Monday, April 18, 2016

How We Started...

     In 2011, I had some seriously tough decisions to make.  My daughter had been in a Montessori School that we loved for three years however, my husband would be returning from a deployment in late October and we did not want to have to deal with terminating a contract with the school.  We decided to put her in the local public school for the two months prior to relocating.  How bad could it be, right?  Well, let me tell you!  Parents night before school even started, I tried to explain to her teacher that my daughter had been in Montessori School since PreK and now she is going into second grade.  I had heard that kids struggle with switching environments.  Her birthday was in mid August and just made the cut off so she is typically one of the youngest kids in her class (PreK= 4, K=5, 1st=6).  Her teacher said, "She will be fine," walked right past me and up to another parent.  I was completely mind blown because here I am attending University of Maryland Baltimore County to become a teacher and conducting observations in the local middle school and her actions went against everything I had been taught!  Still, I told myself its only two months she will be okay.  Then the notes started coming home.

     "Your daughter won't stop talking in class."  "We had to move your daughter's seat three times this week."  "Your daughter won't sit down."  So I responded to every single note and none of them were ever acknowledged.   I even wrote to the principle.  That was the first week of school.  The second week of school there were streams of tears every night as I had to re-teach her every single math lesson because all of her guided practice was done wrong and not corrected by the teacher.  That is when I decided to take action.

     I was going to college fulltime.  I could not handle the time it took to un-teach and re-teach every single night.  It was time consuming and not fun at all for either of us.  So I begged and pleaded my case to my homeschool skeptic husband.  He decided we could go ahead with homeschool providing I did K12.  K12 was not offered as an online public school option in Maryland.  So we took a placement test and purchased K12’s Independent Study option including all 6 courses outright: 1st grade Math,  2nd grade Science, History, Music, Art and 3rd grade Language Arts (eventually swapped for 2nd).  Then we started our grand adventure!

     The next few months were interesting.  We homeschooled whenever it was convenient.  Work that she was able to do on her own was done in the car or brought to do in the back of my classroom in college.   Yes, you read that correctly.  She was 6 years old and sitting in the back row of lecture halls with me.  I had to clear it with each instructor first but all were okay with it and most were blown away by her ability to sit still and do her work.  The change in environment worked to our advantage.  When we were home we worked on math together, did science experiments and her history lessons.  She also took dance classes four nights a week that another mom took her to while I attended my night classes.  Things were going pretty smoothly for us.  Then, daddy came home from Iraq and it was time to move on to North Carolina. 

     K12 Review:

What we loved...

1.  Everything is all laid out for you: instructions, explanations, examples and answers.   K12 thoroughly sets up the Learning Couch/Parent up for success.  Everything you need to know is at your finger tips.  I felt completely confident in my ability to teach with their materials. 

2.  Many of the lessons can be done independently, although I don't personally recommend it for the younger grades. 

3.  The materials are included in a beautiful array of boxes and I love boxes! 
          (Excluding random materials required for science which will be explained below.)

4.  Language Arts, History and Science were all integrated as far as topics are concerned. 

5.  History is taught in a somewhat chronological order and grouped together by civilization/nation.  This may not be a huge deal for most people but I love the idea of teaching history in the order that it happened.  I also absolutely loved the way they grouped all of one civilization together.  For example, all of Ancient Egyptian history was taught, then all of the next civilization.  The following year would teach the next time period of each civilization.  I have not found that in any other curriculum I have tried and I really miss it. 
          K-  Continents & Oceans
          1st-    Ancients
          2nd-  Medieval
          3rd-   Renaissance
          4th-   Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution
          5th & 6th- American History
          7th & 8th- World History

5.  The program uses various types of media: videos, books, interactive games, etc.  This was especially great in science and math class.  She absolutely adored getting to play the math games.  

6.  This program is complete and thorough. 

What we did not love...

1.  Much of the content is online.  Personally, I don't want to be tied down to the computer if I am homeschooling.  I want to be able to grab the books I need so that I can go where ever I like.  I enjoy that level of freedom. 

2.  While the independent aspect of the curriculum is enticing it has its downside.  Your child can conceivably click through lessons just to get to the end. 

3.  I love box days.  What homeschooler doesn’t?  The daily search and find requirements for science and music made me batty though.  There are weekly and daily prep lists to help you avoid pulling your hair out the morning of.   I am a very strange and particular sort though and if I got caught up in the on goings of life I would be running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So where this may not bother most people it bothered me.  Some things need to be done in advance for example I remember one night I stayed up painting rocks gold for a lesson!  Finding that out the morning of would have been an issue.  Again that is just poor planning on my part. 

4.  Core subjects being integrated so well is ideal for me in a curriculum.  I did not know that they were for our original purchase though.  My daughter tested into third grade language arts program which I thought was awesome.  Since she was in second grade her language arts did not align with the other topics.  Luckily for my OCD self after a month of struggling we decided she was not developmentally ready for a third grade language arts course load.  Luckily it was super easy to swap out.  So if your child is advanced in anyone area their subjects will not piece together so nicely.

5.  Chronological history in the groupings that K12 offers just make me happy.  I just wished that I had realized the way it was being taught because I would have started with Ancients vs Romans.  History and Science are content areas and I tend to group things K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.

(K12 offers their own math program now.  When we used K12 they used Progress in Mathematics materials.) 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Are you a secular homeschooler looking for a community?

     My name is Jennifer and I have been homeschooling for five years now.  We are a very non-religious family in a predominantly religious environment however, times are changing and soon we will not be a minority.  My intention with this blog is to share with you our secular homeschooling journey.  Including but not limited to the ups, the downs, curriculum reviews, homeschool events, our homeschool room (or lack thereof sometimes), great field trips, gluten free recipes (celiac safe), schooling with a preschooler and a baby, military moves and more!  My hope is that by sharing our journey we can help build up other secular homeschoolers as well as come together as an online community.  So join me on an adventure as I carve out a niche for my family and myself!