Friday, August 29, 2014

Writing Isn't The Easiest Thing To Teach

So this week as our WRAP UP I'll talk about how our new Writing Curriculum worked out.

Tiger Lilly is my avid Writer, Artist and Programmer. Major Creative spirit here.

I'm trying to prepare her for the following CLEP TEST.

Composition (English) CLEP
Analyzing Literature CLEP

I needed help, after she took the Composition CLEP cold about 6 months ago (she failed by only 1 point! Sigh). However, I wanted to make her studying for it this time more active.

And to be honest there wasn't any viable options for studying Analyzing Literature CLEP...until I found one.


Composition (English) CLEP (For Grammar, Essay Writing and Research Paper $99 each - for 3 courses) Each are 8 week online courses that are spelled out, outlined and has a teacher actually correct the papers and work. The teacher has done an excellent job at redlining the papers and checking the work. I've been very happy with this course.

Analyzing Literature CLEP allowed me to specify a program that taught her how to analyze literature like Plays, Poetry, English and American. It's a tailored to fit program for our needs. It got off to a rocky start since they didn't really understand my requirements but once I spelled out what I was looking for they found my daughter a Phd in English to teach it. The only thing I don't like is that the teacher doesn't actually correct her papers. However, the feedback is very useful regarding how my daughter should approach her literature review and rules regarding responses in Literature. Overall, I am happy with the program, I just wish the teacher would be more thorough in correcting her written responses.

SpeedyPrep Videos and Flashcards
We signed up for this and I like that it comes with videos and flashcards for each test.

Peterson's and REA sample test
The Peterson's test are free through our library and more difficult than the REA. The REA electronic test are the best. Our goal is when she is scoring at least 57% on each test, we know she will be ready to talke the above test.

She took a sample test for REA and scored a 60% but since she took it before I wanted her to touch up on her grammar so we are doing a season of Analytical Grammar and Grammar.

Speed Racer started his new online writing and independent work this week.

He is doing fab. All the challenges he had last year seem to be fading away and he is rather compliant now with mom and dad when doing his work.


This week he started his new Writing Online Course with

Sandiego Scribblers

Basically Speed Racer logs on, gets his assignment and types it in. The assignment is corrected with clear explanations. It's been going well. As well as the set up was simple.

He had a timed writing exercise or assignment from the course. I timed him and had him write his paragraph, then he typed it into the student interface. We read over it and he made corrections then I let him hit send. He had 1 week to turn in his work. The teacher will redline it, send it back for him to make corrections.

Speed Racer liked that he got to 'meet' other students in the class. They were all told to 'write' and introduction of themselves and my little guy read everyone's.


All went smoothly this week. The kids now have their independent online work to do while they are with the home helper for 3 hours a day.

I get home, toss dinner in the oven if it's not already in the crockpot.

We started instruction on our boxed curriculum Abeka Academy videos, workbooks, test and quizzes at 3pm.

This week my little guy didn't have his dance crew practice (which is 3 days a week 2.5-3hrs each day). Since we didn't have that, he finished school earlier than his sister did - at least when he wasn't sneaking longer break times.

Ending our school day at 9:30pm with poppa bear running things from 8pm til dinner at 9:30pm.

Only2 snafus happened

I had to stay late at work about 2 hrs and we had a later night than usual because my students didn't want work over the weekend.

My poor Hubba (after participating in a 'dance battle' at Speed Racer's dance school) injured his knee and just told me that he'd set his surgery date for Friday. Well it conflicted with my workschedule since I had no more vacation time. So... Razor Ray (my oldest son) came to save the day. He's coming home from his college apartment to take his dad to the hospital for surgery and is waiting there to drive dad home.


This week I had to be flexible and was willing to move a portion of instruction to the weekend or push the entire schedule a day. I worked 50 hrs this week instead of my customary 40. And had to wake up at an ungodly hour to do this. So I made a strick bedtime for myself at 10pm in order to get 6 hours of sleep each nigh. Thankfully, I survived on just 1 8 oz cup of coffee each day.

Curriculum and School Day schedule. As far as wibble room in the curriculum I have about 20 days to play with to end by mid May 2015.

Planning dinner went off course this week and while I dropped the kids off at their sports, I had to run to the grocery store to get supplies. Also, caved in and had Chick-fil-A one day since I had to help my daughter with her online Python class homework.

Workboxes and online courses helped me keep the kids and dad on track. Also, I could check their work progress at work while on my lunch break.

Creating Weekly Lesson Plan is off course since I have to re-adjust to accomadate a new Spanish Curriculum, Currclick Logic Class, Time4Learning Research Paper Class and integrating Humanities, African American history Movie Based Curriculum to sneak in some learning.

There was some silly time that was unscheduled and pushed into a later end to school at 10pm, but the kids didn't mind. Considering they stayed up til 12am with their dad playing video games.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two Week Crunch

The benefits of a break.


Well last week my two younger kids had school.

Substitute Teacher, sister Rose, and schoolbus driver Razor Ray took care of the kids while...


Mom and dad went on vacation! Yep! Vacation.

We did Facetime with the kids and my older two children were excellent. They didn't even have to call in the grandparents for backup.

Since both my hubba and I recently started new jobs, this trip was a treat for us. But there was a price to pay for it. This past week, we both had to work overtime hours to make up for hours taken that didn't cover the paid vacation hours we'd earned.

So...Substitute Teacher sister Rose, finished out the week of instruction.


It was a light schedule this week since SPEED RACER, my 6th grader, is in Circus Camp for the week.

Tiger Lily had a light schedule, only requiring her to do her online classes with Landry Academy and WriteGuide, while completing her computer interactive electives on and Algebra 2 Teaching Textbooks (our Math Supplement).


Well I noticed that after a summer filled with over 7 weeks of day camps, sleep away camps, weekend meetups and playdates, my kids are going through ... WITHDRAWAL.

Yep, both of them mentioned the following about having a two weeks of homeschool.

Tiger Lilly, "I'm so lonely now. After a summer full of friends and playing, I only have two bff's to play with online for Minecraft."

 * So what did I do...

- Reminded her that Cheerleading starts full steam this coming week
- Signed her up for a MineCraft play area with Scrafty Homeschool Minecraft to give her online friends to play Minecraft with in a safe environment.
- Showed her the calender of several Homeschool Tween and Teen meetups we are going to

- Lastly, I am leading up a Teen Writing Meetup to meet monthly and encourage the teens to write and converse online.

As for Speed Racer's Socialization Withdrawal

- Scheduled more Tween Meetups
- Signed up for library Minecraft club that meets 2 times a week
- Scheduled playdate visits with his friends from soccer, street dance and jujitsu.
- Found an online group for homeschoolers near my home that meet monthly for playdates (a boys only group).
- Boyscouts - checking it out as a way for him to meet and play with other boys.


Camping! Then a day at Kings Dominion where we have season's passes. Just my Hubba and our two youngest kids, Speed Racer and Tiger Lilly. We have to get used to it just being them that we have to entertain the majority of time.


Next week will be the first week I don't have my at home helper, Sister Rose. Rose and Razor Ray are moving onto college campus.

Things I will do to prepare for the week of working while homeschooling:

- Prep meals for  the week that can be put in (1) Crockpot or the (2) Oven Meals
- Plan Schedule (block schedule) with online interactive items that Tiger Lilly and Speed Racer can do in the morning and with my new 'homehelper' that starts Monday - 3 hrs a day between when dad leaves for work and mom returns home
- Fill workboxes for the week (we use Sue Patrick's workbox method)
- Clean the house (it won't get a serious cleaning again til next Sat. morning)

THAT's All for this week. And it doesn't even feel like I had a vacation all alone with Hubba where all we did was sleep, lay on the beach and rest.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

So You Think Homeschooling AND Working is Harder?

I've done IT ALL! With Four kids and 21 years of marriage there isn't a combination I haven't tried. And as many people I hear complain that homeschooling is : hard, exhausting, impossible and on...if you work, they haven't compared the options.

Let's compare the schedule I had with each scenario

Both Hubby and I switched one drop off and pick up


Yes, I had all of my kids at one time in Private School. Both Baptist which taught Abeka and Catholic School.

*Required MORE homework
*Parental Support (Financial) and Physical
*Cost came up unexpectantly
*Quality of Education wasn't always worth money paid
*Lack of extra-curricular and College transition programs

My schedule when kids were in Private School and I worked

5:30am-Wake up kids
6:30am-Drop off kids at morning care (with their own breakfast)
6:00pm-Pick kids up from aftercare
6:30pm-Grab dinner
7:00pm-Go to sport activity, Kumon (after school tutoring) 3 days a week
9:00pm-Do homework (they usually didn't do a good job of it in extended care-only time to play)
10:45pm-Put them to bed (if they didn't finish their homework)


This also had it's challenges

*Never knew what my kids were learning in class
*Kids were spread out over different schools (I had one in Daycare, Elementary, Middle and High School for several years)
*Cost came up unexpectantly
*Quality of Education depended upon the location where we lived

My schedule when kids were in Public School and I worked

6:00am-Wake up kids
6:30am-Drop off two younger kids at morning care (with their own breakfast)
6:30am-High Schooler walks to school bus pickup
7:00am-Middle Schooler gets dropped off at school bus pickup
4:00pm-Pick up Middle Schooler from bus stop
5:00pm-Pick up High Schooler from High School Sports (Football,Track or Lacrosse)
6:00pm-Pick younger kids up from aftercare
6:30pm-Grab dinner
7:00pm-Go to sport activity, Kumon (after school tutoring) 3 days a week
9:00pm-Do homework (if they had any)
9:30pm-Do AFTERSCHOOLING to teach them what they didn't learn in school
10:45pm-Put them to bed (if they didn't finish their homework)


This has challenges too

*Finding the curriculum that can be pulled off by two parents
*Childcare/Tutors that will come to my home
*Schedule has to be Flexible

My homeschooling schedule and yes, I still work :-D

5:00am-Mom gets herself up and goes to work
9:30am-Dad gets up and dresses
10:00am-Dad wakes kids up to start their Independent Work

Tiger Lilly works on (Youth Digital, Code Academy, and Python with Landry Academy Course)

Speed Racer works on (Tynker, XtraMath, Teaching Textbooks, Typing)

11:00am-At home helper comes over - relieves Hubby
2:30pm-Mom home - relieves at home helper
3:00pm-Abeka DVD/Streaming Courses start

Tiger Lilly works on (Abeka: Alg 2, US History, Spanish)
Speed Racer works on (Abeka: Bible, Math, Reading, Penmanship, Spelling)

6:00pm-Eat Snack and Leave for Sports
7:00pm-Go to sport activity
9:00pm-Late and Light Dinner
9:30pm-Dad continues homeschooling

Tiger Lilly works on (Abeka: Chemistry (three times a week), (These are 1 time a week) Econ, Amer Gov't, Physics, Art)

Speed Racer works on (Abeka: Science, History,(one time a week) Art,  Education-Portal:Spanish, Workbook: Logic)

10:45pm-Kids finished, either go to bed or hang out with dad

Weekly Wrap-up

This week is in gear and went off without a hitch.

My stand in teacher - Rose (oldest sister) is teaching and handling her students well.

Tiger Lilly:

Tiger Lilly - started cheerleading this week. She's super excited. Also, went online several times to play Minecraft with her bff from Public School and email her new friend from cheerleading.

She also requested we add another class to her already packed schedule O_o *It's a weekend class with Digipen that teaches 3D Animation using Maya Autodesk* I can't believe she wants to take this Saturday course - but hey, it's her own time.

Tiger Lilly says she wants to be able to script, draw and create her own video games one day.

Speed Racer:

Behaved like an angel this week. His sister has started bribing him with candy. Hey, what ever works.

His CALM DOWN LIST is still up and she and he read it daily.

This is his last week doing Logic workbooks and will be starting with Art of Argument (Yay!)

In Dance and Martial Arts he is performing well, listening ears are on, but he still has hop around syndrome (like mom and dad).

He's also been practicing his breakdancing at home - late at night, when I'm already in bed. His dad and him watch a movie then my husband 'coaches' the little guy. I think he likes that one on one time.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Our First Week of School 2014-15

This week got off to a bumpy but positive start.

I trained my Tutor / Helper - My oldest daughter Rose who will be administering school for her siblings until she leaves to move onto her college campus. After she moves, she volunteered to come over on the weekend to do Saturday and Sunday school for makeup days if I needed her.

The Schedule Evaluation:

Well this first week I sort of evaluate our schedule. How long it takes the kids to get through it, what obstacles we've met and a re-adjustment if needed.

Some things I noticed that I need to fix this week is making copies earlier than the day of. Because I didn't make copies of Tiger Lilly's Analytical Grammar Practice Sheets for her to work on, that didn't get done.

Tiger Lilly also needed some assistance with her Python curriculum. The actual Landry Academy online class doesn't start for 2 weeks but I wanted her to read ahead, get some practice in before class. I purchased the HeadFirst Python book (which she loves more than the book assigned by her Python teacher). I also realized she is very visual as a learner and had to go hunting on Youtube for Python Tutoral Playlist (I found one we both liked named Bucky's Python Tutorial).

The hurdles above were addressed on the first day and the rest of the week was smooth - sort of.


The new curriculum items I added this school year are the following:

Landry Academy Online Class
Code Academy Python Online
Ktbyte.com Java Online course Online Writing Class
Youtube Videos by Bucky and Book Reading for Python
Art DVD Course (See The Light Art Curriculum)
San Diego Scribblers online Paragraph Writing Course

The above have added an extra challenge. I realized I really had to walk through these with the kids. Sitting with them through the lessons and explaining how to interact in those environments. Also, it was a challenge for me as some of the programs weren't as laid out or well explained on their websites so I had to email them about specifics.


Although Speed Racer has improved by leaps and bounds from last school year, we still have some way to go.

While his sister, Rose, has been administering school he has challenged her constantly. In small ways, but Rose is handling him well. I've been checking in on them and Rose demands I stay out of it, lol!

Also, Speed Racer is experiencing his first time on a organized Dance Team. He's having some struggles with obedience and not being the class clown.

Although, I'd like to pull him out, my husband insist that we work this through and make this a learning experience. Therefore, we did the following to address his behavior since its not consistent (he doesn't do this when we are present) but still not acceptable.

- Remind him of (3) Acts of Respect (a) Respect Your Teacher (b) Respect yourself (3) Respect Others prior to class

- Stay present and visible at his practices. *We noted all of his outburst or smart mouthing happened when we weren't there*

- Make a point to have an identified reward or consequence to his behavior. When he is not cooperating he will end his night doing the dishes and not playing video games.


This year we are WAY more relaxed. They don't have to do all their work at their desk unless they want to. I've also added a Tablet full of educational games that they can play during their 15 min break.

The Block Schedule is working fabulously!!!

Tiger Lilly is pretty independent now. I do make her accountable by checking her work daily (after my assistant Rose has). It's definitely a MUST DO when you have a child doing a curriculum without you.

Speed Racer has improved his independence and neatness with his work. Also, with his dance class.

School is done faster. Yep, the kids have figured out that procrastination means a longer day.


I thought I'd throw this in for those parents that do both. This week I was willing to slide or shift coursework around in case my work schedule impacted school.

The challenge of childcare is a big one. So I put in notice with local homeschool groups seeking a homeschooled teen to tutor and fill in a few days a week for several hours. I've gotten some good responses.

Getting help from your spouse is a must. You must ask to receive. You must let them do things their way.

The tools for learning are mostly computer or DVD based. It allows me time to do other things, like cook dinner, clean, goof off. The kids do have their chores but the big cleaning day is Saturday.

Prepping meals ahead has been a lifesavor.

A secret about working and homeschooling - while at work, both my husband and I get a taste of freetime with lunch out with friends. I couldn't trade that for the world.

School ---- Can Happen Anywhere - Anytime you want! And this is the reason why I absolutely love homeschooling.


Speed Racer, "Gosh, now that my work is done, I am bored." O_o Wow!

Tiger Lilly, "I admit it. I'm a candy addict."