Friday, May 28, 2010


Thank goodness it's Friday.  I am feeling a bit burned out. 

8yo - "Would you sit still?  Pay attention!"

12yo - If she has one more melt down over math (which she KNOWS how to do), I'm going to have a melt down too.

14yo - Two or three days a week just doesn't cut it.  "We are spinning our wheels here." (sing/song voice)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Teaching Company, etc.

I finally gave in.  I bought The Teaching Company's Biology and Algebra I courses on DVD.  I've been trying to convince myself that I needed these for some time. ; )  And yes, they were on sale.  There is no way I would pay full price. (cough, splutter)

14yo and I started reading through Spielvogel's Western Civilization.  As we were reading about australopithecines, I remembered that we own DK's History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From the Dawn of Civilization to the Present Day).  The plan is to jump back and forth between the two.  For the next couple of weeks we'll be in DK's History.

If you've noticed our curriculum in the side bar, you'll see that BJU Biology has been on hold for quite some time.  A couple of is rigorous and religious.  I have nothing against using religious textbooks.  Rod & Staff is a Mennonite publisher and we use their books for many subjects (math, grammar, science, history/geography, etc.).  But, BJU was in your face, cram it down your throat, with a cherry on top.  It wasn't bleh, it was Argh!  I encouraged dd to let it roll off her back but the rigor finally gave us a good excuse to push the pause button.

In the meantime...I made another $5 discovery at Goodwill - Prentice Hall's Biology by Miller and Levine (2002).  It is one heavy book with tons of beautiful photographs.  And so far, it seems a little too easy.  I guess I shouldn't make that judgment until we jump back into the chemistry section.  But my, it sure is purty to look at. : )

12yo spent several days with big sis, so math was pretty much the only thing she accomplished this week.

8yo is working hard on transferring the counting by 5's chant to paper.  She had bit of a time getting her numbers in the right place, but I know she'll get it.  That's the beauty of Rod and Staff math.  They will drill it until it is part of you. ; )

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Came across a passable copy of Spielvogel's Western Civilization 5th edition at Goodwill today.  For $5 I'll take passable.  Cool part?  I found a companion website with goodies to go with it like flashcards (w/pronunciation!), crossword puzzles, maps, time lines, quizzes, etc. 

I finally feel a history plan coming together.  Up until now we've been following Rod & Staff's geography/history sequence. The problem with Rod & Staff (for me) is the higher the grade level the more their textbooks are devoted to Mennonite history.  

Tentative plan:
8yo - The Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer
12yo - K12's The Human Odyssey, Volume 1:  Prehistory Through the Middle Ages
14yo - Spielvogel's Western Civilization and Susan Wise Bauer's History of the Ancient World

As you can tell, we are nowhere near a four year rotation.  It's okay as I'm pretty sure youngest would not have been ready for ancients two years ago.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Grade Level Game

I've run into a problem...again.  The problem is that pesky grade level number on the cover of the Rod & Staff textbooks.  It is constantly screaming out to me to "catch up!"  Catch up to what?  Does it matter if my daughter learns about moss and algae when she's 11 or 12?  Does it matter if her math textbook has a five or six on the cover if she is steadily progressing?  Why do I get caught up in the grade level game?  I want my kids to learn what is presented in the book not just check it off a list of topics covered.  I'm thankful for Rod & Staff textbooks (really thankful!), but I need to remember that they are tools not my masters.

12yo finished Rod & Staff's grade five science text today. Yea!  I'm looking forward to starting the grade six text next week.  Here comes the sun! and Mercury, and Venus, and....

Saturday, May 8, 2010


When 12yodd finished her math textbook a few days ago she requested that we continue with math  through the summer.  She wants to catch up to her grade level.  

See, this particular child struggled with math and learning to read.  She was still a beginning reader at 8yo and she did not know any of her math facts.  It was a blessing that by a fluke she was registered as a 1st grader at the age of 7yo.  This accident meant that she would always test a year behind most children her age.  This gave us an additional year to prepare her for standardized testing at the end of 3rd grade.  Even then we struggled to get her up to a 3rd grade level.  

Though 12yodd is technically the same age as most 6th graders, we've been using 5th grade textbooks for almost all subjects except grammar.  I had accepted that fact and was okay with it.  She is progressing nicely through all her subjects (except pesky grammar) and I don't want to push her for the sake of seeing a 6 on the cover of her textbook rather than a 5. 

When she requested to work through the summer I didn't hesitate to say yes.  I'm not about to turn her down when I know she's capable of moving ahead in this subject.  I calculated that if our lives are perfect between now and the end of the year, she could finish the 6th grade math textbook before Christmas.  And then, I started looking through the lessons.  The first chapter reviews addition and subtraction with very little new information.  Hmmm...couldn't we skip those lessons?  Why require 12yo to do lessons that would merely be busy work for her?  I think it's time to break away from the "Thou must do every lesson in the textbook" fear.  We are going to skip lessons (Oh, I'm so rebellious ;)


12yo dd did her standardized testing yesterday.  I was very nervous.  She has only been tested once before and that was at the tester's home.  This kind sweet lady passed away last year.  This year I had arranged for dd to test at a church she had never been to with folks we didn't know.  New testing situation, new setting, new people.  When I decided that it was time for me to exit the room, I could read the concern in her face through her calm facade.  During their break, I was relieved when  I saw her approaching the van with a beaming smile on her face.  She survived.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


12yo daughter finished her Rod & Staff Arithmetic Grade 5 book today.  Oh what joy!  I think I'm happier than she  is.  She asked if we could start Grade 6 and do it over the summer so she can catch up to her grade level.  Who am I to say "no?" : )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's True

Recently a homeschool mom whose family is struggling with illness asked for advice about planning for the next school year.  One of the veteran moms who has been dealing with family crises of her own shared this gained wisdom:

"I've been reading Rafe Esquith's books, along with Outlier, by Gladwell and my big works! Sure, pedagogy is important, curriculum is better or worse, etc. but the bottom line is this: a good solid curriculum, applied reguarly, with time dedicated to school, will cause education to occur."  Laughing Lioness

I have been testing the last part of her quote with my 8yo and what Laughing Lioness said is true.  A little reading and math every day has made a measurable difference.  She may continue to struggle, but every day we will plod along together down the path.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We did it!

We survived the first full week of school work.  It felt so good to be doing something instead of fretting about what we weren't doing.

There were a few glitches.  14yo has sleep issues and by Wednesday she was so sleep deprived that she was falling asleep while reading aloud.  I didn't think it was possible to read that slowly.  Plus, her words were slurred.  I finally had to have her stand up while she read.  A nap was in order that afternoon. 

In general Wednesday was one of those days when you feel like you are spinning your wheels.  12yo and I were still doing math at 5pm.  It felt like the day that would never end.  Thankfully school went much better Thursday and Friday and we were able to finish around 1pm those two days. 

I'm still trying to figure out who to do school with first.  In the past 12yo has always been first because she is eager to get school done and over with.  I started with 14yo for most of the week to try and catch her before she disappeared into her room for a nap.  Yesterday I started with 8yo.  That was okay but working with her first is probably not the way we'll go.  She is highly distractable which leaves the teacher frustrated.  Not a good way to start the day.

A productive week.