Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On to the next thing

So we're off and running into our next quarter and it looks like we have enough events going on that we will not have as many days as we have school before Christmas break.  My kids are already fretting about the assignment load.  I'm happy they can participate in many things.  Choir, sports, scholar's bowl, forensics and youth group activities are enough to keep us hopping.  Basketball practices began this week for jr high and high school will start next week.  I am blessed that in our small corner of the world we have so many options.  We only had a few hours dedicated to bookwork yesterday and today, so that isn't very good for high school especially. But the kids still seem to be taking it well and we are succeeding!  Two more school days and then youth convention for our church youth group and I get to be a sponsor.  It will be a great time!!  

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quarter 1 wrapped up

My kids finished their first quarter of school a week ago and I am just now getting to post about it.  Last week was a marathon as we had activities every day.  This week we are doing choir and scholar's bowl today and then youth group Wednesday is the only thing scheduled until Sunday morning church!  I see a ray of sunlight beaming!
My son said that we will be in quarantine for a whole week.  I told him that I sacrifice my quarantine 5 days a week for them, so he can bear with me in quarantine for this week.  Next week begins basketball season.  I love that my kids are active and healthy, but I am so grateful for this break!
I honestly think this first quarter seemed to go more quickly than the summer, and I barely had time to blink.  Next thing we know, it will be Christmas and semester's end!
So as far as schooling goes, I break it into quarters, because I am a goal person.  I love to meet the goals I set and school seems to be better for me if I chunk it into quarters.  I have so much I want to accomplish by this date and we get it done.  Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to pull it off, but the rewards are great!  We got to have a 4 day weekend and that was pretty great as well.  Last Monday, we had a safety day and we learned about gas and electrical safety.  Then we had an excellent presentation on drug awareness and safety.  One of our local sheriffs gave the presentation and my kids had great questions and discussion afterward.  With other activities including an all day volleyball tournament last Thursday, we ended up doing 2 school days last week, so as today began, we were finally getting a good start to our second quarter of this school year. As Mondays go, this is not much different trying to find focus on our school endeavors.  We almost lost a computer to a cat and water.  We had some laundry distractions as our first scholars bowl meet is this afternoon and we need to dress up.  You'd think we were going to prom.  All in all I know that this is going to be a good week!  Tomorrow evening in quarantine we have to make monster cookies.  Oh the tragedy!!!
Signing off for now!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Beautiful flexibility

I'm not talking about contortion, but the ability to adapt and change at a moment's notice.  Our schedule at LSA is set with time frames, but is fluid.  I love that aspect of homeschooling.  I'm learning to plan to not plan.  Our local home school group has a main scheduled event for the moth of October and then there have been new opportunities for speakers and museum exhibits and health class that opened up and we are taking advantage of each opportunity!  Well not our family personally, but the families within our group!  With sports opportunities for our older children, we don't have the option to go to a few of the events, but I'm happy to have the choice to go or not.  
For school, I have each subject divided into quarters and plan for 8 weeks of text book so that there is freedom to skip days of school for appointments or unexpected field trips.  We get in plenty of hours so I'm not concerned about that.  I do want to accomplish getting through our wonderful curriculum, though, so I tried to divide it out into daily chunks that are manageable and even doable if we end up having to double up on a few things.  Our quarter ends Friday so I told them when their assignments are done for the first quarter, they can have the rest of the week off.  Won't that be great?  Latin and one science will be difficult to get done early in, but not impossible!
I was gone a day last week and the kids wen their separate ways for that Friday and they still accomplished some school tasks.  My hubby and I go on annual trips during the school year and the kids can take school with them to gramdma and papa's house and do school there.  We can go on a road trip and they can take assignments with them or visit museums or historical sites and have that count as school.  I love that!  So do they!  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I cannot do it all

There is so much to do and so little time.  I've heard it said often and I have said it myself.  Some days, I wonder how I would have done all the extra things if I were a working parent and my kids went to school outside my home.  Well that's not a fair comparison because those who work outside the home do not have all of their daily activities happening and making messes in their homes.  This past Monday is a prime example.  I cleaned the kitchen and swept the floor while the kids were working on their school work.  We had choir practice and a volleyball game and were away from the house for 5-6 hours.  We got home and I made supper, frozen pizza for the kids and homemade low carb pizza for myself.  I cleaned up after myself, but the kitchen was a disaster.  My kids make their own meals for lunch and with the hurried nature of getting out the door, the bread wasn't wrapped tightly, there was a cheese wrapper on the counter.  Spills and crumbs on another counter.  Dishes were not put in the dishwasher and the pizza boxes never made it farther than the dining room table.  There were chunks of mud on the kitchen floor.
One could talk about how my kid should be more disciplined at cleaning up after themselves.  I have a secret for you... home schooled kids are kids too.  Some are clean and some are sloppy.  Some are careful and some are eccentric.  I have walked with my kids as toddlers and used their hand to pick up trash on the floor and helped them throw it away.  I have taught them repeatedly that the table needs wiped off if you clear it.  I have taught them to clean the stove top after a spill and close the bread wrapper.  My kids are still normal kids with attention spans of toddlers and they don't automatically do what is right.  I really don't think they see the mess sometimes.  
I'm not the perfect parent either.  I am not a naturally t
idy person.  I fall more into the eccentric category than disciplined and orderly.  I really like some of my life to be very organized and planned, but other areas are fly by the seat of my pants.  For me to establish a good habit I really have to work on it.  I have this problem, though.  I can't do good at everything at the same time.  I am very good about paying bills and balancing my checkbook.  That is, until I'm very good at keeping my kitchen clean.  I'm great at that until I'm good at getting dressed nicely every day and keeping myself looking good.  I think you get the picture. For every good habit I've formed, it seems I have an equal and opposite bad habit.  There was a time I thought maybe I was bipolar, but now I realize that I'm just a normal person trying to do it all at once or give up on all of it because I can't be do everything well.  I want to be the crafty homeschool mom who does neato things with the kids all the time while keeping an immaculate house and takes them to all their activities while being an active volunteer at church and keeping my spiritual habits in check and keeping tabs on the news and making time for myself and my husband with the clever date nights and being the encourager and volunteer when things need done and make beautiful menus and and and and.  Woah!  I'm just one person and I can't do it all!
As I've matured, ok aged, I have truly developed some good healthy habits.  I found a good time for myself to read the Bible every day.  I make my bed in the mornings and take care of the animals.  I take my morning vitamins and am following a healthy eating plan.  I'm trying to find time to make priority out of the important things.  I fail with my husband and my kids and correspondence and communication more often than not, but I think I need to give myself credit for the good habits I DO have.  And the good habits I do have came over time.  They came through trial and error, and they also came one at a time.  Baby steps.  Whenever I try to start on Monday and do all that I aspire toward, I fall flat on my face!  
Another thing I am recognizing is that I DO have time when I think I don't.  Yesterday, I made granola.  You have to stir it every 15 minutes.  Normally I would put it in the oven and sit on Facebook or some computer game while I wait for each timer.  Today, I had some tasks I wanted to complete.  I cleaned and swept our guest bathroom in 8 minutes.  I then put away the dirty rag and got a new one and went in to the master bath.  I didn't finish it when the first 15 minute timer went off.  I washed my hands, stirred the granola and set out to scrub the tub.  I ran our of cleaner, so I had to reconstitute more, so I wasn't finished at the second timer.  I washed my hands, stirred the granola and then went back to work.  I finished the master bath and swept the kitchen again and put all my supplies away before the 3rd timer went off.  This really was a big deal for me to start to recognize that while I can't do it all, I can do more than I have been doing.  
Just as I had to limit my kids' electronics including listening to music until they met certain goals, I need to ground myself from media that takes my attention completely.  So I guess I'm just saying that if I and if you as a homeschool parent has aspirations to do better, we need to try and pace ourselves.  Also, I need to give myself grace when I can't complete everything I had planned.  Balance is key!  I need to prioritize which habits are eternal, which are meaningful and which need to go.  I would rather be proud of balance than busyness.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

hmmmmppphhh day!

Yes, I know that many people call this hump day, but today I'd like to call it hmph day.  In my understanding, hmph is a term of indifference.  Don't correct me if I'm wrong.  I want to live in my own little world today.  Hmph!

Yesterday evening didn't go as planned.  This morning we were going to go to See You at the Pole in town and I got my van stuck in the mud.  By the time we got home (thank you neighbor) and could take our pickup with a low tire, it was the time they were starting and it is about 20 minutes to get to town.  Hmph!  My kids were disappointed, but I can't change what was.  My son was driving, but I told him he could make it through the puddle and didn't have to go around.  My bad!
So I walked the 3/4 ish mile to the van before noon when I felt it was dry enough and I got the van unstuck, then went to turn around on the road and got stuck in the other ditch... hmph!  I was determined and the minivan got home.  The road that they were just rebuilding. is. a mess!  My bad!  I won't say hmph about that because I really feel bad about that.
I know that I should be all encouraging and uplifting, but I just don't feel that way today!  I just feel like hmph and so I say, "hmph!"  Tomorrow is a new day.  I didn't get my chores done, I haven't done laundry.  I haven't graded yesterday's schoolwork.  I made a muddy mess in the laundry room, and mostly cleaned it.  My mud shoes are out on the porch because I washed my minivan and got myself very messy.  When I put the hose away, I splattered mud on the side of the van and just left it there.  Hmph!
Yesterday, the kids were done with school early and today, though they were up and ready to go to town at 7 A.M., they are still working on school at 1:30 and have a ways to go to finish.  His Mercies are new every morning and my hmph will surely go away.  I do need to get a better attitude before I see other people tonight, but for now... hmph!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Since we are a Christian homeschool, we do teach Bible in our school day.  I love having the freedom to teach my children about our faith.  When choosing curriculum though, I don't necessarily choose it for Biblical content, but for academic content.  Now I do use Christian curriculum, but don't get tied up in which translation of the Bible is used or how many Bible lessons in each subject.  I don't think my kiddos are going to be hermits who sit under a rock for the rest of their lives quoting the King James Bible.
I do love that their Apologia science makes them look at information on the internet about teachings on evolution and compare them to the Bible and make their own conclusion.  I love that sometimes in Life of Fred, Fred mentions something from the Bible and in Learning Language Arts through Literature, they have a hymn and Psalm in each year's poetry unit.  I also enjoy that Life of Fred talks about Socrates and Learning Language Arts Through Literature has them reading Shakespeare.  
Until 9th grade, I have not purchased an individual Bible curriculum.  And actually we are using Notgrass history which has Bible curriculum built in and parallels it with history.  We instead have read Bible storybooks and then started reading the Bible out loud.  I had this chart in a Sunday School curriculum extras book published by Gospel Light.  There have been several goodies that I've taken to use for homeschool.  We started a reading plan and are on our 4th year.  At the end of this school year we will have read the entire Bible out loud by reading about 2 chapters every school day.  I've colored in the books we have completed.

I really enjoy this method of Bible teaching for my kiddos.  They read out of their own Bibles and sometimes off an electronic Bible.  My son prefers NASB and daughter NLT.  It can be hard to follow along, but I think that is good practice as well.  Sometimes if something doesn't make sense, we switch translations and read the confusing part out of the other translation.  If my kids have a question or comment, we discuss it right then.  Sometimes I know an answer, sometimes I look it up and sometimes I just tell them that I don't know.  I didn't want some curriculum telling my kids what the Bible means by this or that.  It is exciting to hear them discover these things on their own and in that, I'm learning more about the Bible that I love so much!
There are stories I heard as a child from the Bible and had a certain impression about them because of the way I was taught and now that I've read on my own I see sometimes, that is not what was really meant in those passages.  Here is an example.  As a child, I always thought that the fish swallowed Jonah to punish him for running away.  Now as I read it on my own and read the prayer that Jonah prayed, I see it differently.  The storm was a punishment and Jonah was thrown out of the boat as a punishment.  Jonah was drowning and was getting tangled in seaweed and the great fish was sent by God to RESCUE Jonah, not punish him!  Wow!  That is an incredible difference!
Now I don't claim that I have complete understanding of the Bible because I've read it through 10 or so times, but each time I read it I learn more.  Sometimes I need to read a commentary to get it.  Sometimes I just have to trust God about it and not attain complete knowledge.  I guess I just want my kids to learn to read it for themselves.
This is just my way of doing things and I know that there are other parents who love their curriculum and how it gives the children groundwork for their Christian heritage.  We have done read-alouds that help with that as well.  They also learn some of that in Sunday School.  We are not neglectingit completely.  I just find more value in knowing the Word for what it says, period.
One last thing.  I think that reading out loud is a good practice for the kids.  I read aloud to them a lot when they were younger and wish we had time for me to keep doing that.  With the kids in different grade levels and using different curricula at this point, I believe the Bible is a great way for them to read out loud every school day.  I've stepped up the expectation this year as well.  I want them to read to me with expression and keep me from falling asleep or getting so bored that I want to check my phone or email while they're reading.  In the past I had only done that with poetry or individual assignments.  Not every passage of the Bible is easy to be expressive in while reading, but I think it is good to push them further each year.
I'm not sure where we are starting next year with more Bible reading, but I think it would be great if my kids read through the Bible out loud 2 complete times before they graduate high school!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Life of Fred after 2 years

There are so many crazy philosophies out there about how math is to be taught.  Okay maybe they're not all crazy, but there are several approaches and I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all program.  I don't like common core.  I don't like strictly old school math either.  What can I do for my kids that will help?  When my daughter was in kindergarten at a Christian school, her teacher wrote that she loved math on her report card.  We brought that same curriculum to home school and by the end of first grade she hated math. 

They used Everyday Mathematics which is aligned with Common Core, but was around before the implementation of Common Core.  There was a lot of busy work and teaching it in first grade was not terrible, but my third grader at the time was lost and behind.  He had fallen behind by second grade and never really caught up.  He never had concretely learned his math facts after addition and that really slowed him down.  It wasn't necessarily his teacher's fault, but what I discovered was that he struggled with the timed tests.  He wouldn't move on to the next problem until he got the first one correct.  I tried to tell him to skip that and do as many as he knew and then come back to the ones that were harder.  That wasn't in his grid.  I started on flash cards and then I found a program called Xtramath that allowed them to practice the harder problems at their own pace.  It works with speed, but wasn't as stressful for him.  The goal is to have a child know each math fact in 3 seconds or less.

Our next leg of the journey took us to Horizons Math by Alpha Omega.  I really appreciate that it gives straight forward instruction and the consumable books have great pictures.  My kids still hated math.  There are a lot of practice problems there, but that really drove them nuts.  I started having them do the odd numbered problems or even numbered problems.  If they missed a type of problem, I had them retry using the opposite answers.  And I am one of those SHOW YOUR WORK parent-teachers.  If you can do it in your head and get it right most of the time, then fine, but if you're getting the answer wrong, how can I help you figure out what you did wrong if you don't show your work?  I found that it was better to give the kids less busy work when they understood the concepts and then drill math facts with Xtramath. 

The year finances were tight, I put the kids on Khan Academy for all their math, but that took us back to Common Core and they were getting confused from switching back and forth.  We did continue with that as our curriculum and they just made it work.  Also Khan keeps adding little things (updates are not necessarily a bad thing).  I took all of the math myself to see what my kids were being taught and I completed first through eighth grade math on Khan Academy as well.  You get to skip concepts that you pass, so NO I didn't sit through hours of 1+1.  A few months later, I went back to Khan and it said I was only 97% complete with second grade and similar with a few other grades.  What???  I went in and the things I had to do to complete each grade were really pointless and I thought, "No wonder some kids come home crying!"  I wish I could recall specifics, but it has been a few years and my memory doesn't want to be jogged right now!  Really I wouldn't make my kids redo the updates, I'm just anal and hate to leave things unfinished when I feel like they've already been accomplishments.

Enter Life of Fred.  One thing I did learn from switching is that each type of curriculum teaches different things at different age levels.  Switching means there were concepts taught that we didn't get to see if we start at the age-appropriate levels which would be in the middle type of curriculum.  I believe this was the concept of Common Core and that is great, I am just not a fan of the implementation and path.  Sorry, I keep getting close to that threshold of making this blog about something different than Life of Fred.  Back on task ... I decided to start my children at the very beginning of the Life of Fred Curriculum.  They were in 5th grade and 7th grade. 

There is a suggestion of when to start this curriculum and I will let you read that on your own if interested instead of trying to retype much of what they've already said well.  The first series is A-J Apples through Jellybeans.  I started my 7th grader on 3 chapters a day and after he completed Apples (19 chapters), I gave it to my 5th grader to do 2 chapters a day.  She worked on math facts until she got the first book.  I think my son did 3 chapters a day clear through Jellybeans and then slowed to 2 and then 1 when he started learning multiple new things.  He was definitely doing only one a day by Fractions.  Since we are beginning our third year for 2 students, I had bought Apples through Jelly Beans,  Kidneys through Mineshaft, Fractions, Decimals & Percents, and Pre-Algebra 0-2.  This year I added Beginning Algebra and I purchased the practice problems for beginning algebra book, though we haven't needed to use it so far.  This was just over $300 to get 2 children through junior high math.  If I were to have to start my kids in kindergarten again, I would probably start them in Life of Fred in the third grade.  We would have just worked on math facts like crazy until then as well as counting and living math and number recognition.  Maybe just use some elementary consumables that you can pick up at any educational store or free printables on the computer.  I would still have used Xtramath.  I may have even supplemented with Khan Academy for some things.

Top favorite things about Life of Fred:
1. Price
2. It is COMPLETELY reusable
3. No busy work
4. No rush to get through it
5. If you have to repeat a concept, it doesn't put you behind in grade-level
6. Until high school, it is not divided by grade level ... even high school is just high school math
7. Fred does some crazy things
8. My daughter once again says that Math is one of her favorite subjects!!!  WIN!!!!

Basically, in Apples to Jellybeans you learn about this boy name Fred who is smart in math and teaches college mathematics.  He is not street smart and has to use math to get out of problems a lot.  His story continues through the rest of the curriculum as well.  You read his story and then you have a segment called "Your turn to play."  There are a few (2-10) questions to answer and then, the STUDENT grades his or her own work.  That is one day of math.  Very little stress!!!  The child should know how to read and these problems are easy enough that a parent can guide them through with ease.  

The next series Kidneys, Liver and Mineshaft are in the same format.  The problems become a little more complicated.  The reason I didn't just jump into the intermediate level with my 7th grader is that there are terms like domain, codomain and function that weren't used as much in other curricula we tried.  Starting at the beginning made those terms less scary for my kids than they are for me.  My son completed all of these books by the end of his first year with Life of Fred.  That was 13 books.  It gave him a sense of accomplishment for sure.  He also completed The next 2 books in his 7th grade year.  He was motivated as he wanted to start high school in the high school level books.

The next two books changed their format a bit.  They are Fractions, and Decimals and Percents.  The student reads the story and then it's their turn to play.  After 5 lessons, they encounter something new, a bridge.  Each bridge has 10 questions covering the material from the beginning of the book up to that point.  They are given 5 opportunities to cross that bridge into the next lesson.  Crossing the bridge requires them to get 9 out of 10 answers correct.  If they can't get the concept they are to repeat the previous 5 lessons and try the bridge again.  They grade their own bridge, but the answers are not at the turn of the page as they are with the "Your Turn to Play," segments.  The answers are at the back of the book.  I already said that my oldest completed these two books along with the other 13 in one year. 

My youngest did get through Fractions and then a portion of Decimals and Percents by the end of 6th grade.  It was more of a struggle for her, though.  She doesn't like to ask questions and when she is tired of learning something, she just guesses at answers to say she finished her work.  Sadly, I think I was like that a bit as well.  While the grades she got were passing last school year, I asked if she wanted to try doing both books again in 7th grade.  She was excited and said, "YES!"  So far she has done 15 lessons and crossed 3 bridges on the first try.  She has only missed a handful of points since we started and last week said, "I think math is one of my favorite subjects!"  Finally!!  It has clicked!
Some of our collection

The next set of books that my oldest completed in 8th grade are the Pre-Algebra 0, 1 and 2.  His least favorite was Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics.  Yes, with Physics.  And they do teach about friction and mass and buoyancy.  It was good for him!!  He missed the part in the intro (that he said he read) that tells you to write down every formula you encounter.  The format of these books is the same as the previous 2.  The author suggests that one should easily get through the 5 intermediate books in 1 to 1 1/2 years.  I would agree.  

Finally, as far as our school goes, we are starting our final series of math books this year.  Beginning Algebra so far is working well with our 9th grader.  He even sat at his desk laughing and when we asked what was so funny, he said, "Fred is going to ... ."  My daughter, who enjoys Fred's adventures started laughing with him.  So if you clicked on the link about when to start, the algebra section mentions that the student should have hair under their arms before starting algebra because it is proof that they are physiologically ready to grasp algebraic concepts.  That cracks me up, but it seems appropriate.  So far my high schooler is making great grades and has not needed any assistance with his math.  There are no bridges in high school math, but there are cities that they visit.  After every 5 lessons, they do about 20 practice problems a day for 3 days to ingrain the concept before moving on.  I am pleased with their progress!

Because there is no teacher manual, it may make one nervous to teach this curriculum.  Well, it really doesn't need to be taught.  Sometimes I will have to read a few chapters to catch up to what is expected, but each answer is explained well and if it still doesn't make sense, we utilize YouTube.  I'm not ashamed to say that conversion factors confuse me and as soon as I watch a YouTube video with them, I remember what the point is and can help them out.  We rarely need to go that route, though.  I'm grateful!

This review is strictly my opinion of this math program.  I am in no way associated with Life of Fred.  I do not receive discounts or anything for reviewing the product, I just wanted to share our experience.  But if the makers of the books want to donate, I would not turn down the next 3 high school books!