Monday, September 12, 2011

Where To Start...

Homeschooling is going GREAT. Great. I am feeling so much better, and more confident, about it as we enter into the new year. In part, I think it just feels more normal, and I don't spend quite so much time thinking about it, or worrying about what other people think. Also I've had some practice and have come up with a better system time-wise. As in, not trying to cram a 36 week curriculum into 23 weeks, because I'm a psychotic perfectionist that can't handle starting a 36 week curriculum and not finishing it... even if my child has already attended 3 months of another school. So, there's that. 36 weeks in 36 weeks is a lot more manageable ;)

For those that are interested we are using...

Sonlight Core D for our history, geography & literature
Sonlight is a Christian company, but it is easily (and often) secularized. The Bible study is a separate add on to the main year's Core, and so is easily left out (bonus, it's cheaper w/o it). The rest of the religious tie-ins are mostly teaching points included in the study guide part of the lesson planner... we just skip those points. Last year, there were a few books that had a point of view we weren't comfortable, but this year there aren't any we feel we need to skip. So overall, even from a strictly secular standpoint, Sonlight's benefits far outweigh their religious content, to me. They have a strong literature (last year our books were mostly Newberry award winners) and history base, which really appeals to Kid (and me!). There wasn't a single reading selection she didn't love. Also, not to be looked over, they have detailed lesson plans, so you just open to your day and everything is written out and planned for you. Including reading comprehension questions, discussion prompts, and tie in project ideas. This year I am actually following their assignment schedule, which is a very doable amount per subject, per day.

Sonlight also sells curriculum components from other publishers for math, handwriting, foreign language... all the most highly regarded curriculums available for their subjects. In addition, Sonlight has their own Science curriculum... but... that appears to be harder to secularize as the grades go up... so it isn't a good choice for us.

Easy Grammar for, you guessed it... grammar. This is our first year with this curriculum... and... we LOVE it. Very easy to use.

Handwriting Without Tears for cursive handwriting. Kid has been using this curriculum throughout all of her schools, so we've been sticking with it. And, if I do say so myself... she has excellent handwriting. I bought the preschool curriculum for Baby, too.

Teaching Textbooks for math. We started this toward the end of the year last year. Kid loves it (love might be a strong word..). I love that it is a completely independent learning program. The program is on CD-rom and teaches a lesson followed by practice questions than the lesson questions. You have to option to have every question gone over and the answer explained after you've answered... a great way to learn what you did wrong... or make sure you understand why you were right. It has quizzes, timed tests, and all that jazz automatically built in. The grade book allows you to check each question they got right or wrong and to erase them so they can be done over, if necessary. Kid being a perfectionist... this is KEY for us. Most importantly, it's just much more fun than a practice book or workbook. It's interactive, has enjoyable graphics... and it's taught by someone else... so no attitude for me! Win-Win. Plus... it goes all the way up to pre-calc... so... if you are in it for the long haul (or just want to supplement with something at home) this is a great program to work your way through. I'm in love with it. I want to marry the guys that came up with this. Seriously.

Science is a bit of a mish-mash this year. We have 13 weeks of the Sonlight Science curriculum we bought last year left. That's 65 lessons (with science experiments & necessary equipment all ready paid for) we're going to space those out 2 a week, and expand on the topics with additional reading, projects and experiments. In addition we're taking a Nature Study homeschool class through the Metro Park once a month, and the Toledo Zoo homeschool class once a month. I call that done. Next year we're going to use Real Science-4-Kids... I think it looks great.

Spelling... ah the dreaded spelling!!!!... you may recall that this was one of her biggest OCD anxiety triggers at school last year. This is one area where you are definitively right or wrong... that is a tremendous amount of stress on her and she starts to second guess herself and just fall apart. When I took her out of school last year I initially tried to include spelling in our lessons but it just resulted in major fights and breakdowns... so we decided to take a break and try again this year. We're back to using last year's Spectrum workbook. We're doing it... but I actually think the stress it causes results in here forgetting how to spell basic words she actually normally can... not sure spelling is this important at this point. Since it is a testing oriented subject (the only one we have really) the stress is inherent. Still trying to think of a better way... or just not worry about it this year.

Writing... we're using a writing prompts site I found online somewhere. She has a day where we brainstorm and she writes out her rough day, a day to work on revision (this ties in very nicely with our grammar program), and a day to work on her final draft. Writing is another area that can be stressful for Kid. Last year we focused on letter writing. This year we're focusing on short essays ("the best food I ever ate was..." "if I was an animal..." "If I could fly I'd...", etc.). Using the prompts helps take some of the pressure off.

Is that everything?! Kid is also taking Art, Drama, Gymnastics & Classical Guitar at a homeschooling electives program all day Thursday.

Kid also reads books of her choice all the time. Typically going through a book a day... I'm keeping a comprehensive log, for no reason other than it is amazing how many books she reads a week, and it helps me to keep track of what to look for at the library. She has just started on an old school Nancy Drew jag... which has now, after several nightmares, been ruled a daytime read ONLY! So at night this week she's started the Wizard of Oz series. She reads a good 4-5 hours a day. Weekends? 10+.
You may recall that her public school teacher had her placed in the pre-primer reading group... yeah... that's why we're homeschooling, peeps. That and the fact that they didn't think she could count by twos. Test anxiety is real, thank you very much.

Plus, when you're at home your science experiments might upon occasion look like Guantanamo outtakes...


and that's your business.


P.S. I am having SERIOUS computer problems... jumping cursor... random highlighting & deleting... it took me hours to write this, rewrite it, fix, try and undo edit it, find the new weird word combos it had inserted by moving the cursor... a freaking nightmare!!!! So, hence my more sporadic blogging and lack of comment returning. I'm sorry. Not sure how to fix it right now, though.

7 comments:

Deb said...

And she's actually learning cursive!! I didn't find out until recently that many schools don't even teach it anymore. Good for you guys! It's nice to watch you go through this curve and come up happy on the other end.

Gigs said...

I love it when you're happy! Your curriculum looks awesome, and I'm so glad things are falling into place. Is Baby doing home school too?

Spelling... ah the dreaded spelling!!!!...

I hear you on that. Kev actually has an accommodation in school this year to not mark off for spelling. Thank Jesus, because he just never is going to be able to spell. And after only a few carefully worded emails to his guidance counselor, it looks like all his other accommodations are in place as well. We are crossing our fingers for a successful year. The odds have got to be in our favor by now...

Gigs said...

PS, what are you guys doing in those photos???

Mrs Furious said...

Gigs,
it was a sensory experiment... seeing if you could identify objects with your feet & elbows and then comparing it to how easily you can identify the same object with your hands. I figured the only way to ensure no peeking was to kind of bag their heads with one of Mr F's shirts. It was hilarious.

Baby is starting *real* preschool next week at the public schools (although it's not free!). She's very excited. She likes to have her own work to do while Kid is doing hers though.


Deb,
Thanks. How is the move?

Kristen said...

So I have been a lurker on your blog for years (see random person from AZ in your blog stats?... yeah that's me... weird). First, thank you for sharing pieces of your life with all of us.

Second, I'm going to offer two suggestions that you can take or leave (this isn't totally out of the blue... I am an educational psychologist). 1) Would Kid like publish her writing when she is done? Could she have her own webspace where it is put up so there seems to be more of a purpose to writing? 2) You're right that spelling isn't a big deal, but have you tried any digital game-based spelling programs? Does that make her anxious too?

Just random thoughts this morning. Again, it's been a pleasure reading your posts.

Mrs Furious said...

Kristen,
Thank you for your comment! If you have any other suggestions, as we go along, please share them... I am always looking for more (and better) curriculum ideas.

I will ask her about publishing her work... it could go either way... she hates doing things that have no purpose, but something that permanent could also be too much pressure. It would be easy enough to set up another blog and have her try it out.

Spelling... do you have any game programs that you could recommend? Going that route has helped tremendously with her math, in large part because I think only seeing one problem at a time (instead of contemplating the length of the whole lesson or harder problems further down) greatly reduces her anxiety. If you know of a program that's not too expensive, I'd be willing to try it.

Kristen said...

Before buying anything, I would try out a couple free online games. PBS kids is doing a nice job with some research behind what they do. http://pbskids.org/games/spelling.html
These might be a little easy, but give you a sense of if she likes the idea.

If you don't mind spending about $25 LeapFrog makes something called Mind Mania Spelling. It's a little hand-held device (not something you need a LeapFrog system for) that has four spelling games and covers something like 6,000 words. It seems to have that "engagement" factor that is mostly missing in spelling.

Hope this helps :-).

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