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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all. I have a 9yo son and this is our 3rd year to homeschool. Ds started out in our church preschool, then public school for pre-k and kindergarten. School wasn't a good fit for him and he asked me to homeschool him. Dh and I talked about it for a month or so and decided to give it a try for first grade. After several months of deschooling (and time to heal from the stressful school experience), we took a unit studies approach for the rest of the school year. Some learning issues cropped up during this time and we spent second grade in a much more relaxed style of homeschooling while I tried to find ways to help him.

Now that we're 3 years into it, I finally feel that I have a grip on his learning issues. I try to find a balance between working on his areas of difficulty (handwriting, phonics and spelling) and focusing on his strengths and interests (reading, science, the arts, history.)

We use curriculum for phonics, math, and handwriting and will soon start using a spelling program (modified so there's less handwriting) and a typing program. We follow our interests through books, life, field trips, experiments, etc. for everything else. I mainly use curriculum because it helps ME. I feel better using curriculum for skill-based subjects because then I don't worry about leaving things out or forgetting a step that's necessary for learning the next thing. For the content subjects (like science and history), I don't think a certain order of topics is necessary, so we're more flexible with them. In addition, ds takes karate, drama, and does cub scouts. He's done musical theater and taken hip hop dance classes as well.

Our plan today is to work in Explode the Code, go over more sight words, do a lesson in Math-U-See, discuss some things for religous education, and read a book together. In addition, ds is starting to read Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, so he'll probably read some of that. He's playing outside now and we'll go out for dh's birthday dinner tonight!
 

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What curriculums do you use? I see you use MUS and Explode the code. Do you like them? I have MUS but have never tried Explode the code.

What kind of religious works do you use? Do you mind me asking if you are Jewish/Catholic/etc.?

What do you do for his learning difficulties? Go to OT, use special programs, etc.?

What is your typical daily routine? weekly routine?

How do you evaluate progress?

Do you have any special methods/tips for planning? household organization? storage? record keeping?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh yeah, I forgot there was a format to follow!!!


Tell a little about your family.
My husband is a forester for an electric company. He has a great work schedule and does a lot of hands-on stuff with our son (mostly nature/science-related.) Prior to having ds, I did case work with the elderly. I've been a SAHM since ds was born. I developed some chronic health issues and am now on disability. The downside is that I can't predict when I'll be sick and I have periods of low energy. The upside is that no one pressures me to go back to work and put ds in school. Our son is a funny, musical, dramatic kind of kid. He loves fantasy and reading and being outside. As a family, we like books and movies, animals, nature, musical theater, and hanging out at home. We laugh a lot.

What curriculums do you use?
We use Math-U-See (we're working on Beta now), Explode the Code (here's my review of this program) for phonics and an intro to spelling, Handwriting without Tears, and I'm looking into spelling and typing programs.

What kind of religious works do you use? Do you mind me asking if you are Jewish/Catholic/etc.?
Well, we are a Catholic family, although I come from a non-denominational Christian background, so I focus less on the tradition and ritual, and more on the story of and teachings of Christianity in general. We focus a lot on character and moral decision-making. Ds gets his traditional Catholic education more from his dad (a cradle Catholic.) Dh has been ds's religious ed teacher at church every year, but next year we will homeschool religous ed instead. We haven't worked out how we'll do that yet. I think it will be a collaborative thing between dh and me. We talk about other religions as we learn about history and other cultures.

What do you do for his learning difficulties? Go to OT, use special programs, etc.?
Ds had occupational therapy for handwriting for 2 years. I don't know that it really made much difference. He CAN print neatly, but it takes too long to be functional. Handwriting without Tears is the program that the OT used with him, so we use it at home too. I like that it has two simple lines rather than dashed lines (which confused ds.) At this point I just want to make sure ds remembers how to form the letters, so I have him do one page just for the practice. We're not going to do cursive unless ds wants to at some point. I will make sure he can sign his name and read cursive though. We'll focus on typing as an accomodation.

Ds also has dyslexia, although he's reading above grade level now. Explode the Code worked for us, as did learning sight words. I used a school district's Accelerated Reader list to choose books at his reading level. Now he loves reading and mostly chooses his own books. Spelling doesn't come naturally for him, so I'm looking into a program for that. I'm trying to decide whether a rule-based program or a visual memory list-based program would be better for him.

What is your typical daily routine? weekly routine?
I'm not a very scheduled person. I aim for 4 school days a week year round with time off for holidays and breaks as needed. Our state requires 180 school days a year, so I keep attendance.

We spend about 1-1.5 hours a school day on seat work. We usually do it sometime between 11am and 3pm. As I mentioned earlier, ds also has karate, drama, and cub scouts on different nights.

How do you evaluate progress?
Since I'm only homeschooling one, it's easy to determine how well he's doing just by working with him. I don't test or grade him.

Do you have any special methods/tips for planning? household organization? storage? record keeping?
I don't plan ahead! I don't do lesson plans! I follow the curricula, usually doing a lesson in each a school day. Since we're so laid back in science, history and the arts, the only planning required is requesting the books we're interested in or deciding on a day for the field trip. We go to musicals sometimes and like the zoo, the aquarium, and museums for learning too.

I made a homeschool log sheet in MS Word that I print out and just write in what we do each day after we do it. That works better for us than planning ahead. I write the titles of all the books we read in the homeschool log and later type them up in a list by month. That's how I keep track of the books ds has read. Since handwriting is such an issue for ds, we don't have tons of written work to store. After the school year is over, I put all of his work together in a Rubbermaid tub in the garage. It's mostly workbooks or lists of books. When there are worksheets or other loose papers, I put them in a binder with tabbed dividers by subject.

My husband built long low shelves to store our homeschool project stuff (art supplies, things ds wants to display, rock and leaf collections, etc...) We have a small desk near the shelves in our sunroom where I keep my supplies (curricula, white boards and markers, hole punch, etc...) Our dining room table is in the sunroom too (along with an electric guitar, a full drum set, and an art easel), so that's usually where we do our seatwork. Maybe I'll take a picture soon and post a link!
 

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Great idea about the Word logboot. I have a Mac, but I should figure out a way to do that. I was writing it out but I have such terrible handwriting I'd read back to the week before and not remember what we did or what I wrote!

My ds also goes to OT for handwriting and other issues. We use HWT and he likes it. It sounds like you have good luck with ETC so I should get that...

:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, I took him to a Scottish Rite Language Clinic for a reading evaluation. I wanted to see where he was so I knew what kinds of books to choose for him. The Scottish Rite gives free evaluations and their waiting list didn't apply to us because I wasn't looking for therapy--just the eval and consultation appt. At the beginning of second grade he was reading at a beginning first grade level. By the end of second grade (we had another evaluation), he was reading at a beginning third grade level. The Scottish Rite recommended Explode the Code (they recommend it to parents of schooled kids too.) I was surprised that my son liked it because it's a workbook. But the stick figure drawings are funny and it just makes sense to him. He understood it in a way that he didn't understand the phonics approach in Learning Language Arts through Literature. And once I realized that his handwriting was slowing him down in the books, I started doing some of the writing and he dictated the answers to me. And it works great. They aren't very expensive, so it's worth a try.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You're welcome!

Today I'm slow to get started with homeschooling because I'm trying to figure out how to print out pictures through Snapfish so that I can scrapbook them. Ds's watching Zathura, but we'll get to school within the hour.

We're going to do a lesson in Math-U-See, see if he knows some new sight words, and I'll start a new read aloud, Boy of the Pyramids. Dh has started doing weekly projects with ds from the book Make It Work: Science Fair. Last week they made a submarine out of a 2 liter soda bottle, clay, duct tape, oxygen tubing, and metal weights. Ds gets to pick what project they do, although he's happy doing anything science-related (so is his dad!)

We hit the used book stores and the used homeschool materials store last week and had fun picking out new stuff. Love getting good deals! Tonight we have karate and cub scouts. Ds will likely play with some neighborhood boys at some point too. I'm SO glad we have kids in the neighborhood now! I used to have to schedule play dates all the time.

Deep Thoughts...I usually start rethinking my homeschooling style and materials this time of year. I think about what I've learned about ds and how he learns over the past year and I get input from him about what he's interested in and would like to explore. I evaluate the gains ds has made and what we need to work on more.

I really think it's time to add typing in so ds can "write" to express himself. I think it's even more important than focusing on spelling at this point, because he can use spell check while we're working on spelling. I got him a Franklin Children's Speller and Dictionary . It recognizes phonetic spelling and suggests the words it "thinks" you're meaning. It also gives a definition of each word it suggests. It was only $17--a good buy for something that helps ds be more independent. I think I'll wait on a spelling program until we are done with all 8 books in Explode the Code. Probably by the fall.

I've noticed that sometimes I get in the rut of just using curricula and not doing the extra stuff. Then it becomes drudgery and we miss out on the fun factor. So I need to include more fun stuff (read alouds, projects, field trips, etc) instead of being lazy and just doing the bare minimum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
We went on a "field trip" to Whole Foods and had a really good time! Ds is interested in exotic fruits, so he asked the employees a bunch of questions about the different varieties and was able to sample several: a champagne mango (doesn't have than pine taste), a cherimoya (aka "custard apple"), a starfruit (he liked it, but it tasted plastic-y to me), and passion fruit. He and another HS'd friend dried some of the fruit in his friend's food dehydrator. The "pineapple jerky" was really good! (Ds's friend is an eccentric kid--which we think is really neat. His mom laughed that my son is the only other kid she's met that thinks dehydrating fruit is a fun sleep-over activity!


We ate lunch there and tried several tofu dishes. I liked the BBQ tofu the best. Ds was very curious and asked the employees about humanely-raised animals and what's necessary to raise organic crops. I let him pick out a treat from their open bins and I bought some of their chunk chocolate!!! Yum.

It's a beautiful day and I'm in the spring mood, so I think we'll go to Old Tyme Pottery (similar to Garden Ridge-but cheaper) and pick out some garden stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ds got to play outside a lot today. It was a beautiful day and he enjoyed digging in the backyard and watering the garden. All we did today schoolwise was a lesson in Math-U-See and a sight words test. Ds is still struggling with remembering the difference between a dime and a nickel. He deals with real money all the time (he gets an allowance), so I'm not sure why he can't remember which is which.

We are about a year and a half "behind" grade level in math. We didn't do math for a year because ds ended up in tears every time we tried. He just wasn't ready for formal math learning (or reading) until age 8. I remember freaking out about it when he was 7 or so, and several moms here reassured me that kids are ready at different ages and THAT'S OK! I couldn't find the book Better Late Than Early at the library, so I haven't read it, but I've found just the title to be true.

We haven't really started studying spelling yet. Ds's handwriting issues get in the way of him writing much. Once he learns to type, spelling will come into play more often. Typing will be a boon to him, so I'm planning to start a typing program within the next month. Ds will be taking the summer off of karate and drama and cub scouts, so I think that's a good time to add typing. He's a creative kid, and I think he'll enjoy having the power to express himself in writing. Once he's got basic typing skills, we'll add spelling. I'm considering using Natural Speller or Spelling Power (modified so there's less handwriting.)

I'm looking forward to a break from all the driving to and from activities. I think I overscheduled ds this year. "Extra-curricular activities" are scheduled at really inconvenient times! Right when I'm winding down and people are asking me what's for dinner, it's time to go to karate or drama. And ds complains about going too. He gets tired of an activity after a few months. So I'm going to re-evaluate our activities and scale back next year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ds and I had a free day today. My aunt came to town and we had a fancy lunch at her hotel. We skipped karate tonight because ds fell and sprained his pinky the other day. It's swollen and black and purple. He didn't mind missing karate!

Today I'm thinking about homeschool co-ops. I was asked to teach a 7 week beginning drama class in a co-op in exchange for a free p.e. class. I like that the classes only last for 7 weeks. My homeschool group's co-op (not the one I'll be teaching for) requires a year long commitment to the class when you sign up. That's a LONG time to commit to a sight-unseen class. That's the main reason we're going with the shorter term co-op. We did this co-op last year, but stopped going because the main organizer's boys aren't very nice. One of them punched ds in the stomach and called him a loser with no friends. The mom made him apologize to ds, but explained it that her kids are both teacher's kids and preacher's kids. They definitely take advantage of their mom's split attention. I'm hoping that an extra year will make a difference in their behavior--and if not, I'll be a teacher too now, so I'll make sure that stuff doesn't happen. Anyone else do co-op and have a good experience?
 

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The co-op sounds nice. I don't have experience as I think there is only one small one around here and it's not our kind of group.

Have you tried the Family math book with your ds? It's more games so my kids like it as it's not "work".
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have the Family Math book, although we've only done a few exercises in it (one of them the coin activity.) I made up a little saying to help ds remember which is a dime and which is a nickel. "One plus nine is a dime." It kind of rhymes...
And I likened a nickel to 5 knuckles. Hopefully that will help. I decided yesterday that we're going to back off on Math-U-See for a while and spend more time on money. It's a skill that's useful to ds right now (as opposed to the next MUS lesson on multiple digit addition with regrouping!) I try to include some living math activities too. This is neat too.

I know that I've spent a lot of time this week writing about learning disabilities and how to work on and around them. I'm not really that focused on it in every day life. And I don't talk about dysgraphia or Nonverbal Learning Disability with ds. I just use the information in my planning and decision-making about what to try next. I want to clarify that, because if this thread is all you know about me, it might seem that I overfocus on diagnoses. I posted about ds's learning issues for two reasons. One is that this is the time of year I'm reevaluating what we use in our homeschooling, so it's on my mind. The other is that I hope it helps another mom who is struggling with trying to figure all this out. It can be overwhelming and lonely when you realize that your child is struggling in this way. It can be helpful to know that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Parents have gone before you and can help you figure things out.


My husband's off work today for Good Friday and I'm planning for us to have some fun as a family. My grandma lives with us and for the next few days she'll be staying with my aunt at her hotel for a mini vacation. It's nice to have our house to ourselves, so I plan on making the most of it! Ds is playing with a friend right now and I'm going to do some housework. His last drama class is today.
 

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ok- OT, but I had to laugh about the comment about mangos tasting pine-ish. I've never been able to nail down what it was that bothered me about the flavor of a mango before. But now it has all clicked for me and you're totally right! So thanks for that as well as for sharing glimpses into your homeschooling this week.

we have been in a few co-ops and i agree that the 7-wk thing is nice from the teacher perspective vs. a whole year. it's a great deal easier to stay motivated and focused on a short term class.
 

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I don't think that you have focused too much on dysgraphia or anything. My ds has some and I don't think about it all the time, but I have found your postings very helpful.


Thanks for the link to the play! That's great that you all get to do that. What fun!

And thanks for the link to living math!
 
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