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Everything posted by mitzvahmommy

  1. Hi all! An update: it was clear on the first day that the combined class wouldn't work. So I have just had my six sixth graders for the last few weeks. It has been a dream!! They love it, I love it, they are learning so so much and so am I :) I never thought I could love it so much. We have had to go back ten steps to fundamentals in math, as they have gaping holes in their knowledge and skills. Science - I am using the assigned textbook but also using Janice Vancleave and doing experiments nearly every science day. For history we set the official textbook to the side for now and are using Story of the World - they love it! For grammar and spelling I also found huge gaps in their knowledge so I am using Logic of English with them to reinforce. This is a very weak area for them. Unfortunately it is also the area I am least confident teaching. I am reading the stories in the Mosdos Press book with them, and we are answering the questions at the end of the stories. But is there a more exciting way I could be teaching this in a small classroom? One day I turned out the lights and played an audio of "The Tell-Tale Heart". Afterwards we discussed the story. They loved it. But I am not sure if that is what I should be doing. Does anyone have suggestions on how to get the boys more enthusiastic and involved in the Mosdos stories?
  2. "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, when you have so many goals and objectives that you must try to reach in just one year (with very short school days)!" Tibbie, that is great advice! I guess it is hard for me to be in the passenger's seat on these curriculum choices, but if I want to continue teaching in a school setting, I had better get used to teaching the material that someone else chooses and believes in. And you are absolutely right, I don't have the time, energy or teaching ability to reach for the stars in every subject area. For boys with very poor previous exposure, Mosdos will be fine.....I just would NEVER have chosen it for my own homeschool. Textbooks are the reason I homeschool, and now I will be teaching from several of them. Oh well. I have so many creative activities planned for math and science that I will take your advice and focus my efforts there. Maybe I will even get more than two hours of sleep tonight now! School starts Wednesday.....wish me luck ladies!
  3. Tibbie, thanks you so, so much for your thoughtful words. As GrammarGirl points out above, this is a very common situation. The difference is that I am as horrified by the lack of secular teaching standards and accountability as many members on this board. I want these boys to keep all of the doors of possibility open - if they keep advancing with these gaping holes in their math knowledge, they will not have access to careers in computers, engineering, science, really any good college programs due to low SAT scores....I am being paid really almost nothing, but took the job both for the experience and out of a sense of duty to these boys, many of whom I know personally. These are parents who care also about their son's education, are really dismayed about the teachers who have come before me, and I have their full support - they have seen me teaching my boys and working with kids across the last year. They have all called to tell me that they are thrilled. But I am full of doubt and nerves. So any advice is fully appreciated. The literature book just bums me out - it takes little excerpts, not from classics usually, and then uses those in a guided, formulaic, boring discussion of plot, setting etc....isn't there a better way? Or is the program better than I think? It is from Mosdos Press. Maybe that is what I should use, and I am being too harsh about the curriculum? Couldn't we read Edgar Allen Poe and do the same thing, but have more fun? I think Poe is perfect for 6th grade boys, but maybe I am totally off the mark. The principal owns six copies of Treasure Island, so she wants us to use that as our novel, but I can think of several choices with more to offer in terms of discussion. She suggested that book because she already owns it and has no money to buy enough copies of a different book, but I am happy to use my own money to buy six copies of The Giver or a different book. What would you all recommend? LA is what is keeping me up at night.
  4. And, before you all blast me for not being qualified by a university program, I am enrolling now in an online program through Seton Hall with 18 hours of online coursework, plus practicum hours( my teaching job will count for these, as the principal will be supervising me). At the end of the school year I will have my teaching credentials, and will have half the credits needed for a Masters in Special Ed. Oddly, the dean and principal of the school told me that this certification route will most likely make me a WORSE teacher, as the innate creativity and connection with students that a natural teacher like myself demonstrates cannot be taught in a classroom, and is usually hindered by traditional approaches to teaching (their words, not mine). I have received this same feedback from several people - from big wigs to other local teachers (trained formally and working in public schools), all of whom are very encouraging of this step into a classroom. So go a little easy on me, ladies. My heart is in the right place, I am a very quick learner, an extremely hard worker. I have read "The First Days of School" and have role-played and practiced classroom management techniques. I plan to give homework detention for anyone who takes away classroom time. I have been teaching my own wiggly, burping, crazy boys for five years, and these boys are absolutely every teacher's worst nightmare, but they have learned so much, and just aced the standardized test they took, and are about two grade levels ahead in math, and they could teach the science class themselves. Please be kind :)
  5. I didn't even mention that the principal just told me that, since they weren't able to hire a 5th grade teacher for math and science, I will be teaching those subjects to the fifth grade, combined with my sixth grade! I was going to rotate science and history - as so many of you pointed out, three hours is much too little time to cover all secular studies without prioritizing. But the fifth graders will be learning history and LA every day with a different teacher from 2-3:30, and then I will have them for math and science from 3:30-5. There will be about 20 boys total. The skills level between these boys is at least four grade levels, but not based on current grade, meaning there are advanced math fifth graders and struggling sixth graders. The principal told me that if I survive this, I can survive anything. And then walked away. Yes, the parents pay a lot for tuition. Yes, I will be held accountable by them and the administration. Yes, it is a sad thing that secular studies get such short shrift. I will not be able to expand my teaching hours or change the whole system. The most I can do is to give these the boys the best I have to give for this year, and know that it cannot possibly be any worse than what they had before, and that I care very much about them and their secular learning.
  6. sbgrace, they are horrible writers. This school has never had a writing program. These are all very intelligent boys - two math and logic smart, one 3D and kinesthetic smart, an art and music smart boy who thinks he is awful at math. They had no grammar program prior to this. They all do enjoy reading. I love to teach science and history, and already have lesson plans written which draw on the textbooks they gave me, yet go beyond. Language arts was difficult for me in my own homeschooling, as my oldest was a natural reader, speller etc and needed no instruction in these areas - he just "got" everything. My next son is dyslexic, and we were using LOE, and had just reached grade level in reading (yay!). I had planned to start Brave Writer this year with my own boys. What would you recommend?
  7. This is a small religious school. It is an unfortunate truth that these schools put much less value on secular studies and have a very difficult time hiring qualified secular studies teachers. They had four math teachers come and go through the school last year. They have had almost no science education their entire elementary career. It is not uncommon in these schools. I appreciate the shock and outrage expressed by a few people here. The principal of the school, as well as several teachers at the school, have repeatedly told me that I am a natural teacher and have an ability to connect deeply with kids and develop and strong relationship. I hope to be successful, and my goal is to fill in the holes for these kids before they move forward, or in some cases to provide a foundation from which they can build. The administrator who chose the curriculum has been out of school and on the job one year, and admits that she doesn't have a good handle on choosing the right curriculum yet. As a homeschooler, I have been evaluating and selecting curricular materials for four or five years, and despite her Masters degree, I feel confident in my decision to supplement. Any advice or encouragement would be appreciated.
  8. I will be buying the curriculum myself. There are only six boys, and I am able to use some of my tithing money, as the school is a not-for-profit and struggling.
  9. Perfect. Which level would you recommend for 6th grade? I know that these boys all scored well below average on the state exam in the area of language mechanics, but all six are avid readers and basic reading skills are above average. Reading comprehension is fair (though I thought maybe I would work on reading comprehension through the scientific reading and historical reading we will be doing). I own Sentence Island, that's it.
  10. My last two children who would have been homeschooling this year just decided they wanted to go back to school. Before I even had a chance to feel sad about not being a teacher anymore, the principal of a local private school called and asked me to teach a class of sixth grade boys! I am very excited. The current English studies principal loves workbooks. She has eight, yes eight, workbooks that she would like me to use per student this year. I only have three hours to teach them Literature, Grammar, Writing, Math, Science, History, Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension and Spelling. And these are wiggly boys, none of whom love worksheets. So.....recommendations??? Science and math I can tackle, vocabulary we will incorporate as a part of other subjects and use Greek/Latin roots (though one of the workbooks is Wordly Wise, not so bad). History is fun. I am a little stuck on grammar and LA. These are very smart boys who will not need to circle the prepositions on several pages to master the concept. But I have never taught in a classroom, and prefer not to make up my own curriculum. Also, I have never taught literary analysis (my oldest is 10), and I HATE the textbook and workbook she wants me to use - could you make it any more boring?! What do you all recommend?
  11. Yes, it is call Performcare. I have no idea how or why it is free, and the counselor who came also said that it is an incredibly rare program, that she doesn't even understand how it exists. Just by chance, the counselor who came is trained in the Nurtured Heart approach, which is the approach we have been using with our kids for about 3 years already. She said that the kids really will get up to six hours of in home counseling PER CHILD per week - not one on one all of the time, also just playing with the kids, watching them play from the sidelines. But a counselor will be in the house up to 30 hours a week. Plus mentors. Plus respite. All free. But don't move here for the program, New Jersey is expensive and crowded and not a very pretty place.
  12. As always, great input. My five year old is in a local public school autism program. We live in a neighborhood with a really awful public school system. Many of the families are living below the poverty line and many of the kids don't experience stability at home. Culturally, there is such a wide gap between the music, dress, behavior, language and images we would want our kids to be exposed to and what is common in the public school environment. Because my five year old is in a self contained class room with 6 other autistic 5 year olds, we are working through the public school system to get him services. If I put my 9 year old intense kid into that school system, I think he might try smoking a cigarette by the end of the week. It is just not an appealing option. But if he really needs help, we will make it work. By the way, a counselor was with our family all day (as in 8 hours!) on Sunday, just the start of this amazing free program. Several times throughout the day she told me that my husband and I are raising great kids in a very loving home, kids who love each other but who are all intense non-conformists, but who are obviously great kids doing very well. She said my 9 year old does NOT have anything close to ODD, just is an intense kid. The fighting is an issue, but when she talked to the boys each privately, they said they missed the time when they could play for hours without fighting and want to learn skills to get back to that. She correctly guessed that as soon as they touch each other in a fight I imagine blood when it is once in a few months that the fighting actually results in someone getting hurt. Apparently that constitutes typical sibling fights. What do I know, I grew up a Quaker with one younger sister! We never fought, much less solved a fight with our hands! When she left, she basically told me that I have a huge pile on my plate, with 5 kids born within 5 years, three of them profoundly gifted, two autistic, three with ADHD and a husband who can't quite cope or face the situation yet. So she is getting me help - counseling for the boys to improve impulse control, conflict resolution, anger management, mentors for the boys to play basketball with one while I take the other for one on one time or to a class. Also respite time for me, so I can go to a doctor's appointment or (gasp!) the grocery store without all five kids! So basically I am blowing things out of proportion in terms of the severity of the state of our home and the emotional health of our kids, but underestimating how overwhelmed I am allowed to feel and the amount of help I need. I also got to hear my husband say that my oldest has high-functioning autism (first time he has ever done that out loud), that the 9 year old guy needs to learn to control his anger and that he will get behind a plan to help him, and to agree out loud that we have to make decisions together and write out a plan together. Whew! I didn't read these replies in time, and went ahead with my plan -sort of. I printed out the typical curriculum recommendations from the World Book site, as well as samples from Common Core. I took each of the boys out to the bagel shop separately, showed them the suggested curriculum, sketched out with them how many hours it might take to meet the suggestions for the subject areas we struggle to get done (math), we laughed at the suggestions for our favorite areas (history and science), as we are so far beyond those. We took great ideas from the area of Health and Safety, deciding together to add a First Aid course to our plans for the upcoming year, and talked about the lack of art and music and community service in the suggestions, and how sad that made us. We added that in to our structure. We then wrote up a MUTUAL contract as a way to show our commitment and motivate ourselves over this next year to meet these goals. At the end of those meetings I wondered what the big problems were that I was imagining, and the counselor confirmed it on Sunday. What a difference a few days makes.....
  13. Just to add - perhaps the counseling team that comes will suggest a great public school program for my son. Is anyone else married to a man for whom something is never true when it comes out of your mouth, but if anyone else says the same thing, suddenly it sounds like pure wisdom :)? Ten years of marriage, and I have begun to save my breath and find someone else to say the things to my husband I know he doesn't want to hear from me - whatever gets the job done! So even though I know he would balk at the suggestion of public school now, perhaps he will listen to the recommendations of the team (who had 36 hours to contact me and start the process, which came and went with no call on Tuesday :( I really hope this works out, because I am pinning a lot of hopes and prayers on it!).
  14. Such amazing advice guys thanks! Just to clarify, a state agency did not get involved (there has been NO child abuse, thank G-D!), but we are very blessed to have a state program in New Jersey, where we moved last year, that provides hours and hours of free counseling, and many other supports, to families who qualify, and the qualification is based only on the need of each child for such services, not on income. I have been struggling all year against competing priorities of honoring my husband, and facing his denial about our kids' situations, and his refusal to consider any ADHD medication. It has been such a struggle, with many tear-filled conversations with G-D - "what do You want from me? How can I advocate for my kids and honor my husband at the same time?". It has been exhausting on all fronts. I found an excellent counselor who could come into the home, on Sundays, with my husband here, and work with our whole family (as I know the defiant, ODD looking kid needs us all to be on the same, loving page and not feel like the bad guy), but it would cost nearly $2000 for 12 weeks. We could rob from my homeschooling budget to afford it, and I was so happy to do that, but my husband put his foot down and said no. I was at the end of my rope, when we went camping, and in the tent next to us was a woman who works for this state program. As our kids were playing, she and I chatted, and she gave me this amazing solution, this free program through the state. So "state agency" was the wrong term I guess. It doesn't matter, she was an angel, the program will hopefully be a blessing, and I hope in a year we will all be in a much better place. Public school is not an option for religious reasons, my husband would NEVER agree, and there is no Jewish school around that will accept my son right now, I am quite sure. I had another idea - what if I lay out the "federal requirements" by grade for homeschooling that we "must" meet, and we both sign a contract to meet them. This would involve some deception, and I am really against deceiving my kids. But I would draw the guidelines from real sources. We don't encourage our kids to "punch a clock", but I have to make the progress measurable, so math requirements might be "150 hours of math education at the 3rd grade level to include mastery of...". I would put a visual on the wall for each subject requirement (i.e. a rocket ship to the moon, climbing a mountain etc), and say that we have until the school year ends to finish the requirements and turn in our logs to the state. Then I am not the bad guy, I give ownership of the progress to him (if he doesn't feel like working on math that day, no problem, as long as he minds his progress), and take the daily battles out of the picture in favor of reaching broader goals. Again, we don't like setting up education as a chore for him, hours to complete, etc, not our favorite way to do this. But he is listening to history audio books right now in his room already for a couple of hours and it is 8:30 in the morning, we are touring a trout hatchery tomorrow, and visiting a historic farm on Monday - he gets plenty of "non-school" self-education and unschooling. He built a teepee with me for a few hours yesterday and lectured to me the entire time about the history of Native Americans, what true teepees are constructed from, NA "Gods" and their religion, hunting practices, on and on. So I would set up these requirements for language arts, math and handwriting (he has dysgraphia and well and has to work on handwriting, but HATES it). Maybe I would include P.E. and Art, and of course all normal guidelines have science and social studies, which he loves, maybe I would chart these for authenticity, but I am concerned about touching his favorite subjects with any requirements - G-d forbid I turn them into a chore for him. Do you think this system of meeting false requirements would work? Or is it awful to consider deceiving my children in this way?
  15. I am schooling my two oldest boys only this upcoming year (two will be in private school and one is in a public school autism program). We had a very hard year this past year - relocating, boys fighting most of the time, going from ADHD to ODD in the case of one. We are beginning a period of intensive family counseling and behavior coaching through a state agency, starting in the next few weeks, with up to six hours of individual counseling per child, mentors, respite help for me, parenting coaching for my husband and I, and most likely we will break down and discuss medication options for ADHD. But since it is through a state agency, the process can be slow going. My relationship with the oldest is fine, but is in a really low place with the ODD guy. The relationship of the two boys with each other is worse than awful right now. They get in yelling matches and physical fights from almost the moment they open their eyes in the morning til bed. I would love to separate them for this upcoming school year, but neither fits well into any local school options - the oldest is profoundly gifted, ADHD and Aspie, the second guy is severely dyslexic, violent when angry, and two grade levels behind already, not to mention the severe behavioral challenges and super-wiggly ADHD. My question is this - it may take us months and months to get to a better place emotionally in the family, supporting the ODD kid enough that his self-esteem rebounds, and it may take months for us to try out and commit to medicating the boys and finding the right medication. In the meantime, I would like to do SOME school work with them. My oldest reads so much that he basically unschools himself, but there are math and religious studies skills that I want him to build. #2has so much work we could do, if he would agree to do it, but he has always been dragged to the table to do even 5 minutes of reading/LA/Math, anything but history. #3 who is two years younger has lapped him in a few subjects, and though #3 never ever teases #2, I can see the huge toll this is taking on the self-esteem of #2. For the purpose of providing #2 structure, gaining much needed skills, and keeping him anywhere near the same ballpark with his peers, I want to work with him for four 15 minute sessions each day for the upcoming school year, minimum. Reduce demands but require that he make it to the table for those sessions each day. Is it possible? Is it a bad idea? Given him current ODD status, should I try to find a behavioral school to take him, and remove the teacher/student relationship from our lives? Assuming he is staying home with me, would you discuss with him the structure of the day, get his input on when and what will be in our work sessions, and then have him sign a contract? I know with near certainty that after just a couple of days he will not want to struggle through reading etc and just refuse to work. "I don't have to and you can't make me" has been the motto for the last two weeks. What would you do?
  16. Wow, what an amazingly thorough and thoughtful reply! There are so many resources in this reply that I am going to print it out and save it. I really appreciate all of the time and thought you put into it.
  17. I have looked at lots of Language Arts options, and decided to pull together my own curriculum. I have two boys who are 11 months apart in age (I have two 9 year olds, not twins, right now!), but about 6 grade levels apart in their word smarts. My really word smart guy needs no LA instruction (natural speller, perfect grammar, huge vocab, already done Greek and Latin word roots), except analyzing sentences (why good sentences are good) and whatever else comes with literary analysis (why great works are great). Problem is, I was one of these word smart kids myself, and just knew that stuff without formally learning it, or formally learned it so long ago, that I find it really hard to think of how to teach it, or even identify what it is that needs to be taught to someone. I have decided to use Harry Potter as our spine (anyone throwing tomatoes yet?!) bc this kid has read the whole series about 8 times through, and loves it, and he fights me on reading anything else that I want him to read (though he reads 3000 pages a week). I own Warriner's book, and skimmed it, and I am still not sure exactly what I should teach for a kid on that level. I figure that if we cover everything in there by the time he finishes 8th grade, we'll be good. Has anyone seen these skill detailed a little more according to grade level? Should I focus on the structure of a story (character, plot etc) or elements like simile, metaphor etc, all of the above and more? I am trying to pull this together for free or nearly free, so I really just need to identify what he needs to know by the end of this year, in order to build on that for what he needs to know for next year, etc.. Hunter, I bet you have some good thoughts here?
  18. It is thought-provoking, puts the kids into the middle of the problem, works on so many skills at once that it is practically an entire curriculum (math, graphing, history, science, social skills and collaboration, report writing, logic, ethics, more!), and it is just fun! Nothing I don't like so far. It was mostly open-and-go, except that I did read through everything first, and arrange for an interview with a local specialist in the area (to work on social skills, an area we need extra practice in) and brought in a local actress to be in character of someone from the period to spice things up. I can't wait to do the next curriculum in here series!
  19. I have NON-artsy/craftsy boys who want more field trip/hands on activities. We have loved SOTW 1 and 2, especially the audio books, and anything to do with war. What do you all do for year 3 that kicked things up a notch?
  20. What questions do you ask? First do you ask "what do I want to teach next year" and then follow up with "why do I want to teach that particular subject"? Then end with "how do I want to teach it" and choose curriculum to fit that? Or do you grab a curriculum you like and teach from it, with no preconceived plan? Do you set goals at the beginning of the year, and then reevaluate periodically to make sure you reach them? If you use the filing system, do you plan the whole year at once as to what you will cover each week, or just a few months at a time - and why do you do it that way? Do you write lesson plans? If so, how did you learn to write them, what do they look like? I am trying to ask how top-down do you go - starting at what my husband calls the 30,000 foot view from the plane, and then how low do you go, down to a lesson plan for each day/activity? I am trying to maximize my few planning weeks this summer, to have a much more organized year. I know these questions will be answered totally differently based on your particular approach to homeschooling, i.e. the unschoolers definitely are not asking the same questions as very structured schoolers. I have gifted, Aspie, ADHD boys, and I think they might need a really structured, organized system to succeed. This isn't really my style, teaching is not my background, and I am a gifted, Aspie, ADHD person myself! So I think maybe lesson plans would help me know what I am trying to teach and keep me on track. When I have to remind myself constantly why I was including this or that project or material, or can't remember what my goals were, don't know how to evaluate periodically if we are on track to reach a goal by the end of the year, I feel like I am floating at sea. Any suggestions?
  21. I recently purchased it and LOVE it, so do the kids.
  22. I am sending all of my kids to camp for the same four weeks this summer so that I can have time and quiet to plan our curriculum for next year. In the past I had to squeeze in planning at 4 in the morning or on Sundays for an hour here or there, and always felt like I was running to stand still. I would like to be much more organized and intentional in approaching this coming academic year. In general I have been on an organizing kick over the last few months, and it has made an amazing difference in my life. We are following the WTM mostly, and this year will be year 3 of the cycle, though we are switching out Chemistry for Physics, as my kids are suddenly really interested in physics. How would you all recommend I attack this planning? Would you start at the 30,000 view, would you begin with the end in mind, would you go through each subject thoroughly before thinking about the next, would you plan all similar resources at a time (i.e. all field trips for all subject areas researched and scheduled, then all book materials, then all videos)? I feel like I have to make this month REALLY count! I would really appreciate any general organizational tips as well - photos of your systems/set ups would be amazing! Thanks!
  23. My 9 yo ds is a voracious reader and a natural speller. He recently mastered about 100 Greek and Latin roots. He is an Aspie, and likes things to move QUICKLY. We tried FLL and he was frustrated by the pace and ease. We tried LOE and he finished it in a couple of weeks. Keeping up with the pace of his mind is my biggest challenge. Thankfully, he is absorbed with Khan Academy right now, and spends about half his day on that. What should I work on next with him in terms of LA? He has atrocious handwriting, but types about 20 wpm, and we have started to work on creative writing. His writing style in book reports etc. is passable, but by no means poetic. While he excels in LA, he definitely could use that time to balance out in other areas, both academics and non-academic - social skills, etc. What would you all recommend we work on next? Take a break from formal LA for a while? Focus on writing style? Any other general recommendations to keep this guy busy? Thanks! Rina
  24. My 9 yo Aspie ds is an excellent reader - 2500 pages per week average, crazy vocabulary, etc. He is a natural speller. I ran him through LOE, because I was using it with my dyslexic 8 yo, and I find the spelling and grammar rules to be really helpful and interesting. We are also using Handwriting Without Tears (cursive, which is much easier for him that print), as well as "Learning Grammar Through Writing", an oldie but goodie, where he writes a short essay and we correct it together, to practice the practical application of grammar - punctuation, commas, quotation marks, etc. But he is really done with all of that now. His spelling is truly phenomenal, so I see no need to teach spelling. He abhors being bored, and having to work through subjects that don't keep his speedy mind challenged. What would you all recommend next? I own Bravewriter, but haven't started it yet with him. He types quite well, so if I allowed him to type stories instead of working more on handwriting, he would probably enjoy the writing process. He rejected FLL because was simply too slow, and required too much handwriting on his part. We haven't really worked on diagramming sentences, but I have never seen him speak/write in incorrect grammar, and he picked up parts of speech right away. He just seems to be one of these kids who innately "gets" language usage, spelling, vocabulary, everything. What should our goals be now? Is there a clear guideline out there for what LA goals kids should meet at each level? When should he start writing longer essays? I have never formally worked on analyzing a story with him - character, plot, inference etc., because when we discuss the books he reads, he just knows all of that without being taught. Is that possible? What might I be missing?
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