Friday, August 31, 2012

Math U See

The past two years have been a whirlwind of math programs. Number 1 (oldest daughter) started out with Abeka in 3rd grade. Since then we've dabbled with Time4Learning, Mcruffy, Shiller, and Bob Jones math programs. That's FIVE different programs in two years.
Abeka gave us a headache.
Time4Learning seemed to have too many holes and Number 1 didn't always understand what they were saying.
Mcruffy was just.....ok. We quickly worked through it but couldn't find anything to love.
Shiller was a neat concept but it just never fully caught on with Number 1. And I had a hard time placing her within the program since we didn't start at the beginning.
Bob Jones is what we used the most of last year. It was close to perfect. We really enjoyed how it focused on one math concept per chapter. I'm not sure if BJ is considered mastery or a loose spiral method. But it's definately closer to mastery than anything else we've used. The one problem I had was not so much with the program but with me. Number 1 was using the 4th grade level. I was able to teach her but I found teaching some of the concepts starting to get difficult even though I knew how to work the problem myself. So I got to thinking. It's only going to get harder. I don't want to let her down and be the reason she fails at math. So I knew it was time to get help. If I stuck with BJU, I would have to get the videos to go with the program. Which majorly ups the price ($350 for DVD's and textbooks or $300 for online and textbooks). Or I had to go with a different program. Either way, I needed something with more parental support.

It came down to two considerations. Teaching Textbooks (computer based) and Math U See (video based). Both are highly praised in the homeschool world. They both had pros and cons for us. In the end, I went with Math U See because of it's mastery approach. TT is spiral. We have been using Math U see all summer long for both girls (10 yr old and 5 yr old).

So what do we think? So far so good. Usually by now we might be getting discontent and running into problems.
I started both girls in Alpha. I know Number 1 would have placed in a higher level had I tested her but I decided to start her at the very beginning. This program is set up very different than others and I didn't want her to miss out on anything. Mr. Demme is a wonderful teacher (according to Number 1, he's the best she's ever had!) and he has so many neat ways of teaching and helping you to remember concepts. I didn't want Number 1 to miss any of that. One way in particular that Math U See has helped her is to quit adding with her fingers. She's really nailed down addition and subtraction facts. We've quickly worked through Alpha in just a couple of months and recently started Beta.
And since I'd really like to have all my kids using the same program, I skipped the Primer book and went straight to Alpha with Number 2 as well. She loves working with the blocks. It's been really good for her too. There's no colors or lively characters on any of the pages. I suspect a very slight attention disorder with Number 2 so it helps to have no fuss straight black and white pages. She can already order place value through hundreds, say and write 1-20, and knows her +0 and +1 addition facts. We are now working on saying and writing 1-100.

I hope we have finally found the math program we will be sticking with all the way through.

A RARE update! A couple of changes. 2012

It sure has been a while since I updated this puppy! I'm looking the new school year in the face and, once again, I'm going to be trying things a little different. Every year seems to need a little fine tuning. Maybe one day we'll have it down pat. But then I wonder if, as the needs of the growing children change, so will the need of the home school?

So what is NOT going to change? We are not going to change our relaxed ways. We are not going to change our eclectic curriculum style (I use a mix of traditional, unit studies, and anything else that floats my boat). We are not going to change schooling year round.

What are we going to change?
1- Introduction of workboxes. I've seen where several other families use this format for organization. The subject bracelets we started off with last year worked great for a few weeks. Then the newness wore off and bracelets started getting lost. It was one of those good ideas in theory. Not so much practically.

I have this in mind:
20 Drawer Mobile Organizer
Each box will contain one subject per child and all the supplies they need. I will probably use color coded stickers so that each child will know which box is their boxes. Or I could just get this version and the boxes are color coded for me. Haven't made up my mind yet. Each school day they can just start at the top and work their way down until all subjects are completed for the day. And I'll store all the teacher's manuals in magazine holders on the bookshelf.

I'm always on a quest for better organization, it seems.

2- Our school year start date. By this, I mean when we will start the next year's curriculum. Yes, we school year around but only with certain subjects (particularly Math). But some subjects, once finished for the year, will wait until the next school year before we start back. We previously started new curriclum on the first Monday of August. We tried to sort of loosely follow the public school schedule. But I find that we do our own anything anyway and breaking at different times than the PS does not seem to affect us negatively.

So we are going to start the new school year in January this year. I love the idea of being able to come back strong after a holiday break. The end of the year is always a little more active for us with field trips and holiday activties. It makes more sense to make the end of the actual year the end of our school year. We would be finishing up curriculum and having a little more spare time for breaks.

So that's the main changes we'll be trying as we enter year number THREE! I can't believe two years of homeschool are behind us. Looking forward to many more years!

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day (of 2nd year) Success!

I put alot of thought into our 2nd year and really hoped it would go better than our first year. Don't get me wrong. Our first year was great but it was more about learning HOW to do it and building confidence. I've gone into this second year with so much more confidence. I don't have to worry about if I can do it or not. I know that I can now. With that being said......

This year has started off on the right foot! My slap bracelet system worked as I had anticipated. Number 1 says it really helps her since she knows what she's accomplished and how much is left. I think it kept the school time from feeling "unending" to her. And since she is able to remove a bracelet for every subject completed, she felt as if she were getting somewhere and reaching her goal for the day.

And because we dare not leave #2 out:

I think our favorite part of the day was history. Mystery of History is awesome. I'm suspecting that #1 is an audio learner so having the CD's "read" to her as she followed along in the book worked well. Draw and Write Through History was fun for her too since she likes art. Here's a pic of her during her history lesson. It's my fave pic of the day.

Number 1 was in tears last night. She was terrified of going into 4th grade. I would say the school day ended very well as everyone was happy and had smiles on their face. And #1 realized there was nothing at all to fear.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gearing up for our 2nd year!

We made it through our first year! As I tried to convince my skeptical hubby to let me HS over a year ago, one of my arguments was that it didn't have to be a forever deal. We could try it and if it didn't work, no biggie. Put them back in public school. Thankfully it did work. Even hubby is convinced of the pros of HS and has no objection with continuing.
I will say that the first year was hard and a bit chaotic. I heard that it would be. So much of the first year is trying to figure out how to do it and what works best for the family. I started out with a strict traditional approach that just about killed it all for us. Once I realized that we do not have to recreate PS at home, it went much better. We are, after all, schooling at HOME.
Then I had to figure out the whole curriculum thing. Honestly, I think I'm still figuring it out. Could curriculum be one of those things that are never fully perfected? Time will tell what we settle into. Our first year was a whirlwind of curriculum swapping. I hope there will be much less of that this year. Thankfully the only thing we are behind on is Math (as I changed math programs more than any other).
I am looking forward to starting back in August. The plans were to school through the summer but that didn't work out. I don't think we have spent any time on schoolwork in the month of July.We have several new things to try as I narrow down the curriculum choices that seem to work best for us. We still haven't found the perfect math program though......
The biggest changes I'll be making for the upcoming school year is having an official "schedule" for the year. I read a great book that has given me lots of tips. The main tip I'll be implementing is a yearly schedule. Last year we sort of flew by the seat of our pants. This year I'll be trying the 3/1 schedule. As in, we'll do 3 weeks of school and take one week off. I think this will be a great schedule for us. Especially for the way hubby's work schedule is. The week off will give us time to breath, rethink anything that needs to be done different, and clean my HOUSE! Our schedule will allow a week off every month and still have the whole month of July off. We shall see how this works out.
Another thing I'll be trying is "subject bracelets." I got these slap bracelets ordered from Oriental Trading. My plan is to use a Sharpie marker and write one subject per bracelet. So we'll have a math bracelet, handwriting bracelet, spelling bracelet, etc. She has to put all the bracelets on when she gets up in the morning. As she completes a subject she can take the bracelet off. Hopefully this will help her to take some responsibility for her learning instead of depending on me to tell her what's next. She loves it when I get distracted so she can "forget" to get her schoolwork done. Then at 9pm we realize spelling (or whatever) was overlooked and it's now too late. That's got to stop!
I won't be using the subject bracelets for #2's Kindergarten work. I don't think she's quite old enough yet. But her day is coming ;-)

So far our 4th grade curriculum choices are looking like this:
Mcruffy Math (will be trying BJU math or Teaching Textbooks when we finish)
BJU English and continue with Winston Grammar
A Reason for Spelling (will probably switch to BJU when we finish)
BJU Handwriting
Mystery of History for the first 1/2 of the year (along with correlating History pockets, Draw and Write through History, and Drive Through History videos). I'm really excited about history this year!
Undecided on Science since we won't be starting it until mid year.

For Kindergarten:
BJU Phonics and Worktext
BJU handwriting
continue with Horizons math

I really hope this all works well for us so I don't have to make any more changes. I'm ready to settle into a program and keep it there.

The one thing I'm most concerned about for the upcoming year is teaching #2 reading. I've never done it before. It's so foundational to everything else so I've got to get it right! Number 2 is showing signs of reading readiness so hopefully this goes well.

I'll be back with updates as our 2nd year progresses! :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer "plans" update

I had high expectations for summer. That didn't go so well! My 16 year old sis in law decided to stay the summer with us. It's been great and the kids have loved having her here. It has, however, messed up the summer plans and our normal school routine. We have managed to fit in some math, handwriting, and grammar here and there but that's about it. So much for my grand plans! But that's ok. Relationship with family is more important in the long run.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teaching Reading Makes Me NERVOUS!!

I've been thinking alot about teaching #2 how to read. It freaks me out a little! Reading is so foundational to everything else. It's one subject/skill that has to be done right. Number 1 went to public school until 2nd grade so she was already a good reader when we started HS. I've never had to teach reading.

I've been looking at all kinds of phonics/reading programs. How in the world does one know which one to pick? There are several different theories of which approach works best. Of course every approach declares that it is the best way to go. ~sigh~

I think I've decided to go with BJU Phonics program. I was able to look through it in person not too long ago and I liked what I saw. It's the K5 program. Number 2 will be 5 years old in November and I wonder if starting in August would be too soon.

Decisions, Decisions. I can do this. I can do this........

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shiller Math update

We've been using SM since January. So what do I think of it now that I have more experience with it?

For #1 (now 9 years old):
I haven't used it with her for a while. I think I had a hard time placing her within the program from the beginning. She got bored with it quickly because it mostly seemed like review. She hates math anyway and I got discouraged. That's when we switched to Time 4 Learning.
A few days ago I looked into the third book (the last of the first set) to see about doing a few pages with her. Again, I just wasn't sure where to place her. So I'll probably just sell the 3rd book to someone who is interested.
We still use the manipulatives.

For #2 (4 years old):
We started Horizons Math for her since I felt she needed something more workbook-y. I was surprised at how well she took to Horizons. I do give the credit to SM for a good beginning foundation. Horizons moves pretty fast and she's not faced any troubles yet.
We're almost to the end of the first book. I plan to continue with it as long as it seems to work. I'll be alternating back and forth between SM and Horizons.

Overall, I think it's great for little ones starting out with Math. It's gentle and fun. I'll use it with #3 when she's ready for Math. I wish #1 had started out with it. That's the only reason I don't think it has worked for her.