Monday, October 14, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Half-Blood Prince, Chapters 13-16

Two weeks ago, my assigned segment of Half-Blood Prince included Chapter 13 ("The Secret Riddle"), Chapter 14 ("Felix Felicis"), Chapter 15 ("The Unbreakable Vow") and Chapter 16 ("A Very Frosty Christmas").

In a lot of ways, Rowling mainly uses this book to set up the final one, and this is definitely clear in the way she finally provides all the details about Tom Riddle's past. The conceit of the Pensieve prevents this from being too much of an info-dump of exposition, and just as I did on my first reading of the book, I soaked up all the details and immediately began fitting them into the narrative of Voldemort's actions. 

The other major character Rowling continues to focus on is Snape. His discussion with Draco in the hallway, to which Harry listens from under the invisibility cloak, does a great job of casting suspicion on both characters and continuing to make the reader uneasy about Dumbledore's implicit trust of Snape.

On the lighter side, in these chapters dating drama is beginning to unfold. Ron and Hermione are constantly arguing and bantering (Ron's lines are especially funny - he's such a great character.) Hermione and Ron also start spending time with Cormac Maclaggen and Lavender Brown, respectively, clearly trying to make each other jealous and acting somewhat out-of-character in the process. Harry also finds himself feeling jealous of Ginny's relationship with Dean, in what is a very believable realization of the change in the way he sees her. The Weasleys also have strong opinions about Bill's relationship with Fleur Delacour - I did not at all remember that they all disliked her so much!

Finally, these chapters end on a great note for Harry, as he stands up to the new minister of magic and refuses to be exploited. With current news stories floating around about kids being used to promote agendas they may not fully understand, it was nice to see this savvy kid refusing to be made into a talking head for anyone's opinions but his own. Moments like that remind me why I do like Harry.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Homeschool Progress Report: September 2019

First Grade


Our first official year of homeschooling started in the first week of September. I have one official student this year: M., who will turn 6 in November. She is technically in kindergarten, but she did a lot of kindergarten-level work as a preschooler, so we are calling this year first grade, and some of her work is at a higher level even than that. Here's what we covered in each of our subjects during September.

Math

For Math, we are using the Singapore curriculum. We started this year with Primary Mathematics 2B. (She completed 1A and 1B as well as 2A over the past two years. We took about a year to finish 2A.) So far, M's focus has been on reviewing place value and learning strategies for solving addition and subtraction problems mentally. Additionally, she drills math facts using XtraMath once a day, and occasionally my husband has her work on Khan Academy. We also read one chapter from Life of Fred each week on "Fred Fridays." In September, we finished Life of Fred: Cats and started Life of Fred: Dogs.


History

We've begun our first cycle through world history with a quick review of prehistory (which was our focus last year) followed by a three-week exploration of Ancient Egypt. We are using A Child's History of the World and A Little History of the World as our spines and supplementing with lots of other books including The Golden Book of Lost Worlds, Mummies Made in Egypt, The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, The Great Pyramid, and Pepi and the Secret Names. M. has done narrations about Menes (also known as Narmer, the first king of Egypt), mummies, and pyramids, and she also decoded a message in hieroglyphics and wrote her own message in hieroglyphics for her father to decode.


Science

I decided to start the year by studying the human body. Our main text is the Deluxe Golden Book, The Human Body: What it is and How it Works, and we're also using materials from KidsHealth's "How the Body Works" curriculum, which includes free articles, videos, and printable worksheets. In September, we covered skin and the skeletal system. M. drew a diagram of the skin and labeled diagrams of both the skin and the skeleton. (Our main science curriculum is Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding, but as it provides only a framework and not specific lesson plans, I'm pretty loose about dipping in and out of it.)


Health

Our health topic for this month was germs and hygiene. I provided M. with some worksheets explaining how germs can make us sick and demonstrating proper hand washing. One of our handouts came from KidsHealth's K-2 unit on Hygiene (found on this page) and we had a couple of others from Purell's Clean Gene lesson plans: this finger puppet activity and this "Germ Search" worksheet. We also practiced washing hands well and connected our study of germs with our study of the skin. 


Reading 

M. read or listened to just about 70 books in September. She reads a lot of her own free-choice books at all levels throughout the day, but we also "assign" her certain books that are at or just above her reading level so that she will continue to be challenged. Her assignments in September were:
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting 
  • The Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish
  • Sokar and the Crocodile by Alice Woodbury Howard 
On her own, in addition to tons of picture books, she also read four books from the Stella Batts series by Courtney Sheinmel, which she has been reading in paperback and via Hoopla, depending on how I can find them. 

We also started learning about figurative language using a book called It Figures! by Marvin Terban and Giulio Maestro. We've only talked about similes so far, and I've been asking her to find them in the books she reads.


Memory Work

For over a month, M. has been working on learning and choreographing a recitation of "The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee." I expect her to be ready to move on to a new poem by the end of October. My husband has also been working with her on memorizing the seven continents,  the countries of Europe, the oceans, and some U.S. rivers. We typically drill these when we're in the car. 


Music

M. practices recorder and piano (15 minutes each) every morning before breakfast. In the afternoon, she practices identifying musical notes using MusicTheory.net. We have also been listening to episodes of Classics for Kids on most weekday mornings, and we do some liturgical singing with the help of the music curriculum at Traditional Catholic Living. We're doing Year 1 this year, so the hymn for September was Concordi Laetitia. We also frequently sing the hymns from the morning and evening prayers on Aleteia.org.


Art

Since the summer, we have been working our way through The Story of Paintings: A History of Art for Children, and have almost finished the book. We have also done a lot of drawing in both history and science, and M. likes to free draw a lot on her own.


Physical Education

In September, our main focus for P.E. was learning to ride a two-wheeler, which M. mastered after just a few sessions of practice. Additionally, she does these children's exercise videos from The Ten Thousand Method on YouTube a couple of times a week, in addition to running laps on the deck (by choice), attempting to learn to jump rope, and practicing hanging and climbing on the brand-new playground equipment installed at the tot lot near our house.


Catechism

I recorded myself reading the questions and answers from the first 10 lessons of the St. Joseph Catechism months ago, and M. listens to them most days. She has mostly mastered lessons 1-7, so now we're focusing our attention on 8-10. We have also made a point of acknowledging saints' feast days that occurred in September: St. Peter Claver, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, St. Michael, and St. Jerome. We also encourage M. to follow along at Sunday Mass as much as possible. Even at the Latin Mass, I try to whisper to her about what's going on so she can follow along.


Pre-K 


Though she technically won't be old enough for kindergarten in Maryland for 2 more years (she misses the cut-off by a month), C, who just turned 4 at the end of the month, is doing Pre-K this year, with the thought that she might start kindergarten-level work next year. She does some schoolwork most days, usually for about 30-40 minutes tops. Here's what she worked on in September.

Counting

We started out with some simple math activities in My Favorite Sticker Book: Numbers, which came from The Dollar Tree, and which C. completed in just over two weeks. These activities introduced counting up to 100, doing simple addition with illustrations, and identifying numerals. Our main focus this month was on helping her not to skip 15 when she counts to 20. Now she can mostly count to 30 on her own without missing any numbers. Occasionally, she also plays Birthday Candle Counting at ABCYa.com, and she likes to play dominoes with me.  My husband is also beginning to work with her with Cuisenaire rods, making trains and beginning to associate each rod with its appropriate number.

Reading

We started going through The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading several months ago and C. has mastered most of the letter sounds and has begun sounding out consonant-vowel-consonant words. She has also learned to read the word "the," which the Guide introduces as a sight word to make it possible to read some actual simple books. In September, she mastered reading a Hooked on Phonics reader called Rag, and also did some practice in another simple book called Al. She also listens to the family read-alouds we have after lunch and dinner (which will be listed in my upcoming Read-at-Home Kids Report for September) and she likes to listen to audiobooks during her morning playtime or during afternoon quiet time. For help with identifying lowercase letters, I also like to have her play Alphabet Bingo on ABCYa.com. We also occasionally do letter sound activities on the Khan Academy Kids app.

Science & Health 

For science at this age, we typically focus on nature, so C. mostly has read-alouds about animals. In September, she heard The Mother Whale from the Let's Read and Find About Science series and Here Come the Bears by Alice Goudey. She also likes to watch episodes of Wild Kratts and Zoboomafoo, and she has joined us for some of M.'s videos about the human body. She also participated in our health lessons about germs. We haven't had a change in the weather yet, but I also plan to talk with her about the changing leaves and other signs of fall when they eventually become obvious.

Music 

C. joins M. in listening to Classics for Kids and in our liturgical singing. Additionally, she will often listen to music while M. is doing school. In September, she mostly listened to Raffi, Ella Jenkins, Sousa marches, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the CDs that came with the books Sing Through the Day and Goodnight Songs. 

Memory Work

C. learned the poem "Blum" by Dorothy Aldis, and this was her best recitation to date.

Art 

C. loves to draw and color, and she makes daily use of crayons and oil pastels, coloring books and plain paper, as well as washable markers.