Still plugging away at school…

It’s been awhile since I posted a homeschool post. I’m just letting everyone know that yes, we’re still plugging away at school!

Sonlight’s Core 300 has been going great. It’s not Otter’s favorite thing to do because it takes a ton of work, but he has enjoyed many of the books and he also really does like the subject matter (20th century history). In science he’s been learning about anatomy but is getting ready to move into the first aid portion of the study I made for him. Here he is working with a kit I bought him to learn about enzymes and the process of digestion:

lab

While it was fun for him, the kit was not worth the 59.95 I paid for it. Basically Otter exposed carbohydrates, proteins and lipids to different digestive enzymes. Chemical tests were performed to see if the enzymes were effective in digesting the different nutrients. I think the guide was not instructive enough and didn’t teach what was going on in clear enough language. Otter spent about a couple of hours with it (that works out to 30 buck an hour for that kit!!!). Now I have to find someone to give it to (as there is still plenty of materials left to repeat the experiments), as we won’t be using the rest of the chemicals a 2nd time. In fact, in the next couple of years I’m going to probably get rid of most of the contents of our “school closet” – specifically lots of chemistry equipment and other science kit remnants, especially if I decide not to tutor students in the future. Otter is wrapping up his years of hands-on science! Next year we’ll be doing forensics with a dash of chemistry and then? I haven’t decided what he will do for 12th grade.

The biggest hit this year has been our recent subscription to WriteGuide.com.

writeguideOtter’s been assigned a writing consultant who corresponds with him daily (during the weekdays). The lessons are totally individualized and the teacher we are working with does a FANTASTIC job. Every day Otter looks forward to seeing his teacher’s feedback and has really been enjoying the lessons which are broken down into pieces that are not overwhelming at all but very instructive. It’s the perfect match. He also lucked out getting a teacher who was an Eagle Scout and whose brother is a police detective! LOL… That’s another plus. His teacher is a male – which seems to be more rare in the homeschool world and something I am glad for. Boys need men to teach them and while my husband does teach a ton of practical things, he doesn’t really have time to teach much in the homeschool realm. I think we’re providing a good balance for Otter (all of his police instructors are also male) so that he’s not just having to deal with “mom” all the time but has a variety of people in his life, all with the goal of helping him to become more accomplished and well-rounded!

The best thing…Otter actually told me he was having FUN writing. Now for someone who has almost always treated writing like getting teeth pulled without anesthetic, Write Guide is quite the deal and worth every penny. I love getting a break teaching writing and he loves working with his instructor. I highly recommend Write Guide if you are looking for an online program that is totally customizable and while it let’s someone else do all of the teaching, you as the parent are still in charge of what is covered and how it’s covered. Want to use a specific curriculum? You still can. Write Guide will do things your way or the consultants will come up with individualized assignments with zero input. It’s up to you! I like how Otter is writing every single day (without a single complaint and I’m not even kidding about that) and that the process has been enjoyable and informative.

As far as Spanish goes, we dumped out of Avencemos. It’s a great program but very hard for a non-Spanish speaking mom to implement. We went with The Learnables instead – something we’ve used in the past that is super easy to use and doesn’t require a ton of writing, etc. I also like it because it doesn’t gobble up a bunch of time but gets the job done. Sometimes a curriculum lures you in with all the extras (hello Avencemos), but it’s the one that is simple that actually gets done and does a better job (hello Learnables). Otter isn’t into learning Spanish so we may not continue with it next year.

Everything else is going along great. Otter’s been going on ride-alongs and still learning tons in the Explorer program. He saw a big, bang-up accident not too long ago while riding out with the CHP that happened because an older teen driver was likely texting and driving at the same time (or reaching for a phone). He said it makes him totally get why you should NOT mess with a phone while driving as he’s seen the results first-hand.

So, that’s our homeschool update! Busy, productive and looking forward to Christmas! 😉

Happy homeschooling!

10th Grade Plans

10th grade is coming up and I’ve finally figured out what we’ll be using in our homeschool. I made a few changes to my initial plan and am much happier with the final result. Here are some of the things we’ll be using:

Sonlight Core 300 – 20th Century World History, Bible, Language Arts and Literature

I have to send a HUGE thank-you to my dear friend who is lending me this core as it’s not in our budget to buy it outright. She has been such a great support & help over the years in so many ways!!

Although Otter and I have really enjoyed using the Awesome History Timeline Schedule (which is available for free here on my website), this year I wanted something with a schedule with an integrated language arts & literature where I can just check the boxes and see at a glance what I need to do every week without having to think about it!  Sonlight Core 300 turned out to be a great fit.

Life has been really busy and I just didn’t want to have to come up with all of the related discussion questions, writing assignments, mapping assignments, related literature and more every week so I decided to go the packaged route for our next school year. Having everything laid out for me as a teacher will be a nice change instead of having to come up with everything from scratch for almost every subject! No more hours of prep-work and fussing with the library to try and get the books I need on time.

Take a look at a small portion of the awesome instructor’s guide. You just move down the column for each day of the week and then look over the notes for each day (not pictured below).

igClick here for a 3 week sample of the Core 300 Bible and history instructor’s guide here.

Here’s a sample of the parent’s language arts guide.

The core comes with parent and student guides with lots of notes, maps, timeline assignments, discussion questions, writing & vocabulary assignments, literary device discussions and more.

I’ve used Sonlight in the past and enjoyed it – but found that parts of it were not a match for Otter when he was younger. I also used other cores with my older kids who later moved on to other things like Tapestry of Grace for a bit of change.  I credit Sonlight for some of my daughter’s heart for and current involvement with the Japanese because of the worldwide and multicultural focus of Sonlight’s studies.

Otter used Sonlight for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade but ended up needing something much more linear with easier readers and a heavier dose of non-fiction, more hands-on activities and books more customized for his personality and retention level. He’s flourished with the curriculum I made for him but I think this will work out better this coming year for us both. He likes to see what’s coming up via a schedule and right now, so do I, lol. I’ll continue to use the Awesome History Timeline for supplements, if we have time.

Take a look at the meaty and interesting books that come with this core. I’m so looking forward to them as I never used this core with my older (now adult) kids!

Click on any book below to see more about it on Amazon or visit Sonlight’s website to see their comments about each book.

First, there is a selection of Bible & Apologetics books. Sonlight also schedules readings from the Bible itself and verse memorization.

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Then there are the history books, biographies and historical fiction (with TONS of notes in the instructor’s guides, related mapping assignments, timeline entries and so on to make every book more meaningful):

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Next there are the literature & poetry books (with multiple notes, discussion questions, related writing assignments and more in the guides). I like that the language arts program covers the things Otter needs to work on for understanding literature as well as writing and that some of the selections are tied to the year’s history study. Some of the language arts topics that will be covered are: creative expression, response papers, creating a compelling plot, how to cite works, writing & tense, critical essays, elements of grammar, writing a script, advertising, the editing process, eliminating the passive voice and much more.

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I like the mix of books. There’s some heavy stuff punctuated by lighter reading. Perfect!

With Sonlight, we have all the major parts (or “core”) of our 10th grade curriculum taken care of. I will be adding in a couple more things for additional language arts practice in areas Otter still needs to work on like spelling and grammar. He will also probably continue with some materials I have on hand to improve his writing.

Otter’s additional subjects and activities will be:

MathTeaching Textbooks Algebra (finishing up level one and moving on to level 2 when he’s ready)

Spanish – We will either continue with Rosetta Stone online or The Learnables and read children’s books written in Spanish and/or watch familiar movies dubbed in Spanish. Otter will also continue to learn Spanish from his friends and some of his teachers in other activities.

Otter at the range practicing shotgun

Police & CHP Explorers (2 separate classes) – With classroom time, ride-alongs, D.U.I. checkpoints, community service and other activities, Explorers will take up quite a bit of time and will continue to be an important part of Otter’s week. Just the other day Otter got to shoot a taser for the first time! The officers who work with him are doing a great job teaching him the many skills he’ll need to be successful as a future police officer.

Firearm Shooting – Otter will continue to hone his shooting skills in preparation for his future career in law enforcement. He got an invitation to join a local trap team this past weekend when one of the instructors saw him trap shooting (he’s pretty good if I say so myself), but we probably won’t be able to find the time due to his other various commitments and wow, is it expensive (ammunition is sooo pricey).

Boy Scouts – He is getting closer to his goal of being an Eagle Scout and will be going on multiple camping trips and other outings over the course of the year.

Piano – He’ll be continuing weekly lessons. Otter plans to work on various hymns in addition to the classical music he loves.

Tactical MedicineAnatomy, Physiology and First Aid – This is the only custom made curriculum Otter will be doing in the fall. I had planned on sharing my schedule but since I decided to use an out of print book for a portion of the first aid section (my husband’s textbook he used when getting his degree in law enforcement years ago) as well as other specialized law enforcement related books, I may not be posting it and just leaving the current schedule up.

One of the books Otter will be reading for the above course is Tactical Medicine, a textbook designed for SWAT teams.

We will also be signing him up to become certified in CPR and he’ll be earning his first aid merit badge sometime this summer.

Latin – I decided not to continue with Latin as we simply don’t have time for it anymore, but Otter will still be learning Latin roots in his vocabulary program.

I’m looking forward to 10th grade. I think it’s going to be a really productive year and one step closer to Otter’s goals!