Convention debrief

Well, I would say my trip to FPEA was a success. My son and I spent all day in the exhibit hall. We saw lots of great stuff. I  took a leap of faith and ordered a science program my son fell in love with. It’s called Exploration Education, and it is a physical science program with lots of experiments and projects. It looks really good. I should receive it in a month or so, so I will post more about it when I get  it. I will add the website to my links. I did get the polymers kit from ASK just because it  looks like so much fun. They are supposed to be adding new kits soon so hopefully next year we’ll be able to use more of them!

I think I have decided to get Chalkdust basic math for my older son next year. After viewing the video demo at the conference he said “Mom, I really get this!” and that’s what I want for him. Math is not his best subject, and it’s not mine either, so I wanted something that would help him to understand math. I plan to order that later this summer. I am also thinking about getting the Chalkdust math computer program for my 4th grade son next year. It looks like a lot of fun, and math is one of his strong suits, so I think that, supplemented with some math mammoth, will make a good program for him. I am also planning on using Life of Fred with my older son as well.

I picked up CLE reading for 4th and 7th grades next year. We did look at BJU, and while I liked the color aspect, it didn’t seem to offer more than CLE, but it did cost a lot more. I think both boys will be fine with that choice.

We also picked up IEW theme programs, US History based writing for my older, and All Things Fun and Fascinating for my younger son. As I have said before, we are all experienced with IEW and I think it is a really solid writing program for kids. I will do this alongside Rod and Staff grammar for language arts.

I also got some Notgrass bible studies for next year. My older son wanted to do their Psalms drawing program and I picked up Walking by Faith for my younger son. We used Explorers Bible study this year, but my kids really didn’t connect with it. I was looking for something a little more “fun” for next year. We will also be doing Apologia’s Who is God 3 days per week. I got to look at it at the conference and it is beautiful, so my kids will use Notgrass along with it.

I have to still flesh out some things, and order math and hopefully art, latin and spanish this summer. My head is spinning from looking at so much stuff, but it soooo helps to clarify my thinking when I can see things in person, so it is definitely worth it!

AARGH! Convention Fever

Okay, so my convention trip is one week away and I am in “planning” mode. I printed off convention planning sheets from donnayoung.org (I will add her to my links…I like her stuff. I think I will probably use some of her planning sheets next year as well). They are great because they are set up in columns by subject and you can make lists of what you want to look at for each subject. So I am in the process of sorting through all my mulitple lists (I swear, I have lists and papers all over the place:).

Next, I think I am going to highlight things I can look at by publisher (i.e. stuff to see at Rainbow Resource will be orange, stuff at BJU will be blue etc.). I plan to bring extra highlighters/pens/sticky notes to the convention with me so I can “cross off” stuff I decide I don’t want, highlight stuff in a different color that I want to look for online, and add stuff that I see that I want to look into further.

Then I’m going to take a look at my map so I at least have SOME idea of where the vendors I most want to see are located. Last year, I felt like I was lost in the exhibit hall. I’d looked at CLE and wanted to come back to them, but then it took me forever to find them again after I left!! Honestly, I feel like I am planning strategy for some major military invasion or something…I must be a crazy person…but I don’t mind, I do so love to look at all the books 🙂

Next year’s curriculum

As I get ready to go to the FPEA conference next week I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about curriculum for next year. I have planned and replanned and read so many reviews my eyes hurt. (and then, of course, there’s the budget to think about!) So far, I’ve got a good general idea of things for most subjects, although I am wavering back and forth on a few:

Math: For my 7th grader, I know I need a program with support, because upper-level math isn’t my best subject. After looking extensively at a whole bunch of programs, I felt BJU Press had the curriculum that was closest to my state standards. I want something that will line up with what my kids would be learning in public school, as we plan for both of them to go to college. After comparing the scope and sequence of several programs (Abeka, CLE, etc.) I found that BJU’s lined up most closely with Florida math standards. However, the price for the DVD program is very high ($399) and you don’t even get to keep the DVD. Next, I looked at Teaching Textbooks, as math is not my oldest son’s strong suit either. I thought the program looked like something he would be able to do, but, after reading numerous reviews and comments, and looking closely at the table of contents, I am concerned that the program seems to be far below grade level compared to other 7th grade programs. Now I am seriously considering Chalkdust. I know it is expensive too, but on the WTM boards, I found a post from someone who has the ISBN numbers for the texts and videos. Having the ISBN allows you to order each part seperately, and the cost is MUCH lower!! I am thinking we will go with CD and perhaps add some Life of Fred fractions and decimals to give my son some extra help and add in some fun. These are at the top of my list to look at next week.

For my younger son, I have almost settled on Math Mammoth (the light blue series). Both of my children need a mastery type program, spiral does NOT work well in our house. I have read good things about this series, and I am thinking I may add in the Chaldust 4th grade math (which is computer based) for fun a couple of times a week. My younger is very strong in math, so he could use an additional challenge!

Reading: Again, I really like the looks for BJU reading. The literature teacher in me loves the story selections, and the color (don’t discount that as unimportant, it does help draw kids into the text), however, the price is again an issue. We are on a tight budget, as are most of the people we know, and so I am trying to be very cautious about what I spend. We used a few lightunits of CLE reading this year, and I have to say, from a teacher standpoint, they are exceptional. They provide a wealth of instruction in reading and literature, moreso than I’ve seen in most texts I’ve used in the classroom. They are also easy to use, as they are written very clearly and in a way most children can read and understand on their own. The only drawback I have with CLE (and this is just personal preference) is the black and white text, and the fact that the stories, while wholesome, are a little dry. However, we generally only read from our texts two days per week, and spend the rest of the week reading novels, so I think I can work around that! CLE is very cost effective, and the instruction is top-notch, so I have a feeling we will be going with that again next year.

Writing/Grammar: I managed to get Rod and Staff grammar sets for an awesome price at a used book sale, so both of my boys will be using them for grammar next year. Are they exciting? Not really, but I’ve taught language arts for years, and I can tell you that making grammar exciting is very difficult. Rod and Staff is thorough and complete, which is what I am looking for in a grammar program.

Spelling/Vocab: My younger son really needs to work on spelling. Although he is going into 4th grade, I am seriously considering doing AAS with him. Our old school used the Spalding method for spelling and phonics, so he is familiar with the rules. I figure we can go through levels 1 and 2 next year. I am also hoping the phonics portion will help him in his reading, as this in an area he needs help in as well. For my older, language is his strong suit so we will be using CLP’s Building Spelling Skills. I feel it is a good old-fashioned program that provides practice with harder words at his level (7th grade).

For vocab, I plan to use Wordly Wise. I used this in my classroom and feel it is a solid program. It does a good job of teaching the defintions, as well as teaching kids how to use the words in context. Personally, I think building a strong vocabulary is one of the keys to success in reading. I plan to have my boys alternate spelling/vocab weekly.

At my school, we used IEW for our writing program, so I have had extensive training with it. I am going to go with some of their theme-based writing lessons next year for both of my boys. I plan to use the US History based writing lessons for my oldest son (to tie in with our history studies) and All Things Fun and Fascinating for my younger. I feel IEW is a great program for helping kids to master the mechanics of writing as well as note-taking (which seems to be a lost art in classrooms these days!)

Science: I want to combine my two for science and history, so next year I plan to use God’s Design for Chemistry as my “core” and add in extras to give my older son some challenge. We chose chemistry because my oldest asked to study it. I plan to add Exploring Chemistry (also by AIG) for him to read as well as Exploring Earth (to go along with the ecology part of the program). He will also be checking out library books and biographies to go along with that. For my younger, I plan to add DK Eyewitness Chemistry and Ecology as well, since God’s Design will probably take about 3 days per week and I want them to do science every day.

I am also looking at ASK (Academy of Science for kids) kits on matter, polymers and ecology. A hsing friend of mine used one of these kits last year and I got to take a look at it, and it was wonderful! They are pricy (about $89) but they include EVERYTHING and they are lots of fun. In addition, when we study ecology, I plan to have my boys do a in-depth study on an ecosystem of their choice from our state. They will present some kind of project about it at the end of the year. I am hoping one of them picks the Everglades so we can do a field trip there!!

History: We are sticking with TOG. We will begin year 2, unit 3 (Early American) this summer, and will hopefully move into Unit 4 by the end of September. This is one thing I am positive about! We are loving this program, and I cannot tell you how much I love how in-depth it really is!! I am planning to add in the Time Travelers CDs from Homeschool in the Woods. I already have the first one, and it looks great. My kids are really into crafts and lapbooks etc, so this will be fun for them. If all goes well, we will do the Revolutionary War CD with Unit 4. I also plan to use their timeline book (on CD) as well.

Extras: I am thinking about Artistic Pursuits for art, possibly adding in Latin and/or Spanish and doing some poetry study. I also want to include Apologia’s Who Is God for a devotional a few times a week. I need to look at something for handwriting, and I have a few ideas for logic (which I do believe is important) but these are all extras, which will only be added if we have the money.

I will update on this once I’ve had a chance to get my hands on some of this stuff at the conference next week!

About Me

My name is Brandy and I am very happy to be a homeschooling mom to two boys ages 13 (T. going into 8th) and 10 (J. going into 5th). I have waited a long time to homeschool my children! I have been married to a wonderful man for almost 14 years, and we live in Florida. My husband is a fireman, so it’s nice to be able to work our schedule around his. My whole family loves the outdoors, we spend lots of time at the beach!� We have a wonderful church family that includes lots of other homeschoolers, which is a big plus.

Before homeschooling, I taught middle school for 11 years, in the areas of Language Arts/Reading and Social Studies. I love books!!! (really…we have sooooo many books, I’ve been collecting books to share with my kids since I was in elementary school 🙂 ) I also love history, as does my husband, which is probably why a lot of our homeschool is focused on history. As a language arts teacher, I’ve learned that you can really teach reading/writing/critical thinking etc. within the realm of that one subject.

I hope to be able to share my thoughts with other homeschoolers through this blog, as well as share info/resources I’ve found to be helpful, and I hope to get lots of feedback as well!

Homeschool Skedtrack

Personally, I like to grade my children’s work and print report cards. It may be the teacher in me! I was looking for something that would make this a little easier, and I did look into Homeschool Tracker and Edutrack. However, after checking out Homeschool Skedtrack (and seeing that it was free 🙂 I decided to go with it instead.

Once I got started, I found the site easy to navigate. They have these nifty tutorial videos to help you get started. I watched them and played with the website for a while before setting it up. The site includes a planner and a gradebook. You are able to set up accounts for multiple children, and add daily assignments which you can then print out for the children to use as a schedule. You can also enter grades for assignments, and then the program will average the grades and you can print a report card.

You set up each subject you are using, and you can print transcripts as well. The transcripts look like the ones I remember from high school, and there are two formats you may choose from. The program also tracks days and hours on a calendar, which is useful if you need to keep track of that for your state. One caution: you must log in every day to record your child’s hours as completed. If you forget to log in, you will need to go back and manually add each activity for that day, instead of just checking off the day as a whole!

I think that for a free program, this is great. It provides enough hand-holding for someone unfamiliar with programs like this to use it easily. It’s a great way to track grades and homeschool hours, and it will even allow you to add hobbies/field trips as necessary. I am going to continue using Skedtrack, as I don’t see the other programs (which I would have to pay for) as offering that much more for my money! There is a link to this program on the side of my blog in the links category!! Check it out!