Saturday, August 02, 2008


We are starting our new school year on Monday.
Ask me if I'm ready....

This is earlier than usual,,,in the past we have started after Labor Day. But we haven't done school since Tess was born, and I've had all the vacation I can stand. We still plan to school more or less year round. We will break for Christmas when we finish week 16 of our syllabus, or not until Christmas Eve if life should intervene too much. We'll take off until after Epiphany, then work until we finish week 24, or not until the start of Holy Week if life intervenes too much. And then we'll start up after the first week of Easter and work until we finish the syllabus. Or until July 4th, if life intervenes too much. Sensing a pattern? Life does intervene. Being able to handle that is part of homeschooling. So far we have homeschooled through moves, hospitalizations of myself and extended family, an extended illness and death in the family, and two pregnancies/births. Life does often intervene. Having such a loose schedule works better for us in other ways too. The kids don't handle long breaks well, and neither do I. I can, and do, often call off school to go do something fun, and I don't think twice about it because I know I have a lot of wiggle room. With our scheduled breaks at Christmas, Easter, and summer, we still have 44 weeks left to complete a 32 week syllabus. If life does intervene and the timing gets too tight, I am less likely to take the opportunities, but in less chaotic years we have lots of small breaks through the year for different opportunities that come up. In very chaotic years we end up behind when the end of June approaches, and I nip and tuck and do what I can with a promise to myself to make up for it next year.

The kids were in VBS last week and I was all kinds of excited about this 3 hours of free time, but it wasn't the boon I expected. First of all, I had to stay with Jack during the first 30 minutes until they finished their opening stuff and moved into classrooms because of Jack's tendency, as one woman in the parish put it, to "go on walkabout". Then I would come home, nurse Tess and get her down to sleep, and if I was lucky I'd have two of the three hours left to do some work before I had to leave to pick everyone up. It helped, don't get me wrong. I was able to do some things like cleaning and organizing the play/school room and the big walk-in closet that stores toys...I can never do stuff like that with Jack around as he takes offense at having his toys where he can't see them. I also was able to go through and do a lot towards getting our new materials ready to go. But I have plenty left to do this weekend, that's for sure!

This year Maria will be in sixth grade and Kain will be making a jump over second grade into third, where he is "supposed" to be. Kain will be nine in February and he's behind a grade because no one enrolled him in kindergarten the year before he came to live with us. It really bothers him to be a year behind, even when homeschooling. There are plenty of places (like VBS) where kids are divided by grade level, and he is always much older and bigger than anyone else. He did really well last year with his schoolwork. His reading ability is awesome. So, we are jumping as far as our curriculum is concerned. "Officially", though, he will be a second grader. Third graders have to start standardized testing in our state, and I don't want to have to worry about that with him this year. If the transition goes well, then I'll register him as a fourth grader next year. He will still be a second grader in our parish as well because he will be receiving his first communion this year!!!! Woohoo!

We are pretty much following the Mother of Divine Grace syllabi completely this year, though there are a couple of modifications for Maria. She will continue to use Math U See instead of the recommended Saxon. She loves Math U See, but I'd like her to be in Saxon for the upper level maths....we'll see. I'm hoping to have her finish Math U See Zeta in time to start Saxon 87 next year. She will also be using Calculadder for drill. She will be using Phonetic Zoo again for spelling. She loves this program and it seems to be working for her as well as anything can. Maria, for the uninformed, has some visual learning issues that give her dyslexic-type symptoms and make reading, spelling and writing especially difficult, though she does now perform on grade level for everything but spelling. Spelling as always been the most difficult subject for her. Phonetic Zoo is an auditory program and works much better for her than workbooks. This year will be a big jump for her too. I have always heavily modified the syllabus for her, but now that she is done with vision therapy I would like to try to follow it as is as much as possible and see how she can handle it.

Kain should be able to work right along the MODG 3rd grade syllabus. He will be using Saxon 3 for math though, and we will have to progress carefully through it to make sure he handles skipping a grade ok. MODG recommends Abeka math for 1st-3rd grades, mostly because Saxon is so mom-intensive, but I already have the Saxon materials and Kain likes Saxon for all the fun manipulative stuff. I can see how Saxon, in the early grades at least, wouldn't work if you were homeschooling several young ones though. Kain will also need to use Handwriting Without Tears. He has small motor skill issues that he is in occupational therapy for, and writing is *very tedious* and slow for slow that he is still finishing the HWT first grade book, which is just as well because he will not be ready to start cursive anytime soon. I am going to try to do the written work suggested in different subjects in the 3rd grade syllabus, but we may need to adjust this for him and do some orally. We'll see.

Jack...Jack will be four in October. I had intended to start the Little Saints curriculum with him and do it over two years, but I think we will just wait and do it next year. I have quite a bit of Montessori-type materials for him to use, and geez, he already knows all of his letters and numbers, etc. With Tess, and with the big jump Kain and Maria are making this year, and Kain's three hours of therapy a week, I just think I will have my hands full enough. I do have some Kumon workbooks and that kind of thing and have put together his own school notebook like the big kids have, but this is mostly just so he can have something to do when he wants to sit at the table with us and "do school". His motor skills are not great, and I think he will benefit from the Montessori stuff more than anything. He is super advanced as far as pre-kinder skills go, recognizes all his upper and lowercase letters, knows the sounds they make, words that start with each letter, counts and recognizes numbers up to 30, etc., so I'm not worried about that. But he can't do more than scribble with a crayon! A little lop-sided, this one.

Tess, of course, will not be hitting the books or anything quite yet. :) I will be playing with her using Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, a great little book with weekly learning ideas for newborns to 5 year olds. I still use this great resource with Jack too.

I'd like to post some pictures of our schoolroom, but we *still* haven't painted...that was supposed to happen while the kids were in VBS, but the gallbladder surgery threw everything off and left me behind getting my materials ready so I had to do that instead. I'm hoping to do that one weekend soon though. We have some new organizational ideas we are trying out this year, including Avilian notebooks...more on that to come! Now, I'm off to work....


entropy said...

Wow you are going to be busy! thanks for sharing what you're using. I love reading about that!

I love your Paul Wall as well. Really cool.

entropy said...

I'm thinking of using Int. Language Lessons from the Emmanuel Books catalog for my oldest this year (5th grade). Have you used it? Is it enough grammar or should I also get a grammar-specific program? We were considering Winston-Grammar mostly because it seems to be a one time buy and covers several years, instead of $30+ each year.

mel said...

Maria used Intermediate Language Lessons (she called it "ILL", hehe...) for 4th and 5th grade. I loved it...It's deceptively simple looking but has a lot more meat that it first seems. Emmanuel Books sells a nice color version now I think too. She did Primary Language Lessons in 3rd grade (PiLL) and Kain is just starting it now. I think it's plenty of grammar for the early grades and this is what Mother of Divine Grace recommends, though some people I know supplement with Daily Grams. With MODG, 6th and 7th grades are big grammar years, and we are using Easy Grammar this year for 6th grade. In 7th we will use Voyages in English if Maria can handle it, or Easy Grammar again if I think Voyages will be too hard (I've heard it's pretty intense and she struggles with English). I'm not familiar with Winston-Grammar at all. Easy Grammar was kinda pricey, but she's liking it and the most expensive part, the teacher's manual, can be reused with the boys.