Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Home School News

I thought I would like to update what the next few months of homeschooling here looks like.  I had to make some tough decisions.  Thankfully Switched-On Schoolhouse is flexible and adaptable and VERY easy to use.  That made part of my decisions easier.  I love it!

Last year we started Eden on Switched-On Schoolhouse in March.  We had the 5th grade curriculum, and she was finishing up her year of A Beka 5th grade.  So we scrapped the rest of her A Beka school work, and set her to work on the computer.  I scheduled her work across a full 180 days, but I did go through and shorten some units.  By my calculations, she was set to finish just before Christmas.  During the summer we didn't work as many weeks as I had planned, so I asked her if she wanted me to extend her school year or if she wanted me to regenerate the calendar so that she would still finish at Christmas, even though it would mean more work per day for her.  She voted for finishing at Christmas.  I planned to start her on 6th grade as soon as our holiday break was over.  Micah and Caleb started their school years later in April without quite finishing their A Beka curricula also--only they started in the next grades up, Micah in 7th and Caleb in 4th.  Their course work was also spread out over 180 days, which put them at finishing late January/early February.  The fallacy of my plan hadn't quite hit me yet.  This meant that Caleb and Micah were promoted, and essentially Eden was not.  When the new school year started after summer break, all of Eden's friends were in 6th grade, however she felt she was only in 5th grade.  :(  This was hard to hear!  I assured her that no matter what curriculum she was doing, she was technically in 6th grade.  Also, I regenerated Caleb and Micah's work to be finished later in March, so while Eden was stepping up her schedule and doing more work per day (sometimes as many as 7 assignments), the boys were sailing through with some very easy days (sometimes as little as 3 assignments).

Here's where it starts to get REALLY sticky.  I don't want them to be on these disconnected schedules any more.  I want them to be closer to the same--for my own sanity.  Micah and Caleb will now finish their school years on March 18.  This is looking like really good timing for me as I prepare for the birth of our next child.  So what do I do with Eden?  I saw a note on the SOS yahoo group that one mom has a child who likes to do one subject at a time, spending 6 weeks on that subject.  I talked about this with Eden.  Out of the 5 subjects SOS offers, the two most important are Language and Arithmetic.  We decided to give this a try--if it wasn't working after a couple days, we could modify.  Well, in three days she only completed two days' worth of assignments.  Doing 7 lessons of math per day is just too hard for anyone!  I came up with a new plan.  Each unit includes an optional "alternate test" that the parent can assign if necessary.  I went through and assigned the alternate test at the beginning of every unit.  Now Eden takes the unit test first.  I analyze the test and determine which lessons she most needs to study, delete all the others, and regenerate the subject.  Now things are getting much more reasonable.  She can finish a unit in only a day or two.  She has scored in the high 80s on almost all of the alternate tests, so I know her math is good.  Listening to her groans tells me that I have also chosen the right lessons for her to work on.  :)  We have just enough time to finish the math and then to move on and finish the language.  Determining what language lessons to do is not quite as easy as math.  Assessing the alternate test may not tell me exactly which lessons she needs to study.  Thankfully there are free placement tests online, and I plan to use those to figure out where her weaknesses are.  She should finish with these close enough to when Micah and Caleb are finishing their work.  Even if we don't do any Bible, Science, or History, I feel confident she will be able to go on to 7th grade.  If 7th grade is too hard in any of those subjects, I can always assign the 6th grade subjects in place of them.  But I know that in the core subjects she is moving forward.  She will have LOTS of reinforcement of her Science and History in the high school years.  All I need to do is make sure she has a great foundation from elementary school.

What will we do when the school year is done?  Well, I do have to get in a full 180 days.  We did lots of work over the summer, so there's not many required days left.  I have a special Earth Science curriculum from New Leaf Press called The Earth, Its Structure & Its Changes.  It looks like it is going to be perfect for our time together and I can do it with all three children at one time (even though Micah is technically 7th grade).  It just arrived yesterday and already they can't leave the student book alone--it's very attractive!  My friend Devona is toying with the idea of organizing a "science fair" with our children and also Kristin's boys.  I think this is a great idea--as long as she is doing the coaching.  :)  My kids could learn a lot through this.  I also am going to focus on writing with the kids--improving their writing skills most likely through writing weekly book reports.  And I want them to get ample time practicing typing.  They are supposed to be practicing Mavis Beacon typing every day currently, but we are slacking in discipline.  When the regular school stuff fades away, there will be plenty of time and focus to give to typing!  We will take standardized tests in late April or early May as well, but I'm not sure how I'll coordinate that this year--in the past couple years Mitch has been home to administer them.  He doesn't get a spring break this year, so it may be harder to find a good time for the tests (or I suppose he can use some of his personal days if he has them left by then).  We have been giving the Iowa Basic Standards, and it would be good to continue to track their progress.  My other option is to switch and do the Peabody, which someone else would have to administer (we would have to pay them) and it would be faster.  Finally, there will also be domestic training--lots of help around the house and with the new baby.  ::grin::

Why don't I just have Eden continue her 6th grade curriculum during this time?  Mostly because she has already worked harder and faster than Micah and Caleb.  I think it would be unfair to have her continue with a heavier course load than they have unless there were some other reason why she needed to.  This is a delicate balance--she HAS worked hard and she has gotten good grades and I don't want her "reward" to be just piling on more work while the boys get to have fun.  Now if it were Micah, it would be a different story...hahahahaha....

How about the little boys--Zeke and Josh?

They are plugging away with their current curricula and are on a more normal schedule.  I have not been strict about their lessons at all.  Instead of focusing on finishing every little worksheet and taking every single assessment, I am focusing on broader goals.  Fluent reading for Zeke and quick adding/subtracting of basic facts up to the 10s family (he will use this to add 2-digit numbers without carrying).  We are also introducing or reinforcing other basic topics such as counting money, counting by 2's 5's and 10's, reading thermometers, telling time, remembering right and left, etc.  Josh is easy.  I feel like I'm holding him back or letting him teach himself.  Seriously if I left Zeke alone and focused only on Josh, Josh would be at Zeke's level of reading and arithmetic in only a few weeks.  He is very close.  They do a lot of reading together already.  I can often set them to race when doing flashcards to encourage Zeke to be a little more focused.  We plan on plugging along even after the baby is born.  The older kids are being trained to help the little boys with their schoolwork, so they can help when I am not available. This plan will leave us weak in the area of spelling.  I am toying with the idea of choosing a completely separate spelling curriculum for ALL the kids.  But that will come later.

So that's the plan for the next few months!


  1. I'd love to talk with you more about SOS. I'm trying to decide what to do with my kids next year. I am really not enjoying homeschooling while doing daycare full-time. I don't know if it's the curriculum, the interruptions, my kids' attitudes....I'm trying to figure it out. I've thought about starting Abby on SOS next year, but would like to see it a bit, what it all entails.

  2. Sure Kristen, I'd love to share what I've learned with SOS! We can always chat via email, and you are always welcome to come over when you are up here. :)

  3. Wow. Sounds like a lot of work. But, worth it I'm sure! Miss you guys!