Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Homeschool Chronicles {Looking Ahead}

Homeschool  ChroniclesIt's been so long since I shared about our homeschool journey.  My goodness - almost two years!  I wonder if some readers even know we do homeschool?  Well, we've been since Aria started kindergarten.  And, no exaggeration, it's been one of the best choices of my life.

Fall of 2014 I teamed up with two mom-friends to form a small co-op, an idea I introduced in my last chronicle.  We met one day per week, each mom teaching from an area of passion to cover history, science and writing, plus a bit of follow up homework the rest of the week.  That year was our best homeschooling year yet.  Our children benefited from a richer educational experience, and we all loved the extra time with friends. 

Eleni came home from NICU at the tale end of that co-op school year.  Over the summer of 2015, it was heartbreaking to realize we'd have to give up co-op because of my frequent travels for Eleni's therapies.  Seeing less of friends and less of each other was hard on our family, but for me it was nothing compared to the burden of grief for her suffering.  Then, a few months into the school year it became clear that caring for Eleni and teaching Liam left me no time to properly challenge Aria academically.  We considered all our options, including public and charter schools.  But it was tricky to find anything that would require less of me, while truly giving her more.

In October, with Aria's enthusiastic support, I enrolled her in Oak Meadow's long distance learning program, through which she'd receive assignments and traditional grading/feedback from an Oak Meadow teacher.  The program was a lifesaver for us.  Aria could work from home without my input, choose grade levels that matched her abilities and receive the attention she deserved.  It still wasn't ideal for me to "check out" so to speak of her education, so the first thing that changed after Eleni passed away was my involvement in her Oak Meadow program.  Still, I would recommend a program like this to anyone who needs a temporary fix in an emergency, whether pulling a child out of a traditional school or suddenly facing a life change that prevents regular homeschooling.

the lay of the land

So, here we are now preparing for fall of 2016!  I am so, so grateful that we are reviving co-op.  And my kids are too!  I am also excited to be able to go "all in" so to speak with designing learning programs that best serve both of my children.  That's one thing I love about homeschool - being able to really meet your kids where they are academically.  Aria is entering 6th grade and Liam 4th.  For those of you who homeschool, here are some of the resources they will be using:

Aria - 6th Grade
Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra; Sequential Spelling 2; Michael Clay Thompon's Caesar's Language 2, Essay Voyage and Search literature trilogy; Aristotle Leads the Way; Shepherd Life Science; aBeka Grammar + Composition II and various Sonlight history books.

Liam - 4th Grade
Singapore 4A + 4B with Intensive Practice; aBeka Language A; Spelling Power; Michael Clay Thompon's Sentence Island, Building Language, Mud Trilogy and Music of the Hemispheres; Apologia Astronomy, Apologia Botany and various Sonlight history books.

In the co-op I am excited to be teaching my older students the finer points of writing quality essays.  They are growing up so fast!  In choosing curriculum for Aria I am already thinking about how it all connects to high school and to college, so we'll be ready when we get there.  You might have noticed that Aria is consuming two science curricula.  One is for the Potter's School Life Science Honors class, a live online class.  Science is her passion, and we have reached that point when it's time for me to rely on professionals to give her the best experiences.

I'll also be teaching a basic writing class for my younger co-op students that introduces all kinds of writing, kind of warming them up to academic writing.  There are certain benefits to being second-born, including that mom has already taught that class!  This year Liam has become a voracious reader, even a self-proclaimed "book worm," taking home huge stacks of thick books from the library.  This from the boy who kept telling me just a year ago that he "hated" reading.  And that's the true victory here - not to teach my child how to read, but to see him develop a love for it.  It's like witnessing those first steps, those first smiles.  It's magic.

our newest Bookworm

So, this week my kids are away at camp, and I am at home typing up plans for our next school year with excitement.  I'm amazed time and again to be here, in this place, getting to do this, getting to have time to be my version of a good mom to Aria and Liam again.  Oh how life can change, does change, will always change in ways that surprise us.  When our new baby comes, at mid school year, I hope with all my heart that the adjustment is sweet, if not simple.  Joyful if not easy.

If you have any questions about our homeschool, I am happy to share!


24 comments:

  1. I'm so happy to see you posted this! I have decided to pull my boys from public school (rising 2nd and 4th) and start homeschooling. We've actually had a good experience at our neighborhood school with amazing teachers, but I got tired of waiting for something bad to happen to force me into homeschooling, when that is really what I want to do! One of the first things I checked out while researching was your hold homeschool chronicles posts. Thanks so much!

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  2. Will your kids be going to a high school or will you continue with home schooling?

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    1. Well, the future is unpredictable so I have always planned homeschool a few years at a time. But, I will say that at this point I plan to keep doing this all the way through until graduation from high school. I see no reason not to, but that doesn't mean a reason won't arise. There are SO MANY resources for online classes and local classes that I can easily customize things to have outside help with areas beyond my abilities (or outside of my interests, to be honest).

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  3. Rachel, how beautiful that you choose exactly what each child needs. Those curriculae (is that the right plural?) look diverse and interesting! I'm just starting up something that might nit be your thing, I think your kids are beyond the levels I'm currently focusing on, but maybe you know other homeschool mums who it would suit. I'm providing hands on maths ideas that flow out of literary texts. I've just gotten started at homemademath.net xxx

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    1. I will definitely look that up! It sounds like something we would have enjoyed. =)

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  4. Rachel, so glad you're homeschooling your children! I homeschooled for 16 years, preparing each child for college. All three graduated from college and we were so proud of them! I used a lot of the curriculum you are using. I would recommend homeschooling to everyone. It was worth everything we put into it. Best wishes on your upcoming school year.

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  5. What a wonderful post to read. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for the upcoming school year! My children have been taking Potter's School classes for around 15 years, and it has been such an enormous help to us. (With a background in chemistry and math, the first class I opt out of teaching is English. I'm so glad to have someone else grading compositions and pushing my teens in ways I wouldn't!)

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    1. Glad to hear you've had good experiences with Potter's School. Science was my least-favorite subject, so go figure it is Aria's favorite! It's nice to have these resources where my enthusiasm is lacking.

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  6. I am so glad to hear you homeschool your kids. We also homeschooled our 2 boys all the way through, not one day in a brick & mortar classroom. It was the best decision we could have made. We lived in California, Ohio, & Oregon throughout & used many different curriculums including Saxon, Calvert, & Oak Meadows. They were always state tested & were at the top of the scoring. They did use an online school for high school & both finished 1st in their class. Both were awarded full scholarships to Vassar College. #1 son graduated from Vassar last year with top honors in his field, Phi Beta Kappa, & is on a Fulbright scholarship studying abroad, & will be working towards his doctorate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography beginning next term. #2 son is overseas on a Jr. year abroad & will return for his sr. year. Both have maintained 4.0's all through college. So yes to all you homeschooling parents out there - it is a great choice (not to mention the freedom of traveling, days off to hike, ski, etc). It was the best choice for our family for sure.

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  7. It is beautiful to see the passion you feel about this. <3 Wishing you a relaxing summer and a great homeschool year!

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  8. It is beautiful to see the passion you feel about this. <3 Wishing you a relaxing summer and a great homeschool year!

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  9. I agree that the best thing about homeschool is that we can tailor fit each child's education with their own giftings and interest. And that it allows us to foster a love of learning. Thank you for sharing your plans. It is always nice to see what other homeschool families are doing and the resources they are using.
    How are you feeling these days?

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    1. Hi, Annabelle! I am feeling well =) It's exciting to see them start work on our addition. We have a huge hole in our front yard, at the moment, where the foundation will go. The sooner the addition happens, the sooner the nursery can start transforming.

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  10. I'm so happy to hear that Liam is doing so well with his reading! That's awesome! Good luck with this school year and thanks for sharing your experiences! I'm not a homeschooling mom myself (in fact, in a former public school teacher), but I love reading about your progress with your kids. 😊

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  11. I wish I did home school. Public school is a disappointment.

    I always supplemented their work over summer. We just did cool stuff, they wrote stories, and critiqued movies, we played a lot of math games and went to science center programs all over the area.

    Both of my girls graduated at the top of their class, and it is very competitive here in Northern Virginia. Christina was salutatorian, her best friend was valedictorian, their gpas were a fraction apart.
    That was in 2003!!
    Lizzie graduated #7 in 2006!! She was equally brilliant and really pushed herself.
    Emotional maturity is so very important. we are living in times where it is so lacking. Learning to be a good example, to be a leader, and to help others are subjects that are not discussed in school anymore. Anything goes :-(

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    1. Wow, Rosemary. Those are two very smart and hard working girls. In reading your list about enrichments over the summer, I'm thinking that with homeschoolers it's kind of the opposite. We tend to take a break in the summer, doing bits of enrichment, but mostly given us all room to breathe away from each other. Haha! So, that's one way that those who don't homeschool really invest in their kids. (And I know there are many ways they do. Clearly homeschooling does not make a "good parent". I hope I don't seem to be saying that. It is just my way of parenting that feels best for our family.)

      Loved what you said about emotional maturity! It's something we all need to focus on, wherever our kids go to school.

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  12. I am really thankful for this post. We just finished our second year of homeschooling and I was trying to get inspired to start planning out the next year for my going to be 6th grader, 2nd grader and preschooler. We are constantly hearing how others don't approve of homeschooling and it is so refreshing to read posts and the comments and see all the other moms (and dads) that see what potential lies in this choice. I was a public school teacher, teaching math for 10 years, so I know what the options are really like and I really feel like god lead us to homeschooling. I know you (Rachel) are quite busy, but I hope that you will continue to periodically post about the homeschooling more.

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  13. I will continue to follow with interest! My husband is planning on homeschooling our daughter (currently just finished grade 1 at a great montessori school) starting in grade 5, when he retires, so I will be checking out the resources you recommend.

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  14. I'm a public school teacher and don't have kids, but I wanted to say that Art of Problem Solving is one of the best resources available for kids that are really enthusiastic about math. I coach high school math competition teams and our students use AoPS regularly to help them learn competition math. I appreciate that they go outside the regular high school calculus prep stuff.

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    1. Thanks for that encouragement, Liz. It's nice to know we're on to something good =)

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  15. I must say I have really missed these home school posts. I am looking forward to starting a new year soon. We still continue to school through out the summer, but it's much more relaxed and child-led. I have just purchased Teaching Textbooks for math and am looking forward to starting that with my boys. We will begin 5th grade, 3rd grade and some very simple preschool work with my 3 year old this year. I'm hopeful that schooling with a toddler and a 6 month old will be easier than it was last year with a newborn and a 2 year old.
    Do you have any opinions on A Beka? I'm mostly interested in good resources for english. Currently I'm using A Reason for Spelling and a Reason for Handwriting.

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    1. Hi, Steph! You're a "no reply commenter" so I can't email you back. I hope you see this! I hope your school year is easier this year to. I would think so, but then again 3 is such a tricky year (at least with my kids). So, I don't usually consider A Beka resources. We started doing some of their grammar lately because it turns out my kids need more repetition with punctuation and etc. than other resources were providing. Usually I skip A Beka for philosophy reasons. I don't make my kids do grammar every year, but I do make them write frequently and do spelling. I like sequential spelling for independent kids and Spelling Power for children that need more accountability. I finally tried Handwriting without Tears and found it's great. We've never had handwriting "tears", so I hadn't tried it, but it turns out it's taught very well. Hope that helps!

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  16. Hey Rachel! I'm sooooo behind on blog reading. Your blog is still one of my absolute favorite so I try to catch up every often. Congratulations on your pregnancy with a son, I'm so happy for you. When we were roomies back in the day I think I mentioned how I was planning to homeschool my children, Gwenyth is going to be in 2nd and Everett kindergarten. Last year I found out I was pregnant in August and immediately got severely sick, I was bed ridden for over 4 months and couldn't school the kids. It was so hard to just let them play all day and get so behind. I started back up again in March and we didn't stop for summer. Some how even with a new baby we were able to almost catch up. One thing Gwenyth has really struggled with is math her curriculum now uses flash cards and drills but she just doesn't get it. It has no mental math or understanding: We are thinking about switching her to Singapore math. I have been spending hours on end researching math curriculum and have been debating between Singapore, Math U See,and Rightstart. How do you like Singapore? Also what science were using using for K-2?

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    1. Hi, Alyssa! I've been enjoying pics of your newest little one when they pop up on Instagram. Congrats! And also, kudos to you for making your homeschool plans come true. I'm happy to help. I choose to use Singapore math because it teaches true math thinking. Rather than focusing on being able to solve traditional problems, Singapore is about full understanding (especially mental understanding) so that a child can apply what she is learning to NEW problems that she has never seen before. Along this line, Sing uses lots of word problems and harder word problems than other programs. It progresses faster than most other programs, so don't be alarmed if your child needs to be "behind" her grade. She won't actually be behind, since Singapore prepares kids for Algebra about 2 years earlier than typical, if you stick with the program. I recommend you give it a try and see if she can understand and struggle less. Even if she has to go at a slower pace, this is a quality program. It's worth it. If your child doesn't seem to "get" Singapore, then I would recommend Math-U-See. MUS is a more limited program, but it is better suited to children who need the basics to get by in school and life. MUS will do that for them (and does it well!) but it will not prepare a child for excellence in math (or math/science fields) in my opinion. With Singapore, do the basic workbook, plus one more book. For an advanced child, do Intensive Practice as the extra book. For a child that needs more repetition of the core material, choose Extra Practice. In this way, Singapore can be adapted to average vs. adventurous math students. Hope that helps!

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