Friday, September 05, 2014

Homeschool 2014-2015

Micah is carrying a backpack full of school books for the first time since May 2007.

Our school year is off to a roaring good start this year! I thought I would provide a little homeschool curriculum update for the world to know what we are studying.

Micah (11th grade PSEO)
Micah is taking college level classes (for free!) through our state's Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program (PSEO). For now he is focusing on those classes that will meet his general education requirements for college but at the same time give him the remaining high school credits he needs.  He is considering a 4-year degree as a peace-keeping officer (law enforcement). The college classes he is taking are:
Diversity and Social Justice
Intro. to Critical Thinking
Analytical Writing
American History

He likes all of his courses and his professors, though we have had some interesting discussions about differing beliefs. He has several friends in the American History course. Micah was well-prepared for what he would experience in college I believe.

Micah and Eden (11th and 10th)
Even though Micah is enrolled full-time in college classes, I am still requiring some classes at home. Here are the classes that he and Eden are taking together:
Saxon Advanced Math (this course finishes up 1/2 credit of high school geometry and adds a full credit of trigonometry/pre-calculus)
I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (curric. by Apologia, book and workbook)

Eden (10th)
Eden is the only student continuing to work on a foreign language this year, and she is working on both Spanish and German. She uses Rosetta Stone as well as a free app that we love called DuoLingo.

Eden and Caleb (10th and 8th)
Caleb and Eden are taking the following classes together:
The Elegant Essay (Institute for Excellence in Writing) through the beginning of December (about 14 weeks)
Excellence in Literature: American Literature (IEW) December through May (about 22 weeks)
American History (we are using the TruthQuest History guides...more on this below)
I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth's Head (grammar--book and accompanying workbook)
Critical Thinking in United States History and Fallacy Detective (integrating into History...more on this below)
Keyboarding (using the website TypingPal...I was able to use smartpoints from the Homeschool Buyers Coop to get a free year subscription!) My goal for Caleb is 40 wpm and Eden is 45 wpm for high school credit)

Caleb (8th)
How Do We Know the Bible is True? (edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge)

Zeke and Josh (5th and 4th)
Math-U-See Epsilon (Zeke) and Gamma (Josh)
Student Writing Intensive by IEW (we are using the Level B dvd's with the Level A reinforcement paragraphs since my boys are younger...we are co-oping with a friend.)
American History (same as Eden and Caleb)
Science in the Beginning by Dr. Jay Wile (I can't say enough good things about Dr. Wile!)
Keyboarding (TypingPal)

Malachi (2nd)
Math-U-See Alpha (almost done) and Beta
All About Spelling
All About Reading (from the same company...Malachi is on Level 2, but his reading skyrocketed over the summer so we are pretty much done with this level, and I'm not sure we will continue with any formal reading program. Instead I may just choose to select books for him.)
American History 
Science in the Beginning (he is not picking up as much of this as Zeke and Josh are)

Tirzah (Kindergarten)
Math-U-See Primer (she rocks at this!)
All About Reading (we are half-way through the Pre-reading level and will go on to Level 1 as soon as possible)
She loves to write, so there is no formal writing curriculum necessary. See for yourself how she learns:
So the whole mirror-image thing? This is totally normal for a kindergartner to do. Their brains are working hard. It is common for a child who can write their name to suddenly write it in a mirror image. They don't even realize they're doing it. The 3-humped thing on the left is a "shooter" and she had a very long description of how it worked. I love her imagination.

American History
The typical high school student takes a year of American History. We decided to come back to the TruthQuest History guides after my extensive search for the "perfect" history curriculum left me empty-handed. I seriously considered every decent curriculum out there. I particularly wanted a conservative curriculum by a Christian author, but I also wanted something that incorporated multi-media types. With the internet, movies, documentaries, computer programs, etc, that are available today, history should NEVER be boring! It should come alive. It should have multiple voices. It should be colorful. It should challenge students to think critically. It should avoid critical errors that both liberals and conservatives make. It turns out that a guide like TruthQuest History is the perfect answer for putting together a diverse history course. The only "problem" is that there are three guides that encompass the time period of American History, and these three guides, called Age of Revolution I, II, and III, cover all of world history during the time period. They are loooooong, big, thick books. History like this deserves two or three years of study, and the "popular" method is to squeeze it into one? I carefully considered which topics in the books we would focus on and eliminated some of the other world history topics (though we will briefly mention the goings-on in the world as we fly by). I used the tables of contents from the American History for Young Students guides to help me pick and choose what to keep at first, then I more carefully looked at each section of the Age of Revolution guides. I divided my school year up into thirds, and divided the chapters of each TQH guide as evenly as possibly among the weeks of each trimester, giving more time to longer topics and less time to less-important (in my opinion) topics. It was time-intensive, but it was also really fun to be in control of where we will delve deeper and where we will simply wade. I carefully researched and purchased resources that I thought would be useful to us throughout the entire year, and beyond. Some of the resources I purchased were:
Basic History of the United States (Vol. 1-5) by Clarence Carson
The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Great Republic by H. A. Guerber (reprinted by Memoria press)
Drive Thru History with Dave Stott (I got a great deal on this through the National Day of Prayer website and used a coupon code from the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op for an even deeper deal!)
I also used the website Teach With Movies to help find more movies in the time periods we were studying. This is not the only website out there like this--there are many! There's even a facebook group.
Once all the pre-work was done, the school year was ready to start. Each week I look at the coming week and the chapters we hope to cover. I make a list of what is available at the library, then go check out books. If I have time, I request books that are of special interest. Once I get back home I organize everything into a spreadsheet for the week. Eden and Caleb get a copy of the spreadsheet. One helpful thing that I put on the spreadsheet is the grade range for the books we have available. I encourage Eden and Caleb to choose some books that are at their reading level, and to keep a record of everything they have read. I also tell them it's ok to read the picture books that I've brought home for the younger kids. Why not? They're fun and easy to read! We begin each day by me setting up the topic for the day. I usually read Michelle Miller's comments from the TQH guides as I find them helpful. I sometimes have my own opinions and information found from various books I have read (even blogs--one excellent blog that I found recently is I set a minimum reading time of 1 hour each day. Reading the Carson books is required for Eden and Caleb. Other than that, they are encouraged to simply read what interests them, and to read a variety. I love studying history this way.

Critical Thinking
I really wanted to implement a critical thinking course into our curriculum this year. I think that developing critical thinking skills is highly important for a student of history and science. One resource that I found is The Critical Thinking Company's Critical Thinking in United States History course. First of all, the course is on cd, with full printing rights (making this an economic choice for our family). Secondly, the course uses many "source texts" for its exercises. Perfect. And I found that since it is chronological, I could easily line it up with our study of American History. For a little more focus on specifically fallacies, I borrowed the book Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn from a friend (hi friend!!!). We haven't cracked into it yet, but I foresee using this during supper time as a family. It is going to be a fun book.

Daily Schedule
Our schedule is nothing so elaborate as I have tried in the past, but we do have a schedule. Micah is gone on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we have to be somewhat organized.
We wake everyone up at 7 am and have morning devotions as a family before Mitch leaves for work.
Breakfast is after devotions. Clean-up begins at 8:00 am.
School starts by 8:30 am. We all begin with math. On Mondays and Wednesdays I teach two lessons of math to Micah and Eden so that Micah can do his Tues/Thurs homework on Mon and Wed. That takes a little more of my time. I work any problems that I noted both of them missed in their homework, and I briefly introduce the new topics. It is up to them to correct any additional problems and seek my help as needed.
Zeke, Josh, and Malachi try to work through one lesson of MUS each week. So on Monday they each get a new topic to learn. MUS has 3 worksheets that practice the new skill, 3 worksheets that review everything learned up to that point including the new skill, a test, and an enrichment activity. So on Monday I encourage them to work through 2 of the practice worksheets, to make sure they understand the new skill (we can slow down at this point if necessary). If they clearly understand the new skill, we skip the 3rd practice sheet. Tues, Wed, and Thurs they do one review sheet each day. Friday they do the test and the enrichment sheet. If I can sit with them and keep them on task (some need more guidance than others), they can get through math in about 30 min. Sometimes it takes them an hour. It really just depends.
The rest of my morning consists of moving the boys through their work as quickly and efficiently as possible, while Micah, Eden, and Caleb work independently. Tirzah's work is very easy and she is happy to work alongside the boys. She loves to color her sheets and goes above and beyond the work I give her. Spelling is taught individually, so the boys rotate through and I spend about 10-15 min with each boy on spelling. They each have checklists so they know what all they need to do each day. I also have a master checklist. These keep us moving.
Our goal is to be done with almost everything by 12. Eden has lunch ready for us and we eat. 12:30-1 is clean-up time.
We start history at 1 pm. I read to introduce the topic for the day, use maps, draw timelines, show movies, etc. When I release them, they have quiet individual reading time for 1 hour. I use this time to read, plan, or grade papers. Total history time is 1.5-2 hours.
On Mondays and Tuesdays Eden and Caleb and I have our writing lessons after history. They need me more on Monday than on Tuesday. Every other Tuesday the boys will have a writing lesson in the afternoon.
I also squeeze in critical thinking after history as needed.
No one is allowed to ask for "screen time" until after 3 pm, and the boys must keep their room clean and their bed made.
So far it just feels like the easiest schedule ever. I'm sure as time goes by it will get more complicated (generally we have a tendency to fill up empty calendars and time slots and make things harder than they need to be). I'm relieved we are off to a good start!

Ok, that is one entirely too long post and more than you ever needed to know about our homeschooling year! I will check back in in 2015 with an update. 

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