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Archive for February, 2010

I have made some curriculum changes as we have worked through our first year homeschooling,learning what works and what doesn’t. If your not interested in the details please skip to the last paragraph for a great link to an incredible science tool, “baby soda bottles.”

As we entered the new calendar year it became apparent that some of the curriculum choices I had made were not working as well as I expected. Was it just a poor choice on my part or were there some real mechanical reasons why changes were needed. I had to do some serious soul searching and re-evaluation of the learning dynamic between myself and my sons. Was it something that I was doing or not doing? Was it a mismatch between the curriculum choices and the learning styles of my children. Or worse, was it that the task was harder than I had anticipated or perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough.

In truth, it was probably all of the above but the biggest factor turns out both my son’s prefer to work independently on book/seat work. My wife and I have always taught our children to be as independent as possible and the subjects that they did best on, were the ones where I could just give them an assignment and let them go. The youngest has competed a year and a half of Math-U-See as of this writing. He will likely finish the second year and be one grade ahead by the end of the traditional school year. The older son has done a bit better completing almost 2 years to this point. I did have to back him up a year because I felt that he needed re-enforcement of his understanding of place value. He struggled at first and then a light went on and he flew through a year and a half of curriculum in just 4 months.

They have both done an excellent job in Math and Science. Those are my strongest subjects as well, yet the progress they have made has been mostly self driven. I have set the pace for them to so that they are disciplined and consistent but they have needed very little instruction beyond what is contained in the course material.

I tried to teach them other subjects in the more traditional methods. I would teach the lesson and then send them off to work their way through the material. I found that many times I spent more time re-explaining things than I spent teaching the lesson initially. Each of them learn so differently that most any explanation I could give in the standard teacher-student instruction method was understood to one and confusing to the other. If I tried to explain things in different ways so that each of them was taught in his own style, the instruction was tedious and to long to hold their attention during the parts that were directed at the other child. If I gave them the material and let them work through it without a teaching session, they seemed to get it just as quickly and in many cases with less intervention on my part. I prefer the one on one approach so it really works out well.

Just after the first of the year, I ordered two subjects from The School of Tomorrow. Some of you may know this as the the ACE Curriculum. It is a self instructed self paced curriculum that my older children used when they went to Shorewood Christian School in SW Seattle over 20 years ago. It worked well for them so I thought I’d give it a try for the boys. They took to it completely so last week I ordered more subjects. In general we will continue to use Math-U-See and supplement the science curriculum with lots of hands on experiments at home along with lots of field trips and hikes as the weather begins to warm. They are almost as excited to get the new material as I am. I will let you know how it goes.

I have signed up with TOS (The Old Schoolhouse) to review curriculum and post me review/experiences and comments. Look for something on Firefighters and Australia in a few weeks.

I found a great source for “test tubes.” They are actually pre-forms for liter soda bottles and are referred to as “baby soda bottles.” I found them for about 50 cents each. Google “baby soda bottles” and make sure that they include caps. They are virtually indestructible and dishwasher safe but they are NOT flame or high heat resistant. Beyond that, you can use them for just about anything you want. The best price I found was from Steve Spangler Science . This supplier also provides suggestions for use and a video of some experiments done with the baby soda bottle. There are many suppliers and different sizes. Some vendors even sell test tube racks of the appropriate size for the baby soda bottles.

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