Wednesday, June 29, 2005

summertime is planning time...

"I am so Bored"
The mantra of summer.
Or at least for the kids. Mom, however is neck deep in planning for next year's school. I am nearly done. Just waiting on a few books and science stuff to come in so I can finish up and take a break myself. I really have accomplished alot. I am especially proud of the unit study I designed for Superboy. It is science based and called "Night Owls." It is an in-depth study of the forest at night, with readings, lots of labs and activities-very hands on. We will be doing the usual owl-pellet dissection, but also collecting moths with a white sheet and light, using a Tullgren funnel for litter critters, and pitfall traps for wandering critters. We will be doing experiments on cricket chirps and Roly-poly (potato bug) behavior. We will buil an owl box and experiment with playing recordings of their calls to attract them. We will be journaling and notebooking and taking photos. I think it is going to be so much fun! Last night my husband looked at the stuff I was putting together and commented how he wished he had gotten this kind of encouragement towards science and nature growing up. Made me feel good about what I am doing for the kids, because I know that I DID get that from my mom and I credit her for nurturing my love of nature. I find her doing the same for her grandchildren, as well, and I like the support it gives.
Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

homeschooling high school

I have an amazing daughter. She is sweet, extremely smart, and motivated. She has the ability and potential to go anywhere. Really. And she wants to homeschool. So the pressure is really on Mom to do this right. The last thing I want is to mess this up.

Here's the plan (keep in mind I have yet to discuss this with modgirl):
She has already done 9th grade in public school, so I only have 3 years to deal with.
I figure the most important things to focus on are the things that will get her into the college of her choice, whatever that ends up being. Right now she says Duke. That may change, but it is good to have a goal to shoot for. Keeps you focused.

What are those things that will get her into a good college?
1. Excellent SAT or ACT scores, plus 3 really good SAT II's.
2. A rigorous course of study with a high GPA (currently hers is over a 4.0)
3. Excellent references.
4. A well-written entrance essay.
5. Something to set her apart from the crowd and make her application stand out.

So my thoughts are to focus on those subjects for which she will be tested (Lang arts, math up to trig, and whatever subject tests she decides to take (most likely biology, literature, and American History). Those we need to do in a very rigorous, systematic way.
We also need to do lots of writing with courses in both composition and creative writing.
We need to get in at least one more lab course, if not more. This is not a problem as our family loves science.
Test prep course.

The rest of her subjects we can do in more relaxed, non-traditional ways. I have found through my research lots of materials that would be excellent alternatives to textbooks. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that Chemistry COULD be a real hoot if we do it the way I have it envisioned. This goes for other subjects as well. Then the trick is just finding a way to document her learning. That shouldn't be too hard.

Great, you say, so whats the problem?
Well, here is where it gets a little weird. Modgirl is so totally entrenched in the public school way of doing things, that she really WANTS to do things in a traditional public school way (polar opposite of Superboy, who cringes at the sight of a workbook). When I suggested once that we didn't really need to do tests or grades, she flipped. She wants those nubers on her paper. Makes her feel good. It is a system that she knows well and has mastered. To step outside that system is to step outside her comfort zone.
I am going to have to take it slow with her. Perhaps over the summer she will relax a little and I can show her the benefits of using real books rather than textbooks. Perhaps I can ease her mind about grades. I dont know. But the truth is HER education and when we get right down to it, the decision is hers as to how it will be done. All I can do is offer up my humble opinion and then support her choices.
I look forward to seeing how all this plays out.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

midnight ramblings...

I have been in heavy reading and researching mode lately. ALOT. Mostly internet discussion boards and groups and blogs of other homeschoolers. I have been looking up books on Amazon and reading reviews and excerpts and ordering a few things (and wishing I had a coupla hundred more bucks to spend on books for the kiddos). From all of this I am evolving in my thinking about our homeschooling plan. Sure, I know, I posted awhile back that I kinda thought I had it all worked out, but that was then...I've learned so can't hold me to it!
I am leaning towards really relaxing our homeschool. Especially for Superboy. Not to the point of total unschooling, but to a point closely related to that. And I am not sure that relaxed is the proper term for it either. It's more like, "funschool"? Let me see if I can describe it.
I have the "Story of the World"(Vol 1 ancient times) on CD. I like the idea of Superboy listening to his history-more fun. Along with that I am supplementing alot of high interest books including non-fiction, historical fiction and literature of the time periods. We will cover alot of history but really delve deeply into Ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India, and Rome. We will dig a little less deeply into the ancient cultures of the Americas and Africa this year. I got a bunch of activity and art type-resources (we will definitely get crafty this year!) as well as finding plenty of internet sites to peruse. Plus I mentioned before we have a gorgeous timeline book to keep it all in perspective. So, history is really more project-based, I guess.
Ok, sounds fun so far.
Science. As soon as Superboy gets back from vacation (Man, I miss that kid!) I am going to ask him to choose about 6 areas of science that interest him and he would like to learn more about. Then I will set out to find hands-on ways to learn it, supplemented by library resources. They have many more science books than I could ever afford. We like to get huge stacks of them.I also think he might enjoy tagging along with Modgirl in her science studies, of course at his level. But we will be certain to do nature study this year. Despite my best intentions it got pushed by the wayside this past year and I cannot let that happen again. Especially considering the following quote:

(said while Superboy and Mom sit in lawn chairs drawing a tree stump)
Superboy: "Mom, this is what I love about homeschooling. I can just sit out here and enjoy this beautiful nature. I am so lucky."
Mom: "Yea, me too."
So, I could kick myself a million times for not making sure we set aside time for nature study. Rest assured it will be priority one from now on.

Math. Superboy's nemesis. Doesn't have to be this way. There is some math he loves-the Marcy Cook stuff. I need to stick with that. We will also be doing some reading about math. I got The Man who Counted and it is awesome. He will love it. Also Penrose the mathematical Cat, and The Number Devil. I think we will still do the DK math workbook to keep his skills sharp, but we will drop the other and just do more math games and problem solving. I have on my wish list(hint, hint...) some books by Marilyn Burns and others that should do the trick. Perhaps in 6th grade we will work in the Keys to fractions and Keys to decimals. They are so straightforward I think he will like them.

Language arts. This has been a tough (gut-wrenching, really) decision for me, but I think we will drop both the spelling and the grammar workbooks for next year. We will focus on writing and address spelling and grammar within that context as it comes up. We will write from the content areas and in response to his literature selections. Every writing assignmet that he has enjoyed has been done this way. If it works, why not use it. I intend to make use of the Bravewriter website, list and tips for writing as well. I'd love to have the book, The Writer's Jungle, but I can't handle the $70.00 tag right now.

Geography and map skills we are keeping as is. He likes them so...

In conclusion, I want to share what I wrote and taped to my computer monitor as my mantra for the upcoming school year.
"Hands-On", or Hands Off!

I will save my ramblings regarding plans for Modgirl's education for my next post.