Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Home School Plans 2016 (Year 10)

I had to suspend my blogging routine to get ready for our first day of school, but I am back! Many of my friends IRL ask me each year what materials we are using, so I thought I would post that information here for their benefit. If that is not your thing, just scroll on past this lengthy post!

NOTE: I am too tired for links, but I will come back and insert links for all of the materials listed below soon!

This is our 10th official year of homeschooling. My oldest is beginning 8th grade. We started homeschooling her in Michigan where the cutoff date for school is September 30, and then we moved to Florida and then Texas where the cutoff dates are both August 31. Since she has a September birthday, we chose to have her do a supplemental 3rd grade year in order to be on par with her peers in extracurricular activities and when she heads to college. I went to college at age 17 and feel like that had some disadvantages to my moral compass. So, counting Kindergarten and her repeat of 3rd grade (although we did completely different material), this is our 10th year of homeschooling. Wow.

I feel like that should make me some sort of expert, but it doesn't. At all. So, if you are here to find all the answers, you won't find them here. That's above my pay grade. I just do the best I can to research every single possible material I could use with my kids and choose the ones that best suit us. We have not (yet) followed a set curriculum or enrolled with any full program. We have supplemented with co-ops and recorded online classes, so far.

This is the first year I will be using lesson planning and tracking software to help me stay focused. I decided that with next year being high school we needed to practice tracking lessons and grades. Plus with my husband deployed, any way to make my job easier is worth it. I am using a friend's program called My School Year, and I LOVE it! This is an incredibly affordable tool and is full of so many wonderful options. I was always jealous of my MODG friends who print out their students' lesson plans for the week with a few clicks of the mouse. Now I get to do that, too!

Our primary focus areas for the year are writing and religion, so you will see a heavy emphasis on these subjects. The three boys will attend an enrichment co-op twice a month at a nearby parish to make friends and enjoy a laid-back classroom setting. My daughter will be taking one class at a weekly academic co-op for her to make friends and experience a more formal school environment with high expectations and external deadlines.

My youngest is three. He is tagging along with my first grader for stories and music, for now. I will probably add some preschool materials for him as the year goes on and I determine his interests and abilities. I have used and love Little Saints and 26 Letters from Heaven among other materials. The enrichment co-op class he will attend will study the alphabet, and he already absorbed the song from Starfall. So, I'm not worried about him at all. He's a sponge.

Next is my six-year-old 1st grader. This one needs to keep busy but fights me when I challenge him, so it will be an interesting year. I just read an article where statistically six-year-olds have the hardest time with behavior and academics when a parent is deployed, which is consistent with what I have seen so far. My goals for him are to shower him with love and praise as much as possible to shatter those statistics and set him up for success! I should note that he mostly stopped any formal schooling while we were prepping the house for sale and moving, so some of his work will be finishing what was planned for his Kindergarten year. The materials he will be using (but definitely not all at once) include:

  • Alphabet Path (finishing from last year but in an accelerated/abbreviated format)
  • Five in a Row
  • Catholic Schoolhouse Year 1 (older siblings will teach the art & science)
  • Making Music Praying Twice
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Math U See
  • Little Stories for Little Folks Phonics Program
  • Chats with God's Little Ones
  • Upward Sports (soccer fall and spring)
  • Lots of Great Read Alouds
My 6th grader is now 11 and has become quite capable with his schoolwork. I am so excited to see him excel this year! He is definitely my most studious child, and I hope to encourage him to pursue some rabbit trails this year, specifically in his areas of interest. His current lesson plans include:

  • Exploring Creation with Astronomy (minus the whole Young Earth bit)
  • American History: Civil War to Present (literature-based from a variety of sources)
  • Math U See
  • Spelling Wisdom
  • Writing & Rhetoric
  • Teach Catholic Schoolhouse Science/Participate in the Art
  • Homeschool Connections Recorded Courses (writing, history, etc.)
  • Upward Sports (flag football, basketball, and soccer)
  • Lots of Great Literature
As long as my soon to be fourteen year old 8th grader can get out of bed before 10am, she will be thriving this year! I am very excited about what I have selected for her, and we will be spending some time looking at various high school curricula to determine what will be a good fit for her abilities and interests next year. This will be the first year we/she will participate in a live online class and an academic co-op class, so she will have other teachers besides me. Other than that, her plan looks a lot like the 6th grader's:
  • Physical Science (at the co-op, since neither of us are good at science)
  • World History: Civil War to Present (literature-based from a variety of sources)
  • Math U See
  • Spelling Wisdom
  • Writing & Rhetoric
  • Teach Catholic Schoolhouse Art
  • Homeschool Connections Recorded Courses (health, 
  • Landry Academy Live Online Class - Creative Writing
  • Analytical Grammar
  • Apologetics
  • Piano Lessons
  • Electives: Life Works, Thinking Toolbox, etc.
  • Lots of Great Literature
Finally, there's the stuff we are attempting to do all together. Due to planning a week off for house-hunting and another for moving this fall, I am starting our year with a half-term and will not be starting most of these things until our first full term in September. Most will be attached to our Morning Basket time, and we will not be doing all at once:
  • The Bible Tells Me So
  • Friendly Defenders
  • Year of Mercy activities
  • Government & Elections unit studies
  • How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
  • Bravewriter activities
  • Story of the Bible: Old & New Testaments
  • St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone
Disclaimer: Of course, we won't do all of the above. It just never works out that way, does it? But I do love that we have a great plan and had a fantastic first day! My theory is that if I set our sights high, we will soar.

Have you heard of all of these materials? Are there any you would like to know more about? I am happy to answer any questions!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Day of Home School Traditions

We survived! Yesterday was our first day, and despite being unexpectedly rainy (it rains in August in Texas?!?!), I was so pleased with the fun and diligence we enjoyed. Honestly, our first day of school is full of so many traditions that we don't actually get in a full day of academics, but I am okay with that when I see the smiles on my children's faces. Those first day smiles stick in my mind for the many times later in the year when they declare, "I hate school!"

The past several years, at least four years according to my Facebook memory from today, we have started our home school year on the Feast of the Assumption. It is usually a Holy Day of Obligation and therefore forces me to get us to Mass on the first day of school and gives me the chance to beg Our Blessed Mother to ask the Lord to fill in the gaps where I am inadequate to homeschool my children. Today it was not obligatory for us, but we went anyway. I had to meet some ladies from my daughter's co-op at the Cathedral this afternoon, so we chose Mass there. There is no narthex, and it was raining outside. But I hid at the back near the doors for most of the Mass, trying to keep my two youngest boys from making too much noise, enjoying my little purgatory.

But before Mass, we began our day with a run to the local donut shop for a first or second breakfast, depending on age, as is traditional for us. The kids inhaled their sugar and a few sausage rolls for protein and jammed to the upbeat (but occasionally inappropriate) music playing. Unfortunately for me, the sweet lady who worked there kept giving us free donuts and donut holes as we ate. Sigh.

When we arrived back home, I gave the children their schultutes, which I lovingly throw together around 1am the night before each first day of school. These cones from the German tradition (on my dad's side) include treats, school supplies, and small toys. It is always fun to shop all summer long for special gifts to tuck inside. For example, my daughter's favorite gift was a huge set of colored Sharpies. My youngest son loved his Melissa and Doug Water Wow book! I did manage to make adorable Pinterest-worthy candy pencils, but my motivation was to steal my kids' Rolos later (as in after I publish this post!).

This year I only took a group photo before they dove into their cones, although I typically try to get individual shots. Also in their schultutes were the First Day of School interviews I asked them to complete (I used these this year). I interviewed the younger two and asked the older two to fill in their own. A few of my favorite answers:

  • When I grow up I want to: play (3-year-old)
  • My favorite book: Aggie football (3-year-old)
  • Something I want to do this year: flip upside down (6-year-old)
  • My favorite thing about myself: playing with [my younger brother] (6-year-old)
  • When I grow up, I want to: work at an ice cream shop (11-year-old)
  • Something I really don't like: school (11-year-old)
  • My favorite book: too many to list (13-year-old)
  • My favorite thing about myself: I'm irrational (13-year-old)
Our school day almost always begins with Morning Basket. Today's basket only included prayer and read aloud, because I knew we had to get to Mass at noon. I keep prayers with my kids relatively short, so we prayed one decade of the Chaplet. We are now reading aloud our chosen books both in morning basket and after our evening Rosary decade, because we want to finish more quickly. I keep those readings short, too. There will be more Morning Basket on other days, of course!

Then each child went through their new schoolbooks with me and heard a bit about how to complete and submit assignments. This year was super simple thanks to the My School Year reports I had waiting in their crates. The oldest two were eager to get started and dove right in despite some grimaces, and I pulled out some stories to read with the younger two.

We had a pleasant surprise on our way home from Mass when I picked up the mail and discovered that one of the stories my husband had read and recorded a few weeks ago at the USO where he is stationed as a part of the United Through Reading Military Program had arrived. So, Dad read There's a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss to everyone via DVD as an afternoon read aloud.

That last photo in the collage above could be a summary of our first day today, full of fun and grace and kid chaos. Taking inspiration from a dear friend, I decided to buy a small chalkboard and attempt to post a new inspirational quote each week. Not knowing we would enjoy a Seuss story this afternoon, late last night I wrote:
You are off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way! ~ Dr. Seuss
Sometime this morning, my daughter snuck over and added a line to the bottom:
I don't want to climb a mountain today.

If you are a homeschooler, when do you start this year and what are your first day traditions?