Saturday, October 17, 2009

Livin' in Hawaii

OK, enough of the homeschooling stuff. There have been a few moments recently where we haven't been busy figuring out this new way of doing school and we have been using the time to enjoy living in Hawaii.

Thanks to my wonderful hubby we have been going to the beach A LOT. Even when I have been feeling overwhelmed and worn out, he says let's go to the beach. And you know what? It has been a great way to relieve stress!

We have gone boogie boarding at our local beach. (It is a 5 minute drive from our house!)

Played in the sand at Waimea bay

Avoided the blue bubbles after Sierra got stung the first week we were here.

Went snorkeling in Shark's Cove (There are no actual sharks. Legend says that it was given the name to scare people off and keep it from getting crowded)

Eating at the Hukilau Cafe - rumor has it that Jack Johnson frequents this joint.

And taking care of the baby geckos that are living in our house.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Using K12: days 1 and 2

Excited, nervous, and overwhelmed, I began our first day using K12. Because the school year in Hawaii started at the beginning of August we are a quarter behind. I haven't met with my girls' teachers yet to find out what it expected of us, but I am thinking we can just breeze through a bunch of lessons and get caught up in no time. Side note: my kids have teachers for school. How weird is that? Technically they are public school students. I feel like kind of a trader to the homeschool world...

Anyway, the first day was pretty rough. The older girls needed my help figuring out what they were supposed to do. My youngest was pestering us all because we weren't paying any attention to her. Everyone was jealous of my oldest who has her own laptop. I was flipping out because I was already missing the old way we homeschooled. I was quickly realizing that we weren't going to be able to get caught up as quickly as I thought. And did I mention the it has been like a sauna in our house all week?

Day 2 wasn't any better. Oh, there were some good moments like discussing what happened after the Civil War with my oldest and my youngest pulling out her history book and asking, "When can we learn about the Egyptians and the hieroglyphics!" and listening to my youngest narrate the stories she read. But then there was the time that I was trying to read to my youngest and I was interrupted 5 times by my other daughters needing my help. And the fact that I hadn't been able to do anything but school for 2 days in a row and the house was falling apart. And have I mentioned the oppressive heat?

My dear hubby came home for lunch on day 2 and I broke down crying. I had been trying to keep a stiff upper lip while chanting inside, "we only have to do this until December..." But when he asked me how my day was going, I kind of lost it. He talked me off the ledge and we finished the rest of our school day.

Now you might think after all of this that I would be ready to return all of the stuff, quit, and go back to our old way of homeschooling, but actually I am not. My husband has been my rock. He has helped me to see past my emotions and realize that even though this is hard now, it will get easier and that it is helping our kids to learn things that they weren't learning like how to learn independently, how to manage their time, how to study, and take tests. And that, despite what homeschoolers worldwide are chanting, worksheets are not always evil. It is funny that I am struggling with giving up our relaxed homeschooling methods when I am the one who would have sent our kids to school if it weren't for my husband convincing me to homeschool.

My kids have also been amazing through all of this. I believe that part of my fragile emotional state has been due to all of the changes that we have had recently - moving, living in a place so very different from what we are used to, and now changing our homeschool method. But my kids have just soldiered through it all. Oh sure, they have had some whiny moments. OK, a lot of whiny moments, but all in all they have been handling it pretty well.

I am just so proud of my oldest. This change in homeschooling affects her the most. Being a 6th grader she is expected to do a lot more work than her sisters. Both days that we did school, she worked hard without complaining. We both knew it was time for her to move on from the big comfy couch homeschooling, but it has been a harder transition for me than it has been for her. We are both hoping that once we get used to this program we can add back in some comfy couch time.

The jury is still out on whether this program will work for us for the long haul, but for now we keep trying at it. I will keep you posted...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Big Change

No, not menopause. Although it has been super hot here in Hawaii because it is the time of year that the trade winds stop blowing and it has been like I have been having one continual hot flash all week. No, I am talking about the change in how we homeschool that I mentioned last week.

Here is how it came about. A month after we moved, I felt like we were settled in enough to get started with school. I decided that we would start on the following Monday, but on Friday I met a mom who mentioned that she was homeschooling her 6 year old and was using an online program called Hawaii Technology Academy. When I got home, I decided to look into the program. I discovered that it was the K12 charter school program that is available in most states in the US. I had looked into K12 before and decided that I liked planning my own lessons and didn't want that much oversight in how I homeschool. At that point I pretty much disregarded it.

The next day my husband and girls and I went to Polynesian Cultural Center to see the night show and sitting in front of us were the homeschool mom and her husband. We chatted a little about homeschooling and she mentioned that Hawaii Technology Academy offers one day a week classes. When we lived in Colorado my girls went to a one day a week program for homeschoolers. They loved it. I loved it. Hum, I thought, maybe this program would be worth the oversight, so we could take advantage of these classes.

I ended up spending the rest of the week obsessing over it. Should we give this program a try or not.

Getting lots of free stuff. Good.

Having to keep track of every little thing we do each day. Bad.

Having everything planned out. Good... and Bad. (I am getting tired of the planning, but I might miss it)

It will help my older girls become more independent with their school work. Good.

I will miss doing history, science, art, and music with all of the girls together. Bad.

It fills the gaps in areas that we haven't worked on in our homeschool thus far like test taking and studying skills. Good.

The Learning Center classes are an hour's drive away. Bad. Almost a dealbreaker.

It follows the Core Knowledge curriculum (aka What your__ Grader Needs to Know). Good.

And the list goes on. I talked about it all weekend and about drove my husband mad. Will it take too long to finish school each day? Will it be boring? Will there be too many worksheets? Will it be like school at home? Will we be able to take days off without getting "behind"?

Finally we decided to give it a try until December and then see how we are feeling. It was definitely a hard decision. My husband made many valid points about why this curriculum would be good for our kids, but it was a struggle for me to give up the way that we have been homeschooling.

On Wednesday our supplies arrived. I was excited for them to arrive, but when the Fed Ex man showed up with 10 huge boxes, I felt a little overwhelmed. Oh yes, it was fun and a little like Christmas to open all of the boxes, but once that was over I had to figure out what to do with all of it. The oppressive heat that day did not help. With sweat dripping down my back I took all of our previous homeschooling books out of the cabinet to make room for the new stuff.

I admit that I was a bit emotional about displacing all of the curricula that I had spent hours and hours researching and, I might add, had recently decided was just about perfect. Why is it that as soon as we think we have homeschooling all figured out something happens that changes it all up? Something to think about. I'll stop here and post later about using K12 days 1 and 2.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Booklist Realization

Like most homeschoolers I am obsessed with book lists. I remember when I first checked Rebecca Rupp's The Complete Home Learning Source Book out at the library and spent weeks pouring over it and compiling my own book lists by topic. I then proceeded to find every book list available online and add those books to my hand written lists. Eventually my paper pile of lists was several inches high. I finally decided to put the lists into Excel documents to eliminate some of the clutter from my desk (I am still not quite finished with this project). I put those lists into google docs and have them listed in my side bar.

Those of you that love booklists like I do will want to check out those lists. but let me tell you what I have recently realized: THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY BOOKS TO EVER USE THEM ALL IN OUR HOMESCHOOL.

Oh yes, I have left the library with huge stacks of books in my arms, including once when it was icy and I slipped and the 30 books I was carrying went flying across the parking lot. And I have spent hours reading all of those books to my kids. Many of these books were very good and others were just OK. So if we were learning about say, Cleopatra, I would come home with 5 books about Cleopatra. All of them had about the same information, so I didn't really need to read them all. Probably one would have been sufficent. But how to know which one to choose. After 6 years of doing this thing called homeschooling, I have come to recognize that there are some authors that consistantly write good books, so when faced with a choice I will always choose these authors.

Here are the authors that I love ( yes, it is another list...)

Diane Stanley
Franklyn M. Branley (for early science)
Besty Maestro
Kathleen Krull
Daivd Adler
Gail Gibbons
Ruth Heller
Brian Cleary (grammar and math books)
Ann Rockwell
Melvin Berger (early science)
Stuart Murphy (math readers)
Loreen Leedy
Margaret Hodges
Mike Venezia