We have been homeschooling this year and I finally feel like I have found some basic curriculum that works for us. Because Washington demands testing, we are taking Iowa Basics this week. I feel somewhat defensive about this.
One one hand it is too early in the year to be testing for a whole school years knowledge, and on the other hand I want to see if what I'm teaching is sinking in. But I also feel a little cheated that I am being judged just as I am figuring out what works for us.
What have I found that works for us? I have switched all the kids to Math You See at Gamma, Epsilon, and Pre-Algebra levels. I love the way the concepts are made concrete through use of the manipulative blocks, overlays and inserts. I am finding that it helps me to understand it all better too. I plan on using the new skills to earn extra money tutoring kids while my husband goes to school.
We are also using Instutite for Excellence in Writing's program for writing. It has made my children feel better about doing writing assignments and it offers us ways to teach history and science, and reinforce reading comprehension too. My youngest has picked up on the concepts just by being around the older kids even with out the tasks being assigned to him. This is another subject I would like to use for tutoring.
It seems to make the most difference that we have changed to these methods. The one thing I have not changed is the reading. I have been trying to get the kids to read less of what I call "candy books". Those are the ones that they read in one hour or one afternoon and they never really do any good, except for entertainment. I wanted them to read some stories that challenged them, taught them to love good literature, taught good morals, and made them smarter. Candy books have helped them love to read but have also made them lazy readers.
Ben didnt' like readidng when we began. I didn't push it, but I read to them for the first little while. I read "Summer of the Monkeys" (Wilson Rawls) and they ate it up! It opened their eyes to the fact that Mom can find good books, and that there were good books out there. (I had suggested this book to the older ones who simply scoffed at the idea). After that I bribed Ben to read the Magic Tree House books just to build his confidence and for me to see where his skills actually sat (as opposed to a test that gave me a "level"). Next, I took Laura Ingllas Wilders "Farmer Boy" and read him the first couple chapters. He LOVED it! I began to assign him a reading time everyday for 15 minutes. He soon wanted to read longer so we expanded to 30 minutes. He took along time to read through the book but he thoroughly enjoyed it and realized that reading was
This transformation has been the greatest payback this year. The second is the exponential increase in his ability to spell. Spelling Workout has introduced spelling and phonics rules to him for the first time. He now recognizes incorrect spellings and whether a word "looks right", because I did not allow him to look at or write misspelled words. The public schools had encouraged him in poor spelling and never corrected them in their writing- for fear that it would discourage them I guess. I've had him doing spelling lessons and also copywork to learn cursive, and to imprint the words correctly in his head. He now asks me how to spell a word if he isn't sure about how to spell it. I love it!
But the damper is that I don't know how well any of this will show on those darn tests!