Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Weird homeschooling day!

I spent the last week creating custom curricula for all my children with www.theheadoftheclass.com.  They have complete pre-K through 3rd grade curricula available, free, including art and music (which most free programs skip), and we've been using them happily for months, even though I worried that Caleb was definitely NOT being challenged enough. Last week they introduced the customize curriculum option, to my great delight.

With the custom curriculum option in the program, you can draw from any of their thousands of resources and/or add your own from external websites, which then show up on the child menu alongside the Head of the Class activities.

So I chose what I wanted for my kids from their stuff (all interactives for Benji, for example, and for Nathanael), and then added what they wanted (Caleb wanted ALL the "fun" lessons, Pre-K through 3), and then I browsed my catalog of online resources over at Learning Lynx and picked a few things I thought the kids might enjoy learning from there, including supplementing Head of the Class's music lessons with films of people playing famous solos on each of the different instruments that Head of the Class introduced with animated movies. For Caleb, I pulled supplemental online music lessons from a college textbook's online learning center.

Caleb and Anda both wanted to study biology (which, for most online resources for kids now, is almost completely replaced with eco-science--so much so that the kids yell at me when I throw anything away because I should find a way to compost or recycle it! MOM!). Because of the overwhelming eco-focus of most of the kids' biology resources, I didn't want to use them--I want the kids to learn traditional biology, too. Things like organ systems in plants, and photosynthesis, and cell structure. You know--biology.

So I found an e-course over at Hippocampus: Biology for Non-Majors. It's college-level Bio-101. I didn't put in all the nitty-gritty lessons about things like cell respiration. But I linked over half of the course into the Head of the Class system for the two big kids.  I should have put in the AP biology stuff for Anda--it's all video-format lessons instead of textbook-format lessons.

Anyway, then I put in a 7-12th grade health course for both big kids, too, from e-Learning For Kids. And then, at their requests, I put in a bunch of the Head of the Class materials.

So today Caleb and I sat down to do his school day, the first with the new curriculum.

First we had a college-level video showing someone playing the alto saxophone, and Caleb verbally compared the alto to the tenor sax we watched last week as a test lesson, and we briefly discussed where you might see a saxophone. With my kids (and especially Caleb), we go for short lessons so he can focus and retain the info.

Then we had a college-level lesson called "Kinds of Science" that discussed the different ways of dividing science up: empirical/formal, pure/applied, natural/social, etc. We also discussed the scientific method, looking at two different models of it and discussing it as a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule, and also the places where some scientists get hung up (like on thinking only a positive result is valid, or trying to force a result because of the funding source, designing a poor experiment, or just plain having bias). Then we discussed experiments--that they should be objective and reproducible, and also structured right (and we got a little side tracked discussing placebo effect). Anyway, it was fun, and I could see Caleb's brain going (and I haven't seen that in ages), and the text was right on his reading level (finally!) and not over-simplified (finally!), and once he figured out I was going to ask him a question at the end of each page, he tuned in and paid attention (finally!).  It was really stimulating. It took about 10 minutes, too (like I said, short lessons, rapid-fire info, and then move on).

Anda stood on the other side of the room listening, and then said, "Do I get to do that lesson, too?" I said, "yes," and she got all bouncy and excited and said, "Good!" I guess she's anxious to sink her teeth into some real learning, too!

Then we turned on the next lesson. It was a 3rd grade spelling lesson, making Caleb practice spelling the words for the numbers one through nine.  Ouch! He had 3 spelling lessons on his list today--all covering the same material, it turned out. (After he was done, I went and customized all the excess spelling practice right off his list).

And then the next one was a little video on Cows that included the sentence, "Can you say 'moo'?"

Oh, my!

Caleb definitely doesn't belong in elementary school!

Thank goodness for a customizable curriculum and free, ready access to college materials. The only problem I'm beginning to see now is what happens when he gets to college and they make him take Bio 101 again? I guess we'll deal with that when the time comes.

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