Our 2014-2015 Eclectic Curriculum

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It’s that time again, y’all! Packages have been arriving daily and school supply shopping is underway (woo-hoo!). Our 2014-2015 homeschool year begins next week! I am so looking forward to getting back into the rhythm of our school days – we never did seem to find a good routine for the summer this year – and although he won’t admit it, I know The Boy is looking forward to it, too.

This year is kind of different in that The Boy will be working within multiple grade levels. While he is technically supposed to be in 8th Grade, because of the way he was allowed to fall through the cracks in public school, he was left lacking in certain areas. Thus, we’ve had to step back and start over with entire units and subjects – so we’re more in the 7th and even 6th Grade areas these days. Additionally, because of the drama he experienced at public school, he’s very sensitive about anything to do with learning so I try to take a relaxed approach to things.

Our first week is going to be comprised of half-days, and we’re going to be working on some basic math review as well as study skills and time management with the Victus Study Skills System. This is definitely an area that The Boy needs help with. We are also going to talk about stress-management and work on some relaxation exercises and other self-soothing exercises he can employ throughout the day when he feels himself becoming overexcited.

For Math, we are working with Life of Fred. The Boy enjoyed this curriculum last year, and we will continue with it again this year. Math, in particular, is very stressful for him and Life of Fred is a fun and relaxed way for him to learn the skills he needs. He also has some visual/spatial issues which we are going to address by working with Pentagrid Puzzles, at the same time improving upon his logic skills.

We tried to work with Easy Grammar Plus last year, but it just wasn’t a good fit at the time. This year, we’re going to try something new: Giggles in the Middle: Caught ‘Ya! Grammar with a Giggle for Middle School. I’ve heard great things about the program and while it’s initially designed for the classroom, the author provides instructions for conforming it to a homeschool setting. As with Life of Fred, the living book approach is perfect for the kind of gentle learning The Boy needs right now.

Spelling Power was a huge success for us last year and we are continuing with it this year. The tag line that “this is not a test” really clicked for The Boy and his confidence in spelling (as well as his skill) quickly escalated.

There’s no way to get around writing, which is a very, very weak area for The Boy. We began with Writeshop I last year, but things didn’t go so well there. I’d like to try it again next year, but this year we’re going to work with Beyond the Book Report, Season One. I like that it will add a bit of literature study in there, as an added bonus.

History and Geography is covered with America the Beautiful by Notgrass. It is so not a challenging curriculum, but I’m OK with that for now, because The Boy is a huge history buff and reads a ton of non-fiction historical books throughout the year, in addition to watching numerous documentaries of the same ilk.

Science will be via Elemental Science: Earth Science and Astronomy for the Logic Stage. I was drawn to the fact that this curriculum was also created by a homeschooling mother (as was Spelling Power), and to the emphasis on notebooking, which we have a strong interest in. There are many hands-on experiments, as well, which The Boy is looking forward to.

Reading/Literature Analysis will be covered on many fronts. America the Beautiful by Notgrass has a literature aspect to it, with a group of ten fiction books to be read as accompanying subject matter to the text. Beyond the Book Report, obviously, is geared toward reading and writing. After a lot of thought and research, I have compiled a list of books for The Boy to read throughout the year; this will be accompanied by some of his own selections, as well.

The Boy will be using Typing Instructor Platinum 21 for Keyboarding. He tried TypeKids last year, but despite all the rave reviews I’d read, it was not a good fit for him. I don’t believe it was the program that was the problem; I honestly believe that The Boy was simply having some issues of his own.

I’m not sure how I’m going to work our elective subjects in yet, but we will be working with Home Economics, Art (mostly chalk pastels), Music (mostly SQUILT), Spanish (Rosetta Stone Homeschool), and Crash Course Psychology videos. Anything else of interest that comes up this year, we’ll try to find time to work in – somehow, someway…

Whew! Looking back at all of that, it seems like we’re going to need 10-hour days just to get through it all! And yet I feel like I’m forgetting something essential on my list here… Let me know if so! I know I’m new to this homeschooling gig and all, but I really think that the heart of the matter is just doing what is right for your particular child(ren), no matter what this or that Mom down the street might be doing. If your child is healthy, happy, and learning – well, does anything else really matter?

I hope you’ll take some time in the comments below to share your curriculum choices with me!

 

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Is Math Instruction Unnecessary?

John Bennett is a Math teacher and a homeschooling father of four, as well as an outspoken advocate of educational reform. He supports an unusual proposal: that we cease to require Math instruction in middle and high school. He explains why in the video below.

John is the creator of Pentagrid Puzzles, a new puzzle form he designed to challenge deductive logic and visual-spatial reasoning (you can purchase Volume I here). He has also created several other BrainGames, for which he provides instructions on his blog.

While I am certainly not going to go so far as to cut out math instruction from our homeschool curriculum, I do plan to incorporate Pentagrid Puzzles into The Boy’s math instruction. He struggles with visual-spatial issues, and this will be a great way for him to work on them. Not to mention, it shouldn’t be hard to convince him to work on Math when it involves fun games!

What do you think about John Bennett’s supposition that Math instruction is unnecessary?

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Weekly Review: Sunday, April 20, 2014

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What a great week! We took a few days off of school and just lounged around the house, reading books and watching a little TV. The Boy is currently obsessed with CSI: Miami re-runs on Netflix, so we managed to fit a couple episodes of that in each day. As for my own TV watching (which is usually nonexistent), I just discovered that Dexter is now available with Netflix streaming. Hallelujah! I left off at the end of Season 4, so now I get to catch up. So. Excited. Of course, The Boy will not be joining me in the viewing of this show – yikes! We spent this Easter weekend with a sleepover (of course) and dying Easter eggs. The Boy also volunteered to help out at the church Easter Egg hunt on Saturday – he was pretty disappointed to be too old to actually participate in the hunt, so he sucked it up and did the next best thing. As I mentioned above, we got a lot of reading in this week. Let’s take a look:

Books I read this week:

Book I’m currently reading:

  • Killer (Alex Delaware, #29) by Jonathan Kellerman

Posts from the week of April 13th:

Upcoming posts for the week of April 21sr:

  • Review: Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan
  • …and more!

OK, y’all, now I borrowed Love That Dog from the library for The Boy to read, but I took a look at it first and it is the sweetest, most delightful little book! It is written in poetry form, from the point of view of a young boy and it captured my heart right away. I even wept at one point. Wept, I say! You absolutely want to take a look at it and then share it with your children, if you have any. Whistling Past the Graveyard is another book that stole my heart – I did not want it to end, ever. Another great one to read; while it’s written as adult fiction, this would also actually be appropriate for a read-aloud with your older children. Let’s hear a woot-woot for Terry McMillan, whom I have adored for years and years – Who Asked You? wasn’t as sassy as some of her earlier works, but it still rocked. Prayers for the Stolen was an excellent, excellent read, and Mrs. Poe was surprisingly captivating. You know, I never used to be a very big fan of historical fiction, but in the last year or so I’ve really been digging the genre. What about you?

Are you a fan of historical fiction? Why/why not?

 

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Library Love, Family Edition: April 18, 2014

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Library Love is a recurring post in which we share each week’s bounty from our public libraries.

 

Oh, y’all, it happened again. I already had a fairly good-sized haul from the libraries, when wouldn’t you know it – all kinds of books I had on hold came up for check-out. I hate to pass them up, too, so I went ahead and checked them out. Thus, we’re looking at a couple of weeks of a mad reading frenzy in the Pathologically Literate household! The Boy had a couple of books on hold, too, that became available – but two books are much more manageable than six, wouldn’t you say? Yikes, y’all. I hope I can do this. Wish me luck! Here’s a look at what we brought in this week:

Pathologically Literate Haul:

The Boy’s Haul:

SO excited to read This Dark Road to Mercy! I loved Wiley Cash’s last book, A Land More Kind Than Home, and I’m hoping this one is just as great. Who Asked You? is Terry McMillan’s first book in quite a while – love me some Terry McMillan, y’all. She’s been a favorite of mine for years and years. No Rest for the Dead is going to be an interesting read: each chapter is written by a different bestselling author, featuring their corresponding famed “character” that they write about, yet each chapter is interrelated. Did I explain that well enough? I’m equally intrigued by The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls – I don’t know much about it, but I’ve had it on my TBR list since before it was released, so I’ll finally get to cross it off. But you know what, y’all, I will tell you what – no matter how many books I cross off my TBR list, it just keeps getting longer. And longer. And longer. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You tell me…

How long is your TBR list?

 

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Library Love, Junior Edition: April 7, 2014

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Library Love is a recurring post in which we share our bounty from the public library.

 

 

It’s been a while since The Boy and I spent some quality time at the library; last week we made up for lost time. We spent a few hours there reading and working on schoolwork, and searching for some good reads for him to get into during Reading Time. Confession Time: I’ve been letting him get off easy for Reading Time lately. He’s mostly been reading copies of Guinness World Records for 2011, 2013, and 2014 over and over (don’t know what happened to 2012; got lost somewhere in the Nether, maybe). The Boy is a true lover of trivia, fo sho! Late Winter is an easy time to get lazy in homeschooling and reading is one of the areas that I let slip. No more, friends! We’re back on track and raring to go! Here’s a look at what we found:

Most of these have been on my TBR list for The Boy for a while now, and then he found a cute little book about Shelties (our Ruby is a Sheltie) – I don’t think Smarty-Pants Sheltie is going to be great literature, but at least he’s reading, right? I chose The Lions of Little Rock for him because he is quite a champion for the people and I know he will be caught up in the passion and fervor of this story of the children who attended the first desegregated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. Likewise, for our Read-Aloud Time, together we will read To Kill a Mockingbird – I’ve never read it, either, so I’m looking forward to that one, as well. April is National Poetry Month, and in honor of that we’ll be reading two books written in the form of poetry – Love that Dog and Hate That Cat. They’re both short and sweet, and I think a great way to keep The Boy’s attention while studying poetry. It’s going to be a great couple of weeks of reading for the two of us and we can’t wait to share with you how it goes!

What have your kids been reading these days?

 

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Review: Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies + Bystanders

bullyWORDS ARE POWERFUL- they can inflict damage and they can heal. In this anthology of first-person accounts written by teenagers for both their peers and adults, words transform pain into hope and the possibility for change.
Bullying Under Attack is an eye-opening anthology of all three players in the bullying cycle. These conversational essays on life as the bullied, the bully, and the bystander provide insight and inspiration for change. Rather than offer a cumbersome psychological breakdown, this graceful and hard-hitting book places the reader firmly in the shoes of all involved.

The stories written by The Bullied explain the subtleties and agony of harassment, helping readers understand that there is more to unkind words and behavior than “just joking around.” Although many of these teens have suffered through harassment by their peers, their essays are both empowering and inspiring. By exploring the essays by The Bullies, readers will discover that the bullies are often times incorrectly labled as bad kids, but many are simply trying to fit in, despite their own insecurities and fears. While these bullies may still have their own seemingly insurmountable obstacles at home, they share their experiences and insights hoping to manage and reforming other bullies. The section voiced by The Bystander shares tales of those who have regrettably watched and those who have stepped up to help others. Here, readers will find the inspiration to speak out rather than just standing by while others are emotionally harmed.
Whether due to race, weight, or jealousy, there are a myriad of reasons WHY. Included in this startling compendium of personal stories that convey the complexity and nuances of what it means to be bullied, are stories of regret, promises, and encouragement that will help readers find solace during their teen years and show them how—as adults—their words and actions can provide strength and reassurance to others experiencing all aspects of bullying. Ultimately, they will learn to find their voices in order to break the cycle for good.

Written for teens by teens. Readers will gain a unique perspective on what it’s like to be bullied, what makes a bully tick, and what others have done when witnessing bullying in action. Readers will get an in-depth look on this hot-button topic through the point of view of their peers rather than through an adult perspective. In turn, they will be more open to change and will learn how to handle bullying when faced with similar situations. Concerned parents, grandparents, guardians, and teachers will find Bullying Under Attack to be a primer for the internal workings of teens and find ideas on how to better help. Social workers and school counselors who work with teens will find this book both informative and a wonderful resource to give to teens who are struggling with the issues of bullying. Separated into three sections–The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander–Bullying Under Attack creates a comprehensible look at the BIG picture and allows readers to better relate to their own struggle. Brief, compelling, and conversational essays make the book a fast and interesting read.” – Publisher Summary

Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies + Bystanders, edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander {of Teen Ink}, is a compilation of poetry, photography, and the personal stories of teenagers who have weighed in on various sides of the bullying spectrum. The stories in this book affected me on a deeply personal level. My son was bullied for over a year in elementary school, and it changed him forever. He became severely depressed and ultimately suicidal. It took a very long time to heal from his wounds – if you can call it that; he tells me that he will never forget the experience, as long as he lives. Experiencing the pain, hopelessness, and loneliness through the teen victims’ words was a deeply moving experience. I commend them for the courage it must have taken to speak out, and I rejoice with them for the empowerment that must have come from putting words to their pain. A great deal of courage was also needed for the teen perpetrators of bullying to share their stories of abuse and the reasons behind it, as well as those known as “bystanders” – the sense of guilt and shame these teens felt at not doing anything to stop the bullying they witnessed was immense. All of the teens’ words were profoundly powerful and ultimately unforgettable.

With a foreword written by John Halligan, whose son, Ryan, committed suicide approximately ten years ago as a result of being bullied, and a preface written by Lee Hirsch, the writer and director of the film Bully, the editors of Teen Ink boldly stake their place in the national discourse regarding bullying. After so much information coming at us from “experts”, teachers, administrators, etc., that the dialogue comes from teens – victims, bullies, and bystanders, mind you – is a timely arrival with maximum impact. Words from a particular young woman’s essay, “Kids, Meet the Real World”, by Elizabeth Ditty, jumped out at me as so painfully obvious:

Suicide from bullying is on the rise in young people, but [how often do you hear] of an adult committing suicide over harassment at work? If someone were to call a coworker a “fat whale,” they would be fired or at least face serious discipline. Why isn’t this true in our schools?”

This is a huge issue for me. Why in the world do public school educators think that it is permissible to force their students to endure the torture that goes on in their hallways, when these same educators and administrators would never allow this kind of behavior in their own coworkers? Something I have often heard is, “well, kids need to learn how to deal with the real world.” School is not the real world. School is a fishbowl. But these educators and administrators work in the real world. Do they allow this type of behavior in their “real world”? Of course not! Why should it be in any way acceptable for our children to have to endure it if they themselves would not do so? The damage caused to children and teens who are victims of bullying is immeasurable and lasts a lifetime. Those in a position of power should be doing all that they can to prevent these incidents from occurring instead of turning a blind eye to our children’s suffering. Speaking of suffering, the victims of bullying are not the only ones who are on the losing end of bullying here. Elizabeth Ditty also voiced an opinion that I, myself, have long expressed:

During [school], students should be preparing for the “real world” by learning to accept differences and treat others with respect. Teachers should be observing students as they interact in the halls, and those who bully should be reprimanded. A bully who isn’t taught that his actions are wrong will enter the real world woefully unprepared to interact professionally and respectfully with others.”

Bullying Under Attack is an absolutely essential read for us all: teens, parents, educators, and administrators. We can all learn from the experiences of the youth who so bravely came forward to speak through this publication. This was a much, much needed compilation for our day and times, and Teen Ink did not let anyone down with the masterful job they did in crafting this amazing work of literary confession and opportunity for growth.

Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies + Bystanders is currently available for purchase. Buy, it, read it… learn from it.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: HCI Books {via NetGalley}

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