12 August 2014

What Students Remember

Today I read this article by Lori Gard on Pursuit of a Joyful Life:
What Students Remember Most About Teachers

I have very few memories of elementary school. I remember sitting at round tables in Kindergarten, with gigantic tri-fold cardboard dividers around our tests at the end of the year. I remember my Kindergarten teacher making green eggs and ham on a hot plate in our classroom. And I remember running in the field outside for recess, with the boys labeling every hole in the grass a "booby trap" and being appalled that the teachers let them say a bad word! Ha!

In 1st grade, I remember getting gigantic pink plastic-frame glasses, and I remember sitting on carpet squares in the front of my classroom to listen to Mrs. Duvall read James and the Giant Peach.

I don't remember 2nd grade at all. My mom said we did a lot of worksheets that year, and not much else, so it's no wonder.

My 3rd grade teacher was amazing. Mrs. Goodwin had class pets - a hamster that we could pass around in a container to pet, and an aquarium with a sea anemone! She would roll in the tall TV cart for us to watch episodes of Fat Albert and let us draw on long strips of paper. I remember doing Sweatin' to the Oldies videos in the gym for PE. Before winter break, we did a class play in which I was one of 3 kittens who had lost our mittens. We wore footie pajamas (blue, pink, and yellow - I probably picked pink) and my mom made cat ears out of matching colored felt and plastic headbands.

I started private school in 4th grade, and I have a lot of school memories from then on out.

Not one of those early memories has anything to do with the theme or decorations in the teacher's classroom, or homework assignments, or grades. I am sure they were there, and I am sure they enhanced the experience, but they were not the focus.

Dino is 7 years old now, old enough to remember just about anything he sees or does. He is entering the 2nd grade. I don't know what exactly he will remember, but I want him to remember being, as the article I mentioned at the top says:

Being available.
Being kind.
Being compassionate.
Being transparent.
Being real.
Being thoughtful.
Being ourselves.

11 August 2014

Almost Show Time!

School starts this week!!! We intend to keep to the same school year calendar as the local public school, so that Dino will have the same days off as his friends. That way, he is not stuck "doing school" when the neighborhood kids are on break and want to play.

Unfortunately for Dino, the first day of school is going to start with a 9am dentist appointment to get some cavities filled.... But that means we will give him a very light schedule for the first day of school: The Magic School Bus videos and maybe a couple of easy worksheets once he comes out of the Nitrous Oxide fog!

I have read about some homeschooling families who have an annual celebration of their first day each year. A "not going back to school" party could include ice cream for lunch, staying in pajamas all day, or a movie day! It sounds like Dino's first day this year might set up a first-day tradition like these!

Day 2 of school will start the real daily schedule.

I sat down last evening and planned out the first couple of weeks. Dino was so excited to see all of the newly organized school supplies! He was so excited to get started that he put together a puzzle of the U.S. and started labeling a blank map with the states. Learning happens all the time, not just during school hours!

Last week, we mailed our Letter of Intent to Homeschool to the local school board Director of Pupil Personnel, as required by our state. I sent it Certified Mail so that they would have to sign for it, and I got a receipt back confirming that they received it. As a courtesy, I also sent a copy of the letter to Dino's former public elementary school so that they could remove him from his teacher assignment before school starts.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

04 August 2014

School Options

I have already shared how we reached our decision to Homeschool. I am so thankful that we Americans have options for educating our children as we choose.

There are three options for educating children in the U.S. - public school, private school, and home school. All have their pros and cons.
*Public school is paid for by taxes and is free for the most part, though there could be some fees, especially in high school.
+Private school is varying degrees of expensive, and you also have to pay for the consumable workbooks and possibly text purchase or rental fees.
=Home school costs as much as you want it to. There is usually a large start-up costs for textbooks, workbooks, and supplies that would normally be provided by the school, but you may be able to recoup some of the money by reselling your textbooks.
Extracurricular cost:
*+Public and private school will have fees for extracurriculars (band, sports, field trips), though there may be funding from the school or fundraisers to help offset that cost.
=Homeschool extracurriculars are paid for entirely out-of-pocket. Homeschool groups may qualify for group discount rates for field trips.
*Public schools have requirements set by the country, state, county, and local school board.
+Private schools each set their own education requirements, though there may be some state or local influence.
=Each state has its own laws for homeschool requirements, but it is an option for any family in any state. Some states require certain concepts be taught in certain grades, and some states require that you disclose your chosen curriculum.

Class size:
*Public school classrooms are typically quite large, with one teacher trying to meet the needs of 20 or more students. Our county has an ideal maximum of 22 students per class, but there are often more than that.
+Private schools typically have a smaller ideal class size, giving each student more personalized attention. They accomplish this by capping enrollment or hiring more teachers to lower the student-to-teacher ratio.
=Homeschool class size is only dependent on the number of children you choose to educate at home. You already know your own child's needs intimately, so you are able to challenge them and focus on things with them as they personally need.

*Public schools are required to take whomever they get and provide each child an equal education. (This is hard to do, no matter what school option you choose!) Children learn to play and work with other children from varying backgrounds, religions, and races.
+Private schools are allowed to be choosy about whom they accept as students, so children may not be exposed to as much diversity, but you know that they are around other families whose beliefs are similar to your own while they are young and impressionable.
=Homeschoolers obviously get the "short end of the stick" when it comes to socializing with a group of like-aged children, but in my experience, homeschooled children often have a much more diverse group of friends because their families make a point to socialize with many other families.

One thing to note is that there are also cottage schools or homeschool co-op groups in many places, which provide an option in between private and home schooling. Students meet together at least one day a week for group classes, which may be core classes (Reading, Writing, Science) or elective classes (Karate, Astronomy, Cooking, Music). These provide the students with an opportunity to learn together with other children in a classroom setting and expose the students to teaching methods other than your own, which will benefit them in the long run. Most of these utilize the parents as teachers, assistant teachers, and administrators, to keep costs down. Some of the higher grades may bring in professionals for things like advanced math classes, at a higher cost.

We may consider a one-day-a-week parent-led co-op for the Spring 2015 semester, but registration is already full for Fall 2014.

We chose to home school this school year because it is the best fit for our family right now. It will be the best way to meet Dino's needs today. We will see how it goes, and decide next year whether to continue homeschooling or make a change.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

28 July 2014

The Cost of Homeschooling

Our first official homeschooling purchase was a pair of $1.99 writing tablets from Walmart, one for printing and one for cursive. Dino has been begging since last Christmas to learn cursive. Tim told him to practice printing neatly, and when he had that down, we would teach him how to write in cursive.

Next I bought two Complete Curriculum workbooks (2nd and 3rd grade) and two in-between-grade "summer" workbooks from Sam's Club for math, spelling, reading, and reading comprehension worksheets.

Tim and I picked up 30 classic chapter books from a flea market. Most were "Great Illustrated Classics" like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Three Musketeers. I'm not counting these in our school cost, since we would have bought those anyway for our home bookshelf.

We bought notebooks, pencils, and erasers, pencil boxes, and all of the other regular school supplies from Walmart. These don't really count either, since we would have gotten those for public school anyway.

Tim picked up several math games and flash cards from some neighborhood yard sales.

And I bought puzzles, math games, states-and-capitals flash cards, and a few other school supplies from Dollar Tree, where everything is $1. I was surprised by the variety of school supplies stocked in Dollar Tree in June!

My biggest purchase was the Life of Fred elementary math book series. The 10 books are used for several grades. Since they are textbooks (not write-in workbooks), I will be able to resell them for the full price. Initial investment cost was $140, but I will get that full cost back when we are finished with them.

I also purchased the 7-book series of Sonlight Sequential Spelling books. I bought the set for about $90 on eBay, and like the Life of Fred books, I should be able to resell them around that cost.

I still want to get a book for music class, either piano or recorder, I think.

I splurged and ordered the Well Planned Day Family Homeschool Planner, July 2014 - June 2015.

I'm sure I will think of something else between now and then that I just have to have. We will definitely utilize the public library, and take advantage of local museums' homeschool days for discounted field trip rates. It looks like it will cost us right about $100 for this year's disposable homeschooling supplies, not counting textbooks which we will get our money back on resale.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

21 July 2014

2014-2015 2nd Grade Homeschool Daily Schedule

Below is what I came up with as a beginning schedule. This is just a starting point, and I'm sure we will end up moving some things around as we get going and see what really works best for us.

I don't know yet whether Dino will respond better to a strict schedule or a flexible one. Since everything is broken up into 30-minute blocks, I may print them out and let Dino rearrange them from week to week, if sticking to my schedule is difficult for him. Giving him some control over the schedule may make him more eager to follow it.

8:00 - Breakfast
8:30 - Morning Chores
9:00 - Worksheets
9:30 - Bible
10:00 - Handwriting
10:30 - Snack; Mom Read Aloud
11:00 - Dino Read Aloud (M-Th) or Cooking (F)
11:30 - Computer (M/W) or Music (Tu/Th) or Cooking (F)
12:00 - Lunch Prep
12:30 - Lunch
1:00 - Gym Day (M) or Reading Alone (Tu-F)
1:30 - Gym Day (M) or Math and Spelling (Tu-F)
2:00 - Gym Day (M) or Science/Geography (Tu/Th) or Art (W) or PE (F)

Morning chores will consist of making the beds, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc. I won't make him get dressed if he does ok in his PJs, as long as he gets dressed by lunch time. I've heard some kids do fine in their jammies, but some people really need to get dressed in order to feel like their day has really started and to get focused.

I tried to separate hand-intensive subjects from each other (worksheets, handwriting, computer/music) so he doesn't get physically fatigued. I also separated reading aloud from reading alone to give him a mental break.

I put reading alone right after lunch so that I can use that time to clean up from lunch.

Science, PE, and Art are at the end of the day so that we can take longer with them if we want to, like if we go somewhere for a hike together for PE. Monday's PE will be in a church gym with other local homeschoolers. He already plays with our neighbor kids almost every day after school, so he has several hours of recess time, and I'll make sure he gets up and moving during the day whenever he is restless!

He can help me make lunch (he's really been into that lately), and I want to do some baking with him on Fridays. We'll make cookies, bake bread, or cook something for lunch. This will teach him life skills as well as science and math.
We will make time for other life skills around the house also, like laundry and cleaning. He is quite old enough to do a fair amount of chores now, which will help teach him how to take care of his own house when he is grown. I cannot tell you how many young men graduate from high school and have no clue how to make themselves a meal or do laundry, because their mom or sisters always did it for them! Boys need to know how to run a house, just like girls need to know how to change a tire. Wait, didn't I already rant about this once before on the blog? Hang on......

Yep! Here you go: Geek Girls

Back to the topic at hand.

There is a lot that I have crammed into this year's goals. We may or may not accomplish everything, and that is ok. All we really want is for Dino to learn and grow, and I have no doubt that will happen. He is a great kid who is self-motivated, driven to investigate, and loves to learn!
Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

14 July 2014

2014-2015 2nd Grade Homeschool Weekly Plan

The long-awaited plan! This is what we have come up with so far. I purchased 2nd and 3rd grade "Complete Curriculum" workbooks at Sam's Club. They have worksheets for spelling, reading, reading comprehension, and math skills. We will use these as a jumping-off point. Dino can breeze through the easy ones, and we can focus more on the skills he isn't as familiar with. These should give him some "easy" work to start each day with.

I have also purchase the Life of Fred elementary curriculum. It is primarily a math curriculum, but it includes reading comprehension, history, and life skills as part of each lesson.

For science and geography, we will do a lot of hands-on activities: go on nature hunts, study anatomy diagrams online, and flip through a good ol' paper atlas for geography.

I have writing tablets, notebooks, and lap-sized chalkboards and whiteboards to use for handwriting.

All of this is extremely flexible, and will likely change and evolve as we go through the year, so that we can focus on his education gaps and on things that he expresses more interest in.

Five Days a Week:

o Bible - Scripture memorization, Memorize the books of the New Testament, Daily Bible story to read and discuss
o Reading - Alone (silently by himself)
o Breakfast & Lunch - Obviously
o Chores - Make beds, Get dressed, Brush teeth, Do laundry, Clean house, etc

Four Days a Week:
o Math, Spelling, Reading Comprehension - worksheets; math focus: multiplication, fractions, and telling time; Life of Fred
o Reading - Aloud (Dino to Mom, Mom to Dino)
o Handwriting - Cursive writing tablet, Journal

Twice a Week:
o Science - Anatomy (Human, Bugs, Animals), Biology (Plants)
§ Alternate in a unit of Geography
o Computer - PBS Kids website and other educational web games, Typing practice
o PE - Exercise videos (aerobics, yoga, etc), Walk, Hike, Bike ride, Gym Day on Mondays
o Music - Piano and/or recorder (his choice)

Once a Week:
o Arts and Crafts - Color wheel, Shading, Shapes, Make gifts (Christmas, etc)
o Cooking - Bake bread and treats on Fridays to learn measuring, fractions, and chemical reactions!
o Cub Scouts - Monday evenings

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

07 July 2014

Homeschooling FAQs, Part 5 of 4

What follows is the fifth weekly post with questions that we frequently hear when we say we are going to homeschool. You gave me your questions and comments, so now there is fifth post!

You asked me:

Do you have to take training, or get any kind of certification?

No. My state does not require any particular training or certification for parents to teach their own children.

Do they provide all the materials?

No. Who is "they"? No, we must select all of our own teaching materials. We have selected our books and supplies to teach from. My state does not mandate the use of any particular books, and does not have any approval authority over our chosen curriculum. My state legislature concluded that that would go against the very intent behind homeschooling.

Will you be in a Homeschool Co-op?

No. We will participate in a weekly gym time with other homeschoolers, and may join in field trips, but all of our educational time will be at home. I would consider a co-op if our child was older and in classes harder than what I am comfortable teaching, or if Dino needed to be in a group setting to learn best.

Will Dino have to take tests to make sure he is being taught the right stuff?

No. There are standardized tests with various companies that we can choose to order, and some schools offer to include homeschoolers when they test their students at the end of the school year, but there are no requirements by my state to do so.

Next week, I will be discussing our chosen curriculum and daily schedule.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!