Sunday, August 19, 2018

A New School Year

If you're anything like me, your Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of back-to-school pictures and posts. Just because we homeschool does not mean that we don't have a fair amount of this "back-to-schoolism" ourselves. Next week, Therese (17) and Nicholas (15) will be starting dual credit classes at Lone Star (community college). Therese is taking 12 hours and Nicky (I think he's going to go by Nick) is taking 6. If he handles that well, I'll bump him up next semester. I feel very good about him doing Lone Star. Therese has already applied to several colleges, and she is applying for every scholarship in sight. I can't believe she'll be gone next year!

As for the twins, I'm having that, "But I haven't really taught you anything!" crisis of confidence that I think we all go through. They are in 8th grade and my time is running out. They are the ones who constantly reassure me that they have learned plenty over the years. Intellectually, I know this to be true, but I can't stop beating myself up with the notion that I could have done so much better. If I could start over homeschooling today, I would do so much better! Of course, I have ten years experience under my belt now...

If you're just starting out homeschooling, I have a few tips for you:

  • At the beginning of the year, unless it's a total disaster, pick a curriculum (or your lesson plan) and stick with it. Jumping around rarely suits anyone, apart from the ADHD curriculum mother.
  • Realize that your kids are learning all the time. Many homes other than homeschooling ones foster a constant culture of learning. I grew up in one. I would say that the vast majority of homeschooling homes fall into this category. My kids are always watching something scientific or historical on TV, they watch brain stuff on YouTube, and they play learning apps. Obviously, we talk about everything all the time, too. Just because they are not learning it at the schoolroom table does not mean that learning isn't happening.
  • Don't let some subjects slide. Voracious readers will learn reading, writing, and spelling without even being aware of it, but math is usually something that has to be taught and drilled. Once behind, it's very hard to catch up.
  • You don't have to homeschool like anyone else. Do co-op or don't. Do formal field trips or don't. Make changing a light bulb a science lesson or just change the dang thing. Find your own path.
  • Don't waste too much time on regrets. If you come to a point where you realize something wasn't working or it was a dead end, change it up, but don't beat yourself up about it. 
Ask me how I learned all of the above...and have a great year.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Therese's Birthday

Here are pics of Therese at 12, 14, 16, and nearly 17. Only a few people know how much she has gone through in the last five years. As she enters her senior year of high school, I am so proud of all that she has accomplished - not academically because that's kind of a given, but personally as she has faced so many challenges. Happy birthday, Ham!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review of Homeschool in the Woods Timeline

If you like hands-on history products, you already love Home School in the Woods. We have been using their products since 2007 when I began homeschooling, and they are still a perennial favorite in my house. For this review, we got to assemble one of the A La Carte Timelines, America's Progress into the 20th Century Timeline. I was *thrilled* when Home School in the Woods introduced its A La Carte projects a couple of years ago. They give you so much more flexibility and choice - you actually end up being able to use more HSitW products since you can pick and choose projects to correspond exactly with what you are currently studying. If you have a hands-on kid, you need to check out everything Home School in the Woods has to offer.

This is kind of a transitional time for us in homeschooling, so I loved being able to choose something for Mary-Catherine (13) to enjoy assembling. My two oldest children are starting dual credit classes next month, and, although it actually makes me feel like crying to say this, I think their days of traditional homeschooling are at an end. That leaves me with two very different twins (13) to homeschool, but even they are needing me less and less now. Long story short, Mary-Catherine has been doing 20th century history largely by herself this summer. Like any good classical, Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, my kids have had ancient history until it's coming out of their ears. We have also made a pass through American history, but did not treat it nearly as thoroughly as ancient. As Mary-Catherine works through her American history curriculum, she is enjoying learning about things more immediately relevant to her world. And as with any history curriculum, a timeline really helps bring everything you're learning into focus. As soon as she figured out the best way to assemble this particular timeline (using file folders, as opposed to the colored card stock shown below), she immediately jumped in!

This timeline covers the Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression. As lovers of the Gilded Age, both Mary-Catherine and I have loved all the timeline figures that accompany this timeline (all 136!). Oh, and if you, like me, own the HSitW timeline figures set, get excited: there are 30 brand new figures included in this timeline that you can't find in your master set! Also, if you're worried about how and where to place the figures, don't be. The $8.45 download includes a master timeline. If you have the kind of kid for whom you'd like to have a timeline, but who you know would be averse to assembling her own, this download is still well-worth it, as you get a timeline already done for you as well as a build-your-own. As usual, Home School in the Woods has thought of everything.

I'm sure there are a million ways to use this timeline, such as studying a particular event and then placing the figure, but Mary-Catherine just began at the beginning and placed the figures on the timeline. Every so often I would hear, "Hey! I just read about this!" The fact that she already knew approximately where on the timeline a figure should go just proves that using a timeline is great reinforcement, even if you already know the subject matter pretty well!

Speaking of knowing your subject matter, if there is one thing my kids should know by now, it's Ancient Rome. If you're studying, have studied, or plan to study Ancient Rome, you'll be delighted to find out that the Ancient Rome Pack is HSitW newest product! Unlike the A La Carte projects where you pick and choose, this project pack has EVERYTHING you will need in your study of Ancient Rome.

As always, Home School in the Woods was very generous with the Crew, so to see a huge variety of projects, click the beautiful graphic below!

Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

It used to be that all I wanted to do was work. I always had my laptop open and I was always working. It annoyed my husband, and rightly so. Just because you work from home doesn't mean that you should always be working. My wonderful husband built me a beautiful desk in our bedroom (yes, I know sleep science says that's a no-no), and since then I usually keep my computer at my desk. The funny thing is, though, I no longer feel like working all that much. I have been self-employed for more than 10 years. In that time, I have had the same job, supplemented by other writing jobs. I have always looked forward to getting on my computer and setting everything down on paper. In the past six months or so, though, I just don't feel like working anymore! There are too many other things I'm interested in.

I have never considered myself a creative person. I'm too "color within the lines" for that. Recently, though, I just have so many creative ideas and things I want to do. I have ideas for businesses that I want to start. I want to play with my boys (the human ones and the canine ones!). My sons just introduced me to Magic the Gathering, and I have rarely had as much fun as I have when playing with them. You get to see your kids in a different light when you do different things with them (I know - so much profundity for a Tuesday morning!). Anyone who knows me at all knows that life has not always (ever) been easy with my 15 year-old. He has personality traits that I am sure God gave him for a greater purpose in life, but it is hard to see that purpose when trying to parent him. However, playing a game with him shows him to me in a new light. He is helpful and compassionate. He is a good sport. He's *hilarious*. I think it's so helpful to take time out from being a parent and just play like I did when my kids were younger. They love it. I love it.

I have always wondered if I have a touch of ADD - my brain just goes so fast all the time. I'm at a point in my life where it's doing so more than ever. I wonder if it's related to something else going on with me. My migraines are worse than ever. I am out of commission almost completely about 50% of the time and I'm compromised another 25% of the time. I'm trying neurology again after taking a long hiatus. There are only so many times you can realize that there is no hope for you before it begins to wear you down. Sometimes I think it's better to suffer resignedly than to always be hoping for some relief.


Baskin-Robbins $1.50 scoops!

Just in case ice cream out is as big a deal in your family as it is in mine...

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review of Progeny Press

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that we have used and loved Progeny Press almost since we began homeschooling (2007!). As a piece of trivia, Progeny Press began with 18 study guides in 1993 and has 115 guides currently. I have also been lucky to have reviewed it several times before. You can read those six reviews here. This time around, we got to review The Scavengers - eGuide. Like all Progeny Press study guides, this one follows a similar format. The study guide is 73 pages, including an answer key. It contains background information, pre-reading activities, vocabulary, content questions, what I call comprehension questions (so, digging deeper and critical thinking short essay-style questions), and activities. There is a wide enough variety that a student can either complete the whole study guide (which I would think is preferred), or pick and choose which parts suit their style. For instance, I have one child who loves to write, so would eagerly tackle all of the writing/short-essay style questions, but who loathes anything that looks like a hands-on craft or activity. I have another child who is dysgraphic*, so doesn't necessarily embrace writing, but who is very hands-on and loves activities (*note that dysgraphia isn't nearly as big a problem with Progeny Press e-Guides, as students can type directly into a pdf!).

Mary-Catherine (13) was my tester for this study guide. After I bought The Scavengers for her to read, she inhaled the book in one day. Well. That's not usually the best way to go about doing a study guide. It generally works better, from my point of view, to read a section and then do the accompanying study guide section, but I have never once ordered my kids to stop reading, so we dealt with it. Because she had already read the whole book, Mary-Catherine was allowed to complete the study guide at her own pace; no reading before writing necessary!

Mary-Catherine really enjoys words, so it was no surprise to me that she thoroughly enjoyed completing the vocabulary activities. She also liked the short answer questions. Her enjoyment of the study guide was confirmed when the first "Thinking About the Story" activity talked about word play, like alliteration. It's always exciting to see something you know a lot about pop up in your curriculum, so she eagerly went after this section, too. The longer essay-type questions are a bit more challenging, but because the book was below her current reading level, they didn't present as much of a challenge as they otherwise might have. One reason I love these study guides is because they force me to make my kids struggle with literature (by which I mean it forces them to confront issues in books and to wrestle with the meanings and implications). It's something I do naturally, and I take it far too much for granted that my kids do it, too. They don't necessarily, though, so Progeny Press always holds my feet to the fire!

Like every Progeny Press study guide we have ever used, beginning with the paper versions in 2007 and right to the pdfs today, this one was excellent. I would recommend any of their study guides to anyone.

If you have kids younger or older than Mary-Catherine, be sure to click the graphic below to read more reviews, including reviews of study guides for the youngest readers through high school.

New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}