Friday, June 29, 2012

Trying to get back to "normal" isn't easy after a vacation.  We spent last week in Orlando and tried to recover this week.  We escaped the state right before the rain from the coastal storms.  Orlando wasn't as hot this year as it has been in previous years.  Pumpkin got it right when she said our vacation week was the calm before the storm.  Well said.  That is exactly how it felt.  It was a relaxing week.

I did manage to send off my Notice of Intent and Test scores to the county board of education and I gave Princess a two week math schedule so that she could review her Algebra before we move on to the newer concepts.  Not bad for one week after vacation.  We finished our Homeschool Spanish Academy lessons this week.  My review is in my previous post (Wednesday).  The experience motivated me to seek out online resources to continue our Spanish studies.  I found a Spanish 1 scope & sequence for high school Spanish and I purchased a used Spanish 1 Abeka curriculum from an area homeschooler.  There are great Spanish videos on YouTube to help with pronunciation.   I am really considering tackling Spanish 1 on my own for Princess' sophomore year.  I am intimidated but I know I can do it.  I just don't know if something else would suffer as there is so much ground to cover next year for all 3 girls.  My homeschool budget says I need to try the do it yourself route.

What else happened this week.  We are enjoying a teen bible study based on the Revolutionary Love book.

What a great time of fellowship for the girls and the moms.    My friend, who facilitates the group, is so very creative.  There is a craft and snack time that she really puts a lot of thought into.  What a great thing to do in the summer for a small group.  Last night's snack was cupcakes.  Aren't these cute?  He was almost too cute to eat...almost
Head over to weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers to see what other moms were up to this week.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Homeschool Spanish Academy

Because my husband was born in Panama, my kids have always had an interest in learning Spanish.  My in-laws are native speakers and my husband knows enough to survive in a Spanish speaking country but no one in the family has really made it a priority to pass the language down to the next generation.  So when I was given an opportunity to review Homeschool Spanish Academy’s program, I jumped at the chance.

To effectively use the program you have to have proper computer speed, an internal computer microphone and preferably a webcam.  You also have to be comfortable using Skype.  The folks at Homeschool Spanish Academy are very patient when walking you through the process of checking the capabilities of your hardware but if you aren’t comfortable with the “workings” of your computer, this process can be daunting.  Of course we had a little trouble trying to make my microphone work. If my husband wasn’t by my side as the Homeschool Spanish Academy people took us through this process, I would’ve been very frustrated.  I just don’t have the patience for working through computer issues. 

However, if I had given up I would’ve missed out on a great experience.  I had never used Skype before so that was exciting.  My kids got a kick out of seeing the instructor online as well.  We used the Early Learner program.  The lessons were easy enough to follow and the kids (mom too) walked away from the very first lesson armed with new Spanish vocabulary.  That was really cool!  We received the lessons ahead of time by way of email so the kids were familiar with the words and consequently moved through the lessons fairly quickly which lasted for 30 minutes. 

Halfway through my review period we went on vacation.  Unfortunately, an inconsistent WIFI connection at our hotel made for an incomplete lesson that week.  Because lessons are live over the Internet, I’m unsure how classes are made up if missed.   Olga, our instructor, mentioned that the disconnect was not their fault so she was unsure of the make up policy.  However, I just scheduled two lessons for the following week and it didn't seem to be an issue.  I believe that the customer service is top notch and there wouldn’t be any issues making up classes. 

I took 4 years of high school Spanish and a semester of college Spanish so I know a few things.  One thing I know is that traditional school Spanish instruction includes grammar and verb conjugation work.  This seems to be missing from a lot of the homeschool Spanish programs we have experience with.   Perhaps the goal of most foreign language curriculum providers is immediate language use and the recognition of common vocabulary.  The immersion programs are great for this.  However, for a comprehensive program, I think it is important to understand verb roots and how the endings change depending upon the subject of the sentence so one can have an intelligible conversation.  

Unlike some other reviewers of the program, I did not receive homework for my kids to complete.  This would have been a nice edition to our experience.  I also was unaware of the scope & sequence for the entire lesson which another reviewer had access to.  I listed one complaint (below) about the lack of verb work included in the program.  If I had the scope & sequence in the beginning, then I would've known that eventually we would have covered a little of that information.

My overall thoughts:

  • I love the fact that the instructors are native speakers.  My kids often looked to me when Olga would just speak sentences in an effort to teach the lesson.  For example, in one lesson my girls learned the names of many fruits.  Using pictures they could see on screen, Olga asked my girls “Te gusta naranjas?”    So they knew “naranja” was an orange but didn’t know “te gusta.”   Olga explained her sentence in English and then the kids answered her question. When I learned Spanish, I learned the verb “Gustar” means “to like” and then I learned to use the correct verb endings depending upon who was the subject of the sentence.  
  • You just can’t beat the live interaction.  It is engaging, the kids love the instant feedback, and they are eager for the lesson each week.  My kids said they love the one on one time with the instructor.
  • Scheduling each week’s lessons based on availability was easy.  There were many time slots to choose from which lends itself to greater flexibility depending upon what we were doing that week.
I would recommend this product.  The price is reasonable. 

Unfortunately, I invested in a pricey language immersion program over a year ago.  With either program, I have to order a grammar supplement so I will have to evaluate the success of this combination with my high school student next year.  But if this is your first purchase for a Spanish language program, I would start with Homeschool Spanish Academy FIRST.   It is economical and you can not beat the live instruction.

Click on the link below to see what other TOS reviewers think of this product.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The State Convention

Last year I spent 3 days at the state homeschool convention as it was my first time attending my own state's convention.  This year I spent only 1 day and I took the kids. My mom tagged along as well curious to see what it was all about.  I got there at 7:30 am and by lunch time we were all tired.  The girls and I spent the first couple of hours volunteering in the Used Curriculum sale.  I didn't even have a chance to attend workshops as I was on a mission to get everything on my list before leaving for the day.

The girls were excited to find Focus on the Family Odyssey tapes & CDs.  I had to say yes because they worked so hard volunteering.  NuNu met new friends roaming around the hall.  She definitely isn't a shy girl.

The Convention didn't seem as well attended as the previous year but it was still a very nice showing.  Perhaps next year I can take my time and experience the entire conference and glean nuggets of wisdom from the conference speakers.

What else is happening around here?

My garden is growing!  It is the first time ever I've tried to grow vegetables.  I have yellow and green squash coming up and salad leaves. 

We are hit or miss with school work.  The younger girls are enjoying Spanish lessons with Homeschool Spanish Academy (a review coming soon).  NuNu started reading Little Women this weekI'm not sure if I want to use the Veritas Press literature guide for Little Women that I picked up at a curriculum sale. Maybe I should just let her read for fun then we can look at the movie.  Princess is still working through MFW WHL!  I have no idea what is taking soooo looong.  I guess its just a consequence of time not well managed.  Sigh..

When I was thinking about this post it seemed as though I had so much more to say but for the life of me I don't know what was on my mind before.  Well until next week check out what other homeschoolers did this week over at weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers

Friday, June 1, 2012

How is it possible that it is June 1 already?  Really?  It really makes me wonder if I am truly redeeming the time.  I am constantly overwhelmed by the many options facing me from day to day.  It is hard to stay focused on a daily basis. One of the many things I took from my years of being in the real estate business is that one question looming in the back of my mind - am I doing the best possible thing I can do with my time right now?  Every year I would set goals for my business:  How much money do I want to make?  How many houses must I sell based on the average home price in my area to meet my goal?  Finally how many clients/customers must I "touch" by way of phone, emails, face to face contact to generate a closed transaction?  I haven't sold a home in over 4 years and that formula still rolls right out of my head.

I wish I could find a similar formula for homeschooling. How do the daily activities I undertake help me to reach my goals?  First, what are my goals?

To raise confident, God-fearing woman in a culture that seeks to steer them otherwise.   I want my girls to leave my home having placed their faith in Jesus Christ and armed with the tools needed to live a life for his glory.

I guess that is more of a mission than a goal.  What goals feed that mission?

1.  Spiritual preparedness by way of biblical steaching & apologetics
2.  Academic preparedness by way of challenging curricula that meets their needs to think critically and communicate effectively.
3.  Practical life skills to know how to live independently and interdependently with others.

What drives these goals?

1.  Curriculum choices.  Do they allow me to reach my goals while catering to the learning styles of my children?
2.  Extra curricular activities.  Do they allow my kids to learn skills that are in step with my goals?

So what choices am I making everyday that hinder my ability to accomplish my goals?
The one thing that comes to mind is T.V.  It is a complete waste of time in my opinion.  With the exception of the news and shows that are historical or scientific in nature, what is really the point?  I have really been contemplating whether or not to cut it out all together but I just can't bring myself to do it.

I really could break down these goals into daily tasks but I would make everyone absolutely miserable trying to follow them.  However, these tasks could be a benchmark to see where we are more so than a schedule to follow.  I'm really trying to sell this to myself because I am trying to figure out why we didn't accomplish all the things I set out to accomplish this year.  For now, I think I'll end on a more encouraging note and focus on what we actually accomplished this year (with the younger two):
  • 10+ writing assignment on various topics.  Grammar and Style improvements through the revision process and concentrated grammar instruction in specific areas (pronoun/antecedent agreement, proper comma usage, varying sentence structure, summaries, constructing narratives, organizing from brainstorms, etc.)
  • novel completions (Almost Home, Amos Fortune, Mary Jones and Her Bible, Tom Sawyer, Bound for Oregon, William Carey, many personal pics)
  • Poetry study
  • Lots of bible reading and prayer
  • Math skills progression (multiplication speed drills, fractions, decimals)
  • Garden planting
  • Improved spelling skills
  • new friendships & maintaining fellowship with those friends
  • Science knowledge, lab reports, and experiments
  • Science Wrap-Up with Disney Imagineering Videos (all 11 of them!)
  • Music study / one great piano recital

  • Drama production (stage presence)

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