Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekly Reports - Weeks 3 and 4

I guess I should call this the semi-weekly report. I can't seem to get around to doing an actual weekly report.

History - We are two weeks into our study of World War I. We have studied the causes for the war, trench warfare, the use of poisonous gas, the use of airplanes, and several other parts of the war. We've also studied the first term of Woodrow Wilson and continue to read about Fanny Crosby.

For a project, Robert did a diorama of trench warfare. He actually asked this summer if he could do a diorama, so he was very excited to work on this.

See the smoke in the background? Once Robert started working on the trenches, he noticed that the box was upside down. He didn't care enough to turn it over, though. Since it's his project, I let him handle it how he wished.

Do you notice the soldier in the trenches who has been mortally wounded? Actually, it's not looking too good for the British soldiers. They are are not even out of the trenches yet! The Germans are definitely winning at this point.

Literature - For Week 3, we read a collection of O. Henry short stories. One of them was The Gift of the Magi. I remember reading that story and knew Ruth would love it, and I was right. It was her favorite. They both enjoyed the stories.

Now we're reading Anne of Green Gables. Ruth actually read this on her own this summer, but she loves the book, so doesn't mind reading it again. In her words, "I feel sorry for anybody who hasn't read Anne of Green Gables." I agree with this sentiment. :) I worried that Robert would think of it as a "girl" book, but it has enough funny parts that he's enjoying it, too.

Science - Robert started Apologia General Science and is doing pretty well with it so far. I've increased my expectations for him and was worried that he would balk at the extra work. However, he's adjusting well. He's not quite up to the level I would want, but I figure he will be by the end of the year, and that's my goal.

He did two experiments - on density and atomic motion. I hope you appreciate how I cleaned off my kitchen countertops before taking the pictures (ha!). Keepin' it real, people.

Ruth finished her chapter on earthquakes and volcanoes and has moved on to weathering and erosion.

Grammar/Writing - We finished our first grammar chapter and have moved on to our writing unit. This week was Unit 1 of IEW, which is just writing out a key word outline and telling it back. I almost skipped this unit since we've done it before, but finally decided it wouldn't be bad to have an easy week. Next week we'll start Unit II and do some actual writing. I am really liking alternating grammar and writing.

We're up to a full schedule now and we've been getting done by about 2:00 each day, so that's good. We have been getting a late start, not beginning school until after 9:00, when I'd prefer 8:30. Still, since we're getting the work done in a timely fashion, I'm happy.

Notebooking - As much as I love doing the scrapbooking notebook pages, I've found that they just don't get done as often as I would like. We started out this year with some free TOG pages I found, but they really did not fit our notebooking style. I started looking for pre-made notebook pages, but was having a hard time finding ones for a study of 20th century history. I finally found them at History Scribe. A bonus is that I was able to buy the whole History Scribe set (including History Scholar - their high school level notebook pages) for $8!! This is the download version, but that is what I prefer, so I don't mind. (they are still on sale at the time I'm posting this)

One thing I like about using these pages is that is very quick and easy. I just print out the pages that go with our history topics of the week and assign them to the appropriate reading. This way, they are using them for their written narrations. If there is not a page for a certain topic, I don't worry about it. It's a way of controlling the amount of narrating I'm requiring of them. It's working very, very well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Activity Points

I have always wanted to do projects with the kids, but never seem to get around to them. They don't ask for them, either, so I've never been too concerned with it. However, I do believe they have some value. I want the kids to think more about what we're studying, and I think these would help. I also think having them do some long-term (3-4 weeks) projects will help them learn how to schedule and some time-management skills. While thinking this through, though, I came to realize that I don't want to just assign them different projects. I want them to have some choices and some personal investment in what they choose. With that in mind, I came up with what I call "activity points".

For a 9-week term, I am requiring 30 activity points. These are divided into two different categories - hands-on projects and books. Since my children are not crazy about projects, I wanted to give them the opportunity to earn some of them by reading extra books. They have to do one long-term project that is worth 7 points. They also have to earn 5 points in books. Other than those requirements, they can earn the 30 points in any combination they choose.

BOOKS I went through TOG's alternate book selections and Sonlight's booklist. I had quite a few of these on the shelf already. The rest will come from the library. I made sure I had several biographies on the list, because Robert really enjoys those. My list of books for term 1 are the following:

I chose point values based on Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader program. We are not using their program, but I did find it a handy way to assign points to the books.

PROJECTS I went through TOG's guide and made a list of all the activities they suggested, broken down by week. From there, I assigned them anywhere from 1 to 7 points, depending on the difficulty of the project. Unfortunately, I can't share that list here because it is part of TOG's curriculum. For example, though, the drawing that Ruthie did our first week of the Model T was 3 points. I do plan on adding things that are not associated with our history study at some point. I know that I want the kids to do a science fair type project in the spring, and that will be a high number project.

After compiling all this information, I made a chart and printed it off for them. They are in charge of choosing their activities and making sure they have the correct number of points by the end of the first term. Of course, since this is new for them, I'm doing a lot of hand holding at this point. My hope is that by the end of the year, they will be working on this completely on their own.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weekly Report - Weeks 1 & 2

I can't believe we are through our first 2 weeks of school. Goodness, it's already going by so fast.

Here are the weeks in review:

History - We covered the first two weeks of TOG Year 4. Subjects covered included:

Albert Einstein
Pres. Theodore Roosevelt
Henry Ford
Wright Brothers
Pres. William Howard Taft
Jane Addams

Science - Robert hasn't started science yet, but Ruth has almost finished the first chapter of her book. She has covered earthquakes and volcanoes. We've always been lax on science, so I'm determined to dive in this year. So far, Ruthie has already made an earthquake study structure (based on fettucinni noodles and marshmallows - which amused me) and a paper mache volcano. She found the paper mache very messy, but really enjoyed painting it.

Literature - We read Call of the Wild by Jack London. (Robert did not like this book at all. He does not like books that have any type of cruelty in them.)

Activity Point projects (I will blog more about this at a later date) - Ruth drew a picture of a Model T Ford based on directions I found here.

We also did math and grammar. All in all, it was a good beginning to the school year. I look forward to sharing more of our homeschooling adventures in the future.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Final Curriculum Plans

A few posts back (but several months ago), I talked about our curriculum plans for this year. Things have changed a bit, so I wanted to share what we decided on.

History - This is the biggest change. After deciding on Sonlight Core 6, a friend offered to lend me Tapestry of Grace Year 4 (Classic) for free. After thinking about it, I decided to take her up on that generous offer. I spent some time with it, but found that going from Redesign to Classic was not that easy for me. I love all the updates in the Redesign version! However, after looking over Year 4, I also found that I did not want to go back to my original plan of Sonlight. So, I discussed it with Griff and he agreed that I could get TOG Year 4 Redesign DE if it fits in my school budget. After checking out the list of books needed for Term 1 (first 9 weeks), I saw that I would only need to buy 2 books. I either own them or the library carries them. That makes TOG much more affordable than I would have originally thought, and I made the purchase.

I am keeping my friend's Year 4 Classic through the end of the year. That way, if I find that I cannot continue to purchase the DE edition, I can go back to that.

Grammar - We will finish Rod and Staff English 5 as I mentioned before. However, we will not continue into English 6 as I had originally planned. Instead, I am going to take the opportunity to lighten our load a bit and alternate grammar with writing. Which leads me to...

Writing - We're going to continue with IEW. I'll be alternating a chapter of grammar with a unit of IEW. I want to get through Unit VII this year, and this will work out very nicely.

- This is part of TOG, so we will use that part of their program. I may still buy some Total Language Plus guides if they fit into the budget, just because I like them so much. We'll see...

Math - We did switch to Bob Jones. I put both of them in Grade 6 math and I teach them together.

Science - Robert is doing Apologia General Science. Ruth is doing BJU Science 6.

Bible/Devotional - We will be using the following books, alternating them through the week.

Bible study - How to Study Your Bible, for Kids - I took the adult version of this class years ago and really like this Bible study method. It will not take us the full year to get through this guide, so we will hopefully use the methods learned to study at least one book of the Bible.

Devotional - Boyhood and Beyond (for Robert) and A Girl of Beauty (for Ruthie)

Composer and Artist study - I want to study 20th century composers and artists, but I haven't quite worked out the specifics.

Art - A friend and I are going to do Meet the Masters together. We'll get together once a month or so and do art projects. (Actually, this may impact our artist study, too. I'll have to take a closer look at it before deciding about that.)

Music - The kids will continue with private lesson instruction. We are not doing homeschool orchestra this year, so I will be looking for other opportunities for them to perform. I am thinking of nursing homes and our church's preschool program.

Health - We've never done this formally before, but I think we need some guidance in this subject. I want to keep it simple, though, so I just got the grade-appropriate A Beka Health textbooks. The kids will read from them, and we'll discuss what they read. That's it. Easy-peasy (and not too time consuming).

We have finished our first week of school and I hope to post a weekly report soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One More Thing... (end of year portfolios)

I had thought my next post would be about our first week of school, but I was thinking about our portfolios yesterday and decided I would share how we do them. So, I'm backtracking to the end of May when our school year ended. (See what happens when you don't blog for awhile?)

Living in Texas, we are not required to keep any sort of paperwork. However, I think most homeschooling parents want to keep a record of the year. The problem is deciding what to keep, what to toss, and how to put it together in a way that will stay together.

I originally wanted to make a really nice bound book, but knew that if I waited for the "perfect" method, it wouldn't get done. I also found a couple of 3-ring binders that were the right size and, since I already had them, free!

So, what's in our portfolios? It's really simple, people. Done is better than perfect, right? Right.

  • - Final grades as figured in Homeschool Tracker. I only take grades in a few subjects, so it's a pretty short list.

  • - Scope and Sequence Report, also from HST. This is one thing I love about HST. I use the "topic" field when I make assignments. S&S uses that field to make a list of everything we've studied that year. One bonus is I easily get a list of all the books we've read during the year. Love that!

  • - Quizzes and tests from CLE Reading, Math, and R&S Grammar. I threw out all the daily worksheets because I just want a snapshot of what they learned

  • - Science worksheets. We didn't do test in science last year, so I included the worksheets. If we had, I would probably have just included the tests and experiments.

  • - History notebook pages. We kind of fell of the notebook pages wagon once we started TOG (my fault, not TOG's), but I included the ones we did.

  • - Maps. Any mapping assignments we did during the year

  • - Other various writing assignments. Our writing usually centers around history and is made into notebook pages. We did have a few assignments that are not, though, so I included them as well. (not shown in slideshow)
We did not do many projects this past year. The kids weren't that interested and I didn't push it. If we did, though, I would have either included photos of the projects, or scanned and reduced copies. You can have the latter done at places like Kinko's if they are over-sized.

Like I said, it's simple. But, I'm happy to have it done. If you make portfolios at the end of the year, please leave a comment so I can see how you do yours.

Monday, August 03, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Summer is winding down for us. I've decided to start school early this year, much to my children's dismay. :) I know that it's because we will be taking more time off during the year, but all they see is that their days of lazing and doing nothing are coming to an end. So, in honor of the end of summer (for us, anyway), I wanted to tell what we've been doing.

Surviving the Heat We've had a record-breaking heat wave this summer. Day after day of 100+ degree weather, with no rain in sight. We were breaking records that have held since 1980. I typically don't mind the heat, but this has been ridiculous. Blech. God bless Willis Carrier.

Personal Retreat For the second summer in a row, I went on a scrapbook retreat with some friends. 3 days of nothing but scrapbooking and way-too-much food. I am very blessed to be able to do this. Not only do I get a lot of pages done, but I am refreshed and rejuvenated when I return.

Home Renovations We have been remodeling our bathroom for about a year and a half now (yes, we are very slow workers). We've made significant process this summer and I can see the end in sight. We also spent a weekend tearing out the tile in the kitchen. Removing the floor was hard, dusty labor, but it will be so worth it when the new floor is in. We will not be installing the new tile ourselves. I would like it done in a few days, rather than a few months. :)

School Planning I had a goal to do no planning for the month of June. However, I figured out we were going to have a pretty busy July, so that really did not make much sense. I didn't obsess over it, though, so I'm pleased. I've gotten the first 9 weeks of school all planned out. I'll have a separate post about school curriculum and plans soon.

Time With Friends The kids had various sleepovers with friends, but the friend highlight was when my best friend Linda and her girls came for a few days in July. We alternate houses each summer and this was their year to come here. We went to the beach in Galveston (ouch, sunburn!) and our favorite haunt, Katy Budget Books. It was a short trip (only 3 days), but it was a great visit.

Short Vacation We had originally planned on going to Colorado this summer. However, the budget being what it is, we decided it was not the smartest thing to do. We did go to San Antonio for a few days, though. Griff attended a music convention and we tagged along.

Music conventions not being the most exciting thing for two kids, we headed up to Austin for the day and saw old friends. I finally got to meet this little guy. Isn't he adorable?? He's the baby of my friend, Sprittibee. Be sure to check out her blog. It's great!

Various Summer Activities VBS, swimming, friends, library visits, summer camp (for Ruthie), movies... It was a good summer.