Thursday, July 17, 2014

Well, I did it and I guess I'm positive about it....

After working out many, many different plans, I signed my oldest up with Connections Academy. He will be entering 9th and I think we both need to give this a try. I had planned to homeschool him through high school and I had even bought some of the curriculum while it was on sale, but after quite a few discussions with my moody, indecisive, and somewhat mute son, (life decisions at 14 is just not fair) we decided we needed to go with an accredited school. Some of the colleges that have the major he is interested in require an accredited diploma or a GED. GED is not an option, so accredited it is. And so began my search.

He stated he did not want to go to a brick and mortar high school. He likes keeping his own schedule. Being  a night owl, he likes to work at night. He's always been easy. A self-starter, disciplined, box-checker, independent learner, I've never had to work hard at keeping him on track. I looked into all of the available charter schools in the area. We've had a few open, but none that jumped out at me. I looked into American School and considered that for a long time. It's a good program, but I didn't like the College Prep Track, there was too much I would have wanted to change. It is affordable and is known as a solid checks the boxes to pursue other interests type of school. Then I looked at all of the university high schools.
There's :

Then there's independent online schools:
I'm sure there are more schools, but these are the ones I seriously considered. My school district and local university both have programs that put a select few students on the campus for a small high school class. The school district is associated with the community college. It's a great program, but he was not interested in that. 

So all of this searching, lead us back to the online charter we used when he was in 5th. Our plan is 2 years with the online charter, then 2 years at an early college charter.There are a number of reasons we ended up here. First off, we've used them before and know what to expect. Second, at this stage, I would like to make sure he's prepared for the early college program. I'm afraid that if I went with something that is more flexible like BYU or American School he would be losing a valuable lesson in juggling schedules, other teachers, different standards and requirements. He's always completed work on time or near that, but having tests all on the same day or papers due all at once, I'd rather he get used to that now, than when he's in college. Finally, it came down to cost. We could afford American School with the payment plan and possibly BYU Independent Study with the scholarship program (every 6th class is free if you get grades above B), but was it that worth it to me? I figure if he really hates the online charter, we could drop it and use BYU Independent Study. Despite the affiliation with BYU, it is a secular high school program, it's also accredited, affordable and highly respected.

Obviously, this wasn't an easy decision. I'm not looking forward to the stricter 9-month schedule. The monthly calls and other various hoops I will be forced to jump through. I'm also excited to see how he does with these new demands. Admittedly, it will be a little bit of a relief to place myself in the supportive role, rather than purely the teaching role. Don't get me wrong, I'll be by his side a lot the first few weeks to make sure he's adjusting and to guide him through this transition. I'll also happily help set up Biology labs and explain Geometry, but to have someone else do the grading of papers will provide a small bit of satisfaction.

The early college charter I plan to transfer him to his Junior year pays for all of his courses at the community college. They have a fantastic support system for the students. They require a preparation course for attending college and meet once a month about various subjects relating to studying and college choices. They offer tutoring and other means of support. They require volunteer work.

His 9th grade courses are:

  • Honors English
  • Honors Biology
  • Geometry
  • Honors World History
  • German
  • PE/Physical Fitness

He'll be working towards an Advanced Honors diploma. The only thing I'm worried about is that it requires 2 Honors math units. While he's finally clicking with Algebra I, I'm afraid that is pushing it. So I put off Honors math for now to see how he does. If he doesn't get the math honors courses, then he'll receive an Advanced diploma, which is still college prep. From what I'm told, the Honors courses are a lot like the Gifted courses he took there in 5th. They require some extra work and reading, but it was manageable for him.

I do need to ask to see if he can receive credit for his high school level geography and health courses I gave him. My state gives 3 options to attain credit.

  1. Assessment - proctored mid-term or final exam
  2. Portfolio - student work reviewed by a teacher in the subject
  3. Competency - applicable to sequential subjects like math or foreign language
In my state, the requirement is World History or Geography and since he has World History on the schedule, there may be no need in their opinion to grant credit for Geography. I would really like Health to be credited though because that would count towards his other PE unit which frees up time to satisfy other core courses before he heads off to early college/dual enrollment.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Bucket List

We school year round so we can take a lot of time off from school during the fall and spring when the weather is much more tolerable. Now that it's hotter outside, we have a few subjects remaining, but should be done by noon every day. We'll have plenty of time to scratch some things off of our summer bucket list. Here's what we came up with.

  1. Go swimming a couple of times a week
  2. Sleepovers with the cousins
  3. Try out every board game we have at least once. We started with Ticked to Ride and they loved it!
  4. Family movie night using this list.
  5. Watch some nature documentaries
  6. Build something giant out of Lego
  7. Build a fairy garden
  8. Use up some of our kits I'be sitting on forever. We have a crystal growing kit, a robotic arm, Snap Circuits, and a bunch of Magic School Bus science kits they always enjoy.
  9. Make some no-bake pies
  10. Make ice cream in a baggie
  11. Read.
  12. Bowling

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sequential Spelling....I Finally Settled on a Spelling Curriculum!!

Sequential Spelling (SS) - I have been shopping around for a spelling curriculum that works for both of my soon-to-be 3rd graders. I wanted to love All About Spelling after hearing so many good reviews, but it just wasn't for us. Sequential Spelling is a super efficient program that has helped both of my kids with spelling, handwriting and decoding larger words all without taking a ton of time. We are on Day 31 and so far, it's a keeper!

JJ needs to work on spelling as well as reading larger words. This looks like it will help him practice seeing where he needs to break words into parts. It's also good handwriting practice for him.

Sequential Spelling is also a good fit for my terrified-of-making-mistakes girl. She definitely had a period of adjustment where she would melt down because of a mistake. The part of the program that I love is that the kids get to correct their own spelling immediately which takes a ton of pressure off. She's finally able to relax and focus not just on spelling, but on making her handwriting pretty.

I bought the original AVKO versions (Homeschool Edition) through Rainbow Resource. The only thing you need is the book. The student response books are optional. I just Pro-Clicked some writing paper for them.  

As you can see, the Homeschool (AVKO original) version is just lists. Each section works on a few word families. As you progress through the week, additional words are given that build on the root words. The Day focuses on one suffix with homophones and even includes a few contractions. Having just finished Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and adding in Explode the Code 4.5 and up, we are familiar enough with the phonics rules to understand and explain the rules...or at least be reminded of them. ;) 

Note: If you see the Revised Version, the Teacher's Book has the same lists along with activities such as word searches, making them more like a workbook. I'm perfectly happy just using the lists. 

For more reviews, check out Pioneer Woman's homeschool blog and this one from Modern Homeschool.  Here's the full 8 lesson sample where they start with spelling in and be and by day 5 they are spelling beginning


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