Thursday, August 28, 2014

Changing Dynamics

EM's books
I'm having a hard time falling back into my former routine of once a week posting here. I think I'm finally back on track, so things should be running smoothly from here on out. In my last post, I shared my plan for JT, now I'll share my plan for EM.

This year EM's work will be much more focused on his reading and writing skills. He does a great job in math and science, but has often had difficulty with language skills. Because JT will be doing much more independent work this year, I have more time to invest in EM. He will continue to have weekly spelling lists with a pretest on Monday, a workbook page each day, and a final test on Friday. He will be working his way through Calvert's Grammar & Usage workbook. He is also starting to use the Vocabulary from Classical Roots series that has been a foundation of JT's vocabulary and spelling studies since we began homeschooling. For now, EM will be using the first two books as enrichment vocabulary work. When he reaches the third book, I will start using them for his weekly spelling lists as I did with JT. He will also be working through the Critical Thinking Level E book. Many of those activities can be used for composition assignments. I also plan to generate writing work for him using a Creative Teaching Press book called Responding to Literature. I plan to have him use the reading text shown in the picture, as well as novels that he will help to choose, with study guides found online.

For science, he will work his way through Calvert's 6th grade science text. I plan to do many of the activities. I will also have him observe some of the lab work JT will do for his biology course. American history will continue to be a time line study following the lives of the presidents of the United States. For world history, we will be reading the second half Volume 3 of The Story of the World that we started last year.

I did find something I can use for JT and his literature study for this year. I went digging in my homeschooling loot I have accumulated over the years. It turns out I forgot that I have a nearly complete course from K-12 called Literary Analysis and Composition. We won't have access to their online instruction because I refuse to pay $425 a semester, but it is still good solid material that I can adapt without that tool. However, the adaptation takes time and planning. I also made one more adjustment to JT's plan for this year. I dropped the Concepts & Connections Biology text and bought a copy of the Apologia Biology textbook and manual. The conversational style of this text fits JT's learning style much better than the C&C text. I also bought an outline for the course developed by a parent that fits it all into 33 weeks of study. That will save me some time in the planning department.

Now that we are well into our third full week of schooling, I'm noticing a different dynamic developing. In previous years, the boys would sometimes work on their independent assignments in the morning, but could choose to save their work for later in the day. Immediately after lunch and chores, there would be this feeling of rushing to get everyone in the classroom for our 'school time'. Because so much of their work is now independent, they are actually working quite a bit before lunch so they can get to their free time sooner. Two days this week, we had no together work to do. I had a few activities to help EM get started, but most of the time, they worked quietly on their own, with no input from me. It took me a week to really see that I have more free time during the day than I have had in many years. That said, my planning time has probably tripled from last year. I will need to learn to do that planning during their schooling time to avoid late nights on the weekends drowning in prep work. It's nice to have more freedom during the day, but it's also a little sad to me. Even though it's a lot of work, I enjoy our time together. It's been a joy to see the boys learn new things and I have had many great conversations with them in our little classroom. We will still be reading history books aloud together a couple days a week, so I can hold on to that for now.

But change is coming... both good and bad.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Here We Go Again

JT's future
Even though I was in no way ready, we started our 2014-2015 school year on Monday. When I picked that day a few weeks back, my optimism got the better of me. I knew I still had far too many loose ends, but the desire to get our 180 days logged by the beginning of May pushed me to endure what turned into a frantic scramble of planning over the weekend. We certainly didn't start off with a bang, but 'slow and steady wins the race', right?

Part of the problem with my planning this year was  a few of the decisions were especially difficult. First there was the issue with JT's social studies requirement. I had an old copy of an American government textbook that I had wanted to use but I wasn't 100% happy with how old it was. I kept putting off finding an updated edition. I didn't want to pay for the most current one, but wanted something a little more recent than the one I had. I finally made that decision early last week and found a slightly newer edition that seems to be a good fit. Then there was biology. Again, I have an older textbook. However, I had found an instructor's guide to go with it and an outline that someone put together for a full biology course using that edition and the book The Way Life Works. Because I have a framework to use with that edition, I think I'm going to stick with it, even though it's a bit older. We also found this biology class on Coursera that starts soon. I think it will be a great introduction to biology. I don't know if JT will go for the distinction certificate that requires the peer assessments. That might be more work than he can handle as a 13 year old. We'll see how it goes during the first week of class. The biggest upset of all in my planning was that our literature and writing class that we had hoped JT could do fell through. I didn't find this out until just this week, so I'm scrambling to assemble something on my own. But as a homeschooling mom I've learned to be flexible. I'm guessing it will all work itself out. I just might not sleep a lot until it does.

The good news is that math is covered with Thinkwell Algebra 1 and German 1 requires no work from me since he's using Rosetta Stone. I'm still finalizing the syllabus for his game design project based class that we are creating. Part of it will include another Coursera class, Understanding Video Games, offered by The University of Alberta.  We will also include his drum lessons and composing for an arts and humanities credit this year. I talked with his instructor and he has agreed to work with me to give a letter grade for JT's work. So not everything is a mess.

Next week I'll share my plans for EM this year. I think what's making things so complicated for me this year is that for the first time the boys are on totally different paths for their learning. The only crossover we have will be reading Story of the World aloud and our time line of American history study that we've been doing for the last five years. All other subjects are completely separate. I guess I never thought about how my volume of work would increase when this happened.

The good news is that I'll only have to worry about it for the next four years until JT graduates. Then I can focus my energy on just EM. Until then, I'll be hopping!