Whew!

Okay, so we are on our first week-long break since we started the school year, and I have to say, we needed it! 🙂 My boys have been working hard, but it hasn’t been as much “fun” as it was last year. It’s hard to explain, but it seems like we’re stuck in the drudgery of school, and we really aren’t enjoying it much. I plan to spend this week looking into things I can change, to make school more enjoyable for me, and my kids. One of the things I’ve been looking into is the Heart of Wisdom approach to homeschooling.

The website is here: http://heartofwisdom.com/   I stumbled across it when I was reading some homeschooling blogs. Robin, the author, has a great blog with lots of inspiration and encouragement for homeschooling. One of her recent posts “One Needful Thing” really struck me. I had to sit back and ask myself, “is God really the center of our homeschooling?” I want Him to be. I know my most important job is to raise Godly men, and I want that to be my focus, but being honest, it does feel like Bible has become just another “subject” we check off in our day. I wonder how many other people feel like that? We get so focused on schooling, that we lose sight of what our REAL purpose is.

Of course, I want my children to be smart, to know things, to be able to go onto college, careers, etc. But if they don’t have a REAL relationship with God, then what’s the point of all that other stuff? I downloaded the HOW ebook, and Robin points out that we can trust God with our children, and therefore, with our homeschooling. I thought about that, and it made sense. We know that the Lord loves our children even more than we do, and He wants His best for them. If we believe that, why is it so hard to turn our homeschooling over to him? The idea of scheduling by prayer was new for me….and a little scary! Those thoughts of, “what if I miss something important?” keep me up at night! But then I think, wait a minute, God is leading me, and He promises to lead us to where HE wants us to be..and where he wants us to be is EXACTLY the right place for us. So maybe I just need to take some pressure off myself and turn it over to Him?

I truly feel like God led me to HOW, and I’ve been requesting books from the library to give it a try when we get back to school next week. I’m hoping this will ignite that spark we need. I have to admit…the ideas of “delight-directed learning” and such are a BIG stretch for me 🙂 Seriously, the kids decide what they are going to learn about? But then again, if I’m forcing stuff down their throat just because…how much are they learning anyway? I know I need to do something different, so I’m going to give this a try…I’ll let you know how it goes!

Illuminations

For my latest TOS crew review, I was given a free sample of Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press. I chose to review Year 1 (grades K-8) of the program because I would like to start studying ancient history with my children. I have to say, I was very impressed by how thorough and well thought out this program is!

The sample came as a digital download complete with weekly lesson plans, lesson plans by subject, graphic organizers, and guides for books for family read alouds and student read-alones. Illuminations is a complete program with all subjects except for math, but of course, you can pick and choose which parts you want to use. I found the files easy to navigate, and I had no problem finding what I needed very quickly. This was nice in comparison to other digital programs I have used, which required flipping through multiple pages to find what I wanted!

Illuminations Year 1 is based on The Mystery of History, volume 1, and that book is necessary to complete the program. Other than that, books can be checked out from the library (I found most of what I needed available through inter-library loan). There are options given for writing, grammar, and spelling, and if you choose to use the recommended books, daily lesson plans are included. Science is based on the Christian Kids Explore series (also by Bright Ideas Press) and the year 1 study is on Biology.

I really enjoyed using MOH with my kids, the lessons were short and easy to understand, with plenty of activities and even quizzes and reviews. I had looked at this book earlier in the year, and now, I wish I had gotten it then! Daily Bible study is also included, and together we read through parts of Exodus and Genesis while we were reviewing this program. My kids enjoyed the read alouds and read-alones, and the included guides made it easy to generate discussions about the books.

The science outlines give directions for the teacher and the students, as well as activities, and the history activities are based on the activity guide for MOH. I cannot emphasize enough how much easier this made planning for me. 🙂 Up to this point, I had been doing my own program, and while it has been working, it was so nice to just look at the weekly grid and see what we were going to do next!! I can see now why people enjoy using an all-inclusive program. With the planning done for me, I could spend more time learning with, and enjoying, my children.

I plan to spend some time gathering the rest of the books for Illuminations, so we can complete the program next year, and I will definitely be planning to save for Year 2. The cost for a download of the full year is $165. For a CD-ROM it is $185.00. You can also download by semester, which will cost $82.50. This price may seem high, but when you consider that all you need to do is add math and whatever extra subjects you would like, it really isn’t that much, and I think it is well worth it!

Illuminations includes a section for early learners, as well as high school programs. The plan for the K-8 program is to have a total of 6 years of study, 3 of which are completed now. The Illuminations website has very informative and helpful videos that explain the program in detail and you can check it out here:

http://illuminations.brightideaspress.com/

This has been one of the BEST programs I have reviewed so far, and I am very excited about doing more with it in the year to come! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

TOS 2 and 2 promo!

    TOS Magazine has an exciting offer for you. Beginning today, and continuing all week, you can get a 1-year subscription to the magazine at a deeply discounted rate! 🙂 Here’s how it works: on Monday, Nov. 15, the cost for a 1-year subscription is $10.00. On Tuesday, that cost goes up to $12.00, on Wednesday, it goes up to $14.oo, and the cost will increase by $2.00 per day for the rest of the week through Saturday/Sunday Nov. 20-21. After the week is over, the cost goes back to the regular price! I got mine today for $10.00, and I am VERY excited. I look forward to the support and encouragement I get from reading TOS.

   And as if the subscription discounts weren’t enough, TOS is also offering prizes! Every 12th customer gets a free copy of the 2010-2011 TOS planner, every 14th customer gets a $20.00 gift card that is good towards a TOS ebook, and the highest ticket of the day gets a $200.00 gift card to the TOS store!! How’s that for a deal. You can check it out here: http://thehomeschoolmagazine.com/

Go! Now! 😛

The Write Foundation

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given the opportunity to review a writing program from The Write Foundation. I used this program with my 7th grade son. The program is aimed at reluctant writers, which both of my boys seem to be! It was created by Rebecca Celsor, a former public school teacher and veteran homeschool mom, who homeschooled her own three children all the way through high school.

This is a quote, taken from the Write Foundation website, about how the program is structured, “The Write Foundation begins with the writing process, how a student formulates a topic, then a thesis, then supporting points, and by incremental teaching drills in the basics.”  There are three levels to the program: Level 1 Sentence to Paragraph Writing, Level 2 Paragraph Writing, and Level 3 Essay Writing. There are suggested ages for each level on the website. I chose to use level 2 with my son.

The program includes a teachers manual with lesson plans, a set of ready to use worksheets, and a CD with the grading system, checklist, teacher presentation sheets, and a reading list. I found all of the components easy to use and organize. The teachers guide includes examples of daily lesson plans and suggestions for how to weight grades if you choose to do so.  The lesson plans tell you what worksheets and teacher presentation pages to use and when and how to use them. I found it very thorough, but it was still relatively easy for me to pick and choose how I wanted to use the program with my son. This is important when homeschooling, because the whole point is to make the curriculum work for you, not work your way around it! 🙂

We organized my son’s notebook per the instructions in the program and got started. I have used IEW in the past, and my son is familiar with it, and a lot of the elements of the Write Foundation are similar to IEW (i.e. “Quality Adjectives” was a phrase he was already familiar with). One thing I liked about this program is the way it used highlighting to break down the different parts of a paragraph. Students use specific colors to highlight sentences to identify topic sentences, supporting sentences, conclusions etc. This activity made these ideas VERY concrete and clear for my son. Seriously, it was like a light bulb went off! “Oh, so that’s what you mean when you say the sentence has to support the topic!” I found that by highlighting the sentences, he really began to think about whether or not a sentence made sense in the paragraph!

The program also introduces poetry, and my son really enjoyed working on the acrostic poems. We already use mindbenders regularly, which are also used in the Write Foundation, and he enjoys these as well. The worksheets were varied, and included checklists, which my son could file in his notebook and refer back to, as well as examples of poetry styles, outlining and brainstorming sheets, and other useful lists of adjectives, adverbs etc. I did find the outlining sheets helpful to use in other subjects (like history for example) because they gave my son an easy model to follow when outlining in that subject.

The program cost will vary, depending on what you buy. For the Paragraph Writing sample I got, the cost is $65.00 plus tax and shipping, and you get all the components for lessons 1-15. You would need to pay an addtional $65.00 to receive lessons 16-30. Depending on how you plan it, the program could take two years, if you wanted to move through it slowly. The cost to buy the entire program (lessons 1-30) is $100.00. Personally, I found this to be a suitable writing instruction program for my son. Writing will never be his favorite subject, but this wasn’t as painful as other things I have tried in the past. I will definitely be thinking about getting the second set of lessons for next year! The website for the Write Foundation is: http://www.thewritefoundation.org/