Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal ~ Week 4

The Homeschool Chick

In my life this week...

More snow, more snotty noses, and more feverish little ones.  Researching different curriculum, trying to find a new plan for our school, and looking for the best deals.  Presenting info to Steve, trying not to overwhelm him with my confusion, and working together to figure out how to best meet our kids' educational needs and still be able to eat.  LOL!!

In our homeschool this week...

We're studying King Saul, King David and King Solomon in Mystery of History this week, since the available resources for classic Tapestry of Grace  for this time period are slim.  We're also finishing lesson 1 of Who Is God? and I'm finishing lesson 1 of WriteShop Level E with my 4th and 6th graders.  The kids are doing their own maths and sciences, of course, and I've taken my 10th grader about halfway through Institute for Excellence in Writing Level B at a double-time pace because she didn't need to practice the early parts that much.  It's been a good week of steady progress.  We've had some rough moments (especially involving Algebra) but we worked through them and moved on.

Places we're going & people we're seeing...

We were able to get most of the children to Wednesday night church this week, as well as to a 4H group meeting.  My 2nd oldest daughter had a friend from church spend the night last night, as well.

My favorite thing this week was...

Seeing my 4th and 6th graders enjoy learning about writing.  It's always fun to tackle something new with our kids, and it's especially nice to discover that they are capable of the work and aren't way behind.

What's working/not working for us...

Saxon Algebra 1 isn't working very well for us.  It works ... just not as well as we'd like.  It could be easier.  We're trying to figure out whether to add supplements to it, or switch away from it entirely before we start Algebra 2.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...

Hang on!  It's long, and confusing.  Feel free to scroll down to the last two paragraphs for a summary, and a photo at the bottom.

One thing I've learned over the years is that a homeschool is never "settled".  We are continually needing to re-think our curriculum and our methods.  I guess that is a good thing.  It means we are looking at our children's needs and interests and providing them with an education that fits them.  But at the same time, it's unsettling as the teacher and the provider.

I cringe when I realize I need to find a new curriculum that will fit our family's needs, both educationally and financially.   Will changing curriculum require more of my time, more organization, or will it make things easier on me?  If it will take more of my time, is it going to be better for our children, so the extra effort is worth it?   Our curriculum budget is small, so I need to be sure that the purchases I make aren't just whims that won't get used, or that won't fit our family.

I try to find the best value for our family, by carefully researching and considering everything before I buy it.  Can it be used with multiple children at once?  Can it be re-used with future children?  Does it have a good track record, or is this a brand new item that hasn't been tested by many families yet?  Will it be too teacher-intensive or complicated, so it doesn't get used?  Is this just one of those things that look great, but aren't really necessary?  Can I cover this material in some other way, or is it best to just pay for the ease of using a prepared curriculum?

With all that in mind, I've been spending this week considering my children's needs.  My 8th grader thinks she'd prefer a textbook approach rather than our literature-based history-centric curriculum.  But if I pull her out of Tapestry of Grace, do I want to continue it with the younger children, or have them do something different as well?  What can they do?  What will it cost me to re-do my high school plans for 14 yo R?  Can I handle having her and 15 yo A following different paths, since A plans to continue with our modified approach to TOG?

15 yo A is needing me to increase her writing course, so I'm looking for ways to add in more writing.  Do I have what I need, or do we need to buy something else?  She may need to switch to a more user-friendly math curriculum.   Can we make the Saxon curriculum we own work better for us with some additional help like a Math Tutor DVD, or should we just jump to Teaching Textbooks?  (Thankfully God provided us with an algebra teacher's manual from a different curriculum for just $1 yesterday and we were able to use it to find a different explanation for the problem she was having yesterday.  We'll use it as a different voice from Saxon when she gets stuck in the meantime.)

It's time to order some more science curriculum, but what is the best deal I can find on the Apologia texts I need?  Can I find them used?  My 6th grader finished her text and the 8th grader has almost completed hers.  Just a few more weeks.  The 6th grader can start the 8th grader's General Science text once she's done, but the 8th grader needs a new text (Physical Science) to finish this year with.  She can't just start biology, because her older sister is still using it.  Yes, my 6th grader is starting the textbooks earlier than I had her older sisters start them.  Now that we own them, she might as well.  And I need to find a good deal on Chemistry for my high schooler before next year.

If most of my children leave Tapestry of Grace with the soon-to-be-9th grader, what will they do?  I think I've decided they'll use Mystery of History with me, with some supplementing of books recommended in TOG, and the 14 yo will use textbooks.  I own volumes 1-3 of Mystery of History for the upper elementary and junior high kids.    I own All American History vol. 1 and 2 already for the high schooler.  I also own World History for Christian Schools, though I need to get the teacher's guide, and I'm not fully convinced this is the one I want to use for her.  We own both volumes of Streams of Civilization, though it is rather dry and not very colorful.  So I have two world history options already, but have time to decide if that's what I want for her.

If we do this, should I take my early elementary kids back to Five In A Row?  I loved Five In A Row, and I own all the manuals and most of the books.  It would be very familiar to me, so simple to fit into our day.  I'd be doing FIAR with youngers, and MOH with the middlers, and the older two would be on their own.  That isn't as scary as it was 5 years ago.  I'm used to being stretched between the different aged students more now.

If we do this, what will we do for language arts?  I'm considering Total Language Plus for my high school girls, and possibly the junior high kids.  Though we could just pull the literature reading from TOG to go along with MOH for the non-high school kids and continue using Spelling Power, Easy Grammar and WriteShop for the rest of language arts.

It's so confusing.  I know I already own a lot of resources, but there are also lots of other curricula out there which is new and shiny and so wonderful-looking.  I have to balance out what we truly NEED vs. what I just WANT.  And then I have to define what is a NEED ... is it just something that will simplify my life?  And if that's the case, is it a simplification that frees me up to do other things that makes it valuable enough to our family?

Steve's head spins in circles at times like this because I want to discuss it with him.  I want to think out loud, and since my own thoughts are still swirling, he finds it hard to make heads or tails of it.  Plus, he's not familiar with the different curriculum titles I throw out at him, so I have to educate him as I try to discuss it with him.  Eventually I'm able to lay it before him in an organized way and he helps me make the final decisions on what we really NEED and where we should try to continue using what we already own.

So my head is swirling and so far Steve has only said, "Yes, get Physical Science ASAP, and find the best deal you can."  He's also asked me to research high school options, wonders how much I can find used, and how much I can use what we have.  He's somewhat concerned about me getting the planning and grading done with so many different things going on.  I am, too.  We've all used Tapestry of Grace together for almost 5 years now.  Though handling Crew reviews and changing curriculum and resources over the past 3 years has given me some experience.

Everything is changing, and I'm just trying to adapt.  I don't want to force R to use a curriculum she doesn't like through all of high school.  She's just not one who loves books the way 15 yo A and 11 yo C do.  Reading so much for history and literature is a drag to her.  She'd rather read a chapter, take a quiz, and move on.  I line up with A and C more, but R doesn't, so I'll do my best to meet her needs.  I don't want to make her entirely hate reading because I required too much history reading.  9 yo J is like R, so I know he'll appreciate the change of plans, too.

I'm rambling.  I told you I was confused by all of this.  At least by typing it here, I can save Steve from auditory overload.  Suffice it to say that our homeschool plans are changing, and I'm still confused about exactly what we're going to do and what curriculum we're going to need.

A photo to share...

This is what happens around our house while we're doing school ...

Enjoying our homeschool life,
April E.


  1. April I'm having similar things here. You're right, we have to adapt as our children grow (and it is one of the blessings of homeschooling to be able to do so). The gap between my oldest child and the rest is nearly 4 years, so she's getting to where she wants to learn different things (and at a different level) than the rest of the family. The next two children have completely different interests from her and each other. While I plan to do history combined again (literature based with the Simply Charlotte Mason guide for Middle Ages through Reformation),
    I'm struggling with what to do for science. Makayla will be 5th grade and she really really loves animals, emphasis on insects and mammals. She's not interested in doing the Astronomy or Botany books in Apologia, she's only semi happy with the Anatomy one we're doing right now.
    Joseph is next in line and will be K/1st grade. His interests? Space, anatomy, electricity, magnets. And being a typical boy, if he's not interested he simply won't pay attention.
    Then Emma (13 mos younger but a bit advanced and right on level or ahead of brother) pretty much just wants to learn about ocean creatures.
    Ugh. I can't do 3 Apologia books at once (Astronomy for Joseph, Zoo1 or 3 for Makayla, and Zoo 2 for Emma). And so far Joseph and Emma aren't reading well enough independently to let them do the reading on favorite topics, (Makayla was at this age). So they need me right with them to do any science or history.

    And then I have all the little ones under these 3. Which you know all about. :) I tried talking with my hubby about it too, the poor man. After telling me he trusts my judgement he reminded me my sister (who homeschools too) is probably a better sounding board until I have a plan to present to him. LOL He's right, of course. She actually has some idea of what I'm talking about with the different curricula, etc.

    Oh well.

  2. April, I understand. Though I don't have quite as many children as you do, I do. We have a limited curriculum budget ourselves. I have children all over the place in grades as well as interests, learning styles and abilities, and one now in high school, too.

    Research, pray, talk to other moms who've "been there, done that." Pray more. :)


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