Fall 2009 Wrap-Up

Next week is the last week of the Fall semester.  Who knew 17 weeks could pass so quickly?  It will be nice to go to a lighter schedule as we recharge and prepare for the spring.  So, what have we learned this semester?


First of all, her reading has really taken off.  I don’t know how much of it is due to the Explode the Code and how much is because she just hit that point where her brain was ready for it.  She still doesn’t enjoy reading for pleasure very much, but she is understanding more and more that reading is extremely useful, especially when it comes to her various gaming websites.  I do think the Explode the Code is refining her abilities, though.

In early October Bailey finished Singapore Math 1A and moved on to 1B.  She continues to stay about a quarter of a grade level ahead in Math.  For most chapters we glance at a few examples in the textbook and then move onto the workbook.  Sometimes we just skip the text book entirely, because Bailey just learns better from jumping in and doing it.  I have decided to buy the Home Instructor’s Guide when I order her 2A stuff, though, because I’m not always sure which things she needs to memorize and which things will be reviewed later.

When she finished her 1A books,  I took her to the library to administer the Singapore 1A Placement Test (available at their website) as a final exam of sorts.  She received 90%, and she really enjoyed working in the quiet study room without the usual distractions of home.  Besides assessing her progress, I think it helped introduce her to test-taking skills that she will need down the road.

As for logic, science, history, and Roots Up vocabulary cards, well, I went in thinking of these subjects more as little seeds that may take years to sprout.  Maybe at some random or unexpected time she’ll recall that microscope is related to the Greek word skopeo (meaning “to look at”) or if she hears “Et tu Brute” the name Julius Caesar might pop in her head.  At the very least, some of it may sound familiar when we go over it again down the road.

Our catechism lessons were a bust, but we did go over some of the different Church vessels, looking for a different one each week at Mass.  We also continued celebrating one or two saint feast days a week.  Now that we are in Advent we are lighting our wreath weekly and opening our candy calendars daily.  And I know there were some good impromptu discussions in there from time to time.  We’ll have to buckle down in the Spring, though, as she prepares to make her First Reconciliation and First Holy Eucharist and will have to pass the parish tests.  I have a few ideas about how to approach it, but I’m waiting until I meet with our DRE to get the specifics of what all she’s required to know.

And as usual, how do you measure the things that aren’t studied formally?  I know Bailey deepened her knowledge about football and baseball with the help of her dad.  She learned that a real friend doesn’t tell you that you can’t be friends with other people.  She learned how to use pedal breaks on a bicycle.  And there are lots of little things that she learned that I probably don’t even realize, for good and for bad.


Well, I didn’t have Piper on any sort of formal program, partly for philosophical reasons and partly for practical reasons.  I started to do Serendipity‘s Along the Alphabet Path with her in October, but she didn’t really seem into it.  And as early pregnancy kicked in it was too much for me to handle.  Most days Piper just played while Bailey did her schoolwork, but every once in a while she’d ask to do some schoolwork, too.  On those days she’d plow through 15 pages in a workbook before I finally made her stop.  I bought Singapore’s Essential Math Kindergarten thinking it would last her two years, but at this rate she may finish it before summer.  She also prefers to play Bailey’s Kindergarten and First Grade computer games rather than the Preschool ones.  She doesn’t get the least bit frustrated if something is too hard for her.  She just finishes the exercise the best she can and goes on to the ones that she can do.

KATIE (19 months)

Katie is learning to talk.  She started out with sentences like “I want” and “Give me some” and now  she’s adding words left and right.  Some are understandable and many aren’t.  And she’s learned to believe that she can do anything her big sisters can do:  climb, run, jump, dance, sing, tumble, tackle.  She only has to see them do it once and she’s right there with them before Mommy and Daddy can stop her.

ME (32)

Well, there’s the little personal things I learned like that my fertility returns at about 16 months postpartum.  But maybe that too much information.  I learned that having a dishwasher is really, really nice.  And I learned how to change a dishwasher shut-off valve.

I really learned a lot about Explode the Code (ETC) online and my daughter Bailey through her relationship with it.  At first Bailey really like ETC online because at first it covered stuff she already knew.  But as it became harder, she started going nuts.  After a few weeks, we realized that 7 was a reasonable number of exercises to expect her to complete in one day.  This was after we learned that ETC only counts exercises that receive a butterfly or paper airplane, the two highest grades, before she can get the REWARD button…except for the times when they count 3 bees or ladybugs as equivalent to a butterfly.  They are still working out their bugs, pun intended.

Bailey would be just a little whiny as long as she was getting butterflies, but one mistake could demote her work to a ladybug and send her spiraling into insanity.  Sometimes she would spend twice as long whining and crying over four exercises than it would have taken her to do 12 exercises if she would have just calmed down and done the work.  She had this expectation for herself that she had to get perfect every time, partly because she believed that having to do two or three extra exercises would take hours (even though every exercise averages 2 minutes) and partly due to her perfectionist attitude.  She would then project this expectation on to me, even though I repeatedly told her that I didn’t care if she made mistakes because she could learn from them.  And when I would have to send her to time out she would go on about how I was punishing her for not getting butterflies when really I was punishing the way she would act when she didn’t get a butterfly.

It took me most of the semester for me to realize that part of the problem was with Bailey and part of the problem was with me and my expectations for ETC online.  Somehow I got it in my head that I could just set her up on the computer and walk away.  I thought it would teach her everything she needed to know to progress, and I could go do laundry or something.  But the tutorial portion of the program is short to non-existent, and Bailey in her rush would often skip the intros anyway.  So they would be asking her to spell using concepts and letter combinations with which she had absolutely no experience.  It was like asking her to be a mind reader.

There were some other issues she faced related to her own personal life experience and personality.  At no time in her life had she ever heard a sink referred to as a basin, so she was clueless about which “b” word described the picture of a sink.  There were more than a few similar incidents.  We learned that she tends to be an over-thinker like me.  For instance in one “Yes/No” exercise ETC asked “When you have a fever do you feel frozen?”  Well, when you have a fever your skin feels extra hot but you can have the internal sensation of feeling frozen.  I told her I thought the answer was no, but she has often messed up those types of exercises based on over-thinking rather than reading ability.  There were also some funny pronunciation issues, too.  She still sometimes wants to pronounce her “th” like an “f”; I think this is more about habit than speech impediment.  So we’ve had to clarify those things from time to time.

Mainly I forgot that ETC is a set of computerized workbook exercises and can not replace actual teaching.  So, I started keeping track of what she was set to do next so I could give her a little introduction.  And I stick around to help her with some of the trickier exercises when she asks for it.  I make her give her best guess about the answer first and tell her if she is right or wrong.  Sometimes I clarify words she’s struggling with just like if I was helping her read a book.  As long as she’s trying and not being lazy I don’t mind helping her a bit, and she’s not going as crazy.


Overall, I think our first formal semester has worked out well.    We’ll see how things shape up for the next one.  We’ll just keep progressing.

Explore posts in the same categories: Goals and Accomplishments, Homeschooling/Education

2 Comments on “Fall 2009 Wrap-Up”

  1. Jack3d Says:

    Hi, I recently started reading your blog – thanks for writing. I wanted to inform you that it’s not showing up correctly on the BlackBerry Browser (I have a Bold). Anyway, I am now subscribed to the RSS feed on my PC, so thanks!

    • barboo77 Says:

      Thanks for the compliment of subscribing to the RSS feed. It’s just a modest little blog. Unfortunately, I know just enough about computers to be dangerous and write a blog. I have no idea how to fix anything to make it work on a Blackberry. I can barely work my cell phone. 🙂 I hope you enjoy my meager offerings.

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