Friday, April 24, 2015

SUMMER Like WE USED TO DO Before HOMESCHOOLING

SUMMER CAMPS that fill the SOCIALIZATION void

Yeah, you've  heard it before. Homeschoolers need socialization. Yes, they do. My kids spend more time at home now than they ever did.

The bad, the good, and ugly of friendships built in school wasn't always a positive for my younger son and daughter. My oldest kids for some reason seemed to make better choices in the friends they had.
 
HOMESCHOOL TRADE OFFS

Since I spent most of my child raising years, involved in the traditional school options, getting used to the homeschoolers I'd met opinion of 'mixing with public school children' took some getting used to.

I'd realized that many of my homeschooling peers stuck to 'homeschool' focused extra-curricular activities. But we find that to be to restrictive to our schedules and our kids opportunities to meet and build friendships.

Well because both my husband and I worked outside the home, formerly utilized and enjoyed the options available to mainstream kiddos, we pursued those avenues for our kids.

But when we started homeschooling, it was a real commitment to have time to do Summer Camps, Spring Break Camps, After-school Sports and enrichment activities. It seriously competed with the time we had available to administer homeschool.

The last 2 summers we cut short on the 'summer camp' phase in order to start school in July. Since I had a lot of material to cover to fill in major gaps in my kids learning, and it worked with our working schedules.
 
NEW FACE TO OUR SUMMER PLACE

This summer the kids begged to have the one part of the traditional school schedule they'd loved the most.  A summer filled with fun and enrichment camps that envolved sleeping away and day camps.

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Since the kids are homeschooled, we are able to take them on a LONG Summer Vacation to Hawaii at the end of May with their sister Rose who is scoping out Hawaii as her first stop after graduating from college next year.

After our trip to Hawaii, the kids will have a combination of 4 weeks of various types of sleep away camps, 4 weeks of day camps that focus on trips, a Game Developer's Camp and more short trips to New York, Myrtle Beach and the Cayman Islands.

INSTRUCTION DOESN'T END

They will still be keeping up to date on Math (using Teaching Textbooks as a supplemental math refresher course).

COMBINING THE BEST OF HOMESCHOOLING AND MAINSTREAM ACTIVITIES
 
Is having the best of both worlds. I'm loving it!

WEEKLY WRAP UP

Two Weeks and Counting! Woot! Woot!


Speed Racer, 6th grader

Math, he is in the middle of his Teaching Textbooks Math 6. Saxon is finished! Language Practice (IXL) is getting done independently and he will be using this for extra Math practice next week and through the summer. Writing, Spelling, Reading and Fractions, are all workbooks this week. He's doing a good job of completing 1 page a day per subject. Vocabulary (Wordsmart) is getting ditched this week. I plan on using a different tool next year.
 
Lacrosse season is in full gear, and we are squeezing in breakdancing and Martial Arts weekly.

Tiger Lilly, blended 9th grader
Had her cellphone taken during school hours as it's been a BIG distraction for her.
 
Tiger Lilly is happy to realize that she will not have a Test for her Final Exam in either of her classes, but a long paper and a project in Community College in Interpersonal Communication and Art Appreciation are picking up. Finally she's caught up with Web Design with Currclick.com and Python (with Landry Academy). Her Digipen-Animation with 3D Maya YouthDigital.com using Blender Animation is still her favorite classes. The Psychology class with Currclick on Monday was interesting and prompted her to share. Her scores in US History to 1877 using Instantcert are improving, now over 51% and shows she is ready for the test. Pre-Calc is still going well with the integrated IXL for extra practice.
 
WORKING PARENT's LOG

Meals. My oldest daughter made a homemade cake for us. I got dinner on the table from Mon-Friday by enlisting the help of Tiger Lilly who prepped food and put it in the oven per my phone call directions.

Cleaning. Didn't get around to cleaning this past weekend, so, I'm moving the task to this coming weekend.

Work & Life Balance. I am behind on work ours this week. I don't want to use my vacation time, so I worked two extra long days this week.

Lesson Planning. Done quickly now that we are in the final weeks of school.

Rest. I actually got 7 hours of sleep 3 days this week. Only 6 hours on the other days though. Saturday I plan to sleep in.

Marriage Check Up. Hubby and I are working on a plan for our 'Big Future' and following a great blog called Go Curry Cracker. We hope to have 2 mini-retirements and fully retired by 56 years old. That's what we did on 'date night' during dinner out - dream up what we want to do in the next 5 years.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Close Yet Far

Weekly Wrap Up


I am Spring Cleaning, closing down our basement homeschool room, moving what's left to the dinning room Media Center while getting ready for our end of year Party!

With just 3 Weeks til the end of the school year, there is lot's to do!


Speed Racer, 6th grader

Has finished most of his computer based learning for the school year. His work with Time4Learning.com is done (Biology, Language Arts , US History and Language Extensions).

Math, he is finishing up Teaching Textbooks and Saxon. Still he is having a challenge with remembering the 'rules' for doing fractions, so we are spending extra time on this while he's finishing up the curriculums above.

Writing we are working through the Spectrum 6 grade writing workbook which is a good way to keep him writing by hand and working on his skill. Also, it gives me a better view on what his challenges are.

Vocabulary (Wordsmart) is getting frustrating. This tool is very unforgiving and we haven't made the progress I would've liked. My only issue is that he is getting the games 90% correct but the tool won't let me progress him. It's 100% or nothing.

Language Practice (IXL) Love this tool, we are working through 5th grade Language practice for review.

Reading Speed Reading Comprehension Workbook (Spectrum books). I have him read outloud to me and answer the questions to the story.

Spelling (Sequential Spelling and Spelling You See). We finished Sequential Spelling and are finishing up Spelling You See.

Technology he is finishing Underground RailRoad (Minecraft Homeschool) which he enjoyed.

Sports daily (is killing me! ), but it keeps him busy. Also, with our shortened schedule, he gets to play outside with the neighborhood kids after they get out of school and before he leaves for practice.

Tiger Lilly, blended 9th grader
Tiger Lilly is swamped with work to finish before Final Exams start. Her Dual Enrolled courses at the Community College in Interpersonal Communication and Art Appreciation are picking up.

She is behind in finishing her projects with Web Design with Currclick.com and Python (with Landry Academy), but she hopes to finish and catch up by the weekend.

Her Digipen-Animation with 3D Maya has her doing an animation project, but she won't be able to share it with the class, which disappointed her. HerYouthDigital.com has produced a great animation Blender Animation.

The Psychology class with Currclick on Monday is coming to an end early next month. She is almost finished her US History to 1877 using Instantcert cards study. But her CLEP practice exam scores aren't as high as I'd like them to be.

Teaching Textbooks Pre-Calc is working out well and we are using IXL for extra practice. 

She is working on her book for the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum.

Girls Code and Cyberjutsu Girls is non-profit organization has weekly classes, I was able to enroll Tiger Lilly and she is getting used to it. She said it's a challenge to jump in after the course has been going on a year because most of the kids already have their friend 'click'. So, I told her I would stay with her and volunteer to work with her on her project. We are adding these programs to her list for next school year.

Her Independent endeavors now includes: Creating a comic, Finishing her book, Creating a Game Application with her sister.

As for exercise (mom fail) we aren't getting much. She does Martial Arts for 2 days a week and Dance. I have to find something to get and keep her moving next school year. It gets harder once kids turn 14yrs old and High School sports get absorbed into the school.

WORKING PARENT's LOG

Meals. Another Monday that I didn't take out food to prep. So on the way home, I stopped at the grocery store. The rest of the week was a crockpot, baking, and sandwhich dinner week.

Cleaning. The house is a mess, but I plan to get the troops in gear to whip things back in shape on Saturday.

Work & Life Balance. I had some out of work errands to run (do the taxes for myself and son) that shortened my work week. I will pay for it later when I have to make those hours up next week.

Lesson Planning. Easy since both kids have a shortened schedule, so I finished it in an hour.

Rest. Another bad sleep week. Why? Because I decided to stay up late and watch TV, read, or do some writing for my side business.

Marriage Check Up. Kicking the kids out of our room so we could eat ice cream in bed while watching a scary movie. I paid for it with lack of sleep the next day, but it was worth it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Did I Start Homeschooling?

How Did a Working Mom who Loved Traditional School Consider
Homeschooling

The Utterance From a 2nd Grader:

My youngest son was having a terrible time at school. Between my husband and I, we probably spent 1/3 of the school year showing up to address my youngest son's problems at school.

He complained of the work being 'boring'. The teachers being 'mean' and not having many friends. And the friends he had, always got in trouble too.

Speed Racer told me, "Mom, I don't think school is for me. You are a good teacher. You could homeschool me."

No way was that going to happen. I didn't know a thing about homeschooling. Sure, I'd taught Speed Racer and my other kids to read, write, and do math (all at home) even though they were in traditional school settings. But I hadn't considered teaching them, and I certainly couldn't afford being home.

Life In Motion To Change Our Direction:

Several things happened to spurn my consideration for homeschooling. It's like my youngest son's plea was tucked in my heart and my eyes started to open.

After Speed Racer had been the victim of 'Teacher' abuse, where his teacher shook him and twisted his wrist. Also, bullying and ostracizing by the other kids due to him being labeled a 'trouble-maker'. We decided to work on moving him to another school. Private school. However, both my husband and I decided that if this option didn't work, we may have to re-organize our lives to make homeschooling happen.

So mid-year of Speed Racer's 3rd grade, we moved him to a Christian School we felt would be a great fit for him. We also moved our then 6th grader, Tiger Lilly, who although, never got in trouble in school, had started become 'invisible' and more of an introvert than before. Not to mention, her grades had started to slip.

Rose, our then 10th, grader was excelling at her public high school from which her older brother had recently graduated. Rose was in the Gifted and Talented program at her school, had plenty of friends, and was some what unhappy with the sports program at her school that always cut her from the Lacrosse team.

Another 'Aha' Moment:

Speed Racer liked his new Private school - however, Tiger Lilly hated it. In addition, there were some things that GREATLY disturbed us about the school.

It was super rigid, had very little recess time, the teachers were stern to the point of being plain mean. And my poor Speed Racer, was starting to feel as though he 'could never do anything right.'

You see, Speed Racer, was a 'speak your mind' kind of kid. Also, he had lots of energy. In addition to that, he was rather intelligent and didn't like to waste time on things he already knew.

I showed up at his 'afterschool' program to find that he and the other kids were stuck in their desk, in a quiet room, doing homework. This to me was insane considering the kids had been in their seats all day from 8am-3pm already with only a 30 min break for lunch and 15 min of that was for recess.

My son would have 'accidents' because he'd be forced to hold off going to the bathroom until the entire class could go.

And I was PAYING for this mistreatment! Ugh.

Meanwhile, Tiger Lilly, was hating school. She didn't make friends to easily because she didnt' have time. Her class only got 20 min lunch and 5 min outside. She told me she felt like she was in jail.

Decision Made By The Family Sweetheart:

All of this didn't go unnoticed by Rose. Who I believe knew on some level the step of homeschooling was a scary thought for her parents.

Therefore, she announced in 10th grade, January, after we've moved to another county in our state, that she didn't want to transfer schools. She wanted to be homeschooled!

With a lot of research behind me, landing an Umbrella Group that was awesome in helping me, I felt confident taking on this journey with my older daughter.

We enrolled her in Community College courses, and I built my confidence in homeschooling through this awesome child.

Never Looking Back:

We started officially homeschooling our younger two kids, in the summer after Rose started homeschooling.

Speed Racer stood up during Rose's homeschool graduation and THANKED HER, for making his dream of being homeschooled come true.

Tiger Lilly also thanked her sister because now she loves school and learning again.

Razor Ray, my oldest also, thanked Rose as she had become his best friend since they now attended the same Community College and both played sports.

Oh, and Rose, who always got cut from her high school team? Landed a Lacrosse scholarship at her Community College and ended up participating in a workshop where she taught her old high school team tips about playing at the College Level of Lacrosse.

Blessings Never Come In The Way We Expect:

Had anyone expressed to my Hubba and I that we would both be homeschooling parents. That we'd work through it all. That our kids would give us the courage to do things we never anticipated - we would have been skeptical.

But blessings never come in the way we expect - especially when we are stubborn about believing in the impossible.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Duds and Stars of our Curriculum 2014-15

THE Good THE Bad THE Ugly
 
 
 
This past school year we used and experimented with a lot of different curriculum. Finally, we settled on what was working for our family.
 
 
THE CURRICULUM THAT DIDN'T FIT - at all
 
Clever Dragons
My son found this somewhat fun, he just felt that the learning portion of this was disjointed and didn't follow a pattern. This only lasted for one month before I realized it wasn't working for us.
 

Write Guide
We'd expected more feedback on the written essays, but the comments were too general to really deep dive into helping my daughter. We liked being able to be specific in what she learned, but we needed more.

Abeka Math 6
My son needed more review of key concepts. Although, Abeka touched on these, it wasn't sticking for him. So I had to put together another option.

Abeka Spelling
It was way too many words and definitions for my son to learn weekly. He really struggled with this.

CURRICULUM THAT WE are SAVING for Another DAY

Writing and Rhetoric:
This was working for my son, however, it takes more of my time than I have to give to do this with him. So we are moving it to next school year.

Simply Music:
This teaches piano by teaching the songs. I didn't like that it didn't teach my son to read music also. So I am trying to find a supplement for the teaching of music in addition to this method.

CTC Math:
I'd considered this for my daughter to get some Calculas and Pre-Calculas instruction and practice, but from reviews I see that it doesn't do a good job of explaining the answers to the problems. I'm on the fense with this one and may wait til I see a sale to try it out.

Saxon Calculus with Dive DVDs:
My oldest daughter would like to be exposed to Calc before taking the course at the Community College. I have this on my shelf since it was the only DVD based Calc curriculum I felt would work for us. We had planned on using it with CTC Math or some other online interactive review tool.


CURRICULUM WE LOVED

Abeka DVDs:
This really worked for us. My husand and I were always on the same page while teaching. The kids seem to enjoy a workbook based curriculum that comes with teaching videos and teacher help.

Time4Writing:
We all liked that this was a well laid out writing course. My students got lots of great and valid feedback on their work. The only problem is, it seems that we take longer to finish it than the 9 weeks.

Time4Learning (High School):
I used this as a supplement for my 6th grader. He enjoyed it, but even noted that he couldn't do that for his main curriculum. We used it for a review and soft intro into Biology and US History for him.

Saxon Math:
This is working well for my son. It gives him lots of practice and we are able to deep dive into topics.

Teaching Textbooks:
We use this as a supplement - another way to do math. It didn't work as our core math curriculum in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Math 6 or Math 7. It did work as a form of 'review' for those subjects though. However, it was the best option for Geometry and Pre-Calculus simply because my daughter seemed to like the format for those maths and it was an 'easier' choice than Abeka.

WordSmart:
This is a good vocabulary tool we got through Homebuyers Co op. However, I don't like that there is limited control on the word review and that the kid has to get each game 100% correct to move on. It has been frustrating for us.

Landry Classes:
These classes were a great 'classroom' experience for my daughter. She learned Python programming language through Landry and is going to their Game Programming Camp.

Currclick Classes:
Oh what a bargain and my daughter mention these were her most fun classes. She took Web Design, Psychology and various History workshop courses. We will be signing up for more of these.

Digipen Courses:
These were very informative. They only need to work on their method for involving kids in the discussion and not just shoveling information. My daughter wants to give their Game Programming Academy a try next year.

Youth Digital:
This is a great curriculum. My older girl is pretty much done with them and took four of their classes. My son, however, loves the classes. He took Mod Design and is taking another class next year.

MineCraft Homeschool:
Fun with a bit of learning thrown in. My son liked the format of the class and the interaction and task to complete within Minecraft.

Tynker:
My son enjoyed this but has since outgrown it when he started with Youth Digital.

Education-Portal:
My daughter really enjoys the videos and this form of learning difficult topics. So much so she reviewed classes taught by Abeka using this tool.

Code Academy:
This was a wonderful compliment to my daughter's Landry Python class. She enjoyed working the labs here. Although, she noted that it couldn't be a stand alone class.

Ktbyte.com:
Java Class (online Free) was a great tool for my daughter to use after learning Java with Youth Digitial Mod Design.

Sequential Spelling with Spelling You See:
We didn't use Abeka's Spelling after our 2nd quarter block schedule. It was too many words for my son to memorize and definitions to learn. So we combined both Sequential Spelling and Spelling You See and it's improved his spelling greatly. Also, he doesn't complain about it.

CLEP Professor Algebra:
This was a great review tool! My daughter said it clarified a lot of what she'd learned in Algebra thus far.

IXL (for Language Arts and Math Review & Drill):
We got a discount through our Umbrella group to try this out and we loved it! It's a great resource for our school day.

MiddleBury Interactive Languages:
We enjoyed this well laid out language review. We skipped the 'with teacher' offer since it seemed the teacher involvement was limited. We used this with italki.com feature to get a tutor who spoke the language of choice.

Mango Languages:
This was free through out library and we enjoyed it. However, it wasn't a lesson by lesson lay out that we enjoyed most with Middlebury.
 
WHAT WE CAN'T WAIT TO TRY

Membean
A vocabulary Tool to help with word recognition.

Logic DVD Based Currulum with Compass Classroom
Comes with DVDs, Test, Quizzes and Teachers Manual. Can't wait to try this out.

WEEKLY WRAP UP

This week went off smoothly. Also, momma goofed off. Big time. So the kiddos did their work independ of me completely.

I plan on checking their work on Friday, and what they skipped, missed, or need to fix, will be done on Saturday.