomplishing anything and just move along through our lessons like a meandering river.

I’m reading Old Yeller to my nine-year-old, and the six-year-old sometimes listens too. We also read about the great composers, and this week, my boys have been wanting to paint and draw again! I had noticed their enthusiasm for my “Art Fridays” was waning (to say the least), but one episode of Bob Ross on Netflix and I have little artists again! **Yay! Thanks, Bob Ross!**

One day this week we all drew/painted while listening to classical music. Another day, I read Old Yeller while the boys drew. I would love for every homeschool day to be just like that!

The nine-year-old is pushing ahead in his piano lessons as well. He is doing solid intermediate work now, so our days are filled with music. I can’t express how good it feels to walk around doing chores as I listen to my own son play so beautifully on the piano! His dedication awes me.

This summer we had the opportunity to try a new piano teacher because our current teacher received a scholarship to study in Europe for a few weeks. (Yay, him!) The summer teacher came highly recommended, and her experience and expertise were impressive. She was very impressed with the nine-year-old, saying it was remarkable how far he’s come in such a short time. We liked her so much that we seriously considered switching to her permanently. But ultimately, the nine-year-old said he wanted to stick with our current teacher. We are not sure whether this is the right decision, but we felt it was important to honor his request, especially when we haven’t been with the current teacher that long. After all, piano is his thing. We want him to own it.

So summer is boiling down to art and music and literature. How can I complain about that?

We’ve also had a couple of great play dates with friends, and the six-year-old and I are playing Uno and Yahtzee together a lot when my nine-year-old practices piano. We also baked chocolate chip cookies one day, and I’m still trying my hand at baking bread from scratch. (More about that soon.)

As I move into fall, I hope I can somehow retain this feeling of easy days. I know our appointments will build up, and I’ll get harried and worried about making progress, so when that happens, please, Someone, whisper in my ear, “Be a meandering river. You are a meandering river.”

May your homeschool days be like a meandering river too.

 

Homeschooling 3rd Grade Language Arts

Some of this comes from my larger post about our 3rd grade schedule and curriculum, but it goes more in depth on how we did language arts this year. I’m going to try to do at least one post each year on math and language arts because I know focusing on one subject can be helpful to some people, and it helps me think about how I want to move ahead in these areas.

***

My eldest son began to read well when he was eight-years-old. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we are homeschooling. If he were in school, he would have been pressured to read much earlier, and to be honest, I was trying to teach him to read since he was five. He knew the alphabet and all the sounds before he turned two-years-old, so I thought learning to read would be easy for him. I was wrong.

I probably pushed him to read too early, but I didn’t put nearly as much pressure on him as traditional school would have. As I made my way through trying (and failing) to teach him to read and then discovering that voila! he just knew how to read one day, I learned that this is typical of many boys. Of course, it’s not typical of all boys, and it can happen to girls too, but in general, boys can be slower to learn to read. It has to do with how their brains develop.

So I was glad that even though I made a few mistakes, I didn’t make reading torture for him or make him hate reading. By homeschooling, I was able to make our reading lessons short and less stressful, and I spent more time reading to him. I believe if a child is read to often and in a loving way, then he’ll eventually see the beauty of books.

Even though my son is reading on his own now, my goal this year was to read a lot of literature to him. And I did. And I’m happy about this. Briefly, here is some of what we’ve read:

  • At the beginning of the year, we finished The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, which was a big book and took up most of last year!
  • My Father’s Dragon
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Story of Dr. Doolittle
  • On the Shores of Silver Lake (part of the Little House books)
  • The Long Winter (part of the Little House books)
  • several books about the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Only the Names Remain (regarding the Cherokee Indians and Trail of Tears)
  • Alice in Wonderland (We read most of this but didn’t finish it, and that’s my fault. I hated it and just couldn’t swallow anymore.)

Right now I’m reading Little Town on the Prairie and Old Yeller to him.

(Note: My younger son listens along to some of these too, although they’re more at my nine-year-old’s level, so he can get bored. He still loves storybooks, so I read a lot of those to him.)

I know homeschoolers whose reading lists are so much longer than ours, but that’s okay. Neither I nor my boys are the kind of people who want to spend long periods of time reading. We’re too restless. (Maybe I’m a boy in an alternate universe? Come to think of it, I hate shopping too! Okay, I digress…) I still love reading, but I read very slowly, and I think that’s okay.

My goal was to bring back our morning read-a-louds this year, and I did that! Yay!  **Patting myself on the back**

My son doesn’t seek out books to read silently to himself on a regular basis (frankly, there’s not much time in our busy day for it), but he does love to read and re-read the three big volumes of Calvin and Hobbes that we own. They sit on the kitchen table with our newspapers, and he reads them throughout the day. Aside from this, he’s been reading the Battle Bugs series, which he seems to enjoy too, but when he reads those, it’s usually because I set time aside during lesson time and not because he felt like reading on his own.

As for other language arts nitty-gritty:

We finished All About Spelling Level 1! Can’t say my son loved it, but I thought it was a great program, and it showed us both that he can spell, if he thinks about it.

For handwriting, we switched from Handwriting Without Tears to a calligraphy set. My son still loathes writing with a utensil, but it became a little more bearable with a calligraphy pen. I let him pick a sentence of his choice to write in calligraphy. Later in the year, he did less calligraphy, and we went back to writing with a good ‘ol pencil.

This summer, I stumbled on a wonderful app that combines both spelling and handwriting. It’s the 3rd grade 24×7 Digital Teach Me app. With this app, he is learning to spell 3rd grade level words, and he writes with his finger. And he doesn’t seem to mind this! In fact, he likes it! ***Jumping for joy!!*** He seems excited that he’s learning to spell words like “beautiful” and “almost.” The app is quite sophisticated and requires him to write the letters correctly in order to get it marked as a right answer. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found this app! (My younger son uses the 1st grade version.)

Finally, I went over some grammar and parts of speech with my son this year with a test prep book and some posters I have because I knew these would be part of the test he had to take. I can’t imagine a worse way to foster a love of writing (unless a child likes it) than teaching kids the parts of speech at this age, and for the life of me, I don’t know why he needs to know this right now. (I am more in line with Patricia Zaballos’ method of teaching writing.) I really hated having to teach it, and I hated having to test him. (But grateful we are homeschooling considering the ridiculous testing they do in schools these days!) Anyway, we got through it, and I’m going to be doing some research on materials to teach this stuff in a more palatable way.

So, please tell me, what are your favorite resources for teaching language arts and parts of speech and all that fun stuff? (That is, fun for us English majors.)