Tag Archives: curriculum

Lively Latin, PA Homeschoolers Spanish, and Roman Roads C.S. Lewis Course

On-line, live classes have been helpful academically and developmentally in our homeschool situation. They teach attendance, listening skills, respect to diverse teachers and peers, excellent material, time management skills, and due dates. I often search reviews on-line before selecting products, and I am always grateful to be able to find feedback on them before trying them out myself. Today, in gratitude to those who have taken time to share, I am sharing my reviews.

Lively Latin II live on-line course

This was an excellent and interactive class taught by Magistra Drown (Mrs. Drown). It met once a week and lasted 75 minutes (but sometimes a little longer). My student was exposed to other students and also to a classroom-type environment with lecturing, questions posed by the teacher with students called on to answer, and breakdown into small groups during class to work on certain things together.

Often homeschooled kids think they’re “missing out” or that they won’t survive when they have to take a “real class” in college. Sitting in a classroom with other kids, perhaps more motivated or less motivated than they are, really can shed light on their own strengths and weaknesses as a student. My student enjoyed this class immensely and regrets that there will not be time for Latin III next year in her schedule, although we discussed picking it back up again as a tenth grader if desired.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally organized with clear expectations
  • Wonderful, self-contained workbook (consumable) that is clear and concise
  • Includes excellent background in Roman history in addition to Latin language instruction
  • Fun, live classes with several kinds of in-class activities (whiteboard, breakout groups, question and answer, etc.)
  • Students from all over the country (and even world) participate
  • Kind and passionate instructor
  • Homework and projects are assigned but the time and work required from the student seems very appropriate. (Submitted via text photos on phone.)
  • Teacher sends update e-mails just about weekly to parents and responds in a timely manner when corresponded with
  • Live class

Cons:

  • Needs to be on the computer
  • Does cost
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year (my daughter had to sometimes take her on-line classes during vacation)
  • Requires use of phone to text assignments. (My daughter texted from my phone. It was not inconvenient for us, but for others it might be.)

PA Homeschoolers (Ray Leven) Honors Spanish II live on-line class

Please know as you read this, that this is my student’s favorite class. But I am going to lay it out to you. Senor Leven is a tough teacher. Tough. Anything you read out there in cyberspace about his class may probably be true. But it is a great class, and your student will come out speaking, reading, and writing Spanish like a champ. Although my student wrestled (I’m putting it mildly.) with this class initially, by second semester, it was the FAVORITE class, and when a track meet interfered with attending class one day, there was actually disappointment to miss the class! The class met once a week for 60 minutes (sometimes ran over a little) for the whole year.

Pros:

  • Excellent interactive teaching style
  • An exceptionally honest teacher who provides accurate feedback for each student and pushes them to be the best Spanish student they can be
  • Spanish spoken in class by teacher and students
  • Small class size (4-6 students)
  • Diverse assignments (worksheets, paragraph writing, book assignments, on-line site)
  • Uses a spine textbook
  • Student needs to be completely responsible for all aspects of the class
  • Almost immediate response to e-mails
  • Mastery of material required and put to use so student moves toward fluent spoken and written Spanish
  • Live class
  • Students from all over the country

Cons:

  • Intense pace
  • On the computer
  • Completing the on-line assignments on the website (which accompanies the book) requires extra screen time (I don’t like screen time much for homework/assignments. EVERYTHING we do nowadays is on a screen. I don’t think it’s healthy for the pineal gland and other light sensitive body parts and system loops.)
  • Big time commitment (1-3 hours of homework each day, weekend commitment routine)
  • Significant time management required
  • Student needs to be completely responsible for all aspects of class and there is little communication with the parent unless there is a concern. Student is the “owner” of this class, not “mommy or daddy.” (My student was an eighth grader, and I had not transitioned her to this mentality yet, so this helpfully, sometimes painfully, did it for us. Ha!)
  • Costs money
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year (as mentioned above, my student did take her laptop and do class on vacation sometimes)

I’m saying all this so that anyone who is researching this class will know what to expect. It is a great class. Great. The on-line, live interaction is great. The content is great. The reinforcement is great. We are already signed up for Honors Spanish III. I highly recommend the class, but unless your student is used to tons of work and pointed, constructive criticism (and spoken in that Northeastern US accent which we Midwesterners sometimes perceive as short and hurried), be prepared for lots of push back. We had tons of push back. But we told our daughter to just do what she could initially, and we asked Senor Leven to be patient as we learned to transition from a middle school type study habit to an advanced high school type study habit. It took some time, but as I said, this class is now a top choice. I recommend this class highly for motivated Spanish students. Your student will LEARN!

Note: Ray Leven no longer teaches Spanish I. If you want to get into his Spanish II classes, then you have to have a Skype session with him and he will interact with your student in Spanish. He then lets you know if the student would be competent in his class. If he perceives gaps, he suggests tutoring to work on the weak areas. My daughter had to complete some tutoring. I’ll tell you, his tutoring is even harder than his class!!!!

Roman Roads C.S. Lewis Literature class by Christiana Hale

This was my first interaction with Roman Roads. It was a good experience and recommended by a friend. One thing I’ve noticed about these on-line, live classes is that the teachers are very passionate about their subject matters! That’s refreshing! The C.S. Lewis Literature class ran 90 minutes for the whole year. It focused solely on the literature of C.S. Lewis.

Pros:

  • Teacher passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter
  • Kind teacher, well-respected and liked
  • Live class with other students
  • Agreeable homework methods: reading assignments, shorter reading responses for each book. tests, longer reports due at each semester end, class lectures
  • Discussion encouraged in class among students
  • Students exposed to more of a lecture style class which they might see more of in college
  • Oral presentations often required of reading responses, but the teacher is so gentle and kind that my student was able to get over her fear of speaking and talking about her report in front of others
  • Pushed my student to consider pretty deep personal ideas about herself, life, and religion
  • Live class

Cons:

  • Some of the philosophical ideas and metaphors of Lewis’s books are very deep and can go over the heads of younger readers. I suggest this class for an older student.
  • On the computer
  • Costs money
  • Committing to a set time for class each week for a full year
  • Sourcing all the C.S. Lewis material

Roman Roads and Christiana Hale were easy to work with. I will consider using Roman Roads again in the future, and any class by Christiana Hale I can tell will most probably be a joy.

Closing

I’ll happily answer anything I can or have time for! Happy educating! Do it with LOVE. Push with LOVE. Admit to your student when you make a mistake (but find ways to help each other through the mistake). I made a mistake this year. As much as my daughter enjoyed all these classes, we learned that three year-long live, on-line classes were too many. The classes were exceptional, but it was hard to attend all of them, scarf down lunch before running to violin, make it to rescheduled track meets, miss class for vacation, and so on–plus attend to the other homeschool classes I was responsible for. My student told me it was okay because she really liked all the classes and didn’t want to drop any of them. So I found other ways in the schedule to lighten the load. Don’t bristle. Don’t react when they get angry about too much work. Just think and manipulate your variables! Good luck!

Terri F

Miller and Levine Biology

Note: Hi! If you’re trying to determine if Miller and Levine Biology would be a good fit for your use, I hope that you’ll find this post helpful! Happy educating! In case you are just dropping in, I have a medical degree and before that, a pharmacy degree, so I’ve had a little science. I love homeschooling my own four children.

We completed one semester of good, solid biology this 8th grade year with my oldest student,  and we ended up covering the first 4 units of Miller and Levine’s Biology curriculum from Pearson. I chose Miller and Levine’s Biology (Macaw edition) because it is comprehensive, frequently used for high school biology courses (including AP Biology), and includes supporting consumable materials (labs, worksheets, and tests). While I can say many fine things about this curriculum, I can also say I have reservations.

Materials We Used

This curriculum has two intensity levels to choose from, A and B, but they both use the same textbook. The A curriculum material writes and asks questions from a more complex and higher reading level than the B curriculum. More depth and comprehension is expected from those who use the A curriculum. You do not need both. I wasn’t sure which I would need, so I ordered both.

  • Miller and Levine Biology textbook
  • Study Workbook A or Study Workbook B
  • Study Workbook A Teacher Edition or Study Workbook B Teacher Edition
  • Lab Manual A or Lab Manual B
  • Lab Manual A Teacher Edition or Lab Manual B Teacher Edition
  • Teacher’s Edition Assessment Resources (includes quizzes and tests and their answers for both A and B levels)
  • High grade microscope
  • Lab materials (beakers, flasks, test tubes, pop beads, planaria, etc.) ordered from various sources on-line based on resource list in the lab manual.

Process

We progressed through the spine textbook mostly in the order the authors’ presented the material, taking it at the needed pace. If concepts needed more explanation and practice, like cellular respiration, I would lecture on the chalkboard or print off extra worksheets from the internet. We spent as much time as needed for mastery. We used the accompanying worksheets for each section, mostly from Workbook A, but sometimes I would use Workbook B if something wasn’t clicking or if I liked its simplification better.

Most importantly, we taught the process of outlining a chapter/taking notes, identifying important points, and drawing one’s own charts and pictures to help in comprehension and retention. This was required for particular topics that I know will be extensively tested in any future biology class, such as cellular respiration, meiosis, mitosis, and DNA replication.

If you take your time reading, learning, doing labs, reading the interesting supplemental materials, and taking tests and quizzes, then there is way more here than you could cover in a year of biology, while still doing other school courses at the same level. We did as much as we could in one semester (about 4 units, but we were not as diligent on the lab work as I would have liked), but we’ll take next year to knock out what I think will make my student exceptionally prepared for college AND keep her interested in learning for the fun of it!

Pros of the Curriculum

  • Comprehensive and appropriately detailed coverage of general biology for a student who may pursue a science-based college degree
  • Excellent concise and pertinent outlines for each chapter section included in the workbook manuals
  • Excellent worksheets
  • Excellent lab manual
  • Tests and quizzes available for purchase
  • Two levels for different levels of learning intensity
  • Contains sections called “Careers and Biology” to show students all the fun career options available with a biology background, which I think is very helpful for students to know about
  • More here than you could ever dream of covering well (you’ll see this listed as a pro and con): basic biology, careers in biology, controversies in science, mini-labs, labs, cool mysteries in science
  • The chapter reviews at the end of each chapter are very good, focused, and pertinent

Cons of the Curriculum

  • Sometimes, the writing and format (graphic design) do not make major biological concepts clear from more minor concepts, making it difficult sometimes for a new biology learner to tease out the most important points from the reading material. The book reads and displays sometimes like it’s “ALL” important. However, the worksheets do a good job highlighting the most important points.
  • The textbook is chock-full, and the pages, as many textbooks now, are super “Dora-the-Explorer” busy, making it difficult to stay focused. It’s nice to have the career excerpts, history excerpts, controversies, quick labs, and mystery case reports, but it can also be very distracting. There are so many different highlights packed in the margins and throughout the chapters that they’re hard to keep straight, and they detract from investigating the photos and tables of the main material that is required to be learned.
  • I often wrote my own tests. I used many of the test questions from the publisher (and eliminated ones I thought were poorly worded or minutiae), and then added my own questions. Why? Because I didn’t feel like important concepts were given heavier weight on the tests than fluffier, “less needed” material. I wanted important topics that I knew would be studied extensively in college to receive more in-depth testing than “less” important topics.
  • Not catered to homeschoolers so no accompanying internet resource and had to search around to find all the written resources. (I stumbled across a web page somewhere in which a person described how they were able to get access to the internet links that mass purchasers get for their students. So it’s out there somewhere, FYI, but I lost the web page. I didn’t need to pursue the internet support and resources.)
  • Complete, thorough, clearly visible vocabulary lists are needed. Each chapter section has a few vocabulary words listed at the beginning in the side margin, but it is not a complete list of the new words and terms introduced in each chapter section. One of the most difficult obstacles for students in biology is all the new terminology. It would be more effective if all of the new terms were listed clearly together.
  • Focuses on controversy

The Use of Controversy

My biggest reservation regarding this biology curriculum is its huge focus on controversy. (Maybe Joe Levine’s journalism background contributes to this.) Regarding the Miller and Levine Biology text, Pearson (the publisher) states on its teacher training site, called my Pearson Training:

“Using controversial topics in biology instruction grabs students’ attention and shows them that biology is relevant to their lives. When studying controversial topics, the goal is to help students gather scientific data, gain a scientific perspective, and evaluate media coverage.”

And elsewhere in material from the afore mentioned site:

“When looking at the Miller & Levine textbook, it is easy to see that many topics come directly from today’s headlines.”

It’s sensationalized biology. But our American society is so polarized, I’m not sure that building a biology text which screams the word “controversy” over and over is a good thing. Which side of a controversy should be taken? As thoughtful as the book seems to be, bias sometimes seeps into word choices. It seeps into the controversies chosen to discuss. It seeps into the controversies that were minimized.  The writing seems like it tries to offer opposing view points on controversial ideas, but sometimes the wording and arrangement is just subtle enough to indicate an eagerness to have the reader choose one side over another.

For example, before the ethical issues of stem cells are discussed, the benefits and needs are discussed.

“Basic research on stem cells takes on a special urgency. . . Given the suffering and death caused by these conditions [heart attacks, strokes, paralysis]. . . Many hope to see a day when damage caused by a severe heart attack can be reversed. . . “

After exuding enthusiasm about the benefits that stem cells can offer, the ethical issues are discussed, and it is stated that harvesting stem cells causes “destruction” of an “embryo.” (All true.) It’s subtle, but notice it does not cause “death” of something alive, just destruction of an embryo. Whereas as you keep reading in the next line or two, harvesting and using stem cells can “save human lives.” Minor wording choices can affect which side of a controversy we’re on.

Most of the controversial topics are clearly marked with the word “controversy” or “ethical issues” and the book makes a concerted effort to present well-rounded discussion. But some of the controversies of our time, such as global warming and evolution are treated as if there is no controversy, which I think perpetuates the distrust from opposing viewpoints even more.

I understand that the authors and other scientists are sick and tired of all the criticism and hate they receive from people who don’t believe these ideas. BUT the fact of the matter is, these ARE still controversial topics in 2018 and it would be more productive to list the factual reasons or cite the research which causes other people to be skeptical about evolution and global warming, fostering respect rather than scorn. It would be productive to provide the evidence which makes a significant number of people have questions about evolution from the fossil records or have questions about the role and significance of humanity on global warming–and allowed for uncertainty where uncertainty exists.

Politically, those instrumental in putting Miller and Levine Biology together understand how lucky they are to put together a textbook for the captive, young audience mandated to learn biology. They urge:

“Don’t just memorize today’s scientific facts and ideas. And please don’t believe them! Instead, try to understand how scientists developed those ideas. . . In our society, scientists make recommendations about big public policy decisions, but they don’t make the decisions. Who makes the decisions? Citizens of our democracy do. In a few years, you will be able to exercise the rights of a voting citizen, influencing public policy by the ballots you cast and the messages you send public officials. That’s why it is important that you understand how science works and appreciate both the power and the limitations of science.”

They urge kids to think for themselves, yet their textbook has subtly worded stances (intentional or not) and makes an unstated point to root out disbelievers of points they consider moot discussions.

There is so much information to cover and learn in basic science classes, that instruction woven around controversy belongs in other classes. I teach science for my homeschool co-op, and we keep plenty busy just mastering what nucleotide bases are and have enough controversy discussing how exons could affect translation of our DNA. Now THAT’S science!

A Note on Evolution

You can’t get away from evolution in this book. The authors have made it the entire theme of the book. It is woven throughout the chapters, starting right front and center in chapter one. Right away the book states:

“Today, evolutionary theory is the central organizing principle of all biological and biomedical science. It makes such a wide range of predictions about organisms–from bacteria to whales to humans–that it is mentioned throughout this book.”

But the writers go on to say:

“A useful theory that has been thoroughly tested and supported by many lines of evidence may become the dominant view among the majority of scientists, but no theory is considered absolute truth.”

If you want a gentle approach to evolution, this is not the book for that. Whammo. Bammo. Evolution. Controversy and evolution are the themes woven throughout this book. But, I don’t mean to sound too negative, there is TONS in this book to be taught no matter what you believe about evolution. I still don’t know what in the heck to believe about elements in a primordial environment coalescing into one little organism and then eventually forming me! The simpleton faith in me just says, “Wow. God, just wow.”

Closing

The Miller and Levine Biology program is not a bad choice, per se, because it does a good job including everything a student can expect to see in a college biology course. Many high schools use it. I like that my kids are learning what the rest of the United States’ kids learn scientifically because that’s who they’ll be working side-by-side with for the rest of their lives. I like the resources that come along with the text.

But I don’t like the controversy used as its educational tool. I don’t like the cloud that hovers over me as I read the book, feeling like particular ideas are being indoctrinated into a population. I also wish the authors did a better job at making important topics seem important and at putting together vocabulary lists.

For the 2018-2019 school year, our plan is to finish the topics covered in the Miller and Levine book, add in a couple of other texts to help my student read complicated material as explained by other writers (when I feel like Miller and Levine is weak or confusing), review the topics I know will be hit hard in college science classes, focus more diligently on completing labs, and use some “living books.”

I have ordered two additional texts to use:  Campbell’s Biology and Test Prep Series: Preparing for the Biology AP Exam (also by Pearson). For now, I just intend for them strengthen our program and round it out, not replace it.

The Test Prep Series: Preparing for the Biology AP Exam is reported to make the main points of biology very clear and concise, leaving no question about what must be known in each topic of biology. At this time, I do not plan on AP tests, but I must research more on that. I feel like everyone is saying, “Take AP. Take AP.” And, well, I’m just not sure this is the way our education system should be going, so I need to read more and decide.

That’s it! Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll try to help if I can. If you see any typos, let me know so I can fix them. If you have any concerns or counter comments, I’ll try to field them with the best thought that I can. Thank you.

Terri F

 

Saxon Math Algebra II

I’m heading into my tenth year of homeschooling, and it has gone so fast! Each year since I started writing here, I’ve typed up and posted the curriculum of the highest grade level I teach. This year the highest grade level was eighth grade. By this level, our curriculum has been tailored to the student, flying rapidly when subject matter was learned easily and hunkering down when a quagmire appeared. I am always happy to answer questions about how we do things, why we do things, and what concerns (or satisfactions) I have about how we proceeded. I will start with our math program.

Every year I explain that I personally grew up on Saxon math (starting in sixth grade). Teaching it feels like a favorite pair of old tennis shoes to me. Beloved and comfortable. Forgive my sappiness toward math, but I feel like it was my math teacher and Saxon math which helped me achieve my academic dreams. I don’t have the natural knack for numbers that many of my friends have (I had to turn to them for help with the “hard” problems), but with Saxon’s training method, I learned I, too, like my gifted peers, could achieve in math. In the movie Ratatouille it is said, “Anyone can cook.” Well, in Saxon, “Anyone can do math.” I have tutored many students throughout the years in high school math, and I cringe when I see how math is usually taught without the layering that Saxon math provides. So be forewarned, I come at Saxon math with a huge bias. I can’t tell you about any other math program, but I can tell you all about my love for Saxon. 🙂

Good luck to you in educating your children and bestowing upon them all that you have to give so that they might be happy, content people who can smile freely and give warmly, knowing that in their parents’ home they are safe, loved, nurtured, and protected. Okay. On to math.

Math: Saxon Algebra II, supplemented with a unit study on geometry proofs

A note on time expectations for math work: I think it helps to explain to advanced students that math gets at least 90 minutes a day, Monday through Friday. Boom. That’s the way it is. Budget your day that way. Otherwise, it seems students think they ought to be able to get done in less than an hour, like they used to be able to do when they were doing “easier” math.

Method: Throughout the year, I most often taught the Algebra II lesson set on our wall chalkboard. Then we practiced several problems from the problem set (both new material and any prior material I felt my student was weak on and needed guidance on), and then my student was assigned 13-22 problems to do each day on her own from the problem set. Missed homework problems were corrected daily before beginning the new homework. I worked very hard to keep papers graded on a daily basis so I could be aware of weaknesses in any concepts.

Any lesson with old material that my student had already mastered and I knew she had retention of, we skipped, in favor of learning new material. Within lessons, any problem-type mastered to the point of vomiting, we skipped. (Despite the Saxon book’s warning, we frequently skip problems, although I will assign them periodically to retain mastery. I feel comfortable doing this because it is how my high school math teacher used Saxon.) In Saxon math, problem types go away for about 10-20 lesson sets and then they come back. When they came back, I reassigned the problem type to make sure there was still retention and mastery. My student is monitored closely, and I can see what she does and does not “get.” Mastery and retention were always required of all problem types. As the year progressed, my student needed less and less teaching from me, as she was frequently able to read and apply the information herself.

At the end of the year, I did a unit study on geometry proofs. I used the same concepts Saxon Algebra II was teaching in the lessons on proofs, but I pulled lots of extra material and practice off of the internet from various sources.

This is how I did math this year for this student. I am prepared to make changes each day and each year we work together. I am also prepared to change how I do things for each of my children.

Saxon Pros:

  • There is a seamless transition from Algebra I to Algebra II.  (We were able to skip lesson sets at the beginning of the Algebra II book with material that my student had already mastered in Algebra I.)
  • The Saxon math program from Algebra I through Calculus cannot be beat as far as breaking down concepts into understandable portions, progressing students along in a non-scary fashion, and promoting long-term retention of concepts.
  • There is good explanation and practice of geometrical calculations. (I had debated doing a geometry year between Algebra I and II, and I’m very glad I did not.)
  • Excellent explanations of new concepts in each lesson, with even some humor here and there.
  • Excellent examples worked out and explained for each new lesson. (I tutored this last year in Algebra II, and the book the school offered did not have many examples for students to learn from.)

Saxon Cons:

  • Saxon math teaches geometrical calculations well, but I was not fond of its introduction of theorems, postulates, and two-column proofs. (We finished the Algebra II book with enough time to do a unit study on geometry proofs to supplement Saxon’s lessons. I pulled from various resources to put together a unit study.)
  • Saxon does not seem to require geometry vocabulary usage and retention. (There is a lot of geometry at the beginning of the next book Saxon book called Advanced Mathematics–equivalent to trigonometry– and I will reinforce the vocabulary of geometry next year and also keep up with proof supplementation. This way, I will feel very confident that we’ve covered what I covered in my high school non-Saxon geometry class.)
  • Real life application when it comes to particular topics is lacking. I kind of feel like Saxon math students might become robotic with their math—although any student who masters Saxon math will be easily led to apply the concepts to real life. For example, a Saxon student can tell you the equation of a line (and readily manipulate the equations), but they’d be hard-pressed to tell you a real life situation you could use a linear equation in. After you showed a Saxon student, they’d probably say something like, “Oh, duh. I knew that.” I plan to remedy this with a real-life application unit in our high school years.
  • Lots of problems in a problem set.

My eighth grader was able to master Algebra II. I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, it is just how it worked out with the pace of her capabilities. I think this might put us at a disadvantage for taking standardized tests (PSAT, SAT and ACT) since we are covering material earlier. However, I constantly try to remind myself that learning is done best for learning’s sake–not for the test . But I know that I will need to take extra care that she is prepared for her standardized tests so that my decision to proceed at her pace does not hinder any test scores. I also see that if we continue this progression, there will be opportunity in the junior and senior year for something like taking a local college math course or doing something somewhat unique for high school math, like statistics.

As I mentioned, I am happy to answer questions or clarify anything I wrote.

Terri F

When Homeschooling Goes Bad

sign_slow_15_mph_000_0080Is your homeschool havin’ a bad, bad day? Every day? I’m not going to say it’s okay or that you should just be calm and relax about it. I don’t relax much about anything. Ha! No way! I’m a constant problem solver.

But I am going to say, “You’re not alone!” Oooh, doesn’t that feel nice? You’re not alone! I’ve had my share of bad homeschooling days. All of last year was a bad homeschooling dream. I remember Googling homeschooling blogs to see what other moms did when they had a toddler underfoot. What I walked away with was, “It’s okay, Sugar. Your kids will learn. Being together, happily singing, babysitting, and doing housework is more important than fretting.”

Just like I can’t sit with too many bad homeschooling days, neither can I chill like that. Here’s my top five suggestions for dealing with a homeschool gone bad.

1. Change up the curriculum: It’s not “the best” curriculum, but it works for us.

Who has TIME to use Susan Wise Bauer’s First Language Lessons? Or Charlotte Mason’s “living books” idea to teach?  I think it was another life (the vision is cloudy, but more like ten lives ago, actually) when I cozied up on the couch with two little angels (er, maybe it was another universe) flanking me on either side to read aloud. Twenty lives ago we used to cut and paste crafts and lapbooks. Maybe that wasn’t me at all! Maybe that was some pretty dream I had thirty lives ago!

With four kids, our curriculum needs have changed. Whether I like it or not, whether the kids like it or not, we have to move towards each child, young ones included (you should see our baby clean toilets!), doing more independent work. I feel like some of my homeschooling ideals have been compromised because I teach less, but since my top ideal is a lifelong love of learning, we’re safe. That’s intact.

I’ve had to mostly ditch my self-designed, teacher led spelling curriculum for my third daughter, who is an exceptionally motivated young student. My choice? An Evan Moore spelling workbook. Is it “the best” workbook? No. Is it “the best” spelling program? No. Will she be a fine speller? Yes. And I don’t have time to do all that spelling jazz, nor does she need me to.

We’ve ditched Institute for Excellence in Writing for a time, maybe a very long time. I just couldn’t get read up on the lessons anymore to assign them their work. So I found some journal writing prompts on-line and now they write these several times a week, while I check it for grammar. It’s my Institute for Sanity in Writing.  (Interestingly enough, this has been lots of fun! Their creativity has taken off, and they often let me be privy to some very deep, personal thoughts and dreams!)

Other things I’ve done in our curriculum include: not trying to do too much grammar and writing at the same time, taking breaks from Saxon math for focused worksheets, covering less subjects at a time.

2. Put your third hand down: The phone. The phone. The phone is on fire.

The phone. The phone. The phone. You know it. I know it. We’re both looking sheepish. The phone must go. Set it on “do not disturb” and check it at set times each day. Yes, it feels good to be needed. It is fun to get hot news off the press. Heart lifting to hear from an old friend. But I’m pretty sure the phone has killed more grooving homeschool lessons than there are dust mites in my pillow. (That’s a lot. Since we have allergies, we use dust mite protective cases, wash them on sanitize, and dry them on hot. Unrelated. Sorry. My husband says I always share too much information…but maybe it will help you?)

3. Schedule appointments in the afternoon: “No. I can’t come to that appointment! Do you have a three o’clock?”

I’ve finally accepted that any appointments need to be in the afternoon. That was bitter for me to swallow, because I like to get the early appointments when the doctor may still be on schedule. I thought by getting the appointment in the morning, we’d get it over with and school would rock on. It never happened that way. I’ve found it best to keep our morning schedule (that’s when we do “the hard stuff”) the same and fiddle with the afternoon schedule. School goes well that way, and we get our appointments in.

4. Find some childcare or housework help: “Get the baby off the top of the refrigerator!”

Last year, I struggled through the year with a toddler. It was not a new experience for me. I have four kids; I’ve taught with a toddler underfoot before! Of course, I didn’t like it then either, BUT at least then I was not trying to teach algebra, long division, and more advanced writing skills.

My toddler can be so loud and obstinate when she knows what she wants. And she wanted her sisters! This didn’t work well for my distractible child, who couldn’t focus with the toddler’s screaming, or my bleeding heart child, who hated to hear the screaming from the pack-and-play (where the toddler goes when she won’t stop fussing). I just couldn’t win.

It wasn’t working. Not for me. Not for the kids. Not for the toddler. So I got help this school year. I know we can’t all afford help, but any help will do. If you can find a way for someone to keep the toddler busy so you can teach the others for even an hour without an interruption, you’ll feel so much better! A woman from church? Another homeschooling pre-teen? Swapping kids back and forth with a homeschooling friend; she takes your littles one day so you can teach the bigs and vice versa. Or even having someone come in and do a load of laundry for you or prep some meals.

With the help, our school is feeling nice again. I actually have time to print off some worksheets from the internet. I have time to write down a lesson plan. I have time to drill flashcards. If you can, get help. Then, you can breathe. Breathing helps. Breathing is good. Trust me. (And here you’ve been wondering why you’d been feeling so bad… 🙂 )

5. Get some real help: You can’t do it alone and there’s a lot at stake!

Sometimes, more than you need help with laundry or impetuous, climbing, dangerous-to-themselves toddlers, you need help understanding and relating to one of your emerging older children. The anger outbursts, the seemingly laziness, the insolence–it’s overwhelming you and completely impeding learning. (Read here and here and here for my take on dealing with adolescents. Oh, and here when they say they hate you…)

Sure, sending them away to school is an option. It’s the option of least resistance, which does NOTHING to change coping mechanisms that are being set FOR LIFE.  Or does nothing to change your mechanisms which have been set and need changed so your family can live harmoniously together. As much as we like our friends and we need them, it is the family unit which all so much crave to have intact and at peace.

Don’t be afraid to get professional counsel. Alcoholics, borderlines, depressives, manic depressives, abusive adults—they don’t happen overnight. They happen with the pressures of life. Give yourself and your kids a chance to learn new coping skills when you see they’re needed. Ask a pastor or counselor for professional help!

Conclusion

You can do it! I ran out of time for more, but leave your best tips in the comments for others to learn from!

And also, if you decide you simply can’t do it, then don’t be silly and beat yourself up! There are tons of things you can do that I can’t! It’s what makes life fun! Do your best and learn when to let go! Now, go hug your kids today. Mine are milling in the kitchen, so I’m off this box!

Terri

Image credit: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Betacommand. Found on Wikipedia.

Our Sixth Grade Curriculum

Adriaen_van_Ostade_007Our school year was fine. I had no fear of gunmen, confusing bathroom escapades, or bullying. Fear of toddler tantrums, maybe, but–not the same, eh?

Each year, I type up the curriculum of my lead child (after we finish the year). I don’t deviate material too much from year to year. Call it “boring,” but I prefer the label of “stability.”

Our Sixth Grade Curriculum

Learning definitely took place, despite my frustration of teaching three multi-level students with a toddler in tow. But check out the painting I used for this post titled The Schoolmaster. I’ve got it good compared to that guy!

  • Math: Saxon Algebra I (Monday-Thursday)
  • Grammar: Easy Grammar and Easy Grammar Daily Grams (Monday-Thursday)
  • Spelling: How to Spell (2-3 days per week)
  • Reading: Abundant amount of self-guided, usually self-selected books (Daily)
  • Spanish: Live teachers (On average 1-2 times per week)
  • Latin: Lively Latin (Monday-Thursday for a couple of months each semester)
  • History and Geography: Lively Latin’s Roman history components, study of the states using The Star-Spangled State Book as a guide, and study of our own state (2-3 days per week)
  • Typing: A computer program called Typing Instructor (Monday-Thursday for a two month block)
  • Physical Education (extra-curricular): Dance (all year) and archery (three-month block)
  • Music Education (extra-curricular): Violin and guitar (all year)
  • Miscellaneous classes available through our homeschool group: Local museum history class, build a toothpick bridge class, science, art
  • Self-led activities (with outside instruction as necessary): sewing, YouTube class, poetry contest winner

I’ll proceed with a few comments about our curriculum.

Algebra I: Saxon, 3rd Edition

We carried over Math 7/6 from fifth grade and finished that up early in the first semester of sixth grade. I then decided my daughter could handle Algebra I if she took it slowly.

She did about half a lesson each day and she covered about 50 of the book’s 120 lessons. We just keep math going on a rolling basis, and we’ll do a few lessons this summer, finishing up the book next year as her abilities allow.

Understanding the algebra concepts was no issue, but retention of the algebra rules and putting it all together was. (Like a child can spell words, but when he or she writes a letter, he or she will misspell even common words.) By skipping a book, I also noticed she needed extra practice in dividing decimals and fractions.

Starting algebra early required that my daughter have great patience with herself and be willing to re-do problems. Her confidence did take a blow because she was used to getting everything correct. It was a good time to reinforce that we are NOT learning for grades but for mastery and understanding.

If I could do it over again, I would have done Saxon’s Algebra 1/2 and just moved through it quickly based on her understanding. Why didn’t I? Because my husband and I both had that book in junior high school and hated it. In addition, I tutored many people in math (Saxon-style) in my younger days and felt confident I could watch for lapses and breaks in understanding.

Note: I saw that the 4th edition of this had mistakes in the answer keys. I’m sticking with 3rd edition.

Grammar: Easy Grammar and Easy Grammar Daily Grams

Easy Grammar makes my life easy. It’s super thorough and super straightforward. We’ve used it for several years now. It’s perfect for us. Stable. Boring.

There are two components I use: the Easy Grammar textbook and the cumulative, short, daily worksheets called Daily Grams. I just buy the teacher’s manual for BOTH the textbook and the Daily Grams. If you think your student will peek at answers, you’ll need to make copies of the worksheets and tests from the books. I love that the program has cumulative review tests and that the Daily Grams worksheets are cumulative.

Spelling: How to Spell

How to Spell is only our guide of what to cover, the order to cover it in, and the “rules” to learn. We tried a computer program for spelling, but I just couldn’t keep up on looking at what she did and finding the appropriate lists for her.

How to Spell doesn’t have enough worksheets, and I usually print off extra worksheets from the internet on each topic. It is not a self-contained curriculum. I just love the way it presents spelling in an orderly fashion with the rules defined as much as possible, and I supplement it greatly.

Latin: Lively Latin

We have been slowly working through Lively Latin (Book 1) for a couple of years now. We start and stop because sometimes other subjects are more difficult and pressing. Sometimes, the Latin grammar seems to be just a touch above her understanding. If I wait, I’ve noticed that her English grammar knowledge improves, and then we can easily move forward again in Latin after she understand more grammar in general!

I have not taken a Latin course, so I do not know the best way to proceed with Latin. The author of this program seems to keep it simple and moving forward, all the while keeping it fun and interesting. It’s full of Roman history, definitely a huge plus! My daughter loves this part!

Sixth and seventh grades seem perfect for this book (although I did start it a smattering in fifth grade), and I do not regret my purchase.

Typing: Typing Instructor

Typing Instructor is a computer CD program I bought several years ago. I’ve been satisfied with it, and the girls like it. I bring it out each semester so they can get faster at typing in a progressive fashion.

Closing

I love questions and hearing about what other people do, even if I stick with my own thing! That way if anyone ever asks me for an idea, maybe I’ll have a suggestion! Share away! Please know that this is OUR curriculum! I, in no way, condone following our curriculum for your child. But I’m happy to answer questions on what we do to generate ideas! Part of what we do now is contingent on knowing what I plan to proceed to later!

Terri

Art attribution: Adriaen van Ostade [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons