Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Last-minute, Impromtu Vacation

Last month, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision
to travel to my birthplace...
...Knoxville, Tennessee!
A friend of mine posted on facebook once that her young daughter
asked why Knoxville has a big disco ball in the sky. LOL!
That is no disco ball,
although that is a cool idea,
but the Sun Sphere, built as the centerpiece of the
1982 World's Fair.
You gotta be THERE!
Since we were 30 years late for the fair,
Michael took the boys to a Redemption CCG tourney
which was held at a local church.
Brian played in his first tournament.
I have no idea how they did because...
I spent most of the day at the hotel sick from a lupus flare.
I did manage to venture out to the BIG used bookstore.
If I hadn't felt so poorly, I could have spent the whole day there.
I did look through most of their collection and was able
to buy most of Brian's literature books for the year.
Now, that's what I call FUN!
The next day, we went birding as a family.
I had mapped out some of Tennessee's best birding spots
 between Knoxville and the town where I grew up.
Our first spot was a wildlife area
near Strawberry Plains, TN.
We like dragonflies, too!
The fields were full of birds, particularly indigo buntings.
We also saw yellow-breasted chat, common yellowthroat,
and a variety of other warblers. In the woods surrounding
the farm, we saw a yellow-billed cuckoo.
The YB Cuckoo was on our lifelist from having heard it
but this was the first actual sighting for all of us.
In Jefferson City, a small town where my parents went
to college and only a few miles from where I lived almost
all my life, we went to a spot I never knew existed before this trip.
There we spotted egret, heron, and geese.
Soon, we made our way to my hometown, Morristown.
We stopped for pictures in front of my high school alma mater.
We thought it was interesting that the sign just happened
to show an announcement  about freshmen orientation
as I snapped the shot of my up-coming freshman.
He missed that orientation. lol
We also did some birding at one of my favorite spots,
 Panther Creek State Park.
That evening, we made our way to the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. The birding was not as great as we had anticipated.
With it being tourist season, there were just too many people
for the birds liking. The trails were all way too steep
for me to attempt to hike, too. :(
We did see some beautiful sights, though.
The boys got the chance to hang out in the Chimneys, too.
Splashing in this creek is a treasured memory of my childhood
and now is something Brian will always remember as well.
He and Michael had a lot of fun climbing the rocks.
This one reminded us of Pride Rock from The Lion King.
Brian wanted his turn to present "Simba," too.
Then they found a "horse" and became cowboys!
I think they had some great Father-Son QT!
As we drove into the higher altitudes, we did spot more birds.
But still not on the trails!
No, Ben, we are NOT hiking all the way to Maine. :)
The boys enjoyed crossing back and forth...
... and back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina.
Brian was able to touch a mountaintop. LOL!
The guys took the long hike up to Clingman's Dome
while I stayed below and bird and people watched.
I felt better about my decision to stay behind as I
saw people in excellent physical condition
panting and wheezing. :)
Michael and the boys made it to the top, though,
and I added the chestnut-sided warbler
to my life list. Win-win!
They enjoyed the hike back down much more than the one up!
After the Dome, I pretty much forgot all about taking pictures.
We took the long way down out of the mountains
as we drove through NC, back to Georgia,
just in time for Michael to have gallbladder surgery!
What a fun trip!
I'm glad we decided to be spontaneous for once.
Happy trails!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Our School Plan: 2013-2014

 photo iStock_000008295173XSmall1.jpg
I just want you all to know that I had to think for five minutes in order to remember the name of the website where I have the above stock photo stored.
In other words, don't expect much from this post. :) I am still struggling with lupus fog and am currently not the most enthusiastic blogger. However, I will break through the fog long enough to keep with tradition and reveal our plans for the up-coming school year.
9th grade

In case it didn't jump out at you, MY SON IS STARTING HIGH SCHOOL! (The caps lock indicates one part excitement, nine parts freaking out.) He got a bit of a jump-start on the process last year by taking 3 classes for high school credit, and I used the year to prepare myself by keeping really, really good records (for the 1st time EVER). That's something I highly recommend you do during your 1st child's 8th grade year, but that is another post for another day. I won't go into detail right now so that I can share the plan for his official freshman year.

He began Videotext Algebra (affiliate link) last year and will finish up modules D, E and F this year, giving him credit for Algebra I and II. We really like this curriculum because the teachers on the video explain the content really well. I am able to watch the lessons with him in order to refresh my memory. It's only been a quarter of a century since I last studied Algebra! Ha! I need the help to be able to help him.
As a quick aside: that is how homeschooling high school works. You do not have to be an expert but you do have to seek quality resources and help. It is out there so don't be intimidated!

English/Language Arts
Ben will take a co-op class for high school freshmen and sophomores, and his teacher will be, drum roll... ME! I will use Excellence in Literature, Year 2; The Lost Tools of Writing; and Analytical Grammar. (affiliate links)

EiL is designed to be used as a self-paced course. He completed Year 1 last year, and it worked great that way. However, I like the idea of meeting together with others for literature class so that the students can have the experience of discussing the content and performing the plays. I will fold in lots of resources and activities to develop critical thinking and literary analysis skills.

We are new to The Lost Tools. Ben has completed almost every IEW unit available, so we thought this was a good year to test drive something new. As fabulous as IEW is, it is always a good idea to try more than one approach and not get locked into a particular style.

Last year, he completed 2/3 of AG and will review this content with his class in the fall. In the spring, he (and his classmates) will complete season 3 on punctuation rules.

At home, he will also complete Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots. (affiliate link)

This is a very important study in our home for many reasons but most particularly because Ben seems very serious about pursuing a career in law, politics, or related field. His college major will likely be history.

We have chosen to use the video course from King's Meadow Study Center (no affiliation) taught by Dr. George Grant. Technically, this study of the period of Antiquity is a full humanities course and will also include theology, literature, art, music, and other aspects of culture and worldview. I am teaching the additional literature class because I want Ben to have direct instruction in analysis/paper writing, so we will not include all the supplemental readings suggested by King's Meadow. Also, I will probably award more than one credit for this course or include part of the work completed as part of his English credit for the year. Lord willing, I can let you know how this goes as the year progresses.

My dad is teaching high school biology at our co-op! Woo hoo!! Another year without science on my plate!!!
Excuse me while I happy dance for a minute. :)
He will complete the BJU curriculum (affiliate link) and is already working on a research project focusing on bird populations in our area.

Foreign Language
He will complete Spanish III at home with Michael as the teacher. They will use Avancemos. (affiliate link) This is not a homeschool-friendly curriculum and is designed for a classroom teacher and setting. Since that's my husband's profession, it's the curriculum of choice here; however, you might find it not so user-friendly.

He will complete Introductory Logic (Wilson and Nance) (affiliate link) and watch the video lessons which accompany the workbook.
Can you see a trend in our high school plan??!!
We tried a number of schooling options last year... from online classes to co-op... from mom-directed to video courses. We had the least success with online and the most success with video courses. 8th grade really is a good time to get a feel for what will work for your child's high school years. But again, that's another post for another day....

He began Karate lessons over the summer with the plan of only taking a few months per year in order to spread the credit out over the four summers of high school. However, Ben LOVE, LOVE, LOVES Karate. We are blessed to have a studio run by a Christian, homeschooling family. Karate is one of the best things we have ever done for him, and our only regret is that we didn't start sooner. Sooo... we're going to keep him in it all year and allow him to continue for as long as he wants.

Fine Arts
We are also blessed with an awesome art studio in town which offers lessons at a very, very reasonable price. He will take lessons with Brian and a couple friends. The teacher graciously agreed to teach art to correlate with Brian's history topics which will also partially line up with Ben's studies. I'm thrilled!
  • Yearbook staff
  • Competitive speech and (maybe) debate
  • Youth Birding Competition
  • Science Fair
  • International Festival
  • National History Day Project
  • Homeschool Teen Group

(What was your question about socialization, again? hahahaha)

Photo Credit: Chloe Virginia Photography
       7th Grade

We are parting ways with Singapore Math. (affiliate link) It signifies the end of an era for us because Singapore has served us well since Ben was in 1st grade. Brian completed level 6 last year (the last of the primary maths), and I do not feel comfortable continuing to teach from their program for upper grades.

It's hard!

We are switching to Glencoe's Pre-Algebra. (affiliate link) This is a little more teacher-intensive than I like for math; however, we don't want Brian starting Videotext until 8th grade. This will be a transition and review year for him.

English/Language Arts
I will be teaching a middle school co-op class for Brian and his friends, too. They will begin Analytical Grammar. (affiliate link) I will pace that according to the needs of the class but hope to cover the first season during the fall semester and the second season in the spring, leaving the third season for next year.

I am also going to teach from Analytical Grammar's new literature and composition component: Beyond the Book Report. This curriculum is also geared for home study because it has a video lesson component. Although I do not plan on showing videos to a class-for-pay, I like the scope and sequence of this curriculum and how it ties in with the grammar program. It will make a great spine.

I will also fold in some IEW, some EiL, some Lost Tools of Writing, and some Art of Poetry. (affiliate links) We will practice literary analysis using short stories and poems as our text, and I will probably fold in a little Teaching the Classics methodology. (affiliate link) And, as always, there will be some Dawn-essori (i.e. whatever hits my brain) methodology in there as well! Lol!

I am allowing the parents of my students to build their own reading lists because 1) it really doesn't matter to me what they read, 2) I can grade book reports without having read the book, and 3) in middle school, different kids are ready for vastly different books. I do not want to lock families into a reading plan which could potentially make them miserable and I want them to have the freedom to do what is best for their children.

Consider that an introduction to the explanation of our choice of literature for Brian. He will read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. (affiliate link) Brian is a big fan and lacks 9 books to finish the series, exactly the number he needs for my class as he will read one per month for the book report component. We will add more to his reading list than that, but the Redwall books are the ones he will read carefully for the sake of report writing.

World History Detective from Critical Thinking Co. (affiliate link)

I chose this curriculum because The Classical Historian recommends it (no affiliation), and it looks simple. We need simple for my non-historian.

One caveat: this curriculum is not from a Christian publisher. We will reference the first four lesson on the origins of man and evolution because I do want my children to understand what the other side believes; however, we will use the book of Genesis, a sermon series on Genesis, and resources from Answers in Genesis to learn the truth (no affiliation).  Overall, World History Detective provides a straightforward presentation and a logical examination of history, and since we are not relying on this text to build worldview, I think it will suit our needs well.

Usually, I weave geography into our history studies, and of course, we will be unable to study the history of the ancient world without some map study. However, I have found that relying solely on this approach has led to a very limited understanding of geography in our house. We have only covered modern history lightly, so my kids have not learned the current map as well as I would like. Also, to my horror, I discovered they do not know geographic terms very well either. So, Brian will be completing BJU's Geography for Christian Schools, and as we reach content that I know will fill in some of Ben's gaps, I will pull him into the study. (affiliate link)

Another homeschool coaching moment: this is also how homeschool works. Don't allow yourself to be paralyzed by the fear of "gaps in their education." Know that all forms of schooling leave some gaps. There is no perfect school. However, constantly assess, find the holes, and then fill them in. :)

CO-OP!!! Brian will take BJU's Space and Earth Science from his Papaw. Hooray!!! (affiliate link)

Foreign Language
There's not much new to say here. Avancemos. Dad. No mama, muchas gracias! (affiliate link)

See Ben's PE, please. :)

Fine Arts
I'll have to send you back to Ben's section again. :) :)

  • Youth Birding Competition
  • International Festival
  • Science Fair
  • Homeschool Teen Group

Well, that's it! We're in for a busy year here at Olive Plants Home Academy. I will see you again... probably in May. :)

Blessings and have a great school year,