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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grant total: $1952. Why would we do this?

Owing to the fact that there are simply some things that cannot be obtained for absolutely rock-bottom all of the time, I have managed to cut the distance learning budget by about 45% versus last year, and put more "stuff" into the curriculum. Again, the price for Catholic school in our area with all the bells and whistles is about $7,000. The price for school-in-a-box with advisory service for our family is $2500 this year, not including extra first-run novels, field trips, school supplies, etc. That brings the total for prepacked school to about $3500.

It is a very straight-forward plan of study, and a pretty straight-forward budget:
  • RELIGION- Yes we teach this subject, in addition to modeling it and using our parish's religious education program. Catholicism is simple on the surface, but has 2,000+ years of depth. We purchased "Christ Our Life" by Loyola used. Our children did not attend religious education at our parish this year, but left an excellent Catholic school a year ago, and live in a family that practices our Faith. Total with rel. ed. is $310.
  • MATH- We went ahead and got Digital Interactive Video Education for Saxon Math for ALL the Saxon middle school books, from Math 54 to Algebra I. We spent a lot on the math budget, but that's it until Belle is ready for high school. Total: $310.
  • SCIENCE- Middle school science needn't be expensive. As a guide, we are using Steck Vaughn's Strategies for Success: Science. We also have on hand the Kingfisher's Science Encyclopedia. We also have a great library, and our television package includes a lot of good science-based programs. There are many offerings to outsource science in our area, including STEM through the Girl Scouts (counted as a field trip, 5 solid hours of intense education). Total: $40, with chemicals.
  • READING- Novels. Lots of them. Steck-Vaughn Reading Comprehension, one of which had to be purchased new. Our library again allows a vast array of reading materials into our home. Total: $146.
  • CRITICAL THINKING- A good indicator of a good school. Used software, used Mind Bender books, used Steck Vaughn Critical Thinking books, and our very own critical thinking professor (the Mister) keeps costs on this down to $18.
  • VOCABULARY- I don't like modern spellers. I simply don't think they do enough to teach spelling. I prefer vocabulary work, which includes spelling, and I recommend Vocabulary in Action by Loyola. Total: $24.
  • LANGUAGE GRAMMAR AND USAGE- We call it LUG. Loyola Press produces two excellent texts to emphasize LUG, Voyages In English and Exercises In English. We also own several manuals of style, but we would have those anyway, and they are easily located online. Total: $31.
  • HISTORY- I personally feel schools lost educational power when History, Geography, Civics and Culture were lumped into Social Studies and given one value of hours spent. Yes, they intertwine. No, they are not the same subjects. This school year, we are going to study ancient history from the beginning of time to 400 AD. Our local library offers many resources for this. We did feel the need to purchase the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, used, along with Oxford First Ancient History. Grand total: $43.
  • GEOGRAPHY- Considering how many people in the United States do not know that the metro area of the District of Columbia includes parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, even a smidgen of Pennsylvania, makes Geography a priority here. Once again, Steck Vaughn's well executed Maps, Globes and Graphs, along with Kingfisher's Geography Encyclopedia were purchased used, $32.
  • CIVICS- There are a surprising amount of freebies to teach Civics on the Internet.
  • CULTURE- Steck Vaughn's World Cultures Past and Present, with research through our local library and online. $12.
  • COMPOSITION- Composition is another victim of combined studies, usually folded into English, studied once a year, reinforced throughout for sure in better schools, but not studied as it should be. I did take some courses in elementary and middle school composition, from several very good teachers. The first thing that each instructor related was that kids need to write DAILY. Toward that end, we use writing prompts, in a spiral notebook, number of lines or words determined by age and ability. These are evaluated for further projects. The Mister and I also feel research is neglected in the younger years, and then scholars are expected to simply learn how to put together a research paper in late middle school, again in late high school. Finally, we do not have Accelerated Reader service, as Renaissance Learning does not offer services to families in individual education programs, and quite frankly, because we think Accelerated Reader is pretty useless as a reading teaching tool. It is fine for brick-and-mortar schools that need statistical data to present to parents and school boards. However, it does not teach anything that reading a book and writing a solid book report will not counter- in fact, less than that. Total cost on Composition:$0.
  • PENMANSHIP- Look at the handwriting of young adults in the 18-30 age bracket. Part of this is the lack of expectation Society seemed to foster during the 1900s-2000s. Part of this is lack of penmanship skill beyond the third grade. We use the Writing Our Catholic Faith series. $24.
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE- We broke out the big bucks on this. Public schools do not teach foreign languages in our area until sixth grade. Private schools do not teach anything but Spanish until high school, and then usually only by fifth grade. This year, we are having a good foundation for other languages as well as English with the Christina Latina series, starting with Prima Latina. Belle would like to learn Spanish, and Baby would like to learn French. Used Rosetta Stone for both Spanish and French! Our local library as well as one of the Mister's client schools give access to Mango and other sources of foreign language study. $367.
  • FIELD TRIPS- We budgeted $300 for fees as well as transportation.
  • UNIFORMS- I discussed this in another entry. We will spend about $200 on khaki-style pants, plain polo shirts, a nice blouse or two, skirts, socks, sweaters and dress shoes. These clothes wear like iron, wash and dry well, and always look nice. If you want to see what uniform clothes can do for your children, visit French Toast, Lands End or Penneys.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES- We buy them starting in July, when they go on deep discount. Nobody is claiming the leftover supplies for a classroom communal locker, as frequently happens in brick-and-mortar schools. Nobody is forcing scholars to pitch old materials in a frenzy of cleaning to be ready of the last day of school. There is no prohibition against re-using school supplies acquired in prior years, such as protractors, ring binders, rulers, flash drives, etc. Total budgeted cost: $100.

Now, why on earth would a woman in her fifties choose to stay home with a group of children, albeit her grandchildren cum children, and facilitate their instructional needs? Do the public schools not exist? What about Catholic schools? Christian schools? Private schools?

When we adopted our grandchildren, we decided public school, excepting for special needs if possible, was not a good idea. We previously raised children, and find that in our area, public schools have not gotten better over time.

Too many aspects of public education have been federalized. Too many prejudices exist against teaching children to read early, teaching children other languages early, allowing children to work independently at their own rate of speed. We do not accept global warming as proven science, yet there it is, being taught all over our area, and being taught as THE ONLY accepted truth. We want our children to hear as many scientific theory as possible, not just outdated Darwinism, certainly not only global warming out of context.

We do not care if Jennifer has two daddies at her house, and are sick of hearing about Heather having two mommies. Why does anything have to be said about Jennifer's and Heather's home life, anymore than anything needs to be said about Belle having grandparents for parents? All the time taken up with worrying about whether or not double-daddy and double-mommy families get fair treatment (and they often get much more than fair treatment), instead of modeling how to behave properly through good, old-fashioned etiquette, could be used to teach a foreign language. All the time spent on parental education through children could be used to teach extra math, extra science, and perhaps extra physical education, or even (gasp!) reinstate recess. We would then not only produce better educated and better mannered children in public schools, we would take care of a large portion of the alleged childhood obesity problem we hear so much these days. The rest of that could be solved by walking to school, no matter the weather unless severe.

Simply because our children are also our grandchildren does not mean they need to be enrolled in therapy, certainly not at the hands of the public school system. Just because our children were abandoned does not mean they were crack babies, fetal alcohol syndrome victims, or victims of extreme physical abuse. Their quirks and idiosyncrasies might mean they need a little work on their social skills, but they do not need to sit in special education five days a week- not with those IQs! Yet, in our state, gifted and talented students receive very little from public schools, unless parents are cut-throat and willing to go out and get it for their children.

Christian schools are nice. As Catholics, some are way too evangelical, in that they consider our children fair game to evangelize away from Catholicism. They average about the same price or more than local Catholic schools.

We have gone over our objections to the local Catholic schools, and don't wish to hash through them again. Let us simply say that we feel they are not the value they should be for the money and effort to send our children to them.

Brick-and-mortar schools of any variety do not offer the flexibility of distance learning. Every school we checked, and we checked over 25 schools in the area, has maybe four field trips per year. We have utilized our metropolitan area to go on no less than 11 field trips, and that's slacking in my opinion. When a scholar in our school wants to use a computer, he or she does it. If the kids want to learn something more in-depth, we do it. If we want to start the new school year in April for one scholar, and June for the other, and do work all the way through summer just as adults work all summer, so be it.

I understand there are grandparents who need to work just to put food on the table and a roof over the grandchildren's heads. I understand how blessed I am to have the Mister, who not only goes out there and brings in the first income, but is there for emotional and spiritual support. I am not saying ALL public schools are horrible, ALL Catholic schools are less than stellar, ALL Christian schools could use more work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Great Curriula Purchase Continues- $536 vs. $3500 vs. $7000

When I did my calculations last time, I forgot those extra things that move education out of the books and into the space of everyday time. These items include school supplies (crayons, pencils, pens and all that), "school" clothes (purchased at various uniform supply houses), field trip money (a big chunk of change for the distance learner) and purchased fiction (versus borrowed from the library). That would bring last year's total to a whopping $3500. It's still cheaper than the local private schools average of $7,000. And so far, I have only spent $536.

Interesting items purchased so far:
  • Theras and His Town. A book about an ancient Athenian boy who, due to circumstances beyond his control, is moved to Sparta, and the results thereof. $14, with free delivery. We will all study Ancient History next year, so Theras could get multiple use as a read-aloud, a novel study, and a conversation starter.
  • I found Vocabulary in Action used for one child for $9, with shipping. It is everything I hoped, spelling well beyond memorizing the words and performing busy work.
  • Math Digital Interactive Video Education, or DIVE. How interactive it is I don't know, as it is an instructor teaching mathematics. However, if the Mister's busy schedule does not permit him to fully interact on every single lesson, it'll be nice to have back-up for Algebra for Belle. Belle already looks askance when I do my best but flub a mathematical explanation. These are pricey, $50 beyond the Saxon bundle for each year of classes. They are a good investment, as they are reusable. I picked up one for $30 with the ship, and another for $24.
  • We decided to pick up ALL the Saxon Math bundles from the second edition, from Math 54 to Algebra I. If Belle or Baby need to review some of the particulars which happened to by-pass them in the past, we will be ready. If Belle continues to devour math and requires more in-depth knowledge, we will also be ready. By next year, we hope to find Belle an online credit class for Algebra II. I've spent $86 on Saxon books, and only need a teacher's edition for Math 87 to complete what we need thus far. That same set new would cost over $1,000. As I'm not sure I like the way Houghton Mifflin is taking the Saxon math series, I think we are getting a good set while the gettin' is good.
  • A used copy of Maps, Globes and Graphs for World Geography came in at $12 with shipping. It is not so used, as it does have modern political maps.
  • The Oxford First Ancient History swam the Atlantic from the UK for $25.
  • The Well-Trained Mind, second edition. While I am not as strict as Mother and Daughter Wise (I have no problem integrating heavy use of software and video into our curricula, for example), it serves as a good guide. I paid $15 with shipping.
I am having a rough way to go With Math U See. It is not cheap by any measure, new or used. I only just read their stewardship packet, and that didn't thrill me. I may just end up purchasing manipulatives as we go along.

Rosetta Stone for French, Spanish and possibly German or Irish (Gaelic) is also going to be a slow purchase. It is not cheap to begin, currently $229 new for just Level One. The cheapest I have seen Level One on an auction site is $99. Our local library does offer Mango services for free, but that is more of an enrichment than a complete course. I confess, I translate other languages well, but my accent in any language excepting English and German stinks. I sound just like the American I am in French, and Spanish comes out with a Texas drawl, thanks to my military experience. I haven't tried Gaelic beyond "Slante" and other quaint sayings and short songs.

I am finally debating the value of a Discovery Education subscription. I've seen what Discovery Education can do in a classroom setting. I know one classroom teacher who uses it almost exclusively, using her textbook as a guide rather than the main material. I know the content offered classroom teachers astonished me at the time I recommended it. For $265, individual families can access Discovery Education Homeschool and tap into its rich resources of 50,000 video clips, assessment via state standards for content, and interactive training with master teachers.

On the other hand, our family already pays for a medium premium package for interactive, VoIP TV. The Discovery channels are included in the package. We regularly DVR such shows as MythBusters, Dogs 101, Sci-Fi Science, How It's Made, etc. for use in our lessons as enrichment.

We also get content from stations that are not part of the Discovery channels, and are not offered through Discovery Education. Alton Brown offers kitchen science on a regular basis, particularly in his older shows, and Food Network isn't even a part of the Discovery channels. NASA has some great content. Green Screen Adventures is home-grown in the studios of WCIU. Grammar Girl is online, along with Legal Lad and Math Dude.

I don't need to belong to a user group of classroom teachers, and use their lesson plans. Too often, classroom lesson plans just won't work in a distance learning environment. I don't need to worry about my state's standards, as we surpass them. If I want to see those standards, my state provides a web site. Every time I go to that web site and check out what little is expected of public school children in my children's age group, I shudder.

Discovery also offers content we don't consider educational and wouldn't use because of its political bias. It is fine to want to keep the world clean, but it can be taken to extremes. Somebody needs to tell Bill Nye that global warming is a theory, and not a proven one at that. History Channel needs to remember that Dan Brown's book, the DaVinci Code, is fiction and has no real basis in the history of the Catholic Church, along with Nostradamus' predictions. It seems only the Military Channel gets it right when it comes to history as it happened, without political slant. We saw what happened with H1N1. We won't be needing emergency preparedness offered in Discovery Education content, especially for weapon attacks on schools.

I know. All that content at the touch of my fingers. I can pick and choose, and not have to wait for certain holidays or anniversaries to DVR. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Green Screen Adventures- Chicago TV's Grandchild

If green screen technology had been used for Bozo's Circus, Ray Rayner and Friends, Here's Geraldine, Kiddie-A-Go-Go, Dirty Dragon and Kukla, Fran and Ollie, the cost to produce such shows would have been much less. There would have been no need for big backdrops and changes of scenery. The stars of such shows could have effectively traveled the globe without fear of paying for airline tickets and hotels.

Chroma key technology existed in some form, according to Wikipedia, as well as my 1958 Book of Knowledge (let me know if you want to make a hectograph- it contains directions), as far back as the 1930s. The show the Flying Nun used it a great deal.

What's this got to do with raising kids the second time around?

Green Screen Adventures is a home-grown show broadcast on Weigel Broadcasting stations. Kids from second through eighth grades produce artwork, scripts, and creative writing projects. The Green Screen Adventures team accepts submissions, and applies chroma key to worthy submissions, airing them at various times on Weigel stations. There are fourteen Weigel stations, and at least eight of those could utilize Green Screen Adventures effectively.

What makes Green Screen Adventures so great? It involves the kids, instead of allowing them to sit passively watching the show. Say what you will about the hokey sets of Bozo and Garfield Goose, Ray Rayner's battle with Chelveston the Duck, or the lack of craftsmanship when Burr Tillstrom manufactured Kukla. These shows worked not because of Clutch Cargo, Funny Company and Diver Dan cartoons, but because the human actors involved their audience, the kids. It's the same with Green Screen Adventures. The Golden Age of Chicago Television would well recognize her grandchild in Green Screen Adventures.

Weigel Broadcasting has stations in South Bend, Milwaukee and Rockford. WMLW Milwaukee runs Green Screen Adventures, as does
South Bend WCWW, and Chicago WCIU, WWME, WMEU and ThisTV. Both Milwaukee and Chicago are large cities that are very close together, with many suburbs that consider themselves a part of both cities. There are students in Catholic and other parochial schools, other public schools, private schools, distance learners, home schoolers who would greatly benefit from Green Screen Adventures.

Yet, WCIU said it only presented Chicago Public School students' work. So I emailed Green Screen Adventures, and got this reply:

Thanks for your interest in Green Screen Adventures and for encouraging your children to write - it is a skill that will last a lifetime.

We accept submissions nationwide. Any school, any child.
Online at www.greenscreenadventures.tv you'll find submission info and parental release forms.

"We began the program working primarily with Chicago Public Schools, but, as we've grown, we have expanded our audience. We now accept work from elementary students from across the country and are now televised nationally on THIStv, in addition to our local channels."

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions

Thanks for your email.

Associate Producer
Green Screen Adventures
Weigel Broadcasting

Why are you waiting? Get busy! Watch, write something, submit! This is a GREAT show, and great fun, besides! And be sure to watch with those kiddos!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Far- $229 On Curriculum Items

Our current curriculum, with the grading and advice, cost us $2,440.00. Compared to the local Catholic schools, it is about 1/3 of the cost. It has everything, including pencil cases, paints, paper and compasses. Yet, as you have read from previous entries, it is boring, rather repetitive, and doesn't always make sense in light of a distance learning program. It is truly school-in-a-box.

We asked those who are being educated, and they wanted to continue distance learning, just not in the format of the school-in-a-box. This made a great deal of sense, but did it mean a great deal more money?

Taking into consideration all needs and requirements, along with desires, I have been shopping online at various stores, looking at good materials versus average materials. I then located what I could of these materials through second-hand shops, both online and 3-dimensional, as well as the places some people like to hate, eBay, Gipper's List, and Craig's List.

I planned to spend about $3,000.00 next school year, with field trips and all that. As next school year will hopefully start in May, I decided to see what I could find off-season. I seemed to remember it really cost more to buy learning materials when everybody wants them.

So, far I have spent $229.00. Yes, I have spent two hundred-twenty-nine dollars. For our money, I have obtained:
  • Two Loyola Press "Christ Our Life" religion books. Loyola Press has a web site with updates, activities and learning options. The children will also attend regular religious instruction at our parish church, mostly because it is a good program, and because it is more or less required in our diocese in order to be confirmed. The School of Religion uses Faith First, so there is no big duplication. Evangelical Christians would have an easier time on eBay, as there are TONS of materials out there for them, greatly reduced.
  • Prima Latina. This was a big expense, over $79 with shipping. However, the cost of this course with the DVD set is a lot more.
  • Voyages In English and Exercises in English for one child. I am debating which set to get the others. I think I'm going to end up paying full price for Vocabulary in Action, though, can't find it used anywhere.
  • Think AheadGames for Logic. I am waiting to see if I can find the MindBender books cheaply, but so far, not much luck.
  • Kingfisher encyclopedias for History, Geography and Science. The Science one has yet to arrive, so its price is not included in the total spent so far.
  • Saxon's Algebra I. As you can see from the link, it was a steal at $20. We are waiting on final bidding for Math 54, Math 65, and Algebra 1/2.
  • The New Way Things Work and Pinball Science.