Friday, January 20, 2017

Where In The World Is...

I will never forget the day when Mari (while she was in 5th-grade public school) came to me and asked, "Mama, is Canada a state?"

It took a second to regain my composure and it also took a little bit of mental strength to keep from bad-mouthing the school out loud. How could a 12-year-old not know that Canada is an entire country?! This moment cemented the fact that public schools are failing our children and I could do a better job teaching them myself.

There was a quote I read which said something like "If you aren't qualified to teach your children at home with the knowledge you received from public school, why would you send them to the same institution that failed you?"

It was a lot more succinct and elegant, but that's the gist of it. As a child, public school definitely failed me. I struggled through all of middle and high school with no help from my teachers. I find myself learning right along with my daughter each and every day, which I think is pretty cool!

Anywho, we are currently taking baby steps with Geography. I have a few different curriculums (or is it "curriculi," or "curriculume?" LOL) but have found the most effective to be something I just made up off the top of my head. With this way of learning, the facts and locations of countries are still fixed in Mari's head months and months later.

Here's what we do:

I pull up this photo of the world and Mari chooses a country she wants to learn about, then I have her draw the country and its flag at the top of her paper. Underneath her drawings, I'll write out about 10 questions for her to answer. Things like:

"Which hemisphere is your country located in?"

"Name 3 or more countries that border your country."

"What language do they speak?"

"Name four items your country imports and exports."

"When was the last war your country fought? Who were they at war with and why?"

"Who are your country's allies?"

"Are there any celebrities from your country?"

"What is the capital of your country and where is it located? (North, South, East, West?)"

Once she's done answering the questions, we go to YouTube and I will find a few videos that talk about the country's food (because Mari loves Food Network,) their people, fun facts, geographical information like climate, etc.

Our favorite Geography channel is Geography Now! because they discuss everything from the country's political climate to racial demographics, animal and plant life and so much more. Sadly, they record their videos in alphabetical order and they are somewhere in the Gs, I think. So we have to fend for ourselves when Mari wants to learn about Venezuela or Nigeria.

She is learning so much about the world this way... and so am I! And the best part is, she remembers it! She still tells people about Santa's mailbox in Greenland. We keep a little notebook filled with all of her Geography papers. She's pretty proud of them!

What are you all doing for Geography?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Victory Is Mine!

I am so excited, guys!

I think it's pretty apparent that the word "math" causes major freakouts for me. Well, I couldn't take it anymore and went scouring the internet for a free math assessment test. I just HAD to know where Mari was in math. It was driving me nuts! Has she regressed? Is she even learning anything? Will she be doomed to a life of poverty because I couldn't properly teach her the math she needs to succeed in life?!

A major part of our deciding to homeschool was that Mari has been behind basically since she started school due to learning impairments. And we knew middle school would be a bigger challenge than she'd ever dealt with before. We needed to intervene before she fell even more behind... but has this intervention been working? That was the big question.

I finally found a free online assessment from Cambridge Academy. They say they go by national US averages and not by state, so use your best judgement in their final assessment of your child. You have to sign up so they can email you the results, but I didn't mind that at all. I signed Mari up for the 3rd-5th grade level math test because I just knew I was failing my child and that she was woefully behind her 6th grade public school peers.

The test was 48 questions long and it seemed to take forever and three days for her to finish... or maybe it just seemed that long because I was internally screaming the entire time! LOL!

Well, she finished, and I kept reloading my email screen, waiting for the results. When they finally popped up, I couldn't click on it fast enough!

The assessment showed each problem and whether she answered it correctly or not. Then at the the very bottom of the email, it showed her grade level.

Y'all... she's 6th grade! Yippeeee! I am so excited! I hugged her so hard, and she was pretty pleased with herself! So that means Mastering Essential Math Skills is absolutely working because she was a little behind in math while she was in school. Now she's all caught up!

One thing I'm internally gloating about is that our city and state rank waaaay below the national average in math and reading. So if she is on-level on the national math scale, that means she's better at math than most 6th graders in our state! I'll definitely be calling my mother-in-law today to tell her the news! *insert satisfied smirk here*

Homeschooling for the win!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heal The World Through Reading

I just found this and thought it was the neatest thing. I just had to share it before putting the kiddos to bed!

There's a new book club called "Heal The World," and it's run by kids for kids. For each page read, a few cents gets donated to a charity that helps fight against trafficking and other issues. By you and your children reading, you can literally help make the world a better place! There are certificates and information about how your children helped heal the world each month. Cool!

Here is a link to the entire post. It's free to sign up and reading starts next month (February) so spread the word!

Talk to you soon!

Anxiety Booster

Like many homeschoolers, math is a topic that boosts my anxiety like no other and makes me feel like a total failure who is destroying my child's entire future.

A few summers ago, we used CTC Math, which is the program that got my daughter up to grade level. She did one or two lessons each weekday without complaint. I am still subscribed but don't use it as much because the "older" levels don't have interactive lessons. You have to print out worksheets and fill them out that way. Now, we tried this, but my daughter didn't like it at all. The questions on the worksheets were more complicated and difficult than the problems Pat went over in the instructional videos. For example, he'd go over single digit multiplication in the video, then the worksheet will ask you to figure out 459 x 66. That was frustrating for her and she was no longer enjoying math.

So now, we are doing Mastering Essential Math Skills Book One.

I went with Book One so I could make sure she knew all of the basics. It starts off with addition and subtraction, then works its way to more complex topics. Each new lesson contains four review questions that go over previously learned topics, and there is a word problem at the end of each lesson. The author used to be a middle-school teacher and using this method, by the end of the school year, his sixth-grade students were ready for sull-on Algebra!

Although it is okay, I still feel anxious that she isn't doing enough. This isn't the most exciting program but she gets it done, it's quick and she completely understands it. The explanations are super simple and easy to understand. They're the kind of straight to the point instructions that I would give myself (if I knew what I was doing!)

But there is still that gut-wrenching, gnawing feeling that it isn't enough, ya know?

I see all of these other homeschoolers like "Oh yeah, my six-year-old Marcy does 3 hours of Beast Academy, a chapter of Math Mammoth and an hour of Singapore Math each day! She loves it!" And I'm over here like "Erm... my 6th grader does 20 minutes of math five days a week." *hangs head in shame and wonders just how much I am ruining her chance of being accepted into college*

We've tried Dreambox, Math Mammoth and a bunch of other conceptual math programs but my kids just don't think that way. They do best with "old school" math that is straight to the point. I've looked into Shiller Math... until I saw that price tag! Thought about Rod & Staff and MEP but I read they're both teacher intensive and math is NOT my strong suit so I wouldn't be comfortable with that.

We need a math that's straight to the point with clear and concise video instructions, and so far, I haven't been able to find anything that fits our needs and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

What about you guys? What do you use? Do you have any suggestions for us?

I'm all ears!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Small City Homeschooling Introduction

Yay! My first post!

I feel like it'd make sense if my first post discusses the difficulties that come along with homeschooling in a small city. We live 100 miles away from a big city, so it's not like we can just pick up and go to a cool homeschooling thing. One issue is that I'm not from this area. I moved here because this was where my husband's job was, so I am not familiar with this state at all.

"Well, get a GPS!" you may say. We have one, dear reader, but it is dumb and stupid and doesn't work 98% of the time. It came built into our truck and half the time doesn't even point in the right direction or the arrow will point down instead of up. There are no verbal directions other than "You have now reached your destination," two minutes after I've found the place (no thanks to the dumb GPS!) and parked. Since we are working with one income and scraping by, getting a new one is not an option.

There are two museums here. Both of them are boring, both of them we've already been to. There is one movie theater that doesn't have a great selection.

We're in the Bible Belt and there is ONE co-op group for our location but members HAVE to be Christian and the moms HAVE to contribute at least one class per month. Now, I was thinking we could lie about being Christian *sneaky laugh* but one thing I can't fake is a class. I don't even know what I'm doing with my own kid, how can I be expected to have the education of dozens of other people's children in my hands?! What would I teach?! I am the opposite of organized, so I don't think I'd be able to handle putting together some elaborate educational event.

My daughter did Heart and Sole, which is a program for middle school girls to prepare for and eventually run a 5k marathon. She loved it, but it is now over. So now what?

There is a dance class, but she is nervous about dancing in front of an audience. One person teaches tennis, but she has no interest. There's an art class but it costs too much money.

And that's about all there is here.

My poor little one gets so bored sometimes and I wish that I could do something about it. I shortly considered starting my own homeschool group, but how on earth would I do that? And also, please refer to an earlier paragraph when it was mentioned how unorganized I am.

So enough of this woe is me business. ;) Please tell me we aren't the only ones going through this. There have to be others living in small cities and struggling to find things for the kiddos to do!