Friday, October 23, 2009

Our Weeks of Learning

I haven't really done a post focused on just our learning for quite some time. The last real update was probably in July! In July and August, we had a several good weeks of learning, then a couple of weeks off for vacation time with grandma and grandpa here, and for camping in central Oregon. Then we only had a couple more weeks before the Big Flu hit the whole family. And now, once again, we have a good solid two weeks under our belts. :) Schedules continually evolve and adapt, but this is pretty much what we've settled into for now...

8:00-8:30, SNUGGLES
8:30-10:00, breakfast and free play
10:00-11:00, davening, Hebrew songs, and torah stories
11:00-11:15, snack
11:15-12:30, the rest of Amirah's kodesh studies
(chumash/torah, kriyah/reading, kesivah/writing, biblical Hebrew)
12:30-1:00, Eli does alef bet, writing, and reading
1:00-1:45, lunch
1:45-2:30, play outside
2:30-4:30, Amirah's chol (secular) studies
4:30-5:00, dinner prep
5:00-6:00, mama/papa exercise hour!
6:30, dinner

And the rest of the evening just sort of slips away... We try to be all bed-ready by 8:45 so there's plenty of time for readaloud books. Lights out at 9:30, but they can read in their beds until 10:00. Start all over again at 8:00 the next day!

DAVENING (prayer):
This has been going great. We get at least a couple of tefillos each day where everyone is singing full throttle (in a good way! no shout-singing here, thank you very much!). Amirah and Raizel know all the tefillos we're doing really well. Avi chimes in whenever he can, and Eli chimes in whenever prompted, and sometimes on his own initiative! :) Avi also likes to make sure that he is on the right page in his siddur. Amirah can follow along in her siddur most of the time. Eli and Raizel can identify the starting points of many of the tefillos, and they all know how to find Hashem's name.

So this is what we're doing now: modeh ani, reishis chochmah, torah tziva lanu moshe, mah tovu, adon olam, al netilas yadayim, asher yatzar, torah berachos, birchos hashachar, and shema (w/veahavta). This coming month I'll be introducing the other paragraphs of the shema and the first three berachos of the amidah. Moving right along!

We always read the parsha stories from My First Parsha Reader and The Little Midrash Says. Then we read from one of the many Artscroll story collections. We usually read 2–4 of those each day, about chagim, gedolim, etc.

We’re learning an average of two new songs per week, and we frequently review ones we’ve already learned. We learn a wide variety – torah songs, train songs, movement songs, holiday songs, etc. It increases our general vocabulary and we all enjoy this part a lot. Sometimes I even hear Avi singing the songs!

I started a new project with Amirah last week. We are reading the first parsha of Bereishis/Genesis pasuk-by-pasuk (sentence-by-sentence). She picks out whatever word she wants from the pasuk and copies it from the chumash onto a sheet. Then she draws a miniature picture that illustrates that word (about 3” x 3” or so). This helps us learn some of the key vocabulary in the parsha, gives us extra writing practice, and really works towards comprehending the content. It’s been a fun project, and is a precursor to what I hope will be her ability to read the whole parsha in Hebrew at the end of first grade.

KESIVAH (Hebrew writing)
We only have four pages left in the Migdalor kesivah workbook. Amirah has been an ethusiastic kesivah student. She would rather do ten pages of Hebrew writing than one page of English writing (or so she told me this morning!). Her face was covered in equal amounts of pleasure and mournfulness when she realized she would finish the book next week. Even the tricky letters haven’t given her any trouble. After that, there’s a (free!) kesivah review book on that we’ll use to go through all the letters one more time, then after that I think we’ll primarily be doing copywork from the chumash.

L'SHON HATORAH (biblical Hebrew)
We’re about 75% done with Book A. We learned many of the prefixes (prepositional phrases) that attach to the nouns in Hebrew, then we worked on plural forms of nouns, then combined those with prefixes. Now we’re learning that sometimes “ha”/”the” is hidden in another prefix instead of being its own prefix and we’re sharpening our eyes and ears to detect those hidden “thes.” The rest of the book is essentially just review. I think I’ll stretch out our review a little longer than the book does, depending on how quickly she can translate things, and we can also work to memorize more of the nouns that are just glossed over in these most recent exercises (as in, the point is to find the hidden “the,” not necessarily to know what the whole phrase means). This book has been challenging, probably the most challenging of all of our kodesh studies, but Amirah has been knitting her brow together very well and putting her best efforts into it. Finishing this book will really mean something!

We’re a little more than halfway through Spelling Workout's Workbook A. It’s been pretty straightforward. We’re working on things like unscrambling words, defining words, finding rhymes, putting words in alphabetical order, and reviewing spelling/phonics rules.

We’re about halfway through the first year of our grammar book, and lately we've been working hard on defining and identifying nouns, pronouns and verbs. We only have to complete 48 more 15-minute lessons between now and June, so I’m going to throw in some additional poetry memorization work.

We’re also a little more than halfway done with the printing book. We only do one page per day since we do plenty of other writing in other activities. This gives us a chance to exclusively focus on beautiful letter formation, and to observe the exact way to write a particular letter. She definitely does her nicest printing when we’re working in this book.

Amirah LOVES her writing/composition book. It mostly consists of hearing a selection from a piece of literature, answering comprehension questions on the passage, copying sentences from the passage, narrating her favorite part of the passage to me, and copying her own narrations. This helps to fill her head and ears with good writing, and lets her practice writing good sentences from models. By doing this, good grammar and writing style just seeps into the student’s mind. We started this later in the learning year and are about one third of the way through it now. Just did a reading selection from The Trumpet of the Swan, which we read about two years ago.

We’re meandering through the Ordinary Parents Guide and are about halfway through (the end of the book is fourth-grade reading level). She loves going to the library and community center for Read to the Dogs. Her reading is becoming more fluent, and her day is including more time spent on independent reading. She can comprehend stories with highly intricate plots, and I know she’d just rather not hang out in those 1st/2nd grade reading levels because of this. I have a feeling that in a year or so she’ll suddenly explode with reading and really take off. With us for parents, she’s bound to be a bookworm. :)

We whizzed through Singapore Math’s 1A book, and are now doing 2–3 pages per day from the 1A Intensive Review book. I’m really glad we’re doing this. She could definitely have just moved on to level 1B, but I think having this review period is really good. She can work on speeding up her recall of math facts, and just generally become more fluent, and increasing the flexibility of her mathematical thinking. Intensive Review also includes sections that are harder than the main 1A book, so she gets review plus a little extra. By January we’ll go on to the 1B book, I think. I think math is especially important to get a very firm foundation in before piling on the next concepts.

I wish we could spend more time on history, but we have so much on our plate! As it is, this is what we generally do: 1) read the chapter for the week on Monday, 2) re-read the chapter and ask comprehension questions on Wednesday, and 3) do the map activities associated with the chapter in our history workbook on Friday. We also frequently read a book of historical fiction that ties into what we’re reading, or browse non-fiction books from the library. Every once in a while we’ll do one of the suggested creative activities. This week we built a volcano out of plaster-of-paris and a soda can, then we painted it. We just studied the Minoans who lived on the island of Crete in ancient times. They were likely chased off their island by a volcanic explosion on Thera, a neighboring island/volcano. Also, the Guardians of Ga’hoole series has some volcanoes as an important part of the plot, so the activity neatly related to two different subjects. We’ll set off the volcano on Sunday or Monday. Oh, boy! Topics we have covered recently: Egypt, Egypt, and more Egypt, the Exodus from Egypt, the Phoenicians, Assyria’s destructive rise to power (again), the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar rising above Assyria after Ashurbanipal died, and the Minoans (and the legend of the minotaur). Coming soon: the Greeks! We’re also doing supplemental reading and map-work on contemporaneous Jewish history so we know how the Jews fit in to each part of this. Fascinating!!

Amirah is a true biologist, and comes by it honestly. She could study it all day. Our science curriculum has been pretty good. We had a little trouble locating mature earthworms at earthworm time (young earthworms have parts that are harder to distinguish), and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a snail in our yard, just slugs. But neither was around at snail time. So goes it. Worksheets stood in for the real thing. We’ve studied Cnidaria (jelly fish, coral, anemones), worms, and mollusks (last week). Echinoderms and arthropods are coming up! We do lots of supplemental reading about any creature we study. One odd thing – there are basically no books about snails. A few board books/early readers with very basic information, a few aquarium care books about snails, and a few nature guides that mention them, but that’s pretty much it. I did find one adult book devoted to snails on Amazon, but the library doesn’t have it. I found this so odd. Such an ubiquitous creature should have volumes written about him! Alas. The Handbook of Nature Study always comes through, though, and provides some nice supplemental reading material about each creature that we study.

Lots of fun projects each week. The biggest hits have been posted in previous entries. We do drawing every day, and art materials are always available to them. We do a major project once or twice a week.

This post is very Amirah-centric since she’s doing the most. For dear Eli, suffice it to say that he’s very busy writing as many words as he can. Amirah helps him spell them, or he can sound out three-letter words on his own. Loves to draw trucks (we’re making a collection and cutting out all the trucks he draws, then we’re going to make a freeway and glue them all to it!). He loves to read alef bet which he pretty much knows backwards and forwards now. He’s beginning to do reading lessons in English, and will start reading lessons for Hebrew very soon. We’re doing math informally, but he’s absorbed quite a lot.

Now, time for bed! Good night dear friends and family!

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