Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life of Fred

The spousal unit and I have discussed it and we want to change the kiddo's math program. I do need to talk to Calvert yet, but we want to go with Life of Fred and start with the Fractions book. With this program, she will be starting Pre-Algebra in January or February. Check out the webpage, I think this will really appeal to her and it comes highly recommended by other moms of gifted kids. With this program, we could have her through Trig, Calculus, and Linear Algebra before she finished High School, and she should be able to clep out of some of the college math classes--yes, they claim it is that good and that effective.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Homeschool Giveaway has an awesome contest running right now, and if you win and there are things you won't or can't use, you can always either sell or donate them! Check it out here: HUGE Back 2 School Giveaway

Fifth Grade Curriculum

  • Critical Thinking Level E
  • Reading Comprehension Level E
  • Critical Thinking: Quips, Quotes, and Queries
  • The Sign of the Beaver
  • Sing Down the Moon
  • Shiloh
  • Number the Stars
  • The Secret Garden
  • Call it Courage
  • American Tall Tales
Possible (probable) additional reading, Calvert Discoveries in Reading 5
  • The Sad Night
  • Pedro's Journal
  • Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Guns for General Washington
  • The Story of Sacajawea
  • Guide to Lewis and Clark
  • Meet the Wards on the Oregon Trail
  • Harriet Tubman: Anti-Slavery Activist
  • Song of the Trees
  • Charlie Skedaddle
  • The Cat who escaped from Steerage
  • Dolphin Adventure--A True Story
  • The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets
  •  Hurricanes: Earth’s Mightiest Storms
 We will also be doing read-alouds, and she will have her choice of personal reading--likely American Girl Books and things like the Percy Jackson series.

Social Studies:
  • Student Atlas
  • Build Our Nation
Supplemental Material:
  • Chester Comix
  • Various programs from Patchwork Designs, Inc
  • Current Events
  • Complete Book of US History
  • Colonial Crafts
  • History Pockets: Explorers, Rev War, and possibly Civil War
  • She has ancestors in the US at least as early as 1630. We are going to pull their information into notebooking history.

Either Calvert 6th Grade or Life of Fred Fractions and LoF Decimals, moving on to LoF Pre-Algebra with Biology if there is time. I am leaning hard towards Life of Fred but need to discuss it with the Calvert Educational Advisor and ATS teacher.

  • Calvert 5th Grade Grammar and Usage
  • "Quote" book (copywork)

  • Scott Foresman 5th Grade Spelling
  • Calvert on-line Spelling program
  • Writing lessons in Calvert Learner's Guide Manuel
  • Notebooking History, Reading, and Math
  • I am working on finding her a pen pal
  • 5th Grade Science: A Closer Look
(I am currently exploring possible supplemental labs--maybe Magic School Bus)

Computer Science:
  • Calvert 5th Grade Computer Skills and Applications

Art and Art History:
  • A Child's History of Art: Painting
  • Art lessons in Calvert Learning Guide Manuel
  • Providing LOTS of craft materials

  • Latin for Children Level A, along with DVDs, history and activity books, clash cards, and vocabulary poster.

  • The Art of Argument with additional DVD instruction
(we will see how this one goes, it may get dropped until she is older)

Supplemental Material:
  • National Geographic
  • National Geographic Kids
  • NG Kids Almanac 2013
  • Calvert Online sources including Discovery Online and Brainpop
  • Downloaded Material as needed from currclick, Teachers Pay Teachers, Teachers Notebook, and other sites
  • Girl Scouts
  • Dance
  • Possibly Fencing Lessons--she wants them, I am a bit leery.
  • I am considering adding Calvert Reference Library 4, which contains a Student Dictionary, Student Thesaurus, and a lesson manual to teach use of reference materials.
  • And then there is Minecraft--I know it is educational, as I have seen it spur many things and seen an increase in vocabulary, spelling, and research skills, but I don't play so I know I am missing a number of the things that go on at a subliminal level

Teaching Methods include the Calvert Learning Guide Manual directions, Daily 5, CAFE, Notebooking, Lapbooking, Construction of an American History Timeline, field trips to places like Sturbridge, Boston, and the Big E, and various games and kinesthetic activities.
I think that is it. I know, it looks like a lot, doesn't it? She can handle it. I'm not sure Mom will make it though! Coming up with methods for working with a primarily kinesthetic with an strong sprinkling of visual-spacial learner who just happens to be highly gifted at the same time is exhausting. The only thing I am really not sure about is the logic. It is recommended for 7th grade and above, but she reads and reasons on at least that level. If it catches her attention, we will run with it, if it doesn't, we will put it off until another year.
This is going to take a lot more prep work from me than going with strictly the Calvert plan, but I have learned since we started this journey that I have to mix it up with her or she becomes stubborn and it takes hours to do anything! As long as I can make it fun, or make my own excitement contagious, she will be fine and we will have a blast. I am excited about it. I have done more research since I started homeschooling than I have in years. My own brain is getting exercise, and I am learning new and exciting things myself.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Laminating Latin and preping lapbooks

I finally finished laminating the Latin flash cards I got from currclick. I feel like I have spent all day printing, cutting, laminating, and cutting, but it is going to be worth it. She is already picking them up and seeing the relationship between a number of the Latin words and words she knows in English. I have them ready now for the trip to the family reunion, as well as the Latin roadside bingo for her to play in the car. Tomorrow I am going to have her choose the base colors and glue all the minibooks into the lapbooks for the interviews with her Grandparents at the reunion. This way she can decorate them and make them all pretty and stuff and fill them in while we are there so that they will get to see the finished product. I think all the girls may enjoy this project if we can get them telling stories. We don't have to do a lot yet before she takes her final test for Calvert 4th grade, but I think we are going to take it easy this week so that she doesn't come back to a test, having had a week at the beach. We will work on her writing assignments that go in with the test, she has a couple live classes this week with currclick, she has the lapbooks to prepare, and we need to get laundry done, get packed, and get ready for the trip. I will order her 5th grade curriculum after Labor Day--it only takes a few days to come in--and we will start 5th grade then. Hopefully, without the need to deschool, we will be able to move through the 5th grade material faster than we moved through the 1//2 year of 4th grade. To speak fairly though, it was past the half-year point of the public school when we started. Still, we moved pretty slow some days, and then there was the experiment of doing all the different subjects in blocks and then taking that portion of the test. Not going to do that again! It took forever that way, although spending a week doing only science was kind of fun. :)

If I get a chance tomorrow, I will post the curriculum we are going to be using for the year. I have to get the letter put together for the district anyhow, and I should be able to do it while she stresses about where to put the minibooks so that it looks best--because there is no way Miss Creative Perfectionist will do it the way that the instructions tell her to!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why I homeschool

Woo-Hoo! I have managed to get a background, and play with fonts and colors! You know those things are much more important than content, right?

So, back to the homeschool journey. We moved from Hampton, VA to Chicopee, MA last August because the Army decided we needed the excitement of a new home. This was a hard move in some ways. We loved Virginia. We lived seven miles from Yorktown Battlefield, about fifteen miles from Williamsburg, just a few minutes from the Virginia Living Museum and the Mariners Museum. We had a very, very nice house on base at Langley, and our daughter was in a fantastic school system. She was tested first in Kindergarten for the Primary Enrichment Program, and was accepted into that. It never dawned on me before that she might be gifted. I knew she was high energy, but didn't act like the ADHD kids I knew. I knew she could hyperfocus on ideas and things she wanted to know and explore, but not like the ASD kids I knew. She was just my kid--bright, bubbly, curious, and soaking up the world like a sponge. The school saw something in her that I had just assumed was normal for her and asked permission to test her and asked me to fill out a form that asked strange questions, like about her sense of humor...I had no idea that being a smart alec had something to do with being gifted! She was in the PEP program for k-2 and was then tested again to determine whether she was actually gifted. Umm, yeah. Kind of scary-gifted. She tested at Highly Gifted. 99th plus percentiles. eep. Thank God the school had a great program and great teachers who were up on differentiating learning and dealing with gifted children, their asyncronosities and their roller coaster emotions. Mrs. Lord, Mrs. Reader, Mrs England, Mrs. Lamanque, Mrs Carter, and Ms Baggett will always have my grateful prayers for the way they loved and treated my daughter.

And then we moved to Chicopee, MA. I was excited about the move. Although we would be further away from my in-laws, which wasn't for happy-making, we would be closer to our older daughter, closer to friends from the SCA, back into an SCA Kingdom that I knew and wasn't PA but it was closer to home and a culture I knew and understood. And Massachusetts would be cool we thought! We had spent a lot of time at Yorktown, now we could see Lexington and Concord. We were trading Jamestown for Plymouth, Williamsburg for Sturbridge and Deerfield. There were lots of cool and interesting thing to see and visit and learn about! It was going to be great! And then dd (darling daughter) started school. By the third day I was trying to make an appointment to talk to the teacher because she was already coming home in tears--the teacher had torn up her paper, threw it away, and yelled at her in front of everyone! It seems she committed the unforgivable sin of doing her homework paper in class after she had finished her classwork. This happened a few more times before we could manage to fit in a meeting with the teacher as her schedule was busy. By the time we did meet, I will admit that I was angry. There was constantly something wrong with my child's work, her behavior, everything--and I wasn't hearing it from my child. I was being told by the other neighborhood kids that she had gotten yelled at and she hadn't done anything wrong. When I would ask her about it, she would back up the stories I had heard, but increasingly she was seeing that she was being yelled at because she was stupid and a bad person. After I met with the teacher and loaned her a book about dealing with gifted children, explained what reaction dd was having to her behavior (and she jumped on me for calling her a bully--which she was since much of bullying is defined by the reaction of the victim), I came home with a bit of hope that things would be ok. I should have known it wasn't going to be when the book came home with dd that afternoon with a note that said "I don't need to read this, it is just common sense." Three days after our meeting she again turned on dd in class--this time over not sitting still and quiet when she had finished her work--even though I had asked her to give my child extra work so she wouldn't be disruptive. I was told no, they didn't do that as it wasn't fair to the other children to allow one to get ahead. I should have taken her out of school then, but I believe in the Public School System and just demanded that she be moved to another classroom. They finally managed to get her into the gifted program also, and the gifted teacher did as much as she could for the kids for the 45 minutes a week she had them. Once she got into the program though, it was constantly held over her head that it was a privilege, and that any teacher could have her removed from it if they decided she didn't behave well enough/ didn't work hard enough/ didn't get good enough grades on projects or tests...basically for any reason they could dream up. This added to her stress, and by November we had reached the point that she was sick more days than not, and I was feeding her pepto bismal before sending her off to school. It seems that the bullying behavior of the teacher hadn't stopped when she was moved to another class. The teacher had poisoned the well, and my child, who was known and loved by all the teachers in York County who came in contact with her, was now the object and the scapegoat for everything that went wrong, whether she was involved or not. It seems when you are the new kid, and the object of the teachers derision and bullying, it allows the kids to bully you too. Her lunchbox was taken and thrown on the roof. The seat of her bike was slashed. She was pushed into walls and tripped in the hall. And the teachers did nothing about it. She spent recess sitting by herself and not playing because it was safer that way. And most of this I learned from other kids--by this point, mine was believing she deserved it.

The final straw was when we went in for the Parent/Teacher conference in December. At that point we saw her grades, which were all good, except for the citizenship type grades, which were all bad. We were informed that she would not sit down, she would not do her classwork, she would not behave, she did not use her time wisely, that she had to be kept in from recess a number of times so that she could do the before school work she hadn't got done that morning. At this point I interrupted to say that she was probably doing that on purpose so that she didn't have to go to the playground and told her of some of the incidents there. That was when I found out that the teachers do not supervise the playground, lunchroom, or halls. I was shocked. Then the woman had the audacity to tell me that they (the teachers) had decided that dd was either ADHD or ASD and that I needed to get her into a Dr and get her on medication. That was the final straw. I informed the ignorant twit that she had been tested in VA when she was tested for the gifted program, and the response I got was "I'm sorry Mrs. Butler, she isn't ADHD or ASD. She is simply Highly Gifted, and they don't make a pill for that."

I came home from the Parent/Teacher conference and started researching what to do to get her out of that school spawned from the depths of hell and begin homeschooling. The district told me I had to keep her in until the next board meeting, but that since Christmas break was coming up, and no one would really notice if I didn't send her back the 3 days in January, I could pull her as soon as break started. I really didn't want to leave her there for another week and a half, but I legally had no choice.

Scrambling for a curriculum and knowing nothing about what was available, I had her take the Calvert placement test and enrolled her in their 4th Grade mid-year ATS program. She has a test every 20 lessons that is sent into a certified teacher along with a couple of essays, a book report, or other writing sample for grading. She receives a certificate of completion at the end of the grade, and everything is transferable to a public school if we move somewhere we can send her back. It is a really good, demanding program, and I have done my best to follow it faithfully. We will be doing Calvert again for 5th grade, but math is up in the air. I want to advance her to 6th grace math, as I am tired of her being either bored or teaching me the lesson. If Calvert won't allow me to do that, I am going to order math separately and use Life of Fred Fractions and Decimals, which are lead-ins for pre-Algebra. I am also going to be doing a lot more Charlotte Mason style teaching while using Calvert as a spine--she is fully capable of taking that information and interacting with it on a higher level by notebooking and other activities.  I am sure she would do well with any curriculum I put together however I know my child and she needs the accountability of those tests and the assurance of the certificate. I also know that Calvert is highly respected and will give her a fantastic foundation for high school. So I supplement. A lot. I had to do it when she was in a wonderful public school, it will just be even easier homeschooling, because I can be sure to tie all the "fun stuff" into what she is learning instead of it just being for fun and her not having the schema to make the connections. It is going to be a good fun year. I have learned so much since January about her learning style, how to excite her even with things she doesn't like and doesn't see a reason to learn (like spelling), and I have done a lot of research. I have wish lists at all sorts of places so that I can go and grab supplementary curriculum as I need it. I have bookmarked blogs of good teachers, and am reading them and learning constantly. I have a supportive on-line community at Secular Homeschool, and two other homeschool families on my street.

Now if I were just younger, did not have a chronic disorder that disrupts my life, and had a lot more energy....but as long as we are wishing for the impossible, how about a big lottery win too?

A new Adventure

First things first, I am going to have to figure out how Blogger works, then I can actually let people know I have a blog here. The goal of this blog is to document my family's homeschool journey. We started last January (2012), due to ongoing problems with the local public school. Although I had never seriously considered homeschooling, it had crossed my mind on occasion. In fact, it has been recommended to me in the past by teachers, as in, "It may reach the point where you are going to have to homeschool if you can't get her into a dedicated gifted school, because we are not going to have the programs to support her for much longer." Yeah, thanks :/ At my age, and with my health, this is not a path I would have chosen had it not been forced upon me, but now that I have embarked on this journey, I would not turn back for all the tea in China.

There is the first paragraph of my new blog. Now I am going to try to figure things our to make it look more like me :)