Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2nd Grade Math Materials (so far)

As I continue on my quest to gather all the materials I'm going to need to teach Wiggly this coming school year, one subject I'm feeling pretty confident about is Math.  I thought I'd share with you what I've gathered so far...

First, I'm going to try the Everyday Math program for Wiggly's 2nd grade year.  I was able to buy all the books I needed from Amazon, and getting the teacher resources was pretty inexpensive.  I think the teacher guides were like $15 used.  I decided to use this program because it most closely links our states standards and it's not Saxon.  I never taught math in school, but from the teachers I've talked to, not very many of them have been impressed by the Saxon Math program.  I have, however, heard good things about this Everyday Math program, so that's what we're going to try. What's shown in the picture below is the teacher's guide and the "worksheet" workbook that corresponds with each lesson.  I'm waiting on Wiggly's hard backed text book and a few other teaching materials.

And since Wiggly likes to move and work with his hands, I'm collecting math manipulatives for him to use. I got these color cubes from Amazon. I'm also planning on using the blocks and building cards for Miss A's preschool lessons.

Miss A got these pattern blocks for Christmas last year. They are Melissa and Doug. Wiggly and Miss A will also both be using these.

And last but not least, I got these snap cubes from Amazon. They come in a pack of 10 colors and are great for giving a visual representation to math facts Wiggly's currently learning. We've used these blocks a lot on his homework this year to help him with counting by 10's and subtracting numbers from 10. Very useful manipulative.

In addition to these things, I also got one of those yellow student clocks (although I found a great idea for a clock on pinterest using a hula hoop attached to a white board), a giant number line, and a basic calculator. Like I said, I'm feeling pretty confident about the Math curriculum. Now, I just need to figure out exactly what I'm going to use to teach reading for 2nd grade and I'll be all set...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Broken hearted over public school

I'm putting it in a better perspective this evening, but I was so upset last night, I couldn't sleep. I ended up getting out of bed at 4am and folding laundry while catching up on New Girl and the Mindy Project. I'm done... I'm done with the public school system.

The thing about it is that I had SO much faith in the system. I was a product of it and even went to school to be a teacher. I taught in the system and thought I knew its ins and outs. When Wiggly started kindergarten, I was so excited for him; I knew he'd do just great!.. Until he didn't.

Yesterday afternoon, Wiggly's teacher cornered me in the library at school while I was waiting on the next class to come up. (I volunteer once every other week serving as librarian since the elementary school doesn't have one.) She said, "We need to talk." She proceeds to tell me that over the last few weeks, Wiggly has been really unfocused in his seat. Monday and Tuesdays are the worst and by Thursday and Friday he's a little better, but he's just not focusing in on what they're doing. She says he's also not getting started on his seat work when he's supposed to. He needs a couple reminders before he gets busy. He's been threatened with missing recess when his seat work isn't completed, but he gets it done... Correctly, I might add. (Side note: wouldn't you WANT to let a wiggly kid go outside for recess to burn off some steam? Why would you punish both of you by making him sit when it so obviously benefits him to be moving? That doesn't make much sense to me.) He's not rushing through his work. He understands the concepts. He simply isn't paying attention. She goes on to say that she doesn't think this is a maturity thing, (Wiggly is a little young for his class, March 30th he'll be 7.) and that I should consider going to see a doctor. Then the woman went on to tell me how many students have done SO much better once they're on "meds." I found out later, she can't legally say that she thinks he needs to be medicated, but that's what she was insinuating. I was heartbroken to hear her talk about my son in this manner. My son, who is fun-loving, spontaneous, and creative. The boy who loves creating scavenger hunts and rules to his own games. She wants me to medicate my son so he can better fit within the parameters of the public school system. I am not a confrontational person so I nodded my head, asked a few questions, and didn't really say too much else, but inside I was stunned. All the questions I should have been asking, like "What are you doing to help him stay focused?" "Are there other kids who aren't engaged in your lessons, or is it just my son?" or "How is he doing academically compared to his peers?" wouldn't come to me. I was stunned and sad. Very, very sad. I am still sad.

I am sad that she thinks that making my son a zombi is the answer to the problem. I am sad that there are other kids in schools just like my son who are already getting burned out with the education system in the first grade because they are getting harped on to "pay attention" and "focus". I am sad that they don't fit inside that bell curve that the public school system teaches to. And I am sad for the parents who think there is something wrong with their sons or daughters because they don't fit into this "norm". And I'm sad because there are parents out there who feel helpless.

If I could have pulled him out of school altogether yesterday, I would have. We have 2 1/2 months of this school year left and then he'll be free. He'll be free to pursue his passions and learn at his pace. He'll be free to enjoy learning and exploring without getting burnt out. If a student is getting burnt out on learning, then you the teacher aren't doing your job correctly. ADD. ADHD. Call it whatever you want. But what it comes down to is this: there is no room in the public school for my son to be successful in education. There are those that fit into the system and those that don't. And he does not.

In my sadness, my sister-in-law recommended I watch this piece on changing educational paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson. It made me feel better knowing that there are others out there who see the flaws in our educational system today. Hopefully the link works, but if not, the video is called RSA Animate- Changing Education Paradigms. After watching this, I went on to listen to one of Ken's TED talks podcasts where he elaborates on his ideas and views. I recommend it.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting Started: Gathering Materials

    I'm sitting here this morning sipping my tea, cutting out little apples for Miss A's letter of the week lessons, and thought I'd share how thankful I am for the Internet and blogs and the homeschooling community I've found since deciding to go down this very unfamiliar homeschooling path. Before, I felt like I was on my own little island in this, but now I see this island is full of others just like me!

    Yesterday morning, I stumbled across The Ultimate Homeschool Blogroll by Hip Homeschool Moms.  I was pleasantly surprised to find so many homeschool moms and even a list of "first years"!  I have to admit, I spend more than my share of "mommy's morning time" looking at other experienced and first year blogs, and I got to peak at what other homeschool moms are doing in their classrooms.  It really got me motivated to continue planning what our own homeschool year is going to contain.

    I've spent the last three days researching and creating plans for Wiggly's 2nd grade curriculum.  Since my idea is that he will rejoin public school in 5th-6th grade, I'm keeping with our state's content standards so he's learning the same concepts as his peers in public school.  However, it's just like being a first year teacher again; I'm gathering information and materials for his entire school year without using any text books or pre-made lesson plans. I'm starting from scratch.  So far, I've decided to use Everyday Math after talking to a few teachers who are both familiar with this set and the Saxon Math program.  Also, since we're not using a combined spelling/reading text book set, I've been reading up on how to teach spelling and word work.  My sister-in-law taught talented and gifted for a couple years in the elementary grades and recommended Word Journeys: Assessment-guided Phonics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Instruction by Kathy Ganske.  It's not a riveting read by any means, but it does explain the different stages of spelling and how to choose spelling lists based on the student's ability.  It also gives lots of ideas and activities for students to do other than just 'worksheets'.  It's been very helpful for a former middle school teacher; although I had one phonics class in college, my students came to me already knowing how to read.  The mechanics that go behind teaching a child to read is completely unfamiliar territory. 

    Another resource that has been wonderful to have was finding Erica at http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/.  It was her blog that I found when I first started researching this whole homeschooling business.  Prior to discovering her blog, I was really unsure if I could do this at all; how was I going to organize everything and run my school day?  I was overwhelmed at just the thought of homeschooling. After spending a few mornings searching around and reading up on her blog, I realized that this (hopefully) won't be so bad after all. I'm adopting the Workbox System, and I have since seen many other homeschoolers use this or a similar concept in their classrooms as well.
I've just recently downloaded Erica's Letter of the Week Program for Miss A.  Since I've been spending most of my energy compiling lessons for Wiggly's curriculum, it's so nice to have a preschool program all ready to go!  She's included everything you can think of that you'll need short of the yarn for the lacing cards and the Velcro dots for the lessons themselves. I'm so excited to get started and I know Miss A is too.  As I was cutting out the apples for the letter "A" lesson, Miss A asked if she could play with them.  I told her not until we have them laminated... So off to Walmart we go: our shopping list includes milk, eggs, and a laminator.  :0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reads that Inspired me to homeschool

    In case you're interested, here are a few of the articles/books that inadvertently helped me in making the decision to homeschool Wiggly.  I didn't read them with the idea of homeschooling; it was more like the more I read, the more homeschooling makes sense for our personal situation. If you are unfamiliar with the books, I highly recommend them (obviously, or I wouldn't be posting about them. ;0)  At the very least, it gives you something to chew on about your personal definition of success, how we as parents/caregivers encourage children to learn, and how having the right circumstances to success make all the difference.

    The first book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Firstly, I'd like to say how very fascinating this book is.  I've always been interested in psychology and why people behave the way they do, so this was very much up my alley.  This book focuses on the "outliers" in our society (ie. Bill Gates and other highly successful individuals), and how these people came to such high degrees of success and prosperity.  On the flip side, the book also covers outliers in the other direction; for example, the circumstances surrounding an airplane tragedy, and the mediocrity one of the world's smartest men.  
    There are a few chapters that really stood out to me when it came to my son's education starting with the very first chapter. In the first chapter, Gladwell explains using the sport of hockey how even at a very young age, kids who are older for their class/sport and are a little more mature physically and emotionally than their younger peers with later birthdays, are picked for teams and receive better training, hence becoming better, more successful athletes over-all.  And this is all because they were a little more mature as 5-6 year olds.  This same example of being older and more mature at a young age can be seen in the classroom as well.  Students who are older for their class do better in school than their younger peers.  The evidence he provides for backing this claim is astounding.
    The same phenomena of the advantages older, more mature students have in the classroom is also explained in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's book, Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children.  Here they use elite daycare screenings and gifted programs to show that older, more mature students at an early age have better access to advanced learning, such as gifted programs, not so much because they are truly smarter, but because they are simply a little more mature than their younger peers.  And as a result of better class selections and opportunities, these older children are more successful academically. 

Hopefully, I did a decent job of reviewing these books; both are totally worth your time.  

    So what is a parent to do if your child is wiggly and a bit young for his class? There is factual evidence that the opportunities may not be the same for him as more mature students(and/or girls).  And what if you know your child is more capable than the mediocre work he's bringing home from school each day or the grades on his report card? The kicker was when I read this article, and my decision was final. 

Boys at the Back nytimes.com

It was as if the columnist was at Wiggly's school when she wrote this.  All of the anxieties I was feeling since he started kindergarten but I couldn't quite put my finger on was right there in this article.  The article talks about classrooms being stacked against many elementary school boys because they have less attention span, have less eagerness to learn, and are generally less able to sit still and work independently than their girl peers.  And since behavior is factored in to elementary grades (whether teachers admit this or not), boys tend to have poorer grades than girls even though test scores may be the same.  The article goes into more depth on the effects of these boys being left behind during the primary grades and the gender gap that exists in education. 

    I want my son to have the best opportunity for learning as possible because I know how important it is to get off on the right foot early on.  Put simply, I don't think the public school classroom is the best option for him at this time.  And so we shall homeschool.  For how long? That depends on him.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why we're Homeschooling

    Hi! My name is April, and I am a stay-at-home wife and mother of three children, ages 6, 4, and 2.  I've started this blog as a way to share my experiences as my family and I figure out the homeschooling scene. My hope for this blog is to help other parents who are homeschooling their children or are considering homeschooling for their children.  Ok, and it's for me too... I have a feeling that I'm going to need all the help I can get!

    Every family has their own reasons for deciding to homeschool; this is ours.  The leap into homeschooling our children is a decision that my husband and I have discussed and considered throughout this current school year as we witnessed our oldest son, "Wiggly", survive but not really thrive during his 1st grade year.  He is currently in the 1st grade at our local public school, but we're pulling him after this school year. I refer to him as "Wiggly" because that's how his teacher, Mrs. O., refers to his "undesirable" behavior in class.  She tells me that he's not disrespectful or disruptive to other students. He's just wiggly in his seat, and he has trouble focusing in class.  My question (among many others) is this: What six year old boy isn't a little wiggly? Anyways, as a result of his difficulty he's having in a classroom of 26 other kids, my husband and I agree that I can give him a better education at home in a less distracting environment where he can enjoy learning at his own pace.  And with with my middle daughter ready for preschool, I'll be able to teach them both.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm by no means blaming his teacher for Wiggly's inability to stay focused in school. I taught middle school for five years before staying home, so I totally understand how the system works and how much teachers are responsible for in a day's time.  Wiggly is a kid who needs extra attention sometimes, not because he lacks the ability, he just lacks the focus. And that's probably the most frustrating part for me as a parent: he's a very bright, inquisitive boy, but his school work isn't reflecting what I know he is capable of. So if I can help him gain the skills he needs to focus at home, he'll be better off in a public school once he grows and matures. (Right now, we're planning on reintroducing him to public school maybe in the 5th or 6th grade.)

    So, this is where our adventure starts.  I am currently spending most mornings gathering supplies and materials that I'm going to need for this upcoming school year. (I'll post more on what materials I'm gathering later.)  It's exciting and terrifying all at once.  I guess that's how it is whenever you leap into something new and unknown...