Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I love GCA and why we aren't using it next year

As many of you know, Andrew's Kindergarten this year is GCA - Georgia Cyber Academy. It is using the nationally renowned home school curriculum, K12 but it is administered by a state charter school, GCA. Reasons for picking it in the first place are 1) It's free. They send me all the materials and it uses a curriculum that we have a high opinion of. Buying K12 privately would cost $238 a subject so about $1200 a year for all and 2) I wanted to have structure my first year to get the hang of it. I homeschooled pre-K but it was just a one or two days a week when I felt like it thing and I was all over the place with curriculum since I didn't have a formal curriculum for any of it. It felt very disorganized and I thought that if I didn't do GCA then I would never get organized and I would hardly ever do school.

So I am not doing GCA next year and people assume that means that I don't like it. Not true. I like it a lot. I don't like it enough to give my control to be able to do my own thing though. It is time consuming and comprehensive. To do GCA correctly and well, I have had to give up on a lot of my own things that I wish I could be doing right now. But for the most part, I don't mind doing GCA. And Andrew really enjoys it too. I even had hesitations about switching because Andrew likes it so much that I thought that choosing something else would be less fun and I still want Andrew to have fun. I will be more than happy to talk to anyone that is interested in GCA about it. Even if you don't have a school age child yet, catch me this year and I can show you the curriculum and sample lessons.

But here's how I finally was able to sum it up. GCA is a provider of high quality educational information. I didn't feel like I could define my child's educational goals with it because I was going to blindly accept their curriculum each year sight unseen. I can tweak a little..skip lessons here and there, go to the library for extra materials, look on the internet for extra projects. But for the most part, I don't need nor have the time to do these things. So even though it's great, I want to be able to do my own thing.

My own thing does involve someone else's curriculum though. We are going to follow the model of the Well Trained Mind. It's a 4 year rotation of time periods. In 1st grade, we are doing the Ancients. This will come into play again in 5th grade. They have a lot of different recommended books for the different subjects. We will use some of them and not use some of them. A lot of relies heavily on getting additional material from the library which I love. They have some real dud non-fiction books on their shelves but for the most part, I love library supplements. Regarding the fun stuff, I am going to miss the aspect of some lessons being online. I like online stuff and Andrew does too so I will probably supplement with educational computer games. But I did find out that I will have plenty of projects to do with History and Science and that is the kind of stuff that Andrew adores so as long as projects are involved, I don't think he will care what curriculum it is.

More on the specifics of what we are doing 1st Grade soon. We are starting to order from Amazon and it is hard when things arrive to not go ahead and start doing them. Must-finish-Kindergarten-GCA. Repeat..

The Grouchy Ladybug lapbook

Today we did not other school work but to make a lapbook for The Grouchy Ladybug. Lately I have been a justifiable slacker. I have a back condition and am waiting patiently for 2 weeks to fly by so I can have back surgery. I have learned a couple of things during this time. 1) My over ambition school schedule is not going to work right now and 2) any ambition at all is being squashed out by the effects of pain medicine. So I have had to come up with plan B. So plan B has been to do as much as I can and not fall behind (in the school's mind) on subjects.

Today I did something completely unprecedented...I skipped all my GCA work and did something completely different. And it was FUN and Andrew loved it. I was over at (one of my faves) and noticed that they had a lapbook study on The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. We happen to have the book from the library and I happened to be up way earlier than the kids so I went to work on cutting. Lapbooks at his age involve a whole lot of cutting for the parent because even if I gave him a little bit, there is no way that he could do it. Lapbooks at his age can also be very busy workish. But it was educational too. Example of what a lapbook looks like.

So here are the contents of our lapbook. It didn't really have any creative elements of my own. I pretty much just printed and cut out most of the ideas found here.

Outside flaps - I had him copy The Grouchy Ladybug in his best HWT effort. He did good. He also colored a picture of a lady bug. He wanted to color it half red/half orange.

Left flap - Counting with the Grouchy Lady Bug. I see no where in the book where it counts at all but ours has this accordion style number thing that counts by 5 which is something Andrew did in Math last week. It also had the suggested Bible verse of Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another - since the premise of the book is a grouchy lady bug who won't share and goes to pick a fight with everyone.

Center section - A turn wheel for L is for..ladybug, lemon, leaf, lion. This was fun busy work. Andrew likes things that turns with brads. I had him paste the pictures of the item next to the word. The bottom half had the most time consuming thing ever. It was a flap book that goes from 6 AM to 6 PM just like the actual book and Andrew had to draw the time on the clock, paste the animal of the story on the right time, then paste the name of the animal on. It was good for Time (current Math subject) and animal identification. And good for general fun as Andrew had fun reviewing the book and then pasting all day long. Nothing is more fun than an all day glue stick.

Right flap - Parts of a ladybug - matchbox thing where Andrew pasted the parts of a ladybug onto a picture of a ladybug. More busy work. We can't find it but we also did a little book called Follow Directions and it gave instructions on adding details onto 4 ladybugs and then writing totals for all of them. Useful multiplication intro. 4 lady bugs, 3 spots on each, 12 spots total. Woo.

This took all day. I was completely unstressed by the fact that we didn't do any "real" school. Andrew had a blast and would lapbook every day if I let him. I am thinking maybe a lapbook a week spread across the days probably wouldn't interfere with our actual school work too much so we will work that out in the future. Today felt like Kindergarten. Easy, laid back, just went with the flow...