Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Homeschooling Tips and Tricks

Kids and Labels

When you have a child that is ‘different’, it’s often a challenge to get people to see the same small person that you see. Where you see an active, witty, inquisitive kiddo, they may see a hyper, sarcastic and nosy brat.

It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s perceptions of your kid(s). We were at the bookstore a few weeks ago with our local playgroup – mostly kids 5 and under – and my big kids were sitting quietly, playing their Nintendo thingies. I was watching the other littler kids running around and being delightfully noisy – as littles tend to do – and I kept seeing the employees cut evil eyes over towards our little group.

The kids weren’t being ‘bad’ – they weren’t excessively noisy; they kept well within acceptable ‘joyful chatter’ limits for in public. They weren’t making messes (at least not ones that the moms weren’t helping to clean up) and they weren’t disrupting other customers. Really, there was no cause for complaint. Even our most boisterous tots were pretty chill on this occasion – and yet still, they were being viewed through the eyes of people who probably don’t really even like children all that much, much less enjoy the exuberance of youth.

I think the same thing happens in school. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people who do not enjoy children would go into teaching them as a profession, but it seems that many do. I remember conflicting particularly intensely with my 8th grade math teacher. We had instant dislike for one another the first time we met. Some personality conflicts are just that strong and quickly formed and no less important because they’re between an adult and a child. My mother thought that the conflict might be a good thing for me; something along the lines of teaching me/helping me learn that sometimes you have to work with people that you don’t particularly like. I agree in theory, but in practice, all that accomplished was continued animosity and a lifelong (at least to this point) hatred of all things math-related.

Sometimes, it is as basic as a personality conflict. Sometimes, the problem is deeper – like a fundamental lack of understanding about how children with more than their allotted share of ‘muchness’ function and relate to the world. My oldest child is ADHD, has sensory processing disorder and is all-round a ‘high needs‘ child. He’s growing out of it (or adapting better, maybe?) but there are still some key areas where his muchness shines through. It’s his personality, true, but there are other contributing factors. He is the way he is because of certain things, like his hearing (hyperacusis) or his need to touch things (sensory seeking) or have non-sticky or dirty hands (tactile defensiveness) or his need to be up and active with a 30-second attention span (ADHD). He is ‘this way'; he’s always been ‘this way’. He will always be ‘this way’.

Then there’s my youngest… he is alternatively the sweetest, most polite and helpful child on the planet, or the most obstinate, willful, argumentative and unyielding child ever to have been born. That’s just his personality. I’ve watched it develop as he’s gotten older. I see personality quirks in him that I recognize as being my own, or my Loverly Husband’s, and others that are uniquely his own. But he doesn’t have the same kinds of issues that my oldest has. Noises don’t affect him the same way. He can focus on something for long periods do time, and if he’s interested in what he’s doing, then it looks more like ‘obsession’ than mere interest.

I remember what it was like as a younger mother with two small boys. The bookstore is a fairly contained area where, for the price of a cup of coffee (Starbucks, so it’s not even cheap coffee), we could hang for an hour or two when it’s unbearably hot outside and the boys could stay relatively close to me, but still had plenty room to maneuver – and this was back when they had a train table, even. Why have a big comfy kids’ area when you’re not really ‘kid-friendly’?

We’re fortunate to have in our circle of friends several families with at least one child with more than the normal allotted ‘muchness’. I’m also extremely fortunate in that most of my friends parent somewhat similarly to the way I do, so when there is need for a mama-voice in a situation, no matter which mom steps in, the procedure is on-par with what I’d do myself. I value that consistency for my kids.

I also value the overall parental attitude that sees this type of ‘muchness’ as something to be encouraged – not something to be disciplined out of them. We/They value these personality quirks and attitudes as necessary skills for future thinkers and leaders. We/They see our kids as the amazing people – individuals – that they are, not as mini-robots who are stepping out of line. They have a voice, and they’re used to those voices – however small – being heard and valued. I don’t understand people who think otherwise.

 

In days of yore, way back before I had kids, I was nanny to a HN child before I knew there was a term for it. We took a Kindermusik class for a couple of years and one of the things that I still have and use some 10 years later is a bookmark that I got that talked about language – how the words you use when talking about your child shape how other people see him, and how the words you use shape how your child sees himself. The bookmark had a list of words in one column that could either be neutral or negative, depending on the situation, and an alternative word in the second column with a more positive connotation; instead of ‘bossy’, you might describe your child as a ‘leader’. That sounds really easy, right? But it’s hard to do when you’re tired or stressed out and don’t have the vocabulary handy.

Over our years of homeschooling, I’ve expanded the ‘extra pages’ section of my planner to include various articles, charts and other bits of information that I want to use to help me be a better parent and teacher for my kids. The ‘positive adjectives’ list on this site has been extremely helpful to me to keep handy. Sites like SizzleBop  were great helps when my kids were younger, and though it’s changed formats several times through the years, it’s still a great place to find appreciation for the ‘highly distractable child’.

As far as using labels for children, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the labels are a quick way to convey information. If I say to you, ‘My child has ADHD’, then you know (or should know) that lots of sit-down and be-quiet instruction isn’t going to help him achieve as much as he could with a few adaptations. As a teacher who understand this label and what it is intended to convey, you’d know to adapt how you’re teaching to help him learn and retain the information you’re presenting by including activities that work his body as well as his mind. But all too often, those labels also carry a negative connotation. Instead of conveying information, it too often condemns a child to a ‘box’. I’ve seen teachers check out when they hear a label, and that’s absolutely devastating to a parent to see.

There are negatives to labeling for parents as well. I’ve seen lots of parents who hear that their child has a label and just sort of … give up. They either don’t have access to, or don’t care about getting, more information so that they can help their child. Or, they might not believe the label (and plenty of children, esp. with ADHD are given the label without actually having ADHD) and so their child falls through the cracks.  Others, parents and teachers alike, can’t see past the label. The diagnosis takes over and that’s the only thing that people see. In either case, those kids need an advocate.

I get frustrated with parents who don’t advocate for their children. For children with a ‘label’, it means that we sometimes have to advocate a little more. We need to be educated, to network with other parents and build support networks for our children. We have to learn a little more, put a little extra effort into them. Our kids still have to function in the real world, so my goal (for both of my children) is to help them develop coping mechanisms that will help them function to the best of their ability. There are thousands of adults who learned to deal with various disorders as students – some in good ways, some in not-so-great ways. With today’s plethora of research and knowledge about how to help, we are in the best position possible to help our kids manage their needs in productive ways.

For my child, this has been a series of interventions, from very noticeable, to less overt as he’s gotten older. I’ve blogged about learning tools before, and about helpful bits I’ve picked up along the way several times over the years, but this is a topic that keeps coming up as more and more parents with ‘labeled’ kids choose homeschooling.

Warmly,
~h

 

 

 


Timelines and Art Notebooks for History

One of the fun things that many homeschoolers do in conjunction with learning history is to create a timeline of events as the kids learn. There are a hundred different methods for creating a timeline, from a notebook or binder system, to a wall-based system, to a scroll system (which is what we’ve been using for the last few years).

Last year, we started keeping a history notebook. The kids worked on that together with their lapbook. We are using Story of the World, and several bloggers have made coordinating lapbooks that cover books 1-3. We’ll start book 4 later this year, and I’d like to transition fully to notebooking, rather than lapbooking for this last book. If you’ve never worked on a lapbook or a notebook, the concepts are pretty similar. I like to think of lapbooking as a little more ‘directed’, while notebooking is a little more student-led, but lapbooking can be student-led as well. It’s really up to you as to how you use and/or combine the two methods.

We’ve been working on taking notes in various subjects, and I’ve been requiring that the boys write more from their own perspective, rather than being told what to write. With our new school year on the horizon, I’ve been searching through my history & geography pins on Pinterest and seeing what I’ve pinned that will help me help the boys make notebooks that they will want to read through later.

One pin on Interactive Notebooks has several really good tips for creating lasting work. The site is geared towards younger students, but even with boys in middle school, the tips are just as relevant. As I mentioned before in my middle school lesson planning post, we’ve been using ‘mind-mapping’ to take notes, which combines color and pictures with words and related ‘branches’ arcing out from a center, or main, point. I have one child that likes this method of note-taking, and one that prefers a linear (traditional) style – but both ways have merit.

I also am a big (BIG – HUGE) fan of art journals, and art notebooks. I’ve been toying with the idea of helping the kids work on art notebooks for history. Combining maps (geography) and art in this way would make a great project. Printed pictures, colored pencils layered with notebooking (journaling and notes) would make a keepsake that can be referred to in later years as both an art piece and an educational review.

Something like this (pictured – not ours!!) would be ideal. That’s not history (art history, maybe??), but that’s similar to what I envision the kids’ notebooks looking like in this process. It probably will require more preparation on my part, as far as printing pictures and graphics to use, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

Currently, we’re in Russia, with Peter the Great. There are several battles and movements of the army that would make for great visual aids in a notebook like this.

This would be another way to mark your timeline if you work through history chronologically. Keeping up the notebooks will keep your timeline in order. I am looking forward to getting started with this idea with my kids!

If you art/notebook, I’d love to hear from you, and see how it works and looks for your students.

Warmly,
~h


Homeschooling in Middle School: Lesson Planning

Well, we made it! Both of my boys are officially in Middle School. When we started our homeschooling journey back in 2010, I had a 2nd grader and a 1st grader, and now I have two pre-teens. I can scarcely believe how quickly time has passed.

Things have definitely changed over the years. If you’re new to homeschooling, then please be assured that we all started out right where you are – overwhelmed, questioning if we made the right choice, and wondering how we were going to make this work. And, like you will no doubt find, things just have a way of working out. We’ve tried lots of different things over our course of homeschooling, and some have gotten tossed right out the window while others have become a much-relied-upon staple of our learning day. The continuous theme has been ‘learning’, for me just as much as it has been for the boys.

When we started, I was really drawn to a more classical approach; more structure, more parent-directed. I wanted to make sure that they had a good foundation so that when they started looking into career focused education, they’d have a solid base to work from. Now that the boys are older, we’re moving past the basics and into a more interest-led dynamic, I am really glad that we chose to do things that way.

We recently celebrated our 5th ‘Not Back to School Day’, both at home (in our jammies) and with our homeschool group:

 

 

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Once again, we’re trying some new things this year. We’re already a couple of weeks into the fall semester of our school year (we school January – November, on a 4-weeks on, 1-week off schedule). We ended up taking a month-long break during the summer, so we’ll be doing continuous schooling for the next couple of months with a few days off here and there. One big change is that I am working again. I stopped working when we started homeschooling in 2010. Now that the boys are older and they can work more independently, my schedule is a little more flexible. I work with our local produce co-op once a week, and am taking doula clients again, which means that I am on-call when I have a client who is due to deliver.

One thing that’s helped me keep the kids on-track when I can’t be there is Discovery K-12. DK12 is an online homeschool program that is free. If you know anything about me, then you know that I am all about the free! DK12 is designed to be a stand-alone curriculum for homeschooling students. The student logs in, and there are are daily assignments in all of the basic subjects (including PE and Art/Music). We’re using this as a supplement for days when I am not available to teach our regular curriculum, and it’s been working nicely to fill that void. It’s almost a review of sorts, because it’s different from what we normally do, both in scope and method. For example, we use Story of the World for history, and work chronologically, from ancients to modern. DK12 uses a more traditional, grade-based history program. While we’re in book 3 of SotW (Early Modern Times), LBB (7th grade) is studying Medieval times at the moment and PeaGreen is studying Early Civilizations – both of which we’ve covered before. I like that it revisits those eras; it gives them a different perspective than what we’ve learned in the past. I think the boys like it because they’re learning different things. Since my two are so close in age, I school them together for the most part. DK12 is grade-based, so they both get something different, and I think they like learning about something the other one isn’t privy to. That sounds odd to say, considering that if they were in a different school setting that would be the norm, but homeschooled kids have their own quirks, I guess!

English, which I use as a broad term to encompass Grammar, Language Arts, Writing, Handwriting, Spelling, Reading, Literature, etc…, is always a complicated think to explain, because I do group those subjects together. Right now, we’re working from Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books for reading & lit, and even grammar (using the mentor sentences method). We’re covering some geography as well, mapping out the lives of the Ingalls family as they travel. I would link to specifics, but there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of resources for that series if you Google it. The boys are also reading Tom Sawyer in their DK12 lessons, so we’re working on that as well. We still lapbook, so we’re working on those for both books also.

Other grammar-related work includes sentence diagramming, and various writing assignments. I found a great idea for collecting topics for personal narratives, which we’re adding to our thoughtful journals (which we still make use of, and I LOVE!). Writing,, journaling and note-taking/notebooking are also staples for basically everything. We watch CNN Student News 2-3 times per week, and I have the kids take notes (traditional style or mind-maps). They also take notes for history and for several subjects when they work on DK12 assignments. Essays have gotten longer and more detailed, and research projects are more ‘on your own’ than in class time.

For math, we’re using Khan Academy’s student program. It’s gotten to the point that I am no longer comfortable ‘teaching’ them, so that’s a really good way for them to have expert examples and explanations for complex maths. I created my account, then added the kids. They do the practice and skills assessment assignments (mastery-based) for their grade level and earn badges, awards and energy points. I have my own account and am brushing up on my skills as well. We’re keeping tabs on each other and competing for energy points (and seeing who can upgrade their avatar fastest), which makes it competitive and fun.

We’re also working through Life of Fred this year. It’s more of a supplement at this point, but I am sure it will get more challenging as the kids work through the series. We’ve worked through The Number Devil in the past and are tacking it again this year as a supplement as well, and maybe some tasks in The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math if we need it.

For history, we’re in book 3 of Story of the World, soon to be in book 4. Science this year is focusing on biology. We’re using a text book and working from Khan Academy’s Biology section as well.

Because I am a slacker mom, I missed out on the NBTS Blog Hop this year, so I am playing catch-up with this all-in-one post. I updated my lesson planner in December last year, but never posted it. I kept some of the same elements, but re-designed the whole thing, and I am really happy with it! Here’s mine:

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And here are downloadable blank versions for you to use if you like:

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As always, we snagged school pictures for this year, although I may re-take them. We normally take pics outside, and it was sunnier that day than in previous years, so both boys have squinty eyes.

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How’s your new homeschool year going? What are your kids using/learning about? What grades are you teaching this year? Share!!
Warmly,
~h


Teach Them to do for Themselves

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts in the homeschool community about not measuring up. There was a time when homeschooling was fairly synonymous with genius-level intelligence. Even though that stereotype still gets lip-service, as homeschooling becomes more and more popular, it’s just us normal folks, with normal kids schooling in the kitchen these days (or maybe that shows my own perceptions…).

Not only that, but as my kids get older, we’re coming up on the point in time where we’re moving past the basics and into more future career and interest driven learning – meaning that the boys will have more say in what they learn about.*

One of the mantras that I use is ‘Education isn’t about teaching them everything. It’s about exposing them to as much as possible, and teaching them HOW to find the things they need to know, when they need to know it’.

It’s about teaching them to read directions. I didn’t teach my kids how to cook; I taught them how to read, what measurements are and how to properly read/decipher fractions, fire/heat safety and where the dishes go. Nowadays, they can cook anything they have a recipe for (and clean up the kitchen afterwards, too).

That’s kind of how I approach their education. My main goal is to expose them to as much as possible. We do all of the regular subjects – reading, writing, math, science, history, etc.; and I also cover the arts, health, physical education, and other ‘normal’ things that you’d find in any school. But I also glaze over things that may not hold their attention as well as other things. For example: when we covered Vikings, the kids were crazy into it, so we lingered there. Did a lapbook, build a forge in the backyard so the kids could play at being blacksmiths, read a couple of Viking-centered stories, watched How to Train Your Dragon 3 times, and other fun Viking-related stuff. But now, we’re in 1600’s England, with Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and King James and the kids are all ‘ Ho-hum… can get skip this and get to the Black Death already??’ In a word, yes. Glazing… it can be a wonderful thing!

Even though this is one of my personal favorite times in history (reformation of the church, splitting off of the Puritans, the reign of Elizabeth I and the powerhouse that was England… so exciting!), the kids aren’t feeling it right now. But, the beauty of history is that it repeats, so in a few years, we can cover this again, and maybe they’ll be more interested in the same parts I am. And, their lack of interest doesn’t keep me from re-reading the things that I enjoy.

Back to how this applies to homeschooling, though… education is meant to be the foundation upon which your life is built. Helping ensure that my kids have a solid knowledge of the basics means that from there, they have the keys to unlock everything set before them. They can then learn about any subject or field that they choose to; their options are limited only by what they believe they can do.

To sum up, I don’t have to be a perfect, rigorous, every-day-8a-3p, scheduled homeschooling mom in order to be successful, and have successful kids, and neither do you. We just have to teach them the basics, and empower them to do for themselves. Because they can. And they will.

Warmly,
~h

*We are eclectic homeschoolers. I like traditional/classical education for the younger years, moving more towards interest/career path learning as they get older.

 


Homeschooling: Where Do I Begin?

One of my favorite homeschooling bloggers (I say ‘blogger’, but she’s on Facebook), The Libertarian Homeschooler, wrote on this topic today. Her answer was long and thought out, and I sincerely encourage you to read her entire answer, and the comments that go with it, but here’s the part that called to me:

“Q: With all the resources and information available, where do you even begin? And how?

A: You begin with relationship. Children don’t come with instruction manuals. You have to seek them out. Many of the instruction manuals will tell you that you don’t have to make any changes to your life to accommodate your children. They sell marvelously well because we, as a culture, really don’t want to have to grow up and make time, space, and accommodations for our children. We want to be selfish and for our children to accommodate us. Be counter cultural. Devote time to understanding the planes of a child’s development. Find out what observation means. Learn to read your child’s actions, cues, and signals. Spend a lot of time doing this. Become intimately acquainted with your child’s communications and gestures. Watch what your child does without interrupting. Observe keenly. Like you’re looking for treasure. Because you are.”

I LOVE that she emphasized that aspect of homeschooling. This applies not only for homeschooling, but for having children in general. Parenting is not easy, but it’s not hard either, provided you treat your children like real people. Because that’s exactly what they are. They’re not clean slates that you start writing on the moment they’re born. They’re people, born with a personality that will develop with or without your help. Yes, you can influence them, but the basic wiring for them to become who they will be is already there. They’re born with feelings, with a sense of justice and fairness, and a thirst for knowledge.

More than that, though, the children that come into your family via birth, circumstance or choice, are entrusted to you so that you can help them grow into the potential that they are born with. Your task is to help them grow into productive members of the society we live in. In order to successfully do that, you need to know them; to be in tune with them. You have to meet them where they are, so that you can guide them on their path. Whether you choose to homeschool or utilize public/private/charter/alternative schooling methods, the point remains the same, and it requires just as much effort no matter how or where your children are educated.

In the context of homeschooling, I found that I lost some of the connections I had to my boys when they started public school. Even though I was at the school a lot of the time, volunteering in their classrooms, chaperoning field trips and doing my best to work with the school to help overall, it wasn’t the same as being accessible to them, and having access to them during their peak hours. Now, some people are going to read that and come to the conclusion that I’m just an overbearing mom, intent on monitoring her kids 24/7. If that’s what you take away from this, then peace be with  you. You needn’t comment, and I’m not here to try to change your mind; you’re not my target audience. But if you ‘get’ this concept, then you know what I am talking about. It’s more than ‘wanting control'; I don’t control my kids. In fact, I am sure that many people I’ve met wished I exercised more control over them. But that’s not my job. My job is to guide. To inform and educate, and trust that I’ve done my job well enough from my kids to make good decisions. At the same time, they are kids, and mistakes will be made, as will lapses in judgement. My job then, is to help them see other paths, other decisions that could have been made, and hope that next time, they choose better.

It’s been a while since I posted here, and I haven’t abandoned my blog; I’ve just been busy devoting time to other pursuits. But you’ll hear from me eventually, when something strikes my fancy and I feel the need to post about it. Y’all have a good day ;)

Warmly,

~h


Lesson Planning – Fall 2013

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.

Happy planning!
Warmly,
~h


Summer Plans!

Like for many families (homeschooling or not) summer is always one of the busiest times of the year for us. My niece, Appleberry, comes to stay with us, and all of the kids’ friends are out of school (except for the homeschooling ones; some of them school year-round like we do). We have friends who come in from out-of-state for the summer, so our social calendar is packed.

We also have activities with our homeschool group all summer; since so many school year-round, our group stays active, and we take a few opportunities during the summer to meet with a Houston area homeschooling group. Additionally, we participate in the Summer Reading Club through our local library, have Tennis Camp for 10 weeks, a 3-day long Historical Day Camp at a local museum… my calendar is looking full and summer is just now starting!

If this is your first year homeschooling, you may be wondering where I found all this cool stuff (most of which is free) to do in our city. Now, by ‘city’, we’re not a big city – not at all. 2 movie theaters, 2-3 bowling alleys, a single story mall, and 9,784 churches, 2-3 mini-golf places, 5 libraries and 5 McDonalds’… to give you a frame of reference. We’re also smack-dab in the middle of quite a few smaller cities, so within 30 minutes of most of them is the ‘city’. (Whereas Houston is the ‘big city’. Savvy?) So, while we don’t have things going on every day, there is enough for the need to pick and choose what you want to participate in.

There are some things that happen that are on a national scale, or that are fairly commonplace and are easy to find out information on – summer reading clubs, sleep-away camp, day camp, vacation bible school, and the like. Other things may not be advertised as widely, and can be easy to miss if you don’t seek them out. Be sure to check your city’s website under summer recreation programs. They may have things like outdoor concerts, movie nights, or other city-wide events. Our city offers a free tennis camp, an inexpensive day camp, a free lunch program, and things like that, but I only found out about them a couple of years ago. I heard about the club in winter, so I wrote it down and started looking for information on it in the spring. Often, when you find one camp or club hidden away like that, it leads to more.

Check your local bowling alley and skating rink, mini-golf or game center, One of our bowling alleys offers 1 free game per kid, per weekday all summer long. Our skating rink has ‘family night’ so we can get in cheap and rent skates for a couple bucks each. Some restaurants have a ‘family night’ as well (free kids meal with adult meal purchase). Kids Meal Deals.com is a search engine that can tell you who has deals near you.

Local museums may also have summer day camps – one of ours offers a ‘pioneer life’ camp that lets kids experience life in the late 1800’s for a few days. There’s also a gardening camp, art camp at the art museum, and several restaurants offer cooking camps (but those can get kinda spendy).  Our local newspaper has a section called ‘Summer Camp Guide’ that comes out right before school lets out for the summer; if yours doesn’t, it may be worth it to request that they look into something like that for next year.

Word of mouth is also a good way to find out what’s going on in your community. ‘Liking’ local pages on Facebook can give you a heads-up on things in your town. Many of them have events posted, so you can add them to your calendar. Check out your local playgroups, homeschool groups, mom’s clubs and parks for other moms and their plans. Mommy-networking can be invaluable, especially if you’ve recently moved to an area.

If all else fails, there are always things like hiking at national or state parks, biking, canoeing, geo-caching letterboxing, and postcrossing. In Texas, the state Parks & Wildlife service has Texas Outdoor Family, which is a ‘family camping 101′ teaching event. They also sponsor Junior Ranger Program that offers explorer packs that the kids can use. Park clean-up days here finish up with a complimentary canoe trip for the volunteers – a great way to keep parks clean, and enjoy a free trip, too. Most of those kinds of events are free or inexpensive ways to keep busy during the summer. Just get out there and do ‘em!

Any other tips for a fun summer?

Warmly,
~h


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