Reflections on Our First Exam Week

We are done! Well, except for an Iliad discussion (when Mom finally finishes it) and a few more sections of George Washington’s World, which E and I got a bit behind in reading together. I am very happy with how exam week went because despite the struggles (there’s always going to be opposition and hurdles to overcome when you introduce something new), I can see just how very helpful this practice will be to our homeschool. So, here are some of the observations I’ve made and a few samples of the kids work.

What Went Well

  • I let the boys type their narration-style answers (history, geography, artist study, etc.) so we didn’t have the I-hate-handwriting roadblock to deal with. They still wrote their dictation and copywork answers, and illustrated a couple of things, so I’ll have samples of their handwriting for our records. Miss A chose to handwrite all her answers.
  • I was very pleased with their music appreciation, picture study, and composer study narrations (I didn’t ask E about music appreciation this time, but I think I will next term). They don’t really narrate the Young People’s Concerts to me, so I was pleasantly surprised they remembered so much. I love the opinions and observations they included in their picture study narrations of their favorite Edward Hicks painting. 🙂
  • They all did quite well with their history narrations, even Mr. E who has not done many written narrations so far. I attribute much of that to AmblesideOnline’s excellent history selections (I’ve learned so much myself from George Washington’s World)! I did decide to give him spelling help when he asked, because the narrations were not a test of his spelling skills (that’s what dictation is for).

What Needs Improvement

I have tried to explain to them that any mistakes and weak areas on their exams are helping me see areas where I need to improve as a teacher or be more consistent. Exams really are another way to do a homeschool audit, one that is done three times a year so you can catch things that need to be changed before they get too out of hand. Without singling out particular children, here are some areas that need attention in our homeschool.

  • Plutarch narrations were weak or non-existent across the board, which is really my fault as I asked about the only “Life” we’ve completed this year (Publicola), and we finished reading about him last term. 😛 Consistency and perhaps more “scaffolding” on my part is needed.
  • Grammar review or instruction is also another area that needs improvement, and I’m trying to decide what to use with the boys in the fall. We need to prioritize dictation as well.
  • I must make sure to have some type of map work ready for each geography book we study. Finding places on the map or globe is good, but actually labeling a map would be better. And I’ll be assigning weekly iPad map drills or geography games for everyone to make it fun and get it done!
  • I asked each of them to draw at least one of their narrations, but it was apparent that it would have been a lot more fun for the boys if they were more confident in their drawing skills. Miss A has offered to give them some drawing instruction, and I’ll be thinking about how to make it a regular part of our school week.

Here is a favorite written narration from each child (any punctuation or spelling errors corrected to protect the guilty 😉 ):

The Reign of Terror happened in 1793. Marie Antoinette was hoisted into a carriage and taken to the guillotine. She went up slowly to her end. Another person named Marat was stabbed in the back in his tub by a pretty girl. She thought that if she killed him that it would end the Reign of Terror, but it only increased it. Hundreds of people were beheaded at the guillotine. Finally the Reign of Terror stopped. (Mr. E)

Galileo looked at Jupiter through his telescope one night. He saw beautiful bands of clouds around the planet. But then he saw something else: tiny glimmers of light, like tiny stars nestled around brilliant Jupiter. He looked at Jupiter again a few nights later and saw that the “stars” had changed positions. “Those must not be stars,” he thought. “Those must be moons!” The discovery of moons orbiting another planet convinced Galileo and others that Earth was not at the center of the Solar System. (Mr. D)

Edward Hicks was a folk painter, meaning that often his scenes were stylized and appeared slightly cartoonish compared to other painters. One of his most interesting paintings is The Peaceable Kingdom, which shows a group of animals and children in the foreground, while in the background stands a gathering of men in Quaker-style clothes , as well as some Indians. The animals in the foreground are of all different species: there are lions and cows, predators and prey, but they all sit peacefully together with the children. This represents the meeting of the settlers and the natives as they come together to sign a treaty. Some of the more exotic animals in the painting, most noticeably the lion, look almost as though they had been drawn and painted by someone who had never actually seen one before. Some of the creatures seem to have almost human faces. (Miss A)

And finally, here is Miss A’s drawing of Artemis whining to “Daddy Zeus” about Hera hitting her (from the Iliad):

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