Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beginning Narration with Aesop's Fables

If you've been involved in the homeschooling movement for any amount of time I am sure you've learned about the idea of narration as a teaching tool or should I say a learning tool.

I don't want to go into a whole description of narration today. That could be an article all by itself. Simply stated  oral narration is just saying back what someone else just read to you or you read yourself. Oral narration can be utilized in children ages 5 and up but starting in 1st grade is best.

This fall quarter, I decided to start my 1st grade son in some narration by reading Aesop's Fables. I would read at least one story to him a day. At least 2 or three times a week, I would ask him to tell the story back to me and I would write it out in a notebook for him. I got one of those primary journal notebooks that has lines on the bottom half of the page and blank space on the top half. That way we could record his narration and he could then draw a picture of the story. Occasionally, I would just ask him what is something we learned from this story and I would write in on the white board and he would record the moral of the story in his notebook in his own handwriting.

We finished our book of Aesop and now have several pages of narration recorded. It is a step toward learning to narrate which is a terrific skill to learn as your children devlop. Teaching this skill at age 5-7 is much easier than even 10-12. Aesop's Fables are quite short and simple stories making them simple for your early narrating student to learn these important narration skills.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Teaching Writing with The Hobbit

I know the idea isn't novel (Ha!) but yes I am teaching writing while using the Tolkein novel, The Hobbit. My 7th grade son really does enjoy Lord of the Rings. The movies and the online game. He's never read any of the books because I just didn't think he was ready for them. Well, this year in planning his curriculum I thought reading the Hobbit would be a great way to start his junior high study of Literature.

My son does enjoy reading. He loves to orally retell things he reads and watches, but when it comes to writing it down it's like pulling out hairs. In fact I've had suspicions that he might even have some kind of non-verbal learning disability.

In preparing this unit on the Hobbit, I thought it would be great to learn the hero's journey. My son has taken well to that and has easily made comparisons to other books and movies as they progress through the hero's journey. I also have included in our study that he keep a Hobbit Journal as though he is Bilbo. So after reading each chapter he sits down at his computer and adds to his Hobbit Journal writing in first person of what has happened to him. I thought he'd hate it. I figured he'd despise reading the book even because that meant he'd have to write.

Well, thank God I was wrong. He's been loving this one hundred percent. And the writing pieces he's been creating have been outstanding. Exactly at grade level when previously his writing has been much below grade level. It just goes to show that when a student is excited about an assignment that they do so much better. This has also shown me that he can write and do it well.

He is keeping track of the hero's journey as he progresses through The Hobbit and he's been keeping notes on specifics in the book for each part of the journey. He will be writing a short paper in comparing the hero's journey in The Hobbit.

We have been having a terrific time reading this book and delving deeper into writing. I look forward to more literature this year as we continue through the seventh grade.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Analytical Grammar: Curriculum Review

Whenever I hear about a new curriculum that sounds interesting, I go ahead and check it out. I was on a homeschool curriculum review yahoo group when I first heard about Analytical Grammar. I went ahead and visited their website. First of all I have to say that they have a terrific website and I encourage everyone to stop over there. It is comprehensive and informative. They have some excellent videos which explain their program extensively. Be sure to take the time to view those. The Analytical Grammar curriculum is meant for grades 6 and up.

The program was written by an experienced English teacher who created the curriculum while still teaching. She adjusted the course over the years as she experimented with her students. It is a well tested program, you can't deny that.

The idea of this program is that grammar is not a subject which needs to be taught every day and every week of the school year. It is knowledge that can be learned and then you can move on and use that information in your writing. They have broken down the grammar instruction into three seasons. It can be taught over three years, two years or even one year as necessary. Year One takes ten weeks, Year Two takes seven weeks and Year Three takes seventeen weeks. To learn more specifics of the program visit their website. It is on the pricey side as it cost nearly $100. That includes the teacher and student binders. The good news is that you can use it for the next three years.

As I learned more and more about this program, it looked like a perfect fit for my upcoming seventh grade student. He has always been a good grammar student, grasping grammatical concepts as early as 2nd grade that I wished many of my eighth grade students had so easily understood. In the 5th grade, we used EASY GRAMMAR and had an intensive year of grammar. He did terrific and it gave him a strong background in grammar. In the 6th grade, we focused a great deal on his special needs in math. Therefore, grammar took a backseat. I felt that we had covered so much the previous year that we should place our attention on the subject needing it.

Before purchasing the program, I contacted the company. I discovered that they were local to where I lived and I wondered if I could purchase the materials from them directly and avoid the shipping costs. They were great in responding to my question and even sent me to a local retailer where I could buy it.

The Fall came and I started my son in Analytical Grammar with much excitement, but after that very first day I felt disappointed . Not so much in the curriculum as in my son. He seemed to have forgotten so much of what we had previously learned and I couldn't understand why. After a week I decided maybe he just needed to review some things. I took out the 5th grade Easy Grammar book and reviewed prepositions. He did super! We went back to AG for another week. He did better but I still felt he was struggling with the material. And I realized why.

The material and the idea of the program is great. I don't doubt that when we come back to it that my son will thrive. AND WE WILL COME BACK TO IT. But at this time, it has just been a little confusing to him. The reason is because the sentences used from the very first lesson are very complicated. They use phrases, clauses, infinitives and so on. Usually when you begin a study in the parts of speech the sentences gradually become more and more complex as the student progresses. I know this because I taught 8th grade English in the traditional classroom.

If your student has a thorough grasp of grammar--parts of speech, phrases and clauses--then he or she will do well with the program. If, however, your student is shaky in grammar or needs a good review, it might be better to start with something simpler. I am currently using the 8th grade Abeka book with my 7th grader and he's doing terrific. I hope that at the semester or next year that we can switch back to the AG. I do belive it has merit in the idea behind it. I probably would have started with simplier sentences in the beginning myself, but I am sure they have their reasons behind why it was designed that way. Next year I hope to review this program again having gained more experience with it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Learning with BBC Sherlock

Coming home from church last night, I knew I wanted to make it in time to watch Mystery Classic on PBS. They were airing the first (Study in Pink) in a series of three movies from BBC's Sherlock staring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. In this incarnation of Holmes, the plot takes place in the 21st century. Same Holmes, same type of fascinating cases and the same consulting detective exploits of observation and deduction.

What does all this have to do with homeschooling and learning? Well, the last couple weeks we've been studying the hero's journey and also certain literary terms. For example, hero, protagonist, antagonist, villain, etc...

While watching this program with my 7th grade son, the conversation began concerning who was the hero vs protagonist of the story. He said it seemed  to be that Watson was the protagonist since the story followed him but of course Holmes is the hero. I have to say that I agree. It was great to see that he made a connection between what we've been learning in school with a story outside of the classroom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Socialization & Burning Out

When the topic of homeschooling comes up amongst those who have very little experience and knowledge of the homeschool movement, the issue of socialization will inevitably come up. WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION??

I'll be honest that in the years that I've homeschooled I have not incorporated enough social activities. That's not from lack of opportunity but from motivation on my part. Since moving to North Carolina, I became a published author and things got busy and crazy at my house. Is that an excuse--well, sort of. So, this year I decided to rectify that situation.

I signed up for several activities for both of my children. Field trips, park days, skating, bowling, etc...My oldest is taking band. The youngest is in Cub scouts. Then there is church. We had it covered. We were socializing!

The problem was we were socializing too much. By the weekend, I was burned out and I had schoolwork to look over and file. I had new lesson plans to write out and supplies to buy. When did I have time to breathe--let alone write?

Socialization is never a problem when homeschooling. The real problem is picking just a few activities and sticking to it. What I did is give each of my boys one long term activity that takes place weekly and then the occasional activity only one a week or every other week. It's enough to keep them involved without burning out.

When the socialization question comes up--remember to think about who you want socializing your children. Is it really important to have peers socialize your child? Just how long will your child be a child and an adolescent? And how long will he be an adult? Having your children learn to interact with kids and adults of all ages is much better for them in the long run. Gaining the ability to converse and interact with adults will prepare them more for life. And that's really what we are trying to do here--Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go...Prov. 22:6

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Comeback of the One-Room schoolhouse


As another summer comes to an end and fall lingers just around the corner, all teachers both at home or in the traditional classroom are faced with the daunting task of going back to school. This year our homeschool like many others had reached a point of growth when I had more than one child needing my attention. And the question I asked myself, as so many others have asked, ‘How can I do this?’
            I spent months during the previous spring reading and researching on the topic, and I kept coming back to the same idea whether from talking to fellow homeschoolers, or reading articles and books on the subject—The One-Room Schoolhouse.
Really there is nothing cutting edge about this idea. It’s as old as American education—next to homeschooling that is. I just had to figure out a way to format my homeschool into the old fashioned one-roomed school house. Over a hundred and fifty years ago, the common method of schooling took place in a one-roomed schoolhouse. President Herbert Hoover, Alan B. Shepherd the first American in space and even Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales were all educated in a one-roomed school house. Obviously, they went on to achieve much. The practice must have its merits.
The main tenant of the one-room school house is to have all your children in one place and educate them all at once. That means you can schedule certain subjects like Bible, History, Science and even handwriting together. Then you schedule other subjects separately but in a way that keeps everyone busy. For instance, my oldest son does math on his own using a DVD system. While he’s busy with that, I teach my younger son phonics and reading. When I’m holding spelling lessons with one, the younger one is looking at a library book on his desk or using the chalkboard to phonetically spell words he’d read that week in his reading book.
For me, the main problem with teaching two children simultaneously is that my sons are six years apart. How do you teach a first grader at the same time as a seventh grader? The answer—careful planning. Luckily for me, middle school is my forte. I taught it for several years before deciding to stay home and homeschool my own kids. Six years later, here I am teaching my own son those same history lessons.
Many homeschooling families have come up against this dilemma—how do I homeschool multiple children?  In fact, most of the families I’ve interacted with have three, six, nine children at home. What many of them end up doing is combining subjects and grades as much as they can and just adjusting the work for each level. They have older ones working with the younger ones. This not only frees you up to work with other children, but it also ensures that your older child really does understand the information as well as instructs your younger child. It’s a win-win.
If you’ve found that you are running around the house from child to child and are exhausted at the end of the day, the kids hate school and are working far too many hours the answer might be to set up your own one-roomed school house. In the end I found my kids loved it, I loved it and God is blessing our school.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sick Days ~ Flexibility

Well, we started our new school year very well and had a phenomenal first week. My 7th grade son was actually sick with a sore throat when we started, but I knew we had to get going. He ended up handling it well. The problem was that as we started our second week that I'd caught his sickness. I probably should have taken it slow and rested. It's my school after all, I can have a sick day if I want to. But I couldn't do that. It's only the 2nd week. There is no time for sick days!

I toughed it out and by Thursday I felt miserable. I gave the boys Friday off from school and made an appointment to see the doctor. That's when I found out I had a touch of bronchitis. No wonder I felt so terrible. I've been on antibiotics for about 20 hours now and feeling improved. Today I did nothing but sleep and rest. Hope I can get some lesson planning done tomorrow. We have to have school on Monday, right??

The thing with homeschooling is that the world is your oyster. Whatever you want to do, you can within means. I'd decided at the beginning of the year that my mantra would be 'FLEXIBILITY.' You see, I came into this homeschooling thing from the viewpoint of a traditional school teacher. It's taken me time, but I now see our time educating as different from just school at home. It's a whole different kind of learning and teaching style. It's a philosophy of how you view schooling and learning. Sometimes my training of the past, rears it's ugly head and gets me into a whole lot of trouble. Flexibility is a grand idea, isn't it? I need to infuse our school with flexibility so that we have a fun time learning but that learning still takes place.

Next week, we will have school, but I won't be so worried about my schedule and if we get everything done that I planned. Learning at home is a way of life. As we live, breathe, read a book, add numbers, write our names, bake a cake and wash clothes--we are learning.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How I Became a Homeschooler

When I was a little girl I said I wanted to be a teacher ‘just like mommy.’ As I grew older the desire to teach increased. In my teen years, I planned to get my PhD in history and teach college level and write fiction on the side.

To be honest, my reality came very close to that dream. I'm now a published author, I gained my degree in history and I started teaching middle school shortly after college. Several years later, I had a son in kindergarten, I was teaching 8th grade at a large Christian school and I was pregnant with son #2.

I faced a dilemma at the end of that year. Should I go back to work and put my baby in childcare or stay home? Well, to be honest, the decision was an easy one. My older son had struggled in kindergarten--not academically--but socially and emotionally. He needed a break and more one on one time. Besides, I really didn't want to send my baby off to be raised by someone else.

So I decided to try homeschooling for a year. My mom, who was also a teacher, had stayed home with my brothers and sisters for one year and did the homeschooling thing. I could do it too. 

That first year, I learned a lot about homeschooling and even teaching. At the end of the year, we decided to homeschool again for ONE MORE YEAR. We did that for four years. Finally in year five, I realized we were probably going to be doing this for awhile. In fact, my oldest son told me last year in sixth grade that he wanted to do this all the way through high school. So I went to a seminar for homeschooling in high school and read some books. We are in it for the long haul now.

Last fall, my baby boy started kindergarten and that meant teaching two kids. I just keep learning, changing and adjusting. It's been a great six years. Son #1 is halfway through to graduation. I can't wait.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Week

Believe it or not summer is over and it's time to get back into the swing of school. We actually started school last week and I have it say it was the best first day and first week we have had in six years as we start this seventh year of homeschooling.

Both my children were dreading school...well maybe thats too harsh a take on thier impression. Needless to say, they were not looking forward to the first day. I asked them both (at 12 and 6 years old) to try to have a more positive attitude as we moved into our school year. The 12 y/o said he would try and I knew the 6 y/o would follow his lead. Well, lo and behold we had a great day, the new schedule worked beautifully and three days later the 6 y/o told me he liked school. Wow! I was just blown away. This was the same kid that ran away and hid whenever I even mentioned school to him. Praise the Lord! We had a blessed week and I am looking forward to another great year learning at home.

By the way, the 7th grader told me by the middle of the week--"If this the way school is going to be all year, I can handle it." Now that's positive feedback.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First Day on the Blog

Although this is not my first day homeschooling, this is my first homeschooling blog. I hope to record my experiences and keep track of where I am with this blog. This is my 7th year of homeschooling. (Prior to being a homeschooling mom, I taught middle school .) I have a 7th grader and a 1st grader. So this year I am not only teaching the oldest but the young one too. Like every year, I am trying new things, new curriculums, new schedules. Hopefully we'll hit a winner one day. :)