Wednesday, October 08, 2008
So here is why I adore time4learning.com!
Since before Zoe came home I wrestled with how to educate her. We were starting from NOTHING! She had no English and not even one day of schooling. She literally had been taught nothing except manual labor. Don't get me wrong. She had some handy skills! If you needed clothes washed by hand or a baby taken care of she was your girl! ;0) However, if you asked her whether she preferred to drink apple juice or orange juice she was a deer in headlights. Heaven forbid that RUSS ask her a question. That could result in a sobbing melt down. After all- what if she gave you the WRONG answer????? What if she FAILED???? It was something she could not face when she first came home. She had never learned to think for herself at all. She was very comfortable taking orders. She had zippo ability to think logically and make good choices.
I did not feel that she would thrive in a public school atmosphere. She was so fragile and sweet. Being in a busy and big class would have been too much. She had never been around that many people. Any meaness or ridicule could have plowed her into the ground. She might have shut down entirely. She had never gotten to be a child. She just needed to feel safe. So we kept her home.
Then we did University Model School which we love. We may do it again. This year we knew it wasn't right. I discuss this further in the Q&A section.
More and more I am realizing how difficult it is that we are often encouraged to cookie cutter our kids. It's not a problem at all if we have kiddos that fall right in that expected range. It can be discouraging if they don't. If they are this many years old they must know this and that during the 10th month of the year or they will fail. If your child excels in reading they must sit and wait for the class or skip an entire grade. Now I was a teacher and so many of them are amazing. They work extremely hard to accomodate so many needs. Trust me- I know. I taught an English Second Language class where many of the kids spoke not a word of English coming in but were expected to pass the TAKS test. Don't get me started on that... Then I had some who I advanced to honors classes the next year because they were capable of so much. How did I cater to all 60 some odd kids that I taught each day??? I worked my tush off and tried my best.
I guess my point is that I saw Zoe feeling like she was DUMB because she was sitting next to kids who could do more than her and she wasn't there yet. Never mind that she is bilingual and never had a bit of school till 1 1/2 years ago. Never mind that. She is a kid and she felt that she should fit into the cookie cutter and she didn't.
Then on the other extreme I have Kaitlyn (newly 5 years old) who can read Junie B Jones and Amelia Bedelia books and do kinder and some 1st grade math. Unlike Zoe she has had me teaching and working with her since day one and she LOVES to learn. No fear issues with school here. WOWZER! She doesn't fit the cookie cutter on the other extreme!!! If I put her in traditional school she will either be BORED or need to skip a grade. I am SOOOO not skipping a grade. Socially she is still 5 and not even ready for full time kinder. So there is my difficulty.
I don't have cookie cutter kids. I have really struggled with this until God whacked me upside the head. I heard God asking me,"Why can't you just let your kids be who I made them? Why do you feel like you need to make them into something?" OUCH! It was true! Inside I have been PANICKED about Zoe from day 1. Poor baby... I said all the right things to her.... ya know.... "Just do your best, that's all we care about." It wasn't true though. Deep down Zoe's best wasn't enough for me. I was afraid of what everyone might think when my daughter didn't fit into the cookie cutter. "Oh no! They will think I am not a good teacher. They will think Zoe is not smart. They will think she should be caught up by now." I feel awful about that. I was caring more about what people would think than about her heart.
As soon as God convicted me I knew we had to change something. I felt so much pressure though. She was struggling in University Model School. It was too much but my only alternative was full time homeschool. That scared me to DEATH! How was I supposed to teach my 9 year old who needed to catch up, my 5 year old who needed to be challenged and bond with my new toddler who is an adorable walking disaster??? I started researching like MAD to find something that would work for our family.
One night at about 11pm I was going crazy researching on the Internet. When I found time4learning.com I literally thought NO WAY THIS IS FOR REAL! Ironically I had told Russ that if I was going to create a curriculum it would be all web based and interactive...I had noticed how my kids thrived on doing things like starfall.com and wanted something similar. Except I wanted it in all subjects, more organized and with grading capabilities. Then here it seemed I had found it. It was too good to be true! I kept digging further and further not believing what I was seeing. I read 100s of reviews and sifted through the entire website. When I finally realized that this is what I was looking for it was 3am and I sat on the couch and cried. I felt like this gigantic weight was lifted off my shoulders. I signed up for the free trial right away and told the girls we were going to try this. They could hardly wait to give it a whirl.
The whole program is made of interactive computer lessons. There are coordinating worksheets that can be printed for many lessons. The majority of these lessons are SO GOOD! I have taught and they do a great job. The curriculum is made to fit the requirements for all the states. So you know they are on grade level or ahead with what they are learning. It has lesson plans made out for you on line. It has a grade book that I can access at any time on my computer to see what my kids are doing and what they have worked on. It will calculate averages and grades for me. There is a support line and parent support forum for questions and concerns. The curriculum covers language arts, math, science, social studies and language art extensions! They also ask you these questions when you start to place your child at an appropriate grade level. If you feel it is too easy or hard you can change it. Kids can work at their own pace and when they want to work. Get this- this is the part I could not believe! For the first kiddo it is only $20 a month and for the other kids it's $15 a month!!!! That is a STEAL!
So anyway the kids love it and every day they are EXCITED to do school. Zoe is learning so much. Kaitlyn is actually being challenged at home! :0) Kaitlyn is working at a slower pace so she takes about an hour a day to do her lessons at the most. Zoe takes about 2-3 hours to do her lessons. That is an advanced pace that will allow her to get caught up at a rate she feels comfortable. This has left a lot of time to read more, do bible study lessons together, write in journals, do swim lessons, go on lots of field trips and spend more fun time with the family.
Plus I love the freedom to make the school year what we want it to be. The girls don't like taking the whole summer off. This is true especially since July through September is Russ' busy season and it's so hot you can ONLY swim around here. The spring and fall are gorgeous and much of the girls reading and journaling is done on a blanket in the back yard. Since Zoe's school is so self guided I will even find her doing lessons on the weekends! It's nice that we can take breaks when it is right for our family and Zoe can use the extra times we don't need the break to catch up. :0)
THAT was a really long answer.... Sorry! I guess it all came gushing out. It's been a big deal in our lives. Since we have switched to this program things are going so much smoother. There are no more school battles.... I am so thankful we have found what works for us. I don't know if this is what we will always do. I wouldn't be surprised but things change and we will take it year by year. For now I am thrilled with where we are and so proud of ALL of my girls- right where they are.
Some of you had some questions for me so I guess I will just start answering them. :0)
Q- Have you started home schooling your kids yet? Do they like it? I'm on the verge of taking my 9 year old out of public school and home schooling him. He is struggling in school due to some health problems last year. I'm just worried I'm not smart enough to help him, lol!
A- I have been at least partially homeschooling from the time Zoe came home. Kaitlyn is also doing "pre-K" at home. She is five and Zoe is nine. They love it! We get so much time as a family and our schedule is built around what we want it to be and not what the traditional school year happens to be. I think almost all of us have fears about whether we can handle teaching at home. Geez- I was a teacher and I cried for two weeks when I was trying to decide whether I should homeschool. I was sooooo scared. Zoe had never been to a DAY of school in her life. She did not know English or colors or numbers or letters or ANYTHING! It was very intimidating. I am so glad now that I did it. I only wish I had found this particular curriculum earlier. For us it has been a blessing.
Q- How do you think it would work as a starter program for the two new kids when they get here from Ethiopia. I need helping getting them to a basic level of reading in English along with numbers, etc. I'll have to check into it some more when I'm not supposed to be working :-)
A- I think it would be an AWESOME starter program personally. As I said- I truly wish I had known about this when Zoe came home. At least I have discovered it now. The lessons are all fun and interactive. The kids can work at their own pace and repeat lessons and quizzes as many times as they need to until they master that section. All sections are read to them by the computer program if needed unril 4th grade. This is HUGE for Zoe who still has vocabulary limitations.
Q-I can't wait to hear more about it from you Angel. I signed up and tried it for a couple days and wasn't loving it so much! Any tips, or maybe you can explain what you loved about it. Maybe I was missing something, which could very well be likely. :) I only tried it with my 6 year old.
A- Well, I am certain that everyone is going to have different needs in a curriculum. For us this just FITS! It allows Zoe to work indepently without the fear of failing. This is huge for her. It has taken huge pressure off of her to just be able to do the lessons on her own and not feel like I am waiting on her. It is a gigantic load off of me to see both of my girls learning the same concepts I was working to teach them before with little to no work on my part. WOOHOOO for that. Plus I love that they have the lesson plans all written out and I can just check their grades from my computer at any time. It allows me to see if their are certain areas where she might need extra help from me. It also allows her to cruise through concepts that are easier for her. Now I can know they are learning the basics and spend my energy diving into extra stuff like taking them to plays and festivals. We also do a lot of reading aloud and journaling. Overall I feel like a ton of bricks has been lfted off my shoulders. Plus the price feels like a complete STEAL to me. $20 a month for Zoe and $15 a month for Kaitlyn covers an amazing interactive curriculum. It's hard to beat the price for what you are getting.
Q-Are you homeschooling now? I think I missed that somewhere! Have fun!
A- Well I have always homeschooled at some level. For Zoe's first nine months home we homeschooled completely. She didn't even understand English so we wanted to give her time to learn and bond. Then she started at a University Model school. She would go two days a week to class and then was home three days to do the busy work. She enjoyed it a lot last year. She was able to keep up with A TON of work at her grade level. It was very stressful and time consuming but we did it. Over time though- I began to realize that we were focusing so much on some things that weren't really vital that we could not get caught up on things that were vital. I have never wanted to just skip through things with Zoe. I felt like it could leave her lost for a long time. So I literally started her with kindergarten material and we have been working our tushes off to get her caught up. She has been home almost two years (actively doing school for a little over a year and a half) and is about mid way through 2nd grade in her understanding. This year keeping up at her University Model school became so overwhelming that I saw her beginning to act out and dread school. She would cry whenever she thought she might have a quiz. Suddenly she was terrified to be there. That is not a good way to learn. So we started time4learning.com to see how she did and suddenly she was excited and happy about school. That was the answer we needed. We withdrew her from the school and went all homeschool again. She is doing great now. Zoe is harder on herself than anyone else ever could be. The last thing she needed was to be in an evironment that was stressing her out.
Well that's all for now. Happy schooling to all of you. I know these choices are huge for every one of us and we are all just trying to figure out what "fits" for our kids. I hope this might help someone else who is struggling like I was. :0) Angel
Posted by Angel at 9:20 PM