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

Homeschooling Resources

Stepping Back into the Flow

flow

flowI’ve heard stories about people having wisdom teeth extracted, and eating steak a couple of days later. Myth? I think so… I had no idea that my recovery was going to be such an ordeal. First of all, I got sick from the medications that I got for pain relief, so for the first 2 days, I was throwing up. Not. Fun. I figured it was the meds, so I stopped taking all of them, which meant I was just in pain… so I started taking only one at a time so I could figure out which on was the troublemaker – and I did! Tramadol… nasty business, that. So I am overjoyed to report that despite all initial indicatives to the contrary, I am now fully on the road to recovery with Rx-strength ibuprofen and Tylenol-3 at my side, fighting the good fight on my behalf. Thank goodness!

Recovery means back to normal though, or so I thought… only to figure out that I wasn’t quite up to the task of getting back to normal so quickly. I am the world’s worst patient, so of course I tried to rush through recovery with a couple of over-active days. I paid for them both with the next day barely able to get out of bed. Hoping I’ve learned my lesson, I am gingerly stepping back into a semi-normal flow of activity.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing the bare minimum. We took the weeks of March 21 and 28th off completely. I didn’t assign the kids anything new, so there wasn’t really anything to catch up on when we started back with assigned work on April 4th. But even though we didn’t have assigned work while we were off, there was still stuff to do. The main thing was our group’s  science fair. Yes, you read that right – we did science fair projects only days before the presentation. I suck as a mom right now – shut up.

Luckily, there are a zillion websites out there for crappy moms like me who wait until the very last second to pull something together. Here’s a list (not that you would ever need it, being the super-star stellar mom that you are):

PeaGreen chose a combination of two projects having to do with vision, Now you See it, Now You Don’t, and Does Eye Color affect Peripheral Vision. LBB chose Measuring the Speed of ‘Light’ with a Microwave Oven – mostly, I think because he got to play around with eggs.

CAM03554

CAM03555

picabooIn other news, we met with our homeschool group  a couple of weeks ago to formally put together our first yearbook committee. That was a lot of fun, and really exciting. I have yearbooks from middle school, and that’s something I thought my kids were just going to miss out on, so I am really excited for them to both have  a yearbook at all, and to get to be part of the creative process. We looked at a couple of options, and decided to go with Picaboo, which is an online yearbook-making site. One of the things that swayed us was that for each book order, you also get a digital yearbook to share, and they archive books, so you can order another one at any time.

The kids also got to go swimming for the first time this year at our group’s monthly Teen Social. It was tool cold for me, but they look like they had a great time. There were more kids there, but the girls were already inside one we thought about snagging a picture.

CAM03564

 

CNW_Participant_2016April is the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, and our local group hosts a writing date every Monday evening at a local coffee shop. The first Monday was April 4th, which also happens to be my birthday. To celebrate ‘camp’ we had a pajama party and made crafts. Coffee, conversation and no requirement to wear real pants… I have found my people, LOL! As I write, I am a bit behind on my word-count, but I plan to catch up this weekend.

 
CAM03566

Last week was a little more ‘back to normal’.  I gave the kids a regular schedule, and they pretty much got their work done, which was nice. Our field trip was in Lufkin to visit the Ellen Trout Zoo, and we got in some car-schooling on the way there. It was a nice drive; I haven’t been up North in a while and the drive through Texas Hill Country is always so pretty. There was a lot of construction on single-lane highways with long delays where we were sitting still, so we had lots of opportunities for pictures on the way.

CAM03572

CAM03574

CAM03579

CAM03582

CAM03588

CAM03608

Something I was really looking forward to is a re-take of a picture I took of the boys in 2004. PeaGreen was about a year and a half old, and LBB was 3ish. Too bad back then picture files were so small! But still – mission accomplished.

CAM03639

Boys_at_ETZoo_11_3_04
We got in another D&D campaign as well. Our DM keeps saying ominous things, so I fear for the safety and longevity of my character (who is a 14-year-old girl who’s too smart for her own safety). PeaGreen plays a thief who is also a coward, and LBB’s character is an Elf who likes to help from afar. It’s been a really fun experience playing!

CAM03642

This week, we have been pretty much totally back to normal. We’re off-schedule according to my year-calendar, so rather than this week being week 1 of 6, it’s actually week 2 of 7 to make up for our extra week off. As much as that doesn’t really ‘matter’ I will feel better when my books match up again.

Our field trip this week was Art Guild, and we worked on art prints a la Mary Cassatt. She was a truly interesting woman and this was one of the more interesting artist studies that we’ve done. The kids have more work do do on her life this week, but the actual prints were fun to make. We etched in Styrofoam and then used a brayer to put paint over the and pressed the paper to them to make the print.

CAM03679

Not too shabby for being on the mend, if I do say so myself😉
Warmly,
~h

 

 


Mid-March Update

I thought that it was April that was supposed to bring spring showers, but this year, March is taking all the credit for rainfall. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it on the news; eastern Texas and western Louisiana are pretty much submerged at the moment. Interstate 10 was closed for several days at the Texas/Louisiana border due to severe flooding – in fact, I think at the time of this writing, it’s still closed. I’ve gotten quite a few messages and emails from concerned friends wondering about our safety. I appreciate your love and concern, but we’re well out of the flood zone. Luckily, everyone in our local group is also safely out of the flooded areas as well. Unfortunately, many families in our area have been affected though, and it’s nice to see the communities around Orange rallying to support those who lost everything. If you’re interested in helping, The Orange Leader has a couple of options, or you can donate to the Red Cross for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Our local Humane Society also recently had a fire, and is accepting donations through their GoFundMe page.

This month hasn’t been all doom-and-gloom, though. Even though there’s been quite a bit of rain, it hasn’t had that much of an impact on our activities. Even so, we’ve missed a couple of things this month. It seems like the first of the year was a constant host of activities, but things seem to have leveled out just a bit lately. It’s been nice having a bit of a break. We needed the ‘catch-up’ time. I’m happy to report that we’ll start fresh this coming week with no make-up work! It’s been about 3 weeks since we’ve been able to say that. Unfortunately, I am having dental surgery next week, so we’re probably going to have to take an unexpected break to deal with that… but we’ll see what happens.

Earlier this month was our group’s art class. The book we’re using for the basis of the class is Discovering Great Artists by Kohl and Solga, which is a hands-on approach that we’ve been testing for the last few months. During the 6 weeks between classes, we study the artist, and at the group class, we watch a video or have a presentation on the artist and then the kids (and some of the moms too, if I am honest), attempt to create a work of art in that style. This month, our artist was Henri Toulouse Lautrec, and the project was an Event Poster. The lesson was great! I had no idea that he was responsible for the kind of advertising that was so popular in that time. It was also quite an interesting experience to cover an artist who featured prostitutes so often in his work with a group of kids. Le sigh…

 

CAM03481

CAM03482

CAM03484

It was a super fun project – I get frustrated with the kids because they don’t put as much effort into it as I’d like to see, but what’cha gonna do? Art’s my ‘thing’, but I know it’s not theirs, so I try to rein it in. I’m actually not all that displeased with what they did (I just know they could’ve done better). LBB’s been on a Bob Ross kick lately, so it was nice to see that represented in his project.

CAM03490
March’s Teen Homeschool Book Club was a lot of fun. The kids were supposed to read either a fiction or non-fiction book about Texas, in honor of Texas Independence Day, which is March 2nd. We visited the San Jacinto Monument earlier this month, which was fantastic, and bought a couple of books from the gift shop: Mirabeau B. Lamar, Second President of Texas by Judy Alter, and Davy Crockett: His Own Story by David Crockett. After hearing the boys flounder on their recitations for the book club, I am not sure if they actually did the reading they were assigned, so we’ll be going over those again, but afterwards, they got involved in the LONGEST game of Uno, ever… and loudest, too – at the library, no less!

CAM03494

We went back for our second game of D&D, and our mission is going well! We’re getting the hang of it. It’s slow-going though (as I am sure it always is with newbies), and I so appreciate our DM’s patience and understanding with us as we learn/play. I have also discovered that playing any game with kids that is as involved as Dungeons & Dragons is can make for a very long evening. Between distractions, side conversations, snack breaks and bathroom breaks, even though we’re playing for several hours at a time, not much gets accomplished ‘in-game’. Even so, we’re making progress – slow- but measurable. We added a new player to this round, too – an orc!

CAM03506

CAM03501
CAM03503

My very dear friend, The Hauswife, had her 30th birthday last week, Her husband contacted me about creating a custom planner for her, which was so much fun to work on! I had it printed and wrapped, and we threw her a surprise dinner party. I also made her a set of custom planner stickers so she can keep track of her life in style.

CAM03471

10271543_10153919522810449_5841042880144340342_n

We also had our third D&D game night. LBB ended up with a set of magical keys (that somehow disappeared when no one was looking), and PeaGreen was less than thrilled with my photo-documentation of his game-playing. We did manage to make it through a third battle, with our merry band in tact (barely). I think our DM is taking it easy on us! We added a new player this round as well, The Hauswife.

CAM03523

CAM03525

I wanted to show off my newly-made dice box, too! I started with a small wooded box from the craft store. I used ‘ArtMinds square wood box (4.13″ x 3.942″)’ item# 10308297 at Michael’s. (I am not affiliated with them; that’s just what I used – I don’t get any kickbacks from them for linking to them or anything.) I found a picture of a mermaid that I liked, and re-drew it, then burned it into the wood with a wood-burning tool. I also found an art-deco pattern for the sides and front, and then burned those sections as well. Then I painted parts of the box with watercolor, and painted her tail with a glitter glaze to make it stand out. It holds a set of Chessex dice, as well as several loose dice and miniature figures inside quite nicely. It’s bigger inside than I’d have thought, and is perfect for storage as well as carrying things back and forth.

2016-03-19_21.15.18

CAM03530-1

The last thing on our list was our group’s Social Studies Club. Our country of discussion was Turkey this month, but we weren’t able to go to class. I did find this lovely little drawing though, and still wanted to use it, so I am adding it anyway. Istanbul-travel-illustration

Hope your spring is off to a lovely start!
Warmly,
~h


March Into Spring 2016

CAM03345

365d0170b3ef54842af51b4fd6ba4fad

Spring has well and truly sprung in our little corner of Texas. It’s warm; the trees are blooming (which means pollen absolutely everywhere) and I’m sneezing my head off. Good times! Despite the respiratory distress, the weather has been incredible. We don’t get many days that make you savor being outside, so when they come, we try to take full advantage. This month has been no exception to that goal.

We wrapped up February with a trip out to the Big Thicket. That’s a pretty big place, if you’re not familiar with it. The Big Thicket National Preserve covers over a hundred thousand acres, and features nine different ecosystems, making it one of the most diverse national parks in the US. Currently, they’re on a mission to restore some of the native flora to the forests, and one of the big projects they’re working on is Centennial Forest. The long-leaf pine is a slow-growing pine tree that once dominated the Big Thicket, and forests from Texas all the way to Virginia. Over the years, the logging industry has decimated the population on long-leaf pines. The effects on the forests here have been interesting. Something I’ve always noticed is that in SETX, we don’t really have ‘forests’ – we have ‘woods’ – densely packed trees, with tons of underbrush – you can’t just wander through the woods like you see people do through forests in the movies. I always wondered why that is, and one of the park rangers explained it in a way I’d never heard.

Basically, when the old growth is cut down, it allows faster growing trees and shrubs room and sunlight to flourish. The addition of houses, settlements and roads has also changed the way that natural fires helped clear the forest floor, and let slower-growing trees mature properly. Once those slow-growers matured, the canopy they create prevents the underbrush from choking out the forest. By using controlled burns, herbicides and volunteers to come in and plant long leaf pines and other slow-growing native trees, they’re helping to restore what will eventually become a more balanced natural forest here. I won’t live to see it, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren might. It’s neat to think that we will have had a hand in that.

Our homeschool group went out with 19 people (kids and adults), and joined a group of Park Rangers and other volunteers to plant 800 trees. Afterwards, we had lunch, then went for a short hike through an area of the forest where they are testing different methods of underbrush control, from fire clearing, to herbicides and clear-cutting. It was interesting to see how much work and actual science is involved in the restoration process.

CAM03312 (1)

We collect badges and patches from all over the place, and we got a special one for participating in the Centennial Forest replanting effort:
CAM03345

One of the things we look forward to each year is Texas Independence Day. I know other states don’t take the whole ‘state pride’ thing to the level that Texans do, and it’s funny to hear about it from non-natives; when you’re born here, it’s just a thing you do, I guess. Because we live so close, we usually head out to La Porte to visit the San Jacinto Monument, which stands on the battleground where the Texas Army fought General Santa Anna and won the battle for Texas Independence. It’s interesting to hear the story every year – I always pick up new details (even though I’ve heard the story many times).

After the monument, we lunch at the park grounds in front of Battleship TEXAS, which is where the Texas Army encampment is memorialized. There are stone markers all over the battlegrounds, with key positions or events marked. One day, we’ll get around to attending a re-enactment of the battle.

The Battleship wasn’t part of the fight for independence; rather, it is retired from service after both World Wars. Since it’s on the grounds though, that makes it a logical second half of the day’s trip. The kids always get a blast out of messing with the ship’s guns – they’re massive, and surprisingly easy to maneuver. The gears and cranks are all exposed, so it makes the physics of movement a highlight of the conversation. After climbing the insanely steep ladders and steps to get to the higher decks, we went below, and below, and below – they’ve opened up several of the lower decks since we were here last time, so we got to see a lot of the engines and piping down in the belly of the ship that we’d never seen before. There are some really tight spaces – I don’t think I’d like to actually be a sailor if I had to be down there all the time.

 

CAM03369

 

 

CAM03408

In other news, LBB got glasses! Since both Loverly Husband and I both wear them (and have for basically ever), it was surprising to me that neither of the boys needed them. He’s been complaining about things being blurry for a few weeks though, so we got him checked out and sure enough, he’s joining the club. PeaGreen decided to make a drastic change to his look, too, with bleaching and dyeing his hair. The bleaching process was pretty dramatic, but once we dyed it (purple), it’s pretty subtle until he goes in the sun; then it’s really bright!

12791104_10153398682761404_7031196670506013136_n

CAM03418

 

We’re wrapping up this week with our homeschool group’s Teen Social, which we affectionately called, ‘Mix Tape and Chill’. We had each of the kids send in a list of 5 songs, and one of the moms made a playlist on YouTube to play during the event. She made a list of all the songs, and gave a paper to each of the kids so they could guess which kid picked which songs. They competed for a GameStop gift card. Both my boys opted out of the contest; I have no idea why – that’s one of their favorite stores. Kids?

The theme for the day was ‘games people play’, and they spent the afternoon doing just that, from video games, to ‘lines and blobs‘, to the pantyhose bowling game, and wrapping up with LARP style sword-fighting, which ended up paving the way to planning a LARP-based homeschool PE discussion in our group’s discussion list for later this month.

CAM03434

CAM03438

CAM03442

CAM03458

 

How’s your spring going?
Warmly,
~h


Mid-February Update

mid feb update

Every year, I am surprised at how quickly January flies by. Here we are mid-February, and I am still honestly surprised at how quickly this month has flown by. We’ve been slightly busier than usual (and that’s really saying something).  Since I last checked in, we’ve managed to wrap up our first 6 weeks of school and are currently enjoying the last few days of our first official break. If you’re new, we follow a 6-on/1-off schedule. It’s true what they say about ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’; the first time I ever heard about this kind of schedule for school was when our local ISD did a trial of it for a single school year. The original idea was that with a year-round schedule, the kids don’t get bored and burned out during the year, and don’t have a months-long break during the summer to lose half of what they’d learning, and the first 6 weeks of the new school year isn’t wasted on catching up. It was a great idea -so much so that it’s stuck with me and I knew that’s what I wanted to try when we started homeschooling. We started out with 6-on/1-off, and have gone through various revisions of it over the years, but we’re back there now and it’s working beautifully.

As I said, this is our off week, and I have to admit that as much as I love the busy schedule we keep, I have absolutely reveled in the last few days of being just home, home, home with few responsibilities (other than the bare minimum required to keep the children alive and basic hygiene requirements met). I even opted out of our homeschool group’s classes this week, which was actually a tiny bit painful, but I really needed the break. Next week, we’ll be back into the swing of things, full stop.

Over the last few weeks, it seems like we’ve been everywhere, seen all the people and done all the things! For the last few months, we’ve been volunteering with our local Atheists Helping the Homeless group, SETX AHH. This month was the largest turnout of volunteers since the group got started back in October 2015, and we were happy to be there to help. My boys, and some of the other kids in our homeschool group manned one of the tables, helping assist mean and women filing up their bags, and directing them to some of the organizers if they had questions the kids couldn’t answer. If your local area has an AHH group, we’ve found our group to be very kid-friendly (with a few FAQs that you might want to consider), and it’s a great opportunity to have the kids involved and actively working with the community.

CAM03231

CAM03232

 

photo by: Yvette Michelle Portraits

photo by: Yvette Michelle Portraits

We try to mix our field trips up each year, and honor local and global culture when possible. Southeast Texas has a thriving Vietnamese community, and Chinese New Year is one of the holidays that the Vietnamese community celebrates each year. We celebrated the Year of the Monkey with a big picnic and craft day, followed by a dragon parade at the Tyrell Park Botanical Gardens.

CAM03238

CAM03263
Afterwards, the boys and I met at the library for the Teen Homeschool Book Club that our amazing librarian, Ms. Robin, hosts each month. The boys read Call of the Wild by Jack London, for this month’s selection. One of the moms is absolutely always on point with refreshments, and brought cupcakes for the kids to decorate, both for Valentine’s Day, and with an eye towards something from their book. LBB’s cupcake is meant to represent Francois from Call of the Wild; PeaGreen seems to have ignored that directive and opted for an inside joke reference with the other kids. I don’t know what the joke is, but they all got a kick out of it.

CAM03280

CAM03281

CAM03286

CAM03289

The boys also got to finish and present their Hawaii projects for our homeschool group’s social studies club. LBB talked about the Hawaiian Hoary Bat, with a drawn and painted diagram, and PG made a model of the Hawaiian Islands, and talked about island formation, and the volcanoes of Hawaii.

CAM03292
In other news, one of the dads in our group offered to host a Dungeons & Dragons Tutorial for the teens in our group, so we spent a Saturday learning how role-playing works. It was really fun, and we’re planning to give it another go soon. I always thought that D&D and other games like that (that were non-electronic and social) were good for developing creativity and I am pleased to see the kids taking an interest. Valentine’s Day was pretty low-key, as usual; we’re not big on a lot of the holidays, other than a nod of acknowledgement, but we did head out to my brother’s for dinner that evening. PeaGreen has spent the last few days there, so LBB and I got to spend some QT together. Today’s festivities included lunch, a coffee date and a long drive to pick up my other kidlet.

CAM03299
How’s your school year going so far?
Warmly,
~h

 


Mid-January Update

2016-01-20_18.23.14

It’s crazy how fast time passes by, especially when you’re busy, not that being busy is anything outside of the norm for us. We’ve hit 2016 running, and (as usual) have had one activity after another. I am honestly looking forward already to our break, which is planned for mid-February. After a month with no school responsibilities, getting back to the daily grind has been rough! Don’t get me wrong; it’s been fun, and nice to have the routine again, but still… I think I’m just a lazybones at heart.

One thing I can say that’s been absolutely perfect is the weather! You may have heard the jokes about Texas weather or seen memes that allude to the insane unpredictability: ‘don’t like it? Give it an hour and it will change’; ‘the four seasons of Texas: Summer, Summerer, SummererER, Christmas Day’; etc…. While those aren’t far off, January is always fairly mild, and this year exemplifies that perfectly. Mornings range from 40’s to 50’s, and the highs are in the 60’s and 70’s – this is what I imagine other parts of the US enjoy for Spring or Fall weather. February and March might be cold, but for now, we’re outside as much as possible, soaking up the cool(er) weather.

Our homeschool group went out to the Big Thicket National Preserve for a hike last week. Their Visitor’s Center is really nice; it’s one of our favorite stops when we’re in Kountze. We hiked the Sundew Trail, which is famous for its carnivorous plants (sundews and pitcher plants). I think it was a little early in the season though; mostly we saw pines and yaupon underbrush. Last year (or maybe two years ago), we went out there right after they had a prescribed burn. It was really interesting to see the burns on the pines, and to see how quickly the forest bounced back. Most of the new growth was as high as I am tall (5’4ish). It was cool to see how the trees recovered as well.

 

CAM03078

January is the beginning of our group’s art classes. We’re working from Discovering Great Artists, and our first lesson is on Pablo Picasso. The kids were instructed to paint a self-portrait for use in the project for the class. I wish I’d noticed that the boys were both using such similar colors, but it probably won’t matter in the end since the pictures will be cut up and reassembled, and added to with other supplies to make a collage.

CAM03088 (1)

 

CAM03093

2016-01-19_22.39.49

 

Here’s the obligatory group shot, and our ‘after’ pictures, Picasso-style!

2016-01-20_18.23.14

This was such a fun project – the kids did a great job on their original portraits, and their after creations ran the gamut from basic cubism to truly eclectic creations. I love art, and as a homeschooling teacher, that’s probably one of the things I regret most – that we don’t spend as much time on actually ‘making’ art as I’d like. It’s been on my mind for a while; I got the kids a ‘wreck it’ style journal, and one for myself for us to go through this year. I did Keri Smith’s ‘Wreck this Journal’ a couple of years ago and found it to be a lot of fun; hopefully the boys will find some inspiration in this journal, too. Rip It, Write It, Draw It is on sale at B&N right now for $3.99 – a great buy if you’ve been wanting to try WTJ but not wanting to spend the dough for a book you’re just going to tear up! (Disclosure – I am not affiliated with B&N nor do I receive kickbacks from them or anyone else – I just have this book and appreciate a good deal.) I’ve already re-covered mine with a quote from this little gem of a book, which I’ve found helpful for everything from personal reminders to boosting notes to the kids and friends.

CAM02966

 

We’re wrapping up this week with some advice from the Homeschool Snark Shark… and calling it a half-day today.

 

Hope you have a great weekend!

Warmly,
~h


Back to School – January 2016

There’s nothing quite so disheartening as getting back to work after a vacation. In our case, since we get a month off, the first week ‘back to school’ in January seems especially daunting. Combine that with all of the good intentions and NYR’s that we all (consciously or unconsciously) set, and the first weekend can’t come fast enough!

On the other hand, I will admit that it’s nice to get back to routine. Loverly Husband was off work as well, so the last week or so of December seemed extraordinarily relaxed. I found myself longing for the predictability and busyness that normally defines our days. Another plus is my new planner – fresh and clean and just waiting to be filled with activities!

Now that our kiddos are older, Loverly Husband and I have been trying to work in a little more romance. This year has been exceptional in that regard, with not one, but TWO weekend mini-breaks without the children. The first was a trip to the Texas Renaissance Festival a few months ago, and the second was a trip to Austin to see Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. We’re big QT fans from way back, so the opportunity to see the Roadshow performance at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema was too good to pass up. We stayed at The Driskill and spent a couple of days prowling around the city. It was a fantastic way to spend the post-Christmas slump!

 

 

CAM02969

CAM02980
Holidays notwithstanding, since we school throughout the year, we still had a couple of events with our homeschool group that fell during our holidays. Our Public Speaking Assembly was on Dec. 30, and the boys both decided to work on speeches that reflected the Holiday spirit. It was funny to me because they chose their speeches without consulting me, and both came up with something fairly similar.

 

kids - public speaking 12-30-15

 

 

The first week of January was ‘back to the daily grind’ but I was at a total loss for what to do for our field trip the first week back, so we decided on ‘movie day’. We chose Star Wars again, and it was just as good the second time around! Afterwards, we went for coffee, where PeaGreen grabbed his coffee and the paper and hunkered down to read while LBB and I sat across the room teasing him mercilessly (all in good fun) for his old-man tendencies.

CAM03032

CAM03033

The first Friday of the new school year was spent with the teens in our homeschool group for our monthly Teen Social. Of all the new things we’ve done the past year, this is one of the ones I am enjoying most. Mot only is it great for the kids, but it’s allowed me to spend some one-on-one time with the moms of older kids in our group. It’s been great getting to know them better in a smaller group. The kids love it, too. 2016-01-08_23.17.00

Next up was our Social Studies Club, where the kids were studying Australia.

CAM03050
SETX AHH January Event – I didn’t get many pictures from this event, and we missed the big group picture, but we had a great afternoon getting to know some of the fellow volunteers and chatting with some of the people we were there to help. It’s always interesting to hear their stories. If you’re interested in donating, the group has an Amazon wishlist that’s updated regularly. You can also check in your area to see if there’s an Atheists Helping the Homeless organization close to you (or start one!). There are several in Texas, and a few other areas as well. Our homeschool group made ‘care kits‘ to keep in the car to hand out to people at stop lights a while back. If you’d like to help, there are lots of lists with suggestions on what to put in them.

CAM03062

The January Teen Book Club was, as always, lots of fun. Last month was a free-reading selection, and the boys both read a Sherlock Holmes story; The Empty House. Afterwards, we played a few rounds of Apples to Apples, and headed back home to finish the day’s desk work.

CAM03069

That’s pretty much the gist of what we’ve been up to in 2016!
How’s your new year starting off?

Warmly,
~h

secthurs


Planning Your Homeschool Year

plan your year

plan your year

We follow a non-traditional school year. When I originally withdrew my boys from public school, it was just after the winter break. They were mid-semester, so we finished out that 6-week grading period, and then started homeschooling. Ever since then, we’ve started our ‘year’ in January.

Way back when I was a newbie homeschooler, I was anxious to get started. I knew what I wanted, and I was ready to go after it. We jumped in, both feet first and never looked back. The older, wiser, more experienced homeschooling mom in me now looks back on that eager, idealistic mom and thinks, ‘Aww… you sweet, summer child.’ As with so many, many things, I wish I’d known then even half of what I know now. All in all, I don’t think we had that bad of a start. There are things I’d do differently; de-schooling for a while, for one thing, but we didn’t hit the books hard and heavy right off the bat; we got started soon, but we did take it easy, so I don’t have too many regrets. But the pressure I put on myself was enormous. At the time, I had yet to be diagnosed or started treatment for anxiety disorder, and looking back I know that my internal stress-o-rama was partially due to that. Even so, I had no direction, no real clue as to what I really needed to do, so I did all the things. I’d never planned for homeschooling before, so I was making it up as I went along, and like many newbies, got way to ambitious and idealistic. Luckily, I had some really kind and caring guides along the way who helped me reign in my tendencies. Even though some of them no longer blog, Jana, Julie, SmrtMama, Farrar, and many other helped me find my way.

Now, I know better, but still browse homeschooling blogs to make sure I’m not missing out on anything I haven’t seen before. I do still plan the year, and I do still usually start in January. We take the month of December off – at least we try to. There’s almost always something that interferes with the plan (this year, it was illness) that forces us to play catch-up, but that’s okay – that’s partly why I plan that break. The time off gives me a couple of weeks to catch up anything we were lagging behind on, consider what’s working, what needs to change and come up with a new plan or figure out new material to replace it. I know that we’ll complete this ‘grade’ in the spring/summer and start the next ‘grade’ in the fall, so I plan to do another planning session in the fall, to refine and add new materials I come across during the course of the next six months. There are always new materials coming out, which makes planning difficult sometimes. Throughout the year, I keep notes and use Pinterest to keep track of things I want to look into later in the year. If you use it that way, don’t forget to go back through it and pull resources from your boards when you’re planning!

I usually have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do for the year before I start, but I’ve also learned to value flexibility. If something isn’t working, I don’t waste time trying to force it. There are always other materials out there.

This year, we’re starting the One Year Adventure Novel for grammar. We’re doing other things as well, but that’s a new addition. Most of our plans from the fall remain the same, which is nice. Back when we started, I had grand ideas that didn’t work in our life, so things got switched up a lot. I don’t regret it, exactly; it was a huge learning curve and part of the journey that I think helped make this part run more smoothly. It also let me accept that flexibility is okay, and normal, and probably for the best, considering the many options and changes that happen during the year.

When I start planning, I look at several things. Take history, for example. This year, we need to work through the last half of Story of the World IV. We’re on schedule; my plan was to finish that in May-ish, and we’ll make that target. After that, we’ll be either between books, or can start with SOTW I again immediately. At this point, I think I want to take a couple of months and focus on geography, but I know that will play more of a role in our overall journey through the SOTW books this go-round, so we’ll have to see what happens when the time comes. In addition to the regular curriculum, we keep track of a timeline, we have our homeschool group’s social studies club each month, and will hopefully be adding actual travel to the kids’ experiences this coming year. Even though I can’t put those things on the books in exact dates, I know that’s what I want to accomplish this coming year.

I treat the other subjects similarly; I know if we’ve started, where we’re at and what needs to be done. If it’s new, and we’re starting in January, then we have the year to divide the lessons up. The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum is designed to be completed in 9 months, so by the time we break for the year at the end of November, we should be done. That’s about right, counting the various breaks we take through the year.

That brings me to another point – planning the actual school dates. I usually plan for 6 weeks of school, then a one-week break. That’s what we did originally, when we started, but it didn’t work. The kids were too young, I think, and I was too new and stressed. We amended it to 4 weeks of school and one week off, and that worked a lot better. As we’ve progressed, we’ve gone longer and had fewer breaks (or took 2 instead of one week)… depending on what we needed at the time. Regardless of how the actual breakdown of the year happens, I still always plan for a block of school, followed by a mini-break. This year, we’re on a 6-week on, one week off schedule. I also planned for a 2-week break in July, and for school to ‘end’ December 2, 2016. That’s roughly 190 days of school, not accounting for birthdays (which are holidays) or sick days (which we rarely have). That’s comparable to our local ISD’s school calendar, just spread a little differently.

The last part of my planning regimen is my planner, itself. You might say that’s the first part, even. I usually start working on designing my new planning ion November and try to have it completed and printed by mid-December at the latest. Because I also plan events for our homeschool group, I need to be able to see what’s going on months ahead of time. I also get the luxury of planning my kids’ lessons around whatever we have scheduled for the group, if I want to. For comparison sake, I took a couple of pictures of 2015’s planner (end of year) and 2016’s planner (brand new and *so* crisp!!):

CAM02894-1

CAM02895-1

I’ve made changes to my planner every year; last year, I discovered Passion Planner and so I added a page to every week. My weekly layout is 4 pages and I love it! I also added a pocket folder and tabs for the months so I can quickly and easily find my current week. I use both the monthly layout and the weekly/daily formats; this really is the center of my world. Whereas I used to keep my personal planner and my lesson planner separate, I’ve since learned the value in integrating them – everything is in one place and it’s lovely. I have blank, printable versions of my current planner, and every previous version of it, available for free, here. There are also a few other printable pages, including a student planner I designed, but the kids don’t use right now. Every year, I find little tweaks and things that work better, and that’s pretty neat to see. I keep all of my old planners, and it’s fun to look back through them.

If you’re at a loss, even a calendar from the dollar store can be effective; I found a video that a woman with small kiddos did on how she plans – not for homeschooling, but the idea was the same. With only a few supplies, she created a color-coded layout that worked for her family. Whatever you use, even a plain spiral notebook, can work! I know a few homeschooling families who don’t pre-plan; instead they write down what they accomplished at the end of the day or week.

Since this is the beginning of the year, I thought I’d share a progress picture – this was our first day of homeschooling way back in 2010, and a shot from this week:

 

Homeschooling, Day 1

Homeschooling, Day 1 – January 2010

 

CAM02884

Homeschooling, Beginning of our 6th year – January 2016

How do you plan?
Warmly,
~h

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 173 other followers