08-09 school is over

Yesterday Richard took his final 2 unit tests. That concludes his second grade year.

However, learning isn’t over for the summer. We didn’t manage to finish all the history so he will keep working on that through the summer. This week was Bible camp at church in the afternoons where he made a new best friend, Eric. In 2 weeks he will go to Camp Habitat, a week long nature day camp held at a local nature preserve. This will be his fourth year going to that.

Karen did 2 camps this past week, Camp Habitat in the morning and then church camp in the afternoon. She had a lot of fun with the other kindergarten kids. Camp Habitat ended at noon and church camp started at one so it made for a bit of a rush lunch. I’d pick both kids up at the church at 5. This made for a long day for Karen. She was pretty tired and ready for bed by late evening.

The last few weeks went remarkably well considering all the difficulties of the past few years getting work done at the end. I think Christian Light Education having variety in activities yet still structured lesson format made the difference. It also helped that his sister was away at camp this last week so he could concentrate. He decided that he wanted to do his work in the car. He found a new pencil and kept it in the car. He actually did good doing his work like that and usually finished at least one subject while dropping Karen off.

Karen is still working on the ABC series. I haven’t worked as much with her since I was trying to get Richard finished. I can now spend more time with her this summer. She’s been asking when she can learn to read so I may start her school earlier than his since it requires more of my time. She really enjoys looking at Dr. Seuss and other picture books.

The remainder of the Christian Light order came in. Now, I just need to wait until after the first when allotment funds are available to order their math and Richard’s history and science. We looked through the CLE books the day they came in. Both kids are excited about their new school books. Although, I admit to being nervous about teaching 2 kids different grades at once. Oh, well. It’ll work out somehow if I pray for guidance.

We haven’t decided on a start date this fall. It depends upon whether or not I need to go to Spokane to help my dad if he has his kidney operation. If not, then we’ll likely start in August again. Otherwise, who knows.

It’s a relief to have most of their books already for next year. I’m not worried about the math and science. Math-U-See and Rainbow Resource ship pretty quick. However, Winter Promise is another story. That order came in piece-meal over several months last fall so I couldn’t start history until we’d already been doing school almost 3 weeks in early September.

Now we’ll take next week totally off from school (unless they ask to do something).

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Starting art

Today we started art. We skipped the first lesson. It was a review of coloring in the lines. He’s good at that already and the picture wasn’t interesting for him. Today’s lesson was 302: shading. He really enjoyed this lesson and discussion. It talks about how to find the light source relating to the subject then how to shade accordingly. The coloring page was 4 fruits. He did good. If we manage to finish our usual Friday work, I may make this a regular addition to our week.

I went ahead and bought Artpac 3 (available from Christian Light and Rainbow Resource). I was pleasantly surprised. It is better than the glorified coloring books of 1 and 2. It has more teaching of techniques. It didn’t take any longer for me to introduce and get him started than any other CLE lessons. Each lesson has a list of materials needed and clearly stated purpose. There are 40 lessons. It is very basic with black and white pages (a bit dull compared to some glossy full color art books). It would be better if the examples were color and bigger. However, it fits very well with the other CLE materials: wholesome, gentle, thorough, kid and parent friendly. My son loved his results with this first lesson.

Now he’s sitting in my rocker singing with his “Praises for Children” and “Wee Sing” songbooks. I’m not sure how much he understands about reading the music or if he’s making up his own with the words. He knows some of the songs from CD’s and church.

He really loves God and Jesus. I think it helps that we limit what influences him and his sister. They don’t watch much TV or popular radio. We scrutinize their books, trying to give them wholesome reading material with good moral lessons (including any drawings and pictures). As he gets older, we can let him have more choices about what to do but for now while he is young and impressionable, it is best to keep a close eye on their influences. I think this is part of the reason there are so many young people with social problems. They don’t have a secure, solid moral base established before they are slowly exposed to different ideas. This leaves them confused and rebellious, seeking security from their friends rather than parents.

The arts are one way kids are exposed to different lifestyles and cultures through painting, drawing, music, and drama. This can be good and bad. It’s also one reason I had a difficult time choosing an art program. I wanted something more meaningful than just crafts but still wholesome. Several of the mainstream art programs do a good job of showing various art techniques but aren’t very wholesome for young students while many of the Christian art programs are wholesome but not much more than crafts. I think the Art the a Purpose Artpacs are a good medium. I can choose which artists to study while it covers drawing and painting techniques. Then when the kids are older and have a good moral and basic arts foundation, they can study more mature themes in the arts.

Second week of homeschool

Today began our second week of second grade homeschool. Things are going well. I’ve even started the article for Christian Light’s Lightlines that I was asked to write about how I’m using my training. Last week we reviewed and did introduction units. We seem to be taking longer but not sure if that is because of the curriculum switch or that he has more to think about (he was very quick at marking vowels without really understanding what he was doing). Anyway, it seems to be taking us about an hour longer each day to get through school this year compared to last.

Switching from Abeka to Christian Light Education for Language Arts and reading has helped regain his interest. He’s learning a lot and actually enjoying it again. There is a lot of variation in each lesson with different activities geared toward the same topic or idea. He’s learning to scan the text to look for answers rather than just doing an activity. Each activity has just the right number of problems so I know he’s learning but not too many so he gets bored.

He missed one out of 15 spelling words on his test Friday. I don’t usually like tests but I think spelling is important. He wasn’t very confident so I started with the easiest two as examples. He quickly gained motivation and confidence as we went along. It was oral. He’s doing a lot more writing which I think is great but he’s gets tired quickly since he’s not used to it. Today he said he wanted to do creative writing. We’ll see, but I think that will have to wait until either late this year or third grade unless there is some with WinterPromise.

We have settled into a routine. The day begins with handwriting. We are using Abeka’s handwriting instead of the short penmanship lessons in CLE. This gets him calmed down to focus without having to think very much. So far it is a review of manuscript. In a few days, it begins introducing cursive. Then we do language arts (including weekly spelling list with a test on Fridays), reading, and Bible. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we do math with Math-U-See. The other days we do social studies. Things may need to be adjusted when the order from WinterPromise comes in with the history and science books.

While Richard is working on his school, Karen insists on doing her preschool activity books. Today she did making straight lines. She did really well. She wants to do math when her brother does so I’m keeping the numbers workbook for those days only. She only spends about 20 minutes on her “schoolwork” so I try to keep Richard on things that can be interrupted or work independently during that time so I can help her.

Ordering 2nd grade

Today was a good mail day. I got the packet for ordering stuff through the school district for this year and the Adventures in Odyessy CD’s. I’m going to do purchase orders this week so things will hopefully be here when I get back from my trip and we can begin school. I already have the Christian Light Education order for language arts, reading, Bible, and preschool.

Here’s what I still need:

Math-U-See: Beta, student and teacher kits

WinterPromise: The World Around Me and American Story 1

Atelier Art: Level 2, module 1 (I may wait until we have started school a few weeks for this)

The weather has been giving us a taste of fall. Temperatures have been in the 50’s during the day and mid or low 40’s overnight. I actually had a small yellow leaf fall on the car yesterday and there is a yellow leaf on a tree outside our living room window. *sigh* Winter’s coming. It is supposed to get back into the upper 60’s later this week before starting our fall rains. I’m going to melt back East. Their low temperatures are warmer than our high temps!

God in US History

I listened to Focus on the Family this morning driving with my kids. They were doing the first of a 2 part series on God in US History called America: Designed with Godly Intent. I am somewhat of a US history buff so this was interesting. It is an aspect of US history that often gets shorted or even left out all together today. However, as Dr. Dobson and his guest pointed out, God was very influential on our Founding Fathers and the early documents in founding of our country. Unfortunately the current trend is taking the non-establishment clause which forbids the government from creating a national religion and turning it into a suppression of religion which is quite different. It has gotten so bad that parts of our founding documents including the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence have been banned from public display because they mention God! This is just one interesting aspect of God’s role in US history discussed on the program.

I went ahead and bought the CD of the series as well as a DVD titled America’s Godly Heritage. There was also a collection of 12 US history themed Adventures in Odyssey shows titled For God & Country which Richard wanted. Since he’s studying early US history this year, I figured it would be a fun add in. All together it cost $54. Shipping is free.

It’s here!

My order from Christian Light Education arrived today! It was all in one box. Karen was excited about getting her preschool workbooks. She did 3 pages of tracing lines in one of the Beginners set this morning. Richard’s friend was over so he didn’t get much of a look at the workbooks. I’ll have him look at them tonight. If he likes them, we’ll send the Abeka back tomorrow.

We’re going to have to get Karen her own pencil box and supplies. She has a box for her crayons but not things like pencils and erasers which she’ll need this fall. I also need to clean off a bookshelf for her school stuff. Its hard to believe she is getting ready for school, even if it is just preschool. I need to put away Richard’s first grade books and put out the second grade stuff on his shelves. We need more bookshelves, but what homeschool family doesn’t? 😆

The first 2 lessons from the CLE reading are on following directions. Then they start the first story. It looks like 5 lessons to cover about 2 stories and one quiz a week. Each workbook has 15 lessons and there are 10 workbooks for reading and language arts. There is also a study page for the verse that goes along with each story. It will be good to have these structured reading skills lessons combined with the more unstructured WinterPromise for reading comprehension.

The main drawback is CLE doesn’t have much for handwriting. We’ll keep the Abeka handwriting and use the activities in CLE for review and additional practice. It will be good since CLE has students write penmanship on a separate piece of paper.

We decided to keep the Abeka spelling book. My husband had trouble spelling and believes more the better when it comes to spelling practice. I’m thinking of just having the CLE spelling as practice and using the Abeka for testing. The Abeka is arranged by word families. They sort of correspond with some of the lessons in CLE so it won’t just be random words like the first grade spelling seemed. We’ll wait and see if that really happens or is too much work.

I can’t wait to start. That’s the drawback to ordering in the spring. You need to give the kids a break but the books are starting to arrive so you want to start. I’m going to VA for training from CLE in August instead of July. Too much going on with Ray getting back for me to leave right away. Anyway, when I get back from there in late August, we’ll start school. I’m going to be ordering the rest of Richard’s schoolbooks next month when allotments open up.

Switching from Abeka

I’ve decided to switch from Abeka to Christian Light Education (CLE) for language arts/reading. Unfortunatly, not only have I already ordered Abeka, but the order arrived today. How’s that for timing! 😛 Anyway, its not all bad. There was a music CD, 2 KJV Bibles, and a numbers workbook for Karen we will be keeping. In the mean time we now have 3 different language arts programs: WinterPromise, Abeka, and soon CLE. I just need to have Richard do the first few lessons this month so I know if the CLE will work before I send the Abeka back for full credit . We will probably still use the Abeka handwriting workbook since it transitions from print to cursive in the style he has been using.

As I stated in prior posts, Richard has been burned out with Abeka language arts by the end of both the last two school years. Yes, he has learned a lot but it isn’t fun or engaging. The work is very repetitive. Drilled the death, he was tuning out, making the last third of the books a real struggle. So I have been looking for new language arts program which is comprehensive and engaging. While Abeka is comprehensive, it isn’t very engaging. WinterPromise seems engaging but I’m not sure how comprehensive it is.

Well, I looked over the scope and sequence and some of the workbooks for CLE 2nd and 3rd grade language arts. He is somewhere in between them so I decided 2nd would be good. I don’t want to skip some important things and the things he already knows will be good review. It seems more balanced than the Abeka and definitely more gentle but still very thorough. Hopefully that with the WinterPromise will be a good combination.

Another thing I like about CLE which was totally non-existent with Abeka, is that they have study skills throughout all their different programs. Their website has this to say about the reading program: “A major goal of this reading program is to teach children to think…One goal of this [reading] series is to give him the needed skills to make those decisions by thinking that is based on God’s word.” The more I see about them, the more I like them.

The readers for CLE seem more wholesome. Richard really likes that style of story. He’s already read the Abeka readers so I’m not sure how much more he’ll get out of reading them again. Especially since they have no questions other than a few basic comprehension. Whereas the CLE has both comprehension and reading skills questions related to the readings.

When I did the order with Christian Light Education on Saturday, I didn’t realize their reading program has a lot of grammar in it as well so I only ordered the language arts. I thought it was just reading practice and comprehension. He’s a good reader and we’ll have a lot of reading and comprehension practice with the books from WinterPromise. Instead it also has things about how to do paragraphs, dictionary skills, and each story has a Bible verse to study that ties in with the story. Now, I need to call CLE and order the reading also to have a balanced program. Part of the 2nd grade reading program was online which is how I realized my mistake.

Even with the reading program, CLE is still cheaper than Abeka. The cost for CLE’s 10 LA workbooks, 10 reading workbooks, 2 hardcover readers, and reading guide was $92. It cost over $60 just for the Abeka workbooks. Then the guidebook is $35 and the readers are over $100. This makes the total cost for Abeka more than double that of CLE. I already had several readers so I (thankfully) only spent around $100. Our homeschool program won’t cover either so I’d prefer to save money, especially if it is a better fit for us.

If he does well with it, I will probably start Karen in CLE rather than Abeka so she doesn’t have to switch. I know she’ll like it since she is enjoying their preschool coloring workbooks. I ordered her another set of preschool activity books along with Richard’s 2nd grade LA and Bible. It will be interesting “doing school” with both of them this fall.

While CLE may not be as popular as other publishers, or even a very well known company, I have had favorable dealings with them every time. If I have a problem they fix it right away. Their staff are very helpful and I have never felt pushed into buying their books like with some other publishers. While their website isn’t the greatest it does give the basics of what they offer for both their school programs and other Christian books/publications and has online ordering. You can call them if you have questions about their books or your particular homeschool situation. My orders have arrived within 2 weeks.

UPDATE 11/3/08

We’ve now been using the CLE for over 2 months. It’s going great. What a wonderful change. No longer do I have a huge daily struggle getting him to finish his lessons. I feel he is really learning. He said last night “language arts is full of learning”. He likes the stories and is excited when it is time to read another one. His writing skills have really improved. I’m so glad we switched. I finally feel we have our curriculum on track.

UPDATE 2/28/09

We’re now over half finished with the school year. He’s still doing great with the CLE. One thing that worries some people when they first see the CLE workbooks is the lack of color and pictures. For the most part, they are plain text with very few drawings or other pictures, unlike Abeka which seemed to have color drawings and pictures on every page. I’m finding my son is better able to concentrate without the pictures distracting him. Most of the Abeka pictures just fill white space anyway and have no relation to the lesson.

There’s enough variety of activities in the lessons to keep him from getting bored. Most language arts lessons have the new material then a section called We Remember which is review. Abeka didn’t have much direct review like that. It really helps him remember and understand better.

Karen has now finished the first set of preschool activity books and begun the second set. I would consider this set to be early kindergarten but since CLE doesn’t have kindergarten, it’s referred to as preschool. She is learning colors, numbers, and shapes. Today she read the word “red” and is learning left and right. When she finishes these, she will be ready for their beginning first grade program, Learning to Read.

I love how gentle this preschool program has been. We go at her pace, not something set by a guide book like K4 Abeka was. The drawings are simple, yet she has been enjoying coloring them. Most days she gets out her workbook and crayons then asks to do school when her brother is. I’ve notified the school district on my intent to register her for homeschool pre-k this fall. She’ll get a $200 allotment.