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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finally feeling like we have found our place in the homeschooling community

We have been at this for four years now. In the process two years ago we moved from Dallas Georgia to Newnan Georgia. When we were in Dallas we had met some wonderful like minded homeschoolers that ran a great group. It wasn't a co-op but one for outings, park days and such which was perfect for us at the time. Once we moved it was hard finding such a group again. We are going on two years here in Newnan and all the homeschoolers we had found seemed to have been a part of one co-op. I didn't want to join the co-op here for a number of reasons. One was that you have to sign a statement of faith which I can't do because I do not believe in organized religion. It also was more like grade level classes which was not something we really wanted to do. I am very relaxed and feel my kids should not only have the time the need to learn but the right to follow their own interest. During this time we still joined in with homeschooling families we know that lived hrs away but only once in a while. It was starting to feel like we would never find the right group for us that was close by.

Well I am happy to say I think we finally found our group. Funny thing is I had joined their facebook page over a yr ago but seemed they posted everything on yahoo as far as outings and we missed out on many connections. I met one family that we started to have park days with and she introduced to some other families that were also pretty close and it just took off from there. One of the moms held a " NOt Back To School" event at her house and it was perfect. Perfect for the kids perfect for me. It was so wonderful to see 15 plus kids ages 2-15 all running and playing together and not one single issue. No fights, no picking, just smiles, fun, and laughter. All the parents were great too. We only expected to be there for a few hrs and finally had to pull ourselves out after 5 hrs of extreme fun only because it was getting late. I finally felt like we had found our place once again. A group of families that for the most part have the same philosophy about education and learning as we do. A group that wasn't focused so much on co-op classes as they were on natural real life learning. A group that seems everyone's ideas and opinions flowed naturally to help each other not judge. A group that I didn't have to sign a faith statement feeling like an outcast. There are tons of ways for homeschoolers to get involved and socialize all over the homeschool community now this is true but that doesn't mean finding the ones that truly fit is always easy. It takes you as the parent searching them out. I am glad I finally found one that not only seems a great fit for my kids but for me as well.

I am truly looking forward to this year and to all the adventures we have with our new friends. If you haven't found that right fit yet don't give up. Sometimes it take awhile but when you find them it is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

New year, New ideas

I haven't wrote since we finished off last school year in May even though we started back up in July. We spent the last few weeks trying out a few new resources just to see what I thought about them. I will post what I wrote about them on our facebook page below.

Over the last week we have tried out two free programs just to see what we thought of them. We used the discoveryk12 online program and the Easy Peasy all in one homeschool. I thought I would post my thoughts on both a kind of pros and cons in my opinion. Ok first let me say not only did we use both programs we also used all parts of the programs and added on other material that we normally use. My kids were able to finish the daily work in both plus the add on is 4-5 hrs. So even though I felt the basics are being covered I just kind of felt like neither program was enough for me and mine. If we continue to use either of them I def. will be adding to them for a bit more hands on learning. I will say both programs allowed the kids to pretty much work independently while I did a whole lot of standing around wondering what to do with myself,lol. Ok so Discovery k12 pros are it keeps records of attendance, work, reading, grades, p.e ect which I really liked and for those who need to keep good records it may be a life saver for you. I liked that non core subjects like P.E., music, art were covered. My cons were that a good bit of the history and science was pretty much just watch this video and take notes which for elementary age is just not going to cut it. It was a bit boring and dry. Another con was that at this time you do not have the ability to change levels in different subjects. Many homeschool children are at different levels in different subjects. I would have also liked to see more engaged questions being given to the subjects of history and science. The spelling is pretty much write, look up, and remember the words. There is no teaching of the rules. Now let me tell you my thoughts on Easy Peasy. First off it is a Christian based curriculum and there will be many links that will be geared toward that world view. However most of the Christian topics can be easily skipped over without losing the mass of the entire curriculum. I love the math but it is using khan academy so if you didn't want to use Easy peasy but wanted to use the math you could just use Khan from their website. I felt a little more could be covered daily in the area of grammar, voc, and spelling as I found it to fall a bit short there for my taste. However you could easily fill that with a few free educational sites or even a grammar workbook. The literature I loved it was def. a pro in my book because it is mainly Classical literature and has direct links to the books. For history and science we were using year 3 which actually covers geography and earth science and astronomy. I found it to be plenty and plan to continue to use it for a spine for this years geography and science. At this point I plan to discontinue using them except for the Easy Peasy geography which I will use for now but mainly just as an outline. 

Neither of these programs just felt like us. So I am yet again just winging it in many areas but that is ok as I lean toward a very relaxed form of education anyway. So you might be wondering what are we using then. First let me say all that we use as far as curriculum is used very loosely and really used as more of a guide for me to pull from. That being said I will post this years line up for both my 5th grader and my kinder.

Alyssa-5th grade
Math- we will be sticking with A+Tutorsoft for our 4th yr now and pulling from other resources like khan academy and our large amount of Montessori manipulative.
Grammar- We will still be using Growing with Grammar it is short , easy to use, and has worked great the last few yrs.
Spelling- we are using a mixture of All About Spelling( to recover some rules) and Spelling Power( the orange book not the public school curriculum)
Lit- will be covering a few classics( we have already started reading Treasure Island) and allowing her to pick her own books.
Geography- Using Easy Peasy Geography as a guide but adding in country studies that may fit with topics in other subject areas. We also plan to do a huge Christmas aaaaround the world study in Nov/Dec
Science- we are loosely going to cover Earth science and Astronomy not using any one curriculum but pulling from Science Odyssey and Waldorf material along with many books, movies,websites, and projects
History- Mainly we plan to cover Prehistorical Life along with a bit of evolution and the Middle Ages again not using any actual curriculum but pulling from a few that I have collected and adding in books, movies,websites, projects( we have alread made swords and shields this yr- see picture below)

Maverick- Grade K
Math- Hands on games and Montessori Manipultives 
Phonics/reading- This is one of the main areas I plan to focus with him one on one with this yr and so we are using many different things- we do daily sight words( he is up to 240 as of today), Explode the code, Sound City Reading( which is a free program you can find online and goes up to I believe the 2nd grade), and Click and Read Phonics which is an animated program
Spelling- All About Spelling level 1- I am really not concerned if he gets through level one this yr or if we continue to use it again but so far he has not missed a beat and is doing well with only 15-20 mins a day using it
Geography, Science, and History all will be covered by him working with his older sister but only doing his level of work. We also plan to start next week a month long study of Dinosaurs and Archeology/ Paleontology just because he has shown such a huge interest in these areas. We will use books, movies, websites, and yes a real archeological dig in the back yard. 
Maverick also is doing a morning wall which covers months , days of the week, seasons, weather/temp, holidays, maps, shapes. It is an easy , fun way to cover all these topics without it feeling to much to him. 

Some of the new things we are doing this yr are taking a monthly class at the local nature center, joined a homeschool group for weekly park days, Doing monthly class at the history center, taking an art class for 8 weeks, taking swimming class in the spring, Joined a group of unschoolers for weekly unschooling day, joining the monthly class at the zoo,plus we will attend at least 3 other field trips a month through out the state depending on events happening at different times of the yr. My goal is 3 days a week doing what most would see as book/ school work, one day a week for classes, and one day a week for just socializing and natural real world learning. I really am attempting to grow as much as my children in this year. Moving ever closer to letting go of that school mind that they have to know something at a certain age. Hopefully I will also grow in the area of seeing learning as part of life and not something that has to come from being pushed on them so demanding and rigorously. The first six weeks of this school year have been a great success and I feel it can only get better as I learn to see what they need and want to learn and learn to think more outside the box on how to give that to them. I wish all of you a great school year and I look forward to seeing what you are changing up this year and how you and your children will grow.