Category: Pieces


Prepping for School

Prepping for School

We’ve officially started our school year. We’re actually about six weeks into it now. The last two years have seen a lot of fluctuation in our curricula for various reasons. So the following is where we are now, and will hopefully be for some time to come.

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press: all three kids
  • All About Reading by All About Learning Press: Level 1 for Pieces and Level 2 for Pynni
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 2.5 for Pynni and Level 1.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to 3 and 2 respectively in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni and Chi. Pieces will start when Pynni moves on to the next level.
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: Chi

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Splash Math App by Study Pad Inc.: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Time App by Study Pad Inc.: Pynni and Pieces
  • Money App by Study Pad Inc: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum: Pynni and Pieces (Chi has done all of Type to Learn 4 and Typing Instructor. He is at a point now where he just needs practice for typing fluency and speed. I have him type three or so sentences about his daily reading. This correlates well with his work in Writing with Ease.)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

And that about does it for this school year so far. I’m pretty happy with how comprehensive our school day is and that it isn’t frustratingly long for all that. We do 12 workboxes four days a week and on the fifth day we do a math box, a reading box, history, science, and piano lessons.

We aren’t joining two of the homeschool groups we were a part of last school year at this time. One of them took up a big chunk of one day a week and I felt like we didn’t get as much covered as we otherwise would have had we been at home during those hours. It’s a great co-op type group, but it really meshes better with unschooling and not our super structured school days. The other group is good for finding out about all of the things going on in the area that might be relevant to homeschoolers, but it requires a small amount of time commitment dedicated to the group. That bit of time really hung heavy over my head last year and I want to try going without this time around. We may rejoin mid-year, but for now we only have the group we go to the park with on Fridays. If we get more covered, we may join the group that has Wednesday park days as well just for the break those days afford and the society they provide.

I should have a better handle on my Pynni update after today’s visit with the language specialist. For now, we’ve started therapy, but I do not have the official diagnoses just yet.

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Things. Stuff.

Things. Stuff.

That’s all I’m going to say right now. Stuff and Things have happened; have been going on. I’m hoping to turn stuff and things into some posts. There are updates needed, I know.

Onward!

While we officially started our new school year in mid June, we didn’t really kick it into high gear until last week. This is our third year of school here at Lamp Post Academy. Chi is moving into the 6th grade, Pynni is starting on 3rd grade and Pieces is charging through 1st grade.

**Side Rant**

As a homeschooler, I really dislike this need for every kid to fit into a specific grade category. I get why it’s a thing for kids in public school, but here at home? We do whatever level we need to be doing. If Chi is struggling with a math concept, we will back up and take a harder look at it. If that doesn’t help, I will find a different resource to help explain the concept to him in a different manner. We will work on it as long as we need to. If a reading curriculum isn’t working for Pynni, I can switch it, but that generally means backing up to learn how that curriculum introduces concepts or explains them. What terminology they use for concepts.

So we end up, with Chi for example, being in early 5th grade in math, but 8th grade in grammar, and 11th grade in vocabulary and reading comprehension. He couldn’t write his way out of a cardboard box, but he can verbally address many subjects quite eloquently and with a vocabulary that will stun you. So you see? What grade is that really? Well, I guess we’ll just stick with the conventional “this is where you’d be if you were in public school” levels and continue on with our regularly scheduled programming.

**End Rant**

Chi age 11.75 beginning 6th grade; Pieces age 6.25 beginning 1st grade; and Pynni age 8.25 beginning 3rd grade.

Chi age 11.75 beginning 6th grade; Pieces age 6.25 beginning 1st grade; and Pynni age 8.25 beginning 3rd grade.

When we started with our homeschool adventure, I backed up with Chi and Pynni, and started behind where they were in public school. I did this for several reasons, but the two main ones were to get a good feel for their knowledge level without starting out ahead of where they ended their public school education (All curricula are different and teach things in differing orders and ways. It’s easy to start out and quickly come across a concept the curriculum has covered in previous books, but not one your child has ever seen.) and to start a few things from the beginning that, Chi especially, hated in school like writing and Pynni was shutting down doing like reading. In the end my strategy worked amazingly well, and I accomplished all the objectives I was working to meet, but it also set the kids up to be behind in all their subjects as pertains to grade level.

So now that I feel like I have a real handle on the homeschool thing and that I’ve sussed out all the correct curricula and that we’ve got a schooling system and organization that works great for us, I feel the need to press ahead. We, with the exception of Pieces, are behind our public school counterparts in some areas and I think we need to remedy that. Because it’s just the three of us, we can move exactly as fast as necessary moving forward in this school year without leaving anyone behind.

Last year we just sort of mosey’d along with our school days while I worked to figure out what was best for Pynni and Pieces; what worked for them. This year, we can really buckle down and get some learning done. Last year was figuring out how to integrate Pieces into our school days. Last year was meeting with a bunch of homeschool groups and doing a bunch of socializing to figure out what we like best. Last year was making friends and switching curricula whenever we needed to do so.

This year, we have it down. This year we are going to finish at grade level or above. Now, of course, I am aware that “things happen”. Yes. I do know that. So if it takes two school years to be all caught up or more then it takes that long.

Our goal, for this year however, is to be grade level in as many subjects as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

School Table Before Workboxes (and that’s the part I’m willing to show in public)

We’ve been homeschooling for entire calendar year. Wednesday (22nd of Aug) is our official anniversary.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with the most, outside of my back, is getting anything else done at all besides school. When I’m down with my back the number of things besides school getting accomplished falls to zero. Times like now, when I’m sort of up, but waiting on the referral for physical therapy, and trying to accomplish things without rehurting (yes, that is a word! I have LIVED it.) myself, I get very little done outside of school. Dinner gets made. The occasional load of laundry gets done. A few things get picked up here and there. Some cat hair gets swept. I may take a shower. The kids appoints are met. That’s about it.

I, mostly, “do school” and plan to “do school”. (Again, this is a legitimate action verb and direct object, just ask Chi.) Those things listed above fill in the spaces along with back icing and laying (I am the most productive person EVER). Even though I spend most of my time on school or preparing for school, we rarely get through every subject every day. If I work with each kid for three hours, I’m teaching for 9 hours and that does not account for preparation. Three hours of school for a kid is GREAT! But 9 hours of school for me isn’t so much. I don’t mind, really, but I wish we were more organized, more efficient.

Enter Workboxes. Workboxing is a system designed by homeschooling mom, Sue Patrick. It is brilliant. If you google “workbox system” you will find all kinds of people who have adapted this to their homeschooling. There are photos and ideas. It’s excellent.

Took a while, but finally all parts are together and put where they go. Ready for school!

Chi’s workboxes.

The idea of the workbox system is to divide your child’s school day up into twelve, easy to swallow, portions that include new material and review. The boxes should be diverse in nature so that your child does not get bored with some easy tasks and a few challenging ones. There should be many tasks that require your child to work alone and a few that require work with Mom (or Dad, you know, whoever is doing the teaching). Thus, teaching your homeschooled children independence in their school work, which is something that can be difficult to do when the one on one time can be pretty constant.

The over all concept is a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

Here is our school table after the workboxes are filled. There’s room to work!

We took the week off school so that I could get this thing implemented. The work up front is pretty intensive, and on the whole, won’t really cut down my school prep time, but the actual school time will be slashed dramatically. Also, this system will keep us better organized and on task. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going and what my thoughts are as we go along.

With all the “back to school” things everywhere, it’s funny how implementing this workboxing thing is like the mark of a new school year for us.

edit: I’ve found in the few days since implementing the workbox system that if I plan ahead, the daily prep takes about twenty minutes. MUCH better than before. A surprising, but welcome, development. And with all three breaks, the kids take about three and a half hours to get through all their subjects. In September we will start rotating history and science with the social studies we’re doing now. Pynni wasn’t too thrilled with the length of time working at first, but she’s come around now that she doesn’t have me looking over her shoulder for her entire school day. Chi took a day or so to acclimate and really struggled with the change, initially, but I expected that to be the case, even considering all the prep work I did with him. Pieces is Pieces and school is his mission while he’s doing it, whatever form that takes.

**Update** Please see comments where I talk about my experience with this curricula.

Original Post, April 2, 2012:

I’m preparing to teach a Kindergartener. I was completely freaked about it. Teach my kids about molecules? No problem. I’d rather dive headfirst into teaching them Calculus than be responsible for teaching them the foundation on which all their subsequent learning will be based. YIKES!

So like any good completely freaked out nerd, I did research. I bought books and read stuff on the internet and I went to my local homeschool store and talked to the professionals (Have I mentioned that I LOVE that place? The Homeschool Gathering Place is the best. They sell new and used (on consignment) curricula and the people who work there are knowledgable homeschoolers or previous homeschoolers. I LOVE THEM!). *ahem* Through various tips and suggestions, I decided to try out a new spelling curriculum, a new reading curriculum, and a new math curriculum. I’m sticking with the grammar, handwriting, history, and science curricula that I’m already using with the older kids.

Beginning with Reading/Spelling (I’ll talk about the new math curriculum another time)–

While the two are not the same, they are related. As you probably are already aware, reading has been something of a problem with Pynni since Kindergarten and we had to backtrack and start all the way over earlier in the year. It has taken me a while to get passed her aversion to even try to read and get her on to the learning part. I don’t want to unintentionally visit any of those issues on Pieces, so I decided that I needed a more comprehensive solution to teaching reading/spelling than what I’ve been doing with Pynni (and, yes, I’m going to use the new curriculum with her).

All About Spelling

Meet All About Learning Press. They make All About Spelling and All About Reading. Their motto is “programs that teach thoroughly so your child can succeed amazingly”. It is a lightly scripted curriculum, which we’ve had success with so far in our schooling endeavors, and is intended to be used in 15 minute increments in the beginning so that the child does not lose focus or get frustrated. It uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching in order to teach children the way they learn most naturally: using sight, sound, and touch. The program uses memorization and repetition in an engaging way in order to permanently create those pathways in the brain that will help your child be a lifelong reader and an excellent speller.

I decided to use the All About Spelling with Chi. He’s a very advanced reader, but spelling is not one of his strong suits. So I’m starting him at the beginning, and since this curriculum is designed to be taught in whatever size chunks your child needs, Chi will speed through the early stuff while still learning the things he needs to know in the more advanced levels. Chi was insulted when we started the first lesson and it was just flashcards and phonograms, but he didn’t know all the sounds vowels can make and learned something new. Pynni was, also, insulted with the content of the first lessons (she’s doing both reading and spelling) and that made her mulish. We persevered, but the fact that she didn’t know all of the phonograms was hard to take. I told her that Chi missed the same ones she did and that it wasn’t bad to not know something because that gives us new things to learn, and learn them we shall. She perked up at that. Pieces took to the lessons right away and enjoyed himself.

Huh, I guess I started teaching Kindergarten today. Not so scary after all.