Wednesday, July 13, 2016

School planning

Warning:  I am breaking the blogging rules...this post may be long.
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Not too long ago I found this calendar at Target in their $1 spot.  (except it was $3 - ha) 
What I liked most about it was that even though it is a "school" calendar it included the summer months.  

This calendar begins the week with Monday instead of Sunday.  That could mix us up a little since my personal calendar begins with Sunday, but hopefully, it will work ok.

I especially like "Parent Conference" days (in the homeschooling world that means date night!)

I suspect Columbus Day may not be included in future versions.

Calendar visuals are super helpful in teaching days of the week, and months of the year, and the passing of time leading up to an event.   
And that's about as "classroom" as we get...

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There are many styles of homeschooling - strictly textbook, classical, theme based units that integrate all subjects, and eclectic - a little of this and a little of that.  
I have found that as the years pass, we have become more eclectic as I become more aware of my strengths as a teacher, the learning styles of each of the kids, and where we need to focus.

This year Mary (the baby!) will be starting with Kindergarten.  That feels so weird to be in the home stretch. (It's a long home stretch - 12 years -  I know, but I am keenly aware that now I will be seeing the last of the "firsts" with school as she learns how to read and write.)

For Mary, I have decided to keep with using Abeka books for Kindergarten.  I have used this with all the children, and it has proved to give a good phonics foundation.  This level seems to be the right amount of workbook to make her feel like she is "doing school" without being overwhelming or discouraging or overly time consuming.

Abbie will begin 1st grade.  I have chosen to keep with Abeka for her too, though it will take longer with the addition of spelling as a subject and more in depth reading. 

Which brings me to my biggest decision this year.  I have come to realize that there are those who are natural spellers and those who just aren't.  I have both.  I am a natural speller so choosing a spelling curriculum over the years has been challenging, and I have tried LOTS!  (I honestly think those who are visual learners are more natural spellers.) 

BUT, I recently learned of Spelling - U- See. (By the same creators of Math - U- See). It incorporates copywork, reading, speaking, and listening - basically a multi-sensory approach to help them link word patterns with meaning.  

I think this will be a good fit for Ellie.  She has struggled with reading and spelling, though in part due to needing glasses. I have also chosen this for Daniel.  He is entering the 8th grade, but I think it will be good for him to solidify some spelling concepts before moving on. 
This curriculum incorporates penmanship with it - for Ellie that will be good to not have two separate subjects, as her eyes tire easily and things (ability and attitude) begin to unravel quickly when we reach that point.

Dan has very nice penmanship (both printing and cursive) and doesn't need that as a separate subject, but I am glad he will naturally continue to practice with these lessons. 

Grammar has been a little elusive for him, so this year we will use Winston Grammar.  It's a hands-on approach with parts of speech on different colored cards.  It also focuses on identifying prepositions because once those phrases are set aside, subjects and verbs are very easy to identify.   

Hannah will be a senior this year.  (A senior!)  She has a strong grasp on grammar, spelling, and penmanship, of course, so her focus remains on reading and interpreting classic literature, and writing compositions and research papers.  I have used Progeny Press as a source for choices of literature.  I appreciate the questions that help them think through abstract and obscure themes.  I also prefer for my kids to read the entire work rather than excerpts. 

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For math again both Mary and Abbie will use Abeka.  Simple and basic at this level.

I want Ellie to love learning, and that is hard when it's such a struggle.  This is where a workbook heavy curricula can become burdensome.  

We will take a step back - and use Math-It.  It is a set of three games (Add-It, Times-It, and Double-It)  This will help her to learn her math facts so that they will be automatic for her. When she has mastered them, we will likely return to Abeka, but we'll see.

Daniel will study pre-algebra/algebra this year.  Video Text is excellent!  Levels A-F take you from pre-algebra through alegbra 2. (basically, it's a 2 year course) - so by the end of his 9th grade year, he'll be done with all of algebra.  I really like how the instructor in the DVD explains the concepts, with visuals/graphics on the screen.  I also like that it presented directly to the student - like a private tutor - not a classroom of kids, like other on-line/DVD presentations.  
(This is a pricey curriculum, but well worth the money - especially if math isn't something you feel strong at teaching!)

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For our morning devotions, we have been going through Generations of Grace.  Volume 1 covers Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Christmas, and Easter.  Each lesson is broken up into 5 days, with a portion of the Scripture read each day.  Days 4-5 bring in how Christ fits with the old testament passage. There are questions to answer (much like narration.) 
When we are finished with Volume 1, we will most certainly move on to Volume 2.  This is so perfect for the age range of my kids.  I have Dan read the Scripture, but even Mary can answer most of the questions.  Seriously, it's the best.  I love this!  You can buy it here.  

I am really, really, really wanting to break away from text books and have some fun.   
How to Teach Art to Children covers the seven basic elements of art with simple projects to do. The second half of the book introduces them to famous artists who are most well known for the use of one of those elements.  Kind of like art/art history combined.

I was kind of hoping to begin this summer because of our looser schedule and better chances for being outside, but so far that hasn't happened.  I need to get on the ball!

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Hannah is teaching both Ellie and Abbie piano this summer.  So far, it is working quite well. I have heard that teaching siblings can be quite a challenge, but Hannah's teacher gave her some great pointers.  We (Hannah and me) are treating summer as a trial run.  If it works well, we will continue to have Hannah teach them through the year, otherwise, we'll need to find a teacher as ours has gone off to finish college. (Thanks, Jesse for all your years of teaching my kiddos!  We'll miss you!) 

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Daniel is fascinated by dinosaurs - so for science for him, I'll have him read through Apologia zoology books along with other creation-based books about dinosaurs. If this passion continues to direct him towards a career path, then we will continue to focus heavily on the sciences.   

Hannah has completed all her requirements for science, but for the younger girls, I think science will remain at the level of field studies with nature sketchbooks.  Along with various books of interest from the library.

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We've been using Institute for Excellent Writing for the last couple of years.  IEW has a geography based study that utilizes Holling C. Holling books (which we already own.) 
I am considering this for Daniel's history/geography, but I am still undecided.  

I am also considering Bede's History of the US.  It's a very basic introduction to big events in US history.  Once/week lessons.  This sounds like it would work well for all three little girls together. 

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Most of the above we already own, so that's nice to not have too much to buy.  

If you have ever used any of these - feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you thought about it.

Enjoy that sunshine.  Meanwhile, we are hoping the sun doesn't forget to shine in our little corner of the country!


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