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Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Letter to our Friends and Family

Dear Friends and Family,

We made a life decision recently that is viewed as different.  We chose to pull our kids out of public school and homeschool them.

This decision is by no means a reflection on you or your choices in how your children are educated.  We saw flaws and issues with OUR children's education and experiences and chose to take things into our own hands.

I never planned to homeschool.  I thought it was odd, and after all-what is wrong with public school?!  Nothing is wrong with how you choose (or chose) to educate your children.  Whether you homeschool, use public school, private school, or a charter school.  Your choice is right for you.

My honest opinion of all of my friends and family is that each and every one of you always tries to do what you feel is best for your children.  In regards to everything, not just their education.  At this point, we feel homeschooling is what is best for our children.  Homeschooling is not for every child, and not for every family.  We went into this with open eyes and know that it may not even be for us.  But we felt it was right and felt we needed to take this path in our lives.

We respect everyone's decision to teach their children the way they choose, and hope you will do the same with our decision. 

And for the record: just because we have chosen to homeschool, it does not mean our children are now hermits.  Please encourage your children, their friends, to still call and visit. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Our Curriculum (continued)

In the last post I covered how I compiled the curriculum that we do together.  Here I will go over how I compiled curriculum for the subjects the kids do separately.  Again, with very minimal budget, I just bing'ed my heart out and found resources as much as I could via the internet!

Math: I wrote to The Book Samaritan and asked for a few things, math being one of them.  They sent a BJU Pre-Algebra for The Boy and a fairly old version of a 5th grade Houghtin Mifflin text for The Girl (but it's math, how out of date can it be?).  So I started with those.

  • The Boy: BJU Pre-Algebra and Khan Academy 
  • The Girl: Houghtin Mifflin 5th Grade text and Khan Academy and lots of math games.
  • I also found this website with some virtual manipulatives that help The Girl visualize things. 
  • This website is a PDF book of fun math worksheets
I love using Khan Academy.  I had the kids take the placement tests and I became a "coach" for each of them.  I can recommend assignments for them and give them due dates.  I can also see what they are struggling with or what they have mastered or need more practice in.  They earn "badges" so it's like a game to them.
Writing: I got copies of Write Source for grades 4 and 7 for shipping only.  So we use this as a guide and I make up my own assignments.  This has some great ideas for writing.  I also found a great source for journal prompts.

Grammar:  I use dailygrammar.com archives and just do a couple lessons a day depending on their level.  They each go in order, but The Boy can usually do three lessons a day and The Girl gets one or two.

Spelling:  I really wanted to get All About Spelling for The Girl but it was out of our budget and I couldn't find any used copies in our budget at the right level.  My next choice was going to be Apples and Pears Spelling which I have heard great things about, but again a bit out of our price range though more affordable than All About Spelling.  While searching, I came across Spell by Color, the first year is free so I figured it was worth a try.  We are on the fourth week and I am not sure about it still.  We are sticking with it for now, but I may invest in Apples and Pears soon.  I do like the idea of teaching her the rules rather than having her memorize lists.

For The Boy, he is a natural speller.  So I wanted to focus more on vocabulary and roots for him, but then I noticed he does need to practice more first.  So I found a free spelling course for homeschoolers that I thought we would try.  It is great for the word lists but I like to add more in the way of definitions and using a dictionary.  He is also registered for the Scripps Spelling Bee so we will start using that list probably at the end of November and he will be in the Bee in January.

Critical Thinking:  I assign them different things each day.  Once a week we read from Logic to the Rescue (a free Kindle book).  Other days they do a worksheet or a game on the iPad (Sudoku, Chocolate Fix, Where's Waldo).  The variety is great for them and I like to see them stretching their minds in different ways.  I had considered using The Art of Argument, until I read about some topics being in there that I am not ready to discuss with my 10 and 11 year olds!  Maybe we will use that later.

Reading: I include reading in their Science and History.  They also read for at least 30 minutes each night before bed, anything they choose to read.  I have been happy to see them grab history books from the library bin to read more at night! 

I think that covers everything.  So there it is, how I compiled our curriculum for nearly free!  What other resources have you found?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Curriculum

We had no budget for curriculum when we decided to homeschool.  I wasn't sure if I would be working or how I would work and what that income would look like.  We had to be as frugal as possible.  So I started at http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/, a place I still like to visit often!

We got some good ideas there, and I just kept asking around and searching on bing.com.  So here is how I compiled our curriculum for The Boy-11 in 6th grade (learning mostly ahead) and The Girl-10 in 5th grade (learning mostly on her grade level)...

Subjects we do together:

History:  I took all of the resources I could find and came up with my own schedule and assignments for the kids.  Here are the resources (once my schedule is done, I plan to get that onto this blog as well):

Science:  I looked and looked and really thought I would end up just coming up with my own plan, but I was lost.  Luckily, an angel was looking out for us and pointed me in the direction of http://store.ellenjmchenry.com/ and the angel (via an internet chatboard) told me she would like to purchase our first unit for us, and to choose one and let her know which one.  We chose The Elements since The Boy has been showing an interest and also already owns some books about the elements.  We have been working on a separate project for our homeschool group, but next week we start The Elements and we are pretty excited!
We are also doing an Engineering class with the co-op, this is one thing we did pay for (it ended up being around $75 for each kid, they meet every other week from September-April), we felt this was a good place to spend our very limited funds so the kids could be part of a group and I would have some help with science!

Art:  Lost again.  But I found my way, I can't get over how much we have been blessed and how much guidance I have found.  This is what we are using:
Music:  Again, I needed some guidance and didn't have a plan until the weekend before we started school!
Sign Language:  We chose this because we are pretty sure The Girl is dyslexic so we are focusing a lot on her spelling this year, and we didn't think introducing another language was the best idea at this point.  My Mom purchased Hands on Sign Language along with an illustrated signing book for the kids for their birthdays-luckily they thought it was a great gift and we are enjoying it so far.   (I also contacted the author via email and she was kind enough to share that she came up with this with the co-author because her son is dyslexic and wanted to learn a foreign language)!

Bible:  I wanted to introduce The Bible since my kids don't know a lot about it, although my husband and I are both Catholic.  We don't practice often enough, so I wasn't sure where to start.  We decided to start at the beginning so it could go along somewhat with our history plans.  I downloaded the YouVersion Bible App onto my iPad.  You can sign up for different "plans"that guide you through reading the bible.  There is also an option to have it read aloud to you, so we have been listening to it during lunch.

Typing:  I also wanted to give the kids some typing lessons so they could avoid the "two finger" approach that they both seem to have!  It is much faster and more efficient to have some actual knowledge behind typing.  So we found a fun place to start at http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/.


I think that is everything we do together, with some Life Skills things thrown in there as we go.  This post was very long, so I will save the separate subject resources for my next post!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our first week...

I did not realize how exhausting this would be!  I got home at 6:30 today and I thought I would fall asleep as soon as I finished dinner (which, luckily, my awesome husband had cooked and it was just ready as I walked in the door)!  I forced myself to take a shower and then do a couple of things I needed to get done.

I didn't get to check The Boy's math yet, I have been keeping up with everything as they do it, but today got away from me.  I don't have to work a lot, and I am so grateful, but even just the few hours a day is exhausting!  Not to mention that my job is not an easy one, it's tiring in itself!

My kids are mostly independent, but I do sit right there with them and we all do some subjects together.  I need to be closeby to answer their questions, I thought I could do some lesson planning and organization while they do schoolwork, but it's impossible.  I have been trying to print labels for their notebooks all week!

Don't get me wrong, I am LOVING homeschooling.  It has been awesome watching them learn and knowing exactly what they are learning.  The BEST thing is that I have absolutely no "mom guilt" anymore.  (OK it's only been a few days, but...) I spend all morning with them teaching them and watching them learn.  Then I get a bit of alone time on my drive to work, I do a job I really enjoy, a little more alone time on the drive home, eat dinner with my family, then spend time alone with my husband.  It is an awesome balance and I feel so incredibly blessed.

...But I am soooo tired!