Thursday, December 31, 2009

School vs. Homeschool

One of the questions I get asked the most and see frequently other people wrestle with is how much to compare homeschooling with out of the home schooling. Or institutional schooling as I see a lot of homeschoolers call it.
How much do you hold yourself to the standards, scope and sequences, and expectations of a group school experience?

It's hard to answer, and even harder if you are trying to answer it in a situation where homeschooling is in question or outside the norm.
I don't follow the plan of our local school district at all. I look at state standards loosely because my state requires standardized testing, but otherwise I'd disregard that, as well.
If I wanted my kids to learn what the schools taught I'd have them in school.
This doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of crossover and relevant education happening in the classrooms, it just means that our goals and expectations are different. And so are the time lines.

We're year 'round schoolers which muddies things to begin with. When does one grade start and one end? By age? By ability?
Sweet Pea chronologically is a kindergartner this year. Academically she's working in 1st and 2nd grade materials. Emotionally and socially she's completely 5. So what should I call her? What standards should I seek to meet?

I think the easiest way to do this and what most homeschoolers default to is the end goal- where does a child need to be to be finished with pre-collegiate studies? What do they need to know to be a functioning, productive adult? What values and virtues does someone need to grow out from needing parental guidance for most decisions?

Schooling isn't just about reading, writing, math, and all of the other skills and knowledge groups that we seek to teach our kids. It's also about forming an adult- someone who hopefully is capable, balanced, and content.

That's why I'm vaguely interested in what Sweet Pea's schooled peers are up to, but totally unconcerned. I know that she's academically thriving, and I think that the whole picture is bright and just where it should be.

At least for today. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six

I got this list from Ambleside Online, year 0.

"A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six"

A reprint of a curriculum outline from a CM school in the 1890's. from Summer 93 Parents Review pub by Karen Andreola

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns

So far Sweet Pea knows: The Caterpillar, Work, Hearts are Like Doors, Days of the Week, Lord- Keep us Steadfast in Your Love, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night.

2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm

We need to work on this- now that Advent is over we should be able to.

3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters


4. to read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child

Check! Sweet Pea is now working through the first Magic Treehouse book. :)

5. to copy in print-hand from a book

We're doing cursive, but Sweet Pea's handwriting and copying are doing really well.

6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows

Sweet Pea knows where the sun sets and rises, but I don't think off a map she knows the compass points.

7. to describe the boundries of their own home


8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach

Check- we have one lake in sight from my home, and lots of woods. Do woods count?

9. to tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history (my note here, we may want to substitute early American for early English!)

From the Bible- check, early English- nope, early Roman one.

3 from10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views


11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

She has a leaf collection, but flower collecting is on hiatus until the world thaws out.

12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees

We're working on this through our science program this year.

13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape

Also part of our science plans.

14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed

Nothing to send in to, but we're going to start crochet with Sweet Pea soon.

15. to tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.

Sweet Pea has lots of stories she likes to recount about Ursa, our puppy.

16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences

We're just starting to compile and figure out how we're doing French, but soon hopefully we can begin checking this off the list.

17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song

Check- if Alouette counts. :)

18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.

Hopefully this summer!

I feel like we're in a good plae with this list- especially since Sweet Pea is 5 until April.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New pretend play toy

This is the changing table that my girls got for Christmas- before they filled it with the huge amount of baby doll related clothing and accessories they have. It still needs a curtain for the front, but that's it otherwise.
It also has really cute tiny hangers for the dresses and sweaters and whatnot.
The girls still really love it- it's definitely the hit of the season!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We opened our presents last night, and the girls played with them all day. The biggest win was a play diaper changing table with storage underneath that their father made for them. I'll have to get pictures up of it- it's really cute.
They loved all their other presents, and had a really good Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New semester changes

I had thought that I had the perfect plan for the year back when I set it all out initially. After 18 weeks of using the materials and seeing what works, doesn't work, and plain never makes it into the rotation I'm revising.

In math: At the beginning of the year we were using Sinapore Earlybird Mathematics in conjunction with Miquon. I'd read so many glowing online reviews of this combo and so many people seemed to adore both of them. We had already used Singapore's Earlybird program last year, so I was pretty comfortable with that choice, and I was willing to give Miquon an honest go. Unfortunately, we are Miquon failures. I love the idea behind the program, and I think with all the explanatory materials it's easy to implement and add into a homeschool program. Sweet Pea was initially a fan and even was known to refer to it as math games. She quickly changed her mind, though, and didn't want anything to do with it. In retrospect I think she just liked playing with the cuisenaire rods and the rest was a wash. So we jettisoned that and spent most of the semester finishing the Earlybird series, using an abacus, working on skip counting, and basic arithmetic. I then added in Math Mammoth's blue addition series, and that seems to be going well. Sweet Pea appears to just be a traditional worksheet kit. And that's fine!

Language Arts: At first I thought there would be huge upheaval and changes here. I detested Writing with Ease at first. We stuck with it, and it's a good fit and we will be keeping this. Our current grammar program is First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. I'm a little more mixed here. It's got a lot of repetition built in. When I say a lot, I mean a colossal amount. Really. Sweet Pea seems to be learning and retaining with it, and the poetry included for memorization is nice. I had intended to at least use this through second grade (which is in the same book) but now am less sure. I do think that we'll finish the year with it, and then possibly try something else like Growing with Grammar. I do think that grammar is vital and whatever we use we'll continue regular lessons and diagramming. Spelling is being done with Spelling Workout. I don't know if it's just the level A book or something that I'm missing, but I don't feel like the exercises are actually teaching spelling. Rather I feel like this is busy work that isn't accomplishing anything other then wasting time. I have McGuffey's Eclectic Speller and may just start using that to go through and make up my own practice sessions. I'm unsure. Reading began with Hooked on Phonics and is now firmly in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. McGuffey's has come and gone in intervals throughout the semester and I see that trend continuing.

Language: I really, really wanted to be that homeschool family- the ones who use Latin from the beginning and succeed wildly. It wasn't happening. Prima Latina didn't fit us. And so we never got around to it. Instead we are switching to a modern foreign language- specifically French. I still don't know exactly what we are using, but hopefully in a few weeks that'll be resolved.

Science: I had this great plan for science. I was going to do it as laid out in the Well Trained Mind- and pull it all together myself from different encyclopedias and resources. Once again- it just didn't happen. We recently ordered and have begun Rod and Staff's grade 2 science program. It's open and go and all contained. So science is actually happening. We will not be using Rod and Staff long term for science, but at this level I don't see anything objectionable in it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daily report and advent crafting

I'm considering not rewriting things in cursive anymore soon- and seeing how Sweet Pea does just doing the cursive on her own.

We're really enjoying Math Mammoth at the moment. That's good because we are almost out of lessons in the Earlybird and the new level of Singapore that I've ordered hasn't arrived. I plan to order the subtraction and some of the other light blue files soon.

These are salt dough ornaments. This isn't all of them, just a sampling of the best of the bunch. :) This is a really easy project that was enjoyed greatly by the 5.5 year old, the 2.5 year old, and by me. The recipe that I used was very simple and I plan to use it next year as well. It was 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup salt and 1 cup flour. We rolled them out to about 1/4 inc thick, cut them with cookie cutters, and used a chop stick to make the holes at the top. I baked them at 250F for 2 hours, and then we painted them. Easy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

More French thoughts

Specifically about curriculum choices and panic because everything seems either really expensive or really cheap, or both.
Right now the most feasible choice seems to be something in the lines of the Hooked on Phonic's Hooked on French which looks short, but reasonably cheap. Also similar is the Berlitz Kids French Language Pack.
I like the look of the Power-Glide Elementary French kids stuff- but ouch. Ditto for Le Francais Facile and Rosetta Stone French.
And I'm really confused about the differences between homeschool French Rosetta stone and the personal ones. They're the same price.
I prefer homeschooling when I have everything picked out and set.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

McGuffey's revisited

We had put these away for quite a while while we focused on the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and Hooked on Phonics. And free reading.
I wasn't quite getting what I was looking for- fluid reading of passages instead of disjointed sentences with focus on text, not pictures with what we were doing. When it's a colorful book with a lot of pictures, Sweet Pea gets sidetracked and wants to spend more time looking at the pictures and even with the picture clues she won't guess on words she doesn't know.
So we brought out the McGuffey's. Right now we're just going through the review sections to see where to pick up, and it seems to be a good fit.
Still no ideas on context clues, though.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Language musings

Not Language Arts for once, either!
I'm thinking of dropping Latin and starting French. There's a few reasons for this and it's been stewing for a while.
Latin isn't going so well here. I know a lot of people really love it and really get into it, but it's a pretty obvious flop here right now. I'm not getting into it, the kids aren't getting into it, so it doesn't get done. Then I feel guilty because we are behind, but we don't want to do it so it STILL doesn't come out.
I don't know Latin. I'm not learning ahead of the kids, so I can't answer questions past the current lesson. We don't use it during the day.
I do know French, and it's something that I can speak to the kids. It's also still a widely used language in the world.
I think that this is the right choice for us for now, and it doesn't mean that we won't come back to Latin in the future. Just that the time isn't right for us here and now.
So we will be tabling Prima Latina for now.
I'm pretty set that we will be using Le Francais Facile to begin. Unless I find something better. So that's where we are for now.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent preparations

This is our Advent wreath. It's not terribly wreath like, but it's something that works. For the Christ candle in the middle I have another votive. At some point in the future we may get a more traditional set- or we may all be attached to it. We'll see. I'm currently looking at a few of the sets that Autum sells.

This is our Advent calendar. The goal is to move one item per day to the top in the evening along with family devotions.

This is our new, kid friendly nativity set from a very generous Grammy. Thanks! It spans the top of both homeschool cabinets. If you look closely the little baby Jesus is missing- he's waiting for Christmas to make his appearance.

I also included two pictures of my homeschool cabinets. The bulk of what we currently use is in these cabinets for ease of use and general neatness. This first cabinet is mainly intended for schooly type stuff- the binders and texts we use, my organizational stuff, the pencils and art supplies we use for notebooking, and the reading we are currently working on.

This cabinet is more craft and art supplies. The kids have free access to all of the paper and crayons. They are supposed to ask before using the scissors and glue. There are also pipe cleaners, pom poms, math manipulatives, paper bags, and stickers. There are also some coloring books that Little Bird prefers to use right now instead of the more open ended mess creation that Sweet Pea likes. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter is here!

And I missed the very beginning. We are still south of home in Nebraska enjoying the (relative) warmth, and tomorrow we begin the long trek home.
I figured out that we need 16 more days to have the semester done- that's exciting! Half way through is in sight! It's also a little daunting, as well. Mostly exciting, though.
One of the main things I want to work on this next semester is Sweet Pea's reading stamina. Her ability to read has far outpaced her ability to sit and focus on sentences and paragraphs- she's looking at a block of words and getting frustrated instead of focusing just on where she is. So things that she wants to read and can read in theory are not getting read unless I read them. I'm not sure if we should keep moving forward in phonics while working on that, or just focus on confidence and getting through multiple sentences without getting freaked out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On vacation- again!

I promise that we don't normally travel this much. And ironically, both times that we've journeyed in the last few weeks have to Nebraska- first to Omaha and now to the more rural western side.
Nebraska seems to be quite a nice place. And I am very, very pleased with how well my kids have been travelling. We don't have DVD players or video game systems for the kids- they look at books, look out the window, or sings songs and play games together. And they can do that for quite a large amount of time- this trip was about 16 hours by car to get here.
Sweet Pea has FINALLY finished the myriad lessons on the "oo" type sounds in Ordinary Parent's Guide. I still can't fully wrap my head around how many slightly different but importantly different- and even regionally determined- sounds there are. Yipes. I'm glad that that's done!
I have also cheated the last couple of grammar lessons- I look at what she needs to know and instead of reading through the whole lesson I just ask her a few questions about the points and if she can answer them then we are finished with it for the day. I may end up condensing the rest of the noun lessons because I am pretty sure that she thouroughly grasps the difference between common and proper nouns and what to capitalize.

I seem to have a hang- up about skipping things, and that's something that I need to get better about. My desire to not miss anything leads to us doing redundant work and at this point Sweet Pea is very tolerant and patient with me.

The biggest drawback I see about homeschooling isn't socialization, or cost, or any of the usual concerns I read about- it's that the responsibility rests all on the parents. That's true in a school setting ultimately as well, but it feels so much more pronounced at home. If my children are behind or lacking I feel like it's all me- and that's daunting! And slightly irrational to worry about because at this point Sweet Pea is anything but behind. I don't suspect that Little Bird will move at the same pace (although I don't know that for sure) but I don't see any reason she'd be behind either.


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