Friday, August 31, 2012

Exploring Genres: August: True Crime

This is a difficult genre to find for kids. There were really very few child appropriate books on True Crime available at our library. Dea has not been keeping me updated with what books she's reading, so I have no idea what she has read this month.

The D.B. Cooper Hijacking
The Zodiac Killer
You Wouldn't Want to be a Chicago Gangster
The Nerve Gas Attack on the Tokyo Subway
Murder on the Highway

The Killer Book of Serial Killers
Dead Reckoning
Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed
A Date With Death

August Poet of the Month: Jack Prelutsky

Jack Prelutsky has always been a favorite in our family. We own a few of his book, and our library has many. So, this was one poet we had no trouble finding books for.

The New Kid on the Block
The Swamps of Sleethe
I've Lost my Hippopotamus
Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face
Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep
The Carnivals of the Animals
The Gargoyle on the Roof

Week in Review 8/31/12

I haven't done one of these posts for  several weeks (apparently not since sometime in June). Part of that is because I have been busy with dealing with all the changes around here. Our meal schedule changed. Our school schedule changed. My husband's work schedule changed. My sleeping schedule has been all kinds of wonky, since it doesn't like change. My shopping & library schedule has changed. Basically, the way everything was planned & scheduled has changed this summer.

Since it has been so many weeks since my last post of this nature, I will do it a bit differently. Instead of telling you just what we did this week, I will try to give a general update on what we've done since the last 'Week in Review' post.

ASL - We're still using Signing Time. We've finished the entire original series and are now doing Series Two. We aren't really enjoying these any more. The first dvds were good. They had a good amount of signs in them. However, as you go along, there are more and more songs in each dvd. By the time you hit Series Two, there are more songs than signs. It is actually quite annoying. After every 2-4 signs, it's time for another song. Also, in Series Two, they introduced additions to the dvds - game time, story time, abc time, counting time, etc. Each of these is proceeded by yet another song. They just seem to stop the flow of the dvd & don't really seem to serve any purpose other than filling time. Plus, there are many more repeat words in Series Two. Basically, we're only continuing with ST because we have free access to them, and I haven't found anything else that's aimed at kids & shows them exactly what to do.

Latin - We're still using Latin for Children. He is just about done with Primer A. As of this week, he has finished chapter 30. All that remains are chapters 31 (unit review) & 32 (whole book review). He's still enjoying it, and is very much looking forward to starting Primer B.

Logic - He has requested that we stop doing Original logic Puzzles. He finished Word Winks & moved onto More Word Winks. He is still doing Logic Safari book 2. This week he finished lesson 20. He is also still doing Fun With Logic 2 days a week and Mensa Whodunits one day a week.

Art - Art has mostly been choosing paintings from The Louvre and discussing/studying them. He has also done some Color Your Own Van Gogh. This week, he gave wood burning a shot. He has a lot of difficulty holding the tool properly & can't maintain pressure. So, I'm thinking we should wait another year or two before we try again, to give him time to mature a bit. So, we then did foil embossing. We don't have any embossing foil, so we used some aluminum foil folded to four layers. We used the blunt end of paint brushes to indent the foil. Then, we painted them with black acrylic thinned down with water, and wiped the paint off so it just left a touch of color.

Geography - Mostly, he has been playing games online to practice state names & capitals. We also did the hurricane tracking activity in Map Corner.

Science - We are still studying Meteorology. He has read almost every book on Meteorology that our library carries. He has also watched most of the dvds (from the library & Netflix) & shows on Netflix that deal with Meteorology, and visited several websites. Plus, he has worked on some of his projects/activities. I'm hoping to dedicate the next few weeks to his activities/projects.

History - He has been reading tons of books, visiting websites, watching dvds, and working on some of his projects (like creating his coat of arms). This week, we skipped History on Thursday, due to me not feeling well. Friday, he visited websites on the Middle Ages, while I went grocery shopping.

Math - He still continues to do 30 minutes a day online, either on Khan Academy or playing fun Math games.
PP - He has finished everything that I wanted him to do in this book. There are still pages from the sections on adding, subtracting, and multiplying with decimals that we may use as review, but all the parts that he needed to work on or had new info have been done.

LOFD - He is not yet done with Life of Fred Decimals & Percents. He will continue with this book until it is finished. As of now, he has done through the bridge after chapter 20.

TTM - He has not been doing these. Most of the pages left require working with fractions, which he has not formally studied yet (he's learned some in life & while studying decimals, but isn't very comfortable with them yet). So, he is holding off until he has started Finishing Fractions & Life of Fred Fractions.

Key to - He has been working on these pretty consistently. As of this week, he has finished Measurement book 2 and is ready to start Metric Measurement book 2.

Language Arts -
Easy Grammar - He has continued to switch back & forth between the books. He finishes a section in EG3, and then does that same section in EG4. He has now finished the capitalization sections in both books & moved to the verb section of EG3.

CTD - he's been working a bit slow in Writing. He is currently in chapter 5.

AAS - We are still in level 3. We missed a few weeks, so are not as far as I would like. As of this week, we have finished step 13.

Vocab - We have stopped doing vocab. Whenever he comes across new words, he looks them up. Plus, he has a huge vocabulary, that grows without formal study. So, I really see no point in forcing a vocab study right now.

Music - He still has his drums & his Native American flute, though he has not been practicing them as much as I would like. We have Essentials of Music Theory on his computer, but he hasn't started doing it yet.

In other news this week, Dea informed me that she does not like Easy Grammar & wants something else for Grammar next year. She does seem to be getting quite a bit wrong on her Grammar assignments. I'm not sure if that is due to actually needing more instruction or due to her not liking the program (she does have a history of sloppy, incorrect work when she doesn't like the program she's using). Of course, I already bought Easy Grammar Ultimate grade 11 for her to use in 9th. However, there is no point in fighting her all next year. So, I am looking at other options. I'm also thinking of buying another 1 or 2 Logic workbooks for Jay, since he enjoys it so much & is always asking to do extra pages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hurricane Names

Today, Tropical Storm Isaac was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. Since Jay is currently studying Meteorology in Science, we thought this was a good opportunity to learn how they name tropical storms/hurricanes.
There are 6 lists of names that they rotate through. So, the list for this year will be used again in 2018. When a storm causes so much destruction & death that it would be insensitive to survivors to reuse the name, the name is retired. We found out how many names have been retired since my birth year, hubby's birth year, Jay's birth year, and Dea's birth year.

We looked over the names lists and the retired names, to see how many people we know whose names were on the lists. None of our names are on there, but we have several family members with names on the lists. We also discussed which storms he remembers. There weren't many that he personally remembers, since he's so young. Though, there were several that he has read about, and he pointed those out to me.

Jay had fun reading about how tropical storms & hurricanes are named. He also had fun reading through the name lists. Plus, he learned quite a bit, having never looked into the naming of storms prior to today.  I learned a little, too. I knew they alternate male & female names, and that they retire names of particularly horrible storms. However, I didn't know about the 6 rotating lists. I also didn't know that the practice of using both male & female names didn't start until 1978, when they stopped using only female names. Jay and I had a discussion about why the practice of using only female names was sexist.

It was an interesting, impromptu Science lesson that fits perfectly into his current Science topic.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Million Minute Family Challenge

Have you ever heard of the Million Minute Family Challenge? I hadn't, until recently. This year is the 12th annual Million Minute Family Challenge. You sign up as a team or family, set a goal for how many minutes you plan to play, and sign into the site to log your minutes. The point is obviously to encourage non-electronic game play with family & friends. Video games, computer games, and dvd games don't count. You are supposed to play board games, card games, and dice games. It runs from Sept. 1 - Dec. 31.

I signed us up, with a goal of 1000 minutes. This will be split with some minutes being games with all four of us & some from games with just the kids & me. I will be keeping track of our minutes, here on my blog, as well as on the challenge site. We love playing games together, so I don't see a problem with reaching our goal.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Random Thoughts

Ok, I took my time finishing planning Dea's 9th grade year, since she won't be starting it until January. I am done planning it, though. I have checklist for the year, every lesson/assignment in every subject. I have all of her courses planned out on our school site. I have all the assignments in HST+. I just need to get my notebook for 9th grade & get everything copied into it, in legible writing, for daily/weekly tracking.

So, with Jay in 3rd and Dea's 9th planned out, will I be taking a break from planning? No. No, I will not. I had spent some time earlier figuring out Dea's Chemistry for 10th. That made Jay want to do Chemistry for 5th, even though we normally don't do one branch of Science per year until high school. So, I will be planning Jay's Chemistry for 5th. I will finish planning Dea's Chemistry. I will plan Dea's History and the Sociology of Native Americans she wants to do in 10th. I will plan Jay's History for 4th & 5th. I will plan Jay's Science for 4th (the History of Science). Basically, I'll be working on the next school year for each.

On the medical front, I finally got my blood pressure under control. The systolic number had been good, but the diastolic was still too high. I went in the other day, and it is finally where we want it. Yay! That means no more having to go to the Dr every week or two. The kitten has been neutered & has gotten the last round of shots he needed. That means no more vet appointments every few weeks. Yay! However, that doesn't mean no more Drs at all. Dea has an appoint with the dentist and one with the eye doctor coming up. Plus, I should set up an appointment for her to get a physical. I am getting very tired of waiting rooms.

I know I have been horrible about doing my weekly review of what we've been doing for school. We've been working, I just haven't had time/energy to type out the posts each week. I will try to get back into doing that this coming week. I'm still tossing around the idea of doing a whole week of "Day in the Life" posts, but am not sure when I'd do it. We've pretty much adjusted to the new schedule, I just need to get my sleeping schedule to regulate again. The change in schedule threw off my sleeping schedule (always does), and my body is having issues figuring out when I should be sleeping. I seem to be getting closer to a sleep schedule that works for me, though.

I think I'll end this post with a cute picture:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homeschool Planning for the Year part 5

I have some pictures of things I mentioned in previous posts in this series, but didn't get them in the original posts. So, I decided to put them into a post of their own.

These are pictures of Jay's school binder, as mentioned here. His binder holds folders for each day of the week. The folders hold independent work.

This is the notebook I use to keep track of what is planned for the year & what he has done.

This is the what the checklist, as discussed here, looks like:

This is how I keep track of what we do in a week:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Homeschooling High School

I really don't understand the anxiety & trepidation with which so many approach homeschooling high school. Many start their homeschool journey planning to only homeschool through jr high, with the intent of putting the child in public or private school for high school. Those who do homeschool the high school years regularly post about how terrified they are about those years.

I honestly don't get it. I don't find it hard to plan high school courses. Dea did her first high school course in elementary school. By 8th grade, all of her courses were high school level. She should be starting 9th in January (she's a bit behind schedule due to learning to manage her own time better). She will likely graduate after 10th. The only thing I find truly difficult in homeschooling her is dealing with her horrid attitude, and I'd have to deal with that regardless of where her education took place. The combination of severe ADHD, Bipolar, and teenage girl is not a fun one to deal with.

Jay will likely be starting high school Math in 4th grade. I'm sure he'll also be starting high school courses in other subjects well before 9th grade. If I was insecure about my ability to cover high school course work, it would be pointless for me to have even started homeschooling the kids.

I just don't get why people are so worried about their ability to cover high school level work. I didn't exactly attend great high schools. I got stuck with the idiot Science teacher, for both Biology & Chemistry, who refused to involve any lab work at all. I did no lab work in my high school Sciences; it was all read the text & answer the questions. My Geometry teacher did the work for most of the class (he solved the homework problems on the board, step-by-step, before collecting the assignments). Latin was not an offered language at any of the 3 high schools I attended. The work was ridiculously easy, and insanely boring, in pretty much every single class I took. Yet, despite the fact that my formal education was seriously lacking rigor & challenge, I feel totally comfortable covering high school level work with my kids. Why? Because, even when we come to a subject or topic with which I have little or no experience or education, I know how to find resources & materials for us. I have faith in my ability to learn the material, my kids' ability to learn the material, and my ability to find the resources we need.

At least one of the kids will do Calculus. I never took Calculus, as I had no desire to learn it. I have no fears about one of the kids taking it. I've had no problems choosing & setting up labs for Dea's high school Sciences, despite the lack of them in my high school. I've had no problems learning Latin with the kids. I've had no concerns over covering high school Sciences that I did not take in high school, like Anatomy & Physiology or Geology. I don't know computer programming, but didn't freak when the kids asked to learn it, I just found them some materials. I don't know what it is that is different about me, but I have never been worried, overwhelmed, or scared about homeschooling the kids through high school. I have no insecurities about it or fears that they won't get into a decent college. I firmly believe my kids can do whatever they put their minds to. If they really want to go to an Ivy League school, they'll make it there.

There is nothing scary about homeschooling high school. It may require a bit more organization and record keeping, but that isn't hard. It doesn't have to include Honors or AP courses through online schools or at the local public school. Colleges want students to take advantage of what opportunities they were offered. If a student doesn't have Honors or AP courses because they didn't have access to them, it will not be held against them. It doesn't have to involve dual credit courses at the local community college. If that isn't something you can afford or your child isn't ready for it, don't worry about it.

High school doesn't have to include formal Literature programs. Lit analysis can be covered without a formal program. You don't have to try to force your kid through the work faster or earlier so they have more advanced classes on their transcript. I'm sure colleges would rather see that a child did Math through Algebra 2 and mastered the work, instead of seeing that they barely scraped through Calculus. Their transcript doesn't need to include 5 languages and extra-curriculars in every area you can think of.

There is nothing wrong with specializing. Your child is who he is. His high school transcript should reflect that. The extra-curriculars should be things he really has an interest in. If you have too many extras planned, prioritize, and keep just the most important one or few. It's alright for their course load to lean toward their intended career or major. I would try to keep it well-rounded while letting it lean, though (you know, don't cut out History to focus more on Science).

Most importantly, let your child be the one to set their future. This is not your future. It is their future. Their transcript should reflect who they are & who they want to be, not who you wish you had become or who you want them to be. I see so many people who are planning several languages for their child, not because the child is interested or because they'll be needed for the child's planned future, but because the parent enjoys learning languages. Then, they stress about how to fit all those languages into their child's schedule. I see the same with extras. The parent enrolls their child in dance, theater, outside art classes, lessons for 3 instruments, and/or multiple sports, even if the child has no interest in most of the activities. So many seem to be trying to live vicariously through their kids, and it is really sad.

I honestly think that if more people would trust their kids & plan their kid's education based on the child not the parent, less people would stress out over homeschooling high school.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Random Thoughts of the Sleepless

My hubby & I went to bed this morning, and I took my Nook with to read. The last time I looked at the clock (for some reason, I still look at the alarm clock, not the clock on the Nook), it was 3:36. I rolled over & went back to reading. I'm not sure exactly what time I put the Nook down & decided to sleep, but it was probably around 4am. Fast forward to 6:15am, when the dog started barking for Dea to take her out. I had to go get Dea, because she has recently gained the ability to not wake up to the dog barking. She took the dog for a 30 second walk, and headed right back to bed. The dog, of course, started barking while Dea was heading up the stairs back to her room, so I know Dea heard her. She chose to ignore the barking, so she could go back to sleep. I, on the other hand, can't ignore the barking & got up in the hopes that the dog would be content to have me up with her. So, here I am, on maybe 2 hours of sleep.

I love my Nook. I don't know if I've posted about that before. I just got it this year. I'm not big on ebooks. I really prefer a real book. However, I have grown to love my Nook. I can read in bed, without needing the light on, which means no worries about keeping hubby awake. That is a huge plus. I can take a selection of books with me wherever I go. I have a Nook Tablet, so I can go from reading a book to playing a game or searching something online. I let the kids use my Nook, too. They also love it. I have added several fun apps, some educational, some not. I have added lots of books that they can read. I borrow ebooks from the library for them. So, they have plenty to do on my Nook. I created a shelf for each of them on it & added everything they are allowed to use/read to their shelves, so they know what they and are not allowed. They are not allowed to use it to go online & cannot add books or apps to it. If they do, they lose the privilege of using it. Jay, especially, loves my Nook. He loves the look up feature that allows him to look up a word right there, by just highlighting it, instead of getting out the dictionary. He loves the apps I've added so far - word games, Math games, the Smithsonian Channel, trivia, etc.

I'm considering, either next week or the week after, doing a whole week of 'Day in the Life' posts. Since each day is different & some subjects are not every day, I thought it would show the variety in our days. I might not do it, though. I haven't made up my mind about it.

Well, it's about 7:30 now. I should probably stop avoiding the day & go get it started.

Homeschool Planning for the Year part 4

This is the 4th post in a series of posts about how we plan our school. If you missed the previous posts, they can be found herehere, and here. This post will focus on how I plan out the week for elementary levels.

Alright, now we're onto how I plan each week. This is so simple. As you'll remember from post 2, my 'plan' for the year really is just a big checklist. That's as far as it goes with advanced planning. I plan each week as it comes, not all weeks planned out before the year starts. As we finish a week, I check off what we've done. Then, I can see what still needs to be done for each subject.

I took the binding off of my son's Easy Grammar books for this year, hole-punched them, and put each level in its own binder. I also took off the binding of Perfecting the Point & Finishing Fractions and put them in a binder. Giving him the pages for a day or week at a time makes it seem less overwhelming than handing the the whole workbooks would. Plus, I only got the teacher books for Easy Grammar, so I wouldn't be able to just hand the book anyway.

I have folders that I use to hold much of the independent work he can do for each day. Each weekend, I put the work for the upcoming week into those folders. At that time, I put the work that was finished the previous week into the folders I have for finished work. The 'Independent Work' folders go in the child's binder, and the binder goes in the child's basket.

My son is in 3rd grade. His 'Independent Work' folders currently hold pages from Easy Grammar, Mastering Mathematics, & penmanship. I also put his Key to Measurement or Metric Measurement book in there, switching it to the next day once he has done it. The Logic Safari book also goes in Monday's folder, since that is the day he does it. He does Logic Safari on his own, but does much of his other Logic work with me. His Creating Line Designs book goes in his Wednesday folder on weeks that that will be his Art. Thicker workbooks go in his school basket, along with his binder & other things he'll need for the week. He has a CD case that holds the DVDs & CDs that he needs for his current studies. That also goes in his school basket. He has a shelf on our school bookcase. That shelf holds his school basket and most other materials for his school year (except the hands-on materials & kits). That way, anything that he will use that week can be in his basket, and anything he won't use that week can stay on his shelf.

So, how do I decide what goes into those folders? How do I decide what other work will get done? Mostly, we simply do the next thing. If the last page of Perfecting the Point he did the previous week was page 76, the next week starts with page 77. If he did Lesson 15 in Logic Safari last week, we'll do Lesson 16 this week. If he finished the chapter in Latin he worked on last week, we start the next. If he didn't finish the Latin chapter he was working on last week, we continue to work on that chapter. If he doesn't finish all the papers in the folders, I pull out less for the next week.

For History & Science, I look at what books we have from the library & decide which he should read that week (usually based on which are due first), as well as if I will read any to him. I look at the DVD & streaming options we have for those subjects & decide if we'll watch any of them. I also look at the list of activities/labs/projects still waiting to be done, to see if we'll have time for any of them. For geography, I look at the list of what topics still need to be done & pick one.

That's really it for the average week. We simply do the next page/chapter/lesson, at the child's pace. If it's not an average week, we can handle that too. If we're planning on days off, I pull out less work. If the child is sick, we focus on reading, watching documentaries & shows, and resting. If I am sick or in pain, and can't do our full daily schedule, the child still can do their independent work.

Now, sometimes, they ask to do more pages than were planned. If they want to do it, and we have the time, I let them. They are free to tell me if they think the amount planned for each day/week is too much or too little. They are free to tell me if there is too much/not enough work for any subject. If they consistently ask to do 'one more page' in a subject/workbook, I might start pulling one more per day to go in the folder. Then, if they decide later that it's too much, we can always switch back to less.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Homeschool Planning for the Year Part 3

This is part 3 in my series of posts about how I plan our school year. If you missed the previous posts, they can be found here and here. This post will focus on the online aspect of my planning.

Our homeschooling has an online component that is fairly important to us. We utilize the internet a lot for school. We use it for research, games for review, spines for some courses, etc. We also have an online portal for our school, EDU 2.0. It is a free online Learning Management System. I don't use all the features of it, but we've been enjoying it so far.

It has a calendar that we use to remind us of birthdays of important people, school year/term start & end dates, holidays/breaks, and our birthdays. Each class that you set up also has it's own calendar for things specific to that class. In a class, you can list offline assignments as well as create online assignments & tests/quizzes. I also lists all the links required for the class in the lessons & assignments. It makes it much easier to get them the links to sites I want them to use. Of course, as they get older and more capable of doing online research, I provide less links & they do more searching themselves. Using this allows the kids easy access to see all the assignments for each class. I set up some of their assignments as online assignments, but not many.

First, I set up a course. Then, I set up the Lessons. Next, I set up the Assignments for each lesson. These are mostly offline assignments, telling them what pages/lessons/chapters they need to do. In each assignment, I list links to any online resources needed for that assignment, as well as listing offline resources. I also set up any online assignments/tests/quizzes at this time. Each assignment also tells them the time expected/allowed for the assignment and/or due date.

For Jay, it is mostly just a way for him to see his assignments and an easy way to give him the links he needs for each subject & topic. Since he is in elementary, I'm not having him do many online assignments/tests/quizzes. For Dea, however, I do utilize the online assignments/tests/quizzes, since she is older & doing high school level work in all subjects. Only sites that are required are listed in her assignments, as she is old enough to research on her own. Basically, we wait until they are a little older before having them do online assignments & classes. I just don't think my 8 year old needs to do large amounts of his school online. We prefer to add in online work more gradually.

So, once they are planned on paper, I set up the courses, lessons, and assignments on our school site. I keep the site on private, so only those we invite can see it.

After that, I also have to set up classes in Homeschool Tracker Plus. I only use HST+ for Dea right now. Since I only use it for keeping transcripts. With the kids being on different schedules, it would be too much hassle to use it for both of them. Besides, I don't bother with 'grading' assignments or giving tests & quizzes in many subjects at this time, for Jay. The only tests/quizzes he does are ones that are included in the curriculum for certain subjects. In LOF, he has the Bridges that he needs to do after every 5 chapters. In LFC, each chapter has a quiz/test at the end. When doing an assignment, whatever he gets wrong we read over, see where his mistake was, and fix it. I feel assignments should be for learning, not getting a grade. At the high school level, more gets graded, but he's not there just yet. So, HST+ is being used just for Dea. Luckily, getting her courses & assignments set up in HST+ is pretty quick & easy. Actually, getting them set up in EDU 2.0 is quick & easy, too.

Puppy is mad at me

The puppy is mad at me, does not trust me, and is avoiding me. My daughter made chocolate cookies today. Somehow, and no one knows how, the puppy got one of the cookies. I called a vet to see if we could try to take care of her at home or if we needed to take her to the vet. They said we could try to induce vomiting at home, by giving her some hydrogen peroxide. So, I had to force hydrogen peroxide down the puppy's throat. Poor baby, she did not deal with it well. She already has issues with trust, thanks to the abuse & abandonment she suffered before us.

She's doing fine now. However, she won't drink water I give her, even after watching me fill the bowl from the tap. She sat on my lap while I opened a can of food (one I know she likes), watched me put it in her bowl, and still refused to eat any of it. I had her on my lap for while, petting her, talking to her, snuggling with her. She wouldn't relax at all, was stiff & anxious the whole time. When I put her back down on the floor, she sat right next to me, until I said "You don' t have to stay by me if you don't want to," at which point, she ran off to sleep by Dea.

Until this incident, I was her second favorite (Dea has always been her favorite). At the moment, I'm pretty sure I'm her least favorite. I'm really hoping it doesn't take too much to win back her trust.