Saturday, September 26, 2015

This is how we are Poor

There is a lot I feel grateful for.  Our home, our children, our family, food on the table.  We are not affluent financially; we are middle class mostly living paycheck to paycheck, but we are lucky, and I do not want to dismiss what we have.

But, when I am having a hard day and need someone to talk to; I am very selective with the people I am comfortable with in being able to share the really hard things; the hard things I would never post on Facebook or here.  As much as I am grateful for, there are issues.  Everyone has them.  I am so afraid of burdening anyone or being "dramatic" that if I sense  there is the slightest hesitation when I open my mouth, I will not share.  I will walk away from it.  The last thing I want is to be judged or be a burden to anyone, or for anyone to think I am not justified for feeling as I feel, or if I am wrong; or if they discover how faulted I am, etc..  I am one of those people who quickly do not share if I smell judgment.

But, no one is perfect.  Not even close.

So there are many of those bad days; and I rarely broadcast what it is that makes those days truly hard. I may hint or share an issue that is humorous or shareable, but I cannot share the parts that should only be shared in person, with close friends and family.

I honestly only have ONE person I share things with outside of my husband in this phase of my life.  

If she were of monetary value, she is the one dollar I hold in my hand, but I often find myself thinking that if I truly think I have any worth, I will let it go, too.  Not because she isn't awesome, but because she I don't think has room for me.

My whole life before being married, I always had people to confide in; and we reciprocated.  I have always been open to friends who wish to confide in me.

I suppose, there should be more people I could talk to, but so many people I think would judge or be too quick to give advice.  Most people seem to be that way.   And I don't know what is wrong, but most people in my life do not reciprocate even childcare/ hosting kids, let alone friendship.

So, there is this one rare gem I can occasionally confide in, but I do not feel like I am a gem to her..  Or if I am, I am of the "many" that she has, and in that sense, I am just a coin, rather than a gem.

The thing is, she is one of those people who are "full"  I call her, and rarely does she even answer her phone.  And in truth, it often takes three days or a week for her to call me back (if she does at all).

This is how I am poor.  When I am in pain, I really have no one to talk to.  Often my husband is working or busy and I cannot talk to him when he is, either, as is the case right now.  He is too busy, and my friend, I have called twice in the past 3 days, and she has not answered or called me back yet. 

I think a story I heard not long ago, about how a new mother died in her car here in Oregon.  She committed suicide with her child.  She was severely depressed.  Was it like this for her too? Was she subtle and afraid to ask?  

Don't worry, I'm not saying I am even close to that desperate, but I am feeling extremely isolated from friendship; and I share this only because I think many people feel this way too.

We have so much in our society, but we are so poor in other ways.  

This friend, who takes 3 days to call me back, as her normal.  That is not a friendship.  Not really.  She is kind enough to eventually call back, and I do not wish to hold it against her that I need her confidence more than she needs mine.  I do not begrudge her.  But I also realize that this is not the kind of friendship I really need when I find myself questioning my place in it all the time.  I am so poor that this is the best I have; and that currently I cannot think of anyone I can cry with. I feel like I am alone in a forest. In this case, it is alone in a city.  (but I guess being alone is not always bad and can even be good)

This is a hard day, though; and it hurts; and I just want to be able to talk about it and I feel alone with it.

But pain is not always shared.  Pain is pain, and I am not the only one in pain at this very moment, feeling alone in it.  Pain is a part of life.  And sometimes we have to just endure it; even alone.  I don't want to endure it alone, but I am thinking many people have to "suck it up" too.  How many people at this very moment are alone in their pain?

So, if you are out there an in pain, too.  What do you do when there is no one available to talk to?  

No one to even be aware of what you are experiencing?  What is your consolation?  

I guess, for now, writing helps.  And tomorrow is another day, yes?  It will pass. One more day.  This one is almost done.  Like a headache; this too will pass. 

And this is my poverty.  Poverty has to be endured all of the world, and it is endured.  This is small compared to physically starving or feeling unsafe.  This is small.  so very small...  yet it does hurt, and sometimes feeling alone can be unendurable, too..  Perhaps it doesn't have to be.  Being alone is not always bad.  What is it that makes it seem like I need to share this with someone?

I will be okay; and if you are relating to this; you will too; and virtually, perhaps, if you are reading this, I am not alone, and neither are you.

I am forty-two and still wishing for a mom when I am hurting.  And sometimes, I have to be my own mom.  We probably all have to be at some point.  


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Homeschooling Year Three: Week One



Last year was a hard year.

A lot did not work.  To re-frame that: I can say, that I learned a lot about what not to do.  I did find many kernels that did work to continue into this year.  Our first 6 months; the year before, were on a much better track, but I had questioned myself into joining a charter.  That was; I want to say, a mistake, but ultimately it wasn't because I learned a lot from attempting it.  It was not all bad.  Nothing is all bad.

I have spent the summer trying to get over the many failures of last year.  I fell head over heels in love.  With photography.  I think I even love photography more than writing and reading and knitting; which says a lot.

I have a new blog; but for tonight; I need to write in this old familiar one.  This one is after all about homesteading; and homeschooling fits in with that more than my new photography angle.  This is my imperfect blog; and I feel more casual with it; and for tonight, I wish to be more informal.

Yesterday on day 2, my facebook post:  Realizing how liberating it can be to homeschool. We can learn topics as "units" and rotate those subjects in the way that works best for us. For example; we can spend two hours on science today; and then the next day, put more time into Language Arts and focus on a book or a writing topic. Another day, we can put more energy into an art project or music; instead of just trying to fit it into a little "left-over time" when the kids are "done" And now with Kei, she can have a simplified version of almost everything we do; or she can do sensory/constructive things on the side. We can devote entire days to social time and field trips as we can condense some of the learning days when needed.


I was feeling much better and optimistic.
Today on Day 3: I have been physically more worn down and in need of creative rejuvenation time; and most likely exercise as well.  I was feeling less supported in the endeavor.  Piles of dishes awaited me first thing; after having spent so much time the day before with this task.  It feels like a reminder that I am this second class citizen.  The stay at home mom...  And I think of myself as "more than that" 
I am educated. I have my masters degree.  I am an artist.  I am an artist. I am an artist.  
Yet, the dishes.  Even after making all the meals and doing all the other dishes; these ones were still there like a reminder that I have this glass ceiling.  


The feminist part of myself has been loud in my head lately.


So, on day three; another feeling set in.  


But, on day two, I realized how much better this is this year than last.  It is so very much better to have the freedom we now have than it was to juggle the charter homeschool with a cooperative preschool.  I know more about this than I had given myself credit for.  I CAN do this.  My kids CAN do this.  This CAN work.  At this point, this year in time, we do not need those 2 schools and right now I feel a very strong "Good Riddance" feeling like those two schools are balls I want to throw as far away as I can.
They were not what we needed.  I feel a deep hurt from one of them.  An emotional let-down I do not even have the time to describe.  
But this year is better; already. 


I hope.


So far it is.


We are using Moving Beyond the Page curriculum and I love it!  It is working.  My kids seem happy so far.  Even Kei has already learned how to write A and K.  Just this week.  

It is good.


But on day 3; I just realized and remembered how much work this is; and how I can't just run to the store like I could during the summer and now I have less energy to spare.  I am feeling the need for more sleep.  


I had a wonderful wave of creativity and seemed to be able to exist on air (5-6 hours of sleep); and now summer is over; and there are dishes to do still; on top of; teaching/learning with my children; and the dishes; the dishes get in the way.  I hate them.  I did them without thought during the summer, but now, when I have so much more I have to do; they mock me.  Those dirty dishes.  Isn't making the meals enough?  Don't even get me started on the laundry.  Same thing.


There is that voice of entitlement.  I am better than the dishes.  I should not have to do them if I make the meal.  Someone else should do them  (and they do, my son pitches in and sometimes my husband) but there is always more and more and more; and I still have piles of them.

This is not the point.  I am obviously tired and rambling.


So, year three.  Year three; I am hoping will be the year that "works"  

We are not unschooling nor are we doing "school at home" either.  I think we are in the middle.  We are "homeschoolers"  We follow curriculum but with lots of flexibility.  I plan to have 4 condensed learning days a week; and one for social/adventure/field trips.  That is the plan.  



And I may have to accept that I need more sleep; now.  Also the creative force within me (this may sound strange)  is yelling really loud.  I am not okay unless I am able to spend some time each day on art; writing/photography.  I start to become angry and resentful; so I think I really need to honor that, too.  That is what happened to me today on day 3.  I had a lot of time on Sunday, but by today, I was needing another devoted amount of time with art.  I needed to produce "something."



So here is a little of more of it:  I am thinking I am making much more progress in my photography than my writing... (also forgive the highlighting. I cannot seem to get rid of it)







Can I come in?

Team Effort

Reflections and Shadows Light and Salt Water






Saturday, August 15, 2015

Damn Helicopter Label Trap



kei splash2
   









  I have hated the label "Helicopter Mom" ever since I first heard it.  It is another dis empowering term that pushes parents away from doing what they feel is right.
       There are times to give our children distance and time to be available and nearby to them.  This term, implies it is bad to be supportive and present with our kids, or bad to be an responsible community member keeping other children safe.

      That being said, I try not be "be" a dis empowering mom.  I try not to do for my kids what they can do for themselves.

      There are times; however, that they want me there, watching them, being a part of what they are doing; and when they want me there, I try to be there.

       I also try to not help them when I know they are asking me to do something because they are lazy or afraid.

      I do not do any of this perfectly.
     In the past, I have been more of a Helicopter.  I have struggled greatly with anxiety; especially with anything related to my kids and heights.  I am insanely afraid of heights.  The discomfort it gives me is almost unbearable.  I am guilty of hovering at play structures and bridges, but I have gotten better about this.  Especially now that they are older and more and more capable and coordinated.
     In any case, I am frustrated.

       It is labeled "bad" to be a helicopter, and I cannot help but try not to be "bad."  This in itself, I think is a trap, but it is hard to not be ensnared in it.

     How many of us are also struggling with this?  Trying to be a "good parent" when you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't.  Bad to neglect, bad to be too involved.  Oh, wait, it is good to neglect now, because it fosters independence.  Not to worry, it will be bad again, when the next label comes out.

      So, in my effort to be a "good" parent, I genuinely send my child to preschool; and I feel proud that I really am not too nervous about it.  I confidently drop her off knowing how strong she is, after all she can handle two much older siblings.  The third child is the toughest, etc.  I am proud I am genuine about feeling comfortable about it.  She should feel very confident too, because after all, I am not being nervous about it.  She must "feel my confidence in her," right?

      Then BAM, almost right away, the teacher starts giving me doubts.  She starts pushing for me to be more involved; to be worried, etc.  That my 3 year old is acting shy.  That I should be concerned that something is wrong with her because she is shy and not actively engaged.  "She should be this, she should be that.." She is too "overwhelmed" by the environment.  I think, "she is happy when I pick her up."  She always wants to go.  She must not be too distressed.  She talks about school happily. I am not worried. Until months of being told I should be worried about it.  It definitely got to me.

     I tried to hold onto my confidence, but all year long, I hear that I should be more of a helicopter.  I am told I should be there to see how she withdraws.  I should be there.  When I am there, she mostly does not withdraw.  I do see sensitivity and adjustment to a large group of kids.  I see her resistant when being asked to perform.  Things she does normally, she resists while being putting on the spot. Those are things she can work through in time.  "But no, she isn't learning it fast enough."  The teacher is more worried than I am.  My gut tells me she is okay, but needs to "learn" and it may take time.  She keeps telling me it is not okay to be an introvert or sensory overloaded.

     Well, she was three years old, then.  Good grief.

     And then, during swimming lessons just last week. She is dong great, on her own. She loves her teacher. She is happy; she is not being shy.  But, she is a handful.  She tests by moving away from the teacher in her euphoria over the water.  I trust the teacher to handle her and the class. I see the teacher is doing a good job.  I try not to step in.  I don't step in, but then another instructor asks me to sit close by.  It was not enough that I was trying to let her be independent before someone asks me not to let her be independent.  I spend the rest of the 2 week session nearby as asked, and intervening sometimes, by threatening my child she has to sit out of the pool if she doesn't stay with the teacher.

      I am sure I looked like a helicopter, but I tried not to be.  Probably no one wanted to even associate with me because I was being "that mom" sitting by the pool while the others were keeping their distance enjoying their sunbathing doing a better job of "not being a helicopter."  Instead, I decided it was important to support the teacher in getting my child to stay with her, but only when I was asked to.  I couldn't help feeling damned, though.  Not to mention socially unacceptable.

   It was most likely good I was there though, when another child pushed my child's head under the water  and held it there, when she wanted a toy.  Her mother was doing a much better job, not seeing what her child was doing.  She did a really good job of not even acknowledging what her child did, too.
       I am sure I looked like the bad helicopter mom, though.
Damn Label.
     There shouldn't be a hesitation to do what a parent instinctively feels is right..  If involvement is needed, then the parent should be involved.  If stepping back seems best, then the parent should be able to step back as well.  Both decisions without worry of being judged.

    I really really hate this term. It is shackling and part of the whole system of what is wrong with parenting trends.

      Pendulums swing back and forth so severely and frequently.  Attachment parenting is good.  Helicoptering is bad.  And so forth.

      Basically, I think I will assume that anything I do is going to label myself as a bad parent and just be done with it.  That's it. I don't care anymore.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer is Passing so Quickly


It rained this weekend. It was a wonderfully refreshing event.  In Oregon, we have a lot of rain in the winter, but in the summer, almost none!

Spring came early this year.  I feel like I missed out on the flowers and the time to garden before school was even out.  Too busy and focused on the work and energy that goes into homeschooling and a cooperative preschool to really enjoy the best season. Spring.

Summer is too hot.  We had two weeks of 90 plus weather and no rain for much longer than that.

Now, it is almost August.  One it is August, we are moving into the next stage; thinking about Fall.  The end is in front of us.

And the rain.  The hope for a more restful climate; cooler, more soulful..  Rain and clouds rather than blistering exposed sunshine.

I like the Fall almost as much as the Spring.

Another very different year of homeschooling before us.

New challenges.  Different challenges.

Last year was so hard!  It left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Angry at the failures.  The attempts at community and support that left me feeling discouraged.

A new year brings hope.  A fresh start.

I am hoping that this is the year we nail it.  This is the year, we find our rhythm, new friendships, community, exploration, and learning.  A little joy, I hope, too.

I am not homeschooling out of a whim.

I am homeschooling my children because PS was not working..  It was not enough.  I do not want my children to be lost because they do not fit into a box.

We are not conventional.

Not to be trendy.  But because we are not, by nature, a family that just "fits in"  I don't know what we are. Who we are.

I think we are sensitive ..super sensitive.. All of us.  And that comes with it both blessings and not such great blessings.  It is hard to be highly sensitive.

It also means we are driven and artistic, too..

And when I say "we" I really do mean everyone in my family. All five of us.  In one way or another.

Perhaps, it is actually quite common.

But, when trying to "fit in" It seems, not..?

Anyway, another year.  Coming up fast!

I missed gardening this year. Perhaps we can still plant some kale and fall/winter veggies.

Gardens need to rest anyway, every once in a while.

I just couldn't rationalize buying seeds and watering everyday this year.  I have so much to juggle now I didn't have before.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

New Wordpress Blog and Photography Gallery re-visited

Rubyheart Creatives

I have begun a new blog; experimenting with Wordpress. I may find a domain for it and attempt to be more professional.  I am almost 42; it is about time I try to be a bit more professional in my writing and style.

I also have a photography gallery and store.
http://rubyheartphotography.net/

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dog Therapy, Responsibility, and Life Learning





Two months ago, my two oldest children bought their own puppy after saving for quite awhile.  They chose the breed and the breeder. They did extensive research into breeds as well as what dogs need, differences in temperament, pros and cons.

They are in charge of feeding and walking him. They agreed upon a name: Thunder.

For the first month, Thunder slept in my son's bed while he adjusted to his new home.

My children are watching videos of Cesar Millan and dog training. They are learning the concept of being a "pack leader" and using calm and assertive discipline.

It is not all easy, but it is a great adventure in learning how to be responsible.

This was all their initiative. They are the ones who wanted a puppy badly enough.  Getting a new family member was not at the top of our priority lists, but given their persistence and seriousness, we decided to give them the opportunity to "earn" their shared pup, with the expectation that they would take care of him.

So far so good.  Fingers Crossed.  This is not to say, I do not help, or have to remind them to feed the dog.  I also have helped guide them with the crate training, and I give the dog walks too, especially the evening ones.

This dog was not meant to be an indulgence for them, however, but a teaching tool, a comfort, a friend, a responsibility.

My kids want to become breeders one day.  We are learning a great deal.

Cesar Millan's  calm assertive way of working with animals is also a great model for parenting as well, and my children are also learning and practicing this style of leadership now while they are young.

On so many levels this is a fantastic learning opportunity and a great catalyst for unschooling for them.

http://www.cesarsway.com/


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Creating a Fairy Garden




Today, my girls and I were on a mission to create a fairy garden, and creating it was healing and uplifting to all of us, even my son, who sat in the sidelines but was infected a bit by the creative bug
 ( a little bit, I think)






Joanne's very serendipitously had a 60% off sale on garden decorations when we went there to look for some fairy garden toys. It was good timing. We found a lot of moss in our yard to add, and I'm sure we will find many things in nature now to complement the "man-made" aspects of it.

Our garden feels like a magical, serene and mystical place, and I love that we have this "energy" in our yard now, a place to play, make wishes, relax, and imagine, a place that belongs to my girls. I loved how it made them light up as we created it.

 Magic and Nature

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Preschool Unschooling: A new frontier for next year

Six weeks left of the "school year". I am mentally done with our year of juggling "School at Home" with a Cooperative Preschool. From Day One, it has had me on the run with too many things to do at once and meeting deadlines that felt arbitrary to us, but all important to "them"  Our priorities did not mesh. I should have known when the first thing we had to do was spend four days with online "assessment" and account set up with about five different online accounts for my children. Canvas, Acellus, PE tracker, iready, and gmail.  Too much time on the computer, and my kids hated it right from the beginning. The time spent with all of this tracking felt wasted. Hours and hours tracking, reporting, emailing, working through technical glitches, and it only fed addictions and dependency to a "screen."  I felt torn to be in two places at the same time. Time I spent working in the preschool conflicted with being able to homeschool my other two children.  It felt so often I had to be in two places at once.

Preschool: It was disappointing. We chose a preschool that we were comfortable with; one in which both our older children attended. It seemed "to be in the bag" to send our third child there.  (4 years later).  I was looking forward to it from the moment of my pregnancy.  My middle child was graduating that school, when I found out I was pregnant.  We had sentimental attachment to that school. It worked well for us during that phase of parenting.

I did not expect; however,  that I changed so much, that the school had changed so much in those 4 years to make that school no longer a good fit for us.

Still, we worked very hard to make it work, but ultimately, it is just not a good fit for my youngest, or us, or while homeschooling.  It is too much to try to make this work, so next year, I am excited to say, we will "unschool" her.  She is perfect candidate for it. She has so many interests. Right now, she is discovering downspouts and water flow. She notices this "concept" wherever we go. She is already finding her own interests and curiosities that I can "go with." Downspouts can segway into water cycles among many other concepts.  We will need to find a playgroup for her, though, and a new "community"

Older two (upper elementary and middle school: A web school that requires a minimum of two classes to be "online" that has requirements of curriculum completion and assignments and tests was not the best fit for us either.  We have too many ideas of our own and their requirements became a burden that did not allow us enough flexibility to go on enough field trips or do art, or go in unexpected directions.  It gave us a "bit of flexibility" but not enough.  We almost "hated it", actually.  It was frustrating as it did not mesh with our values of how homeschooling should be. We may be closer to an unschooling philosophy than I had expected.

This seemed to be a year of finding what does not work for us, and scarily finding, that I may be more "radical" in my thinking than I had originally thought.  I do not believe in being "off grid" however,  or thinking we can do with without community. I WANT community and believe in community, but so far, sadly these 2 communities did not work out.  I have not given up; however, that we will still find "our community."

In any case, next year I am going to "unschool" my youngest, and do something with my older ones that is closer to unschooling than we have done this past year.  It will be more similar to how we "winged it" the first half year, with the exception that I have much more awareness of what resources are available now. We may still join a different charter for them, if we get in. It is a charter I heard is more "flexible"


I am making summer plans to have tinker boxes, field trips, art accessible, and the computers less accessible in contrast.  I like Artful Parent's idea of "strewing" which I have quoted below.

I have discovered some interesting resources that I am going to try out over the summer in our first wave of de-schooling and unschooling experimentation.

Kiwi Crate

A monthly crate of science activities/art activities

for different ages. There are 3 different crates to choose from.

Exploratorium

A Website that has science resources.  Check out the Exploratorium book!
http://www.amazon.com/Exploralab-Exploratorium/dp/1616284919/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430264279&sr=8-1&keywords=exploratorium

Tinkerlab
A book and ideas for tinkering for younger children.

Artful Parent
A website and books about creative ideas for younger children
Strewing is the art of casually yet strategically leaving “invitations” for learning and creativity out for your kids to discover on their own.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our Curriculum Review

After 1.3 years of homeschooling we have tried out quite a few different curricula, and I'm sure if you are a homsechooler you have too, or perhaps you are just beginning and want to hear from other people about what has worked for them. I will attempt to categorize by subject and degree of satisfaction as well as to give a brief description.  The curriculum or resources I LOVE or RECOMMEND are in RED.



Online


We are doing a Virtual school this year and have had the opportunity to sample a couple of online options.  My son and daughter had different experiences/successes with the online options.  After seeing how they work, I am not a big fan.  There are definitely some good points to them, but I think personally, after this experience I am leaning towards paper and paper with experiential options.

Pros in general:  


  1. Supposed independence.  We start our day with the online curriculum and during that time, I prep breakfast, take care of my 4 year old, do dishes.  I need a portion of time to get these things done. I found, though, that if it is too difficult, I am still needed to be present.
  2. Self Graded. This is a time saver for sure.  They provide immediate feedback.  They have some built in algorithms that attempt to tailor the lesson to help with weaknesses.

Cons in general:

  1. If you are a part of a Virtual School, they may have deadlines.  These online options can be rigorous with extra requirements such as math projects and essays.  You need to "keep up" This may not  be an issue for some.  One of my children zipped right through and was done with the whole year a little bit half past the half year mark, but with my other child, it was a struggle to keep up, and a source of tears and frustration.  
  2. Screen Time:  You have to ask yourself just how much screen time you are okay with your children spending.  Those screens cannot be good for their eyes. I believe there is radiation exposure.  One of my children gets very distracted by being on the computer and the temptation to go onto games can be too alluring. 
We sampled Four Online curriculum:
Acellus, Odyseey, Rosetta Stone, and Duolingo

Acellus:


My review 3/5 stars

My son HATED Acellus while my daughter was okay with it.  It is mastery based.  There is a short lecture/video with a teacher/projector screen type format like in college.  Each video is about 3 minutes long and it is explained quickly.  You can watch the video as many times as you want when you are in that section and then the video disappears.  I did not like that I could not go back to see past units.

If you understand the concept, you move through the questions quickly and move onto the next concept.  In order to keep up with the school's pace, you need to go through 2 concepts/day.  If you do not understand the concept and have too many incorrect responses in a row, it repeats with more questions and a repeat of the same video.  If you are stuck, you are stuck on that one concept and cannot move forward, so if you are stuck, you cannot do 2 concepts a day.  The combination of the requirement of 2 concepts a day with having to "master it" in that one day, can put you behind, and it creates a lot of stress for that child.  If you are able to master things quickly, it can be rewarding.  It might be fine if you are allowed to go at your own pace, for some this may be once concept a day, but with a deadline for mastery, it can be a terrible experience.

Odyseeyware


My review: 4/5 stars

There is more variety in this program.  There are spelling tests with avatars.  It is more reading based than video/lecture based.  There are units with due dates and you have 3 chances to improve your score.  It has a notetaking option where you can print out your notes for the test.  You have only once chance with exams.  There are essays to write every couple of weeks.  It is a little gentler than Acellus and a little more interesting with a little more variety to its structure.  

Rosetta Stone

My review: 4/5 stars

This depends on what version you have.  This is an extremely difficult program for kids even with the easiest version.  It is excellent for language acquisition and it has an interesting interface, but it can be very hard if you have time constraints.  Our virtual school was experimenting with it and had a time limit of 2 units a semester, but most kids were unable to complete this.  They changed their expectation to 1 unit a semester.  That, I think, is more realistic for elementary.  Again, pace is everything.  One thing I have learned this year is how much pace impacts our whole experience and it is important to be sensitive to your child's learning pace.

This program has a few versions, so be careful of what version you get. For example there is online, CD-Rom, and Homeschool options.  

Duolingo

My reivew: 4/5 stars

This is FREE and it seems to be easier and more kid friendly.  I do not think it is quite as comprehensive as Rosetta Stone, but it is a great program for introducing a language and did I mention, FREE!

Choremonster

My review 5/5 stars
I LOVE this ap for tracking chores for kids with built in rewards and immediate feedback.  My kids 10/11 really like it too.  You can ulock new monsters when you fulfill enough chores.  

Google Drive

I really like Google Drive for homeschooling. You can share documents and edit from different accounts and computers.  It makes it easier to access my kids files from my computer and to share them with the school as well.  They save as you type and track older versions from the day before. 

Supertracker


This might be useful to tracking PE time. We used it for while, but it gives extra information we don't really need, so I'd rather just use a spredsheet.

30 Day Fitness Challenge


This has some helpful videos for specific exercises.

YOUTUBE

I love that we can do a unit on identifying minerals and then look it up on youtube and find lots of supplementing videos on that very topic.  I use these short videos all the time.  


Math

Saxon

My reivew 5/5

I love Saxon so far.  It has a spiral approach which may not be for everyone, but for my son, it is a great fit.  It gently introduces a new topic with a few practice problems, then it goes back to review for the rest of the lesson.  The next lesson, the same thing, while spiraling in the previous topic, so you do not quickly forget what you just learned, and you have multiple opportunities to practice. I also like that each problem has a lesson number next to it, so if I find a cluster of errors, I know what concept he is struggling with.  It can be more work to grade than an online option, but it is much gentler if your child feels insecure about his/her math skills or is sensitive toward getting the wrong answers.  You can go at your own pace and be as gentle or as pushy as your child needs you to be with him/her.  I also think it is a STRONG curriculum that teaches toward college preparation.  (so I've heard)

Life of Fred


I cannot give this on a review yet; we have not used it enough.  I hope to use it some more as an alternative "fun" math. It is literature based and contains more "real life math" and how it applies to living.  It is also humorous and cute.  I have also heard about the I Hate Math series, and Family Math.  It is good to have some non-traditional math to try.  I hope that next year we have more time to experiment with "fun" and applicable math.  

Teaching Textbooks


My review 4/5
Teaching Textbooks is pretty non-threatening math, it self grades and allows for independent learning.  Both my children used this curriculum and had success with it.  The only thing I might worry about, though, is that it might be a bit on the "easy" side and might not be as strong of a curriculum as Saxon, but I am not sure.  It is mastery based, but seems much "kinder" than Acellus. It is available in book and CD format.
Math Mammoth/Khan


Language Arts

Moving Beyond the Page

My review so far 5/5

Using Story picture books to teach 

I think I am going to LOVE this curriculum!  It is integrative, it is unit based, thematic based, and can tie to science, social studies, math.  We are just beginning to try this out.  It also incorporates art!  I am excited about this approach.  For example, we are studying 1600-1700's US History right now, and reading Witch of Blackbird Pond, MBP has a unit on this book that incorporates studying the book, the geography and history around the story; it introduces the vocabulary, incorporates grammar, art, writing, comprehension, and MORE!  

Using Picture Storybooks to Teach Literary Devices

My reivew 5/5


I love this resource too.  This book has a directory (it has different volumes with different books recommendations in the them). This directory is organized under thematic topics, so you can look up  books on Metaphor for example and find a list of books that contain metaphors, check them out form the library, and then you can give your children many examples of metaphors. It is also interdisciplinary and includes information on the types of art used in the books and also how the books may relate to science or social studies as well. I found that after a lesson from this book, we naturally lead into an art project that related to the medium or ideas from the book(s) we read that particular day.  

Spectrum

We used a little bit of Spectrum for grammar last year and it is good when you want a simple grammar unit isolated from the rest of the curriculum.

Well Trained Mind/

I have not used this yet, but it looks good and want to try it.  

Social Studies

Harcourt, Maps, YouTube and library books

We have been using these textbooks and I think they are very good for getting the basics of history and social studies skills.  I supplement with maps, videos, library books, projects and field trips.  There are museums that are great to visit to learn more about history.  I think putting maps on the walls to always have them handy.  Geography, map skills, map puzzles and games are good for building skills. I often pick novels that relate to a time period we are studying.  I love integrating social studies with language arts, and even science at times.  

Science

Stratton House

My review 5/5 (except it needs a little more supplemental info for each lesson)

I love working with Stratton House!  It is activity based and makes leaning more of an active experience as I think science should be.  I do need supplement; however, as I think we need a little more instruction, but that is easy enough to do with YouTube, a science book, or a website.  You receive a box of materials and thematic lessons. This year we have the units, light, birds, and astronomy.  I have learned quite a bit alongside my children.    

Harcourt and Pearson



I like to buy used science and social studies books on Amazon.  So far, I like Harcourt and Pearson textbooks.  I wouldn't want to use a textbook alone without doing hands-on activities as well; experiments, field trips, this is where I think Stratton and a textbook go well together.


What is your favorite curriculum?




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