Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School Photos

Hard to believe we have entered our second year of homeschooling- it already feels 'normal'.  I am thankful to not have to say goodbye to my oldest every morning and not see her until almost dinner time.  I am nervous about beginning to teach my middle to read, but yet excited that I can start even though she is "not old enough" by law to go to Kindergarten yet.  I am still trying to figure out how we'll do all of our learning and exploring while chasing down a busy toddler.  Whatever the case- we are excited to be home, learning together, enjoying each other, and being intentional about life.

Here are our 'first day of school' photos:

Liliana age 4.5- Kindergarten!
Lil is our resident extrovert who loves and lives deeply and passionately.  She wants to read and learn just like big sister.  She's excited to take dance again this year and also do science experiments.
 Isabelle age 8- 3rd Grade
Izzy is our quiet courage girl.  She has just blossomed over the past year into a sweet, kind, helpful, and compassionate young lady.  Izzy will be doing a Monday program at our homeschool building where she will get drama, music, art, Spanish, gym, science, and math games.  She really wants to learn about prairie dogs and read the Kit series.  She will also be in tap dance.
 Lucy age 18 months
Lucy just had to get in on the action. She's the one we have to chase all day and keep busy.  She wants to do learning just like her sisters and color on the marker board.  Now the trick is getting her to not eat the markers or color on herself.

We are excited for our year!

I'm taking part in this week's not back-to school hope over at ihomeschoolnetwork!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2nd Year of Homeschooling Launch- Our Room

Last year was our first year.  As much as I was warned and I tried to stay away, our room and set up ended up being more of a 'school at home' rather than the lifelong learning intentions I had.  While I found some benefits to the school at home set up, I did make a few adjustments going into our second year of homeschooling.  This was also partly due to the fact that the youngest is now 18 months old and into everything- so many things need to be 'locked away'!

Our room is a main floor office we had originally intended for a play room.  It has great natural light and some large built in bookshelves.  We used an old dining room table we had downstairs, an old sofa chair with a slip cover, and a massive white board found at habitat humanity ReStore.
 We have a small bulletin board for sight words, clock, reference guides, and 100's chart.  Around the room we attached magnet strip to hang art work, maps, and counting strips.  The built in desk area houses our printer, pencil sharpener, and magnet boards for AAS.
 In one of the big cupboards of the built-ins we have added doors and child locks.  This way the markers, stacks of paper, and our pink bins of school books stay safe from the active toddler.  Our pink boxes hold our daily workbooks and TM.  Above the cupboards I have a blue bin of easy access glue, scissors, pencils, index cards, post its, and my green planning binder.  Both girls have a decorated mug filled with their pencils and pens of choice.
 The window wall hosts our chair and small play area to help keep the toddler and sometimes 4.5 year old (who's doing some K work this year) entertained.
Often our room expands into the dining area when the 3rd grader needs quiet work time or to the couch for read aloud time, but this is a great space for school central.  We are very thankful to have it. Welcome to our room!

My post this week is part of the not back-to school hop over at ihomeschool!

Monday, August 4, 2014

3rd Grade and Kindergarten Curriculum Choices- 2nd Year Launch!

Last year was a big year.  Our transition to homeschooling from public school for our oldest (then second grade) had its ups and downs.  We switched curriculums around a few times and ended up with a year of memories and growth.

I was able to attend a Great Homeschool Convention in April which was helpful in touching and feeling different options.  So after praying, exploring, and a little trial and error, here are our curriculum choices for (at least the start) of this year!

Izzy- 3rd Grade

Math:  Christian Light Education (CLE) 300
Reading & Language Arts:  Total Language Plus (TLP) "The Courage of Sarah Noble" and "The Whipping Boy" with a Unit Study on the  American Girl Kit series in the middle since she enjoyed our Samantha and Addy series so much last year.  I also have daily language skill sheets for her to do if needed to supplement during unit studies.
Writing:  Our biggest struggle last year and we ended up with basically copy work and a few journal entry responses with our unit studies.  I'm hoping our new choice of Essentials in Writing level 3 will be a great fit for us!
Handwriting:  A Reason For Handwriting cursive.  She will get printing practice with TLP
Spelling:  All About Spelling finishing level 2 and going onto 3.  We started this program mid-year last year and have mixed feelings about it.  The phonics education has been great for her (she learned to read primarily on sight words) but the spelling has not improved as much as I would have hoped.  I've been encouraged to keep with it- so we'll at least go through level 3.
Social Studies:  Story of the World vol 1 and Abeka's Our American Heritage for grade 3.  I was intrigued by the Story of the World idea but wanted to keep going in our American studies so we will probably filter back and forth.  The Abeka will be more independent in nature and less up front for me for those busier weeks or when I'm working with little sister.
Bible:  Adventure Bible Devotional by Zonderkidz.  We are going to also focus on applying to Fruits of the Spirit to our lives as they are one of our 'school rules'.
Ancillary Program:  We are going to try a local homeschool program all day on Mondays which will give grade level experiences each week in Art, Music, Drama, Gym, Math Games, Spanish, and Science Experiments.  It will be nice to have such a variety of experiences for her to draw upon and to be in a more 'classroom' setting which she has missed.  We are hopeful this will be a great addition to our family.

Liliana- Kindergarten
Lili is 4.5 but ready to start some basic Kindergarten.  She is past preschool curriculums, so I project taking 1.5 years to do K work, but will let her dictate her own pace.

Calendar: I have a homemade presentation book with laminated pages for our calendar/circle time.  Pages include counting, temperature, monthly calendar, venn diagram, tally marks, writing numerically, math problem of the day, patterns, time, place value, and money.  It works great, its portable and customizable, and was super easy to do!
Math:  Christian Light Education (CLE) 100.  Technically 1st grade books, but she was beyond their Kindergarten books, so we will start slow.  I do not expect to finish, but rather use this level for 2 full years.  We will supplement with extra practice pages as needed so she does not move too fast for her stage of development.
Reading:  I got drawn into the Horizon's program's beautiful books.  I'm not sure I love it and kind of wish I had done something different, but we'll see how it works.  I have a feeling we will fly through the first book as she already knows most of her basic phonics.  I also have some readers like BOB books and an Usborne Ted and Friends books on cd to help boost sight words.
Handwriting:  A Reason for Handwriting
Social Studies:  Story of the World with big sister as her attention span allows.  I figured out some adaptable activities to engage her while big sis is working on more intricate projects.
Bible:  Adventure Bible Devotional by Zonderkidz.  We are going to also focus on applying to Fruits of the Spirit to our lives as they are one of our 'school rules'.

My blog is shared at the not back-to-school hop over at ihomeschoolnetwork!  Head over there to see other great curriculum choices homeschool parents around the world have chosen!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Starting Well after a Chaotic Ending

I had great intentions for our last month of school for the 2013-2014 year.  Wrap up a lap book unit on the Addy series by American Girl, Finish CLE math books through 209, go on a couple field trips and do some free journal writing, and do some beginning Spanish since we knew that Isabelle would be adding Spanish with her co-op class in the fall and needed to catch up.

Then came a mini-flood.

Our refrigerator sprung a leak in the water tank and went all under the laminate flooring and soaked the basement bedroom.  Two weeks of demo of the damaged goods.  A domino affect of remodel projects.  Our house became a flurry of construction workers, noise, and mess.  School was attempted in other locations, but just didn't work well.  Things finally put back together and we resumed summer life late June.

For about 6 days.

Then another water leak.  Same spot, different problem.  We had replaced the fridge, but this time is was the water main to the fridge that leaked.  Ripped up brand new flooring.  And here we are August 1st still waiting to have it "finished".

Needless to say, my expectations for finishing out our first year of homeschooling didn't quite lead to reality.  In all, it has been ok.  We've spent time with family, read different books, and just played a lot.  We didn't end well, but the beauty of homeschooling is that learning never truly ends and you just roll with that.

Once our fall activities and commitments started filling in, I realized how important it was going to be start intentionally with more structured schooling.  Our days of play and pajamas needed to start resembling a little more purposeful learning.  So this week has been our "soft start" of school for the 2014-2015 year.

We have focused on exploring our new curriculum books, making goals and 'rules', reviewing concepts, and slowly starting to add new subjects.  We'll have a week of camping and a week of a cottage trip, but hopefully this steady start will help us successfully navigate our fall launch of activities and full school schedule.  It has been a hair pulling week at times (you forget how much kids forget after a few weeks off!) but overall it has been great for us to get back into the routine.  I hope that this intentionality will pay off as September rolls around.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Year End" Curriculum Review

As we wrap up our "year" I'm taking a moment to give ratings to the curriculum we tried, toiled with, and loved.  Every homeschool family is different.  Each child requires different learning sets, so while something didn't work for us (or did), I'm hoping that you will put it through the filter of your child and make the best informed decision for your group.  I will give each program two ratings.

1)  An teacher perspective on ease of use, implementation, and feel of the overall curriculum
2)  How it worked for us, specifically to Izzy

B+    I loved the easy to follow teacher manual, minimal student materials, and guided writing portions.  The publishing crafts were crazy, but we adapted to them.  Great for the creative writer.

C-    Izzy did not do well with this program.  It was too creative for her 'black and white' personality.  She became too dependent on my help with the guided writing so she wouldn't want to write on her own.  The writing prompts were not enjoyed by either of us and required too much adaptation.

Christian Light Education Math 200 (CLE)
A-    Easy to use.  Everything flows very well.  Love the tight spiral.  Lessons can get a little long with too much review, but we adapted.  Some story problems are a little strange due to the farming/mennonite culture.  I like the way they teach math in the classic way, include plenty of real life story problems, and focus on basic facts.  The workbooks are great to be able to finish and get a fresh new one every 17 lessons!

A    We tried another math program for 2 weeks and went running back to CLE.  Izzy loves that can now do Math almost 90% on her own and is thriving in the independence of it.  She likes that she can skip problems that I cross off.  The tight spiral has built her confidence because she doesn't have time to forget anything.

CLE Reading
C   I could see how this program would work wonderfully if you started with it from the beginning as it  builds on previous skills with phonics and language.  However, the stories I find are quite boring and there are not enough basic comprehension questions.

D  Bored.  Bored her to death. We had to skip much of the workbook because of her lack of phonics education at public school.  Just wasn't worth the tears.

All About Spelling
B-   This program is very teacher friendly and easy to use.  I could see its high benefit for kinesthetic and tactile learners with the magnet pieces.  It also breaks the rules down very well- even I learned something!  It is a little overwhelming with all the pieces and cumbersome to get through, but adaptable to what your child's needs are.  I can't imagine trying to do this program with more than 2 or 3 kids- it would take forever!

B   Our goal was that this program would help Izzy build her phonics (reads above grade level but no phonics understanding at the start of the year, thus terrible at sounding out words and spelling) to help with spelling and reading.  I can say that this program has for sure met that goal and got us back on track for keeping up with new vocabulary and spelling.  However, the words I found were not high use enough for what she was using in her writing, therefore we aren't seeing the application or retention as much as we'd like.  Sticking with it at least for the remaining of level 2 and through 3 and then will reevaluate.

Progeny Press
C  Not memorable.  Not growth inducing.  Way about grade level mentioned.  Adaptable and there are some good bones there.  PP has a great selections of books to choose from.

D  Ineffective at meeting our reading goals.  It did not provide enough meat in return for investment of time in our day.  Needed something more encompassing of language arts as a whole.  Did not fit us well.  Did not like the font or layout of the booklet.

Abeka- Social Studies and Science
A-  (on both counts).  We utilized just the student books as general readers for some of our science and social studies.  They were a great asset.  It was nice to allow Izzy to practice "reading to learn" with these readers.  While we did supplement and these subjects were not as core to our year as the other subjects, these books fit the bill nicely.  They give a nice little taste for each subject.  They also helped wet the appetite to learn more about different matters.

A-  We used lap books to help us study Bangladesh (in preparation for a missions trip), 1904 (as we read through the Samantha series from American Girl), Addy (to add to throughout the book series).  We also did mini versions for penguins and rainbows.  We enjoyed the hands on and review aspect.  They were a lot of fun to put together.  Though, some aspects took a long time and my daughter focused more on filling each line or paper in a template rather than just expressing what she was learning.

Self Written Samantha Reading and Language Arts
I just wanted to mention that after trying CLE and Abeka for reading, we ended up tying together language arts, writing, and reading through the Samantha book series by American girl.  We focused on dictation, copy work, vocabulary, adjectives, adverbs, similes, comprehension, and forming predictions or opinions.  This worked very well for us and I believe helped give a reason for learning and spawned a desire to write which was needed.  It was more 'fun'.  It became the highlight of our day, but was very teacher intensive, especially since I had to write everything ahead of time.  Hoping that next year's choice of Total Language Plus will bring us similar results without so much time on my part.