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Lemonade Day

Category : Blog, Social Studies

LD_CityLogo-HoustonThis past year, one of the cool things that Noah did as part of his homeschooling was to participate in the annual Lemonade Day.

Lemonade Day introduces kids to entrepreneurship! This citywide event encourages kids to start a lemonade stand and sell their lemonade to the entire community. Schools, community groups and businesses get involved to make this all happen.

Anyone can sign up and pick up a free packet to participate in Lemonade Day every spring.  I had Noah’s Dad participate with him as a Father-Son activity.  I think they both learned a lot and I tried to stay out of the way (hard sometimes).

They had to arrange a location to set up a lemonade stand. They picked our nearest Kroger. But when they showed up on Lemonade Day someone had already beat them to their location. Turns out the manager had accidentally double-booked the location. Noah had to set up shop an the alternative entrance which had FAR less traffic than the other. They asked the other stand if they’d be willing to trade locations half way through the day but they said no :(

It turned out to be interesting to see how other families handle Lemonade Day. The other stand had two families working together with their kids in Boy Scout uniforms. They had quite an elaborate display that was clearly not child-made. The children didn’t appear to be doing much work at all. It really rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t imagine those boys learn much from the experience and they probably ended up earning some Boy Scout patch, too. Bah.

The manager agreed to let Noah come back the following weekend to make up for the mess up. So he applied some of the lessons he learned and came more prepared the following weekend. He also decided to earn money toward a cause – Japan Tsnuami/Earthquake Relief.  He had a great turn out and great reception. He also had Addy along as a helper so he got to experience paying someone to work for him, as well. He learned to manage money, prepare inventory, set up a display, deal with strangers, and give for charity. It was a fantastic experience.

Reflecting on Last Year: What Worked, What Didn’t

Category : Curriculum Reviews, Grammer & Lit, History, Literature, Math, Phonics, Science, Social Studies, The Arts, Writing

As we go into another homeschool year, I like to reflect on last year’s curriculum a bit.

Let’s start with 11th grade.

Dalton took Thinkwell Pre-Calc. It’s a combination of Algebra II and Trigonometry. He had previously taken the somewhat weak Teaching Textbooks Algebra II and he liked it but I figured a bit of review wouldn’t hurt. He really liked Thinkwell. He liked it better than Teaching Textbooks, in fact. He did consistently well all year. But the course was daunting and not laid out in a way that made it easy to pace oneself. In order to complete the course over one school year he would have had to do 2-3 lessons a day. To me, this is overkill. And it led to my procrastinator falling further and further behind. He has spent the better part of the summer rushing to complete the course before it’s 12 month subscription expires and his senior year begins. I think Calculus will be slightly less daunting but when I plugged the lessons into Homeschool Tracker Plus, it still indicated that he’d have to do multiple lessons on many days to complete in one school year. I just hope he continues to excel at math because if he runs into any problems that require that he spend a bit more time on any given lesson, I’m not sure he’ll finish by May graduation.  I wish Thinkwell would lay out a reasonable school year guideline to follow or I wish they would at least combine lessons so that learning so much each day is less psychologically daunting! Still we are doing Thinkwell again since at this point I think it will be easier than switching to another Calculus program. Teaching Textbooks does not even offer a Calculus course.

Dalton used Spielvogel’s Western Civilization – A brief History  last year and there isn’t much to say about this. He did fine, he hates history. He thought it would be fine to pass along to his younger brother but I decided not to since I’d prefer that future World History courses focus on the entire world and not just the Western world or completely Euro-centric history. So while I love Spielvogel, we switched from his Western history to his Glencoe co-authored World History for Teegan.

Dalton used Lightning Lit for British Lit. He liked the books a lot and we had used Lightning Lit the year prior to we’ll stick with this. We’ll probably use Lightning Lit for Teegan starting in 10th grade since I like to do an Essay/Comp in 9th grade. Dalton also took the BraveWriter SAT Essay course and found that really helpful. He hasn’t taken college entrance exams yet but he did take the local college placement test to register for classes this school year and he easily scored into college comp and his scores equal a very nice ACT or SAT essay/writing score – something I never thought would happen for this dysgraphic hater-of-writing.

Dalton used a highschool Marine Biology text and thought it was just ok. He learned some things but not a lot. The best part about Marine Biology was becoming PADI-certified in Open water diving (SCUBA). I don’t know that I’d reuse this particular book. I imagine Teegan will take any non-typical science through the community college.

Teegan finished 8th grade through Connections Academy’s Private Virtual Academy. It was supposed to be public school but our state did not award the district funding so all students were transferred to the private school for the year. Teegan liked his courses well enough but we found the teachers to be ….um…..undereducated. And arriving with certain religious-led biases. It was fine for Teegan and he had intended to do the virtual academy again this year but our state does not allow funding for hardly any electives and so Teegan decided to homeschool and do college classes for credit instead. I think this will be a great fit for him.

Noah tried the virtual academy and hated it. Instead we did a lot of unschooly things. Unschooling has always worked really well for him. Over the course of the year he went from reading below grade level (3rd grade) to reading at an adult level. He has absolutely devoured everything he can get his hands on. He also completed a cursive course (just online worksheets), started Simply Music for piano (and loves it) and is working through Teaching Textbooks, which he loves. We got lots of kits of various kinds to play with over the course of the year as he loves to build and experiment. He also got a Lego Robotics kit for Christmas and took a short Robotics course.  I’ll follow that lead this year and keep feeding him good literature as a means of filling his mind with knowledge. We’ll do lots of experiments and hopefully he’ll be able to join a Robotics League this year and expand on his knowledge there. He’ll keep working through the Teaching Textbooks, too.

Addy is trying out public school for Kindy this year but as a point of reference, last year we used Explode the Code online and I really REALLY did not like it. She liked it fine but it had some major flaws, in my opinion. From what I can tell, the online version is very similar to the books. The exercises are very similar. However the online exercises are “scored” according to how fast and accurate a student does. If a student misses even one problem, they are scored poorly and often have to redo ALL the exercises at that level. There is no parent override. I could tell that Addy had mastered a concept but would sometimes not understand a question – not due to her inability to read the question but due to the way the question was worded. So she might answer incorrectly even though she had read the sentence correctly. It became increasingly frustrating to me that she’d have to redo many problems over many exercises due to flaws in the system like this. Likewise Explode the Code says she is reading at a second grade level according to their online program however I find this very hard to believe. She has a lot of holes in her learning that maybe Explode the Code would fill if you stuck with their system through 4th grade but, even so, I’m not a big fan of the phonics-only approach to reading. We’ll switch back to the old standard Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but it will be hard to figure out where to start. She has always preferred it over Explode the Code anyway, often asking for it last year.

Another year, another plan

Category : Blog

“School” starts this year on August 22. We follow the local school district’s calendar because my kids like to spend as much time as possible with their (public schooled) friends so they want to take days off when their friend’s have days off. Also, this year our youngest child will be attending public school Kindergarten (her idea, blah) so it makes sense to align our learning with her’s. I’ve been working hard to plan, purchase and organize everyone’s curriculum. This year there’s some added pressure. I have a child going into his final grade of highschool this year and another going into his first year of highschool. I had to work hard to fill in any learning gaps for my 12th grader and try to evaluate the last 3 years of homeschooling him to learn from any mistakes so my 9th grader starts his years of highschool on the right foot. Of course I also have a 4th grader to focus on who happens to have incredible gifts and also a few major challenges. Planning, this year, was harder than ever.

But I finally settled on the following:

4th Grade: we will still do a loosely structured school year since I believe in a mostly unschooled or at least highly hands-on approach to learning during elementary years. He is a total bookworm and loves projects so he’ll be reading a LOT and doing lots of experiments and projects. But the major goal this year is to work on his writing skills. He has some small motor weakness and challenges and although he’s reading at an adult level, it is challenging for him to write. Like the physical act of writing..not just figuring out how to get words from his head onto paper. I feel confident that if we can really work out the writing/small motor issues that he will quickly become an amazing writer as he does love to create stories.

Math: Teaching Textbooks - he’s been working on this over the summer and will continue next year, moving up to the next level as necessary.

ELA: Learning Language Arts through Literature: Orange. I’m excited to try this curriculum with my struggling writer. He’s already read some of the books but I figure that will leave more time to work on the writing/dictation. He also has an extensive reading list that I am sure he will knock out by Christmas :)

Science: NOEO biology II. Lots of experiments and great reference books.

History: Chester Comix. We are doing very laid back, fun-filled project-based history this year since none of us love studying history.

Piano: Simply Music Year 1 – we are already doing and love Simply Music. This has been such a good thing for my guy’s coordination

PE: TaeKwonDo. He started this over the summer and did not love it at all but, again, it will help with his large motor skills and overall muscle weakness. He seems to love it more each week so I’m hoping he’ll want to continue into the school year. We have a great homeschool TKD class, too!

We have talked about doing a World Religions course and joining a Robotics team, as well.

9th Grade: My 9th grader is academically gifted and extremely motivated. The name of the game this year is getting him to slow down and really balance his time and let go of his own internal pressure to compete with himself and everyone around him to finish and move on as quickly as possible.

Math: Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2. He took Geometry last year through a virtual academy but he forgot most of the Algebra he learned the year prior. So we’ll revisit Algebra through Teaching Textbook.

ELA: Help for Highschool from Bravewriter. However he tested into College Comp so I’m pretty sure this will be a blow-off class. I still like to do a real essay/comp class for 9th grader anyway. He also has an extensive book list of classics he’ll be reading.

Science: Biology w/ Labs from LabPaq. I’m excited about LabPaq. They seem so much more organized and user-friendly than Labs-in-a-box. I almost feel as if we wouldn’t even need our spine (Biology: Exploring Life) but my 12th grader loved this spine so we’ll stick with it.

History: World History using Glencoe World History. I LOVE this spine for it’s fairly well-balanced, less Euro-centric approach to World History. There’s actually three whole chapters devoted to Asian history and several others to other infrequently covered areas of the world. Since my kids are (mostly) Asian, it’s nice to be represented :)

Electives: Spanish (Learnables), Piano (Simply Music)

College Courses (these are technically electives too): Intro to Computing and Image Design I (7 credits total)(first semester)

12th Grade: Last year of highschool! I’m proud of how far he’s come! His goal for this year is to simply stay on track. He’s a procrastinator by nature and he’s spent all summer finishing off Pre-Calc because he blew it off half of last year. I would like to graduate him in May so no blowing things off this year! Also he’s maxed out on courses and electives. He has more than enough to graduate so he was limited to one dual credit course. Next semester he’ll have to enroll as exceptional admissions (early admission) to take another course.  Had I known this I would not have added some of his previous electives to his transcript. Ah well, live and learn.

Math: Thinkwell Calculus (and an Algebra refresher so he can test into College level Algebra)

ELA: World Lit using Lightning Lit

Science: College Physics (Thinkwell) w/ Labs from LabPaq. Nervous about this since Calculus is a pre-req but, if necessary, we can switch to a highschool physics spine.

History: American History. This is a repeat course, per his request, because he feels like he learned very little from the history course he took 2 years ago. Did I mention we are history haters? So we’ll try again using the Zinn books and online supplements as an alternative look at US history.

American Government/Economics (Thinkwell for both).

College Course: Intro to Computing (first semester)

Advanced  Open Water Diver PADI course (possibly next semester)

Piano (Simply Music)