Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nearing the Beginning...

It is almost that time of year again. We're nearing the start of another school year. I'm anxiously awaiting tax free school supply days and the smell of fresh notebooks and newly sharpened pencils. The kids...not so much.

We've taken last week and this week off and I'm debating starting next Monday. I like to be a little ahead so that way I have some free days to work with. Although the summer school work still didn't put us to where I wanted to be, the call of a new year is luring me in.

I have been working *somewhat* diligently these past couple of weeks to prepare and there are going to be quite a few changes to our daily school routines.

The first thing I did was to work on a year long lesson plan notebook. This was so awesome. I have to admit that this is the FIRST time I have ever made lesson plans. Before, I just kind of averaged out on a piece of notebook paper as to how much we should accomplish each day. Sometimes that worked and sometimes not. So to see my notebook filled with colorful pages (more for my benefit than for the kids) I really get excited to give it a go.

You can walk through the step by step, customizable process for this lesson planner here. I love it because (as you can see by the close up pics) it is a daily planner, so there's plenty of room--and I write very large so I need lots of space.

The second big change will be the use of the P.E.G.S. chore system. I just got that set up and we'll begin using it tomorrow as a test run. I thought that it would be good to go ahead and begin this before we start so that the kids aren't overwhelmed with so many new things in one day. Here's a picture of our peg system (with the character trails list next to it to remind the kids of the character traits they're to aim for). You can get these at: http://www.familytools.com/

the peg system is so awesome. there are nice sized tags that have pictures of each chore, and each child gets their own row. When they complete a chore they flip it over for the day. Also, the ABC's at the bottom are for attitude, behavior and character. they can earn green tags for good behavior and the not tags for bad. They seem most excited about working with this...and the fact that I said each green tag earns you a dime (not tags cancel out a green one and lose a dime).

And lastly, we're using a modified version of the workbox system. I have mentioned this before and we did a sort of modified before as well. However, this time we will be using the actual Velcro tabs to be able to move over whenever a subject is completed. And they'll have their work strip handy as they go. This is what that looks like set up and the link for info:

I'll update more pics of it in use as we go along, but for now, time to sit back, finish up last minute preparations and get ready to jump on board the homeschool express. :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer School....

Yes...we're taking *gulp* summer school! Since we had missed a little extra time and there were some thing I don't feel happy moving on and "leaving behind" then I decided we needed to have summer school.

I originally had the idea that we could do our full curricula for the next school year, but quickly saw a few areas I wanted to work on and polish first. So the school work for next year has been shelved for a few more weeks and we're doing a very light but productive day.

First, we finished up our Liberty's Kids DVD series for history. I have to say that I enjoyed this cartoon series about the American revolution as much as the kids did. And now that we are finished, we'll be moving on to Story of the World which is a chronological approach to history that (hopefully) we'll be working on for the next 4 years before we move on to high school social studies classes. But enough about that since it will not begin until next month (I will try to refrain from talking about "next years" work in this post).

Our day now (having finished up history) consists of math, spelling, reading and writing. For math, I want the kids to work on memorizing their multiplication/division tables more so we're doing Timez Attack (an online computer game), flash cards, timed worksheets, games and songs. It doesn't quite feel like school if you're dancing around the living room singing "One times any number equals that same number..." lol! :)

For spelling, I thought we'd go back and just do a basic review of some spelling concepts. I especially thought this would be needed since the children both tend to spell phonetically still whenever they write. However, after going through a big huge list of words, turns out that they can spell most of what I've given them, they must just choose not to use this skill. Maybe I'll have to get a little tougher on my "grading" (oh who am I kidding, I don't give grades...you either learn it or you don't....if you don't then we'll go over it again). I guess I mean I'll have to be more stringent in making them correct and re-do their spelling errors themselves instead of me just pointing it out and spelling it for them.

Moving on from that, we're continuing our quiet reading this summer. I was really hoping that the kids would be to the point of WANTING to read for themselves for fun by now...but I know that takes time. Until then, quiet reading remains a part of our summer school (as well as regular school) schedule. This house is filled with so many books that one of these days, when they do chose to read for fun they will discover a vast treasure trove!

A big reading step we're taking this summer is assigned reading. So far, if it's not part of our curriculum (as in reading aloud Bible lessons, science chapters, etc) then we've only had quiet reading. I chose the Children's Illustrated Classics version of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" as a good jumping point. So far they seem to be enjoying it and I'm aiming for one chapter per month.

Well, that is what we're doing right now. It seems like a lot, but just math, spelling, assigned and quiet reading. That's typically enough to be finished in just a few hours. Although my typical workday usually takes at least 6 hours whereas other hs'ers can do theirs in 4, lol...don't think we'll ever get to that point. Although most, I think, is due to the kids procrastinating with their work and taking so long to get it done.

We'll soon be taking a week or two off at the beginning of August to relax before plunging into 4th grade. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our heartbreak and loss....

It has been a while since my last post (not counting the time4learning post). I had refrained from posting about what was going on in our personal lives about this time last year until the present.

I think I delayed in posting it to my blog because I was thinking that if I don't write about it, it doesn't have to be true. However, it is time that I write and share what we've been going through.

It was almost a year ago that my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was at stage 4 and had spread into his back and abdomen as well. We went through a very aggressive line up of chemo following a successful surgery. My husband, Dwayne went through so very much in such a short amount of time. I won't go into all of the details here but cancer is definitely a life changing event.

On February 1st of this year he was told that the cancer was gone and that his chemo was over. He would only have one final scan to see that it was all gone. Two days later we lost my husband, on February 3rd, to a heart attack. I am thankful that my husband at least passed away peacefully in his sleep and didn't have to suffer. That is a small comfort.

As you can imagine, the last 5 months have been a roller coaster of emotions for our family. We've had deep dark depression. We've had lonesome sadness. We've had joy in feeling the Lord lift us up and support our needs. It still seems like only yesterday that I lost my best friend and my soul mate. When Dwayne and I met, it was love at first sight. God whispered to me that he was the one. :)

I still don't know how we'll get through life without him. It's been a big adjustment and parenting alone is definitely one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I can feel Dwayne with me, and I can feel God's gentle assuring hand on my back as I attempt to carry on.

People continue to tell me that I'm an inspiration. I am not the inspiration, I am just doing what I have to do. I know God is with me and that is the biggest help of my day. I also know that I have to get up and take care of the kids and provide what they need. There have been many days when I would have preferred to lay on the couch where I continue to sleep at night even now, and not get up all day. And in all honestly there have been a couple of days when that did happen. I am not stronger than anyone else, I am just relying on God. Really, during a time that this that's all we can do.

I wish so much that more people had known Dwayne as I knew him. He was truly my best friend. A lot of people say their spouse is their best friend, but he honestly was. We spent 24/7 together. We shared all our secrets and had most of the same likes. Our personalities were similar and opposite in ways that complimented each other. I never had girl's night outs, because I didn't need them. My best friend was my husband and there was no other person on earth that I would have chose to hang out with.

I will post soon on what we've been up to homeschool wise but for now I wanted to share a little bit of our lives and the greatest loss we've ever experienced.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time 4 Learning...

We were given the opportunity to review Time4Learning (Time4Learning.com), an online curriculum program. The kids were instantly excited when I told them that we were going to put the workbooks away and do our school online.

I was afraid that the curriculum would be incomplete, but I was actually very surprised by the information that it covers. It also does it in such an exciting way that the kids are interested and enjoy the lessons. I had to contact customer service a few times, just for my own questions and was happy with how quickly they replied and remained in contact with me afterward to make sure that my questions or concerns were answered.

I love the way you can instantly go either forward or backward a grade in case you want to go back and review a concept from a grade earlier or perhaps you don't think a subject is challenging enough. However, I have found that the curriculum is as challenging as other hard copy curricula and not as bubble gum or watered down as a lot of online curricula tend to be.

Even after the novelty of doing schoolwork online has worn off, the kids are still enjoying Time4Learning and look forward to it in our school day. We only need to supplement it with our handwriting program and I have continued our previous Bible curricula. Along those lines, I would also recommend Time4Learning to anyone who wants a computer program but wants something more secular than Switched on Schoolhouse.

My only complaint about the program is that you can't make assignments. If I could change anything, that would be it. I would like for the ability to go in and assign certain lessons in each subject because right now, I have to guide them to where I want them to be in the next subject. Technically I do not have to do that, you just teach them to follow the arrows to the next lesson, but I have jumped around a little bit, so want to make sure they are where I want them to be next. However, the person I spoke with in customer service said that it is something they are working to create a solution for (from what I have read on the forum, I believe that the program can also be used in classroom settings and there is some sort of problem with that one point and the way the software itself is set up).

But with that being my own tiny complaint, my positive experience has far outweighed that. I am just so happy with how receptive my kids have been to this curriculum and how they enjoy it. Our fussing over school work days are gone for the most part (there's still our handwriting worksheets to complain over, lol!) I believe that we are going to continue using Time4Learning for a while.