Saturday, August 13, 2016

Getting Ready for Year 8

On the one hand, I am so behind where I would normally be at this point in planning for the young man's school year. On the other hand, plans are starting to shape up, so I'm not going to sweat it. I should start by saying we wrapped up the past year nicely. He did a science project on whether dogs can see color with mixed results. One of our dogs was more cooperative than the other. He played a season of baseball and was selected for the all stars team. That was rough on the schedule, to say the least. He has had a whirlwind summer. His hockey coaches had selected him for a scholarship to attend a three week sports camp where he majored in hockey, and minored in several other sports. It was pretty intense. He is now heading in to a training camp for his new Bantam team and looking forward to starting another season of hockey.

We'll take one more week off after the training camp before we dive back in to another year of studies. The plans are not changed all that much from the last post. I am still having him use The Thinking Tree journals for growing in independent study. But instead of the 10-Subject Portfolio, I have decided to continue using the regular journals, similar to those we used the second half of last year. I will list with links to the ones I plan to use. I don't have them yet, but will order the first one this week. He will record his sports science and ancient history studies in those journals, along with some home economics, health, and literature. However, he will start the day with Dyslexia Games, series C, for some brain exercise before embarking on the rest of the studies.

For Language Arts, he will continue to work through the Apples and Pears spelling books and read from the McGuffey's Fifth Reader, and other selections. He'll continue word study using a teacher-created book called Get to the Root of It. I found this on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. I have decided to set aside the Writing Skills, Book 2, for now, and try out a unit from Brave Writer to go along with the first book we'll be reading for literature: A Christmas Carol. It combines some grammar along with literature study and writing. We will see how that goes.

For math, I only plan to have him work through Mastering Essential Math Skills, book 1. If he wants to also continue reading where we left off with Life of Fred, I will leave that to his discretion. He will also be taking a Personal Finance class through our co-op, so I don't feel the need to add anything to our math work at home. His other co-op classes include Judo, and a Career Exploration class. It should be a fun year at co-op.

Extra subjects, like geography and social studies, will come up naturally in the journals, rather than assigning specific days for them. That seemed a bit overwhelming when we did it that way before. It flowed much more naturally with the mixed subject journals. In addition, we still plan for him to work in the Dad Time journal with Dad once or twice/week. And he'll also have opportunity to work on some hobby projects on He is currently interested in film making and photography. All of this along with chores, hockey practice, youth group, drum lessons, and so on will make for some pretty full days.

Now, here are the Thinking Tree journals I plan to use:
Fun-Schooling with Minecraft (available soon)
Fun-Schooling for Boys - Winter Homeschooling Handbook
Homeschooling Boys - Library Based Journal

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rough Outline for Next Year

I had first seen The Thinking Tree materials back when I was just beginning to research what we should use for helping our dyslexic student. I believe at that time there were just the series of Dyslexia Games and, while I liked the idea of some of the books, I didn't think the sets as a whole would be a good fit. Then one day several months ago I discovered the homeschool journals that Sarah Janisse Brown was starting to publish. Hmmm. Those really intrigued me. I had an opportunity to ask the author herself how we could go about trying out the journals while continuing our other studies. It was her recommendation that we start out using a journal once/week as a fun-school day. After only two or three weeks, we decided to go all in and are using the Hyper-Active Homeschool Journal every day, as I outlined in the previous post. That journal will be complete in a couple of weeks, and I have the Do-it-Yourself Homeschool Journal & Eclectic Learning Handbook ready to finish out the year.

After hanging out with the author and many other enthusiastic homeschool moms in a Facebook group, I have begun to reconsider my initial impression of Dyslexia Games, as well. There are so many other benefits to these exercises. Many of the parents have shared how much their kiddos have improved in reading, writing, attention, thinking, and much more. They are just good brain exercises, really. So I decided that we'll both do Series B this summer. Series C will be part of his language arts and math for year 8. And I'll probably work through that one, too. Mom has to keep the old brain sharp, too, you know. While I am still thinking through what next year will look like, I have a rough outline of what I think we'll do.
The journals I have for the student so far

In addition to the  journals for the students, Sarah has also published several journals for us moms. The idea is for us to be an example of how learning is a part of life and we continue learning even when we've grown up. I love that she also made one for the kiddos to do with dad. Learning can truly be a family affair. I'll have more about those in the future, but should mention that I am currently enjoying the Mom's Homeschooling Handbook and it is helping me tackle my ever growing pile of books I'm always meaning to read. Thankfully, The Thinking Tree books aren't just for kids. :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

So What ARE We Doing Now?

I thought maybe I should give a little more detail of how we've changed things up for the remainder of this year. The main thing is that he is deciding what order to do things, usually preferring to do his journal work first. He is currently working through The Hyper-Active Homeschool Journal, from The Thinking Tree. He'll start with a date page, then flip to a "Reading Time" page and do his zoology reading. There is a "Nature Study" page where he'll draw something from zoology, as well. He has just finished up a couple of books about ants, and will begin on spiders next. Zoology goes on the top half of the reading page, and Texas History notes go on the bottom half.

There are various other pages he usually works on next: spelling word hunt, logic games, copywork, World News Today!, and screen time, to name just a few. You can see more samples by clicking "Look inside" on the Amazon link above. I did have to insist that the screen time page be saved for last - ALL other work must be done before turning on the TV or iPad. He would spend a couple of hours watching multiple episodes of something or other, or choose something long. That did not bode well for getting anything else done afterwards. But other than that, he has been deciding what order to do things. For example, he seems to prefer breaking the English studies up rather than working through it all at once.

So every day we do some Bible reading at breakfast, he takes care of his morning chores, then works through: English, Math, zoology, TX history, Latin, and literature, in whatever order he chooses. It is amazing how much of a difference that one little change has made. We add health on Thursdays.

English books: Language Mechanic (grammar),  Apples and Pears (spelling), Writing Skills, alternated with word study, using ABeCeDarian Level D, and finally reading practice from McGuffey's 4th reader.

Math: various Life of Fred books along with Multiplication Games.

We're reading various books (his favorite is A Cartoon History of Texas) and watching various videos for TX history.

For health we just finished the book, How to Eat as a Young Athlete. We'll use a selection of videos for the next few weeks from the WellCast YouTube channel on various topics from the importance of sleep to how to have a conversation. Then we'll read another short book called What's the Big Deal? 

There will be an end of year project for both history and science, which may be combined with an end of year paper from his Writing Skills book. History will probably work well for that. For science, I think probably a PowerPoint presentation would be good. And may we finish strong!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A New Year and Its Already February!

"Is today February?" asked the young man at breakfast this morning. When I answered, "yes, it is," a huge smile spread across his face. Yes, dear, we have entered the birthday month. And a milestone, at that. This one brings a teenager along with it. Hooray for February! And Lord help us. :)

We are wrapping up his first hockey season, which has been long and very busy. But the kid is enjoying every minute of it, so that's what we do. He is on the ice at least 4 times a week, and sometimes 5. Whew! It has been quite an experience. And now as the season is winding down, he is getting ready for baseball. So goes the life of an athlete.

I wish I could say school has been as exciting. Staying focused on subjects he's not interested in has been our biggest challenge. There are some days I'm not sure we will live through English. And then there is Math. That continues to be a challenge. He wants very much to be working more independently, but his challenges with these subjects are not helping him move that direction. By December I decided something had to give.

So,in January we began trying out The Hyper-Active Homeschool Journal from The Thinking Tree. We started out using it one day a week. He liked it so well, I asked if he'd like to use it every day, and record his Texas History and zoology studies in the journal. He said 'yes' and that is what we are doing now. He is also working through the Multiplication Games journal to help solidify those facts.

I was not willing to toss our English work out the window, so we are still doing that. But having the independent time seems to help so the English time isn't quite so unpleasant. He is actually working well with the materials, except for the constant self-distraction (squirrel!). It is funny we don't have that when he is working on science or history. We are still using Life of Fred for math, but had to stop the Fractions book and go back to the Intermediate series. That is why we are working through Multiplication Games. Slow and steady, and repeat, seems to be the order of the day when it comes to math.

So, these Thinking Tree journals, Wow! I am very excited about this way of doing school and am re-planning for next year. The journals have lots of different types of pages: some to write or draw about what you are learning from books and videos, some to write down personal goals, some for copywork, logic games to improve thinking and concentration (Amen to that one!), and so much more.

This year he is using the journals with his current studies; although I have dropped some of the extras we were doing for now. But next year will be a mix of some assigned studies by me, and some self-directed studies. I'm still working on that. But I will post more as I get that figured out. The journals have been a breath of fresh air and made our school time less of a chore. I am thankful, once again, for how God brings just the right resource to meet a need at just the right time.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Happy Summer

We wrapped up a pretty great year for Year 6, and are now in the midst of enjoying the summer. We've been to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. And we're getting in as much friend and ice time as we can. I'm kind of hoping the kid sticks with hockey, as practice is much cooler than football practice in July/August. He is now on a team and will be wrapping up the summer with a training camp and his first tournament.

After some time off for travel and hockey camp, we have been doing some light work on reading and math. We finished up the last unit of ABeCeDarian Level C and are previewing the new spelling book. He's doing well reading Great Illustrated Classics' version of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to me. And we're working through the last two Life of Fred Intermediate books for math.

Like most of the other homeschool moms I know, I've been in the thick of planning and preparing for the upcoming year. We're pretty on track with the plans I posted previously for Year 7. We're also looking forward to co-op this year. DS is signed up for a Judo class, creative writing, and speech. This looks to be a big year of growing in responsibility in many areas of life including school, leisure/chore time at home, and sports activities. We have already begun using a list like this one to help him learn to balance screen activities with other endeavors each day. Its still a work in progress. One step at a time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Middle School: A Work in Progress

As we're growing and learning more together, I've been working and re-working the middle school and high school years. Here I'll just post the revised plan for these middle school years. Even though year 6 is nearly done, I'll include it since it changed a bit. I'm not sure when I'll post high school plans (really just ideas at this point).  I'd like to get ds' input on what he'd like to study and how for those years and he just isn't ready to really think about that yet.

Year 6 Year 7 Year 8
Reading ABCD B,C, McGuffey3 ABCD D, McGuffey4 McGuffey5
Writing LoE Composition Writing Skills 1 Writing Skills 2
Grammar LoE Grammar LanguageMechanic  GetSmartGrammar
Spelling ABCD Spelling Patterns (LvlC) Apples&Pears Apples&Pears
Math LoF Elementary LoF FractDec. LoF PreAlgebra
Science EP Biology EP Zoology EP Earth Science
History EP Geo-Cultures Civics/TX History EPAncient
Computer Khan Beg. Program EP Graphic Design EP Spread Sheets
For.Lang. N/A Latin 1 Latin 2 or Greek?
Character Practical Happiness Boyhood&Beyond Do Hard Things
Economics ToothpasteMillionare  Bus. for Kids Capitalism Kids Young Economist
Thinking UsingLogicWkbk Fallacy Dective ThinkingToolbox
Bible EP Year 3 Poetry EP Year 2 NT EP Year 1 OT

As I mentioned in the previous post, we wound up using The Logic of English Essentials only for grammar and composition. For Reading we switched to ABeCeDarian Level B, short version, and then moved into Level C. At Level C, Mr. Bend suggests beginning a spelling program, and has a Spelling Patterns book to go with Level C. We did begin that with Level C, but progress has been - well, we haven't really been able to progress past Unit 2. So I have set that aside and am using a really old Orton-Gillingham based spelling book that had been given to me to review phonograms and go over syllable types. It will do for now, to finish out the year. I must say, though, that he is doing very well with the Level C book. He is also doing very well reading through McGuffey's Third Reader, so I plan to continue with those for reading practice through the sixth reader in year 9. If all goes well with the Writing Skills books, we'll finish off with the third book in year 9, and review grammar with Stay Smart Grammar, as well. We'll probably still be in Apples and Pears for spelling, too. I suppose I should have included Year 9 in the chart above, at least for English. :)

We have just begun Jelly Beans, the last book in the Elementary series of Life of Fred. DS has done well with this way of doing math. However he does seem to need more practice doing the multi-step multiplication and division problems. He won't like it, but I will need to have him do some worksheets in order to work on those more, probably on some graph paper. Otherwise, we will continue to work through the Intermediate series during the summer and then see how he does with the Fractions book this fall. While he still doesn't have them all down, he is doing much better with the basic math facts - to the point they don't hold him back as much. I've decided to have him continue to review the multiplication facts in game formats and use a multiplication chart for working problems.

DS has grown leaps and bounds in his ability to use text to speech to independently work on history and science with Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool. He still needs lots of guidance when it comes to writing assignments and projects, but he is handling the rest pretty independently. Any print books we are reading I am still reading aloud and am only having him read from the McGuffey Readers aloud to me; and he still reads on his tablet books of his choosing with Bookshare.

As I expected, programming is way too tedious and detail oriented for ds' liking. But I am very thankful for the opportunity he had to explore it through Khan Academy. If he had wanted to continue I would have been more than willing to pay for some other courses. But I don't think there will be any more programming courses in the future, unless his goals change. At the moment his goals center on improving hockey skills and getting on a team in the fall. He still enjoys the guitar, but that seems to be just for fun, with no real focus on improving his skills at reading music. So my goals for him (and my husband's) are improving his academic skills, building his work ethic, and helping him get where he needs to go to work on those hockey skills. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Year 6 - Moving Right Along

So, a couple posts ago I mentioned discovering that ds is dyslexic. We have made great strides in the reading department. But, as usual, not in the way I initially thought. The Logic of English Essentials program turned out to be too painful for both of us to use in full. The phonogram and spelling lessons are not laid out in a way he can get his head around; and memorizing spelling rules was not at all compatible with his working memory. I'm very thankful that I decided to start it during our summer term so I figured this out before beginning year 6 in September. I was seriously considering purchasing the first level of Barton Reading - the gold standard of homeschool-ready Orton-Gillingham programs. But my husband was not on board with the idea of switching programs, so I had to compromise. Ultimately, that has turned out to be a good thing as we seem to have found something that works well for him.

ABeCeDarian is not an Orton-Gillingham program. It is phono-graphix. While Orton-Gillingham methods have been found to work well for teaching dyslexics to read, it seems some kids do better with phono-graphix - which is still explicit, multisensory reading instruction. This article briefly introduces this method. The main thing for us was not having to memorize those rules. We recently completed ABeCeDarian Level B (short version) and have seen improvement not only in his reading, but also in his attitude and willingness to read. When we resume after the new year we'll begin Level C, along with the Spelling Patterns book. In addition, we have continued to use the grammar lessons from Logic of English, and their game cards to play phonogram 'Uno.' Roughly once a week we read a selection from McGuffey's Third Reader.

For reading outside of school work, I signed ds up for Bookshare. This is a wonderful thing. It is a free (in the US) service for students with print disabilities, so does require an official diagnosis to subscribe. They have well over 300,000 books available as e-text that can be read with text-to-speech, and the text is highlighted as it is read. Many of those are text books, scout books, and lots of great literature. We have set it up on an Android tablet that he uses strictly for reading, which we are requiring daily outside of 'school.' He also uses the tablet's voice reader for the reading he is assigned online for history and science. We are embracing technology in this house.

Aside from the reading, We are still using Easy Peasy for Bible, History, Science, Art, and Music, which works very well with the tts accommodations. In addition I supplement science reading with videos we find on YouTube. We are loving Life of Fred Math, and ds plays Math Blaster and other math oriented video games. I read aloud from books we are using for health, character study, and economics. He's learning to cook some meals. We try to get moving for PE most days. And we're listening to some wonderful literature on Beginning in February, we will begin participating in a co-op, where he will take classes like jujitsu and chess. He's learning to play the guitar, and also learning to play hockey. I can barely keep up. But so far, we're having a great year.

ETA: I forgot to mention programming. Twice a week he works through the Khan Academy Intro JS course. He does not love it, but is able to complete the lessons and projects. It has given him a good taste of what it takes to write programs to create games - something he thought he wanted to do. :)