Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I'm Using

Where two or more homeschooling mothers meet there shall always be the inevitable question...

So, what are you using?

Most moms ask the question in the name of research or out of curiosity while others ask it just to make conversation. However, there are the ladies who do it out of competition. You can tell there's a competitive edge to their question if they invade your personal space when they ask it.

I ran into an acquaintance at a homeschool convention a couple of years ago. She stopped me in the hotel corridor, got in my grill and asked me THE question. Technically I don't have a grill. Just your standard orthodontia. But if I had a grill she would've been all up in it. Okay, she was up in my orthodontia. Whatever she was up in, she was clearly unimpressed with my response because she asked, "Why would you do THAT???" PB's chin about hit the floor but he recovered, grabbed my elbow, told me we were late for dinner and hustled me to the elevator. I'm certain people outside the closed elevator doors could hear his, "Are you kidding me?!" No dear, I'm not kidding. Happens a lot.

And yet, I'm about to post about what I use. (Not to be mistaken with what I'm on. That would be Butterfingers minis.)

I'm a homeschool voyeur. I love to know what people are using because I'm a research addict so I love to hear what's working and not working for someone else. I love the information pipeline that's introduced me to some great tools and helped me avoid others. Also, my memory is shot to pieces and the blog seems like a great place to document what we're doing.

So here's what we're using and how it's going:
  • Bible: Grapevine Studies - This was one of my pipeline discoveries. I'd had the hardest time finding a study that worked for my crew and had looked at Grapevine Studies before. I just couldn't figure out how drawing a bunch of stick figures would be helpful. After listening to a friend's glowing review and looking at her copy I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. The kids and I are doing the survey of the Old Testament this year and we all love it. I've found that while Doc and Obi Wanda illustrate each passage they start to talk about what's happening and are much more engaged in the lesson. The curriculum has you put together notecards detailing each lesson so by the end of the year the kids will know the timeline of the Old Testament and facts about the main people and events. Above all, I love that each lesson ends with the same question: What does this tell us about God? Love it. Love it. Love it.
  • Math: Developmental Math for Obi Wanda and Math Mammoth for Doc - I went with Developmental Math for Obi Wanda because I wanted something that would introduce her to basic math concepts before moving onto Math Mammoth. Obi Wanda likes it and she's learning how to add so we'll stick with it until she finishes the book. I tried three other math curriculums before settling on Math Mammoth for Doc. Doc has responded well to the clear instructions and the book's approach to math seems to be tuned into his frequency.
  • Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears for Obi Wanda and copywork for Doc. I hate teaching handwriting. Hate it. It's not the curriculum's fault. I just hate it. I really do. I know moms outsource and use co-ops for subjects like math and science, but I would outsource handwriting in a heartbeat. Please someone, anyone, come and teach my children how to write a d. I'll pay you in cookies.
  • Reading: Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading for Obi Wanda along with various readers. Right now she's reading "Green Eggs and Ham" aloud. Doc is reading through various age appropriate books. Right now he's reading "The Sword in the Tree" by Clyde Robert Bulla. The thing that thrills me to no end is that Doc has discovered that he loves to read before bedtime. He began with the "Flat Stanley" books and now he's working through the "Magic Treehouse" series. The biggest struggle will be finding books at his reading level that are quality books and interesting to him. There's a lot of dumb books for young boys. I know there's a theory that it doesn't matter what he's reading just so long as he's reading, but it's not my theory. I want him to read good books. Got any book recommendations for a 2nd grade boy to read on his own?
  • Grammar/Writing: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind and Writing with Ease - both for Doc and both from Peace Hill Press. I got a late start on this last year so we're finishing up the first grade work, but will be moving onto second soon. I've been happy with both products as they take a gentle approach and build naturally. I liked the idea of narration and memorization but was intimidated by how to approach them. These products have taken away the guesswork and Doc has responded well to both.
  • Spelling: All About Spelling - Doc. I like it, Doc likes it and Doc is learning to spell. The curriculum offers plenty of review so those pesky spelling rules will stick. Doc's a hands on kid so he really like using the letter tiles on the magnetic board.
  • Vocabulary: Wordly Wise 3000 - Doc. We don't use this in its entirety. There's a portion of each lesson that requires reading story and then using the weekly vocabulary words to answer questions. Unfortunately a lot of the questions are "why" questions and the second grade mind just isn't ready to determine the motivation behind an event. (Or at least my second grader's mind isn't ready for that.) Beyond that, it works for us.
  • Literature: living books - all of us. So many books, so little time. Right now we're reading "Dangerous Journey" by Oliver Hunkin. It's "Pilgrim's Progress" adapted for kids and it's making me want to read the original. The kids are digging it also. The highlight of our year was listening to the complete "Chronicles of Narnia" as a family. I think we're going to have to do that on a regular basis as we all, even Obi Wanda, got quite attached to the Pevensie children and their friends. I'm itching to read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" as we head into December.
  • History: living books - all of us. This year we're studying American history and have been sitting in the Revolutionary War for a while. We've read a lot of biographies and used the "Felicity" books from the American Girl series and a whole bunch of other books from the library. There's an endless supply on the subject. We listened to "Johnny Tremain" on a long road trip, but ultimately that one was a bit over the kids' heads. We've also been watching the PBS series "Liberty's Kids" throughout our studies. I think we've been looking at the Revolution long enough though. I think it's time to win the war, get the government set up and head out west.
  • Science: Apologia's Zoology 1 - all of us. This week we talked about bat guano and next week we'll be looking at pterosaurs. I absolutely love this curriculum. The kids get excited about doing it and are retaining a lot of the information.
I think that covers everything. The kids have each chosen a subject they want to study on their own this year. Obi Wanda wants to learn about horses and Doc's studying cars. We read a biography of Henry Ford this morning and now he's working on an assembly line in his room.

We've had a good year this year despite the fact I continue to struggle to find a groove. I've resigned myself to the idea that said groove may not materialize until 2011. And now I'm going to get my Butterfingers hit.


A Complete Thought said...

Your turns o'phrase tickle me greatly. Up in my grill. LOL

Some boy books that my guys enjoyed in 2nd grade were the Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby books. Also Hank the Cowdog a big favorite, the Beverly Clearly's Ralph S. Mouse and all the way even to Ramona Beezus. They liked her writing so much they didn't care the book was mainly about a girl. The A-Z mysteries, some of the Boxcar Children's books and the Encyclopedia Brown series. Maybe there are a few more ideas for you there.

My guys read now at least an hour a day. We had to switch libraries in the last year because their complaint was that they had read "everything" in the branch we were going to.

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