Sunday, August 14, 2011

A new year already?!?

Ok, not really.  We've actually been doing school since the start of July.  I know, I'm a total slacker with the blogging again.  You should see the family blog.  Poor neglected dusty thing......

Anyway.  Gracie is in 2nd grade and Ian in Kindy this year.  One of the biggest changes in my life this year will be having every Friday all to myself.  I have no idea what I will do, probably sleep and eat chocolate although I probably should clean and do grocery shopping.  I'm looking forward to it, over 7 years of being the primary care giver for at least one child deserves one day a week off, right?  We have switched to a different Options location this year and I am pretty excited about it.  It's larger, has a nicer facility, offers more classes, is only about 5 minutes from James office and it's on Fridays like our last location which was kind of a must for me at this point, I really like Options as a kick off to the weekend.

So, what are the kids up to this year?

Gracie's classes

Mathmatics Grade 2 by Scott Foresman/Addson Wesley-  Not what I would have probably picked.  Not what we'll probably do next year. I wanted something more hands on and visual because I think she needs that.  She wants a work book she can speed through as fast as possible with as little explanation as possible.  I went with her wants this year because Math U See was a battle last year and this was free through Options.  So far it's not terrible but I don't really feel like she's learning concepts as much as she's just filling out answers. I liked Math U See better but it's not always about me, right?

Easy Grammar by Wanda C. Phillips-  Easy day by day exercises that introduce grammar without being too intensive.  I like it, she likes it.  Win-win.

Spelling Connections 2 by Zaner-Bloser-  I like this system because it integrates writing, vocabulary, grammar, reading, and thinking into each unit without it seeming like it is.  Sneaky sneaky.  Again so far we both like it.

Science/Social Studies/Reading:
Moving Beyond the Page Age 5-7 by Epiphany Curriculum- This will be new for us starting this week.  We started with Scott Foreman Science and Macmillan/McGraw-Hill Social Studies from Options.  I didn't like either of them last year and neither did the kids really but it was free and I didn't really have any other curriculum in mind so I just went with it.  The biggest issues with both those systems is that it's meant for teaching a whole classroom and at least for me I just couldn't get it to translate to home schooling well at all.  I was supplementing a ton from the start which is fine but adds a lot on my plate.  And the kids thought it was boring.  And then Gracie started having major jealousy issues with Ian because I have to read him everything from his books because he doesn't read yet and she didn't understand why I was focusing on him and having her do her work quietly once I got her started because she can read and follow directions.  That didn't make sense to her though and she thought it was really unfair.   All of this came to a head by the end of July.  I had learned of MBTP after we had started and had filed it away for next year but after all this I decided maybe just biting the bullet and purchasing it would be for the best.  I decided to go with level 5-7 because then we can do all of it together, as a team.  These are the classes that take us the most time during school and working together will be good for us I think.  Plus in each lesson there are generally 2 options for each activity, one that is easier and one that is a bit more challenging.  This works perfect for us, two activities on the same topic, one geared towards Gracie, one towards Ian, and only one lesson plan for me to have to follow.  Finally having them 20 months apart is paying off!!  After doing our plans for this coming week I am totally sold on the system and can't wait to do it with the kids.  It's literature based and right up our alley.

Health: I'm pulling stuff off of this website for a once a week health talk.  I figure it's a good thing to talk hygiene and stuff.  Before they get all big and smelly.

Atelier Art level 3- We did level 2 last year and it was great.  The projects are great, there is also fine art to observe and discuss.  It was designed for homeschoolers which is nice.

Other stuff:
This fall Gracie will be in a new choir in Parker and playing soccer here in Elizabeth.  As long as rehearsal doesn't clash with practice it will be all good.  She'll also hopefully be taking Karate at Options but that's not for sure yet. 

Ian's Classes

For the record I had no intention of Ian doing much school this year.  I didn't make G do anything for kindy and she turned out just fine (so far) so I had the same plan for him.  He, however, had other plans.  My kids always have other plans it seems.  He has been very very very excited about school and being in school and doing school and learning.  He's turned out to be quite academic which is a pleasant surprise.  So I'm going with it.  (Are you catching a theme here? I do what they tell me.  If they ever figure this out I am toast.)

Math U See Primer-  Ian was itching to do this all year last year. He LOVED the blocks and was always playing with them when Gracie did math.  It was an easy choice for him this year.  And then guess what?  When I went to pick it up they said he doesn't need blocks.  I was like WHA?  He was like WHA?  I asked if they were sure, they said yes, so off I went with a crying boy.  But by lesson 9 you do need the blocks, they are in the video and everything.  So they are getting me the blocks. Ian is happy.  The end.

Language Arts:
Sing, Spell, Read, Write-  I had no idea what this would be like but it sounded good and again, it was free, so I went for it.  Ian really likes it, he likes that he gets to cross stuff off his train track and he can't wait to get to the race car level which I think is for next year.  If we finish early we'll start it this year because he's crazy to be a car instead of a train.  Go figure.

Science/Social Studies/ Reading:
If you don't know what he's doing for this you obviously didn't read what I said Gracie is doing and shame on you.

Same as Gracie.

Same as Gracie.

Other Stuff:
He's also playing soccer here in Elizabeth this fall and will hopefully be doing karate at Options.

So those are our big fat plans for this year!  What are yours?  If you have a blog link hook me up!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We are done!

Well.  Gracie is a second grader now.  And at some point I'm going to have to come to terms with the fact that my baby is a Kindergartener.  *sob*

Our year ended well and I really feel like we all grew.  Here's a sampling of our accomplishments:

~We finished our year much more relaxed and with more enjoyment than we had about a month into things.
~Gracie is reading chapter books, like real big chapter books.  Her favorites are Harry Potter, Judy Moody, Encyclopedia Brown, any of the American Girl series but the mysteries in particular, Nancy Drew and The Chronicles of Narnia.  As you can tell she loves mysteries.  Her reading skills are awesome and her comprehension is amazing.  She's light years ahead of grade level in the reading department.
~Gracie is an auditory and visual learner for the most part and I LOVE the ability we have at home to let that dominate her learning.  We do very little work sheet type work.  She much prefers to hear about things, watch videos about things, read about them, look them up on the internet, research them, and then write a report or do a hands on experiment.  She is very much her mothers daughter!  She's not into drill work, she's into practical application.  And she does great with that so we generally skip the drilling.
~Her writing has improved so much.  The way she expresses herself, the amount she wants to write and her handwriting in general have really taken off.  One thing we need to work on is spelling.  I'm at a loss for how to teach this as she hates drilling and I was a horrible speller so I'm not sure what will help her out.  I'm still a fairly bad speller actually.  Thank God for spell check!  I'm going to try a new approach with her next year, we'll see how that goes.
~Ian really got into the idea of learning generally.  He loves his Brain Quest book, that's all we've focused on this year and he's really into it.  His fine motor skills are coming along and he's trying to read.  I have a feeling Kindy is going to be a huge year of changes for him like it was for Gracie.  She started not able to read and really not trying much with writing and by the end she was reading and writing well.  I'm so excited to see him reach those same accomplishments!

Plans for next year:
I intend to keep up with the low key eclectic approach we have going on.  This year we had weeks where I focused on topics and weeks where we totally unschooled.  It worked for us.  My kids like direction, they like accomplishing things, they like to work with me.  They also like doing stuff on their own.  I really think staying relaxed is the key, as soon as someone is fighting anything we just take a break.  They always want to come back to it and usually the break gives them the ability to conqueror it.  Not sure why that works but it does.  I will be using the Core Knowledge books What Your 2nd Grader Needs To Know and What Your Kindergartener Needs To Know.  I LOVE those books.  They are so comprehensive (except for language arts, they have tons of reading but no grammar, spelling, vocab, etc....) and I really like the way they are laid out and how easy they make everything to understand.  I also like the suggested activities. The 1st grade book totally saved both mine and Gracie's sanity this year.  So those books will be our core.  Both the kids will have Language Arts books from Options and I got other text books too because hey, they are free, so why not?  We can use them as reference and if they end up sitting unused it's no loss to me.  I will also continue to have the kids journal and I want to focus more on making that a daily thing.  I love what Gracie wrote this year and I know she will get a kick out of it when she's older.  On Fridays they will be attending Options at a new location which I think we will really enjoy.  It has more class offerings and extra-curriculars all of which is free or extremely affordable.  Karate and Drama are two things in the plans already, both the kids are sooooo excited about those classes!

So that's it.  The 2010-2011 school year is officially history.  Woot!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How do you handle extra activities?

Trying to get a handle on things here.

We've had the kids in gymnastics since September.  They love it and I can see major improvements in their strength and balance.  It's been a good thing really.  But it has cost us over $700 for 3 sessions plus enrollment fees.

Then there's Music Together, which is just for Ian and I on Fridays while Gracie is at options.  We did the fall session, the holiday mini session and now the winter session.  That has cost us $360.

We also do 4-H but that is minimal really, $60 for both kids for the whole year.

So, approxiately $1120 on supplemental activities and it's only February.  And we only have 2 kids!!!!!

Today was the last class of gymnastics for this session and I decided not to resign them up.  I feel they are benefiting from it but just can't justify the cost again. Music ends in 2 weeks and I am also not re-registering for that.  We've been taking that class on and off for the last 5 years and this last session was the only series we hadn't done so I don't feel to badly stopping that one.

Now they are asking for swimming lessons again, which is $160 for both kids to take a 2 week/4 classes a week session.  Swimming is important though, right?  I would even go so far as to say it's an important life skill.  The cost is a pain but the drive even more so, our little town doesn't have a pool so it would be an hour round trip driving plus time at back to back classes.  Does not sound fun to me, like at all. 

I think I'm going to focus on the free right now.  We are a one income family and I feel like our budget is constantly stressed, these classes add to that stress a lot.  But are we bad home school parents if we don't get the kids out and about and doing activities?  Granted Gracie does go to Options all day Friday (free via public school) and we have a weekly gathering with our home school group (usually free or fairly cheap), so they are out among the living at least twice a week.  That's good, right?  And the weather is getting nicer too, so we can get out to the park every now and then.  Oh, and memberships!  We have memberships to the zoo and 2 museums, so that's free entertainment and education.

I'm feeling a lot of guilt on this one.  Why do kids activities have to cost so much anyway?  What do you do to supplement what you do at home?  Are extra activities necessary?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where we are now.

I've decided the first year is home schooling is a little bit like the first year of marriage.  You each have quirks and expectations and you dance this weird dance trying to get your point across while not hurting the other persons feelings. 

Yes, it's kind of like that.

We have done so many things this year.  In spite of all the changes we've made and the books I've bought and the plans I've pitched to the side I know we've learned a great deal.

So.  Where are we now?  Well, it looks like this:

 Two books and a notebook.

We started the 30 minutes a day book 3 weeks ago.  I like it because it covers the basics of phonics and math.  Gracie likes it because she can do it without my help (mostly).  It gives me the feed back I need without being overwhelming.  There are only 50 chapters and she does 4 a week so it was kind of perfect to fit in this time of year.  I picked it up at Childrens Book of the Month Club online.  I think it was like $5 on clearance. 

What Your First Grader Needs to Know is a very cool book.  It's set up by subject, contains music and art and is a good overall book of knowledge.  It has information and ideas on projects for the subject at hand.  It feels Classical to me, but take that with a grain of salt since I haven't really done much research on Classical schooling.  Very no pressure, lots of pictures, good literature, easy to digest.  Just what we need.  I picked it up at Barnes and Nobel for $18.  I believe these books go up through 6th grade.

Lastly there's the notebook.  I come up with a daily topic (I have a link on my sidebar for a website that has ideas) and Gracie writes her response and draws a picture.  Again, simple and to the point.  Great for practicing handwriting and creative writing.  Also gives insight into her 6 year old head which I like and I know she will treasure as she gets older.

So that's where we're at!  Where are you?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Penguin and Antarctica Lapbook

We finished this before the holidays but I am just now getting photos of the final product up.

 Back:  Ian's contribution
 Inside:  from top left down we have a photo of Antarctica explaining that's where most penguins live and that they all live in the S. Hemisphere.  Beneath that is a triangle that flips to either side explaining why penguins are black and white.  The center has the penguin life cycle and a vocabulary list which is flipped down.  The right side has a flip chart of what penguins eat and who eats penguins and a pocket with 17 cards, one for each of the different types of penguins.
 Inside with the vocabulary list flipped up:
 We used the Magic Tree House Research Guide book for our vocabulary as well as for the bulk of information we learned.  We read and discussed one chapter a day and Gracie recorded vocab words on this sheet.
 Flip chart on what penguins eat and who eats penguins. 

I found all the resources for this flip book online.  There were a ton of links, I just googled penguin lap book and took what would work for us.  We also did penguin math sheets which are not in the flip book.

I think that for our first time doing a unit study and a lap book it turned out really well.  We had fun doing it and I liked putting it all together.  It combined science and social studies easily, I found math sheets with a penguin theme as well as color sheets and other things to keep Ian involved.   We also watched March of the Penguins, the part about Arctic and Antarctic in the BBC Earth series, and Happy Feet.  We learned a lot and it was fun!

We are starting another unit study today.  This time we are doing horses and donkeys since we are adopting 2 mini donkeys this week.  It's nice to have a real live subject to teach about!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My home school goal for 2011.........

is simply to come to terms with the fact that because I home school my house will rarely if ever be completely clean.  Because there are always, always, always little people who need to learn and explore and build and play and letting them learn and explore and build and play is messy. And that's ok.  In fact it's necessary. 

Someday they will be gone and then I will most likely lament my perfectly clean house and I will beg them to come, and bring their children, and mess it all up. 

I will remind myself of this daily and enjoy life as it is.  It may be cluttered, disorganized and even down right dirty, but it's also full of fun and love and that is where I will put my focus.