Back to School 2016-17

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Our adventures in homeschooling officially ended after Spring Break last school year.  We found a small private school that accepted the state scholarship we had received.  The transition was hard for her because she was the new kid for a few weeks, but she made friends and went on great field trips and soon the school year ended on a high note.  She went to the middle school class, a one room school house for kids with a variety of special needs.  Many of her classmates are on the autism spectrum.   Her teacher and an assistant are pretty amazing at managing so many different learners.

My job last spring was to retire as the CEO of our homeschool.  It was a little sad for me, but I soon realized it was great to have time to work out, read books, and focus on my career, all the while knowing Kate was happy.  While I wish her school had a more inclusive approach to working with special education,  the school does have a very inclusive culture in other ways, such as creating a positive and affirming learning environment.  I like the fact that the school is small and everyone knows each other.  It’s very easy to call and get an issue resolved.  She is getting small group intensive reading four days a week this school year.  They have PE and social skills every day and monthly field trips.  She took the Iowa Test at the end of last year which will give us a good indication of her progress by the end of this school year.   The best thing I can say about her being back in school is that last week she was invited to a bowling birthday party of one of her classmates.  When we got there all her friends were happy to see her and she had a blast and never came looking for me.  Kate certainly is very social, so that isn’t the surprising part.  What was amazing for me to see was that for the first time since preschool she had a group of peers to whom she felt connected.

Our learning adventures continue.  Each morning on our way to school we listen to amazing audiobooks.  We set out to read 100 books during last school year, but haven’t met that goal yet.  We decided to keep going, to keep reading books she enjoys.  Most of them have been audiobooks and some are read-alouds.  We are taking our time and she is discovering great authors and book series.  The best moment for me was knowing that she loves Judy Blume as much as I did as a kid.  We just read our 67th book, The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickets, which we both enjoyed so much that we we ordered the next book in the series from the library.  She LOVES (and I endure) the Dork Diaries series.  We have also enjoyed books by Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She is so absorbed with listening to books that I have to turn off the book at least a block before we arrive at school so that she can transition to getting-out-of-the car mode.  It gives us something to look forward to every morning and I’m always amazed at what she retains from these stories.  She is certainly a book lover, even though she isn’t able to read them on her own yet.  I  often get very upset with her because the floor of her room is covered with piles of books and American Girl magazines.  The other day she took a kids cookbook from the shelf and she initiated reading some of the ingredients and titles of the recipes to me.  I tried to play it cool.  I didn’t want to over react out of fear that she would lose interest in reading, but in my heart I was doing the happy dance while wearing MC Hammer pants.

Until next post, I hope you’re well and reading something awesome!

 

March-April Updates: Hands On Learning

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I am in awe that we are in the final stretch of this school year and   my daughter and I still like each other (most days).

What we’ve been up to:

Spanish- We are still taking lessons through the Homeschool Spanish Academy.  It’s been wonderful to see her make progress and feel more confident with her conversational skills and vocabulary.

Social Studies- In social studies we’re working on our Florida history using our first Intellego Unit Study.   This curriculum is web-based and focuses on engaging all learning styles.  So far, we’re very happy with this approach.

Math- I  decided to switch our math curriculum to Touch Math and have been using it for the past week. Her school used this program when she was in pull-out intervention in first grade. It was familiar to Kate and it is a solid curriculum, which made for an easy to transition.

Reading- We are continuing to use Explode the Code for reading, both the workbooks and the online version.  I was surprised that she likes the workbooks better.

Science- In science we finally put the materials for experiments from the Magic School Bus science kit to use to learn about electricity.  We also used the full episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Learning about static electricity with Dad.

Learning about static electricity with Dad.

 

In March we went on “Spring” Break to visit family in freezing Illinois.  It was wonderful to see family and Kate’s wish came true.  The day before we returned home they got four inches of snow.  She got to play in the snow and we had our flight delayed and then cancelled, but eventually made it home.

We got Kate a subscription to Kidstir to encourage her interest in cooking and baking.  Each week we try to make one of the recipes that they send along with kid-sized kitchen tools. She loves getting a package in the mail and adding the new recipes to the binder that they sent her in the first package.  She is learning the basics, like separating eggs and measuring ingredients and is motivated to stick to it and complete her cooking project.

Kate unboxes her first box from Kidstir.

Kate unboxes her first box from Kidstir.

 

Making one of the Kidstir recipes, chocolate lava cake.

Making one of the Kidstir recipes, chocolate lava cake.

In April we will be finishing our Spanish lessons.  We started art lessons with our city on Saturdays, something that was missing in our homeschool and which Kate was constantly requesting.  Music is coming up next with a much anticipated field trip to the symphony later this month.  We will try to follow-up with another Intellego Unit Study on the orchestra.

Later in the summer I would like to review the Intellego Study Units that we complete as well as the Touch Math program and Explode the Code.  I do see her responding well to these programs, but I want to use them for a while before writing the reviews.

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Proudly showing off her homemade sugar cookies. They were very tasty. 

Field Trip- Last week we were able to participate in an unexpected treat, a field trip to the beach where we learned about marine debris from a local 4-H Club and participated in a beach clean-up.  I was so thankful that it was scheduled on my day off from work and that we were able to enjoy the beautiful weather as we were doing hands-on learning together.

Kate, volunteering at the 4-H Education/Beach Clean-up.

Kate, volunteering at the 4-H Education/Beach Clean-up.

Read Aloud- Finally, our read aloud since March is the book: The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.  I got this suggestion from the website A Mighty Girl.  Kate loves princesses and I wanted to challenge her with a book where the main female character was  independent and interesting.  I’m amazed at how focused she can be when she is listening to a story.  Just when you think she might be losing interest she’ll stop you and ask the meaning of a word she hasn’t heard before.  Our new way to make the most of every minute together is to listen to the audiobook together while I get ready for work. So far, we are both enjoying this book and can’t wait to see how it turns out.  We’ll keep you posted.

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January Updates

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We have been pretty busy this month.  I would say it’s been a great month.  We took on a lot of new things, perhaps too many, but sometimes you just need that momentum to keep you excited and engaged.  (Okay, perhaps just me.)  Despite having to travel for a medical visit this month, I still feel we’re pretty much on track and somedays even enjoying ourselves.

During our recent visit to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

During our recent visit to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Kate has handled all the changes well.  We have been having weekly Spanish classes now this month and just love it.  We do these classes through Homeschool Spanish Academy.   Everything I read about this company in other mom’s reviews was true.  The teachers are so nice and highly trained.  Through a Skype connection they work one-on-one with your student and during that time they mostly speak in Spanish. When they assessed Kate they recommended she start with the middle school curriculum because she has grown up hearing Spanish and speaking a little, mostly with my parents.  I’m a native speaker, so I also work with her during the week on the assignments that they ask her to do.  It’s going great because this approach is focused on speaking and hearing Spanish, and Kate is an auditory learner.  So yeah!

Technology

The dictation feature on my MS Word was not easy to work with, so my husband got a Dragon app on his Ipad, which is working out a lot better for writing journal entries.  One thing that using  dictation software is  good for is helping you to organize your thoughts and ideas, which is a challenge for my student.

Kate is enjoying her audiobooks.  She listens to an audiobook for fun each day through Learning Ally. (We finally got all the IT issues worked out by the first week of January.)  The first book she wanted was Ever After High, a book about fairy tale princesses.   I also found her math book and put it on our digital book shelf.  We used it for listening to the word problems. We are just starting to explore these tools, but so far so good.  Also, the Minecraft homeschool course has been a lot of  fun.  I’ll write more specifics next time.

What we’re reading this month:  Alligator Crossing by Marjory Stoneman Douglas

We are using this book as the base for a literature unit with a focus on science (ecosystem), history and geography of South Florida.  This book was written in 1959 and yet the story is as relevant today as back then.  At the time she wrote this book, Everglades National Park had barely been established a decade.  Protecting the natural environment meant that many people were pushed out of their way of life, which included poaching alligators and hunting birds for their plumes.  It also included the freedom of living in nature, something very hard to give up willingly.

While today the challenges are different, their is a tension between the need to protect the environment and the legitimate need of humans to make a living.  Most recently their is a proposal to develop an area of pine rockland in Miami, making me feel that the issues are still very relevant to all of us, especially in South Florida.

This has been a great book to learn about the wildlife and the habitats of the Everglades as well as why this national treasure had to be protected (from poachers and “plumers”).  We’ve really enjoyed all our read alouds, but this book is special because it feels like one generation passing to the next generation the stewardship of something truly amazing.   We hope to finish reading it this week in time for our field trip to Everglades National Park next weekend.

Tomatoes from the garden. We used these to make tomato sauce ;).

Tomatoes from the garden. We used these to make tomato sauce ;).

The other day Kate asked me when we would read the next book in the Kaya series (American Girl); we have read four of the six.  I felt so lucky that we’ve shared all these great stories so far this year and I can honestly say I’ve never seen her so excited about reading, that’s for sure.