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Friday, January 31, 2014

Long Overdue Update (Beware the Creeper)

Though I have rarely posted here so far this year, we are still plugging along. Things are going very well, and Cullen is taking more ownership of his own learning, which is exciting for me!

He is passionate about pretty much anything related to computers, even taking it to levels of extreme geekiness and learning to code while "playing" games.

Creeper in the house!
 
We are behind where I hoped to be with the science curriculum, but Cullen takes so many side trips following his own interests in all thing science and technology that I really have no complaints. Setting up and maintaining a thriving tropical fish aquarium and snap circuit projects have been the biggest of these.

 
All other subjects are moving along pretty much as planned. Math is painless as long as problems can be worked out on the whiteboard. That $30 board and the packs of colored markers may be the best homeschooling investment I've made to date.



This week, all academics were interrupted by weather. I am so thankful we did not end up trapped in the traffic nightmare that locals are referring to as Snowmageddon or Snowpocalypse. (My adult daughter did have an 11.5 hour commute home from work Tuesday night, but made it safely.) Cullen has grown so much and so quickly this year that he ended up wearing MY ski pants and MY snow boots to go out for fun in the snow! Looking at this picture, I see those are MY gloves, too!

 
I am not so mean that I insist on schoolwork when every other kid in the neighborhood is hooting and squealing as they slide down the hill that begins in front of our house. This happens too rarely here in Georgia to miss the chance for this kind of fun!


Photo by neighbor, Tim Dahnke
 
Most of the ice and snow has melted as of today, so we are easing back into the loose routine we usually keep. The forecast models show a possibility of more snow next week, though. On my to-do list is buying Cullen his own cold-weather clothes so I can go play, too, next time!

 
 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Curriculum for 6th Grade Year

We've already begun our school year, ramping up to a full load by next Monday. I am especially excited that Cullen has made it to the logic stage. He is a natural debater! Conversations with him have become as enlightening for me as for him.

Here is an overview of our basic curriculum plans for the year. Of course, it is subject to tweaks and adjustments as necessary and to the interruptions that our following interesting rabbit trails will inevitably bring. That is the beauty of homeschooling!

Math: Thinkwell Math for 6th grade. Cullen actually began this in the middle of last year. We are just continuing from where we left off before our break. Online video instruction and computer-based exercises, review, and tests give me a little break from direct instruction, though I am always on-hand and involved. Cullen's favorite way to do any math is on a white board with big, colorful calculations, then writing his answer on the worksheet or keying it into the computer. I really like everything about this program. It isn't cheap, but the Homeschool Buyers Co-op regularly features a half-price special. I will supplement with logic and critical thinking practice throughout the year.
 
 
 
Language Arts: an assortment of resources. Primary materials are the language arts package by Michael Clay Thompson from Royal Fireworks Press. We began the Town level last year, so will continue with that. I anticipate beginning the Voyage level in the winter. I cannot say enough about how much I am enamored with this program. Heavy on the discussion, with no busy-work whatsoever, this perfectly suits Cullen's learning style and my own teaching preferences.
 
 
 
Because there is no such thing as too much understanding when it comes to grammar and because this is such an easy-to-use resource, Cullen also does a lesson from Growing With Grammar, level 7, almost every day. Though not as popular (yet?) as some of the other grammar options among homeschoolers, this is an excellent curriculum. Written in a straightforward manner directly to the student with accompanying workbook, it hits just the right balance of practice needed to reinforce learning without going into mind-numbing overkill that some programs are known for. 
 
 
 
Writing will be pulled from a number of resources. The Michael Clay Thompson materials provide wonderful instruction and practice assignments that I will use as our core. Cullen is also writing a novel, albeit very slowly, by his own choice and has also expressed interest in writing storylines for games he is creating. Science and history are very much integrated with writing, as well.
 
 
Here are some of the titles on the literature list for the year, though we may add a few as we go along. In addition to these books, Cullen will read several short stories, plenty of poetry and a few other odd, assorted items. Follow-up on anything he reads will include mostly Socratic-style discussion with some written responses assigned.
 
 
These are a few biographies on the science and history reading list. 
 
 
 
History/Geography/Social Studies: Tapestry of Grace, Year 3, Unit 3, through Year 4. We do not strictly follow the schedule, but our history, geography and some literature suggestions are pulled from this. I appreciate the wealth of information for the teacher that is provided all in one place here. Pictured are a few books that we've used over the past couple of weeks. This year's studies should bring us up to modern times or pretty close. This is a subject I tend to update about on the blog as the books and other resources are so varied. And because I really love history!
 
 
 
The World Atlas and the Time Presidents book will be used frequently. 
 
 
 
Science: Prentice Hall Earth Science for middle grades. While searching to buy a surplus or used copy of this, I happened upon the version bound to include the standards for our state from Follett Educational Services. (This site sells just about every textbook or supplement you can imagine but without giving much information of the books. Do your research to choose what you want, make sure you have ISBN numbers if possible, then check pricing and availability here. Prices are often better than amazon or ebay.) Finding the video series to go along was an extra bonus! 
 
 
 
Bible: Grapevine Studies, Old Testament. We are giving a completely new Bible study approach a try, and so far, we both really like it. Using timelines, drawing stick-figures to represent key points of scripture, learning to use a Bible Dictionary and a Concordance, along with memory work make for a well-rounded lesson. At first I thought this concept might be too young for Cullen, but five minutes into the first day, he was completely immersed in the process.
 
Those are the core subject areas. Music is covered with piano lessons, informal listening to works of various composers, and his new interest in mixing electronic music. He takes a weekly art class through our local GA-EPH, and we sometimes dabble with a project as inspiration strikes.
 
S.O.L.E. - Student Organized Learning Environments, a new class through this group is based on the ideas from a popular TED talk by Sugata Mitra, allowing children to form small groups which decide on a question to pursue, then research together, navigating online sources to gather information to present to the rest of the class.  
 
A few other important resources for me as I plan and teach are shown below:
Problem Based Learning in Your Homeschool, by Shelagh Gallagher, and
Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects from The Critical Thinking Company.
 
 
Add to this field trips, nature walks, hiking and biking, swimming as long as the weather holds, indoor trampolines when it doesn't. Cullen also tackles his own projects with intensity and enthusiasm, some of which are creating computer games and learning to code along the way, making stop-motion videos, and getting into animation very soon. I just try to keep up and help find any resource he hasn't located on his own.
 
I am so excited over all we have ahead of us!
 
 
 
 
 
*Disclosure: All links are for your convenience and for informational purposes only. None are affiliate links. No one has or will compensate me for any clicks or purchases you might make. Legally, this disclosure isn't even necessary, as I have nothing actually to disclose but the glaring lack of anything to disclose. It does, however, make me feel like one of the big name homeschooler blogs, if only for a wee moment. And only if I squint my eyes and scan this section quickly. :o)
 
 

 
 
 

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of Sixth Grade!

Sixth grade begins today!

 
Cullen and his sidekick, Cookie, are having a blast trying to delay the beginning of the workday with all sorts of antics that must be photographed.
 
 
 


 


 

 
 
I love this job!




Friday, April 5, 2013

STARBASE and a New Instrument

It's been a big week for Cullen!

Tuesday, along with some homeschooling friends, he participated in the first session of the STARBASE program at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. They will meet each Tuesday, from 9:00 AM till 2:30 PM, through the first week in May to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a highly hands-on environment, with special emphasis on real-world application and careers in these fields.

Thursday was especially exciting for an entirely different reason. Cullen began learning to play the violin! I have video of his instructor helping him through his first notes, but I have been strictly forbidden from posting this online. Here, instead, is a photo of the new virtuoso-in-training as he practices consistently touching only one string at a time with the bow. Not as easy as you might think, folks!


He has not abandoned the piano. Actually, he seems to be more motivated and to enjoy playing more lately. Just yesterday, he informed his piano teacher that he would like to take part in the upcoming recital. Huge surprise! A few weeks ago, just hearing the "r" word spoken aloud would have sent him into a meltdown. The growing confidence and courage make me very proud of this young man.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Visit to Booth Western Art Museum

Since we've wrapped up reading about the western expansion movement, this was the perfect week to drive up to the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA. I fully intended to enjoy the visit, but the museum exceeded all of my expectations! Amazing artwork across many styles, authentic Native American artifacts, thoughtful and dramatic presentation of the art with great respect for conveying the historical significance in a stunning building all made for the perfect field trip destination.

There are several Western Galleries, a sculpture court, temporary exhibit areas, a Civil War gallery, and the Hall of Presidents. Cullen especially enjoyed the chance to see a sample of each President's handwriting. The authentic coaches on display were an extra treat.


In the basement, we found a special hands-on area for kids. While this is really targeted toward the younger set, my oh-so-grown-up ten-year-old couldn't get enough of this life-sized play horse.


We plan to visit again, especially when Cullen gets a little farther along in learning about the Civil War. In the meantime, I think I'll find a nearby horse ranch to go riding!





Friday, March 8, 2013

Weekly Update with an Epic Science Experiment

I am finally resolved that our days will never be as structured and scripted as most people think school should be. As long as the learning is happening and the little neurons are firing, that is enough.

History this week covered topics of slavery, which will be picked up on again later, and western expansion with readings from A History of U.S., The New Nation, a book on The Oregon Trail, and a handful of BrainPop videos.

Reading history lesson aloud in the voice of an old pioneer woman while wearing your pajamas and wallowing around on the floor with your dog is just one of many advantages to learning at home.

Cullen is reading A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of his big sister's favorites at his age. (I still have to read this myself. Maybe I'll borrow his copy after he goes to bed.) The highlight from language arts learning this week has to be a session of taking turns creating sentences with direct objects, indirect objects and subject complements, then identifying those elements in the other's sentences. The subject matter got sillier as we went along.

The biggest news from our week is shown in this video from Cullen's experiment in science class:

 
 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

Things are clipping along here in most areas. My focus is now on encouraging and enabling Cullen to take more responsibilty for his own learning. Baby steps are still progress and will be celebrated as such! There are, of course, things that we will continue to do together because they work better that way AND because I like spending time with this young man of mine. He seems to really enjoy our discussion-driven MCT language arts, asking for it nearly every day. Truth is, he'd rather talk than read or write any day. Now that I know this, I am not above taking full advantage of it!

Snapped this while he was watching and listening to today's math lesson. Thinking cap??


Kid Coder Windows Programming is new to our curriculum mix this past week. (My cousin, Jamie, reviewed this recently on her blog.) Cullen has been pointing out things he already knows, that he picked up on his own for scripting games on Roblox. Those were his words; I am only loosely understanding what that means. He has the gumption to go find out what he needs to know, which is terrific! Hopefully he can fill in the gaps with this and move on to learning Java soon. He is eager to learn to "make mods" for Minecraft. Again, I think I know what that means.

We really enjoyed seeing Black Violin with Drums in concert last week. I say concert, but it was really more of a giant violin party. Giant, as in 3000+ screaming kids who were seriously loving what they were hearing. These classically trained musicians have developed their own mash-up of classical music with an infusion of hip-hop for a terrific high-energy sound. If you get the chance to see them in your town, don't miss it. Cullen already downloaded their album from iTunes and now wants to learn to play the violin. (grin)



Linking up this week with Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!



Monday, February 4, 2013

A Very Quick Update

Finally, we are hitting our stride again with school-type work! This has been a terrific couple of weeks for both of us. Better attitudes all around. (Yes, I mean me, too.)

The highlight of last week was getting to see a performance of Rock the Presidents. It was really more than just "getting to see" it, as the event involved a great deal of audience participation. This is a wonderful show. I'm such a history sap, though, that I cried during the ballad about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. If you get a chance to take your kids, don't miss it.

Cullen's current obsession area of greatest interest is stop motion video and recording video of himself as he plays a computer game. The finished film shows the game screen as he would see it with a smaller screen-in-screen showing himself making a running commentary as he plays. Does that make any sense? Somewhere, he discovered software which would allow him to do this, downloaded it and learned how to use it. I am still wondering who would want to actually watch this sort of thing! He assures me that there is a market. ;o)

Here he is with one of two really cool books we just bought - the old and new testaments of the Bible illustrated with LEGOS. Seriously! He finds them "quite humorous" and tremendously interesting. Great for visually-oriented thinkers. Look for The Brick Bible, The New Testament, and The Brick Bible, A New Spin on the Old Testament.




Friday, January 25, 2013

Enrichment Classes

Cullen has been enjoying a couple of fun enrichment classes through a local homeschool group, GA-EPH. Every Wednesday morning, he meets with other homeschoolers for an art class and a hands-on science class.
 
The art teacher presents information on a particular artist or art movement, the class discusses, then the kids work on a related project. Here are a couple of Cullen's creations.

 
Watercolor Weaving

Pop Art Sculpture

In his second class, he is exploring electricity and magnetism with a TOPS unit and a great teacher who encourages the kids to dig in on their own. Cullen zapped his fingers a few times during the first few classes, frustrating himself, but now seems to have a handle on how to prevent accidental shocks. I like the TOPS simplicity and inquiry-based format so well, I will likely order more of these to use at home.

 


Another benefit of this type of class is the opportunity for cooperative learning and collaboration. Being a one-child homeschool, we have to be intentional in finding ways to practice these. Working on a project with Mom just isn't the same!