Monday, September 30, 2013

Reece, the chemist?

I don't have much time or I'd do a huge blog post about this day, but I have to take the girls to dance in a little less than an hour, so you'll have to be satisfied with a simple picture!

Today Reece took her first "homeschool class" - a one day seminar about chemistry! This class was taught by students at Georgia State. Reece not only participated by answering questions (raising her hand and waiting to be called on) but she also got chosen to come up to help with an experiment (by answering this question correctly: "What can be said about a gas regarding its shape and size?" )

Chemistry Girl!
More to come either tonight or tomorrow!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Somewhat of a rant

This has been bugging me for a couple of weeks now and I decided I would take a little bit of time to blog about it. It may seem like a rant, so feel free to skip if you're not in the mood for a rant.

You may remember that Austin got his driver's license a couple of weeks ago. For the record, I am finally calming down a little bit when he is gone. I no longer stand by the window or pace around outside. He texts when he gets to his destination and when he is leaving to come home, so I can pretty much determine when to expect him (Side note: how did anyone let their teens drive before cell phones and/or texting?????). He has driven in the dark and he has driven in the rain. He hasn't gone very far from home yet, and that's all right by me. But he goes where he needs to and that's convenient. He hasn't driven his sisters anywhere alone. Not sure when I'll be OK with that! LOL

OK, so back to the point of the story. I called the insurance company the day he got his license to add him to our policy. The agent asked if he had Driver's Ed, which he does, and that saves some money. Then she asked if he has a B average to qualify for the Good Student discount. He does not. She said, "Well, tell him to work hard and pull up those grades so he can get the discount. It is significant." I muttered something about him being a hard worker, and we talked about something else for a minute.

THEN she went BACK to the Good Student Discount thing and told me exactly how much the policy would go down if he had the discount. And said something AGAIN about telling him to "work harder"!

I didn't say anything at the time, but I was LIVID. Why is it the assumption that a child who doesn't have a B average doesn't work hard? Austin works VERY hard. He still doesn't have a B average.

Then this past Monday we went to a new neurologist, a regular one, not a pediatric one. We liked him well enough, but he asked me what Austin's GPA is. WHY? Did he not look at the report I just gave him that indicated that he has a diagnosed Cognitive Disorder?? Is it not enough to say he works hard but struggles??

Why is there such a focus on academics in our culture? Why is that the ONLY way we value someone? Is there not a "Good Citizen" discount? Austin is volunteering his time to coach younger boys this season, paying back for all the time that people invested in him when he was a young baseball player. Today he babysat his sister, supervised her school work, and made her lunch so I could volunteer where his other sister takes classes. He is a nice kid, works hard, doesn't give up, and has battled so many trials in his young life. But that doesn't count.

And you know what? I'm a homeschool mom. I could GIVE him Bs if I wanted to. I could GIVE him As if I wanted to. But he and I want his grades to be an accurate reflection of his abilities. He's not stupid. He knows he doesn't get As (except from his drum teacher who is in charge of assigning that grade). We are not into grade inflation at the Black Pearl Academy.

OK, I'm done ranting. I think. I may come back to this later. :)

I'm curious - if you're a teacher (homeschool, private, public), what makes a "Good Student" to you??

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I can't believe I missed it!!!

I had been really looking forward to writing my 1200th post! It was going to be mind-blowing and deep and meaningful. You were going to laugh, cry, smile, frown - and it was going to go viral in its awesomeness.

And then I forgot.

Turns out post #1200 was the one about Austin's school plans. Yeah, yawn. I think I even fell asleep writing it, it was so boring. It wasn't even the post about getting his driver's license, which would have been kind of cool it itself.

And I wonder why I only have 10 followers! ;)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Just what we need!

Today it's Friday, and this year, it means that Riley spends the better part of her day at her outside classes: Biology and Graphic Art.

But this week, we had a special surprise! You see, Riley has an hour between her two classes and she has spent that time in "Study Hall" which is literally in the hallway. Last week after class, Riley excitedly asked me if she could take more classes this year. Unfortunately, that just isn't possible this year. Next year, when Austin is no longer taking an outside class, I will have more funds for her to take more classes, but this year it's just not possible. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from the teacher of the World Literature class that means during Riley's free hour offering for her to come take the class - and that the tuition has been covered!!

Of course, I assumed my mom did this - but she didn't. So I asked Riley if she mentioned during class last week wanting to take more classes but not being able to afford it, but she didn't. So I'm not sure where this blessing comes from, but it is fantastic!

And after today's classes, where Riley spent the entire drive home showing me and reading from her Biology notes. She also talked about how nice and smart the Literature teacher is and how they got off topic but talked about movies and books made into movies and how much fun she had. And how they are creating a logo for themselves in art class! It's so nice to see her excited and energized about learning!

I think this might be exactly what we need for this year - and for the remainder of high school for Riley. I am so very busy with Austin's school work. He needs my one-on-one time for every single subject. It's always been this way, but in high school, everything takes so much longer. And then Reece also needs a lot of one-on-one time, though she is much more independent than Austin because she doesn't have any additional cognitive challenges to her autism like he does.

So that leaves Riley on her own. And for a child like her, who is easily distracted and energized by social situations, it isn't ideal. In fact, I prayed often this summer if it was time to put her in public school. But with her dance schedule, the public school hours are not ideal - and he didn't WANT to go to public school. I even asked her again last week after she said she wanted to take more classes. She said she wants to take more classes, just not every day! LOL

This is like the best of both worlds. Riley gets the classroom setting with energetic teachers and interaction with other teens, and I get a lighter workload!! I get to serve as "mom" instead of "teacher" for some of the subjects that I am weakest on!

Next year, I will continue having her take science and literature outside of the home, and I would like to add Latin and Math to the mix as well. Latin because I only have the time to learn at one of the girls' paces and that has to be Reece's. And Math because, even though I really love it and feel comfortable teaching it, it is not an area of strength for Riley and she gets frustrated at me. Of course, when I mention these plans, she said, "What will I still be doing at home then?" LOL History! :D

My one regret is that her education has drifted incredibly far from being a Charlotte Mason education. But this is what we have to do to make it work right now. I can only do what I can do!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Officially licensed driver in the state of Georgia!

Driving himself to his Speech/Debate class! :)

After all these years of hoping and praying that Austin would be able to drive a car, he got his driver's license yesterday! I am so proud of him for all of his hard work and determination! He really is quite a careful driver. He got a 100% on his driver's ed written test and a 90% on the actual road test for his license. He was mad that he didn't get a 100% on that, too! @@

I have been experiencing just about every emotion known to mankind in the last couple of days. All of these years I have prayed that he COULD drive, and now, my prayers become even more fervent as I pray for his safety while he is out driving! LOL

Friday, September 06, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Austin, 11th grade

11th grade?? What the heck?!? Who gave him permission to be grown up?! I guess none of them ask, do they?

So here is Austin's line up for his Junior year of high school:

First of all, he is taking his first outside-the-home class this year. He is taking Speech and Debate with other homeschoolers at the home of a veteran homeschool mom/educator. She has graduated 3 homeschoolers herself and she does consulting, testing, and teaching now. He has 10 kids total in his class and he is really enjoying it - much to my surprise, and his. One thing I have to say about his class that also pleases me is that it is racially diverse, which is unusual in the homeschooling community, which is mostly white and Christian in our area. Half of his class are racial minorities. I do not know about their religious backgrounds. But I was pleased to see this diversity and glad he gets a chance to work with kids who are not just like him. So anyway, that is one credit - Speech/Debate.

And to get it out of the way - we are using Geometry by Harold Jacobs for Austin's Geometry credit. This book is phenomenal. He does use a lot of humor which sometimes goes over Austin's head. But the book is well-done and we are going to go as far as we can with it! We do it pretty interactively.

Austin's English credit this year involves a literature and poetry list that very closely resembles Ambleside Online Year 10 Lite - fiction, poetry, and short stories. We are working through Jensen's Format Writing and, so far, it seems to be clicking with him. He is also doing a grammar review from Analytical Grammar. Spelling is Spelling Wisdom though I'm just about ready to give up on him ever being a decent speller! LOL If I could have all the money back that I've spent over the years on Spelling curricula for him - I could enter several Disney races next year! LOL I am having him read The Well-Educated Mind this term and will probably have him read The Elements of Style as well.

Science is still up in the air. I have a free high school Earth Science textbook on the Kindle that is really good, but I am thinking he should be exposed to Chemistry. I hesitate with it because of the math required for Chemistry, but I could help him with the math, like I do with math. Currently, the time he would be spending in Science is being spent working through a PSAT prep book. He takes the PSAT next month! We are not going to seek accommodations. He doesn't need extra time, and that is the most common accommodation as far as I can tell. He has proven that he can work in a room full of other kids.

Foreign language? Yeah, it cracks me up that this kid for whom English is basically a foreign language has to take 2 years of a different language, but here we go! He chose Spanish - and I chose the Breaking the Barrier program. I debated between Latin and Spanish, and in the end he told me he preferred Spanish so that's where we went. Thankfully he has a strong grammar background which makes things easier.

History is the 1800s using World History and American History textbooks, just like Riley. Geography/Biography are just regular books, finding locations on the maps, and also a focused map study of states and countries. He is also beginning to work on his Economics credit. He is starting out with Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and will finish the year out with Economics in One Lesson.

He is continuing his private drum lessons and that will be a credit as well - Intermediate Percussion.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but my notebook is in the other room and it's Friday night and I'm too lazy to get it! LOL

Thursday, September 05, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Riley, 9th grade

Riley's first year of high school! It's so hard to believe! When I started this blog back in January 2005, Riley was a Kindergartener! It's amazing how quickly time flies by.

You already know that Riley is going to a homeschool co-op sort of place for Biology and Graphic Art this year. I say "sort of place" because we do have to pay for the classes, but at the same time we have to volunteer a certain amount of times per session - so it's not a co-op in the strictest sense of the term. Biology uses the Apologia textbook and her Graphic Art class is designed by the teacher, who is a professional artist.

For math, we are starting over with Algebra 1. She is using Elementary Mathematics by Harold Jacobs, and I really like it. She likes it better than Math U See, and anything that gets her to like math better is a good thing in my book. She wasn't thrilled about starting over at the beginning, but she'll be OK.

For Latin, we are continuing with Henle Latin 1. This has been really slow going and I'm not overly thrilled with it. She isn't, either, and she wants to do First Form Latin with Reece. However, we have to think about high school credits here (I'd like her to have 3 credits of Latin by the time she graduates - Latin 1 over 9th/10th, Latin 2 in 11th, and Latin 3 in 12th) and First Form/Second Form do not cover the amount of material that would make up a high school Latin 1 course. She also decided to add Greek into her schedule this year, finally. Since I see Greek as an 'extra' she is using the Elementary Greek, Level 1 program. There are 3 level to this program and when she finishes all 3, I plan to give her a half or whole credit for the entire series. I'll have to check the website for the curriculum to see what they suggest is appropriate.

Her English credit this year will consist of a number of components. The biggest component is Introduction to Literary Analysis using two programs from the Institute for Excellence in Writing: Teaching the Classics and Windows to the World. I am using a set of lesson plans that combines these two resources and adds in a few novels and a Shakespeare play for an entire year's curriculum. She will be reviewing grammar using the Analytical Grammar review books. I purchased Spelling Wisdom, Level 4, to use with her but we haven't figured out how to get it into the schedule yet. The literary analysis curriculum includes writing so we don't have a separate curriculum for that. She is also reading some poetry this year and I will include that in her English credit.

For a Health and Physical Education credit, we are using a textbook called Total Health. I used this with Austin and he enjoyed it. It's very straightforward - read the chapter, answer the questions, get the credit! For PE, I am planning to count her jazz, tap, and modern classes for the year into a half credit of PE. I am unsure if I will have ballet be its own credit or not - she takes 4.5 hours a week so it could count if I want it to. This is one of those areas where I'm unsure if it should go on the transcript or on the resume as an extra-curricular activity.

History gets a little more complicated when it comes to assigning credits. In the end of high school, she will have 1 World History, 1 American History, 1/2 Government, 1/2 Economics, and then an elective (right now I'm leaning towards History of Dance). However, we have always studied history chronologically and incorporate American History as we go. I have used books with Austin and she has read them as well, so technically she could have her American and World History credits complete by the end of next year. The World History text is high school level and the American History text is college level, so I don't think there is a problem in assigning her credit for reading and narrating the material. That would leave her available to do Econ and Government in her Junior year and Dance History in her senior year. Austin has been doing Econ and Government in bits and pieces since his freshman year but Riley has not. I also incorporate Biographies into history so those book will be included in the credits as well.

So she has a busy schedule, but it's not overwhelming, I don't think. She does struggle with attention, which I take responsibility for. In the years when I should have been training her in the habit of attention, I was busy with her siblings. There is nothing I can do about that except pray that it's not too late to develop this habit. In fact, I am sitting at the kitchen table with her now and she's been working on Algebra and History - trying to help her stay focused. She asked me to do this. She knows that this year is important and I know she wants to do better. Attention is a challenge for a child who is so creative!

Tomorrow I will post about Austin's busy year!

Monday, September 02, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Reece, 6th grade

Since we are starting our 5th week of school, I figured it is probably time to do my annual posts detailing what we're doing for lessons this year! :D I'm going to start with Reece since hers is the most straight-forward, and she's the one who is the most fun to teach! LOL

Her History, Geography, Biography, Science Biography, and Poetry are based on Ambleside Online's Year 5. I used to list these books out, but Ambleside wants users to direct folks to their website when discussing their curriculum, so I will do that!

I have changed her Literature plans mostly because there are a couple of books that are listed for Free Reading that I would prefer to have her read for school. Reading is an area where Reece struggles and she doesn't enjoy it as a result, so if I want to make sure she reads a book, I need to assign it to her. For 1st term, she is reading a version of King Arthur by Roger Lancelyn Green. I am reading Age of Fable out loud to her which is really enjoyable because she already knows so much about Greek and Roman Mythology that the advanced language doesn't hinder her understanding of the material. In Term 2, I would like her to read Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer; and in Term 3, I would like her to read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Whichever ones we aren't able to get to will go on her summer reading list for next year!

Rounding out her language arts for this year, she is using Analytical Grammar. I can't even begin to describe how excited she is to be doing Grammar again this year - and she absolutely adores the Analytical Grammar curriculum! She's my little Grammar nerd! For writing, we are finishing up Writing With Ease, Level 3 and will proceed to Level 4 when we are done. This has been such a challenge for her, but I think the time we are spending will be worth it, especially as I am reflecting on Austin's narration/comprehension struggles and comparing them to hers (so similar so I am assuming it's an autism spectrum issue). I think this curriculum will teach her how to organize her thoughts for narration (and written composition in the future). I am planning to use Spelling Wisdom with her for Spelling, but right now, I am having a hard time fitting it in, so I am incorporating spelling as it comes along in the dictation in Writing With Ease.

I decided to try some official Latin this year, since she read through Minimus Latin informally last year and really enjoyed it. I purchased First Form Latin for her from Memoria Press, and when I got it, I was really overwhelmed by it. I didn't think she would understand it at all. I almost went back and ordered Latina Christiana instead, but decided to go ahead with First Form and cut back on the pace. I am so glad I did, because she is doing surprisingly well with it. In fact, I think we may be able to go ahead and take it at a regular pace.

She is also starting Logic this year with informal logic found in puzzles and games. Once again, I am using the Logic Countdown series that I used with the older kids! She really enjoys it, too, which is nice for me.

Math continues to be RightStart Mathematics. We are going to complete Level E this year, and then we are moving on instead of using the Level G Geometry program. My plan has been to use the Key to Fractions/Decimals/Percents books but, so far, she seems to be understanding it all really well, so that may not be necessary. In that case, I will have her work through the Singapore Math Word Problems books that I bought before they went out of print! :D

Finally, for science, we are taking one last year to do some informal science before jumping into Apologia next year. This year, Reece is going to read through the Elementary Physical Science book from the Calvert School. This is an out-of-print book that is small and boils down all of the typical Physical Science topics down into simple words and easy-to-understand information. Riley loved it when she read it, and Reece is enjoying it as well.

One of the very best things about teaching Reece is that I have done this all before. In fact, I have read most of these books out loud to the big kids - so my workload is pretty low for her, which is good. I have very little prep work and the hardest part is that many of her lessons directly involve me, so she has to wait for time with me to free up so she can get her work done. Truly, I need a clone. Or two.

As for extra-curriculars, Reece added two hours of dance this year. Her ballet class remains and hour, but jazz and tap each extend to an hour. She also added a modern dance class this year, which is on a separate night. We've only had 2 weeks so far, but she is doing great and loving every minute!

First Day of Dance! My big middle school girl is growing up so quickly!

So far, middle school is progressing nicely. I think there is a lot to be said for being the youngest homeschooler! She gets the more relaxed and experienced version of the homeschool mom! Lucky girl!!