Friday, May 9, 2014

Wrapping Up 4th Grade, Classical Homeschool Style

I can hardly believe that it is May already! With our required testing behind us, we are just about finished with our second year of homeschool (Hunter's 4th grade year). There have been so many fun, frustrating, fulfilling, and amazing things this year, I hardly know where to start. But here's a recap of some of our changes, highlights, and challenges.

The biggest change from our rookie year was that we connected with a local homeschool group.  We were able to add in more outings and social activities, which has been a great addition for both of us. We also joined a small co-op that meets bi-weekly for art, music, gym, and social studies. There are several boys Hunter's age in the group so naturally he loves going. 

Getting out of the house is always a welcome change for homeschoolers. It helps breaks up the monotony, keeps momma sane, and helps my antsy kiddo burn some of his extra energy. We made sure to take some fun field trips, visit local parks, and attend a weekly open gym.

Although we love getting out of the house, we are both more comfortable with the ins-and-outs of daily homeschool life too. History remains one of Hunter's favorite subjects. The Story of the World, Volume II is chock-full of ideas to make history come alive.
Like Maori warrior face painting,

and building a model Viking longboat.

But one of the best SOTW resources I found this year was this blog, Red Oak Road. There are chapter-by-chapter outlines for each of the three volumes, complete with a plethora of related video and website links. One of Hunter's favorite things to do after we had finished reading a chapter was to snuggle up with a good documentary (nerd alert!).


Hunter started guitar lessons this year, but we only continued through December. Since then, he has practiced daily with YouTube tutorials and has learned more on his own than he did in 4 months of crowded group lessons. We like this website and this one for clear, easy to follow beginner guitar instructions.
The biggest struggle we had this year was in writing. We are using Writing With Ease: Level 4 and while I can see definite improvement in Hunter's writing, it is a daily fight to get through it… especially the dictation. We both experienced a lot of frustration while slogging through these exercises. 
Sometime in the dark days of January, we took a break from WWE and did some creative writing, a mini-unit on poetry, and a mini-unit on paragraph organization and outlining. During March, Hunter researched, outlined, drafted, and revised a 4-page report on Christopher Columbus. He was very proud of the result, as was I. We still have about a quarter of WWE left, so I think we will work on it for the remainder of the year. I am still up in the air about what to do for next year's writing, but I am considering several options, including finishing WWE 4 and writing more across the curriculum, moving on to Writing With Style, or switching to another program completely (like Institute for Excellence in Writing).
For now, we are enjoying a slower pace for the rest of May. Hunter has worked so hard and I can barely take in how far he has come academically. When he left public school he hated math, his handwriting and spelling were terrible, and his attitude about learning and performance in school were less than stellar.
Today, he loves school. He can write in lovely, clear cursive. We have read wonderful books, learned about thousands of years of history, and memorized dozens of poems. He has mastered the multiplication tables, grappled with fractions, and learned the basics of Latin.


Best of all, his enthusiasm for learning has continued to blossom. He is excited about new ideas and looks forward to exploring new things. The end of this year has come very quickly, but I hope it is only the beginning of our next homeschool chapter.
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