Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Week

I started this week with a great deal of uncertainty. Would I be able to turn my new plans into reality? I think it may be working!

I discovered a few things in our first week of the new experiment.

  1. Planning is important. Monday morning I felt ready, but I really could have used a bit more preparation. Monday night I ended up spending a couple more hours re-planning my week. Now that we have one week under our belts, I think I'll have a better grasp on what is required in the future.
  2. Plans aren't everything. This morning, we were going to make a 'quick' birthday card for my mother. JT remembered a craft he had once made for me. We did some internet searching and found what he was looking for. Handprint paper flowers. (see the picture for our completed crafts) While doing this craft met our goal of an art project for the week, it was not the project I had in mind, and it wasn't at the time I had in mind. But...everyone had fun AND seemed more interested in learning the rest of the day.
  3. Differentiation. I NEED to start planning more visual and kinesthetic learning activities for EM. A couple weeks ago, I took him for an evaluation with an audiologist. The results of the testing show that he is not processing information correctly with his left ear. His hearing is fine, but his processing is not. I had a brief discussion with the audiologist that day, but will receive a full report, including recommendations in the near future. For now, we are waiting for our copy of Earobics to arrive AND I am working to focus on visual learning. I am an auditory learner and feel most comfortable in that medium, so it is tricky for me to translate into visual. One thing that worked well for us this week; EM needed some review on place value in math. I would give him 8-10 dice, he would roll one and tell me the first place value, "ones" and what he had rolled. I would write the digit he rolled on the board. We would continue up to billions this way. When we had all the digits in place, he had to read the completed number to me. We would then write it out on the board in word form, expanded form and discuss values of the various digits. This process worked MUCH better than a worksheet.
  4. I'm having fun. Out of the three years we have done this, I have never had so much fun right from the first day back to schooling. I don't know if it's the lack of that feeling of oppressive oversight, the new looser schedule or just an increase in my confidence. I just know that this week has been the best week of homeschooling I've ever had.
I have a few small things that are still stressing me a bit. I can't seem to find an easy way to keep all of their completed papers organized neatly. I will need examples of each subject, for each child from the beginning, middle and end of the year. I am already wondering which papers to keep and which can be discarded. For now, I'm putting everything in a folder for each. I think I will move them to a binder and perhaps pull a sheet for each subject every week and then whittle it down half way through the year. I am also having a hard time with the book log required for the portfolio. I started a spreadsheet for each boy where I have entered the books we have used so far. For some reason, I worry I will leave something vital out of the list. I'm guessing that no one REALLY cares what is on the list, as long as I have it. But part of me still worries.

Overall the new format is a success. I feel like I am more at ease. The boys seem to be having a good time AND learning new things. Of course, there is still the expected whining...JT never really wants to do math problems or write compositions and EM never really wants to write sentences or sit still for very long.

I guess I can't expect miracles...yet.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Summer just flew by me this year. I absolutely can NOT believe we are starting our regular schedule on Monday. The books are almost all here...a printer is ordered and on its way...the lesson plans are...

...not ready.

Hey, who needs lesson plans anyway?

I do know what books I'm using. This little impromptu bookcase (obviously we don't have enough bookcases in our house at this time) came about thanks to a sale at Walmart. I'm not a huge fan of this particular shade of green, but it feels peppy so I guess it will work.

I split the crates up by subject: upper left is writing/grammar/spelling, the middle row- left to right, is reading, math and fun math games. The bottom row is science/health, geography/history/civics and a bin of fun. I have a magazine basket with our art and music books. I also have a couple Spanish workbooks and other odds and ends on another bookcase. Each crate has EM's books to the left and JT's books to the right. I wonder how long all of this organization will last? It is helping me to have them laid out like this as I plan.

JT requested a more scheduled approach to our school days. He wanted certain subjects assigned to certain days. I'm willing to give it a try but know it could change quickly. I would really like to try to make it work. One of our biggest problems last year was the way we would waste time throughout the days. Sometimes my fault, sometimes their fault. JT would delay work as long as he could. This year I am starting out with a new rule. Each assignment will have a designated amount of time to complete. If he goofs off and doesn't finish something in that time, it will become...homework! This is a radical idea in our house. One of the joys of leaving public school has been the lack of school work in our evenings. But I am tired of begging and pleading with children to finish their work. I am tired of not getting to the 'fun' stuff because of it. So, I'm cracking the whip! All unfinished assignments will be completed on their own time.

Today something came in the mail that really excited me. A magazine called, "The Idea Book for Educators". It is put out by A&E, Lifetime, History and Bio. I think I must have signed up for it at some point and forgot. It is full of cool ideas and lesson plans related to programs put out by the sponsoring channels. I am not sure if we will be able to watch all of the programs as we do not have television access. However, I'm hoping we can catch some of them online.

I am feeling very optimistic about my plans for this year. JT has also told me he is excited about this new venture. He really likes the idea of less structured learning and more hands on. I have promised him things like that in the past, but it always turned back into the race to complete the Calvert material. I keep wanting to write out a detailed lesson plan, but I think that is exactly what I shouldn't do.

Maybe this time procrastination will result in success.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Beginnings

Here we are again...

Our adventure has led us further from the beaten path. For those of you who have been following our journey, thanks for tagging along. For those of you who are new to our story, you could best describe our learning mindset with this quote, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

You can catch up by starting here: Adventures in Cyberschooling.

I have been reading a few books this week about homeschooling. "The Lifetime Learning Companion", by Jean and Donn Reed is my current favorite. There is a story in this book that is helping me format my plan for this new endeavor. The Reed's son becomes intensely interested in sharks. He reads every book they own on the subject and asks for more. They point out that when he first showed this interest they might have decided to direct his study so it would include things like history, sociology, geography, etc. They could assign readings and test for comprehension and retention. But the thought never occurred to them. They allowed him to plumb the depths of this topic on his own. Because of that, he kept this interest for two years and learned many things about sharks, including all those topics they could have tried to tie in if they had been directing his learning. He more than likely would have lost interest when asked to confine that exploration to someone else's plan of study. They would have put out the fire!

I want to be VERY careful to avoid that pitfall as we move into a format where I have more control over curriculum. I do not want to kill the boys' desire to learn by over-directing their exploration of the world. There are certain things I know they must learn to give them a good foundation. However, does every child in 5th grade have to know the exact same facts about the United States government? Does every 2nd grader need to be capable of writing in cursive? In short, do we want cookie cutter children growing up to populate the world?

Leaving the comfort of detailed planning is going to be a tough one for me. But I think it will be worth it for my boys down the road. Anyway...what's life without a little uncertainty?