Sunday, January 30, 2011

I think I need a HS budget!!

The curricula available to homeschooler's is awesome! I'm so thankful for the choices to us now. I know there was a time when choices were limited to the library and mom's own creativity. Thank goodness times have changed! I wouldn't be doing real good if I were limited to my own creativity.

Some of the hardest choices I've made regarding HS is picking the right program. It took me forever to decide on a math program. I just bought a new spelling program a few nights ago. It took me several days of reading and debating to decide on just a spelling program! Crazy, right?
It's a good thing I know my oldest daughter's learning style (kinesthetic). That narrows alot of choices for me. Even so, there are still so many options available. There really is something for everyone.

Reading about (and trying out!) new programs is a guilty pleasure. And it's why I may need to set a HS budget!

The MAIN reason I love homeschool

There are a lot of reasons I love HS. Building a program that fits my individual child. Watching that child "get it." Better grades! The delay of the world's view of what is "right." Avoiding bad influences (such as my 7 yr old getting asked to have sex in the first grade). Getting help with cleaning the house (tee hee).

The MAIN reason I love HS, though, is the closeness it creates. When my oldest was in public school, our routine was a little like this: Up at 6:30 a.m., on the bus by 7:30. Home from school around 4. Quick snack, a little play time. An hour (or more) of homework (with tears). Supper, baths, bed.

Now we are together all day. Some view this as a bad thing but it's just not! I'm amazed at the closeness that has developed since we started HS. I get to see the the light go on when they figure out a math problem. I get to see the delight over a science project. I get to take the credit for my child's education. I get to answer the hard questions about life (not the silly kids at public school). There are always opportunities to talk about whatever, whenever. It's really hard to explain the relational development since we started HS. I think other HS-ers would understand what I mean.
Now, I'm NOT saying that this type of relationship with children is impossible when the kids are in PS. I think it just takes more work to develop it since the time spent together is limited.

I will admit, sometimes I wish I could have a full day to myself without kids. I LOVE to be alone due to my introverted personality type! But now that I know what I was missing out on, I wouldn't trade those days alone for what I have now for anything.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shiller Math review

We started off the year with A Beka. I bought the full DVD curriculum kit. Another post explains why I've decided not to stick with A Beka. Right now I'm trying to finish this year and I'll be switching. I didn't, however, stick with the Math. My oldest hates math and A Beka's math, while good, is very dry. I felt she needed something different and more hands on for her kinesthetic learning style.
So began the reading about different math programs. I read until I was blue in the face. The main programs I considered most was Singapore, Math U See, Saxon, and Shiller Math. I never could figure out Singapore and I was unsure of the mastery based programs. I felt that my child would need review for it to stick. I was turned off by Math U See after reading that it was video learning. After A Beka DVD, I'm really gun shy about video based learning now. Besides, #1 really prefers that I teach her. It finally came down to Saxon and Shiller. I prayed about it and decided to go with Shiller. We've been using it for about 3 weeks now.

Shiller Math (SM) is Montessori style learning. It's very "hands on" which is what I was looking for. It's manipulative heavy and worksheet light. SM claims that it is an "incremental spiral method."  Even so, some might feel more review is needed. In that case, free worksheets can be found easily online on other websites like I haven't felt that extra worksheets are necessary at this point.
Right now, the whole program consists of two kits. Kit 1 is for roughly ages 4-8. Kit 2 covers ages 9-12. I've heard rumors that a high school kit is being worked on but I have not tried to confirm that. I have the Kit 1 (no download) version that I'm using for my 4 year old and 8 year old. So I will be reviewing only that kit.

When I got the kit in, it was neatly packaged in one large box. I'll not list the manipulatives included since they are listed on the SM website. However, here are some pictures (please keep in mind I'm not a photographer and do not know any fancy camera tricks!):
So far, we've only used the red bag once for a lesson on probability. Under the red bag is the work mat. The work mat is used with every lesson that manipulatives are used. It's quite large (22x37) as you can see compared to my hand. This is supposed to help the child focus on the one space in which they are working. It washes up nicely. I HAD to wash it when we first got it because it smelled strongly like "factory."
Of these items, we've only used the CD, the shapes pieces, and the coins, and the tray that's holding all the contents. The tray seems sturdy and well made as do the shapes pieces. The shapes include squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, diamonds, trapezoids, parallelograms, and hearts. The coins are made of plastic, of course. The CD has 25 songs on it. We've only listened to one song so far (Right, Left song). The 4 year old acted like it was dumb but I heard her singing it later!

All the blue stuff is unit cubes (100 all together), 10's rods(27 all together), 100's flats(27), and a Thousand cube (just one). The green and white grid looking paper in the foreground folds up into more thousands cubes (16 all together).
This seemed a little flimsy to me. We'll see how it holds up over time.

Here are the workbooks. I originally ordered one set thinking I could use them for both kids. As soon as I got the kit in and flipped through them I realized each kid would need their own set. Not all, but quite a bit, of the pages are consumable.
In the front of the book is a Table of Contents. At the back is a Concept Index and Manipulative Index. The concept index groups the concepts covered throughout the book in one place. For example: Probability is covered in lessons 91, 92, and 130. Logic is covered in lessons 16, 18, and 88. The Manipulative index covers the manipulatives used throughout the book in one place. For example: the foam ball is used in lessons 27, 106, and 180. Number tiles are used in lessons 41, 85, and 90.
On the inside of the back cover is a table to record the Date, Minutes worked, Lesson #'s completed, and lessons to revisit.
The first "real" lesson in Book 1 covers circles, triangles, and squares (as in "What is this shape?). The last lesson in Book 3 covers Using Numbers for Letters.
All the lessons are scripted so you don't have to try to figure out what to say. Some would see this as positive, others as a negative. I like it for the days I'm feeling unsure of myself. On the lessons I feel more confident, I read over it and then say it how I want.

This is the answer guide/teacher's manual.
The only problem I see with these is possible typos. For instance, lesson 12, 16, and 20 (in book 1) was completely skipped. I'm not sure if it was done by accident or on purpose. Maybe they were thinking a key was not necessary for those lessons. Not sure.

The Montessori style is all about being positive, positive, positive. And if either parent or child starts feeling frustrated it is stressed to put the math away and come back later. I really love the positive approach to making math fun.
In the Parent Guide the SM ThreeStep Approach is explained. "This is....." "Show me......" and "What is......"
Basically, any time a new concept is introduced the ThreeStep Approach is used. For example: When introducing shapes you would use one of the circles out of the shapes bag to show the child and say "This is a circle." Lay the circle down on the mat (either alone or among other shapes) and say "Show me a circle." Allow the child to pick up or point to the circle. Then say "What is this?"
The Parent Guide, in general, is beneficial and helps with troubleshooting.

This program is not heavy on tests. Tests are included but not so much for a grade. I think it could be more appropriately called a diagnostic review. Basically, at the end of each section (there are 4 sections in Lesson Book 1) there is a review test. If the child misses some answers then you know to cover those particular topics again. These tests are also used to place the child in the program if you won't be starting at the very beginning (like I had to do with my 8 yr old). These tests can also be found on SM's website.

The initial cost of the kit can turn some off. It was the main reason it took me so long to make a decision to just go for it. Each kit (the no download version) cost $399.95. For an extra $100 you can get the downloads of consumables for 5 years. Each additional workbook, if bought alone, costs $79.95. You won't need to buy extra workbooks if you get the download version.
SM does have periodic sales (I got in on that!) and that helps alot. You can also watch the free webinar and get $100 off on a kit. However, I couldn't figure the webinar out so I missed out on that promo. I did get a promo code from Mr. Shiller when I sent an email with a question. His reply back  included the promo code that saved me $100.
In all, if you consider that the kit can be used for 4-5 years and for more than one kid, that isn't too bad.

Overall, I'm very glad I decided to go with SM and I would recommend it to other HS families.
Shiller Math website

Monday, January 17, 2011

My daughters

All I ever wanted was boys. I got girls instead. I honestly wouldn't want it any other way. I wonder what it would be like to have a boy but even if I was to have another girl one day I would be tickled.

Daughter #1 came when I was just 21. She's 8 now. We knew before we left the hospital that she was a drama queen. She's held true to that to this day! She's so emotional. Life is either grand or just awful. She's got a strong conscience and is easy to discipline. She's got a very tender and compassionate heart and loves to be around people. She's very social. She went to public school until 2nd grade.
The social aspect of her spills over into how I have to school her. We started off the year at a desk in her daddy's small den. She hated being alone and constantly complained about schooling. So I moved her to the dining room table. What a difference! She had a better attitude and was more compliant about school work. We now do everything at the kitchen bar.

Daughter #2 came when I was 25. She's 4 now.  It took a year to conceive her so I was so happy to have another. She's mischievious and head strong! She's shy around people she doesn't know well. She was the one to hide behind my legs. She's petite but has quite the personality to make up for her size. Dynamite comes in small packages. She keeps us all on our toes around here. Fortunately, she gets sweeter and sweeter the farther behind we leave 2 years old. For now, schooling her has been easy. She catches on quick and likes to sit in on big sister's lessons most days.

Daughter #3 came when I was 28. She had her 1st birthday last October. Like #1, she's social. She loves to be the center of attention and make everyone laugh. She's such a ham! She can be a bit dramatic (and loud!) and oh-so-sweet. I would tag her as a sanguine for sure. Oh, and she LOVES to eat. She can't stand for us to school. I guess she knows the attention is not on her. I've learned to pull a chair up to the bar and let her stand in it so she can be a part of the school day too. Or give her lots of snacks to keep her quiet!

I truly look forward to the next years of homeschool.

And just for the heck of it, here's the women who started it all. This my mother and me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Very Wonderful Day

Today was one of those days when it just clicked. Everyone was in a good mood. Everyone was cooperating (for the most part). Everyone was enjoying learning (for the most part). When we took our lunch break I heard my oldest say "This is a very wonderful day." We had just finished Math. She hates Math and yet it was still a very wonderful day. I think the new math program is working.
While I was cooking supper (leftovers so not too much cooking going on) the 4 yr old asks if we can "do school."
Be still my beating heart. Words Mrs. Mom likes to hear!

Our "schedule"

We don't have a schedule. No. Really. We don't. We do, however, have a routine.

I tried the whole scheduling thing.
8:30 am- Bible
9am- Math
10 am- 15 min break
10:15 am- Language
11 am- Penmenship
12 am- Lunch for 1 hour
Etc etc

Did NOT work for us. I know that some families thrive with this type of schedule. More power to them. We are much more relaxed than that.

Our typical day looks more like this:
Sleep until whenever (usually around 9am). Breakfast. Chores. Start school around 10ish (usually in our PJ's). School until lunch. Eat. A few more chores. Prek work is usually finished before lunch so I focus on finishing with the 3rd grader after lunch. Most of her independent work is done after lunch with just a few instructions from Mrs. Mom. I probably take an hour for PreK work and around 3 hours for 3rd grade work.
I usually try to fit in a full load every day even though our goals for the day are really light. We usually find ourselves ahead of the "schedule."
We start with prayer and Bible time. For preK we do beginning phonics and Math. She also sits in for History and Science when she feels like it. For 3rd grade we cover History, Science, Math, Language Arts, Penmanship, and Reading.
One day a week we have gymnastics. I also try to do my grocery shopping and such on this day. So we usually have a lighter school work load. This particular week we will be taking a day off so I can go pick up Mr. Dad from the airport.
The only thing I write down is our goals for the day. I sit down on a Sunday night to write down our goals. I started off doing this weekly but have moved to doing it monthly.  I use a cheapo Walmart Mead Weekly/Monthly planner that lasts for a year. On the full calendar view page I mark the days we might need to take off (vacations, appointments, etc). On the daily view pages is where I jot down what I want covered for that day. Later, I mark it with a check when it's complete.
Sloppy.  I know. Did I mention we are Relaxed Homeschoolers? But it works for us.

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape ;-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Found our groove

We're about 5 1/2 months into our homeschooling adventures. I can say I've learned alot. Yes, I've learned as much if not more than the kids. I've heard that the 1st year of HS can be the hardest. It's the year that you have to figure out what works and what doesn't. Teaching styles. Learning styles. Type of homeschool family that you are (unschooler, relaxed, traditional, etc). Organization. Schedules. Routines. Curriculum. Fitting in extracurricular activities.
On top of all that I've been planning and starting a new cloth diaper business. I've been a little stressed. I'm a VERY laid back person and I took on a lot (it seemed) at one time. The adjustment of HS alone can be stressful. I loved it from day 1 and haven't looked back but I had no idea the toll it would take on me. I began to feel a fatigue that I've only ever experienced when I was pregnant. Not cool! I went to the doctor about the fatigue and was also diagnosed with low Vitamin D.
I really clung to God during those first months. How sweet He always is to let me whine yet not let me give in to it. I don't know how but everyday I made it through. I cling to the Scriptures in general but especially when things "just ain't right." Here's a couple that spoke to my heart and got me through.

Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

Psalm 84:5 and 7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage... They go from strength to strength.

I love the Hebrew word for strength. It means capability, skill, valor, wealth, warrior, army, troop. It's the same word used for Ruth and the Proverbs 31 woman when they are described as "noble" or "virtuous."

Strength to strength. Day to day. That's exactly how I had to take it.

I feel great now. I still have my days that I'm more tired. If it's possible, I take a nap. I stay on top of the Vitamin D by taking a D supplement as well as a B12. That helps alot. I've also adjusted to the new way of life. I've got a routine that works for us. I've switched curriculum and changed how I teach. I'm so glad I've stuck it out cause I really love where I am. We have definitely found our groove and it's working well.

Now, I'm going to get a cup of coffee and sit down with a Homeschool curriculum catalog. There's a sale!