## Tuesday, July 19, 2011

### Math-u-See or something else?

For math instruction, we've been using Math-U-See.  We started out with RightStart Math which just wasn't a good fit for us.  The lessons were too long and kind of boring and I had way too much to do to prep for each lesson.  So far, we've been very happy with Math-U-See.  We watch the instructional DVD and then practice on our own and then do the accompanying worksheet.  We've learned a lot and I feel like the program is building a good foundation.

I'm worried though.  Z1 doesn't seem to know how to subtract 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5.  It's very important that he masters them.  Math-U-See teaches these subtraction facts through addition and this approach is pretty cool (to me).

Here's the method:

When subtracting 9, you need 1 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 8, you need 2 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 7, you need 3 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 6, you need 4 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 5, you need 5 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 4, you need 6 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 3, you need 7 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 2, you need 8 to make hidden 10.
When subtracting 1, you need 9 to make hidden 10.

So in the example 15 - 9, the student would think "when subtracting 9, you need 1 to make 10 (the "10" in 15) so 15 - 9 = 5 + 1 = 6.  I don't know . . . looks confusing as I type it but the blocks make is so incredibly plain.

Anyway, the fact that Z1 doesn't know these facts makes me think that maybe MUS is not effective for him but I don't want to give up on the program just yet.  I've been drilling these facts on paper and on the computer and over the next two weeks, we will be doing these lessons over.  It's very important that he masters these facts before we move on to subtraction with regrouping.

Z1 bucks at the idea of "going back" to Alpha level so I'll have to frame it in a different way.  Hopefully, this review will be all it takes to get these facts solidified in Z1's mind.  But I'm doing research and looking into Singapore and Saxon math.  Truth be told, though, I do not want to go down the road of looking for yet another math curriculum.  I hope Math-U-See works for this year at least.

## Monday, July 18, 2011

### The 2011-2012 School Year is Upon Us

We're currently on a modified summer schedule for school.  Basically, Z1 is just doing drills and reinforcing what he learned last year and practicing his piano.  We're out and about so much that we can't really fit in much else.  As soon as August comes in though and the boys' activities wind down, we'll pick up the pace with our studies.

In kindergarten, we'd been working for about an hour a day on math, reading/language arts, and handwriting.  Some days we'd do science or social studies (about twice a week).  Z1 will be entering first grade and so the amount of work we'll have to do is going to increase.

We're basically following The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.  I will add and modify things as I see the need.

Math
We're going to continue using the Math-u-See curriculum.  Z1 is working on the Beta level.  I will be adding to this program using the Big Math 1-2 workbook (finishing it up), Daily Word Problems (Grade 2), and Lollipop Logic.  We will also continue to use IXL for extra practice and review.

Z2 is going to be doing hands-on math activities.  He will also use IXL and I have purchased a few Pre-K workbooks for him.

3-3.5 hours a week (40 minutes daily)

Bauer has many suggestions for books we read as part of formal instruction.  We'll be borrowing these from the library and spending about 30 minutes daily reading them.  Z1 will also spend 30 minutes reading "fun" books, meaning books he chooses.

Z2 will be starting on the Hooked on Phonics program which is what I used for Z1 with excellent results.  As a back up and/or in addition to HOP, I will use Progressive Phonics, a wonderful program which I hear good things about.  Also, I downloaded Funnix a while ago.  We'll see what works best for Z2 and go with it.

2.5 hours a week (30 minutes daily)

Writing and Language Arts
We'll be using The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease (Level 1) and the accompanying workbook by Bauer. For Language Arts, we're going to go with another Bauer book: First Language Lessons.  I want a systematic approach to language arts and this book offers it.  We'll see how I like them.

1 hour a week (20 minutes daily)

Handwriting
Z1 is going to continue doing the Handwriting without Tears program.  He is working in the cursive book.   Z2 is working in the green pre-kindergarten book.

1 hour a week (10-15 minutes daily)

Spelling
Z1 is actually a very good speller.  We're going to finish out Spelling Workout B but I don't think I'll do Spelling Workout C or any other spelling program (I thought I'd give All About Spelling another try but since he doesn't struggle with spelling, why put out the money?)  I will find Grade 2/3 spelling lists online (many available) and do activities with those words.  There's also Spelling City's individualized spelling program so I don't really see myself ever spending money on spelling again.

1 hour a week (10-15 minutes daily)

Science
Ah, the thorn in my flesh.  I'm going to go with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding by Nebel at the suggestion of a friend.  We have plenty of books available at our library to supplement our science studies.  We also do lots of hikes.  My plan is to make sure I cover all the science topics suggested for Grade 1 at World Book, in What Your First Grader Should Know, in the NY State Science Standards (grades 1/2) and in WTM.  They all coincide.  As long as I hit all the topics, I feel like science will be solid.

2 hours a week (one hour twice a week)

Social Studies, Geography, and History
I'm going to follow NY State Standards (grades 1/2).  I'm not buying any materials.  At this stage, SS is straightforward and I can make SS work using the internet and doing field trips.  We'll be using Daily Geography Practice.  Geography is something I didn't learn in school and so I want Z1 and Z2 to learn it.  I will gradually introduce a little bit of history using Mosaic Introduction to World History (we'll be using the A Little History of the World version).
1 hour a week (30 minutes twice a week)

Music
I intend to continue music appreciation with the boys.  Basically, we listen to a large variety of music and talk about it or draw.  I'm going to start introducing them to different musicians/composer and we may do unit studies on various musicians.  Z1 is playing the piano (taking weekly lessons) and I'm looking for a good music/play program for Z2.  What Your First Grader Should Know provides a good skeleton for music.

Piano Practice: 25 minutes daily

Art
What Your First Grader Should Know will provide the skeleton again but I aslo found that the J. Paul Getty Musuem has a free art curriculum on it's site.  Also, the Met has a program called Art Trek Plus on Sundays (free parking in the city on Sundays) which will be a great way to get us in the museum and familiar with all kinds of arts.

I'm not sure how I'll work the art curriculum in exactly but we can definitely do Art Trek Plus and hang out at the museum.  I'm going to look and see if I can find some activities that involve the Met.

Physical Education
Z1 and Z2 are going to continue swimming lessons throughout the year.  Twice a week, we'll be exercising at home (I will just lead them in some basic aerobic, strength and agility training--we may even go for a run on the track) and yoga.  I'm counting our hikes as physical education too.  We may start martial arts.

Foreign Language
We started learning French using Byki and we'll continue.  I will probably eventually purchase the whole program.

10 minutes daily after dinner
----------------------------------------------------

Getting it all together was pretty nerve-wracking.  I usually like to hold and look at books in my hands before I purchase them but very few of these books were available at the library.  This is one excellent reason that as a homeschooler, one should be part of a group:  one can see the materials that other have used and discuss, in person, what worked or didn't and why.  But anyway, I did the best I could.  I'm hoping not to go over \$350 in total for all the supplies and books we need this year and so far, I'm at just a little over \$200.  I need to buy notebooks, some organizational things (like this case that's perfect for the MUS blocks--I got the suggestion from Satori Smiles, an awesome classical homeschooling that I am promptly adding to my reader), and things like paintbrushes.  I'd also like to drop \$40-\$50 on educational games and toys.

Some weeks ago, I sent off our letter of intent to the board of education via certified mail.  So this is my first year officially homeschooling!  I'm sure there will be lots of bumps along the way but I'm also sure it will be fun and challenging.  I'm glad that I have a framework or plan to follow and I'm looking everywhere for inspiration.

In terms of the social aspect of things, we are still trying very hard to build our homeschool community.  It's not coming easily at all but we are putting in the work.  I met another mom who intends to homeschool her two boys and we're trying to put together a weekly homeschool group.  I'm being optimistic . . . this will be my third or fourth attempt to get a consistent, weekly homeschooling thing going.

So everything is locked and loaded.  I'm looking forward to getting started.

## Sunday, July 17, 2011

### A Change of Pace

I was doing my usual Sunday long run yesterday and as I neared the end, it struck me:  I'm ready to be in a race.  For a long time, I've avoided races--just not really feeling them.  But yesterday, all of a sudden, it felt like a very good idea.  I have just one more workout and I will have completed the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I have been looking for what to do next in terms of lifting programs and I honestly thought it was settled:  after I finished with NROL4W, I would just take a week off and start NROL4Abs.  But this didn't get me excited at all.  This race?  It does.  So this just seems like the perfect time to start training for a race.

I signed up for the Yonkers 1/2 Marathon on Sunday, September 18, 2011.  Currently, my weekly mileage is somewhere around 9 or 10 miles and so I have a bit of work to do.  I like the challenge.  Initially, I thought I might like to come in under two hours but as this is my first race, my goal is to finish.  I think that's a good enough goal.  Once I conquer this first race, I'll be better able to tell if races are for me and then I can set other goals.

The next question is how to train and there are tons of training programs available.  I know I want this to be fun and not interfere with other aspects of my life most especially running my household and taking care of my family.  Over at Black Girls Run, there's a "Run Your First Half Marathon Training Program" and it's the one I've chosen for better or worse.   It's an 8-week training program and I'll train for 5 days (3 days running and 2 days cross training) and rest for 2. On my cross training days, I will lift as I am not willing to completely sacrifice my strength gains (and this fabulous muscle I've put on).  I'm going to just re-start the New Rules of Lifting for Women although I do not wish to to complete the whole program again.  I will also probably do interval training on the stationary bike or elliptical--no more than 20 or so minutes.  On my rest days, I'll practice yoga or just rest altogether.

I've never been really technical about my runs so I'll be learning a lot of new terms and techniques.  I think this race is just what I needed to shake things up a bit.  So, yeah, I'm excited about it.  It will be a real change of pace.

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