Thursday, November 13, 2014

From public school to home school, the struggle with freedom...

It's been a whirlwind of epic proportions. So much craziness in to me what feels like such little time, yet it's been almost a year. Wow time flies.

So, the catch up... End of last school year (about mid March/April) We decided that I would homeschool Cole along with Alec. We came to the decision for very different reasons than we did for Alec. Cole has never really struggled with school, he has always done great, always been on honor roll, etc. It was just so many changes that started coming down the drain (no pun intended) did not make us very happy. We had already begun to see common core creeping into the curriculum here, add to that the ridiculous STARR testing (previously known as TAKS) and almost equally ridiculous changes the district was implementing we felt it was time to give him a better education. So we quietly finished out the school year and when we received the district's attendance questionnaire, ("Will you continue to attend this particular school, another in the district or do you have other plans?") we checked "other plans" and in the blank space wrote "homeschool". So the journey of Cole, the homeschooler began. :)

So far it's been good. He is doing great with math (as I knew he would because he loves math)
He started a little behind on English and Science, but I got him pretty well caught up over the summer in preparation for the fall. But poor Cole, some days he reminds me a little of Brooks from Shawshank Redemption. The first few weeks of school it was confusing for him. "I don't have to ask permission to go to the bathroom?" "I can have a snack at the table while I do my school work?" The one that really spun his head was the fact that he gets to choose which subject he wants to work on & when. Completely tripped him up. In hindsight (more than a month later) I realized that I needed to start out structured with him, then gradually taper off; giving him freedom in small doses.  We of course have the issues when I am at work not as much school work gets done. Same issue I had with the oldest when he first started out. Self control is another big part of our homeschool routine. It is SOOOO easy to just park yourself in front of the TV, or read comic books all day instead of doing your school work first. So Cole's first year, (as Alec's was as well) is going to have a lot of "eat your frog" reminders, lots of evenings and weekends with no tv or video games. I have no doubt in my mind he will "get it" and begin to succeed in that respect. He is jogging along now, once he "gets it" I know he will be at a full gallop absorbing knowledge as fast as his brain can take it. (Un-like Brooks, but we won't go there)

One of the first science experiments he did was creating a Non-Newtonian substance. What is a Non-Newtonian substance you ask? Well it is a solid with out shape. (also known as an amorphous solid. How do you create an amorphous solid? Well get yourself a big baking pan, pour in about a pound of cornstarch and slowly add water, stirring with your hands until it is the consistency of honey. It will be drippy and run through your fingers when you hold it in your hand. It is so much fun to play with. as you can tell....

you can see another example of what we did here , just on a larger scale. :D We love the Myth Busters.

So, here is our curriculum run down for the year, this is all the stuff we love...

Teaching Textbooks Alegbra 1: yes ALGEBRA. He is using the disks this year (since we bought a new computer!) and is doing fantastic. I can't believe my son, who struggled with math for so long is LOVING algebra. Clearly he is not my son ;)

Apologia Physical Science: Even tho we are secular homeschoolers we love Apologia's science curriculum. It's comprehensive and explains things pretty thoroughly. Any gaps we fill with Bill Nye videos, etc. I like that it does talk about evolution (tho it is creation based). It is by far the best and most affordable option we have found. And his text book in particular I paid only $4, used but in really good condition from Half Priced books. So lesson here, check the homeschooling/education section of your local Half Priced Books. They have amazing deals! Got the teacher's edition off Amazon (used as well) for less than $10 including shipping.

Houghton Mifflin American Government: Now even tho we are secular homeschoolers, we DO NOT common core our kids. Most secular curriculums out there now days (the new ones anyway) are common core. So I picked up an older version of this on Amazon (copyright 2000), both the student textbook and teacher's guide were less than $20 including shipping (used of course).

Literature: As usual I do the literature myself. We make a list of books to read for the year, and I search the internet for study guides, or unit studies on them. If there is none, I write my own. So far this year he has read "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. Currently all 3 of us are reading "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. Also on this year's list is: Fahrenheit 451& True Grit. We also will do poetry studies throughout the year (Edgar Allen Poe we always do around Halloween). is a great website for finding reading guides. They don't have every book, but that is usually the first place I look when we start compiling our reading list for the year. (good for older kids, not so much for younger readers)

We still struggle to find a good grammar program. We tried the Easy Grammar multiple times (I just don't understand what all the fuss is about with it) I have Jensen's in my online shopping cart, I just need to give it a try I know. I think grammar curriculums is probably what we have spent the most money on because we are having trouble finding one that fits.


Teaching Textbooks Math 6: So far it's working ok. I think it is probably a little slower paced than Cole would prefer. We'll try this for the first year and see how we end up in May. If anyone has a suggestion for a little faster paced curriculum I am all ears.

Apologia General Science: It was a little above is grade level, but we started with the Young Explorer series and it felt too young for him. So we are taking our time with this, if we take 2 years to get through it I'm ok with it. So far he seems to like it.

Houghton Mifflin United States History: Again I found an older (pre-common core) version on Amazon, less than $30 including shipping for both the Teacher's edition and student text. The awesome thing is that the teacher's edition included a whole bunch of re-produceables, including flash cards for the vocab, all organized by chapter and section number! I just photo copied them on colored cardstock, laminated them and cut them out. EASY!!! (especially since for all the other subjects' vocabulary I type up the cards myself using the Avery app. that is time consuming but I can usually get it done while I catch up on my shows)

Literature: So far he has read "The Jungle Book", currently reading "The Giver" and on his list for the rest of the  year is Watership Down, and Tuck Everlasting. I have found reading guides for all of them for free online, just google search and pick what looks good to you. There are TONS. We also are doing little poetry units. Just finished one on Haiku poetry. Cole wrote a haiku about our chickens, then for art we learned origami and he made an origami chicken.

The Grammar Ace: We are using for grammar, along with the School House Rock DVD that was suggested by Sonlight. We are iffy on it. We really don't use the DVD too much, he gets the lessons pretty well on his own with out it.

So there is the nutshell, so far. Today, with the wind chill, we are below freezing. Winter is coming early to Texas this year. I gotta go run and grab firewood before it starts getting colder. Dinner tonight may be stew. The one think I LOVE about cold weather, time to start making stews, chili, sauerbraten, crockpot oat meal, all the hearty cold weather food. yum yum...

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