Friday, November 15, 2013

Week in Review: Achoo!

Of all the great weeks with the great projects that I didn't take the time to write about, it's the week where a cold kicked our butts that I'm blogging about.

We limped through this week.

On the plus side, Sweetling has a new weekly schedule that seems to be working really well for her.

Last week she got everything done, including the first art lesson from her Artistic Pursuits curriculum, something that hasn't happened yet this school year.

(This week, not so much, but I'm counting the new schedule as a win.)

For Toa of Boy, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Minecraft is the best thing that has happened to Toa of Boy's education. Usually, he flies through his schoolwork so that he can get on Skype with his Minecraft buddies. Again, this week, not as much. This week both Toa and I struggled to function through sinus congestion. We skipped fractions altogether. We spent extra time just reading.

But, since it's been a while since I've blogged, let me take this chance to do a quick update on one change we made to Toa's curriculum that I really like.

A few weeks ago, we started using the book Spelling Power.

It promises spelling in just 15 minutes a day (which was my selling point to get Toa of Boy on board). It doesn't lie.

We start with a quick pre-test of spelling words. We set a timer for 5 minutes. I read the word from the awesomely organized word lists. Toa repeats it (so I can check his pronunciation. If he doesn't pronounce it correctly, he won't have much of a chance of spelling it correctly.) Then he writes it, and we check his spelling. If he can spell it correctly, we move on to the next word. If he can't, we immediately spell it correctly in the 'words to learn' column. We get through a good amount of words in just five minutes. When the timer goes off, we are done with that section.

Generally, Toa only has a couple of words in his "words to learn" column, so we don't do the 10-step study sheet every day. (That's not how the program is designed, but Toa feels rewarded by not having to do the middle section every day.) So, when Toa has accumulated at least five words in his "words to learn" column, we take 5 minutes and do the 10-step study sheet. It's fast; it's simple; and it's effective.

Lastly, I write his 'words to learn' on small cards that accumulate in a little plastic box. (I take 3x5 index cards and cut them in quarters.) He picks an activity card (lots of different hands on activities) and spends five minutes practicing a few of his word cards. Each time he practices a word card, I mark it with a little penciled x. When he has practiced a word card three different times I clip it in a 'completed' stack. When he has about 15 or so 'completed' cards, we retest those words during the first 5 minute spelling block. If he spells them correctly on that second go round, I throw the card in the garbage. (Again, this is a little different than how the program prescribes. The program suggests retesting the words to learn the very next day. I find that delaying a few days really helps to guarantee that Toa has mastered the word.)

Toa likes using a timer. He likes knowing that each section of spelling only takes five minutes. He likes that he is only spending time studying and practicing words that he needs to learn. This is by far the most successful spelling program we have tried. It has been so successful, that Toa of Boy (whose most hated subject for years was spelling) has come to me and requested words to be added to his spelling list because he wants to learn how to spell them. That, my dear friends, is a successful spelling program.

Despite limping through the school work, this week ended on a spectacular note. Every year, the Jedi spends some of his unused vacation days (those that won't roll into the next year). He manages to take every Friday off in December, and many Fridays off in November. This week was the first of from here until 2014....we have three day weekends!

To kick off our holidays, we packed today with fun activities. We went to an 11 o'clock showing of Thor: The Dark World in 3d! That was awesome!

After the movie, we came home for 'specialty' sandwiches. I make a habit of grabbing yummy loaves of flavored bakery bread off the discounted day-old bread rack at the stores. We slice them and load them with ham and turkey and cheese (and veggies for those who want it). Then I slather them with butter and grill them and serve them with a side of fresh fruit. It's like a gourmet deli sandwich.

The Jedi got a little yard work done and I got some co-op emails done. We had time for a nap. Then we had spaghetti for dinner and went to see Despicable Me 2 at Danbarry dollar saver theater.

We capped off the night with dessert at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. (Delicious pizookies and strawberry beignets.) Back at home, everyone wound down by spending time on their own computer activities. (Toa played Minecraft; Sweetling is probably on some forums chatting about Thor; the Jedi is leveling up a rp character; and I blogged.)

Perfect, perfect start to the holiday season!

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