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!