After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Two for One Special


The Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers are already on Christmas break but I'm still cracking the whip over here...

You may have noticed that there was no Weekly Wrap Up post from last week.  As I mentioned the week before, I spent the weekend out of town visiting family who are going through a very difficult time.  It was a wonderful weekend and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go.  At the same time, there were some hard moments both during the weekend and after I returned home.  We had a full week of school and it went well, but I simply did not have the emotional energy to blog about it.  Once again, without putting the details of their situation out here, I simply ask that you pray for my loved ones as they walk through this time.  Thank you!!!

Last week was a typical week here in our homeschool.  The big news from last week is that I decided to slow down and modify parts of both test subjects' language arts curricula.  TS 1 is using Growing with Grammar, Level 5.  He has been doing fine with it up to this point.  However, we hit a wall once we reached the lesson on Predicate Nouns.  (I mean, who wouldn't?)  I realized, in trying to explain this concept to him, that although he did fine on the tests and worksheets from the previous lessons, he had not completely mastered some of the earlier concepts he studied.  As hard as it was for me to do this, knowing that he might not finish the grammar book by the end of the year (gasp!), I decided to put the brakes on this curriculum for awhile.  We  have gone back to the beginning and are reviewing each lesson by writing notes in a notebook.  We are also working on putting the main points of our review together in a Mini-Office that he can reference when working on grammar once we return to the curriculum.  

TS 2 has been working through Writing with Ease, Level 2 (WWE), and it has been a challenge for him from the beginning.  I love the curriculum for so many reasons that I believe it is worth working through the frustration. If you are not familiar with it, WWE is a four day a week composition/reading comprehension program.  Each week the student learns the skills of narration, copywork and dictation through the exploration of passages from fantastic works of children's literature.  WWE has spurred TS 2's interest in reading for pleasure tremendously.  He has asked for and read several challenging chapter books such as books from the Doctor Dolittle and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series as a result of being exposed to them in WWE.  

Last week, however, the frustration was building to the point of him crying during the lessons.  It broke my heart!  I still wasn't sure how to handle it, though.  If I modify the curriculum, will he still be learning all that he needs to learn?  (I know- duh!- but in the moment I was worried.)  So I did what I hope every confused homeschool mom has the option of doing, I called my dear friend turned homeschooling mentor to ask for advice.  She reminded me that learning cannot take place when the frustration level is too high, and that I need to find the point between challenging TS 2 and frustrating him.  Of course, this will require modifying the curriculum to bring the lessons to the point at which he will be learning new skills AND achieving success.  This week, I did that and he did really well.  He was still challenged to comprehend, discuss and retell the passages but in smaller, more manageable segments.  He was challenged but not frustrated, and not a tear was shed!  


The highlight of last week was our Co-Op Christmas Party.  It began with a sweet play performed by the children that told the Christmas story.  

Then the children rotated through three activities with their similar aged peers: Gospel Presentation/Christmas Craft, Cookie Decorating and Games.  I led TS 1's Craft class and we made cards to send to children with life threatening illnesses.



The party was great fun for the kids, while maintaining the focus on the true meaning of Christmas: God with us!  After the party, we met up with other local homeschoolers for the monthly ice skating play date.


This week has been a different week for the test subjects.  I took some time over the weekend to look at the overall picture of the school year and their progress.  It seems we are ahead of schedule in many subjects areas (LA, Science, Spanish and Keyboarding), right on target in Math and Bible and a smidgen behind in History.  Since we are about to start our Christmas vacation anyway, I thought it would make sense to treat this week as a lighter week in the areas in which we are ahead, which gave us time to do more History and to slow down and review in Language Arts.  It's worked out well and we've all enjoyed a slower pace going into Christmas!






Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours from the Research Team at Our Great Homeschool Experiment!  See you in 2012!!!






Monday, December 12, 2011

All Dressed Up for Christmas

Welcome to our home!  Come on in and have a look around...








Merry Christmas to you and yours from the research team at Our Great Homeschool Experiment!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: December 9, 2011

Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers once again...

Once again, we had an abbreviated week at home so that we could enjoy an outstanding field trip on Thursday.  Monday through Wednesday were productive, focused days at home and both test subjects got a week's worth of school work done in three days again.  


On Thursday, we set out early for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a morning spent visiting the Arms and Armor Galleries.  It was another opportunity for an up close and personal reinforcement of our TOG study of knights and the feudal system of the Middle Ages.  After the Arms and Armor Galleries, we browsed the other Medieval Art galleries in the museum and were amazed to see works of Medieval Art dating as far back as the early 300s!  We saw illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, reliquary, mosaics and more.  It was fascinating to see examples of all the artwork the boys have learned about and created replicas of in co-op art class this semester.  

We had originally intended to head to the Cloisters after the Met to see a rare exhibit of Medieval Chessmen from Scotland.  However, were all tired after the morning of exploring and decided to save it for another time instead.  A certain someone spent 45 minutes on the couch, eyes shut and brain turned off after we got home.  Highly recommended post field trip activity!

Early Friday morning, I head out to visit my extended family.  (Thank you for your prayers last week!)  The test subjects will skip co-op today and spend the day with our babysitter, who switched her day this week so I could head out early on Friday.  I've left each of the boys a few fun assignments they can complete independently to keep them busy, but they have really already completed their week's work.

I know I promised to post pictures of our home dressed up for Christmas, and I did take them.  I just haven't had a moment to upload them.  I'll try to post them early next week.  For now, I'll leave you with this picture of the newest member of our research team to hold you over:





Thursday, December 1, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with All the Fun!


Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers once again...

Since I'm including TS 1's participation on a 5th grade basketball team as part of his physical education curriculum this year, I thought I'd start out this week's wrap up with a brief recap of Saturday's game.  It was our second game of the season but our "home opener" as TS 1 called it.  We got our first win and TS 1 made his first basket of the season.  We left the gym all smiles!

Tom and TS 1 spent part of the weekend putting the finishing touches on his Rube Goldberg Machine.  When the machine was finally complete, we videotaped it and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  (Or maybe that was just me.  I'm not the biggest fan of convoluted projects that topple over when you look at them sideways requiring you to set them all up again so that you can knock them all down once more.  Can you relate?)  

On Monday, TS 1 and I sat down to edit the video together and post it on YouTube, when much to our dismay, we discovered that it had been deleted from the camera.  Turns out TS 2 had mistakenly deleted it when he used the camera to take pictures of a masterpiece he had made in the playroom!  


The next few minutes were not pretty.  There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And TS 1 was pretty upset, too.  Eventually, all was forgiven, the machine was rebuilt, videotaped, edited and posted on YouTube.  Without further ado:



Inspired by his big brother's diligence, TS 2 built his very own rendition of a Rube Goldberg Machine.  For your viewing pleasure:




Now, I have a favor to beg of you, dear reader.  Would you be so kind as to take a moment to like each of these videos on YouTube?  You'd be blessing the socks off of two test subjects I know and love!  Thanks in advance :)

Monday through Wednesday were productive, focused days at home.  Both test subjects got a week's worth of school work done in three days because we had an exciting field trip planned for Thursday.  We went to a Medieval Times Feast and Tournament!  It was super educational and extraordinarily fun.  The production wove educational information about feudalism in general, and knights and chivalry specifically, together with a riveting story of good versus evil, in which good dramatically triumphed in the end.  



On Friday we went to co-op.  It was col.  I froze to death.  Blah, blah, blah.

Since Advent officially began this Sunday, we began to get our hearts and home ready for Christmas this week, too.  We started decorating by putting up the Christmas Village, decorating the mantle and the top of the piano.  We hope to finish up by early next week and I'll be sure to share some pictures on Friday's Wrap Up post.


We also dusted off the Advent Wreath and began our Christmas Devotional this week.  We are using the free Jesse Tree devotional from the grace-filled Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience.  (If you've never read Ann's beautiful and captivating prose, please click over now and be blessed- I'll wait here for you!)  The devotional is lovely.  We are reading under dimmed lights by the flickering light of the first Advent candle.  It is telling the story of Christmas right from the very beginning, right from where every one of our own stories begin:  Genesis Chapter One.  


I'll sign off this week with a humble request for your prayers.  Our family has received some devastating news about one very dear to us.  While I am not free to share names or details here, God knows, and I covet your prayers for mercy, strength and the peace that passes understanding for our loved ones.  


Thank you and God bless you and yours!





Friday, November 25, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with Thanksgiving

The Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers are taking the week off, but not I!

This week, we started the heart of our Medieval studies!  For the next month, we will study life in the Middle Ages: learning about feudalism, castles, knights and daily life for people of all classes.  We are working on plans for a Medieval Feast to celebrate the end of our TOG study of the Middle Ages.  We brainstormed ideas for costumes, a menu for the feast and the guest list and collected household items to make a model of a castle.  


As we were learning this week, TS 2 remembered a book we received a few years ago called Medieval Castle.  It actually opens to a three dimensional castle complete with a lord and his lady, knights on horses and a dragon.  The test subjects had great fun playing it with during their breaks this week.


We also recently finished listening to the audiobooks The Castle in the Attic and Battle for the Castle by Elizabeth Winthrop.  I highly recommend both- they were so captivating, we often sat in the driveway caught up in the story long after we had arrived home!  They even held the attention of five-year-old RA when she was with us.  A word of caution: Battle for the Castle did have a few gruesome scenes not appropriate for very young listeners.

We have two exciting field trips coming up that will complement our history studies!  Next week, we will be attending a Medieval Times Meal and Tournament with our homeschool group.  The boys can hardly believe that they will see a joust live and in person!  In two weeks, we will head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to explore their extensive collection of Arms and Armor.  The Met is actually a wonderful place to take a family since they offer free Family Guides for several of their permanent collections that guide families through the exhibits in a fun and age appropriate way.  We plan on using the Armor Family Guide to structure our tour of this collection.  Depending on everyone's mood and energy level, we may head to the Cloisters on the way home to see a rare exhibit of Medieval Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis. 


I think I am as excited as the boys are about the next month!


The other interesting topic for this week was TS 1's final project for his Gizmos and Gadgets class at co-op.  To culminate their hands-on physics study this semester, the students were assigned to create their very own Rube Goldberg Simple Machine.  


If you are like I was and have no clue what I'm talking about, here's a little YouTube video of a Rube Goldberg Machine.  This is NOT our Rube Goldberg machine- just an example :)  



Dad and TS 1 have been working on his a little each night and they are making good progress.  I promise to post a video when it is complete.  For now, a few shots of the process:



We had a short school week because we took Thanksgiving Day off, of course, as well as the Friday after.  Thanksgiving was wonderful!  We did something completely different and went out to lunch with Tom's family to a beautiful mountain resort.  After a scrumptious meal, the kids ice skated in the beautiful pavilion.  Then we took a short hike to see the breathtaking views of the grounds.  (I know- me hiking?  Don't tell my co-op friends, they think I LIKE the outdoors or something ;)  The weather was absolutely perfect and we thoroughly enjoyed the day with family.  






I pray you had a pleasant Thanksgiving Day with the ones you love and remembered to express your gratitude to the One from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So, How Am I Doing?

As one of the Lead Investigators of Our Great Homeschool Experiment, I am all about collecting and analyzing the data.  In that spirit, I asked the test subjects to evaluate each of their curricula on a scale of 1-10, with one being the worst possible subject they have ever been forced to learn and 10 being the best possible subject they have even been blessed to learn.  Since one of our goals for homeschooling is to reignite a love of learning, it is important to me to find out whether this is happening with the test subjects.  Here are their responses:

From TS 1:
Growing with Grammar (GWG): 9
I really like Growing with Grammar, but I don't like tests.

Institutes for Excellence in Writing (IEW): 7
IEW is ok but I don't like the long videos.  i do enjoy the typing and the writing.

Math-U-See (MUS): 8
I like MUS alot.  Even though I do two pages, I still like division.

Tapestry of Grace (TOG): 10
There is nothing wrong about TOG. 

Exploring Creation with Astronomy (ECA): 9
I enjoy learning about the planets with Dad alot.

Standing Strong (SS): 9
SS is fun because I can have fun looking in the Bible and completing each section.

Mavis Beacon Teaching Typing (MBTT): 4
I don't really like MBTT but I think I'm improving at it.

Rosetta Stone (RS): 11
RS is so fun because you have fun learning Spanish on the computer.

From TS 2:
Writing with Ease (WWE): 5
I like this subject because there are some stories I like, also Doctor Dolittle and other stuff.

First Language Lessons (FLL): 7
I like this subject because there are some poems I like.

All About Spelling (AAS): 7
I like this subject because there are phonograms.

Math-U-See (MUS): 10
I love this subject because there are lots of different problems I like and a workbook I like.

Tapestry of Grace (TOG): 6
I like TOG because there are a lot of wars and fun stories.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy (ECA): 7
I like ECA because we learn about different planets.

Studying God's Word (SGW): 8
I like this subject because we learn verses and scriptures about God.

A Reason for Handwriting (RFH): 7
I like this subject because you send messages to people.
(At the end of each lesson, there is a sheet on which you copy a scripture to send to someone to encourage or bless them.)

Rosetta Stone (RS): 6
I like this subject because it teaches us espanol.

This exercise turned out to be fun for the boys and very useful for me.  Some of their responses were surprising.  For example, I was under the erroneous impression that the boys found TOG boring but their responses indicate that they actually like it.  I obviously really need to figure out what is wrong with MBTT- we think the program has a glitch because it keeps rating TS 1's typing speed as -11 words per minute.  I knew WWE was challenging for TS 2 but it is teaching him valuable skills.  He is learning how to summarize and narrate the main points of a passage and to take dictation while being exposed to wonderful children's literature.  For these reasons, and the fact that he is rising to the challenge, we will continue to plug along at it.  All in all, other than a few tweaks here and there, it looks like we will head into the third quarter with a very similar plan to the first.

How do you evaluate what is and is not working in your homeschool?  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quarterly Reports

Here is the Quarterly Report I submitted to the district for TS 2, our second grader:
SUBJECT
                            MATERIALS
EVALUATION
Reading
Completed Lessons 1-11 of Explode the Code Online, Book 1 and Lessons 1-11 of Book 4; Completed all reading and reading response assignments from Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5; Also independently read numerous picture books and three chapter books of his own choosing at second grade or above reading level
Satisfactory
Spelling
Completed Lessons 1-11 of Explode the Code Online, Book 1 and Lessons 1-11 of Book 4 from Explode the Code Online
Satisfactory
Writing
Completed Handwriting Lessons 1-8 of A Reason for Handwriting and Composition Lessons 1-9 of The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease, Level 2
Satisfactory
English Language
Completed Lessons 1-36 of First Language Lessons, Level 2
Satisfactory
Math
Completed Lessons 1-10 of Math-U-See, Beta Level
Satisfactory
History
Completed all history readings, reading responses, lapbooks and discussion assignments for Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5
Satisfactory
Science
Completed Lessons 1-6 and corresponding assignments and hands on experiments from Exploring Creation with Astronomy; Participated in a Weekly Science Enrichment Class at the xxx Co-op focusing on the Study of Insects
Satisfactory
Geography
Completed all map work from Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1 Lessons 1-5
Satisfactory
Health
Completed the Fitness and Sportsmanship Lessons from Kids Health in the Classroom, The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth, 2011
Satisfactory
Music
Completed weekly piano lessons and daily piano practice
Satisfactory
Art
Completed selected art projects related to the art from the historical time period studied in Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5 using Artistic Pursuits curriculum at the xxx Co-op
Satisfactory
Physical Education
Participated in a weekly Physical Education class at the xxx Co-op, Six Week Baseball clinic at xxx
Satisfactory

And for TS 1, our fifth grader:
SUBJECT
                            MATERIAL COVERED
EVALUATION
Reading
Completed all reading and reading response assignments from Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5; Also independently read five chapter books of his own choosing at fifth grade or above reading level
Satisfactory
Spelling
Completed Word Lists derived from Composition Work in Student Writing Intensive Level A, Institutes for Excellence in Writing Curriculum
Satisfactory
Writing
Completed Lessons 1-6 of Student Writing Intensive, Level A, Institute for Excellence in Writing
Satisfactory
English Language
Completed Units 1 and 2 of Growing with Grammar, Level 5
Satisfactory
Math
Completed Lessons 1-5, 7, 9-11, 14-19 of Math-U-See, Delta Level
Satisfactory
History
Completed all history readings, reading responses, lapbooks and discussion assignments for Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5
Satisfactory
Science
Completed Lessons 1-6 and corresponding assignments and hands on experiments from Exploring Creation with Astronomy; Participated in a Weekly Science Enrichment Class at the xxx Co-op focusing on Hands On Elementary Physics
Satisfactory
Geography
Completed all map work from Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1 Lessons 1-5
Satisfactory
Health
Completed the Fitness and Sportsmanship Lessons from Kids Health in the Classroom, The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth, 2011
Satisfactory
Music
Completed weekly piano lessons and daily piano practice
Satisfactory
Art
Completed selected art projects related to the art from the historical time period studied in Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 1, Lessons 1-5 using Artistic Pursuits curriculum at the xxx Co-op
Satisfactory
Physical Education
Participated in a weekly Physical Education class at the xxx Co-op, Six Week Baseball clinic at xxx, Twice weekly basketball practice for  Basketball Team
Satisfactory

These reports do not include the non-required courses the boys are also taking such as Spanish, Keyboarding and Bible.

Can I get a woot-woot???

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Schoolhouse Rock and Roller Coaster Rides


Joining the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers once again...

The best way to summarize this week in our homeschool is to say that it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.  

Monday and Tuesday were characterized by grumpy test subjects and- if I'm being honest- an even grumpier Lead Investigator.  I started the week feeling behind with household chores, paperwork, phone calls and errands, which made me anxious to find some time to catch up while the boys worked.  As I mentioned last week they have been working well independently, so I was expecting more of the same this week.  If I were superstitious, which I'm not, but if I were I'd have known better than to count my chickens before they hatched.  The boys were whiny and needy and all around nudges for two days straight.  They got all their work done but not without a lot of prodding from me.  

By Tuesday night, I felt angry, anxious and drained.  My Facebook reflected my emotional state: "I'm a mother on the edge.  Who's gonna talk me down?"   Thankfully, I have many funny and sweet Facebook friends and I was smiling again a few hours later.  The whole experience has made me realize that I need to plan time in my weekly schedule to take care of household stuff so that I am not trying to squeeze those responsibilities in while homeschooling.  

Wasn't I all smiles when my wonderful babysitter knocked on our door bright and early on Wednesday morning?  I made it to my Bible study for the first time in several weeks and it was a wonderful break for me.  As we've done in past weeks, I got the boys started on their assignments for the day, left for my study and then finished up with them in the afternoon.  I even had time for alone time and a quick coffee before I picked up RA from school.

We had an early dinner on Wednesday and spent part of the evening watching Grammar Rock from the School House Rock DVD series.  Oh what fun memories Schoolhouse Rock brings back for me!  I love that all three of my kids seemed to enjoy it and were laughing aloud and singing along.  And it turned out to be a great reinforcement for the test subjects of their grammar studies so far!
What's your favorite School House Rock tune?  For me, it's a three way tie between Conjunction JunctionInterjection and Mr. Morton.

We are reading a chapter a day of this book each afternoon when RA gets home from school.  (It was recommended to us by TS 1's fantastic Science teacher at co-op- thanks J!)
The tale is about two cousins who travel back in time to the age of the Vikings, which is the period in history we have been studying for the past two weeks.  The book is holding the attention of all three kids and inspired them to work together to build a time machine of their own.  Here is one of the earlier models of their Imagination Station.  It has since been upgraded but I haven't gotten a shot of that model yet :)



Thursday was a half day for RA as parent teacher conferences were held in the afternoon and evening at school.  TS 2 had a play date with a friend from school after lunch so he was on a mission to be done with his school work early.  That drive seemed to motivate TS 1, too, and by the time we picked up RA from school, both had almost finished their school day!

Thursday night was Community Night benefitting our school at a local Mexican restaurant.  We went for an early dinner and enjoyed chatting with old friends.

Friday was another Parent-Teacher conference day at RA's school so she came with us to co-op!  She had a wonderful time.  Even though I am confident that we made the right decision to send her to Kindergarten this year, I still feel pangs of guilt about her missing out on some of the fun we have in homeschool.  After co-op, we enjoyed an afternoon at the local ice rink with the homeschool group.


I can't close out this post without mentioning how cold it was today.  I was outside for most of the three co-op periods this morning and then we spent a few hours in the cold ice rink this afternoon.  I'm very happy to be in my warm and toasty home :)  I do not plan on leaving for at least 18 hours!

How do you manage a home and homeschool your children?  I'd appreciate any tips you can offer!