Saturday, July 11, 2009

Plan Next Year's Homeschooling - Check!

After weeks of research and contemplation, I think it's finally done! I put in my last orders this morning. I'm a bit taken aback by all the money I have spent, but as an old friend in California once said to me, "sometimes you have more time than money and other times you have more money than time". Not that I have so much money...but since I am now working a job, I can squeeze a little more out of the budget to get materials that my son can use a little more independently...which is good for both my schedule and his development. And since he's going into his junior year of high school, his development is becoming more and more important.

"What to do for U.S. History?" has been on my mind a lot these weeks. This past year, his primary resource for what I call "World History and Culture" was movies (from Netflix). I used the book, Learning with the Movies, by Beth Holland to get ideas, along with doing a bit of research for myself. We discussed the movies, discussed time lines, discussed world events...and he wrote essays. I'm really pretty pleased with our "program"; however, for U.S. History, I wanted to be a little more comprehensive and cohesive in presentation of material. Because my son is legally blind, it isn't easy for him to read very much at a time...and I didn't really see anything in auditory format. So I was delighted to discover the Graphic U.S. History series. Somewhat like comic books in appearance, they are written at the level of a newspaper (easy to read but interesting for all ages), and it looks like they provide lots of great history knowledge...and in timeline order. We will continue to use movies and essays, as well.

Most difficult to decide was what curriculum to use for Spanish, simply because I had a hard time bringing myself to pay the cost. However, we finally decided to get what I hear and hope is "the best"...Rosetta Stone. There is even a homeschool edition with tracking capabilities. I ordered ours through Timberdoodle, a homeschool supplier in Washington State (the same company where I discovered the Graphic U.S. History). Why did I go through Timberdoodle for the Spanish? ...because their catalogs have helped me find such great materials over the years...over the decades...and, of course, it doesn't hurt any that they're from my home state, either. :)

For Algebra 2, we will continue to use Teaching Textbooks, which we already possess from the next older son having used it. As I have watched newer and more homeschool-friendly materials develop, this has been my very favorite. The kids just pop a CD-Rom into the computer, watch the problems as the authors discuss the lesson, and then work the problems in the book. Peter has used this for Algebra 1 and Geometry, and done beautifully (it might not hurt, either, that math is his "thing").

For English, I went the "spend time rather than money" route. I don't know if there's any other way to go for composition, anyway, than to spend time with the student and their work. Well, you might think I can easily teach writing, since I'm a writer, but the one doesn't necessarily follow from the other (especially since I pretty much "play by ear" when I write). What I have been wanting, I think, for teaching writing, are the right materials. I hope I have found just that in Jensen's Format Writing, which I ordered from Catholic Heritage Curricula. This book can be used in one high school year or two, and covers single paragraph formats, five paragraph essays, business writing, major papers, and etc.

This past year for science, we used Biology 101 by Wes Olson and I was very pleased with the program, which provides hours of interesting, basic instruction on DVDs, accompanied by a guidebook for adding reading, field trips and labs to accomplish enough learning and hours for an accredited course.

Chemistry was my son's next choice for science and I did a lot of research to try to find the right program for us. This might be another subject where I will have to put in a little time - and I'm not a "science person", but Friendly Chemistry looks very...well, friendly. I emailed the authors some questions about our special needs and they emailed me back promptly. Also, I liked that there are experiments which use materials that are readily available.

Last night I finally decided what to do for religion. I ordered the Catechism of the Catholic Church on CD-Rom as reference material. He also has the New Testament on tapes. For the meat and potatoes (and dessert), I plan to join Pius Media, online Catholic DVD Rental Club...which appears to work a lot like Netflix. I had fun last night browsing the selections, where it looks like we should be able to get talks on apologetics and doctrine, as well as both instructional and devotional Bible presentations, along with stories of great people and what they have done.

I'm not sure where in the world he will find the time for this last item, but I know it's important. We have a CD-Rom for preparation for the S.A.T. pre-college exam, which we obtained for the cost of shipping as members of Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

If you have read this far, I am guessing you either have a high school student or you are a family member or friend interested in how I do it (including a cyber-friend? ). If you reading this simply because you are my friend or relative, thank you for your interest! :)

If you are reading this because you yourself are trying to plan your own homeschool curriculum, and if you happen to be a Catholic homeschooler, I'd like to recommend one more resource for you. You can listen to a Homeschool Connections webinar given by Alicia VanHecke on June 10th about "Choosing Worthwhile Homeschool Materials". Homeschool Connections, founded by Walter Crawford and my friend and homeschooling colleague Maureen Wittmann, presents free webinars for homeschool parents, as well an interesting offering of webinar classes for teens.

And now, please excuse me while I go work toward finishing up this past year's schoolwork...


Anonymous said...

So, I did read most of it...just because its never too early to start. I mean Harvey, Maya and Jewel aren't really old enough yet. (nonexistent, ya know).

But I mostly read because its amazing the number of programs and resources exist since I was a homeschooled person. Its not fair actually...much of the newer stuff sounds...FUN!

Margaret Mary Myers said...


When you started being homeschooled (if you are who I think you are :) ), it was all so new and many of us were using classroom-type materials...and those parents who didn't, spent a ton of time and energy preparing unit lessons, etc.

I'm so glad that so many people have worked so hard (too many "so's") to provide materials that are friendly to both parents and students. Just think how much easier and more fun it will be for you and yours some day. :)

Linda said...

I found your blog through the blind homeschoolers yahoo group. I have 3 kids who are all low vision and I'm currently searching for good programs to use. Although my kids are younger (9,7, and 6) I found some good tips in your post which I'm going to use, like using movies as part of our history program. Any other suggestions for younger students? I'd be very interested! Have a great school year!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight into options for homeschooling legally blind kids. I am about to start 2nd grade with my 7 year old who is legally blind. I am struggling with what to do with his reading/language...any suggestions based on your experience with you son? Blessings

Margaret Mary Myers said...

Linda and Anonymous #2 :)

I will try to write a blog post soon in reply to your questions. Please check back, as it might not be tomorrow or even this week. When I do, I will try to remember to post a link at Blindhomeschooler again, too.

Looking forward to addressing this, but just don't have the time right now.

Thank you for reading and for your interest.

Margaret Mary