It must be a rule that homeschooling bloggers do fine for a while, but inevitably, they seem to get wrapped up in living life and blogging falls to the wayside. That’s certainly true in my case; whereas I used to update regularly, over the last year or so, updates have become sporadic. I’ve made numerous resolutions to myself to get back into the habit of blogging regularly – even have a reminder on my calendar on my phone – and still, somehow time slips past and another day, week, month has gone by without me updating.
But, rather than spend a lot of time making excuses, I’d rather tell you about what we’ve been up to! I last updated in January, and since then, things have really exploded around here! Not literally, thank goodness – actual explosions would be a little bit hard to handle. But schedule-wise, we’ve never been more busy than we have been over the last few months.
One of the biggest changes to our homeschooling life has been the addition of a co-op class to our homeschool group. Some of the group members and I have been talking about it for a year or so; the idea of a co-op has always appealed to me, but we just never had the right dynamic. But about a month ago, we finally got it started! Our co-op meets weekly, and has 3 groups of students: A group (ages 10-13); B group (ages 7-9) and C group (ages 4-6). We also have a nursery group. We have 16 students and 2 babes-in-arms, with 7 families participating.
We’re just wrapping up our first round of classes – Science Lab (in prep for our group Science Fair), French, Art, PE, and ‘Life School’ which is a practical math class. Our second round of classes will include Geography (landforms & maps), Science Lab (experiments) and continue with French, Art and PE.
Here are a couple of pics form our art class:
We’ve been hiking in the Big Thicket – we went on a post-burn hike to check out the forest after a prescribed burn. The burn was only in certain sections of the trail so it was really cool to see the difference between the burned sections and the non-nursed sections. There were scorches on the trees higher than we were tall, which was both interesting and kinda scary – I can’t imagine being in the woods during a fire!
And started a new community service project this year, with a local charity garden, The Giving Field. On our first trip out, we helped harvest a total of 17.5 lbs of various salad greens – kale, lettuce, and spinach. We’ll be working with them throughout this year, which will give the kids a chance to see the garden through the entire year, from preparation, to planting, to growth and harvest, to nurturing the soil and planning for next year’s planting.
We also visited the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship TEXAS with our homeschool group recently:
as well as a host of other field trips that I haven’t been diligent in photographing. Thankfully, a new camera has recently found its way into my possession (after the sad demise of my last camera – fully loaded with pictures, mind you – in the watery grave of Village Creek last year), so perhaps I’ll be more motivated to update. No promises though ;)
Rest assured that we’re still around – LBB is wrapping up his first year of middle school (MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!!) and PeaGreen will start in the fall. It’s so odd how much more self-directed they are becoming as they get older. We do still harp on the basics, but they’re actually interested in pursuing their own studies as well. I’m continually amazed!
It’s spring time, which means that we’ll be getting our garden started soon. Then, summertime is right around the corner. Time flies…
Keep in touch!
New Year’s resolutions tend to be a joke among the general population. Not that I don’t get a good laugh at all the unrealistic, radical lifestyle changes that people plan to put into action like flipping a switch, but I find it somewhat insulting that the plan to make changes has become so cliche’. Most of my friends make resolutions, and actually do work towards them. Either their resolutions are more realistic, or they’re more motivated than the average Joe; but I’m lucky to be around people who are inspiring me to continue working towards my goals well into the month.
I’ve flip-flopped back and forth about whether to do resolutions this year, and about how to do them. There’s a trend right now about choosing a single word or phrase that sums up your goals and making that your theme for the year. I like that idea, but don’t know exactly if it will work for me… but who knows. Once I getall of this out of my head and onto the screen, I may find a theme when proofreading!
So, I am going to do my traditional 9, and update my last year’s resoloutions as well (as usual). Here’s last year’s post; I’m late this year – it’s Jan. 14th already.
1.) Food – Join the local produce co-op; cook with more fresh (and unusual) foods. Be more open to trying new recipes, including gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and other diverse styles. We’ve been in a rut food-wise and I am ready to get out of it! Also – freezer meals. I’m feeling freezer meals in 2014.
2.) Home Improvement – this is an on-going thing. We’re planning for a new roof in the spring, and hopefully the kids’ rooms will be finished this year (again).
3.) Health & Fitness – Rather than put pressure on myself again for a specific belt goal, I am going to plan on karate 2x per week, and biking or walking/running 2 miles per week. I also want to do two 5k’s this year. More would be great, but at least those two. I said one last year, and didn’t do it, so TWO this year! (Maybe even 3!)
4.) Kids – They’re really growing up now! I’d love for a family vacation to be on the menu this year (even if it’s a camping trip or weekend in Houston, Galveston or San Antonio). I really want to start bigger art projects with them. They’re always interested in my art, so I want to get them set up in collaborative projects with me, and with others.
5.) Husband – Date Nights are always in the plan! I’d like to put into use some of the things I’ve Pinned on my board for dates or sweet things to do for him. Mini-break would be just heavenly!!
6.) Myself – Art Classes; Journalistas, Mom’s Night Outs… all of this and more on a regular basis! Writing workshop – if I can find one, go to it! Write, write, WRITE. Also, wanting to get back into painting this year. Even if it’s Painting with a Twist ;)
7.) Extended Family – Visit my parents more, continue working on family history/genealogy research. Maybe plan a big family reunion.
8.) Community – We’re Spiral Scouting this year, in addition to our regular community service work that we do thought school. That will lend the kids even more opportunities to help out on a larger basis. We’re already signed up for a river clean-up and plan to pitch in on a creek clean up as well.
9.) Work – Finish my BFUSA cert., start looking into pre-req.s for school (for me!).
So there…. those are my plans for this year. Maybe my theme could be ‘Onward and Upward’…
- Complete ‘Wreck this Journal’, and keep up with the Art Journalistas group on Facebook. (It’s a secret group; one for my IRL friends and I to post pictures and progress and meet up to browse each others’ books. We’re starting in January.) 2014: DONE!! I’m working on my second journal in this series as we speak (or as I type).
- repaint living room & kids’ rooms (also includes new beds in their rooms, decor and the like) 2014: FAIL (klaxon) I painted about 2/5 of the living room and hate the color. Haven’t even started on the kids rooms. Why is this is HARD to accomplish??
- spend more time with Grandmama & Mom & Dad (My mom had a stroke this past year, and it really pointed out how little time we spend together. Plus, my grandmother’s sister died a few weeks ago – her younger sister – which really brought home how much time she may have left. Making more time to visit with my family needs to be a priority this year.) 2014: DONE (and continue to do. I could spend MORE time with them, but who can’t say that? Keeping them in my plans for this year as well.
- Harry Potter Marathon. I’ve talked about it many times… now is the time. ALL of the movies – one weekend. 2014: Meh… The kids and I have started working through the HP series as part of their literature and reading assignments. They’re enjoying the book, so when we finish a book, the plan is to watch the movie, then do a comparison diagram.
- Karate: keep on keepin’ on. I’d like to be a green belt (or maybe even blue!) by the end of the year… though I am not the one who has the final say in whether or not I get to test; still, I plan on working hard, and I think that green is doable over the next 12 months. I also want to learn the Dojo Kun in Japanese. Also included in this res is going to be general health/fitness goals. More HAES, less sighing over a flat stomach. 2014: I took a break form karate from July-December. 3x a week was stressing me out with all the other stuff that’s always on my plate. I just burnt out of it. So I’ve started again this year, and am only committing myself to 2x per week (Tues & Thurs) so my weekend is free. Other health/fitness goals have suffered for the last 5 months or so, but I am back on track.
- Submit at least one writing project for publication (AnnA – gonna need your help on this). I also want to work on establishing and maintaining a regular writing schedule this year, and collaborate more with AnnA (my amazing writing partner – click her name above and read her blog!). Also, check out the local writer’s guild group again. I tried it a while back and it wasn’t my cuppa; it’s been a while though, so maybe fresh meat? 2014: FAIL on everything but collab. with AnnA. She’s back in town though, so I foresee more collabs in the future.
- Date Night with Loverly Husband at least 1x each month. we did really well on this a while back, but have gotten away from it and it shows, so back onto the list it goes. Up this week: Django Unchained. At some point this coming year, I also want to take a mini-break, just the two of us. San Antonio or Dallas, maybe. 2014: Once a month was maybe pushing it – we resolve, but we have a life. The good thing about it is that even if we don’t get to go out alone together, we still enjoy one another’s company when hanging out at home, or with the kids. But a mini-break does sound heavenly.
- Family Vacation – we so very much need to do this. We’re in better financial shape that ever before, so maybe this is doable this year. 2014: Back on the list for this year!
- Run a 5K… or walk a 5K. I really want to do a Color Run and/or a Tough Mudder…. or aZombie Walk… or a Flash Mob. Something along those lines. We have friends who are into 5Ks as a family and it looks like fun. I’d love to get the kids involved in something like that. 2014: FAIL – but I’m not giving up! The color run is coming up, and we have a Zombie Response Team in the area now, so maybe a Zombie Walk is forthcoming ;)
So… that’s that. I’m not updating the past years’ goals like I have in the past. Some of that is irrelevant; much of it is still on the list.
I thought that while I was on the subject of goals, I’d make a few homeschool goals for this year as well:
1.) Stick to our schedule a bit better. We did well through October, but November and December were difficult to keep on-track. January has been barely holding on; we need to do better.
2.) Math manipulatives – get better use out of them! We have a ton, and they just sit in the cabinet for the most part.
3.) Make use of Pinterest in a more productive manner. There are so many cool things there – that’s why I pinned them!! Now, the trick is to use them!
In any case, I think I will stick with Upward and Onward as my theme for this year. How about you – themes for the year, or traditional resolutions? Share yours!
Wow – I can’t believe that we’re about to start our 5th year of homeschooling. It’s mind-blowing! It definitely doesn’t seem like that long, but neither I, nor the kids are planning to stop or go back to more traditional school anytime soon. Homeschooling has really become more than ‘something we do’; more than ever, it’s how we live.
I was looking back over some of the first blog posts I made, and it surprises me how much we’ve changed over the years – and what remains the same. Some of the traditions we started observing way back then are still part of our routine today. Tea time stands out as a big one (though admittedly, tea happens more than once during the day now, but we still gather in the kitchen for a cuppa). Field trips are still on Tuesdays, and we still mostly have school in our jammies.
Other things have changed. We have dramatically increased the amount of work assigned over the years. Back when we first started, I only focused on math, reading, handwriting and grammar. We did a bit of history (mostly pre-history – dinos and hunter-gatherer societies) and some literature (which Mommy read). But as we finished our first year, I added more – spelling, history (formally; Story of the World I) and science, along with lapbooking and notebooking, to what was already on our plate. By the next year (year 3), I added even more – research projects, science fair, public speaking, community service, individualized science, and geography. This past year (year 4) brought journaling (notebooking’s larger, more intimidating cousin), pre-algebra and even more critical thinking work into the mix. I bring this up because I see some of my friends and other newbies playing the comparison game. I get called ‘rigorous’ all the time, but I’m not, really – just really focused with the kids on college. They’re comparing where they are (just beginning to homeschool – some not even a full 6 months in) to where we are, four years past that. It’s not a fair comparison! If you’re one of those people, I say to you, “Don’t be so hard on yourselves, newbies!! Chillax for a minute. There’s plenty of time yet.”
LBB is in middle school now. In the fall, both of my boys will be in jr. high. I’m shocked at how very grown up my babies are now. They’re coming out with full-on developed concepts now; theories about *things* that they’ve learned about independently. It’s lovely to see, and to hear that their thinking process is balanced with a healthy dose of freethinking and skepticism, along with wise-eyed wonder, creativity and pure child-like fantasy.
We have big plans for this year, including LBB’s introduction to the Civil Air Patrol. We looked into it a few years ago, bt you have to be 12 to participate, and with LBB’s recent birthday, he’s finally old enough. Loverly Husband expressed interest in joining their adult program, so maybe this will be something they can do together. We’ve kinda slacked off on karate. I keep dabbling with the thought of getting back into it, but the motivation remains to be seen. LBB expressed interest in taking tennis lessons (continued interest from this past summer), so we may be looking into that instead. PeaGreen is still taking karate lessons, but only occasionally.
Curric-wise, much of what we’re using will remain the same as when we started ‘seat work’ back in August.
- Math – Everyday Math 5 & 6 plus workbooks & journaling
- Spelling – Dr. Spello, word bank, workbook lessons
- Grammar – DOL/ HM English & Thoughtful Journals
- History – Story of the World III & Activity Guide & Lapbook; composer/artist study
- Science – Journaling/Nature Study/ text for 5th & 6th grade / gardening
- Current Events – Morning Board/ CNN student news / community service
- Weekly research project
- Writing – creative writing/narrative/non-fiction/ picture-prompts
- handwriting practice
- PE/Health – FLASH
- Spiral Scouts
Our homeschool group is planning to begin a co-op in mid-January that will offer classes in art, science labs and some electives. If not, then we’ll have to add all that stuff in as well.
On the homefront, we got a puppy a few months ago. He’s a chi-weenie (half chihuahua, half dachshund) and he’s adorable!
That’s about it for now. I plan to update more regularly this year – it’s one of my NYR’s, which will be posted in the next week or so. Until then, enjoy the rest of your holiday time!
The Pearls and their ‘ministry’ are under fire again. Another dead child ‘in the name of god’. HOW are these people still publishing? Their most recent victim is Hana Williams. This beautiful girl ‘was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition‘. I am re-blogging this from 2010 to raise awareness for the appalling things that are being done to these children – the dangerous, horrendous, sickening things.
I am also calling out to Christian parents to speak out as well. This is being done in the name of YOUR god. This is your Heavenly Father’s name that is being dragged through the mud. I was raised Christian, and there’s no way that the god I was raised to know would approve of the methods advocated in To Train Up A Child.
To add your name/blog to the public boycott, and get your own banner/sticker for your website or blog, check MuseMama here.
Seriously. SPEAK OUT.
Originally posted on This Adventure Life:
I’ve been aware of and vocal in other internet arenas about the horror of the writings, teaching and actions by followers of Michael and Debi Pearl for years. Between them and Gary Ezzo’s Babywise series, I’ve had many conversations about these books and philosophy, both with moms online and in real life, and once even with Anne Marie Ezzo herself, and I have yet to find any value in what reads like a ‘how to’ manual for child abuse. In fact, many of the methods purported to help you raise perfect children are so completely contrary to the notion of biblical ‘grace’ that it makes me wonder how people who profess to imitate Jesus could be so blind. It literally makes me ill to hear people defend these books and even more so the people who wrote them.
I will say that I don’t think that parents intentionally pick…
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I did this once a couple of years ago, but things have changed so much since then that I thought I’d do another ‘day in the life’. This is our first day of homeschooling for the Fall Semester, in our 4th year.
Keep in mind that I wrote the above paragraph before today (being Monday, August 5th), with grand plans. In reality, I got a couple of pics early in the day and gradually kinda forgot about it after lunch. Also, the kids went to help Grammie move some things while I ran a couple of errands (which would have been boring to photo-document anyway), and since they weren’t with me, I figured you didn’t need to see me get gas and go by the bank.
My morning started off bright an dearly (7:15 AM) with Loverly Husband getting up for work. I got the kids up to say bye to Daddy; early, but with the caveat that they could get back in bed until 8 (their normal school day wake-up time). Fortunately for me, they both decided to stay up, so they had breakfast whilst Mommy mainlined caffeine.
After brekky, instead of answering 9,000 questions about ‘what are we doing this year??,’ I put the kids new books on the floor and we went over everything from which books we’ll be using to the new schedule. I introduced them to Daily Oral Language, the Morning Board and their Thoughtful Journals, and the various other books – old and new – for this year.
We started our ‘actual’ day a tiny bit late – about 9:15 rather than 9 on the dot, but by lunchtime, they’d made it up and we were back on schedule. Pizza for lunch, then a break and back to the books… well, folder. Their weekly research paper, which we’ve been doing for a couple of years now. LBB chose to research jello moulds (having found some in the art supply drawers), and PeaGreen chose to learn about guitars this week.
After the schoolwork was done, we had a ‘daily review’; something new we’re instituting this year, over tea. Tea Time is at 3PM, as usual, then reading for an hour before being 100% done and able to go do other things. In this case, other things meant going to held Grammie whilst Mommy ran some errands. Here’s where the picture takin’ drifted off; after school was over, I sorta forgot about that part.
The following morning (2nd day of school), I took their school pictures for this year, and made their ID cards for the new school year and had them laminated.
We’re currently in our 2nd week of school. So far, things have gone along quite well. The morning board is working very well – minor tweaks and changes as we’re moving along to help it work better, but it’s a really good addition for us. We’ve also started watching CNN Student News each morning, and they are even trying their hand at writing opinion pieces based on current events. We’ve also been using our Thoughtful Logs – OMG, that is such a great idea! Having all of Grammar, Writing and Literature in one lesson works very well for us.
How’s your first week going?
It’s my favorite time of year – school supplies sales! I just love the bins and bins full of pencils, crayons, erasers, pens, post-it notes, composition notebooks, binders and other things that we consider ‘essentials’ for starting school.
You might wonder if, since we’re not in school-school, we may needs school supplies. Well, I’ll tell ya… just like any other school-child, my kids go through plenty of paper, pencils, binders and notebooks. We use some of the same things, but different things as well. Since we lapbook, we use file folders by the box. We also use a ton of construction paper and glue. Pencils probably top ever student’s supply list, and notebooking in our house only can go in composition notebooks, so we go through several each year. Pocket/brad folders also are prime real estate around here.
So, on my list was:
- pocket/brad folders (22 @ $.15 each; = $6.60)
- page protectors (1 pkg of 50 = $3.79)
- glue ( 5 – Elmer’s school glue; $.52 =$2.60)
- post-it notes (4 @ $1.00 = $4.00)
- colored pencils (2 @ .75 ea = $1.50)
- dry-erase markers (pack with 6 black & 4 colored = $5.00)
- snap cases
- construction paper (heavy weight) (2 @ 3.99 = $7.98)
- pencils (2 packs of Ticonderoga @$3.99 ea = $7.98)
- clear slick contact paper
- loose-leaf paper (reinforced; wide-ruled = $2.00 per pack)
- composition notebooks (5 for $3.00)
- packing tape (clear)
- page dividers $4 @ $1.00 ea, = $4.00)
- page dividers w/ pockets (1 pkg. @ $2.29)
- 2″ binders (2 @ $3.50 each = $7.00)
- mechanical pencils (pkg. of =$3.79)
- BIC sharpwriter mechanical pencils (pkg of =$2.74)
- crayons (4 @ .50 ea. = $2.00)
There are still some things left to get, and some things I will need more of (like page protectors… they should make those in packs of 500, not 50), so I will be heading back to the store sooner or later, but for now, we’re good to go!
What about you? Hitting the sales, or minimalist homeschoolers?
I am always so excited at this time of the year. It’s LESSON PLANNING TIME!! I have been reading and researching my little heart our and now I am ready to start putting it all together.
It’s been a long time since I have detailed exactly how I got about my lesson planning for the year, and watching a friend of mine who is new to homeschooling trying to find her way has reminded me how difficult lesson planning can be for your first year of homeschooling. There is literally an information overload when you start looking at resources. It gets completely overwhelming, and it’s easy to get stuck.
I will say that for first-years, I really do still stand by what I have always said – don’t buy much (if anything); sample everything you can get your hands on to see what you and your student like best – but most of all, learn to find the FUN in learning again. If that means that for your first year, you only do the 3 r’s, that’s cool. The rest will come. De-school if you need to, but if not, that’s cool, too! Don’t get locked into one mindset or curriculum – and open mind on your first year will help you find your way to what is right for your family.
But if you’re looking for more intense lesson planning, here’s how I got about it (which is in no way saying that mine is the only/best way; this is just how I, personally, do it. There are hundreds of other blogging homeschool moms who are more than willing to share their methods as well).
Fist, I decide what subjects I want to tackle, and how many times I want to cover them each week. For us this year, it’s:
- Handwriting (Daily)
- Math (D)
- Spelling (D)
- Writing (D)
- Literature (2)
- English (3)
- Latin (3)
- Weekly Research Project (D)
- History (2)
- Science (2)
- Geography (1)
- Art / Music (2)
- an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)
Then, go about refining the weekly classes:
- Handwriting (Daily)
- Math (D)
- Spelling (D)
- Writing (D)
- Literature (2), English (3)
- Latin (3), Art / Music (2)
- Weekly Research Project (D)
- History (2), Science (2), Geography (1)
- an hour of reading (to self/to someone) (D)
That is a much shorter list, because some of my subjects alternate days. Since I am only doing 2 days of Literature, then I can focus more on English the other three, etc…
Next, I can start looking at multi-disciplinary lessons. For example, I taught the boys more individual lessons (a set time for Spelling work, then a set time for English (parts of speech, sentence structure, etc.), then a set time for History, and so on. Now that they’re older, I can lump all of the reading/writing centered lessons into one.
Then, I start going through the books I have on hand, and through my links and Pinterest boards (by subject) to see what I wanted to use. Pinterest can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s awesome for archiving things, but unless you are very conscious about properly categorizing your pins, it can be a big mess when it comes to finding things. I separate my pins by subject. All grades are under the same subject, but I can wade through to find the right grade (or adapt and idea up or down for my kids’ needs). There are so many amazing links on Pinterest; even searching (i.e.: Math 6th grade) pulls up a ton of links that you can use.
This year, we’re trying something I’ve only just read about (on Pinterest), called ‘Thoughtful Journals’. The concept is fairly simple; a composition notebook divided into 5 sections (or 5-subject spiral). Each section is named. The sections are: My Strategies, My Thoughts, Powerful Words and Phrases, Author’s Craft & Genre Learning. As you go through your lessons, the student uses the journal to record notes and other useful tools to help them learn to be better readers and writers. I am paraphrasing, badly, in describing this technique, so I will link you to Life in 4B, which is the awesome blog I found the idea at. In any case, the Thoughtful Journal is where most of our work related to Grammar and Writing will find a home this year.
History, Science and Geography are another area where I smooshed subjects together. We are still going through Story of the World II at the moment; I plan to be finished by December. We are still lapbooking it, thanks to CarrotTopX3. When Alia from ‘Chronicle of the Earth’ was unable to finish the lapbook template for SOTWII, awesome bloggin’ mom Brenda stepped in to fill the gaps (for which homeschooling moms all over the WORLD are eternally grateful!!) – Team Work, yo!! SOTW makes History easy, especially with lapbooking. We try to coordinate our artist and composer study with History, so even though they’re not ‘on the list’, we still work that in. As we finish up SOTWII, I have SOTWIII waiting in the wings. I have already started lapbooking it; hopefully I’ll be able to post it in full when we start on III. We have the activity guide as well, and I am looking forward to digging into that.
Science fills the other two weekdays when we’re not focusing on History. We usually switch them up, but I am considering doing History M/T and Science W/Th so they have two days in succession to focus on one subject this year – dig a little deeper. Then Friday, of course, leaves us time for Geography as it’s own subject. We also tie in Geo. with History, but this gives us extra time to work on land forms or other interesting components of the earth (which is kind of History AND Science).
Math is another one that’s easy to plan; I don’t go off-road much which Math, so I get a grade-level curriculum and go from there. We’re working with Math Advantage this year. Latin is another one that I don’t experiment much with. I don’t know Latin any better than my kids at this point (though I am learning), so I can’t rightly ‘teach’ it to them – we’re learning together. We are still in Book I, but will be moving to Book II later this year.
Once I decide how I am going to plan my lessons, I start looking at the actual curriculum. For the most part, I stick with what I can find that’s grade-level. But, as is wont to happen with homeschoolers, I have found that they naturally fall into their own strengths and weaknesses as they progress. I found a great article discussing Homeschool Misconceptions that touches on this a bit, and is worth reading. For us, it means that this year their curriculum may fall anywhere from 4th to 7th grade. Spelling is a weakness, but Grammar is something they’re both strong in. It balances out! I found that even the school system uses different books for different grades, depending on the school district. I have a copy of the Science book that I used in school in the 6th grade that the manufacturer says is 5th grade level. I’d rather have my kids spelling ‘below’ than keeping up and failing in the classroom. Their spelling skills can be improved. Self-esteem takes longer. Whatever sources or grade levels you choose for your kids, you get the most out of it in whatever way works best for your family.
Once you find your curriculum, it’s time to look back at your schedule. You may want to flip through the books you’ll be using and make some rough outlines of how much material you want to cover each week, or how long you want to spend in one unit before moving on. I usually map out the schedule on notebook paper (Week 1 = Unit 1, Chapter 1; Week 2 =Unit 1 Chapter 2; etc.). This may change during the year, and that’s okay. But having a guide makes it easy to see the pacing of the year a bit better. You can always make adjustments later on.
This year, I am using a binder in addition to my usual lesson planner (homeschool bossy book). We aren’t doing workboxes this year, so I have been using the workbox plans in my planner for scheduling. It works well for that. The binder is a more in-depth, day by day type of lesson planner. I have it divided by subject, and the year’s activities per subject mapped out in each tab. This is also where I am storing printed materials, and unit study/lapbook plans. Having both planners will help make the day’s activity easier to follow, I hope.
We have in the past clocked about 25-30 hours of school per week. That averages out to some longer days and some shorter days. This year, however, I am pushing for more of a set schedule – about 30 per week. That’s on the high end of what we normally do, but I think it’s reasonable for my kids. Mine still need to be led quite a bit, or they lose focus. Not all days will take as long, but some will go over, so again – balance.
The only things left after this point are gathering school supplies and waiting on the first day of school!
… and the second-guessing, and worrying, and reading a blog at 3AM that tells to do do something totally different than what you have newly finished and ready to go… relax. That’s totally normal! Know that you can change any aspect of what you have planned at any time. It’s not a big deal – just go with the flow. The hardest part is getting it all laid out in the first place. There are SO MANY cool things to try, to implement, to experiment with – and each and every bit sounds more exciting and fun than the next.
I read a great blog yesterday that was talking about being ‘inspired’ by someone without re-making yourself in her image. I take that to heart when I read about SuperMoms in the homeschool world who have their crap together far better than I do. Go have a read. It’s at Living Well, Spending Less.
So basically, nothing that we’ve had planned for the last couple of weeks has panned out. After PeaGreen’s birthday party, I have been exhausted and have wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and stay there. Though that’s not practical, staying home a lot really has been, and that’s mostly what we’ve been doing.
To save time, I’m going to lump the last 2 weeks all together in one post. Just for kicks, I’ll add what we’d planned, and then what we actually did so you can see exactly how much I have not been in the mood to do things lately.
Monday & Tuesday –
Lactation Course for me so the kids went to Grammie’s house. She brought them to Tennis Camp Monday. Tuesday, she took them to Tennis Camp in the morning and to a ‘learn to draw cartoons’ class in the afternoon.
Nope. Plans changed. The lactation course I was going to take still happened, but I didn’t go since the group I was going with decided to go another route. I’m happy about the change! Monday morning we still had kids over from the birthday bash, so I slept in while various parents came to claim their kidlets. I almost felt bad for sleeping in, but not bad enough to actually get up. Sorry about that, parents! The afternoon was spent cleaning up from said bash (which wasn’t too bad – we have delightful friends who helped to clean up the night before, which is amazing – THANK YOU!!).
Tuesday, Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie came for the day while Bridey was taking her nursing test (which she totally passed – Congratulations!!). The kids and I spent the day in the pool and accidentally missed the drawing class. When I realized it was already over, I was mildly upset, but figured we’d catch another one eventually.
Tennis and SPAR SPAR, though cheap was out of our budget this week. Some of the families in our homeschool group went, but we didn’t. The kids and I agreed that we’d been having so much company, and been on the go so much that we needed a break, so we had a lazy day… for the rest of the week.
Sunday, we had another Spiral Scouts event – our first one since being chartered! The kids made their neck cords and we made a bunch of huge messes with science experiments. We made Oobleck (cornstarch and water), Moon Sand (flour & baby oil), GAK! (school glue & borax) and elephant toothpaste, which kinda fizzled out. But the kids had a great time!
Monday – Tennis Camp
& Mom Craft day Almost crafting… my sister and SmurfMom came over to chat for a while. My sister dropped Appleberry off for the day, but SmurfMom was without child so that she and I could work on lesson planning for the coming school year.
Tuesday actually went off without a hitch. Everything we’d planned went according to, and we had a great day. SmurfMom and my sister dropped their respective children off at my house, then we met some other friends at the movies to see the classic Willie Wonka (with the amazing Gene Wilder as creepy as ever in the titular role). After the movie, we headed out to the library for a summer reading club craft. The flyer said ‘sand sculptures’, which I took to mean that a sand sculpture artist would be on had to show off his/her craft and teach the kids a bit about actual sand sculpting. We were all disappointed to find out that they’d had sand brought in and the kids were just building sand castles on the porch. In any case, fun was still to be had; the kids enjoyed popsicles and lemonade outside, then we went in for some books.
Tennis & riverboat tour w/ TH
Tennis, Lego club, karate
Geography Fair & hike & swim and boys to Brideys to spend the night
karate and edible book fair
No to all of that… we were been homebodies much of last week. Over the weekend, Loverly Husband replaced our front door, and then ended up repairing our dishwasher (our NEW dishwasher), and I’ve been saying for months now that I was going to get the school room cleared out so we can use it again. I finally got started on that, which led to more intense lesson-planning for the coming school year. As ‘small’ as that may sound, it’s taken up basically all of my time over the last week (watch for a post soon about that). What time wasn’t spent on school was spent getting a new ‘command center’ ready so that hopefully, with more organization, I can lessen the stress in my life where it’s related to family and chores. I’ll keep you posted on that!
In any case, we’re still hanging in there – maybe not as exciting as we might otherwise be, but I’m planning on taking it easy for the next couple of weeks because school starts August 5th!
Our summer is off to a great start!! Technically, we’re not out for the summer; we school all year through, but summertime still deserves its own special attention and curriculum, I think. Recently, I decided that our school year basically has 3 semesters: Winter (Jan. – May), Summer (June – August), and Fall (Sept. – December).
In Winter, we do literature units, unit studies, lots of lapbooks and notebooking in addition to the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic… and history and science). In Summer, we have lots of activities – tennis camp, hiking every week, plus other activities, so we kind of unschool with some desk work as well – but far less than ‘normal’. The Fall semester is hour hardcore, sit-at-your-desk, this grade’s curriculum time. This sort of schedule keeps things lively. We don’t get bored and there’s always something new right around the corner.
Last week, I sat down with a few of my friends who will be hanging out with us a lot this summer, and we planned the calendar. In our area, there is a LOT for kids to do, especially in the 8-12 age range. In addition to that stuff, our homeschool group also keeps the calendar running through the summer, so we have that stuff on the books as well. If you read last summer, then you may remember my niece, Appleberry, and our friends Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie, with stepmom Bridey. They’re back this summer, and our long lost friends, PBJMom and kids (JellyBean, Bella, AngelBoy and PuddleJumper) are back, and new/old friends SmurfMom and her son RedRanger are joining us as well. I figured I would introduce them now, to save time later.
I also made their Summer Passports for 2013 this week. Last year’s Passport was really fun, and is fun to have now as a reminder of all the cool stuff we did, so I wanted one for this year as well. At one point, I will post the blanks for this year’s (which has a different cover), but the old one is generic, so you can either use it, or make a new cover with MSWord.
So let’s re-cap Summer, Week 1: June 3-7, 2013!
Monday was Bad Wolf Day! Unless you’re a Whovian, that won’t make sense. If you are, then I bring you this:
In less exciting news, I also had a dentist’s appointment. The kids brought schoolwork to do with them. They used an isolite while they were doing my teeth and LBB came in and thought it would be a neat topic for his research project this week, and PeaGreen decided to research teeth and cavities and dental work. So great for them, not so much for me. I have severe anxiety and was far from ‘okay’ even though each and every one of the thousand times I was asked if I was, I said yes. Let’s skip to Tuesday, shall we?
Tuesday was supposed to be our homeschool group’s regular field trip day, but due to the location’s schedule, we had to do it on Wednesday, so we basically just did school. Not very exciting, I realize, but stick around; it gets better.
Wednesday, the field trip ended up getting cancelled, so we did schoolwork in the morning, then had lunch and friends over for swimming! This was the first time since the boys got to see Red Butler and Huckleberry Pie since they got back to Texas over the weekend. They’d been asking when they’d get to see their friends, so I am glad the field trip got the axe.
Thursday, we had another field trip scheduled with our homeschool group, to the Clifton Steamboat Museum, which is in the back of a huge event center complex. Outside the museum is the 1938 tugboat, “Hercules,” standing at 36 feet high, 22 feet wide and 92 feet long.
The engine of the Hercules is inside the museum. It was constructed for a locomotive, and then put into the tugboat. It’s really huge!
The theme of the museum is Heroes of the Past, and they have tons of models, artwork and artifacts from the Civil War and WWII. There are portraits of boat captains, army generals and other ‘brass’, models of the warships (armoured in massive cotton bales since the South lacked metal, they used what they had), and other replicas. It was weird to see southern paddle boats kitted out for war!
Upstaris, they have model planes from WWII and other nifty old-timey stuff, like boy scout parephenalia and the processes of making bronzed states and figurines.
Friday was yet another field trip… we decided last year that during the summer months, we should do a weekly hike out to Village Creek State Park for some hiking and swimming. It’s a little over 2 miles out to the swimming hole and back, so we get a little exercise and some fun in the sun. We all (thankfully) remembered to bring sunscreen, so no sunburns for this crew!!
We also got signed up for the Summer Reading Club, which is always fun. This is the third (or fourth) year we’ve done it, and they just have so many activities for the kids to do! They’ve changed their program up a bit, which I think is easier now, so we’re looking forward to getting started next week.
The weekend consisted of karate for Loverly Husband and a bunch of loafing around for me and the kids, then spending the afternoon with my amazing BFF who just found out that the implantation for her first surrogate pregnancy took. So we celebrated with work, lol. And ice cream. Sunday, Loverly Husband took the kids to see their great grandmother and to make Monsters University clackers at the Lowe’s Build and Grow kids’ clinic while I cleaned house in preparation for the weekly hooping class that some friends and I started. We all are too embarrassed to go to a formal class, so we’re going to try it with ‘just friends’ who won’t point and laugh. Well, they will, but it’ll be WITH you,, not AT you. Okay, well it will be AT you, but nicely… not secretly being bitchy behind your back. In any case, we ended up cancelling because we’re all poor and didn’t have the money to make them this week… trying again next week!
This week was kinda light, but the local ISD isn’t out yet, so most of the community stuff starts next week (like Tennis Camp!!). We weren’t as busy as we will be next week.
I’ve been thinking lately about the atmosphere of learning in our house and I feel like we could use some improvements.
When we first started homeschooling, I was much more relaxed about what we ‘needed’ to do. Since we were just starting out, I felt like there was all the time in the world, and we could take things easy. Homeschooling was really fun. We did a lot of hands-on stuff, and there was much less resistance from the kids (which may very well be chalked up to the novelty of homeschooling after leaving a desk).
Over the course of the last few years though, I feel like there’s been more and more pressure on me to ‘get it right’; to be more rigorous and push the kids harder. I try to combat that feeling, but I am not sure where it comes from, so it’s hard to fight. I’m sure there is outside pressure, but I’d wager that the majority of it is internal, and that can be really difficult to overcome. My post last week was partially about working through that feeling, so I don’t want to dwell on that aspect too much this week; instead, I want to talk about the overall environment that we create in our home as homeschooling parents.
When we first started, it was very important to me to have a ‘school space’. We’re fortunate to have the room to dedicate to school, even though at present, it’s become more of a storage space and we’ve moved school to the kitchen table. I think that this is something I need to work our way back into. I felt more ‘together’ when we were working in a dedicated space, and more like we were altogether more focused. The school room also has less distraction, and the kids both have their own spaces to work in (which means that they annoy each other less). The other aspect to this is our style of teaching/learning. One of the things I have always liked about Montessori style education was that it was uncluttered and accessible. Things were laid out in such a way as to encourage the child to experiment and choose their own path. I do still agree with that, but I also feel like there needs to be a good, solid foundation of the basics before a child can really move on into learning what he or she likes or needs. But, if I left it up to my kids right now, everything would be about video games. It’s hard to find balance between those two philosophies, but in my plan for next week (when we’re off) is to de-clutter as much as possible and get us back into our school room.
Another area I’d like to work on is my tendency to lapse into ‘teacher’ mode. I struggle with finding the balance between lecture and encouragement. I’m a talker, so what I tend to think of as inspiration or helping foster ideas tends to come across as nagging or droning on. I also tend to jump the gun when it comes to offering help or going
on a new direction or way of thinking about something, instead of giving them the time to really consider what’s already been said. That’s one of the reasons that I used the picture above with Holt’s quote, because I need to learn when to shut up!
Something else I want to continue working on is ‘learning by teaching’. Teaching others is the most effective way to ‘know’ something. I want the boys to work more on helping each other, either when one grasps a concept first, or by working independently on different parts of something and teaching what they know. I think this will also help me keep my mouth shut and let them find opportunities to shine.
We have an anchor chart similar to this one that we use when we start something new. I have found that learning where they are in this journey helps relieve frustration when they don’t grasp something right away.
Another area where ‘learning by teaching’ comes into play is in our extra curricular activities.
We have become involved in scouting recently, and one of the things I like about it is that it encourages leadership and mentoring. We have a split scouting troupe – one group of kids who are in the 8-13 age group, and another in the 3-5 year old age group. This is an excellent opportunity for the older kids to be actively mentoring the younger kids. This concept is also reinforced through their karate classes. Our sensei regularly pairs up more advanced students with newer ones to give them the opportunity to teach, which bolsters the students’ confidence in themselves. You can’t teach it unless you know it. I want to get to my kids on every level so that they really understand and know what it is to be adept at their skills.
Other than those areas that need work, overall I am pretty happy with the learning environment we’ve fostered in our home. The kids have access to board/card/video games, art supplies, research materials (both in print and online), books, magazines and other printed media, mechanical things to take apart and reassemble or create something new, science craft books and materials, quick & healthy snacks to fuel up when the need arises, and a variety of different modes of learning pretty much all the time. They have plenty of outdoor space (including 10 acres to roam, bikes and a mile radius to ride, skateboards, a pool, a garden and a pond to explore). We also regularly meet with our homeschool group in person, and the kids have an online chat list and can play video games online with each other. We also engage in regular community service activity and have scouting 1x per month (soon to be more often) and karate classes 3x per week with a ton of other homeschooled kids.
It really does help sometimes to write down the positive aspects instead of the negative ones.
This is an excellent ebook by Brenda Sain called Creating an Atmosphere of Learning.
This is a reminder that I need every few weeks, it seems. We’ve now successfully completed almost half of our fourth year of homeschooling, and STILL, I go through phases where I have these doubts.
Most recently, it’s come to my attention that my father is under the impression that LBB (now 11.5 years old and in 5th grade) does not know his multiplication facts. Nevermind that he’s been working on division for the past few months, and doing beautifully at it (including fractions and decimals). My dad asked LBB what 5×5 was, and LBB said ‘I don’t know’. When my dad told him to figure it out, LBB made like he didn’t understand what he meant or how to go about doing that. So this, of course, prompted a call to me with concern about his math skills.
This prompts several responses on my part. On the one hand, towards LBB: “WTF, man? Really? 5×5? You’re having trouble with FIVE TIMES FIVE? That’s arguably the easiest of times tables and you’re going to choke on that one?? Dude. C’mon – you know this. Just take a minute, think about it and answer the question. No big deal.”
Then again, I totally get the ‘on the spot’ freak out. If someone asked me, my initial response would be to freeze; like if I was still enough, they won’t remember what it was that they asked and I can get out of the situation without answering the math question.
Towards my dad, I get this mama-bear, ‘Hey man! Not cool! Don’t test my kids!’ sort of feeling. I understand that it was a reasonable question. I know that some of my homeschooling compatriots have unsupportive families, and a question like that would come from a negative place, but my family is very supportive and I don’t think there was anything untoward or sneaky meant by it, but still, I get a little twitchy when I feel judged. I feel like my kid’s lack of willingness to answer a question is a reflection on my teaching ability (because that is what got called into question – not his attitude or interest, but *my* part in it).
Honestly, could he be stronger in math? Yes. Am I drilling him on basic multiplication tables? Daily; and this in addition to our regular math lesson. Do we do ‘math bingo’, Timez Attack, flash cards, and other ‘fun’ math things to help cement those concepts? Yes. Are those things going to make him pop out with the answer to a random math question? Meh … maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, I can’t separate his interest or cooperation with others from their perception of my ability to teach. I understand that it’s not my job to correct this perception, but it still affects me when I see/hear/feel it in action and directed towards me.
My kids are not babies anymore. They’re young men, and though they do still have to do the work assigned to them, I can’t learn it for them. I have said this before and I still think it’s true: One of the hardest parts about homeschooling is that no matter what you do, the blame rests firmly on your shoulders. When your kids are in school, to a certain extent, if they don’t get good grades or learn what they need to, then you can cast off some of the blame onto the school system. The school, in turn, can shove off some of their responsibility onto the parents – they weren’t involved enough, or didn’t give the child support/encouragement/motivation – whatever. But as a homeschooling parent, ALL of the ‘blame’ rests squarely on your shoulders… which is wrong, I think, to a point. Some of the blame rests with the child, himself, and I think that it is this point that many people forget or don’t realize, especially in homeschooling.
We see this in reverse and don’t question it. When a homeschooled child excels, we say how smart s/he must be, and congratulate them for persevering and working so hard. We don’t pat the parent on the back and say, ‘Way to go, Mom! What a great teacher you must be!’ So why do we blame the parent when the child’s ability doesn’t match up to what our perception of where s/he ‘should be’?
Children are not ‘babies’ forever. At some point, they do grow up. In fact, we have years between baby and adult that we should use to teach them to be responsible for themselves. This is a gradual teaching and learning – not something that they master all in one day or by whatever grade. If we want them to grow up into productive members of society, then we as parents must allow them a certain amount of responsibility, gradually, and offer them the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merit.
Over the past few years, my kids have taken on more responsibility for contributing to the overall running of our household. Their chores are divided into either ‘dishes’ or ‘laundry’, and they switch every month.
Dishes includes (but is not limited to):
- loading and unloading the dishwasher
- hand-washing anything that can’t go into the dishwasher
- sweeping the kitchen floor
- clearing and wiping the table and counter tops
- helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed
Laundry includes (but is not limited to):
- loading washer and dryer
- putting towels into the towel basket
- putting kids’ laundry into their baskets and taking them to the correct room
- taking out the trash (kitchen, bathroom and schoolroom)
- taking the big trash can to the road if Dad forgets
- Cleaning the hallway bathroom
- picking up the living room & sweeping
- helping Mom & Dad; doing whatever else is asked when needed
It’s a little un-balanced, but they both agree that dishes is the most onerous of the two, and so gladly will take on more work in order to not do dishes. Loverly Husband and I also have chores; in addition to helping the kids, we both do our own laundry, clean the fridge, clean all the stainless, blah, blah, blah… everyone has chores.
My point in laying all that out is to say that where we used to step in and pick up the slack if the kids forgot their chores, now, we don’t as much. If they slack, then dinner has to wait until they’re done, or they don’t have the right clothes, or, or, or. It’s not just mom or dad ‘nagging’ – it’s the whole family who is irritated at you for not pulling your weight. It’s been a slow process, but one that’s starting to pay off. They’re more likely to step up and say, “Oh, I forgot to do that. Give me just a minute and I will get it done.” It doesn’t always happen, but it is happening now whereas before it wasn’t. They see more now how each person plays a role, and if they don’t do their part then the whole family suffers.
I think learning and education are the same way. Though I play a role in their education (especially right now), as they get older, I will play more of a guide role and less of a participant role. It will be up to them to choose a career path and go after the skills and education necessary to meet those goals. It will be my job to encourage and support and help guide them to appropriate courses, but ultimately, especially though high school, their education becomes more and more a product of their own efforts.
LBB is starting middle school in the fall. Middle school! I don’t want him to reply on me so thoroughly to ensure that he’s applying himself that he can’t work independently. Of course, I will be watching and making sure he is doing the work, but my goal isn’t for him to ‘just do the work’. That’s not real education. Based on what I know of my kids, and of children in general, this type of responsibility is years in the making for some kids, and that’s okay.
Contrary to what we tend to believe, there is no rule that says kids have to do or know XYZ by Xth grade or by age N. Children aren’t programmable robots. They learn at different rates. They have different interests and what motivates one child may do the opposite for another. Knowing this, and repeating this is what keeps me from throwing the towel in some days.
And then there are days like yesterday, where we got into a discussion about the origin of life, and the boys both had fun schooling Mom on which came first, the chicken or the egg. Apparently, they are much more well-versed in this conundrum than I am, and though we both used the same bit of research (located independently, I might add), it was applied in different ways. They were so excited to showcase their knowledge, and that’s something that can’t be taught.
So yeah. We’re doing just fine.
One of the groups I am in on Facebook joked about getting a new table and chair set for her homeschool room, at her request, for a combo birthday/Mother’s Day prezzie. Naturally, that made me start thinking about the things that I ‘must have’ as a homeschool parent and thought I would post about it.
In anything we do (sports specifically come to mind), it seems that there is a list of requisite supplies that you need in order to successfully compete or carry out the task at hand. Obviously, when you’re homeschooling, you have to have things like curriculum (or some sort of plan, even if you’re unschooling). A dedicated school room, while nice, is certainly not necessary; school can be just as well accomplished at the kitchen table or on the floor (or in the yard, in the car, at the library, at the park… you get the idea). So this list isn’t about the typical ‘basics’ – this is all about what I, personally, have found to be indispensable for homeschooling in our house. Your mileage may vary, and I would love to see your lists in comments or a link back to your blog if you write it there!
So without further adieu….
10. Coffee – without caffeine, nothing would ever get done. I an convinced that the pyramids were built *because* they had coffee running in their veins instead of blood. Though almost any kind will do, my very most favoritest combination is Texas Pecan coffee from HEB with Coffeemate Italian Sweet Creme non-dairy creamer. If you get coffee at my house, this is probably what I am serving you.
9. External hard drive – I have a Passport 500GB one (in fabulous red), and it’s almost full. When I got it, it was much more expensive – if you’re in the market and have the extra $20, I say go for the 1TB, minimum. Over the course of your child’s homeschool career, esp if you’re starting out homeschooling from the beginning, you’ll use it. I archive everything (in multiple places, really), and frequently. Computers come and go – I can’t tell you how many friends have lost *everything* because they didn’t back-up regularly. If you’re not already, PLEASE back your stuff up!
8. support system – We’re especially fortunate to have a supportive family. Not only Loverly Husband, but my parents and his as well. I was homeschooled, and so were several of my cousins, so I am lucky to have this kind of supportive platform to spring from. However, even with that built-in support, having a supportive community around me has been and remains essential to my homeschooling success. Not only for the ‘hey we’re having a crappy day’ support, but for the inspiration, the ideas, the encouragement, the thought-processing…. the list goes on. My homeschooling ‘community’ is in parts – real life, which includes family and friends (who do and who don’t homeschool), which includes my local homeschool group; and online support. I am a part of our local group’s chat list (and the kids have their own online chat list through the group as well). I also frequent homeschool forums, blogs, websites, and watchdog sites to keep abreast of the goings-on in the homeschool world at large.
7. Gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags – this is an organizational tool for me. I store lapbooks-in-progress in them. A gallon-sized bag holds the folded lapbook, all of the papers and templates and mini-books and the source material (literature selection, guide, and/or other assorted papers) all together in one place. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re into lapbooks, they’re indispensable.
6. storage clipboards - This many seem like a luxury item, and it is… this whole list kinda is, really. But this feels especially indulgent. We school ‘on the go’ quite a bit and my kids are notorious for losing their work. I usually keep things in folders (and what’s not 3-ring’d into place is stapled in), but these clipboards make storage and pencil-toting easy and all-contained. We have several of them and they get a good workout!
5. My blog – I have this on the list because I am a chronicler and I mean that it’s important for me to write, NOT that I think my blog is an essential for the world at large. By ‘chronicler’, I mean that when my kids were babies, I religiously kept up their baby books. When they started school, I kept papers, then at the end of the year, I culled, but still managed to keep a respectable overview of their school year. Now that we’re homeschooling, the days tend to blend together without some sort of narration. My blog allows me to do that in an unobtrusive manner. Sure, Facebook chronicles, and with ‘timeline’ even more so, but it’s not search-friendly. With blogging, I can chronicle what we did that day, or over the week or month or season. Tagging allows me to easily find posts on lesson planning or gardening or whatever, so I can usually fond things I am looking for. And one day, my kids will be able to go back and review their homeschool career (hopefully with fond memories).
4. Swingline 747 stapler - the big daddy, old-fashioned metal one. Not the plastic one. I staple everything, especially loose worksheets or bits of paper into the kids’ folders that would otherwise be in an easy-to-fall-out-of pocket. I have been known to threaten stapling my kids’ work to their foreheads if they don’t sit down and get finished. If that threat ever came to fruition, I have no doubt that my Swingline 747 would totally get the job done. You can get it in red (a la Office Space), but mine is a big, sexy black beast and I love it so much.
3. laser printer & cheap toner - I started homeschooling with an inkjet. It was serviceable, but ink was spendy and when I started using refill kits (which worked for a while), I ended up with cartridge recognition errors. Plus, I could drain an ink cartridge in a week. I don’t print an extraordinary amount (mostly lapbooks), but when I sit down to print, I do a lot at once. We replaced the inkjet with a wireless laser printer about a year and a half ago and OMG = <3. I get my toner through amazon, and though I have had some issues (most easily resolved/replaced), being able to print over 1,000 pages per cartridge is muy bueno. I use cheap toner because of the volume I print. If I were printing for business or something that needed to be pristine, cheap toner may not work best, but for my printing needs now, it’s worth it.
2. Homeschool Planner – this is the end-all-be-all of homeschooling must-haves for me. Without it, I would be utterly lost. It’s my schedule and daily ‘to-do’ list, and also serves as a reference when I go to put grades into the computer. I have a weekly plan and a daily plan, and when I need to find something we’ve done, it’s in the planner. I keep track of field trips, notes for our homeschool group’s blog, contacts that I have made in the homeschooling community… not to mention other personal information. All of my appointments are on the calendar, shopping lists, meal plans, birthdays… I literally LIVE by what’s in the planner. The one I use is here, blank and free to download.
and the number one thing I cannot live without… drumroll, please:
1. electric pencil sharpener – and I am not talking battery-powered. I mean one of those ugly, old-school, plug into the wall types that will sharpen a TREE. I cannot tell you how many pencils we go through. Let’s just say that I am pretty sure we’re contributing to global de-forestation. We’ve tried mechanicals, and I love them for myself (Papermate Sharpwriters are my personal fav), but for the kids, they go through them too quickly. We’ve had the Westcott iPoint Kleenearth Evolution Recycled Electric Pencil Sharpener for about a year now and it’s not let us down yet.
That may seem like a silly thing to have as the number one, but everything else has an alternative which, while not quite as good, is serviceable. The pencil sharpener though… I’d die and/or kill someone if I had to sharpen a thousand pencils a day with a handheld.
So, what’s your ‘top ten’?
I suck at blogging this year. I know it’s not an excuse, but (like most of you) I’ve had too much on my plate lately. I used to make time for blogging, but I haven’t been motivated to do so lately. I tend to work in cycles, so this isn’t entirely unexpected from my end. Things have been kinda topsy-turvey for the last couple of months, but we are settling into a routine again, so hopefully updates will come a little more frequently now.
February was pretty busy. For field trips, we saw a play (The Real Story of the 3 Little Pigs, which is based on this book - one of my kids’ favorites when they were small), visited the symphony, went to Moody Gardens, celebrated Imbolc and Valentine’s Day, met with our newly-forming Spiral Scouts group to finalize our charter paperwork, had a ‘s’mores and movie day’ with our local homeschool group and had our monthly community service day volunteering with our local Humane Society.
I also tested for my orange belt in karate, re-visited my doc for an update and medication switch to handle my depression and anxiety (because I am a good mother who does not want to end up on the evening news for freaking out and taking off my clothes and running down the street starkers), and got new contacts (because vision is of the good).
March was full of school-y goodness, with a visit to the ballet to see Snow White, the NOAA Sea Turtle Research Facility in Galveston, celebrated Ostara & observed Easter, went hiking in the Big Thicket (I’m Mayor of the Kirby Trail on FourSquare!!), the Exotic Cat Refuge in Kirbyville, TX, a hike in Village Creek, and another successful volunteer date with the Humane Society.
April has been equally exciting in some ways, but less ‘school-ish’. Due to inclement weather, we’ve ended up seeing movies (OZ and The Croods) instead of educational stuff, but those links are to lesson plan fun, so even strictly social/leisure outings can be built into school). I was also sick for a couple of weeks, so we missed out on some pretty awesome field trips (like NANO Days at the Houston Children’s Museum). I was bummed. I also missed our Humane Society date. Boo to that.
I’m on the mend though, and on a personal level, April rang in both the celebration of my 36th birthday and marked the occasion of my first ever 5K event. Loverly Husband and I went with my sister and some friends to the Mud Farm in Sour Lake, TX to do a ‘mud run’ obstacle course. It was so dirty and so much fun! #213 Heather Thomas 1:19:56 – 111 of 121 runners <— that’s me! He came in 38th with a time of 0:43:50.
In homeschool news, we’ve been working our literature unit pretty consistently. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with the kids on a unit study; I’ve forgotten how ‘big’ this type of schooling can be. Even though this is ‘just’ Beyond Five In A Row, and ‘just’ The Boxcar Children #1, which is way below the boys’ reading/grade level, it’s still lent itself to some surprisingly in-depth lessons. We don’t necessarily have anything to show for it (other than the lapbook components), but it’s steady progress, which is a good thing. One of the more memorable lessons was on the construction of the Hoover Dam. The boys watched a half hour documentary about it and were pretty riveted. Another lesson was on planting blueberry bushes, which led to growing zones and was a nice tie-in to starting our garden this year. We’ll be planting more, but this was a nice start.
We’ve also been hitting math and Latin pretty hard, which has been surprisingly fun. I found a Cambridge Yahoo group that and has been helpful in finding add-on lessons to go with book I. They also have a files section with worksheets and practice lessons and games.
I’ve been working with the boys on timed multiplication drills using Math-Drills.com worksheets. 5 minutes to do as much as they can. We’re working on adding one number each week and it’s going really well. We started with 1′s and that was a real confidence builder for them both. I am also using a workbook that I found called Multiplication Puzzle Practice by Bob Hugel/Scholastic. It’s divided into riddles and puzzles and the lessons are cumulative, each one adding another number. With this and the drill sheets, they’re doing quite well. I’ve also found that they are motivating each other (in between snarky comments and death-threats whispered under their breath to each other). Sorry… it’s been one of those days, LOL.
I’m also going to start using Lesson Pathways again, I think – at least for Language Arts and Science. I need something more… guided, I think. I tend to flit about from subject to subject in science and I really want something a little more cohesive. Their 5th grade Language Arts is using Dear Mr. Henshaw – a book I remember doing in 5th grade and I loved it. I think the boys will like it when we’re done with Boxcar.
In personal news, we had another Journalistas ‘dinner & coffee’ event, I picked up two of the other Keri Smith journals (Mess and This Is Not A Book). I’m more or less done with WTJ, but am having a really hard time getting into the other two books. I think I am going to start Mess first; TINAB makes me cringe for some reason. I’m not ready to explore that feeling just yet. Somewhat recently, I also went to see Beautiful Creatures and to a Happy Birthday dinner with PBJMom, and spent a Saturday morning cooking quiche and toffee crackers for a friend’s Blessingway. Loverly Husband and I had 2 date nights with our ‘best couple friends’ (to see Evil Dead and IHOP, and out for dinner and coffee), had my picture taken by a real professional for the BBC’s new website (coming soon), and am almost done with Leader Training for our Spiral Scouts group.
Sprinkled between all this has been regular school days, pool preparation for the summer, board meetings an peer counseling with the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, complete and utter enjoyment of the new seasons of Game of Thrones & The Borgias, taking care of taxes, visiting family, and cooking dinner, amid other things. I’ve been in a funky place lately, but I am coming out of it now. My life is full, and I am grateful.
We’re getting ready for the summer, which means summer reading club, summer movie clubs, hiking every week, my niece, Appleberry, will be back with us, and lots of time spent lazing about on the beach (if things go well). Hopefully, you’ll hear from me again very soon!