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Everything posted by skueppers

  1. My kids went to preschool, but have never been to school past that, so our situation isn't exactly what you were talking about. I was worried about butting heads with my daughter when we started homeschooling, and I won't lie -- it was a problem our first year. I felt like we spent all of our time working out how to work together, and not so much time learning. And yet, when it came time to prepare my portfolios for the twice-annual homeschool reviews we do here, I found that we'd actually gotten quite a lot done. Since then, things have been much improved. I really credit homeschooling with giving us the time to work on our relationship -- when I was going through this, I was much heartened by a blog post I'd read pointing out that if you're worried that you and your kid don't get along, that's not a homeschooling problem; it's a parenting problem. The advantage of homeschooling being that you actually have time to work on it! My son is a preschool dropout. He really wanted to stay home during the last year I'd planned for him to go to preschool, because he wanted to spend more time with his sister. This was fine with her, and my husband and I also saw a lot of advantages to it (having him in preschool was a real pain in many ways), so we let him stay home that year. My kids get along really well, and I'm sure that is helped by getting to spend so much more time together than they would if they were in school.
  2. My son was a dawdler last year in first grade, and with some things it helped a lot if I did the work with him. For example, when he did handwriting practice, it went better if I sat with him and wrote all of the same things over and over for however long it took him to finish. Having me doing the work too kept him working efficiently. Also, if he didn't finish his work during school time, I didn't let school time drag on all day and keep us from our activities, because then his inability to focus would be negatively impacting me and his sister. Instead, if all of his work wasn't done, a couple of times a week my husband would work with him in the evening and keep him on task. *He* wasn't already exhausted from dealing with it all morning... ;) The problem no longer exists; I'm not sure whether he just outgrew it, or whether what we did was effective. I tend to think that with a lot of parenting things, it's mostly about waiting for them to outgrow it while making sure the expectations are clear and that the impact on other family members is minimized.
  3. Thanks everyone for your input. I appreciate it. Dropping German really isn't an option. Dropping *English* right now is more likely than dropping German. :) He reads nonsense words quite well, and doesn't have significant trouble reading words in isolation. There are many things listed on the page of signs mom2samlibby linked that don't apply to him, and some that do. I'll be continuing to pay attention to what's going on with him, and see how things go in the next few months. If I don't see substantial improvement, I will definitely consider getting him evaluated. I have realized that he *is* reading at a second-grade level. He's just not reading at the kind of vastly-above-second-grade-level that his sister was reading at when she was his age. Ellie, regarding Spalding -- I've now read more about it, and I'm convinced it's not right for him and for my homeschool at this time. Among other things, my kids get most of their grammar and handwriting instruction in German, and I'm not willing to change that unless it is absolutely essential that I do so. I may consider a different O-G approach in the future, though.
  4. Just to follow up, I decided that this sounded fairly normal, and for the most part we will continue on as we have been until he is a little older. After looking at some techniques used in different programs, I decided that something they do in Apples and Pears would probably be helpful for him. They provide a string of letters, in which a spelling word is embedded. The kid is supposed to trace along underneath the line of letters until they have found the spelling word, make a loop to circle it, and then continue on to see if it comes up again. It seems helpful because it requires the student to pay very close attention to the sequence of letters in the word, and also enforces a letter-by-letter, left-to-right examination of the row. Sorry Ellie, I looked at the Spalding site, and couldn't figure out enough about it to understand why it would be right for me. I remember looking at a copy of the Writing Road to Reading at the library some years ago, but can't remember much about it.
  5. I don't have a clear idea what the differences are between these tests, but I administer the Iowa at home every year. It's very easy to do at home, as long as you can create interruption-free times to do it. Each section isn't very long.
  6. I used this with my daughter during second and third grades. It was easy to implement and felt productive for us. We also used Evan-Moor's Daily Language Review. She liked the workbook-type approach of both of these programs. I always viewed this as a temporary measure -- something to do for language arts during that particular season of our homeschooling journey, rather than as a long-term strategy.
  7. Thanks Ellie, I have not looked at Spalding in years, I will revisit it. I also appreciate your reassurance that perhaps I do not need to worry about this just yet. I have no attachment to Book Shark's LA program; I just figured we'd try it this year since we are using their history program.
  8. My son, who is about to turn 8, has significant challenges with spelling (and to a lesser extent with reading, but I think the two are related). Up to this point, I have mostly taken a wait-and-see approach. I wanted to see what would happen with his spelling as he became a more fluent reader, even though I suspected he was going to have challenges with spelling. Now, though, I am wondering if I should keep doing that, or if I should take some kind of action. Here is the situation: Writing * He hates the physical act of writing. He also does not enjoy drawing. It's better with a whiteboard. Despite his lack of enthusiasm, I have required him to do *something* that involved setting pencil to paper every school day during K, 1st grade, and now 2nd grade. Sometimes it was handwriting instruction, but other times it was mazes or drawing lessons. In second grade, he's been doing some kind of writing every school day. * He finds copywork particularly hateful. There is something about needing to keep looking up at the thing he's supposed to be copying and back down at his own writing that's a problem for him. * The prospect that he might need to erase some of what he has painstakingly written in order to correct his work sometimes causes him to despair -- particularly if there is not enough space to correct just the one troublesome word, requiring him to rewrite several words. * He is currently learning cursive, which is going well, but he is still in the process of learning how to form all the letters. When we are doing a "writing" exercise, where the goal is to get ideas onto paper, I scribe for him. Otherwise, I expect him to write for himself. Reading He has made a lot of progress in reading. However, he makes certain characteristic errors: * He often misreads common, small words like articles and conjunctions. * When sounding out unfamiliar words, he frequently inserts extra sounds or changes the order of the sounds in the word. * When he has read a sentence incorrectly, he does not always notice that it didn't make sense the way he read it. I don't think this is because he read it out loud incorrectly but actually understood it correctly inside his head; I think he genuinely didn't notice that the sentence made no sense. * He sometimes fails to notice periods, and keeps going into the next sentence. Eventually he usually notices that this makes no sense, though sometimes I have to point that out. To give some idea of his oral reading speed and level, I timed him reading a Magic Tree House book (Vacation Under the Volcano) out loud to me this week. He read it at approximately 40 words per minute, and made three or four errors on a typical page with no illustrations. Oh, and he likes the book and is excited to find out what happens next. He reads faster when he reads silently, but I'm unconvinced that he retains much of what he reads. He doesn't typically choose to read for pleasure, but he doesn't complain about the reading I require him to do for school. (He did complain about it in Kindergarten and First Grade.) He prefers fiction to non-fiction. Spelling Before this academic year, I did not devote any attention to spelling. He did get some exposure to spelling through the Explode the Code series of workbooks (he completed through book 4, if I recall correctly), but I didn't emphasize it specifically. This year, our new Language Arts curriculum (Books Shark Grade 2) has some integrated spelling, so I've given it a shot. The curriculum introduces one idea at a time (for example, past tense verbs ending in -ed), and there has been some improvement in his spelling, I think mainly because he has learned to pay more attention to it. However, even while we are working *only* with words that end in "-ed", he will still try to write some of the words with "-te" or "-t" at the end. He gets pretty frustrated with things like trying to figure out *which* method to use to create the long-e sound in a word. Should it be "meet," "meat," or "mete"? However, he is happy when he makes a connection like, "I remember that 'bed' looks like a bed, so it was easy to figure out that 'bad' should look the same." There is a further complication in that he reads and writes German also, and German uses different spelling rules. So he needs to be able to remember that the sound we write as "sh" in English is written as "sch" in German, or that an English word is very likely to start with "c" for the k sound, whereas a German word will generally start with "k". Other things about my son that might be relevant He is very good at math. He is capable of reading well enough to understand fairly complex word problems. He is musical and reads music. Limitations German is non-negotiable. He won't be discontinuing reading and writing in German in order to focus on this. (He has near-native fluency in German, and it is an important family value that the kids receive an ongoing education in German that would, for example, prepare them to attend a German university.) I'm a natural speller. Spelling rules don't make a lot of sense to me, and I have tremendous difficulty keeping them straight. It is very unlikely that we would do well with any approach to spelling that required *me* to remember and be able to explain spelling rules in context. It is possible that my husband, a terrible speller who relies on rules to do as well as he does, would be able to implement such an approach. (We suspect there is a history of dyslexia in my husband's family. His father is an avid reader, but it is very hard and slow work for him. My husband has a tendency to mix up digits when writing numbers, and letters in spelling, though he does not have reading difficulties.) What I am looking for I am looking for advice. Should I just let this be for another six months and see what happens? Should I implement a rigorous spelling program? Any thoughts, based on what I've said about our family, on which spelling program would be best for us? I don't really care whether he learns to spell now or at some future time; I just don't want to ignore this if it would be better to take action now. Thank you for any suggestions and thoughts you may have!
  9. My favorite curricula are Singapore Math, Einsterns Schwester 1 (this is a first grade reading and writing curriculum for German; it's not a language-learning curriculum, so only relevant for kids who already speak German), and Evan-moor Daily Language Review. Those three things have worked for both of my kids, though not always in the same way or for the same reasons.
  10. When I considered buying the CC edition, my plan was to create my own solutions manual. My husband also volunteered to do it.
  11. We go on a lot of field trips, but only as a family or with one other family (and not necessarily a homeschooling family -- could be out of town guests, grandparents, etc.). Generally speaking, we only call them field trips as a joke -- for the most part, it's just a trip to a museum, historic site, or concert. I don't make the kids write about it, and we go on lots of "field trips" with no specific connection to our course of study. For example, last weekend my daughter spent a couple of hours exploring drawer upon drawer of bones, fur, stuffed birds, insects, etc. in the natural history museum's tween/teen room. She met a random girl there and they had a great time talking about the animals and about life (the other kid was visiting from Africa!). I didn't expect we were going to visit that particular exhibit when we got there -- our actual plan was to go sketch the mounted animals in the mammal exhibit. But serendipity led us to a great and highly educational experience. Last summer, we were in Germany and visited a Roman archaeological site on a day when they just coincidentally happened to have a huge encampment of volunteer Roman re-enactors there. It turned out to be an amazing, if totally unexpected, experience -- so much so that we came back for a second day. The upshot of this has been to inspire my daughter to want to learn Latin, which she has been pursuing with dedication ever since. Of course, sometimes things are connected to our studies. I'm planning to take my kids on a "field trip" to Boston this year, because we are studying the Revolutionary War and I want them to see the places we have been reading and talking about. In my homeschool, "random" field trips are every bit as valuable as those planned with careful attention to their "curricular connections."
  12. I've actually been enjoying Book Shark's Language Arts program this year. I'm using the 2nd and 3rd grade editions with my 2nd and 4th graders. My older child and I are using their 3rd grade program, rather than the 4th grade program, because I'm using Reading with History 3. I thought it made sense to keep my older child's LA correlated with the History level. It would have been much too difficult for my second grader, and is at quite a good level for my fourth grader. I have never used Sonlight's Language Arts program, but my understanding is that it was heavily revised when creating Book Shark.
  13. This is the exact reason why I *didn't* buy the Common Core versions this year. I decided to stick with the US Edition because I was tired of solving all of my older child's math problems (often more than once for the same problem, since I didn't take notes about what the answer had been the first time...), and I could get a cheap answer key. I'll be interested to know if they do come out with an answer key for the Common Core edition, though at this point (now that I've bought both the grades 1-3 and the grades 4-6 answer key), I'll probably just stick with the US Edition.
  14. I used to do this. No particular reason we stopped; my daughter asked to change things up and I saw no reason not to. I used the table of contents from the light blue series to figure out a good order of study for her; the section names were the same between the light blue and the dark blue.
  15. We had a great first day back today -- it was actually longer than usual, 4.5 hours of sit-down work instead of 3. I figured that since I needed to meet with each kid for more subjects than usual, and the piano teacher was out of town, we would do more school. And then later in the afternoon the kids played with the neighbor kids a few houses down -- we found out they'd started homeschooling recently, and we are thrilled to have other homeschoolers on our street!
  16. With my kids, I've decided that the disservice comes in requiring them to do all of the textbook and workbook exercises. Instead, I have them do *just enough* of the textbook and workbook that I'm confident they understand the material, and we then move on to the Challenging Word Problems (but only the ones that are actually challenging, not the ones that are basically practice problems). If I had my kids doing the textbook, workbook, intensive practice, HIG exercises, and CWP, I would think they were spending way too much time on math.
  17. My son didn't like school last year when he was 6 1/2 - 7 1/2, which was first grade. Getting him to do seatwork was often agonizing. We're in our third week of second grade now, and it's like night and day. The challenges with my daughter were different her first couple of years of school, but they also improved radically over time.
  18. I attended public school, even though I had the opportunity to attend private schools, because my parents believed that it was their duty to society to send their children to public school. They believed that, as parents who cared about education, opting out would harm the community as a whole. Obviously, I've made a different decision for my own family, but I do think there is truth to it. It seems to me that there are philosophical issues at play here -- what kind of duties do we have to society? What are our responsibilities to serve others? And even, what is the purpose of having children?
  19. My daughter used Evan-Moor Daily 6-Trait Writing for the last two years -- second and third grade -- along with Evan-Moor Daily Language Review. She likes workbooks, so this worked for her, and I liked that it was easy to use and got done. I bought the PDF. I have no idea whether I will use these resources in the future with my son, but I was happy with printing out just the student pages and reading the instructor material on the iPad.
  20. I think that's actually an attempt to make the problem easier, by allowing the kids to multiply the fractions the way they've been taught and not having to simplify afterward. Of course, that isn't what one normally does when baking...
  21. I use the U.S. Edition. I used Math in Focus for 3B because I happened to get it nearly free from another homeschooler, but have gone back to the U.S. edition this year. I seriously considered the Common Core edition, but decided to stick with the U.S. edition. (And no, as far as I could tell, the Common Core edition wasn't "dumbed down.") Honestly, the main reason I went with the U.S. Edition was because I wanted answer keys, and didn't want to buy any form of teacher's guide. I was tired of solving all of my kids' math problems every time I checked large amounts of their work on Sunday evenings. Which I realize is lazy of me, but it was particularly irritating on the days when I solved the same problem more than once because I forgot what the answer was the first time. I did seriously consider creating my own answer key for the CC edition... As a side bonus, I get to re-use my daughter's US Edition textbooks with my son this year.
  22. Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. MEP is a totally free and entirely reasonable math program. It requires a little adaptation to make the classroom activities in the lesson plans work for a single-student environment, but it's not that big of a problem. If the child already reads reasonably well, library books are fine. If he needs a phonics program, I have used Progressive Phonics with great success. Whether a spelling program is necessary depends on the child. My daughter is a natural speller, so she does not need a spelling program. The jury is still out on my second-grade son; I have started doing spelling with him, but am not sure whether that will remain necessary as he reads more. I don't plan to get serious about spelling with him until third grade. Handwriting can be practiced using free online resources; I can't recommend anything in particular, but there are plenty of options out there. As for writing, at this age, there is no need for a formal program. I'd certainly recommend doing *some* writing, but it doesn't have to be intense.
  23. The regular grade 2 readers are at a level that's too easy for him, but the grade 2 LA, which is at the right level for him, uses them as a basis for copywork and writing assignments. The grade 2 intermediate readers are at the right level for him in terms of improving his reading, but there is no corresponding LA level. If having him read both doesn't work out, I'll just have him do the grade 2 intermediate readers and the grade 2 LA, but I think he'll get more out of the LA if he is also doing the corresponding reading. I don't feel like adapting the LA to use the grade 2 intermediate readers.
  24. We started Book Shark 3 today -- so far so good! My kids loved the map work and timeline activities, and my biggest fear -- that my second-grade son would balk at the amount of reading I was expecting him to do (both the Grade 2 and the Grade 2 Intermediate reader) didn't materialize. If he didn't balk on day 1, he's unlikely to give me major pushback in the future, either. Whew.
  25. There have been a lot of great game suggestions, so I thought I'd contribute a methodological comment for those who have iPads. :) Many excellent strategy games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Alhambra, Agricola, etc. are available for iPad. I have found this to be a great teaching tool for younger kids, for several reasons: * The iPad enforces the rules. * The game goes faster, which is helpful with young children. * If they are playing against the AI, it's not rude for them to quit partway through, as their attention wanes. * It's easy to whip out a board game while in a waiting room, etc, if you have it on your iPad, so they get to play more often. My son loves to play strategy games on the iPad, and this has translated into a love of playing board games at a table with a physical board. He has been able to hold his own with adults since he was six. (My daughter isn't as universally enthusiastic about board games, though she did also find the iPad helpful in learning to play them. She prefers role-playing games.) Oh, and the iPad versions of these games are much less expensive than the physical versions, so they also provide a great way to try a game out before spending $50 on it.
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