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.