Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Toa of Boy's Portfolio 2012-2013


Toa of Boy aquired an astonishing understanding of the grammar of the English language this year. I'm so proud of him. Last year, his crowning achievement was to overcome his awkwardness about lingering speech differences and to become comfortable verbally expressing his thoughts in complete sentences, especially in settings outside the family. He achieved that goal, and this year, I thought we might do some remedial work in basic sentence structure. He blew past what I thought was a good goal for him and went on to master grammar to a level many 6th grade students would do well to achieve. Not only did he learn the eight parts of speech, he became an expert at doing four level sentence analysis--first identifying the part of speech of each word of the sentence; second identifying the subject, the verb (linking or action), the subject compliment, direct object, or indirect object; third identifying prepositional phrases; and lastly identifying clauses. Beyond just a academic exercise, we engaged in many discussions about how this knowledge was applied in how we spoke, in the texts of books we read, and in other contexts as it became relevant.

I include typical examples of his written book work, though I feel it was the intangible ongoing discussions that provided the most evidence of his incorporation of his new knowledge. (Click on any image to display a larger version.)

This is a page of simple pronoun identification at the beginning of his Michael Clay Thompson grammar book---

And this is the post test at the end of his grammar book--

A sample of a very basic sentence analysis when he was first learning the skill--

And a more complex sentence (parts of speech identified on the first line, use in the sentence on the second, prepositional phrases on the third line, and clauses on the fourth)--


At church, Toa of Boy moved on the the next level of the Awana program this year and completed the first book of the Truth and Training Series. This involved memorization and recitation of longer Scripture passages as well as a few additional assignments, such as making a poster or writing a letter to a missionary. At the end of the year, he received a ribbon for the successful completion of the Truth and Training Level One. 

At home, Toa worked on a study of the first half of the Old Testament. We read a section of the Bible together daily, and then Toa completed an exercise in a workbook originally marketed for sixth grade.

A typical lesson in Genesis--

And a typical lesson from 2 Kings--

Vocabulary and Spelling:

This year, we continued to work through the Sequential Spelling program. I include two samples of his work, one from the beginning of the year and one from the end of the year. But again, I feel like his biggest accomplishment was not as easily quantifiable. First it was outside of the spelling lesson, in his own initiative to seek help in spelling a word as he was writing for fun. At the beginning of the year, we would work through the process of spelling an unfamiliar word together. Towards the end of the year, he would ask how to spell a word. I would, in turn, ask him how he thought the word might be spelled. More often than not he could puzzle it out on his own, with minimal direction or assistance. I find that to be a more satisfactory benchmark than the two sample pages included here.

For vocabulary, we studied Michael Clay Thompson's Building Language, which introduced basic Latin roots and some common words which stem from those roots.


This year, Toa of Boy really wanted to pursue independent creative writing. I let him run with that goal, and he produced page after page of his own 'chapters' in a story. While his writing still needs proof-reading and editing, for us, the achievement of this year was for writing to move from a school subject I was mandating, to something Toa was excited to engage in. Despite the errors in spelling and grammar, his stories had a clear framework with a sequential plot, a conflict, a protagonist, an antagonist, and a clear resolution at the end.


Toa of Boy continued to develop as an independent reader this year. Not only did he check out and read many library books on his own, but we took time daily for a shared reading time. During this time we read more challenging chapter books together, taking turns reading sections aloud and discussing the story and characters as we read. Titles that we read in this manner included The Monster in the Third Dresser Drawer, James and the Giant Peach, How to Eat Fried Worms, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

Each week, he recorded the book he had been reading and a few sentences about his book in a literature journal.

This is his first journal entry of the year--

and one from later in the year--


We skipped third grade math and moved immediately into a fourth grade math textbook this year. It was a decision that worked really well for us. Toa of Boy does not do well with the 'spiraling' approach of some curriculum. While he, like everyone, needs some review from time to time, lessons that begin each day with nothing but review immediately lose his interest. However, when he is immediately given something new and challenging, he is excited and motivated and applies himself to master it. This year, we worked most of the way through a 4th grade math text. We took extra time in the middle of the year to learn and practice multiplication facts which were new to him. To do this, we suspended our regular lessons for a few weeks and spent extra time with manipulatives, flashcards, and games. From there we moved on to multiplication of two digit numbers by a single digit and then multiplication of two two-digit numbers. We covered short division and long division, both new concepts for Toa, and did some geometry, including finding area and perimeter. We ended the year with an introduction to fractions.

Chapter 2 Review--

Adding unlike fractions--


This year was Toa of Boy's first exposure to a formal study of American History. At co-op, he took a class titled "Native Americans and Pioneers". The class completed lessons and hands on projects on the different Native American people groups, the exploration and colonial period, and the Westward Expansion. At home, we covered from the late 1800s through to the beginning of WW2. We used the PBS series America: The Story of US and the Time Traveler series from Homeschool in the Woods to provide the frame for our study. We supplemented these resources with many library books, hands on-projects, and field trips.

One of our favorite units for the year was a study about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. We read You Wouldn't Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge and we did projects and activities out of Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build, and Test. We took a field trip down to the Purple People Bridge and viewed the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Finally, Toa built his own popsicle stick trestle bridge. 

Throughout the year, Toa completed an extensive timeline of the major people and events we were studying.
At the end of each shorter unit, he put together a small project for inclusion in a large lap book.


Although we started out the year with Education Exploration, it quickly became evident that the Elementary level (billed for K-3) was too basic for him. So we ditched that curriculum and moved on to Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy. This was a perfect match. We liked reading the text itself together, but Toa especially loved the hands-on learning projects--

from using a magnifying glass to study the heat and strength of the sun's rays--

to dropping rocks to make craters in a pan of flour dusted over with cocoa.

It was a great way to learn about our solar system.


This year, Toa of Boy participated in two children's musicals through our church. He formed part of the choir for the Christmas musical and during the spring musical, he had a minor speaking part. That was a huge step forward in confidence and speaking clarity for him!


Toa continued to hone his skills as a budding young artist. We used many wonderful art lessons from Deep Space Sparkle to guide our home art curriculum.

Two of my favorites were a Statue of Liberty drawing and watercolor---

and a winter cardinal project (which first involved taking a walk around the neighborhood together to take turns photographing bare tree branches silhouetted against the sky)

and then painting our own cardinals against a background of sky and branches.

Physical Education:

Toa continued in his physical education class at co-op and also in his twice weekly Tae Kwon Do lessons. This year, Toa tested for and advanced two belt levels and is currently a high blue belt, a step more than halfway between a beginner and a black belt.

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