Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, and neither was our curriculum.

Today marks our very first day for the 2011-2012 school year. Our house is a construction zone, everything is a mess but none the less, today was Riley's first day of second grade. We began working on review material, going over long vowels, math and some other general reading and writing. Going over a lot of what we did last year will probably take at least a few weeks. In general the bulk of Elementary school work seems to be re-doing the same subjects over and over, adding a little bit of material each year. Getting back into the groove of things will probably take some time. There's a lack of patience, and once again resistance is lurking. Every day with Riley undoubtedly will be at least mildly difficult. I've never known anyone other than myself to be so stubborn and difficult. Knowing his personality well, I know that I can't expect a change over night. We're building one day at a time. I imagine it will take years before he is ready and able to just absorb what I'm saying, and even then I have no doubt he will still disagree for the sake of disagreeing. (not that I know anyone like that...) My goal is not to shake him into submission, I don't expect overnight success, but for this year I want to simply convince him that respecting the process will pay off. Eventually the voice of reason will speak to him and maybe, possibly he will embrace it. Until that day I remind myself "Rome was not built in a day." 
My curriculum was not built in a day either. Starting towards the end of last year I began putting stuff together. I returned our first grade material and picked up our second grade Math and English from the public school. I submitted our portfolio and then? I immediately started looking here and there for additional work books and reading material. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of things lingering here and there. I've accumulated a lot of books over the years even before we started homeschooling. I had a lot of material around from when I was a kid, friends have given us things, and I've purchased some hard to find items. Reading at home whether you home school or not is important. Only parents can build a proper foundation to  a child's character. They learn the most important things from you whether your shooting for that or not. (Like when my two year old swears, its not because he heard it somewhere else.) So with Riley in mind building our curriculum became combining practical with functional. Some work books are busy work, some are real heavy. I've found that with Riley if I give him new material, or overwhelming material all the time then he just goes AWOL. So this is it, year two begins. Wish us Luck! 
Following is what we are doing for Riley's Second grade school year. I have come up with a combination of material that we borrowed from the school as well as workbooks and materials we have purchased, printed or downloaded ourselves. We are not religiously affiliated or following any specific program. Our "curriculum" is a hodge podge of this and that, our reading list grows as we go. These are some of the products we are using this year.

Second Grade Curriculum
Scott Foresman- Reading
enVision- Math

Smart Alec- Reading Comprehension Grade 2 (purchased at Five Below)
Smart Alec- Math word Problems Grade 2 (purchased at Five Below)

Monday, July 25, 2011

One year down- PA Home Education Portfolio (First Grade)

Summer has flown by, any other summer hasn't had near as much significance for our family as this one. We've been out of town for family emergencies, we've had our ear infections, we've gone through the essentials of summer chaos and more importantly, this year was our very first summer off from homeschooling. I feel like a kid again, the anticipation of the school break! No long days of arguing, no days of working on school stuff at 9 at night (because we spent the day running necessary errands), no early mornings fussing over school plans...just good old fashioned summer vacation. With that said, obviously we made it through our first year of home education.We had our very first home school evaluation, our first portfolio and our first approved review. Some days it seemed to really go by slowly and painfully, other days seemed to pass before I knew it. Riley truly is thriving best at home and he's a million times happier, he's a totally different kid. 

Unfortunately, I've come to realize that most of the difficulties of homeschooling involve the paperwork. That seems to be life, dealing with the government is always the worst of it. It's not really a huge deal but it is stressful for me to have these expectations and it can be a pain to document things so thoroughly. Its the paperwork that intimidated me the most in the beginning and its the red tape that continues to frustrate me today. The only benefit of this mess is that we're SUPPOSED to have  textbooks and curriculum provided free of charge. Although I would gladly give it up if they'd give me back my tax dollars, I'm currently dealing with the school district about what they are choosing to lend. Legislation says they owe it to me, they're saying this district does not actually use text books for social studies, science, history etc. Its baffling that law dictates "appropriate education" with an extensive subject list, but they don't have books? I guess we'll see. With that said I did compose Riley's portfolio for the year, it was emailed to the school district as a PDF file, (easy peasy!) and we received our approved review from the superintendents office. Score! The bulk of the portfolio follows, hopefully it is useful for someone who may be wondering about what they need to do for a "state approved" portfolio.