04 February 2010

the big balance

This past week, as I filled out our "attendance" form to mail to the superintendent's office, I realized we had reached the halfway mark in our school year - exactly 90 days at the end of January. I find this remarkable, mostly because I have so much I want to do with Little B and it seems unattainable. It's tricky, though, as pressing too hard causes stress, distress and lack of willingness in him (and lots of random breaks keep things peaceful).

Little B learns easily and thoroughly, but he hates to be "forced" to do work – for example, a unit study on The Pirate Diary sounds so exciting to him, but by the third day he's read the book through several times and is resisting the next assignment or rereading a section he's forgotten, even if it's something that would normally excite him –because it's by "force" is what he tells me. And I'm beginning to think lap booking is just like "busy work" in his mind. (I'm starting to feel that way, too, at the moment.) We're giving it a shot, but I find that picking and choosing assignments from such unit studies based on our needs works best. Each day, I write his assignments and chores in a spiral notebook which he checks off as he goes. If he's not done by a certain time, no (play) computer time that day. And we just get back to what was incomplete the next day without a fuss – sometimes it's better not to draw attention to it.

I want to school year-round which is technically 3.5 days a week. We do mostly 4 day weeks so we can have a few days when John has time off. It's just a big balancing act. Also, I'm toying with rotating certain subjects throughout the year, perhaps 3 or 4 month cycles.

We've taken a slight Sonlight hiatus in which we did random social studies "lessons" since I was in need of a few books I had not ordered. They're on their way now, and we're both excited to pick it back up. Sometimes we do the suggested discussions, sometimes not – he has a tendency to read the books through in a day or two and can easily tell me what he's enjoying.

Language Arts is a breeze for him. His ability to write a story with limited errors, beautiful descriptions and accurate punctuation easily exceeds the 3rd grade level. Paragraph breaks are the most noticeable need. He has loved the silliness of Time 4 Learning's online L.A. program, though we had to move him to the 4th grade level in that this week...I should have done it long ago, and I'm not so certain we won't have to move it to 5th. He simply aces it all. I'm also considering a vocabulary book and a daily editing book; both look good and would provide variation (as long as I get at least 4th grade levels).

Next week, Little B will finish the current book from Math U See. We have been reinforcing addition and subtraction, which went a few steps further than his 2nd grade math for the purpose of mastery. Now I need to find the next level up. I am contemplating a "break" to work on skip counting and some flashcards before launching into multiplication…but I'm indecisive. Time 4 Learning has math as well, so I can use it as a supplement, but I'm not sure I want to mix up curriculum styles too much.

In science, I have amazing Lego Education set and a Little Professor's Dissection Kit that he is drooling to dig into. I just have not figured out how to work around the destruction of Baby J's toddlerhood. So, I ease my conscience with the science at Time 4 Learning, sans any print-outs or experiments. This has to change, and soon. Again, I find myself considering less of another big subject for a few months, in trade for more of this.

There is so much more I want to do with and for him. I cannot afford outside lessons or activities right now, and we're waiting until the move to join a homeschool group, so it's a bit lonely right now. In the meantime, we have a program for violin that we're slacking on, we could do online language lessons for free through our library, I think typing is becoming essential, Instant Challenges look awesome, and we've worked on manners and cooking and chores. (He's getting proficient at eggs, and he can prepare his own breakfast or lunch.) We have barely dabbled in cursive, so I'm digging into my options – Pencil Pete's Handwriting Programs look good to me, and I can use the print one for Miss C. They also have story starters that I think will keep Little B engaged.

Miss C is teaching herself to read and doing Kindergarten level work on that same Time 4 Learning program. She is so proud to do school like her big brother. I have so many things I want to do with her, but again, I find I lack the opportunities with her because of Baby J, though I realize this stage will flee soon enough.

So, I juggle. And I work to find a balance someplace in this grand act I'm performing.

**A little note about Time 4 Learning – it is an online curriculum that covers (for most grades K-8) Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Math. I have had a customer service "issue" recently, and find their program (not curriculum) a bit outdated as well as not the most user- friendly. HOWEVER, it has been fun for the kids and they are very kid- and learning-friendly for what our needs have been. Would I recommend them? Probably. Would I shout it from the rooftop? Probably not. They are simply helping meet some needs as I find my way in this new world of Homeschooling…filling in the gaps, so to speak.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

Cool. I always enjoy reading about what other folks are doing. The homeschool population is a rich treasury of resources!

P.S. Don't know if you were reading my blog back then, but back in August the kids and I did a three-or-so- week unit study on Japan, which I downloaded from homeschoolmentor.com and then did some picking, choosing, and exploring on our own. I think that was our most successful venture yet. Even Ian, who sounds like your B, volunteered his praise. No small thing.