Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reflections on First Grade

A new school year is soon to be underway, and it seems like a good time to reflect on the previous school year.  I found myself going back and looking at pictures we took, book lists, education plans submitted to our school district, documents on my computer, etc.  There's something fun about doing some of our record-keeping retroactively -- a First Grade plan is a very exciting thing, but to actually look back at what First Grade consisted of is even more satisfying, I think.  {I did this in looking back on preschool in this post a couple years ago, and I remember how helpful it was to look back on all we had accomplished even without formal schooling going on at that point!  The days may not feel productive but we really do learn things and get things done in the end!}

Was it really just one year ago those two front teeth were adorably missing?  
All eight front teeth are now grown in adult teeth!

Our plan for first grade was a somewhat modified version of Ambleside Online Year 1.  I modified this somewhat from my early planning stages, and then we modified additionally a bit as we went on (after two terms we were just not that interested in reading any more Aesop so... we didn't!).  We are influenced by the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, so we embrace reading really good, "living" books, spending lots of time outdoors, and using "narration" as a means of remembering the things we read and learn, as well as a means of developing compositional skills.

Look at that proud girl with her stack of books!  It should go without saying that not all of those books are things we read cover to cover; they are resources we used to varying degrees.  The thick dark blue book in the middle of the stack, Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall, we did history readings from, and will continue to use this year.  And many other books we read selections from without reading in their entirety.  Others, like Children of Foreign Lands, and Peter Pan, we did read all of, and there are still others we ended up reading that weren't included in these initial First Day of School pictures!

math! hurray!

Here she was holding up her math book, with much excitement -- math was a subject of great interest to Nell prior to beginning first grade, and I'm happy to say she continues to enjoy it... phew!  I feel like that's most of what I'm aiming for at this point, anyway!  We played with money, bundled popsicle sticks and used them as manipulatives, counted buttons, skip-counted, and worked with adding and subtracting one- and two-digit numbers.  Here it is the following August, and I'm still on the fence about what math we will use this year!  Nell liked doing all the word problems in this arithmetic book from Simply Charlotte Mason, and I'm leaning towards going ahead and purchasing the next year's materials from the same series, but I'm considering a few other options as well.  I also bought Mortensen Math block manipulatives off of eBay over the summer to give us another concrete thing to look at and play with... things that will stay stuck together in their tens and hundreds and not end up scattered all over my house, ahem... thanks, Molly.

silly faces are always fun!

* * *

First grade had its up and downs.  Schooling with a toddler crawling and later walking around, requiring frequent interruptions, probably goes about the way you might imagine it does.  Add in my own work schedule to juggle with the home and the kids, and then a brutal winter that had us sick for literally weeks on end with one illness after another... we lost significant ground at times from what my original plans had been.

Still, I can't help looking back on the year and calling it an overall success.  We had fun together.  We spent time together.  We made memories.

We spent hours at beaches on some days.  We hiked on sunny days and even on rainy and snowy days.  We held beetles and frogs and salamanders.  We sang and did folk dances with friends.  We read many, many good books.  We memorized beautiful poetry and learned good hymns.  We studied the night sky and learned to identify constellations, stopping at night on drives home to unload from the van and look up in wonder.  We played with good friends.  We learned all the musical characters in Peter and the Wolf.  We studied violin and picked out melodies on the piano, too.  We slowed down, noticed, observed.  We nature journaled outdoor finds, illustrated tales of history we read, narrated things we read and learned.  We read beautiful summaries of several Shakespeare plays, and Nell fell in love with A Midsummer Night's Dream in particular.   We enjoyed observing and celebrating the seasons and the church year.  We visited the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Science.  We saw an owl in our yard up close and personal.  We participated in a book club with friends that ended up being a really special highlight for our family.  We tended the plants in our yard through the spring and summer.  We took a boat ride through the locks of a canal in Lowell.

Some favorite books we've read over the past year include:
Paddle to the Sea by H. C. Holling
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Half Magic by E. Eager
The Saturdays by E. Enright
The Penderwicks books by J. Birdsall
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
Heidi by J. Spyri
The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett
The Princess and the Goblin by G. MacDonald
The Courage of Sarah Noble by A. Dalgliesh
Favorite Fairy Tales Told In... books by V. Haviland

* * *

In all honesty, I struggled at times with that aptly-named Thief of Joy, comparison.  Why wasn't my own six-year-old reading as well as a friend's six-year-old?  Was I failing her?  Why couldn't I keep my home tidier so I could make better use of our daytime hours to do school?  Why was I falling behind?  Was I overlooking my middle child even as I homeschooled my oldest and tended to my littlest?   It is all too easy to hear that so-and-so's children are doing such-and-such, or see a post on social media, and suddenly begin feeling that you and what you are doing is not enough.  I have a feeling I'm not the only person who struggles with this!  So if you're reading this and feeling that you are not enough right now for your kids -- you are probably doing enough.  Really!  Sit down and write down some of what you did over the past year.  I know for me, it really helps me take stock of all that we did accomplish, even if we never finished a few of the books we meant to, never finished that cross-stitch project, haven't mastered the art of french cooking, and don't have perfectly-behaved children.

Over the past year, one minute we'd be keeping up really well with our history readings, while skipping some of the daily work I meant to do like handwriting and math.  I'd re-assess our goals, and before I knew it we'd have a winning streak of several weeks of consistent math, while skipping over weeks of reading about the Vikings.  It was really hard to balance it all!  So I'm trying to make sure this fast approaching year of second grade is full and adequate, but also achievable for our family.

I'll end with sharing portions of our Term 2 exams from back in the winter time.  I wrote down Nell's answers word-for-word, and when I look back on this I can't help thinking that it encompasses so much strength and success.  This girl sure loves stories, and I think she has the heart and soul of a writer.

Recall for me one of the stories we read from 50 Famous Stories OR one of the stories about the Romans and the Britons from Our Island Story.

The Coming of Arthur:
“As soon as Uther Pendragon was dead, the British people began to fight with each other about who should be king next.  While they were fighting, along came Merlin with a young boy at his side.  The minute he came, they stopped fighting.  And he said to them in a firm voice, “Before Uther Pendragon was dead, he had a son.”  And the people began to fight with him and said, “He did not have a son! What are you talking about?” And he said again, “Uther Pendragon did have a son!”  And yet again they said, “He did not have a son! What are you saying?”  And yet the young boy at Merlin’s side was the son of Uther Pendragon.  His name was Arthur, and it was said that he would be the best king that had ever ruled in Britain.  And it was true.  Merlin said, “Follow me,” and the people did, even though they were fighting that Uther Pendragon had not had a son.  And with Arthur at his side as before, Merlin led the people of Britain to a cathedral in Britain.  And there was a big stone in front of it that had never been there before, and stuck in it was a sword upright, and underneath it, carved into the stone, was a message, and I will tell you what it said.  It said, ‘Whoever can remove this will yet be the next king.’  And everyone started pulling with all their might at it, but no one could do it, and yet it was held fast firmly in the stone. But at last Arthur went to do it, and he pulled it out as if anyone could have done it; he pulled it out with great ease.  And there was great rejoicing and now they knew Arthur was to be the new king.”

Tell me how the sky helps us know the different directions, both during the day and during the night.  Show me where North and South are in relation to our house.  
{She correctly identified North, South, East, and West in relation to our home, and recalled where we had seen the Big Dipper and where we had seen Orion one night stargazing on our street.}
“Orion rises in the East and sets in the West at night.  If I didn’t know where North was I could go outside and look for the North Star.  And if I found it I would know that’s North.  The North Star is the end of the handle of the Little Dipper so if you find the Little Dipper you can find the North Star.  And if you find the Big Dipper that helps you find the Little Dipper.  The bowl of the Big Dipper, the diagonal line points to the North Star.”  
“During the day the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. So in the morning it’s in the East and that tells us where East is!”

Natural History:
Describe a bird we read about this term, and tell me what you know about it.  
“A mourning dove has some kind of milk in its throat that its body develops.  (Should I say that? Develops?  I think it’s a nice word.) It’s very easy for me to spot them and one time I spotted one on the roof of Trader Joe’s.  I also have seen one on our neighbor’s roof when we were just walking around the circle.  We stood by it and we made its call to it and it called back to us several times.  We see them in our yard also.  They’re rather big and they’re sort of the color of a sparrow but a little lighter brownish.  As I was saying they have sort of a milky thing in their throat and it holds there so when the babies are hungry they have very long beaks so they can put them down their parents’ mouth.  I was wondering if it hurts them to have their babies’ beaks go down their mouth but I don’t think it does.  The parents find grain seeds and swallow them, and it makes a seed cereal for the babies in their own bodies.  When the babies are hungry they spit it back up into their mouths for them.   It’s like bubbling over into someone else’s mouth. Mama showed me a picture of them doing it.
{She accurately imitated the mourning dove call.}

Describe your favorite hike from this winter.  Where did we go? What did you notice / find?
“One day we went in search of amphibians: peepers, salamanders, and wood frogs and amphibians of all kinds.  We went with a group of people, and some of the older kids found things that Marie and I did not find, like salamanders and a peeper.  The peeper was missing one of its front legs! It might have been hurt in some kind of accident.  We went near all kinds of vernal pools.  The man who was leading us had tall boots and could walk into the water.  He broke a branch off and put it in a tub of water. The branch had wood frog eggs on it. We all got to feel them.  One girl felt them and said they felt like jelly and I felt them and she was right, it felt exactly like jelly.  They felt also kind of like water beads.  We also saw salamander eggs from another vernal pool. They were a little bit tinier. They had little tiny black dots inside and they felt like water beads too.  We saw four or five vernal pools on that hike.”

Identify three different constellations in the H.A. Rey book.
{She identified the Lyre, the Scorpion, the Swan, the Bull and the Pleiades, Sirius the big dog, the Charioteer, the Twins, Orion, the Great Bear, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Polaris all in the H.A. Rey book.}

Describe and define the phases of the moon.
“The phases of the moon start with a new moon, which means no moon. As it gets bigger it is called waxing. Then comes a crescent, then comes a half moon, which is also called first quarter, then comes gibbous moon which sounds like “give us moon,” and then comes full moon.  And then it starts waning, which is getting smaller.  Both waxing and waning are new words to me. From the full moon, it goes to gibbous moon, then half moon which is also called third quarter when it’s waning, and then comes crescent and then comes new moon again.” 

Katie has a dime and Abby has a nickel.  How much money do they have together?  How much more does Katie have than Abby?
“15 cents.” / “five more cents.”

How much is a dime, two nickels, and one penny all together? 
“twenty-one cents.”

Aunt Emily needs 15 apples to make an apple pie.  She has 9.  How many more does she need?

What is 30 take away 10?  What is 30 take away 11?
“Twenty.”  / “Nineteen.”

What is 14 + 7?

Skip count by 10’s.
“Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, one hundred.”

Recite one of our poems from this term for Mama and Daddy.
{She recited Spring, Almost.}
Describe your favorite Grandma Moses picture.
Taking in the Laundry:
“This Grandma Moses picture is called Taking in the Laundry. It shows clotheslines, three of them. There are beautiful trees waving in the wind, there are three houses, and people taking the laundry down into the houses.  There is beautiful grass and there are people riding in a wagon.  It looks like summer.  The wind and the sun might be drying the clothes for them.”

 ~~ Term 2 exams, Nell, winter 2019, age 6 ~~

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Sarah! Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful childhood you are giving her. Way to go!