Sunday, July 27, 2014

Transitioning to a Four-Day School Week

Although we decided to take some time off this summer I really enjoy the flexibility of homeschooling all year.

So, after our Big Move in September we are going back to that year round schedule.

Agent A, hard at work
Here's how we're going to make it happen:

The official New York State Education Department Home Instruction Regulations indicate that I must provide the "substantial equivalent of 180 days of instruction" and that quarterly reports "shall be spaced in even and logical periods."

Fine. I can do that. In a new and improved, Agent-ified way.

The traditional school calendar has kiddos attending school 36 weeks per year in four nine-week increments. At five days per week, this adds up to 45 days per quarter or the magical 180 days total. 

Using a year round schedule instead means we have 52 weeks to get to that same magic number of days. We are simply working with 13-week quarters instead of nine-week quarters and spreading things out a bit.

Even if we only "did school" four days a week (taking every Friday off) we would accumulate 52 days per quarter (4 days per week for 13 weeks) . . . seven more than the required 45. Which means that in addition to having one "free" day a week all year, we could still take 28 additional days per year (7 per quarter x 4 quarters) as time off for vacations or traveling or holidays.

Also, if we change our minds, or if we want to take a larger block of time off for some reason, we can just temporarily (or permanently) add Fridays back in to our school weeks to make up the time with minimal effect on the overall plan.

This is sounding pretty good to me.

Have you tried year round homeschooling? If your kids attend school, do they follow a traditional schedule, or something else?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Planning Our 2014-2015 Homeschooling Year

Truth: I am completely nerd-giddy over planning our school year. This is an outline of the process I use. 

First I look at what our state guidelines require. We are in the process of moving from a state with fairly "easy" regulations (send a letter of intent once, keep a portfolio, submit annual evaluation) to a state with crazy obsessive red tape somewhat more complicated regulations (send a letter of intent each year, cover specific subjects, file quarterly and annual reports, standardized testing in some grades).

Subjects we are required to teach for both first grade and third grade are as follows:
  • Math
  • Language Arts (including Reading, Writing, Spelling, and the English language)
  • Geography
  • United States History (including Patriotism and Citizenship)
  • Science
  • Health Education (including Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Misuse; Highway Safety and Traffic Regulations; Bicycle Safety; and Fire and Arson Prevention and Safety)
  • Music
  • Visual Arts
  • Physical Education
My evil plan {insert maniacal laughing here} is to use the exact same curriculum/schedule for both Senior Agents as much as possible and adjust as needed.

For instance, both girls will work on addition at the same time, but Agent E will be doing three- and four-digit addition with carrying while Agent J is nailing down adding up to 25 and fact families. As another example, when we study a particular science topic they will both be reading, writing, and learning about the same thing (e.g., dinosaurs, plants, energy) but the chosen texts and related writing will be geared toward their individual grade levels.

Since they are so close in age/grade I'm hoping this makes things more engaging for them and easier for me to keep track of.

Now the real fun begins: Actually figuring out exactly what we are going to study, keeping in mind the compulsory subjects outlined above.

I like to write things down. I like lists. I like tables. So, that's where I start.

I open up a new document in Pages and create a table with the following columns: Subject, Specific Topics, Book List, Websites, and Additional Resources. Then I add all the main subjects in the column "Subject" (giving each of them their own row). So now I've got a five by nine table of blocks to fill in.

Next I add in Specific Topics. This incorporates the specifics outlined above as well as the Agents and I simply brainstorming what kinds of things we might like to study. I also like to check the World Book Typical Course of Study for additional ideas. (Of all of the "what students learn when" lists out there, this is my favorite.)

I try to include at least twelve items for what I consider the primary subjects we will probably do daily (e.g., math, language arts, science) and at least six items for the subjects we will likely cover a few times a week (e.g., geography, history, music). Why at least twelve? Because we want to homeschool year round and that gives us one focus area per month. Not that we won't have a lot of overlap, but this is how my brain thinks, so just go with it.

Once that is done, I continue with the Book List, Websites, and Additional Resources columns, filling in materials we have (either because we are re-using from last year or Momma went a little nuts in the Target dollar section). Some blocks fill up nicely and others end up looking a little naked. But that's okay, because this document is a work in progress.

Book List will be the last column to take shape, because our basic plan here is Go To the Library and Take Out All the Books. I don't know exactly what books we will be reading for each topic until we get them (weekly or monthly). I also include a note in the Language Arts Book List section to "see separate reading lists" because those will take on a life of their own (like the ones here and here). 

Here's an example; this is what we have planned for Math right now:

Specific Topics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percentages, money, place value, greater than/less than, skip counting, time and calendar, temperature, estimating and rounding, charts and graphs, perimeter, area, volume, and measurement

Obviously some of these are more suited to third grade (multiplication, division, perimeter and volume) while others are things we'll be working on more in first grade (greater than/less than, skip counting, telling time). But, I include them all together because hello! simplifying!

Book List: Empty right now but will fill up as we go. Here are some math books we've used in the past.

These are all places I like to score free printables from, but we may add here to include websites they might play math games on as well.

Additional Resources: 1st Grade Math workbook by Workman Publishing (J), 4th Grade Math Basics workbook by School Zone Publishing Company (E), Kindle Games: Splash Math, Math Bingo, Planet of the Stolen Math, Madagascar Math Ops, DragonBox Algebra

Note: Never underestimate the power of a Kindle game to spark interest in all things math.

And that's pretty much how we do it.

Glad I could share our brainstorming process with you. We will be picking up again in September (even year round homeschoolers need a summer break every once in a while) and writing about our journey as it unfolds. Of course, I probably won't be able to resist sharing a few homeschooling-related posts between now and then anyway.

I also recently created a Homeschooling Resources board on Pinterest that you should totally check out. {hint, hint} This is in addition to my general Education board, which of course you are already following, right?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday, July 25, 2014

5 Things I Won't Miss About Florida (and 3 That I Will)

Many of you know we're in Getting Ready To Move Soon mode; we'll be making the transition from Florida to New York shortly after Labor day. So, I'm eyeball deep in decluttering and organizing and planning and posting crazy ideas to Pinterest

We've lived here for just over two years, but honestly I never really felt very attached to the area. It never seemed like home. Our time here has pretty much been a blur.

There are many things I will not miss, including . . .

Lizards. Or geckos. Or whatever you want to call them. Small green critters with long tails. They are everywhere . . . right outside the door trying to get in the play room, hanging out in the mail box (usually hiding under the mail waiting to freak me out). They aren't cute. They are creepy and weird.

Humidity. There is hot, and there is Florida hot. They are not the same. The first year we were here, Agent J asked if we could move to Alaska. And this was in early June, technically still spring.

Bugs. We live in the Center of the Bug Universe. There is no escape from bugs here. You can try, but you would not be successful.

The rainy season. No need to check the forecast from June to September. It will be ridiculously hot and rain at 3:00 p.m. Every day.

Needing to drive everywhere. Granted, part of this is because of where we chose to live, but everything here is very spread out. Running errands is not exactly convenient, and there's basically nothing that you can get to on foot.

Agent A and Stitch during our June 2013 Disney visit
On the other hand, I will miss . . . 

Not needing to wear bulky clothing, ever. Did I not just complain about the weather above? Twice? Well, the flip side of that is being able to wear light clothing year round, and (almost) never worrying about jackets. (Of course we feel "chilly" when the temperature drops below 70 degrees F, but whatever.)

Taking beach access for granted. Truth: We hardly ever go to the beach. But, just knowing that it's right there and we could go at any time is a nice perk of living here.

Proximity to The Mouse. This is without a doubt the single biggest thing I will miss about living in the Sunshine State. Oh, how I will miss being able to visit Mickey and company several times a year. And being able to take advantage of Florida resident passes and discounts. Sigh.

What would you miss (or not miss) if you moved out of your current city/state right now?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

6 Parenting Milestones Not in the Books

You won't find these mentioned in most parenting discussions, but you will appreciate them when they happen. 

Not needing to dress for boob access. For years (years, people) I wore only two-piece outfits (no dresses, ever) and shirts that could easily be yanked up from the bottom. Not to mention very ugly bras. 

Being able to leave your coffee cup on the end table for 30 seconds. You can walk across the room to get something without fearing ninja child will grab it and smash it to the ground.

When your child can wipe their own butt (sufficiently). Do I really need to say more about this?

Playing the back yard alone. The kids, not you. The transition from needing to be right there lest they shove a rock up their nose to hey, I'll be inside doing xyz I'll check on you in a few minutes is quite freeing.

When your oldest child learns to read. Of course witnessing your "baby" reading a book from cover to cover is awesome in its own right, but how wonderful it is when they can read to their younger siblings so you can take advantage of the 90 second distraction?

No longer carrying a ginormous bag for quick errands. Letting go of the backpack/diaper bag and just carrying a normal-sized purse out the door was a nice change. Of course we still "pack" for longer trips, but for typical day-to-day outings we can get away with a minimum of stuff.

What other "milestones" would you add to this list?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I would love to connect on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, or Bloglovin. I can also be reached via e-mail at mommainprogress (at) gmail (dot) com.

Linking up with List It Tuesday, co-hosted by Angie at Real Life at Home and Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.