Saturday, November 18, 2017

Time4Learning: A Secord Chance

In my last post, I wrote that I was trying to find more independent learning options for Bug.  Years ago, I had tried Time4Learning for him and decided that it was kind of bleh.  Since then, I've known so many people who use it and really like it that I decided to give it another go.  I still don't like it. 

Bug tried the math and the science, 5th grade level. They were okay.  It was a lot of reading dry text and answering multiple choice questions.  I just don't see how that is learning.  I did a lot of that in school and got excellent grades and remember nothing. 

So, we are going to give Clever Dragons a go when January comes around.  We are mostly on break because we started the school year in July. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Drastic Changes

Well, in my 8th year of homeschooling, with a 13-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 2-year-old, I reached my breaking point.  It's been a difficult few months.  I have seriously considered sending one or both of my boys to public school and have investigated online some private schools as well.  I have found keeping up with everything to be nearly impossible this year. 

I am making some changes, and we'll see how they work, and if they work, and what other changes need to be made. 

I have put Bee into an algebra class.  I am signing Bug up for Time4Learning, where we will be using the math and science sections, for now.  I am letting Bug quit Spanish because I don't have the energy to make him do it.  We are taking a break from foreign language for the year for him, with the tentative plan of starting Latin next year.  Oddly, for the first time, both boys are really enjoying "homeschool days" at museums, so we are doing a lot of those. 

The boys are fine; all three kids are fine; the truth is that I am not fine.  Homeschooling is hard, exhausting, and thankless.  So is being a mom to a teen, tween, and toddler.  I am taking care of myself; I am getting some long-overdue therapy; and I'm looking forward to a more balanced lifestyle in the future. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Fun Day with WriteShop

I promise that I am not being paid by WriteShop, nor am I affiliated with them in any way!  I am just an enthusiastic customer.  In my 8th year of homeschooling, I have finally found a program that works for our family! 

Today, we were working on the second writing project for each boy.  (Each project has multiple steps).  For both, their was laughter and enjoyment.  Bug and I did a fun activity where we went from the general to the specific.  I had not expected him to like it, but he really got into it.  Bee had fun on his thesaurus activity, coming up bizarre answers. 

This program is very low stress but somehow manages to be effective.  It is also far cheaper than a class or online tutor.  I do not regret using those options in the past, but it is nice that I don't feel like I have to use an outside teacher and have the option of offering writing in-house. 

A Day Homeschooling a 4th Grader and an 8th Grader

I am pretty happy with our daily routine.  We are in a weird situation with few outside activities right now.  I am hoping that we'll add in more park days, that the boys will each get to do a robotics team, and we need to start piano again.  But all of those are pending for various reasons.  If the robotics teams do not work out, we will have to add in a science activity of some sort.

I am putting more responsibility on the boys for finishing their own work.  They have to finish in order to get screen time.  If they do not finish the interactive portions of their day by late afternoon, it is too late, because I am not going to work with them at that point. 

Of course, I count anything they do that is academic as "school!"  For instance, Bug gave a spontaneous oral report on the eating habits of archer fish, and I wrote that down!  

Right now, here is Bug's checklist:

  • Bible (listen to me read from the Golden Children's Bible, for religious reasons as well as cultural literacy)
  • Geography (listen to a chapter from a beautiful book called Minn on the Mississippi).  
  • Writing (an activity from Write Shop level D)
  • Spanish (we are burning through the Speekee videos and plan to try another program)
  • Math (could be Khan Academy, a chapter from Life of Fred, a game, problems I write for him, a workbook page--I give him a lot of choice in this area)  
  • Spelling (we do a much abbreviated version of All About Spelling, Level 4).
  • Handwriting (a very short sentence).  
All of his lessons are very short.  We don't do any formal reading.  He chooses to spend hours a day listening to audiobooks. 

Here is Bee's checklist:

  • Bible (Even though Bee is 13 years old, has good Biblical literacy from 2 years of Sunday school, as well as a wonderful homeschool Biblical Literacy course, I have asked him to join us for this.  For the first 11 years of his life, I was an atheist-agnostic, and I feel sad that I never read Bible stories to him.  So, it is special for me now to read them to all three children.)  
  • Write Shop
  • Social Studies (this may be reading his literature selection, watching his documentary, or working on a paper)
  •  Algebra
  • Spanish (online lesson or watch an episode of Mi Vida Loca on the BBC website)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review of Online CAT Test at Christian Liberty Academy (Part I)

As a habit leftover from homeschooling in Virginia, I give my children a standardized test every year.  My current state only requires every three years, but I like to have a test for my records, since we have a tendency school in a nontraditional way.  I think it's good for my children to have practice taking tests.  It gives me a sense of completion for the year. 

This year, I did something a little different:  I had Bug take online CAT test at Christian Liberty Academy.  I had intended to have him take the ITBS at our (now dissolved) co-op.  I normally like to test in May, but the test was to be offered in August, and then with the coop dissolved, I had to come up with something different to do. 

Giving the ITBS myself at home is not a great option with a toddler in the house.  I would have to do it on the weekends when my husband could watch Dot, and that is a pretty big drag on our weekend.  At least this year, I could have given both tests at the same time, since grades 3-8 can be given together.  Still, I just felt it was too much on top of starting a new school year.  Besides, if I want them to take the ITBS in the spring, I thought it would be better to do a different test; I don't want them taking the same test with just a few months in between. 

The online CAT test was easy to sign up for and easy to give to Bug.  I had him take it while Dot was napping or occupied, and we did it over a couple of weeks.  Most of the sections were very short, under 15 minutes.  The best thing about it was that his score was sent to me instantly after he finished the final test.  I was able to immediately email the results to my husband and print them for my records book. 

The disadvantage is that it is only a language and math test.  I like the science and social studies sections of the Iowa because they show that my children have a good level of literacy in those subjects. 

Bug did quite well.  His best score was for vocabulary (99th percentile) and lowest in language mechanics (75th percentile).  Haha; I am hoping WriteShop will help us with those skills.  As is the pattern for both of my boys, Bug did better on math concepts than he did on computation.  I'm very pleased with how he did.  I intended to give him a little bit of test prep, such as some arithmetic and grammar practice worksheets, but, as usual, I didn't get around to it, so his scores represent what he can do with absolutely no specific test practice at all. (Sorry for the shameless bragging--I can't stop it!)

Overall, I am happy with the test and will be giving the CAT to Bee in a couple of weeks.  I really want my kids, particularly Bee, to get practice taking a test in a group setting, so I may not use it again, but I will keep it in mind as a solid back-up plan for the boys in the future. 

Review of WriteShop, Part II

So, we have had WriteShop for about 3 weeks now, although we have not worked on it as many days as I might have liked.  Next month, I am going to have a daily checklist posted, so that we are clear on expectations.  Both boys have finished their first assignments. 

Bee, working in WriteShop I, has completed a carefully written description of an object.  Bug, working in WriteShop Junior, Level D, has a short letter of invitation finished. 

I will put both finished assignments into a writing portfolio for the year that they can show to their dad and possibly their grandparents, and so that they can feel like they have made progress. 

I am happy because we actually completed writing assignments together with a minimum of pain. 

It's interesting how it worked out.  Bee seemed to dislike the initial work but worked diligently on his actual planning and paragraph.  Bug had more fun with the prep work and was absolutely sick of the idea of a letter of invitation by the end!  So definitely time to move on to a new assignment. 

I am not stressed by this program at all and am looking forward to the future assignments.  I feel more confident and excited about teaching writing to young children, and I think that the children will feel more confident as writers by the end of the year. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

One week with Speekee Accelarate

Bug was so resistant to taking online Spanish lessons via Skype that I agreed that he would not have to do so, even though I think it is the best way to learn.  We decided to try Speekee.  We used that program briefly years ago, but he was so little, and we had trouble sticking with it.  It turns out, they have something called Speekee Accelerate for kids his age.  Bug is 9. 

I eagerly signed up for it, as it promised to do all the Spanish prep for me. 

There are four videos a week.  The first was pretty good, although only 4 minutes long.  The other videos turned out to last only a few seconds each!  I am really not happy about it. 

Obviously, Bug has prior experience with Spanish, but it's just not enough material in my opinion, even for a beginner. Each week seems more like part of one day's material to me.  So, I guess that's how we will use it, and then we will have to figure out something else to try. 

It did spark interest though, and after he watched the videos for days 2-4, he was trying to figure out how to say that his brother is dumb in Spanish.  

I will update, if my opinion changes.