Looking Back

I have just enjoyed my first full week of summer vacation. We usually end our school year the first week of June, but this year we ended on June 26. This winter was rough with 6 people taking turns getting sick. I myself was out of commission for a whole week, actually in bed. That’s the great flexibility of homeschooling. But I must say the last couple of weeks of school had been hard. I pray next year we are healthier and stay on track.

The report cards are done, and the books are finally put away, so why I am already thinking about next year? Well with the accomplishment of another year behind me, I look forward to the new and exciting things for next year. The twins are turning 13, so they will be going into the 7th grade. My 7-year-old will be doing second grade and my 3-year-old will be doing a lot of coloring. I don’t know if I’ll have the twins start a foreign language or not. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can at any given time teach other things. I personally focus on the basics, because they need that foundation. I do want them to do a keyboarding class. I don’t know how soon traditional schools teach typing, but I know it will be beneficial. I know grown-ups who still hunt and peck, which works for them, but I am grateful for my typing skills. Each year with the twins the math gets more difficult. I had general math classes when I was in school, but I understand the geometry and some algebra that they have been introduced to so far. I look forward to the challenge as they progress, but if I cannot rise above the challenge they will have to do an online correspondence course. With my second grader I will focus on the basic fundamentals of math and continue his reading.

There is so much available for homschoolers, it is sometimes hard to choose. This year was the first year I deviated from the curriculum I have been using from the beginning. I have used the Abeka Book curriculum www.Abeka.com. It is used in many of the private schools in our area. I have enjoyed using it, and I think it is a good curriculum to use if you are homeschooling for the first time. Their day to day lesson plans are mapped out for you, they have tests and quizzes available and a grading scale and progress reports you can create report cards from. The workbooks are very colorful, especially in the earlier grades, which makes it more exciting for the younger ones to learn. Even thought it seems to be an excelerated program, my twins have done well with it. This year I used another language and spelling program with them. I have read and agree that the 5th grade language from Abeka is quite difficult. The curriculum I used this year instead is Easy Grammar www.easygrammar.com. I was very impressed with the different, yet simple approach. They teach the different parts of language by process of elimination. The first thing they teach is to remove prepositional phrases from a sentence. It is much easier to identify the other parts of speech, once that has been removed. The kids seemed to understand it better. The only thing I didn’t like was the teacher’s edition. It is huge and not organized very well. The book contains all the pages in the students’ workbook, and answer key, and answer key to all the tests. I never experienced that with Abeka, so it took more effort on my part to come up with the day to day lesson plans and when to schedule the tests. I will continue to use it though.

The spelling program I used was Spelling Power www.spellingpower.com. This is completely different then anything that I have seen. There is no grading, but I created my own grading scale and had certain tests graded. The Spelling Power approach is focused on the words that students do know. You start out by doing an assessment test to see what level you should begin with. Once you have determined that, you then give the students daily tests for 5 minutes. The daily tests consist of you giving the word to the child, saying the word in a sentence, having them repeat the word, then write the word, and then you correct the word, if they get it wrong, they write it correctly. When I first read this, I was like how many words are you going to go through in 5 minutes? You would be surprised. It is something to get used to. But what encourages the kids, is how many words they actually know. There’s no studying and memorizing words prior to the test. Once the daily test is over, they then study the words they missed, with a 10-step process. The next day they are re-tested on the words they miss. They continue to do the process until they spell the word correctly. I also altered this program a little. I was actually doing more than five minutes. We did a group a day. As the words get harder, I will probably adjust and maybe do half the group. The main advantage to this program is the concentration on the words that are missed. If you are interested in using this program, all you have to do is buy one book. That wasn’t mentioned on any of the websites, and usually I purchase one book per student. But the book isn’t for the student; they never use the book. They do have workbooks for the students, which are the pages for the assessment tests and daily tests and 10-step worksheets. These are also included on the CD-ROM that comes with the book that you can print out yourself. Also, this program can be used for all grade levels, starting with 8-year olds up to 12th grade. I will continue to use it, and look forward to starting my youngest on it probably next year.

Maybe I can enjoy a couple more weeks of summer vacation, before I start making my lists of things that I will need to purchase for the upcoming school year. But it’s hard not to think about it as you shop in Wal-Mart and Target, and they already have the school supplies out. That is my biggest weakness, I love shopping for school supplies!! Maybe if I can just buy myself some new pens or something, that will hold me over until August. Maybe not.