Friday, June 12, 2015

Early Plans for 2015-2016 School Year

I am making good progress on the classroom cleaning and planning for next year. I currently have all of the books for next year back on the shelves; I also cleaned one of my smaller bookcases that had many good, but no longer needed, books on it. It is hard for me to part with some of them, especially my Janice VanCleave books, but I know I really don't need them anymore and they will find good homes with other families. As you can see in the picture,I have our entire work table covered with books to sell. I'm hoping to make enough cash to pay for the materials we will need for next year. Speaking of next year, let me tell you what we have planned so far.

JT will be using Lightning Lit American Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. This will be our first year using any of their materials, but I really like what I've seen so far. I especially like the fact that most of their products have a syllabus available. I used to do all course planning myself and frankly, I'm tired of having to do that! For math, he will be studying geometry using Harold Jacob's Geometry published in 1974. A friend recommended this for JT and it looks like a perfect fit. The reviews on Amazon make it sound like the Holy Grail of math textbooks. For science he is going to study ecology/environmental science. I bought a 100 page work/text book, but want to find either a good text or some other supplemental materials. We are also looking into getting him on an Envirothon team. For social studies, he will be continuing our time line study of American history, but this year, he will be writing his required long English essay about something we have studied for his credit requirement. He will also do a 1/2 year health course using a text I bought from Hewitt as well. He will continue with Rosetta Stone for German 2, continue fencing for a 1/2 credit in health, and start taking some art classes. The final piece for next year will be a computer programming class. A few weeks ago he was walking around thinking about a computer game he'd like to create. He suddenly realized that he is going to have to learn how to program in order to make the games he dreams up. So, my husband recommend that he start learning JavaScript, and he agreed!

EM will be using Anatomy Academy workbooks for his science studies. For social studies, he will continue with American history, beginning with WWII. Health will be a continued study of the text we have been using for the last two years. He will finish the next unit in his civics text book, and use the Maps, Charts, and Graphs level G workbook for geography. Math is going to be new this year because he has completed the Singapore math books. I gave him a pretest to determine if he's ready for algebra. He really only needs a few more concepts to begin algebra 1, so I think we are going to do a compacted pre-algebra for part of the year and then maybe start algebra when we see that he is ready. He will also be using a few of the writing workbooks I picked up, a grammar workbook, continue his diagramming work, and start expanding his reading by adding more non-fiction works to his reading list.

The boys both have some activities planned for the summer. JT will start a Coursera writing class on June 19th that will continue for five weeks. Both will attend Susquehanna University's Kids' College this month. In July, EM will attend a local history camp for three days. Both will go to Fire Safety Camp in August. JT will continue fencing on Monday nights. Last week, I saw a post by a local golf course that they were offering free lessons for kids every Wednesday morning for the next 8 weeks. EM went this week and really enjoyed it, so he will be continuing with that program through July.

I'm sure I will still be working out the details for our studies for another few weeks, but I feel like I have a good foundation ready for next year. This is probably the first summer that I have so much planned and ready to go before the end of June. Hopefully I can keep up the level of motivation to get everything in place before we start in mid-July. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wrap up for 2014-2015

I didn't really mean to take a month off. It just happened. My end of the year insanity seemed especially pressing this time. Last week we had the boys' evaluations. After I breathed a sigh of relief, I immediately dove into major classroom cleanup mode. I decided to surface tonight and share the wrap up for our year.

JT's first year of high school went well. PHAA's graduation requirements are:

Four credits of English
Three credits of math
Three credits of science
Three credits of social studies
Two credits of arts and humanities

He earned seven of his fifteen this year. One credit each for English, algebra, biology, American government, German 1, music (drums), and creative game design. This was the first year I had to grade all of his work. Usually I only graded spelling tests and the occasional worksheet. He ended up with all As. I was surprised to find he cared as much as he did about his grades. When he looked through the portfolio of his work and saw that he had some lower grades on a few activities in the Rosetta Stone he seemed to want to go back and do it again to improve his score. After so many years of not worrying about grades, he seems happy to see some measure of his work. 
I think the most interesting thing we did this year was his creative game design credit. I put together a very basic rubric that he had to meet to consider the class finished.
1. Learn about aspects of game design via books, blogs, and other online sources.

2. Design and develop a playable prototype of a card game, create a rough draft rule book, and alpha version of cards.

3. Playtest the game with a variety of players multiple times. Do extensive self testing. Request feedback from players and incorporate suggestions into the game.

4. Complete a 2500 word essay about aspects of game design and how you applied what you learned through your research to your own game.

It was good to be able to use the PHAA framework to customize his education to fit his interests and career aspirations. Next year I hope to do more of the same with art classes and a programming class.

EM did a great job this year. We spent a lot of time working on sentence diagramming to help him with his understanding of grammar and writing. He read a lot of books, completed a 6th grade spelling workbook, and studied analogies. He flew through Singapore math 6A and B. He studied a few units of a 6th grade science textbook, but spent the bulk of his year learning about electronics using the Great Courses Understanding Modern Electronics DVDs and doing projects with his dad. We continued our time line study of American history by reading presidential biographies starting with Grover Cleveland and finishing with Franklin Delano Roosevelt this year. His geography unit focused on the countries of Asia and he wrote a report on Mongolia and a poster presentation on India. He learned about the writing of the Constitution in his civics unit and made great progress in his first year of piano lessons.

for sale pile
I think we have all worked hard and deserve to enjoy a fantastic summer. But before I can start my time to relax I will finish my cleaning and planning for next year. I have an outline of all of their subjects nearly finished and I have already placed orders with two book companies with one more sitting on my desk. I have a HUGE stack of things to sell on the Gifted Homeschoolers' email list.

too many choices
The hardest part for my planning next year will probably be coming up with a good framework to help EM improve his writing skills. After watching JT spend far too much time trying to write his long essay (2500 words) for the PHAA English requirement, I want to make sure EM is ready when he reaches 9th grade. I have a ton of writing workbooks and activity books. I just need to see which ones I want to use and which ones I can put aside or sell.

I will put together one more post before I take my planned break for the summer. Once I have the final outline this week for next year, I will share my plans and then it's off to the pool!