Interesting Homeschooling

Homeschooling has been fun lately. Other than some counting review, we have left math and English alone. That evaluation is 2 months away, and we are going to get down to business with reading, writing, and math after that. I have been talking to a tutor I think I am going to hire.

Meanwhile, it’s all about geography, science, social studies, art, and art history. I have bought tons of books for her to explore, and there are at least fifteen more coming in the mail. I want to introduce her to the world and help her find the things she is passionate about. I believe in a liberal arts education. I am going to give her the best education that I can.

Craig gave me that really cool book about Hieronymus Bosch for my birthday, and Angelica and I have dissected a painting, St John on the Island of Patmos, and talked about what it means. She loved it. She asked so many questions. We’ve gone through more Bosch paintings as well. He’s my favorite Medieval painter. 

Naturally, I am not looking for a thesis from her. She’s five. I just want to introduce her to some artists so that she can identify their work if she sees it. At the very least I want to expose her to a lot of art to give her an appreciation of it and to stoke her imagination. I’m pleased that she has been enjoying it so much.

Science has been all over the place. We have talked a lot about the solar system. Pluto has been a focus of discussion, as have Mercury and Venus. We have also been learning about caves. There’s so much to discover in the books I have bought her. She’s in Kindergarten, so if she absorbs just some of it I’ll be happy. Angelica has so much curiosity and so many questions. It is a joy to teach her.

One of her new books for history and social studies profiles kids from different cultures and time periods. I think filtering things from the perspective of a child will help keep her interest and help her retain the information. It is a good introduction. I have other books too, but that’s the new focus. We’ve gone over some basic structural elements of castles as well, but I think we need to review that.

Art itself has been a regular focal point. Angelica uses a variety of materials, from paint to fabric. She really enjoys being creative with everything she can find. I want to encourage this as much as I can. In a few years, when she is more mature and responsible, I look forward to buying her a camera. For now it’s stickers galore. 

Homeschool Values

Why has our family chosen to homeschool? What values and priorities have led my husband and I to take on the vital, heavy job of educating our daughter ourselves? I have begun reading a wonderful book on homeschooling, and one of the first questions it poses is what our values are that have led us to make this choice.

Our values are numerous. Here are the top 5.

  1. We want to be able to customize our daughter’s education to provide her extra help in areas that she struggles, and to allow her to push forward at high speed in the areas in which she excels. The customization and endless possibilities of homeschooling really appeal to us. Homeschooling is a major task, but we are undertaking this task in the hopes of providing our daughter a better education.
  2. Faith. Obviously, public schools do not teach our Christian faith. We want to incorporate the Bible into our daily lessons. We do not want public schools teaching her things that are contrary to scripture. Incorporating our faith in God and our walk with Jesus into academic life is important to us. However, you might wonder why this isn’t number one on our list of why we homeschool. Well, if teaching the faith was our only issue or even the most predominant issue, we could send her to a Christian private school. One of the best benefits of homeschooling is being able to incorporate our religious beliefs into academic life, but it is not nearly the only reason. There are plenty of good Christian schools to send Angelica to. But homeschooling we think will offer her a better education and fit our family better. Although homeschooling is often thought of as a Christian thing, there are many secular parents who are choosing to homeschool their children. I think that that alone attests to the fact that there is a value in homeschooling beyond the religious.
  3. Homeschooling allows for travel. In September we took a two-week vacation. If our daughter was in school we couldn’t have decided to just take a two-week road trip around the Northwest in September. It would be the beginning of her school year and aside from the attendance policies the school would undoubtedly have, it would put her behind if we took a vacation in September. We went to New Mexico to visit my uncle for a few days in October. We are hoping to do Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks in the next year or two, and we don’t intend to go to every single one of those in the busy summer season. Homeschooling allows our family to travel when we want and for as long as we want. In exchange we have to do school year-round of course, but with plenty of breaks during the year to travel or spend time with family we have decided that that doesn’t matter. And if we take a really long trip at some point, we can make the choice to bring school on the road with us. Homeschooling is totally flexible and easy to tailor to our lifestyle.
  4. I really want to spend the time with my daughter, this year and every year until she grows up. I like a break just like any other mother does. I have a babysitter for a reason. But I don’t want to miss out on being with my daughter 5 days a week. I would rather share in the joy of discovery that is school with my daughter. Childhood is so short and I just don’t want to part with precious time. I want to have lots of memories of these years and to spend the extra time with Angelica. I am fortunate to be able to homeschool, and I want to make the most of that opportunity to be close to my daughter and make extra memories with her that I wouldn’t be able to make if she was out of the house 30 to 40 hours a week. Of course if I thought it was truly in my daughter’s best interest to spend those 30 or 40 hours a week away from home in a school, I would send her to school. But I don’t think that that would be in her best interest, so this is another one of my homeschooling values.
  5. Homeschooling really works with the military lifestyle. In the military you pack up and leave every two to three years. We’re hoping to be able to homestead at some point, but that is not guaranteed to happen. So every couple of years a military child switches school districts and ends up with a completely different curriculum in a new place with new people and new expectations. Sometimes the’ll wind up in a place with more opportunity, and sometimes they’ll end up in a place with less. This is true whether you send your child to public school or private school. By homeschooling her we ensure that her education doesn’t flip flop every couple of years. She will have continuity and I think that’s very valuable for a child. The content of her education will vary depending on her interests and skills, rather than on geography.

It’s All About Science and Geography!

Since English and Math are a no go until we get a diagnosis and some professional help for Angelica, I’ve decided to take a different tack. Her curriculum did primarily just math and language arts (with a small smattering of social studies) for Kindergarten. They didn’t really do science and geography, or even history, until later grades. Angelica simply can’t do the math and language arts right now (see previous post). But I see no reason to waste time that could be used to give her a valuable education. To that end, I went out and bought two science books for kids and one geography book. All of them are full of amazing photos that interest Angelica. The two science books are picture encyclopedias of sorts, but they cover different subjects. These books give us so much to dive into and so far she really likes them. Angelica chose to start with her geography book. That book, although it covers continents and oceans and everything like that, also covers space and the magnetosphere and tectonic plates etc. We are starting at the very beginning of the book, which in fact is the very beginning – space. We have been reading about the order of the planets and watching documentaries on Mercury and Venus. I’m going to use these very engaging books and any videos I can find to teach her. When she gets a couple of grades ahead I want to get her the DK books. They have ones for history, art history, music,  and some for other subjects too. These books can be basic textbooks and supplemental materials until she gets older and needs to really dive in deep.

Hitting a Wall and Getting Help

We plugged away at BJU Press for as long as we could, but we just hit a wall. It’s actually a very good video curriculum taught by experienced teachers, and with accompanying review material. The problems we ran into were numerous. Angelica did not grasp phonics at all. They were teaching how to sound out basic words like sin and tin. Nothing worked. Phonics cards didn’t work. The teacher’s lessons didn’t work. Our explanations didn’t work. She wasn’t catching on and would cry with frustration.

Then there was the issue with math. She did finally count to ten by using this curriculum, which was great. But Angelica didn’t always connect numbers to actual objects, and getting higher than ten just wasn’t happening. Lesser and greater were difficult for her. And comparing ordinal and cardinal numbers, forget it. Tallying did not go well either.

We took her to a developmental pediatrician twice and what she determined is that Angelica probably has dyslexia and dyscalculia. She doesn’t handle those disorders though, so we have scheduled a full evaluation and diagnostic session at a literacy center in Denver. They were booked out until January. The Colorado Springs location, where we live, was booked out until April. The center will test for dyscalculia, dyslexia, and pretty much every other learning and developmental disorder. It’s expensive, but we need to do it. Something is clearly wrong, and we can’t seem to overcome it. We need to find out what Angelica has so we can learn how to teach her in a way she will understand. Hopefully we can also find a tutor with experience in whatever disorders she has who can come and do math and language arts lessons with her each week.

BJU Press

We have decided to go another direction in our home schooling. I have ordered the BJU online curriculum. She will watch videos online everyday that cover math and language arts, and through the subject of language arts science and social studies will be studied as well. There are corresponding worksheets to do and little projects. I am excited to get started on this with her. We showed her a sample video of the kindergarten math and she seemed to like it and get into it.

I actually looked into this curriculum months ago. Actually years ago even, as I was beginning to ponder exactly how I was going to homeschool Angelica. I was worried that videos might bore her, and I wondered if she would need me teaching and if the videos would be too much of an easy way out. But as I have found out from having her do the Time4Learning Subscription Service, she loves videos. Or at the very least she loves those. And doing pure workbook assignments with nothing else to go with it, like we did with Christian Light Education, is something she hates. She likes to have audio and visual and colors and possibly to do a little kinesthetic movement. These videos seem to encourage some of that. And it’s a more well-rounded education than what we were using because kindergarten covers science and social studies, even if they don’t have their own videos devoted to those subjects. I watched a sample language arts video and was impressed. I hope that the worksheets are well designed and that Angelica really get something out of them. And I like the fact that each day I have to lay out her work for her and we follow along with the videos and then we do the work that’s assigned in the parent guide each day. I can enter grades for her online through the parent portal. Starting in fifth grade I think students take their tests and quizzes online, but until then I will be grading them, which I think I like just as well.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I really think that at the very least this will go much better than the last curriculum. I will have so much more help teaching because it won’t be just me and my methodology. She’ll be watching an actual professional teacher teach the first time she hears the lesson and then I will just be reinforcing the lesson. Between laying out her work for her each day, pulling up the videos and being ready to stop them at the appropriate time for her to do activities, and grading her assignments, I will still be heavily involved in her education. But she will have the audio visual stimulation that seems to keep her interested in school, and I will have the assistance of having a professional teacher give her her lessons. So please dear Lord let this work out.

Time4Learning

A few weeks ago I signed Angelica up for a monthly subscription service called Time4Learning. It covers language arts and math, with an optional science curriculum.

It is kind of cool because it covers things that we hadn’t even thought to do, but are expected of Kindergartners now, like solid shapes, what an author and illustrator are, table of contents and other parts of a book etc. It reinforces other things, like letter sounds and prepositions. Today we reached a lesson with listening comprehension, and practicing that might be especially good for her receptive language issues, even if those issues make it harder for her to do the activities. It has begun teaching her rhyming, which we hadn’t gone over yet. So it is keeping her education well rounded and giving us ideas on what to teach outside the workbook curriculum. There are quizzes after every few lessons, and it keeps a record of grades that I can see at the parent portal. She actually asks to do these videos sometimes, whereas it has been awhile since she has asked to do the workbooks. She likes the interactivity of it I think. They aren’t the most compelling videos, but she likes having something to watch and listen to.

I am realizing that maybe instead of Christian Light Education workbooks, or in addition to them since they are so inexpensive, I probably should have gone with my instincts and paid for the video series put out by BJU. Videos seem to be her thing. I think there are still workbooks that go with it, which is good since she needs to practice writing. But maybe she would rather watch a video than listen to me teach the whole time. I am going to look into a computer game curriculum. I don’t know if there are any, but something engaging like that with lots of teaching and clicking might be good for her. Every one has their own learning style, and on top of that she is not exactly a traditional learner. So anything I can find that she can at least mostly follow along with, will enjoy, and will hold her attention is worth investigating.

Homeschool Victory

This morning I was able to teach Angelica to count objects as high as five. I am waiting to see if she will retain it, but I did several exercises with counting to 2, 3, 4, and 5.   She did wonderfully well on them.

We haven’t been keeping up with our math side of the curriculum. We are supposed to be on 9, but that just isn’t possible at this point.  But the fact she got up to five was amazing. She has been struggling with 2. I am hoping that it has finally clicked for the lower numbers and she will retain what she learned. Sometimes she seems to have difficulty retaining what she has learned. I did not want to push her too hard though. Angelica made such good progress in the short time we have worked so far today that I wanted to quit before she got frustrated with anything, so that she could have her first positive memory/experience with school this week. She has gotten to where she is reluctant to do school anymore because it is difficult for her. But today she was beaming because she was getting almost everything right.  I am so happy for her!

We are reviewing old lessons in the workbook. I’ve decided to backtrack. I don’t think she has truly mastered the material we have covered, so we are going to do review and activities. I am just so proud of her, and so overjoyed for her as well. I recognize we are still behind the curve, but progress is progress. And this was some tremendous progress. Now to pray that it is retained…

Disorder

It is only a general diagnosis, but today we received Angelica’s evaluation from the speech therapist. Angelica has expressive and receptive language disorder. She is delayed. On the bell curve there are three categories of delay. Mild, moderate, and severe. She is moderately delayed. She is in about the 6th percentile for her age.

Angelica will begin speech therapy next Wednesday morning. I really hope it helps her. Last year speech therapy didn’t seem to make a lasting impact. At first it didn’t seem to help at all. Then it seems like it helped a little bit maybe. And then as soon as I had to pull her out of speech for our move, the progress was immediately lost. Overall I would say it just didn’t help her. But this speech therapist is hopefully going to do different things, and she’s going to be focusing on language rather than pronunciation, so hopefully we will see some results.

Angelica is very bright. She loves to talk to people and she loves it when I read her stories. She is actively engaged with everything around her and interested in so many things. Angelica is highly creative, compassionate, and communicative. But she just has a hard time with certain elements of communication. I have suspected that something was wrong for a while. Hence the fact I had her in speech therapy for a year back in Virginia. This confirms what I had feared. But hopefully she will get a lot of help from the speech therapist and maybe she can make great strides this year.

We also have appointments set up with a developmental pediatrician for an evaluation, and we are being referred to an OT.

Officially having it in writing that she is delayed and by how much has giving me mixed feelings. It confirms my fears, which gives me a sinking feeling. At the same time now maybe we can get people to help her and we will see some improvements. But her diagnosis is really a general diagnosis and not specific. The problem with that is that when we look up how to teach her to read or how to teach her to do math we don’t know what to put in the search engines to tell us how to teach her. If she has auditory processing disorder teaching is difficult but there are some things you can do to help. For a variety of other delays and disorders there are different things you can do to teach your child and improve their odds at a positive outcome. But without knowing what specifically it is it’s very hard to determine what to do. Hopefully the developmental pediatrician will be able to shed some light on that issue and give us a direction to go in. Homeschooling is not going well. It’s still early so I’m holding out hope, but she is definitely having a hard time and not catching on. Language arts is her strong suit, but even there she is not doing as well as I had hoped. And math is an absolute no-go.

For the next couple of months we’re going to keep pushing through as we are and reviewing the lessons in our curriculum. I’m going to do my best to teach her and encourage her to keep trying even though it is difficult. The receptive language issue is really holding her back. In a couple of months if we see no progress, we will likely hire a tutor when we get back from vacation. And hopefully by then too we will have the evaluation results from the developmental pediatrician and we’ll have more to go on in figuring out how to help Angelica. So we can maybe get a tutor who can help her and we may have some new tools in our toolbox to help her ourselves as well.

1st Week of Homeschooling

Our curriculum arrived in the mail at the end of last week, and we have worked diligently on one lesson a day since then. We are using the Christian Light Education curriculum. Specifically, the one with workbooks. It’s nice and easy because everything that you need to do in one day is laid out in one lesson in the workbook. So we get math and language-arts covered. I know where to start and I know when to stop. As a first-time homeschooling mom that is absolutely great. And the curriculum seems pretty good too. At least so far. As students go through the workbooks they frequently have to review and reuse information they have learned in previous lessons.

I decided to start Angelica with the kindergarten 2 curriculum. Kindergarten 1 seemed a little bit to basic for her age. The first grade curriculum is much more comprehensive with social studies and science, but I think the language arts and math would have been right over her head at this point. So I ordered the curriculum for the second half of kindergarten and so far we are just going along. There have been some difficulties though, and we are wondering if it has something to do with her language comprehension – or something else. Hopefully it is nothing. The first week of school can have some bumps for every kid, whether homeschooled or in public school. But between her speech issue, her problems with directions, and her difficulty playing with age-appropriate board games we are going to just check up on Angelica with a developmental pediatrician.

English is definitely Angelica’s strong suit so far. She has trouble with the math. A lot of trouble with the math. She’s having a hard time remembering how to count, although we have worked on this for a very long time – well before we started officially homeschooling. And sometimes she will get the counting right and then the next time she goes to count she will have it completely out of order. We are trying different methods to teach her, from singing to using manipulatives and toys. We will just have to see what works.

We are still using supplemental materials as well. We are using a Pre-K science book and soon we might start a geography book. I’ve been saving these books since she was two. And then of course we have flashcards of the letters and their sounds. We are using those and in a few months might start with sight word flashcards. And pretty much daily we use her dry erase letter and number tracing book. That’s really what’s teaching her how to write. She’s practicing her writing in her workbook, and she’s making some improvements each day, but it’s the dry erase book that lets her practice over and over again and gives her bigger letters to trace. Angelica makes some really beautiful letters in her dry erase book. She seems to have more fun with it too. It is so colorful.

I can’t wait until she knows how to read and I can start getting her science books to study, and books to really get into history. I suppose I could try to get some supplemental materials for those subjects now, but they’re kind of hard to find for her age group and honestly I think she’s got enough on her plate with the language arts and math. That’s a lot of learning to do each day.

I’m trying to be careful not to burn Angelica out. So far she seems to do school willingly, and even look forward to it. I want to keep it that way. Of course, school requires some level of discipline. You can’t just do school when you feel like it. Even if she gets up one morning and doesn’t want to do it we still need to work our way through the lesson, but I choose times to use the supplemental materials very carefully. So far though she has been eager.

 

Prelude to Homeschooling

Today we had a preliminary run for homeschooling. Angelica’s curriculum for kindergarten will not arrive for another week or so. But she has this wonderful dry erase tracing book that teaches her how to write letters and numbers. She really got into it! She liked it! We worked on the letter P, the letter R, the letter q, and the letter M, as well as the letter s. That was the hardest one though and I don’t think she has mastered it. But Angelica made great progress overall, and I think she really learned a lot so we’re going to keep using that book until the curriculum comes and maybe even after that. I hope that she continues to take joy in learning. And it was nice to have Craig help starting out, but sometimes I will be schooling her when it’s just me alone. I hope I can do a good job.