Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Toa of Boy's Portfolio 2010-2011


Toa of Boy has continued to make great progress in his verbal language skills. Not only has his speech continued to improve in diction and clarity, he now more consistently speaks in complete sentences, expresses complete thoughts and tells stories or retells events with much detail and understandable sequencing of events. He has memorized and correctly recited many Scripture verses and was able to complete not just one, but two Awana handbooks this year. He was one of three young boys who memorized and recited all the books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, in their correct order, from the pulpit during Sunday morning service at church. That was a huge accomplishment for him, since previously he was very self-conscious and shy about his speech differences.

His vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds this year as well. He loves learning new words, mastering how to correctly say them, and then using them in context as often as he can. Thus, his speech throughout the year has been sprinkled with new words such as "cumbersome", "sufficient," and "hinder" to name a few.

Before our school year started, Toa of Boy decided he wanted to learn cursive. We purchased him the first cursive book from Handwriting Without Tears, and he's been working through it steadily. He is really pleased with his progress and on his own initiative, he loves to write some of his spelling words and sometimes his Scripture verses in cursive. (Of the photos below, the top photo shows one of Toa's first cursive pages, and the bottom is one from this spring.)


This was the year Toa of Boy really took off as an independent reader. While at the beginning of the year, he could read, with assistance, simple picture books with just a short sentence of simple words per page, he now can read short chapter books, like Amanda Pig, Little Bear, and Frog and Toad completely independently. With assistance, he can read longer, more difficult chapter books. His favorite books series is the Captain Underpants books, of which, with assistance, he has read seven. He is currently enjoying assisted reading of Club Penguin Pick Your Path novels.

We also completed several read aloud books together this year. Not only did we spend time every day reading from both fiction and non-fiction picture books, but we also read several chapter books together. Among those were Becoming Naomi Leon by  Pam Muñoz Ryan, Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, and Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. [For a brutally honest look at how some of our reading time and lesson extensions go, please see the first part of this post.]


We have been working regularly through the lessons in the first Sequential Spelling book by AVKO press. Toa of Boy is really mastering the spelling patterns taught and I have seen a big improvement not only during his spelling lesson time, but I've seen the learning carry over to his writing and his reading skills as well. (The page on the left is one of our first spelling lessons, on the right, one of our more recent lessons. You may click on the photo, or any of the photos on my blog, to see a larger version of it.)


 As his confidence in his language skills and his spelling skills has increased, Toa of Boy has really begun to express himself as a writer this year. At the beginning of the year, it was a slow and difficult process to coach him through writing a single, simple sentence. Now, he is writing poems and short stories of his own initiative. (Again, the top photo is one of our first attempts at free writing at the beginning of the year. Each sentence was written on a different day. Note the subject matter. The middle photo is a poem written later in the year. The bottom photo a list Toa of Boy decided to write on his own during his own free time. Again, clicking on the photos should display a larger image.)


We completed Singapore Math Primary Mathematics 2A and 2B this year. Toa of Boy has mastered addition and subtraction of three and four digit numbers with regrouping and has also learned his multiplication tables 0-5 and 10. Not only has he achieved the ability to read and solve word problems on his own, he is able to independently solve two step word problems, requiring the finding of an intermediate number before being able to find the final solution. For example, from page 101 of Primary Mathematics 2B; "168 men, 287 women and 113 children took part in a parade. How many adults took part in the parade? How many more adults than children took part in the parade?" (Top photo from the beginning of the year, bottom photo shows a some recent review problems.)

History, Geography, and Government

The "spine" of our homeschooling this year was the Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum by My Father's World. We "traveled" around the world, mapping countries and continents, reading and learning about history, government, and culture, and dabbling in art and music of each land. It was truly an amazing and enriching year of learning. For a good sampling of how all these subjects typically came together for Toa of Boy, please see this post about Africa.

At our Learning Tree co-op, Toa of Boy participates in a Country Studies class. He comes home every week excited to tell me what country they are learning about, what hands-on project they completed, or some new information he has heard about a particular country. As part of the class, he now has a massive binder full of information on several countries around the world.

In addtion to our "around the world" curriculum at home, we have been planning a three week family road trip to California and back. (This is a real trip even, not just a conceptual one!) As part of the planning and research we have been engaging both Toa of Boy and Sweetling in reading and learning about the different states we will be passing through, helping to find attractions we might visit, and assisting in mapping out our route of travel.

The post which best describes this process can be found here, but it rather long, and only a few paragraphs are relevant, so I've just copied that small piece out.

"In late April 2010, we're taking a three week round trip drive to California and back. It just so happens that we are studying America right now in our Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum from My Father's World. I expanded the two week USA study into a three week unit so that we could take the bulk of this week and learn and read about the 16 states we'll be driving through in our trek.

We started by having the kids find and label these states, plus a few key others on a blank map of the US. Then I used google maps to pull up a map of our journey out to California, and the kids drew our route in our their maps, and traced it with a red marker. We did the same for our journey back.

Then we read how each state got its name and its nickname in Greetings from the 50 States. We looked at Our 50 States, A Family Adventure across America as well as some library books I had grabbed, each highlighting a different state. Each day, we read and learned about a group of three or so states, taking them in order that we would be driving. (So the first day, we read about Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.) As we read, we made a big list of anything in that State, that was close to our driving route, that we might want to see. Doing so involved using google to pull up the location of the attraction and checking that location with our route.

It was really interesting, and highly motivating, since we were actually going to get to visit many of the places we were adding to our list. On Thursday morning, I was sitting in the living room at 7:30 am reading my Bible, and two pajama clad children wandered in. They pulled library books off the shelf and started looking through them and discussing them with each other. At one point, Toa jumped up and ran down to the school room to come flying back up the stairs with a large laminated map of the US so he could find one of the places they had been talking about. And, that entire scene, from getting out the books to running for a map, transpired without any input or prompting from me whatsoever."


Once again, Toa of Boy has been eager to share with me information he has learned in his Exploring Science class at Learning Tree co-op. Included in the topics they have covered has been our solar system, the human body, weather, and physical science. Toa of Boy has come home with a nearly life sized human skeleton made of paper and jointed together with paper fasteners and a construction paper model of a tornado storm system.

At home, we have been learning about different habitats around the world. Toa of Boy is now able to name several characteristics of each of the major types of habitats and can also apply general learning to other situations, such as recognizing and naming a food web when we were watching some other documentary.

Here is a sample of one of our activities. We did a lot of reading form library books, but this activity happened to be a follow up to a video. In the photo, Toa's project is on the left. This excerpt comes from this post, but I have clipped out the science section here.

We watched two Planet Earth episodes. I just snagged the series from the library, so we started the week by watching the first episode in the series, From Pole to Pole on Monday. Then watched Great Plains on Tuesday. I was worried that Toa might find them boring, but he was requesting more Planet Earth on Thursday and on Friday, so I think he enjoyed them. Equally important, he remembered and retained some of the information.

On Wednesday, I wanted to do something more hands-on for science, but didn't have the energy or time to track down an experiment or project. So we did a quick and easy review of what we had learned from the video. I wrote a few facts on the kitchen white board, leaving some key words blank. (ie...The tallest grass in the world is _______ _______ which grows in ________.) I did this while the kids were sitting at the table eating snack. They were enjoying coming up with the answers. After snack, I got out green construction paper, and drew lines along its length to divide each piece into 10-11 long strips. I told the kids they were each to write 7-10 facts about grass or grasslands, one sentence per strip. They could use any of the five fill-in the blank facts I had put on the whiteboard, or they could come up with their own. If they couldn't remember something, they could look through the non-fiction library books we had on grasslands.  I  also warned them that we would cut the strips apart after they had written, so to be careful to keep their letters to the center of the strip so that tails of p's and y's and such didn't get cut off.  (Sweetling elected to type her facts up and then send her green paper through the printer.)

After they had their collection of facts, they cut the green strips apart, and tapered the ends of each strip to make blades of grass. Then they glued their grass blades to blue paper. Voila, green grass facts. :)


As part of our Exploring Countries and Cultures, we spent time each week listening to, learning, and singing songs from many nations of the world. We used Wee Sing Around the World as our main source of music. Toa of Boy loves music and songs, and really loved hearing and learning songs from other countries. Many of the pages in our Wee Sing song book also contained information about the cultural background/history of the song and often included a game of some sort that would often accompany the song in its native culture. Toa of Boy enjoyed the games, which indirectly taught about beat, rhythm, repeating lines, choruses and verses in music.


Toa of Boy loves art and thinks he might become an artist as an adult. We spend a lot of time on art every week, and I could stuff this portfolio full of photos of beautiful projects. This year, not only did Toa learn about and create the art forms of many cultures, but he also acquired some new techniques that he can apply to many different genres of art. He learned about shading and blending using charcoal pencils and using chalk pastels. He learned about warm and cool colors and the juxtapositioning of the two, as well as the effect of juxtapositioning complimentary colors. He learned about perspective in art and landscapes and how near objects appear larger than far objects. He learned about the use of different types and thicknesses of lines to create rich and interesting patterns. Some of these skills he learned at home, and some he learned in his art class at Learning Tree Co-op, but most he learned and used in both places and they reinforced each other.

For the sake of keeping the portfolio at a reasonable length, I'll limit myself to including only three photos of his art. First, a simple color mixing lesson from early this fall.

Second, a simple shading exercise in charcoal,

Last is a piece from just this past week done in chalk pastels, demonstrating the use of graded colors to show water depth and the choice of warm colors against a cool background to enable his subject matter to really stand out.


This year, Toa of Boy learned about the food groups. He learned to distinguish between making healthy food choices and not as healthy choices and practiced making the former. He learned about what makes a balanced meal, and practiced assembling his own healthy lunches.

Physical Education

This year, Toa of Boy started taking Tae Kwon Do classes. In the course of the year, he has tested for and advanced through three belt levels. At the beginning of the year, he could not do a single push up or a single sit up. Now, he can complete up to thirty full double-punch sit ups unaided and over fifteen push-ups while maintaining near perfect form. He has mastered two Tae Kwon Do forms and is learning his third. He has learned several different styles of kicks and punches, and can use a few of them to kick through one-inch thick boards.

Also this year, Toa of Boy participated in a Physical Education class at Learning Tree Co-op. There he learned rules for common sports, such as kickball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. He learned and practiced many skills and techniques needed for these sports.

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