March 1 will be a year since we started the Homeschool Journey. (OK, it was a little after 3/1, but that was the original start date.) It’s been a good year, for the most part; adding Herself in June caused a few problems, but we’ve hit our stride now pretty much and chug along.
I’m going to do this in 2 parts; 1 on my planning/organizing stuffs, and 1 on the curriculum. I have a LOT of stuff to write about, so…buckle your seat belt! :lol:
Not everybody does things the way I do it. Most people in the “Classical” camp would probably scoff at us – they think you need to do 1 hour of school per grade level….I think that’s totally ridiculous. School should take however long it takes – if the kid “gets” the material, then it will take less time than if they don’t. :shrug: Anyway – this is working for us.
I have 2 binders that I use all the time. The first (smaller) one is my weekly planner. In it, I have pocket dividers that hold the kids’ stuff – I have 1 for Math, History, and Science. (I can’t trust my kids to actually keep up with the Science and History sheets, so I hand them out when they start, then take them back when they’re done. I tried trusting them – Himself did OK until he noticed Herself NOT doing them, and he started slacking. :sigh:) Then I have my printed weekly lesson plans – they have EVERYTHING that I want to get accomplished that week on them. We don’t necessarily do them “in order” – we always start the day with our Bible reading, but the rest flows sort of organically. As long as we hit each subject, the order doesn’t matter.
The other binder is the BIG Lesson Planner. In it, I have EVERYTHING I need to plan out our weekly schedule. I have the reading schedules for each of our subjects (except Math), I have notes, I have lists of what maps go with which chapter in our History texts, I have flashcards for Latin and Hebrew…..everything. Each Sunday I sit down with it and my weekly planner, and map out the week (well….not really. I do History and Science in 2 week bursts, because we spend 2 – sometimes 3 – weeks on each chapter.) I print out all the notebook pages, I print out any maps, I try to copy the Math assignments, and I TRY to print out any paper models we might do (I must confess – I haven’t done those since we passed year 1000….the kids kinda lost interest. I need to pick those back up, though – they are fun!) This takes me about 2 hours each time - correlating all that stuff is a lot of work! It makes the week go easier, though - all the stuff is ready to go.
I kinda let the reading slide…..this week I sat down and searched for a living book about something we’ll be studying in History (I…haven’t done that at all this year. :hangs head: I was doing read-alouds - we’ve done the Illiad and Odyessy and Beowulf, but then I let it drop. I have set a goal of NOT doing that again.) This week we will start studying the Renaissance – the 100 Years War, the War of the Roses – so I hunted online and found a free e-book of Mark Twain’s “Life of Joan of Arc” (that may not be the correct title, but it’s close.) I’ve set up our reading schedule - we're going to take 2 weeks to read it - I've copied it onto the kids’ tablets (THAT was an ordeal - I ended up having to download it on each tablet, instead of copying it from my Mac. :grumble:), and we'll discuss it at the end of the chapter.
We’ll be done with History in 4 weeks, and I think we’re going to take a break before starting book 2 and dig deeper into the Renaissance – 2 weeks really isn’t enough time to dig deep. I’m thinking we might take a LONG break – like, maybe until June – to dig deeper into all of the History we’ve done; we didn’t really dig into Ancient Greece, for example. There’s a LOT of NOVA episodes on the Ancient world; we can watch them on the iPad (honestly, we’ve watched a lot of them as they’re aired, but I’d like to dig deeper to really “stick” the info in their heads. ) We can also follow rabbit-trails and see where we end up. We’ll see how long I can let myself do this…:lol: (I..have a problem with not having a text to follow. I feel like I'm slacking...but we'll see how long I can "go with the flow")
I have 2 marker boards we use daily. 1 medium one (from Wally-world) is used for the weekly spelling list; the large one (made from shower board from Home Depot – CHEAP!) is used for Latin. I’ll sometimes pull out the 3rd one for Hebrew – and the kids sometimes use the 2 smaller ones for working out their Math.
I use the iPad for our Latin lessons – I have the mp3s from the Getting Started with Latin website – basically, the author reads the lesson; he goes into more detail sometimes than the book. I like it - *he’s* teaching the class, not me – and I’m learning right along with the kids. I also look up the artists we cover in our Art Appreciation class, we listen to music for our Music Appreciation class, and we listen to the streaming lessons for our Hebrew class (Sarah and David and You Read Hebrew. We’re retaining our aleph-bet, so it’s a Win!). You do NOT need a tablet for homeschool, but I gotta admit it makes things easier and better. The laptop just isn't as portable as the tablet.
We try to do Twebrew School, too – but I’ve taken a break from it until we catch up in Sarah and David. I use the book that goes along with Twebrew School to reinforce S&D, and it’s working.
The kids each have a large Binder that they keep their work in. Himself is good about punching holes and filing stuff up; Herself, not so much. When they get full-ish, I make them clean them out – I have plastic expanding files we use to keep the year’s stuff in. Just in case anyone (that mythical “someone”) wants proof we’re actually schooling. I plan on keeping those until both kids have graduated – just in case. Law can be changed at any time, and I want to be prepared. (Texas is VERY good to Homeschoolers; basically you file a 1-time “Letter of Intent”, and that’s that. No oversight – at the moment - and no required testing…but, again, that can change at any time.)
I *do* grade work. Math has a chapter “Revision Exercise” – basically a chapter test; that gets a “real” grade. Every day assignments get checked and the kid has to re-do anything they got wrong, so I do a 1-time-a-week 100 on those. History gets graded on the beginning of the chapter Outline, the weekly Essays, and the end of chapter oral exam. Science gets graded on the notebook and the end of chapter test (and the next book will also get graded on the labs…I’ve let those slide. :sigh: ) Latin…I do pop-quizzes that get graded, but they mostly get graded on participation. Same thing on Hebrew. Language Arts gets graded on the Spelling test, the Friday Freewrites, and participation in the rest. Art and Music get participation grades (and it’s not a given 100 – if they don’t fully participate, if they argue about the assignment, I take points off.) It’s not the best – most of the grades are subjective – but it works. (And I don’t have to keep grades for our state….but, again, I am covering myself just in case laws change. Or if college admission boards want to see proof of the grades on a transcript.)
One of the best purchases I made was PlanBook for Mac. LOVE it – it’s a Lesson Planner. That’s all it does, but it does it very, very well. It’s set up in a calendar grid, week-by-week, and once the subjects are set up (you tell it what days each subject is to be done), they flow to the grid and you can fill in what the assignments are. It was designed for Public schools, but works for Homeschool with a little tweaking. It’s made my life a WHOLE lot easier – I tend to plan 3 months at a time, then all I have to do each week is drop in Math and print – 1 copy for me with everything, and 1 for each kid that’s just their stuff. (It also comes in a Windoze version – and the developer is VERY helpful.) With a little tweaking, you can track 5 different children individually, plus Teacher Info (if you don’t need the Teacher Info, you could track 6 kids). If you can combine some, you could track more – but 6 max individually. (On each day, it prints out any “custom” areas you have filled in. That’s where I put the kids’ individual stuff; I changed the title to their name, and when I print, it shows up with their name: assignment. Nice!)
I also purchased Gradekeeper for Mac….it’s….I don’t like it. It’s easy to use, but it wasn’t intuitive, and I don’t like how it looks. Ideally, I’d find something that lets you set up weekly Lesson Plans AND tracks grades at the same time (like HomeSchool Tracker for Windoze…but it doesn’t come in a Mac version). The beta-program I’ve been playing with is OK, but it’s not as user-friendly as PlanBook, and it’s NOT intuitive at all. I…don’t like it. I keep giving them my opinion (and I’m nice!), but so far…they have it set up in a weird grid-type thing that you have to set up a full year’s worth of plans, then drag and drop to each kids’ section. It…..I can’t plan like that. PlanBook lets me do it day by day, and the calendar set-up means I can see at a glance what we need to get done. I wish PlanBook would add a grade-tracker feature….:sigh:
Tomorrow, I’ll post about our curriculum…it’s longer than this one. I think I’ll add photos to keep it from being a wall of text…..
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