Monday, August 14, 2017

Another First Day of School

     Interestingly, it seems I named this blog incorrectly.  It was named "Day by Day," when it should be, "Year by Year."  I have good intentions, naturally, but life happens and school happens.  I have decided to plan on my plans being ruined.  My kids are healthy and strong and well-educated.  I have nothing to complain about!
I got my workspace cleaned off and ready to go. 
Add coffee and a cool drink and I'm on it!
     Today marks another first day of school for Life Song Academy.  This time, I have a high schooler and a middle schooler!  That sounds so crazy to me!  I want to slow the progress somewhat, but I don't want to reverse time.  I love watching my children mature and grow in so many ways.  We have relocated and have a wonderful school room.  We have space for recreation and we're near a few towns so we can get supplies we need.  However, Amazon.com is my friend.
     With all the changes and "maturity" that we are experiencing, I should have expected that there would be no hiccups for our first day.  WRONG!  First of all, my hubby recommended I just get up with him so I could get the kids up on time.  My daughter came in at 2 AM saying she hadn't fallen asleep yet.  We prayed and I sent her back to bed with a few suggestions to remedy why she couldn't sleep.  Then hubby's alarm went off earlier than I thought I had agreed to.  Well, I kissed him goodbye and fell back asleep thinking my 7 AM alarm would wake me in time to get things done.  Yeah, I must have ninja skills in my sleep because I don't remember shutting off my 7AM alarm.  I awoke at 7:30 and did my morning Bible reading and slowly got around to waking my kids up at 7:50.  Not a good habit to keep.  So it was after 9 AM that the chores were finally completed and breakfast eaten and we were able to begin the day.
Schedule
The optimal week schedule.
     I made this handy dandy optimal week schedule and I think maybe I'm maturing a little as well.  When we start school, I really want things to go as planned ... at least for the first day.  I gave instructions and prompted for things to get done with very little yelling and frustration.  I spent a month this summer doing a devotional about taming the tongue and this time it helped.  We decided that it is due time that the children wake themselves up.  When they're out of the house, mommy isn't going to hug them awake any more and urge them out of bed until they're on the verge of being late and the, "hurry it up!" yelling commences.
     So another discipline that I've never implemented is self-motivation and record-keeping.  I have typed up lesson plans by subject and then put them on a planner sheet and then typed them into my record-keeping app and then adjusted according to the type of week we have.  That's a lot of work to keep rewriting things.  I listened to a webinar by Kim Sorgius from Not Consumed and it really put me into a new mindset.  If we were a younger homeschool family, I would have bought most of her material.  Through trial and error, I have already created similar templates that work for our family.  My students now have blank planning sheets with their subjects listed down the left column and blank squares for each weekday where the kids fill in what they did each day instead of me writing  and rewriting it for them.  Seriously, if the child doesn't understand that Unit 3, lesson 4 comes after Unit 3, lesson 3, then I've done a terrible job thus far considering their ages.  My weekly schedule is also patterned after Kim's.
    Here are my 2 students on their first day of 9th and first day of 7th grade!  Aren't they cute!
First day of high school and first day of 7th grade
Cell Phones
     In our family we decided that a rite of passage into high school includes the gift of a cell phone, as long it is used responsibly.  Not that we don't trust our kids, but temptation is really strong, so we opted for iPhones and have parental control limiting the features our kids can access.  Our younger child may borrow the phone that is considered the home phone since we don't have a land line, but we've locked up the parts that make it a smart phone, except the "find my friend" feature where we can track where the phone is from anywhere.  All that said, today I also learned early on why many schools of every type have a cell phone collection at the beginning of the day.  When your high school student has their phone out of pocket and has been on the first page of a lesson for over 20 minutes, it is pretty evident they are not really reading it.  Enough said.

     Here's to a great school year!  Hopefully you'll hear from me in less than a year this time!



Books for young teen boys

I am so thankful that my children have developed a love for reading!  They both had a brief period of time where they hated reading assignments, but reading interesting books aloud to them really sparked their interest in reading.  Kate DiCamillo, Laura Ingals Wilder, Paul Hutchens, Lois Gladys Leppard and others helped pave the way to a love for reading.  My daughter is still satisfied with an array of books and though she has excellent comprehension, she enjoys easier books to read.  My son, on the other hand, enjoys a challenge and was reading high school level books in late elementary school.
My challenge as a mom has been and continues to be finding books for my son that are challenging, but remain at his maturity level.  As a Christian mom, I want to keep his mind pure as long as possible, while giving him enjoyable escapes into the world of books!  I will NOT go to an AR list and randomly pick a hot title for my kids and that has required me to read youth books.  This has not been disappointing for me in the least.
Here's the part that will stir some hostility toward me, but I will raise my children, you can raise yours.  Harry Potter is not going to be read in my home.  The author has stated that she looked up incantations and put them in these books, she has also made derogatory statements about my Savior, Jesus Christ.  There are books that introduce sexuality of all kinds. I'm not ok with that for tween children.  There are Christian books that talk about some realities of the haulocost and war and desire in marriage.  I'm not going to hide these things from my kids, but they don't need to read them yet.  There are so many books that have supernatural tones, it is hard to draw a line.  Which fantasy is ok and which is not ok?  With any fantasy, we have discussion and will continue to discuss reality vs fantasy.
C.S. Lewis
I read all of The Chronicles of Narnia to my children.  Along with them, we read a devotional guide that took us through the underlying meaning of the series.  I personally have only read a few other books by Lewis, but I enjoy his writing.  Representation of good and evil, and creation's song, and the battle for righteousness and justice are themes I can support and discuss with my kids.  When you hear the author's intent, it is easier to come along side the book.
Classics
I do force classics upon my children.  They are an easy pick because I know a few of them, I read them with my kids and I use literature guides.  Among the list is Gulliver's Travels, The Jungle Book, and Much Ado About Nothing.  I have shared that we use Learning Language Arts Through Literature and many of the books we read which are classics, we have discovered through this curriculum.  It is a Christian curriculum and I've come to trust this to give books I approve and trust.  I've been enjoying the books along with my kids because I've not read many classics. 
Books and Series that we've checked out
This list is complicated, so I will share a little about the books.  First we'll do the earlier books.  We read The Boxcar Children and The Sugar Creek Gang.  Both of these series have a group of kids and their adventures, they are pretty easy going and great for younger readers to develop a love for chapter books.  We then moved into The Hardy Boys.  These books have mysteries and introduce crime at a level that is not overly scary.  The adventures of the Hardy boys include car chases and kidnappings, but I did not read them with my son, I went off of others' reviews.  My son gave me a play by play of many of the books, but they began to bore him after about the first 20 books.  He said they became quite predictable.  
Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner.  I have read or listened to these books on audiobook and watched the movies.  I find each series fascinating.  I haven't read the third Maze Runner book yet.  The first 2 I have not let my son read, but the third I have.  First of all, it was because we watched the movie of the first book.  I didn't realize it was a series and was not being very proactive at that point.  I am still ok with that choice, and I think he is close to being able to handle the others.  My daughter, however, isn't and what he reads, he wants to watch and I think she would have nightmares.  We have watched fantasy like Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, but each of these series are an alternate post-apocalyptic world of sorts where kids are forced to do things in social experiments.  Hunger Games has 2 children from each district fight in a war game until only one child survives in an annual televised event.  Divergent has factions that are determined by testing that teens are categorized into.  A youth who does not fit into a category is a divergent and then other youth are mind controlled to hunt any divergent.  Maze Runner has teens trying to survive in a maze and then a post war setting.  They are needed to give an antidote to a disease that turns people into monstrous creatures.  The creatures make Maze Runner less believable and because my son doesn't have a fear of monsters, that was easier for me to let him read.
Books not made into movies take more effort to inspire kids to read them, but they are sometimes better.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yes, No, I don't know!

Saying yes or no seems simple.  When you have several opportunities to do things you enjoy, of course the answer seems simple, "yes!"  There are times that everything seems to be well-balanced, but then it turns out that everything you say yes to, lands about the same time.
Yes, being a homeschool family gives you freedom to start and end your school days when you can or want to.  It gives you freedom to have days off when other schools are in session, and hold school while area schools are in recess.  It doesn't mean that you have more time than other families, though.  Well, not in the same way at least.  And we still must meet several state requirements to be in compliance with the law.  I got so busy this last few weeks, I didn't review my lessons for this week and it makes a big impact! 
There are weeks that we are all less prepared than others, but I was convicted last year to make sure that I am as prepared for my own kids as I am when I teach a class at church or lead worship.  When I was working full-time, I studied before my meetings and when I was on committees, I gave my best.  My kids deserve no less!  I would be furious if I sent my kids to another style of school and the teachers were ill-prepared and yelled at my kids when communication failed.  Yeah, that happens here on occasion.
There was a time that I tried writing some of my own material to save on money or other reasons.  It was an ok thing and I do enjoy that, but it turns out that it is not for me!  I am more of one to adapt the material to fit my kids and their needs.  They somehow learn in spite of me at times, but I love the interaction of them learning because of me.  If I plan to adapt the material to fit the lesson theme and don't even know what we will be discussing, that is a problem!  Some weeks I can prepare during the school hours, but other weeks I can't. 
For me it takes a good 5 + hours to plan for a week of school for 2 kids.  I have already made a layout of what I want to accomplish through the year in each subject and that took some time as well.  I would say that I am at the point in preparation that people who get a boxed curriculum set are in.  The disadvantage is that I don't have a concise list of supplies laid out for me.  I choose not to make these lists in advance because it requires too much redundancy.  I just do it when I make my shopping list for the week.  I preview the language material so that I know that I can help with questions.  I preview the science experiments to make sure they are doable in our home.  I look through our history curriculum because I don't remember most of it and I like to learn with the kids!  We also have many activities to choose from in history and some of them that I chose when I laid out the year aren't going to work out at this point. 
Another part for my planning that takes plenty of time is my digital gradebook.  I have chosen the Homeschool Helper (HH) app for record keeping.  It is less paperwork and more paperwork all at the same time.  I use weekly planning pages from donnayoung.org so that I have a layout of what is happening with everyone all in one spot.  On the HH app, I have to click on each student individually and that is ok.  It is so interesting that because there is such a variety of styles of homeschooling parent as well as family size, curriculum choice and state requirements, that there can never be a one-size-fits-all solution to record keeping in a homeschool.  This is working for me, but takes a bit of effort.  I transfer daily assignments to my weekly planning page and then enter them into HH.  The beauty of it is that I don't have to rewrite the assignment to put a grade in.  I can alter things and make comments, but all-in-all, the entry at the beginning saves me time with grading in the end.
So I will let my yes be yes, and my no be no!  BUT I will keep in mind before giving a yes or no that I only have a short time left with my kids and open-ended dates will be considered differently than solid dates.  I need to be intentional about keeping a good universal calendar so that I don't over-plan!  Outside experiences and watching the good and bad parts of a parent juggling activities are an education in itself.  Oh the joys of figuring out balance! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spelling ..... Noooooooo!

Our first week of school was really good!  We started into all of our subjects except spelling.  We use the curriculum Spelling Power for spelling.  My kids are using Learning Language Arts through Literature (LLATL) which has a good spelling approach, but I like Spelling Power even better than that.
When my kids started school at an excellent Christian school, they used a certain curriculum and it was decent enough that I continued using it for a while in our homeschool.  The more we worked with it, I discovered what I liked and what I definitely did NOT like.  I would say that by far, spelling was the worst portion of it (OK I disliked the math almost equally).  It reminded me of the spelling that I did in grade school and while it has been in effect for years and years, it doesn't help you understand spelling.  It makes you memorize a list of words and how to spell them.  If you are good at that, you're good at spelling, if not you have to rely on spell check.  Judging by Facebook and Twitter and other online resources, spell check doesn't even work for some people. 
The approach through LLATL is having the child write a sentence or paragraph that you read and whatever misspelled words are on their papers becomes the beginning of the spelling list.  I am not going into the details of their method, but it is a good plan.  We even tried it for a little while and I felt like it was more beneficial than a random list.  Then I came across Spelling Power through www.paperbackswap.com.
Here is this HUGE book that covers spelling from early grades through high school.  I opened the cover and after the table of contents and introduction there is 100 pages of teacher instructions!  They recommend that you read it before beginning the program and it is very important.  Part of the reason I didn't start it right away is because of that 100-page non-entertaining reading that I needed to do.  I think they have a video now to explain everything. 
I started my kids out on the placement test provided.  It was very accurate in placing the kids where they needed to be.  The next year I did the pre-test and it placed the kids nearly where they left off the year before.  This is our third year, so I opted to just start out with the lists that we left off on last year.  It is working out well and though my kids complained on Monday when we began spelling again, they really didn't have any complaints in doing it.  They are quick to go through the proper steps and it is like this is just part of their expectations now.
Spelling Power takes 15 minutes a day for the kids and just over 5 minutes of my time per child per day.  They are placed in a level by letter and not by grade.  They get groups of words that all follow the same rule.  Every few groups they get a review test without hearing the rules.  There is a midlevel test and end of level tests.  During the daily portions, I set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes.  I read a word, give a sentence and they write it down.  Once they've written it, we grade it right then.  If they missed the word, they cross it out and write the correct spelling in the space provided.  If they get it right or they've finished writing the correctly spelled word, we repeat the process with the next word on the list.  This continues until the timer goes off.  I mark in my book where we left off and they move on.  There is a 10-step method for the child to learn his or her missed words and then he or she has to make up a sentence using the missed word(s).  This takes about 5 minutes and then they do an activity to help them remember the rule which takes another 5 minutes.  I purchased the activity task cards that are optional.
When we're doing other writing projects, I can use the rules to help them with a difficult word because I know the rules now.  It has been quite beneficial.  I've always been a fairly good speller, so I desire to pass that down to my children as well.  I know that the curriculum gives strict instructions, but I do modify them as I do with most of what I teach.  I feel that if I use my own words that I can explain things better. 
Cost seems an issue, but really is not.  The initial might seem a little steep, especially if you want to buy the deluxe pack for $175 from their website.  The book alone is $65 and activity cards are $30 and student books are $8 each.  The deluxe pack includes a lot of cool things that I don't have and can't speak for.  The thing is, once you've made the initial investment, all you have left yearly is the Student Record Book to purchase for each child.  We generally have been using 2 per child per year and I get them from Amazon.com with my Amazon Prime subscription so that I can get free shipping.
I'm not compensated in any way for writing what I did.  This is just a product I believe in and will use until I'm done homeschooling.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Week One ... Success!


Sis doing Life of Fred math
So grateful to God for the opportunity to have a direct roll in the education of my children!  This week has a few rough spots, but all in all it has been wonderful!
We have completed book work at a decent time every day!  My house is not a disaster, but it isn't spectacular either.  I'm over that!  I refuse to try to be what I see others be.  We do not live in filth, but I don't even aspire to live in a spotless shining mansion!  Mostly because I don't want to clean one.




Crystal Palace
We are still loving Story of the World and I've decided to do one book over a 2 year period this time.  It is great to have the freedom to take a closer look at each culture and spend time getting a feel for what took place in that time period.  Today we made a primitive model of the Crystal Palace from Great Britain's "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations."  It turned out alright!


I'm hoping this isn't something short-lived, but my kids are super excited about math.  Math has never EVER been something that the kids were begging to do.  We started Life of Fred this year and the kids love it!  Now I did start them at the beginning so that they would understand the methods used so that may change.  They are each doing several lessons a day and Bub has gone through the first book and a half.  I had to make him stop to do science so we could get done today.  I hope to write more positive about this curriculum later in the year.  I went through the first several books myself, too, and they are kind of fun!
Taping the sections of the Crystal Palace together.
Ready for a great weekend!  We are headed out to do physical education, which will be running today, so I'm signing off from the best first week of school for LSA to date!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Yes, It's that time of year again!

It is time for school!  Today was our first day of school for the 2015-2016 term.  We've done some school activities for this school year, but officially we are into the books!!
First day of 5th grade!  She was dressed, but cold so she wore her robe at the beginning of the day.
Momma's been exercising bright and early since May, so the kids are not getting that sleepy momma in the mornings and that is such a good thing.  We were up and ready and had chores done by our start time of 8:30 AM.  The kids got new journals and fun snacks!  New books and a new way of getting rewards are always a good starting point!

First Day of 7th Grade!  Sadie (puppy) is too young for school!
Since starting homeschool, I've always had a goal of having things in order so that we could have a real start day.  Then circumstances change or they crack the books before our true start or something.  This year I held off on the early start and we are actually starting when I said we would!  I had a plan, I decorated our classroom, I got little gifts and had all the supplies we needed purchased!
The only hitch this morning was when my son opened his language book and mentioned a book study on Black Beauty.  I had a slight panic because I didn't buy that book.  I opened my book and it is not one he has to read, but one that they use a few excerpts from.  Whew!  I'm sure the library has it and we actually found that we do have a copy of that book.  So my fun son who loves to read asked if it was okay for him to read it even if it isn't assigned.  UH, YES!
What Nutmeg thinks about school!
Not going to make any promises that I will keep this blog up this year because as the year rolls, I get busy living and not typing about it.  :)  Granted, a documented year is always fun to look back at!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Planning ... Already?

I'm so ready for summer break and so are my kids.  I feel more so when the temps are in the 80's.  Today you'd think that waking up to the 30's would put me back into school gear, but it really doesn't.  My husband warned me not to take a spring break because he knew that we'd all feel this way, but did we listen?  Noooooo.  Just a few more weeks.  Just a few more weeks.  I think I can.  I think I can.
Well our book work can be done more quickly than this, but it should be done in 3 weeks.  We did start earlier than other schools in the area and did half days last summer.  I start counting school in June with baseball and softball as PE. 
This homeschool mom is a little strange, because I love new curriculum and paper and planners and school supplies.  I could get lost in the school supply aisle in August!  Actually, I've heard that this is a common weakness of homeschool moms.  I am not alone!  This year, as most other years, the curriculum that I use is on sale right now.  YAY!  So, I ordered our curriculum last week and I got my first shipment yesterday.  I am so excited about that and I am ready to start planning for next year and I haven't even finished this year. 
I use the Homeschool Helper app on my iPad to keep attendance and grades, but I like to start with a paper planner.  This year, I have moved so much around because I like to plan way ahead and then we ended up with doctor's appointments, unexpected travel, and braces which require a whole day off of school for the 1 1/2 hour travel each direction.  Thankfully there are historical sites and museums we can do for field trips those days.  Soooo, I found this planner that is perfect for me.  It is the Term planner "class schedule" at donnayoung.org and I'm so glad I found it!
I was so against printable planners because of the ink they use compared to the price of a good planner.  I really like the Well Planned Day planner from Home Educating Family Association, but I'm really not organized enough to use it.  By the end of the year I paper-clipped all the stuff between the weekly planning pages and skipped it all.  There are inspiring things and menu planning things and grocery shopping lists to tear out.  I thought it was great, but I don't utilize everything.  I want to do something that I will use.  This year, I'm only printing what I know I will use.  All I will need is a little cheap planner from Walmart to make notes in and acclimate myself to what day it is.
There are plenty of other planning pages on DonnaYoung.  SchoolhouseTeachers.com also has printable planners, but I believe you have to have a membership to use them.  I have a lot of organizing things pinned on Pinterest as well.  So there are many ways to plan and organized.  I would like to think I'm finally settling on one, but time will tell.