Educationally Speaking: New reading course, Biology is like hard, and less arguments after winter break

The kids and I started back to homeschool last week after being sick and our Christmas break. I don’t know if they felt this way, but for me, it was nice to get back into a routine after being sick for almost a month and a half.

We got back into the swing of things and oddly Little Miss didn’t argue at all about her lessons. She actually seemed interested and excited some days. That was very refreshing. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am going to enjoy it while I can.

She and I started a new unit for reading, also from The Good and the Beautiful. The lessons are longer but she’s breezing right through them. The book features  four or five pages words for her to study the entire unit but she breezed through all of the words on day one. I have a feeling we might jump into the next level before the year is out.

We are finishing her math unit from Kindergarten and will start first grade math the week after next, I think. She catches on to math quickly so I have a feeling we might move through the first grade math faster than we did kindergarten. We got a late start last year on this particular curriculum and also broke it up with CTC Math, which is an online program.

Science is our biggest issue because I can’t seem to find a science curriculum I like. We are doing some very simple science books for now.

History is a little bit of a challenge as well because she really can’t remember everything I read to her at her age, but we do our best and at least she’s learning something about the founding of our country.

The curriculum we have (Our Star Spangled Story from Notgrass) also includes literature so it allows me to cross off history and English/Literature in one shot.

We are currently reading Freedom Crossing about a pair of siblings who are hiding a runaway slave sometime in the mid-1800s.

The Boy is making his way through Geography (Social Studies) and Economics and barely through Biology. Biology is going over both our heads and I’m beginning to wonder if the curriculum I have is for college level. It claims it is for tenth grade so I thought The Boy would be okay since he is in ninth grade but, wow, the definitions and concepts that are taught are extremely complex and a bit overwhelming. Hopefully we will survive the next few months.

We just finished Blood Brothers, which is a selection from the literature part of his Social Studies course. There was another book that we were supposed to read but I didn’t feel he would really enjoy it so I decided we will wait until the next until when a new book is assigned.

I’m considering introducing him to poetry this week which should induce some mocking from him but that’s okay. That’s what kids at this age do but hopefully they will come to appreciate it later on.

He is still continuing CTC Math for his math and he’s also doing a grammar course through Fix It Grammar.

The kids had a lighter day on Friday of last week when it snowed. I let them play in the snow, or in The Boy’s case shovel the driveway. He still had to do school work but I think the break for some time outside was welcomed.



I don’t have any major outings or projects planned for January, but I hope to get us out of the house more in February and March. So far this year I am glad we stuck to homeschooling. The schedule is flexible and allows us to have more time with my parents, including my son working with my dad on various projects around the house and community. In addition to a flexible schedule, we don’t have to worry about masks, the kids being pulled in and out of school for closures because of You Know What, and other issues facing public schools at this time. This is not a slam on public schools at all. These are just some challenges that they are facing right now and we are glad we currently don’t have to face them.

If you are homeschooling, how is it going for you this year? If you aren’t homeschooling, how is school going for your children or grandchildren this year? If you don’t have children or grandchildren, then how are YOU doing? Let me know in the comments.

Educationally Speaking: Homeschooling Updates

For those who might be new to my blog, I started homeschooling my children a couple of years ago, so our homeschooling journey is unrelated to the reason others are homeschooling these days. That isn’t to say our experience is more valid than others, this is simply an explanation of our homeschooling journey.

My situation may be unique to some homeschooling parent since I am teaching a Kindergartner and eighth grader, but I also know many parents teaching ages from preschool up to 12th depending on how many children they have. So, really, it’s not that unique, I suppose, but it is a challenge for me at times.

What is interesting about teaching these two age groups is that we can overlap some of our lessons, especially for the Kindergartner who can often learn from her brother’s science and history lessons, as long as the history isn’t about wars or genocide, which is obviously a little too heavy for her young brain.

What we learned last month or are doing this month. The Boy:

History

We are continuing to use Notgrass History’s From Adam to Us for history.


This past month we mainly focused on Rome and its rulers, including Julius Caesar. I’m sure I studied Julius Caesar at some point during high school or college, but I don’t remember a lot about it (I’ve mentioned before that my schools seemed to only discuss the landing of the Mayflower, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War and then start back over at the beginning of the next school year and review those same topics again. I swear we never even learned about the World Wars or Korea or Vietnam.). It was very interesting to me to learn how Julius Caesar came to power and that he was a general before he was declared “dictator for life” by the Roman Senate.

I found an interesting video on Caesar and this part of history, but my son spent the time watching it criticizing how they portrayed Roman weaponry and battles (not bloody enough for him apparently).

In February we also learned about Alexander the Great, the Great Wall of China and Judas Maccabeus.

I have started creating my own quizzes for The Boy’s history lessons, which is fun for me because I am able to read over the chapters and learn along with him. Notgrass may offer quizzes for this unit, but I didn’t see one so creating my own allows me to make the quiz as difficult or easy as I like. Plus it means I am reading the chapters along with him and learning more myself.

English

The Boy and I finished reading  Lord of The Flies for English and we used a supplemental curriculum I ordered off of Christianbook to focus on vocabulary and specific plot points and literary analysis. The curriculum was ordered from Christanbook, but it is not strictly Christian curriculum, for anyone who is curious. It provides quizzes for every two chapters and an exam for when the book is finished.

The Boy did not enjoy discussing the symbolism of the book. He said something along the lines of it being a depressing book and he didn’t want to analyze all the reasons why. I’m summarizing his complaints, so I may not have quoted him accurately (in case he one day reads this and says, “I never said that!!!” Which he often does when I repeat things he has said.)

I plan to take a week break and focus on some Mark Twain short stories or excerpts, and then move on to To Kill A Mockingbird for April and May. I had considered reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but I think The Boy might appreciate a break from the challenging language for the rest of the school year since we read Silas Marner in the beginning of the school year. One of the most fun aspects of homeschooling has been able to read classic books I either read in school or wanted to and books that public schools are trying to ban because many have lost the critical thinking needed to understand we can learn from books even if they have words or ideas in them we don’t agree with.

The Boy is also completing assignments from Wordly Wise for English, which focuses on vocabulary. We started grammar lessons from Saxon again this week. Don’t get me started on Grammar. I know that some grammar obsessed people are thinking, “we won’t because your grammar is atrocious”, but good grief some is the terms that are in this grammar book are insane and I have never heard of them and could not identify them in a sentence to save my life. Apparently I never needed to know all that for my 14-years writing as a reporter or my 43 years of life. I am convinced that grammar teachers teach children grammar so those children can become future grammar teachers and they just repeat the cycle over and over. People don’t even use half that stuff as adults and could care less what an adaptive phrase is. Oops. I guess I got myself started on grammar. (Also, do note that I  understand the importance of grammar. I also understand the importance of not over doing it and going so in depth your brain explodes.)

Math

For Math he is continuing CTC Math and we have discovered additional testing and worksheets that I hadn’t noticed before. He is not appreciative of this latest development because it means more work for him. One issue with this online program is that if he misses one question it brings his grade down and if he misses two he can end up with an “F”. He can make these mistakes by hitting a number by accident. So far, doing the test again doesn’t seem to improve the grade but I am going to contact the site administrators and see if there is a glitch with that.

Economics

We are using Notgrass’ Exploring Economics for Economics and they include history and some Bible along with all the economic terms and history and analyzing. So far it is one of my son’s favorite subjects.

It isn’t his favorite subject this week because I am making him study five units for a unit exam at the end of the week. He is used to me allowing open book tests but I told him we are going to try studying the old fashioned way and doing tests that way too. He is not a fan of the old fashioned way.

Little Miss (Kindergarten)

History

Little Miss has her own history lessons about the time around The Revolutionary War and early American history. We use old episodes of Liberty Kids from YouTube to supplement her lessons. I do not have a specific history curriculum for her this year, but will next year. She also watches some of the videos we watch for her brother’s history lessons, if they are not too violent, or she listens along with Notgrass.

Science: We are doing a unit on deserts for the next couple of weeks and will be doing separate little lessons on some of the animals of the desert. This is a plan I am putting together on my own, but will include some reading, math, coloring, comprehension, and simply learning about the different kinds of deserts (colder and warmer ones).

English:

Little Miss is working her way through language arts curriculum from The Good and The Beautiful. I would say English is the most difficult for her in many ways because she seems to forget her letters and how to sound out words one day and remember it all again the next. I don’t know if it is she really doesn’t remember how to do it all or if she is just showing her stubborn streak (which she totally gets from her father’s side of the family) and pretending she doesn’t remember how to do any of it. Either way, it makes me want to scream some days so teaching her is also teaching me patience. Every day. All week long.



Math

Math is Little Miss’s thing. She loves it. She does not, however, always love doing it the way she is asked to do it. We are currently working with a curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful which utilizes manipulatives so the child can use some hands on activities to solidify not only numbers and how to count, but also how to recognize patterns and follow directions. The other day I asked her to use the wooden blocks the curriculum came with to build a stack of blocks the same way it was built in the photo. She did it differently and when I corrected her she flopped her hands at her side, flounced a small amount, and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling.

“Well, that’s not how I do it,” she huffed.

I told her it wasn’t about how she does it this time. The assignment was to follow the directions. She responded with another eye roll and arm flop so I finally completed the build for her and told her why it was right and hers had been wrong.

“That way is boooring,” she informed me.

A lot of what we do is “boooring” to her right now so I have skipped ahead in math to give her more of a challenge. That will only work if she does it the way she is asked to, but then again, letting her change things up can help her as well, as long as she comes up with the right answer.

The other day I skipped ahead to look for challenges and we stumbled on “odds and evens.” I asked her to wait to do the activity until I could figure out the right way to explain odd and evens to her. She barely listened when I did explain, interrupted me and started completing the activity on her own so apparently she didn’t even need me to explain what it meant. Her brain moves quit fast when it comes to mathematical concepts, which means she is absolutely nothing like her mother and a lot like her father, which is not a bad thing.

Science

Little Miss and The Boy both use The Good and the Beautiful’s Energy Unit. I teach them at the same time twice a week and we may increase that to three times a week for the remainder of our school year.

Art

We do art whenever and wherever but I try to encourage the youngest, at least, to do some form of art through painting, drawing, or crafts throughout the week.

This week I set up a meeting with our homeschool evaluator for the end of our school year. In our state we file an intent to homeschool letter with the school district we live in at the beginning of the school year. We also file an affidavit attesting to what we will teach our children throughout the year. Our state recently lowered the compulsory age for children to attend school to six, when it was previously eight. I think I have that last age correct.

Anyhow, because Little Miss turned 6-years old after the Sept. 1 deadline we did not have to file an intent to homeschool for her this year. Technically I didn’t even have to teach her this year because I don’t have to file an evaluation for her at the end of the school year (prior to July 1). Regardless I taught her last year and I am again teaching her this year. Last year we focused on preschool and kindergarten and this year we are focusing on kindergarten and branching into first grade.

I do have to file an evaluation for The Boy and he also has to take a standardized test, which he can do on the computer. I know the children are anxious for the school year to be over, but, alas, they still have about three months left so they will have to hang in there. Luckily our weather is warming up so at least they can do some of their work outside on the porch or even scrap part of that work for a couple of field trips.