Friday, June 29, 2007

Year in Review: Duncan

June 29, 2007

We’ve been on break for a month now and I’m only just getting around to review our year. June has not exactly been a vacation month!

Duncan’s kindergarten year was splendid. He turned out to be a surprisingly diligent student and extremely, well, smart. I’m not surprised that he’s smart, it’s just that he’s always been more interested in, well, candy.

Math with Horizons K was a breeze for him. I’d not used Horizons before and was very happy with it. We’d used Saxon 1 with Laurel for kindergarten, which was also fine. (Jesse was in public school for kindergarten.) Horizons is colorful and inexpensive, so that worked for us. After using Singapore, Saxon, Wal-mart workbooks, and Horizons, I can say that they are all quite similar for these workbook type programs (as opposed to MathUSee or Making Math Meaningful, etc). Saxon is by far the most expensive at this level. On the agenda for next year: Saxon 2, simply because we have it already. If I were going to buy a new book, I’d probably continue with Horizons.

Of course reading was our primary focus this year. I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, as I did with Laurel. I love the simplicity of this book. I’m sure my kids would have loved a bells-and-whistles program like Sing, Spell, Read, Write, but 100 Easy Lessons has served us well. By Lesson 75 Duncan was reading admirably, and we skimmed the last 25 lessons. We also added the Leap Frog DVD series that includes Letter Factory, Math Circus, Talking Words Factory, and Story Book Factory. Duncan loves TV, so this series really spoke his love language. I saw huge progress after he began watching these; in fact, I would consider them pivotal to his really grasping reading!
This summer he is reading Hop on Pop-type books successfully, so I look forward to hearing his progress. On the agenda for next year: Explode the Code 1-3 and First Language Lessons. Explode the Code will take him to the next level of phonics awareness. First Language Lessons is my pick for best language arts (grammar, comprehension, memorization) in the primary level. Of course he’ll continue reading aloud to us each day.

For history we half-heartedly did Sonlight K. We read and loved all the books, some of the Children’s Encyclopedia, and some Hero tales. Honestly I had so much reading to do with Jesse and Laurel’s Sonlight that Duncan’s history was most often vicarious. On the agenda for next year: American History with Duncan and Laurel together, using some Sonlight Core 3 and lots of extras.

For handwriting we used A Reason for Writing. My kids have always enjoyed coloring the pictures that go along with the lesson. One year we used Getty-Dubay Italics program with Laurel and once Rod and Staff for Jesse, but we’ve always gone back to A Reason for Writing. As a combo reading/writing enrichment, I also had Duncan copy Dolch words. On the agenda for next year: I picked up a $1 first- grade handwriting book at McKays, so I’ll plan to use that instead of buying a new Reason for Writing. We’ll also continue with the Dolch words exercise.

Science was all natural this year. Insects, occasional kitchen experiments, walks in the mountains. We also did a botany lapbook from In the Hands of a Child. I had to take this down several levels for Duncan, but he enjoyed it. On the agenda for next year: we’ll do some experiments from some of our Usborne Science experiments books and do nature studies more seriously. He’ll be ready to have his own nature notebook.

We are blessed to have a fabulous enrichment class program through our support group. First and second session Duncan took Hands-on Math, which included everything from tangrams to estimation to measuring and much more. It was a great supplement to his regular math program. He also took Spanish. He learned a lot in the class and enjoyed it some, but we opted out of taking it second session. Other classes included: Dr. Suess books; Book Cooks (the kids prepare a no-cook item that correlates with a book they’ve read); Bible Super Heroes; Ocean Life; and Patriot unit study. He loves enrichment classes and still asks on Mondays if it’s Monday Funday. On the agenda for next year: the enrichment class schedule isn’t out yet, but he’s up for anything.

Duncan is probably most excited about getting to be a Cub Scout next year. He attended twilight camp a couple of weeks ago and is chomping at the bit to buy a Cub Scout shirt. He’ll continue with Upwards Soccer in the fall, and possibly join Laurel in swim practice of that works out.

All in all, kindergarten was wonderful. I wasn’t expecting Duncan, the original looking-for-a-party guy, to be such an eager student. Surprises like that are always pleasant.

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