Friday, February 09, 2018

Homeschool Update!

NOTE: I am going to be posting Valentine-inspired designs each day for the next few day, so be sure to come back and grab them!

I have been homeschooling Duke (13) and Imp (10) for their entire school life. Yeah, I am one of those homeschooling mom weirdos sitting around in sweats and drinking kefir while teaching my kids.

Before I had my own kids and even when my kids were small, I though homeschooling was weird and was convinced I would never do it. After all, Paul and I both went to public schools and turned out fine. When I was growing up we had one family living by us who homeschooled and, as a child, I thought they were strange. Really, really strange.

But then my sister Heather (who seems pretty normal) started homeschooling her daughter. She enjoyed doing it and introduced me to other homeschooling families and I noticed most of these families appeared happy and normal too.

I suddenly realized I might want to give homeschooling a try!

I have a degree in Genetics, so I am not a complete idiot. And I already knew I loved reading to the boys and teaching them. Since I was already at home as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom I decided I would start homeschooling the boys. I knew if it wasn't for us, the public school in our area would take them in heartbeat, no questions asked.

My husband Paul works Tuesday through Saturday as an optometrist. So our "weekend" is Sunday and Monday. If I sent the kids off to school they would only have Sunday to spend with their father and we wouldn't be able to take weekend trips with the kids. So this was another sign that I should give it a try.

And eight years later I am still doing it!

All of the links in this post are to products and websites I use and love. The only links below that are affiliate links are the Amazon ones. If you buy anything through my Amazon links it doesn't cost you anything extra but I receive a small commission which goes to help support this site. So thank you for clicking through!

Today it is rainy so I decided it was a perfect day to catch you up on our homeschooling.

Duke is at our neighbor's house at his writing/grammar class.  Notice he was frantically finishing his grammar this morning before school. He is learning how to diagram sentences, so old-school but fun!

I love teaching the boys, but writing is something that I decided to farm out to keep me sane. I found an amazing writing teacher (who happens to be my best friend and is the mother of my boys' best friend), so twice a week Duke heads over to her house to learn writing and grammar with several other kids.

He is still doing the IEW writing program. I love IEW! He went from writing 1-3 paragraph papers with me last year to 5 paragraph papers already this year. We were using the Student Writing Intensive Level B and now he is doing the B Continuation Course

Over the years IEW has sent me several things to review and I have used and loved everything. If you have any questions about IEW leave a comment and I will try to help you out. Some of their curriculums appear confusing at first, but if you call them they are incredibly nice and helpful. 

Both of my boys inherited my inability to spell, but the IEW Phonetic Zoo audio program has been a miracle-worker. It has three levels and each level repeats the exact same spelling rules (or rule breakers) with increasingly more difficult words. I think hearing the works being spelled has really helped my boys. Imp is on level A and Duke is on B and I have noticed a huge difference in their spelling confidence.

Duke worked through the IEW "Fix It! Grammar" book 1 and now Imp is doing it. Just purchase the teacher's manual because you print out the student pages. You only have to spend 5-10 minutes a day on grammar so it doesn't overwhelm you or your child.

We also are working through the "Everything You Need To Ace Middle School American History" and "Science" books. These books cover the minimum of what middle school kids need to know according to Common Core standards. I like using them so my kids are on grade level in case I decide to put them in school. Texas supposedly doesn't follow Common Core, but they basically do because of standardized testing.

We supplement history/science with other books and YouTube videos. I love the Amoeba Sisters YouTube science videos. These videos are written and produced by two Texan women for high school level biology. These videos are deceptively simple cartoons, but we all learn so much from them. You can even download free worksheets. We just went through the Genetics playlist and as a former Geneticist I was very impressed.

We also use Khan Academy, Netflix, and Amazon Prime to supplement our science and history lessons.

I try to read the kids a book that is either science or history-based. Right now I am reading "An  Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" and we love it! This is an "adult" book but perfect for all ages.

I am also rereading "A Mind for Numbers" as it has valuable tips on effective learning which applies to all studies, not just math and science. I try to summarize the best tips to the boys and I am going to have the boys read it when they are older. I think it will be invaluable to them for high school and college classes.

Imp uses Math Mammoth for math, and Duke used it through 6th grade. But this year Duke is working through the Khan Academy's 7th grade math program. He loves math, loves this program, and I can see he is really benefiting from it. And it is FREE!!!

Both boys use Lizard Point for Geography. Duke has already learned most of the world using this free website.

And they both use Typing Club, a free typing website. This has really increased their typing speed and accuracy. I hate to see kids and adults typing with two fingers. ;-)

This is not everything we use during out homeschooling days, but I wanted to let you know about some of our favorites. All of these products/websites have been popular with our family for years.

The only problem I have with homeschooling is that there are too many amazing homeschooling things out there and I have to sort through and pick my favorites! Hopefully this list might save you some time if you are overwhelmed and/or just starting out.

One thing we need to add to our curriculum is a good Latin or Spanish program. If you are using one you love, please leave me a comment!

I want to mention that through middle school I feel the "The Three R's" (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) are the most important things to teach. Teach a child to read well and they can teach themselves almost anything. So that really takes a lot of pressure off this mom because she realizes she doesn't have to teach EVERYTHING OUT THERE.

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  1. I always enjoy your 'homeschooling' updates. We don't have children but it is still interesting to see homeschooling vs standard. You mentioned that the boys learn spelling phonetically. I never understood why the system moved away from phonetic spelling so many years ago. To me, phonetics are the only way to go. It is possible that the curriculum has changed back to working with phonics, I'm not sure but as far as I'm concerned they never should have left!

    Good luck with your ongoing teaching!


    1. I know they were moving away from phonics in the 70's because I was a product of the "memorize" spelling words and I can't spell well at all. I agree, phonics is a big help. I don't know what they do in the public schools. Now everyone seems to rely on spell-check, but I want my boys to be able to spell on their own. They don't get to do much media at all right now, I hate seeing kids (and adults) walking around staring at their tiny little phone and ignoring real life. Rita

    2. I was lucky. I went to grade school starting in 72 or 73 (jeepers, I can't even remember whether I started Kindergarten at the age of 5 or 6!), and we were still taught with phonics. You must have been after me then. It was a shame that they moved away from such a proven system. I too hate that no one can spell anymore either. We all tend to rely on spell check to get us through these days which is rather sad. Most millennials now can't spell and they have no conversational skills because they rely on texting--even when in the same room with each other! It really baffles me. I also agree that there is something so inherently sad about seeing so many people walking around stuck staring at their phones. You are correct, people are so caught up in their media devices and social media as well, that they've lost touch with the real world around them. Is it a sign of our age that we feel this way?! ;) Anyway, I'm glad that you limit the boys' media time. You guys do so much out in nature and that is awesome to see. There are lots of different ways to learn and being out in the real world is one of the best. -L.

    3. I was a few years after you and I think on the cusp of spelling changes. They had no idea what they were doing! And I agree, we all should learn how to spell. And I agree, it is probably a sign of our age that we hate to see so many people living in a virtual world rather than a real world. That is why I am raising my kids more like I was raised. I want them to look around them and see that the real world and real people are so much more beautiful and interesting than someone on a little phone.


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