While I am on the subject of Sonlight Core 5, let me share with you this wildly funny picture. Gavin's Choose your Adventure project this week involved a tribal study. Part of that required that he make at least two costumes representing the tribe's way of dressing and then have a fashion show. If you can believe it, he convinced his brother and sister (well, his sister was easy to convince) into participating. The tribe he chose is the Bushmen. I think this photo of Ben definitely qualifies for the "must save for future girlfriend" category! If you know his daddy (Baby New Year) or his grandfather (who's been seen in a hula skirt and coconut bra on at least one occasion), then you know dressing up in silly and potentially embarrassing costumes is not out of the norm for the male members of this family. I give you Bushman Ben:
Thursday, April 30, 2009
I learned last night that my 11 year old son can name 8 of the world's 9 major religions. He's been studying the Eastern Hemisphere with Sonlight Core 5. We are wrapping up our year now in Africa after starting our year in the Pacific Islands and journeying through places like Japan, China, India, Russia, Mongolia and the Middle East, just to name a few. Last night I was reading to Luci, a book titled People from Sonlight's Core P4/5. When we got to the page about world religions Gavin walked in and surprised me by naming all but one of the 9 listed. I am not sure I could've done that myself. How many can you name without the use of Google?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Where can I go for help if I get into a situation I don't know how to handle?
I seem to always come back to the local homeschool support group as a default answer, but truthfully, there is no better source of help in most situations. Most homeschool groups are comprised of both new and veteran homeschoolers who have, no doubt, gone through a myriad of ups and downs throughout their homeschooling career. Most have "been there, done that" no matter what your situation is and they will be more than happy to help a fellow homeschooler navigate the path to the best solution.
If you do not belong to a homeschool support group or you don't feel comfortable discussing the situation with a member of your group, there is a large online community of homeschoolers. Multiple message boards are available. Some message boards focus on specific teaching styles or on a specific type of curriculum. I have found most of these also have sub-boards that address challenges to homeschooling such as varying learning styles, challenges to learning, and/or behavior problems. Popular message boards include: VegSource, Homeschool Christian, Homeschool Central, and The Well Trained Mind. Some curriculum providers also offer private, by subscription only, forums. Sonlight is one example. While there is a small portion of the forum that is public, the vast majority is private (which might appeal to those who are squeamish about their discussions being read by anyone and everyone who happens to find it).
When your situation is more serious than the issues homeschoolers routinely face, you may need to consider another source of help. If you suspect your child may have a learning disability you should first consult your pediatrician. He or she can direct you in getting your child tested and then can assist in finding ways to help. Guidelines vary from state to state regarding how homeschoolers gain access to public programs for learning disabilities. If you and your pediatrician believe that a behavior problem like ADHD, Aspergers, or Sensory Integration Disorder might be contributing to your child's difficulties with learning you can ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist or psychologist for testing and treatment, if necessary.
How do I know if my child is making satisfactory progress? What do I do if he/she isn't?
(Note: State laws vary widely from state to state. Some require absolutely no reporting or record keeping while others require yearly testing, evaluations, or portfolios. You should always keep in mind what your state laws are when considering how to evaluate progress. You can find out your state's laws here.)
One of the most common ways to assess progress is through yearly testing. Sometimes local homeschool groups will provide standardized testing in the spring each year. If you do not have access to this or if you wish to test your children yourself you can purchase standardized tests directly from Family Learning Organization. After ordering and receiving the appropriate testing packet you administer the test yourself and then send it back in for grading and evaluating.
If you have the option and prefer not to use standardized tests as a means of evaluating progress, another option is a yearly portfolio. The yearly portfolio is a collection of competed work that represents a sampling of the year's studies. Comparing the work from the beginning of the year to the work from the end, as well as comparing one year to the next, can be useful in determining how much progress has been made.
Personally, I have always chosen the portfolio method. It is my opinion that the tests are not entirely accurate representations of what children have learned in homeschool. Most homeschool parents are not "teaching the test" and as a result the scope and sequence doesn't always line up with what public schools are learning in the same school year. That aside, most homeschoolers do extremely well on standardized tests anyway. I've just never found the tests to be a necessary or desirable component of our schooling.
Regardless of which method you use to assess progress you may occasionally find that your child is not progressing as you'd expected. I think the first thing to look at is your expectations. Are they too lofty? Were you expecting too much? We all want our children to excel at everything they do, but the truth is that sometimes they excel in one area and are average in another. When my firstborn learned to read he picked it up at amazing speed. By the time he was in 3rd grade he read on a 9th grade reading level. When my second son started learning to read I had to reassess my expectations because he was nothing like his brother. He started off much slower, and it was a longer process to teach him to read. The opposite is true when it comes to math. My second born picks up on math concepts with lightening speed, while his older brother needs a bit more explanation and practice. I have to adjust my expectations accordingly with each of my children.
Once you've evaluated your own expectations you might still find that your child is still not doing as well as he or she should. If this is the case, evaluating where the weaknesses are will help you pinpoint what areas to target. You might try some remedial work in this area in order to bring his or her performance up to an acceptable level. Extra workbooks and even educational computer games can be useful in this area. There are websites that offer free or low cost access to "homework help" where students can access anything from spelling games to math puzzles. We've used Spelling City to help my son when struggled with spelling. A quick google search can yield you many results in most subject areas. If the problem is more serious you might consider a private tutor who can meet with your child on a daily or weekly basis. If you suspect there may be a learning disability you should consult your child's physician for direction.
Coming next: How do I juggle multiple homeschooled children?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I am working on the next entry for "You Asked..." but in the meantime, here's what we've been up to this week.
Ben's RootVu project isn't going as expected. We have several carrot plants, but no radishes or onions. They just didn't produce. The carrot plants have wilted a little and we don't really see any "carrot" appearing at all. It's been a little over 3 weeks and I'm thinking we should see more than just a white root. So...I googled it (what would we do without google?) and apparently we needed to thin out the plants when they were about 1 inch. Hmm. Would've been nice to know that! Hopefully, we can thin even though they are way more than an inch now. I'll let you know how it turns out.
We had a field trip yesterday to the zoo. I think there must have been close to 40 kids in our group and they just had so much fun! They participated in a class with a zookeeper according to their ages and we all toured the zoo for a while. Many of the animals were showing off for us: the otters playing, the monkeys showing their tails (in a not so nice way), and the cougar showing off his ferocious growl. The new, much publicized, penguin exhibit was open and was cute, but a tad underwhelming. Despite all of that though, I think the kids' favorite part was running and playing together after our picnic. They came home with muddy knees and dirty hands but had a lot of fun with their friends.
I have been asked to serve in our homeschool group next year. It's tentative at this point, but I've agreed to take on the handling of membership and finance for the group. After I agreed I wondered for a brief moment why on earth I said yes...But, the reality is I am happy to serve. I had been thinking and praying on it for a while anyway but wasn't sure in what way I could contribute. Our homeschool group really is a great support in our community and my family has gained a lot from being a part of it these past few years. It's time to give back a little.
The final decisions for next year's school materials have been made! Most of what we did this year worked so well that I am actually making very few changes. In fact, there are only two changes. First, I am adding a foreign language. Sonlight recommends starting a foreign language no later than 6th grade so I'm going to start Gavin in Spanish. The great part about the program (Rosetta Stone Homeschool) is that the rest of the family can use it as well and we can all practice our Spanish together. I took two years of Spanish in high school but I've forgotten a lot of it! The other change is that I am going back to Sonlight's science for Ben and Luci this year. They (Sonlight) have updated their sciences and the changes look positive. And since I already own many of the books in Science K and Science 2 all I have to do is update with the newer materials. Gavin will continue using NOEO Science, this time completing their Physics II course. Luci is going to be starting her Kindergarten year and will be using Sonlight's Core K. I used this two years ago with Ben and am looking forward to reading these books again with Luci now. She will also be using the Sonlight LA 1, Beginning to Read. Ben is moving on to Core 2, the second part of Intro to World History. He will be completing LA 2 with the advanced readers. This looks like a great year for Ben with a lot of interesting books! Gavin is beginning his first year of World History using Core 6 along with the corresponding readers and LA for 6th grade. I've heard great things about this core and we are looking forward to it! Math is one subject I am definitely not messing with this year. I will continue with Teaching Textbooks for Gavin and Horizons 3 for Ben. Luci will also start a formal K level math this year and will also be using Horizons.
Next thing we are looking forward to now is BOX DAY!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Gavin put seeds in the ground the first weekend of April. His first sprouts are showing through the soil now!
We have had a VERY busy month so far. Already we've had two field trips (and a third planned tomorrow!), two Easter Egg Hunts and a holiday!
Last Friday our homeschool group went to a local nursing home to visit with the people there. We all sang some Easter Hymns and then the kids passed out candy and visited with the residents there. Luci's bottom lip was quivering at the idea of talking to people she doesn't know, so she stayed tucked safely behind mom or dad the whole time. Ben was very sweet though, he passed out candy and hugs along with Easter wishes to everyone in the room. It reminded me of the bond that he and Maw Maw (Brian's grandmother) had from early on. There was always something special between them.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
If anyone has figured out how to get another hour out of the day... or another day out of the week, I'd appreciate hearing all about it! The laundry is piled high, the list of errands is long, and the calendar is full! I love staying busy though, and am glad that we have a full life. I am working on finishing up the school year. With just six or seven weeks left it won't be long! I'm also working on planning our next year. We've already been looking at what's coming up and I think next year will be another fun year.
So...what is going on around here?
First of all, Ben is fantastic right now! It seems we've struck the perfect balance with his medication this past month and combined with his progress in Karate we are extremely pleased with the positive changes in Ben. As some of you know already, he earned his yellow stripes on his karate belt this past week. This is a wonderful outlet for Ben and he is very proud of his accomplishments. Those of you who know Ben well know that when he becomes interested in something he gives 100% of himself to it and that is definitely true of Karate. He is also doing very well with his school work. He has taken off with his reading and is reading one or two "just for fun" chapter books a week now, totally on his own. He also is gaining some independence in his writing skills.
Luci is growing and changing every single day. I can hardly keep up with her enthusiasm for school. She would do school work all day, every day, if I had that much to keep her busy! She has started reading now. Just two and three letter words with short vowels, but she is very excited and proud of herself. Her weekly copy work includes writing the sounds/words she is reading and she is doing really well with writing too. Of course she, like her brothers, enjoys being read too. Gavin is a big help there and reads to her a lot, giving me time to work with Ben. She has been working hard at church for the past couple of months on their latest musical program, Love Notes to Jesus, which they performed for us last night. She was definitely an entertainer up on that stage, but the best part was they all had fun. After it was over all of the children released a red balloon into the sky. The balloons were each filled with their love notes to Jesus.
Gavin is finishing up what I think has been a very insightful year for him. During his studies this year he's focused on cultures in the Eastern Hemisphere and he's really had his eyes opened to his own place in this world. I was told by experienced Sonlighters that Core 5 had the potential to be life-changing and for Gavin I think that has been true. He has read some wonderful biographies about people like Mother Teresa, William Carey, and John Dekker, all of whom had a significant impact as Christian missionaries in places like India and the Toli Valley of Irian Jaya. He has a new awareness of how blessed he is compared to a large portion of the world.
Well, that's what's going on around here. Now I must go do something about that pile of laundry.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
One day this week during spelling I made a funny game of trying to link a series of spelling words together into one long super-sentence. I did it "on the spot", adding on with each new spelling word. The hard part was remembering the sentences each and everytime! It was silly, corny, and makes absolutely no sense, but Gavin and Brian both insisted I post it here. So, here it is.
(Spelling words are in bold.)
We took our poles to go fishing
down at the rivers
with our sisters
while our daddy sleeps
and dreams about soldiers
on war nights
while prices skyrocket
and roads are blockaded
and people are looking for rooms in which to hide
and everything seems like its going to be OK
until the twins show up
and the ways get harder
until someone wins
while swinging two bats.
Written by April at 6:43 PM