Monday, October 1, 2012

Homeschooling–one month in (part 3)

The one topic I haven’t talked about is our Wednesday – Unit Studies day.  One of my selling points for homeschooling was that we could learn about whatever he wanted to learn about. 

The first week he wanted to learn about….are you ready for this…video games.  Sigh.  So we checked out some books from the library about video games.  We read about the history of video games, which consoles came in what order, we learned about the positive and negatives of playing video games and then he was to write in his notebook about what he learned.  And he drew a blank.  He had no idea what to write.  I kept trying to give him hints and help him, but it was a struggle all day.

So the next week I decided we would learn about cars all month long.  We read books, we looked at different models online, we read more books, I tried to get him to make a poster by cutting pictures of cars out of a car magazine (he cut out pictures of 20 steering wheels…why?), we watched a video about how cars are made, we made reservations at the Toyota manufacturing plant in San Antonio (which got canceled but rescheduled for Wednesday), a neighbor showed him the different parts of the engine and how a car works…theoretically this sounds like a lot of fun things to learn about.  But each Wednesday is still a struggle.

I think it’s because I need things more structured.  I don’t want to abandon our unit studies, but what we’ve been doing has not been working for me.  Next week we are going to start doing a lap book about “Little House in the Big Woods” and it is a little more structured, so we’ll see if we enjoy that better.

There are other things about homeschooling that I don’t love.  In general I don’t feel my house gets as clean.  I don’t think I pay enough attention to Christian.  He watches way too much PBS.  I have a harder time making freezer meals or other things on my to-do list.  I certainly don’t have as much “me” time.  Going out to lunch with friends or visiting teaching is more difficult because I have an 8yo with me. 

But despite the things I complain about, I am still enjoying spending the one-on-one time with Aaron.  He loves learning which makes teaching him fun.  But mostly I just like getting to spend the time with him.

Enough about homeschooling.  Back to posts about birthdays and fun things we do as a family!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homeschooling–one month in (part 2)

On Thursday and Friday we do Math and Science.  For Math we are using Singapore Math and he LOVES math.  He’s a total nerd.  Gets that from both Paul and I! 

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Halloween 2010

Knowing that math is really easy for him I started him in '>'>Math 3B which is supposed to be the 2nd semester of the 3rd grade year. The program has an instructor book, a textbook and a workbook.  So far we’ve studied Mental Math Strategies, Length, Weight, Capacity, Graphs, Fractions and Time.  All that is left in the book is Geometry.  I don’t make  him do every single problem, because he “gets it.”  It’s really easy for him and I don’t need him to do busy work.  In an hour and a half we typically get through what the book says should take us a week or 2. 

I’ve already purchased the Math 4A stuff and I assume we will continue to blow through the math curriculum really quickly because he enjoys it so much.  This is one of the reasons I chose to homeschool him.  So he could continue to learn new things at HIS pace. 

When I asked him what he wanted to study for science he chose chemistry so I found him a chemistry book called '>'>Adventures with atoms and molecules, Chemistry Experiments for Young People.  We do one experiment on Thursday and then another on Friday and we’ve had a lot of fun so far with only one experiment not working so far.  For each experiment he writes in his notebook 1.  What did we use?  2.  What did we do?  3.  What happened?  4.  What did we learn?  Plus definitions of what we are learning about.  It’s pretty basic stuff, but I doubt he’d be doing more science in public school. 

Both Math and Science have been pretty fun to teach him.  Sometimes it’s boring having to remind him to stay focused on the math problems or getting him to write in his notebook about the science because his easily distracted, but teaching him something he enjoys makes it all worthwhile.   

I’ve got one more post about homeschooling then I’ll get back to pictures of the kids!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homeschooling–one month in (part 1)

The number one question I get these days is: “How is homeschooling going?”  (Either that or “Mom, can I have more milk?”-seriously, they drink a lot of milk these days…what is it going to be like when they are teenagers?  Maybe it would be less expensive to buy a cow!)

But back to the real topic – I am enjoying homeschooling. 

There are challenges I wasn’t totally prepared for, and it does make some things in my life more complicated, but I truly am enjoying homeschooling Aaron. 

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Let me walk you through a typical week.  Mondays and Tuesday we do Grammar, History, Spelling and Handwriting.  Wednesday is our Unit Studies. Thursday and Friday we do Science and Math.  Every day he is expected to do a typing lesson on the computer, practice the piano, read something I’ve assigned him (usually corresponding to what we are learning in history or his unit studies), read his scriptures, and read for fun.  Things like art and PE are kinda hit and miss.

For Grammar we are using First Language Lessons which has an instructor book and a student book.  It completely walks us through what the instructor needs to say, what the student should say, etc.  We do 4 lessons a week, 2 on Monday and 2 on Tuesday. So far we have been studying what the different parts of speech are and have started diagraming sentences.  It also has dictation exercises and poem memorization and I’m having him memorize scriptures too.  So far in this first month he’s memorized 2 scripture verses and one poem.  This is one of the things I’m enjoying teaching him.  We laugh together at me having to repeat the definition 3 times then him saying it with me 3 times.  I think it’s great and I’m having a good time teaching him this stuff.

In History we are using The Story of the World and are reading it out loud to each other.  Again, we do 4 chapters a week, 2 on Monday and 2 on Tuesday.  After reading each section we talk about it and then after we finish the reading I ask him to write down in his notebook at least 4 sentences about what he learned that day.  Again, the one on one of reading with him is a lot of fun.  I really like spending time with him and talking about history.  His grandfather in Utah loves history and has been sending him e-mails asking him about what he’s learning, so I usually ask him to type a few sentences each each day to Grandpa Thomas telling him what he liked learning about history that day.  More typing practice!

Both Spelling and Handwriting are workbooks therefore I feel he should be able to do this independently and this is where I get frustrated sometimes.  He gets distracted.  I find myself nagging. This part of homeschooling is not so much fun. But it’s necessary because I can’t sit and give him my undivided attention all day every day. 

The daily typing lesson is a free 12 stage program on the computer he’s done several times already, but both he and Brian are still really slow and I’m hoping to get them faster, so I keep asking them to do the lessons over again.  We’ll see. 

I’m teaching him piano lessons and while I bet another teacher would get him farther, we get along and he is getting better, so we’re going to keep doing it.  He’s expected to work on it for 30-45 min a day.

Now I gotta get more stuff done, so I’ll type about Wednesday, Thursday and Friday later.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I am choosing to homeschool Aaron this year

I have been asked this question by many people lately and I’m sure I’ll be asked by many more (not to mention those that wonder and don’t ask!)  So I decided I’d just answer this via the blog for those who were wondering.  Here goes: 

I see some potential in Aaron that I don’t feel the public school can adequately address and I’d like to try to meet his needs on my own this year.

I recognize that this sentence might not adequately answer everyone’s questions, so here’s a few more of my thoughts based on some questions you might have.  Oh, and by the way, Aaron is 8yo going into the 3rd grade. 

Have you really thought about this? Of course! I have thought long and hard about this and fasted and prayed many times and I really feel this is the right decision for Aaron and me this year. Please don’t try to talk me out of this. That’s not very helpful. I may not totally know what I’m doing, but I honestly think I’m doing what’s best for us.

Where did you get this idea? I happen to read a lot of blogs of people who homeschool. They write a lot of articles about homeschooling. The more I read, the more I felt “I could do that.” If you want to read some of the articles that influenced me I’d be happy to share them with you.

Don’t you like public school?  I love our local elementary school!  Love the staff and all the teachers I’ve come in contact with.  All the teachers we’ve had so far have been great and have loved and taken care of our children wonderfully.  But even the best teacher of 20-25 students can’t give each child individual attention and meet all of their specific needs. 

Aren’t you worried about Aaron’s socialization?  Of course I am.  Aaron has some inherent social awkwardness to begin with.  We’ve seen it ever since his first year of preschool when his teacher was concerned that he’d rather play by himself than with the other kids.  Being in elementary school hasn’t fixed or really even addressed the problem.  He is in cub scouts and interacts with kids at church and in the neighborhood, and we’ll probably try to involve him in another sport this year.  If we homeschool longer than a year we will look into co-ops and other programs to increase the amount of time he interacts with peers.

What curriculum are you going to use?  After the third time I checked out the book “The Well Trained Mind” from the library I decided to buy it.  I am using a lot of the curriculum they recommend.  I’ve bought First Language Lessons For the Well Trained Mind: Level 3 to teach grammar, Spelling Workout Level B, Singapore Math 3B, Adventures with Atoms and Molecules: Chemistry Experiments, and The Story of the World. We will also continue to do piano lessons, typing lessons and he’s starting some computer programming online. (plus of course some religious education that he obviously couldn’t get in school.)

One of the reasons I want to do this is to have the ability to advance him academically at his own pace.  When I first began looking into homeschooling I had him take some math practice tests to see which curriculum to buy.  One of the tests put him ready for 7th grade math!  He LOVES math.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he blows through the math books I bought and I buy him several more before the year is done.  If he wants to learn algebra, I want to teach him!

What will your day be like? Probably pretty crazy! I’ll still have to pack Brian’s lunch and get him on the bus. Then I’ll still have housework to do and 2 little boys at home that need my attention. And I’ll need to teach school for Aaron! But I honestly think that it’ll work out pretty well. Both Aaron and I thrive on organization and I bet he and I figure it out pretty soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his school work totally done by lunch time most days!

What about next year?  I don’t know yet.  I am currently only thinking about this year.  I assume that he’ll go back to Stephens Elementary.  But it’s possible we’ll love it and want to keep doing it.  It’s also possible we will hate it and I’ll send him back in a few months!  At that point I’ll probably cry and feel like I failed, but Paul will buy me Ritters and that will help me feel better. 

What about Brian?  Brian THRIVES in the normal public school environment right now.  He has LOTS of friends and would not want to be away from them.  This is also his first year in the Gifted program and he’s excited to be a part of that.  I assume I’ll still be the homeroom mom and teach Junior Achievement to his class too.  Maybe I’ll homeschool Brian for 3rd grade too?  Who knows!

Are there other reasons you haven’t listed?  I feel like I’m missing important moments in his life.  One of the things I don’t love about public school is how much the boys are gone every day.  They get on the bus at 7:45am and get home at 4pm.  They are hot, tired, hungry and their eyes are glazed over with a need to relax when they get home.  Unfortunately, they then need to do homework which can often take an hour or so.  Then it’s dinner time, chores, and bed.  And I don’t feel like I really get to spend much quality time with them.  Aaron is 8 now and I think it’s a wonderful age.  He’s so inquisitive and fun to be around and I just want to treasure the time I can with him. 

I could probably continue to write about my thoughts and feelings about this for another hour, but I bet many people stopped reading ages ago!  I’m sure many of you think I’m crazy, and hopefully some of you think it’s a great idea.  It’s an experiment we’re going to try right now.  I hope to continue to post about this as we continue.  Please wish us luck as we embark on this endeavor.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games–a movie review

In January it was my 12yo nieces turn to pick the book for our family book club and I was pleasantly surprised that she  picked the book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I had heard all my friends talk about it for a long time, but just hadn’t picked it up myself and was glad for an excuse to.  When I borrowed it from a friend she game me all 3 books in the series, knowing I’d want to read them all.  And she was right.  I read all 3 books in less than a week and impatiently waited for my husband to finish the first one, then the second, then the third so we could discuss it. 

After reading the books I devoured the movie trailers online and began looking at who the actors were going to be and researching all I could about the movie.  I could hardly wait for it to come out!  My anticipation peaked as I was given the opportunity to go to the one advanced screening in the Houston area and was thankful they let me bring my husband and have a good date night! 

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Let me start my review by saying, “I loved it!”  If you don’t know the premise of the movie/book there are about a million links out there to summarize it for you, so I won’t bore you with it here. It followed the book very well and I feel that if you liked the book you will probably like the movie.  Obviously there had to be some differences between the book and the movie, but in general I liked the changes made. 

The book is written entirely from Katniss’s point of view, while the movie allows you to see some of what else is going on behind the scenes with some of the other supporting characters like Gale and Haymitch and President Snow and Seneca Crane.  Some of the things I didn’t like about the book (like a specific mutation in the genetically altered dogs) didn’t make it into the movie either, so that made me happy.  I was worried about how the violence would be handled, but was pleased that while it had to be there to stay true to the book, it was handled in a manner as not to be too gratuitous.

Part of what made the movie so well done was the casting of the supporting characters.  Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks really helped make this movie.  And Liam Hemsworth who played Gale…he was nice to look at!  I look forward to him playing a greater role in later movies so I can look at him even more!  I did think Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson did a really good job too, but I don’t feel inclined to gush over them. 

One of the things I was disappointed in was the lack of depth about how real or pretend the romance between Katniss and Peeta was at the end of the movie.  I think the book handled that better, but I’m going to assume they are just waiting to flesh that out more in the subsequent movies.  I also wished it had shown a little more depth with the relationship between Katniss and Rue, but I understand they can’t do everything with the time constraints of the movie. 

I’m not sure that this movie will make the cut for movies I want to own in my video collection (we’re kinda picky), but it might.  I do want to read the books again and yes, I would like to watch the movie again. 

Basically, if you’ve read the book you’ll probably like it, and if you haven’t read the book and can get past the dystopia of the premise, you’ll probably like it too. 


Thanks again to Lionsgate for giving free movie passes to my husband and I and letting us see it before it officially came out.  (Sorry to any of my friends who I bragged to!  Now you can see it too if you want.)  The review is my own and I received no other compensation for writing this post.