Our Curriculum For 7th grade

This year Wild Man is doing 7th grade for homeschool. (How it’s possible that he’s that old I still can’t figure out!) We started our school year in the middle of August, but we are on a short break now due to a co-op field trip and Boy Scout campout. We will be back to the grindstone on Monday.

Below I’ve listed his curriculum, my reasons for choosing it, and how it’s working so far:

Grammar: Abeka Grammar C
This is our last year for formal grammar. I start literature in 8th grade. I find Abeka’s grammar books to be really great. In true Abeka style they cover a lot of information and give ample opportunity for review of the material. The lessons are printed with lots of colors and illustrations and are broken up into small enough chunks that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. We’ve used Abeka grammar from the very beginning and I’m always pleased with the results. As a side note, since we do a formal writing program I don’t do the chapters on writing in the grammar book.

Science: Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science.
Apologia Science is another curriculum that we have used since the beginning and just love. These books are very heavy on scientific facts and on teaching the students how to properly document their scientific experiments. We use the student notebooks to keep things simple and all in one spot. I also HIGHLY recommend the lab kits from Nature’s Workshop. They are a big investment up front, but the time it saves me not having to run around all over trying to find what we need for experiments is worth it to me.

Math: Math Mammoth 6
We found this curriculum late last year based on my BFF’s recommendation and we are continuing it this year. This is a really thorough and intensive math program, and I feel like Wild Man will be really prepared for Algebra next year.

Bible: Wise Up
This is a year long walk through Proverbs and includes weekly tests as well as Scripture Memory. I felt like Middle School was a good time to stop and take an in-depth look at what wisdom means and looks like. So far it has been challenging to him and the lessons have sparked some great discussions.

Logic: The Fallacy Detective
I used this book with Sassy when she was in 7th grade and really enjoyed it. My favorite thing is that it shows real life examples of the different fallacies which makes them so much easier to understand. I also really like the thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter. No simple fill in the blanks here!

Writing: IEW Medieval History
Since we are studying the Middle Ages in history this year, Wild Man decided he wanted to do the corresponding IEW writing unit. This is a particularly good one for boys since many of the writing assignments are about wars and great battles. He loves coming up with quality adjectives and verbs to describe the great kings and their conquests.

Spelling: The Phonetic Zoo
We are continuing through the zoo cards this year. Since it’s a 3 year program we can just pick up right where we left off last year. My son didn’t like listening to the recordings, so I just do the verbal component for him. This spelling program has made a HUGE difference for us!!

History: The Classical Historian Medieval History
I am doing this with both kids. What drew me to the program was the idea of teaching history from a Socratic method perspective. So far we have REALLY enjoyed this program! They love getting to explain their position for why they chose an answer, and I feel they are really learning how to view all media around them. In the beginning you are learning the tools of the historian, so there’s not as much actual history. I have added little projects to their weekly assignments to supplement this.

Geography: Abeka World Geography
This is a high school level curriculum, and both kids are doing it together. It’s only a half credit class, so we will be done right at Christmas break. It’s been a really great class to help them learn how to study for tests and how to determine a good way to manage study time. There are multiple quizzes, map projects, and chapter tests, so this class keeps us busy. I’m learning a lot right along with them, and I am incorporating Windows to the World where I can to bring in a mission focus as well with specific prayer requests for the people groups in the areas we study.

Business: Bluestocking Press Books
For the second half of the year. Wild Man, (who wants to be an entrepreneur of some sort), wanted to study business more in depth. The little books by Bluestocking Press are perfect for this. We are going through the entrepreneur series, and being a business major myself I’m itching to read these!

The year is still very young, but I feel like we are finally getting in our groove. It’s been a jump up for both kids academically this year, but they are doing great and settling in just fine.

Jumping In!

Today is day one of our homeschool year for 2013-2014. My whole family was gone all last week at church camp, and we are all dragging from no sleep. Friday was our anniversary, so my husband and I went out for that Saturday evening, and my best friend came into town so yesterday afternoon and evening we all got together. You should know that when my 3 best friends and I get together, it’s always to the wee hours of the morning. I got home at 12:30 this morning, but I had a very fitful night of sleep because I drank too much coffee after dinner.

Needless to say, today is NOT the ideal day to start our year. I am trying to write their work for today in their planners in a few minutes before they get up, they are going to be rather unpleasant since they will be tired, the list of things goes on. However, if we don’t start today it will affect our schedule during the holidays, so a grumpy few days is worth suffering through to have our time at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Still, it’s hard to keep that in mind when I’m falling into my coffee mug this morning.

I know that no matter what day I chose to start there would be reasons to wait and grumpiness to deal with, so I might as well stick with my plan. Here goes nothing!

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To Test or Not To Test, That is the Question

Homeschool testing is a hot debate. I was at a local chapter meeting tonight for a professional organization I belong to. There were many people there I didn’t know, and as it normally does in new conversations, the topic turned to kids, and eventually to the fact that I homeschool. One of my new acquaintances was a former teacher, and was aghast when I told her that our state doesn’t require any testing for homeschoolers.

Can you guess what her next question was???? Yep, you’re right. “But HOW do you know what they’re learning if you don’t TEST them?”

I calmly informed her that since I was involved in their learning everyday and that there are only 2 of them instead of 30 I was always aware of how and what they are learning. (Then I moved on to another topic before things got too prickly).

This whole concept of testing comes up frequently in homeschool circles – especially that first year when you are trying to fight the instinct to replicate public school at home. Our state’s standardized test is hated by every parent that I meet, yet most are quick to turn right around and ask me why I don’t have my kids take it. Our local schools put an extreme amount of emphasis on this test and devote the majority of their teaching to it. I feel very fortunate to not have to be under its rule.

Every family has to decide whether or not testing of any kind will be a part of their homeschool. In our homeschool, we do have tests. I give them spelling or vocabulary tests on Fridays, and their math books have a test about every 5 lessons. We work on mastery, so if they don’t score well on these tests they do the lessons over.

We also participate in standardized testing once a year with our local homeschool organization. Our group uses the ITBS. This year my oldest will participate in SAT testing through Duke TIP as well.

I test them for a few simple reasons. 1. One of my educational goals is college preparedness, and in college you have to take lots of exams. I don’t want that to be their first experience trying to study. 2. We do the annual standardized test so that they have lots of practice taking this kind of exam. Scholarships are based on test scores, and I feel like the more opportunity they have to be exposed to standardized tests, the less test anxiety they will have in high school when they really count. As a bonus, I can use these test scores as our annual evaluation for the state, so it’s an easy way to make sure our requirements are met.

When you’re deciding on testing, reflect back on your homeschool goals. As with all other education decisions, your goals will help guide you to the right decision for your family. 🙂

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The Best of Both Worlds?

Everybody homeschools for a different reason. For some, it’s having a religious based curriculum where God is the center of all learning. For others, it’s the freedom from so-called ‘standards of education’ and arbitrary timelines for learning. There are as many reasons to homeschool as there are families. It’s important to know your goals so that you can make decisions that will help you achieve them, and most of our goals reflect our reasons for home education.

I have never regretted pulling my kids out of public school, and the older they get, the more thankful I am for this blessing. While I want to protect them from unhealthy influences, I never wanted to raise my kids in a little homeschool bubble. I want them to be in the world, just not of the world.

For the last two years, we have been taking advantage of a provision in our state’s homeschool law that allows us to attend public school for whatever classes and programs we want to participate in. Both of my children have been able to join the school band – an experience I just can’t recreate in our home. My kids also have done art, Lego, computer, and PE classes at our local elementary school. To me, this is a little bit like having my cake and eating it too. The kids get to see their neighborhood friends, do projects and performances they can’t do at home, and since they are there for a focused activity, the objectionable influences are nil.

This arrangement is certainly not for everyone, but if you are looking for ways to involve your children in large group activities, it might work for your family. We are blessed to have extremely good public schools where I live, so it makes the situation really great for us – but I know that’s not the case everywhere.

If you’re interested in having your kids take a class or two at the local public school, I suggest first looking at your state’s homeschool law to see if it’s allowed (I mean hey – we pay for the schools – we should be able to use them!) If you are legal, then I would contact the school’s guidance counselor to get them registered. Keep in mind that most guidance counselors are not used to homeschoolers trying to attend for 1 class, and you might have to be persistent. I find I sometimes have to ‘educate’ school administration on what my rights are. 🙂

Just remember that if your kids do attend, all the rules and regulations of the school apply to them while they are there. That means dress code, attendance, and grades will matter. My daughter gets a report card that is part of her permanent record for middle school band. Be sure they are committed to stick with it before you go through the headache of getting them registered.

Do any of you have your kids go to public school for certain classes or programs?

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Follow Me on Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’ve recently discovered Bloglovin.com and I really like it. I’m not one who likes to have my inbox overflowing, and now I can see all the blogs I follow in one great place! If you haven’t seen it, check it out – and follow me while you’re there. 🙂

Field Trip to the Chocolate Factory

It’s field trip Friday and today we really felt like Charlie when we went to visit a chocolate factory in a nearby town! The hour long tour started with a video on the history of chocolate, which was really interesting. I’m always intrigued to think about the first person to decide to try a food. I mean, who looked at that funky cocoa bean pod and said, “hmm, if I take out these seeds and dry them for 5 days, then grind them to a powder I’ll have something delicious on my hands?” According to the video, the Aztecs were the first to have this stroke of genius. They mixed cocoa powder with water and made the world’s first hot chocolate called chocolatl. Montezuma apparently drank up to 50 cups a day of the stuff! My kids decided a frozen version would be better in the 90 degree heat.

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Once we saw the video we started our actual tour, hair nets and all. While the company once had a huge factory and even contracted for the likes of Hershey, Mars, and Nestle, they sold all that off and today have a small factory that makes artisan chocolates. The man who started the business actually went to college with my grandfather, and with an engineering background he designed all the machinery specifically for their factory. He also invented the mold to make those chocolate oranges that fall into slices when you whack them on a counter.

We also got to sample several kinds of chocolates and learn about just how chocolate is made. The kids enjoyed pretending to be judges on the Food Network as our guide encouraged us to smell the chocolate and listen to the snap it makes when you break it before we ate. We were also supposed to let the chocolate melt in our mouths before swallowing, but it was really HARD. Nothing is as good as finely made chocolate!

To be honest, I never realized there were so many factories near us. Our town is big in service industries and shipping, but apparently there are a lot of really cool little factories that are doing international business right in our backyard. I got ideas on where to go by visiting this site that shows factories by state and city. Check it out and see what gems you can find near you. You might even get to leave with a bag full of yummy treats like we did today. Best field trip Friday so far!

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My Top Ten Homeschool School Supplies

You should know something about me right up front: I LOVE office and school supplies.  Back to school shopping was the highlight of my summer when I was a kid.  I love all the crisp, clean white pages, the sparkly pencils, and the color coded tabs.  Even though I don’t have to do much in the way of school supply shopping for homeschool, there are a few essentials that I just can’t school without.

10 School Supplies 1. Notebook paper (well duh)

2. Erasers – no matter how many we start off with, we seem to always be in need of more erasers

3. 3 ring binders – we use these to keep our papers organized during the year for spelling/vocab tests, math, history, and writing

4.  iPad – I use YouTube quite frequently in our lessons, and having the iPad right there to pull things up is super handy

5. Student planners – I write out the week’s lessons for the kids so they know what they are responsible for. Planners make this easy.

6. Pencils – we use both the mechanical and the traditional.  I like a regular pencil but my son especially likes mechanical ones.

7. Pencil sharpener – I have an electric one plugged in behind a decorative plate in our kitchen for easy access.

8. Construction paper – the use for good ol’ colored paper is endless.  We are always pulling out a sheet or two to make something.

9. Clay – we use the Crayola kind that doesn’t harden to make things we learn in science, history, and art.

10. Coffee – okay, so maybe you can’t buy this in the stationery aisle at Target, but our homeschool would not happen if I didn’t have my trusty java sidekick!

Do you find that your school supply budget is really low for homeschool?  What kinds of things can you not live without?

 

SAT Test Prep The Easy Way

sat prep

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I took some great classes at our local homeschool convention. One of the most outstanding was a class on preparing for homeschooling high school and how to get scholarship money for college taught by Jean Burk from College Prep Genius.

Workbook and DVD from CollegePrepGenius

Workbook and DVD from CollegePrepGenius

Jean was a homeschool mom who decided to find out all she could on the SAT and PSAT tests to help her oldest get into college, and to attend for as little as possible. Her research resulted in a full ride to just about any college he wanted – in fact she said they threw away 7 garbage bags of acceptance letters! What Jean found was not that your child has to be a genius to get these high scores and awards, but that he or she needs to understand how the test is written.

Unlike the ACT, which is a content based exam, the SAT is a logic based test. This means that there is a way to think critically through the question asked and answers provided WITHOUT having to ‘know’ the math formulas or the vocabulary. I was skeptical at first, but Jean walked us through several examples in the lecture and I understood exactly what she was saying! In fact, later at her booth I was joking with her that I was relieved I no longer needed to teach my kids higher math. 🙂 (If only that was so!) What this means is that the kids can actually learn the test, and by doing so score much higher. Higher scores means more money for college. I like those words.

Collegeprepgenius.com has several products to help prepare your kids for the SAT. I purchased the ‘kit’ that includes a DVD with classes on it, a workbook that teaches the SAT and has sample questions, her book on high school preparation, and 6 fiction books that are full of vocabulary words often tested on the SAT. You can get these items individually as well. I just got them in the mail a couple of days ago, and after looking through everything I have been really impressed.

You may wonder why I am worrying about the SAT now when my oldest is only a rising 8th grader. First, I’m always looking ahead and I figured that the more practice the kids have with these tests, the better they will score. 9th grade is only a year away for us, so why not give her time to get a feel for the test before hand? Secondly, if you participate in Duke’s TIP program, they actually begin giving the kids the real SAT in 7th grade. My oldest will be doing that in December, so it makes sense to start preparing for it a little bit now.

There are lots of test prep classes and techniques out there. So far, I have been really impressed with everything I have seen from Jean Burk. The true test will be in our ultimate scores, but I know if nothing else going through this course will take away some of the test anxiety they might have otherwise felt. Plus, going through the DVD course and all the practice testing will give the kids a semester high school credit for test prep too.

Check out more test prep ideas on my Test Prep Pinterest Board.

Do any of you have experience with this course or another test prep?

*The SAT and PSAT are registered trademarks of the College Entrance Examination Board, and the products at CollegePrepGenius are copyrights of Maven of Memory Publishing.

Happy July 4th!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy Fourth today. It’s been a rough year for democracy and Christian ideals in this country, and at times it seems all hope is lost. I think it’s important to remember this Fourth of July the reasons why this country was founded, and that the foundation of our laws is the Bible. It’s imperative for us to pray for our leaders, and to pray for our nation to turn back to God. Even when it feels like things are out of control in our country, remember that God is sovereign and He has a plan for this. The light of the gospel truth always shines brightest in the darkest times.

To those who serve our great nation and protect our freedom, thank you. May God continue to bless America!

Special Field Trips: Homeschool Days

Homeschool-Days-discounts

For the couple of years my kids were in public school, they got to take some really neat field trips, and for some great prices. For example, there is an alligator farm near us that has regular admission at around $20, but on a field trip we only paid $7. I was bummed to not get the special school rates until I did a little digging around. Turns out, homeschoolers often get the same or better rates! All of the major theme parks have homeschool days that not only offer special discounts but also really great classes that give them behind the scenes education. Several museums near us allow homeschoolers to download education guides for their exhibits and get group rates with just a small group. I’ve listed some of the biggies below, but if you search on the websites of attractions near you, you might just find hidden deals that are not well advertised. I often find them on the education page.

Disney Homeschool Days: Disney offers classes before the park opens that discuss science, animation, and agriculture and how those who work at Disney use them. The price of the class includes admission to the parks.

Universal Studios: Universal requires a group of 15 to get the discount, but if you have a few families join in it’s a great discount.

Kennedy Space Center: The Space Center has a homeschool day in October that grants you behind the scenes tours and a meeting with an astronaut.

Busch Gardens: During September, Busch Gardens has a special discount for homeschoolers, and they have several educational programs all year.

The Biltmore Estate: One of my favorite places anywhere, the Biltmore has a homeschool festival in the fall that includes several activities on their farm as well as a tour of the fabulous mansion.

Fort Menendez St. Augustine: This very cool recreation of a Spanish settlement in St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to go. During January they do a homeschool event with even more crafts and experiences. We’ve made our own candles, spun twine for rope, and played a type of checkers that the Spanish settlers played in the 1600s.

LegoLand: LegoLand has an amazing offer for homeschoolers that allows you to come to the park for only $8 a student!

As I said, these are some of the biggies near us, but if you look around online you’ll find tons of resources and discounts that are available to us as homeschoolers.