Thursday, March 7, 2013

Back to Tucson

I'm scarce because we're moving to AZ. Well, I'm moving back there and my son is beside himself with the idea that he can swim this time of year! So just as we started getting into an educational groove, we took an early spring break.

Reminder - review the homeschool laws in AZ. I know the requirements are the same for notification, but I can't remember if there were other requirements such as required topics.

Back to packing and purging. I'm insane.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our First Days of Homeschooling

Well, it's been interesting these first few days. Not at all like I pictured in my head. Definitely not as smooth as I anticipated, but that's how I figured out where adjustments needed to be made. I'm enjoying the flexibility of this adventure. The guilt and stress from public school are gone, and now I just stress that I won't be able to fit all the cool stuff I found for his units into our days. Ok, well that and his writing getting done, but I knew writing would be a weak point.

We were a little heavy on math these first days because I had him to do an assessment to see where his weaknesses were and what he's good at already. I'm really upset by how much ground he lost from the school in IL to now. Since we're doing insects for this first unit, I have insect fiction & non-fiction books, worksheets, a journal, art crafts, a microscope with grasshopper parts, Spanish words, videos/games, etc. 

Non-insect related, I read about in a homeschool forum and it's perfect for him. Other than he can't always find the numbers on the keypad fast enough, he thinks it's fun and doesn't stress out that it's timed (a first). We also have to do Christmas thank you cards this week. He actually found an(other) Xbox game that is educational - Quarrel. It's all anagrams and you 'battle' the opponents by making a word that equals the most points - like Scrabble. Love it and buying him the full game. The trial is awesome too - for now. We already had Crazy Machines on the Xbox, where you figure out the puzzles or build things with different components and gears. 

So his writing. Our tough subject. I knew I'd have to get creative with this, but I was hoping the subject matter would do it. Not so much. I got one sentence out of him in his writing journal. So we ditched that idea of a daily summary of his studies. I gave him a choice of worksheets instead. Not a huge hit but he did some - with lots of complaining. He wanted to do the cursive erase board instead. Fine by me. I eventually got him to write down things he wanted me to buy him at the grocery store. I just helped with spelling. Whatever works!

Since we have to do 875 hours in an academic year, I kept track of how long he worked on each subject on our daily calendar. Basically, our educational week has to total a little under 21 hours, 30 minutes to reach 875. I don't technically have to log them, and I don't have to provide a curriculum plan, but I do it so I don't forget things and as an idea list. I've already made adjustments to my plan!  

We also usually do educational things on the weekend, so I'm not going to stress if we don't study for 4-something hours each day, 5 days a week. If he wants to read longer, or rushes through the worksheets quickly, then so be it. If he wants to do worksheets at 10pm, whatever. Too bad we don't go to church or I'd be able to chalk that up to religious studies! Basically we kinda go with the flow, but with some framework to keep the crazy at bay.

Things helping us so far are the magnetic erasable chore board with each subject: Math, Lang Arts, Writing, etc. When he finishes with the work in a subject, he moves a magnet on the board for the day to show he's done. He also has folders in a hanging organizer for daily activities (worksheets, crafts, etc) and a checkbox sheet for online activities or videos. Anything extra he wants to do, or trade, comes from the subject folders below his daily work folders:

I'd really like to get him a little desk or table where he can store his supplies. We both hate the kitchen table for school work. Craigslist here we come! God help me when I find my way to an educational store - or even Staples at this point!

I'm thinking our thank you notes might takes more than a day to finish. Ah, the joy of homeschooling - freedom & flexibility!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

When I Knew I'd Homeschool

I was the room mom for my son's 1st grade classroom. I was the mom who didn't cry when her child walked into school on the first day of school. I was the mom who cherished the freedom of having my child in school for 6.5 hours a day so I could work from home in peace. I volunteered whenever I could in the classroom and was involved with the PTO, even when my health didn't allow for helping as often as I'd have liked.

I'm also the mom who challenged the status quo. The night owl mom. The mom of a night owl. The mom of a 'busy' boy who's a sponge. The single mom. The mom who has a mobility disability (polymyositis). The mom who didn't care if my son missed 30 minutes or a whole day of school since we'd be learning at home anyway. The mom who constantly uses the world to teach her child basic skills. I suppose I'm the mom who's "crunchy" or "unconventional" as well.

I pulled my son out of public school mid-year, right before holiday break. I was going to wait until after the break, but fate had other plans for us. Best laid plans and all.

First grade started with a challenge. Last year, my son spent the second half of kindergarten in a school in IL while I recovered from my illness. His class size was smaller there, but even though the school was rated somewhat lower than his kindergarten class here in WI, he learned so much while he was gone. I was really impressed when he got awards for math and reading. Getting him reoriented for first grade here was a concern for me, so I talked to the principal. I was somewhat reassured, but determined to be watchful.

I had high hopes for first grade. This was the year of 'real' learning. Even though he was in all-day kindergarten, this was the year of serious reading and math and everything else he'd need for success. I didn't expect coddling or super-fun playtime all day. I also didn't expect things to go so badly. Besides the fact that my boy kept getting sick from the kids, which in turn got me sick too, he kept telling me he was bored. I brushed it off to silly kid-not-liking-school-itis.

When I explained my disability to his teacher, and how we might be a little late sometimes, she basically told me the first 30 minutes were REALLY important. Once I started volunteering in the class, I saw this wasn't exactly the case at all. When I called him in to tell them we were going to an event where the President was speaking, during the election, I was met with, "Um, what?" in disbelief. I saw it as a huge learning opportunity, but I suppose the Xerox with the two candidate checkboxes should have been enough, right?

Our first parent-teacher conference in October really threw me for a loop. I had some questions about the reading books he was bringing home since they were books he was reading in kindergarten. I assumed everyone was getting the same book and it was leveled to meet everyone's needs. Not the case. In fact, it was based on an assessment he was given.

The assessment indicated he was only a pre-reader, and it was because he'd made up his own ending on the assessment book and was 'failed', even though the sight word test proved otherwise. When the teacher indicated she recognized the discrepancy but did nothing, I was livid and basically told her she'd be retesting him to place him in the right reading group. His math assessment was worse! One part stated he couldn't count by 10's to 100 -- even though he did it in the car with ease when we left. When she indicated he was having trouble focusing, and had I talked to his pediatrician about it, that's when I knew I was going to research homeschooling. I felt like all the learning and progress he'd made was being lost!

I'd already started telling some of the other moms that I was considering it and the school had until December, or at least the next conference, to show me something better. The struggle to get him to school every single morning started getting ridiculous. Not even normal tantrums. Full blown hysteria. Then I started volunteering in the classroom. I found the teacher's style didn't mesh with my son's personality -- or mine. Granted, I'm not a warm and fuzzy person, and I can be short with my son, but I'm still encouraging. Her tone was exasperated and harsh when correcting the kids. She has a reputation as a yelling teacher. It held true.

I got my son's report card in early December and once I saw it, I was done. I wasn't waiting for the holiday break. I'd done my research regarding state laws, I'd talked to my best friend who's homeschooled for almost four years, and I had a slew of information about curriculum creation. I figured out how many hours were left from the required 875 a year, filled out the required form online, met with the principal out of courtesy, helped in my son's classroom for the holiday party and we were done with public school for good!