Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning Update

Just an update and where we are with our learning and what we've been up to! We've done very well weaving in the learning among our other activities, and our time has been so pleasant and no feeling of pressure. I'm really enjoying just learning year-round. Here's the latest:

DAVENING (prayer):
We haven't really added any new tefillahs yet, and probably won't until late August. We've been mostly focused on the birchas hashachar (morning blessings), learning the translation and meaning of each one. We've been using Rav Schwab's book on tefillah to add depth to our understanding of the purpose of each blessing. It's been very interesting! Artscroll's chinuch siddur has been really nice for davening. The tefillahs are laid out very clearly with line numbers so students can find their place quickly. The print is a nice size and very legible. We've been very happy with it. So happy that I've ordered a few more! :)

We've just been continuing to read stories about each parsha (torah portion of the week). Pretty soon we're going to start a very slow meandering through the first two perukim (chapters) of Bereishis (Genesis) in preparation for beginning to actually read from the torah in January-ish, BE"H.

KESIVAH (Hebrew writing)
Amirah is very enthusiastically scooting along with this. The free workbook we got from chinuch.org has been really good.

L'SHON HATORAH (biblical Hebrew)
This book was also a great find. It slowly builds up a student's knowledge of prepositions and vocabulary, beginning with the most common words found in the torah. We've learned the prefixes for/to, the, in, and, from, and with. We are putting those together with nouns like family, man, land, name, house, father, son, earth, mother, woman, daughter, house, tent, and year. In Hebrew the preposition (or multiple prepositions) gets added on to the beginning of the word and is generally just one letter. So Amirah is noticing now that to say "with the daughter" in Hebrew takes only four letters. It's an incredibly compact language. I think its structure makes Hebrew especially interesting. After going through these books (there are 4 workbooks), we should have a great foundation for reading Bereishis (Genesis).

The Modern Curriculum Press workbook A has been pretty easy so far, but I'm sure it will get harder as we go. She's breezed through the first month or so, mostly just filling in missing letters on three-letter words. We did a lot of oral spelling last year, so now we're just adding the writing to it. It only takes us about 5 minutes to finish a page.

First Language Lessons has been wonderful. Amirah loves the poetry memorization so much, that every time a new poem is introduced I pull a second one from another source to memorize. Raizel memorizes them very easily too, and Eli will occasionally surprise all of us by blurting out an entire poem in the middle of eating an apple (or something). He's sly. Amirah has a thorough understanding of common and proper nouns, including the proper and common names of our relatives and where we live. This book suits us very, very well.

This is coming along just fine. We're keeping on task, and complaints about writing have definitely diminished so I think it's becoming more comfortable for her. One surprise - Raizel was writing LOTS of little, tiny letters today and was holding the pencil in a perfect position. Her fine motor skills are highly developed already. I think she would actually love to be doing more pre-writing activities (or writing activities!). She loves tracing her own name.

I like the Writing With Ease book too. It mostly consists of a reading selection, comprehension questions, narration, and sentence writing. The workbook itself isn't really necessary; you could do the same thing based on books you're already reading. But it has saved me some time putting this together. And if we really like a reading selection, we can go ahead and order the whole book from the library! After a year of doing this, I may switch over to using torah selections as the reading excerpts. We'll see...

The Ordinary Parents Guide has been working really well for us. I'm so glad we've settled into using this. I don't know why it wasn't a good match when we first started reading lessons. I'm going to use it with Eli and Raizel when the time comes. We're a little more than one third of the way through the book, which puts us at about a second grade reading level (for what it's worth; not really useful information when you're not really in a "grade"!). Amirah picked up part of a series she's been reading with papa (the Eragon series) and was excited to find out she could actually read a little bit of Brisingr (the third book). She's been doing a lot more spontaneous free reading time this month.

I continue to LOVE Singapore Math. We're mostly working on adding 10 to smaller numbers, speeding up our ability to come up with math facts (i.e. how many ways can we make 7? Then list them as quickly as possible; or just coming up with quick answers to math problems using digits under 10). I've been doing a lot of reading on the wonderfully useful Well-Trained Mind board, and decided to order the Home Instructor Guides which I thought we wouldn't need. Apparently, there are many good suggestions for using manipulatives (which aren't explicitly inlcuded in the workbook) and for mental math exercises. Also, since we're ahead of schedule for math I went ahead and ordered the Intensive Practice workbooks which were also recommended. I'll report back about them soon, BE"H!

I love our history studies in Story of the World. We're currently wandering through ancient India, learning about how rivers were used for commerce, and exploring the many reasons cities were built next to rivers. We read about the mysterious city of Mohenjo Daro, built around 2600 BCE and abandoned around 1900 BCE. In the interest of time, we're not doing a lot of creative projects around our history studies - mostly just reading, narration, mapwork, and historical fiction/non-fiction readaloud books - but for the grammar stage (grades 1-4) that should be good enough. I like how we've gotten to know three different civilizations built along rivers - the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, and now the Indus. It's made for some very interesting comparisons!

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey has been pretty good. Here and there we've had a few experiments that didn't work out, and Dean pointed out some faulty assumptions, but overall it's been pretty good. We have one more activity about fingerprints, then we'll leave the human body and start studying animals. The other half of Amirah's science notebook has pictures and information we put together for any animal she becomes interested in. A couple of weeks ago we learned lots of things about horseshoe crabs, printed off some anatomy drawings, read about it, and did a narration of the most interesting thing she learned (in this case, it was that the horseshoe crab's blood turns blue when it hits oxygen). It's definitely her favorite subject.

We haven't done much art and music this month because of Jewish camp and pony camp. Hopefully we'll do a little more of that soon!

I think that's the gist of what we're up to right now. I can't say enough how much I enjoy this lifestyle and the time we get to spend together. I keep wondering if this will ever just feel routine to me, or if the joy of learning and discovering together will just continue right through high school. It is an absolute delight to me, and I look forward to each day.

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