Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Easy Assignments For Homeschooling

This is the first year, I'm excited to homeschool with a new baby coming in the Fall instead of being terrified. My husband is such a genius. He figured out how to help me homeschool while I'm on bed rest. He moved one desk, one chair, and one lap top into my bedroom. Then he figured out how to make our kids' History and Math homework done online. Now I can easily supervise my kids one at a time during the morning, even if I need to lay down flat on my bed with a heating pad during a rough pregnancy patch.

After graduating from public high school, I have horrible Math phobia. It makes no sense. I got straight As in Trig, but I'm still convinced I'm a horrible Math Student. In my past 7 years of teaching elementary school, I've jumped around from different curriculums--Math U See and Singapore Math. This year I asked for my husband's help in figuring out whether we should try yet another Math Curriculum. My Math and Science geek husband sighed and said "I don't know why you're stressed out about this choice. I can teach Math so much better than any curriculum!"

So my honey took over Math this year! Every day when he goes into the office, he sends out three emails to our kids. There are between 10 and 20 problems individually selected for our 6th grader, our 4th grader and our 2nd grader. The kids have to write down their assignments on paper. They show their work. Then they check it with a calculator. Then they email him back the answers. He grades their assignments while at work, and then uses that knowledge to design the next days problems.

I can't believe how well this individualized system works. The first two weeks, I uncovered all this wonky logic in my kids' heads regarding Math. For example, one of my kids decided that you subtract the second number from the first in an equation and often came up with negative numbers. (7-5 = -2). Who knows how that mental scramble got into his mind, but I'd been teaching for a year with Singapore Math Worksheets where the equations were often number groups like
7                      and we never learned that horizontal equations must always be solved left to right.

This type of personalized work without relying on pre-printed worksheets is such a great idea for Math.

The second awesome thing is that I'm not the one making up the worksheets! Which is awesome when I'm pregnant. But it's also awesome to be the parent in the room who didn't make up the work assignment. Now when the whining starts "This is so hard!" I can just shrug my shoulders and say "Dad made up the work. Lets just try out best." The pressure is off of me to shorten the assignment. It has cut down on so many homework battles.

For History, my husband found this incredibly hip Crash Course in World History. It's put together by author John Green. (He wrote The Fault in Our Stars). Everyday my elementary kids watch an episode individually. They sit in my bedroom and watch the episode with their headphones on.  Then they write up a short essay and email it to their Dad. (I help my 2nd and 4th grader type their assignments up.) Then every so often, we stop and make up a group assignment based on the content. For example, this week we are going to the library together. We're going to learn research skills to find books about Mesopotamia. They will have a week to make a group poster based on all the elements of Mesopotamian culture.

For English, my kids read individually every day. Soon, I'll start giving  them more formal writing assignments.  We have also Rosetta Stone for French and Japanese. My oldest is teaching herself Spanish using free You Tube videos. I'm really impressed that allowing each kid the freedom to pick out their own foreign language to study makes homeschooling a breeze. Someday, I'd like to teach my kids Latin. But right now, I've got a 7 year old chatting to me in French and a 10 year old happily learning Japanese.

Because we have a new baby expected this Fall, I started school for us in July. I'm so happy with how this year is turning out. My kids work so much better on the computer than they ever did using longhand to write out their assignments. I think the one curriculum I need to order this year is Handwriting Books.

I love having Handwriting as a special unique class. I have one kid with great fine motor control and perfect handwriting. One kid is left-handed and is constantly struggling with making legible handwriting. Another kid probably would qualify for the Learning Disability Label of "Dysgraphia"  in the public school. I love using the computer for school because it eliminates a major emotional drain on learning for 2/3 of my students. Handwriting is an important life skill, like typing. We're working on it this year. But the handwriting "battles" are no longer stopping our progress in other subjects like Math and History.

It's taken seven years to figure out a method of homeschooling that works easily for our family. So far, each of my kids has a completely different learning style. I'm a unique kind of teacher. Then we've got these constant curve balls thrown at us, moves, new babies, new babies who spend time in the NICU! This is the first year I feel like a true Team Teacher with my husband. It's so great to have that kind of unity.