Thursday, October 4, 2012

8th Grade Reading List

If you've read this blog at all, you'll know I'm not a traditional homeschooler. We tend to piece meal all our subjects, try different things. And with reading, its no different. I don't think I've ever had a reading program. I just don't see the point. We discuss what she reads and that seems to get us an in depth look at the books.

Each year I make up a list of books I want her to read. The lists include some classics, things I read with I was a kid as well as new or recommended books. I also add in some spiritual books as well as biographies. This year I'm doing it a bit different. She can choose any from the list but has to alternate between fiction and nonfiction/biographies each time. So far she is enjoying the freedom of picking. I thought I'd share this year's books list. Some are more advanced and some, like Mere Christianity will probably be read with one of us. I would love to hear any other suggestions you have...

8th Grade Reading List

Lord of the Rings book 1, 2, 3
Wrinkle in Time series
Adventures of Robin Hood
Wind in the Willows
Watership Down
All Creatures Great and Small
Huckleberry Finn
Prince and the Pauper
Door Within Trilogy
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Search for WondLa
Peter and the Starcatcher
Fantastic Voyage
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Phantom Tollbooth
Don Quixote
The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear
And Then There Were None
City of Ember series
Inkheart/Thief Lord/Inkspell
The Silver Crown
House of the Seven Gables
Flowers for Algernon
Chronicles of Narnia
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
The Mouse and his Child
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Book Thief
Romeo and Juliet
The Giver
The Little Prince
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Joan of Arc
Around the World in Eighty Days
Hound of the Baskervilles/Sherlock Holmes
Cheaper by the Dozen
The OZ books (L. Frank Baum)
The Princess Bride

Jesus Freaks
Experiencing God Youth edition
Voices of the Faithful
Case for Christ, Youth
Case for a Creator, Kids
Case for Faith, kids
Sister Freaks
Cross and the Switchblade
The Hiding Place (Ten Boom)
In My Father's House (Ten Boom)
Eleanor Roosevelt, Life of Discovery
Florence Nightingale (Dengler)
Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Story of My Life (Helen Keller)
Mere Christianity
Luther: Biography of a Reformer
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman
Miracle Worker
Diary of Anne Frank
God's Smuggler
The Light and the Glory

Short Stories & Poetry:
The Gift of the Magi
The Monkey's Paw
The Minister's Black Veil
Split Cherry tree
The Tell-tale Heart
Shel Silverstein books

extra books:
Straw Into Gold
Stewart Little
Danny Dunn series (and his Homework Machine, bk 1)
The Mad Scientist Club
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
A Whole Nothing Story
Penny from Heaven
Tikki Tikki Tembo
Winnie The Pooh
Half Magic
The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
Far Flung Adventures series
A Barrel of Laughs, a Vale of Tears
The Tattooed Potato and other Clues
Complete Adventures of the Borrowers
Grimms Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen
Poppy and Ereth
Ben & Me
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
The Penderwicks series

Monday, October 1, 2012

Schooling 2012

This has been a tough summer for me, school planning-wise. I waffled back and forth, to and fro, up and down about whether I was going to schedule (ie: overschedule is more like it) my child this year. I know she's getting into those formidable years where a transcript must be kept and hopefully she takes some classes that count toward a potential college. I don't know though. The oldest got into college with no transcript, just her ACT scores and the college's math/english testing. So what does it really matter, I ask you? Anyway, this was my stress this year. 

I prayed and prayed about it, wanting to unschool but not having the guts. My child loves to learn and figure out things but I don't know if I'm comfortable with my 13 yr old planning how much she'll learn at all. I don't know how unschoolers do it! Maybe if I'd started from the beginning days I'd be fine. She'd learn differently. I talked to her about unschooling. She thinks it sounds 'great!' (eyeroll) because she wouldn't have any assignments. In the end, there were a few things I wanted to learn and we compromised. It's 1/2 school, 1/2 unschool time. Oh, and wait until I tell you about math! 

Here is our schedule:
Grammar - Grammar Made Easy computer game, or Easy Grammar
Grammar - Daily Grams
Math - online program
History - Sonlight One Year World History reading program
Reading - List of fiction/non-fiction/spiritual books I compiled (will share soon)
Music - She's started Percussion & Band classes, Piano sporadically

That's it. No, I didn't schedule in Science, Art, Foreign Language, Writing, Poetry, Typing, Home Economics, PE, or Bible. Some things are a given. We go to church two times a week and Hubby and she do bible studies every night. Currently she has been reading Jesus Freak and I found there is a separate Live Like a Jesus Freak book with questions at the end of each chapter. They've been working through and discussing that nightly. I want to start memorizing scripture again with her but I need to find a fun non-school way to present it. Maybe by painting the words on paper and drawing pictures to go with it. I don't know, thinking on the fly here. 

Art is a given in our house. I'm an artist because I can't help myself and my daughter draws almost daily about what she's reading (Trojan War) or watching (Doctor Who, lately.) I keep art supplies at the ready in a mini studio space on top of the piano. Any of it can be used at any time.

Her schedule is, to hopefully get up with hubby every day at 7 am. If she works diligently she's done with her work by 12-1 pm. Then the rest of the afternoon is hers to study what she wants. I ask that she slip in a bit of piano and drum practice and chores and maybe work on training the dogs a bit but the rest is hers. Here is where we have the problem. I'm hoping she fills that time with science and art and poetry, etc... but she likes to think of it as her time to do what she wants. It is, but... Yeah. I'm having trouble with it. Maybe I need to plan some sciencing just to feel better about getting some in. Experiments and maybe a few field trips. I have 107 library books out from the library and a 1/3 are science so hopefully she is getting some in. It's just not a traditional way to do school and my brain is on fire because of it.

Okay, on a happier note. Math this year is LOVED! We've been doing textbooks like Saxon math for years and the repetition and blah blah blah was killing her. We've found something different for this year! Khan Academy. I heard someone talk about it and link to it but I didn't go look. Then my brother who is studying to be a doctor or some sciency person said he uses it for upper level science courses. Okay, this got my attention. THEN, 2 other homeschool groups mentioned it! I had to look. I found it has from the very beginning to hugely hard mathing. You do practice problems and if you get stuck you can watch the videos to learn how to do it. You earn badges and all sorts of goodies. Best of all, its free! It's a God send for me really.

For those other subjects I'm wanting her to study but didn't schedule her to study I've been a bit sneaky. I've bought software or other things that encourage her to learn them.
Typing - bought Typing Instructor
Foreign Language - our library has Manga on tap for free, most any language
Poetry - bought magnet sets in Haiku and Genius and put them in large metal tins with room to form sentences. Great on the go, take to a restaurant type sets.
PE - I bought a bow and arrow set for her birthday she uses, plus I let her walk the dogs or ride her bike around the block now that she's older. We also have Wii Fit
Science - so far we only have engineering games like Roller Coaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon 2 and similar programs

So this is my not-so-quick schooling update! lol

Friday, April 13, 2012

Exemplary Reading Teaches Grammar Naturally

I had a company contact me last week with an opportunity to share my ideas on grammar. They asked if I would like to write a blog post, add a link to their grammar checker website and they will compensate me. Well, this sounded wonderful! I'm not beneath taking a handout for my gift of gab. Then the niggling doubt started moving around in my head. Do I even know anything about grammar? I mean, we've used various programs, some with degrees of success. What the heck could I share that would be helpful? But I've decided to forge on through and see what spouts out of my brain. You be the judge of if its helpful or not.

Grammar in our family comes a bit natural. This is probably why I don't feel qualified to talk about it. We haven't had significant struggles trying to learn it all. But we do discuss it all the time. Someone will say an odd sentence and a head will pop up, 'Is that how you should say that?' Then a good-natured discussion will ensue and grammar rules will be Googled, and definitions of words will be looked up. Not all the time and more about definitions and spellings than grammar sometimes (although punctuation is a big hit around here) but it is a frequent occurrence.

In my opinion grammar should be naturally learned. Everyone should discuss the rules in normal conversations and when reading books. Good literary books. Although, some of the newer books which don't feel the need to use complete sentences do afford us great discussions on what the 'proper' way to write them might have been. Grammar is three things; Capitalization, Punctuation and Parts of Speech. All three can be learned easily from a chart, books and discussion, but most of all from exemplary books. In fact, the more a child reads and is read to, the greater the improvement in their grammar, writing, and vocabulary comprehension. Children absorb more than we think.

We've used Easy Grammar and Daily Grams the most although my youngest did enjoy the Rod and Staff program we used in 3rd grade that I had picked up at a garage sale. Honestly though, kids should be able to get a couple years of grammar in sometime between grades 3-7 and then they don't need constant daily instruction in the subject. It will be in their heads enough to help with reports and higher learning endeavors. As they grow older and have harder subjects they will probably need to refresh their memories, that's why I'm happy to have heard about this new on-line Grammar Checker.

By the way, I wrote a wonderfully convoluted post on grammar and then decided to go pop it in the company's website, (I have since written this completely new post you're reading now!) For all my talk about loving grammar and words and such, the program found about 10 mistakes. What?! From me?! But I'm perfect! A perfect homeschooling teacher! I can't make mistakes! But if I'm being honest, I got over the initial shock and was so happy there is a website like this, that can make me sound even more intelligent without my having to do all the heavy lifting. Think of the uses for this program. Kids can have help with writing their reports and research. It frees up us homeschool moms in the checking of grammar errors, punctuation or capitalization mistakes. I think it even has a plagiarism button as well. I could not be happier with the program!  What do you use for your grammar needs?

** Okay, I'm off to plug in THIS post and see how much it offends the Grammarly program. I'm hoping I did better this time! Cross your fingers (and stop pointing out all my mistakes!!)...**

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

Thankful that homeschool allows for varied interests and Wii exercise before school starts!

Studying for Apologia Science test. Dd says drawing pictures helps her remember.

Love this homeschool life we have!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ignorant or Blessed?

I was talking with hubby last night about how we need to be careful with our youngest now that she is the only child at home. When the teen lived here we had two children to deal with. Our teen is a fabulous child but we had growing pains working with her on rules, responsibilities and growing up. You know, normal teen stuff. Now that only the youngest lives here, hubby worries too much about her wild schemes and crazy ideas that he's sure makes the neighbors think we're crazy (she's built 2 'shanties' in the back yard, complete with lighting.! lol Yesterday I caught her in jammies, with silk scarves tied around her waist and practicing ninja moves out by the garden, waving a thin white plastic pole like she was Kung Fu Panda!) Up until now she's had more freedom to just be her while we were navigating ourselves through teenager landmines. But now, we notice everything.

I told him we had to just allow her to be her, to make mistakes, within reason (no, you can't play with fire from the firepit!) I briefly discussed unschooling with him and what it could look like. I know I'm not brave enough (or haven't been up to this point) but I can see that she would thrive at it. She's lazy sometimes but she really is a curious soul. Hubby worried that children who were allowed to learn this way would be ignorant of the things that don't interest them. This stopped me in my tracks. Is this true? Does it matter? Do we have to know all about everything if it doesn't interest us? Would it be a crime if she never learned who the dictator of China was or how to dissect a frog? Even today hubby asks if I knew what a Rube Goldberg machine was? I replied no, he explained ihews like the mousetrap game. One thing leads to another in succession. I don't think my life has been hindered not knowing the name of those machines! Dd has other interests. Heck the child is currently listening her way through a COLLEGE Ancient Egypt lecture series, FOR FUN!!! She knows more about Egypt, Greek and Norse Myths and American History (from listening to History of Us by Joy Hakim) then I'll ever know and I graduated from college!

I don't think school has to be a series of boring forced subjects that we don't care about and won't ever remember anyway. This is one of the reasons we homeschool so we can study what we like, when we like. But I do find myself picking up more textbooks as we move into more Jr. High and I already see a lot of sighing and sadness associated with forced boring learning. I keep rethinking my choices and decision to not unschool. I wouldn't really be scarring her for life would I be??

Just to share: Read this article on Seth Godin and Homeschooling. Very enlightening. So glad I'm on the homeschooling team.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reading Plans & Summer Break

DD has several books we keep running at all times. I'm using the Sonlight program (we're doing Core 100 right now for 7th grade) its mostly all reading. Okay, it could probably be so much more but we only seem to find time for reading the books and I do make a point to ask her what she learned in the book. After a roll of her eyes and my thoughts of 'maybe a book report would be better' I ask her what she thought was interesting in the book that I should know, since I haven't read it yet. I tell her not to tell me anything boring! lol When asked in this fashion I hear all sorts of great things I would have never heard about had we stuck with a boring written report. In this way we are actually doing narration in the Charlotte Mason method and hey, I thought I had let that fall by the wayside! Yay me!

In letting DD plan her own schooling and what she covers each day of the week based on what I assigned for the week, she has been splitting her reading books up like this:
Understood Betsy Bk (11 chapters), read M-S, 2+ chapters a day
Red Badge of Courage Bk (24 chapters), read M-S, 4 chapters a day
I think this is a great way to chart and make sure you get the reading done as well as making it seem not so overwhelming. Now if one book gets particularly interesting she continues on in that book and does less of the other for that day. Just as long as she's reading 6+ chapters a day.

I had an epiphany the other day. I keep getting lots of books from the library but somehow never 'have' or make the time to read them. So I sat Monday and made a list of the books I want to read, split them up by chapters (and lengths of books since I try to read a certain amount of pages a week and didn't want to put 3 800 pages books in one week), charted how many chapters to read a day, and voila'! A workable plan! I'm very excited. I'm actually making time!

I've already been working on our reading list for next year's history program, Sonlight Core W (One Year World History). I added several to the the regular list and am having her read 2 books a week during the summer. Do you have your kids read in the summer or am I the only child torturer?

I was reading an article about how public schools send home summer reading lists and expect them to be completed when kids return, some even have tests about the books when the kids return. I think that's outrageous! Yes, I require my child to read during the summer but if we get busy or off on some adventure, I don't sweat it. I just put that practice into play to cut down on the TV time she thinks she might be having all summer...

Do you think kids should mandatorily read over summer break?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Curriculum Planning Til' My Hairs Fall Out

 (Pic of grandma and 7th grader. They're ready for summer. Me too!!) 

Is anyone else in the throes of school planning for next year? I always wait until the summer but I have a friend that starts so early like in January, I started to feel guilty for leisurely waiting and then frantically trying to pick things before August. Yes, bowing to peer pressure since 2012. I do like to have a minimal idea of what I want to look at when the Homeschool Conference comes up in April though.

7th Grader has been adjusting to more subjects, textbooks, discipline but I'm thinking the plan I have for next year is too aggressive and she will possibly disown me or revolt. I need to find a way to consolidate or something. Tell me what you think and what you have planned...

8th grade Curriculum
Grammar - Queen Homeschool or not decided
Vocab/Spelling - Vocabulary From Classical Roots B (Latin & Greek roots)
Writing - Jensens Format Writing (it might be too old) or not decided (can't afford IEW unfortunately)
Math - Saxon Algebra 1
Science - Apologia Physical Science
History - Sonlight Core W, One Year World History (It has about 46 reading books, I'm adding about 35 because she will get a head start reading all summer.)
Latin - Latin for Children Primer B
Spanish - Either Instant Immersion or Bien Viaje or Somos Asi En Sus Marcas (programs I have parts of and need to get either CDs or textbooks) or not decided...
Art - Art In Focus (found workbooks/tests at thrift, bought text on Ebay. If we were able to stick with it, it could be a graded course for transcript. Might be too rigid though but I'm terrible with following through on weekly art projects. I know, I'm a terrible artist mother.)

Analogies 1 or Unlocking Analogies (use sporadically)
Critical Thinking workbooks (use sporadically)
Some type of Handwriting practice

Thinking somehow combining Grammar, Writing and Handwriting without using a program or textbook would be awesome but not sure how to go about that and make it a real 8th grade course... Any suggestions?

Monday, March 26, 2012

And the day begins...

This was how my day began: 
Itch itch itch, tingy tingy tingy dog tag flapping for 5 minutes straight (dry skin). So I kick the dogs outside. Back to bed, 1 min of peace. Furry cat takes the opportunity to wrap herself around my head on the pillow meowing the whole time. I give up and get comfortable with fur. 1 minute of peace. Dogs start barking like they're dying, for 5 minutes waking all the neighbors I'm sure! I give up and go let them in. The smart cat runs out the door and I end up chasing him in the backyard in my PJs. Drag him back in. Then there is a mass of whining and crying and pawing and climbing all over me because its breakfast time apparently. 2 cats have a spat over having to share a plate of food, while the other blissfully eats most of it. Have to drag one dog off the other dog's food because she was done so she wants his. Welcome to 745 am. This is how I started my day... #itsazoohere

How is your day so far?

With this 'experiment' of letting the child choose what and when she works on stuff during the week, she has gotten the idea she can sleep in every day. I don't like that idea. Then she is doing schoolwork late into the evening which really tires her out. So 830, I flipped on the light, 845 I played music and started requesting her appearance. Finally at 9 am she arose from her slumber.  This is how she spent the first 1 1/2 hours of her day:

Doing what I normally do, organizing papers (please ignore my scraped door. One day I will get it painted.) But if she is going to be in charge of her schooling, she needs to see that she needs to keep it all organized or it gets overwhelming. She had fun mumbling to herself putting things in date order 'oh we have an earliest winner! 11/21/11!'  Most were from the last month though so don't think me that much of a lazy bum. 

Listed a few homeschool books on Ebay if anyone is looking for some:

                 Artistic Pursuits, Gr 4-6, Bk 1             Type It Typing Program Book

It's going to be 83 degrees out today. Time to get lettuce, more Kale and spinach planted. We had such a mild winter that my kale has still be growing out in the garden. Very exciting!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Year Mostly Recapped, and Voila'! I am here!

So, the problem with homeschooling sometimes is that it literally becomes your life. It's not a side hobby at all. You can't really just 'wing it' although I'm fond of saying that. Because of it and a million other things, my blog has been tossed aside like a forgotten book, a moldy cookie, an old receipt. I miss my blogs and talking on them, sharing ideas, lives and such. I really need to pick up where I left off. But you know how it is when you haven't done something in awhile, you berate yourself, 'Oh I really need to get back to doing that (like crocheting or cleaning).' Then the more you don't, the guiltier you feel. Then, you actually start to miss it and Voila'! I am here!

So, how has your year been? We started school in July sometime to supposedly keep up with friends who were also doing Apologia General Science, hoping we'd get to do experiments together. No such luck. We slacked off in November and we've always been 2 weeks behind them ever since! Ah well, best laid plans of mice and men they say...

This was our first junior high year for my youngest. New child, different personality and temperament than the older one. The older one (who graduated 2 years ago) was determined to get all her work done before the day was over. She couldn't stand to leave something unfinished. Probably came from her need to be perfect or a close proximity to such a notion. SO not the same as this younger child. She could care less if she finished anything! She'd rather read 24-7 and if I could find a way to teach upper math, science and latin with just reading, I'd be all over that like a cat with a plate of sushi!

We also lost dictation, copywork, narration and short lessons along the way. I knew we would. I tried, I really tried. I don't know how people get everything done in a year. We did really good most of the year but things that started to feel like fluff (you know, like those extra worksheets teachers give out to keep a child's attention?) were cut. I swear, we're going to be drummed out of the Charlotte Mason community! I will try again this year.

It's been a year of growing up for this 12 1/2 yr old, 7th grade girl. Learning to be more responsible, learning to make smart decisions, learning to navigate the teen group and how to be a real friend and who ARE real friends. She's also gone to being the only child living here. The teen moved out recently to live with co-workers. She only lives 5 mins away and stops by often but we miss her. I have to remember to do more with the little one because she'll get lonely.

Pertaining to homeschooling, one of the new things we tried just recently was making her more responsible for when she does stuff. I made up a new chart for her schoolwork and wrote in all she had to accomplish in a week (in the first column. Would be happy to share if someone wants to see it.) Then she had to decide what days she did what, how many pages to read in a book per day to have it done by the end of the week. Her reward when she got it all done (even if it was Sunday afternoon) was she can watch a bit of TV, read books NOT on her school list, play WII or try out some new educational games I got for her on the computer (Typing Instructor and Crazy Machines.) So far its working swimmingly. She likes the freedom and choice. Crossing fingers it works for us through mid-May...
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