Long Summer

March 1, 2012

Declaration of Independence from Public School

As a wrap-up for our study of the Declaration of Independence, I decided we should write our own declaration.  I used this website for some questions to ask the boys.   The three of us brainstormed the list of complaints together, and Orion and I did most of the ‘what are you going to do about it’ questions.

Then I sent all our notes and a link to the original text to Orion . ..and he put together the first paragraph and the list and sent it back to me!  I did cut the list slightly  (to make it fit on a page!) and I wrote the last paragraph.

We think it came out pretty well!  Click on the image to see it full size.

(image has been updated to remove 4 typos, 3/4/12)

October 16, 2011

Fall of 2011, home school status report!

Filed under: Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 9:52 pm

 This fall’s curriculum is going very well!

The only adjustment I’ve had to make so far was for Raven’s writing curriculum. Our schedule is VERY busy. Here, let me explain. 

Things we do outside of the house:

  • Monday: martial arts (including me!) from 12-1
  • Tuesday: Parent-taught science coop from 9:30 – 11:30; Orion choir from 3-4
  • Wednesday: martial arts 12-1, park day 3-4:30-ish
  • Thursday: Orion band from 11-12
  • Friday: every other week, home school video game club from 3:30-5:30

Subjects we are studying:

  • Joint History: We are reading about 2 chapters of Joy Hakim’s History of US, together, on the sofa. This is a 10 book series, and I hope to finish it in 2 years! This is supplemented with appropriate selections from Chester Comix, and occasionally other books or videos. We generally have the map of the US, a World History Atlas, or a blow-up globe with us (the dog is TERRIFIED of the globe). Oh, and I sometimes pull up Google earth on my iPad, too!
  • Orion:
  • Raven:
    • English: We are now using Language Smarts from the Critical Thinking Co. It’s a great fit because it is more like logic work based on language. The last thing we tried was Spectrum Writing workbook, which was a total failure. Before that we tried having him write to pen pals. Yeah, like pulling teeth. He is willing to do this one (so far, 2 weeks in), and I know he’s learning something. He is also reading for fun, finally! Mostly Garfield books, and some Stink books. Dad also continues to read to him at bedtime – this month its books in the Time Warp Trio series.
    • Math: We were lucky enough to get chosen to review a chapter from an upcoming math series. Raven LOVED the textbook, which is comic book style. He resisted the exercises at first, but was able to see for himself that doing the easier problems first helps him to do the harder problem. This was a major breakthrough for him! Now that we’ve completed the chapter, we are back to what we were doing over the summer. We are reading Murderous Maths books, and doing problems from Zaccarro’s Primary Challenge Math. When we first started this combo, he would only do the level 1 and 2 problems in the Challenge Math book, but now he’s doing level 3 and ‘Einstein level’ problems, mostly in his head, with only the occasional hint from me. We may continue on to the next level of Challenge Math, or we might try out Problemoids – in fact, the owner of a math website is trying to get us a free copy of that to evaluate as well!
    • Science: in the coop, we are using Real Science Odyssey Chemistry. Raven seems to think its ok, and I only have to teach every third week. He’s also reading a lot about the planets, which is still his biggest area of interest.

This schedule is exhausting for me, but the boys really like getting out of the house so much. The academics may be slightly on the light side, but my philosophy is to meet them where they are. I don’t want so much work that they get panicky or scream and cry or learn to hate school. I try to come up something they are interested in with just enough challenge, and a format that works for us all.

Year three of homeschooling feels good (most of the time!!)

March 11, 2010

I home school and I believe in evolution

Filed under: Curriculum,Evolution — by dbmamaz @ 11:05 am
Tags: , ,

The other day, a news article was published discussing the fact that the largest publishers of home school textbooks do not support evolution in their science books.   Of course, many home schoolers find this article to be a good excuse to get mad and argue about something.  But that’s not what I took away from the article.

Instead, it left me wanting to make sure that all secular home schoolers can find support and curriculum resources, and it especially left me wanting to find curriculum about evolution!  Which turned out to be harder than I thought.  It is really hard to find secular science curriculum, especially for the upper grades.  Many curriculum which appear to be secular are still created by creationists!

So what can we do, as home schoolers who believe in evolution?

Lets gather for support:  Here are some places I’ve found

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/secular_homeschoolers/ is a national (or really international) group for secular home schoolers.  It’s a great place to ask questions about curriculum and connect with people locally, as well.
  • http://www.secularhomeschool.com/ is an on-line community for secular home schoolers.  The site has been rather quiet recently, but the blog roll on the bottom of the page is a neat source
  • Support groups!  Ok, I havent really found what I think a ‘support group’ is supposed to be, but I have found support at local park days and through local electronic groups, and I describe them in my Park Day post

Curriculum Resources:

  • http://www.hsfreethinkers.com/curricula I havent seen anything else like this.  They have clear charts, by subject, of the bigger names in curriculum, and whether or not they are secular.  In order to keep this as valuable as possible, I wrote them notes about some of my favorites which they don’t include, such as Time4Learning and the Joy Hakim books
  • http://www.squidoo.com/chronologicalhistorystudies  This was a very exciting beginning, but the author hasn’t updated it in a long time.  She starts with the birth of the universe and ends around the death of the dinosaurs.  She lists some resources for teaching evolution, including these two:
    •  PBS’s evolution subject hub
    • Berkeley has a great evolution site – THIS links to the lessons index, but at the top of the page you can navigate around the site.
  •  http://www.intellegounitstudies.com/index.php/products.html  Their unit studies are secular, but I wrote them this week, asking about evolution specifically.  I was told that currently, the K-2 World History one discusses the evolution of humanoids, but from a history perspective.  They will be coming out with a K-2 unit including dinosaurs and evolution, and as they add grade levels to their core series, each level will have a unit which specifically addresses evolution
  • http://www.charliesplayhouse.com/childrens-books.php  At first, Charlie’s Playhouse, which advertises itself as a website of evolution toys, seemed mostly like a time line and some t-shirts.  I finally discovered their book list!  They have nearly 100 book,  targeted to ages fifteen or under and squarely focused on evolution or Darwin, and have a dozen starred as their top picks.

What else can we do to help home schoolers find great curriculum, especially about science and evolution?  Join my new Facebook group, I home school and I believe in evolution, and lets brainstorm!  And please leave any additional suggestions below, or on the face book page.

Note, I am not interested in controversy.  Any posts which I feel are controversial or insulting to anyone will be deleted.  Anyone making which I feel are derogatory towards me, my posts, my blog, or my group will be banned from making further posts.

EDITED 3/14/2010:  I have changed the name of the facebook group to “I home school and I teach the science of Evolution.”  Its still not perfect, but many people were uncomfortable with equating evolution with a belief system.

March 5, 2010

Khan Academy. No, it has nothing to do with Star Trek

Filed under: Curriculum — by dbmamaz @ 9:56 am
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My first curriculum review was of Discovery Streaming, which I love.  However, it has its limits.  The discovery streaming videos often go further towards making a subject fun, rather than making it clearer when you are stuck.  Not all of the videos will play on my son’s i-pod touch.  Plus, as we progress through our AP level biology text, I find that the Discovery Streaming academics are not quite as rigorous and detailed as we need.

But luckily, I found another option.  It’s FREE, it always plays on my son’s hand-held, it covers math from addition through calculus and beyond, it covers biology, chemistry and physics at the basic college level, and there’s even information about economics and the banking crisis.

This option is the Khan Academy.  Khan Academy is a HUGE collection of educational lecture videos created by Sal Khan.  He began this project as a way to tutor his younger cousins remotely, in their grade school math class.  The videos don’t show him, they show a virtual black board where he writes in multiple bright colors.  He speaks calmly and clearly over the videos, explaining things in a logical order. 

Mr Khan is very well qualified to be teaching.  His resume   includes a degree in math from MIT, an MBA from Harvard, and other degrees and relevant work experience.  Even more impressive, once this really caught on, he quit his lucrative career and started living off his savings, in order to build this full time.  (He is also looking for corporate sponsors.)

We have used a number of his videos.  I have used them to explain more complex concepts from our biology book, such as electron transport.  I encouraged my 13 yo to browse his algebra videos when he was feeling stuck on his algebra book.  In the end, we switched to Life of Fred pre-algebra and biology book – I know, it’s a strange combination, but happened to be a great fit for us!  My son got stuck on a section where the problems were all about balancing chemical equations.  I did one of the practice problems with him watching, and then he did it, and then he was able to do one problem.  The next week, he went in to a panic attack trying to do the next problem.  So I found a Khan Academy video on balancing equations.  My son watched the video – and got it!  He yelled from the other room “I got the problem right!”

The many thank you notes shown around the side of the video library page are amazing, and Mr Khan says that’s really what makes it all worth while for him – knowing that he’s helping people.

For a few interviews and a live presentation by Mr Khan, go here

And again, I am not getting any sort of payment or anything for my reviews, I just want to share what I’ve found.

February 5, 2010

Stumbling through science

Filed under: Curriculum,Learning moments — by dbmamaz @ 10:34 pm
Tags: , ,

I loved science when I was in school.  Mostly I loved chemistry.  Physics was ok.  Biology?  Not so much.  My big boy?  Biology all the way.

Luckily I havent managed to kill his love of the science yet. Even tho I cut the cork too thick and broke the dropper (ok, it was already broken, but I made it worse), and snapped at him for every single clumsy thing he did.

looking at cork

We are working through The Microscope Book. This day, we started with the three pieces of colored thread, to demonstrate the depth of field.  It was cool – even Raven looked at that one.  Then we attempted that cork in the picture, which was rather a failure.  But Orion wasnt ready to quit yet. Since I was prepping dinner anyways, we looked at an onion skin – woot!  Long, clearly visible cells!  We didn’t manage to see anything inside the cell wall, probably largely due to air bubbles under the cover.  But still, I apologized a few times and he seemed happy with the microscope lesson!

Not only that, but he still seems happy with Biology: Concepts & Connections  too.  I break it in to short segments for him and assign him videos to explain the concept. I seriously have trouble keeping my eyes on the page.

He says its fine. Go figure.

January 24, 2010

Discovery Streaming

Filed under: Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 12:06 am
Tags: ,

I guess as part of a home school blog, it makes sense to occasionally talk about the curriculum we use. Recently, I’ve been most excited about Discovery Streaming.

I was lucky to have a preview of the service when my 13 yo was still in public school, because my son had access to it on his school-issued lap top. He let his younger brother watch The Magic School Bus on it a few times. Towards the end of the school year, my son had a test on WWII coming up, and seemed to know very little. We went through the text-book together, and then I found a video on discovery streaming which covered the same material – it was a great review for my visual learner, and he got an A on the test.

When I saw that it was available through the Homeschool Coop, I was very interested. We don’t have cable, or tivo, or Netflix, so just having access to educational programming was a big thing. But its better than that – its educational programming thats indexed. You can search by subject to find a video to explains the same subject you just read about in a text-book. You can also browse by subject and age, to find things to supplement your curriculum with. There are even downloadable audio books, which I’ve burned to CDs to play in the car.

I am using our Discovery Streaming all the time. I give my 13 yo videos to watch with his biology readings 4 times a week.  We have also used it to supplement his social studies, and I’m about to start using some videos along with his math curriculum as well. My 6 yo still watches a lot of Magic School Bus (and I can’t complain too much), but we’ve also found a series of math videos he likes, and found videos about Martin Luther King jr, how your body reacts to being sick, the Wright brothers, and our weekly zoo animal studies.

The only thing missing for me is an easy way to hook this up to my television! They have the Connections series from PBS – I LOVE that one! And they have 2 Bill Nye series, a whole series about NASA at their 50th birthday, shows where they take things apart (so you don’t have to), an Alaska expedition, all sorts of serious edutainment! If you have a lap top, its easy to plug it in to your tv, but we still have to get that set up here.  Meanwhile, we all watch on our own computers – you can have it running different videos at the same time on different computers.

If you are interested, just check out the home school coop – its free to join. And no, I don’t have any sort of relationship with anyone and I’m not getting paid or freebies or anything – i just think it’s too cool not to rave about!

https://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org/discovery-education-streaming-plus/ — $140 for basic for a year, $199 for plus (which is what I have)

January 21, 2010

Is it balance, or attitude?

Filed under: bad days,Curriculum,Home School — by dbmamaz @ 2:51 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve been struggling over the past few days with . . . .something about my home schooling, but I wasnt sure what.

First I felt overwhelmed spending so much time putting together my 13 yo’s curriculum: read a college biology text and watching dozens of video clips to find the best match; research social studies topics; sit with him to do grammar together; not to mention the microscope labs we kept skipping because i hadn’t gotten the materials.

Then I thought it was a problem of balance: how much time I spend prepping curriculum for 13 ds, vs doing work with 13 ds, vs actually doing work w 6 ds, vs letting 6 ds ‘just play’ while I clean or work on blog entries or keep refreshing fb looking for something interesting.

So today, i’m thinking . . . it’s just attitude. You know, those ‘bad’ days where you feel hopeless and like you’ll never get through it or you’re doing it all wrong . .. but the day was truly no worse than any other day? It’s all in your head. Ok, maybe I have more of those because of my various issues.

But today, i’m a day ahead on biology (because ds 13 was too sick for school yesterday), and that felt good. note to self: go back to prepping a whole chapter at a time on the weekends

Today I ‘forced’ the kicking and screaming ds6 to do 10 minutes of the maps unit study with me, and watch a new math video on discovery streaming. and he loved them both. Note to self: just do it.

Balance, attitude, working hard but keeping my head above water. Yeah, i guess it’s all of that.

But i’d still love a good high school level science curriculum which is TOTALLY secular and also doesn’t require a computer with internet access. 🙂

January 10, 2010

Is this what homeschool success feels like?

Filed under: Curriculum,Inspiration — by dbmamaz @ 11:29 am
Tags: ,

Orion’s school year is really shaping up well.  Lets compare to last year:

Last year, in 7th grade, he was in mostly ‘collaborative’ classes, with some special ed students and some ‘regular’ students who just needed more help. The academics were never a challenge for him, so he was bored and often asked a lot of questions, which annoyed the teachers. Meltdowns, incidents, and tearful calls home were frequent. We upped his meds several times just trying to get him through school. By the end of the year, there were suspensions . .. mostly, imo, because the teachers couldn’t handle him. They constantly made his disability in to a discipline issue, and punished him for things he cannot control. What few friends he had eventually lost patience with him.

This year, home school – much better! So what are we doing? First of all, I make a schedule for the week which includes Orion’s assignments, lunch breaks and chores, plus appointments and classes for everyone. Then each morning, I give Orion a checklist which basically tells him what he should be doing all day – along the lines of: read sections x-y in science book and watch named video; set timer for 20 minutes; do math; watch 1 Khan Academy video; exercise and lunch . . . Orion gets agitated if he doesn’t have something to do, so this helps keep the day running smoothly. He has something to do just about every minute of the day until his electronics are allowed at 4:00.

Curriculum so far:

Science: He already finished a middle-school level science overview book which we both really enjoyed (i only read a few chapters, tho). Now we’re working slowly through an excellent biology textbook, generally used for high school ap or college non-major classes. I assign him about 15 minutes of reading each day, plus a discovery streaming clip to complement it. We’re both enjoying this, too!

“Lab”: Orion received a very nice microscope for Christmas and we are doing 2 labs/week from a wonderful microscope book.

Math: We started using ALEKs, which was great, but is no longer an option because he has destroyed another computer. LOF algebra 1 became too difficult when we got to word problems, so we bought the pre-algebra and biology book, and he’s been working independently again. He does 20 minutes of LOF every day, and then gets to choose any video from Khan Academy to watch. I asked him to stick w algebra videos, but the other day he told me he wanted to watch one about converting decimals to fractions, because he never really got that . . . great!

Social studies: he worked through a (low-level) unit study, and some printouts from the VA General Assembly website. Now he’s reading “ The United States Constitution, A Graphic Adaptation.” Its a really good book and he seems to be enjoying it.

English: he has a fiction book to read at all times, and reads at least 30 minutes daily. I tried adding in 2 MCT books, WWW and Magic Lens, but his writing was so bad, we went back to Paragraph Town. We are working through this together, and so far it seems like a really good thing!

Extra-curricular: he’s taken a drama class, a sewing class, and now he’s been whittling and asked a friend’s mom to teach him to knit.

Friends: doing pretty well. He has friends at both park days, and the other day we went to the north side park day, and he did a great job of playing w boys who were pretty physical – he said ‘ow’ a few times, but didn’t make a big deal out of it. . . . .and we had just lowered his meds 3 days earlier!!

Attitude: pretty great! Orion is STILL taking the daily school checklist I make for him and contentedly doing his work. He comes to me when he’s stuck, but is mostly independent, leaving me time to work w his brother and keep up w a few things around the house. Even my husband, who wasn’t so sure about homeschooling, told me after 2 months that this was clearly an improvement over last year.

Is this what home school success feels like? I sure hope so! Cuz it feels good!