Sunday, January 15, 2017

Low Stress High School Science and Math (VCF Week 3)

Welcome to the third week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. I almost didn't make this week due to my own illness, but decided I really wanted to talk about how we have handled the two subjects that give Amber the most difficulty: science and math.

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

High School Math:
Although Amber is rather gifted in mathematics (and this is coming from her math and science degree holding parents), it is an endless source of stress for her. It took us years to determine the root of the anxiety, since she has no difficulty at all with the concepts. I'm not going to detail here all of our struggles, but needless to say Saxon Math was not the best choice for a perfectionist child who couldn't stand getting a single problem wrong. Add to that her chronic illnesses that result in exhaustion after mental strain, and Saxon Math was just too many problems. We had to find something else that would give Amber a good basis in mathematics, challenge her, and yet not trigger her anxiety or cause so much exhaustion she had to choose between math or all of her other subjects for the day.

You can read about our math journey in previous blog posts (here and here), but our end choice has been Life of Fred high school math.  Amber has so far completed the Life of Fred Beginning Algebra (algebra 1) and Advanced Algebra (algebra 2). She's ready to start Geometry in the next couple of weeks when we resume full days of school.  Our plan is to continue through the series with Trigonometry and Calculus.

We have never forced Amber to finish or start math books on the school year schedule, which lead to her being about a semester ahead of schedule. Which means she will hopefully finish geometry in December of her Sophomore year, Trigonometry in December of her Junior year, and Calculus in December of her Senior year. This gives us an entire semester of buffer time, however she is not required to complete Calculus for her English degree which makes that entire course extra math.

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

High School Science:

Amber has a great interest in many science topics, however we found that a good deal of the science curricula available do not even come close to meeting her needs. We would start each new science curriculum with excitement only to be stressed out within a few weeks. Amber worried quite a bit about how she would ever get through high school science and the expected topics: Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and now an advanced science since she completed Physical Science in 8th grade.

We wanted to love Apologia science so badly. We really did. Amber always protested that she liked it for Physical Science, yet never wanted to work on it. Never. Ever. It was a struggle to finally finish the summer before 9th grade. I think the issue for her was the not the content, but using a textbook. She found it interesting, but it drained her energy almost as fast as math.

While planning for high school, I decided to brainstorm and research on alternative high school science topics. We live in a very homeschool friendly state, and basically our only restrictions on science are what she might need for college.  The schools Amber is looking at do not list specific required science topics, only a set number of science courses of which another number need to include labs. That opened us up to an array of new science topics.

I've already written a detailed post about our research for topics and curriculum.  However, what I left out was our last minute addition this semester: forensic science.  We were all set to work on a semester of botany and a semester of genetics for 9th grade, when Amber decided that aspects of forensic science interested her.  Of course being a homeschool mom, I went into research mode.  The result was a course I designed for Amber and have ended up teaching in our homeschool co-op this semester.

The forensics course touches on chemistry, physics, and biology aspects as well as logical deductions.  It is heavy on laboratory (experiment) work in class and reading outside of class time.  And while I'm not a forensic scientist, there are many resources available that make this topic accessible to those outside of the field. It is an entirely home-grown course while still being high school level and should encompass enough hours to be worth 1/2 credit. Our resources are:

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

There are so many more amazing resources to use for a full year forensics class, we simply decided to limit ours to a single semester and gear the level to the majority of our students who are in the earlier years of high school.

Although the use of some mathematics is needed in this forensics course, it is not the equation heavy type found in a lot of other math based sciences. The students are finding this to be of just the right difficulty to not cause math anxiety - which was my ultimate goal for Amber.

Next week I'll be talking about how Amber is earning history, government, and biological science credits.

Miss a week? Take a look at some of the other posts from the 2017 Curriculum Fair.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Week 19- The Slow Return

We were back to regular school this week, somewhat. Amber and I are still fairly puny and needed a slow start to the semester.

Our normal schedule of appointments and activities outside of home resumed this week, beginning with Amber's much needed physical therapy on Monday. She didn't have the energy for much more after PT, even though it was a shortened session. Her muscles have not being doing their job to keep her joints together despite doing so well before this winter. Some days we think we have a handle on this EDS and other days it clearly is winning.

Actual school work, with her ever faithful kitty.
I wasn't entirely sure what school Amber would manage this week because of activities, Amber's birthday, and being puny. Thankfully, we did manage to start Amber's new literature novel, Pride and Prejudice, and made considerable progress through the book. Amber almost always has the energy to read and she's really enjoying this novel. She also read the books she received for her birthday, even though they are not school related.

Amber is taking quite a few co-op classes that have regular homework so she spent most of her school time on Tuesday finishing that homework and continuing literature reading. However, co-op includes my forensic science class, so at least she was getting health, science, and Bible work in through that homework. We also found time to complete the half-finished history unit from early December, which made Tuesday was our most productive school day at home.

Our traditional (since Amber was 6) Saturday birthday celebration at Texas Roadhouse. Only on Saturday lunch... because it is too crazy there otherwise.
And, dinner on her actual birthday, then ice cream at Red Robin due to a power outage at home.
The rest of the week was spent at co-op classes and in birthday celebrations for Amber's 15th birthday. We celebrated the birthday a day early with my mom who had a trip planned to my sister's on Amber's actual birthday. Then Amber spent her birthday at co-op with her friends and had a spectacular day, even though a car accident on a nearby road caused us to lose power just as we returned from her birthday dinner. So, we just went out for birthday ice cream, where she was sung to again. Amber's best friend had made it her goal to ensure most of their classes at co-op sang to Amber. 

Friday we were all stuck at home in the ice storm. While I could have insisted on school, Amber usually gets the day after her birthday off to enjoy her new gifts. Then Fred took the day off to avoid the ice storm, which left to Amber built a couple of her new Lego sets and me to putter around planning food and meals in case we lost power from the ice forecasted all weekend.

Birthday cake at home, a day late, since we went out for birthday ice cream. Some of the many Lego sets she got for her birthday.

It was nice to be back to school, even for a few subjects, but we won't be back to a full schedule for most of January. We're taking Monday off from school for Amber's birthday outing with her friends and to spend with Fred who has the day off too. We hope to add German back in next week, although we don't have plans currently to start math back up until at least February.

Happy Winter Weather Weekend!

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up  Homeschool Coffee Break

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)

Welcome to the second week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. The general theme for this week is "Playing with Words", which applies to both English Language Arts and Foreign Language classes for my high school student. Having a daughter who intends to major in English means we spend a good part of each week in formal language instruction.

Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)

Although our daughter, Amber, is involved in many activities and co-op classes merely for enjoyment, the majority of her at-home lessons focus on earning high school credits. We spent a fair amount of time the summer before she began high school planning courses and strategizing how best she can achieve her goals.

Amber's curriculum and learning must all be structured to compensate for or accommodate her multiple chronic conditions that do affect her physical stamina and mental acuity. Many of the positive changes we have made to our schooling methods in the past year were based on recommendations from Amber's occupational therapist. (See her complete curriculum list here).

English Language Arts: English 1

We have chose to use a mixture of curriculum and products to create a high school level English 1 course for Amber. While it would be a dream to find everything she needs in one package, the reality is that is unlikely to happen. Instead, we focused our energy on finding sufficiently rigorous curriculum that provide the flexibility needed for Amber's daily physical and mental fluctuations.
Writing: Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)
Grammar: Fix It! Grammar from IEW
Vocabulary: Latin Morphemes Lessons (Latin and Loving It)
Literature: Teaching the Classics method, plus a few Memoria Press guides for Shakespeare and poetry.
Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)
Working on Fix It! Grammar
Amber has been using the IEW writing program for a couple of years now and we have continued through the standard path provided. After finishing a previous grammar program, we floundered looking for one that suited Amber, but finally found it in Fix It! Grammar. I had Amber take the placement test and then backed her up one level, just to ensure she gets the most from it.  She will continue with this product the next year or so until she finishes all the levels available.

I had not intended to formally include vocabulary in Amber's English 1 credit, but she honestly loves studying Greek and Latin Morphemes, so we are continuing with this curriculum. When it is complete, we will make decisions on purposeful vocabulary lessons.

Literature is one of Amber's absolute favorite subjects, but finding a curriculum that fit all of our requirements seemed impossible. We have successfully been using the methods set forth in Teaching the Classics for the majority of Amber's literature this year. Still, I wasn't all the confident on my ability to lead her through Shakespeare or even the poetry she adores. So, we are using an old favorite, Memoria Press, for Romeo and Juliet and American Poetry.

Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)

During our initial planning I did fall into the worry trap, concerned about how we would complete all of language arts each day, or even each week. Then, thinking back to my own high school honors English courses, we did not do any of these topics daily.  We had on-going literature assignments, between which we worked on grammar, related vocabulary, and writing style. Our writing assignments were usually based on our current literature project and not independent writings, unless it was a course entirely devoted to writing.

I decided to structure Amber's English 1 course in the same way. She always has a literature project going, but we may not work on it during our class time every day. We alternate grammar and vocabulary while giving emphasis to writing most weeks. This has been very successful so far and thus we will continue with this schedule for the foreseeable future.

English Language Arts: Creative Writing

Amber decided she wanted to earn two creative writing credits, separate from her English credits, over the course of the four years of high school.  We have started the first credit by using One Year Adventure Novel. Although Amber isn't as far along in this as she would like, she does love it and is improving. She has set it aside at times for a couple of other writing projects, but we always come back to the curriculum. 

Foreign Language: German

Over the years, Amber has taken several foreign languages and enjoys learning new languages. She's been studying German with me for a couple of years already, and is continuing with it through high school. Unfortunately, our previous curriculum was discontinued and we've now had to switch over to Portfolio Deutsch from Klett-Langenscheidt. This curriculum was one of my original contenders, but it is more expensive than our previous set. Since I also teach German at our co-op, we went with the least expensive set to make book purchases easier for my students. However, Amber and I have been much happier with Portofolio Deutsch than our previous curriculum.

Extras - Speech

What is speech, besides words?  I made the decision to use the IEW Speech Bootcamp at home with Amber, but the opportunity unexpectedly arose to teach it at our co-op last semester.  This was a fantastic video course that put the students at ease while giving them the basics of speech presentation and writing. After going through the course with a small class, I'm glad we had the chance for Amber to take speech with a group instead of at home with just me.

Next week I'll be talking about how unique science topics and math have been working out for us in high school, so far.

Miss a week? Take a look at some of the other posts from the 2017 Curriculum Fair.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.

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