Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Semester Summary

In case you were wondering, yes, I did survive Christmas.

I definitely think I'll plan a more low-key holiday next year, as I was so spazzed out that I could barely enjoy myself.  Mom #2 really wanted lots of family around this Christmas, so I guess we'll have to manage a way to take turns so we can both enjoy our holidays.  I'm taking suggestions if anyone has a workable solution.  Maybe one of my New Year's Resolutions will be to be more laid-back in general  so that I don't obsess over house cleaning when people come to visit.  After all, it's mostly family and they all know and love us whether the house is spotless or not.

Of course, I've come to that conclusion only after putting Baby Boy and Mom #2 through high-holy-heck in the house cleaning department. Hindsight, you know. 

I hope everyone has and continues to have a wonderful holiday.  Ours was lovely and frankly, I'm glad it's over.  Kind of like a roller coaster ride . . . the anticipation is delicious, the experience is dramatic, and the after glow is oh-so-delightful.  *HAPPY * SIGH*

On the homeschool front, I guess it's time to wrap up the first semester and label our hits and misses . . . so without further ado . . .

  • Composition - We completed all the lessons in SWI-C.  I'm glad we finished it.  I did consider throwing it out a few times, but I'm also attempting to teach character here and we know that the entire world won't be structured to our liking once we hit the big time.  All in all, I think we learned a lot from it.  It really got us looking at writing from a different angle.  It certainly is a different style of writing.  Baby Boy and I had sort of fallen into the routine of simply writing book reports and lecture summaries, but this taught us to think outside the box a little bit and write from different angles and viewpoints.  My only concern is the extreme rigidity and formulaic approach.  Like any homeschool Mom, I tweaked it to fit our needs, but the setup can be a bit too structured for us loosey-goosey homeschooling types.  Another concern is that I personally think it's very expensive and I don't really know if I'd recommend it to a friend new, but I purchased it used at a substantial discount.  It's definitely worth it from that standpoint.  I think we'll label this one a moderate hit on sale and a miss at full price.     
  •  Vocabulary - We managed to get through the first half of Vocabulary Cartoons 2 book, approximately 150 words.  As a matter of fact, I gave Baby Boy a comprehensive quiz covering all of the words we've covered so far this year and he made a 100%!  What we really do is try to incorporate the words we learn into our every day speech, although you can't tell from the simpleton talk on this blog, LOL.  This helps to solidify what we've learned and take the knowledge from being only abstract in nature to more concrete.  We'd already had success with Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power last year, so this was a no brainer for us this year.  This is definitely a big hit. 
  • Literature -  We have thoroughly enjoyed our literature selections so far this year:  Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds, and our most recent The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.   After years of the obligatory American Lit and British Lit, it has been fun to branch out and do a little something free and fluid on our own.  I've never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before myself, but had lots of ideas about how the book would actually be since it's such a classic story.  It was fun to read the actual text firsthand instead of relying on popular culture for the plot.  Baby Boy also enjoyed it too.  I think he may have enjoyed this book over Frankenstein, which was hard to beat.  Neither of us really enjoyed reading The War of the Worlds, but listening to the 1938 radio broadcast and watching two versions of the movie, I can say we definitely made the best of that one.  I think this idea of reading classic sci-fi and fantasy has been a great big hit.   
  • Pre-Calculus -  I heart Teaching Textbooks.  That's all I have to say.  I know there is talk amongst those on certain homeschool message boards that it is not as rigorous as other math texts.  I don't know about too many other texts as we began homeschooling Baby Boy his last year of elementary school, reviewed a little with workbooks during an abbreviated middle school and jumped right into high school math.  I guess he can be labeled a "mathy" kid.  Our first attempt at higher level mathematics was Saxon Math with DIVE cds, as it was recommended to me by everyone as the gold standard, but it simply wasn't a good fit for us.  We switched to Teaching Textbooks at pre-algebra and have never looked back.  Pre-calculus has been the most challenging subject we've had to tackle thus far, but having the detailed video explanations for each and every problem has really been beneficial.  Baby Boy has consistently placed better than grade-level on standardized testing and also tested solidly into collegiate level math on the COMPASS just a few weeks ago.  That's good enough proof for me and I've long since gotten over concerning myself with what others think anyway, so as you can imagine, another enthusiastic hit is among us.  
    • Chemistry -  As you know, we've outsourced this subject this year, but that hasn't stopped me from developing opinions on it, LOL, because that's just the kinda gal I am.  If you've been reading for a while, you know this is our second attempt at chemistry.  Last year was a big-ole-bust.  Historically we've used Apologia high school science courses because they are extremely user friendly and many online retailers have supply packs for them at reasonable costs.  We've had great success with biology, marine biology and advanced biology/human anatomy (Can you tell we like biology?), however the chemistry was a huge struggle for some reason.  Baby Boy and I both read the textbook and couldn't seem to make heads or tails of it and ended up ditching it about 1/4 way through the year anticipating he'd just eventually take it at community college.  Our new textbook, Chemistry Matters, from Singapore Math, has been a transformational improvement.  Even though I am not the primary instructor for this particular class, when I do have to assist either with Baby Boy's homework, lab presentation, or grading during co-op time, everything makes so much more sense to me.  Also, this may not matter to some people, but the text is lavishly illustrated with lots of color and holds the interest of even the most non-sciencey Mom (and student).  Baby Boy has also commented on how much better he likes it at well, so I'm going to rate this one another hit.  Additionally, adding in The Teaching Company's chemistry DVDs have been invaluable.  Mr. Cardulla is both entertaining and enthusiastic about chemistry, something I thought was virtually impossible.  These have been well-worth the expense and receive a whole-hearted thumbs up from both Baby Boy and myself.  Consider chemistry to be a double hit.   
    All of the extra-curricular activities are still big hits except for homeschool bowling.  That will have to be put on the back burner for now because the time won't work for us any longer.  It will directly conflict with Baby Boy's community college schedule beginning next month.  Teen participation has really been dwindling anyway, which makes me feel even more guilty about letting it go, but something really has to give.  We're going to attempt to keep everything else going.  More intensive black belt training (IS there such a thing?) will also begin next month, so the spring and summer should really be hopping around here.  

    Baby Boy will be taking Freshman Composition and math at community college and will continue with his chemistry co-op next semester, so the frequency and depth of our weekly monthly wrap-ups may diminish, but I'm going to try to find a way to keep them up.  I like putting our work down in a tangible way so I'm going to have to get creative about how to keep the rhythm flowing.  I'll figure something out.  I'm not sure what yet, but something.

    This has been a loooooonnnnnnggggg post.  If you read it all, thanks.  If not, I completely understand, it's just something that simply had to be done for my sanity's sake.

    We'll return to our regularly scheduled silliness . . . soon . . . you know . . . when I get around to it.  ;-)  

        Until next time . . .


        MOM #1 said...

        Hi, all.

        Someone told me my comments were broken, so I'm seeing if they are fixed now.

        Testing . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3!

        Jana said...

        Sorry I didn't get right back to you, we were reading. Yes they are working now.

        I am glad you had a good holiday, hopefully you can meditate on the next one or something. I learned to be more lax with the house when the grandbabies started to come around more LOL.

        Super clean just isn't as fun as playing with them.

        :)De said...

        What a comprehensive summary! I am very interested in the Teaching Textbook curriculum and had recently started researching it. I wonder if my local library has it so I can see it. I tend to make better selections on curriculum when I can put my hands on it, touch it, (sniff) I mean sample it. Congrats to Baby Boy on his successes.


        Teacher Tom said...

        Yay! Comments are working now!

        First of all, you're already "big time."

        Secondly, you've tired me out again. How do you get motivated for all of this? I'm totally impressed.

        SabrinaT said...

        Baby boy is lucky to have you... So organized..

        I say you and Mom #2 head off on vacation, and let Baby Boy pretend his lives in a dorm for a day or 2..

        mommy p said...

        Thanks for the detailed post. Truthfully, it has me a little nervous. My daughter is only six and maybe I don't know what I have gotten myself into. I have so much to learn.

        Anonymous said...

        I love your summaries.

        Saxon so was not for us. As it turns out, James got completely sick of hearing me talk. Why is there so much talking in Saxon? We're trying Math Mammoth now. Homestly, I dread years of math instruction (should I admit to teaching math - briefly - in addition to science?). They haven't quite dropped TT to his level yet, but it may be an option when they get there (or he gets there).

        Science textbooks are not meant to be read. I'll always maintain that the best way to learn from a science textbook is from the review backwards. Look at the questions at the end and find the answers, work out how to solve the problems, use the questions to write yourself a summary, ignore the pompous nonsense in between.

        Anonymous said...

        Our holidays tend to alternate in character; busy and sociable one year, quiet the next, busy and sociable again, then quiet. So maybe you can do it that way.

        OR make Thanksgiving the huge event at your home, then make Christmas quiet, but maybe go visiting after a quiet Christmas morning. You'll all figure out what works best for you, and next year I'll read what a lovely time you had!

        Some of the BEST lit selections don't come until high school, and I am so jealous about the books you read together, as well as listening to War of the Worlds! So cool! I look forward to doing the same things someday (but will enjoy these days for what they are, of course).

        Wow... Community college. Are all of you totally excited??? I can't wait to hear about it!

        A Happy, Happy 2010 to all of you!

        Anonymous said...

        LOL! I heart TT Math too! I can't believe Baby Boy is going to be taking some college level courses now. He's growing up! I've watched him grow up on your blog. I think I'm gonna cry! Waaa!

        It's so great to read that you and the fam are doing great. I haven't been by in a whiiiiiile and your new blog look is adorable. Love it! Hopefully, I'm gonna try to commit to some blogging this year also. My children love it.

        Just wanted to wish you and your fam a Happy New Year! Many blessings and hugs to you, sweet friend!

        Jason, as himself said...

        I'm glad Christmas is over, too! Sounds like you got through it okay though.

        And, as usual, you and your curriculum and your son impress the hell out of me!

        Happy new year!


        Anonymous said...

        You've got a great site, and because of the topics you cover, I think this information might be of interest to you and your readers.

        There's a new series of nine books on scientific vocabulary -- mostly for 11th grade through college -- called “EasyTerms” -- there’s more information on my website:

        (Also, most or all of the editions, as of 12/31/09 anyway, happen to be on sale at right now — 28% off.)

        P.S: There's also a new (and FREE!) blog starting Jan. 2, 2010 called "Scientific Words of the Week" at:

        Anonymous said...

        Every time I read a high school homeschool post with reviews and links I feel like I have hit the jackpot... so thank you for taking the time to do this! We've been using Math U See, which has been great until Algebra I. All of a sudden the lessons are covering much more material and it's soooo frustrating. We may have to look into TT. Sounds like BB is right on track! Kudos to you both.

        Holmes Family said...

        Have you all thought about having your family gatherings at a location other then your home? It would save your (and your family's) sanity since you wouldn't have to fret over cleaning.

        And thanks for the homeschool update *storing the products for future reference* (as well as the helpful comment-I will take you up on the email offer :) )

        Laura said...

        I found your blog from a comment you left on Kysha's blog. Thanks for making me laugh. I, like Kysha, am a single homeschooling mother. I have three daughters and we use much of the same curriculum you do! We LOVE TT and are doing some great realouds as well. I'm curious how you like your science curriculum. I'm not familiar with it. God bless you!!

        Anonymous said...

        So excited to be back in the blogosphere and catching up with everyone. Your semester round-ups are always fun (and guilt-producing, of course)...can't wait to hear how the comm. college experience goes as we are quickly gaining on ours!!

        Related Posts with Thumbnails