Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekly Report 8/19/2011

Confession: This is the second try at this post. The first time was dry as dirt! Hopefully this attempt will be better.

We've actually finished 3 weeks of school so far, and I thought I would take a look back over the weeks.

First Day of School

Our tradition is to go out for breakfast. The kids chose IHOP and it was yummy!


Ruth just started Saxon 8/7 this past week. I'm actually making her do all the facts practice sheets and mental math this year. I'm mean that way. :) Actually, no complaints from her.

Robert is loving Algebra I with Mrs. Genco. He actually told me this week that math is now his favorite subject. Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor.


The kids both like Mr. Harmon. Ruth has never enjoyed DVD instruction, but this is going well. She says it's long, but she likes it. We've done one science experiment so far, but I was so involved in the experiment with the kids that I forgot to take pictures.

I plan on doing 8 labs this year and have ordered most of my supplies from Home Science Tools. BJU included a shopping list with HST part numbers, so that made it very easy. I also bought a triple beam balance off Craig's List. I have to say that I love having all this science-y stuff around. I have test tubes! And beakers! And graduated cylinders! :) I'm such a geek.


Robert is doing grammar in the fall and literature in the spring. I had planned on him doing Rod & Staff, but we had the BJU class, so I thought we'd try it. I compared the two programs and figured out if we did the first chapter of BJU Grammar and didn't like it, we could easily switch back to R&S, skipping the first couple of chapters. However, after the first test I asked Robert and he says he wants to stick with  BJU.


Ruth is doing literature in the fall and grammar in the spring. Working from a textbook is forcing me to cover all kinds of literary terms with Ruth (irony, foreshadowing, and more). I am so hopeless with this that if it's not explained in the teacher's manual, I don't really get it. It makes for some interesting discussions. Or maybe I should say, some NOT interesting discussions. I'm very thankful that we are going for an introduction here and it's not the last time these concepts will be covered.


We began our IEW SICC-B class this week. The kids are doing this with a friend's son and we will rotate houses. We started first at ours. It was an easy week because we are doing a review of key word outlines. I'm anxious to get to meatier stuff, but I do enjoy the easy start to the year.

Cultural Geography

I think this is going to be our least favorite class this year, and the one for which I'm most likely to drop the DVD instruction. I'm not terribly impressed with the teacher, but Robert hasn't complained about it yet, and we'll keep going as long as he wants. I also think that there is something to the idea of being able to learn from teachers with different lecturing styles, so it may be that we should stick with it just for that. We'll see. I am keeping our options open.

American History

Ruth's attitude about is history is "I don't care. I just want to get it over with as quickly as possible." Lovely. I'm trying to engage her more, but it's a struggle. This is nothing new, so don't blame it on the textbook approach.

I kind of wish (okay, more than kind of) that I had gotten the latest edition of BJU American History, rather than the previous edition. I like the Student Activity Manual much better in the new edition. However, this edition is being lent to me by a friend and free is good.


We are using the DVD instruction with First Form Latin. The teacher is adequate. As Ruth puts it, he doesn't talk too long and it gets the job done. I guess that's good enough!

I've decided to do Latin with Ruth this year. Since I've never learned it, I am often at a loss as to how to help her. I think I also need something to keep my brain active. (ha!)


Robert finished his assigned reading of Around the World in 80 Days.

Ruth has read Landing of the Pilgrims and Stink Alley for school. She also read The Pushcart War for free reading.


Switching to textbooks has been more of a change than I thought. It feels... strange. Not in a bad way, but it's very different. I have more things to grade and am having to do more teaching (at least with Ruth). However, it's also easier in that I'm not stressing that we are missing something. And it's getting done! I'm also very impressed with the quality of BJU textbooks. The kids are both having to do more critical thinking, which was something that was harder for me to guide on my own. So overall, I'd have to say this is working out well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

New Schoolroom

When we moved into our house 8.5 years ago, we decided that an extra room we had on the first floor would be a gameroom.  However, we didn't really have anything to put in there to make it a gameroom, so it just became a sort of catch-all (read "junk") room. There were bookshelves, Griff's LP's, a desk, my sewing cabinet, and a weight bench (yes, actually used). With no true definition for the room, and only occasional use, it became filled with more and more... junk. I cleaned it out several times over the years, but never seriously, and it would always return to its former glory (or lack thereof).

Meanwhile, we started homeschooling 5.5 years ago, and we did school all around the house. Kitchen, den, dining room... And the gameroom was ignored because, well, it was going to be a gameroom. Finally, this summer, I decided enough was enough. The gameroom was no more. It would now be the schoolroom. And the great purge began.

In the interest of complete disclosure, here's a "before" shot.

(Oh, my word, that's just terrible.)

I got rid of books, curriculum I knew we would never use, and piles of paper. Things were moved to an upstairs storage room, and many items were donated. I was brutal! I wasn't able to get rid of some bigger items, but they are not interfering with the room's new purpose, so they will stay for now.

Here's the final result.

The desk in the corner is the desk that was originally in there. I cleaned it up and rotated it so that I can keep an eye on a certain teenage boy who is easily distracted. More about the shorter bookshelf and items on the desk later. The kids will work at the not-so-pretty brown table.

Bookshelves are filled with books, curriculum for spring semester, and scrapbooks. That 6-drawer unit contains craft supplies that I couldn't fit in the room's closet. See the weight bench? Yes, it's still in the room. There's no place else to put it and it is still used by Griff, so it stays.

Griff's LP's and my sewing cabinet, with Ruth's latin posters on the wall. I'd love to have a big, overstuffed chair in that corner, so I'm hoping to find a different storage place for the LP's and possibly sell my sewing cabinet.

You can see our whiteboard hanging on the wall. The door at the far left of the picture is the closet, which now holds most of my scrapbook and art/craft supplies. There is a door to the right of the closet that leads to the rest of the house. The french doors lead to our back porch.

My desk. :) Actually, it was my mom's desk, and she technically gave it to Griff years ago, but I have now claimed it for my own. (he hasn't used it since we moved into this house). You can see 3 Desk Apprentices from Staples. The kids' are on the left and hold all of their school books. Mine is on the far right, and holds teacher manuals and tests.

The bookshelf was in the dining room when our school was done in there, but I moved it in here when I decided to convert the room. The top holds the boxes the kids use to hold their personal pencils, ruler, protractor, etc. I use the digital frame with our artist study. Artwork from that artist will rotate in the frame. The top shelf holds extra books I want the kids to read. On the left are Ruth's American History supplement books. On the right are Robert's geography books. That plastic box holds notebook paper. The middle shelf holds a dictionary, thesaurus, bibles, blank index cards (in a box) and some miscellaneous papers of mine. The bottom shelf holds Robert's DVDs and binders with class notes and handouts.

The one thing this room does not have is a dedicated space for Robert to watch his DVDs and take notes. I think the best solution is going to be a portable DVD player that he can watch at the table, but if anybody looking at this has a better idea, leave me a note in the comments.

This room is not going to win any design awards, but it's very functional and I'm very happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

2011-2012 Curriculum

Robert did BJU's Space and Earth Science this year with their DVDs. He enjoyed it so much that he has asked to do all of his classes this way next year. I am still trying to figure out the finances for this, but if we can possibly swing it, that's what we're going to do. So, assuming this works out, this is what he'll be doing.

BJU Geography (supplemented with Sonlight Core 5 books)
BJU Algebra I
BJU Physical Science
BJU Literature (1 semester class)
Rod and Staff English 7 (I know. It's not BJU, but this falls under "if it's not broke, don't fix it". It's a fantastic grammar program.)
viola lessons/orchestra

I am aware of the time involved with BJU's DVD classes. However, I also know that I am in control of it, rather than it being in control of me. I will modify as I see fit.

Ruth does not enjoy DVD classes, so while she will be doing some BJU courses, she will not be using the DVDs. The possible exception is Physical Science. I am not sure if she will be doing that with Robert or in an outside class.

BJU American Republic (supplemented with Sonlight Core 100 books)
Saxon 8/7
Physical Science (BJU or outside class)
BJU Literature 8 (1 semester class)
possibly a couple of Total Language Plus guides
Rod and Staff English 7
Art (outside class)
cello lessons/orchestra

There are other things I would love to do. I've always wanted us to go through Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings. However, our days are going to be full enough, and sometimes you have to say no to even the good stuff.

I cannot believe that I will have a high schooler next year. Where has the time gone?

(Yes, I know Sonlight has renamed their cores, but I'm referring to them by the names I'm familiar with.)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Looking Ahead to Next Year

I've been a horrible blogger lately. So bad, I'm not even sure you can call me a blogger anymore. However, I'm giving it a try once again. I will have a high schooler next year (and 2 high schoolers the year after that!), so I'm feeling the need to savor every minute I have left with them. One way to do that, and to hold on to all the memories, is to blog about our adventures.

I thought I would start out by talking about the changes I am making to our homeschool next year. The biggest change is that I'm going to change to textbooks. I've thought of doing this in the past, but guilt over the lack of a living books education for my children held me back. Something I read awhile back has really stayed with me, though, and I've let go of this guilt.

What was this "something" that I read? Basically, it was said that our goal in homeschooling is to teach our children to have a heart for God. This can be done with any style of education, all the way from unschooling to traditional textbooks. Pondering this over the months has helped me realize that thinking that one educational method is the "be all and end all" is just plain wrong. I need to find what works for me and for my children. And honestly, the few textbooks we've done over the years have been very successful. I have felt comfortable with them and the kids have learned.

I made the final decision a few months ago to switch to textbooks for next year and I have never felt such peace about a curriculum choice. Even the arrival of the annual Sonlight catalog had absolutely no impact on my decision. :) I am eager to start our new adventure in the fall with textbooks.

I will be posting my list of exactly which textbooks we'll be using in another post.