a week of ticky boxes

We made it through the week and checked everything almost everything off the list!

Just that pesky unfilled triangle on the end there.

So I’ll read that tomorrow, that’s the next chapter of Hatchet, our book club book. The kids are really enjoying it. We read Minecraft: The Island last month, and it’s been fun to compare the two. Hatchet is written at a higher level than M:TI and Gloria was having a little trouble with the writing style more than anything. (Especially at the beginning, when Brian is feeling sorry for himself and furious with his mother. Later, after the plane crash, he gets less emo.) Anyway, that means I’m reading it aloud, and I missed today.

Gilbert is chugging along in American History, as am I! Abby had a headache for a few days, most likely allergy related, so she didn’t start yet. I want to make a timeline for the wall like we had when we did World History. It was fun to put the folks we learned about on the line. I’ve been jilted by the seller of the old Oak Meadow I bought, so I’m requesting eBay get involved. Bah. I know I can do this quite easily without a curriculum, so that’s what I’ll do. I asked the battle-scarred homeschool parents list I’m on for middle grade AmHist book recs, and man, did they deliver! Many that I knew and had planned but quite a few that I hadn’t thought of or didn’t know. I’m still planning that out.

Tomorrow is Batman Day at New World Comics, which is fun. A couple of the kids are sniffly, but I think it might be doable anyway. And now it’s bedtime, goodnight.

Self-led, but mother-pestered

I just joined a radical unschooling group. For those not in the know, unschooling is at its heart learner-led learning, uncoerced. Radical unschooling is life uncoerced, even for little kids.

We aren’t radical unschoolers. But we are unschoolers. I know that in a world without school my children would thrive and learn what they needed when the time was right. But I don’t live in that world so I encourage the kids to stay at grade level for math. They naturally stay at grade level or above for everything else without any input from me. The reason I don’t just let things be is I think it’s important to have that cushion in the event they do go to school. The kids agree with that logic and do the math uncomplainingly. (Well, generally uncomplainingly.) I don’t ask anything if them until they’re 10 or so, now. I tried when Faith and Abby were younger and it was so unpleasant. Waiting until double digits made it faster and easier, rather than teary. 

That said, some people would say that means I’m not an unschooler. But frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. 

So today, drum roll, we checked off all our stuff! Math, history and a read aloud. Boy, did we feel official checking off the things we usually do anyway, heh. Gilbert is the only one doing history right now, but Abby will start with us soon. I hope Faith wants to as well. And maybe, just maybe, one or both of them will try forging ahead with Saxon Algebra. 

Trixie mathed, but I don’t have social studies really going for her and Gloria yet. Last year we read Paddle to the Sea. This year it will be Western Civ, sorta. Greek culture and myths.

And we’re all reading Hatchet and comparing it to Minecraft the Island, which works well.

So if the rest of the year goes as well as these first few weeks we’re gold.

Some scribbles and commitments

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Plan, already edited since photo

I’m getting things together this year. I didn’t last year, because I was hugely pregnant with Perry and then dealing with a newborn with failure to thrive. I finally started actually encouraging schoolwork around March. They all did just fine anyway, of course. (The only thing they really need me to remind them to do is arithmetic, the study of which really does benefit from regular exposure.)

I’m going to have a sheet of paper each week with the bones of what we’ll be doing up where everyone can see. That was useful when Faith and Abby were my middle graders, so I think it will be the same for Gil, Trix and Glo. It’s fun to check things off!

I ended up getting an older used copy of Oak Meadow Year 5 for Gilbert for a song. He liked OM4 when we did it for a month or so, and would have liked to continue (but it was too much prep for me, with two babies at the time.) The Oak Meadow levels, especially in the older editions, don’t correspond to grades as much as ranges, so I doubt he’ll feel babied by Year 5 as a seventh grader. He really wanted American History, and that’s the middle grade year for it. He should be able to do most of it by himself with a little help from me.

Homeschool Connections are going to be where Faith and Abby are. We signed up for the unlimited recorded lectures, and I’m asking them to listen to the American History so Gilbert and I can discuss it with them.

Dorothy is so close to reading. I got her a Brain Quest Kindergarten workbook, just so she could have something, but honestly those things are so writing centered it’s mostly useless. I think actually Gloria nd Trixie will enjoy “teaching” her with it and that will be the value. In the meantime, the phonics section is okay and it has loads of stickers. As Dorothy’s fine motor skills progress she’ll be able to do more in the book, but right now she would be so frustrated and saddened to try and fail that I’m not even attempting it. It’s always been strange to me that the general approach to reading is to teach writing at the same time, when you needn’t. I got her a bunch of little wooden letters which we’ll Montessori it up with.

I think Trixie and Gloria will wander through ancient history and culture of Greece and Rome this year. That’s really great for all the subjects. And everyone will be doing nature study, and also whatever they want, because I’m really bad at interrupting them when they are doing something valuable to impose what I want them to do. But they like it, when I do. Amazing, they like my input and care, me being their mom.

Goodness what a meandering post.

Saxon skipping and further math musing

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Peregrine inspects Gilbert’s new math book

I don’t think any of these kids really need me to push them into academics. I make people learn to read and after that I tend to be hands off. However, we do go on high-tide runs a few times a year where we Do All The Structured Things! This is one of those times. Also, even though we live in no reporting or oversight Oklahoma, I do like to have things to show that are schooly for any nosy Nellies that I might need to appease. The State has an alarming history of overreach that seems to be getting worse. Even if the agency in question has no legal right to inquire into our particulars they won’t let that stop them. We were maliciously reported to DHS once, over ten years ago, and even though it was all shown to be ridiculous the worker led with, “Now, we know you homeschool, and that’s not necessarily against the law, but…”

So you’ll forgive me if I’m a bit skittish.

Gilbert is almost done with Saxon Math 5/4. If he were 10, I’d be hesitant to outright skip a book. But he’s 12, and I think he’ll do fine. He has aced 5/4, frankly, and I think 6/5 would bore him with the repetition. Looking at the placement test Saxon has on their site (which they say is not for current Saxon students, but they don’t say why) he will have no trouble going right into 7/6.

He’ll be done with 7/6 by next May. Then it gets a little confusing – which next, 8/7 or Algebra 1/2? I have spent quite some time trying to figure out what will come next, since we’re using older books. I still haven’t figured it out. But as Scarlett says, I won’t worry about that today. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. I am inclined to go to Algebra 1/2, third edition. This page has a great rundown of the difference between 8/7 and 1/2.

As for the other kids, hmm. Faith and Abby sort of want to know how to do algebra. And sort of don’t. So that means they don’t do anything. Fair enough. Bede does whatever he wants, math wise, like he does everything else. I honestly have no idea where he sits in terms of arithmetic knowledge, but I know he’s able to add, subtract, multiply and divide with no trouble, which he learned, somehow. So he’s good.

Trixie needs a bit of nudging. I was considering Life of Fred for her, and I may yet, but she’ll do very well with a more straightforward method too. She is the sort of person who gets ground down easily, so we’ll go slow. Any work done daily is more than none. I’m leaning towards Beast Academy for her.

Gloria will be working through Teaching Textbooks 3, the paper version only. Per my previous advice there is no emphasis on structure for her yet, at age 9. I just want her to be comfortable with the ideas. And Life of Fred too.

Dorothy gets continued number awareness and games. Clementine and Perry are below compulsory education age for another few years yet, so.

American History – this time, for sure!

I’m the star spangled mom with a plan

I’ve tried American History with the kids at least three times. We never get very far before rabbit-trailing into the high grasses. But this will be the year! I just know it! We’ll finally connect everything into one cohesive chronology. It will be done! I’m going to nudge Gilbert, Faith and Abby along with me by gum.

Gilbert will be reading

 Everything You Need To Ace American History In One Big Fat Notebook.

Faith and Abby will be reading

 America: The Last Best Hope.

I spent a good hour looking at other AmHist books but finally came back to these, because I already own them. I considered, and discarded, the following:

  • From Sea to Shining Sea. Pros: Well written, Catholic viewpoint. Cons: Too expensive, seems to meander a bit, only goes to mid 20th Century as far as I can tell.
  • Lands of Hope and Promise (same publisher as above.)  Pros: Really well written! Again, Catholic viewpoint. Same cons as above too, though this one goes a bit further chronologically.
  • Oak Meadow American History. This one I may come back to and get – it’s not a text, it’s a study guide or course outline of sorts. Sample pages here. Pro: I love Oak Meadow! Cons: My kids have mixed feelings about Oak Meadow. Also, expensive.
  • Various high school texts. Pros: Cheap, if buying used. Cons: Ugh, so hard to read with the flashy sidebars and tiny print! So boring! So oddly biased! So hand-hold-y but vague! Bleh.

Now, all that and let’s see how far we get. Maybe I’ll get the ALBH on audiobook. We’ll see.

Glee Homskool Plans for 2017-18

Books that didn’t quite work out

I keep planning and unplanning for the fall. This is the right time of year for me for that. My Facebook Memories are all shiny new plans that nearly all fell by the wayside. However, what has stuck is the following Good Advice From My Years of Miss-Steps and Faltering Forays.

1. For God’s sake, don’t start them young. “Better late than early!” is the motto to remember. The years that have worked for me all were with 11 year olds and up, roughly fifth grade if we’re thinking schoolishly. All other years and ages last at most 4 weeks before going down in flames. So that means I’m not doing anything whatsoever academically structured with anyone under age 10 this year. If Dorothy hasn’t learned to read by this time next year, and she wants to, I’ll teach her the same way I taught the rest of them. And that also means no formal nudges for Gloria. However, Trixie will be starting formal daily math (Life of Fred) and Gilbert will continue with Saxon 7/6. I also have a couple history and english studies I want to get to for Gil (and Abby, if she’s interested.)

2. If I don’t like it, and it requires me, we won’t do it. I have to enjoy it if I’m involved or I just won’t follow through. If the kid in question likes it enough to do it themselves, and asks me for assistance, that’s fine. But I can’t manage Oak Meadow Year 4, for example. A lot of this is alleviated by minding rule 1, above.

3. Be very cautious about combining ages/kids. I’ve had luck if they’re less than 2 years apart, but any more than that and it’s a no-go. This is especially relevant when working with kids on different sides of the adolescent divide. 9 and 6 might still be fine, but 12 and 9 are mostly incompatible. Also don’t try to make them share a text unless they are doing it on opposite days or will complete it before passing it on. Two kids and one book for weeks is the pits. That means I get two of everything, but that’s how it goes.

4. Over 16? Your education is almost entirely your own affair. I have very limited say in what the teens do. I will be pushing them to watch some video lectures in political science and philosophy because I think they’ll like them – and I’ll watch too. I’m also going to make them read and discuss a bunch of dystopic literature with me because dammit I want someone to read it with me, and I’m their mom, so they owe me. They both complain that they can’t do math beyond eighth grade arithmetic but then flop out after a week or two of attempting more. I blame the texts they’ve tried. Since Gil likes Saxon anyway, I’m going to be buying the next set for him. Maybe they’ll like it.

So, to sum up, nothing much until 5th grade and nothing much after 10th grade. The three youngest are wee. The middle kids are 4th grade, 6th grade, and 7th grade, by their ages. Bede is a freshman but entirely different and utterly unschooled. And the two oldests are a junior and a senior, respectively.

I’m keeping book logs for some of the kids this year because we are considering moving, so my Oklahoma “like, uh, whatever you do is fine” homeschool laws may be a thing of the past. You can follow along as we go, the links are in the header there.

homeschool plans of a sort

I have always considered our school year as starting the day after Labor Day. That’s next week, so I’ve been planning a bit.

Faith and Abby: Homeschool Connections history and political science courses. Very lowkey, we’ll be watching the prerecorded classes. They both enjoyed the workshop on political philosophy they took at ETUSC. This will be a new thing for us, so we’ll see how that goes.

Abby: Continuing math, in this case, Algebra. We stopped for a month or two, and will be switching to Saxon 3rd Ed from Jacobs.

Bede: My only utterly unschooled child, Bede will do whatever he will. Lots of Wikipedia, illustration and design work, some video production.

Gilbert: Saxon Math. He’s almost done with 5/4 and he’ll skip to 7/6 when he finishes. Possibly some history or science as well.

Trixie and Gloria: Life of Fred this year.

Dorothy, Clementine, Peregrine: Continue being cute.

math and games and book clubs

My phone died. I’m on Project Fi (which is okay) and Google is sending me a “new” phone. The dreaded Nexus 5X bootloop! I wonder how long the new phone will last.

It’s getting fall-y. We don’t have a set beginning or end to our school year but I usually start new things in September. I’m gearing up. Gilbert will be finishing his current math text, Saxon 5/4, in October. I don’t do it like they suggest. No tests, no extra worksheet problems. We don’t even do the Mental Math. Just the lessons. He’s done so well that I’m planning to skip a level and get him Saxon 7/6. I really think he’d be bored with 6/5. He tests into 7/6 with Saxon placement.

Gilbert and math is a good example of how we homeschool. We are unschoolers, but I still nudge the kids into academics. Gilbert wouldn’t have said to me “Mama, I want to learn how to do long division” ex nihilo. Instead, I waited until it became difficult for him to do things he wanted to do with cobbled together math. Then I suggested that he learn math systematically, and provided a text. He started in March and will be at least the same level as his age/grade peers by this time next year. They’ll have taken math for seven or eight grades though. Whereas he’ll have done it in eighteen months. Faith and Abby were similar.

OK, new day. This was in drafts and now it’s tomorrow.

Today Abby, Gilbert and Gloria are playing Timeline. They mixed all the sets up so they have death of James Dean, the invention of the compact disc, and Jamestown’s founding all in one game.

Next Tuesday I’m hosting a book club for the Edmond Secular Homeschool group! Middle grade. The kids will be discussing Minecraft: The Island. It was pretty good. I think we’ll play Minecraft card games and maybe even Minecraft. There are 3 people signed up to come.