Friday, February 08, 2008
Today is track separation/DVD making day.
The day where I let Noah use my laptop for his video school, and I create DVDs of his classes for his school weeks to come. This is THE hardest part of my homeschooling week now, and I'm really not doing it justice by calling it hard. It's not hard at all. Time consuming, yes, but it's really not difficult in the least.
We're now using the Bob Jones University Satellite program, and it's the best thing that's happened to us. On one hand, I LOVED researching my curriculum every year. Poring through brand new textbooks, going to the curriculum fairs to find the best deal, getting just the "right" match for my kids for school. Yet, this method was only the beginning of the homeschool year for me. After I decided on what they'd do for the year, then I'd have to order it and figure out the schedule for the entire year.
Then I'd have to teach it. Every day.
But not anymore! With the BJU video program, very experienced teachers are relaying the different concepts to my kids every day. So far (which may not always be), I am using their entire curriculum (well, everything I would've taught) instead of hodge podging it. So I'm not spending my spring figuring out what we're doing for school.
That's Bonus #1.
So now I order the books I need for the classes, and record those classes onto a DVD recorder directly from a special satellite. The satellite ONLY has the classes and programs from BJU; 4 channels of it. The satellite receiver box and the recorder are programmed to pick up the classes I want, and record them (sometimes during the night!). Each class is engaging, age-appropriate, and taught by very experienced teachers. It's like having the best come to my house each day and teach my kids. They even have special guests and show the kids far away places that I would never be able to accomplish on a field trip.
That's Bonus #2.
BJU also offers these classes on pre-made DVDs. However, because of the size of my family, the satellite option allows me to make the DVDs myself and SAVE them for the kids who will use them in a couple of years. The DVD lease option only allows you to use them for one year before you send them back (great for families with one or 2 kids). So, the books and classes I have now, I can use for Caleb and Libby and Asher and Gabe. Now that's a bargain!
That's Bonus #3.
I also am not worrying if I'm teaching things right or if he's learning what he needs to know for the future. Even though I liked mixing curriculums in the past, there was always that fear that I was missing something in the mix, or something was being forgotten that he'd need to know. Now, with using BJU materials, I know that the scope and sequence is right on track and even ahead of the public school kids at times. Bob Jones University has been in the curriculum business for a good long while (Chris and I used it when we were in school), and they're considered one of the top all-around curriculums out there. Some kids that graduate from high school after using BJU material are going to the major military academies and ivy league schools. They just flat-out produce an excellent product for educating our kids.
That's Bonus #4.
But best of all, is the fact that I am successfully juggling my Homeschool/Housewife/Mommy duties in a much more efficient way. Whereas before, my house had to be neglected in order for me to homeschool, I can continue to maintain my daily housework, while the kids are being taught. BJU says their video programming is not a substitute for me (being the teacher), but that's not exactly true. They ARE a substitute for my time, and even though I still help with classwork and explaining concepts, I don't have to teach the concepts completely for a half hour per class. I can clean up the kitchen or fold laundry while he's doing the video. He knows where I am if he has a question. If he doesn't have a question, he just does what he's told to do as far as assignments.
And I'm not being constantly interrupted by my little ones anymore. They can interrupt me all they want now, I'm not teaching! My school days are not being sabotaged by fussy babies and sick toddlers. Poor Noah is not having to wait for me, wait for me, wait for me all the time while I take an important phone call from Michaela's doctors/social workers/teachers. If he DOES need me, and I'm not available for the above reasons, then he can easily pop in the DVD for a different class while he's waiting. Talk about effective use of time! He can even take this on road trips or vacations if need be. The versatility is priceless.
That's 5 bonuses, and maybe even more that I can't think of right now. I can't say enough good stuff about this homeschool program!
But in the interest of being "fair and balanced," I'll give you the cons as well:
-The startup cost is significant. The satellite/receiver is roughly $300. I got mine on SALE for $50 (which is also the sale going on now! Until Dec!), and many people are able to find a deal of some sort on it. But that's the cost for it retail. Then there's the DVD recorder you would need in order to record and store the classes that are broadcast every day. Some people already have these, but you NEED to have one with a hard drive. It's a MUST. I got one used from another BJU family for $200. That was a good deal. Some have gotten them cheaper than that. They retail for $200+ depending on the size of the hard drive. You can also broadcast the classes directly to your computer and buy software that will burn them onto DVDs, but this is costly as well.
-There is a monthly subscription fee. $50. All year long (there are classes that broadcast all year). And you're supposed to continue paying that fee even when you've recorded all the classes you want--for as long as you're using the DVDs you made. We just consider it another bill. It's not a huge expense, and we're used to paying it automatically every month. It's an INVESTMENT in my kid's education. It's an investment in my time and sanity. I can handle 40 bucks a month. But it's every month, and some people would consider that an annoyance. I don't think it's as much as some people pay for their digital cable satellite fees. And it's definitely not anywhere near as much for private school.
-There is a registration fee for each class. This is NOT mandatory, but it is highly recommended. The registration covers the fee for additional materials the satellite teacher wants the kids to have (like bonus material, aside from the straight curriculum, that they use to "spice" up the class), and it allows you a free replacement copy of the classes if BJU has a broadcast problem. They will send you a free copy if you're registered. If YOU make the mistake and you need a replacement copy, then you can buy it from them if you're registered. Otherwise, you're up a creek (unless you know someone who is also recording that class, like I've done many times even though I'm registered). The fees are usually $10/class for elementary classes, $20 for secondary classes, and $40 for high school classes. This is a one-time fee, and you won't need to do it for the other kids that use that class in future years.
-You need to put the classes on DVDs (which you have to buy. I usually get mine for $25/100). This is pretty time consuming. The classes are broadcast in one "blockfeed" for an entire week. So, for instance, if your child is doing 4th grade Science, then an entire week's worth of Science classes for 4th grade comes in one lump. You have to separate those individual classes so that your child can skip to the day they're working on. Back in the day, people used to use VCRs and it was no problem to just stop the tape at the end of the class and it was ready for the next day. But DVDs don't work like that, so you have to put "markers" in between each class, so you can skip to the next track on the disk every day. It's not hard work; it just takes time. BUT, it's time I can spend whenever it's CONVENIENT for me--not just during school hours. I've done some separating while waiting for water to boil, the washer to finish, or while the kids are asleep and Chris is studying. I will do a little bit during the week, and do the bulk on Friday (a day when I'm not recording anything). I also have 4 classes that record on Saturday, and I'll separate and burn those as they finish. That way, I have a free hard drive for the new week of classes that starts on Sunday.
Other than these reasons, I can't think of anything else negative about this method. It is such a lifesaver for us. I was always stressed with school: getting it done, getting the housework done, giving the babies attention, doing it all right. I'm still not the best at housework, but at least I can keep on top of it. And I don't have to worry about taking care of some business phone calls. Or stopping school to change a diaper/nurse a baby/give out some discipline. And I'm not worried about the kids getting a good education.
I homeschool my kids because it's important to me to have them here with me and not be gone 8 hours in the day. It's important to me to teach them and train them up in the right way. To not expose them to the bad things in society that they can't handle yet. To be able to mother them through life, instead of letting someone else do it. I didn't sign up for the job of Mother, just for a stranger to take over. These things are important to me, and have been for a long time. This BJU satellite program has been an excellent tool to allow ME to achieve my dreams for motherhood and raising my children. I'm very thankful for it!
So, if you'll excuse me, I've got some classes to work on :)
If you'd like more information on this program, you can access the website here. You can also see excerpts of classes for grades K4-12 here.