Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Let the Scheduling begin!

This will be my 15th year of homeschooling. I think. I have lost count. You'd think after doing this for so long, I'd have all the kinks worked out, but I don't. Not by a long shot. I think the reason for that is that every year there are new kinks! The ones you worked out last year are not there, but there are new ones and you've got to figure out what to do with those.

This year, my 2 oldest students (Gunnar in 11th and Ev in 9th) will be gone 2 days a week taking classes elsewhere. (Ev at our co op, and Gunnar at our co op and at the local community college for duel credit). For Gunnar, it's not to big of a deal, he's not really doing anything for me at home this year so I just have to make sure he's staying on top of his CC and Co Op classes and probably help out here and there. For Ev it's a bit different. She's got two classes on Tuesday at the co op and our usual Thursday classes. The problem is, she and her sister do some classes together at home, so I've got to figure out how to get it all done without holding her sister back because Ev's gone two days a week. Not an insurmountable problem, but a kink none the less.

I've also realized that we are now quite tied to the school schedule. As a family, we can't just pickup and go on vacation or a day trip or anything because of our kids schedules. Bryce is taking EMT classes (he finished Fire Academy in June) on M and W. Gunnar's CC classes are T and Th and Ev's co op classes are T and TH. That leaves Friday. However both boys are working, Gunnar every afternoon but Thursday and Bryce all day on T, TH and F.

There is a great deal of freedom in having older kids and some real perks, but sadly, this is not one of them. Gone are the days when we could just pick up and head to the museum for the day or hop in the RV for a last minute getaway. We have so many schedules to work around that we have to plan things months in advance if we want everyone to come. It's kinda sad.

So, Today...

I have purchased all the curriculum, signed all the kids up for their various classes at their various locations and procured all the necessary supplies; now it's time to plan and schedule.


I'm doing it today.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

This Year's Curriculum Line Up: Girl Edition

The Girls Together -

History/Civics/Government – this year we’re going to go through several books. I am not so much concerned about grade level as I am the subject matter. Last year we did early American history, this year we’re doing Revolutionary War on. We’ll be using several different things.

Exploring American History

Land of Fair Play

Story of the Constitution

Story of US DVD Series

Map Work – You’d think with all the traveling we do that the girls would have a good grasp on how a map works, but I am realizing that they do not. I picked these simple workbooks up for us to go through.

We did a simple state study las year along with our History, so I thought this year a map study was in order. Again, this is below their grade level, but it had the material I wanted to cover. I imagine it won’t take us much time to finish this study. We’re also watching How The States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel together. I have learned a great deal watching that show!

Bible – Daily devotions. The girls both received some really nice daily devotional books from their grandmother recently, so we’ll use those. For a deeper more in-depth study of the Word they will be using Christian Liberty Press workbook E taking us from Genesis to Ruth.

That is the extent of what we will be doing together.

Evelyn will be taking at co op…

Biology using the Apologia book

Spanish 1

High School English ( She will be taking the Accuplacer to get into the community college after this school year and this course will be very good in helping her be ready for the essay portion of the test.)

Algebra 2 (She will do Geometry next year. I like to do Algebra 1 and 2, then geometry)

Annika will also be doing on her own, at home with me...

Several Amanda Bennett Unit Studies – This is one of the very few things that I like better in the digital version! Annika pops online, reads what she needs to read, clicks on the various links given to her, watches some videos, and then does the assigned work in her binder. It is really easy on the mom and Annika loves it.

Math - Saxon Math 7/6 with CD, also using MATH U SEE, Math Mammoth, and Keys To books as needed. (we’re struggle a bit with math here. I plan to use the scope and sequence of the Saxon, but we have several different curriculum with which we can learn the material if she begins to struggle.

Science - Apologia Elementary Anatomy with Journal

English – We will skip around some for English as well, using several different methods and curriculum. She will do copywork daily in her Unit Study. And she will write a 5 paragraph Essay after each study.

I have a couple Total Language Plus guides we may go through.

I also have the Learning Language Arts Through Literature Tan books. We will read the literature assigned, and do some of the unit.

Grammar - Grammalogues

Literature - She will be reading the books to go with LLATL and I will assign her several books that go along with our history studies.

For Co op Annika will take…

Helper in elementary PE Class
Strategy and Logic
Elementary Spanish 2
Speech Club

Tomorrow...the boy!

A New Thing

This year is going to be a little different for this homeschooling family. A Lot different, actually. I am not doing reviews with TOS Crew this year. I did if for three years and loved it. But I felt like I needed a break this year. I may go back next year (if they’ll have me of course!).

This year, my kids are all old. I don’t know how this happened, really. One minute they were all sitting around the table bickering about whose books were taking up the most space on the table, and the next moment it’s just me and Annika!

This year Bryce, who graduated from our homeschool in '10 and who has already finished Fire Academy, will be taking EMT classes the first semester and then hopefully he’ll find a job as a Fireman/EMT after Christmas. His goal is to continue on to get a 4 year degree as he works as a Firemam/EMT. Bryce will be gone all day, every day.

Gunnar, my Junior, is taking Duel Credit classes at the local community college and at our Homeschool Co op. He is also running his own landscape/tree trimming buisness and working at a local auto shop. Gunnar will be gone all day, every day.

Evelyn, my Freshman is taking most of her classes at the Homeschool Co op as well. She’ll do a grammar curriculum at home, and History and Bible. The rest is at Co op. Ev will be gone Tuesdays and Thrusdays.

Annika, my 7th grader, is the only one really left at home with me. I guess no one will complain anymore who takes up all the space at the table.

Over the next few days I’ll be going over everyone’s schedules and what I am using with whom. (well, the three still officially in school, that is.

This blog will be changing up a bit too. I’ll post my homeschooling stuff over here, not just reviews. I will review some products, mostly just things that I really liked or disliked. Just to pass on the information. And I’ll be talking about what’s working and what’s not in my ever dwindeling little homeschool.

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mad Dog Math

My experiences in school memorizing math facts is not good. I was diagnosed as dyslexic in elementary school though I’m not sure that is completely accurate. I cannot spell worth beans (or is it beens? ;) but I can write well and have always been able to read easily. The area that has been most affected by my dyslexia is math; specifically remembering facts and formulas. Needless to say memorizing math facts was pure torture for me.

I remember sitting in the class for weeks during recess, watching all the kids play in the playground while I sat and did my multiplication timed tests. The teacher was sure I was just not motivated to memorize them and this was his solution. The problem was not motivation. My mom found out that was happening after a few weeks and stepped it. The problem is, I still do not have many of my math facts memorized as I should. I can recall them, but it takes several seconds, it’s not instant as it should be.

Imagine my dismay to see 2 of my children follow in my footsteps in this area. Interestingly enough, it was my dyslexic children. We have done just about every program you can think of for memorizing multiplication tables. I don’t want to punish them, but it is important! I know how hard it is for them so we just keep plugging away at.

When I was sent Mad Dog Math to review, we had been doing just your basic flash cards for a while now with my youngest. I think variety is helpful here and it was time for a change again. The flash cards were getting boring!

She was actually happy to start Mad Dog Math after the flash cards. I let her start with addition and subtraction even though she is in 6th grade and knows those facts well. But it helped her learn the program and get a feel for how it worked. Then we got down to business. I had her start the multiplication facts. She’s been working on these for a while with some success.

I like how this program works. We’ve tried programs with jingles and songs and stories, we’ve tried programs with games and incentives, we’ve tried writing them down over and over, and we’ve tried flash cards. Honestly, as far as computer programs go, I really liked Mad Dog Math’s approach. It has some bells and whistles in the form of incentives, but not too much. The screen is not overwhelming with lots of distractions; it’s just a simple, fill in the blank kinda deal.

Frankly, I’ve not had much to do with Mad Dog Math. I downloaded it on the kids’ computer and let her loose. I did have to set some parameters (like she can’t do only simple addition!) and set the time etc, but overall it’s been her deal. She gets on when she’s done with her math curriculum for the day, she spends 10 or 20 minutes doing her drills and she gets off. No complaining, no fluff, just math.

Now that I like!

If you have a child that struggles with memorization of the math facts, variety is the key in my opinion. Work on one thing for a while, maybe a DVD program, then good old fashioned flash cards, then maybe writing them out and the like. Mad Dog Math is an excellent addition to the Multiplication Fact arsenal! I am very grateful to have it and will continue using it, because it will probably be a long, long time before the facts finally cement in that dyslexic brain of hers.

And now for the fine print...

K-5 (older kids can also benefit!)

Downloadable Software

1 year license: $19.99
2 year license: $29.99
Perpetual license: $39.99

Print Materials in a Binder

$89.99 for Classroom
$69.99 for Homeschool
$89.99 for Middle/High School

You can go here to learn more about Mad Dog Math and you can go here to see what others on The Crew had to say about this product.

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Some things you’re good at and some things you’re not. That’s just how it is. I’ve learned in my homeschooling journey of 14 years what each of my children is a natural at, and what is a foreign concept to them. I have also learned what is easy for me to teach and what is hard, like math. But let’s not talk about that. Math makes me twitchy.

Language arts is our thing here in this house. Even with two of my four children being dyslexic; we are a word family. Both of my daughters (one of which is dyslexic) write stories, fables, poems, and have written for our homeschool co op newspaper.

Being that we are a language arts family, I was beyond thrilled that I had been selected to receive the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s, Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack Level B

This is what I saw when I opened my box.

I was a bit overwhelmed, but then I saw this…whew, okay. Step by step instructions on where to start. Sort of like the ‘You are here’ on a map.

And this for setting up the student binder.

Here is how it’s described on IEW’s website…

This combination package is the best way to begin with Excellence in Writing. It includes Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS), Tips and Tricks DVD and Student Writing Intensive (SWI). Comes with 2 sets of DVDs (one for the teacher, one for the student), TWSS Seminar Workbook, and Student Notebook with handouts and daily lesson suggestions.
B (Grades 6-8)
Price: $239.00
Level B is appropriate for teachers and parents of students in grades 6-8. It may also be used for those teachers and parents who are teaching multiple levels.

If you go here you can watch several sample videos of Mr. Pudewa teaching, and see several sample documents of the program.

I watched the DVD for the teacher as instructed and learned a GREAT DEAL. I found him engaging and funny. At one point in the teacher DVD Andrew Pudewa says this…

“One of the completely great things about the syllabus is that it is not a subject unto itself. Writing should not be a subject over here on the side that we do when we can, while we’ve got to do our math, and science, and history, and literature, and bible, and oh, by the way we’d better do some writing here. No, writing must become a part of the study of history, and science, and literature, and bible; whatever it is you want to teach your children. They should read about it, they should talk about it, and they should write about it. That’s how we learn.”

I could not agree more. That is what I love about this system. It’s not a new thing to learn, a new thing to add to my already overburdened homeschooling schedule, but something to incorporate in, that will complement what I am already teaching! But don’t get me wrong, there is a learning curve. I think I have been doing with my children, something very similar to what is taught by IEW, at least in the beginning. It is the idea that you take literature and copy it. See what works and what does not and then model what works. The difference with IEW is that they tell you exactly why something works. You take it apart (via keyword outlines) and then put it back together. Frankly, this is taking what I have been teaching my children, to a whole new level that I would not have thought to teach.

I’ll not say it’s all been rainbows and lollypops. It’s hard to take something you already know, that you’re already good at, and slow it down, looking at the details and minutia of what makes it good or bad. My daughters balked somewhat against this. However, I can see how it has been good for them to see the WHY. I mentioned that because I think this system is wonderful for the reluctant writer. It takes the guesswork out of how to write. It is also good for the great writer, even though it’s a bit more difficult in my opinion, to slow down, go back, and start over.

IEW is a very thorough curriculum. It teaches the teacher how to teach writing and it teaches the student how to write. Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Packs are not inexpensive; however, I think they are very much worth the money especially for those just starting out in with homeschooling, as they can be used for student after student. There is also a very helpful and active Yahoo group dedicated to IEW.

You can go here to learn more about the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and here to see what others on The Crew had to say about IEW. Those of us on The Crew were sent different things from IEW, so if you are interested in another product they put out, or a different grade level, pop on over to The Crew’s site and look for those specific reviews.

Happy Homeschooling!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!

I was sent Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! to review for you, by the company Greek n Stuff.

I was a little nervous about this review; you know that phrase ‘It’s all Greek to me’? Yeah, that’s how I feel about foreign language. And this was actually GREEK! When I first opened the package I was surprised. It did not appear overwhelming. It was just a nonthreatening workbook with a companion full-text answer book, and a CD. The workbook is 180 pages all tolled. I flipped it open and saw this…

Okay, that looks easy!

I then opened the answer key work text and saw this…

It tells you exactly what to do when. This made me really happy. I mean, I’ve been homeschooling a long time. I can usually figure out how to schedule out a curriculum, but it’s GREEK! So I was super glad to see that I really could just open it up and follow the directions.

Before we jumped in I did spend a little time, maybe half an hour, reading over all the instructions and the first few lessons. I wanted to be as familiar as I could with the (GREEK!) curriculum before we started.

I then let the girls loose. They did the lessons and the flash cards, (which I had them cut out and make). The girls did very well and didn’t complain too much. They were not happy to see a new curriculum show up so late in the year, but once they got started they enjoyed it and learned quite a bit.

I really like that this curriculum teaches the Biblical Greek. In Level 3 on, there is copybook of the book of John that can be added. I love this idea. Any way I can make God’s Word more accessible and understandable to my children is a win in my book.

After doing a few lessons with my children, we decided to put the curriculum away for the summer. I’ve decided to buy a few more resources (the John copybook among them) and start over in the Fall. I want to go all the way through the book, and really dig in.

Greek N Stuff offers more than just Greek. They also have Latin, another frightening language to me. Perhaps when we’re done with Greek we’ll move on to their Latin's Not So Tough!

You can go here to learn more about what Greek n Stuff has to offer and their pricing, and you can go here to see what others on The Crew had to say about their various products.

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, February 7, 2011


I was sent VocabAhead’s DVD ROM to review for you.

This is a simple product with a simple idea that works very well. This is simple a list of words in audio and video format with usage sentences to help you remember the word.

The videos are not actually videos. They are still frame cartoons (not animated), or drawings. Something to look at while the narrator is reading the word and the usage sentences to you. It’s just one more way to help cement the word in the brain.
I was not terribly happy with some of the usage sentences as they seemed sort of negative, or even odd. It seemed to me that they could have come up with several different options and I was sometimes confused as to why they chose what they chose. However, this was only the case for a few of the words.

There are more than 1000 SAT Vocabulary Videos with MP3 audios files on this disc. VocabAhead also has a book if you’d prefer to learn that way. I did like the fact that you could easily transfer these little ‘videos’ or just the audio version, to a portable device like an itouch or ipod.

The VocabAhead DVD ROM can be purchased for $24.99.

The book can be purchased for $12.95.

You can go here to see more about VocabAhead and see many examples of the product, and you can go here to see what others on the crew had to say about VocabAhead!

Happy Homeschooling