Saturday, August 31, 2013

“Do you give grades in homeschool?”

That innocent question from a new homeschool mom on a message board set off a round of debate. Some said “Yes” because it helps the student get ready for other school situations that do grade.  Others said “no” because grades are not the best way to judge competence. As in most things, both sides could learn a lot by listening to each other.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

8th Grade English: Reading and Writing

My son loves to read. On his fun scale, it’s second only to Mind Craft. So, it makes sense to let him ease into each day with 30 minutes of reading. Right now, he’s reading the 6th Harry Potter. We’ll use the later novels for the first literary analysis unit. Last year, he did a good job with character development in the first Harry Potter book. This time we’ll probably tackle themes, but not until November.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

8th Grade English: Grammar

Wow, grammar is really hard to teach! So, we’re starting with the basics: define the eight parts of speech and give 10 examples of each.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The School Day This Year

Many things about our school day worked great last year. The biggest thing was the lack of a specific schedule. I used a dry erase board to list the day’s activities, but they could happen at any time. Each day started with my son doing the same morning work: read for 30 minutes, copy the day’s plans into his agenda, watch CNN Student News and write a response to one of the stories.

When my son wanted to, he would have everything done with time to spare before his friends came home. When he was pokey, then he would still be working until bedtime. He learned a lot about time management and the downside of procrastination!

Here’s how the weekly plans look this year:

Monday, August 26, 2013

What’s So Wrong with Common Core?

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a hot topic in the education world: public, private and homeschool. Basically, CCSS are a list of what students should be able to master by grade and subject. They have been adopted as the standards used by a large majority of states in exchange for those states being eligible for federal funds.

There are questions and problems with CCSS that won’t affect homeschool families, such as getting all children up to speed, transitioning standardized tests for multiple grades, and training teachers. The questions that apply to homeschool families are:

1.       Do these standards encompass what we want our children to learn?
2.       If we don’t following these standards, will our children be at a disadvantage later?

Getting Ready for 8th Grade

Overloaded! That’s how I felt when I started looking at curriculum for 8th grade. Until I…
  • Weeded out anything with an ultra-conservative religious slant
  • Took out anything with outdated information
  • Removed anything that had to be followed exactly
There was still a ton of options left, but it all still fell into place. I’ll detail the resources we’re using in posts by subject.  My next goal in pre-planning was to map out the timing of each subject for the year. I didn’t want to end up just to WWI in May for history! Naturally, I turned to my personal security blanket – Excel – to create a spreadsheet that would automatically enter start and end dates for each unit by subject.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wrapping up 7th grade

Looking back on our first year of homeschool, there were ups and downs. Most were expected. What I didn’t expect was how much my son would mature. Some of that could be due to his age. But, I think most of it came from his learning about himself: how he learns, what he likes to learn about, and where that might take him in the future. It made total sense to build on that and homeschool him for 8th grade.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our Summer Vacation: Science rules!

In our house, science is the thing that rules us all and in the darkness binds us… together, that is. We spent the summer binge watching Eureka and Warehouse 13. Besides renaming our homeschool to “Tesla High”, my son was motivated to do a lot of science experiments just for fun. My only requirement was that he needed to write a short paragraph about each experiment in his science journal. He had come so far in his writing struggles, it was the perfect way to not loose any ground.

Here was one of his favorites. He used the gas generated from dry ice in warm water to create strong soap bubbles. Thank you to Steve Spangler for this lab. (Bouncing Smoke Bubbles from this book)  


This summer’s just-for-fun lab time was a big hit so we’re continuing it each Friday this school year. And, I am thrilled that my son finally loves exploring science again.