Sunday, June 2, 2013

Plans for 2013-2014

It’s that time of year again.  Whether homeschoolers are following a traditional school calendar or schooling year round, many do turn thoughts around this time of year to what they will be teaching in the coming year.

Those of us who do go all year round tend to not wrap up all of our subjects at once.  We finish our subjects at different times; we finish one math book, and start the next when the last one was completed, not on a specific calendar date.  The next “year” of math might begin in April, and the next “year” of history might begin in October, while the next grammar year might begin in July.  For us this makes sense.  We recall a certain frustration from our public school days—I always wanted to FINISH that history book, certain that the most interesting material were those chapters in the back of the book that we never got to discuss or read!  And why did we never finish a math book, ever?  What knowledge was being withheld?  Sometimes I took schoolbooks home and finished them on my own time, my own weird form of rebellion.  So in homeschooling, we do away with those arbitrary time cutoffs, and explore those dark, forgotten corners of our textbooks, and put them away only when we are ready.  We don’t set aside algebra when our students are still only showing 75% mastery, and then wonder why they struggle in algebra II; we back up, try again, maybe pull out a different algebra book or consult another homeschooler or math tutor, and get that confidence up until the student has mastered the material before we move on. 

However, the planning stages are still helpful, and I am among those who will plan a “school year” as if it will all take place beginning and ending at once, so that when that math or history or grammar is completed,  the next thing is already ordered, present, and ready to go, and any prep needed on my part has already been done in advance.  I don’t want to be caught in “Gosh, I dunno!” land.  Truth be told,  I have a basic outline in place of roughly what my kids will probably study from here until graduation already in place, though there is room to tweak it as they grow and change.  But the basics of a plan are in place so that I won’t have to improvise.  And now, the specifics for the coming year are in place, so that as we continue to finish up “last year’s” material, the next thing in line is here, ready, and waiting.  I’m excited—this looks like a fantastic year of discovery for the boys!

Did I mention that this summer my youngest will hit double digits???  I won’t have any babies left in the house, and my older will be rapidly approaching true teen-dom. 

(Sorry about the weird outline format-- Word did that automatically-- I would have used a capital letter as my first indented level, really!)

      I.         Language Arts
a.     Grammar
                                               i.     DS12: Diagramming and Practice Voyage.  We have put in two very intensive years of grammar, so this year we will forgo formal grammar instruction.  We will spend a small amount of review time, practicing our sentence diagramming and using a practice text as review for a few moments a day, but that’s it.
                                              ii.     DS10: Diagramming and Practice Island.  Ditto for DS10.  He did a year of Rod and Staff 3 and a year of Michael Clay Thompson’s Town level, and like DS12 will do the practice book from one year back in grammar to stay fresh before returning to grammar next year.
b.     Writing
                                               i.     DS12: Continue IEW Medieval, Start Bravewriter and Kilgallon.  He enjoys the assignments in IEW, and I like the structured approach to building a writer’s toolbox.  After looking at the program for a year or more, I am taking a plunge into Bravewriter, for a chance to let him to more freeform writing, and to spend more time looking at good published writing in detail as we did in Writing With Ease.  Kilgallon will also help us pick up the details.  Our alternating every two weeks schedule will allow us to schedule these three programs without it becoming overwhelming, even though there is a fair amount of writing in his history program as well.  This focus on writing is one reason why we are cooling off on grammar a bit this year.  Naturally, grammar will also be reinforced during the editing phase of writing.
                                              ii.     DS10: IEW SWI-A will be continued, and like big brother, he will be joining us in Bravewriter and Kilgallon as described above.  He adores Andrew Pudewa on the DVD lessons, one of the very few I allow in our homeschool, and his writing is improving dramatically in this program. 
c.      Vocabulary and Spelling
                                               i.     DS12 has been working through Michael Clay Thompson’s Word Within the Word, which will continue, as well as Saddler Oxford’s Vocabulary Workshop, on alternating weeks.  This pairing will continue.
                                              ii.     DS10 has been alternating Spelling Workout with Michael Clay Thompson’s Caesar’s English.  This pairing will also continue.
d.     Literature
                                               i.     Reading together: As a family, we read out loud together on a daily basis.  We also have a few audio books loaded into Audible on our phones.  These vary from fun to challenging.
                                              ii.     Individual reading:  This kids have some ambitious reading lists ahead of them for individual reading.  Some of these selections are tied to their history programs, some are not.  Some are more challenging than others. Some are fun or silly.  But one thing is certain.  They will read read read daily.
    II.         Foreign Language
a.     Latin
                                               i.     DS12: Continue Lively Latin 2.  This program has proven its legs for us.  I’m not actually sure where we will go from here, but we are really happy we found this one.  DS12: prefers to work his on paper, and I just made all of our lives much easier—I printed each group of four chapters double-sided and bound them with my comb-binder (I have a list that tells me what pages to print in what order, so all the lessons come out together, then all the exercises come out together, all the history pages come out together, and I put tabs to mark each section, and in the front I place a syllabus so he knows what order to do the assignments in.  Easy-peasy!).
                                              ii.     DS10: Continue Lively Latin 1.  DS10 prefers to work on his ipad, and port each lesson into Notability, which allows him to write on the worksheets directly.  I comb-bound his workbooks anyway, just in case, and sometimes he elects to work there too.
b.     German
                                               i.     DS12 is working his way through Usborne’s Easy German, but has let me know he wants to get back to Rosetta Stone.  I want him to stick with UEG for a little bit, because I like the explicit grammar instruction.  Maybe we’ll alternate between the two.
                                              ii.     DS9 is doing really well with Usborne Easy German while we take a short break from Rosetta Stone, and he says he will enjoy going back to Rosetta Stone in a bit now that he understands a bit more about the grammar and has more confidence in some of the vocabulary and ideas after having a chance to discuss them with me.  He also likes practicing the dialogues with me—they are longer than RS.  Both boys actually do like RS and have been doing well with it, but I like to break things up when sticking with one program for so long.  I looked at many German texts, and decided I liked UEG the best for now.
c.      Spanish
                                               i.     DS12 will be picking up a new language this year along with his brother.  They went back and forth between ancient Greek, Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish, and finally chose Spanish.  I have no background in this language beyond Sesame Street, but I was happy all the same because of the abundant resources available.  We settled on a really neat looking package called Breaking the Barrier.  It starts with 10 initial steps, which are ten questions and answers common to most languages, so the kids will start out speaking and writing in complete sentences right away, and in these lessons, it explains just a bit about the sounds of Spanish (with a word about different groups of Spanish speakers, such as different treatments of the ll consonant group).  After those ten steps, the first chapter begins.  I note that there are three books in the series.  We received a worktext, teacher/answer guide, audio CD with native speakers, and a quick reference chart of common phrases.
                                              ii.     DS9 will use the same program, but he prefers the ipad app version instead of his worktext.  It has the same material, and the audio CD is embedded in the text throughout, and he can click in the margins to check his work, click a box to erase his page and try again to practice more.  I note there is also a French version of this app, which must be used through iBooks.
  III.         Math
a.     DS12 will work on a monstered together math program this year, both geometry (AoPS) and algebra II (Life of Fred) at the same time, in alternating weeks.  Just for fun, he’ll continue using the online Elements of Mathematics.  He’ll stick with Life of Fred for algebra II, though we will periodically do a chapter test from Tobey and Slater for the chance to see problems presented from a different point of view; just as in German, in math I fear for students who stick with one series for too long and get stuck with a single presentation of problems.  For Geometry, I am curious to see how he does in AoPS.  We tried AoPS in PreAlgebra, and he hated it.  I  disliked it as well, finding a pretty simple (and generally unnecessary) year of math presented in an overblown fashion, but I have higher hopes for the geometry text.  We’ll see. 
b.     DS10 has been zipping through both Life of Fred Elementary and Singapore Primary Mathematics.  Over the summer he’ll take a break from Singapore and focus on Penrose the Mathematical Cat and begin Life of Fred: Fractions and begin to move through that series independently, and in the fall, he will resume the Singapore series, with Singapore 7 DM.  Looking through the scope and sequence for 7DM, I am very excited for him, as he enjoys being challenged in math, and I think he will be very pleased to leave simple arithmetic behind.  His favorite sections of the PM series have always been the geometry sections and encountering new ideas such as ratios.  We’ll see if we have finally reached a level where he feels challenged.
   IV.         Physics
a.     DS12 will embark on only the second DVD program I have ever permitted in our homeschool, Exploration Education, Intermediate Advanced.  It is designed for students up through the tenth grade, according to the label but looking through the material, I suspect that is commensurate with mathematical ability rather than difficulty level, and he should be on par with that.  It come with a building kit and most of the material is presented in context with projects the students must build and learn the principals from, including taking measurements and recording them in a lab book.  We also have the Thames and Kosmos Physics Workshop, and a number of Science Wiz kits, including the fascinating looking Inventions kit, which will have them building a working telegraph system with a relay.  We also have the book, “Physics with Toys,” which looks like fun.  This year of science should be filled with hands-on fun, math, and adventure and silliness.  Dad has a degree in physics, so there should be some great dinner table conversation this year, too.
b.     DS10 will be mirroring much of what DS12 is doing, only he will be using the standard version of Exploration Education rather than the advanced.  He will be additionally using the Science Detective from the Critical Thinking Company.  He also has a supply of Snap Circuits.
     V.         Logic
a.     Computer Programming
                                               i.     DS12 is working on programming in Python with his Dad, who as a mathematician, programs for a living.  DH leaves 99% of the homeschooling to me, but this is awesome DS/Daddy time for the two of them, particularly as DS is closing in on those teen years.
                                              ii.     DS9 will continue working through the absolutely fantastic book, Super Scratch Programming Adventure.  We love how he is writing a program in every lesson, and the book moves from using the language to actually discussing what these functions do, are called, and how they apply more generally in programming in different places in the book.  We started out with me showing DS10 how to write his programs, step by step as they are laid out in the book, but now we have improved to the point where I can ask him, “Okay, you want your program to do <this> next; can you figure out how to make your program do that?”  He is clearly starting to learn how the logic of it all works, though this inside-out approach will have to be carefully managed to get all the way back to the beginning.
b.     Brain Teasers: we work on these together to start off the morning.  We have a variety of books from The Critical Thinking Company, including Balance Benders, Red herring Mysteries, Mind Benders, Think-A-Minutes, and more.
c.      Logic
                                               i.     DS12 will finish up Art of Argument and Discovery of Deduction, and then will move into formal Logic with the James Madison Critical Thinking course from the Critical Thinking Company.
                                              ii.     DS10 will begin his study of logic with Building Thinking Skills from the Critical Thinking Company, and work his way through Fallacy Detective.  As if this kid needs training in how to argue.
   VI.         History and Geography
a.     DS12 will stick with History Odyssey by Pandia Press, at his request, and will move into Level 2 Early Modern History.  He has finished reading K12’s Human Odyssey volume 2, and will begin reading Volume 3.  He is working his way through CTC’s History Detective.  For fun, he continues to watch videos from Horrible Histories and reads Learning Through History Magazine and investigates primary sources as we come across interesting ones.  We will continue to incorporate related literature into our history studies.  At some point, I am hoping our classical cooperative will also work together on the "You Decide" constitutional law/critical thinking course, which is quite a lot of fun in a group setting, one of the few true coops I would consider.
b.     DS10 has is completing his first survey of world history, from ancients through modern history, and is ready to begin again, and a slower, deeper pace.  He too enjoys Pandia Press’s History Odyssey, and will begin Ancients Level 2 along with related literature.
 VII.         Art and Music
a.     Meet the Masters: we have been enjoying this fantastic art program together this year and will continue it into next year, learning about the lives, contemporaries, important works, and favored techniques of famous artists, one at a time.  We listen to the music they listened to, find out who they hung out with, and practice some of their techniques, before completing a project inspired by that artist’s style or technique.
b.     Composer and genre studies will continue to take place from a variety of sources we have on hand.  We’ll learn about some famous opera story lines this year, as well as the lives of more classical composers, and a few contemporary musicians. 
c.      Instrumental lessons will continue.  DS12 is doing well on his piano, and DS10 is making beautiful music on his recorder, though consideration of a new instrument is on the horizon.
VIII.         Phys Ed Gym class will continue in the fall at the Hockessin Athletic club.  If you are in the area, we encourage you to sign up, because this class has a fantastic instructor!  We also try to ride bikes, run laps, and play catch or soccer daily when weather allows, or ping pong or something if it doesn’t.  When we’re out an about in other classes, DS12 is working toward his brown belt in karate and is enjoying fencing lessons, though he’ll take a summer hiatus to allow for more free play time with friends, and DS9 enjoys gymnastics and swimming lessons.  Again, summer will enjoy a hiatus to allow more free time to enjoy the pool and friends.

We are really excited about this upcoming year!  We have a lot of really cool things on deck here!  Our heaviest foci for the year will be writing, literature, history, math, Logic, and Physics, followed by Foreign language with the addition of Spanish to their studies.  Grammar, vocabulary, and spelling will play supporting roles to writing and literature.  Art and music also support history and literature as well as mathematics.  Phys Ed supports all!  I will add links as I have time.

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