Exciting and scary all at once

We’ve just kicked off our 11th year of homeschooling. Our oldest will be graduating high school this year. In fact, in 5 years all three will be high school graduates.

Let’s just all pause a moment, and take that in. In five years, our wonderful homeschool journey will be over. I will have three high school graduates.

Honestly, if I stop and really contemplate that idea, I get overwhelmed very quickly. I have to just pull back and focus on this year.

Tho, my oldest, is taking the Math-U-See’s Stewardship course, which looks to be a personal finance course with a Biblical slant. Most of his courses in Switched on Schoolhouse again.  Language and Government & Economics are in SOS, as are the two half-credit Networking courses. He’s decided he wants to get into the cyber security field, so he’s got more than a few electives in computing this year.  Hacker Highschool looks to be the best course so far, as it provides alot of hands-on work with both Windows and Linux operating systems.  He’s also taking control of his own education, by finding podcasts and websites devoted to cyber security, and learning everything he can about the field.

Diva is starting 9th grade this year.  Most of her classes are in Switched on Schoolhouse as well, which is helpful because we already have most of the disks, so it saves us some money.  English 9, Geography, New Testament Survey, and Health are all SOS course.  Math-U-See’s Pre-algebra, PE, and Apologia’s Physical Science round out her coursework. She’s also doing some amazing digital art work.

Lt, AKA Tiimmy, has skipped up to 8th grade.  This is on purpose, as 8th grade is available to get high school credit for up to three course in our state & with our umbrella program.  So by skipping him up to 8th grade, he can take Apologia’s Physical Science with his sister, and get high school credit for it.  This way, they can work together on experiments, and when Biology rolls around again next year, I only have to supervise on more frog dissection.  His other courses include MUS’s Pre-algebra, and using SOS for Language and History.  He’s also doing very well with his swimming, and has already passed the deep end swim test!

No More Elementary Kids Here!

2016 Teacher Manuals

2016 Teacher Manuals

It’s so hard to believe how quickly time flies. Seems like it was only yesterday we began our homeschooling journey with our oldest son. That five year old is now fifteen! He’s just started 11th grade, and is on track to graduate a year early with an Honors Diploma. This year his coursework includes MUS Algebra 2, SOS English 11, SOS American history, Apologia physics, TeenCoder computer programming, and more.

He’ll also be doing year two of Spanish, but it’s the Spanish 1 Abeka course. He did Switched on Schoolhouse’s Spanish 1 course last year, but none of us liked it. The SOS Spanish 1 class seemed to focus more on the cultures of the various Spanish-speaking countries rather than learning to actually speak Spanish. The Abeka course is all language-driven, and needs much more supervision than the SOS course. The Abeka course is the one I took when I was in high school. It did take some time to create a lesson plan to work with just one student, as it’s a classroom-based curriculum, but the end result will be so worth it.

My Diva is starting 7th grade, and my youngest son will be in 6th. That means we have officially left elementary school behind. It’s a big deal, because so many homeschoolers give up and send their kids to the local public/private schools for middle and high school. The plethora of resources available to a homeschooling momma with elementary kids begins to dwindle once you hit middle school.  So far, homeschooling through middle and high school has been easier in some ways, harder in others.  It’s easier because the kids can teach themselves.  They can read the curriculum, do their projects, and even most of their science experiments with only minimal help and input from me.  It’s harder because I really need to keep on top of the grades and paperwork, to make sure I’ve got a paper trail to back up the transcript I’ll have to write should any of them decide to go to a college.  Honestly though, the biggest reason it’s been so smooth is the confidence we’ve all gained in the process over the years.  The grandparents have seen them flourish, and no longer have any reservations. Dad has always had my back, reassuring me that this was possible.  He’s pitched in to help whenever we hit topics of his expertise, like Spanish.  As for me, I still struggle with doubt and questions, but I have so much more confidence now than I did ten

2016 SOS disks

2016 SOS disks

The younger two are both using Math U See Zeta, but for science, history, and English class they’ve made the jump into Switched On Schoolhouse. The 11 year old has also taken on the KidCoder computer programming course in an effort to step up his Minecraft coding game.

Speaking of, all three of the kids have learned so much about computers, programming, the internet, and even some business skills – just from playing Minecraft this summer.  They found a cool server to play on, and a guild of kids (mostly made up of a group of middle-schoolers from California), and started posting “Let’s Play” videos to YouTube. The youngest really latched on to this idea, and ran with it. The other two are now playing catch-up. They’ve learned how to record, edit and post their videos. We use OBS Studio for recording, and Sony Movie Studio 13 for editing.  So if you’ve got a Minecrafter in the house, check out LtVv111, Capt740, and OmegaVaporeon, aka my Diva, on YouTube.

So that’s how our year is shaping up.  What about you?  What’s your plan for the upcoming homeschool year?

2015-2016 School Year, Already in Full Swing!

So last year was our first year back in Maryland. It was much easier than I’d anticipated, mostly thanks to the wonderful folks over at Calvary Gospel Home Educators who made it a breeze.  The hardest part about the whole year was keeping up on the paperwork.  However, that same paperwork will make it extremely easy to create a transcript for my high schooler when the time comes. It also helped that my husband made an excel version of the grading report that does all of the weighted grading for me. Nice.

So this year, we actually started back on July 6.  I felt really strange, because for once I was fully prepared for the school year to start. I had almost everything planned, printed, and scheduled a few weeks before we actually started.  The younger two are both working on a 5th/6th grade level.  English is once again a mix of reading and Easy Grammar. Math-U-See Epsilon is proving challenging already for my Diva, while Lt continues to easily grasp the math concepts.  After going over several history options with them both this summer, they both decided they wanted to do Mystery of History. Apologia’s Exploring Anatomy rounds out the extent of my curriculum for the younger two.  They are constantly doing art, not just with pen and paper but also in their Minecraft builds, photo editing, digital drawing, and LEGO creations. I just periodically grab a few screen shots or copies for their portfolios.

My Diva is struggling some to grasp the math, but that’s normal for her. Once she gets these first few concepts under her belt, she will fly through the book.  Same goes for the language.  She is teaching herself history & science, only joining her younger brother & I for the experiments.  She likes to work at night after her brothers go to bed, because it cuts down on the noise and distraction.  She’s the biggest night owl in a family of night owls. She likes to do her school work, then often reads until 2 or 3 am.  Her current favorite are the Warrior Cats series. When she wakes up, her time is spent hanging out in the LEGO friends gallery, making edits, drawing animals, creating things with LEGO, blogging, and playing Minecraft.  She’s also the one behind the dog’s blog, Peanut’s Paws.

We’ve done a lot of work with Lt over the past school year. He was officially diagnosed with both dysgraphia and dyslexia last year. I also discovered his mild hearing difficulties, and synesthesia. Last year we used All About Spelling to jump start his reading, and work to train those pesky letters.  Just reinforcing letter sounds has made a huge difference.  His reading has taken off. He does still get tired after a while, and that when he struggles with reversals and missing or changed letters.  He’s been reading his school lessons to me whenever he can, as well as learning and researching new ways to code in Minecraft.  His downtime is often spent on Minecraft, playing with LEGOs, or on the Xbox.  He also blogs occasionally.

The oldest is in 10th grade this year.  I can not believe I’m old enough to have a 10th grader, even if he is working ahead of grade level.  He uses Switched On Schoolhouse for English II, Geography, Spanish I, and Old Testament Survey. Science is Apologia’s Biology course on CD.  We got the microscope kit and the dissection kit from Christian Book Distributors.  Math is Geometry by Math-U-See. Honestly, he’s almost completely self-taught at age 14. Every curriculum he’s using is either self-explanatory, or comes with a teacher on DVD.  He only ever comes to me when he needs help. Sure, he has times when he misinterprets the lesson and we have to go back over things, but overall, he’s doing really well.  I’m kind of in awe of how well he’s doing on his own at his age.

When he isn’t doing schoolwork, Capt740 can be found on Minecraft, in the middle of a pile of LEGOs, or reading anything he can get his hands on. He blogs on the rare occasion.

So that’s the beginning of our school year, even though we are already half way through the first quarter! I can’t believe how fast time is flying this year.

Curriculum time is here again!

After spending the better part of the last month alternately researching curriculum ideas, and procrastinating, I’ve finally finalized… well, mostly finalized our school year.

Math is going to be Math U See for all three.  GeekBoy is starting in Delta, but he’s already whizzed through the first 3 chapters, and that only took him 5 minutes!  So I have Epsilon standing by, and fully expect to be using it by middle of the year.  As much as the Geek claims to hate math, he is a math whiz.  ThePinkDiva is starting Alpha this year, and BigBoy won’t be very far behind.  He still has a few chapters of Primer to finish before moving on to Alpha.  The little guy is hoping to catch up to his big sister.

For Language, GeekBoy is still working through the Easy Grammar 4/5 book we found halfway through last year.  Its been working well for us, so we will keep going.  Since discovering thePinkDiva’s vision difficulties, we will be ditching Hooked on Phonics this year.  I’ve decided to give Spell to Write and Read a try.  It’s supposed to be good for dyslexics, which she is, and BigBoy will be doing this also since he really wants to learn to write.  ThePinkDiva will also be continuing her work in Explode The Code online.  She’s been doing pretty well with it, and I’m considering getting a subscription for BigBoy as well.  Especially since I can get such an awesome deal on the program via Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

GeekBoy’s writing progressed quickly once we worked on correcting his posture and grip.  This year we will continue working on “Pull, not push” to get him forming letters from the top, as well as lowercase letters.

History will be different this year.  GeekBoy has informed me that he has trouble concentrating when thePinkDiva goes off on a word-association rabbit trail.  Since she does this a lot (it’s her way of processing information), GeekBoy will be having his own history lesson, using Mystery of History.  ThePinkDiva and BigBoy will be doing year 2 of the American Heritage Studies by BJU. I’m planning to do time lines with each “class”.

Science was a hard one.  As much as I love the Apologia books, they seem to be just above the understanding of my younger two, and there doesn’t seem much in the text that interests my oldest.  So this year we will do things a bit different.  I got a subscription to AHA Science via Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  The kids adored the sample lessons, and we are looking forward to accessing the games and seeing what else the program has to offer.  I’m also planning to pull random experiments out of this book Gramma gave us, 101 Cool Science Experiments.

For art, I have GeeArt.  We’ve had the program for some time now, but I’ve never managed to get it together enough to get the projects done.  I’m hoping to overcome my own fear of messiness and allow the munchkins to get messy, and maybe even get messy myself.  But the biggest thing they will learn in the category of “art” this year — how to clean up their supplies!

It should be a fun, busy year.
Not Back to School Blog Hop

Tempers and technique.

I knew today was going to be rough when BigBoy woke up with a very croupy cough.  Luckily I saw this coming last night, and had his cool mist vaporizer running already, but still.  Nothing can derail a homeschool day faster than a sick baby kid.  Thankfully, a dose of Robitussin seems to have helped tremendously as he is currently rolling around on the floor playing legos, with very little of that nasty cough.

thePinkDiva kicked off our school day by asking to play with the Math-U-See blocks again.  (See, I told you it was a big hit!)  I have to watch her like a hawk though, because she has a tendency to take little pieces and run off with them.  I don’t mind her playing with them, but… We are still missing about half the counters we got with the K12 curriculum a few years back, Candy Land is missing most of it’s cards, and the rest of our kiddie board games all have pieces missing.  There is a reason why I got Family Game Night & Monopoly for the Wii.  And that reason’s name is thePinkDiva.

So, Diva and Geekboy ripped through their math lessons in record time.  They ran off just in time for BigBoy’s Robitussin to kick in.  He walked into the kitchen declaring he was now “good enough to leave my room.”  He snuggled up on my lap and whipped through MUS Primer Lesson 4 (the one on rectangles).  He ran off, and thePinkDiva came back for her phonics lesson.

This is where the drama started.  You’d have thought I asked her to read War & Peace, instead of HOP book 7, The Fog.  She screamed at me, and got sent off to her room for a 20 minute fit of temper & rage.  When she finally settled down, we compromised and only worked on sight words today.

Then GeekBoy continued the drama when I asked him to come back to the kitchen and do his language.  We started going over Prepositions yesterday and I realized that the “book” I have to use with him isn’t so much a grammar book as it is one of those testing review & reinforcement type books.  So, the two pages we did yesterday were obviously not enough. Today I used this site to find the nine most common prepositions, and listed them on the board.  Then we talked about how to tell if the word was being used as a preposition (if it comes before a noun).  I pulled one of his favorite mystery books off the shelf, picked a page at random, and we looked for prepositional phrases.  He seemed to really catch on after that.  Then we looked over today’s workbook pages and found a review of punctuation that he ripped right through.  Until we came to the writing part.

I know writing is his weak point.  He has struggled with it for years, and been officially diagnosed with Dysgraphia.  The main strategy for overcoming Dsygraphia is to practice writing. So I made him think about the things he wanted to write and tell me.  Then I dictated his sentences back to him, and let him write without thinking too much about what he wanted to say.  This is when I noticed the way he curls his hand over his page.  It kind of reminds of the way the lefty kid in high school used to write, except, my son is a righty.  Our new goal is to help GeekBoy re-learn his writing technique and use a straight wrist.  I’m hoping that once we get a good writing technique into his muscle memory, writing itself won’t be so much of a pain.

History today was just a review of the continents and compass direction.  We are working on American History this year using Heritage Studies 1 by BJU.  Should be a fun year.  I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the area’s rich history with field trips to various locations we’ll be studying.

Believe it or not, I’ve gone 2 days without picking up my camera!  So no pictures yet.  I’ll have to try to remember to take some tomorrow.

First Official Day of School

Day one done, & nobody got hurt. I’d call that a success.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  Math-U-See is a big hit.  The kids love the blocks, and the video.  It’s a great help for me, because I really have no clue how to use all these blocks and stuff with math.  I was never taught with manipulatives.  I was taught using the old flash card memory idea.  BigBoy blew threw lesson 3 in Primer, and is well on his way to catching up to thePinkDiva, who started on Primer lesson 9.  thePinkDiva loved Decimal Street and “-ty”.  Mr. Demme’s explanation of adding the “-ty” to all who live in the Tens house really helped her figure out how to say the double digit numbers.  GeekBoy, who started on lesson 18 in Alpha, has had trouble with the concept of subtraction in the past.  But after watching the video and playing with the blocks, the concept seems to have finally clicked.

thePinkDiva is still working on the Hooked on Phonics yellow book (aka Kindergarten).  We got about halfway through it last year before life overwhelmed our “school” year.  So today we just did a quick review of what we had already done.  It would seem that the 6 months or so we took off have actually helped her. She had no trouble at all reading the different sections we choose to go over as our review.

BigBoy decided he wants to learn to read.  So he is starting the Hooked on Phonics yellow book this year.  Yes, both kids are using the same book.Today we went over the alphabet and letter sounds.  He only missed a handful of letters, and already knows most of the sounds.  So, we’ll see how quickly he catches up to thePinkDiva.

The only hiccup of the day came when I asked GeekBoy to do his Grammar pages about prepositional phrases.  See, he was under the mistaken impression that when I said he was done with math that I meant he was done with school.  But he changed his tune when he learned that his latest Lego Brickmaster magazine had come in, and that I wouldn’t give it to him ’til he finished both Language and Science.  Mean rotten momma. 😉

Science is one of two classes that we are doing together this year (the other being History).  We are going to finish the Astronomy course we started last year.  We’re using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy.  Last year year, we got all the way through the solar system to Mercury!  Yea, that far.  So… today we reviewed what we did last year.

The funny part – it has taken me longer to write up our school day today, then it took to teach 3 children 3 different subjects.

First week of school ’08

First official week of school is over.  GeekBoy needs to work on his comprehension.  He’s got the mechanics of math down, he can read really really big words, but has no clue what it all means.  We’re working on it, and I think the light is dawning.  He is doing book reports this year, and since he wants a grade, doing quizzes and such too.  He did well this first week.  thePinkDiva did great too.  She aced her math quiz, and proved that she can read more then she lets on.  I’m trying some new strategies to get her to cooperate.  Big Boy is just having a blast.  They all love the history program – Story of the World is great.  We talked about nomads, did cave paintings, and sewed “game bags.”  Game as in hunting game, not game as in scrabble, although you could probably carry a game in one of these bags.

Mom & Diva Sewing

Cave paintings
The biggest change around here is the rule – no Wii/computer/video until school work is done.  It’s been the only motivating factor to get them to work.  My biggest challenge is to stay firm on that and not bend the rule, esp when DH is gone and I have to do something like mow the lawn.  But you know, they actually played outside while I mowed the lawn?  Wow!  My kids are like me, a Melman (Ahh! Nature!  Get it off me!), and usually prefer the indoors.  This has been great for us.

GeekBoy decided he wants to play soccer.  So, after much discussion, and making it clear that he would follow this through to the end no matter what, there will be no changing of the mind in 3 weeks, we went ahead and contacted the local homeschool sports co-op.  He’s still jazzed about it.  We got him registered and got him a ball, and shin guards.  He’s so excited.  Practice doesn’t start until Aug 30.  He’s on the Junior team – 5-7 yr olds.  Practice is once a week.  Games will be every Saturday.  I’m excited because this it the first time any of my spawn have shown an interest in organized sports!  I loved Volleyball and Basketball (the only sports available to me in my small school), so I’m thrilled to see my son finally take an interest in sports.

Gettin' his kicks

BigBoy got a bike on Friday, and yes, he’s already figured out how to ride.  He obviously needs practice, but more importantly, he’s already figured out the brake!  We spent about an hour out front on the street riding up and down.  He caught on really quickly.  Personally, I think riding a bike must seem like a mental cake walk compared to some of the video games he plays.  His biggest challenge seems to be that his body can’t seem to keep up with his brain.  Oh yea, he’s going to play soccer too.  The Sports Co-op has a “tots” team for the little ones ages 2-4.  No practices, nothing serious, just pretty much the kids get to kick a ball around while big brother (or sister) is playing.  He’s excited.

I wanna play too!

Gramma, Nani, and AnnoyingPenguin came over this weekend.  The kids camped out in GeekBoy’s room.  The tent and everything. With the Geek’s ceiling full of glow stars, it was like sleeping under the stars, only better because they had air conditioning and no bugs.  Since our history lesson this week was all about nomads, we talked about how the nomads slept in tents everyday.  Diva mentioned that she was very glad for her cotton/polyester sleeping bag, because if she had to sleep on an animal skin, she wouldn’t want to sleep there.  All week she has tripped out over nomads using animal skins for everything.

the best kind of camping

Teachable moments are everywhere.

You just have learn to recognize them when you see them.  For example, fingernail cutting time.  In our house, this can be a big deal.  Our children are known for their over dramatic reactions, and clipping fingernails can turn into Emmy award winning performances involving the pain of cut nail.  *Side note – They are not really in any pain, as evidenced in the fact that distraction techniques work to stop the drama.  We do not cut fingernails to the quick.  They are just being over dramatic.*  A few nights ago, Daddy was cutting GeekBoy’s fingernails, and began to quiz him on multiplication facts.  It worked as a distractor until they got to one that GeekBoy did not know how to work out in his head.  I was passing through the room, and heard what was going on, so I pulled out the white board, and helped GeekBoy work through the problem.  Then we did several others.  He completely forgot what his father was doing.

Next up!  BigBoy.  He is too little from something like multiplication, but we are working on letter recognition.  So I started to write letters on the board and before he even knew Daddy had started, his fingernails were all cut.

Last, but most assuredly not least, thePinkDiva, our newly crowned 5 year old.   We’ve been working on simple math and reading, so I started of with some 1+1, and then we finished with a series of “_AT” words.  Finally, she read the sentence, “Fat cat sat on rat.”  all by herself.  And again, Daddy was done with her fingers before she even realized he had started.

A teachable moment can be anything.  It can be a lesson in morality brought on by a movie or tv show.  It can be a conversation over the dinner table.  Even a tick bite can be teachable.  When BigBoy got bit last Saturday, after killing the tick, we – the mom and dad – learned more about ticks in the area and the possible diseases and what to watch for.  Then when I found a tick crawling on my leg, I managed to capture it (after throwing it into the bathtub, recovering my wits, checking the kids for more ticks, and taking a picture so it could be more easily identified).  I plan to use it to let GeekBoy do his own tick research.  Even though I’ve identified it, I will let him take a stab at ID’ing it and see if he can figure it out too.  We will learn how to identify species of bugs, and how to research bugs to learn more about their habitat.  We will also learn about what to do if he finds one on him (call mom or dad!) and what not to do to.

It should be fun.  A science lesson from a tick.  Teachable moments.

Like Mother, like son

So, I found this link to a Reading Level Assessment Test, and had Geek Boy take the “San Diego Quick Assessment” this morning. The idea is, you miss one, your good, miss 2 words and this is your instruction level, 3 words tells you this level would be too hard.

GeekBoy breezed through levels 1-4, missed 2 words in level 5, and 2 words in level 6. Then he didn’t want to read anymore because, silly boy, he wanted breakfast. So I told him he’s reading at a 5th & 6th grade level. Yup. My first grader is not only doing 3rd grade math, he’s reading on a 5th/6th grade level. Wow.

Guess that explains why he can rip through the Magic Treehouse books so fast – one book in a few hours.

**In case you were wondering, he gets it from me. *S* I was reading at or above high school level when I was in 5th and 6th grade.