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. :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Middle School Years!

I almost can't believe we are here already. The years are flying by so quickly. Following is an overview of plans I've been working on for the next three years of ds' education. We will still be using Easy Peasy for most subjects. He has stated that he liked it well enough and did not want to change that. I am looking forward to our studies. Yes, 'our.' I learn as much, if not more, as he does as we go along this road - and I love it.

Year 6 Year 7 Year 8
Bible EP Poetry EP New Testament EP Old Testament
English The Logic of English Repeat LoE? MaxScholar + EP?
Math Life of Fred/EPstep1 Life of Fred/EPstep2 Life of Fred/EPstep3
Science EP Biology EP Zoology EP Earth Science
History EP World-Geography Texas History EP Ancient History
Economics Toothpaste Millionare Common Sense Bus. & Capitalism for Kids Young Economist
Art/Music EP Cultures EP Early American EP Ancient 
Computer Programing for Kids Graphic Design Using Spreadsheets
Thinking Using Logic Art of Logic Course EP Foundations
Pers. Dev. Practical Happiness Boyhood and Beyond Do Hard Things
For. Lang. None Visual Latin 1 Visual Latin 2

Of course this is not all written in stone. And, as you see, I'm really not sure what we'll do for English, spelling, & grammar after this next year. The Logic of English can be done a second round with a more advanced spelling list - we will probably do that. But ultimately it depends on how it goes the first time around and what he is ready for after that. I also have no idea at this point what we'll do for Texas history, or even whether we'll spend a whole year on it.

But I'm thankful to have an overall plan - some direction as we do work out those details. I am also thankful we now have a better understanding of his learning strengths and weaknesses. That also helps in choosing materials and knowing what accommodations to make. We have used and enjoyed audio books in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. I will continue to do much of the reading this year, but will be transitioning in the following years to having him utilize those accommodations more independently. And, hopefully, he will also do more reading on his own. I realize these next three years will involve many leaps and bounds as he grows in so many ways towards that young man he is becoming.

Just When You Think You Have it All Figured Out

Back at the end of January I had written about how we were taking a pause from Teaching Textbooks and doing things differently than we had planned, with every intention of returning to Teaching Textbooks. Well, that did not happen as ds was quite adamant that he did not want to use that program ever again. So much for that experiment of letting him pick the program. We will not do that again - for a while anyway.

Since that time I also began to realize that we had hit a wall with reading and he was not improving and was struggling with comprehension when he read things himself. So I asked a simple question on my favorite homeschool forum about how to help with reading comprehension, one thing led to another, and next thing I knew I was researching dyslexia and how to have him tested for it. Thankfully Texas does recognize dyslexia (many states do not) and our school district does test specifically for that. He did a great job at the assessment and the tester was very complimentary (proud parent moment, there). But yes, he does have dyslexia.

Needless to say, those plans for middle school I thought I had all nailed down have changed a bit. But not too much, really. We are just doing something different for English and math. Thankfully the reading I've done about dyslexia has given me a better idea of what may work for him with math. We will be trying something completely different this next year. Which is such a relief, as math has really been almost torture for us. I have also learned that there is a specific type of program that works well for dyslexic students to learn/improve their reading, spelling, grammar and writing (Orton-Gillingham), and we have several options available as homeschoolers.

I will do a middle school overview and year 6 specifics in separate posts. Before I leave this one, though, I want to give a link that I found very helpful in understanding better what, exactly, dyslexia is. I really didn't have a clue. But this website helped to improved my understanding:

There are also several books on the subject that are on my list to read. I am currently reading The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain, by Brock L. Eide, M.D., M.A. and Fernette F. Eide, M.D. Its an easy read and quite fascinating. Next up (both from my local library) is Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level, by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Definitely a good start on my personal learning adventure.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Spoke Too Soon

I marveled in my Year 5 post that everything was working wonderfully and we wouldn't be making any changes. Well, here I am to eat those words. Its really nothing major, just a pause, I think. Teaching Textbooks' spiral approach was moving a little too quickly through multiplication and we were having to repeat lessons multiple times with some tears and arguing with the computer. As ds was crying over the third time going through a lesson, I realized that after just two more lessons TT would be moving on to division. That certainly was not going to work.


So, we have set that aside for now. I've made a list of links in ds' bookmarks (found in Easy Peasy math 3 & 4) with activities to review some concepts I felt he hadn't spent enough time on, like fractions and word problems. And he is working on multiplication facts using Timez Attack. Math is pleasant once again. And in a few weeks we will resume TT, picking up where we left off. Now the problem is getting him to stop doing math long enough to work on some other subjects. I'm good with that.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ted Talk: School is Optional

This inspires me.
You will have to click the link. I can't get the right video imbedded to save my life. The above links to a TEDxTalk entitled "School is optional" by Ken Danford. He does not mean working, learning, growing, and maturing are optional. "School" as in the brick & mortar building we go to in order to sit in a classroom to be taught - that is optional. In other words "School" is not the only way to work at learning, growing, and maturing. You don't have to reach a certain age or achieve a piece of paper before you can begin finding your interests and passions and living your life doing those things.

This is something I tell ds from time to time and hope he will come to understand. He has spoken of possibly going to school for high school. If he does choose to do that, I aim to support him in that endeavor. But I want him to make an informed choice and know that is not his only option. That is why I've started this Pinterest board, collecting the many options we are blessed with in the area we live. This also will help me as we move into and through the middle school years to make sure we focus on what he will need to study by the time 9th or 10th grade comes around in the event he chooses public, private or charter school at that time.

He is not at all ready to even think of that yet. Right now its still a challenge to get him to think beyond video games and sports. Yup, life is all about the fun stuff. Oh to be a kid again.  ;)  But, I have no doubt he'll be ready when he needs to be ready to think about what he wants to do with his life. In the meantime I will enjoy him where he is as I help him learn how to put words together into coherent thoughts that communicate to others clearly, and understand how numbers work in life. We're taking it one step at a time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Year 5!

And now on to what we are doing this year. And can you believe it, we're halfway through it and I'm not making any changes. Nope, its all good and we're sticking with it. I think that is a first!

So, first a little background before diving into the list. One of my goals for year 4 was to have him - I think I'll just start referring to him as ds as he's getting a little old for kiddo now ;) - ds, do more of the reading. Well, that was met with a little drama. All. year. long. "What? I have to read it?!" Along with this I realized we really needed to utilize audio and video more for his learning style. So I went in search of how we would do that. I could go on in some detail about that, but I'll cut to the chase. Can I just say that God is amazing. I really believe it is his provision that led us to Easy Peasy. Have you heard of that one yet? One of my biggest challenges in switching materials was matching up history, and Easy Peasy picked up right where we had left off. We are still using living books, with the audio and video and some interactive games all included. I'm still blown away when I see all the work that has gone into developing this free online curriculum and that it is just exactly what we needed.

  • Bible (Mon-Fri) - We started the year off with the SCM study of Hebrews, read A Case for A Creator for kids (which I would not recommend), then went into some Advent devotions. We are now following the Easy Peasy Bible reading plan, starting with the book of John.
  • Math (Mon-Fri) - I decided to present some options to ds and let him choose a math program. He chose Teaching Textbooks - currently using Math 4.
  • English/Grammar (Mon-Fri) - Easy Peasy English 3, continuing to use SpellWell B for extra spelling practice, and he's learning cursive this year with SCM's Print to Cursive Proverbs book. We'll finish out the year with some cursive copy work from CopyCat (free online).
  • Foreign Language (Mon-Thurs) - continuing some lite ASL using a DVD we found on Amazon (Everyday ASL), YouTube videos, and also Signing Saavy.
  • Geography (Wednesdays) - reading through two more H.C. Holling books, Minn of the Mississippi and Paddle to the Sea, and My World by Ira Wolfman.
  • History (Mon-Fri) - Easy Peasy Modern American History along with TruthQuest American History III commentary, and other books along the way.
  • Science (Mon-Fri) - Easy Peasy Chemistry and Physics.
  • Literature (Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri) - in addition to what he's reading for English, we're reading/listening to Rip Van Winkle, Railway Children, Pilgrim's Progress in Words of One Syllable, Call of the Wild, Robinson Crusoe, Kidnapped, Men of Iron, and The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare.
  • Character Study (Fridays) - a chapter of Created for Work, by Bob Schultz, each week.
  • Art and Music Study (Tuesdays & Thursdays) - Easy Peasy again, Modern Art and Modern Music. He also received a guitar for Christmas and will begin lessons this week or next.
  • Computer (Mondays) - we're using TypingWeb for keyboarding, and combined Easy Peasy computer courses (levels 3&4) to learn/review some basics of Word, Internet, and Power Point, and beginning programming.
  • Thinking (Fridays) - Learning to play chess, got that link from Easy Peasy Thinking Level 3, later in the year we'll use some logic games from Level 4.
There you have it. That is what we started the year off with, and will continue through with no changes. And I have Year 6 in the works. Coming soon.

On the Go, Go, Go

One thing I've always felt to be pretty important when home schooling an only child is to get out and get involved in the community. Maybe some kiddos are generally content to be home-bodies. But this one here in my house is a social butterfly who thrives on interacting with others. But I believe even if you have a natural home-body, its important to get them involved regularly in a group setting. Get online and search out your local homeschool groups and go meet them. In addition there is sports, music, dance, 4H, scouts, volunteering, speech and debate . . .

You certainly do not have to go join everything that you find and have something scheduled every day of the week. Balance is important. I have been guilty of that - even as recently as this past holiday season. If you have a quiet kiddo who prefers to be at home, probably just one or two activities is sufficient. My kiddo wants to do everything. So its easy to find ourselves over-scheduled. This is probably why this blog has been so neglected.

I'll list some things we've been involved in - homeschool park days (an absolute must), sports (soccer, baseball, and now football), Cub Scouts (soon to be Boy Scouts), homeschool PE class, Krav Maga class, volunteering at our local food bank, church activities, music lessons, and other homeschool group activities...

Of course we don't do all these things at once. Many of these are seasonal or only done occasionally. Krav Maga has taken the place of the PE class for now. And I have to say, sometimes you have to go create opportunities. We have never gotten involved in martial arts, as much as he wanted to, because of the other activities already taking up our evenings. But another homeschool mom asked at a couple of different places if they'd be willing to offer a day-time class for homeschoolers, and now there is a Krav Maga class we can fit into our schedule. My husband has started a conversation with another studio closer to where we live that may be willing to do the same in the future. So if you don't find what you are looking for, start talking to people that may be able to open those doors.

I wanted to put this out there because I fear many folks may be hesitant to consider homeschooling an only child for fear they may be isolated and lonely. But that certainly does not have to be the case. Depending on where you live, it may be a bit more challenging to find group activities or even to find the other homeschoolers out there. But from what I'm seeing on the various online communities and in my own local community, home schooling is something more and more people are doing. So I know they are out there even in your smaller communities. And it is so worth it to make the effort to find them.

You can start with online groups and often from there you'll find people local to you that may lead you to some groups in your area. There are pages and groups on Facebook and Yahoo, and the SCM board I have mentioned before, that are good places to start if you haven't found local groups yet. And you may have to start with the traditional "after-school" activities and see if you find some fellow homeschoolers there. But don't let having an only child keep you from home schooling if that is something you feel may be best for them for whatever reason. There are plenty of opportunities out there in every community for socializing. The main thing is to be involved in community, and you're good to go.

Another Year Came and Went

Didn't I just wish everyone "Happy New Year" for 2013? Well, here it is, 2014 and I'm saying it again.

To be perfectly honest, it doesn't appear I really have any readers here, so have to admit that I have slacked off in writing - a whole year, actually. But I've decided to stick with it for a couple of reasons. One, I might help one person out there by pointing our a resource we have used that might be just what they need. And, two, this is a handy place to keep track of what we've used and how well things worked or didn't work.

So, I'm back at it. I'll do a write up on what we're using for Year 5 and then how plans are coming for those good old middle school years. Its hard to believe middle school is just on the horizon. These guys do grow up fast, don't they?