Saturday, February 29, 2020

Mid Year Homeschool Update {2019-2020}

We are well over halfway through our homeschool year (which is insanely hard to believe!) and I wanted to give a little update on how this year has been going.
My oldest is in 2nd and my middle is in 1st doing 2nd grade work, so essentially they're both doing 2nd grade. I feel like this has been our smoothest year yet! I remember when I was teaching and in college doing things in the classrooms, feeling like 2nd grade was such a great year because you're past the hump of learning to read and write but they're still small and sweet, and I definitely feel like that's been true this year! There's so much more we've been able to do since they have reading and writing down pat, and it's been a lot of fun. 

We start our school days with Bible, and we are using New City Catechism Curriculum this year. The catechism has been really great. I have loved that we're opening the Bible together, learning from it, discussing it and memorizing the catechism questions and answers. It has brought up SO many good discussions and questions from my girls which has been just awesome! My only complaint is that with the curriculum, a lot of the activities are hard to modify from a classroom setting to 2 kids (they'll have team activities, and things like that, that you just can't do with 2 kids). But the rest of it has been really good and I would highly recommend it, just knowing that at home, you'll have to modify or skip some things. 

Next up has been history and science. We've been on a rotation doing a unit of history for several weeks, then a unit of science, then back to history, so on and so forth. 
We have been using The Good & The Beautiful History year 1, and I felt like unit 1 was decent, but we were bored out of our minds during unit 2. It was just way over my girls' heads and even I was bored with it. I had hoped that the audio recordings, read aloud and book of stories would liven it up some, but I found that I was just having to over explain everything and it was taking a long time and no real information was being learned or retained. I do think it's a good program and laid out well, and I love that it's family style so all grades can do it together, but I don't think I would order it again until the kids are quite a bit older. So now we are using some units I bought and prepped last year from Teachers Pay Teachers, that we didn't finish, and are currently on Black History again. We'll finish up the year later with maps and landforms, and I think that'll be sufficient for 2nd grade! 
For science this year, we've done all units that I got on TPT and we have had SO much fun with our science units! We've done a unit on pumpkins and winter, and both were a lot of fun and the girls learned a ton. This has worked out so well, that I've already bought some units for next school year and am planning out units! We have 2 more science units this year coming up-human body and bees! Overall, science has been a favorite this year, which makes me happy because I never loved science growing up, so I'm really pleased that it's coming alive for them! 

After history/science, we move onto language arts. We are using The Good & The Beautiful language arts level 2 this year for both girls. We really enjoyed it last year and we are again this year. I was really hoping that their new edition would come out before the year started, but it just came out in January. It looks so beautiful and so much more concise, that I wish we could have used it, but what we've got has been working out well! The girls are learning a ton and their reading has progressed so well again this year. I like that level 2 has added geography in, so they are getting some work in with maps and continents, and other geography things, which has been great. I had intended to do writing on Fridays using another writing book I bought, but we haven't done much of it. My oldest is getting writing this year at her homeschool classes, and I think that the writing instruction has picked up a lot in this level of TGATB, so I'm happy with that and they've both come a long way with their writing this year. Both of the girls really enjoy language arts this year, which makes me happy. We pushed through some frustrating weeks with my oldest the last couple years, and this year it's all coming a lot easier and really clicking, which is the goal! I did do away with the TGATB method for spelling. They have your kids write out sentences each week for each of their spelling words, and after a year and a half of doing it that way and my kids not doing great with spelling (taking several weeks to pass some words), I decided to try something else. Now each day they just have some kind of spelling activity, such as write the rainbow-using one line of the rainbow and writing the word in each color on that line, or magic spelling where they write their words in white crayon, then color over it with marker to make it show up. I think that when they were doing the sentences, they were just trying to come up with a sentence, and not paying attention to the actual spelling word, and that's why they weren't remembering it, and this way they're really retaining the spelling words, so that's been a good change. My middle has gone through all the level 2 spelling words twice, so we just moved onto the level 3 words for her, which shows me that changing it up made a huge difference! One of my favorite benefits of homeschool-if it's not working, you can change it! 

Math usually comes last and it's been going so well this year. We are using CTC math, which is online, so I'm not really teaching math this year (*gasp*!) Of course I am there and step in often to help, but the actual lessons are taught online, they do the questions on their own and if they don't pass (85% is what I have it set to), then we look at where they're getting hung up together. My only complaint is there isn't a lot of review in this. I haven't spent a ton of time on the site figuring everything out, so maybe we could be coming back to things someway, but I just haven't seen it. So some of the trickier concepts, I'm doing problems on the board for them a couple times a week to make sure they retain it. The other thing is that I want to make sure they know how to do it on paper as well as on the website. For some things, like carrying in addition, they have a little box that pops up and prompts them to carry the number, so I want to make sure they know what to do with it without that box there. Overall, I don't have complaints about CTC. The lessons are short and to the point, and math usually takes less than 15 minutes, which is incredible. And it's not for lack of instruction-they're both on grade 2 and learning multiplication right now, with division coming up in the next unit. The short and concise lessons have really eliminated a lot of math frustration for all of us this year, and I feel like they're getting the concepts down a lot better than when it was over explained in an hour long less, so CTC has been a huge blessing and success this year and we'll definitely keep using it! 

My girls have done typing and handwriting as well this year. Typing we are sporadic about...I'm kind of just letting them do it when they want to. They're definitely getting the hang of it, but I know it'll take a few years to really solidify. I'm glad they're getting the foundation and figuring out how the keyboard works. Handwriting is going well this year, and we are using level 2 of The Good & The Beautiful handwriting. They love that there is an activity or picture to do each day to go with the handwriting practice...that makes it a little bit more exciting! I can't believe they'll be learning cursive already next year!

Overall, this year has been really great and I can't believe we're already almost in our 4th quarter! Each year homeschooling just seems to go faster and faster. I'm grateful to be able to teach my girls and that this year has been a huge year of growth for them emotionally, spiritually and academically. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Why We Value Travel

I've been planning some of our trips for this year, and it has had me thinking lately about how valuable travel is. Our family didn't always used to place as heavy an emphasis on travel as we do now, and I really like talking about traveling, so I thought this would be a good topic! I know a lot of people don't see travel as a very valuable thing-it can be expensive, takes time off work, hard to plan, etc. but here are some reasons we see it as one of the most valuable things we can do with our children. 

Time with our kids
Each week, between activities, school, work, house work, etc. we might spend only 4  hours with our kids (I generally spend a lot more because I'm home with them, but there are days my husband doesn't see the kids at all, or only for a couple hours), but on vacation we spend all waking hours together. And those are hours that aren't usually interrupted by cooking, cleaning, errands, and the like. Those are truly quality hours with them, building memories and having experiences together. A week of quality time bonds us so much and strengthens our relationships with each other. That time together is priceless to us. How much more we have to build into our kids during those weeks! 

Exposure to new/different things
Traveling allows us to give our kids exposure to things and people that they might not get to have in our little everyday life bubble in Midwest America. Sure, we try our best on a day to day basis, but there are some things you can't provide where you are. It's good for our kids to see other ways of life. There are tremendous differences culturally even from the midwest to the deep south, or from the west coast to the east. Those are good things for them to experience. It's good for them to see that our way of life isn't the "right" or only way. It's good for them to try new foods, hear different dialects and languages we may not hear regularly, and even see different routines and ways of living. I'm always fascinated by it and I hope they grow up to be as well. I hope it makes them more well rounded, empathetic, curious, loving people. 

New experiences
Traveling often gives us the opportunity to give our kids new experiences. There's only so much we can do at home. Again, we certainly try, but we just don't have some things! Travel is a great way to try new things. To see new regions. To have new experiences. My hope is that these experiences together will be some of their strongest and best memories. Our times trying new things, going to new places, and maybe even stepping out of our comfort zones to do something we've never done before, are certainly also going to provide bonding between the members of our family. I hope that as they grow they will value experiences over things and that they will see the value in spending that time and making those memories rather than a new toy or item they'll be sick of in a month. 

A well deserved break
This goes along with my first point a little bit, but I believe travel is a much needed and well deserved break for all of us! It's so good for kids to be kids. To leave behind the school work, the friend drama (my kids aren't there yet, but I know as they age this could come into play), and whatever other stressors they might be experiencing, and just be free to enjoy themselves. To relax, to recharge, and to just enjoy their time. As adults, I think most of us can agree that we need that from time to time. Why wouldn't kids need it as well? I love seeing my kids without a care in the world, running free on the beach, climbing trees, exploring at a museum, watching a performance. Seeing that joy on their faces is one of the best parts of travel for me. 

There are certainly other things we could spend the money on that we put into trips . There are certainly other ways we could spend my husbands vacation days. But I don't think we'll regret for a second spending our money and time this way. Building into our kids, our bonds, and creating memories together will be absolutely worth every penny and hour of PTO spent! After thinking through these reasons, and looking back at some old vacations for pictures, I am absolutely ready and excited for our next family trip! It's going to be a really good one, and we're all counting down the weeks!!! 
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