School Update and Random Goings-On

I’m actually doing an update this week! I may even do a wrap-up on Friday. All my dedicated nonexistent readers can rejoice. 😉 I took a pretty hardcore media fast (which I do from time to time…it’s healthy), and I don’t blog during those weeks, hence the silence lately.

We’ve been working extra hard to make sure we finish up the school year in time to take a couple of weeks off in late June/early July. We school year-round, so we take just a couple of weeks off in the summer, when it’s unbearably hot outside and the boys don’t like to be outside during the main part of the day. We save our longest breaks for October and March, when the weather here is gorgeous and mild. But we all still look forward to those couple of weeks in summer, to relax for a bit between our most intensive schooling months, and I also use it to make sure I hunt down and buy any last pieces of curriculum that I need. I buy everything used, except for workbooks——and every so often, I actually manage to find nearly-unused and even completely-unused workbooks, for big discounts off of new. So this past month, I’ve found and bought a few books that I’ll need for Demond; luckily I still have all my teacher manuals from when Gray was in these lower grades, so I only need a few things.

Gray’s going to finish 6th grade this summer. He’s solidly proficient in arithmetic, both conceptually and in calculation skills. His calculation skills blow my mind, actually! He’s more than ready for pre-algebra. After six years of using Abeka for arithmetic, we are moving on now. As good as Abeka’s elementary arithmetic program is, their higher math is known for being dreadful. After hours upon hours (and I mean days) of researching algebra curricula and their reviews, as well as much deliberation and agonizing, I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates: Chalk Dust Pre-algebra, or Teaching Textbooks Algebra I and Algebra II (used as a pre-algebra/algebra course).

Teaching Textbooks is a simple choice because it’s so popular and well-loved. It’s fun and is known for being very easy to understand. However, it’s also known for being light-weight, lacking depth of knowledge, and for not being very rigorous. Chalk Dust, on the other hand, is nothing if not rigorous. First of all, it uses college textbooks, even for pre-algebra, and is known for being a challenge for even smart students. It comes with a set of DVD instruction from an experienced teacher (who has taught middle school through college aged students), and the instruction is extremely thorough (10 DVDs’ worth). The instructor is not only personable and likable, he also has a great sense of humor. And he’s quite a good teacher. We watched the demos, and both Gray and I liked him and understood what he was teaching.

The downside to Chalk Dust is that the Pre-algebra course costs over $400 new. But I found a used copy of the DVDs and answer key for sale on homeschoolclassifieds for $70. I found that the textbook is available used on Amazon for around $30. So, I was able to piece together an entire set for $100! Tightwad skills save the day, once again. 😉

I’m also checking eBay constantly to see if I can snag a used set of Teaching Texbooks’ Algebra I and Algebra II, so we can have that here, too. Each of their sets runs around $180 new, so I have to find one used or we can’t afford it. I want to start him out with the easier Teaching Textbooks, and ease him into the Chalk Dust. And that’s our plan with Gray for next year.

Des is about two weeks away from finishing 1st grade. He’s come so far and learned so much this year! Not only has he learned tons in arithmetic, he’s also finished Abeka’s Handbook for Reading, so he can now either read, or sound out, (just about) any word. He’s reading very proficiently, though. I’m so proud of him, and I’m kind of excited that I actually taught another human being to read! To top it off, a couple of months ago, he started reading chapter books for the very first time. It set him on fire for reading. He now insists on checking out stacks of chapter books from our library, and he reads through a book a day on average. Sometimes two per day. Sometimes, for a longer one, or if he gets busy with other things, it takes him two days. But he’s a reading machine. He loves it so much that he has taken books on walks around the block (reading while he walks!), and he’s frequently seen walking through the house with a book open and reading…the other day, he was trying to put on his shoes while holding a book and reading it. 😀

Once he finishes 1st grade, I’m starting him immediately on 2nd grade (another year of Abeka arithmetic and phonics). The reason is: Gray won’t be done with 6th grade studies until the end of June, so at the point Des finishes 1st grade, I’m going to be teaching Gray for six more weeks, anyway. So Des will get his first six weeks of 2nd grade in before we stop for a break. I told him we’d still celebrate his end-of-1st-grade milestone, though. I’ll probably make him chocolate cupcakes and get him something special.

In other subjects, we’ve been finishing up the Skeletal System chapter in Anatomy, and we’ve been moving through the 1500s in History. Still learning lots about the Great Reformation and its heroes. Last week we learned about the Jesuits/Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, and Ivan the Terrible of Russia. This week it’s been the European explorers in North America during the 1500s. The boys both love history, and so do I! Lately, I’m especially interested in the history of the early Church during the nearly 300 years between the time of the New Testament apostles and the Nicene Creed, at which time Rome completely took over the Church and things changed drastically. I am beyond curious about as to how the Spiritual gifts (tongues, prophecy, healing, etc) were operating during those 300 years before Nicaea, as well as how they continued to operate behind the scenes during the Dark/Middle Ages. It’s very difficult to find this type of Church history, but I’ve done some digging around, as well as asked a pastor friend, and a Biblical scholar friend, and I’ve found some great books that I can’t wait to read (especially one in particular, the name of which I cannot recall at the moment——but I’ll be reviewing it at some point, once I read it).

That’s what we’ve all been up to lately. Lately, if I’m not teaching school, I’m researching curriculum. And if I’m not researching curriculum, I’m researching early Church history. 😀 And loving my boys, all the time. ❤

2 thoughts on “School Update and Random Goings-On

  1. My mind is swirling & swirling after reading all of the things you’re doing & planning. I don’t know how you have been able to do all that you do? It sounds pretty complicated to me! Keep up the good work, and I do exist….I am one of your readers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s