Plans for 2012-2013 school year

Where has the school year gone? Between Richard being sick and our vacation this spring, we have fallen rather behind. That means we will be doing summer school to finish up. If everything goes well, we will be living on our boat which means fewer distractions demanding our attention. Hopefully that will allow us the time needed to get everything done.

Even if we don’t quite manage to finish up, I still need to decide what they will be doing for next year. They will be in 3rd and 6th grade. Hard to believe Richard will be half done with school.

They will continue with Christian Light Education for reading, language arts, and Bible. Karen will probably also use them for math since she is doing better since I switched her into it. Richard will do Math-U-See level Zeta which covers decimals and percents. I always struggled with that so it will be good for me to review it with him.

They will be doing health for science. As part of that, we need to do a physical fitness test. Karen will use Health, Safety, & Manners 3 from Abeka which is a basic introduction to good health. Richard enjoyed going through it and I think she will too. This is only one semester so I’m not sure what else to do the rest of the year.

I will order Science F from Sonlight which covers health, medicine, and human anatomy for Richard. He’s already done the Abeka Health 3, so this will cover many of those topics in more detail as well as others. I can’t decide if I want to get the 4 or 5 day package. The 5 day has four more books than the 4 day. I just don’t want to get overwhelmed. On the other hand, those 4 books seem like things he is interested in like DNA and fossils. I’ve given up trying to do my own unit studies or cobble together related books. I’m just not organized enough to get through a full year like that.

I just added it all up. Richard’s will be $335 or $375 depending which science package we get (4 or 5 day). His is more expensive because of the Sonlight science. Karen’s will be less because we can use Richard’s old reader and teacher guides. It will be $145. That’s a total of about $500 for both of them.

Finishing up the school year

We are winding down our school year. In some ways that’s too bad because they’ve really been interested and doing well in the lessons recently. Richard has 6 lessons then his final test in reading and language arts. Once we finish them, I can focus more on finishing other subjects. Hopefully we’ll be finished with everything by the end of June.

His math has 7 lessons left. He’s doing well so I may skip some of the review. However, today he said he was having so much fun with a lesson on double digit multiplication that he wanted to do all the pages in the lesson by doing some each day. That’s fine as long as he gets the regularly scheduled work done too.

I’ve not been following the history schedule very well so I’m not sure what’s left. He’s up to early 20th century. We’re behind because I spent the first part of the year finishing up last year’s program. After he finishes the language arts and reading, we can spend more time with history. I don’t want to continue it until the fall again.

Both Richard and Karen have mild colds this week. Yesterday I got Richard to do work by giving him 15 minutes computer time for each lesson he completed. He actually got all 3 subjects done. Today we did math, health, and and are now working on an art lesson.

We haven’t done art in a long time. It’s one of those things that keep getting pushed aside. It will be nice to do more of it in the next few weeks. We’ll probably work on it through the summer. He said he wants to continue with this art series (Art With a Purpose, aka Art Pack) next year.

Karen’s right where I was hoping she’d be in reading and language arts. She did 2 math lessons today. She enjoys Math-U-See. However, her brother keeps confusing her by trying to link her lessons to what happens in higher grades.  She is only about halfway through her math book. Since she’s starting to understand it better, we may move a bit faster. I’d like to finish Primer before she starts Alpha in the fall.

We’re excited to be finishing the year. It’s been a great year. They have both learned so much, not only academically, but spiritually and physically as well. Karen is gaining confidence and budding out of her shy shell. Richard is exploring everything around him. I can’t believe he’s finished with the primary grades and will start upper elementary. We’ll take it easy this summer. They have nature and Bible camps planned (including an overnight camp-out for Richard), but that’s all. We’ll start school again sometime in August.

I’ve finished my curriculum plans for next year and can’t wait for ordering. Allotments are available starting July. We’ll get a lot more money next year because Karen will officially be in kindergarten. I just hope the science program I want to use (Exploration Education) is approved so we don’t have to spend our own money. Monday is the used curriculum swap. Usually the Christian Light Education representative is there. I missed the Abeka ordering last week due to car trouble. The next one is in July.

Hands-on learners (revised)

First, what is a hands-on learner? A hands-on learner is someone who learns best by touching and doing things. They like manipulatives and projects where they can do things rather than just reading textbooks and writing. Often they doodle, fidget and have trouble sitting still. For this reason, many hands-on learners are mislabeled as ADD or ADHD by schools, especially boys.

2 years ago, I wrote a post about hands-on (kinesthetic) learners. Since then, I’ve found more ideas and curriculum suggestions, so I thought I’d revisit the subject. Most of this is geared toward elementary students, but parts of it can be used for all levels. Some of this is copied from my earlier post. I’ve arranged my comments by category to make it easy to find suggestions. If you have an area of concern that I don’t cover or you have something else which you find useful for hands-on learners, please feel free to let me know.

GENERAL TIPS:

I’m finding the biggest thing is to have a variety of activities and allow lots of wiggle time instead of insisting he sit doing writing based activities all day, although we will still do those too. He also needs consistency in routines. For instance, we do reading every day. He will have to do the workbook lesson, but the lessons themselves may contain different activities. Part of learning for kinesthetic kids is learning when you really need to just sit still and get the work done. That’s hard, especially for younger students. We try to limit sitting time and have movement breaks or hands-on activities between them.

One thing that has helped greatly in all subjects is using a kitchen timer. I give him a set amount of time to do the work. If it is done before the timer goes off he may get a reward. If not then he has some sort of punishment unless he has tried but truly doesn’t understand the work. Rewards can be extra time the next day, going to the park, extra free time, or occasionally a small treat. Often I’ll let him use any time remaining as a break. Punishment is usually loss of a privilege or time-out and depends upon how much extra time he takes to complete the work. This helps keep him on task.

I used to insist he do his workbook lessons at a desk. This year, I bought him a clip board so he can do his lessons elsewhere as long as he is working. Often I’ll do this as a reward for getting work done on time the day before. Sometimes though, there are days he just can’t get comfortable at a desk and having the clipboard to choose his work area helps get him on task.

MATH:

There are a few companies now that use manipulatives beyond just the first few grades.

We love Math-u-See for math so he can fiddle with the blocks to find the answers after watching a brief video introduction to the lesson. As Mr. Demme always says, “Build it, Write it, Say it.” Using multiple senses makes memorizing anything easier. I’ve tried to apply this to other areas of his learning. I like this company because they use the same blocks all the way from kindergarten through calculus. So once they learn and get used to the blocks, students aren’t constantly switching manipulatives like some programs. Since the blocks compliment the lessons and workbook, instead of being the main focus, students don’t become dependent upon the manipulatives. Nor do parents have to purchase and keep track of many separate manipulative systems.

There is a math program called Right Start Math which uses a lot of manipulatives including an abacus, shapes, number balance scale, blocks, and more to teach basic math. I’ve seen this program and it seems good if you don’t mind keeping track of many separate manipulatives. I know a few homeschool families who have had good outcomes with this program.

LANGUAGE ARTS and READING SKILLS:

I switched from Abeka to Christian Light Education after first grade. While Abeka was thorough, it wasn’t very engaging. The work in Abeka was very repetitive and he was getting burned out by the end of the year. While still a workbook based curriculum, CLE is more engaging because they have more variety of activities in their workbooks even though they are plainer (less color and illustrations). This helped him focus on the work instead of the illustrations.

There are a few other reasons CLE is better than Abeka for hands-on learners. Abeka reading only had very basic comprehension questions whereas CLE has a full range of reading and comprehension skills. CLE also has study skills lessons which Abeka didn’t. I think these are important to learn (especially for kinesthetic learners) and not all parents know them or how to teach them. Having them built into the curriculum is great.

The goal of any reading program is ultimately to get students reading real books. The best was to do this is to expose them to quality literature as soon as possible. Readers and levelized stories have their place, but quality literature for children should not be left out.

HISTORY:

For history we use literature and activities based programs from WinterPromise instead of a history text. This is more of a Charlotte Mason approach. He’s doing well and really enjoying the reading selections. Most are historical fiction or single topic books. There are a variety of hands-on activities to reinforce the topics each week, instead of the usual narrative or fill-in-the-blank style worksheet.

SCIENCE:

My son is gifted in science besides being a hands-on learner, so finding a science program has always been a challenge. He enjoys reading about science, but finds traditional elementary texts too dull and easy. However, he’s enjoyed many of the books in the God’s Design series. There are activities that go along with many of the lessons, but often there is a lot of parent prep and help needed for them.

He’s also done the Real Science 4 Kids series the last 2 years. These have a separate lab book for write-ups of the activities. While he really enjoyed the readings, we both found the labs, and especially the lab book, tedious. The instructor guide didn’t help much either. As a result, my son was understanding the science theory from the books this year, but I didn’t do many activities to reinforce and apply the concepts.

There is a company called Exploration Education that is a project-based curriculum for physical science. I want to use them next year.  I had a hard time keeping my kids away from their booth at the homeschool curriculum fair. Every time they wandered off, I found them at their booth playing with, and asking questions about, the projects on display.

Their lessons are multi-sensory. First, they each watch a cd video-text about the lesson. There are graphics and animation to help show the concepts. Then, they do the project or experiment. Finally, they do an activity/write up about the project. The second and third levels also have assessments. The first level has narration of the reading (which can be turned off for older kids using the level) so I don’t have to read everything to her. She can be listening while I’m helping her brother with his project.

The curriculum has 3 levels. Actually the third level includes all of the second and just adds on extra lessons for each unit. Anyway, the levels cover the same topics so both my kids could learn about similar concepts at the same time. There are 4 units. The first activity in each unit is a project. This project will then be used for all the other activities in that unit. They are pretty basic but seem to show very well the concepts.

Both kids would be doing separate activities, but about similar topics at the same time. I really liked this aspect of their programs. I wouldn’t need to keep up with totally separate science topics and figure out activities to go along with both of them. Also, it didn’t look like a lot of parent prep for the lessons.

Saturday school

Sometimes if the kids haven’t finished their work during the week, we finish up on Saturday. Today was such a day. It was supposed to be just finishing up with Karen. Instead, both kids spent a lot of time learning. It was a great “school” day.

We did a little review and finished the “v” lesson in her workbook then did some reading. I let her choose what to read. She wanted to read the second set of Scholastic readers. She’s never read them before. I told her if she read all of the first set, then she could do them. Well, she read the first 11 of them right away in my lap! I didn’t have to help her very much. Then she took a break.

After lunch, she read me the last book in the set. We looked at the second set but decided they were a little too hard yet. Instead, she read 5 of the K4 Abeka readers. Finally, she was getting tired and making too many mistakes so I convinced her to stop for awhile. She’s read a total of 17 short books today! How exciting it was for us both to discover how much she can read.

She’s almost finished with the 4th workbook. There are 10 total before second grade. I’m glad we’re going slow. It’s a lot less stressful for us both. She starts the language arts workbooks along with her next reading workbook (105). We’ll continue to go slow for the rest of this year then pick up the pace a little for first grade. The goal is to have the sixth workbook done by the end of this school year. I hope to have the Christian Light first grade reading and language arts finished about halfway through next year. Then we can spend the second part of the year reading beginning books with First Favorites from Veritas Press.

I’m a bit nervous about next year when Karen will be doing more subjects.  Early on will just still be math, reading, and language arts. Later I’ll add Bible, a little social studies, and science. However, if I stick to the weekly schedule I made up it should be fine. Afterall, I had the same worries when Richard was finishing kindergarten.

She also did some math today. I was trying to do a lot of other things at the same time, so she didn’t do very much. She’s only half done with the math workbook because I haven’t devoted enough time for it recently. Now that she’s caught up in reading, we can get back to our regular  schedule again until swim lessons next month.

Richard did some kitchen science. We get fresh raw milk on Friday evenings. The jar we got yesterday had a lot of cream on it. I carefully scooped it out into a jar. Then we all took turns shaking it to make butter. We got a nice lump of butter and enough buttermilk to make biscuits. He then read the unit about milk and cream in his science book. I’ll have him measure and mix the dough later for dinner.

We had a lot of fun being silly and learning. I wish we had more days that went this smoothly.

’08-’09 school’s almost over

We have just about a month of school left to do. Originally I had planned to be finished by now but with our unexpected long vacation, we got a bit behind. This post started as a comment on another blog, but I thought everyone may be interested in a wrap up of the year. I’ll probably do one more when we actually finish to let you know how the last few weeks went.

One of the biggest changes was switching from Abeka to Christian Light Education for language arts and reading. We started with just CLE Bible last year. Then we switched to CLE for reading and language arts this year and love it. CLE is a very thorough reading and LA program. I didn’t need to worry about spelling. I ordered another spelling program to supplement CLE but didn’t need it. CLE has 3 spelling lists per Lightunit workbook with 15 words each. Then each lesson has an activity they do using the spelling words.

So far we haven’t had the frequency of huge struggles to get him to do his work since using CLE. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have his bad days when it takes all day. We just have fewer of them. If he stays on task, he can usually have everything done in less than 3 hours. Sometimes he really zooms and gets it all done in less than one hour. Just getting started seems to be the biggest hurdle. Once he’s working diligently, he keeps going. He likes a 15 minute break between subjects if the lesson takes awhile.

CLE has a consistent work load. There’s enough variety from lesson to lesson to keep him engaged rather than just fill in the blanks like Abeka seemed to be. The major subjects are broken into 10 workbooks called Lightunits. Each Lightunit has 16 lessons, 2 quizzes, a unit test and a self check. We don’t do all the assessments though. We do one lesson in reading and language arts a day. This makes it easy to plan each day. We did this with Abeka too but their workload was less consistent.

I use MathUSee for math. I actually bought the CLE 2nd grade math to supplement MUS but didn’t use it. He’s making great progress with the MUS. He’ll do Gamma and my daughter will do Primer this fall. I like MUS because we don’t have to do math everyday for them to make progress and understand math. We usually do it Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I also added American Story 1 by WinterPromise for history/social studies. That was another great choice. He’s really enjoyed the books and activities. They’re challenging and engaging with enough variety to keep him interested. His favorite part is making 3D maps of what we’re learning. I’ve added and substituted few extra books but mostly use the ones from the program. The longer novels he usually takes a week or two to read. The shorter single topic books he reads in a day or two even though they are scheduled to take a week or more. He just loves to read and surprises himself when he gets to the end.

I wish I had kept on schedule better with the history. Toward the middle of the year we had many weeks when it just didn’t get done. As such we are only a little over halfway through. I’m not sure if we’ll finish over the summer or next fall. I want to get him American Story 2, which is another 36 week schedule program. It would be nice to finish American history at the end of 3rd grade.

Karen was doing preschool. She enjoyed listening to some of Richard’s read alouds. She finished the Beginners Activity Series and is working on the ABC series by Rod & Staff. This fall she’ll do kindergarten using CLE’s Learning to Read. Since they go from LTR into second grade we may take a year off from CLE after that for her and do literature then pick up CLE again as second grade the following year.

Science has been an on again-off again subject. Still, we have done enough to progress him into the third level this spring. This is where things get tougher. He starts to need to do more in depth investigations with write ups. I think the Real Science 4 Kids will continue to be a good fit. The biggest problem is I forget to document when we’ve done something so when it comes time to submit proof, we need to recreate it. I should try keeping a science folder for it.

Overall, this year has been great. The curriculum changes I made worked out well, with the exception of WinterPromise science: The World Around Me which was too easy. Starting RS4K got that back on track. I don’t plan any major curriculum changes for this fall. It’s going to be an adjustment enough having Karen doing kindergarten while Richard does third grade. I’m glad CLE is laid out to be fairly independent.

Teaching using CLE has been more fun for me too. Not only are there much fewer arguments for doing school work, it is easier to teach. The teacher’s guide is more clear. It doesn’t take an hour just to introduce every lesson like the Abeka did. It is fun seeing his enthusiasm for learning again. Giving him variety and seeing him catch on to the topic rather than just drill rules and memorization was just what we needed. Last week, my friend (who has several children she homeschools) confided to me that whenever she went looking at different curriculum, she kept coming back to CLE because she felt such peace about their materials. I would agree. I’m looking forward to starting Karen with CLE.

Planning for ’09-’10 school year

It’s that time of year again. Time to plan and begin ordering for the next school year. This year both kids will be doing school regularly. That will take extra planning and coordination. I have a good idea of what I want to order for most subjects. As usual art is still up in the air.

I just got the information about the upcoming curriculum fairs. I missed the big IDEA one last weekend because I was still out of town so I’ll have to pay shipping from WinterPromise. That leaves the used fair which also has ordering for CLE on the 18th and the Abeka fair on the 11th. I’m not sure if I’ll order anything from Abeka this year or not. I definitely want to order from CLE and see what other goodies I can find at the used fair.

Karen will be doing early kindergarten

CLE Learning to Read

Math-U-See Primer

Dance lessons?

Richard will be doing third grade

CLE reading, Bible, language arts,

Math-U-See Gamma.

For science we’ll be studying human anatomy and biology. He’s had fun with the Real Science 4 Kids so he’ll probably continue with those as well as some in the God’s Plan series.

History will be Winter Promise’s American Story 2.

Literature will be the books that go with the history program.

Health will be Abeka’s Health, Safety, and Manners 3.

Piano lessons?

It should be a fun, exciting school year.

UPDATE 5/11/09

I just got back from the Abeka ordering. I only ordered 3 things: song cd’s for kindergarten and 3rd grade and a 3rd grade health book Richard really liked along with the tests for it. I still really like their programs, I just don’t feel that they are a good fit for us anymore.

Phonics for speech difficulties

My son has a mild speech difficulty. It’s nothing very serious. He’s just harder to understand than other kids his age. When he was younger we took him to have his hearing and mouth checked to rule out any physical problems. He’s fine.

Most parents and educators agree phonics are a valuable way to teach kids how to read. I have also discovered by working with phonics orally, my son’s speech has improved. At first is wasn’t very noticeable. Then as the sounds he was learning increased in difficulty, his speech began to improve. Now in second grade he is learning about syllables, stressed and unstressed sounds and syllables, silent letters. He really has to carefully pronounce the words to get the answers correct.

The reading program we started with (Abeka) was very phonics intensive as is the program we use now (Christian Light Education). They are both good programs for learning to read (CLE is more gentle of the two). They both focus on phonics first then sight words. Phonics are the core of these programs rather than an extra thrown in.

Another important thing with kids that have speech difficulty, is parents paying attention to the speech patterns of their friends. My son had a friend who used souther drawl such as ya for you, dropping the in -ing ending words or changing -ing to -na (gonna instead of going to). When I noticed my son copying his speech, I spoke to the other boys mom and explained the problem. I corrected both boys and made a game of it after awhile so the other boy didn’t feel picked on. Eventually, both boys speech was much better. I wasn’t trying to punish the other boy or get rid of his accent, just make him easier to understand and keep my son’s speech improving.

We still need to tell my son to slow down and speak carefully at times, especially when he is tired or excited. Phonics and good modeling were the keys to helping him.