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My son wasn't exactly thrilled to see me working on next year's school calendar already.  I wasn't exactly thrilled to be working on it (well, okay....maybe just a wee bit).  But with my DH asking me about what days he should take off in a couple of months and trying to figure out activities we are going to be able to do in August, I need to know when we are starting school for the 2014-2015 school year.

To do that, I need to figure out when we are ending and when we know we are taking off.

So....  I start here at Donna Young's website which I posted about back in March.  I like to print out a couple of copies of the blue 12 month calendars.  One could work but I know I will at some point make a mistake in my rough draft.

The next step is asking my dear son when he wants to be done.  We usually go with the last weekday in May but I always ask for his thoughts.  Usually he says the day after we start or something of that nature...  but he's always given a chance.   This year he actually finished his academics a few days earlier than the planned end date...so he chose May 26th for next year - 3 days prior to the end of the last week.

The next important step is putting in our Feast Days.  We are Orthodox Christians and we like to be able to attend Liturgy not only on Sundays but at least on the 12 most important Feast Days of the Liturgical Year. There are other feast days as well, but we do not schedule to have off on those days.  We will occasionally attend Liturgy, but school must still be held as well.

After inserting FD on all my Feast Days that are on weekdays, I put in holidays(Thanksgiving, Christmas is a Feast Day, and New Year's Day are the only holidays we schedule to take off).  Then I put in my son's birthday and cross out all the vacation days we take at Christmas (from Christmas through New Year's Day) as well as all of Holy Week and Bright Monday.  I also put in one flex day for travel in January...we usually go travel to see my Mom for her birthday 🙂

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Now I make a chart and count up the days I am left with for each month, September through May.

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When I do the math, counting back 180 days beginning on May 26th as day 1, I end on August 18th.  That's not bad, only it doesn't allow us any Flex Time other than that one day.  And I personally feel and know flex time is necessary!  This is time later in the school year that can be taken off for illness, attending an extra church service, hunting, and other miscellaneous adventures or misadventures that are bound to arise.  So...

This is the step where I consult my son again.  I show him the days I have marked.  I show him the math.  I show him when he could start school without any flexibility.  And then I advise he start at least 4 days before that.  I know he'll want to take at least 3-4 days for hunting....

He surprises me this year and says he wants to have more flex days than last year.  He doesn't want a repeat of this year where he had gotten behind taking off more time than flex days allowed and therefore had him behind for a bit.  He caught up and still finished ahead of schedule but did not enjoy doing the overtime hours it took to do that.

So we are starting on August 4th.  This gives him 8 Flex days.  I, of course, told him he's free to start ahead of that...even doing just quarter or half days.  I don't foresee that happening but I'll have his 'lesson plans' done ahead of time to allow for that very easily if he were to decide to do so.... which means, yep... you know what I'll be doing later this month!   Typing up those plans!

Final Draft
Final Draft

 

Now....before I go - since we are on the subject of calendars - I wanted to share a link that I stumbled across in my email the other day from a blog on BlogSpot called Homeschool Parent.  It displays a printable traceable calendar for your young children every month.  It's really cute and is a good way to introduce the months and writing numbers 1-31!  Hop on over and take a look!

 

 

Today marks day 64 of the school year for my oldest boy.  This is his 9th grade year, his first year of high school and his first year of keeping grades for a transcript.

Some parts of planning for this year were difficult.  Others not so much.  You see, I've been through this before and have sent my daughter off to college already.  She is in her first year and doing quite well! I'm really proud of her.

My other boy is only 3!  There's not so much planning for the three-year old...though my eagerness has kept me exploring and I have peeked at several preschool and kindergarten curriculums but am heavily leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach for him.

But back to my oldest!

This year we determined to start with 5 major classes:  English 9, Biology with a Lab, American History, Algebra II, and Russian.

English is always my favorite subject to plan!  I love reading and I love writing so what's not to love about planning English?  I do not like curriculums that lay everything out for English because I like to fiddle with things too much and make it more personable and meeting the needs of my child.  But I have dealt with such curriculums in the past for various reasons.  This year, I again chose a mixture.  For Literature, we are using the Gold Book of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Curriculum.    I chose the Gold Book because it ties into American History.  In the beginning, I was all for having him do the whole book and was excited about him being introduced to short stories.  But then I read some of them....   🙁     I knew darn well these were not going to be his cup of tea.  Classic literature or not, if he wasn't going to enjoy it at all, he wasn't going to learn.  So I fairly quickly ditched that part of the set-up.  (We'll try short stories another time, perhaps, if I can find some modern stories that he could relate to.)  Instead, I made a book list (oh how I LOVE creating book lists!).  In addition to the three books that the Gold Book incorporates (The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Red Badge of Courage), I decided to introduce him to at least one Shakespeare.  We will be reading The Tempest.

Selecting which Shakespeare play to begin with was probably the hardest part of the book list!  But with much researching and asking of friend's opinions, The Tempest it will be! I'm looking forward to it as this is one I actually have not read myself yet. Additional required books on his list are:  Rifles for Waite, The Outsiders, Johnny Tremain (we read this one a long time ago as a read-aloud but I felt it fit with his American History and he may enjoy it more now that he's older), and My Side of the Mountain.  In addition to these, he gets to choose 8 for himself with the only rules that one must be about our Orthodox faith and they all must be pre-approved by myself.  I have a feeling he will be reading the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book soon since it was just released, but this one will NOT count towards the required reading!!  The Gold Book, in addition to providing background information and questions for the three books it covers, also has a poetry unit.  Three poems are assigned for reading for each poet the book covers along with comprehension type questions.  It seems to give a good overall view of the elements of poetry and develops skill for analyzing literature.

For the writing part of English, we are using IEW.  My son watches the video lessons presented by Andrew Pudewa and follows through with the assignments.  I think his writing has improved a great deal.  We are also using IEW's Fix It Grammar program as a nice review.  My son completed the Analytical Grammar program last year and,quite frankly, that program covered things so well that I truly  don't think he will ever need much in grammar ever again!

Biology was another easy choice.  It's his 9th grade year and the local co-op provides a lab for biology every few years....this being the year for it!  The course is through the Apologia Curriculum.  I love Apologia. It truly prepares the student for college level science but keeps the Christian worldview focus.  Science does NOT have to be all evolution.

American History was a little bit trickier to choose.  My son is not a lover of history.  He doesn't hate it.  But it's not a huge interest.  So I wanted something that may present things differently... not a typical dry textbook and not something that was only going to quickly go over the basics without grabbing any interest.  After much debate, we chose Exploring America by the Notgrass Company.  Of course, we've done some adapting.  The curriculum is cumulative in that it incorporates reading and bible into the history.  We are only using it for the history.  This means he's not doing the literature books they recommend, primarily because I knew they would never be books he would choose for himself and it wouldn't have left room for me to select books I felt he should read.  In addition to skipping the literature, we skip the bible lessons as well - they are of a protestant nature and I don't feel they are necessary to comprehend the history lessons.  We are Orthodox Christians and we read plenty of bible and faith related material without adding this aspect to it.  I here that part of the curriculum is actually done quite well.  I just decided there wasn't a need for it for our particular needs. We are actually reading the history lessons together and I am enjoying this.  We then answer the questions orally together and I help him study for the quiz that he takes every 5 lessons. I like the detail that the author put into the history lessons.  I've covered more American history in the past 2 months I've been reading with him than I think I covered in all my history years in the public schools.  And it's interesting... not just boring factual stuff.  I like it.

I am a HUGE fan of Teaching Textbooks!  We've been using it for our math since my daughter was in 6th grade!  It is AMAZING!!!!!!!  I am not a math expert.  While I got through math and actually got an A in my last semester of high school Algebra, it is not a subject I prefer teaching.  Teaching Textbooks does it all for me.  It's a computerized program and every single problem is on the computer.  If the student plugs in a wrong answer, they can watch the entire problem worked out step by step and see exactly where they made their mistake...and NO arguments with Momma!!  🙂  How can you not love it?? So this year he is doing Algebra II. He knows that he is to watch the explanation of any problem he misses.  If he scores below an 80, I delete the lesson and he does a do-over.  This way, we meet mastery before going on to the next lesson.

My son chose the language he wanted to learn.  My husband's heritage is Russian so it seemed a no-brainer to him to pick Russian.  While my husband recalls a few words and phrases taught to him by his grandparents in his youth, he is not ready to teach the language and I know nothing....sooooo......    CurrClick.Com offers a variety of online courses for homeschoolers and one of them is Russian!!  Mr. G does a fabulous job and my son really loves the course.

Well, that's the main courses.  In addition to these, he practices typing with a Mavis Beacon program as well as types out his final papers for IEW and Fix-It-Grammar.  We haven't seen dramatic results yet, but there are signs of improvement! He also uses Vocabulary.Com to practice SAT vocabulary and does the SAT question of the day two times a week to help prepare himself for that test in the future.

We've also added a bit of geography to the day.  I've been reading a lot about that Charlotte Mason approach and have learned a bit of how she approached geography with outline maps.  I liked the idea and thought it would be a really easy thing to start covering with him.  There's actually no set law that a course HAS to be completed in the same year it's started, so we decided to start out slow and add to it bit by bit like it's presented by the CM Approach... so right now we are covering North America since that's what he is most familiar with.  He did a bigger course last year that covered land forms, environments, etc.  so right now we are only focusing on learning names and locations of countries, major cities, bodies of water, etc.  It's only North America and I've already added to my own geography knowledge!! We'll see how we do the rest of this year before deciding whether to add to it and actually make it worth a partial or whole credit course.

Well, that wraps up what we are doing this year for my son's 9th grade year.  It's actually been a good year so far.  He seems to be doing well.  It's been an adjustment getting used to the amount of reading material and higher level questions and balancing that with Boy Scouts, hunting and pretty soon the ski season will start.  But for a 15-year-old boy who also helps out with chores and is a great big brother, I'd say he's doing a really good job!