Testing…Testing…Testing…

At this time of year students all across the country are participating in standardized testing to demonstrate their proficiency in learning.  Although it’s not required in every state, for many of us in the homeschool community testing is a gateway we must also enter through. Sometimes, by choice because standardized testing provides answers to the question we are looking for:
         How’s my child doing?

Testing can be a stressful time for parents as well as students, so I wanted to share a few strategies that have helped us reduce the stress here at Munroe Palms.

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2 Weeks Before Testing:
We utilize the Spectrum Test Prep books for each child’s grade level. There are 2-4 subject areas (Math, English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies)  broken down into 3 or 4 sections. After each section is a Mini-Test comprising of about 10 questions.
We spend the first part of the week going through all of the Mini-Tests throughout the book. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes for each mini-test. Once they have all been corrected, I can assess where their strengths and areas of improvements are. After that, we will go through the sections preceding the mini-test  indicating as an area of needed improvement.

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1 Week Before Testing:
Begins with Test Prep Practice Session Day. This is a good way of putting the children in the right frame of mind for testing in a classroom. None of the flexible options normally allowed during the normal homeschool day. They can not work on the couch or on their bed. They can’t lay on the floor or work in the backyard – they have to sit at the table with bottoms in the chair.

Testing Week:
This is the special time of year when they all get brand new pencils, pencil grips, and bookmarks all neatly packed into their colour coordinated pencil bags. Additionally, each child is encouraged to bring a book for waiting times, so somewhere after the new year I begin to keep an eye out for a special book for each boy to have for this week.

They are always so excited for the first day to see which book I have selected for them. Sometimes I buy new, sometimes I find it on my bookshelf, and sometimes it’s been purchased from our local used bookstore, but it’s always new to them, a selection they have not read before.

What Boys do….
“Mum tells us our room number and we go to our rooms. When everyone arrives we pray and we begin testing,” says KC.

“The two longest sections…. Reading Comprehension and Math Computation was on the second day,” reports KJ.

CJ shared, “Testing week snacks are Awesome! We get to choose things mum doesn’t usually let us buy.
Oh! And we save a Book-It coupon to have lunch at Pizza Hut, too.”

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So here it is in a nutshell:
1)  Preparation:  walk through the process with your child to give them the feel for the actual thing. Especially to practice filling in bubbles on the answer sheet.

2)  Outsource/Crowd Source:  connect with other moms and home educators for testing practice. Perhaps someone in your network can host the test prep practice like we did with two other families this year.

3)  Enthusiasm: Keep the excitement. Build a routine that your child can look forward to. Anything from additional play dates in the park or eating out during the week of testing.

Please share one of your strategies on how you prepare for testing.

Until next time, remember:
You’re Growing Greatness.


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Round #2: Glasses

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 Glasses:
 When they’re not on your face,
they’re in the case!!!

That’s the Law. The rule from the first day we left the opticians office. However,  as time went on we all got a little lax in diligently following the rule.
Then a few weeks ago, someone in this photo (whose identity I’ve chosen to  protect) left their glasses on the floor right beside their bed. Late that night a loud  crunch was heard as those glass frames were crushed into 4 pieces.

Fortunately, it was only 3 months since The Rule was instituted, and so they were  still covered by the one year warranty. Hooray!

The replacements were picked up today and The Rule still applies, so let us try  this again. Round #2:
 Glasses: 
When they’re not on your face,
they’re in the case!!!

To Pay, or Not To Pay?

THAT is the Question:

About 4 or 5 years ago.. I was praying about this issue.
We have boys.. all boys…
Busy, Bouncy, Boisterous Boys!
Who are going to be men, husbands, fathers.
In teaching them responsibility and work ethic,
God.. led me to assign the names for each job.

We used to have their chores (job$) rotate each day…
But it got harder to track their pay.. 25 cents per job per day.
So now they rotate each week.

 The Sweeper

The Sweeper

for example:

KC:
Chef (selects breakfast; snack options, makes lunch for everyone, and helps me prepare dinner)
Recycler (empties the trash cans, replaces trash bags, takes recycling to the container outside as it accumulates in the kitchen)
KITCHEN (basic jurisdiction for the week)

KJ:
Waiter (sets and clears the table.. and also gets to TELL everyone else where they sit. Daddy says he always knows who is the waiter because they sit themselves close to him for the whole week)
ShoeShine (make sure all the shoes are not scattered around the house and are in the shoe cubbies MrC. built in the front closet)
LIVING ROOM (basic jurisdiction for the week)

CJ:
Plumber (boys + toilet = needs to be cleaned almost everyday)
Sweeper (somehow it seems these children have wholes in their mouths at every meal)
BATHROOM (basic jurisdiction for the week to make sure mummy doesn’t walk through the hallway and smell it like it’s a rest stop)

KC, The Dishwasher

The Dishwasher

plus, they alternate odd/even days for the Butler (laundry) & Dishwasher

The twins are 2 boys so they do even days.
& CJ does odd days, with occasional parental assistance 😉

Until next time, remember:
You’re Growing Greatness.

Three Things Thursday: Beginning

Three Things Thursday:

        #1.      I’m Baaacckkk!!!

I’ve had all these ideas for posts. Some I started in unpublished drafts, others I didn’t have time to jot down but then completely forgot about.
To Be Honest, I got sidetracked from my original purpose for this blog. I have made quite a few fantastic friendships through other homeschool blogs, groups and forums. These relationships are so treasured. They continue to inspire and encourage me. But, I did begin to feel a little intimidated by all their amazing designs and content. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to “jump back in.” When I saw this image I just knew it was perfect.

        #2.     I’m Staying

I would like to say that I’ll  continue Three Things Thursdays.  Posting three things I want to share. About Anything.
But realistically speaking. I”m not a writer. I have a natural gift for editing other posts, blogs, flyers, etc.  There have been so many events I’ve wanted to share but, haven’t managed my time.  may post a few randomly. but I am here to stay. Blogging and posting oh so slowly away.

        #3.     I’m Still Loved

The highlight of my week happened today. While we were sitting together on the sofa “dvd schooling” this afternoon all three of my sons passionately discussed who had the pleasure of cuddling next to me. So, despite the fact that KC, KJ, & CJ are now old enough to wipe off my kisses or not want me to hug them in public, it filled my mummy heart to maneuver a way to snuggle with each of them for the duration of TV time.

toddler twins & meprek CJ & me

Math-Antics

I have previously mentioned our fascinating journey with math.
My oldest was using TT4 halfway through 3rd grade and doing well with it..
2 months in and our computer crashed and couldn’t get a replacement anytime soon.
so.. we tried 2 other math programs.. which was A Complete Waste of Time.
We got a new laptop for Christmas and this was one of the first things he asked for.. by the placement test he placed right back in TT4.
He is now close to halfway through TT4.
So, as our school year started up again after a few weeks “summer break” he’s now 11 beginning his 6th grade year doing TT4.
He LOVES it & is doing much better.
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It worked out WELL…. VERY WELL.
It is going so well, that the twins couldn’t wait to start using TT3.
So now, all my boys are using Teaching Textbooks math.
(Along with the Life of Fred elementary series and XtraMath.org)
There are no more school tears… not over math anyway… 😉
and we are enjoying our homeschool journey together again.

What are you using for Math?

new 2013 Education Plan


We are officially half-way through our LAST week of MunroePalms 2012.
Hooray!  And looking forward to beginning our New School year next month.
So, I thought I’d share our finalized plans.

2013 

  • CJ: 6th Grade
  • KC: 3rd Grade
  • KJ: 3rd Grade

We started doing the Sabbath Rest thing halfway through last year
and we’ll continue mostly following the pattern this year..
Work Full School Days:  6 weeks..
Rest (light school) the 7th week.

  • Group Studies
    (Mon.-Thurs.)

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What’s Your HomeSchool Support?

It’s LIVE!
This video is about the FPEA HomeSchool Convention & tips from Parent-Educators about support structure for your Homeshool.
Join the discussion. What Is Your HomeSchool Support Structure?

I Just Couldn’t Miss It!

fpea 2013


That’s right!
We went to the
Florida Parent-Educators Association HomeSchool Conference
We already had this week scheduled off of school but had other plans. Close to the last minute plans changed and MrC. worked it out that we were able to go. YAY! MrC!
There were so many awesome and amazing moments (including one slight moment of panic from losing my bank card in the middle of the exhibit hall. no worries. it was later recovered). However, the MAIN MESSAGE of the weekend for ME was… Relationship.
Working Slow & Steady with EACH child at THEIR pace is…okay. Great, even.
The parent-child heart-to-heart relationship is the key that unlocks the door to learning!

My Top 5 Highlights:
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The Electives…Getting It In

The Electives…Getting It In

An ambitious homeschooling schedule can routinely bring you to some crossroads, trying to determine which way to go.  Having high expectations for my little ones makes me want to expose them to all the right activities at the right time.  I realize children can do a lot without feeling overwhelmed, if it meets their interest.  So we have included a few electives in our academic calendar year, but we had to be attentive and creative to fit them in.

There are five electives in our schedule and they do not require a lot of time, only a little consistency to make progress.  They are: Art, Spanish, Typing, Music and Soccer – the sport of choice.

So how were we able to get them in? 

One strategy that worked for us is capitalizing on each others strengths.  Since my husband and the boys are early risers, he is able to get them started each morning way before breakfast.  Each morning he’s able to rotate one, two or all three boys on Typing Instructor, depending on the day. Then mostly on the weekends they conduct their Spanish Lesson on Rosetta Stone.  A 30 minute session is all it takes.  Art and Music usually take place after lunch, alternating days.

ART – I Can Do All Things

We were introduced to this through the Adventures in My Father’s World curriculum set.

Resource:  Written by Barry Strebbing, this is a 3 year long art curriculum.  It includes rotating instruction in Drawing, Coloring with pencils and markers, Painting, and Art Appreciation. We also benefit from Mr. Strebbing’s introduction of each lesson on the DVD set.

Feedback:  All three of our sons really enjoy this.  Especially our 9yr old.  Often I find him doodling and putting into practice the lessons as he draws in his personal books during his free time. When I slow down and am not overwhelmed with all my other responsibilities, I sit and do the lessons with them.

SPANISH – Rosetta Stone: Latin American

Rosetta Stone needs no introduction, as it’s a widely known tool to learning a foreign language. This was our major purchase at our local 2011 homeschool convention.

Resource: We purchased all five levels in preparation for future advancement.  The HomeSchool edition allows for each member of the family to have their own log-in and learning tutorials with customized lesson plans and learning track selection. I have all the boys on Speaking & Listening Focus so they are not currently focused on reading and writing at this present time.

Feedback:  It’s like having a completely different teacher and the instructions are clear enough that the boys can navigate their way independently.  We have noticed that younger children who are still learning to enunciate specific sounds (like our twins) may require extra effort to advance since this program is largely built upon pronunciation.  On the other hand, this has been proven beneficial as it does cause them to recognize their errors and correct them.

TYPING – Typing Instructor for Kids: Platinum

I found this program strongly recommended by Timberdoodle, as well as a few fellow homeschool bloggers.

Resource:  The children travel and explore Typer Island through 160 different age-appropriate lessons. Upon installation you can choose the full English or Spanish Language option. This will be a great feature to try as the boys continue to advance in their Spanish lessons. Also included on the CD-rom is a pdf file of a very informative User’s Guide.

Feedback: Typing Instructor for Kids gave the boys the outlet to be introduced to typing skills with a caveat of playing various games after successfully completing a section. The games involved more typing to complete the required task, but they found enough excitement in it to continue typing.  We have noticed that occasional monitoring is needed to remind them to keep their fingers on the home keys  to properly develop the skill. Typing on a standard full size keyboard may also present a challenge for those little hands, so having a smaller keyboard will make it more achievable.

MUSIC – with Ms. Jenni

In the previous year my eldest son received a first class introduction to guitar.  This season, our instructor was able to incorporate the twins (now 7 years old) into weekly music theory intro lessons where they are learning the fundamentals of playing the piano.  At Ms. Jenni’s insistence, I am learning alongside them. Ms. Jenni is very patient with all of us and routinely gives pop quizzes, which the boys enjoy, especially if I make a mistake.

Resources: Ms. Jenni has selected the Bastien Piano Basics Series to incorporate our instruction. It includes piano, theory, performance and technique. So far, we have learned proper body posture and hand placement; as well as finger numbers, the musical alphabet and playing simple rhythm patterns.

 

Feedback:  It is possible to teach your child yourself using similar resources. However, we have a great asset in our personal instructor, who is more knowledgeable and passionate in this area.  Ms. Jenni is PRICELESS.  More information about music is contained in our previous post, How We Home School.

 

SOCCER – Upward Sports in Sept.-Nov.
We talked more about this in our post, How We Home School.  It will be the same format next fall.

So, an ambitious schedule is quite manageable if you are able to leverage some assistance from members of your household.   And if you’re children are like mine who rise early perhaps engaging them in an early morning activity is a viable solution to increase their productivity. Your spouse or an older sibling could supervise the activity or perhaps it is simple enough that a child could work at it on their own.

My, How Time Flies…

I know. I know. It’s been Waaayyyy TOO LONG since my last post.  Our official 1st day of school for MunroePalms Learning Centre 2012 was January 10th. It is now June 10th.
While we began with a BANG!! The spark rapidly fizzled and we slowly began trodding through the day. That continued with an increase in unfocused, inattentive boys…
So, by March I decided we needed to step back. I changed things up a bit to slow down and build their habit of attention. I took off all the “extras.” The non-core lessons.
No Science. No History. No Art. No Typing. No ASL. No Spanish. & No Music, although Music Lessons were already on break after the recital.
I had the boys work on JUST Calendar, Bible, Spelling, English, Handwriting, Reading, Math & Read-Alouds. I made them each a checklist with those subjects for the week. If they worked diligently and focused then they “earned a Science Lesson” (their favourite). It has taken us this long, but we are finally getting into a rhythm that works for all of us.

JANUARY through JUNE!
Oh My Goodness! That’s half the year.
So much has happened:

• The twins KC & KJ had their birthday and turned 7 years old
*my boys are not babies anymore 😥
• The boys hosted their first sleepover
• Our friends went on a missionary trip to China (& India) for @2 whole months
• I sold some books in the local homeschool Used Curriculum Sale for the first time.
• Mr. C. & I went to a parenting workshop
• The boys and I got locked out of my car @ a Sam’s Club.
• Our car battery died @ a different Sam’s Club.
• I’ve started crocheting again 🙂
• Our god-daughter Graduated High School. She leaves for University in a couple weeks 😥

Her mom & I are SO Proud• We missed the local Homeschool conference for the first time in 4 years.
• CJ took the 3rd grade SAT test
• And too many hilariously Candid Conversations that I missed documenting to share here.
I do however, have some pics of some of events over the past few months that I’ll be updating in this post.
Also, I’m going to try to write a monthly highlight of the homeschool happenings at MunroePalms more frequently.

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