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back to homeschool week

It is hard to believe we are at the end of the week already of Randi’s wonderful Back to Homeschool Week and Tiany’s Homeschool Open House. Please join me in giving these 2 ladies extraordinaire a virtual round of applause for their efforts in coordinating these wonderful events that have afforded many of us to share what we are doing, what we have learned, how we do it and to glean the same from others…..bravo, bravo, bravo!!!

Today is about curriculum….it’s a dirty word in some circles and it doesn’t work for everyone so like with anything else, find what works for you and your family. 🙂 I shared more in my Day 2 post.

This year we will use Math-U-See for math as referenced here. This program works for my daughter and it works for me, so we are sticking to it.

Reading – The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading combined with the McGuffey Readers, Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, and heavy use of the library. I also have some books from Reading A-Z books during their free teacher appreciation week. I also use many of these items for copywork/handwriting.

History/Geography and Science – Unit Studies

We utilize the library heavily and like to use different library reads to enhance our current course of study and I hope to start sharing some of those items here in the weeks ahead.

back to homeschool week

How do we homeschool?

Such a loaded question that is…basically we homeschool like I cook – a little of this and a little of that. 🙂 For the most part, we are following the broad outlinesof the classical model of homeschooling but willing to veer off course and hop down rabbit trails if our hearts desire.

I am the type of gal that needs some sort of structure or I will hop down too many trails so for scheduling we use Homeschool Tracker. I do use the Plus program but there are few software programs that you can purchase for $39 with free upgrades and able to be used on more than 1 computer in your home. I find it a great help and being that my state requires a review, the reporting feature allow me with a few clicks of the mouse to have a summary of everything. Of course, first the information has to get into the program which is what I spent a large chunk of today doing hence my late posting. 🙂

Like I mentioned in the beginning, we are following the broad parameters of the classical method as outlined in the Well-Trained Mind (see sidebar). This year, I am going to do an overview of all 4 periods as exposure before delving deeper next year in the ancients. For this overview, I am developing my own unit studies that will cover history and science and I hope to share here in the near future.

For Math, we use Math-U-See. I absolutely love this program and so do my kids. A will be finishing up the Primer and starting Alpha come mid-September. We have both sets of blocks and they are in a fishing tackle box and they work well for my visual daughter and my tactile son. 🙂

For Language Arts-Reading, I use the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I did purchase the combo pack and the kids love the magnetic board and will often just want to sit and make words with it without any prodding by me, which is just wonderful. Another item that I use to supplement is the Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists. I picked this up at Barnes & Noble with my teacher’s discount and it is a must for every bookshelf. Being that my daughter is very image driven, I find that books without images or few images work best and unfortunately many of the learn-to-read books have a lot of images. I downloaded the FREE McGuffey Eclectic Primer from Project Guttenberg. They work lovely and they are great for copywork as well. For her afternoon reading, I use some Dr. Seuss and early reader books because it is fun to read with your mom on the couch.

My son, while 3 1/2, is involved in some aspects of our daily learning but there are times when he must go have some structured play so I use ziploc bags and fill them with different things for him to do like mazes, coloring sheets, scissor activities, etc. He likes this plus it helps his skill development.

I do use some DVD/VHS tapes like Magic School Bus for further understanding and to this day, a how our food grows video has been their favorite and they know all about farm equipment. These tools have their place but they are not the bulk of our learning as they pretty much only get 1/2 hour of tv/video a day.

I use the library as much as possible to fill in other items and I find that thrift stores are often a treasure trove for books that can be used in a homeschool environment. We do field trips especially to the Smithsonians and I love the fact that they are free. 🙂

This year we are looking at a co-op for Fridays just because we are in the process of a church plant and our old church had a lot of activities for the kids and A is very social. I have not done our schedule justice but check out the archives for some other items and thoughts and check back in the future. 🙂

I love homeschooling!!!! Seriously, I truly enjoy teaching and being taught and I absolutely love the closeness of our family and my children. There is a natural bond because they are family but it is special when they also form their own friendship. I just had to share that as I am convinced that this is what we are to do in our family.

Last night, I went to a homeschool meeting sponsored by a local umbrella group that a few friends are members…I wasn’t going to go because it was on the beginning whys/hows of homeschooling and we are already doing it and we already know why we are doing it but this will be the first year being “official” being that dd turns 5 in July. I also didn’t want to have a haughty spirit and think I knew all there was to know about being a homeschooler in my county. After prayer and consultation with hubby, I went and was glad that I did. The attendees were all over the board in the sense that there were a few with little ones like me, others looking to pull a teen out of the schools and more in-between. The spectrum didn’t necessarily fit the neat outline of the speaker but it worked. I did have some input about some resources and shared some web sites because the presenter was big on books and not everyone is going to go to the library (plus she had checked out all the homeschool books). 😀

One thing that happenned that is still unsettling for me is her discussion of the various methods of homeschooling – traditional, classical, unit study, living books/Charlotte Mason, Hebrew education, unschooling, etc. She provided examples for each and then there was the attack on classical and the praise of the Hebrew method. None of the other methods were attacked but the classical. Quite frankly, many of the other areas were praised and expounded upon except for unschooling which was shunned (Note: I think in a way all homeschoolers unschool to some degree). When I say attack, the presenter did acknowledge that there is a big classical movement in homeschooling and she went on to say that being based in Greek/Roman thought only leads to secularism and as Christians we should follow the Hebrew model proposed by Heart of Wisdom. She was a bit more critical than this but you get the point.

I had never heard of Heart of Wisdom and I am including the link so that I can make my point that the homeschooling tent is big enough for all of us and no matter what method you choose or what methods you combine, we are all still seeking to give our children the best. I really have issues when homeschoolers go to such lengths to define/justify why the use what they use and do what they do. There are a lot of great curricula out there and the beauty/benefit of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to design God’s school in your home as you feel He is leading you in order to bless your children and train them up in the way they should go.

I stopped reading one of the message boards that I was on because it was too competitive and made me think that my grass isn’t as green as it should be….I had to pray about that because if I know that this is what God has called me to do and I am trusting in Him with my preparation, materials gathering, etc. and my children are learning then I am doing what He would have me to do at my house. What you do at your house is great but I don’t live there and neither do my children. I don’t want to sound harsh but this is really how the Lord had to lay it out for me as I can be stubborn and hardheaded. 😉

I read a post the other day that summed it up at From the Narrows, check it out.

As a disclaimer, I do like the thought process behind the classical, but I also mix it up with unit studies, living books and unschooling. In the end, the Bible is our main text book and God is our Chancellor. I think that as parents we have to look at all of the curricula to make sure it espouses the beliefs that we believe. I also think that kids (at the appropriate age) should be exposed to fallacies of the world so that they can be informed and stand for Jesus in a sound way to avoid being tossed to and fro.

Now, I did find out about an awesome planning resource that is FREE!!!! Home School, Inc has a free module that helps you with planning, organizing, and clerical (prints report cards too!). The module is decscribed in detail below:

Plan Educate Record (PER) is the first module. If staying organized and keeping good records has been a challenge for you that detracts from the time and energy you have to give to teaching, we want to help. We have created a comprehensive planning, recording and storage application that will help. You will not need to labor over paper schedule books or worry about losing all your information in a computer crash. Better still, because our application is delivered securely via the internet, a parent who works outside the home or is traveling can still be an integral part of schooling the children! A parent in the office or on the road can communicate in real time with the kids back home and lend a hand when they need help! PER also will offer a complete set of academic and regulatory reports suitable for your state that you print with the click of a mouse!

As an aside, I went to the thrift store today and it felt like a used book sale at a curriculum fair. I was somewhat good but I did buy quite a few. Monday is 25% off so if some of the others are there, that extra discount may make me buy them. 🙂

Enjoy your day!

For many this can be a loaded topic, but I do not think that it has to be. 🙂 My friend over at 5 Kids and A Dog, created a meme based on homeschooling. It started with a post from another friend MLBAH and that was prompted by MommyZabs. MommyZabs has also posted a few questions addressing the subject. In the meantime, OnlySometimesClever (I think she is quite clever more than just sometimes) took the topic and ran with it and then Just Enough has linked to that and Bloggerings has added her insight. I share all of that so that if you are remotely considered homeschooling that you will have several wise references in which to start your investigative journey.

Now back to moi….I will combine the meme and questions from MZ into one post.

I have 2 children and the eldest is almost 5 (in July) and the youngest is 3. I always knew that I wanted to stay home until my kids were 5 and then I would return to work. My dh, then fiance, was not keen on stay-at-home moms but God specializes in miracles and now he encourages others to figure out how to live off of 1 income as he thinks it is the next best thing since sliced bread. 😀 I have been home for 5 years and it all started with some health issues with our dd that arose 3.5 months after her birth.

1. Did you always know you would home-school?

Education is very valuable to me and more valuable is learning how to learn. My parents did not go to college yet at the time we were capable of a solidly middle class lifestyle. My grandfather didn’t go to college but he read the newspaper everyday and instilled that in me when I was knee high to a grasshopper. While my parents didn’t go to college they both had common sense and they used that to seek out the best for me. I went to public school but because of my parents and their involvement, I was encouraged to try anything and everything and told that I could be anything that I wanted and I believed it. That drove me and still does as I do not think that anything is too hard or impossible. God did bless me with a brain that took in information like a sponge and as a result I was in honors classes and was exposed to things that other kids weren’t because they were merit based. I had a full ride to college and my parents were very proud and still are and while not initial proponents of homeschooling they both now readily admit how well behaved and smart my kids are, of course some of that needs to be run through the Nana/Pop-Pop filter of they are so cute and can’t do anything wrong. 🙂

2. What led you to the decision to home-school?

As my dh and I looked at the schools in our community, we knew that we were not going to send our babies to public school. Our church had a lot of homeschooling families and I started researching the topic when dd turned 3. I was an eager beaver at that point and would buy all sorts of things that people recommended – good things but things that didn’t work for me. I really started praying that if God wanted us to do this that He would just show us the way. I love reading and had been doing storytime with the kids at the library and decided one day to see what kind of books they had on homeschooling. I was pleasantly surpised that they had a nice selection and I took out a few on learning styles (Cynthia Tobias) and started researching. I figured I needed to know how they learned and how I learned to figure all of this out.

During the same time, my church started a classical education structured school and it pretty much decimated the homeschooling family network at our church as well as the stay-at-home mom network because many of the moms were recruited to work at the school. 😦 The school averages over $6,000 and I told my dh that I thought that was ridiculous for the 3 r’s of reading, writing and arithmetic and they started at the age of 2. I saw a schedule of their day for the 3 year old class and 2 hours was nap/quiet time and then there was 45 minutes for lunch so 3 hours were spent not doing any learning. I really thought about that and how much fun I had being home with my kids and watching their new discoveries and just their inquisitive nature that I really didn’t want to ship them off for 7 hours.

Very important component to homeschooling – husband and wife being on same page if not husband willing to be supportive of wife until without a word wife wins him over. My husband is my biggest supporter. He knows that no matter the current trends that I have researched and prayed and researched and prayed about our purchases before coming to him and he is always wanting to know what I need to make it a success. I think that is very important.

3. What age were your children when you decided to take the home-school plunge?

I started homeschooling with dd was about 3.5 with some easy basic stuff like colors, alphabet recognition and the like. We played, did storytime and took it easy. When she turned 4, we created a bit more structure (if I have none, I am capable of getting nothing done), and started using The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and other things that I was finding on the internet. I came up with different scripture for memorization and off we went. Storytime was still 1x a week and we would load up with books at the library. I still didn’t feel completely at peace that I was not doing them a disservice being that I hadn’t purchased a box curriculum set and the like. So, I read Home Sweet Homeschool by Sue Maakestad. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone considering homeschooling.

Now,mind you the whole time I am teaching dd, ds is right there so when he was 2 he knew all of his colors, alphabet/number recognition, scripture verses, etc. so he caused me to do some re-thinking once again. Yes, re-thinking/retooling is a key part to homeschooling. Homeschooling for us is not a thing that we do, it is how we live. I can now turn just about anything into a learning opportunity. That has rubbed off on my dh and he does the same thing. It rubs off on our kids that they immediately start to think about something and then come the questions. At this stage they are naturally inquisitive so encourage that and don’t try to squash it.

4. Did you have any fears? What were they? Were they realized? 6. If you could name one thing that inspired you most to home-school, what was it? 8. Are some of your children easier to home-school than the others? 9. Lastly. Do you feel anyone is capeable of home-schooling? And do you feel every child is capeable of home-schooling? What would be an exception?

I still have fears about homeschooling but I don’t live with a spirit of fear. God has moved me to a place in which I can rest in that this is what He has called me to do and therefore know that He will give me what I need to get it done. This is my inspiration for homeschooling – knowing that I am doing what God wants me to do. It is a sacrifice but as in the Word – obedience is better than a sacrifice. I think that any mom who is led to homeschool can homeschool no matter what her educational background. I say led because if you are not led to homeschool it is like anything else in life, you will not enjoy what you are doing and you will not give it your all. Half-stepping at work will still get you a paycheck but half-stepping at home with the education of your children can have generational impacts far beyond what the eye can see.

As for children, I think all children can be homeschooled because at the core of anything and everything in life is obedience. I have a SIL that was an elementary principal and she would comment how her teachers had to spend 15-20 minutes calming children down. If your child does not obey you at home then he/she will not obey their teacher in school. It is really that simple! Teaching obedience, respect for others and their property, is the responsibility of the parents not teachers.

In terms of some children being easier to homeschool, I would think that if you have a child that has the same learning style as you do then it is easier to teach them because they learn like you and thus your job is easier. However, like Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, Ruth Beechick and Susan Schaeffer Macauley, we should strive to teach via all learning styles not just the dominant. My ds is very auditory, like me, so even if he isn’t looking like he is paying attention, he hears everything that you say and can repeat it back to you. Whereas my dd is more visual/kinetic in how she gathers information and I love how God uses her to stretch me outside of my comfort zone because I want to make sure that she undersands. Is it frustrating, at times, but when she gets it, all the frustrating moments are gone. 🙂

5. Do you know a lot of other home-schoolers in your real-life community? (cyberworld does not count for this question!)

As mentioned earlier, the homeschooling community at my church was decimated but there are few women that still homeschool and I consider them dear friends. Their children are older than mine but they still provide good counsel and serve as great sounding boards. Also, I attend a monthly support group jsut for moms, kiddies are left at home, and our group is on summer break. It is a group of all Christian women and there is a different topic each week. There are quite a few homeschool groups in the area and co-ops and the like and we are in prayer about joining a co-op this upcoming year.

7. How do you choose your curriculum?

Research is key to homeschooling. You will find that homeschool is not as narrowly defined as some would think and that their are anomalies within all of the subsets. I recently went to a homeschool fair for my state and while there were Mennonites, Catholics, Baptists, and a host of others and we all looked different. Nonetheless we were all there with the common goal of giving our children the best. There are choices upon choices for homeschooling and I think defining your educational goals and seeing where they line up (classical, CM, literature based, etc.) will help define your curriculum choices. My advice is to not be swayed that the grass is greener at someone else’s school because of this and that. Each of us is uniquely made as are our children, so keep the uniqueness that is a joy to homeschooling.

While, I could probably go on, I will end here. There are a plethora of homeschooling moms out there and while I do not want this to be a meme, I am going to name a few and if they are so inclined, I do hope that they will share their thoughts and even if they don’t, you have some sites to check out of some awesome homeschoolers – Mother Crone, MuddyBoots, Satisfied Housewife, Classical Reading and Writing (she has authored some awesome copybooks form the classical perspective), From the Narrows, and HiddenArt. There are more, lots more, so tag it and go reading.

Many are winding down their homeschool efforts and we are going to just keep on going with a lighter schedule for the summer. DD needs to read daily and copywork 3x a week to help her with handwriting and we are going to throw in lots of fun and exciting things as the outdoors continue to beckon.

Today, was the first real day of introducing skip counting via MUS. I have been introducing the concept through books (most titles are mentioned in previous posts, check the sidebar) and other items in everyday life. I made some number lines that are for skip counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s and 10’s.
Skip counting number lines

Also, I did a worksheet to supplement the book as a gentle introduction to skip counting.by 2’s worksheet

By happenstance, dd found another skip counting book at the library – Cat up a tree by John and Ann Hassett. It skip counts by 5’s and is a cute story that the dc both enjoyed.
Cat up a tree

We also read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. The fornt of the book reminds me of our books growing up when your book cover was a brown paper bag. The book lets kids imaginations run wild with a rabbit and the different things that he imagines his box is even though to him it is never just a box.
Not a box

The last book that we read today was A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson. My ds loves rhyming books and this was perfect plus it counts from 1-5 and back again. The frog keeps eating various things while on a log in a bog until a rather unfortunate event happens with a gator in which all of the food items leave the frog’s stomach (it was rather tight in there) and he no longer sits on a log. Great illustrations and a nice read.
A frog in the bog

I also liked these books because dd can read the titles and it enforces her reading skills.

After being inspired by another MUS user, I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a fishing tackle box to store all of our blocks. Now, they are all organized and it is compact and portable in case the beach or the park calls us. 🙂
MUS Blocks

Lately I have had some angst building as it relates to curriculum choices and comparisons. There are opinions to go around on what is best, what works best and what is liked the most or what is preferred by many. However, at the end of the day, isn’t the reason why you are homeschooling so that you can make your own choices as to what your dc learn??? If that is the bottom line then get out of the box of thinking that any one curriculum is going to meet all of your needs…it isn’t. One curriculum is not going to make all of your children, if schooling multiple children, happy. One curriculum is not going to make you happy.

There are choices upon choices upon choices in the homeschooling arena and with choice comes opinions upon opinions upon opinions. I think it is helpful to hear others thoughts/opinions but you still must take it with a grain of salt because that person is not you and their kids are not your kids. I have seen that so much opinion following only leads to people buying things that came highly recommended by so and so to find out that they don’t like it and neither do their children. Get out of the box of following everyone’s opinions.

Maybe at the end of the day, I am just thrifty (cheap) because I am not willing to follow the latest whim and purchase just because x number of people like it. I need workarounds and I like trying to find workarounds because when we decided to homeschool it wasn’t expected to be an easy process, I expect bumps and some of those bumps are me finding a workaround because I do not like to waste money.

Over the last few days, I did not feel as if our reading curriculum was getting my dd to where I think she should be so I was doing some research on the net and came across a resource that I subsequently checked out of the library. I liked it so much, I purchased the updated version from Barnes & Noble today with my teacher discount…what was it – The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists. This book has all of the current reading programs on the market combined into 1 book that will take my dc through high school and college. Not only does it include phonics, it includes phongrams, homophones, homographs, vocab builders (prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, greek and latin roots), word families, content words, books to read at different stages, writing, ideas for teaching, comprehesion, study skills, test skills, spelling, grammar, sing language examples, braille alphabet, morse code, hieroglyphics, games and additional references. All for less than $25. I had to get out of the box of thinking that one way of teaching them per some curriculum was going to be the end all be all.

Now, I am going to include some readers and based upon my dd tendency to figure out from the pictures with the BOB books, I am going to download the FREE McGuffey Readers from Project Gutenberg. Yes, I did say FREE, here is the Primer. The readers are pretty and nice but seriously after the children learn to read, are they really going to come back and read the pretty reader that you spent so much money for….no. Get out of the box of always wanting to keep up with the Joneses and buy, buy, buy…instead be wise, wise, wise. You are teaching your children more than the 3 R’s when you constantly spend unwisely…

My boxers have really been in a bunch over this because I think that even though well-intentioned, the opinions can lead some new homeschoolers down a path that they later regret. If you are new to homeschooling, take your time to look around and read as much as you can and figure out what you want to be the underlying philosphy (foundation) of your homeschooling efforts. Once you have solidified that foundation, then figure out what you want your dc to learn/know and then begin doing some research on what is out there and even challenge yourself to design your own curriculum. Every method around suggests using living books, go walk the shelves at the library, talk with the librarians (I find them to be quite helpful and willing to assist homeschoolers), and see what is available for your family. When you are comfortable with your research/investigation, make a list of what you would like to purchase. Put the list away for at least 2 weeks and during that time just pray over your list/choices and I guarantee when you pull your list you will scratch some items off of the list. Or make your highball list and your lowball list…you will be surprised how much you can eliminate when you switch time for money.

Another issue that is related to this is the concern that the chosen curriculum will not meet college standards or will not prepare the dc properly. As a homeschooler and a parent you want the best for your children well maybe you need to get out of the box of what is currently offered and move up to some college texts. Yes, you can get the teacher editions as most of us belong to some card carrying homeschool group so speak with the publisher and as a homeschooler use your professional homeschool voice and get what is best for your child.

For me once I move beyond our biblical foundation to educate our children, I see the world as our oyster and we are free to choose/develop a curriculum that best meets our needs but also as the teacher/parent I am to not rely solely on that curriculum, I am to supplement it with whatever I feel necessary to make sure that my student/child understands it. There isn’t a curriculum in the world that you will ever be 100% happy with but you can be happy with knowing that you have found what is better for you and your family and you have taken the time to add to it to make it best for you and your family.

Well, good plans are made to be changed…I had planned to attend the homeschool curriculum fair on Saturday but changed my mind and went today. It was approximately 1 hour from my house so I left early because Friday rush hour starts at about 12 noon around here. My mom came with me as I did have the dc being the dh is at the men’s retreat. I was pretty excited about attending my 1st curriculum fair…I had my list of what I wanted to buy, what I wanted to look at and purchase if the price was right, and I had my checkbook. 🙂

Well, we arrived and the place was already quite packed. My mom was like “wow, there are a lot of cars here.” There was a Mason-Dixon knife show at the location but it is fair to say that the majority of people were there for the curriculum fair. 😉 After entry, I made my way to a map to jot down locations of my must visits – Math-U-See and Rainbow Resource. Okay, now off to shopping. Purchased the Alpha curriculum for dd math and the completer set of blocks. Had on my list the skip counting cd but forget to purchase it in all of my excitement and did not realize it until I got home..kinda bummed but I moved on. Also purchased the Usborne Internet-linked History and Science Encylopedias. A few other items – Aesop’s fables, Charlotte’s Web, Aladdin story reader, writing pads for dd penmanship, a shapes thinking game, and 2 maze books.

I was able to check out SOTW and was tempted to purchase but will wait until 1st grade. Looked at First Language Lessons and do not think I will need this until Novemeber-December so I will order when that time approaches. Of course there were more goodies than you can shake a stick at but I have resolved myself that I will not purchase a lot of curriculum to keep up with the Joneses but I will purchase what I have researched and prayed over with dh.

The kids held up well even though it was quite a bit warm and having mom was a blessing. All in all, I feel that I am good to go and will finish designing a few unit studies for history/science and we will go from there. I also discovered a decent used bookstore on the way home from my parents where I picked up The Trumpet Swan, Stuart Little, a Bill Peet book and a few other items. I will definitely add it to my rotation and tomorrow is the library sale. Yippee!!

Our Scripture

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. ~Psalm 1:3

Something to think about…

"I never teach my pupils: I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." ~ Albert Einstein
June 2017
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