Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mystery Science - Rivers

So I discovered this little website called Mystery Science. It had an offer for a "year free!" and I figured why not. I come across that quite a bit in the online homeschool realm. Sometimes it's something pretty lame that normally you couldn't pay me to use, but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. This time, it was the latter --- turns out, it's legit and actually costs a bunch of cash money per year. So we got a deal! And bonus - it's actually great, and Lulu is LOVING it.

Here is an example of how the lesson and activity go. She did a lesson on Earth's Surface Processes a couple of weeks ago, about rivers - where they start and where they end up. The format is a video with some questions to ponder, and then an activity at the end. She gets super excited about all of it, which is awesome. Also, it's not too long - perfect for someone with, shall we say, an active brain...

So she watched all about where rivers end and start... and they got her cute little noggin working on it... and then we did this activity:

You are probably wondering "ummm what is happening here?" Well let me tell you! Thank you for asking, amazing reader!

1. She crumpled up paper and taped it down onto a guide page from the website.
2. She drew with marker all along the top ridges of her paper mountain.
3. She sprayed it (maybe too enthusiastically, but hey MONSOON!) with water.
4. We watched where the marker went down the mountain...
5. And Lulu made some observations about where water flows.
6. We also looked at a map (guided by the website) of major rivers, and where they start -- voila! Mountains or higher elevations.
(Plus - 7. AND where do they end? Oceans!)

Super simple, but also super fun. She started the unit on rocks today - so I'm excited about some good volcanic fun coming up soon. :)

Here's a link to the website.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wow I'm bad at blogging.

I started this cute little blog many moons ago, to keep track of our homeschool adventures. I did it to keep friends and family apprised of this weird outside-the-box journey we had started, and also to have something to look at for myself. And it's so neat to do that, to see all the adventures and projects we did.... back in like 2014!!!! I've been SO BAD about blogging this year. And here we are, with only about 8 weeks left in our "school year". (I put that in quotes because we are schooling year-round so we will take a week or two off and then dive back in, for 3rd and 7th grades.)

But fear not, we have been chugging along with our schooling. This year has been great for laying the foundation and finding out what works. I really want to add more adventures outside the house, and more hands-on projects. I'm gathering resources for both of those as I go, and I am excited about what this year will bring in those areas.

So as we wrap up 2nd and 6th grade, here are some thoughts.

What worked:

  • Story of the World. Love. Will keep doing that with Bug for Vol 3 and 4, along with the Activity Book, Recommended Reading, and Tests. I am planning on doing it with Lulu when she starts World History in 4th grade as well. (and will also add in Classical Conversations for her that year too, but that's a whole other post!)
  • Growing with Grammar. So simple, so straightforward, and easy to assess progress. 
  • Khan Academy - LOOOOVE. So much. It has been great for Computer Programming, and to help reinforce some of the trickier Pre-Algebra concepts for Bug.
  • Horizon Math - mostly love. See above, with needing additional clarification/support sometimes.
  • Mystery Science - great for Lulu,we got a free subscription for a year - check it out! Videos and activities.
  • - another great one for Lulu for her weekly coding sessions.
  • Road Trip USA - been using this for years and it's amazing. 

What kinda worked:

  • Sonlight reading lists - great literature.
  • Mandarin class - it was nice to find one and be part of a "class", but it wasn't a big class and Bug knew everything they were learning. And then vball practice was a conflict, so we are not doing it again this semester.
  • Sonlight LA for Lulu - see below.

What did not work:

  • Science - Oak Meadow was too easy; Sonlight had too much anti-evolution in there for Bug, and not very engaging for Lulu. It's very hard to find a comprehensive homeschool science curriculum, as most come from a creationist young earth anti-evolution standpoint. We have been piecing things together and learning cool stuff, but it's a LOT of work for me honestly, and I worry I'm not getting in what needs to be done. Right now Bug is watching Bill Nye videos. ha! As I mentioned above, Mystery Science has been great, and Lulu has gone through units on Plants and Weather so far on there. She enjoys it.
  • Sonlight Language Arts - while I LOVED the readers, and the writing portion for Lulu was ok, the writing for Bug was too vague.  She's learning about many different writing styles and mediums, and currently doing her first big research paper (of course, on Jane Goodall). That part is great. There is a rubric for each assignment, to help me assess, which is also good. But. I prefer the approach of Winning with Writing (created by Growing with Grammar company), where it is very straightforward and more easily assessed.  Many say to "trust the process" (and reference Ruth Beechik) and it will work out well in the end, and she will be an amazing writer (which, she is already!)... but if you know me, you know that is HARD. :) I like to see the numbers and make sure I'm doing this whole thing correctly.  It's been OK for Lulu, because she's younger and also LOVES writing, but I'm also going to switch her to a more concrete program.
  • Sonlight History - Again, I LOVE the literature (mostly), and I adore Story of the World. But the layout is "Child reads assignment, parent asks discussion questions". And that's it. No tests or assessment of knowledge retained. So I'm going to just use SOTW and their resources, and consult the Sonlight reading list as well. I really like having fiction that goes along with the historical period being learned - that is amazing and enriching. But we can do that on our own, and for a heckuva lot less $$! I also may pull Literature Unit Studies for some of the books to do more reading comprehension/studies along the way.
  • Rosetta Stone. Meh. I think I already got into this one on a previous post.
  • Wordly Wise - maybe if we had been homeschooling and doing vocab from day 1, but no. This wasn't a good fit for us. Bug is going to complete her book, but I have only done a handful of the lessons with Lulu. We are also switching this to the same publishing company that does Growing with Grammar. (Can you tell we like their approach???)

Our curriculum plans for 2018-19:

  • Story of the World (Bug) Vol. 3 and 4
  • Road Trip USA (Lulu)- going through a second time and getting more in-depth with regional history and cuisine, more American History, more biographies of important people, President studies, and hopefully traveling for hands-on experiences! Also going to use the Little Prairie Primer in conjunction with the Little House books. Still working on this.
  • Growing with Grammar, Winning with Writing, Soaring with Spelling and Vocab (JacKris Publications) - both girls
  • Houghton Mifflin/Holt Science for Bug. and maybe Lu. See above re: struggles with science curriculum. This is just straightforward and what they use in public schools, so I think that's what I'm going to do for now, to make sure we are covering all our bases.
  • and/or -- Unit Studies for Science for both as well - to add in some creative hands-on projects.
  • Outschool - I haven't tried this website yet, but they have classes in various subjects and it seems pretty amazing: as of right now, Bug has picked out Japanese and a Warrior Cats creative writing class. Lulu will also select a language and elective.
  • Horizons Math for both - Bug's Pre-Algebra will carry over into 7th grade, and then we will start Algebra during the year when she is ready. Jumping from public school "accelerated" 6th grade math that she took in 5th grade to a pretty rigorous 7th grade homeschool math was a leap. She's holding her own, but we have had to go back and go more in-depth on a few concepts that were difficult. I want to make sure she understands Pre-Algebra, as it lays the foundation for so much coming up. (And this is an example where testing as an assessment tool is SO helpful! I am able to see when she hasn't fully grasped a concept, and go back and re-teach or come at it from a different angle until she gets it.)
  • Literature - for both, will be in conjunction with the time periods in history they are studying.
  • Coding - will continue with and Khan Computer Programming.
...and anything else I come across that looks interesting! 

That was quite a post. My goal for this coming "school year" is to post weekly to keep track of what we are doing!!! I found a homeschool log to fill out each day that will also help me. The days all kind of bleed together and it helps SO MUCH to look back and see what we've done. I have also started a Fitness Challenge for the girls that will go into next year, and found the website that sells supplies for Milers Club, that Bug did in school and loved. I have also started working on creating Cactus Cash to dole out for awesome grades or behavior, like they do in school. I think this will help motivate the girls even more and help me with "classroom management"..... I'll do a post another day about all the things I've struggled with and learned this school year. That will be another whopper!

If you read this far, thanks for all the support and encouragement you all have given me. This hasn't always been easy, but I can already see the benefits for us and can see how this is going to be the best option in the long run for both Bug and Lulu. 💕

Monday, November 6, 2017

1/3 of the way through the year!

I'm very bad at blogging regularly, apparently.  But we are still here! Still homeschooling, and really getting into the guts of the curriculum for the year. We have gotten through the initial "review and introduce a few new concepts" part of the curriculum that apparently exists even in homeschool. And now it's getting real. I'm loving how the girls are both being challenged in ways they haven't been before. The pace of homeschool curriculum can move quicker and go more in-depth just because it's one-on-one (or one-on-two in my case!). There have been frustrating moments for both the girls, but I'm loving that because it means they are growing and trying things they haven't before. Definitely not a lot of boredom or "phoning it in" happening in this schoolroom. :)

Here's what we are loving:

Weekly writing assignments with different genres. Bug just endured/survived a couple weeks of poetry. She hated it initially (and probably still does) but by the end, wrote a poem that I was super impressed with! It was outside her comfort zone, but she got into it and DID IT. And now we are moving on to other types of writing - this week is about news stories (in weeks past, she has done compare/contrast essays, descriptive paragraphs, etc.). Basically, each week she learns mechanics of that type of writing, analyzes it, learns concepts that relate to it, and then is guided through how to write her own version. In retrospect, I maybe should have gone down a level (she's doing this, and from what I've read we could/should have done F, since she hasn't been doing this curriculum the whole time and our schools weren't super heavy with the ELA work). Hindsight! But, we are powering through and she's catching up and getting it. This and vocab are both really pushing her outside her comfort zone, but I see growth and that makes me happy. Lulu also does weekly writing assignments, on a smaller scale. I'm so happy she is getting a solid foundation in this - by the time she gets to Bug's age, it will be much smoother than it is for Bug right now!!

Khan Academy - LOVING it. Free online courses, and they are good!! Bug does computer programming and is now also doing math - it goes more in-depth than Horizons. Much like the LA above, I forgot how homeschool curriculum is ahead of what the kids learned in school. So even tho she did 6th grade math last year, 7th grade homeschool math (pre-algebra) is a challenge. She is doing very well grade-wise, but we are taking our time with each concept and making sure she understands everything. Horizons is just a brief blurb, classwork, and then assignment. With a new concept every day. She was keeping up, but my math-loving kid was getting pretty run down by it all. Khan has videos that explain the concepts more fully, with follow-up quizzes and tests. So we are doing a combo of Khan and Horizons, and I think that will work really well going forward.  I want her to really GET these concepts so going forward she has a strong foundation.

Sonlight History/Literature - still loving it. I may add in some supplemental materials for the second Story of the World book in the spring. I'm very excited for Lulu to start using Sonlight History/Literature for 3rd grade next year! We are going through the literature lists for previous years that Lulu has missed, and doing them as readalouds. Right now we are doing Charlotte's Web and creating a lapbook to go with it. Sonlight is VERY literature heavy, but we 3 girls love a good story, so it's working well so far.

Here's what we will be changing next year:

Sonlight Science. Eh. The books are Usborne, which I LOVE. But the science worksheets that Sonlight creates to go along with the books have questions that don't always line up. That can be confusing and frustrating. Also, while Sonlight is one of the few (maybe only?) Christian curricula that understands not all homeschoolers are anti-evolution, there is a bit too much of the anti-evolution mindset that seeps into the worksheets for my taste. I believe we will just go with Houghton Mifflin or something straightforward next year. Bug is finishing up her Sonlight (we skipped the 12 weeks called "Origins" and so we will be done by March with the rest), and then we will dive into 7th grade science in the spring.  Lulu is now working on a plants unit, and then moon phases, and probably butterflies after that with the Insect Lore kit... etc etc. I will probably either continue unit studies for 3rd grade or also put her on Houghton Mifflin. Something like this.


So that's where the girls are at. For me, personally, I'm bit by bit finding my groove. We are all relaxing a bit, and getting out of the "recreate public school @ home" mentality. Meaning -- it's not about the grades or tests, it's about mastering concepts and spending time learning; it's not about getting school out of the way so we can get on with our day, it's about enjoying the process of learning, and letting it seep into every aspect of our day; it's not about scheduling every moment of the day like I did at the beginning of this year; it's about the content.  yada yada yada... you get the point (hopefully). :)

I will try to update more frequently!!!!!!!! Thanks for all the support and encouragement from everyone!! xoxo

Monday, September 4, 2017

To break or not to break....and a rambling update.

OH MY GOODNESS this school year is zooming by already. We did our first 6-week session and then had our week off. I pictured a glorious week where I revamped schooling organization, deep cleaned the house, sorted all the toys & clothes, took the kids to the pool for a couple hours every day, and amazing field trips every day. Ummm yeah. That was a lot of expectation!!!

So my thoughts on a whole week off every 6 weeks. In theory, great idea - especially if we want to travel somewhere. In reality, we ladies in this house like our structure. And balance. And that was a lot of stuff I had planned, without much balance. So the reality of our first week off was a lot of pajamas and video games, some very successful but time-consuming house organization projects with several trips to the Goodwill and (finally!) selling some big toys at a secondhand store, 3 pretty good field trips, and a reorg of how I have all the school stuff laid out. OK typing that out makes it actually sound like a good and productive week! LOL it was... I just think a whole week is a long time for a break when nobody else is off, the weather is still in the triple digits so playing outside is short-lived, and we were hitting a great school groove. Lesson learned!

So - the aforementioned school groove!! Everyone is really falling into a rhythm and it's wonderful. We start each day around 9, and finish up around 2 or 3, with a snack/recess break in the morning and a lunch break.  I took a Facebook quiz the other day (as I love to do) about what type of homeschoolers we are. I loved the results - they actually reflected where I feel like we are headed. The top 4 results were (in no particular order) Waldorf & Montessori (of course - these two have been my jam since we started homeschooling when Bug was 2), and also Charlotte Mason and Classical. Those last two have intrigued me as we have been working our way through Sonlight, with its rich classical literature. So I'm reading up on ways to incorporate more of those concepts into our school. I don't know enough yet to speak wisely about the various aspects of Charlotte Mason especially, but what I have read so far intrigues me.  I'm also going to add some recitation to our mix - I'm not sure where that falls - classical? I'm also enjoying the copywork and dictation in Sonlight - which again, classical? I don't know. Clearly I have much to learn! Anyway, that's where we are at.

We still love Sonlight History/LA/Readers. I'm coming around on the ELA aspect of it and feeling more love towards it. It's very enriching and creative and the girls have been enjoying it. There is a LOT of reading, and we are a tiny bit behind on Bug's current read-aloud book (Trojan War, oh MY that's a story), but we do enjoy the time spent with me reading to the girls.

I do think we will switch math programs next year, but Horizons is fine for now.

We are trying Sonlight science for both girls, and so far everyone likes it.  (That was a late switch from the Oak Meadow I had previously planned- searched online and bought used just in case we didn't love it - and just received the packages a few weeks ago.)  Lulu has done studies about animals and bodies. Bug has been learning about all sorts of things in a more in-depth "middle school" way that she loves. It's actually new material for her, which is exciting :) My girl loves her science! We are going to try our first Sonlight experiments this week. I'll have a more informed opinion on these science programs later this year.

We settled on using CNN10 for "current events" - Bug has been enjoying those. I recommend them for any kids, homeschooled or not - they are just a quick snapshot of what is happening in the world. I struggled with what to use for this (Sonlight recommends that kids become part of the conversation about what's going on by reading or watching the news for a bit every day) because quite frankly times are stressful. We have many household discussions about the state of the world, but in a (hopefully) non-anxiety-inducing way. I wasn't sure what media to use for this, as I feel a lot of the networks like to speculate about all the ways things COULD go, and that can be scary. Anyway - CNN10 for the win. :)

Bug is checking out an in-person Mandarin class this week at a local private school. It's an after-school program there, and it's open to homeschoolers. Hoping that's a good fit.

Also sports start up again in the next couple of weeks, so our schedules will be hoppin!

I think that's it - that was just an emptying of my brain!! Thanks to everyone for all the support, especially after my last post. I'm so thankful and fortunate to have a great network of friends and family who understand our decision and support us on this journey!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 3-day weekend, and for those friends/family whose kids are going back to school tomorrow, I can't wait to see the pics!! I hope everyone has a great first day back. :)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Keeping it real!

In the spirit of "keeping it real" and not being a roses and sunshine only kinda social media gal (don't want to be boring like that!! LOL) -- here are some truths from our first 3 weeks of school:

**I made both girls cry the first day of school. Yep, Lulu having to write two sentences did her in and she ended up in her room crying her heart out for about 30 minutes over the stress of having to write TWO. SENTENCES. Bug kept interrupting me during Science and I snapped, and she went and cried. (And then I made stuffed peppers for dinner, which just about made the hubs cry, too - 3/3!!)

**I have been plagued by self doubt about this decision. It's lessening as time goes on, but there are still nights I lay awake worrying that my kids will miss out on some important thing that I have forgotten. Or have dreams where I realize that I've made a horrible mistake and I run in and re-enroll them at school. For those who know me well, this isn't too different than other big parenting decisions I have made. But I think because I've made a "weird" and different decision for my kids, it feels scarier somehow.

**The first week I was delirious with exhaustion. Each week has gotten easier, but wow this is tiring!!!! My patience is very low some days and I'll admit it, I have yelled at the girls when they frustrate me in those moments. I'm working on it, and as they get into their grooves and know what is expected, it's getting calmer. (Classical music and lavender oil mists help us all a ton!!! ;) )

And to go along with that, here are a couple amazing heart-warming things that have also been happening:

**Bug is returning to her happier and more relaxed self day by day. Lulu still struggles with anxiety, but that is also lessening as we go (anxiety was brought on by a math placement test @ school last year) -- that was the "2 sentence" meltdown on day 1. "What if it's not okay?? What if you don't like what I write!!??" I'm working to help her realize that her best effort is more than enough - and if she makes a mistake, that's how we learn.

**The girls have bonded and are so much nicer to each other (usually). As someone said, they have no choice - they are stuck together so much!! LOL, so true -- but seriously a couple weeks before we started our school year, I was wondering if I was insane because SO MUCH FIGHTING ALL THE TIME OMG!! So truly, it could have gone either way with these two. It's wonderful watching them grow closer and become friends.

OK back to it!!! Halfway through Session 1! Most schools around us are back to school now, so it feels more exciting to be home.... I am still glad we started during the summer but yeah there were days where the girls were like "WHYYYYY!! It's SUMMER!!" :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Week 2 already ?!

Oh. My. Goodness. Homeschooling a middle schooler and second grader is SO DIFFERENT than homeschooling a second grader and preschooler!!!! I know, add that to the list of obvious statements, right? I am exhausted, people. But I have to say - this is kinda amazing. It's a good exhausted. Mostly. LOL :)

So far - we have ditched Oak Meadow science and I will save that for Lulu when she gets older. It was over her head and too basic for Bug. I did get 5th grade instead of 6th because I thought I could meet the 2 girls in the middle and do it with both... and yeah not so much! Bug is doing Chemistry on Khan Academy for now, and then I'll have her do Biology and Physics, and we'll go from there and see what we want to do next. I may get Oak Meadow 7th grade, or a textbook, or get the Sonlight science.... I don't know yet.

Khan Academy is kinda awesome, btw. Bug is also doing Computer Programming through them, and I'm going to have her do Personal Finance as well.

Lulu is doing unit studies for science - this week we are studying birds, since that's what we started with Oak Meadow last week. She is learning the parts of a bird, the life cycle of birds, and writing down observations about birds she sees. I think we will do frogs next. Maybe. I don't know. Lots of I don't know!! At one point there will be a unit about apples and then we will go apple picking. I have random thoughts like that about her and science...

We also ditched Rosetta Stone. They don't tell you what the words mean in English. You have to just kinda figure it out from the picture. Bug was okay-ish with it because she had 2 years of Mandarin in school already, but she didn't love it. They have a 30 day money back guarantee, so we are going to use that and check out the Tucson Cultural Center again. I am teaching Lulu Spanish for the moment. We have learned 1-10, the alphabet, and working on days of the week this week. My 8 years of Spanish classes junior high through college are coming in handy!!! I am kinda amazed at how much I remember.... thankful for it now. And also thankful for the Internet with all the cute worksheets and resources.

So those are the things that DIDN'T work... everything else? AWESOME. We loooooooooooove love love love the Sonlight World History Year 1. LOVE. The literature and lessons are all about ancient Egypt - so I read aloud the Golden Goblet, while Bug is reading another book on her own (Mara, Daughter of the Nile I think?), and I am also reading aloud an Usborne book and Story of the World Vol 1 --- and they all have same locations, language, and feel. It's amazing. Lulu has joined in the Usborne and SOTW lessons. I'm going to add in some activities I find online that correlate with SOTW. And because I'm this way, I got the test book for SOTW and am giving Bug a test every time we finish a chapter.

Also loving how Lulu's readers go right along with our American History that we are doing with Road Trip USA. It really helps hammer home the concepts of that time period when they are immersed in it like that! It was just a happy accident really, I didn't plan that for her -- just got the grade level she was at for readers.

Horizons Math is still pretty good. They are doing their worksheets and we are addressing anything they don't know, and practicing and learning.

Growing with Grammar is great -- I don't know if I will get Sonlight Language Arts again. It's OK but I think we would be ok with Growing with Grammar and Winning with Writing. There is some overlap with the grammar program and Sonlight, but I'm ok with that. Just reinforces the concepts. We'll see tho - the jury is still out on Sonlight LA.

I think that's about it so far!! This is a total "brain dump" post - helps to put it all down somewhere :)  OK back to prepping for tomorrow!!! xoxo

Friday, July 7, 2017

2017-2018 Session 1

We kick off our school year in 10 days!!!! We are doing the 6 week session format we did last time we homeschooled. Our first session goes from July 17 - August 25.

This is our planned daily schedule. I'm sure some subjects will go more quickly than I expect, and others we will want to spend more time on. So this is tentative, and subject to change. :) One of the perks of school at home!

8:30 a.m.: AM Yoga
8:45 a.m.: ELA
9:30 a.m.: Math
10:00 a.m.: Science
10:45 a.m.: History/Geography/Literature (Bug) and Specials* for Lulu
11:30 a.m.: PE & Lunch
12:30 p.m.: American History & Geography (Lulu) and Specials* for Bug
1:15 p.m.: Art
1:45 p.m.: Crafting/Home Ec
2:15 p.m.: Girls clean up schoolroom, K set out schoolwork for tomorrow
2:30 p.m.: PM Yoga
2:45 p.m.: Go swimming! :)

*Specials: Spanish, Mandarin, Coding, Typing, Music

And, here is what curriculum we are using for each:

Yoga and PE
Beachbody on Demand

ELA - Lulu
Language Arts 3 - Sonlight (including Wordly Wise for Vocab)
Grade 3 Readers - Sonlight
Growing with Grammar Level 2

ELA - Bug
Language Arts G - Sonlight (including Wordly Wise for Vocab)
Growing with Grammar Level 6
Readers - included with Sonlight History/Geography/Literature package below
Spelling: Grade 6

Horizons 2 (Lulu)
Horizons Pre-Algebra (Bug)

Oak Meadows Grade 5 for both**
**I feel that Bug has had some gaps in her science education (hello 21 year old science packets last year!), so we are backing up a year and laying a solid foundation for both girls. We are going to focus a lot during this session on scientific method, observations, and gathering facts. There will be a lot of field trips - outdoor hands-on activities and observing - so Lulu will be joining in the fun. I will give her some unit studies to go along with what Bug is doing, so she can take part at her level in a fun and engaging way.**

History/Geography/Literature (Bug)
Sonlight - World History 1

Spanish and Mandarin
Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition

Hour of Code with

Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum

Piano, Recorder, Unit Studies
World's Greatest Composers

How to Teach Art to Children**
**Another subject where there are gaps - we are going to focus on the basics and lay a solid foundation in art knowledge during the first part of our school year.**

American History & Geography (Lulu)
Road Trip USA

Crafting/Home Ec
Supplemental activities that tie in with Geography/History lessons.