Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fresh Start

Ah, January. It's a good time to evaluate how things are going. How grateful I was for Christmas break this year to take some time and make some changes. I think what works for me and homeschooling is to steadily make gradual improvements by tweaking areas as necessary. It's really hard to change up a LOT of things at once. Keep what works, fix what doesn't.

Spud is rather behind in writing. After trying a variety of different approaches, I was able to figure out that he needs the following:
1. Clear instructions
2. Predictability
3. Not to feel pressured to be overly creative
4. Not to feel worried about mistakes in spelling and other mechanics

I asked for input on the Well-Trained Mind forums and had several people recommend Essentials in Writing as a potential fit. I read some more detailed reviews and it was mentioned to be good for the reluctant writer. We have been taking a Brave Writer approach to more things, but I realized that the writing assignments given were a bit too open ended for him to feel very confident with them, and it was a bit too dependent on me to give very clear instructions, which is not really my strong point. I can explain things well, but Spud wants things EXPLICITLY DETAILED, and he has very little patience for adding things like, "Oh, I should have mentioned XYZ," or the like. So a scripted curriculum works best. We are two days into Level 3 of EiW (I opted to start a grade level below so as to give him more chances to succeed before it gets beyond his understanding) and so far so good. I actually asked him if he would be willing to do two lessons/day since they are short (at this stage) and he agreed to that.

To address his other major issues with writing, handwriting and spelling (the big one!), I ordered a Handwriting Without Tears cursive book and pulled out the Logic of English materials I bought 3 years ago but didn't really get into at all. It was too much for Spud (then a 1st grader) and wasn't very essential for Noodle (then a 4th grader), so I shelved it. I actually think it's going to be really beneficial for Spud now and he is going along with it nicely so far. He is actually excited to be doing the cursive book, which is kind of amazing since he's never been a fan of handwriting. I told him I wanted him to learn cursive so he could at least read it, even if he chooses not to write in cursive. I think he likes the novelty factor of it.

Both Noodle and Spud have been using Teaching Textbooks for Math this year.  Sometimes it would go well for Spud, sometimes not. Finally, after another math meltdown yesterday I told him we were returning to Math-U-See for him, because he did well with it and it worked. He got very frustrated with the spiral nature of TT, with a ton of review in each lesson. I told him that with MUS it was set up to be a lot easier to move forward once material is mastered, so I think he will be glad to use it again, even if right now he's still kind of bothered about it.

Sprout is doing Math Mammoth 1 for Kindergarten math and he likes it quite well. He is also doing Dreambox, which he likes okay. I was doing Life of Fred with him, too, but he didn't seem to love it.
Additionally, he is working through Explode the Code 1.5, HWOT Numbers & Letters for Me, Rusty & Rosy Learn With Me (we paid for a subscription because it worked so well for him for preschool), reading BOB Books and I See Sam books, and joining us for Story of the World - Ancients and Spud for science.

The twins are going to a babysitter in the mornings for about 2.5 hours. From Sept-December they went 3 days a week, but that sitter moved and we found a new one, so now they are likely to go 4 days a week. It has been a huge help to have them out of the house while we do Math, Language Arts, and History/Science. Since they still take pretty good naps, we get another 1.5 hours or so in the afternoon to have some good school time. It has been a sanity saver.

Oh, just to finish out what we are doing for curriculum: Noodle is using Uzinggo for science, which I have been pretty impressed with. We are focusing on Life Science this year, and I think they do pretty great coverage for a middle school level.  She isn't super into science, but she enjoys it well enough.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pyramids

Kids asked how regular Egyptians were buried, so we looked that up. 


 Sprout's coloring page. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thoughts...

Today I sent the following IMs to my good friend Laura who also homeschools:

Sigh....I'm getting that anxious feeling that I get when I feel like I'm not going to be able to DO IT. I want so much to do this awesome mashup of Brave Writer and Project Based Homeschooling but I'm afraid that it won't feel enough like "learning" to me and I'll sabotage it. I am afraid to trust it, even though it really seems philosophically sound.

  I don't want my kids to be "schooled" I want them to learn how to learn, but I only have an example of being schooled...at least until graduate school. And in my regular, non-school based life.

 After a nice chat with Laura more time reading today and corresponding some with Pam (Noodle's super fantastic writing tutor/mentor), I'm feeling better.  I'm actually feeling pretty excited, but I'm trying to keep my excitement real since by now, going into my 8th year of homeschooling, I know that reality has a way of kicking even the most delightful plans in the shins. But I am excited, and I hope that I can remember to have a more Zen approach to the hiccups and interruptions that are inevitable in any life, but especially in a life with twin toddlers.

One thing Laura mentioned was that she has an easier time feeling productive if she blogs about what gets done. I relate to that as well. Even though in retrospect I find it amusing how I blogged about our little accomplishments and projects when Noodle & Spud were in early elementary, I felt happy and productive. As they've gotten older, I've felt more pressure to do things that seem more like regular school, and in the process a lot of the joy has left. One of my primary goals this year is to make room for that joy. To cut out what really doesn't need to get done and spend time learning as a family. Less school-at-home and more cultivating learners. In public schools we spend 12 (usually 13, more if you include preschool) telling kids what they have to know and what is important to learn. But throughout those years we are constantly asking them what they want to do or be when they grow up. Do we really expect them to know when we don't give them a chance to develop their individual skills and talents now?

I have a talent for school. I was always an excellent student, and most of the time that corresponded at least somewhat with being a pretty decent learner. But I haven't been in school for almost 10 years now (I defended my masters' thesis two weeks before Spud was born), so that talent of being a student doesn't serve me that well now. The talent of knowing how to learn does, though. A major mistake of traditional schooling, as I see it, is that the talent of being a student is the only one that is really measured, and therefore valued. There is a parallel track of being a good athlete or a good performer, but there are so many other talents that get ignored and go undervalued. We give every student the same box of tools while ignoring their natural gifts, and then expect them to do great things and have new ideas. I just don't think that's the best approach.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Engines

Sprout sat down next to me while we were eating our dessert and said, "I want to talk about cars and motorcycles and how they work."


Me: "Hmm. Okay, well I don't know very much about that."

Spud: "Okay, well just tell me about how engines work."

Me: "How about we find a video?"

So we watched these two videos and I learned quite a bit! 


Hooray for the Internet and YouTube! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lattice Multiplication

I'd inadvertently downloaded a lattice multiplication app a couple weeks ago and thought "Huh?" when I looked at it. But yesterday I watched the Khan Academy video on lattice multiplication and now I'm sold!

I'd never heard of it before, but I think it is a really nice way to do multiplication of multi-digits. Better than remembering the 0 in the standard way--so nice to do all the multiplying then all the adding. Plus it's kind of fun. It feels like it is too tricky to actually work, but it does.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

We are really liking Real Science Odyssey: Life Science

I got an MS in Zoology, so it's a favorite subject of mine, but I have a hard time sharing my interest with my kids (besides catching bugs, having lots of pets over the years and reading National Geographic...) This year, on some recommendations from a couple of people here, I got Real Science Odyssey for Life Science. I have really liked it, and the kids have, too. So far we have done some good observational activities (outside doing a plot study and studying the parts of an egg) and some fun models (jello models of plant and animal cells and this week a karo syrup based model of blood). I love that the lessons are one page of text. I feel like it hits the key points of the material, plus gives a good explanation, but keeps it short enough so the kids stay interested. We've been supplementing with relevant Bill Nye videos and the Discovery Ed streaming stuff (the kids dig Slim Goodbody) and I feel like it's a really good curriculum for my kids.

Anyways, just wanted to share as I've seen lots of science threads pop up lately. You can download a pretty good sample at their website. I'd looked at the sample before, but it didn't win me over. Really doing it, though, has made me a fan.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

still chugging along

So I started working part-time from home in mid-October (the astute among you might notice that that date coincides with the date of my last blog post here), so it hasn't left a lot of free time for blogging. Yes, I do set my own hours, but with money always managing to find uses for itself, I don't spend a lot of free time blogging or otherwise enjoying the internet like I do when I'm not working.

Homeschooling is going well, though. I introduced "Independent Folders" to each of the school age kids, into which I put any of the stuff for the day that they should be able to do without my assistance. It has really helped us get started more smoothly in the mornings, as they can just open their folders and get to work. Then I can jump in between assignments if I want to do some of the work they need me for. Right now, Spud only has math, a maze (for fine motor skill development plus some fun), handwriting practice on a lined white board, and Explode the Code in his folder, but it is enough to get him going. Then we do reading time and a computer program for reading together.

Noodle has her math, cursive, Latin worksheets (2 per week), spelling, and sometimes math or Latin flashcards in her folder. She also does her piano practice and independent reading time on her own as well. I work with her on grammar and writing, and we all do history and science together.

I am feeling pretty good about our current curriculum setup. It is always a temptation to see if the grass is greener on the other side of some hill, but there is SO MUCH OUT THERE that I find it is better not to look for something new unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. So, I try and not look for problems. I am trying to figure out an approach to geography, though, as I'd like to do more of that.

We've started working with Sprout to learn his ABCs, and he seems really interested. he calls letters "ah-ees." I made a simple ABC book that I'm having printed, and I also compiled an ABC playlist on youtube. Youtube Playlist It's my hope that with a lot of exposure he might just kind of "pick up" on reading a bit more than the other kids have. It has been quite a bit of work getting the other kids to learn to read, so anything that makes it easier I figure is worth a shot.