Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is it really Monday?

I can't say this often because Mondays are usually the worst days ever in our home and school.  We have had a great day!  The changes we made to our school day are phenomenal.  I think Dad being home this weekend and knowing that corn harvest is over has helped tremendously as well.  I have a lot more prep work for this new format, but if the result will be more days like this and less of me screaming half the day, I'll take it! 
Maybe what my kids needed was more of me!  More of Dad, too!  I am giving my kids more independence in extracurricular activities as they get older, but it is really important still that their entire days are not self-directed.  They need some order and direction or they truly cannot function.  I think this is why even as a homeschool parent, I still yearn for the school year to begin.  Some parents are anxious to get the kids out of their hair and into the schools, but maybe ... maybe the kids want/need to have some order.  Even as an adult, when I have nothing to occupy my time or nothing to do, I am chaos.  That wasn't a typo, I feel like I am the definition of chaos in those moments.  My husband was off work from Friday until Sunday - a rare thing - and he was very ready to go back to work.  He had to run errands on Friday and we met friends Friday evening and Church Saturday evening, and Sunday morning and Fellowship group Sunday evening, but there was a lot of idle time in there.  For certain, we need the Sabbath rest that God ordained for us, but idleness becomes mental chaos.
I think that was happening to an extent in our homeschool.  Yes, my kids had assignments, but all they were given was a list of tasks, a time to start, a time to have breaks and an expected end time.  For me, that would be great!  I'm an adult who's efficient with my time and has had to learn it over the years.  I might as well have been giving them a manual and some parts and asked them to build a car.  Face to face learning is where I wanted to be with our school, but felt incompetent or unable to do it.  I didn't know how to effectively educate my kids with my voice, my hands, my face...  Today has been a good day!
I think every family will have their curriculum choices, but beyond that choice, I feel that engaging my children with my voice, face and my own style in the midst of our curriculum for at least 15 minutes of every hour has been effective for the whole week last week and today.  They are responding well and today in an angry moment, I was looking at my son's face and saw the expression and we both melted and it ended in understanding of one another.  I still had time for personal Bible Study and lesson planning.  It was just mixed in with the encounter moments.  Hmmmm.  Why does it take so long to figure everything out? 

Thursday, November 6, 2014


This school year began with changes in our curriculum.  We decided certainly that we wanted to continue with Story of the World, Spelling Power, and Apologia Science.  We struggled with liking the other subjects, and I had been exploring Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool since last school year and decided to go with it.  It is a great program and it is free!  We used it for every subject except the 3 I first mentioned.  It was the perfect choice for us to begin with.  The kids learned about self-motivation and I got a break from planning.
The longer we did Easy Peasy, the more disconnected I began to feel as a parent-teacher.  My passion for homeschool is partly a passion to teach my kids.  It was turning into the computer teaching my kids.  Let me clarify.  I think Easy Peasy is awesome and the work that Lee put into it is incredible.  I do believe that if you are not called to be a teacher, but called to homeschool, this might be a great option of curriculum for you.
The literature choices that my kids were reading are great pieces, but I did not grow up with literature because our small town didn't have a library.  If you have a local library, you are blessed!  I had never read Gulliver's Travels or Swiss Family Robinson and the further my kids got into the books, the more disconnected I felt from their work.  We were headed into Penrod and The Peterkin Papers which not only had I not read, but I had never heard of these books.  At the conclusion of one child's book and in the middle of another, I made the decision to drop Easy Peasy from our curriculum.  I still use it as a guide for our daily Bible reading and it helped me organize my education planning.  I just purchased a grammar program and a writing program that I can use with both of my children at the same time and I have chosen 4 books at each of their levels to read for the rest of the school year.  I'm going to have us read the books and have discussion with them, but we are going to enjoy reading for school.
Well that's just language arts, what about other important subjects?  Because this is my children's 3rd math program, they quickly got overwhelmed by math.  They started in Everyday Mathematics and as I went to homeschooling from Private school, I chose not to continue it because the teacher's manuals were too expensive.  I didn't care for the fact that they don't teach long division at all and really lack in math facts.  I just about went into a rant about Common Core, but I will stop with that.  I took my kids to Horizons Math with a false presumption that they were advanced in math because of the previous curriculum and didn't want to dumb it down.  Horizons may have been perfect if we had started with it, but it assumes that you've had a foundation in that style of math so there were areas that my children felt lost in.  Easy Peasy math came with many games which they liked, but there were concepts that frustrated or confused them.  BUT she, the author of Easy Peasy, recommends Xtramath to those struggling with math facts.  WE DO THIS every day.  I've seen so much growth and we haven't even gotten past addition facts yet.  For middle school, she recommends a few programs including Khan Academy.  I had heard of this before, and played with it a bit last school year as well.  I completely put my 6th grader on Khan academy about a month ago and assigned 6th grade math to him.  He works on it for 30 minutes a day and at the end of the year, he should have complete mastery of 6th grade concepts.  Currently he's mastered about 40%.  Last week I did the same for my 4th grader and she is already flying through mastering 4th grade concepts.  This is at their pace and if they cannot understand something, there are a series of videos to help.  When they are really stuck, I go through things with them.  Another fun thing with Khan is that I am doing it too so that I can know what they are working with.  I have currently mastered 100% of Early Math and about 80% of 3rd grade math.  I have chosen to start at the beginning so that there will be nothing that I can't help my kids with when they're stuck.  Yes, I love to learn as much as I love to teach.
Computer skills.  I know that these are imperative to teach and I know enough about computers to be dangerous.  I have computer common sense, and a little more, but I want my kids to know more.  It just so happens that Khan Academy has a computer programing tract as well, so I have them do a lesson and practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Easy Peasy also recommended a free typing program called Good Typing that we began to use early on.  They have to practice typing every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  How are they going to be good at computers if they can't type?
Finally, because of the author of Easy Peasy's fantastic organization, I have decided to do music on Mondays, PE/Health on Wednesdays and Art on Fridays.  We get a little of those things mixed in with other curricula, but I wanted to have a specific pattern of these things with intentional time dedicated to these subjects.  I am teaching my daughter to play the piano with some books I got on Amazon.com and my son is learning guitar through tutorials and I am learning it with him because I was hoping to do so anyhow. 
It was recommended to me not to keep changing things, but I am seeing my children thrive with each step of change that we do.  I appreciate the perspective of other seasoned homeschool moms, too, so I'm praying about each step.  This week as I wait for my new language curriculum to arrive, I've cut out Language arts except that I'm doing a read-aloud every day for them and we read the Bible together every day now.  Our classroom schooling has been done in record time this week.  My kids are happier and I'm happier.  They are excited as they are going to start A Wrinkle In Time and Meet Addy this weekend to prepare for next week's lessons.  And I'm excited because I have a great excuse to use Pinterest now!