HOMESCHOOL PROGRESS – Easy Peasy, McGuffey, Sketchup and ABCmouse

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

We have been homschooling my son for the past couple of months. Like most new homeschoolers we are trying to figure things out in terms of schedule and curriculum.


On a previous post, I talked about how my son was having issues at school because he could not control his tantrums. We went thru the allies exercise with his toys (read post here) but honestly I don’t think that worked. I feel it did not work because there was no real pressure between us. It did not matter if we were allies or not, he was still playing and having fun. Anyway back to his tantrums, he was having it in school and it was becoming more frequent (and intense) at home. I had a discussion with his teacher in hopes to improve the situation and we were working on it at home too.

Things got worse with that teacher and so, after much thought, we decided to pull him out of school and we started to homeschool him. It has been a couple of months since we started homeschool and I wanted to share some updates.


HOMESCHOOL STYLE

I would say we are still experimenting with the curriculum details but in general we are doing an eclectic style of teaching. I am leading this effort so I take it on me to do the more scheduled sessions. My main push for now is to make him comfortable with reading so we are focusing on that. If I can get him comfy with reading, he can pursue his own interests by reading on his own. As he reads, I am right beside him helping him when he needs it. He has not shown a lack of confidence reading, and when he cannot read a word he just asks. I make sure I am constructive in my instructions and do not show any frustrations. This is a conscious effort-never show frustration. Sometimes he is not focused because he wants to play or do something else. In that case, we pause and get it out of his system and then try to reschedule.

I plan to use the Easy Peasy curriculum as a guide and add stuff to it based on his interests.

For his reading, we are currently using the McGuffey primer so I can closely monitor his reading progress. He’d read while I sat beside him. He reads the pdf and if I want to make any notes I just add them on the pdf. The notes help me understand any difficulties he has.

homeschool reading mcguffey

On the side, we have a ton of easy to read books he can browse at leisure. This helps him exercise the basic skill we are picking up from the McGuffey primer. I recall coming home one night and mom was proudly sharing to me how my son read a whole book by himself. She was surprised at his progress.

We signed him up for ABC mouse recently. Sometimes I have to check on this because some of the things in it are not suited for his level. Sometimes he is just playing with the hamsters in the app. You can adjust the level of difficulty on it, and I think that’s something I have to set up in the next day or so. I plan to set it up so he can practice math and reading. It does help him learn computer skills and there are some great things on there. The other day, he was coloring pages on it and the way the app works is quite similar to Adobe Photoshop would do it. I would say that these type of “play” helps him get comfortable with software, figuring out where the tools and settings are and should translate to a skill of understanding apps as he grows older.

I want my son to develop a spatial understanding and understand the 3D digital world. I have no doubt that 3D will be a large part of the future and I want him to start learning about it. As part of this, he gets to play around in a free software called Sketchup. He loves Legos and he can pretty much do the same thing on Sketchup. At some point I plan on having him do a project which we can bring to the local library for 3D printing. Here is a picture of a recent building he did:

Sketchup Homeschool

I know the software so I am there to help troubleshoot it for him when he needs to. It is very easy to learn.


SCHEDULE AND TRACKING

So far schedule has been super flexible. I do not want my wife to feel pressured to homeschool him because when she does, she feels compelled to do a more rigid schedule like they had when she was younger. I would remind her that we are not boxing ourselves into the rigid schedule that government schools provide.

He gets casual reading and ABCmouse during the day with mom and then we do more focused time when I am there. Usually these are on weekends or on some weeknights.

We mark his progress in terms of units on a basic spreadsheet. A unit is simply a set amount of work or exercise with a goal. Maybe the goal was to read a book, complete some chores or answer some worksheets. This is for our reference only, it helps me track progress and make sure we are giving him enough material and time to develop and learn.


INCENTIVES

Mom came up with a smart idea and drew up this chart. We noticed how our son is incentivized with tracking his progress and competing with the rest of us. So, mom drew up a grid of squares and drew prizes on different parts of the grid. Everytime he completes a unit of homeschooling, he gets to color in a grid. As his units accumulate, he goes down the grid and can direct the grid to where he wants to. He gets the prize drawn in that grid. Some prizes include:

  • Picking a movie on Netflix/Amazon
  • 30mins of Ipad time
  • $1 to spend on anything he wants
  • A trip to Barnes and Noble

The more premium prizes are farther down the line of the grid to get to, so he understands that he needs to work to get there. So far his happiest was when he got to the grid for the ipad. He even volunteered to do extra units to get there.


CONCLUSION

We have a method going and are still developing it. I plan to finish strong so Mom can see how we can make this work while not killing ourselves pretending to be a government school and running that type of schedule. We want to teach our son the basics but also let him to build on his strengths, so as he gains new interests I will be there to give him the opportunity to pursue them. With future trends I am hoping he finds interests in robotics, science and engineering. At some point we will need to take on STEM subjects too-and those should be really fun for both of us-but for now we will keep building his basic reading skills.


MakeResilient aims to help build a more resilient lifestyle and family. I believe that we need to be ready for big changes coming to our current way of life (more info at the Concerns page). I am intentionally leading my family so that we can adapt slowly over time for the changing future. I’m no expert on all things, but I am acquiring the knowledge and skills of new things that I need.

Starting Homeschool in Texas

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

We are starting homeschool in Texas after having an unsatisfied stint at government school. Homeschooling should help us better customize learning and  education to my son’s strengths.


This month we are starting homeschool for my son. We have seen some negative changes with him since he started going to the local government public provided school. I have always discussed with my wife about homeschooling as an option. She comes from a family of teachers, so it has been difficult to explain to her. In the end, the problems from the government school made the decision easy for us.

Some issues or problems we have with government school:

  • We’ve been stressed out almost daily with his school schedule
    • the schedule works well so that parents can be at their 9-to-5 shift, but it sure hurts family time and makes it difficult to wake up for a 5 year old.
  • Always tired when he comes home
  • Something about this school made him not want to be there
    • He loved going to private school at our church the year before. However, since he started going to government/public school he has often told us how he does not like this school compared to the previous one
  • Has issues with teacher
    • I made some mention of this on here. It has not improved and actually escalated. Part of our decision to pull him from school was due to the teacher
  • His tantrums increased in frequency and intensity
    • He can be very emotional, but did not have intense tantrums like he’s been having. My wife (aka resilientMom) told me of how intense it got one day when he had picked him up from school. They were maybe 2 minutes out from the school driveway at the time. It was as if he had all this pent up frustration while he was in school.

Benefits from government school

My son did learn some basic things in his few months in school. These will make it much easier for me to teach him and let him learn on a self directed method.

  • Learned to read and write
  • Learned addition and subtraction

I have to give them credit for teaching my son reading and math. We plan on leveraging these skills and teaching him as much as he wants to absorb.


First step was for mom and dad to decide

One particular night full of insight, me and resilientM were talking about my son’s school experiences. I had been taking him to school and having lunch with him for the last few days while resilientM prepared for an exam. I shared with her an observation I had during lunch. My wife then went on to explain her own observations in all the times she’s gone to school for lunch or after school. We agreed that there were just some issues we could nto work out. We realized he was having issues with his teacher. Despite having gone to his teacher to try and figure things out, we felt the issue had gotten worse.

We explored the option of moving him to a different classroom. I said my son has a gift of not being shy and he can go in and transition quite quickly. ResilientM was concerned with this, but I reminded her of the gazillion times we were at a park and my son would just ambush every kid who approached the park and asked them to play with him. He was very convincing.

The other option was to try homeschooling him. I had always talked to my wife about starting to homeschool but she had a different idea of how it worked. Like most parents afraid of homeschooling, she was concerned our son would not have enough socialization. Now, given that my son is not shy I said I can help to tackle this. I can join homeschooling groups and meet with them on weekends. No matter what the concern is, we had to decide the best course of action for our son. He was having all these negative effects from school and I’d rather try experimenting now while it was still early, before problems grew and accumulate over many years of him being in the system.

Starting Homeschool in Texas
Photo credit Melvin E (flickr)

Mom chose to start homeschooling our son with me.

I think it is very important that she has as much input into this decision than I do. I know this path will have rough spots, and if I push us into this, at some point I will be blamed for it and then it will be easy to say my approach failed and homeschooling failed-let’s put him back in the system. We have to both agree it is the best option-even if only for a short time.


Back up plan

One concern was what happens if we start homeschool and years later find it does not work for us. My wife was concerned about how my son can re-enter the government school system.

I explained to my wife how the government school is funded on a per student basis. I reminded her how the school was very accommodating when we were asking on enrollment deadlines. The school wants our kids enrolled. I told her that it would not be an issue to put him back in school and that I have met many parents who have done it. If we cannot make it work, then we still have that option. (But man I sure plan to make homeschooling work)

After this, she felt more comfortable about trying out this path.


Have a rough plan how this would work

ResilientM did not want to take charge of this. One of her main issues was that she would end up doing this every day. She did not want the added workload.

We have a lot of freedom to homeschool in Texas. We can put together the curriculum and there are no requirements to reporting or testing. At least none that I have researched as of today. I might be wrong as I am still researching and still new to all of this. But the research has been consistent that we have those freedoms.

I told resilientM I would put together a curriculum. It would not be an all day, everyday schedule. It would be more of a focused, 2 hr intensive on certain days plus on a weekend. I have heard quite a few benefits where the children benefit from having more frequent rests through the day-even in government school. Knowing my son, I was 110% sure he would benefit from this and come back with renewed focus.

Kids benefit more from frequent breaks. Houston ISD has made the change.

Frequent breaks. Intense learning sessions and self directed learning on topics he is interested in. This was my goal to get us started.


Withdrawing from public school

The last part to getting us started in homeschooling, was pulling him out of school. We are fortunate to be in Texas where there’s not a lot of requirements when pulling your child out of school. After researching on it for some hours, I felt informed enough and prepared a letter for the principal, the counselor and the attendance person.

I had signed up earlier for access to the school’s parent portal website. From there I made pdfs of my son’s absences and tardy dates. His subjects and any other useful information for my records.

I found a good template from Texas Home School Coalition for a letter of notification for the school. The letter basically says we are withdrawing our child from public school. The letter also references a memo from our state’s Commissioner of Education so the school will not give me a hard time about it. The letter is addressed to the school admin saying we are not required to sign any additional forms and that the  letter of notification is all that is needed.

I made my letter based on the template and added a “received by” line at the bottom so the receptionist can sign it. I printed 2 copies of my letter so I have a record of them receiving it to take with me. I printed the letter from the Commissioner of Education and included this.

That next morning I went to my son’s former government school at the usual time we ran there many mornings before-often stressed out that he would be late and stressed by parking and all the frazzle. That morning I was relaxed and purposeful. My son was still at home, enjoying an extended and proper breakfast cooked lovingly by his mom.

I gave them the letter and politely asked them to sign so I have a confirmed receipt. The receptionist was hesitant, but since I addressed the letter to the principal she was off the hook and was simply receiving it. Fine, not a problem. I had always been nice to them even when sometimes the rules of their system made me upset.


Starting Homeschool

We actually have already started homeschool. I made some very focused worksheets for my son. The initial goal is to gauge where he is at and what flaws we need to work on.

Here are some worksheets we did.

This worksheet tests his spelling and imagination. He gets to write anything he wants about the image. His writing skill will need to come up to his level of imagination.

 

This worksheet was for me to gauge his writing skills. I asked him to write whatever he wants about the picture I drew. From here we learned we had to work on some letters and practice penmanship. (In the age of keyboards, I believe he still has to learn proper penmanship).

Here’s the penmanship exercise where we focused on some letters where he had issues with. Based on his hand’s dexterity, we changed how he wrote some letters and saw an instant improvement on them (check out improvements on “b”, “d” and “a”) Read more “Starting Homeschool in Texas”

Giveaway: homeschool activity sheets on entrepreneurship & critical thinking

WHAT?

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I am giving away free activity sheets for homeschoolers who are interested in teaching their kids about:
-entrepreneurship
-problem solving
-critical thinking
-resilience

These are aimed at kids from 4 to 7 yo. These will be in pdf format for you to print and do the exercise with.

WHY?

I want to know if there is a desire in the homeschool community to teach on these subjects. If the demand is there, I will gladly provide free materials for 8 weeks (1 per week) to folks who help me validate this business. I do ask for help by giving me some feedback. These are things I really hope to teach to my kids, and perhaps other parents could use some teaching materials on the subject! If there is not a lot of demand/response I will still email you the first set of worksheets for your use. This survey does not capture emails, so I will reach out separately later on for the download link to the worksheets.

Please email me suggestions and questions at resilientdadblog @ gmail dot com.

Thank you!

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