Sunday, October 31, 2010

The dreaded T-E-S-T-I-N-G......... *sigh*

I do not know about you, but I HATE testing! I am not a good test taker, I fail miserably not matter how well I studied. I do not know what happens or why, but I freeze up, mind goes blank and test goes down the drain!
So, when it comes time for my boys to take tests that are important and pertain to moving on in their homeschool challenge.... I like to make sure they are as prepared as we can be for the test. Mom cannot sit next to them during the test, so I try hard to get them to be able to work alone and understand it is ok.
As my oldest approaches High School(next year....*sigh*....where did the time go), I know that we need to not only do his standardized testing by the State that is required at the end of 8th grade but we need to look ahead at SAT courses to prepare for his SAT's.
I will do this several ways. First, as his Mom and homeschool teacher I will check into all the info I can from my end on how to best approach this. Then I will get reviews on several online courses and books available. We are not rich and I am frugal and hate to spend $$ on stuff that is worthless! I think reviews from others are very important! Esp. from other homeschooling parents, as I think we tend to want to get our $$ worth and the most bang for our buck! Then, we will start off with the easiest books or online courses I can find and work our way up to the harder ones so that I feel he is fully prepared when the time comes.
8 months from now, I will be dropping him off to do his standardized testing by the State and I am working with him daily to improve not only his testing ability but his ability to do it without my assistance. And when he comes back out, I will no longer have an middle schooler.... I will have a high schooler because I have prepared him for his testing!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Magic and Mystery Books, your kids can read..

I have been looking at books for us to read for Halloween, and while we have some classics that we love to read every year. I am looking at incorporating some mysteries and ones with magic into the mix as Halloween gets closer. So I looked into finding some books about homeschoolers to see if any would fit that category. You know something perhaps the boys could relate to the characters more. And I found that some of these books have been around for a bit, I had just never heard of them before. Some even have some lesson plans and spelling lists/games to go along with them! Bonus in my book!

Here are a couple that I found out where mysteries with homeschoolers as the main characters in the story. Gunrunner Moon has a homeschooling family trying to solve a Civil War mystery. Cross Country Treasure Hunt, again has a homeschooling family driving across the US while trying to solve clues left got them. Skellig has a boy (who goes to public school) and his next door neighbor( who is homeschooled) trying to find out who or what the character Skellig is. There are at least four more books on this site that either have magic or mysteries to solve for us to check out. But so far the boys are enjoying the stories and even the spelling/vocabulary games that go along with some of them as well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spooktacular Fun!

I love holidays and I love incorporating a holiday into our homeschool and my daycare day! I usually will spend the 2-3 weeks prior to a major holiday doing things with the kids!
Crafts, word searches and fun foods have been our favorite ways to celebrate in the past. Now that my kids are older, they are not as into holiday things as I would love them to be. Homeschooling and our flexible learning program allows me to come up with new and creative ways to incorporate holidays into our everyday teaching! Holiday spelling lists cover this! The boys get some extra spelling words, but it seems like fun because it has to do with the holiday we are celebrating. I usually try to make it a fun contest, something hidden in the words, etc. so that it doesn’t make the holiday feel like a school day, ykwim?!LOL Right now, we are celebrating Halloween and while we have been on break for the past 2 weeks from school.... Monday morning we will be using a whole list of fun Halloween words for the last week of October! I have a jar of small candies that I will use as rewards for who can complete it correctly, the fastest, use the most words in a sentence, etc.
What creative ways do you incorporate school into fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tests, tests and more tests....

So you are homeschooling whether it is for one hour or 20 years, and what is one question that most people ask you? Yes how are the kids being socialized, not really a problem with anyone I have talked to. I guess I should have said the top five questions and you have this one asked for sure! What test do you use, if any and what SAT courses are available to homeschoolers? The SAT testing is one I am personally looking into for our near future, I want to have all the information possible that I can about this well recognized test. From what I have gathered together so far, the most important part (at least for us anyways) is the writing section. This is an area that we have struggled with since the boys were in public school and we have been working hard on since starting our homeschooling adventure 3 + years now. And it is one I am always talking about as well, but giving information of what I have found and asking more questions.

Another question that I get a lot of people just starting out is about how we as homeschoolers keep up with standardized testing by state laws. Well some states don't have required yearly tests while others give you the test that they will accept and no others will be accepted. I personally look for different sites that I frequent like, and many blogs or websites on homeschooling that give you samples of how to judge if you are ready for your tests. Here in NC the state test given at the schools are the EOG, which is lacking in my opinion. But I am able to give my boys a test that I believe fits their learning styles, we use the Woodcock Johnson tests given by a certified tester. Even though, here you can administrator certain tests yourself with no requirements.
So that's my two and half cents on testing, whether you are the one giving it or not. Personally I think it is a good idea if families see where their children are at every year. It gives me a jumping point for the following year;)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So now you are homeschooling......

Where do you go from here? What do you use? How do you go about it?
This runs through the minds of ALL homeschooling parents, whether you planned this from the beginning or are jumping into it later in your child's schooling!
I had these thoughts and I still do on a yearly basis!
Finding a curriculum for homeschooling that offers enough to provide your child with a good basis is essential! It takes a lot of research on the parent's part to find something that works for both you and your child. Not all curriculum's will work for all people.
Before we became accidental homeschoolers, I had already toyed with the idea of homeschooling. My husband was not into it, flatly refused, etc. so I quit checking out curriculum's. Then it happened and suddenly homeschooling was real, it was here and I needed to figure out what to do!
I searched online and stumbled upon Time 4 Learning! It looked AWESOME! We could work at our own pace, he could use different grade levels if needed- not the grade society stuffs him in, etc. We signed up and have never looked back! Their curriculum for homeschooling allows me to set up all the need to do, it is on their computer right in front of them, I can check their progress, their grades, we review together what they need to redo, etc. and it allows me to add to our curriculum the fun, extracurricular stuff!
For their writing classes, I have and use 2 choices. We have their Grandma, the retired schoolteacher who has created a writing thing between them and herself. Plus we have online writing classes. These essentially give the boys 2 versions of writing, so I feel they have a well-rounded basis for writing.
Will I still think and wonder about their curriculum for homeschooling next Fall.... you bet. We wouldn't be good homeschooling parents if we didn’t review, ponder, update and fiddle with our curriculum! That is part of the joy of homeschooling!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is this your first year homeschooling?

Are you struggling with your curriculum? Or maybe just one subject, like writing or spelling?
I remember that first year we started homeschooling I was a mess but of course I tried not to let anyone see me sweat! There are so many homeschooling curriculum choices out there, it can be so overwhelming to someone who is looking at homeschooling their kids. I know that I researched for a good 6 months while the boys were still in public school to make sure that I was prepared. Or so I thought anyways;) I think that best advice that I received from a veteran homeschooling mom was relax, I thought yea right and let my boys become dumb under my supervision! But of course she was right ,but it took me the entire year to finally admit it. Now we are in a better homeschooling frame of mind, there are days that we are working hard all day long and others well we are lucky to finish the basics.

One area that I know I talk a lot about is writing and spelling, well because I feel like they are my weaknesses and I don't want to pass that along to the boys. So I source out those subjects both through online games and programs, but also through our homeschooling group classes. I am always on the look out for any homeschool writing classes or tips on making my boys stronger spellers. (I am consistently thanking the person who developed spell check!) I always feel better after they go through someone's class and they say , "Your boys did a great job".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Lost Art of Handwriting!

Many public schools are doing away with handwriting aka cursive. They are doing so because kids are more computer oriented and therefore are needing less and less to know how to do cursive or handwriting. I beg to differ! Handwriting is a lost art as far as I am concerned and while it is SO easy to jump on the computer to jot off an email to someone..... to take the time to sit down with a pen and paper and put words onto paper is special! I believe that kids need to know how to write and read in cursive! It is an important part of growing up and one I feel all kids need to know about!
My Mom is in charge of the boys writing program and since she is a retired teacher, she is a firm believer in cursive! YEAH!!! So, not only do the boys do most of their writing on paper but they have to do cursive. Once a month they get to write a cursive letter to her and she insists that they do their spelling words as cursive! I love the
printable handwriting worksheets at Spelling City! They are AWESOME!!! Not only do the boys practice their spelling words but they get to practice their cursive at the same time!! Homeschool multitasking!! When they are not doing their writing by hand, they get to use the computer and for that my Mom requires that they practice online keyboarding games. Basically it is the dreaded typing class we all had to take in high school, but flipped around and made fun!! Where was this when we were kids!!!LOL The boys think they are playing games yet.... in reality they are learning how to use their keyboard more efficiently!! Another homeschool multitask!! Love those!!!

Is math easy or fun at your house?

Is math easy or fun in your house? If so please gloat below;) Well I guess that I could half gloat, my 3rd grader loves math at the moment but my 8th grader... does not! I think that because I started homeschooling when my youngest was in 1st grade, we would try to find interactive math programs or online math flash cards. It helped him discover that learning the math facts can be fun and not stressful. Unlike my oldest who went through public school until 5th grade, math was a subject that he didn't think he was good at. But in fact he was, he just couldn't say the math facts as fast as others could. He now loves to play games where he is racing the clock instead of the student sitting next to him. We especially have liked the cartoon based math lessons that we receive from Time4Learning, my boys are usually laughing at something that the character says or does. And a bonus is they are learning as they go!

Positive reenforcement at its best! When a cartoon character can tell you that you are doing a great job, what else would make a boy happy?