Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Am Not a Blogger

Well, I really do stink at writing.  I admit it.  I hate writing.  I am much more comfortable doing equations or dissecting something.  I am not quite sure what compelled me to venture into the blogging world other than I felt like I needed some sort of documentation for this crazy world of homeschooling that I have delved into.  I guess not posting for the last eight months has been okay.  It is an indication that homeschooling is crazy busy and it is extremely time consuming (to say the least).  I would still like to endeavor to share some of the wonderful resources that I have found for the boys including curriculum, ideas passed on from other moms, and organizational tips.

Our core curriculum is Bob Jones.  It is one of the oldest out there, but for us it has worked well.  We have used the newest editions out, which are very appealing to the eye.  I liked the idea that I would have teacher's manuals that laid out exactly what I should say when teaching.  I realized fairly quickly that I didn't really need it and the boys were like "yeah, yeah, we get it," but even so, I was pleased to have the safety net for my first year.

In math, the boys enjoy the stories at the beginning of each chapter.  Grant particularly liked Matt and Patty from his 2nd grade book.  They went around the world constructing buildings and teaching math along the way.  He loved seeing where they would go next.  He thought that Patty was very silly and that, of course, gave great joy to my little comedian.  Though the math book goes through material pretty quickly, Jackson was still a bit bored.  I could not in good conscience skip two grade levels, though.  We did skip one grade level because he was in GT in public school and also based on results from assessment testing we administered online.  I am not quite sure what possible curriculum I could give him that he wouldn't find boring.  He is patiently holding out for what he really wants to learn more of--Geometry.

The English books were nice because they would cover a chapter on grammar and then a chapter on writing.  I liked the idea of implementing what they were learning in grammar in the next lesson with writing.  They wrote a variety of pieces.  Grant created an imaginative tall tale.  Jackson constructed a fine business letter to the Redwood State and National Park that included a donation to preserve redwoods.  The ranger sent him information on old growth redwoods, brochures, and how to become a junior ranger.  He loved getting mail and reading all of the information they sent him.

Spelling was a breeze for Grant.  I found that he pretested out of his words most weeks.  I would give him words from Jackson's book for an extra challenge.  I guess he just has a knack for spelling.  He totally doesn't get that from me.  Jack, on the other hand, has to work at it.  We kept him on grade level and that was just fine.  He had to learn how to spell the books of the Bible this year in addition to his other words.  The spelling book includes journal ideas for each lesson.  They wrote an entry each week on the selected topic, which ended up capturing some sweet memories on paper for the boys to look back at as they grow older.

They both LOVED their reading books.  I did make them do the work text books as well.  I just wanted to identify if they were comprehending all that they were reading.  The stories were very good.  I didn't have to worry about the whack worldview issues, as the curriculum is Christian based.  There was a mixture of classic lit, poetry, Bible stories, biographies, and kid-friendly short stories.  Jackson read his book many times.  He probably knows all of the stories by heart.

I did not use Bob Jones for handwriting, history, science, or Bible.  I can fill you in later about the other stuff we used.  That is, if I ever post again!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gotta Go, Go, Go!

Who knew that "home"schooling would entail so much time away from home.  For the last few months, that seems to be the case.  In September, my sister Dianna had surgery.  The boys, Mom, and I packed up the minivan a drove from Texas to Georgia for her surgery and recovery.  We would never have been able to pick up and go if we were not homeschooling.  We learned so much on our trip.  The boys learned to adapt to whatever there was to adapt to.  We learned that school books weigh a ton and carts are invaluable.  We also learned that sometimes the last place you would think to homeschool is the best place.  For instance, when we were staying with my sister we really only had one place to do our work and that was the formal dining room table.  There isn't much going on in a formal dining room.  It turned out to be much less distracting than our school house room.  When we came home I realized that the landing full of maps, posters, whiteboards, and everything else was perhaps not as conducive to learning as my formal dining room!  The last couple of weeks have gone much smoother with a quiet couple of boys sitting at the table with a very happy mama sitting and reading her bible during work time.  It works really well.

Besides being at my sisters for a couple of weeks or so, Robert flew out to meet us and we were able to take a bit of time to travel on the way home.  We went to Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; Atlanta, GA; Fairhope, AL; New Orleans, LA; Baton Rouge, LA; and back home to Houston.  It was quite a whirlwind.  It was great for the boys.  They were able to compare many harbor towns.  They had the opportunity to explore the history of some of the oldest cities in the south and see things they had never seen before.  We went to many museums, toured historic sites, went on boats, explored art & literature, watched whale sharks at the biggest aquarium in the world, and enjoyed visiting with friends and family.

When we got back home it was time to adjust to homeschooling at home again.  Of course it is our first year, so we had not yet participated in all of the activities available to homeschoolers during the school year.  We tried to ease our way back into it, but now that things are in full is crazy!!  The school was worried that Grant would not have enough socialization which I now see is ridiculous.  It is an absolute chore to carve out time at home.  We must stay on a schedule if we are to get things done at home that need to be done.  Mondays Grant has speech therapy in the morning.  By the afternoon, we are at the library for Bluebonnet Book Club or Art Explorers.  We come home by 2:30 or 3 and try to finish up before Robert comes home at 4:30.  Jackson has Taekwon-do in the evening.  Tuesday morning we school, but I volunteer in the afternoon so the boys have to be finished with teaching before then.  They work independently in the afternoon on things like reading, practicing the piano, and chores.  Tuesday night is swim lessons for Grant, Taekwon-do for Jackson, and then home for family time and such.  Wednesday is our only day that we stay home all day during the day.  Of course we have church at night, but that isn't until 7.  Thursday we have Ladies Bible Study in the morning.  They boys get to do their work at church with homeschool teenagers to guide and assist them.  They get a recess which they get to play with other kids.  Then we go home and work on anything else that we need to do.  Again we have swim lessons and Taekwon-do in the evening.  Then on Friday we go to P.E. which is a wonderful time for them to play team sports and hang out with friends.  This is just a general outline that doesn't even include special outings to the park, zoo, children's museum, or field trips.  The funny thing is that I think that my schedule is much much lighter compared to most of the homeschool moms that I know.  Does everyone else out there go, go, go?

In spite of all the traveling, the boys continue to chug along in their studies.  They are progressing nicely.  They are growing in the knowledge of Christ as well as their subjects.  All in all I think that it is such a blessing that they are able to do all that they get to do and can handle their work load.  I am very impressed by them and the grace that God has shown in their lives.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Roller Coaster of Learning, Say What!

Up and down, up and down.  As we continue on our journey of homeschooling, I am starting to see a trend.  I am curious if any of the rest of you notice the same in your school house.  One day, the boys will seem to strap into the seat of learning and begin lurching up the hill with great effort.  It is almost a creep to get to the top.  The anticipation of them making it to the top overwhelms me.  I think it will never come.  Then the next day, they pass over the summit and fly down the same hill with speed and ease.  What's that about?!

Why does it take 8 hours to do something one day and a mere 4 hours to do it the next day?  Ahhhggg!!  Up and down, up and down.  I must be missing something to think that things will stabilize and just go on like a steady train chugging along the tracks.  That wouldn't be so bad.  Only coming upon a hill every once in a while would be somewhat normal, I would think.  'Tis not the case, I am afraid.  It guess that the boys will be somewhat bound by the time that they take to accomplish their tasks.  When we decided to home school, I imagined long hours of lying on the swing reading books.  I dreamed of all of the field trips that we would take.  I longed for hands on cool science experiments and messy arts and crafts.  While I still hope to get to do these things, I see that it will all depend upon how fast they can get up that hill on our roller coaster.

Maybe the further we go, the better it will be.  They will fall into a routine.  Their writing will become quicker with age.  They will learn to type faster.  They will be more motivated to finish in a timely manner.  They will be more focused.  But when that happens, will they be tired of such things?  Will they be to grown to enjoy lazy days of reading?  Will the time have passed for exploding volcanoes and play-doh dinosaurs?

It is just our first year...and the first part of that.  I know that things will change.  I will keep my goals in the front of my mind.  Maybe there are things that we will need to sacrifice so that the goals can be accomplished.  I may need to think outside of the box.  Modifying myself is a great deal easier than foisting larger than life expectations on them.  We shall see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Get Real

Today, I was thinking that I really need to get real.  Seriously.  I need to think about homeschooling realistically.  I need to evaluate what is realistic for the boys.  There is such a temptation to do everything that everyone else is doing.  There are so many wonderful methods of homeschooling out there that I question in my mind whether or not I am approaching this in the right way.

One of the things that Robert and I have been considering is Classical Conversations.  There has been much prayer about it.  We still have not decided.  We have heard wonderful things about the program.  Basically, you go to a weekly meeting, which is nice because the children get to interact with a group of kids.  There is a tutor that guides the time and introduces the new memory work in a fun and creative way.  They call the memory work the grammar of each subject.  They begin with timeline/history, geography, math, science, Latin and English grammar.  Beyond the memorization is participation in a fine arts project, a science project, and opportunities to practice oral presentation skills each week.  The meeting place for Classical Conversations or CC happens to be at the church that we attend.  (I had no idea of this until I went on the CC website!)

My dilemma is whether or not this is realistic for us.  We pretty much thought that it would not even be possible to get in at this point.  Things have worked out to where we possibly could do it, but I am hesitant.  Is it realistic for my boys and me?  Perhaps I will have to lower the expectations for what the boys have on the schedule for the regular classes and curriculum that we have already bought (which has been a huge investment).  We would basically have to take all of the things that we have planned to cover in five days and get it done in four.  We also have to spend at least 30 minutes a day memorizing for CC.  Mind you, they have CDs that the kids can listen to, which puts the information to music and makes it a snap for their sweet little sharp minds.  Still, I am nervous at the prospect. I don't want to foist upon them the type of schedule that we detested in public school, which could rip away all of the joys of the freedom of homeschooling.  I want them to have time to pursue some of their own interests.  I want them to read just for fun.  I want them to play.

Maybe some of you ladies out there are more informed about how things go.  I am wondering, too, about how all of the work is packed into a short time.  Some people have told me that they can get their homeschooling done in just a few hours.  WHAT?!  Am I missing something?  What am I doing wrong...or, is it that my little boys are just so very slow at doing the work that is set before them?  I need to be realistic about how much time things take and how much stuff I am going to require them to do.  Dare I add more?  What do you think?  Will it be worth it?  Keep us in your prayers.  Yikes!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Boys 2 Men

One of my finds at The Homeschool Store was a book put out by Doorposts.  When I opened this book I was absolutely amazed at the resource that I happened upon.  Well, I cannot take credit for it really.  The young lady who works at the family business has been my guide to this new world of homeschooling and she directed me to the shelf.  The name of the book is Plants Grown Up:  Projects for Sons on the Road to Manhood.  It is written by Pam Forster.  She bases the curriculum on the scripture from 2 Peter 1:5-8 which says "...And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity, For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

So, the first sections is "Add to your faith Virtue".  The first section in this area is called Leadership:  Justly Judging in Discipline Situations.  This has been an unbelievable time of learning for the boys.  We have been dedicating time each day to an activity in the book which can range from:  memorizing Bible verses; memorizing Westminster Larger Catechisms that address the roles of "superiors" and "inferiors"; studying the 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris; role playing discipline situations; to studying how Jesus dealt with his disciples and the Pharisees.  It has been great seeing them learn why it is we do what we do in disciplining them.  While we have tried to make it a point to use Scripture when disciplining the boys, it has still been great for them to see discipline from another perspective.  We are teaching them how to think about discipline.  We are asking them to think about how they will do this in the future.  We are teaching them to think about justice, wisdom, and truth.  We are training them how to lead their own family even thought they are but 7 and 9 years old.  I love that!  I like having the long term in mind.  I would like to think that we are training them to be godly men, but I know that we can only help them to a point.  We must be responsible with these boys that God has given us.  We are merely stewards.  We cannot change their hearts.  Only the Holy Spirit can change the heart!

I pray that in pouring God's Word into their sweet little hearts, God will use this to draw them to Himself.  My hope is for them to trust God for themselves--not because we say to, but because they see that the Bible is truth.  I know that you guys reading are hoping and praying for the same thing.  I will pray for your little ones and you pray for mine.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  In the mean time, we can do our part by finding and utilizing wonderful resources like Plants Grown Up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mom's Group = Information Overload

I have recently joined a homeschool group.  Everyone said that this is an essential part of being a homeschooler. We opted for a small group that is in our town.  Not Houston, mind you, but the little town of Tomball.  We are on the outside edge of both Houston and Tomball, but our address is Tomball.  So, I decided to give TCH a go.  It has been wonderful so far.  It's been nice getting e-mails through the yahoo group.  There is a plethora of information on many things from which veterinarian to use, great camp sites, organized groups for kiddos, library activities, and much more.  One of the things that we had the chance to do through the group was a woodworking class.  The boys loved it!  The focus tool of the day was a router.  The young man, Danny, walked them through how to use the router to curve the edges of the little sailboats they made.  He showed them how to hammer nails (I know this should be obvious, but for my little city boys...not so much.) and how to drill holes in wood.  The finished product was great.  They were so excited to come home and test their sailboats.  They had the opportunity to do just that the next day in the kiddie pool out back.  Happy happy boys!!

Last night, was the monthly Mom's Group.  It is a time for homeschool mom's to gather around and chit chat about what is happening.  Fun, fellowship, and food.  You know, the normal girls' pow wow sort of thing.  There is usually a topic.  Our topic was what things do you wish we had a "do-over" on.  (That's in my words.  The organizer's topic sounded better but I just can't remember.)  We really didn't focus much on the topic.  It was more about what is everyone doing that works and what hasn't worked as well.  I took notes, of course.  I walked away with so much info swimming around in my brain that I guess it is going to take a while to filter through.  I thought that I could just write all of my bullet points down and see if anyone who reads this might have some insight as to whether they have any idea what this stuff is and if it is good or not.  Some of it is not really a curriculum or a book, per se, but just ideas that you might expound on by suggesting a book that pertains to the topic.

Anyways, thanks for reading.  Here goes:

  • Character Sketches, ATAIA
  • Teach them the Joy of Learning=Discovering
  • Different Children Different Needs
  • Take 2 Cups.  Fill one cup with the rooms in your house and the other with a subject.  Shake them up and let your child pick one of each.  This adds variaty to the day:  Reading in the Family Room, Math in the Kitchen, Science in the Bedroom, etc.
  • Bribing Children with M & M's to finish problems.  (Thought my boys would probably not do so well with this.  Imagine my wiggle worms on a sugar high!!)
  • Nickles on the Table.  Place 10 nickles on the table.  Each time they drop their pencil (or other distracting thing they tend to do) they lose a nickle.  The hope is they keep their money and you keep your sanity.
  • One lady said her boys (she has 6) took way too much time on math--like an hour and a half.  She started making them do it the night before with dad.  They finished in 20 minutes.
  • Add 5 problems for every problem they get wrong in math.
  • Easy Grammar
  • Season's Harvest Cafe
  • Organizing a Field Day
  • ALEKS Math
  • Homeschool Special Needs Support Groups
  • CC
  • Follow My Leader
  • Seeds of Praise
  • EPGY Math, $15/month

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting Started

We so did not want to be a homeschooling family.  I love all my sweet homeschooling friends, but the idea of entering into the home school arena was about as appealing to me as having my wisdom teeth extracted.  But, alas, God has a plan.  Like most times, I am the last to go along with His plan.  I was pretty determined that my two little boys would attend public school.  I thought that they could be like Daniel and Joseph and stand firm in a world of corruption shining out like a beacon through the darkness that is public school.  They were blessed to be just that for a time.  They did shine brightly.  However, their circumstances were not such as would allow us to keep them in public school.

Jackson is a pretty special little boy.  I have known for a long time.  His 3K teacher stated that he excelled in patterns.  At three he knew every variety of dinosaurs that ever existed.  By Kindergarten, he talked like a man.  To tell you the truth, he has always been a little man.  In between 1st and 2nd grade, Jackson wanted to learn Geometry while other kids want to play with Transformers.  Jackson has a bit of a focus problem.  Well, okay, he has a big focus problem.  In first grade, the teacher called me and told me that he needed to be tested for ADD and that he should get some medication.  She stated that it was so easy.  She said she thought that they even have a patch that he could wear.  We were seriously alarmed.  First of all, what was this teacher doing giving us a medical diagnosis?  Second of all, why did he have the ability to read for hours on end without any problems focusing?  We took him to the psychologist and had him tested.  The sweet lady who tested him came out and said that his biggest problem wasn't ADD.  She said that he has an extremely high IQ and that he needs to be stimulated mentally.  She said that we should send him Rice University in the summers for programs and tell the teacher to never make him do single digit addition again because it was extremely unjust for him to be tortured in such a way.  Well, we persisted in keeping our Jackson in public school.  He did get into the Gifted and Talented program.  Even in this, he was never truly challenged.  Well, unless you count the impossible challenge of paying attention.

My precious little Grant is a whole other story.  He is Autistic.  His diagnosis is mildly Autistic and ADHD.  Yep.  Oh, yeah, that's right.  He bounces.  He runs.  He is full of energy.  Grant didn't start talking until he was 4 1/2 years old.  This was only after private speech therapy.  The therapist let me sit in and when I would go home, I'd make tons of flash cards.  We would go over them time and time again.  He learned to speak by learning his letter.  He is now an excellent speller.  He learned how to pronounce each letter individually giving him a strong knowledge of his phonics.  You know the saying.  Once they start talking, they never stop.  This has been the case for Grant.  He just has to say exactly what he is thinking pretty much all day long.  School was tough for Grant.  The first week of kindergarten, he was crouched under the table scrubbing his nose into the carpet.  It wasn't pretty.  He would do things like stop drinking water so that he wouldn't have to go to the bathroom because he hated the sound of the toilets.  He wouldn't play with other kids on the playground because of anxiety with bugs.  He believed everything that everyone told him.  He even believed that his birthday was a different day than it really was.  He knew his birthday, but they wrote it down wrong at the school and so he believed what they said instead of what he knw.  It is sad, really.  He lacks discernment.  He lacks wisdom.  These are just some of the reasons that we decided to home school him.  I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when one of the staff told me that he didn't want to read so she told him to just pretend to read so the other kids wouldn't be upset.  My husband and I agreed that there was absolutely no reason that Grant shouldn't read with the other children.  We saw that the school's "accommodations" were, in fact, going to prevent Grant from getting the best education that he could receive.

So, here we are.  The school year ended.  The boys are officially homeschoolers.  We have all of our curriculum.  We have started a little bit to get used to each other.  I can see already that God is going to mold me through this.  I am sure that it will be as much to my benefit as theirs.  I really am thankful that we are going to do this.  I really think they have needed their mama.  They needed guidance.  This summer as we get used to being around each other again, I see how much they really do need their mom.  Even more than that, I see how much they need God's Word covering their lives.  I can't wait to see the fruit that they will bear.  It is kind of exciting.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for them!