Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We Went to the Homeschool Expo - Part 3

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. ~Dwight David Eisenhowe

We went to the Homeschool Expo on Friday and…my daughter came home with a new instrument, my husband came home with a new hobby, and I came home broke having spent way, way, way over (yes, three times over) my homeschool budget and I had not bought the one thing I think I would like to get for this year.

The Thing I Think I Want For Homeschooling This Year
As we walked into the doors, my husband asked if I was looking for anything in particular and I was not, yet I was. For one, I was interested in getting information on college dual enrollment programs for homeschoolers. I like the idea of getting one's associate degree about the time one is graduating high school. It makes more sense to me that redundant courses like English for both high school and college be done together, if possible. We are a three years away from the earliest age of fourteen they accept for just one course, but it is something to work towards or we could prepare for CLEP also. I just want to be aware of the options as the Princess progresses.

The other thing I had swimming around in the back of my mind was a bit more vague. It was about how the Princess and I end up at odds over lessons during the day. I was willing to be open to changing course with my approach if it would result in more cooperation and less tween drama. I had been thinking about the three online programs that the Princess has been using this summer to give us both a break. I wrote about them in an earlier post: Oh, Where Can She Be? I like a vocabulary program very much and the grammar one is good for review plus it is a lifelong subscription, but with the third program I am not as impressed as the Princess is. It is called MY Access!

The Princess likes MY Access! best of all because she loves to write and gives her writing assignments to be rated in levels. If she gets advance or proficient ratings, she thinks what she has written is worthy of that rating. Unfortunately, I realized quickly that the program is computer based and cannot really read her work. In fact, it is not much more than a glorified word processor. It makes her change some things in her writing style that does not fit its parameters, so that her writing is more technically right, but not improved writing. I will say, though, that it does point out her spelling and common grammar errors without the drama, so it has been a help for her to get that input from a source other than me.

The one thing I do like about the program is it has a great deal of information about improving writing, although the grading system falls short of its own ideal. I just feel that once she has got the rating she wanted, I still needed to look over the work and show her upon where it could still be improved, which would not effect the rating or even lower it a bit, but reads so much better. She is little more receptive most of the time to my "meddling" with her writing but only if the rating does not go lower.

With those thoughts in my mind at the Expo, I knew that I really need to be focusing in on grammar and her writing this coming year. I bought several composition books so that she would be journaling and taking notes more. That part she is looking forward to doing very much. Which is were my mind was as I first walked into the Expo area and there before me was Teaching Textbooks, a very popular computer based math curriculum.

Being that it is popular is usually enough to make me pass it up, but I thought about how well the Princess was doing with the online programs and how math is black and white. There are many ways to get to the answer, but there is only one answer, much like the vocabulary and grammar programs, but unlike the writing program. I sat down and took a good look at the Teaching Textbooks. I like it very much, but then I like math and I could have learned it from a textbook without the teacher. My inner struggle is that I also love teaching math and I am very good engaging the math resistant child, but when it becomes to a daily struggle, I get worn down. How many times could she not explain back what I just explained, even when I broke it up into baby bites!

Fortunately, (and unfortunately) there were no special Expo deals with Teaching Textbooks, as it always has free shipping, so I was not under any internal pressure to buy it there. I wanted the Princess to play with it a bit, but she was not that interested. When we were about ready to leave I looked at it again and thought about it some more as it is an expensive program compared to what I have. I will say that I also have reservations because even though the Princess is math resistant, she is also advanced. She is at the sixth grade age, but she would only need about a third of grade seven in Teaching Textbooks covering conversions from fractions to decimals and percentages which we were going to start next. In other words, she is very near the Pre-Algebra level and since each level does have built in review I am between which would be the better fit. Also I still have Math Mammoth and Singapore should I see she needs more practice or a different approach.

So, I am thinking that the Princess could teach herself math, although she had a meltdown about that idea because she said she would rather I teach her and that was because she wanted to take notes or journal during the time I am teaching a new concept this year. I showed her with the online demo that she could stop the video and write her notes. I also have seen that while she is more than happy to do many of her assignments independently, math is not one of those. The program would also grade her and she is afraid of getting bad grades in math, perhaps because I will not be giving the right answer by accident to her and because she knows she zones out. I showed her how she can repeat the lecture and when she gets an answer wrong, how it will explain in detail the right answer to her.

I have considered that I could start her in math to bring her up to the Pre-Algebra level, if she and I can come to an agreement about cooperation during math lessons, but my husband thinks we should just get the program now. He observed us working together and realized that with the program she would not have me accidentally giving little "tells" of whether she is right or wrong as she does the problems. (It seems I would be a bad poker player.)

Being that I am torn between the seventh grade and pre-algebra levels, I did some searches trying to find the seventh grade used. I found that the older version does not grade and that the newer version holds its value well, because it is so popular. I could get the seventh level and sell it in a few months to get the pre-algebra level, possibly around the first of the year. Once the Princess is used to it, I think that in the long run, the Princess will find that learning math this way is more enjoyable and less stressful for both of us. I think it will build her confidence in math also (even though I will miss teaching it).

I have not bought it yet though. Today is the first day of public school in my county and the Princess and I are going to celebrate with by going out shopping with one stop at a used book store (we are actually bringing books with us to sell there also) and having lunch at a cupcake shop. We are going to discuss in detail our lessons plans so that we can have agreement, better cooperation, and personal accountability towards her education. At least, that is the plan for today.

~ My Lord, I ask for Your blessing on today as we plan our lessons. I surrender to Your guidance. ~

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.