Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School

It's been eight and a half months since our family started on the homeschool journey.  On August 3rd, we'll begin 4th grade and it will the first year I'll be teaching all by myself.

Saying "all by myself" isn't exactly fair.  I have a wealth of resources available and have been spending the past few weeks reading other homeschool blogs for tips and inspiration.

The most important thing to do, going forward, is to define our goals.

Overall goal:  Develop strengths that could lead to future independence - connecting his skills to the world in a sustainable way.

Mid-range goal: Prepare Liam to enter into other programs (Like Exceptional Minds) which could hone his career skills.

Short-term goal:  Expose Liam to new ideas and concepts, engaging his mind and pushing his comfort zone.

Last year, we found some programs that Liam loved that I'll use to shape the curriculum this year.  ST Math is back, as well as BrainPop ESL and BrainPop science programs.

I've been turning over ideas for how to teach history in a way that might resonate.  Liam is just beginning to get a grasp on time, especially past and future.  Once again, missing the "meaning" of events makes them harder to loacate in space and time - and that's for events he participated in.  Things that happened to other people have been well outside of his scope.

Liam does connect with interesting facts though - if presented in the right way.  Several homeschool sites recommended "The Story of the World" by Susan Wise Bauer.  It's geared more for Classical Homeschoolers, but the storytelling style of the text and the accompanying activity book looks promising.  If it works, I can reinforce it with online material and museum trips.  This volume is for grades 1-4.  I also like that it is a sequential history from the earliest records of humanity.  Common Core "social studies" (or at least the curriculum at his old school)  start with modern events and skip backward and forward in time - teaching about the gold rush and then the westward expansion.  If Liam has a prayer of getting the gist of this, keeping things in chronological order seems best.

On Thursday, we visited a new art teacher, to see about getting Liam some more solid technique.  I think he's ready.  I met the instructor on Mother's Day at the annual Studio City Arts Fair.  She had a tent with student artwork displayed that showed a range of styles, media and ability.  She teaches art and music from her studio in Van Nuys (  After the first, small group class, we both determined it would be better to do private sessions.  We'll also keep playing with  The animation and graphics challenges are great and he loves to see his work posted online.

As for BrainPop science - I decided to focus on life sciences this year, since it's the most broadly observable and tactile.  The Aquarium of the Pacific offers homeschool days, so I structured the marine biology lessons to lead up to a field trip.
The human biology classes can lead up to a field trip at the Science Center, with a whole hands-on exhibit dedicated to body systems.
We also happen to have some fun Magic Schoolbus and other Scholastic books on those subjects.

Reading comprehension will be tied into the BrainPop ESL lessons.
We'll keep reading the illustrated books Liam loves, since he can immediately connect the action to the pictures, but we'll slowly work into chapter books with fewer illustrations, taking them a few pages at a time.  Fortunately, some of his favorite authors have written both picture books and chapter books.

And I want to introduce Liam to his own blog, to start creating his own narrative sequence for the day and reconnect to meaning whenever possible.  It'll really help ME figure out what's landing and what isn't.

To keep me on track, I've made a daily schedule of ESL and Science along with time for ST Math through mid November.  I figure that'll give me time to assess wheter we're on the right track and make adjustments.  4th Grade used to be my favorite grade to teach. Time to take a big breath and dive in!

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We hope that sharing our journey will inspire other parents to find the most useful path to developing their own child's stengths. If you have a comment or question, feel free to post. We will review all posts before publishing, to ensure a kind, respectful discussion.