Switching from Pieced-Together Curriculum to Boxed Curriculum
Mar14

Switching from Pieced-Together Curriculum to Boxed Curriculum

As this school year starts to wind down, I have been looking back on the past few months to try to see how to better organize our day and goals in order to feel like I don’t need to rush through the rest of the curriculum in order to “finish” teaching what we need to get through this year. In my mind, we are a little behind due to our taking a large break during the winter and through a more slack approach during the spring.  Some things have fallen by the wayside, like our Handwriting Without Tears work and Geography, and we took longer than I had thought on reinforcing addition and subtraction of two and three digit numbers.  I’m not stressing about it, or truly worried.  I’d just like to find a less patchwork approach because I feel like it would work better for both of us. Since this was our first year homeschooling, I was tempted to go with a boxed curriculum when we started to take some of the guesswork out of lesson planning and scheduling. At the time, it wasn’t financially feasible to go with my first choice of Calvert for 2nd grade.  I did some research and pieced together a curriculum from a variety of sources, which has worked alright for us.  However, lesson planning is NOT my forte, I’ve come to realize! For next year, our finances are shaping up to be more in line with being able to enroll in Calvert’s 3rd grade program.  While I’m also researching some of the other complete boxed curricula programs such as Oak Meadow and Moving Beyond the Page, I like the approach of Calvert and the choice of either their math program or one aligned with Singapore Math, which we used this year. Hannah loves it, especially the mental math exercises which we’ve come to call Jedi Math!  With a deeper look at the course surveys of each of the math programs, though, it looks like we will probably be going with the Calvert Math program. It looks like it covers a good deal more than the Math In Focus, and I really want to keep her mind challenged. She thrives on challenge. If it’s too easy, I lose her attention extremely fast. We still have a few months to finish up the year, and we’ll be finalizing the curriculum over the summer.  We’ll also be rearranging our house a bit: moving the TV area into our current den/computer area and making the existing TV/living room into our classroom.  It will be nice to have a table/desks instead of chilling out on the sofa...

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Transitioning from Public to Home School
Feb11

Transitioning from Public to Home School

Four months later, I do believe that I’m finally through the transition from public school to home school. What do I mean by that, you ask?  Well, it’s simple, in a way.  After we starting homeschooling, I spent the first several weeks attempting to recreate a “normal” school day here at home, including a completely planned out day, hour by hour.  I recorded dozens of “daily” grades during the course of a week and obsessed over having those grades to account for our progress. In the same way that new parents coddle and overprotect their new baby in the first few weeks of life, buying the most expensive everything and trying to control every aspect of the day, I was being too controlling and trying to make everything too much like public school.  In my attempts to make sure everything was perfect and that I was doing it “right”, I was starting to stress both of us out to the point that we were having trouble getting through lessons without arguing.  Many times we would both end up in tears.  That’s no fun at all, and it’s definitely no way to learn! Thank the stars I got THAT out of my system! This “semester” I’m definitely viewing things a bit more organically.  We still have alternating days, but I don’t stress about keeping everything strictly by the numbers.  I record a fraction of the grades that I did at first, and these are mostly just quizzes or tests. I still use the grades to have a record of how the year is going, but they aren’t the end all, be all of how I assess Hannah’s knowledge.  Instead, I am relying on gauging her progress through her participation in discussions about the material when it comes to science and history. Language arts is coming along more free form as well, with Hannah working in her workbooks at her own pace and keeping a daily journal that she uses for free writing.  For new topics like introducing new parts of speech, we have discussions and use many examples from her writing and reading. For math, we’ve started using a lap-sized dry erase board for explanations and even oral quizzes/tests.  I give occasional written tests in the various subjects and comprehensive quizzes and tests every week in each subject, especially math, on everything we’ve covered this year so far.  Before, she really struggled with her operations, having issues working through the process of the more involved addition and subtraction problems.  Now, she can do many three digit addition problems in her head as well as the normal vertical algorithm.  We’re working on multiplication...

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Getting Back on Track in 2014
Jan16

Getting Back on Track in 2014

The end of last year was a bit of a bust for us in our first year of homeschool.  We just couldn’t seem to get back on track after Thanksgiving due to illness, doctor visits, and travel; so we wrote it off as a long winter break, and started up again last week on Monday. So far, things are working out and we’re getting back into our routine that worked well before Thanksgiving.  It’s a little more free-form this time, without so much an A/B day schedule, though we do alternate.  It’s just not as strict as before.  We might do math and some writing on an “A” day and other language arts and history on a “B” day but the next “A” day might be math and science or geography.  We just do whatever works for that day as long as we get our weekly goals done.  It makes things easier and feels more like homeschool than before when I was trying to stick to a strict daily schedule. Our days are a kept lively with breaks to play with Dante, our new German Shepherd puppy that we got last November.  He has a great deal of energy, so for our morning snack break we either play fetch with him and cuddle around the house or go for a walk through the neighborhood.  I have to take breaks other times while Hannah continues working just to keep Dante from otherwise being unruly during the day. This week marked the reinstitution of our gym visits in addition to Hannah’s swim team practice.  Each weekday we leave the house around 3:15pm, get to the gym and start working out (walking on treadmills) at 3:30pm.  We walk for an hour and then head to get ready for swim practice. They closed the other pool for the winter, so until spring the team practices at the public facility pool. I love this change because it’s right there close to the locker rooms for colder nights.  Her practices are also an hour-long instead of the 30 minutes like before.  This is another great change because it’s really helping Hannah work on her stamina. Last night one of her coaches told me that she’s improving so much that she will move up from Copper level to Silver soon. I’m so very proud of her! I’m feeling good so far about the rest of the year. We have a bit of catching up to do, but nothing we can’t manage. For those of you reading this blog, how is school going in the new year? Did you have any trouble getting back into the swing of...

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Teaching Through Gaming
Nov19

Teaching Through Gaming

Games have been used in many ways to supplement learning, expounding on various subjects and making learning fun for the child.  I’m leaning towards this as well, for reading at present time, though not in the sense that many folks may be accustomed. I recently began playing the game Everquest 2 in my spare time. EQ2 is an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) set in the fantasy land of Norrath.  Players can play any of a myriad of races (elves, dwarves, trolls, ogres, fairies, and more) and classes (druids, fighters, rangers, wizards, warlocks, and more) and adventure through a vast land populated by fantasy creatures.  This was the first MMORPG  that I ever played, and nostalgia has brought me back. Out of the eternal curiosity of childhood, Hannah was curious about the game. She plays Minecraft on her own, but has asked about the games I play lately, and EQ2 was no exception.  I created her a free account of her own, and she has adventured both on her own and with me. As the name indicates, there are many quests or missions in the game. Each has a good amount of dialog with the NPCs (non-player characters) before you can accept a quest. I’ve been looking for ways to make reading fun for Hannah, to make it seem like less of an assignment and get her to learn to enjoy reading for the sake of reading.  As a bit of supplement towards our normal reading assignments and story books from the library, I’m encouraging her to read the quest dialog before accepting quests. So far this is working out nicely. I know I no longer read quests before accepting them, in my jaded gamer’s need to reach max level and experience the end game content such as dungeons and raiding.  After encouraging her to read the quests, I’m starting to make an effort of my own to avoid just clicking through the dialog and actually paying attention to the quests and story lines again, even though I might have experienced them before oh so many years ago. We’re both having a blast and she’s getting some great reading practice at the same time. She’s also taken to crafting in the game, which is introducing her to recipes and organizational skills as well.  I will continue to look for ways to link what we learn in class to things she enjoys, whether it’s EQ2, Minecraft, or whatever else comes along. I can’t wait until we start with perimeter and area in math! Minecraft will be perfect for that, and she’s already worked with both when following building tutorials (making...

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Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs
Nov15

Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs

We spent some time while waiting for our Story of the World books to get here delving into our Usbourne Encyclopedia of World History. Where else to start than at the very beginning!  Hannah took some convincing when it came to the age of the earth.  I don’t think she can really conceive yet just how long a time is 4.54 billion years. She perked up when we started talking about dinosaurs and fossils. I came across a paleontology learning kit at the store and picked it up. It’s by Smithsonian called Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs T-Rex, and was a set of t-rex bones hidden in a sand block.  Hannah couldn’t wait to open it up and get started!  We helped her get everything set up and she went to town with her hammer and chisel, safety goggles firmly in place! She kept at it, slow and steady, carefully using her brush in some places, slowly chipping away at others. It wasn’t too long before we heard an excited “I found something! It’s a foot!” I of course had a huge grin on my face after hearing that.  It was almost like hearing her on Christmas morning. Hannah had a blast and while she was working we talked about fossils and how paleontologists use them to find out details about creatures that lived millions of years ago.  It was a great project, and her daddy helped her put the skeleton together after all the pieces were uncovered from the “stone.” I can’t wait for more fun projects to be found now that our Story of the World books are here as well.  Hoping to help bring history alive for her with projects and field trips and...

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