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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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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First Field Trip TRF School Days
Nov07

First Field Trip TRF School Days

For our very first field trip, the three of us decided to trek out to the Texas Renaissance Festival yesterday – November 6th – for their School Days activities. This is one of two days every year that TRF opens the gates and provides G-rated fun for school kids, including homeschoolers!  Hannah was extremely excited and treated it almost like Christmas morning, went to bed early the night before and everything! Sadly, my phone battery kaput on me about 10 minutes inside the gate, so I don’t have any pictures to share.  It was a wonderful, muddy mess at the faire on Hannah’s first day there. We made our way first to the Falconer’s Heath stage for the School of the Sword show. Hannah chose not to go up on the stage, but we enjoyed the kid-friendly sword techniques and watching the other kids ranging from a little 3-4 yr-old girl to what looked like a 13 yr-old-boy.  We cheered loudly for all the girls who braved the stage to show the boys how girls can handle a blade, albeit made of wood! After the show, we headed around in the general direction of the jousting arena, looking at shops and demonstrations along the way. We got to the arena in time for the joust, and Hannah was mesmerized. She cheered and booed along with the crowd for our knight! The on to the Neptune’s Swing ride where I watched her and her daddy swing and scream – guess which one screamed… – for a bit before we wandered off to find foodstuffs. Many turkey legs and laughs were had by all throughout the day.  Hannah insisted on a weapon of her choice from the shops, inspired mostly by the earlier School of the Sword show.  She ran the gambit from wanting a sword, short bow + quiver, and finally settled on a staff.  The first words out of her mouth when we put it in her hands were “You… shall not… PASS!” followed by a healthy smack of the ground with the staff.  Best. Daughter. Ever. We made our way in a meandering path back through the shops and towards the gates.  Hannah picked up a floral wreath and pink metal beribboned circlet – the girl likes pink.  Geeky mommy and daddy got some beeswax lotion bars for ourselves, Dragon’s Breath for him and Macintosh Spice (mmmm!) for me. Eventually we made it back out and arrived home a thoroughly muddy and happy trio.  Today’s assignment was to have fun and remember the sights, sounds, and smells she encountered throughout the day so she could finish up some...

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Week 2 Already?
Nov04

Week 2 Already?

Time seems to have flown by rather quickly for us. Woke up this morning realizing it was the start of our second full week of homeschool already. It’s an A-Day week, so we’ve got a math, science, and history heavy schedule which is fine by me, as I’m more familiar with those myself. We spent the morning working on fractions (new topic yay!) and Hannah breezed through them. We got a call from her old public school letting us know her withdrawal paperwork was finally ready – we withdrew her on October 23rd… about time! – so we went by to pick them up and went ahead and got some grocery shopping out of the way. After lunch, it was science time! We started working on some 3rd grade science on Time4Learning because Hannah devoured all they had for 2nd grade the first week of homeschool. She’s very interested in the scientific process and instrumentation so the first lesson on their 3rd grade curriculum was fun for her. We did a bit of history/science afterwards and studied fossils and other bits about prehistoric life. We’re really enjoying the Usbourne Encyclopedia of World History, which we’ve started working through until my Story of the World: Volume 1 Ancient Times order gets here. I made a vocabulary worksheet for her on fossils, and she proclaimed she wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up. I wonder what it will change to next week! I’m going to have to rethink our math schedule this week because she knocked out the fractions so quickly. Perhaps we’ll do some operations review and fluency work with flashcards and timed addition and subtraction quizzes. I love homeschooling because we’re going at her pace, whether it’s quick or slow. If we need to spend more time on one subject or the other, we can! Love it! The rest of our curriculum should arrive this week or at the latest Saturday, including our history books and the Singapore Math books I ordered. For the math, we will most likely run through quick reviews through what we’ve already covered to see if there’s any differences in process, then work through the rest of the 2A book. I’m so...

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Adventures Begin: Geek Teaching Mini-geek
Nov01

Adventures Begin: Geek Teaching Mini-geek

My husband and I have made the plunge and committed to homeschooling our daughter, age 7. She went to public school on October 24th not knowing it would be her last day of public school for a while, if ever. Our initial plan was to start in January at the beginning of the “semester” which would be more of a natural cutoff/start-time. The more I researched and thought about it though, after committing to homeschooling, it’s really not about starts and stops in the concrete sense anymore. I might not have all my curricula yet (we’re waiting for mid-Nov for the big buys), but we had already decided upon using Time4Learning.com (T4L) as a supplement, so we’re going to start with it for some review of what she’s learned so far in 2nd grade. Why wait? Texas, which I’m repeatably told – by both my aunt who homeschooled her two adopted daughter and folks at a great community I joined called SecularHomeschool.com – is awesome for homeschoolers. We have no testing requirements or strict rules. We simply have to have a bona-fide instruction plan with visual curriculum on the basic subjects of “reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship.” I have that all already and plan to go beyond (to a point) what she would have learned in PS with more history and science, which she loves. I know she’s already about to jump ahead to 3rd Grade science because she’s already devoured what T4L had for 2nd graders. There are so many great resources for homeschoolers, it’s almost overwhelming. Trying to choose between one curriculum and another has been daunting, but I’m confident in what I’ve chosen so far, and if it doesn’t work, no sweat! I’ll change it! We live in Houston, and there’s a Homeschool Store about 15 minutes from where we live. My husband and I visited it earlier this week, and were very impressed at the atmosphere. I honestly was expecting a lot more pro-Christian sentiment to permeate the air as we walked in, but the staff – homeschooling moms – were actually very friendly and helpful when we explained that we were going for a secular curriculum. We didn’t purchase anything, but it was extremely nice to get a hands-on look at some of the books, including Singapore Math (which we decided to go with) and Story of the World (which we know tends to be biased towards Christianity but we’re going to use it with other references). Our Curriculum: Math – Singapore Math with manipulatives and flash cards Science – Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, supplements and labs of various sources Language Arts – Spectrum...

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