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Thursday, November 18, 2010

K12: Final

Well, it is done.  After several letters plastered with warnings, I decided to break the news to the teachers that this was just not working out for our family.  The children have lost initiative and I have lost desire.  I knew (and so did you) that we were wrapping things up with K12, but I have been trying to keep using some of the curriculum.

I sent emails to the teachers and went online to try to buy the books that we loved--and will have to send back.  Once again, the hope of getting some of the benefits of public school has wavered.  I guess if you don't jump through the hoops, you don't get the doggy treat.  Oh, well.  I'll remind myself that my tax money is going to educate children whose parents can't (or don't) choose to teach primarily at home.

It could be worse, right?

I'm pulling out my Thomas Jefferson Education book and reminding myself of the good that I've seen in my home over the past seven years--without the dollars/books/darling bulletin boards of the public school.

It feels good to come back to myself.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Photo History

We were studying history and began talking about the evolution of photography; specifically, it's place in historical record-keeping.  We looked at the first deguerreotypes and photos of stiff people--stiff because they had to hold perfectly still for the twenty minute exposure.  We watched the pictures change with the clothing and height of the buildings.  We saw the quality improve to the point of photographers capturing fast-moving battle scenes and tennis players.  We saw moments in time during the Civil War, World Expos, day-in-the-life of average people and more.  It was fun and interesting to a group of people who are so used to the commonness of pictures.  We are even spoiled to the point of knowing almost instantly whether we captured the desired shot.

I made an assignment to the children.  I asked them to take five photographs.  These five should be things that help define their lives in November 2010.  Anyone should be able to get a glimpse of their lives just by looking at the shots they choose.  They then learned how to edit the pictures and make a simple collage from my photo editing software.  The result is almost like a time capsule.  It was interesting to me to see what they think defines them right now.  

Here are their results, created, edited and captioned entirely on their own.

 (Daughter, age 9)

(Son, age 11)

What would your collage look like?  What would your children's show?  Are you sure?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time Lines

I love history.  It is my favorite subject because it encompasses nearly all others.  One of the most effective ways of cementing historical people and events in the mind of a learner is through the use of a time line.

For example, we are studying the decade of the 1880's.  (Because history rarely defines itself in neat, ten year increments, I added five years to the front and back of that decade.  It gives us a little more wiggle room.)  Our family knows the Little House on the Prairie stories.  If they know that Laura was a child when the Kodak camera was invented, when Garfield was assassinated, and when Krakatoga blew creating a tsunami that killed over 36,000 people, then those seemingly random events gain meaning.  When we study Edison and Bell with a time line, we can see that they were contemporaries, but they were twenty years away from the Wright brother's feats.  And knowing that Mark Twain was writing about Jim it was only a dozen or so years after the Civil War, clarifies the racial prejudice outlined in Tom Sawyer.

If your house is like mine, you already have maps and letters and bookshelves filling up your walls.  Where do you put a time line?  Especially one that includes world and US history, literature, science and inventions, math and anything else that you could want to place.  Here is one idea for you.

I took a roll of simple ticker tape

and drew lines the thickness of my ruler.

The children folded the ticker tape on the lines, accordion style, and wrote the year on the line.

Folded, it only takes up a small space.

Once it's unfolded, you can see history happening.  This is a newly made timeline, so we only have a couple of events, but we plan to fill it over the next few weeks.

Using different colors for different topics (Blue = US history, Green = Inventions, Orange = World History, Math = Purple, etc.).  As we study a topic, we put it on our timeline.  Today we studied decimals and the base ten Metric System (LeGrange lived during this time).  By relating decimals to the invention of Coca-Cola to Nellie Oleson, memory connections are sure to be stronger than if we had just learned how to figure decimals.

Try using this small time line tool to make history come alive in your home school.

By the way, this is a great resource for creating your curriculum based on a time line.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Your Own Curriculum

Now that I'm back to writing and compiling my own curriculum for the pods, I thought I would let you in on the process.  How does one create a curriculum?  Here's how I do it.

Make a plan. Sit down by yourself and write what you would most like your children to know. Then, consult with your husband about things that are really important to him. After you have come up with those things that, as parents, you feel are most vital, sit down with each child individually. Ask them what they would like to learn. Kindly explain the things that YOU, his parents, feel are the most important. Make exchanges, "We will learn more about dinosaurs and airplanes because that is important to you. Would you be willing to learn some things that Dad and I feel are really important (like penmanship or spelling or math)?" Usually, when they are given the option to be involved in the planning, they are more willing to give and take.

Then, I take these interviews and we make a list. At some times and with some kids it is easy to compile a list of goals. At other times, we have to struggle together to decide on a direction. We make quarterly goals and try to cover many areas. A list may look like this:

  • Learn to write my name and the names of everyone in the family
  • Master the letter sounds
  • Learn more about dinosaurs
  • Go on a field trip to find fossils (or go to a museum to see some)
  • Memorize five scriptures
  • Clean my room every morning before breakfast
  • Learn the names of all the continents, major oceans and hemispheres
  • Count by two's to twenty

or something. I just made that up, but could be about right for a kindergartener. If we get stuck, I might say, "We have reading, writing, scriptures, helping around the house . . . what about learning some things in the kitchen?" To which you and the child can come up with a plan to learn some things in the kitchen.

  • Learn to make toast, crack eggs and do simple kitchen measurements (one cup, one teaspoon)

"You know, we don't have anything on here for exercise. What kind of exercise goal would you like to make to keep your body healthy?"

  • Ride my bike every day for at least one hour

And so on until you both feel like you have a well-rounded, interesting outline for the next three or four months. You can then create that curriculum based upon the list you compiled together. You won't need to force because he had a hand in choosing what would be studied. If he decides after one month that he's had enough of dinosaurs, change it up. Do not force yourselves to be bound by this list. It is only a guide.

How do you do this with more than one kid? Well, you make a list like this for each child. You do the things that are important to him, but you will find the lists meld quite easily. It is fun to change up the lessons to make them harder for the older child and easier for the younger. If you are learning about reading a thermometer, you might just teach the younger child how to read the mercury. He will lose interest and run off and you can teach the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, where those names were derived, do labs and measure cold water, hot water, boiling water, cooking candy, the freezer, etc. You can do the math and figure out how to figure the C if you only have the degree in F. See how this becomes fun family time? Also, you don't really understand something until you are able to teach it. That goes for the kids, too. If your older child can teach something to the younger, he really understands it--and it cements itself in his memory better than if he had just done a worksheet on the topic.

Finally, be an interesting teacher by teaching things that are interesting to you.  Make sure that you get your own study time in. It is HARD to find that time for yourself, but it is most vital. I have friends who do this and friends who don't and you can tell, really tell, in the education of their children. I think it is mostly due to example and to the fact that you are loving your own learning. It makes you excited to teach them what you are learning. And an excited, passionate teacher is contagious to their students.

You can do it!  After having done it for six years and then letting someone else do it for two months, I will never go back.  A personalized approach is, I think, the most effective way to learn.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

K12: Going Back

This morning as I was getting things ready for the kids's K12 curriculum, I said, "I hate this."  I decided then and there to leave the Virtual Academy.  I know, you could see that from the beginning.  I could too, but I was hoping to make it jive with what we already had going.

I hated having to do it their way.  I hated having to answer to someone ALL OF THE TIME.  I hated having to push the kids to do work for which they had no passion.  (I'm not about to argue that you have to study only things that you want to study, but I think it is fruitless to study only things in which you aren't interested.)  I long for the freedoms we had before.  If my son reads something about immigration and finds it interested, I hated having to tell him to stop looking into that and go on to the next chapter.  Silly.

I sat down with the boy and explained my feelings.  He told me that he likes being busy.  He says he is more responsible with other things when he has a full load.  I agree, but I don't want him busy just for busy's sake.  I want him busy because he loves what he is learning.

A misconception I had from the beginning about K12 was that it would be easier on me because I didn't have to create the curriculum every day.  I found that I was just as busy, if not more so, trying to keep up with checking all of their boxes.  It was so frustrating to think we had had a great school day to go online and spend an hour, literally checking boxes.  I would rather have spent that hour learning and preparing to teach.

So, we're throwing in the towel.  I'm going to keep using the parts of the K12 curriculum that I like as long as I can--until they demand I send it back.  It is the first time I've ever been able to take advantage of my contribution to public school's tax revenue.

Can I just tell you how much relief I feel?  As I write this, I have my Pandora's Dance station playing.  The kids are dancing behind me and I'm going to join them as soon as I hit "publish."  You know it wasn't a good fit when we have a party after making the decision to end it.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

K12: 8

Last week, I felt we were doing pretty well with school.  My pods were zooming through assignments and were catching up to where they are supposed to be.  I was beginning to think maybe we were figuring this thing out. . .

when I got two emails from two different teachers.  Both were concerned with the progress my children have been making.  They threatened to send "letters."  Having never had students in public school, I'm not sure what that means, but it sounded shameful.

Here's the thing:  I am pretty happy with the curriculum.  Most of the things my children are learning are things I am happy for them to learn.  I don't agree with the amount of work, the amount of sit-at-the-table kind of work and the regimented style, so I suppose I have been rather non-compliant.  If I had money, I would buy the curriculum without being a part of the school.  Alas, I have non.

I'm going to keep going as I like and just wait for the "letters" and whatever that implies.  When they say, "You are shaming the whole school by your lack of dedication to the public school way of life," I suppose I will leave.

Oh, well.  It was a good experiment.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

K12: 7

After so much frustration and anger vented here about K12, I could only be fair and write about when things go well.

Today was one such day.  We are still way behind, I am still struggling with a lot of issues and my laundry pile is, once again, enormous, but today was better.  Assignments seemed to come one after the other.  We broke for lunch, but I was able to corral them together again to finish things up.  The fourth and sixth graders are not done, but I'm pretty sure they will be soon.  (Cross fingers vigorously.)  I did have a mini-meltdown this morning, but recovered quickly and persevered.

One of the things I really like about K12 is the boy's math (the younger grades' math is lacking, but not severely, at this point).  He is in sixth grade and working a pre-algebra book.  I am pleased with the rhythm of the program and they seem to have him do just enough practice problems.  Some of the math programs try to make the kids crazy with doing thirty problems when they have mastered it after completing ten.  I know different kids learn at different rates and I have, on occasion, had him do more or less than assigned.

Can you handle one more positive thing?  The first grader FINALLY had some independent work.  There was a history lesson that had an online, read-aloud story.  I put on her headphones and she was able to work without me.  What a nice twenty minutes.  We could use some more of that.

Looks like I must lash the whip to get the hated grammar finished.


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