Sunday, July 27, 2008

Homeschool Expo

We are about to embark on our fifth year of homeschooling. Five years! This is never the path that I thought we would take. But here we are. And I spent this past Friday shopping at the Homeschool Expo. Now, if you don't want to read this post because you are sure it's a snoozer...feel free to move on. This post is more denim jumper than flash. More this:None of this:Normally, I am not a big fan of going to the expo. I am not exactly the target audience for many of the vendors. I am not looking for Math from a Christian perspective. And I can usually find all that I need online. And if I want to see a particular book before I buy...usually someone in my homeschool group would have it for me to look at.

But this year was different. I wanted a sales pitch. I wanted to be sold. I had it narrowed down between two choices. The one I thought I would purchase. And the one I wanted to hear more about. So...I put it in their hands. And told them to convince me which was the best writing program for us.

The program I thought I would use is called IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). It's an expensive program that is DVD based. And I have never heard anything negative about the program. The other program is called Write At Home. It's computer based. Even more expensive. And I don't know anyone who has tried it.

This is what we need: I don't have a reluctant writer at all. I have a child who says she wants to be a writer. But where we need help is in teaching her to write formally.

At the expo...I went to each vendor. Explained that I wasn't sure which program would be best. And told them I wanted their best pitch. At the IEW booth, I was told I would have 6 DVDs to watch - a 12 hour seminar - and then I would be equipped to teach writing to Katie. The seminar comes with 15 lessons. Which I can then expand upon based on when I think she needs more help or reinforcement.

With Write at Home - Katie would log into the company's website each week, read her instructions and submit her writing. Then she would have a personalized instructor/mentor that would read her work - and send it back with an embeded PDF including corrections, critiques, suggestions, and praise. Each writing assignment would be done in three drafts before they would move on to the next lesson.

And which one did I choose? (insert your own dramatic pause) After listening to both pitches - it was a no brainer. I chose Write at Home. With all that we are doing this year, I love that this is one lesson I don't have to plan. And I love that someone other than me will be evaluating her writing. I think she needs that impartial judge to send her down the correct path.

After pluncking down my $400...I still managed to spend more money on things that will be great to supplement our plans for the year.

I had decided that we were going to stop doing formal grammar and spelling. Katie did not like doing it last year. But I think she didn't like it because it was too easy. She's about to enter her fourth year of Latin - so she has a really good grasp of grammar. And she scored 13+ on almost all of her Language Arts sections of the IOWA standardized tests. But...what I did find was Daily Grams which is published by Easy Grammar. Each lesson is six questions - covering capitalization, punctuation, sentence combining, and grammar/other concepts (like synomyms, dictionary skills, analogies, spelling, etc) - and I think we'll use these a few times a week - just to keep her fresh.

My other plan for the expo was to try and find a geography program. We have not used one before because our history curriculum has a lot of focus on mapwork. But I wanted to find something that would discuss where modern political lines are drawn - as well as have some cultural geography. Most of the books I found were solely map related. Meaning, they focused on map keys and learning how to read those. So...I decided that I would create my own plan. I found an Usborne World Geography book that has everything from political maps to topographical maps; cultures of different areas; ecosystems and more.

I thought we would use that as our base...and let Katie start with a continent. She can pick which countries we study - and we can learn the capital and flag, government, culture and some history...and then supplement all that with books from the library. I also found an Usborne book on world religions - that we'll use as we encounter different cultures. And look at my picture. I even got an art book. Shocking, I know! We'll see how we can combine all these books - plus a big wall map - so that we can put the historical contries that we've studied into the bigger - and more modern - picture.

I also got some minute mysteries to go with our logic curriculum. Both of my girls love riddles. Like: If a plane crashes on the US/Mexico border - in which country would they bury the survivors? or Mary's mother had four daughters. They are named North, East, South - and what is the name of the fourth daughter? are in a room. There is one window on each of the four walls. Each window has a Southern exposure. What color is the bear that just walked by? Does anyone know of a book with riddles like these?

What else did I find? I got Katie a nature log that she can use with our biology program.

I discovered these cool card games:

They cover lots of the topics we are going to learn about this year (and a few for next year) - but the cards are divided into levels - so I think that even Madalyn will be able to play with us.

I love Janice VanCleave books. We usually use her experiment books to supplement our science programs. And since I already have an engineer in the house - encouraging another one should be fun.

And then I found a few more books that just looked fun. How is it that I have never read Beowulf...but I know the story? Maybe this book is more for me.Hey! Wake up! The post is over. Yes. You! Cover your mouth when you yawn. Rub the sleep out of your eyes. There's a little drool on your chin. No...other side. Leave a comment on your way out.

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Jacki McHale said...

Not sure why but I did read the whole post. Interesting to read. I didn't realize SO much went into homeschooling!


Unknown said...

Congrats on 5 years of home schooling! This was such an interesting post - I really didn't know that much about home schooling. Thanks!

Teri said...

I, of course, read the entire post (sucking up). Because I needed to make sure you had not joined a polygamist camp. Or if you did, it might not be so bad, if you could convince the other wives that THEY are really the best at housekeeping and stuff. You know, make it a win-win situation. :-)

And cool homeschool stuff, BTW. I would have chosen the same writing program. Sounds excellent. Hey, while you are planning your school program, don't forgot to include a family photo session with your very favorite photographer who loves those kids. ahem

KimmyDarling said...

I really learned so much from this!

The Joye of Teaching said...

Getting ready for school, too. Yeah, I have been buying all kinds of school supplies: pencil, pens, crayons, markers...right now everything is so cheap. It is strange that buy about 20 of everything. At first, I was also wondering if you wander into a polygamist camp!
The writing program does sound wonderful. For brain teasers try Stories with a Hole My kids love them. I get the books from Amazon.

Finding Normal said...

Wow! Interesting post! I'm glad to see homeschooling from a more positive perspective. Seems like around here our "homeschooled" kids get pulled out when the parents are mad at the school for some reason, then spend months doing not much of anything, only to return and be further behind. There's not a lot of accountability in my state, as far as I know, and as a public school teacher, that's always concerned me.
Oh, and I was saying to myself all the way through that you should use the second writing program! heeehee!

Rhea said...

I enjoyed this post! I'm impressed you've been homeschooling for five years.

The Write at Home program looks really cool! I would have chosen that one too.

Those kind of logic riddles are wonderful, I love them too. You can find those in the bookstore or online. They're so much fun.

Insane Mama said...

I found this interesting, because I am seriously debating about homeschooling my youngest this coming year. I begged the school to hold her back a year, becasue like your daughter, she loves to write...but has problems with it. The school was so unhelpful, it is one of the best schools in the area, I am confused, obviously by this ridiculous comment that is not making any sense at all.

Keys to the Magic Travel said...

Jacki--Thanks for wading the whole way through! I am not sure who I was kidding when I started blogging. And thought I'd blog only about homeschool stuff. There is a lot that goes into it. But...this is the hardest part - deciding what exactly we are going to do.

Bobbi- You are welcome. And thank YOU for not snoozing :-)

Teri--No polygamist camps here. And actually...that is a picture of Mennonite women. Who are heavily represented at the Homeschool convention. We do need to schedule that family picture. And maybe one of just Katie.

Kim--Thanks to you too for wading through my shopping trip. Won't it be fun to chat about homeschooling at the reunion? Yeah...probably not...

Joye--I will look for that on Amazon. Thanks for the suggestion. Oh...and for Warriors. Katie is 10 1/2...and loves them. So do most of her friends...they are all 5th and 6th graders. And Madalyn likes them too (second grade). I think they would be good for 6th graders - but you might want to read first to make sure they wouldn't be too young for them (I haven't read them myself).

Keys to the Magic Travel said...

FN--We've had a very positive homeschooling experience. We started because the schools were awful where we lived. And because I had a child that was reading chapter books when she was four. It's really what she needed. Even though I went into this kicking and screaming. other daughter is in public school. And that is where she needs to be. And we are all very very happy.

I am really excited about Write at Home. During the school year, I do a weekly wrap up of what we got done - so everyone will get lots of exciting updates.

Rhea--Do you have specific titles I could look for? When I have scanned the riddle section of the book store - I have yet to see books with short riddles like I mentioned. Ones they could memorize and torture their friends with. Instead I have to hear these same ones repeated over and over :-)

IM--If you want to talk more about homeschooling - just email me - I'll send you my phone number (it would be easier than typing it all out!). And I am working on streamlining my archives/labels so you can read my older homeschooling posts shortly...

John Deere Mom said...

Good Lord, woman! You spent some money! Remind home-school the oldest daughter? Youngest? How awful of me not to remember. Sorry. But I did pay attention during this post and didn't dose off once. Well, the Amish ladies in the denim dresses kind of threw me for a loop but I stuck with you, my friend.

Kelly said...

Looks like you made out...and you also read my mind and answered the question I had (about why not both girls are homeschooled)...You are the woman!!

Lula! said...

I read every word and only paused long enough to politely fawn over Clive Owen. He is a man's man. You know I dig those kind best.

I can't wait to hear about the writing program once she's well into must post about that.

Get them to read "The Westing Game." It's a puzzle mystery of the highest power. So fabulous!

And the answers are:
1. You don't bury survivors
(thank you, Cosby Show, for teaching that one to millions).
2. Mary!
3. White--it's a polar bear!

Woo-woo--I'm sucking up to the teacher!

Elena said...

Man, you homeschooling moms are the bomb I tell ya. I can't even get my act together enough to give my kids regular weekly piano lessons. I think all of the stuff you got sounds like it will be great fun. What a great teacher Katie's got.

Keys to the Magic Travel said...

JDM--I did spend a huge chunk of change. And if we love Write at Home...I'll have to spend it again next year - I'll have to outsource for her Math as well. We already send her to Latin classes (I could teach those since I teach the high school version, but I don't). So, it's an expensive endeavor sometimes. And it's Katie - my oldest - that we homeschool.

Oh...and the denim jumper -- there is actually a homeschool message board called that. Kinda making fun of that "image" of homeschoolers as long haired denim jumper wearing mammas with 15 kids. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Kelly--If I had to homeschool Madalyn...there would be no learning going on. And DFACS would park on my front porch. It would not be pretty. What's great is that neither girl wants what the other has. So...for the moment...threatening Madalyn with having to stay home or sending Katie to school is an option. A completely empty threat...but I still use it.

Lula--Yay!! Someone recognized my Clive. He's on my list :-) I'll just pretend that he's not a smoker. And that he's just smokin' hot. I gather you finally got Caroline into bed? I wonder what she is going to be like tomorrow. Or what mine are going to be like since they didn't get home until after 11.

Oh...and thank you for answering my riddles. I need a book of them. Know any?

-Bridget said...

I'm such a nerd! I am so excited for you and Katie with all of these awesome courses! Sounds way better than my old school courses.

Shannon said...

I remember coming across a "solve-it-yourself" book by Hy Conrad when I worked at a local bookstore. His books are written for ages 9-12 (I think) but they are about solving crimes.
Another author I recall is George Shannon (wasn't too hard for me to remember his name)... his books are more like the riddles you gave.

Skeller said...

Kat -
I've never heard one bad thing about Write at Home. ever. In the whole 8 years I've read TWTM boards. I look forward to hearing your impressions thru-out the year.
(IEW, on the other hand .... people either love it or hate it. no in between).

Gina said...

I will be on this road with you this year with my 7th grader. We are taking a different tack, though. Our school district has a homeschooling academy. He will still be a district student, but I will teach him at home. This way, he still gets a dip;oma from the school district, is still eligable for running start (college as a highschooler, paid for by the state. You graduate from high school with an Associates Degree.) and alll curriculum is paid for by the district. It's a sweet deal. I hope to eventually bring all my kids home again- we started that way.

Angie's Spot said...

I read the whole thing (despite the Clive Owen distraction. naughty!) and enjoyed it! I'm definitely using you as a resource if we end up going the home school route. We'll know for sure in the Spring!

Sydney said...

While I'm not a homeschool mama... I'm impressed with all the research you do! I also lit up a little inside when you mention the Iowa tests. I had to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills grade school through junior high. I took it so seriously and always did very well. I'm sure the test has changed a bit... but that's great. sounds like you're doing a great job!

Shanan Strange said...

Ok, you scared me at first. I thought you were in a polygamist cult or something.

I really enjoyed reading your blog about homeschooling. It is something that I always wanted to do for my kids, but wasn't disciplined enough to get it going. What a cool school year your kids have coming up!

Jennifer P. said...

This is making me sad :(. Homeschool fairs and picking curriculum was always my favorite time of the year. You got some great stuff for sure. I am impressed with the 4 years of Latin. That will help her in so many ways (and I'm not kidding!).

You know what I love about homeschool fairs, all those amish-looking women walking around in the foyer talking on their cell phones. I know they're not really amish, but it's kind of a shock to see them so tech saavy :)!

Firefly Mom said...

I admit that I almost didn't make it past Clive, but I tore my eyes away from him long enough to make it down to the rest of the post ;D

Wow, that sounds like a great writing program! I would have chosen the same one.

This is our 7th year homeschooling, and we're going to try an actual geography program this year. We've always studied it as it tied into history (Cody's a HUGE history buff!), but there's a few areas of the world that he hasn't been interested in historically that I'd like him to at least be generally familiar with!

Anonymous said...

I love the supplemental stuff you picked up - the Usbourne World Religions book looks awesome! I'm sure we'll be adding several of those to our collection this year so thanks for the tips!

Tiffany said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the denim jumper remark at the beginning of this post! And the photo made me giggle as well. Can't help but love "us" homeschoolers, eh?