Zone Cleaning for Kids

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-9-24-42-pmSystems within systems.  That is the way I roll.  So inside of my accountable kids structure, we use Zone Cleaning for Kids.  Each of my kids has two rooms that they are responsible for cleaning (outside of their bedrooms).  The three oldest clean a living room space and a bathroom space.  The fourth cleans the hallways and brings the laundry from the upstairs to the downstairs.

At first it was really difficult to stay on top of the cleaning.  I would be helping one child and then I would come and find that a different child had been daydreaming instead of actually cleaning.  It was also difficult to enforce standards because I didn’t know how much to expect out of my kids.  I just knew that I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning with all 5 at home all of the time.

Then I saw an educents ad on Facebook about Zone Cleaning for Kids.   Continue reading

Accountable Kids Part 2

Part 1

Accountable Kids is a complete system to run your home.  It includes a chore schedule, an allowance system, a negative behavior modifier, a positive behavior reinforcer, special one-on-one dates with a parent, and a weekly family meeting.  It is a compilation of every good parenting idea I have ever heard.

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The child’s supplies.  On top there is the board with the special date card and stickers to its right.  Underneath the board, going from left to right, are the chore cards, tickets, bonus bucks, best behavior cards, and privilege passes.

Continue reading

Holt Biology

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-01-24-pmWe are two chapters into Holt Biology and we really love it.  As a homeschool mom, I love it because of the resources available and the ease of use.  This is a giant textbook with 984 pages and 34 chapters of good material to teach to your child, so much that if you were in a public school you would probably only cover 15-20 of them.  That gives you freedom to choose if you want to cover them all, or if there are some chapters that you would rather just leave out.

Each chapter has virtual labs, animated biology sections, internet magazine articles and videos for your student to use to help understand the concepts that are being taught in the chapter.  The website has an ebook with active links to all of these resources, so Anna usually reads the chapter on the computer so she can click on all of the links as she needs them.  The vocabulary words are all spoken online with their definitions, so that is a great resource for a homeschool student to learn how to pronounce the terms correctly.  (Often Anna reads in her head, and then she pronounces technical terms differently than standard pronunciation, so this online dictionary is really helpful.)

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This is a sample section of the Ch. 2 Study Guide.

There are multiple worksheets that I can assign as the teacher, and all of the answers are provided, so that makes grading super easy.  Generally, I print out a chapter study guide for Anna, and also assign the two Pre-AP worksheets for each chapter.  Then I let her do the virtual lab, Biozine article, and any videos she wants to watch.  After that she takes the chapter test.  There are also labs and projects to do that are not online that are recommended for each chapter.  The unit 1 project has her study a famous experiment and then write a lab report as if she was the scientist conducting the experiment.  I think that is something that we will do.  I like all of the ideas, worksheets, and labs that are available to choose.  You really don’t need them all, but it is really nice that they are there.

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This is a sample from a Pre-AP activity sheet from Ch 2.

I also love that there are several levels of worksheets and active reading practice.  There are sheets for ESL learners, chapter reinforcements and Pre-AP activities, so you can adjust it to the needs of your child individually.  We have found the Pre-AP activities to be really great challenges that are raising Anna’s ability to critically think through scientific concepts.

For Anna, Biology has become one of her favorite things to do.  She loves all the information and everything she is learning.  We put it first in the day to get her going strong in her school work.  It was more work than she was used to for science, so the first week was a little bit uphill, but once she saw that she was learning new things and that it was answering questions she had always wondered about, she started to eagerly do her homework.

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This is a sample of the text from Chapter 2: Chemistry of Life

Chapter 2 was a crash course on chemistry and it was a bit of a reach for Anna (5th grade), but the animated biology and other online resources did a really good job explaining things like hydrogen bonding, and I felt like she got what she needed to from this overview before starting into studying cells, and it really helped Anna feel confident that she could learn anything that the book threw at her.  I will update more as we progress through the book, so stay tuned…

For more information:

Here is a link to the Homeschool Buyer’s co-op sale for Holt Biology.

You can preview the table of contents at Rainbow Resource, but the chapter sample on Mendel is not in the book.  Mendel in this book starts of page 155 and is Chapters 6-7, so if that isn’t what you see in Rainbow Resource, look elsewhere for a sample.

Beast Academy

We love Beast Academy here.  My son works through the practice books for fun, and my daughter and son both enjoy reading the comic book guide.  This probably sounds weird, but this program has been worth its weight in gold for helping my son enjoy reading.  He is such a mathy kid and we love that he is reading and rereading these guidebooks.

We also love the interesting topics that are included in Beast Academy.  For example, there is a whole chapter on logic puzzles in book 4B.  Andrew learned to play minesweeper this week and really enjoyed it.  Beast has really enriched and rounded out our math education.

Is it a full curriculum?  I would have to say no, or at least I wouldn’t use it as one.  For one thing, my son went through the entire third grade year in a month and a half.  He was doing it in every spare moment, but it still seemed to be over too quickly.  He is now halfway through fourth grade.  I told him I won’t buy the next one until he is done with Singapore 5A.

I guess you could argue that the amount of time that a curriculum takes doesn’t affect whether it is stand-alone or not because frankly, Singapore doesn’t take that long for him either.  But they have a lot of supplements to Singapore that help round it out including mental math, challenging word problems and intensive practice books.  I actually got BA to try and slow him a little since he is starting 2nd grade this year, and I wanted to make sure he is really prepared before he starts pre-algebra in the next year or two.

I would say that BA teaches things well and in-depth for kids that are willing to sit and puzzle it out.  Andrew has frequently said that something in Singapore is too easy, and that he learned those skills already in BA.  (And remember he is 1/2 grade down in BA, but catching up quickly because it is more fun).  However, we have run into several instances where Singapore adds new skills to something he already covered, and that makes me feel like there would be gaps if I did BA alone.

I do understand that different math curricula can cover different topics and still be considered complete.  But since Beast Academy is a new program, and there are no test scores or success stories from past graduates, I am not going to have my son be the first guinea pig to only use that program.  The entire idea of Beast Academy is catering to the advanced math student, and most of us in that category want a rock solid foundation to build from.  We aren’t generally going to be the experimental type with our kid’s education.

Also I have no idea what kind of gaps could exist if I had done BA alone.  Andrew started BA with a whole grade more than required of Singapore math, so I am not sure what would have been absent without the other program.

Andrew told me that he likes being a grade behind in BA compared to Singapore because then he learns a topic in Singapore, and then goes “really deep” in BA.  He said the problems in BA make him think and understand the math differently.

The argument could be made that it is a complete program, but the biggest reason I wouldn’t use it like that is because of the way it is set up.  The comic book style encourages my children to race through the guide, and I am not always sure that they stop to really think through the information.  There are stop signs that tell you to try the problem, but who knows if that is actually happening?  The practice guide has problems to work out, but an unmotivated student could easily look up the answers in the back of the book because they are all there.  Andrew is super-motivated and really wants to learn the math so he uses the program correctly, but Anna has flat out told me that she doesn’t stop at stop signs and looks up answers if thinking about it takes too long.  She said she is just in it for the story.  I really couldn’t recommend it just because of the policing you would need to do for a child who wasn’t self-motivated.

I do highly recommend Beast Academy paired with Singapore Math for super mathy children.  I also like it for fun math-based reading for both of my kids.  I don’t make my kids do the guides, but if they want to, I make it available to them, and I have seen great things from Andrew because of this program.

Latin Update

So it has been a year and a half since I first started using First Form Latin, and I wanted to write an updated review.  First Form Latin did a really good job of teaching my child the first quarter of high school latin.  I definitely think it is a good option for people who want to teach their child Latin, and I would recommend it because it does what it says it will do.

With that being said, I will not be using Second Form Latin this school year.  Instead we are going to be studying Latin through The Lukeion Project.  They have two prerequisites of sorts for their Latin classes: Witty Wordsmith and Barbarian Diagrammarian.  My oldest is currently enrolled for both of those classes this year.

So why switch if First Form was working?  Well, there is a lot that goes into that.  The first reason is that I was frustrated with trying to implement First Form.  We are not robots.  I try really hard to have my kids get up and follow a beautiful schedule that I set up in Homeschool Planet.

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See?  It really is beautiful.  I tried to hit Latin first all last year, but guess what?  Life happens.  We had a rough month here or there.  We had some awesome extracurriculars and opportunities pop up that messed with our schedule.  And sometimes my perfect child felt less than perfect and didn’t want to do those worksheets NO MATTER WHAT!!  And when you miss, it really messes with your progress.  With a memory based curriculum you have to go back and review to refresh yourself before you go forward.  So a curriculum that is supposedly one school year long took us 1.5 years to finally finish.

I vowed repeatedly to get more structured–more robotic.  And we did get more disciplined.  Latin really pushed us into a new world of order and routine.  I started using a schedule like what I have above because of trying to teach Latin.  We managed to pull through the first book with an “A” on the last test, but it felt like dragging my daughter through thorn bushes.

Then I ran into a friend of mine.  She has amazing kids, and her oldest got a perfect score on the ACT and is very accomplished.  I told her that we were finishing up First Form, and she was surprised that I would use it for a kid like Anna.  One of her kids has a learning disability, and she uses the Form series for her.  She thinks it is good too, but not for a kid without any handicaps.  She told me to go through Lukeion.

I looked into Lukeion and saw that Chapter 1 of the textbook covers a ton of material compared to First Form.  At the end of four years of Latin with Lukeion, you are ready to take the AP Latin exam.  After four forms, you are ready to go into high school latin 2 and would still need 3-5 years of study for the AP test.  So for the same amount of time, we could do Latin and then Greek.  That is definitely appealing.

What isn’t appealing is the tuition.  I don’t want to pay to take all of those classes.  Especially because I would have to pay for it again with each subsequent student instead of just buying the curriculum once and then having it for each kid.  I hemmed and hawed over it for a long time, but after starting in Witty Wordsmith, I am convinced it was the right thing to do.  The routine and structure of due dates (that are not from me) and lecture times is exactly what we need to successfully study a foreign language.  I really feel that this investment will come back to me in the form of scholarships and college acceptance.

Witty Wordsmith

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One of my favorite things to discover in homeschooling is a way to shortcut a lengthy curriculum, and still achieve the same (or more) learning.  And I am excited to announce that I have made an awesome discovery.

A lot of classical homeschoolers do spelling lessons, and then when they have finished their spelling programs they jump into Vocabulary from Classical Roots(VfCR).  This program spans 4th grade to 11th, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I could really use some more free time in my schedule.  I was excited to lose spelling and pick up some time for other subjects that interest my kid.  (Computer Animation in Blender, for example.)  I did not want to fill that same subject period with another program that spans 4th-11th grade.

Enter the Lukeion Project to save the day!  They have awesome course offerings, and among them is Witty Wordsmith, a fabulous, one-semester!!!! course that covers way more word roots than the entire scope and sequence of VfCR.  To give you an idea of how many more words, the first week’s lesson had 58 prefixes, and the second lesson word list had 8 prefixes and 38 base stems.  If you contrast that with VfCR, you would have to go 2 years and 4 lessons in to get that many word roots.  Plus there are several suffixes in the VfCR program and Witty Wordsmith doesn’t cover them as much because they are more intuitive and mostly indicate how the word is used in a sentence (-ly would indicate an adverb and -able is an adjective ending).

I have already seen results in Anna’s vocabulary after only 2 weeks.  She is thinking about words differently and is understanding them better.  She ran across megalithic in history this week, and was able to pick apart the meaning.  I am one happy mom right now.

The course is structured so that you attend a live, online session once a week and then you do a weekly homework assignment that is due two days before the next class session.  You also have a quiz every two weeks, and they are cumulative which really helps with retention.  The quiz has a window of time that you can do it that spans from Saturday to Wednesday.  My 10-year-old has been performing well in the class, and so far she has spent 2 hours in class, 3 hours studying flashcards, and around 4 hours doing homework.  So your weekly guesstimate on time commitment per week would be 4-5 hours, although Anna is very meticulous, so it may be less for your child.  Since the class is on Thursday and the homework is due Tuesday, those hours have mostly been in between those days for us.

I will come back and update this article at the end of her 13 word list adventure.

(I wasn’t offered anything for my opinion, and I paid full price for the class.)

 

Choosing Your Goal

Whenever I run into new homeschool parents, I remember that feeling that I had when I was just starting out.  I felt a lot of fear.  Would I be able to teach my kids?  Would I be successful?  Would I ruin them forever?  And what about that socialization thing?  It just seems like you are thrown into the deep end of the pool and you don’t know how to swim at all.  And you aren’t in the pool drowning alone either.  There are a lot of spectators shouting helpful (or not) advice in your direction as you try to doggie paddle your way to…well, where exactly?

The first thing that helped me gain my footing was to set an end goal.  What did I want my kids to be like when they graduated from my little academy?  What knowledge and skills did I want them to acquire?  We are a religious family (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and so I know that I am aiming my kids for Brigham Young University in Provo.  I pulled up the website for the school, and there was a lot of information about how homeschool students are evaluated for admission.  So I now had more finite requirements that I was shooting for.  I now had a direction that I could swim in.

I always tell new homeschool parents to choose where they are headed and map out the steps to get there.  You may change along the way, but if you have that end goal in mind, you will be better able to steer your children where you are headed.  You will know what questions to ask and how to evaluate your progress.

Here are some of my goals for my kids at graduation time:

  1. Be healthy and happy members of our family with good memories.
  2. Be college admission ready using BYU admission requirements.
  3. Have the life-skills necessary to be able to run a household on their own.
  4. Have the character developed to serve an 18month-2year religious mission.
  5. Have worked a part-time job.
  6. Develop skills/talents that could be used to bring in income if needed. (music, home repair, computer programming, etc)

The second thing I tell new homeschoolers is that it takes a few years to find your groove, and that is okay.  Kick out your fears and have faith that you can do this, and that you will be successful.  If something isn’t working, you have the power to adapt and find something that does.  There is a support system for you out there (you can reach out and find it), and with determination and perseverance it will all be worth it.  And as several wonderful moms have reminded me over the years, you take it one year at a time.  If homeschool works this year–then great–if not then there are lots of other options available.  Just remember your end goals and head towards them.

Classical Education With a Twist

I have always been attracted to classical education.  I think it started when I was first learning about how my public education was really inadequate.  I was friends with a family that decided that the local schools (which I attended) were not sufficient, and so they researched and set up a charter school that followed the Core Knowledge Sequence.  The sequence introduced me to the idea of learning a comprehensive, interdisciplinary world and US history, classical literature, and mostly just the idea that there are standards of education floating out in the world somewhere that were higher and better than anything that I had experienced in every subject.  Core Knowledge brought the idea that there is a shared cultural literacy that our civilization is built on, and that this education is the key to equality and success in our society.

Fast forward several years.  I now had married into the family that set up the charter school and I had two kids.  I planned on enrolling my kids in a school with the CK sequence or finding some sort of supplementation when I visited my aunt in Washington, D.C.  She was homeschooling her large family, in spite of the schools around that were using the core knowledge sequence.  I was confused as to why she would go through all that work when she actually lived in a district that had “the best” plan available.  I said something that indicated what I was thinking, and her reply was, “I homeschool because I have a curriculum I like better.”

I tucked that thought in the back of my mind and held onto it.  I started researching homeschooling forums and sites and realized that there are several educational philosophies in the world and that homeschooling gave you the freedom to do what you loved from any of them.  I love that you can totally customize each child’s educational experience.

So here are some of the additional sources that have informed my homeschooling choices:

Charlotte Mason  I really love her whole approach to education.  I have tried to incorporate character education, nature studies/journaling, living books, and feasting on a wide and varied educational banquet.  I regularly refresh myself on her philosophy and try to bring it into my personal curriculum choices.  I do not follow everything she recommends to the letter, but I let her philosophy raise the way I bring in other ideas to a higher level. For example, I don’t use exclusively living books.  I think encyclopedias and textbooks have value (and my kids LOVE reading them), and should be incorporated so that children can later go to college and not be completely stymied by all the texts they will wade through in college.  I also teach grammar earlier.  These are just two examples, but I feel like it is really freeing to take what you love and leave what you don’t.

The Well-Trained Mind  I love the way this book breaks down education throughout the entirety of a child’s time at home.  I regularly reference this text to see what kind of subjects are recommended and when to add them into my child’s life.  I use this source very loosely.  I use it as a yardstick to make sure I am meeting or exceeding the goals.  I feel like the suggestions are too incremental and time-consuming.  If I were to follow this exactly, we wouldn’t be able to feast on as many subjects.

Memoria Press  I use the accelerated curriculum guide as another yardstick to measure educational progress.  I also buy some of their subject material, but I don’t use them exclusively, and frequently I don’t follow the things I do buy exhaustively.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op  I regularly peruse the subject offerings here because I have found new subject areas that were not suggested in any of my previous sources.  For example, I saw several technology classes that were not even on my radar, and so I started looking into programming and computer science courses.  It was then that I realized that if I didn’t change course drastically, I was in danger of only producing classics majors (and while I love the subject material, it doesn’t really do much in the way of supporting a family).  I decided to ramp up my STEM curriculum choices because of the offerings on this site.

These are the sites that are my jumping off point for developing my curriculum outline.  I am always on the lookout for other sources and ideas as well.  I have decided that there is no one right approach, and no source has all of the answers.  I find that by keeping an open mind, our educational journey has led us to exciting places.  We are currently enjoying unit studies with a fun co-op in our area.  I never subscribed to unit studies, but in a group setting it has been really fun.  We have been able to take a morning off our normal track and go explore with a large group of other kids.  Unit studies provide a great group activity, and work well with field trips and other local opportunities.  This has been a departure from every philosophy that I have ever used, but we have really enjoyed ourselves.

So when I am asked what homeschool philosophy I subscribe to, I just say “classical education with a twist” because we use it as our backbone, but we depart regularly.  Good luck finding your personal educational style, and have fun twisting it around to make it your own.