Sunday, September 14, 2008

Working out the Kinks

We've got 2 full weeks of homeschooling under our belts. It's that time where I am starting to see how all of my curriculum and schedule decisions are really working--or not working, as the case may be. (I really wanted to say "as it were", simply because the phrase has been grating on me lately, but I just couldn't do it. It would grate on me too much.)

What is very interesting to me is that Timothy is off and running--he's used to homeschooling at this point--but I am having similar issues with Andrew and Melinda that I did with Timothy this time last year. It goes to show, I think, that it does take some time to adjust to a new school whether the school is at home or elsewhere. If Andrew or Melinda are stressed about school, it usually is accompanied by a comment such as: "I've just never done anything this way before" or "We didn't do it like this at Tahoe Montessori".

This is the reason that I'm trying to hold myself back from piling on the work. I want them to enjoy learning. Or at least make it so it isn't agonizingly painful! But there is so much that I want to do--thus the need to "hold my horses". So what have I found out so far? Some good things, some things that need to change.

- Reading the bible while everyone eats breakfast. This spurs some great conversation, and starts the day out together and in a good mood.

- Doing individual work in the morning. Like I thought, nobody is ready to deal with anybody else in the morning. So after our breakfast and bible reading, we split up and get math and language arts out of the way.

- A long lunch break. This has been a life saver so far for many reasons. One is that it gives everyone a chance to relax and refocus. Another is that it breaks up the day and I'm not left with a huge chunk at the end of the day with Melinda begging to do things and be entertained. We've also been getting our read-aloud done at this time, as well as some exercise in the pool!

- Meeting up again in the afternoon to do history and science. We have some great discussions about history, and everyone is much more relaxed and capable of dealing with each other by this point in the day.

- WinterPromise "American Story 2". This has been a wonderful curriculum so far. I really like the instructor's guide (my only complaint being the separate "Working On My Own" pages that I don't use and wish were on the regular page). I love the variety of books, I love the movie, website, and activity ideas, I love how easy it is to add other things to. It really has felt perfect so far. Little planning, big payoff.

- Bob Jones English. Sigh. I'd thought I'd found a winner. Grammar and Composition in alternating chapters on nice simple, colorful pages. It looked straightforward, contained plenty of instruction and wasn't too overwhelming. Well, the grammar portion has been tolerable, though it is quite questionable how much they'll actually retain. Timothy and Melinda are doing fine with it, Andrew hates it but can live with it. The writing portion is just not going to work out. It is not necessarily a bad writing program, it is just very teacher intensive. So much so that I feel like it would be far easier to pull something together myself! It does have all the step by step instructions that was absent in Sonlight's Language Arts, which is something that I really wanted. It also seems to be pretty sequential, which is nice. But I do think that it would work better in a classroom situation where all the students are given a lecture in class, and a homework assignment. I haven't decided what I'll do, but I'm thinking that we'll take it easy and have them write letters and do other low-key writing for awhile. Eventually I'll probably just have Andrew start on the writing program that Timothy is using.

- WinterPromise "I'm Ready to Learn" preschool program. I bought this a year ago, tried it, didn't love it, and stopped. Audrey is really ready to do more school type activities now, so I thought that I'd give it another go, ditching one of the books that really bugged me. Some of the activities are cute, we really like the science book, but most of it feels like busy-work and I find myself ditching it again. So I'm starting to think that I may just drop it and start up with Little Hands to Heaven, which is what I really want to be doing anyhow!

- RightStart Math. This hasn't really been bad, but has some bad points. I like the warm up activities, and Melinda loves the games and manipulatives. I am not liking the spiral approach, and Melinda hasn't been jiving with their way of explaining different mental math methods (don't you love alliteration?). It is also extremely teacher intensive. Since Melinda does like to do worksheets, (something that RightStart doesn't use much of,) we may use another program such as Math-U-See for our base, and add in the warm-ups, games, and manipulatives.

Overall, the most difficult adjustment to full-time homeschooling for me has been exactly what the most difficult adjustment was to homeschooling only one child: the loss of free time. I love my children, I love spending time with them, I love joining in their education, I love reading to them, I love researching curriculum and planning, but being Melinda's only source of entertaining is draining. If last year is any indication, however, it will balance out eventually. Not driving to and from school for an hour a day really makes a difference, too...I'm finding myself more willing to get involved in mid-week activities.

Well, that's the schooling update. I'll write more on the other portions of life later on this month!

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