Monday, October 20, 2014

Homeschooling Year 2

So we started back into the swing of our homeschooling year on August 27th.  I had intended to wait until after Labor Day like last year, since we were just getting home from Florida two weeks before, and had Ruth's birthday, Gary's Ag Progress Days, and a camping trip all in the same week.  However, we opted to try out a new co-op that a friend talked us into and I wanted to "start" at home, before we started there.  So we had our first school day the day before co-op began.

The new co-op (WSCEC) has gone well.  The kids get to change classes there, which is different.  Britt is taking Fall Favorites, Preschool 4-5, and Lego class.  Ruth is in Fall Favorites with Britt, then Art Class, and finally Winter Wonderland.  Britt does well with having a free play time built into the middle of the day, and his favorite class by far is Lego class.  They have built things, explored patterns, and he anxiously looks forward to it.  Britt has really done well this year.  He is a little more independent, and while he would still prefer to sit with me, and can't wait to come and tell me about his day, he is now quick to head to class and become immersed in it, rather than being the difficult to peal off me child that he was.  Ruth has had a little tougher time as she happens to be in the same classroom all day.  We have had trouble both at home and at school with her attitude and general drama queen self when things don't go her way.  She is adjusting though.  She really gets a kick out of their themed days.  They've had super hero day, crazy clothes day, sports day, and pajama day thus far.

We have continued this fall with STARS, which we attended in the spring.  I am helping Kathy teach the preschoolers (we have 9 total, including Ruth).  We are doing a unit study on manners.  Kathy has some great tools (she's also teaching the class to a group of K/1st graders at another co-op), and Ruth has loved using her love cube, and golden ruler, during the week.  I can tell it has helped with some of her and even Britt's trouble areas as he likes to play along.  Britt is in the K/1st grade classroom.  Where they are focusing on animals, this semester on animals in PA, and next semester on animals world wide.  Animals are his thing, in fact that's what was requested for science this year at home, but more on that later.  I have also taught my "worship" lesson this time.  It is the part of co-op that I am most uncomfortable with.  Gary and I were very adamant that we didn't want anyone else teaching our children religious things, which is why we never even considered a church school, and I am very concerned that I don't put anything out there that other parents would have a problem with.  As always, I had way more to say than I had time to say and found myself rushing in places and skipping other good points, but afterward, one of the moms told me that she felt like it was a really good lesson, and I appreciated that.

We've had several field trips so far this year.  We have been twice to lobby the state legislature for HB1013, which would improve our current homeschooling law.  (It should pass on Monday, then the governor has promised to sign it.)  We went to Homeschool Day at State Museum.  I forgot the camera in the car, but hey, I was on my own with three kids, so who knows if I would have actually managed any pictures anyway.  We checked out the archaeology and paleontology exhibits and saw a movie on lunar colonies and the current race for a private company to reach the moon in the planetarium.  Britt has spent several days digging in the woods for lost treasures of people who use to live here as an archaeologist.  He was rewarded with some tires, old lumber, and oil jugs.  We've done Pioneer Day at the Zoo.  Where the kids rode ponies, wrote with quill pens, made butter, and Ruth managed some embroidery.  We've had several play dates, and trips to the library.  Coming up Friday we have a field trip to a dental office, and next Monday to a pumpkin patch and working farm.

Here at home, Britt has completed his first kindergarten level reading book (to be fair we started with it at a very slow pace last year off and on).  At the rate at which he is moving now, he will have completed the second book by his birthday at the latest, and I will need to pull out the 1st grade reading curriculum. (Let me say we are LOVING Sing, Spell, Read, Write.  And as someone who has no phonics skills, I'm even learning alot.  I have always read by sight, and when you are reading in your head that's no big deal, but with me reading aloud so much more lately, it has accentuated the fact that my extensive vocabulary isn't really pronounced as well as it could be.)  Ruth is about to start her copy of the same book.  She went through all the free preschool trace and practice pages that I've gotten my hands on so far, and she was insistent that she wanted a real school book like Britt's and she wanted to be in Kindergarten too.  So we are letting her, if it takes her two years that's no problem either, since she just turned four.  The kids are also playing Reading Eggs.  If you've never heard of it you should check it out.  I will say that I tried a free 6 week trial version, and then didn't order until I got an email that let me get it at 30% off for the first kid and 50% for every kid after that, which saved me a ton of money.  Britt in the last week has learned to read about 6 words on his own, and is picking out other "-at" words.  Ruth can read four words and is sometimes sounding out words echoing Britt.  Reading is the thing I have been most concerned about, because it is the foundation for everything else, but so far they are doing well, and loving it.

For math we are using Math U See.  I instantly was drawn to it because it makes such good use of manipulative, even up through algebra.  I knew last fall that Britt is a very visual learner, and he started math on his own by counting out and taking away diapers from different stacks to go in different places in the house.  Math U See isn't divided up the standard way that textbooks are (think grade level) and it tackles some subjects in different orders than customary, but we are liking it this far.  One thing that the kids love.  Is that not only do they have me to sit and work with them and teach them, but the teacher book comes with a cd where Steve Demee (a veteran math teacher who wrote the curriculum) actually teaches each lesson.  They LOVE having Mr. Steve as their teacher.  I love that while it is concerned with learning math, he also teaches tricks and short cuts, and has some extra pages thrown in at the end of each lesson to make the math interactive.  Those pages make the book Common Core aligned if you want that, but it's not invasive.  I make use of some of the material though not all.  And because of the amount of material and the fact that I'm homeschooling, I can take it at a pace I want, skip what I feel isn't age appropriate, or move things around.  Ruth is using Primer (the preschool/kindergarten book) and has finished lesson 7 (I could probably skip her a head a bit, as it is she often does more than one lesson a day.)  Britt is using Alpha (roughly the 1st grade level book) and is starting lesson 5 this week.  He is anxious to do more, but right now his atrocious handwriting, is holding him back.  We took a two week break to just copy his numbers at math time which helped.  Also, telling him that Unca Benji has terrible writing and that he could get better and then be better than Unca Benji helped.  (Gotta love motivating through competition.)

 The only other core subject we are addressing right now is science.  Again, because it really drives Britt.  Ruth informed me a few days ago that she was tired of animals, and wanted to learn something else.  When I asked her what she wanted to learn about she said she didn't know.  I told her to think about it, and she could pick the next lesson.   Right now we are studying biomes, habitats, and animals.  We've talked about mountains, deciduous forest, and freshwater so far.  I imagine we will spend most of the year on this, as there is so much we can cover.  Both kids have insisted that we do tundras and polar regions around Christmas so that will be next.  For science I really have just been in the habit of building my own unit studies.  I get really great books from the library.  I look for lots of great colored pictures, and detail.  I don't dumb down the books for the kids, because I find that they can pick up much more than I would have ever guessed.  (And I figured that out when Britt aced the 4th grade astronomy test at the astronomy booth at the CHAP convention.)  Right now I'm using The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia by David Burnie and (there is an newer edition, but we are using this one for) Earth Matters: an Encyclopedia of Ecology by David deRothschild for our core books, and then reading Life Cycle Books by Sean Callery (here's one on Mountains) and the Animals of the Biomes series (here's one on Freshwater).

Other than that I try to be sure to do our Bible reading after lunch each day, and the kids either color or sit and play with playdo while I read, then we talk about what we've read.  We are a bit behind, which means I'm reading a little longer than usual, and the kids have trouble listening without noise very long, but I think it's good practice, and it is often my favorite part of the day.  I read to them straight out of the KJV, so there are always words and phrases we talk about, and I give them a rehash in my words of anything I particularly want to emphasis, and then let them tell it back to me.  They've again surprised me with how much they can and want to learn.

I find too that there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do with them.  I never would have dreamed that I would enjoy this so much.  As much as I love having kids, the constant noise drives me crazy, and I am a bit obsessive about organizing and planning, which is all but impossible with kids.  (Maybe I'll share a post about that soon.)  I could really enjoy several hours a day without everyone in the house making messes, and being really LOUD, but even more I am finding I love watching them discover.  And more than teaching them, they are teaching me lessons in patience.  I often find that areas that I am scolding them on are some of the same areas that I need to work on, which is a lesson in humility all it's own.

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