Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

A Weighty Kind of Wonderful

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We had our first day of school today, and I asked my children to write about or draw pictures showing what they would like to be when they grow up.  My ten-year-old drew this.  She wants to be a mommy like me.  Like ME.  It’s so sweet and super scary at the same time.  Just what kind of mommy am I?  Am I talking/behaving/acting like I want her to towards my grandchildren some day?  What a gentle reminder to me to be in prayer daily for right attitudes and behaviors.  May I be the kind of mommy that would bring glory and honor to my Lord and set a good example for my child.  And may I be quick to apologize when I am not!!  I am totally not perfect.  Admitting it and reminding her that I am not is also good for her.  I do not want her beating herself up someday for not meeting that unattainable standard this side of Heaven.

On a side note, two of the children are (accurately) yelling at each other and the baby is screaming his head off.  Yes, I asked.  And yet, the mommy and daddy are still smiling!  That’s not so accurate.  Ha!  Also cute, her husband looks like her daddy.

Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

Welcoming A Second Author!

I’m excited to announce that this blog site will now have two authors!  My sweet friend, Valerie, has graciously agreed to contribute her thoughts and advice.  She has been a wonderful, godly influence in my life and has been my go-to for homeschooling advice.  While my experience lies in teaching eighth grade and below, Valerie has also navigated high school and beyond.  I look forward to reading her posts!

Homeschooling Stuff

Attitude, Smatitude- Homeschooling in Real Life: Day 1

I have homeschooled for eight years now.  Every single one of them, without fail, has begun the same way.  We have yet to actually crack the books this year.  But though my children are getting older, I’m seriously not expecting things to be any different this go round.

The day begins with the zombie shuffling and moaning towards the table.  There will be stupid arguments.  Yes, those exist.  You can’t tell me that arguing over who gets to look at the back of the cereal box or fussing that someone is looking out the same window as you are valid reasons to complain.  Next comes absolute disgruntlement over whatever food is placed before them or the drinks in their cups.  You get the picture.  Children that were ALL SUMMER LONG up before dawn, screaming throughout the house with giddy excitement can now suddenly not remember how to hold a spoon properly.

They know it’s coming.  They’ve seen Mom (or Dad) carefully preparing for this day.  Books have been bought.  Supplies ready.  Pencils all sharpy-like.  Maybe a little blackboard even, with a smiley-face, welcoming them back to school.  Whatever your little attempts to get your crew all eager and ready to learn.  Be prepared, oh homeschool parent.  If they are older than five, they aren’t buying into your happy juice.  They are actually, for really, screaming on the inside.  Clutching at their fleeting summer as if by sheer attitude alone, they can turn this around and gain a bit more of the easy life.

So what should you do on day 1?

  1.  Just let this day be easy.  Step up to the plate, armed with the knowledge that it isn’t you.  Don’t take it personal.  Don’t be angry with your spawn.  Don’t have any high expectations for either yourself or them.  I repeat- do NOT expect much.  If you are a comparing parent, just know:  public school doesn’t either.  I know- I attended many of them.
  2. Celebrate in some way.  Pancakes for breakfast or a trip to Krispy Kreme.  Ice cream for supper.  A trip to a park, museum, or the library.  Get crafty and make something.  Whatever you and your bunch find exciting.
  3. Take pictures!  This one is a fun tradition for many homeschoolers.  They can hold up little signs, stating what grade they’re in.  If you’re like many of us and your child is all over the board, just write down their ages instead.  Or they can just stand there with no sign at all.  Whatever.  Make it your own.  Every year, you can take a new pic and compare.  Nothing professional, just fun.
  4. Look at their stuff with them.  Let them thumb through their new books, write their names on their notebooks, play around with the new markers.  Let them feel the ownership of it all.
  5. Go over your expectations for the year with them.  Tell them your hopes/goals.  You can talk about field trip opportunities, books to read together or on their own, projects you hope to accomplish.  Make it something to look forward to- hopeful things.  Ask them what they hope to do/learn this year or what they want to be when they grow up.  You can have them write down their dreams if you want or draw a picture.
  6. And finally, take charge.  Gently.  With love.  Tell them how much you love them, how you believe in them, and how excited you are to be their teacher.  Also include expectations for behavior, consequences for refusing to do work or for poor work done in haste.  Sometimes writing reminders on a chart on the wall or in notebooks can help if you need to reinforce this later.  Don’t forget to talk about why school is important.  If you are a believing family, pray for and with your children for the coming year.

You can choose to accomplish a few small tasks if you’d like, but remember, don’t expect to completely jump into the school year and have them knock out a bunch of assignments.  You’ll just be banging your head against a wall.  I promise you will all be miserable.  Adults need time to adjust to major life changes.  So do kids.  Take time to enjoy this first day.  Tomorrow will thank you for it.

Homeschooling Stuff · Making a Home

The Problem of Loneliness

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“But are your children being socialized?” It’s the absolute #1 question I am asked when strangers find out we homeschool.  Of course, of course.  They’ve got neighborhood friends, church friends, friends from co-op/ music lessons.  They’re so socialized, they can’t get over themselves.  But what about their mommy?  What about that adult that is running around ragged, trying to cram them full of knowledge and fun and lots of love?  Is SHE being socialized?

If someone were to ask me what the hardest part of homeschooling is for me, it would definitely be this.  Loneliness.  It’s something that can be experienced by any person in any walk of life from anywhere in the world.  And if you think that being a stay-at-home mommy, surrounded by tiny persons can’t possibly feel it, think again.  There is a huge difference between being with like-minded mommy friends and being with my babies.  I love them to pieces & wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but they cannot possibly meet every need for human interaction I could possibly have.  And they shouldn’t!  What a burden to have to bear for them.  They need me to have friends about as much as I do.

Our personal situation is compacted even more when you throw in that we have moved a TON.  New neighborhoods, churches, co-ops, etc.  Starting over and over again can be so hard.  Children somehow bond immediately with other children, but it’s not always so with adults.  So what’s a mommy to do?

Here are some great ideas.

  1.  Pray.  Pray that your relationship to God meets the deepest desire of your heart.  No human relationship will ever fill the void in you like God can.  He created you to love him, and He will bring the joy you long for.  Pray also that He will send people into your life to be friends.
  2. Go out there and meet people!  Attend the “Mommy’s Night Out” programs, talk to people at church, co-op, the park, wherever!  Exchange names and numbers with your kids’ new bestest friend ever that she JUST met five minutes ago and plan (and follow through!) with meeting up again.  Sign your kids up for an activity where you know you can also hang out- baseball, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer
  3. Invite people to do things with you!  Have them over at your home, meet at a park, catch a movie together, whatever- all with or without kiddos.
  4. Call up an old friend.  Don’t just text.  That’s too impersonal when you’re feeling blue and want actual human contact.
  5. Do stuff- attend a MOPS group (mothers of preschoolers), join a book club, volunteer at your child’s coop, take an art or cooking class.
  6. Get a part-time job.

These are just a few ideas.  Whatever you do, make sure you don’t stay home and wallow in the loneliness.  We mommies tend to sacrifice a lot for our little ones in order to meet their needs.  This shouldn’t be one of those things we neglect.  Life is hard.  We need each other.

What are some ways that you combat loneliness?

Homeschooling Stuff

The Many Methods of Homeschooling- Part 1 of 2

The way we think about things is super important.  Our thoughts dictate our decisions and actions.  If you believed that cats were super evil little monsters sent from Hades, for example, (I don’t- no.  Just sometimes.) you won’t leave one alone with your teeny baby.  If you think that sneezing into your elbow will keep everyone around you from catching your cold, you’re more apt to actually do that. Unlike your husband that thinks you’re bonkers and should just use your hands like normal people.

That being said, there are many different methods out there for homeschooling, along with the thinking that lies behind them.  It’s good to know where you feel most comfortable.  Then, you can explore teaching resources and curriculum that most closely align with what you like.  I’m going to give a very brief, as unbiased as I can make it overview of the major methods, along with links to further study-up on any you find interesting.

Eclectic/Relaxed–  Most homeschooling families fall into this category.  These are the parents that like a variety of materials and workbooks, choosing whatever they feel best meets the needs of their child rather than a one-size-fits-all, ready-made curriculum.  They may follow a routine, but it probably won’t have times written beside each subject to be covered.  This family will concentrate on meeting educational goals rather than being super-strict on exactly what gets studied when. To make sure they are staying on target, parents may study-up on what their local school system or respected book on homeschooling suggests should be accomplished per grade level.  They will probably also periodically have the children tested to make sure they are covering all that they need to learn.  Some use mornings for basic school subjects needing to be covered, leaving afternoons for things like library or field trips, art classes, music lessons, etc.

todaysfrugalfamily.com

rockyourhomeschool.net

Classical- This approach stresses teaching children how to learn.  The Trivium is an understanding of the different stages that children go through throughout their education, based on their stages of development.  Subjects are taught in such a way that compliments these different stages.  The Grammar Stage (k-5th) concentrates on giving little ones a lot of information to soak in.  Memorization of facts is stressed.  The next stage is called the Logic or Dialectic Stage (6th-8th).  Here, critical thinking and reasoning are encouraged.  There are serious discussions and in-depth studies, using the information gathered during the Grammar Stage.  Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (9th-12th) deals with communicating the child’s thoughts.  Arguing of theories, writing papers, and research are important in this age group.  Many classical parents keep a well-established routine.  Some join classical groups that meet to encourage oral reports, memorization, and the study of Latin.  There is also a branch off of this called Classical Christian Education, which is just what it sounds like:  classical with everything taught from a Christian worldview.

Classical Conversations

The Well-Trained Mind website

The Well-Trained Mind- book at Amazon

Homeschooling Stuff

Playing With Fire

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My children love experiments.  They beg for them.  I love hands on learning myself, so whenever we come across something in a textbook that can be tried at home, we usually go for it.  Unless there’s like a mile-long list of all the stuff I have to buy first.  Then Mommy “loses” that suggestion page, never to be found again.

Here’s a fun one.  We were studying how hot the sun was.  All it takes is a magnifying glass.  And patience.  A ton of patience.  We sat out on our driveway, chose a leaf, and aimed that little glass at one spot on it.  If you narrow the beam of light to the finest, brightest point you can get and hold it there, it will start to smoke in a few minutes.  I think ours took about ten.  Meanwhile, you can have an older child read aloud the information you’re studying.  Or ask review questions.  Whatever.  All I know is- my children learned a ton that year on planets, stars, and the like.  The one shining moment they can recall in an instant is this experiment.

And because I don’t want to turn a free experiment into the most expensive one we’ve ever done, of course I taught my kids never, ever to do this without me present.  Just for added precaution, the magnifying glass disappeared to the top shelf.

The science curriculum this came from is loaded with cool experiments to try.  Jeannie Fulbright’s Apologia series has been wonderful.  The books explain complicated things on a young child’s level, while also providing proof that God is the creator of it all.  I would highly recommend them to any elementary student.

Exploring Creation With Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright– Amazon

Jeanniefulbright.com

 

Homeschooling Stuff

Just an Example- Curriculum

books-1841116__340I am basically an eclectic homeschooler.  That means I pick a little of this, a little of that, and go all over the place with whatever works for our family.  I, personally, love Charlotte Mason’s ideas and also the Classical Christian Education’s trivium.  I am listing what we are currently using as curriculum for this year for two of my children, just as an example.  Your family, however, is unique.  Please feel free to pick and choose curriculum based on your children’s unique educational needs and your own teaching style.

I have loved this book and have used it as a guide when making a lot of choices in curriculum:

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.

I don’t always follow everything they recommend, but it has been a wonderful guide for me to know what each grade level is expected to learn, along with curriculum to help teach it.

My 5th grader’s list of subjects/curriculum:

Writing- 

copy work.  I have her copy Bible chapters, poetry, and sentences from her spelling book for practice.  Her handwriting is awesome, so I didn’t have to purchase anything this year just to practice.  If I needed to work more on it, I would order the Handwriting Without Tears 4th grade book (cursive) or a lower level for basic writing.  The books don’t actually say the grade on them, so only I would know.

Spelling- 

Spelling Workout D- super cheap, with tons of independent and fun practice.  There are crossword puzzles and word searches as well as harder stuff.  I have her do 1 activity per day for 3 days & write out sentences and study on day 4.  On the 5th day, she gets a test.  For homework, I assign that she has to write out missed words 10 times each.  Cost per book is about $10.

Grammar- 

Rod & Staff English book 5.  Really great series, written by Amish people with lots of Bible verses as examples.  It’s very tough & thorough.  When my kids complete each year’s book, they know their stuff and tend to score high on grammar testing. You can assign a lot of written work or very little, depending on what you feel needs improvement.  This year, we’ve done most of the assignments out loud, one on one, since it’s a review of a lot of stuff she already knows (so far).  These grammar books are about $17.

Math- 

I bought a public school math book on Amazon for like $5.  It was like 10 years old.  Be wary of any recent publications, though.  They will have the newest government-promoted, common core material. I’ve never seen that, but I’ve heard it’s confusing to parents and kids alike.  I love Abeka math workbooks and teacher answer keys.  If I had had more money to spend this year, I would have purchased those instead for this child.  Abeka math is very thorough, but easily understood by my oldest child that has struggled with math in the past.  And the workbooks are great b/c there’s no need to waste time writing out each problem- the child can write answers directly on the workbook pages.  Together, the workbook and answer key are about $50-60.  There’s also a cool little (FREE) computer program that one of our private schools around here uses as a means of teaching children to know their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts.  It’s called Xtra Math.  We use it in lieu of doing flashcards.  Every time one of my little ones completes one of the 4 sections, they get a treat of their choice.  They think it’s hard but fun.

Reading- 

I assign 1 hour of read time in the mornings (alone).  I printed off “1000 Great Books” online, which lists a ton of classic books per grade level.  We check out what she wants to read from the library, along with books that go along with what we are learning about in science and history.  She picks from those for her reading time.  I also have her read aloud to me from time to time without her being aware that I am checking on her- directions, part of a science chapter, whatever.  I also read aloud to the kids for about half an hour in the afternoons from a classic book that is above their reading level, but something they would care about (Anne of Green Gables, Narnia, etc.)  I only do that with 3rd grade and up.

Science- 

Jeannie Fulbright’s Apologia series.  We love “Exploring Creation with Zoology”- several different volumes.  There are lots of books to choose from.  My kids have loved them all.  Activities and experiments are optional, but usually pretty fun, like building a wooden birdhouse for your backyard or experimenting to see if birds prefer to eat directly on the ground level or at tree level.  Christian series & very sound.  The author loves to prove God’s existence and ongoing care for His creation throughout all of her books.  I read this book twice per week to all the kids at once (or retell it in my own words).

 History- 

Mystery of History (LOVE)  Can come in cd form, where you listen aloud together or book form, where you teach it yourself.  These books show what was going on around the world at the same time as the Bible stories were unfolding all the way to modern times.  Very, very well researched and presented. There are currently 4 volumes available, and we’re on #3. I just read a chapter aloud, three times per week.  Sometimes we do activities as recommended or color a picture I print off the internet.  You can order a coloring/ activity pack that goes along with this, but I never have due to expense. Sometimes I’m super on it & also research cool videos to show that relate.  One year we also created a timeline and bought tiny little coloring cards that you can buy with it to tack on to it.  It’s as laid back or intense as you want to get.  I love finding field trips that go along with our lessons.  The book is around $50-60.  I teach this to all kids at same time.

My 2nd grader’s list of subjects/curriculum:

Writing- 

Handwriting Without Tears Printing Power.  This one has little places to color, along with writing practice.  This is my little one’s favorite book.  About $10

Spelling- 

We’re not ready for that yet, but I have an Abeka Spelling and Poetry 1 book ready for her when she’s ready.  I want her to read a bit easier first.  

Reading- 

We worked through a phonics book together from kindergarten through last year.  She’s really gotten the basic rules of reading down, so this year, I’m just concentrating on practicing what she already knows.  Bob books (can check out from library or purchase a set for about $10 on Amazon) are great at helping.  We were also given a Hooked on Phonics 2nd grade kit that she loves.  We check out lots of books. Basically, we just read, read, read.  If the skill is already there, just let them practice reading out loud.  You don’t really need a program.  My 2nd grader reads to me for 10-15 minutes each time, or until she’s just really tired of it.  Some days, she wants to go a bit longer.  I also read aloud to her with stories for her age- usually at night.

Grammar- 

First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise (it has 1st and 2nd grade in the same book- can be done together).  Lessons are short, so they keep little ones’ attention span. They are parent-led, but it doesn’t take any preparation ahead of time- just read aloud.  There are cute, short poems to memorize, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, basics of grammar to memorize, teaching about how to narrate back a story. I love it.  I bought it years ago & can’t remember the price, but it wasn’t much.

Math- 

Arithmetic 2 by Abeka.  It’s a workbook with colorful pages.  It reminds me of preschool books that were fun, but on a harder level.  My little one feels challenged, but like she is having fun too.  I also have her do Xtra math online.

Science- together

History- together