Saturday, October 4, 2014

Year 3/Week 5: Homeschool performance reviews

As many homeschoolers know, one of the hardest parts of being a homeschool mom is the feeling of ...independence?...isolation?...alone at the top-ness?...well, the feeling that since your own homeschool is one-of-a-kind and happily unique, there really is no one to give you that daily feedback about how you are doing in your very important work. Motherhood is by design a thankless that, I mean we do all our mothering unconditionally without expectation of thanks..but homeschool parenting is motherhood on speed. So, once in a while, when we get that moment when the skies open up and God reaches down and shows us how we are is a beautiful thing. :)

Soooo..this is how it happened. We are studying Ancient Egypt at the moment, so the exhibit nearby at the Natural History Museum was our first family field trip (happily, with my hubby as well) and it went splendidly. We got to the mall around noon to a perfect 70 degree day and slightly cloudy, so no sunburn worries. We dropped by the Insect Zoo exhibit on our way to the mummies...

Danny was fascinated by the leaf bugs

..but once we got there, the boys did a great job of relating our current reading of   The Golden Goblet , Story of the World 1 and other readings we've had this month. Ben was proud of himself that he could identify the parts of the mummy on xray and took all the quizzes...

Of course, there was lots of cool stuff. A great 3000 year old inner sarcophagus...

..and even a visit to the Live Butterfly enclosure that Ben REALLY wanted to do and then wanted to leave in five minutes because REALLY BIG BUTTERFLIES were flying around his head! Hahaha

      Once we were done with our "planned visit", we made another attempt to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives. We had tried this on our last visit in the spring, but something major must have been going on at the Archives that day, because the line had been out the door and around the corner and we hadn't even bothered. But this line! We got in right away and as we were in line to view the documents, I was going over the meaning of the documents and why we had each one (one to declare our independence, one to define what our new country and what we stood for, and a third to further delineate rights of individuals in our country). I was trying to do this in a way both boys would understand simply and easily and they would remember from our last two year study of American History. All was going swimmingly and I was happy we all could remember so much of what we had learned, when a 30-something gentlemen behind us asked "Are you a teacher". Gratefully, I did not say "no", since I've finally learned that I AM, so I laughed and pointed to the boys and said "We are homeschoolers!". At this point, the man completely surprised me by saying, "That was the most simple and straightforward explanation of these documents that I've ever heard. I asked that because I teach college-age students and I haven't heard anything before that was that easy to understand." Wow. Just wow. I just got a pat on the back by the Great Teacher Review Board in the sky and I floated on Cloud Nine until I got home. Some days are just that good.
We get it, we really get it

Point and match. I'm done. Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are. 

Obligatory yearly Easter island Head 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Year 3/Week 4/Final bodycount...any *&$% day...

One of the most frustrating things, if not the MOST frustrating thing, about homeschooling a child with a behavioral/neurological disorder is that you can count on...absolutely nothing. There is  no guarantee any day will go well, and more likely, if you've had a couple of good days under your belt, the odds increase exponentially each day that THIS day will be a disaster. And this can happen any time on any day. 


Let me repeat that. Uncertainty and surprise are my life homeschooling with ASD in our lives...not to mention the looming menace of my health issues. But at least my health issues stay mostly at a constant low ebb and I've worked most of our classes around the possibility that the boys may have to work alone. But ASD...that just lives to create chaos in our school.

Our week was going pretty well. The basics were getting done and even though Danny seemed to be stalling every day and pushing me to the limit every evening before he was finally done, he was doing all his work and getting great scores. Then today. I already knew today was going to be tough on me, because I had a really scary episode with my back last night..the worst since my surgery, in fact. So I had already planned the boys were only going to do the basics and I wouldn't ask more of them. Easy, right?

Four hours after we started school, Danny had done exactly 12 math problems independently. Twelve. Addition and multiplication problems. And nothing else. For those four hours, I had checked on him, encouraged him, tried to help him...and then when I realized he has accomplished next to nothing, I just lost it.  Frustrated, mad, pissed off, you name it. It's just beyond my comprehension. I'm tired, in pain, out of patience, it's Friday name it. 

Then he puts his head down and cries.

And I'm done.  Again.

And I'm  putty in his hands. He breaks down and tells me he is having "one of the days" where he can't even add 9+9. And he didn't tell me. Just kept trying and trying and nothing made sense for him. And I feel awful. My whole day flips topsy turvy in 2 seconds and I am hugging him and kissing him and trying to make it work again. And realizing how a "normal" school would never understand that on Monday we'll have to stop and review addition and subtraction and basic multiplication. Again. Until it kicks in again. That's when I'm so glad he's with me...and scared he'll never be able to go back to a "real school".  Ever.

So, we sit on my bed and I study my college text and he reads his reading novel..and hold hands and smile. And I hug him every five minutes until he's ready to move to the next subject. 

I'm so ready for the weekend.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Year 3/Week 4: A Return to Normalcy..for us, anyway...

This is our fourth week of homeschool for Year 3 and the first day of fall. So thankful this summer is was a bear! And for the first time in our 5th and 7th grade schooling, we are finally falling in a regular routine and our house is beginning to recover. Once the painting was done, it took me a full week to restock the schoolroom (not including the space we are losing because the bay window ceiling is still leaking) and de-junkify the front living room. Today we finally got the TV room decluttered and vacuumed and it FINALLY feels ready to face company again. Now, once I get my office and upper hallway cleared of the stuff we loaded out of the basement from the flood...and box up or donate all the stuff in the basement...and move the basement furniture...and get the carpet in the basement replaced..we'll be set :)

The boys are on a regular schedule of a core daily program of math, English, reading, instrument practice, Bible/religion study, and what I call MYH (Move Your Hiney time, which is a daily chart of stretching, strength exercises and cardio they can choose from to complete their 30 minutes daily) and they are falling into step pretty well. We've still had to work at Danny not getting distracted while on the computer for math and English, but I've got to admit, he is really trying hard. Which is nice after last week, where I was SERIOUSLY one step from driving him up and enrolling him in school...public school, church school, ANY school! But we got through that (for now) and we're doing okay.

Our school week includes "add-ins" of history, geography, science, health and art as I can fit them in and find good lessons. Music is still weekly band lessons with Encore Academy and I'm just as excited as the boys that we are moving up to Intermediate Band this year. Woot!

This is our first year not using the Sonlight Instructor's Guide for history, although I did buy a good amount of the Sonlight Readers to use in conjunction with our Story of the World studies this year. I've made the executive decision (which I am still realizing I can do) to limit our studies to Egypt, Greece, Rome and as much of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as we can get to this year. Since this is Danny's last year with me (and it SO, I want to touch on as much of World History as I can before he goes. I wish we could have made it to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year, but we got rained out on the only free weekend before baseball started. Serious bummer for Mom/Teacher.

But the reason we are missing the Ren Fest is awesome...the boys are playing baseball for the very first time (which is also most of their cardio for MYH time)...and loving it! I couldn't be more tickled, because this is really hubby's sport and he is right in there helping them practice, getting their equipment and taking them to the batting cages, practices and games. I finally feel like I'm seeing one of the biggest payoffs we'll get from homeschooling - having enough time in our schedule to try different activities including this one, which is a homerun for everyone this time. :)

 Danny's first baseball team warming up before the game...he's #53 :)
Ben at his first practice before he got rained out..complete with game face :)

So, now that the house is fairly under control and the boys have their work finished in good time today, I'm off to list more of my growing pile of "give aways" on my eBay store and do a little studying for my own classes while I'm at it. Yee-haw! Talk to you during my next breather....MLM

Monday, September 8, 2014

Year 3/Week 2: Seriously?

Just looking at today's title, I couldn't believe we are actually homeschooling into Year 3 - who would have thought?!?! Many things have changed over the years, including the frequency of my blogs, but it's a great way to start the year, so here goes (many pardons to all my Facebook buddies who have already seen these in real time)...

Week 2, you say? What happened to Week 1? Well, let me show you....
This was our classroom during the first week of school.

I guess I also need to let you know that we started our school year AFTER Labor Day, as well. And AFTER my birthday, the day after Labor Day...and even though we started as late as 9/3/14, we still didn't start a full schedule because we were still in the middle of  THIS: repainting a good portion of our first floor (which we had been putting off for years...and, obviously, until the end of this summer.) We had a fun first week, though! After our traditional first day picture and annual "field trip" to Dunkin Donuts...

First day of Homeschool 2014-2015

we had an easy day of grocery shopping and then reading happily after finding Minecraft novels at BJs...
Third year of homeschool and finally found books they really LIKE to read!

Finding these books was a real Godsend to me since the boys have humored me by reading books I've assigned or helped them choose at the library, but they LOVED these. Finally! I may still have to assign reading time, but they won't complain..:)

Our second day of school was fun and busy. We headed up to Mt. Airy first to Talbot Run Equestrian Center for a homeschool Intro to Horseback Riding lesson. It was the first time the boys were ever on a horse, and they had a fantastic time. Danny giggled the whole time and Ben looked like he was born to ride...they are already bugging me when we are going next! Since it's an expensive hobby, we'll probably only be able to go once a month or so, but looking forward to giving them these great opportunities in whatever years we have left at Varga School.

 Danny and Ben sitting like champs

We finished our Thursday classes with a "math/spelling bee" on the car ride further north to our band lesson in Hampstead. Love our Encore Academy instructor and's a great perk and break for all of us each week. Our first week ended with a relaxing day on Friday while Dad took over the boys and watched over their reading assignment and took them for haircuts while I fled to the library to study for my Medical Coding class. After we were all done, we headed to Rockburn Park for a fun class through Howard County Parks and Rec, Introduction to Geocaching. We had a great time, found a few practice caches and got our smartphones set up to do more in the future. Loved it!

So, we were lucky that our first week really didn't require the classroom. We kicked tail finishing the painting over the weekend so that today (Monday), we were ready for REAL classes like this:

Ben and Danny doing their Math lesson in our new setup

Besides  not having things hung on the walls yet, we did pretty good and covered our first "full" day of subjects with math (Teaching Textbooks on DVD w/workbook again), English (Essentials in Writing on DVD w/workbook), instrument practice, reading and P.E. I'll be adding in History, Science, Art and other electives as we get further into the semester. I am just SO relieved to have my first floor back in working order for the first time in FOREVER, that everything seems so much easier now. Once I get all the subjects up and running, I'll be able to tackle re-carpeting the basement from the Spring Flood of '14 and all the crazy that will entail. But that's for another time. For now, we are just enjoying the normal!!

Til next breather - MHM

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Year 2/Week 34: The Year I Stopped Searching and Surrendered

Dear Father, forgive me. It's been three months since my last Homeschool Blog entry.

I can't begin to list the differences between homeschooling this year, our second year, and last year. However, I think the biggest difference overall is that I've completely narrowed my focus. I've stopped searching under every rock for all the possible different curricula/approaches/gadgets I could use in our homeschool (although, to be fair, it was the right way to start and now I own about everything I could possibly need..) - and now, I've started to teach from a new place. My own center. Now that I belong to every possible email/Yahoo newslist and group in my town and state, along with a multitude of support groups of every possible need I could have, I find that all that information is starting to sound like a lot of noise these days.

I have what I need, at least for now. My boys' needs change every day and some days I think we are going down the entirely wrong path and panic. Then we take a break for a day, a week, a month...and we end up back with the same tools that have worked for us and they start to work for us again. All the wheels start to mesh again and the great Varga Homeschool machine begins it's beautiful humming pace.

It has been a long, hard year. We started the year with a terrible attitude in the midst of our group (he who shall remain nameless...OLDEST SON) and it almost killed our school. Every day seemed an agony and the joy was gone. It had started to appear at the end of our first year of homeschool, so now my dread over the summer and lack of enthusiasm when we re-started in September make perfect sense, although it baffled me at the time.

My oldest son also spent most of 2013 scaling that awful, terrible trainwreck of a brick wall we call “Long Division”. I thought we would both lose our minds, however for different reasons, because math has always been easy for me and my challenge was to see the problems the way HE saw them. But somewhere along the way, God had mercy on us, equations began to make sense and we started to make slow progress and chug slowly down the track again. I guess it didn't really matter anyway, because we lost most of our next year to vacations and family tragedies that would sidetrack anyone. 

Derailed briefly by the holiday crazy that is Christmas, we had already lost some momentum and never really gotten it back, but then when we hit April, we totally lost it. We had expected to lose school time during Holy Week and the following weeks when we had planned our annual “big” vacation to Disney, but we hadn't expected to lost the next week to the death of a beloved family member and the week after that to a flood in our basement due to a rusted-out water heater. It turned from ugly, then into unbelievable, and finally into surrender. That's when I learned the biggest “downside” of homeschool:

Every..Single...Thing that happens at home affects homeschooling.

But here's the good news: Here we sit in the first week of June and everyone is actually doing amazing. School work is clicking along at a record pace, everyone is doing their work diligently and I don't feel stress during the school day at all. Well, until they poke each other for the umpteenth time and I think my brain will explode. But that's boys, not homeschool...

At this rate, we plan to keep schooling right through the summer, with our planned week-long mini vacations still happening in between, and maybe a larger break in August before the “real” school year begins. It's not the way we did it last year-and it may not be the way we do it next year-and that's okay.

Because I'm the principal and this is our school.

And every day is “home” school. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Year 2/Week 25: Seeing the Light

This week I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Once I realized we were in Week 25 and I started to sort work for my end-of-the-year umbrella school review, I got to see the big picture of how we were doing and it started to come into focus. Yes, we have problems, but thank the Lord we are homeschooling and they can get addressed. It seems the more we homeschool, the more we "unschool". Maybe that's why this year seems so much more chaotic than last year - and scarier. I'm not trying to stick to a strict curricum, but rather be more organic in working with my kids where they are. When they feel like it - which is almost never with my middle-schooler. The month of February, while the shortest month of the year, seemed to last forever for us. We have no pictures of what we did and I think it's best we just forget it happened...

I did realize that middle school happens, whether you homeschool or public school. Some days are almost intolerable with a tween and some are almost okay the way it was when we started. I'm starting to REALLY appreciate the good days when we have them! Every day is definitely a challenge. Last week things did FINALLY start to fall into place for the first time in 2014. After a few cancellations due to lack of enrollment, we finally started our Abrakadoodle art class and PE class at the YMCA. It was such a relief to know they were getting instruction in those subjects, because even though we do ad hoc artwork and the boys place outside and do workouts on our basement glider machine, I love that they are learning from specialists in those areas - and from someone other than me! 

Monday the boys' Abrakadoodle class did a study of reflection along with learning about Vermeer...guess who did a reflection of Big Ben and who did the study of a green train? One guess. :)

The first 2014 Abrakadoodle - Reflection art a la Vermeer

It's hard to believe it's only been a week since Lent began last week, but we had a good start to Lent this year. Maybe that's why things have finally started to turn around! We actually began Tuesday with making a lapbook of the history of Mardi Gras and baking a King Cake - my first! Easy to do with Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and the boys liked dyeing the sugar with food coloring - and eating it :)
                                    The finished King Cake
 Making the colored sugar

Our Mardi Gras Lapbooks

On Wednesday, we had a nice discussion of Lent using our Lent calendar that looks like a Chutes and Ladder game. We discussed what is involved in Fasting, Almsgiving, and self-denial in order to work on self-control. I'll let you know how I'm doing on soon as I stop playing Farmville 2 the way I was supposed to...:)

Since the boys tend to hibernate in the endless winter we decided to take a nature walk (with remote control car thanks to Danny) at the Ellicott City Trolley Trail on our first nice spring Saturday over the weekend. Although we had to pry Danny out of the house with a shoe horn, they loved getting back out on the trail. We had the normal Danny breakdown halfway through - where he balked because we wouldn't let him go down a steep cliff to run his car in the creek at the bottom - but we lived through it again and it was so nice to get out in the beautiful rare warm day in Maryland these days.
 Excited about the frozen waterfall
Happy the amphibious RC car survived

Although Monday and Tuesday of this week started out fairly normally (and our new history reader "The Terrible Wave" is about the Johnstown flood - unbelievably relevant since that is George's hometown and we can work a visit to the Johnstown Flood Museum and Discover center during our visit home this weekend!), once again we didn't have a full school week.

This week our little sleep issue worsened (Danny has begun to stay up ALL night-in his room- without our knowledge which really throws off our day activities) and Ben got strep throat. Actually, he started with a sore throat last weekend off and on and by Wednesday he had a fever, so I took him to the doctor and had him checked for strep. Nothing on the rapid test, so we treated with ibuprofen and smoothies to drink. Because of running to the doctor and other stuff, we didn't have school on Wednesday or Thursday and Ben rested alot, but since he seemed no worse on Friday, we did have reading and spelling and started a science lab. Very minimal but at least it was something. Then - I get the call from the doctor that the strep culture came back positive...and not long afterward, Ben goes downhill very fast. He is miserable in pain and crying as the pain goes to his ear. And he has to miss a friend's birthday party at the gokart track. Not a good week for Ben, all in all. Thank goodness the antibiotics are in him and he's sleeping at the moment. Small blessings that mean alot.

Less than three months...:)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Year 2/Week 20: It's not how you start, it's how you finish...

The nice part about this week was that it ended better than it began...thank the Lord...

This school week (number 20 by school attendance days, but more like week 15 by actual curriculum completed..argh) started rather rough. We've slowly but surely been revving back up to full school mode since the December trauma we call "Christmas Break", but last weekend put a little bump in our road. We took last Friday off school and spent the weekend with my husband's family to celebrate the life and send off our dear Aunt Mary to Heaven. She was the sweetest, most innocent soul I've ever known and I was so happy that she got to know my boys so well and play with them for her last years, especially since my dear mother-in-law passed away when my youngest hadn't even turned a year old. So my boys got a life lesson in the beautiful traditions that included the Panachida, or memorial service, of the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church, a sweet Mass at the lovely family church and a coffee and dessert reception given to us by the Sisters of St. Basil at Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown after the burial. It was their first chance to really see and participate in a funeral service and I was as proud of their grown-up behavior as I was to show them the rich and beautiful heritage that they are inheriting from their father's family.
Aunt Mary, Danny and Ben in 2006

So...after that HUGE life lesson, we started our school week on Monday...with the news that our art class with Abrakadoodle (which was to start a six week session this Tuesday) had been cancelled due to low enrollment. With this following on the heels on our PE class at the local YMCA being cancelled as well this session, I was beginning to be a little frustrated that I won't be able to find something to complete all the boys' electives this session. Last year, I was amazed at all the homeschool activities in the area that seemed to be EVERYWHERE and this year, they seemed to be drying up as fast as I could sign them up. Even the January homeschool days at the Maryland Science Center weren't offering anything remotely interesting to me or the boys, so I hadn't even bothered to sign them up. More on that next time..

But even though art was cancelled, at least the boys seemed to be "back in the saddle" with the schoolwork rhythm again and not fighting their work every day. At least, I thought so, until I realized that one of the reasons they loved the new online Time4Learning curriculum we started as a "breather coarse" after the holidays was because they had been skipping the quiz and test icons on the activity screen and were just breezing through the reading and instruction without really doing any work. Things hit the fan when I had them start doing those little ditties this week and the scores were say the least. So I weaned them off the online history and science portions this week and back onto our regular Sonlight and Mr. Q's lessons and, frankly, I was glad to be back. We are in the Post-Reconstruction American History period and it's a fun time to study the growth of the country across the West by railroad and all the amazing inventions of the time as well. The Sonlight reading that correlates is  "The Great Wheel" by Robert Lawson about the first Ferris Wheel at the Chicago World's Fair and the boys are enjoying it so far - even my pitiful attempts at an Irish accent.  :)

***By the way, does anyone else have a problem with their child not being able to read historical literature because they can't decipher the colloquial speech in the books? It's fun for me to read because I know how it's suppose to sound, but it makes life miserable for my youngest. Their independent reader this time is "Old Yeller" (yeah, I know how it ends and we'll probably all cry, but even though I've dreaded reading it all my life, I want to do it with the boys because it's about a boy and his dog and all...), and I'm actually going to let them read along with an audio book from the library so they can read along but not get bogged down by that.***

In science, they are working on weather fronts and air masses that cause storms, and even though it's very relevant with the crazy weather we are having this winter and we have great conversations, it is still confusing enough to us that we have alot of sympathy for the weatherman around here! It felt really good to be engaged with the boys again talking about things that really mattered and watching their brains work. It's more tiring for me and I get a lot less housework done, but it's so much more rewarding. :)
 Science - Throw boiling water in freezing temps!
Winter Art - colored water frozen in balloons, then peeled!

The week was pretty successful, all in all. We've had snow days one after the other with the public schools here and usually we just trudge along through our homeschool work (usually a little abbreviated).  However, this week by public school snow day number 2, I gave them a real snow day (minus instrument practice and glider time for exercise) on Wednesday. As I was settling in for a relaxing afternoon with the income tax software, Ben rushes up to tell me that "something" was spraying water all over the basement closet - which turned out to be the check valve on the sump pump. Cha-ching...yes, that was the sound of more hundreds of dollars repairing our dear Ryan home substandard hardware. Thank goodness for Len the Plumber, but it took the "relaxing" out of our "day off" for me since I had to keep the place from flooding until he got here...

By Thursday, I was so grateful that my oldest daughter had treated me to a night in Baltimore with her and my oldest granddaughter to see Disney on Ice. It was great to be out with the girls, surrounded by Princess dresses and tiaras and all the old music that I loved singing when my girls were growing up. It was only 20 years ago, but it seems a lifetime ago! Shayla was an angel and Erin and I had the best time just watching her face.
 All the Princesses!
 It's a Small World in Lights - on Ice!
Okay, I'm not actually homeschooling these cuties, but they deserve a pic, too :)

And to top off our week, we ended it well. We had a "Fun Friday" at school, with a quick spelling quiz, Math Multiplication Bingo while sitting on the floor, and listening to our Old Yeller audiobook in the car...on the way to see the new Lego Movie! It really was a hoot and the first time we'd seen a movie on the FIRST day it was released..probably EVER. I highly recommend it to any parent who had a child who loves Legos.  Although once you go, you'll never get THIS song out of your head...:)

Best part of the week - hubby and I made plans for our annual getaway WITHOUT any kiddos this summer, thanks to our rocking sisters Veronica and Marian! I can make it through the rest of the school year with this ahead of me! Woo-hoo!
See ya next week!!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Year 2: Week 18 - My Time4Learning Review

Halfway through our homeschool year and today I am so thankful we are homeschooling in the technological age of today. Thank God for internet homeschool sites!

Today, I just want to say how grateful I am for the Time4Learning homeschool website. We have been using this for the current school year since September as a supplement to our current curriculum, especially on days when I am sick or having a "down" day from my chronic illness. It has been wonderful to have a fallback when I am not able to sit and teach daily lessons!

We started back to school this year after the Christmas holidays two weeks ago and it has been excruciating, to say the least. Last week, I actually had a serious talk with both my husband and my oldest son about possibly returning to public school, because he was becoming so difficult to deal with and is having problems beyond my scope in both writing and math. We made the decision to do our best this year and if things improve, to have our 6th grader finish middle school at home and go back to public school in 9th grade for high school. 

Fast forward to this week and I decided to make this a Time4Learning week to take the pressure off us all, both teachers and students. Aside from daily reading with them and outside subjects, I assigned both boys daily lessons in Language Arts, Language Arts extension, Science, and Social Studies. Since our older son is struggling so much with his current curriculum in math, I had him do his Math lessons on Time4Learning as well this week while keeping our younger son doing his regular math lessons. I let them know that they were responsible for 5 lessons in each to do as they wanted, with at least one per subject per day. If they wanted to finish their full weeks' work in one day, they were more than welcome to do that and they'd have my blessing!

Although with T4L I have the option to pick each days' individual lessons from the grade level lesson plans, this week I opted to simply let them go into their grade level and do the next designated lesson. T4L gives each student a screen which has icons into each subject and an arrow that points them to the next unfinished lesson in their grade curriculum. It is easy to follow and the boys are always able to find all their lessons without any help from me. The math and language lessons are accompanied by cute verbal instruction and walk the boys' through each step. If they don't understand, the program always gives them an opportunity to hear another explanation. The social studies and science programs are mostly read-only lessons with plenty of illustrations and pictures. My oldest son does well with these read-only lessons, but my younger son does find it to be too demanding, so he uses a free downloadable program on his laptop called Free NaturalReader to translate the pages and play them verbally. With this adaption, he does very well with them as well and the material is understandable but complete.

The Time4Learning student home page

One feature in particular that I love is the ability to change grade levels at any time in any subject for each student individually. A few times over the course of the year I have needed to do that for science and social studies for each boy as I realized they were either behind or ahead of their grade level and the change was completed in less than a school day. Also, any questions I have submitted to their support team was answered and resolved in less than 24 hours as well. I was very impressed with this response time!

Long story short, it works well for least in the short term for now. (In fact, my younger son completed a large part of his weekly work in one day so he could get a jump ahead on his work. I've always know he is very motivated to do advanced work and this is a wonderful way for him to play with that option himself!) We don't plan to use this every day for every subject, but I am always relieved to know that if I have a long term relapse in my illness that my boys can keep moving along on their schoolwork with a full-service, full and robust program until I recover. Thank you, Time4Learning!

I've been invited to review Time4Learning in exchange for one month of use. My opinion is entirely my own. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Year 2: Winter Break review

I haven't been blogging very much recently about our homeschool...I know. I was very happy when Christmas break rolled around and we could just "turn off" the school and "turn on" our regular old homelife, sans schoolwork.

Not that we didn't accomplish much in December. I wasn't really "with it" this year like last year's holiday (note the lack of Advent wreath project this year *sigh*), but we did manage to put some meaningful holiday lessons and fun into our homeschool Christmas 2013:

1) While I didn't have the boys create an Advent project,  we did do - or tried to do - a little thing everyday that I named our "Advent-ure". In a nice holiday basket, I collected enough envelopes for the Advent school days, labelled them with the number of the day and inside put an activity we could do after all our schoolwork was done. One day it was cutting out paper snowflakes (this was a dud with the boys, but a hit with Shayla) and talked about how we were all unique creations of God. Another day we made hot chocolate and played Christmas Bingo - big hit with the boys! Some days by the end of the day they didn't want to have anything to do with me and other days it kept them motivated to finish, but at least we recognized the season in our school.

2) As part of the boys' music studies, they participated in our church's junior choir through the end of 2013. They practiced at church every Wednesday night and sang at Saturday evening Mass once a month. For Christmas, they sang again for the Children's Mass on Christmas Eve afternoon. They weren't "feeling the love" for singing by then, but did a great job and Ben even carried the lantern up to light Baby Jesus in our altar nativity scene. 
Danny wasn't really asleep - Mom's just not good with her new camera phone yet :)

3)  Our new band, Encore Academy, out of Westminster, is truly a Godsend. The boys actually found a music class they really enjoyed, practiced every school day and that - ahem - Mom loves! Our Holiday concert on December 16th went really well considering that is was my and Ben's first instrument concert ever and neither of us passed out or threw up. :) Our family afterward:

4) Our art this month was sparse, but we managed to get to The Pottery Stop in Ellicott City for the first time so the boys could make Christmas gifts for their godmothers. The projects turned out so good that they begged to go back and make something to keep, so that will definitely happen in January before we begin our Abrakadoodle classes at the Columbia Hobby Lobby....

5) We were able to squeeze in a visit to the B&O railroad museum (again :) because I didn't want to miss the Christmas train exhibits. Also, since they have been celebrating the Civil War 150th Anniversary with The War Came by Train exhibit, and we just finished our Civil War unit, I thought they might tie the two together. No such luck, but we did get to see all their new exhibits (Thomas was still there :) and the main exhibit made entirely of Legos with camera-mounted cameras displayed on a TV screen. So definitely a local win!

     So, it was a fun and productive December, even if the actual grunt work of schooling dwindled down to a trickle of holiday worksheets in math and grammar by the last week. We've all spent the last two weeks letting our brains rest and I think it actually worked. I've redone my weekly school schedule to something I think will be more usable to me. Also, I got the Grammar Ace grammar curriculum because I needed something better suited for the boys and I think this might be it - I hope so! 
     My biggest challenge starting into 2014 is Danny's math issues and Ben's reading dread. However, one of those may be on it's way out. Since we weren't doing schooling over the break, I starting reading Ben one of his favorite character books at bedtime (not educational, but not a graphic novel and something he LOVES) and he FINALLY started getting excited about them and not letting me stop each night. This was a surprise, because believe me, I tried before with this same book all fall semester and he was determined NOT to like it. And - miracle of miracles! - when I was sick in bed last night and couldn't tuck him in, he came RUNNING into my room with the next book in his series to read! Since I was feeling so bad, it was good excuse for me to ask him to read to ME - and it went wonderfully. He is really starting to read with expression and comprehension and we both giggled our way through the whole chapter. I told him how good he made me feel when he read to me, so I'm gonna work this angle as long as I can. :)
     I still have to hope and pray for a miracle with Danny's math, but seeing Ben's progress, I have hope now. Happy New Year 2014!