Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Roadschool 2013-2014 with the Simpson Six

One of the first questions that we're usually asked when we meet new folks on the road is if we homeschool our children. To me, that seems like a no-brainer, since enrolling them in a dozen different schools and preschools over the course of the school year seems rather ridiculous. But perhaps that method works for some families who travel fulltime?!

We have enthusiastically embraced keeping life simple, and for us, homeschooling is the simple solution to educating our family while we travel. While there are many avenues that one can follow in order to homeschool, we've spent much of the past year working through what works best for our kids--and what doesn't work--and fine-tuning the details of how we homeschool on the road.

If you'd like to read about how we started with homeschooling last summer, you can read about that here. While the basic tenets of what we're teaching remains the same, we've refined our methods a bit and have made a few changes as our children develop.

So, for the 2013-2014 school year, the following resources are helping us provide the backbone of our homeschool program for our kids:

A sample of some of the books and resources that we are using as we homeschool this year.

Core Curriculum
We enjoyed working through Sonlight's Core A program last year, and this year we are continuing with their Core B+C, Intro to World History. This is a one year condensed study of world history from Creation through present day which incorporates our History, Geography/Cultures and Literature. We opted for the condensed curriculum so that we can pace ourselves through world history at a rate that works best for us, and also so that we might move on to the next level (American History) a little faster than if we stretched world history over two years. Since we cover a lot of US History and geography as we travel, we'd like to get to that as a curriculum focus sooner than later, but we need to cover world history first, in order to help our kids see the bigger picture of history and geography.
Our Sonlight Core also includes a Bible curriculum, but I've chosen to compile our own which is more appropriate for where our children are at in their spiritual development. Therefore, we're using the Bible resources that came from Sonlight as supplemental this year.
We really like that Sonlight presents material through lots of great literature and history books from a Biblical perspective. We use the curriculum loosely and I create a lot of extension projects and activities, depending upon what connects with our kids.

Reading and Language Arts
We have found the Sonlight readers to be a great asset to our girls' reading and comprehension development, so we are continuing with those this year. Lydia is working through their Grade 3 Readers and Language Arts while Caroline is doing the Grade 4-5 Reading and Language Arts program. The reading books are spot on with our girls' reading levels, are of excellent literary quality, and are highly interesting to the girls. The Language Arts program that corresponds with the readers is on the challenging side for the girls, so we spend about 15 minutes twice/week, on average, working through new language rules and concepts one-on-one. The Sonlight Language Arts program also includes Spelling at this level, so we are utilizing this as our resource for teaching Spelling this year as well.
Ian has also started working on pre-reading skills this year, so we are using the BOB Books readers together to practice letter recognition, letter sounds and pre-reading together. He's also working through the Victory Drill Pre-Drill book to emphasize letter sounds and practice writing his letters. Later this year he will begin with Victory Drill Book as he begins to learn phonics and moves closer to beginning to learn to read.
In addition to the Sonlight Language Arts and Victory Drill book, we're also using Queen Homeschool's Language Lessons with all three kids. Caroline is working through Language Lessons for the Very Young Book 1, Lydia is using Language Lessons for Little Ones Book 3, and Ian is starting Language Lessons for Little Ones Book 1. These short daily lessons include picture studies, narrations, poetry appreciation, copy work, phonics, and creative writing.

We have seen significant progress in the girls' handwriting skills as we worked through A Reason For Handwriting over the past year. This year they have moved onto the Transition level. While we are still working on printing, this worktext also includes cursive. Caroline will likely begin learning cursive writing later this year. Lydia will likely require a few months of additional printing practice before beginning cursive writing, in which case I am considering Queen Homeschool's Printing With Pictures to help bridge the gap for her until she is ready to begin learning cursive.
Ian has been working on writing letters with the Victory Drill Pre-Drill book, and later this year he will begin with Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K level.

Math was our greatest challenge over the past year. While we started out using Saxon, we quickly discovered that it was not a good fit for our kids. I loved teaching Saxon when I taught 2nd grade in the classroom, but for our two girls it was not a great fit. So, we abandoned that mid-year last year and I created our own math lessons to help the girls solidify their basic math skills.
This fall, they are beginning to use Teaching Textbooks Math 3. This is a computer-based program for their math lessons along with workbooks which have the lessons and practice work printed for them to use as well. The girls are enjoying it so much that I'm having to remind them that we are only doing one lesson each day. I'd say that's a good problem to have!
Ian is using our math manipulatives most days to practice his numbers, ordering, simple addition and subtraction and sorting. He has also begun using Queen Homeschool's Picture My Numbers! to help solidify his number recognition and to work on writing his numbers. It also includes picture studies that we do together to help reinforce number recognition. When he completes this, he will move on to beginning the Math Lessons for a Living Education: Book 1. This is a 5-book series of 180 daily math lessons per book and uses a story format to teach math concepts. For Ian's learning style, this seems to be the best beginning math program that I've found for him.
We are also supplementing with the MathTacular DVD series to help demonstrate some of the math concepts that we are learning in real-life situations.

We have added Sonlight's Science A program to our studies this year. It is a comprehensive Biology, Botany and Physics program geared for children age 5-7. It also includes a DVD to watch almost 100 different science experiments that correspond with our lessons, as well as 2-5 different experiments that we can do together each week.
We also are incorporating a nature study at least once/week where we are exploring the environment where we are, researching either the plants, animals or other things that we discover in the environment, and we are creating art based upon what we discover in our nature study.

While we started with using the Bible curriculum that came with our Sonlight core curriculum, I quickly assessed that it was not on par with our children's needs. So, I have created our own 30-week Bible curriculum that is based on lessons from the book Leading Little Ones to God by Marian M. Schoolland as the cornerstone for our Bible study this year. Along with the lessons in this book, we are learning memory verses every 1-2 weeks which tie into our readings and are using the Sing the Word: A New Commandment CD to help us with memorization. Our main goal for Bible this year is to answer the big questions about who God is and our relationship with God. We're working to make sense of the Bible stories that we read beyond their historical context and connecting them with the bigger picture of God's character, His works in the world throughout history, and God's relationship with his creation.

Speech Therapy
While Ian's speech and articulation have improved significantly over the past year, he is still working to close the gap between where his speech abilities are and what is age appropriate. He continues to use the Articulation Station app to help with challenging sounds. As he works more and more on his pre-reading skills, we are transitioning away from the app more and more, but he does still practice his speech using this program a couple of times each week.

While our methods of roadschooling continue to evolve, we're enjoying the journey and are thoroughly enjoying living and learning together each day. Overcoming the steep learning curve of deschooling and discovering how we each learn naturally was a big part of our first six months on the road. Fifteen months after launching, we are now much more comfortable in our rhythm of homeschooling and are looking forward to where this next year will take us as we continue learning together.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fun in Nebraska

While some may feel that the state of Nebraska is merely a place to grow corn and a state to just buzz on through (or fly over), we have found that it has some hidden treasures among its small town comfort. On our way into the state, we spent a few days in Omaha to relax and have fun, and then moved on through Lincoln and out to the middle of the corn fields for Jason's next job. We are staying about an hour west of Lincoln, and have traveled back a few times to do some shopping and exploring.

One of the treasures that we have found is the Lincoln Children's Zoo. Thanks to our AZA membership, we were able to visit for no additional cost. Nestled in the middle of Lincoln, it is a great place to spend an afternoon learning about and interacting with our animal friends.
The kids 'rode' a turtle statue inside the reptile house.
Ian and Eliza watching the naked mole rats scurry through their tunnels.

The penguins had just finished eating and were ready to play.
This spider web was one of the play areas for the kids to get out their wiggles.

Who is cuter, the meerkat or Eliza? Instant friends.
In addition to the animal exhibits, the zoo offers pony rides, several meeting/party rooms, and the opportunity to feed local dairy cows and some camels. Surrounding the zoo is a flower garden, an indoor playground, and a sculpture park. It was definitely a great place to spend a nice summer day.

Closer to where we are staying right now, in the town of Aurora, is the Edgerton Explorit Center, which we enjoyed complimentary admission through the reciprocity program with our ASTC membership. It is named for 'Doc' Edgerton, a native to Aurora that pioneered stroboscopic photography and has been honored by National Geographic. I did not know about this before going, and as a photographer was very much interested in the displays about his work, as well as the hands on demonstrations of the techniques that he pioneered.

The center also has a large hands on activity area for kids to explore. We enjoyed a quiet Sunday afternoon with light attendance, which allowed the kids to wander from one activity to another as they pleased.
Ian and Eliza learning about sizing chicken eggs.

Lydia attempts to make a large bubble.

A large scale operation game (notice the grill tongs!).

So many things to explore!
We are having fun exploring these hidden gems that Nebraska has to offer. We can't wait to find some more.