Friday, September 11, 2009

The Homeschooling Scoop

It is late, and I have finally finished all of MY homework for my lay ministry class tomorrow. Between Kenny's trip to Chicago and this week being consumed with research for Matthew's homeschooling, my own work had to be put aside. Talk about waiting until the last minute, I spent the entire day holed up trying to write a sermon to deliver in class tomorrow. I am terrified! Luckily I have preached a couple of times, so perhaps some of the butterflies will be diminished, but somehow it is a whole lot scarier in a room with just 5 or 6 people than in front of a congregation. It's more personal, it's more close up...and you get graded on your efforts.

I want to thank all of you who posted comments or wrote me privately about our decision to homeschool Matthew. It is surprising just how much that encouragement helped! I also had a true blue friend visit for dinner tonight who, instead of questioning our judgment, rushed out and bought us a couple of books about homeschooling! Friends like that are the real deal, and she is worth her weight in gold to me.

I received a lot of questions about how we plan to do this, and while this blog will not become a homeschooling blog any more than it is wholly an adoption blog, a family blog or a ministry blog, I thought I'd share a bit about our unique plan.

We are blessed to live where there is an umbrella program with the public school district in the neighboring town. They have a program which is sort of a hybrid of homeschooling and public school. There are a couple hundred kids enrolled in this program, which is called VISION. There is oversight by the school district and far more accountability required than with traditional homeschooling, which for some folks would be enough to turn them off but for us provides us with a bit of confidence that we will be forced to be accountable to someone...we can't get lazy! Also we have access to special ed, ESL for Kenny and the girls should we eventually enroll them, a library just for homeschoolers with curriculum, etc and group classes and field trips which usually consist of 10 children or less. They have their own Center and resource staff to guide us every step of the way and to help us document our learning in the ways in which the state would want to see it. We will be provided with funding of around $2000 per year, per child, to purchase curriculum, pay for field trips, buy books or computers, or anything else of that nature. Curriculum can be expensive, and that money can go quickly! But we are a Frugal Family, and I'll bet we can make it stretch pretty far by utilizing used curriculum, making certain it can be used by multiple kids, etc. We will be at home a good portion of the time, but the issues of socialization are solved with enrollment in their classes and field trips, along with the outside activities we already are involved in.

The cool thing is that other than overseeing that you are actually making progress and putting in the necessary hours, you can teach pretty much anything you want and in whatever way you want to. Matthew has a love of history that can hardly be matched, and so we are going to wrap his learning around that. We will start out with some things, knowing we will like some and not like others. But it is great to know we have a choice and can change if we are unhappy. Below is a guide of what we are going to do and the curriculum we are going to use. I wouldn't normally share this kind of boring stuff but the private emails I received from many wanted to know what we were going to do and use.

Math - Saxon Math (to me this looks like a boring program, but everyone raves that it is terrific)
All Subjects - - We are going back to this, not as a full curriculum but as a supplement and review tool
Writing - - This is by the folks at Time4Learning and is fairly new. It teaches writing concepts that the student types and sends online, and then they are reviewed by a live teacher who offers suggestions for changes or corrections.
Science and History - Lapbooking - I love this and hope it works for us! Through a homeschooling friend who is doing it I was able to see finished samples, and talk to her son who is loving learning this way. It is a creative way of putting together material you have learned in a unit study on history, science or any other subject, and having a finished product to use as a reference tool later. It involves research, writing, reading, vocabulary and often geography. We will be starting with studies from
More Science and History - This is an AMAZING web site, you pay for an annual subscription but it is a stand alone curriculum in many subjects if you utilize all that is available to you on their web site.
Spelling - Spellwell workbook
PE - Seasonal soccer, TaeKwonDo, swimming, and he wants to learn tennis
Fine Arts - He will continue with piano lessons, and maybe branch out into guitar someday.

We will be creating our own timeline of historical events, and adding to it with each unit we do. We won't be doing each item every single day, but hopefully will get into a routine quickly.

Matthew is very excited about all of this, his first response to me when we first talked about it was "You mean I can do what I want and not have to wait for everyone else?". He is only just now beginning to see how his learning will differ from a school setting, how he will be able to read all that he wants and study any topic he wants, as long as we cover the basics of reading, writing and math. Already in only 3 days he has read 2 books about the rainforest (our first science unit will be on that, at his request we are doing habitats this semester), an Eyewitness book on WW1 and another one on WW2 as well as chapter book on true stories from WW2. That is in addition to 2 hours of online testing he had to do to establish a baseline for grade level.

I am letting him lead on a lot of this, as I want him involved and voicing his opinion about what he wants to learn. We went to Walmart and got some boxes to organize materials, and picked up a few other supplies we didn't happen to have hanging around the house. He asked for his own dictionary and thesaurus..."a real one mom, not a baby one with pictures in it". We have owned a globe since he was 3 and interested in where things were in the world, but I'd like to get a couple of good larger maps. He asked if I would "let him" have a protractor and compass of his own, so we bought that. Luckily most things were on closeout from back-to-school leftovers. We still have things I am going to keep an eye out for on Ebay, like a couple of good atlases, and maybe the Usborne or DK encyclopedias of Science or History, but we can get them as we find decent deals on them.

But the telling moment came when we looked at the lapbooking unit studies, and he turned to me with a huge grin and said "Mommy, I want to get them ALL!!". The light is back, the old Matthew has returned, and I felt justified in making this decision. He was telling Joshie and Kenny all about his "new" library at school and how cool it is, how many fantastic books are there and the other boys are eager to check it out. It is not really that big of a library but it has a great selection of better learning books. This morning he turned to me and asked if he could keep reading his WW2 book, and I said "Go for it! You can read as long as you like!" and his face lit up and he said "Oh yea...I forgot! I LOVE this!", and his nose was buried back in the book as he was oblivious to all that was around him.

This will be hard, it will be enormously time consuming, and it will require a lot of me. But man, sitting back and watching the overnight change in his demeanor was enough to sell me on the idea for as long as we can manage it. Dominick is 100% committed to it as well, and left me a sweet email the other morning saying "I love you, and thank you for wanting to nurture our kids.". It's worth it, and we will do all we can to continue to support Matt and all the kids in whatever ways we can.

Then there is Mr. Kenny who was so tickled today over a surprise I had for him! I almost giggled myself seeing his reaction! Someone has started offering drama classes for children here in town, and I secretly enrolled Kenny in this once a week afterschool class. When I told him about it this afternoon he literally jumped up and down like I was Santa Claus!!! This is such a perfect fit for him, and I just have a funny feeling he might find a new side to himself and a new area of giftedness in acting. He really needs a boost and to feel successful at something, so I was thrilled to find this for him. He begins classes on Monday, and hopefully he will love it as much then as he loves the idea now.

Joshie is loving school, he loves every subject, he loves being there, he loves reading and writing and he wishes for more homework. Josh is our little enigma still, in that he has not shown a strong preference for a sport, art activity, or subject. He loves riding his bike, and generally everything but no real passion other than playing superheros has risen to the surface yet. In time I am sure something will stand out, and we will then quickly see what we can do to encourage it.

So there you have it, a quite boring post but I answered questions I have been asked via email all week. Now, let's hope that after all this research and putting off my own work, I will manage to do OK in my own class tomorrow!


wilisons said...

I love your post about the details and sometimes wish I could homeschool my kids or maybe someone else's children :-) I'm a teacher but can't see myself getting my daughter's cooperation...

One comment, you mentioned Saxon math. Your thought that it is boring is 100% correct. I HATE this program and have even flat out refused to teach it. It is based on rote learning and not concept learning. Unless Matthew is struggling with math, steer clear. I don't know if all other curriculum are open to home schoolers but I think your vision would mesh far more with Everyday Math or a program that is a modified version of it (Math Connections). Both are concept based and offer real world practicality and application.

Not sure what Matthew's reading level is but is also a great source. It has books that are leveled and both fiction and non-fiction. I love this site for the scope of what it has to offer and the fact that each book comes with lesson plans that are in depth and follow-up sheets on language and reading.

Happy homeschooling,

Christina said...

YEA! I love brainpop, and so do my kids (both school kids, and my kids). Someone posted about Everyday Math... I had to teach that program for the past 5 years, taught it to 1st, 4th and 5th graders, and I really DISLIKED the program... it is all about what your little darling needs. Try saxon, if you dislike, move on... :) I am so proud of your choices, and think you are doing a fab job! Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Yahoo! I am so happy for you and Matthew! We just got back from our
family vacation and I haven't even unpacked yet (let alone read all the posts I have missed) but wanted to say Congratulations!

As far as math is concerned, we use Right Start
and it is awesome! (ditto on Saxon being boring!)

Have you looked into the Charlotte Mason method of education. It keeps those bright eyes and love of learning without killing either parent or child.

Just three links you might find interesting:

The last one, I give just for the fun of looking at what you can do with living books (a lot of them you could get at the library)

Oh, one more, (sorry, I am sure you
didn't ask for all this but I just have to share) Check out Bethlehem books

God bless you all in this new and exciting adventure.


Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Wow, look at you!! Curriculum ready already!! You're going to do GREAT!! I know a great place to study his-VA is FILLED with it :o)

Ohiomom2121 said...

Dear Cindy,

True, Saxon math doesn't have pictures and exciting stories to invoke a love of math, but my feeling is that so many of those books play at math but don't get the job done as far as learning it. Math was the area my sons improved the most from public school, and we used Saxon. The topics are clearly labeled, and you can go on the internet to get computer games and stuff to jazz it up if you have a budding mathematician. However, we just needed to slog through it, like most students, and Saxon was a blessing for us, because with the constant repetition they would not forget concepts as they built their knowledge. Just make sure that the beginning pages are things he is able to easily understand, as it builds and he must be able to follow those first few chapters. Our version had little chapter labels under each homework assignment, so if the student forgot how to do a problem, he could look back immediately and read up on it. He should be able to do most Saxon math completely independently, even though you will want to be involved cheering him on, making sure he understands today's concept, etc. Also, having the solution manual allowed me to see where they had gone wrong on a problem and help them work it out. So few math teacher manuals have that, since they assume you know how to get there! Math teaching for dummies, it should be called! That is another reason home school parents love the books. I can't stress enough that you should compare the early 2000s versions with the more recent ones to be sure you are getting the best materials. I heard that after the program was purchased by a big company in 2004, they have been changing the product for the worse. See who the publisher is. I would not get the new ones, except maybe after doing some research.

Lenore Ryan said...

This is sooo awesome! You have my utmost respect for taking on homeschooling with Matthew. He'll do marvelously well.....he's that kind of a kid and you're that kind of Mom! The two of you can't miss! I've often found myself wishing that there was something inbetween regular school and homeschooling for James, as I can see the benefits of both for him!

As always, you have my admiration and support! You're terrific, Cindy!!

Phil said...

Homeschooling can be a great option for some kids, and after reading your posts, it's evident you've put a lot of thought and time into this. There was only one thing though that I didn't read earlier and it relates to a lot of the comments I read from people who proclaimed that 'only you know what's best for your kids. Now, of course you do know what is best for them, but in terms of the decision for homeschooling, the only other question I could think of was - Can you be objective when it comes to teaching? Can you take off the parent hat long enough to put on the teacher hat and really look at this child as a student and not a son.

And before any of the other commenters freak out, no, I don't think you could or should ignore the fact that it's your son sitting in front of you. But one of the greatest attributes of some of the best teachers I've ever had was their objectivity. There was a definitive, special relationship between me and my best teachers that I will carry with me forever. It was unique to me and them, and in many cases only lasted a year. To this day though, I can still remember what each of them gave me and how much of what they taught me I have used in my life.

Don't worry, this isn't a 'don't homeschool!' rant. Homeschooling is a very valid option. Just wanted to share some of the special things I experienced from the other side. Take care and good luck!

Kim Adams said...

A friend recently shared her former classroom website with a few of her favorite resources. (She doesn't teach there anymore so not sure how long the site will be up.) I haven't finished exploring what she has posted, but came across this site for creating flashcards and thought it was pretty cool! She has some math resources that look promising too.