Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ready, Set, Go


We are getting geared up for an awesome year at the Green Institute. Sarah has been organizing the class room, fine-tuning schedules and laying out a game plan for the year. As stated earlier we are focusing on Math-U-See for all four kids that are working on academics. I have thoroughly researched math curricula and believe that this one wins hands down if you are looking to build a strong foundation for higher mathematics. It also answers the 'whys' that often accompany math instruction.

We will be using Winter Promise for our Language Arts/Reading/Social Studies curriculum. This program follows the Charlotte Mason Philosophy of instruction. In other words, the kids will actually utilize thinking skills and not merely write an answer to a problem and move on. This is the themed set we will  be working through:

What are you doing with your kiddos this year? Any opinions on the above programs?

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Changing Education Paradigms

This guy hits the nail on the head! Check out this video:

TV, Internet harming protection of biodiversity

Mental note.... There is more to the world than computers, video games, and the Internet. Knowledge and appreciation of God's creation should be an integral part of all learning environments. Click here for the article homepage.

Young people's fascination with television, the Internet, video games and other electronic entertainment is making it more difficult to protect the world's biodiversity, a UN official warned Tuesday. Because many young people are urbanised and alienated from nature, they may not realise the value of protecting natural ecosystems and species, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the United Nations executive secretary on biological diversity.

"Our children are behind their computers, their SMS, their videogames, watching TV. They are living in a virtual world and we need to re-connect them with nature," Djoghlaf told a Southeast Asian biodiversity forum in Manila.

"They don't see how a potato is grown. They just see potatoes at a shelf in the supermarket."
He cited surveys showing children in developed countries spend 95 percent of their free time watching TV or on the computer, and only five percent outdoors. Another survey said 20 percent of American children had never climbed a tree, Djoghlaf said.

Arguing that the lack of education was one of the biggest threats to preserving natural heritage, Djoghlaf cited a survey of Europe in 2009 which found that 60 percent of the population did not know the meaning of the word "biodiversity".

"How can you protect something you don't know? How can you protect something you've never seen?" he asked.
Go outside for crying out loud! -MG

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Perks

One major benefit of home education.... The field trips are much cooler!

We had a blast in Northeastern, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky the last several days! Time to rest :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stoked About Math

Our approach to math has been somewhat hit and miss over the past couple of years. Part of this is due to our move from Florida. The other part of the story is that we simply have not made it a priority. Our oldest son is working on problems (through his Internet based curriculum) that I did not encounter until middle school Pre-Algebra . It has been challenging, but he has finally started independently grasping the concept. Very cool!

Here is an example (created by yours truly):

Bubba shot 3 deer and 2 turkeys, and with his shotgun. He had 8 total carcasses in his pickup truck. How many possums did he kill? Write an equation and solve.

Here is what the equation and answer looks like:

x + (3+2) = 8                          ans:    x = 3

This is one of the simpler problems! Quite a challenge for a 9 year old, IMO. What is not so cool is that he does not have command of the foundational aspects of math that will become more important as the concepts increase in difficulty.

Our 7 year old daughter is still working on addition, subtraction, skip counting and counting money. She is making progress, but exhibits quite a bit of self-doubt when presented with more challenging problems in these areas. Son number 2 (5 years old) is just beginning to count and add.

We hope to spend part of the next academic year getting back to basics and reinforcing foundational skills. It is one thing to go through the motions and learn how to master a certain concept. But isn't it more important to understand the reason why a problem is solved in a certain way? This was something that I never grasped until I entered college.

We are going to  take a cue from scripture and build our mathmatical house on the rock of place values, mental math, quick recall of multipication facts, etc. in preparation for the storms of complex equations, algebraic expressions, word problems etc.

There is nothing wrong with taking a few steps back and regrouping from time to time to make the journey less difficult in the future. Such is life!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gearing Up!

We have been busy getting locked and loaded for the upcoming school year. Yes it is early and yes I am a educational resource nerd. I enjoy perusing through educational material and weighing the pros and cons of each. We have been prayerfully, frantically, and realistically planning what we want to implement in our institute next term. We have a fairly good idea about what does not work for us at this time:

  • Curriculum that requires more planning time than implementation
  • Expectations that ALL material in a particular text/curriculum must be covered
  • Age specific materials in all subject areas
  • An exclusively computer based curriculum
Through the sometimes frustrating process of trial and error, we have come to the realization that efficiency is an important variable in our current life situation. When one parent (mom) is spending the majority of the teaching time with five children under the age of 10, preparation and implementation must be straightforward and expedient. We started our oldest with the Abeka curriculum. They have a great selection of materials that sufficiently challenged our son. The problem that we encountered was with the prep time. Part of the problem was with my expectations. I initially brought in the 'school' philosophy into the planning stages and thought that every. little. detail. had to be covered. There was a lot (math, reading, language arts, science, health, social studies) included in the Abeka program. Too much for us to devote sufficient time to plan and far too many assignments for a busy mom to realistically implement.

We were also feeling overwhelmed with trying to gather relevant materials for our 9, 7, and 5 year old. Multiple math, reading, writing, science, social studies, and character building materials for each child has proven to be a logistical nightmare. Not to mention the amount of paperwork generated from these busy little learners! Oh, and don't forget the 3 and 1 year old that demand attention for some strange reason :-)

In an effort to make things a little easier on us we invested in an Internet based program for our oldest son. Regretfully, I did not research this particular program as much as I should have and more importantly I did not heed some wise counsel from my wife. Initially, the program had several bugs and we spent quite a bit of time working through them. It was also picky about how answers were entered, which led to more troubleshooting (and frustration)! These issues coupled with our son's tendency to get distracted during the lessons have convinced us that an exclusively computer based approach is not right for us at this time.

Now for the positives....

At the behest of my wife, we did begin shifting towards a more literature based (Five in a Row) approach to learning. While not perfect, this has improved some of the challenges of teaching multiple learning levels. I am finally getting over my 'learnin' enough to see the benefits of a more classical style of learning. Teaching our children how to think and spending more time on character is far more important that filling their heads with a bunch of disconnected facts. We hope to further develop this methodology in the coming year.

We would love to hear from those who share similar family dynamics with us. What worked? What didn't?