Tag Archive: homeschool


Again, time flies. We’ve been really buckling down with school these past few months after the craziness of the summer break and travels. My kids were gone most of July and part of August, so I spent it all planning the next school year. I didn’t change up much in the way of the curricula used, although a few things have been added or removed, as the case may be. I mainly worked on aligning the reading and spelling curricula to the extra work we’re doing with Pynni to address her learning disabilities in those areas. Plus, I dug through all the science curricula I’ve accumulated over the years and aligned all of that so that all the lessons and information and labs line up. I feel like this concentrated approach to the information both with Pynni’s school work and Science will solidify the information in their brains.

With the addition of the Brave Writer collection of curricula to our day, I’ve expanded the copywork the kids do every day and added free writing. Some of the things that we used as supplements during our workbox work has been moved to “on your own time” supplemental work that is aimed at fostering independence and self responsibility in regards to assignments and projects.

With everything that I’ve dealt with in regards to Pynni, I’ve dropped grade levels with my kids as far as my yearly planning is concerned. I have goals set for all of them for the year and with a four year plan for Chi, since he’s that close to graduating.**gulp**  But for the sake of all the people who don’t homeschool, or who still care about grade level: Chi is in 8th grade, Pynni is in 5th grade, and Pieces is in 3rd grade.

 

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

More information from Bravewriter.com:

“It is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context, using copywork and dictation. It is a language arts resource that equips you, the homeschooling parent, to fulfill your best intentions related to:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Literary elements
  • Quality living literature
  • Literary analysis

The practices of copywork and dictation teach your children the fundamentals of written communication. These practices naturally facilitate the development of accurate mechanics in the context of quality literature (the best words, in the best style, accurately edited).”

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Youth Digital: Mod 1 : an online programming class teaching programming with Java through Modding Minecraft, Chi
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Science Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Young Scientists Cluball three kids. This is a lab mailed to your house once or twice a month.
  • 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
  • Rosetta Stone: Spanish Level 1
  • Keyboarding Without Tears by Handwriting Without Tears: Pynni and Pieces

Joint Reading:

  • FINSIHED Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • FINISHED The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee (This is just with Pieces right now. It’s for The Arrow. We take turns reading out loud. Chi will read this on his own and then he will read the passages used in the curriculum out loud to me. He’s read this book before about 4 years ago.)

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Last time I was here, I wrote my school year 2014-2015 roundup. Some things have changed since then, and although it’s the end of the year (and we’ve officially started our next school year), I wanted to put my thoughts on some changes I’ve made, and changes to come, here for any who are interested.

Chi is in what would otherwise be his 7th grade year. He completed the writing curriculum Writing with Ease by Peace Hill Press (which I cannot praise enough for the changes it has wrought in my so-reluctant-to-write-Aspie-that-he-had-less-writing-in-his-504-plan) early in the year and, of course, we moved on to the next phase of that series: Writing with Skill. We worked and worked through it and his writing became more and more reluctant. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere no matter how much we did and Chi increasingly hated the lessons. So much so that he began having meltdowns.

Meltdowns are uncommon for him these days, and that made me realize this curriculum was no longer for us. And so began the months’ long search to find a writing curriculum that both of us liked.

The problem with most of the curricula I liked was that they were part of broader language arts programs and entirely too comprehensive, and thus more expensive, as a result. Also, integrated writing curricula tend to be extensions of other subjects: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension and therefore more difficult and often confusing to use outside the whole.

I very much like the curricula we use for those other language arts subjects and don’t need more overlapping in those areas. So the search continued until I stumbled upon Brave Writer by Julia Bogart.

Brave Writer is a more comprehensive writing curriculum than Writing with Skill but only because it includes a nice reading comprehension component that pairs nicely with what we already do in that area. It also expands the concepts I was introduced to through Writing with Ease: daily copywork and dictation exercises as a bridge between reading and writing.

Originally, I wanted to buy the language arts bundle but  Chi’s level wasn’t yet released. So, after waiting for a couple of months and continuing my search elsewhere, I decided to buy the available components: The Writer’s Jungle.

I really like it. It’s not a scripted curriculum like we’re used to using, but more of a class for me to learn why these concepts, why they work, and how to implement them in my homeschool. So far it’s been great, and I liked it so much that I started using it with Pieces and Pynni.

The first thing I brought to our day was free writing. For Chi, this means writing a short story or part of one, making brainstorming lists about anything and everything that interests him (Minecraft), elaborating on the lists, or writing a journal type entry. For The Littles, that means drawing a picture (elaborateness is a personal choice) and writing about the picture in some way. There is no minimum number of words or lines or pages. There is no grammar or spelling checks. It is just a means to get them writing in a completely stress-free, non-judgmental environment. It has been completely freeing for them and Pynni has really taken to the task and run with it.

The grammar and spelling and sentence structure is being covered elsewhere. This isn’t about that.

The next two things are stuff we already do in First Language Lessons (our grammar curriculum), Writing with Ease, and All About Spelling: copywork and dictation. Right now, I haven’t expanded copywork and dictation outside of those subjects. Eventually, I will have expanded both within those subjects and without, but that’s another post.

Everything is trucking along now. The other components of Brave Writer were released since I began putting this post together. I’ll acquire that and integrate it this summer.

Summer is the time of year when I do a big reassessment of our goals and how to meet them. This summer has me doing a lot of research and learning, and this fall should bring some pretty big changes in how we go about our school day. Chi is in his 8th grade year and is still behind in math, but not by too much, so we need to push that along a little faster. It’s also time to start having him write some formal research papers. It will be his first. I’m not looking forward to it, but hopefully my work this summer will help me feel more up to the challenge of getting this reluctant writer of mine to write something not about Minecraft (although I’m thinking a history of Minecraft might be a good jumping off point).  Pynni is in her 5th grade year and is way, way behind. In fact, she tests at barely a third grade level. I have more information on that, but it won’t be delved into here. Suffice it to say that most of my work this summer will be integrating a bunch of resources into our school day to help her cope and advance. Pieces is starting his 3rd grade year and he is beyond that already according to his end of year test. He blows me away with how quickly he assimilates knowledge.

Whoo. It’s a crazy ride. I don’t always feel equal to the challenge, but giving up isn’t an option. So onward!

 

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

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • 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

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)

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Whew, it’s been a while, I know. I could go into all the why’s, but it’s a long, very unhappy, story, but a) talking about it anymore might make me scream, b) it’s really not relevant to this blog other than the lack of blogging, and c) talking about it now feels like whining and very self-indulgent. But, now I’ve made you curious and that’s rude so I will say two things: 1)Depression and 2)Writer’s Block.

Ok, now that the obligatory “I’m sorry I wasn’t blogging and I’m going to write again, now, but I can’t promise this will be with any regularity” is out of the way, onward with the Curriculum Roundup for this school year 2014-2015.

Chi is in “7th” grade this year, Pynni is in “4th” grade this year, and Pieces is in “2nd” grade this year. Not a whole lot has changed about our curriculum except that Chi moved from Writing with Ease to Writing with Skill and we BOTH hated every second of it. So for now, until a)I find a writing curriculum that I like and b)Chi finishes his other language arts curricula except spelling, he is taking “Mom’s Writing 101” and learning some general things about essays and research and expositions, etc.

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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 2 for both Pynni and Pieces (Pieces has caught up with Pynni and will pass her soon. They’ll both move on to Level 3 this year).
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 3.5 for Pynni and Level 3.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to Level 4 in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi (He is almost finished with the last book of this.)
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni Level 2 and Pieces Level 1 (Chi finished WWE and moved on to Writing With Skill: commented on above)
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids although Chi is on the last level and will be finished with it shortly.
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: all three kids

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Kumon Publishing North America, Inc.: My Book of Easy Telling Time; My Book of Telling Time; My First Book of Money:Counting Coins; My Book of Money: Dollars and Cents: Pynni and Pieces (They hated the time telling and money counting apps. I don’t know why because they seemed fun and well done to me, but these books have been very helpful and not so fraught with drama. They’ve both completed the time telling ones and can both tell time accurately on analog clocks. There are length, weight, and volume books that I will be using once the money counting books are done. Math U See covers time telling and money counting, but there wasn’t enough repetition, or hasn’t been yet, to really engrain the concepts).
  • Balance Benders:Logic and Algebraic Reasoning Puzzles by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • 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

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)

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I’m really happy with Math U See still and all of All About Learning Press’s stuff (All about Reading and All about Spelling). I really like Writing with Ease and First Language Lessons, but Writing with Skill (the next set of books after Writing with Ease) was just not something that was working for Chi. I felt like it shoved him into the deep end of writing without a flotation device when I’d just been teaching him to tread water.

So I’m looking long and hard at Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum. It’s a comprehensive curriculum that includes vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and writing. My biggest hesitation with this curriculum is that it IS comprehensive. What if one part of it doesn’t work for us? Also, we like Vocabulit very much, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a little overlap in curricula. My second biggest hesitation is the cost, but then I spend quite a bit on Peace Hill Press books so that will cover some of the expense. I’m also a little hesitant because it is SO intensive, but I know I can pull back and slow down as needed.

In order to give MCT a shot, though, Chi has to complete First Language Lessons (grammar), Guiness World Records Reading (comprehension), and Reading Detective (comprehension). I have until then to decide. I see a trip to  the Homeschool Gathering Place (our local homeschool store) for knowledgeable input into this decision.

So, hello? How’ve you been? For me? It feels good to be back.

 

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.

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.

As you may already be aware, I homeschool. We’ve joined some homeschool groups this year and they require that I post group things for everyone to choose to do. It can be as simple as, “Hey, we’re going to the Museum today, wanna join us?” to as complicated as, “Hey, I’m going to teach a science lab every Thursday for the next 6 months. Join us! Bring your brains and the Required Dollars!”

Guess which category I fall into.

Right, so I seem to be UNABLE to do things the easy way. I host science labs at Homeschool Explorers and now, a writing club. So I read this blog post by Lydia Netzer. I got all inspired and lost my mind and posted a listing for kids to join Chi and me in our Junior Secret Novelist Club. There wasn’t the clamor for the few open slots that I thought there’d be, and I was admittedly a little disappointed. I guess it’s a good thing because I would have had a hard time telling people that our club was all full.

So our first meeting was Wednesday, April 3rd. Only two other kids showed up. Our club is all boys. There is the possibility that one girl will be joining us for the remaining meetings, but that has yet to be seen.

We named our club and made up our oath and created a secret handshake. We’ll be revisiting the secret handshake as the boys seemed to think “handshake” meant “full body contact wrestling”.

Our club name is “Secret Nerf Zombie Brains Musical Nature Authors Doctor Who’s Drudon Novelist Club”. Don’t ask, the boys came up with it.

They came up with words that painted pictures in their mind. It was not my place to judge their choices. They made the name from those words.

Our Oath:

I promise always to write with Time Travel,

Evil Stuff, Excitement, and Fantasy.

I promise never to write Kiss-y Crap,

Non-fiction, Mermaids, or Boring Stuff.

Nice huh? They came up with things they liked best in books and things they disliked in books. We distilled it into these four things.

All in all, I think they had fun.

You know homeschool kids are odd, and I don’t mean that they aren’t regular kids. I mean that they are completely at ease learning and participating in a lively conversation while turning cartwheels in the living room, make pencil rockets out of their ears, and hopping around the dining room table. It’s becoming one of my most favorite things.

That thing where you ask a question and the person, who’s supposed to be knowledgable about such things, asks you a question back. One that’s already answered in the question you posited? You know? Right, well.

I went to Radio Shack because I needed more motors and more battery packs and more alligator clip wire leads than I had originally purchased for the Robots Lab I’m doing with the kids tomorrow.

**Note** My original plan included my three kids, but I’m now doing the lab with 7 kids that include my nieces and nephews.

So I go in the store and I’m the only customer (this is not surprising to me for some reason) so I get all the one on one attention I can handle.

Sales person: Can I help you?

Me: Sure. I need 3V motors, battery packs and alligator clip wire leads.

SP: Oh, sure. Here. What was that again?

Me: 3V motors.

SP: How many volts?

Me: Uh. 3.

Okay, so maybe he thought I was asking for three Vee Motors, but I’m not really willing to give him the benefit of the doubt cause I’m mean like that and have expectations.

Also? They only had one.

As he was telling me they didn’t sell alligator clip wire leads, and I was pointing them out on the shelf, I commented that, at this rate, I was going to have to clean out the Greater Louisville Metro Area of 3V motors and battery packs because I needed 14 motors and 19 battery packs. He laughed. I asked, “Where are the other Radio Shacks nearby?” He said, “Oh, you weren’t kidding.”

Heh. Yeah. NO.