Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

I couldn't pick just one.....



Summer School: Revisted

As we were approaching the end of the school year I knew...we would be doing summer school.  We had a lot of little life interruptions this year.  Those used to bother me (ok - they still do). But I've grown up and finally accepted the fact that kids get sick, get hurt, need doctor visits, etc. during the school year *gasp* during the school day!  And while our kids really are generally quite healthy, the sheer number of them means that the interruptions listed above still occur rather frequently.

The kids have always tested well on their standardized tests and the results are never a surprise to me.  I know which subjects they will likely score way beyond grade level in, and I know which subjects they will likely score about average in. 

But this year we simply did not cover as much material as I would like to have covered in both math and spelling.  I had originally planned to have my 3rd and 5th graders finish they math books with little help from me, and I planned to get some "fun" spelling books for them as well as their 2nd grade sister. 

[My 3rd grader is in 4th grade math.....just for the record....I am not pushing him ahead beyond his understanding.  This kid gets math.  Even though he's working a year ahead he can finish a lesson in 15 minutes.  This is my child who, after working on averaging numbers, got to the bottom of the page and said, "Now what, should I average all the answers now?" ]

Anyway, I was helping both my 3rd and 5th graders with their math and realized they were learning basically the same thing (they are using 2 different programs).  While one was learning how to multiply 3 digit numbers, the other was learning to multiply 2 digit numbers.  Really, if you really understand how it works then there isn't much difference (Joan Cotter, author of the RightStart Math series, once said that if a young child could add 2 digits - then why not 4...if they can't do 4, then they really don't understand what they are doing with 2).  So, I pulled out both their books and made a list of all topics to be covered between where they were at and the end of their books.  Rather than hand them their books I plan to devise a way of tutoring the two of them together.    I think I will focus mainly on my older son's work since I don't want him to fall behind, but the younger son's work will be very similar. 

As for spelling.....we will get back to our All About Spelling.  As I was recently reminded, it really does take about 15 minutes per day.  It's the best spelling program we have ever used. 

Let's not forget summer reading lessons for my 2nd grader.  She has improved about 1.5 grades since she received her glasses a year ago.  She has a little more work to do.  I know some people would tell me to just wait until the fall, and I have with some kids.  But, my gut tells me with her we had better keep moving.  Besides, learning can become so much more once a child knows how to read.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Favorite Curriculum

  • Someone in one of the homeschool groups I am in has asked the other members to share ideas of hits or misses regarding curriculum choices.  As long as I'm typing it up anyway I thought I would share it here as well.  I don't mean to imply that the following is a list of the BEST programs available.  They are, however, the programs that have worked the best for our homeschool.  This past year we had children in grades Pre-K, 2,3,5,8,9, as well as a college student and a busy 1 year old. Every year really is different and each presents it's own set of challenges and blessings.  I've had kids struggle and I've had kids who learn very easily.  I can tell you that those who struggle don't always have it harder in the long run....just sayin' !

Sorry, it appear I am having some formatting difficulty.  The nice little outline method I used here isn't working so I've tried to separate things a bit with these beautiful little stars :)

  • Reading/Phonics
    • Little Angel Readers for most of my kids.
    • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is working great for my 5 year old.
    • My current 2nd grader is doing best with Seton Readers.
    • After 2nd grade I use either National Catholic Readers or Seton Readers depending on the child.
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  • Math
    • My all time favorite is Rightstart.  The positive...as phonics is to reading, Rightstart is to math.  Nothing is spoon fed here, the child is led to figure everything out.  The downside...it's more time consuming for the parent.  I'd love to go back to it.  We'll see.
    • Math-U-See...yes and no.  I currently have 2 kids using it.  One to "catch-up", the other to "skip ahead".  Each book has about 30 lessons.  Each lesson has 3 practice pages, 3 review pages, and 1 test.  If the student understands the material really well, not all those pages are necessary. 
    • Teaching Textbooks...yes and no.  I currently have 1 student using this.   It's a great idea being computerized and automatically graded after each problem; no more getting and entire page wrong!  But, it seems to be a little "behind" in the scope and sequence.  I am not happy about this as I have recommended this program to other moms of many.
    • Saxon...really not my favorite but I have to admit it's really good.  Sometimes I feel like the information is spoon fed.  The formula is given, the student memorizes it, they do zillions of problems (OK - not really).  A real understanding of the concepts doesn't seem to be necessary here.  That's what I don't like.  I have one student using it this year.  I wish instead of about 7 practice problems and 30 review problems it was more like 15 and 20 or something.
    • Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems.  Students as young as 3rd grade learn to solve complex problems that most of us would use Algebra for.  I highly recommend this for the student who really "gets" math. 
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  • Spelling
    • All About Spelling
    • The Phonetic Zoo
    • Spelling City
      • Spelling City is online.  You can search for other spelling lists or create your own.  For a very nominal fee you can create lists, sign your students up, then let them log in to play games and take tests.  You can even share lists with your friends.  Don't have time to enter the lists yourself?  Depending on the age of the child I have them take the first week of school and enter 9-36 weeks worth of words in.  It's just extra practice for them :)
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  • Literature
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  • Religion
    • We've used Faith and Life and Seton.   I'd recommend either - I also group the kids as much as possible...depending on the year I usually do religion orally as a group and pull everyone up to the highest elementary grade level I am teaching.  The high school kids use other material, I don't pull them down.
    • Our FAVORITE one this year, and the one I plan to order again next year is the faith formation program developed out of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake . http://www.familyformation.net/  I can't say enough about this.  One program for K-6 with questions geared to the appropriate level.
    • A Philadelphia Catholic in King James' Court.  It's an apologetics novel that is enjoyable to read.  There is a study guide available.
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  • Handwriting
    • I start with Handwriting without Tears
    • Then move to Seton books
    • For some kids I move to  Writing Can Help .  I particularly like the way some of the books are designed around perfecting a passage and decorating the borders around the page.  The decorations aren't merely "pretty", they are also working on consistent hand movements, etc.
    • Retrain The Brain is also very helpful in developing consistent fluid movements.  None of my children has ADD or ADHD, there are other reasons to use this as well.
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  • History
    • My favorite history "help" is Add A Century Timeline.  http://www.addacentury.com/  I think we need to start fresh though, most of the historical figures we've been studying are already on the chart.  It's wonderful to find them and see who else was alive or what else was happening in a certain time period.  I think it brought the history lessons to a more concrete level.  Nothing like actually realizing that the composer Joseph Hayden and the founder of the Mormon Religion ,Joseph Smith, were alive at the same time as Napolean, and John Adams.  Yes, I know, if you think it about it makes sense.  That's what this timeline does, it pushes those connections to the forefront of you mind.  I want to start a new one because I think part of the thrill is adding new people.  Simply glancing at a complete timeline doesn't work quite as well as creating it yourself.
    • Famous Men of Greece
    • Famous Men of Rome
    • I've used other programs for medieval and recent history but I haven't found anything else I've really been thrilled with.  I'm open to suggestions (on any subject) particularly in History.
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  • Grammar
    • LOVE Winston Grammar.  If you have a child who is very kinesthetic this could be the program he needs. 
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  • Writing
    • We are fortunate to be able to sent our kids to a Writing Foundations class.  Ms. B. used to work for IEW - it sounds similar.
    • For 4/5 grade I like to use Writing Tales.  The idea is very similar.
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  • Science
    • My kids attend hand on science classes in the younger grades
    • For the upper grade they attend science classes that mainly use the Apologia Books.
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  • Foreign Language
    • English from the Roots Up (doubles as vocab).  Book 1 has 100 Latin and Greek word roots.  I wish I had done this with my older kids when they were younger.  This year we only did about 20 roots, next year I hope to finish the book and move on to Book 2.
    • We've used Rosetta Stone a little bit as well as Power glide (love that!) for Spanish.  I send my kids to co-op classes for high school level Spanish but I like to start earlier at home.
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  • For Pre-K
    • I really like Five in a Row

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Oldest and youngest

My oldest is now a college student.  She commutes, so we get to see her every day!  She's pretty busy, but she does take time out to spend a little time with her younger siblings.  They love her so much! 
Today we visited her college campus and she gave us a tour.  The little ones were especially amazed and had so many questions for her.  I especially enjoyed watching how they would run ahead and take her hand.  It was sweet.  Now she's on to finals.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our kids certainly are creative

Because we couldn't drive the lawn tractor on the soft yard (we are trying to make it less bumpy), 11 year old Henry hooked the trailer up to the trike.  Their task was to pick up sticks and stones from the yard and bring them to the appropriate locations.

Abigail LOVES to ride her bike, especially after Henry made some modifications.  This bike used to have an attachment that stuck out the back so that an adult or older child could help push or stop the bike. It really didn't work all that well because steering is pretty important too!  So that piece disappeared long ago.  Henry found some PVC pipe we had in the garage (we have a small stash that they hook up to the hose in the summer to make all sorts of water play contraptions).  Now we can help 17 month old Abby to steer as well as keep her moving.