Friday, March 3, 2017

Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Eighth Grade

We are a bit past the mid-point of our year (week 23 this week!) but I want to do a quick update on how eighth grade is going this year for Christopher. You can see Christopher's original eighth grade plans here. We made a few tweaks to that original plan, because, well, I just tend to tweak things as the year goes on. Christopher does most of his work independently, but I check in with him throughout the day to go over his lessons and readings with him.

So, here's a few thoughts and notes about how things are going!

  • Analytical Grammar - We were able to finish up season 3 ~ and thus, the entire Analytical Grammar program ~ shortly after the holidays. Yay! Currently, Christopher does one review exercise every other week using Analytical Grammar's High School Review and Reinforcement book. There are a few of these to choose from, all different themes. He chose American Authors. While he does not enjoy the days he has a review, he definitely enjoys being "done" with learning new grammar for the rest of his school days. 
  • Writing Strands Level 4 - This program is working well. Christopher is currently working on assignment ten, about halfway through the book. He does the bulk of this program independently, but I try to check in with him every other day, just to make sure he understands the assignment and is keeping up. For his last assignment, he drew up a floor plan of our house, which I thought was a really neat and different assignment. Currently, he is using that floor plan to write a short description of our house. 
  • Typing Instructor - He uses this program for about 10-15 minutes a day. He enjoys it and it is definitely increasing his typing speed. The plan is to have him approach 40 words per minute with decent accuracy before quitting formal typing instruction. 
  •  Wordly Wise Book 8 - This is going really well. Let me tell you, we get complaints in this house about programs (crazy, right??) and I  have not heard one single complaint about this program since we started. That's saying something. WW takes only a few minutes each day, and I am amazed at how well he actually retains the vocabulary. I'm planning to use this program for my next two coming along. 
  • Teaching Textbooks 8 - Christopher is plugging along in math. He is a bit behind on his lessons, but I think just a bit of math over the summer will get him caught up. I cannot claim math is his most favorite subject! But using TT has definitely made things easier for me. It greatly reduces my stress to have my often-frustrated-with-math kid taught more by the computer than me. Of course, I am still on hand to clear up any misunderstandings and make sure he gets it. But TT has done wonders for making our day just a bit more relaxed. 
  • The Thinking Toolbox - We currently do this as our lunchtime reading. It works very well for this because there is about five minutes of material I have to read in the beginning, and then we go over the discussion questions while we eat.  I have been very pleased with this program. It's neat to see the kids apply lessons they learned in it to real life - especially with all the political talk lately!
  • BookShark World History Part 2 -  As planned, we recently finished this level up and began BookShark American History 100 (just last week actually!). Now that he is using BKSK 100, the discussion questions have ramped up in number and depth, so we spend more time going over things each day. There was a bit of a learning curve for him (and me!) the first few days as we figured out how best to have him use this program. We settled on having him read, look over the discussion questions in his student guide, then discuss them with me. If he misses something, I have him re-read that section. BKSK offers timeline suggestions for many of the readings; we pick and choose from these to add to his timeline book. BKSK also has a lot of mapping ~ students are supposed to label several areas of a map for each reading. I think this is a great idea, in theory. But it adds a lot of work to the day, and my kids' geography sense is actually quite good from previous Sonlight/BookShark levels. So instead of labeling everything, I present him with the blank map and he points out the locations to me.  If it is an obscure location, I show him where it is on my answer key.
Note: To this program, I have recently added a few things ~ a family read-aloud, family poetry instead of the assigned BookShark poetry, and a family history study for my three older kids to do together. To fit this in, I tweak Christopher's BKSK readings a bit. His daily reading generally includes a literature selection, reading from one of the History of US books, and a historical fiction selection. If the day gets too long, he can choose between the history readings for that day. 
  • BookShark Science 6 - Christopher finished the second half of this recently. I have mixed feelings about it. Some of the readings were good, some were a bit complex. It was kind of a strange mix of things that felt a bit young for the recommended age range and things that felt too involved. The experiments were a mix of things that sounded fun but didn't work out, things that worked well, and things that he had already done several years ago. I had originally planned on having him start BKSK Science 7, but given that he will be moving into high school science next year, we have decided to have him finish out this year with a fun technology unit. I'll write a separate post on how we are doing that.
  • Duolingo - To be honest, we have not focused as much on foreign language this year as I would have liked. There is only so  much time in the day, and this is one area I chose to sacrifice a bit. He putters around for 15 minutes a day on Duolingo Spanish, and for this year, that is enough. 
  • Drawing Lab He is using this alongside James this year and has done a lot of great projects. I very much like this resource. I recently added in Creative Photography Lab for both boys because they love taking pictures. 
So - Christopher's eighth grade year is going well! I am seeing a deeper level of understanding and discussion ability,  and a greater ability to work independently. My experience has been that my boys are slower to mature in these areas than my girls, but maturing they are, slowly but steadily. 

One more "mid-year" update coming up soon! I can't believe it, but it is almost time to start posting about next year's plans!

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