Friday, August 14, 2015

School Reset 2015

Home school moms are nerds.

This is absolutely, positively, undeniably true.

We take this whole back to school thing every bit as seriously as our public and private school teacher counterparts.

We contemplate the best place to do school - the dining room, the living room, do we have the space to have a dedicated school room?

Then we contemplate the atmosphere and aesthetics -  how to make it attractive and functional for the people that will be in there, meshing it with the rest of our home so that it doesn't distract from the rest of the living we do.

Which is just funny because homeschooling really permeates every single crevice of life.

We make choices, conscious or not, about what the dress code for our kids will be on a day to day basis.  Let's face it, for those who have the patience to help their little ones look cute and put a bow in their hair every day, the pictures are cuter.  For those of us who want to foster independence in as many areas as possible as early on as possible, well, our pictures feature stringy hair and leggings paired with tank tops and cowboy boots.

Y'all, I have a kid whose hair I can put up on Sunday and she won't touch it for days.  When I get to it to take the elastic hair band out, she has dust accumulating up there.  Honest to goodness dust.  That is not photogenic happiness.

But I digress...

Every home school mom knows, though, that the bestest, geekiest, hairiest part of home schooling is The Choosing of the Curriculum.

Awwwwww, yeaaaaahhhhhhh.....

We officially have the first month of school under our belts.  Which means that we have just barely scratched the surface of any of the new stuff we've started.  We're also a week away from the beginning of co-op, so we're still missing a couple of important subjects.  So, you know, we're not quite full throttle yet.

As always, we've made changes in some areas and stuck with what has worked for us in other areas.

Math stayed the same.  Anna is the only one using Math-U-See this year.  She is over half-way through Alpha, cruising towards Beta.  We stopped about mid-way last year because her reading capabilities hadn't caught up to the word problems she was encountering.  So we paused to allow her reading to be the focus and she simply camped out with worksheets that re-enforced her addition and skip-counting skills.  Over the summer her reading took off and since we've brought the Alpha back out, she's been zipping right along.

Elizabeth finished up Beta last year around March and we used the same website to create multiplication and more complicated addition worksheets for her.  When we officially started school this for this year, she was thrilled to bump up to Teaching Textbooks.  For us, we allow the 3rd grade work to be done all on the computer and don't even bother with a workbook.  It's mostly just review and an opportunity to acclimate to the different system.  Teaching Textbooks is a bit behind what I'd really consider grade appropriate, so we compensate by moving fast through 3, then taking all the time we need with 4th and 5th so be absolutely sure that basic multiplication facts are memorized.  I believe that the whole of math is so much easier if those multiplication facts are stuck solidly in your head.  Lizzie is flying through 3rd grade and on track to start 4th during second semester.  

Thomas and Sarah are both pushing through Teaching Textbooks grade 6 and their goal is to complete 6th and 7th grade by the end of June so they can start Pre-Algebra next year.  I'm holding this more loosely than they are, so it'll be fun to see how it works out.  

My kids enjoy Teaching Textbooks and I LOVE it.  There is nothing like that guy's patient voice saying to them when they've missed a problem, "No, not quite, let's try again.  Remember....".  Y'all, he doesn't have bad days, lunch to make, or younger children he's trying to work with.  He's just always nice.  I think the kids would be content if he taught everything.

We are trying a different approach with Language Arts this year.  I bought Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well from Simply Charlotte Mason.  We're learning the art of dictation and transcription while enjoying excerpts from great sources.  It's been interesting to see how the different writing styles are understood and interpreted by the older three kids.  We're only four weeks in, but I think it's a winner for where we are right now.

We've loved A Reason For Handwriting since day one.  Sarah finished the Transition book last year and her handwriting is so neat and fluid that she is done with the actual subject of handwriting.  Thomas is smack in the middle of Transition and evening out quite well.  Elizabeth has just started the cursive practice lessons in Transition and is pushing to move faster.  She can't wait to write complete thoughts in cursive!  Anna is in Book B, while Daniel will be starting Book K in another month or so.  The kids all look forward to writing the verse at the end of the week and enjoy coloring the picture that is on the verse paper.  I've been exceedingly happy with this curriculum choice and recommend it all the time to folks.

Elizabeth is using Houghton Mifflin spelling for 3rd grade.  While Thomas and Sarah's vocabulary and spelling are pulled from the Charlotte Mason material, I really wanted Elizabeth to continue with a more structured spelling choice.  We've used this curriculum choice for about three years now and I'm happy with the workbooks.  They provide color and interest with a variety of exercises and I don't have to think or plan.  I just hand over the workbook and review with her a couple times a week.  She tests out on Thursdays and that's a wrap!

As a family, we are learning American Sign Language.  I've always loved sign language.  It's useful, beautiful, expressive.  I have a friend who is an Interpreter and after she visited our co-op to share her skill with the kids last year, Sarah also fell in love.  I giggled as several of our students from co-op finger-spelled to one another the rest of the year as a way of skirting the 'no talking in class' rule.  My kids began to make up their own signs and use them in conversation.  So when a fellow mom mentioned she was ordering, I jumped on board along with a few other families.  The goal is to watch the videos at home, practice with our families, then meet together occasionally to use our skills.  My sweet Interpreter friend has even agreed to come chat with us and encourage us all!

Daniel and Anna are enjoying Five In A Row, and the older kids still join in whenever they can.  This is another favorite choice of ours.  We've been using it for eight years!  This is actually where we start the day - with the little ones and a book.  We cuddle up on the couch and get some snuggle time in while we read and discuss the book.  It's so fantastic on so many levels, there's just no way for it to be wrong.

Anna is working through another year of Explode the Code, another oldie but goodie choice.  This has been a low maintenance phonics program for the kids and they have done very well.  Explode the Code, combined with a lot of reading, has given the kids a pretty strong footing.

Next week , we'll fold in All American History.  We were planning to do American History this year using a different curriculum, but our co-op history teacher (thankfully!) chose to teach American History.  I bought the Teacher Guide and equipped us with lots of extra literature to read and we are already enjoying learning about Leif the Lucky and Christopher Columbus.  I spent more time than I'd like to confess to making book lists on our public library's website, but now that it's done, I can go through and reserve a slew of age and topic appropriate books for the kids at the touch of a button.  Within three days, I get an email telling me all the books are collected and are ready for me to pick up at my local branch.  It's a beautiful thing and we are excited to be studying more current history for the first time ever!

We'll also be adding Apologia Anatomy and Physiology.  Here's a fun twist - I'm teaching this class for the 4th through 8th graders at our co-op!  I'm ridiculously excited to be teaching A & P (which I don't consider science as much as I do Just Plain Cool!) and have been scouring Pinterest and Google for fun ideas to fill our time with.  Um, success!!!  Thomas and Sarah are looking forward to science, but mostly, I think they're just looking forward to sitting at tables with their friends.  They are blissfully unaware that it's embarrassing to have your mom as the class teacher.

Don't you dare tell them!

Anna and Elizabeth will be using Apologia Zoology 1.  We all did Zoology 3 last year and had a blast with it!  The kids loved learning about the animals.  It was the first time we actually did science all year long on a real and regular basis.  I am not teaching their science class, so it will be interesting to see how it works to have kids doing different science topics, complete with homework and projects.

And that wraps up our choices for the year, I think... I always feel like I've forgotten something, but
I'm pretty sure that's the high points.

Now the school room is all set up, the books are all in, fresh supplies in each child's school box, and everything is all organized and laid out for the first three months.  We're rockin' and rollin' and finding our groove for the year.  I'll come back next week and tell you about how our daily schedule is running this year.  It's feeling WAY more relaxed than last year and, so far, seems to be working smooth like buttah'.

And really, after 6 years of home schooling, it seems like we should have a well-oiled machine, right?

Wanna talk more about the books we've chosen or tell me what you're family is using?  Join me on the FB page and let's speak (home school) geek together!