Monday, April 14, 2014

2014-2015 Curriculum Plans

Table Rock Lake, Lampe, MO 3/2014
We have just a few weeks left now in our 2013-1014 school year. That means that I've spent the last couple of weeks assessing & reviewing this year, and planning & preparing for the next. 2014-2015 will bring a high school Junior, an 8th grader, and a 5th grader. With one embarking on the first of his last two years of school before college and the other two on the edge of elementary & middle school, it looks to be another busy, exciting, perhaps a little daunting school year.

This year will be:
My third time to teach 5th grade,
My second time to teach 8th grade,
My first time to teach 11th grade.
My twelfth year to homeschool.

And ironically, every single year is a brand new experience! Different personalities, different sets of strengths & weaknesses, make each year different.

Our 2014-2015 curriculum plans:

Luci, 5th grade

Language Arts ~ Barton Reading, BJU English 5, A Reason for Handwriting, and a selection of readers from Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere Core (to match her Old World History).

Math ~ BJU Math 4 (Note: We are backing up in math a bit. She did TT4 this year and I'm not pleased with the progress. She is about a year behind most other math programs and while some HS'ers are OK with that, I'm not. We actually plan to start the BJU 4th grade math as soon as it arrives, do math through our summer break, and catch up to grade level eventually. I expect I'll get feedback from some saying I shouldn't worry about grade levels, but I want her prepared for high school math when the time comes so that her options are open.)

Science ~ Supercharged Science combined with BJU Science 5.

History ~ Old World History & Geography (Abeka)

Art ~ Home Art Studio gr. 5 DVD

Ben, 8th grade

Language Arts ~ Barton Reading, BJU Writing & Grammar 8, and a selection of readers from Sonlight's American History Core 100

Math ~ BJU Pre Algebra (As with Luci, we are backing up just a bit. Ben did TT PreAlgebra this year and I do not feel like he is prepared for Algebra. Beginning with Algebra I outsource my kids to a local instructor. I want him to have a good foundation before beginning her class. He might have been prepared for TT Algebra, but that's not the route we wanted to go.)

Science ~ Supercharged Science combined with Apologia's General Science textbook. He will also be using the Audio CD to help with comprehension. (Note: Ben did Supercharged Science this year for his entire science curriculum. He really enjoyed the hands-on, experiment based lessons. But as we prepare for high school, I think he needs exposure to the kinds of textbooks he will encounter and be expected to use. So, we will work on having a good mix of textbook and hands-on.)

History ~ BJU American Republic

Electives ~ undecided

Gavin, 11th grade
Gavin's current plans include going to Delta State for their Music Industry Studies (Audio Engineering Track). In planning his high school credits I used their recommended high school curriculum as a guide. I also used for reference.

English 11 ~ BJU Writing & Grammar 11, 1/2 cr.
Lit 11 ~ BJU American Literature, 1/2 cr.
Math ~ (dual enrollment plans dependent on ACT scores) Int. Algebra in the Fall and College Algebra in the Spring, 2 cr.
Science ~ Chemistry (possibly a dual enrollment class, but still working on getting answers. If not, then he will use Apologia Chemistry text & the instructional DVD.) 1 cr.
History ~ BJU United States History, 1 cr.
Speech or Computer  ~ (dual enrollment in Spring), 1 cr.
Total 6 credits

Note: Gavin would like to finish school early. His goal is to finish his junior level science, history, and grammar in the Fall semester (July-December) and then try to take his senior level courses in the Spring (January-June). We are approaching this cautiously with the understanding that he has much to prove in the way of maturity and dedication to his school work.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2013-2014 Curriculum Hits & Misses

It's been a LONG time since I posted here!  I thought I'd get on and post an update on the kids and how things are going as we work to wrap up our school year. We are in the last quarter, with about 6-8 weeks left to go (depending on the subject ~ some will be finished sooner).

This year was Gavin's 10th grade year, Ben's 7th grade year, and Luci's 4th grade year. It's been a s-t-r-e-t-c-h to have one in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school.  Over the past week I've been working on evaluating this year's "hits & misses" and figuring out what directions to take next year.


BJU History ~ Both of the boys used BJU for history this year. After so many years of Sonlight's history cores the boys expressed to me that they just wanted a straightforward history text. Something readable, something interesting, but not an intimidating stack of books to wade through. I miss the great books...but they enjoyed the BJU history.

Supercharged Science ~ Ben used Supercharged Science this year for his entire science curriculum. It's about 90% experiments with a little reading and comprehension/understanding questions thrown in at the end of each lesson. We started the year with the Mastery (Silver) kit and had almost all of the supplies that were needed for the experiments. This year he's made: a hydraulic earth mover, a wiggle-bot, rockets, light-up circuits, a pulley system, electric vehicles, and much much more! We plan to use this again, as a supplement to 8th Grade General Science. Luci had her own science program this year, but she was drawn in time and time again to Ben's projects. So she too will use Supercharged Science as a supplement to her Elementary Chem & Physics next year.

Interactive Listening ~ For a music history course, Gavin used Interactive Listening. Interactive Listening is an iBook with, you guessed it, interactive features that allow the reader (listener) to immerse oneself in the world of music. It's a journey through the history of music from the earliest known attempts at making music all the way through to modern day rock and roll and other genres of music.  This was a hit for my music lover!


Excellence in Literature ~ This was most definitely not a hit. Gavin needed more structure than this literature program provided. He just wasn't self-disciplined enough to get the readings finished in a timely manner. After switching to BJU Literature he discovered he really does like poetry & literature. BJU Literature offers a large selection of literature in which to learn about various literary devices. We are using BJU American Literature next year.

Miller Levine Biology (on the iPad) ~ This iBook gets high marks just for the book itself. It's great in content, with many videos, interactive graphs and flow charts. If I had been a Biology teacher, this would have been an awesome text to use in a classroom! But it was rather difficult to use in a homeschool setting. While I did have access to tests and answer keys, there was very little in the way of teaching materials. Homeschool programs (those written or adapted specifically for use in homeschools) usually provide a lot of teacher support. I found it difficult to teach this without such support. We managed by incorporating Khan videos when and where appropriate and occasionally we had to go back and repeat chapters. It was a lot more work than it should have been, especially when Biology is not the only subject I'm teaching. In the future, I will be a bit more leary of using textbooks intended for public school in our homeschool unless there are adequate teacher support materials.

Teaching Textbooks ~ This was my second attempt to use Teaching Textbooks. Our first experience was when Gavin was in 5th and 6th grades. At the time, it was what Gavin needed to learn not to hate math (and not to hate me, ha ha). But I was not thrilled that he seemed to lose ground while using it. A few years later, after reading many reviews from thrilled parents and even highly respected names in the homeschool community (Cathy Duffy for one) giving it high marks, I decided to give it anther try. Mainly, I wanted to try again because Ben really needed to be able to enter his answers on the computer instead of writing them on paper (he has severe dysgraphia). Now, after two years with Teaching Textbooks (TT 7 and Pre-Algebra) I don't feel like he's ready for Algebra. Luci used it this year as well, and I don't feel like she's made the progress she should have. As much as I love the convenience of TT I think this was our final experience with it. We are moving to Saxon for Pre-Algebra. For Luci I'm trying to make the final decision between Christian Light Math & Saxon 5/4.

I'll share our plans for next year later. Hope the end of your school year is going well!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Homeschool Looks Like

Homeschool has many appearances.

Sometimes it looks like this: 

Or this: 

It often looks like this: 

And occasionally like this: 

Sometimes it looks like this: 

But every now and then, Homeschool looks like this: 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Homeschool Mother's Journal, Sept. 27

  • In our homeschool this week... This was the first week of our 2nd quarter and we are having to make a few adjustments to our schedule, a few tweaks to our curriculum, and some major adjustments to some attitudes. First, we've been struggling to find time to get Barton sessions finished. We usually do this in the afternoon, but are finding that by the afternoon we are so flustered, busy, tired, on the road, (you name it) that Barton has been getting set aside too frequently. We've moved this to the mornings instead, with Ben up first at 8:30 and Luci after him, at 9:30. This should make things much better! Second, Gavin has been having a very difficult time with his literature program so we are making a switch before we get too much further into the school year. A friend is letting us look over BJU's 10th grade literature course and so far Gavin likes what he sees. After looking it over he said this is the kind of stuff enjoys ~ literary analysis, studying poems, literary elements, etc...who knew? So, I'm thinking this will be a good change. It's more parent directed than student directed, which should also make a difference, since motivation is a problem too. And lastly, we are making some attitude adjustments in regards to getting work completed in a timely manner, putting forth best efforts, and setting goals. After a frank talk about his college goals, costs of the schools he wants to attend, and the minimum requirements for scholarships, he seems to have wrapped his head around the idea that his grades matter ~ A LOT. 
  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...If it's not working, don't be scared to change it. You are not tied to your curriculum! 
  • Places we're going and people we're seeing...Our homeschool group took a field trip this week to Krispy Kreme. It has to be the sweetest field trip we've ever been on! They were very generous with the donuts and our group of kids enjoyed visiting with each other as they ate their donuts. They also enjoyed watching the donuts being made through the glass. Big fun!
  • My favorite thing this week was...Going away with a bunch of ladies from my church for The Women of Faith Conference in Dallas, TX, getting a bit of refreshment, hearing some wonderful messages, worshipping along with some great worship music, and coming home to my family who'd washed & dried almost all of the laundry! Awesome! 
  • I'm cooking...I always love to share on Facebook what I'm cooking for supper each night. I love the responses, the exchange of ideas and recipes that takes place. I also love all the recipes I find on Pinterest. One such recipe is for crockpot applesauce. I tried this today and Oh My! It is relish! Simply peel, core, and chop about 8 medium apples. Put them in the slow cooker with a teaspoon of lemon juice, and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. Cook on low for six hours. Mash with a potato masher, or use and immersion blender if you want it smoother. So good when it's warm!
  • I'm grateful for...This week I am especially grateful for my friends. Thankful that we can laugh together, cry together, and lift each other in prayer. What a blessing God gave us when he gave us good friends! 
  • I'm reading... The Cuckoo's Calling 
  • A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
    Spring blooms on the Bradford Pear Tree that we had to cut down this week. 
  • Sadly, after it split almost in half, the tree had to be cut down. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

How I Saved the Snacks

Children and teens can singlehandedly devour snacks like a swarm of termites on an old wooden house.

I know it because I've seen it.

The snack situation at our house used to look something like this:

Mom goes to the store on Friday and buys: a couple of boxes of granola bars, some cookies, some salty snack mix, and maybe some nuts. She also buys some fresh fruit, yogurt, and snack cheese. It varies from week to week. Mom comes home from the store, puts the "Snacks" in the snack pantry. Mom blinks and the snacks are gone. For the rest of the week the kids whine because there are no snacks in the house. Meanwhile the fresh fruit rots and the yogurt expires.

THEN, Mom started couponing. She started bringing home snacks in mass quantities. Instead of two boxes of granola bars, she brings home 8 boxes. She makes two or three trips to the store to acquire it in these quantities, but the children and the teenager grin. And they descend on the snacks and devour them. In three or four days, they are whining again. Meanwhile the fresh fruit rots and the yogurt expires.

NOW, Mom got smart. I tend to blog about my new ideas right after I implement them. And as ideas usually go, some work, some don't. So it's always a little embarrassing when I brag about a new idea or  plan and then a few weeks later get asked, "How's that working out?" Well, I can tell you with complete honesty that this one is working! I've been doing this for about 2 months now and it's working like a charm!

I purchase a variety of snacks ~ Salty, sweet, crunch, soft. The kids are allowed to choose SEVEN items to put in their weekly baskets.

They also have some (homemade) baskets in the fridge with some dairy choices.

And I still provide the fresh fruit ~ With no limits. 

Why does it work? 

Once their baskets are filled, I put the remaining snacks away ~ out of reach and out of sight. 
They've begun self-budgeting their snack foods and limiting themselves to one per day from their baskets.  (It didn't take long for them to figure out that if they ate from their snack basket more than once a day, they would not have anything at the end of the week.) The rest of the day they choose the dairy & the fruit for their snack choices. 

My hubby gets his own snack basket too, although he's free to fill it as he sees fit. He's not a big snacker though, so it's not a problem for him. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our 2013-2014 Homeschool Space

Each year as our educational needs and goals change, our schooling space changes as well. 
While my school room used to be made up of counting games, manipulatives, and flash cards, it is now largely filled by iPads, lab equipment, and graphing paper. 

My planning/recording needs grow and change each year as well. 

So, here's a look at our 2013-2014 Homeschool Space

This is the left side of our wall of cabinets/desks that my dad installed for us a few years ago.  The top shelf holds my home office paperwork with magazine file boxes for each category (church, medical, bills, correspondence, and home). It also holds my paper sorter with lined paper, cardstock, and printer paper. The second shelf holds the printer as well as the teacher's guides for our curriculum. 

On the right side, you'll find most of my Thirty-One Kit and business supplies as well as the desktop computer. 

This is my Fold and File where I organize our school. The pink binder holds my planner. Behind that are file folders where I sort the kids' school papers that need grading. Once graded, any work that we are keeping gets filed in the green "records" binder. My goal is for that green binder to have a record of all of our school work this year so that it makes the end-of the-year wrap-up nice and easy. 

This is my Organizing Utility Tote. It can hold the fold and file above if I need it to, but often it sits waiting for those days (a couple of times a week) when we have to take school on the road. The extra pockets (it has SEVEN pockets) hold my pens/pencils, binder clips, stapler, highlighters, post-its, and more ~ Making school on the road nice and convenient! 

Luci does most of her work sitting at the dining room table, but she also gets comfy in the den for most of her reading. 

Ben does most of his work here at his desk (sorry this is dark). He comes to the dining room table for one-on-one work with me (Barton, etc...). Ben has severe dysgraphia, so almost all of his written work is done on his computer or the iPad. 

This is Gavin's desk. And because it looks like this, he seldom works there. He stacks his school books and notebooks there.

And does most of his work from the comfort of the couch. He used to do most of his work in his bedroom, however, his productivity level was suffering, so he had to move out of his room for some accountability. He wasn't happy about that, but he's getting his work done much faster! 

Here is a peek inside the cabinet where I store our science supplies. On the left is Ben's project kits for Supercharged Science with Luci's NOEO Biology science kits and on the right are all of the materials for Gavin's Biology Lab. In the middle, hidden behind the wood, is the microscope. 

Hope you enjoyed this peek into our school room. Like most home schools, we aren't confined to just one space. We spread out around the house wherever it's most convenient. It is helpful, however, to have the wall of desks/cabinets to house all of our supplies. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Keeping It Real

Am I the only one who scrutinizes my iPhone photos (the ones taken at home anyway) before posting them to Facebook just to make sure you can't see any of the messy parts of my house? Heaven forbid you see the stack of laundry baskets full of clothes waiting to be folded. Or the line of cups sitting on the coffee table.

Sometimes I think as women, as moms, and especially as homeschoolers, we only want to let others see the good stuff. We don't want others to see our flaws because they are a sign of weakness, and we certainly don't want to be seen as weak!

But I have to wonder who is it really helping when we project an image that everything is perfect?

Does it help the stressed out mama for me to say how wonderful things are going for me? Does it helped the tired mama when I talk about all the places we go and things we do? Does it help the homeschooling mama who is on the verge of giving up when I mention how good my day was and how cooperative my kids are being?

Nope. It doesn't. So in the interest of keeping it real and helping Homeschool Mamas everywhere realize they aren't are some honest and true facts about me:

I get tired of picking up after my kids all day ~ Cups, food wrappers, plates, hair accessories, electronics and their various supplies, pens, papers, and more. I find them all over the house! My kids cannot remember to pick up their things. I have failed them in this regard! Which leads me to the next one.

Sometimes I yell ~ Yes. I do. I lose my temper from time to time and I yell at my kids. I feel bad for it, and usually I apologize. But I do yell. I'm not perfect. And I'm betting you're not perfect either.

I sometimes neglect grading tests ~ At the beginning of the year I have really good intentions. I grade papers almost the minute they are finished. But just a few weeks into our school year and I might find ungraded tests or papers buried under paperwork on my desk days later.  Which leads me to the next one.

I often fail to follow things through ~ I absolutely love planning and organizing. The office supply store is one of my favorite places to go. The efficiency of file folders, neat binders, magazine file boxes, and nice compact little storage boxes really make me happy. And I adore setting up my school room, and creating systems to keep myself organized. The problem is in the follow through. I've yet to find a system that I've used 100% all year long. (Praying that this might be the year? So far, so good!)

My kids don't always love learning ~ Yup. That's true. I know, I know, You've always heard that homeschooled kids were supposed to love learning. They are supposed to be self-motivated and eager to learn. But the truth is, mine are not. I have to nag and I have to scold and I have to give bad grades for incomplete work. It happens. And what's more, gasp!, at least one of my kids doesn't even like reading.

Some days I want to put them on a school bus and wave goodbye ~ I know you find this hard to believe. I've been homeschooling for 11+ years now and surely I must be past the doubts and the frustrations. But, I'm not. I'm always plagued with doubts and insecurities. And some days my kids are so stubborn that I'm convinced they'll never learn another thing from me.

My kids fight ~ If you watch the Duggar's on TLC, or read some of the popular homeschooling blogs, you might think that homeschoolers are all blessed with close, loving & kind brothers and sisters. But, my kids fight. They don't harm each other (that's not permitted at all), but they bicker. Sometimes they do it all day long until my nerves are worn so thin that I yell (I already admitted that I yell sometimes).

But, despite all this, guess what? I love what I do and Thanks be to my God, His mercies are new every single morning. That means I can go to bed at night knowing that I get a fresh start tomorrow. And thankfully, there are more good days than bad.  So, homeschool mama, rest assured that you are most definitely not alone! None of us have perfect days, even if that's what we'd have you believe.

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