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My mid-year homeschooling review was yesterday, so it seemed like a good time to write up my reflections on the semester. The review itself was fine, and although I was annoyed not to get to meet with the same reviewer I'd met with last year, I was happy with the experience.

This academic year, we have co-ops on Tuesday and Wednesday, which is killing us. The co-ops themselves are great, but having them two mornings a week, back-to-back, is not working out well for the rest of our rhythm. Written schoolwork really only works for us in the morning, so it means we're only doing our regular schoolwork on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Erika is very routine-oriented, so the only day when school really goes well is Friday, since she had Thursday to get herself back into the habit.

It's not that she's not making good academic progress, but that things take her much longer than they should on Mondays and Thursdays. I'm probably going to devote Monday to working on a new approach for getting things done efficiently.

Anyway, as for the actual academic progress:


Erika has been continuing to read longer and more complicated books. Last week, she picked up the first Harry Potter book, and has been reading it with great enthusiasm.

For writing, we've been using Evan-Moor's "Daily 6-Trait Writing," the second-grade version. This is working out pretty well for us, and she always looks forward to writing. At the beginning of the year, we were doing copywork and dictation regularly, but those things have taken a back burner as we've been struggling with our rhythm.

Erika has also been learning to type, and is doing very well with it. She has learned to type all of the letters, as well as some punctuation marks.


Erika has learned how to add and subtract two-digit numbers, and is starting to work on three-digit numbers. She's also gotten quite good with time and money.

We've been mainly using the Math Mammoth blue series books, though I do also provide her with a daily problem from MEP.

She's also been using xtramath.org for arithmetic drills.


We did a lot of work on migration earlier in the fall, including watching the National Geographic "Great Migrations" series, reading some related books, and going to a Monarch butterfly day at a local nature center.

Other than that, we took a pretty loose approach to science last semester. Lots of museum visits, nature center programs, etc. -- but nothing particularly coherent. I'm not bothered by this, as I don't think Erika is getting an inadequate amount of science.

A couple of photos )

Social Studies

We did a lot of ancient history this semester -- I read out loud from Story of the World, Erika read related books herself, we did activities at our co-op, etc. We also went on some field trips, to the National Geographic museum and to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.

This has been the big source of "fun" in our academic day, and both kids have been enjoying it.

Photos of our chicken mummy project )


This is another area where I didn't have a coherent plan for the semester, but a lot got done anyway. Erika did some sculpture, a lot of drawing, experimented with printmaking, did some painting, etc.

Various art things )


Erika continued to study the piano, and took up the recorder. We also sang a lot of German songs in our morning circle time.

She also went to a program on African drumming at the African Art Museum.

PE and Health

Physical Education was a major strength of our program this fall -- Erika took Yoga, Diving, and Karate. She played on a soccer team. She went swimming every week. She went bicycling often. She went to a climbing gym. And so on. She is definitely getting a lot of different kinds of physical activity and learning some great physical skills.

Phys Ed photos )

As always, we addressed health topics as they came up, and I feel sure this is adequate.


Erika is making excellent progress on reading German; at the beginning of the semester, it took her two or three sessions to read books considered to be on a second grade level, while now she can read the same type of book in fifteen or twenty minutes. These are books it takes me about ten minutes to read out loud, so I think her reading speed in German is coming along quite well.

Her teacher at the Saturday school seems pleased with her written work, and she came in first in the class spelling contest today.
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Erika's portfolio review for the semester is on Monday, so I spent the afternoon putting her portfolio together. Boy, did we do a lot of stuff this semester!

In the order it appears in the county documents:


This semester, I introduced Erika to silent reading. Previously, she had done all of her reading out loud. She wound up reading most of her science and social studies books out loud, whereas stories she read silently.

She read 32 books silently this semester, and is currently obsessed with Cam Jansen, having read the entire Young Cam Jansen series already. She's also been reading Magic Tree House books, and a few books that aren't part of a series. Dick King-Smith was a particular favorite author.

She also read 16 books out loud, mainly from the True Books series.

The portfolio also includes samples of Erika's writing, such as letters to her pen pal and stories she wrote.

A page from a story )


I find it odd that Health is the second subject on the county form, but it is.

We mostly covered health by discussion, though Erika did learn about muscles, lungs, and the heart in her co-op, do a couple of science activities related to germs, and visit the dentist.

Our discussions were pretty far-ranging this semester, including illegal drugs, radiation, cigarette smoking, the dangerous E Coli outbreak in Germany, poison ivy, knife safety, growing food, and so on.


Erika's math work this semester included numbers up to 100, bar graphs, money up to $1, basic fractions, basic measurement, and addition and subtraction within 20.

This is the simplest section of the portfolio, as I just provided a workbook page for each month along with a list of the materials we used.


I had no idea we'd done so much science this semester until I sat down to put the portfolio together.

We studied Rocks and Minerals, including field trips to the Natural History Museum's Gems and Minerals exhibit and to Kartchner Caverns in Arizona.

We did some work with robotics and computer programming using Lego WeDo.

We studied the habitats, animals, and plants in the various parts of the world we covered in Social Studies. This happened to include the Galapagos Islands, providing an opportunity to discuss Charles Darwin and evolution.

With other kids, Erika explored a range of topics, inlcuding buoyancy, surface tension, germination, astronomy, and static electricity.

Erika watched the first two seasons of Beakman's World, several episodes of "Walking with Dinosaurs" and "Walking with Monsters," some Magic School Bus episodes, and the last couple of episodes of BBC's "Life" series.

And then there were more field trips, including the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, the Boston Children's Museum, the Harrisburg Science Museum, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, and Kitt Peak.

Some Science Photos )

Social Studies

The main thing we did for Social Studies was continue our study of countries around the world. We finished up Canada, moving on to China, Cameroon, and Brazil this semester.

We also did some introductory work on American history, covering prehistory through the precursors of the Revolutionary War.

We also watched the German children's news program, Logo!, about five times a week. It does a great job of explaining the major news items of the day in a way that kids can understand. Hot topics were the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan; unrest in the Middle East; and a major outbreak of a dangerous E Coli strain in Germany.

We also continued graphing temperatures here at home, in Canberra, and at the South Pole; we now have a nice graph from the end of August to the beginning of June.

A Social Studies picture )


Erika went to the Stories in Art program at the National Gallery of Art three times, acted in a children's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and produced a lot of art of her own.

A few of Erika's artworks )


Erika had some piano lessons with John and a couple of recorder sessions with me. She also listened to the podcast series Classics for Kids about four different composers (Joplin, Beethoven, Mozart, and Stravinsky), and learned about different instruments and musical styles at our co-op.

Physical Education

Erika participated in Takoma Park Soccer this spring, and did Karate through the county rec department all semester. We also went swimming once a week, visited playgrounds, etc.

Phys Ed Pictures )


This isn't part of what the county cares about, but I'm going to include it for completeness.

Erika made a lot of progress in German this semester. She finished the Einsterns Schwester 1 series of workbooks, read the accompanying reader, and read a number of other books in German.

She also attended the German School's Saturday program, where she was a diligent student.

Her reading in German lags a bit behind her reading in English, but is certainly entirely adequate for a child her age.

She's now working with great enthusiasm on learning the German style of cursive, and I just ordered a bunch of additional books from Amazon.de.

Reflections on the year

I feel like we've had a really great first year of homeschooling. Having Karl in preschool gave us a chance to develop a good rhythm and a defined time to do schoolwork,though it also put major constraints on our schedule.

Over the course of the school year, Erika's reading has improved dramatically. At the beginning of the year, she could read books with about 1000 words, and often needed help with several words on each page. Now, she can read independently books like the Cam Jansen series and the Magic Tree House series, both of which have about 5000 words. She sometimes even reads an entire book of this type in one sitting.

Her letter formation and stamina for writing have also improved considerably. Her spelling seems entirely adequate for a student at the end of Kindergarten.

Erika's addition and subtraction skills are vastly better than they were at the beginning of the year. She has an excellent grasp of all of the addition and subtraction facts up to 10, and is doing really well with addition and subtraction up to 20.

She's also learned so much about the world around us -- about geography, science, history, etc. I do feel that she's still not quite ready for history, but we'll see how that goes when we start pursuing it in more depth next year.


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August 2014

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