Sunday, July 28, 2013

Homeschool Planning Out Loud

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. ~Allen Saunders

There is nothing like a homeschool convention that reignites one's passion for homeschooling on a Friday. My husband was hoping to be home in the afternoon so he could take apart his ATV (all terrain vehicle), but instead he, our daughter, and I spent the entire day just walking, looking, and talking from booth to booth. I did skip the college, the grade-in-a-box, the prepared for schools, and most of the multilevel marketing still took us all day.

Last year's expo was not as inspiring for me and I really did not buy anything at it. The Princess begged for the self teaching violin curriculum, which made me spend far more than I hoped and I ended up not buying anything else for homeschooling there. Also off the path of purpose, I did buy one of these really cool new hair clips, called Flexi8, in gold with a cross for the Princess (and me) to use. This year the lady was at the expo again and we bought a dangling one with light pink beads matching the Princess' earrings. From the same vendor I bought the Princess two EZ buns, one leopard and one burgundy, and she was able to fix her own hair in a bun this morning for church. I also bought a few little items for the kitchen I did not plan to buy from the Bread Beckers' booth, a local grain and bread making supply store which is not that local for me but close to the Princess' piano lessons and Living Science. I will be checking their prices against the health food store with my discount to see which organic grains will be cheaper. (You should have seen their faces when I said I had recently bought a motorized stone grain mill for only $100!)

Back to the path of purpose...when I began gathering homeschooling materials about ten years ago now, I bought all the Princess would probably need up through third grade and many reference books that would serve her well into the middle school and some even in the high school years. Since then, if we liked a certain curriculum, I would tend to buy three years at a time when I could, if it had levels like math and her classical Latin and Greek do, for many of the other materials I chose do not have levels. I knew as she approached the middle school years that I could tweak my teaching style to make the material suit her learning style and then she would probably like to have more involvement in curriculum choices. So, basically, we were mostly set with leveled materials up to the seventh grade level when last year I bought the math program Teaching Textbooks 7 used.

She is now seventh grade age and I have wanted her to be more involved with the choices, but she was not as interested that day as I hoped she would be. Her father, on the other hand, was ready to buy nearly everything he liked in the first aisle--there were seven more. Knowing that using the materials is far different than being infatuated with it at a convention, I have this strict rule that nothing gets bought until I have seen everything I wanted to see and had time to look most of it over usually during lunch. He restrained himself well and I made it easier for him as I had the money.

I was hoping to find something on civics, because even though I have gone over how our government is structured with the Princess, it apparently did not make it into her long term memory processes, or so it seemed during our test prep on the subject. I did not find anything there, however my husband (I knew he would come in handy there) heard about a curriculum from a vendor for a non-competitive product that her family had used...of course, the only vendor that carried it did not have any there. So, I will be ordering Uncle Sam and You online, because it seems to be new and not well known so I am not finding it used.

The Princess is on the last CD of her math and this method seems to be going well for both of us, so I will be ordering Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra probably in a few weeks, since there never is any discount offered at the expo and people think selling it used for just $15 less is a such a deal that people will be waiting in line--pluh-ease, folks! Get real about this!

I will be selling the Singapore Math books and possibly the Math Mammoth CDs. I also have a pre-algebra wipe-off game called Opps! by Muggins Math--I love all their stuff, but I have not been seeing them at the expos the last few times, even though they are in north Georgia. That will be a nice break/fun supplement for us, I hope.

I so liked the idea of Classical Writing, but I saw some serious grammar issues when I used it. I took another look at Writing Strands. My husband was ready to purchase on the spot, but I remembered having at least two of their books at home, I just was not sure of the levels and I knew that I could find them used pretty easily for cheaper. I have levels 2 and 3. I think she would be good with Level 3. We will give it a try now that I think she is more capable. I am hoping to give my daughter more guidance in her creative writing; the girl is always writing and her plots are impressive, but she needs to improve her delivery.

The vocabulary of the Princess needs some broadening. Although I liked the online program Words and Their Stories, it is limited and I was not regulating her use of it to see what words she was learning, although she does keep a glossary. I think at this point she could use something more robust and one curriculum I was looking over suggested Vocabulary Vines, I think, as I cannot seem to find the reference now. I like it and began looking over other possibilities. I am liking Vocabulary from Classical Roots the best so far, which I might find used and will be a good accompaniment to her Classical Latin and Greek studies. It will help her to breakdown the words, addressing the root with prefixes and suffixes so that she can determine and retain their meaning better. She recently read a book where the heroine used lesser known words and my daughter has been using those words whenever she can fit them into the conversation since, so maybe this will work for her.

I have been using Harvey's Elementary Grammar, a reprint of a book my grandfather probably used in school. It is highly advanced by today's standards, even more than the advanced English courses I was taking in high school in the 1970's, which were better than what is being taught today--we just have not been taught grammar as they use to do it! Although I would have liked to see a bit more practice exercises, its scope and depth in grammar goes into college levels--proven to me when I talked to the creator of another grammar curriculum and I asked her if she knew what a copula was; she looked puzzled until I told her it is the formal name for a linking verb. This term is only used today in college level grammar today, but was used in Harvey's.

So, believe me when I write that I truly love Harvey's and would not even consider any other grammar curriculum...except for this one thing: although I have the answer key, there are some things that are assumed to be known by the teacher and student that are not covered in the textbook. There are these rule numbers in the parsing of a word that are not covered at all or not covered well enough. I have the answers in the answer key, but I did not have any reference in the book to look it up. I had to find a similar book with more exercises in Google books to get the parsing charts and the rule numbers. Needless to say, until I found that, it as frustrating for me as it was for the Princess. That is why I took a look at another grammar curriculum.

During the lunch review, I decided to buy Analytical Grammar. It is strong in sentence diagramming and does parsing although it may not be as extensive as Harvey's. It is designed to begin with the basics as if no prior grammar has been used. It is divided into three seasons and the first season as well as most of the second season and a portion of the third would be review for the Princess, but I feel most of it would be necessary review. For her age, they suggest the three year program, as in one season each year with every other week a review sheet, while the student focuses on other things under the category of language arts, like reading, writing, evaluating literature, vocabulary, etc. After the third season, she is done with grammar, so they say. (I think I would be doing a comparison at that point with Harvey's before I concede to that.)

The only thing I dislike about the books is that the workbook and teacher books are very thick and in the videos they were spiral bound, but now they sell them as glue bound books with the student book having tear off pages. I am thinking about having them both cut and spiral bound, which I have never done before, but is commonly done with workbooks by homeschooling mothers. I have since found out that the local office supply stores could do it, but they do not have the coil binders big enough for 400 pages. I found that Kinko's does so that will be something I will be doing next Thursday and it will cost around $6 more or less. It is worth the cost as the way it is now is difficult to use.

I am sticking with the Classical languages using Latin's Not So Tough and Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek for now. For modern French, we have Tell Me More and a free Babbel app on our tablets.

Of course, this is covered by her course with Living Science and we are paid up for that. The class will begin in September.

Unit Studies
We will continue with the History of Classical Music by Beautiful Feet and I have another history of music curriculum in waiting that covers the politics more and how that influenced music.

We may be dropping History of the Horse by Beautiful Feet. I need to see where she is in the course. If she is close to finishing, I may have her finish it out.

Piano and music theory are the domains of her piano teacher. She is independently working on violin with a very good curriculum for that. She has a guitar and a recorder as well.

I will not be using a curriculum for art and will try to coax her to copy drawing and painting stills or photos to develop other techniques. I hope to begin covering the history of art along with history.

I have been having her read out of print Landmark world history books for several months and for the summer she started on American history. She reads about three chapters two or three times a week and then writes a paragraph long narrative per chapter that I check for grammar and spelling. I think I would like to structure it a bit more, but I have to say that she was learning more about the history she has read using this method than I did and history, like science, is a subject that you can learn all your life and not know it all.

Hmm. Well, that is next on the agenda. There is going to be an adjustment period with her starting the science class and moving our errand day to Wednesdays. I have to look over all the curricula and determine when and how much time is needed for everything.

Right now we are still in the middle of test prep and I think I have chosen the test that she will be taking in August.

Whew! I need to schedule a vacation!

~ My Lord, thank you for Your guidance in educating my daughter. Please make Your will clearly known. ~

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