Friday, July 28

"CoffeeShop Family Homeschooling Update" or "Is Summer Already Almost Over???"

Happy Friday!

I remember back when I was a kid my mom's friends mentioning to my mom that once July came around the rest of summer moved at warp speed. That is so true! They were both stay-at-home moms at that time so this discussion was one of relief and joy. They couldn't wait to send us hellions back to school so they could have quiet days at home. ;-)

So August is almost here and this is the time of summer I get excited about planning our new year of school. Unfortunately the excitement fades by October when reality strikes, but allow me briefly to be passionate about all of the things I hope to accomplish. Hee hee!

I have a 5th and 7th grader this year and have homeschooled both boys from the beginning. Paul works Saturdays so our "weekends" are Sunday/Monday and I homeschool so the boys have more time to spend with their father. Plus I am already here since I work at home so homeschooling was a no-brainer for our family.

I have tried so many different methods of teaching like Classical Conversation, Charlotte Mason, unschooling (that lasted less than a week when the boys spent all day, every day playing video games), different paid curriculum, free-range learning, etc. So I feel that I am an now an "Expert in Nothing".

However, all of this has taught me that no one plan fits every student/parent. I always tell people the most challenging part of homeschooling is trying to dig through all of the homeschooling resources out there and deciding what fits best with you and your family. And what works one year might not work the next.

The key is flexibility. And undoubtedly you will listen to a friend (who appears to have a genius child that makes your kid look like an idiot) who tells you she uses the best curriculum ever. So you buy it, you and your kids hate it, and you feel guilty you wasted your money. ;-)

Homeschooling can be expensive, especially when you consider you can send your kids away to public schools for "free" and get something back for all of the school taxes you have paid over the years. :-)

But we love to homeschool and today I wanted to make a list of things we enjoy using and seem to have staying power in our house.

1. The Three "R's"

I really stress the three "R's" (reading, writing, arithmetic).

A. Reading is a no-brainer in our house. Paul and I are avid readers of fiction and nonfiction and the boys see us reading all of the time. Learning is our life!

I have heard boys often aren't big readers compared to girls, but I found that it is all about the book choice. Don't expect your boy to love the same books you loved as a child.  They might think "Anne of Green Gables" and "The Secret Garden" are boring, but give them a pile of Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Peanuts and you might find them teaching themselves how to read! Mine did. :-)

When my kids get a book in their hands they enjoy (Harry Potter, Redwall, anything with fighter jets, etc.) they will disappear for hours. Imp just told me today that when he reads a book it is like he is playing a movie in his head. Swoon!

B.Writing is a challenge for me to teach. I will confess that IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) simplified my life and is my one-stop source for all things for our English classes. I personally think their website is overwhelming, but if you call them they will walk you through everything. Here is an interactive guide that helps you figure out what you would need to buy for your children at each age.

IEW sent me most of these things below to review but my IEW links are not affiliate links. I am sharing them because I really think IEW is amazing and you should check it out.

Writing: I am using Level B and Level B Continuation Course for Luke who is 12. I personally don't think you have to worry about the teaching DVDs unless you really have time and want to learn the details of IEW's teaching method. They are excellent but the Level A, B, and C courses have DVDs for you and your child to watch together and everything is explained in great detail. I also don't think the stand-alone books for writing are necessary. I bought the American History one and didn't really care for it. But if you work through A, B, or C and its matching continuation course your child WILL learn to write! They cover all of the necessary types of writing like creative, technical, reports, etc. Plus my reluctant writer doesn't usually mind doing it.

Grammar: Yes, I love grammar and realize that makes me a dinosaur. I was one of those nerdy kids who would diagram sentences for fun...  The IEW "Fix-It" grammar books are AMAZING! It only takes a few minutes a day, is pretty much self-teaching, and the child learns so much. Duke has finished the first book and will be doing the second this year and I am amazed how much grammar he already knows. Imp is starting the first book this year.

I also have them write the grammar sentences in cursive so we kill two birds with one stone.

My friend who teaches writing to kids professionally says that she doesn't think books three and four are really necessary unless your child wants to be a professional writer, so that is something to think about.

Spelling: For spelling we love IEW's audio "Phonetic Zoo" all the way. Neither one of my boys are natural spellers and memorizing lists of words doesn't work with them. I struggled with spelling too so I was really excited to find a program that not only works but they enjoy doing. We have the full set of Program A and just need to buy the audio files for B and  C since the cards work for all three programs. A, B, and C have the same rules in the same order, but the words get progressively more difficult. So they really learn their spelling rules by program C. This is completely self-teaching which this mom LOVES.

C. Math: Math Mammoth is the best! Again, these are not affiliate links, I love this program so much I want you go go buy it for your kids!!! Math Mammoth has complete curriculum up to 7th grade and it is so cheap. You can use them on all of your kids since you just print everything out when you need it. I have friends that do Saxon and I think this program is so much better (and so much more affordable).

The boys started Math Mammoth in 1st grade and I am incredibly impressed by their math ability. Did I mention this program has been 98% self-teaching? I just give them their lesson, they read the instructions and do their math ON THEIR OWN! If they have questions I help them out, but that is pretty rare. We don't do all of the problems for each section unless they are struggling so we can move through the program pretty fast.

I am going to buy some of the "Make it Real" workbooks this year. I think it is so important for kids  to use math in real-life circumstances.  I will let you know what I think about them.

We also supplement with the free Khan Academy's math. For example, Duke was struggling some with geometry and statistics, so this summer he worked thorough those sections on Kahn and it really reinforced what he had learned in Math Mammoth.

2. Geography 

I think learning geography is also very important and we have been using a free on-line class called Lizardpoint. My kids learned most countries of the world last year and it is also self-teaching. We just do a section of the world at a time until they get a 100%. We are learning all of the countries, states, and state capitals right now, and then they will start learning the major cities/rivers/mountains of the world this next year. 

3. History and Science

This part of the post below contains Amazon affiliate links!

I love love love science and history.  I like to make sure that I am teaching the boys things that are grade-appropriate in case something happens and they have to go to public schools. I don't want them to be completely behind.

So alone comes the amazing "Everything You Need to Ace" series. These are dirt cheap and I am shocked that other pricey history/science homeschooling textbooks aren't obsolete. I use the Science, World History, and American History books and love them.

These books are great fun and cover so much in an easy-to-understand format for 6th/7th/8th graders. We read through them and supplement with streaming videos (Netflix and Amazon), free internet courses and Youtube videos, field trips, and library books (all free). I have learned so much that I have forgotten over the years thanks to these books.

OK, I think I will stop there. I still have a lot more to discuss, but I don't want to overwhelm you. My fingers are tired now! I would love to know what you love to use to teach your kids. Please leave a comment below!

Have a wonderful weekend. And enjoy the last weeks of summer with your friends and family. :-)

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  1. I'm going to check out the "Everything You Need to Ace" series - thanks!

    1. It is a great series for homeschool or out-of-home schooled kids. I love reading them!

  2. I'm a newly retired high school special ed. teacher who used many of these materials for my students. I supplemented heavily with anything I could find that would capture the students interest. Worked beautifully! More power to you... Lucky kids.

    1. Thank you Sue! I just love schooling my boys.

  3. Just out of curiosity, how does this actually work? Do the kids have to take standardized tests each year to ensure that they are up to par with the other kids? Is that how you base what to teach them so that will pass any standardized testing? Also, will the boys end up going to a public or private high school or do you plan on homeschooling them during those years as well? I'm simply curious and apologize if I'm asking too many personal questions here.

    Have a great weekend gang!

    1. Lisa, it isn't personal and I love to write/talk about it!!!

      it depends on which state you live in. In Texas we don't have to do anything at all via testing. I am so happy I live here and we have real school choice. And I can look up what our state schools teach, but honestly it really isn't that big of a deal before high school. It is all pretty basic. Once they get to high school they will start taking college classes for credit at the college a few minutes from our house. I think they even offer free/cheap classes for homeschoolers. So rather than take high school chemistry, my boys can take college intro chemistry and get full college credit. Many homeschoolers I know here have 18 year olds with 2-3 years of college behind their belt.

      I love this idea because I hate to pay big bucks for my kids to take those first two years of college from a fancy school. My parents sent me to Texas A&M all four years and those first two years they paid way to much for me to take Beginning Snow Skiing, History, Chem 1, etc. What a waste of their money!

      Once they get the basics down (and they better get excellent grades) they can transfer to a bigger college or even plan to go to graduate school at a great college.

    2. That is really interesting. I would have thought there would be testing needed in order to procure a grade school and then a high school diploma. Also I would have thought that the intro courses in college would build on basic knowledge learned in high school as opposed to starting with foundational skills. It is great that they'll get some college courses under their belts so early and get some college credit out of the way too. Very interesting and I appreciate you sharing. -☺L.

  4. This summer seems like it just flew by. My son is not home schooled but has done virtual school after school since 5th grade along with brick & mortar school which put him ahead in credits so now he is full time virtual in high school and dual enrolled in college. I totally agree boys love to read if it's something that interests them. My son disappears in his room as well when he is into a good book :)

    Enjoy the rest of your summer and good luck this school year!!


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