Thursday, April 12, 2018

Halfway Through Our Virtual School Year with Calvert (Leavenworth Virtual School in Kansas)

A homeschooling friend was asking my son some questions about our virtual school yesterday so I wanted to FINALLY take a moment to put this together to let you know how our virtual schooling has been going since I know a lot of people have questions about it.

Kindergartner Eva does some of her computer lessons, like typing, learning how to send email, how to do Excel spreadsheets, use Paint, etc.
We are eclectic homeschoolers usually ... ranging from an expensive Catholic curriculum one year to Sam's Club workbooks another to whatever is donated to us to IXL Math and CTC Math and general hippie or unschooling methods. We love free online resources like Khan Academy for Math and, believe it or not, Orkin for Science!

Virtual school has been a change but something I needed personally to keep on track. The testing does freak me out but I need that pressure ... you might picture homeschooling parents as all organized and teaching at the dining room table from 8-3 every day but that's actually pretty rare. We are all super different and I'm finally getting some footing here in my 8th year of homeschooling!

So here are the basics:
For $45 per kid we get EVERYTHING we need to homeschool. See my posts on unboxing curriculum for Kindergarten, 3rd grade, 5th grade and 7th grade.

There are 2 crazy days when you have to hit every subject and do one checkpoint for each subject. The district/state requires this and you just block it out on your calendar and don't plan to do anything else those 2 days.

We have to do 160 lessons total before the end of May. Each lesson might have only 5 checkpoints in 5 different subjects or it may have as many as 8 or 9 in a busy day.

You can go at your kid's pace. My boys are going to get their spelling lessons for the ENTIRE YEAR done by January 9 because spelling is easy and fast for them so why not knock it out and not have to worry about it anymore? Callie will do Picture Study for the whole year this week. Then we focus on harder subjects at a slower pace.

We like to do one or two subjects per day instead of one LESSON per day because it's a pain to switch from one subject's books to another. It's easier to just do several checkpoints for one subject ... keep reading on Science for a few chapters then it's easy to knock out several Science checkpoints.

We need to log 160 days of attendance for our virtual school to keep their accreditation ... (see tips below on logging attendance). It does NOT log TIME SPENT online per kid like K12 and other programs that REQUIRE your kid to BE ONLINE for 6 hours a day. There is no way we could do that. Also, if you have a kid who likes to work at night, they sure can.

I am behind on math for every kid and our awesome facilitator Gary is coming end of this month to do testing so I am feeling a bit stressed about that. I believe he only comes one more time for testing at our house but we also have STATE TESTING to worry about in April, I believe. I have to point out that I freak out about testing in general and it's not because the school is putting is putting any pressure on me or anything!

Tricks, Tips and Other Stuff:

If we have a sick day or day we were out and don't show attendance, I might have the kids each do one CHECKPOINT (not one entire lesson) on a Saturday or Sunday to show one day of attendance. Then we can work harder and catch up later but I like to see that we are on track attendance-wise so I don't have to worry at the end of the year.

We have only been on one field trip but it was entirely free for my virtual schooled students, leaving only myself and my 5-year-old son to pay for our portion. In December we went to see a play at The Coterie then ice skating at the Ice Terrace at Crown Center. What would have been a $72 field trip ended up only being $24 ... we had to get up earlier than our norm but it was worth it!


If your kid is "behind" for their grade, they don't ridicule you. There is a program called Verticy, which I have one of my budding readers in. If you don't like the math program, they will get you a different one. If you need lessons read to your kid they can get you a program to do that.

ANY OTHER QUESTIONS? Please ask! I'm happy to answer them in the comments or in another post!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Downloadable Multiplication Table PDF

When I was in third grade, I had no choice but to memorize the multiplication facts using flash cards. My parents would practice with me at home, we would also practice at school, then I would get tested by the teacher on how well I knew them. I had to know one set before moving to the next. I remember the 8s and 9s kicking my butt. I also remember my mom giving me a little prize, like a book, after I'd mastered the harder ones.

These days I notice that public and private school kids alike don't know their facts. I remember trying to do it with Joel and failing miserably. Kids in school have a handy dandy multiplication facts table like the one below (you can print one out bigger in PDF version here). I think the reasoning is that they will learn them this way if they have to look it up over and over.
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Some kids easily memorize the facts. Michael, for instance, my 9-year-old son (this was originally posted in 2012), can pop off that kind of thing from memory. I also still have them in my brain. Joel, who is 11 and struggles with it a little bit, can benefit from a table like this. It takes more thought than just using a calculator, and hopefully he will pick up the facts after looking them up for his IXL.com "test" questions daily.

How do you teach multiplication?

Updated 9/28/17 and my sons use this like crazy now for their Teaching Textbooks lessons. Now that they are 14 and 16, they are doing different things than IXL.com and Teaching Textbooks is an investment that I can spread over five kids and then sell to someone else later. It's a great and fun program. Check it out!

Bath and Books Homeschooling Winter Edition #BraveWriterLifestyle #ReadAloudFamily

Sometimes it is so difficult to grab my kids in the middle of playing and have them sit and listen to me read. I love to read to them! Even the teens! Who doesn't love to be read to? I don't insist that they remain still or anything like that, but they can't be watching a YouTube show or playing Minecraft while I'm reading!

So I realized I had a captive audience in my two youngest, aged 8 and 10, when they were in the bathtub. I started grabbing books to read to them in the tub and they loved it! Here are some books we read this winter, and I think this activity fits in with the Brave Writer lifestyle:

Don't worry; my toilet was very clean ... we have been entertaining a lot so we clean the bathrooms often

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant (I love this one because there are 5 penguins, just like I have at my house, and they are having fun in the snow!)




Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan by Cynthia Rylant (level 2 ready-to-read book)

Mama, Do You Love Me? by by Barbara Joosse

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (we have the postage stamps with artwork from this book!)

The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid (this one inspired me to go buy buttons and a box at the local collectibles shop!)






Also, you have to check out this book: The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids. I just got it and carry it around in my purse, devouring a page or two here and there when I can. It will change your homeschool and honestly make you a more peaceful and confident homeschooler!

Help for Homeschool Burnout

*See below for an update on this post, which was originally published January 28, 2014

There came a point where I looked around and realized that most homeschooling families I knew who had kids beyond about 7th grade had put those older kids in school while usually keeping the younger ones at home. I reasoned this must be because kids get more difficult as they get older, as they are finding themselves and turning into mini adults.

I was talking with a friend who is feeling the burnout. I realized I am also feeling it and my signs include avoiding doing school and leaving the house to do other things or calling Animal Jam and Moshi Monsters "school." I found some great links on homeschool burnout in case you are going through some of it. And remember, if you do put your kids in school, you are not a failure. You have to do what is best for your family. I will miss seeing you during the day at homeschool group stuff and my kids will miss your kids, but we understand. Please read on:

Dear Homeschool Mom Who Wants to Quit

The Ever-Rocking Penelope Trunk, mom with Asperger's and has sons with it, as well

Penelope also takes on Parent Burnout

A mom of five talks about putting her kids in school


Yes, I count a day at Science City as "school" ... they are engineering and building and using their minds.

UPDATE: Four years later and we are still going strong. I have a 1st grader, 3rd grader, 6th grader, 8th grader and 10th grader (sophomore in high school). Going to a co-op a few hours one day a week has helped a lot, and virtual school got us through for a couple of years until I was ready to kick it to the curb and start doing my own thing again, much of which involves advice and programs from:

Brave Writer (mom of 5 grown kids "gets" me and calms my fears of the future)

Read Aloud Revival (Catholic mom of 6 swears reading aloud to your kids will create lasting and meaningful connections and I see it in my home)

Homeschooling Sisters podcast/blogs (they don't try to be perfect)

Khan Academy (free math and more program) so we can track their progress, no matter how fast or slow (progress is progress!)

Reading Eggs for my struggling readers

YouTube (such great educational stuff, including Crash Course)

Teaching Textbooks for math so it feels like we are getting something done

Educational field trips and social times, like having a Mardi Gras party for our coop at our new home in the country

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reading Snacktime: Esperanza Rising, Hot Chocolate and Little Debbie Fall Cakes #DoItYourWay


We just got back from being in Florida for two weeks. We had to jump back into not only our normal chaotic life, but also we are packing up our entire house to start moving Friday and Saturday. I really felt like we needed to take even half an hour to slow down and chill with our snacks, hot chocolate and a book. Here's how it went.

Joel (16) has had a cough and welcomed the time to lounge around on the couch listening to a book.

Michael (14) is pretty chill anyway (my least squeaky wheel) and is happy to hang out with us. I read this book to him a few years ago and we liked it.

Callie (12) BEGGED for more when I was done after half an hour and had to get back to packing.

Eva (9) got super antsy. I let her off the hook to go move her body or do Khan Academy math.

Sam (8) listened for a while then got antsy then listened some more.

We read something different every time and I hope to get into a more regular schedule once we move. The cool thing about this (inspired by Brave Writer's Poetry Teatime) is that we can cover science, history, math, anything. Life of Fred is a math book we might read during this time. Story of the World for history. Science might range from a picture book about bees to a textbook about astronomy.

I love that it incorporates ALL my kids so they are all learning. Sometimes the older kids are hearing a picture book. Sometimes the younger kids are hearing complicated terms from a textbook. It all shakes out.

You can have tea or water or anything you like to drink. You can have a snack or not. Healthy or not. Themed to the book or not. (there are great ideas for book club parties when the book is done) Do it your own way!

We are together and learning.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Friday, December 16, 2016

Homeschoolers: You Don't Have to Answer the Door to Child Protective Services (SRS, DFS) Like I Did



Let's sit down together and have a cup of coffee or tea and have a chat, fellow homeschool mom, young or seasoned, new to homeschooling or veteran.

So you’re going along thinking you are a rockin’ parent and that your spouse is also a rockin’ parent. You are amazed that nobody has given you too much crap for homeschooling and for parenting in a fun, laid-back-ish manner and for having 5 kids;  oh, and for breastfeeding! After all, the kids are well-fed, healthy, smart, kind and, well, just normal kids who happen to be loved very much. A couple sleep together, one sleeps on her own and you still have two in your bed. Your kids are SAFE and very well cared for.

Then there is a knock on your door and it is a state child agency saying they want to talk to you. You are a rockin’ parent, like I said, so you have nothing to hide and so you let them in. They proceed to spew lies told to them by an anonymous someone, but you know who it is based on some things that have happened before and specific words that are said that have been said before by nobody else. (*Update 2016: Whew, so nice that I can now call these people out: that "someone" were our neighbors behind us and thankfully they have finally moved!)

The things that are true are things like the fact that your kids go barefoot in their own backyard (no dog poo or heroin needles out there, by the way, to step on) or that your son wears shorts on warmish winter days. 

(At one point the worker asked my kids point blank if they owned any shoes since they don't wear them. I can tell you at that point in time my kids had TONS of shoes that had been given to us by family and friends with older children; but it was nice weather and WE DO NOT WEAR SHOES OFTEN! If that's a crime, handcuff me now.)

The state worker then pulls down your baby’s cloth diaper as you are nursing him so they can check him for some horrible skin thing you have never heard of called scabies. They ask your children crazy questions, even the youngest ones, and won’t let you explain that when your 3-year-old daughter says she cries when you leave her home “alone,” what she means is that she cries when you go grocery shopping and leave her with her dad and siblings. 

TIME OUT! (If a worker needs to speak to your children, they may do so in front of an attorney, thank you very much. Little children don't always understand the questions they are being asked and shame on this grown woman for interviewing my very young kids in front of me and not letting me explain their answers.) Also, if a worker is DRIVING UP TO YOUR HOUSE and handing your children a letter to give to you, something is VERY WRONG WITH THIS SYSTEM. Because we all know kids lose crap so why give something that important to a kid? If you really have a concern, you will come back when the parent is around or find another way to contact them. Maybe ask the "concerned" neighbor what the family's schedule is ... but then, maybe that was already give to you, given the fact that you dropped by when the parent was gone.

What a nightmare that happened to our family 5 years ago and not since, thankfully. We were never charged with a thing (neglect? We are with our kids constantly!), but the fear is there daily that the knock will come again. And that two-week waiting period while they I have no clue what they did during those two weeks to investigate us further investigated us further was HELL.

Now I know you do not have to answer the door. I will not do it again. If there are things to be discussed, they can be discussed NOT at a surprise meeting at my house and with a surprise TOUR OF MY ENTIRE HOME while we are in the middle of homeschooling. I don't even answer the door to someone I know who pops by in the middle of a homeschool day without letting me know first.

You do not have to answer the door unless there is a warrant, and in that case you are either doing something suspect or else someone is lying about you really well and we have to pray for them and believe in karma.

Haters gonna hate. Watch your back because even the best parents get called out. And if you are a homeschooler I might suggest joining Homeschool Legal Defense Association because it's like $10 a month and they would help you out if there was an issue so you really can tell a worker that you are going to CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY IF THERE IS AN ISSUE that is worthy of that.

Do not be intimidated like I was. I was brought up to think that those in authority are EVERYTHING and you obey them. That is not always the case. A CPS worker is not a cop and is not there to arrest you. They are there to gain information and inspect something and protect kids and most of them are great people but, like in any profession, you have those who are on POWER TRIPS or have seen all sorts of crazy crap and they assume the worst of you before ever setting foot in your home so if you can avoid that, do it.

P.S. If you have kids who are older (mine were not at the time but now they are), please tell them to NEVER answer the door. I tell mine to not even answer the door if they see Jesus Himself is here because Jesus can just come through the door anyway but you get where I'm going with this.

P.S. #2 If you receive a letter to call CPS, consider yourself lucky! You have time to compose yourself and can calmly call them and ask them, "Hey, what's up?" Okay, more like, "Yes, may I help you?" And then they say that they got a call about a concern because someone saw your kids doing X, and then you calmly (see a pattern here?) explain what was going on and hopefully it is dropped. If not, join HSLDA right now ($10ish a month pay as you go) and you can refer them to your lawyer once you get in contact with someone at HSLDA. 

My bet is they won't want to mess with that junk over something like a call that your teenager is home alone for a couple of hours at a time. Big whoop, anyway. The things people call on these days were NORMAL AS APPLE PIE in the 1950s, friends.

*This was really hard for me to write and took me almost 2 years to work up the courage to write about it. It gives me a slimy feeling when I think about it and makes my heart race to this day. A touch of PTSD, anyone, at the thought of having your kids taken away and given to God-knows-who?

Originally written July 31, 2013

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