We took several days to pray, research, and see if things set right in the 'ol gut. Finally, I think we have a real plan (that won't change next week) for the 2011-2012 Gillispie kid school year! I really hope this is *IT* for this year.
We are staying with Epic Charter Schools. This means that we have a $1000 student learning fund for each of our four children. We choose curriculum from several providers on their website. The rest of the money can be used for supplementary educational materials and extra-curricular activities.
Kendi and Bright: Our two little ones will be doing Calvert School curriculum this year. This is a "school in a box" program. We get their fun little workbooks, teacher's guides, and lots of manipulatives (blocks, paint, clay, etc.). There is very little planning involved with the program, but it will take a few hours a day to teach. That's okay. I really REALLY love teaching early childhood. It's so fun to watch your child grasp something as life-changing as reading. In addition to Calvert School, we are also doing a fun program called "Reading Eggs" with them, and are purchasing them each a subscription to Study Island. Mostly, there day will be full of play.
The little ones did testing yesterday, to see where they are at with social, emotional, and behavioral development. Kendi tested average for her age, which we expected. Bright tested as "delayed" (one step away from "very delayed"), which we expected. I didn't want that for him, but I am trying to see it as the first step to getting him the educational assistance he will need. [Our school is a public program, so we have all the special needs benefits of public school.]
Samren and Taevy: Samren will be repeating 3rd grade this year. We just didn't feel that he was academically or emotionally ready to go to 4th. He's okay with this. Taevy will be in 5th grade.
We have chosen the A+ Anywhere Learning System for our big kids. You've probably never heard of it. It's a program that is usually utilized in the public school system, for kids who are behind or need alternative education. It's really quite basic. No frills. The kids are presented with a study guide, pre-test, essay area (sometimes), and mastery test. When they pre-test they can use the study guide. They can pre-test as many times as they wish. When they feel ready, they go to the mastery test. They can do the mastery test multiple times as well (highest grade counts).
We feel this will fit both the big kids, but for different reasons. The testing philosophy will be good for Samren, who has severe test anxiety. I have seen him completely fail a test of material that he knows through and through, just because it's a "test." Also, we think this will be a good opportunity for Samren to "catch up." If he works hard, he really can get through 3rd grade and into 4th grade in one school year. For Taevy, we think this will be good because she can move through her basic education requirements quickly and have plenty of time to follow her own rabbit trails for deeper learning. She's our one kid (so far) that I feel could be an unschooler. She is motivated to research things and learn on her own.
The A+ program won't take a lot of time each day, so we have time to add other things. For math we are going to use Teaching Textbooks. I am so impressed with what I hear about that program. I will be shocked if it doesn't work well for our kids. For foreign language, the kids will be doing Mango Languages (Spanish). For a bit of online fun that corresponds with our Oklahoma Pass Skills, they will each have Study Island. With additional learning funds we requested a photo editing program for Taevy, and an at-home speech therapy program for Samren (who can't yet say his "r" sound).
All four children will benefit from homeschool choir throughout the year. We will also do swimming lessons for a few months. [Paid for with school learning funds.]
So THAT is the plan as far as Epic Charter Schools go! That's all of the "official" stuff. However, we have a few other plans.
We'll be supplementing English with "Daily Guides." These are daily review worksheets for grammar skills. Short and sweet. Actually, I would do the whole Easy Grammar system with the kids if I were doing typical homeschool. Looks right up our alley.
The history/social studies through A+ will be sufficient, but the kids and I want to do more history exploration. We're still finalizing what sort of books/programs we want to buy to add in to our normal school day. I'm thinking about something where we study important people in history, but I'm open to suggestions!
For art, we're going to have fun with "Discovering Great Artists." It's a book where you learn about an artist, and then do an art project using the same methods as the famous artist (i.e. Michelangelo painted on a ceiling, so the kids can experiment with painting on a paper that is taped to the bottom of the table).
I'm hoping to reinforce multiplication facts using "Time Tables the Fun Way." It was recommended by a friend whose son struggled with multiplication...until they got this book. Hoping, hoping, hoping!
The learning environment is going to change!
As we prayed about all of this both, Eric and I had a sense that one thing we really desired in order to make this school year as successful as possible is a dedicated learning space. To this point we've had an awesome table, and a storage cabinet. It's time for more. In our house 3 bedrooms are upstairs and one bedroom (the master) downstairs.
We spent the weekend cleaning up and changing around 4 bedrooms! Master bedroom = future classroom. Kendi's bedroom = new master bedroom. Taevy's bedroom = new boy's room. Boy's room = new girl's room.
I am so excited! Once a teacher, always a teacher. There is NOTHING like the beginning of a new school year where you get to decorate your classroom! I get to paint it, and put our homeschool table just like I always imagined, and have plenty of room to store our materials! Oh yeah...and the kids get to have a dedicated learning space! ;-)