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First, H., age 8. The trouble now is that H. is now mostly “unschooled,” not by choice but by necessity. While Mama is now taking on a lot more homeschooling responsibilities, especially now that E. is no longer a baby and Infobitt requires so much of my time, she leaves a lot to H.’s choice, which means that I still occasionally (a few times a day) monitor his work. Things we still do 100% together, as ever, include Latin, piano lessons, science reading at dinnertime, and other reading at bedtime.

Latin. We’re now on p. 39 of Benjamin D’Ooge’s Elements of Latin, which we are studying thoroughly, supplemented by repeated readings (and vocabulary memorization) from Maud Reed’s Julia, an excellent short Latin reader that begins very simply and gradually becomes more difficult. We spend about 1/3 of our Latin study time reviewing everything using SuperMemo. Note that we had already finished Getting Started with Latin and gotten to Level 3 of Rosetta Stone Latin. As a result, although we’re proceeding through D’Ooge, our main text, at a snail’s pace, after some review we have everything in the book up to the point we are studying down cold. Also as a result, when we sit down to do the exercise portions of the text, we generally have little trouble with them. In my experience, this is the proper way to study a foreign language: make sure you understand everything and have thoroughly practiced everything before you proceed to the next chapter.

D’Ooge is awesome. It is an unapologetic old textbook in the grammar-translation method, but that isn’t what makes it awesome. It’s just very well done. It’s gradual, it has just the right amount of review, it’s very clearly and precisely written, and it prepares the student to read Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and how cool is that? At our present pace (considering we’re supplementing with Julia) we’ll probably take 2-3 years to get through, but then H. will be 10 or 11, and to be done with a high school level textbook at that age is fine with us!

Math. H. has been doing Splash Math exclusively for many months now and is 95% done. Should be done in another week or less. No more long struggles with Saxon, we’re delighted to be completely done with 5/4. After this we’ll do another fifth grade math curriculum, probably Singapore, then move onto sixth grade. Also he has watched the entire Mathtacular 3.

Literature. Here are the more literature-y books he’s read recently (last year? Last six months? I’m not keeping track at this point):

  • Collodi, Carlo. Adventures of Pinocchio.*
  • Dahl, Roald. James and the Giant Peach.
  • Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain.
  • Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller.*
  • Heinlein, Robert. Starman Jones.
  • Homer. The Odyssey. Kingfisher Epics version.
  • Latham, Jean Lee. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.
  • L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Lofting, Hugh. The Story of Doctor Dolittle.*
  • London, Jack. The Call of the Wild. Junior Classics version.
  • Norton, Mary. The Borrowers.
  • O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.*
  • Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet.
  • Pene du Bois, William. The Twenty-One Balloons.
  • Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game.
  • Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
  • Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.*

Several of these I’d read to him earlier, between the ages of 3 and 5 (these are marked with *). In addition I think he went through the entire Henry Huggins series once again, then read the first 3-4 Ramona books, and did more of his beloved Hardy Boys; I think he’s up to #15 or so there. Other stuff too no doubt.

As to writing about what he reads, I’m afraid we’ve all fallen down on the job there. He rarely writes anything about what he reads, and I just don’t have time to make him. I did start him doing “brain dumps” about a few books he’s read lately (Johnny Tremain and a history book), which means: writing for 5-15 minutes without stopping (pauses of longer than five seconds are disallowed) in which you say basically the first thing that comes to mind about the book. Worked pretty well but we’ll see.

Also, I read to him at night…not nearly as much as we used to. The reason is that I stopped making sure he does review (SuperMemo) during the day, and as a result, half the time he ends up spending our reading time in the evening doing review. It’s kind of sad. I think we’ll improve. Anyway, we did finish Huckleberry Finn, after H. finished reading it to himself. I did start reading the original KJV Bible, but that’s of course going super-slow; we’re still in the book of Genesis. We’re making SuperMemo questions about it. Anyway, we mostly read other stuff at night (see below).

Writing. I’ve again given up doing anything systematic. I simply tell him to write something, and he typically does. My biggest regret here is that he rarely finishes anything, although he does write a lot, and he continues to write with prodigiously good spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc. Almost everything he writes these days has something to do with computers. He knows stuff about computers I don’t know. My big plan at the moment is to get him to do “brain dumps” for 5-10 minutes after each half hour of reading that he does, somewhat according to the Charlotte Mason method. He’s done that last Thursday and Friday and it seemed like a good experiment, but we’ll see if we can keep it up. I’ve impressed upon H. very clearly that he must start writing a lot more about what he reads now, and that his goal is to get comfortable and proficient enough at doing so that it will not be too hard to write regular essays, rather than disorganized “brain dumps,” about what he reads.

Grammar. Every Monday at dinner I read and explain to him 2-4 pages from Help Your Kids with Language Arts. Occasionally, he’ll do a lesson from the Marie Rackham “Splashes from the River” Cozy Punctuation course, and I’ve been trying to get him to do exercises from another punctuation book, although that’s very slow going. He gets plenty of grammar, of a better quality, from Latin study. But of course that’s not enough, because English grammar and punctuation etc. is different from Latin.

Piano. H. continues to practice a few hours, all together, per week. I give him 15-30 minute lessons on average around three times a week, on a good week. He continues to progress, although slowly. His heart isn’t really in it.

History. By last fall we had finished The Landmark History of the American People, Vol. 1, and had read the corresponding parts of our usual history books, and then I decided we’d read key historical documents at the same time, 15 minutes per day. Well, that went on for a while but then I felt like I didn’t even have time for that. In any event we did carefully study, twice and with a commentary, the Declaration of Independence. Then we did all but a couple pages of the Constitution. He started (but as usual didn’t finish) some very impressive explication documents about the Declaration and the Constitution. We made SuperMemo questions about this, so H is pretty awesome for an 8 year old at his basic civics stuff. He read some other supplementary chapter books about American history, one about the Revolutionary War, one about Thomas Jefferson, one about Tom Paine; other stuff too I think. But sadly I’m now long out of the habit of reading history to him. I do intend to go through the Amendments with him. I did finish reading to him a Q&A USA book section about Indians (native Americans); I think he read another book about Indians himself. More recently he’s started and got halfway through Beesly’s Stories from the History of Rome, a very easy old text for elementary grades. I was happy that he volunteered to read this himself, when I told him, “You have to start reading history on your own.” He’s read bits from different books in the “Horrible History” series, but doesn’t do that so much anymore. I told him he needs to read a bunch more history stories on his own, like 50 pages a day preferably, and I think I might be able to get him to do something like that.

SuperMemo/review. H. does some amount of review every day, aiming at 150 questions reviewed per day. His recall percentage has dropped to something like 80%, of course because there are so many questions and he doesn’t do all the questions the software wants him to do. He can do his 150 in 30-60 minutes, and rarely reviews for longer than that, no matter how many he’s gotten through. Again, since we’re more or less unschooling, discipline has fallen down here and he ends up doing only 50 per day a few days per week. If you were to ask me whether SuperMemo has magical effects on memory, I’d say probably not. It is a good way to review, but the effects seem similar to what he’d get from re-reading old notes occasionally. On the other hand, he is phenomenally good at remembering passwords, even ones I’d never bother to try to remember, and other numbers. But this might have nothing to do with SuperMemo.

Science. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, ideally, at dinner, I’m reading chemistry books to H. We’ve got 3/4 through the two very meaty Usborne Science Encyclopedia sections about chemistry, and have written and reviewed questions about all that as well. Then I got tired of writing questions so much so I decided to start reading What’s Chemistry All About? to him. We’re close to finished with that now. The great thing about dinnertime reading is that E., at age 4, is actually able to understand 75% of what I’m reading to H., so the time isn’t wasted. He read a whole coffee table-type book about the elements (a two- or more page spread about each element, with emphasis on what they are used for), and also has continued to read or re-read the Horrible Science series. In that series he reads across all scientific subjects, so I am pleasantly surprised to find that he knows basic stuff about DNA etc. Also, we have continued to do occasional simple experiments, for the benefit of both boys. H. has done some stuff all by himself; he took my kitchen scale (for calorie counting, you know) and made a big long table of items and how much they weighed. Then he gave the same treatment with a ruler and yardstick. I made sure he included metric columns as well.

Dinnertime reading: Poetry, Religion, Logic, occasional Art History. On or around Wednesdays every week at dinnertime, I read H. (and E.) poetry. We’re still doing mostly children’s poetry but some of the stuff is getting pretty advanced. Occasionally I aim the poetry reading at E. as well as H. and we do easier stuff. I don’t know what book we’re using…does it matter? We’ve gone through many thick poetry books by now, one dinnertime per week at a time. Typically I read the poem, but if H’s attention seems to be flagging the least bit (and it often does), I make him read the poem. Then we read it again. Sometimes we read for meaning first, then quickly a second time; sometimes it’s the other way around. Occasionally we read a poem three times, and occasionally only once (if it’s really obvious). We usually get through 2-3 poems per day, depending on how long they are.

As to religion, we’ve been going through two pages at a time a book called What do you believe? It suffers from the usual problem of these sorts of encyclopedic-type books, viz., it doesn’t make up much of a narrative, and understanding religion is all about understanding narratives. Still, it’s a good general introduction, and we’ll gradually get into the details of each major world religion, as we’ve already been doing with regard to Christianity. Anyway we do religious studies every Saturday (no particular significance of that).

Every Sunday it’s logic (OK, maybe this one does have significance); he does two pages of that long Bonnie Risby/Prufrock Press series of logic books, or only one page if they’re very hard. He’s about to finish Logic Liftoff and to start Orbiting with Logic, the very last book in the entire series. After this I greatly look forward to moving to some basic but actual logic texts and none of this analogies stuff. Still, as I said before, I don’t regret going through this stuff. It’s a good brain builder and I think has been a good preparation for the more difficult logic stuff. And there has been some legit logic in the series, especially the last few books; I had to explain the difference between inclusive and exclusive or, and he immediately started working on an unfinished essay explaining why “or” must be understood in the exclusive sense (a common beginner mistake—made by college freshmen).

As to art history, well, we’ve been reading the rather crappy Art Book for Children, Book Two. I don’t know why we haven’t given it up. Maybe the spectacle of pretentious crap that goes under then name “art.” That’s part of our world too. But after this I think I’ll start reading from the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series (e.g., Degasso E. and H. can both be exposed, or newly exposed, to some actual art at once. It’s always nice to have stuff that can be enjoyed and learned by both an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old.

Geography. The only geography we do these days is occasional readings from a U.S. atlas at night. We used to do more, when I read/studied 15 minutes of geography to/with him daily, but no time for that now. I think I’ll be having him do a lot more geography reading himself.

Law. Oh, I almost forgot about law. We’ve been reading Everyday Law for Young Citizens by son-mother/lawyer-teacher team of Eric B. Lipson and Greta Barclay Lipson. It’s a general introduction to the law, aimed at 5th to 9th grade. H. read ahead through the entire book months ago but now I’m reading and discussing in some detail everything, and making SuperMemo questions. We’re almost done…p. 86 of 109. At one point the book referred to Brown v. Board of Education, and for whatever reason H. decided he wanted to read the case. So we printed it out and I attempted to try to read and explain it to him, but it was pretty hard. He was later reading it to himself, although I have my doubts as to how much of it he actually understood. So anyway, since he likes the subject of law, I also bought him Law 101 and started reading a bit in that, but we won’t get to that until we’re done with Everyday Law.

Computer stuff. I rarely try to teach H. computer stuff anymore. He’s off enthusiastically on his own, learning everything he can about computers. Yesterday he got all excited and we went to the bookstore to buy a book about building your own computer. He has thoroughly mastered the capabilities of Scratch, has learned many of the basics of Python, and is now interested in Small Basic and Visual Basic. He also makes batch files and started learning command line stuff. He installed two different versions of Linux (some basic Ubuntu and then Uberstudent, which he continues to use). For writing he’s supposed to be researching for and writing a research report about processors. Anyway, this is obviously his hobby—his obsession, really—and if he keeps it up (and we don’t take the computer away from him, as we sometimes threaten to do), he’ll be ahead of me in his general technical knowledge in a couple years.

OK, that’s it for H.

As to E., age 4:

Latin. We’re now officially and reasonably far into Rosetta Stone Latin 1. Lately only a couple of times a week, but maybe that’s enough; generally, after his nap or just before dinner. I’m a little surprised that we decided to do this, but now that I see better the effect it had getting H. ready for the Latin he’s doing now, I think it’s time well spent. The main reason that’s the case is that it’s just easy and yet it does teach Latin. It doesn’t teach the grammar or the most of the traditional vocab (e.g., the words needed to read Caesar), but it does expose the student in an entertaining way to the basics. Anyway, E. insists on making all the sections “green” i.e. nothing wrong, so we go back over everything he gets wrong. OK with me I guess.

Math. Like big bro, E. is doing Splash Math, but at Grade 1 level. He’s about 25% through. We also do Tower Math and some other apps. He’s also been practicing writing his numbers. I tried to get him to work through first grade Singapore Math but that just isn’t much fun. So E. is very much into electronic learning when it comes to math and Latin both. Also he has been watching Mathtacular.

Literature. So…this is a little crazy. I don’t know when we started this, but after the whole family watched the entire Harry Potter series, E. declared that he wanted to read Harry Potter. So I started reading it to him. Pretty soon it was all Harry Potter, all the time. Every breakfast and lunch, for at least the last six months and I think more like the last nine months, I read E. Harry Potter. So now we’re on Book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). This has me torn. On the one hand, wow! What a huge amount of vocabulary and grammatical structure he’s getting exposed to! On the other hand, ugh, more Harry Potter? And no exposure to much science, history, etc., for that long? But when a kid is this enthusiastic about something that’s good for him, you follow the kid’s lead. I just look forward to being done with this series. BTW I read it all once before to myself when the books came out. My appreciation on second reading is increased. She really is a master storyteller!

I think due to all the Harry Potter reading, every. friggin. day., E. is no longer into being read to at night. When he does let me read to him, we read from a wide assortment of unfinished books such as Ribsy and The Jungle Book. I know we’ve finished a few books in the last few years; I just don’t know what they were off hand. He does let his Mama read stories and poetry to him in her language. (H. too. He’s gotten quite good at reading/translating there too.)

Penmanship/spelling/typing. Well, he’s improving. He knows his uppercase letters reasonably well and he’s learning lowercase letters. He’s graduated from individual letters to whole words. As to spelling/typing, he messes around on MS Word fairly regularly, plays with various spelling apps, and we had an interesting Skype exchange recently, which I think speaks for itself:

[4:43:14 PM] E.: papa is foofy
[4:44:07 PM] E.: papa is foofy
[4:43:14 PM] E.: papa is foofy
[4:44:07 PM] E.: papa is foofy
[4:44:44 PM] Papa: [E] is foofy!!
[4:44:54 PM] Papa: Ha ha ha ha!
[4:45:14 PM] Papa: [E] is the Foofmeister!
[4:51:21 PM] E.: papa !! is foofy !! ha ha ha ha papa is the foofmeister
[4:52:28 PM] E.: papa is foofy
[4:52:52 PM] Papa: Wait, there can be only one Foofmeister, and that is [E]!
[4:55:38 PM] E.: papa you are the foofmeister
[4:58:32 PM] E.: papa you can be the foofmeister and you are
[5:07:20 PM] E.: papa is foofier than foofy
[5:10:04 PM] E.: papa is foofy ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[5:11:03 PM] Papa: [E] is foofy because he farts at the table!
[5:15:31 PM] E.: papa is foofy because he farts at the table
[5:16:11 PM] E.: (chuckle)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[5:17:49 PM] E.: [e] is not foofy
[5:20:04 PM | Removed 5:20:33 PM] E.: This message has been removed.
[5:25:13 PM] E.: papa this message has been removed

Grammar. E. has sat in whenever H. watches the Marie Rackham videos. He also occasionally does grammar apps. As a result he’s started learning the basics such as what nouns and verbs are.

Piano. He demands lessons which I give sometimes. I could probably teach him a lot more and would if I had time. This makes me sad.

History. We only read a few history books before getting into Harry Potter, e.g., the Usborne Young Readers Rome and Julius Caesar and a few other things. I tried to start The Story of the World with him a few times. No dice.

Supermemo. Haven’t done this in the last year. Will start when we start The Story of the World.

Science. E. has absorbed a surprisingly lot of stuff from H.’s Chemistry lessons and has declared that he wants to be a scientist, although not enough to want to give up Harry Potter. We’ve read various other books.

Reading. E. has been reading more to himself than H. did at the same age. He has read Catwings 1 & 2, and I think another chapter book, but otherwise he’s stuck to relatively easy picture books. I think it helps that I give him occasional financial incentives which can be turned in for small toys at the store…but he often reads to himself anyway.

Chess. In the last few weeks, both guys have decided chess is fun and want to play all the time. They are starting to annoy Mama with how much they’re playing Chessmaster, which is an awesome program that I highly recommend. E. is much, much more interested and talented than H. was at this age. He just gets stuff right away and can already play a legit game, although it’s quite easy to beat him. This won’t last long, if he keeps it up. As to actual study, he’s been going through the Chessmaster series. As to H., he’s rediscovered chess and that he likes it, and is better than ever.

E. stopped requesting my old presentations (originally written for H.) several months ago. I think H. stopped asking for them at around the same age.

P.E. Both guys get out and play quite a bit, and inside on the gym. They’ve finally learned why soccer is fun and have started playing that. Lots of gymnastic type stuff from E., but H. as well, and bike riding and scooter riding from both of them. We’ve had some play dates/visits in which the usual running around occurred.