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

Math

NBTS Blog Hop 2016: Curriculum Week – High School Lesson Planning

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Here it is, folks – the long-awaited high school lesson planning post! And hey – it syncs up with iHomeschool Network’s annual Not Back to School Blog Hop for this year, which makes me happy. I don’t know why, exactly; I don’t actually participate the NBTS Blog Hop (as in, adding my link and everything). I just like that there’s a ‘plan’ and being on-task with it, I guess*. I’m weird; what can I say? Moving on then…

As you may know, my boys are technically a year grade apart, but I plan most of their work together. Since they’re so close in age, it’s just easier for me. That means that this year, since LBB is in 9th grade, and PeaGreen is in 8th, PeaGreen will actually start accumulating high school credits this year because he’s doing high school level work. Luckily, we live in Texas, a state with little to no state/government interference, regulations… oh, I mean assistance <wink,wink, nudge, nudge> so this work out quite nicely for us.

This is an interesting dilemma for me; on one hand, PeaGreen is perfectly capable of doing the same work his older brother is doing. Holding him back wouldn’t make sense to me. But at the same time, he is younger, and there’s a part of me that wants to make sure to keep that separation because as an ‘oldest child’ myself, I know how important that extra bit of privilege/responsibility is to identity. Then again, there’s a wider gap between me and my younger siblings, so maybe it’s less of a concern with closely spaced siblings? If you have input here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. In any case, LBB will turn 15 in January and he’ll start Driver’s Ed, which will, at least for a while, give him a little bit of ‘extra’ that comes with age for a while.

Our school year was really easy to plan this year. When we started homeschooling, I decided to go with a 6-week on, 1 week off schedule, and school all year long. That got switched up and changed during the first few years for various reasons, but that’s always been my ‘ideal’. Last year, and most of this year, we’ve managed to maintain that, so I just stuck with that plan and mapped out the school year accordingly. That gives us 195 school days (we have some weekend days that we’re counting as ‘school days’ because of clubs or other projects planned for those days), spread out over 39 weeks, from September 2016-August 2017. This includes a month-long break in December, and a couple of weeks in July. In truth, there will be missed days here and there; our ‘normal’ school year runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-185 school days per year. I build a little padding in so that we necessary, I can take a break or call a ‘movie day’… or just skive off school entirely and go to the beach.
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Here’s what a year’s worth of work looks like for my kids. It’s not quite accurate, because this doesn’t include their notebooks from this school year. They have one for CNN Student News/Current Events; Literature; Spelling/Grammar; Math; History and Science. But this is what goes into their binders each week over the course of a school year, and includes any worksheets or handouts that I give them or that they get from classes or clubs or events that they do during the year, arranged by week.  I don’t know if that’s ‘a lot’ or if it’s ‘not very much’. I try to avoid the trap of comparing what we do to what others do, but I thought I’d put this out there. The stacks are about 2.5 inches high in the center (when smashed down), if you’re wondering. I am about to file it all away, so I thought I’d snap a picture of it for posterity!

So… what I am sure you’re wondering is how I actually went about planning this school year, and what we’re using, right? Let’s get down to it!

As I mentioned before, LBB starts high school this year. We’re also in Texas, which means that although the TEA has regulations in place that govern how public schools may place and graduate students, private schools (which is what homeschools fall under in terms of designation) don’t have to follow those recommendations in any way. Shocking, right? I know… it scares the bejezus out of me, too, sometimes. Luckily, Annie & Everything is a blogger who apparently has my brain bugged, because every time I start freaking out over something high school related, she posts a blog that pretty much addresses my exact fears.

When there are no rules, what do you do (other than ‘pretty much whatever you want’)? I’ll admit it; started by looking at the TEA’s guidelines. As much as I fancy myself a bad-ass free-spirit who don’t need no fancy-schmancy ‘rulez’, the truth is that those guidelines are familiar and comfortable, and they’re just an easy place to start. We’re tweaking some of it, and have discussed with LBB his options as far as dual credit course and CLEPing courses that he covers well during his high school years, which means that he’ll be at least as prepared as his public school peers when it comes tome for secondary education. We’re starting with the basics, and letting him determine what direction he wants to go. While we’ve set University before him, that may not be his path (which is cool, man…), but we do want him prepared if that’s a direction he chooses to go in.

All that said, here’s what their actual schedule looks like this school year:

  • Math (D) (currently recapping middle school; will being Algebra I when finished)/Coding (1xW)
  • History – Ancients (2xW)/Geography (1xW)/Current World Events (3xW)/Community Service (1xM)
  • Science – Biology (3xW)/Science – Aquatic (2-3xM)
  • English I (3xW)/Literature I (D)/Grammar (D)/Speech 101 (1xM)/Writing (D)/Spelling (D)
  • Logic (1xW)/Debate (1xW)
  • Art History (1xW), Art Club (1xM), Art (practical)(2xM)
  • Music (orchestra – first year violin) Class (1xW)/practice (D = 1 hour)
  • Health (D) /Mental Health for Teens (spring semester 1xW)/Physical Education (D)/Home Economics (1xW)
  • plus notebooking for most subjects (D), field trips each week and driver’s ed in 2017

KEY: (D = daily) (#xW = 2 time per week, or 3 times per week, etc./ M=month)

They average between 4-5 hours of school work 3 days per week, with a lighter day of desk-work/book work on Wednesday (2-3 hours) to accommodate our homeschool group’s field trip or class, and this year we will have a full day at co-op on Thursdays. Like i said earlier, I don’t know if that’s a lot or only a little. Some days I feel like it’s a super lot; other days they get it done quickly and I wonder if I am being rigorous enough. Sometimes, homeschooling mommy-brain just won’t cut you any slack. Le sigh…

So here’s the grand finale – the part you may have been waiting for: What are we using this year? Here’s a list of most of the resources we’re pulling from this year. I don’t like ‘textbooks’, so you won’t see a lot of those on the list. Some of their classes are being taught by other homeschooling parents through either clubs, classes or our co-op. Having a strong support network/homeschooling community/village is so key to opening more options for both the homeschooled student and the homeschooling parent. We’ve worked so hard to build our group, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am to be part of such an amazing group, and how grateful I am to each and every one of the parents who are willing to put their time and effort into teaching and sharing and helping this community thrive. This year is going to be an amazing school year!

RESOURCES for this school year:

 

If you have resources that you love, or that you think I would, please comment and share them!
Happy homeschooling!

Warmly,
~h

*upon further reflection, the NBTS Blog Hop is one of the first things I joined in on when we started homeschooling – I think it was the 2nd year they were doing it when we started – so it’s always been something that helped me feel connected to the homeschooling world, I suppose.

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It’s May!

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Well, it’s definitely summer now, and never you mind that the official start of summer is still another month away; this is Texas and Texas weather does not play by the standard rules. We had maybe two days of spring weather this year, and I think I was working on both of them, which is sad. But the good news is that and early summer means beach weather and I can’t wait to dig my toes into the sand! Our first  beach trip this year is coming up in a few weeks, and I am planning on digging out the beach bag this week in anticipation.

We started off this month with a vacation. I know – not super productive, but between work (which has gotten crazy) and just general stress and the blahs that were hard to shake, this mama needed a break, so I sent the kids to my brother’s for a week. Well, most of a week. My brother and sister-in-law live in Jasper, which is about an hour from us, so the boys for to go be country kids for a while. They have chickens, a pond, lots of room to roam, and best of all – no internet access. After a couple of days, I went up as well, which gave me a couple of days to unwind (for the most part).

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We came back home and, naturally, jumped right back into the swing of things. Our homeschool group hosts a Teen Social each month, and this month’s event was a field day with games and contests followed by ice cream and swimming. Each parent submitted a mental challenge and a physical challenge, and the kids split into two teams to compete for bragging rights. There were a lot of games – more than we had time for – including a relay race, a LARP sword fight, a yoga pose challenge and an improv exercise. They had a great time!

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We also finally got to go play D&D again – it’s been a while! The kids decided that we needed a picture that better illustrates the intensity and excitement of our campaign, so we staged this candid photo for you.

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We join KidsBowlFree every year – it’s an awesome deal if you like bowling; kids get a free game every day during the summer, and you can add the family pass on for a single low price. I don’t have an endorsement deal with them or anything; we’ve just signed up for the last few years and it’s been a great way to have a thing to do in the heat of the summer that’s indoors and inexpensive, and family friendly. We did our first bowling a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t snag any pictures.

We also had the last book club meeting and I am so annoyed that I also failed to grab a picture from that! It was a great group of kids this year, and I am so glad the boys actually got to participate this year. We always have had grand plans ion the past, but the date ended up in conflict with something else in our schedule. This year, it worked out – I think we only missed one meeting.

Park Day this month got rained out – at least we thought it did, so we rescheduled to one of our mom’s homes. I didn’t know it, but the families in our group got together and created  ‘Heather Appreciation Day’. I was so surprised! They wrote me the loveliest cards and just said the nicest things. I don’t typically think of myself as craving approval, but it was really nice to have it from so many moms that I have gotten to know and admire. It’s been so great to be part of their lives, and to watch them grow to support and inspire both me and the other moms in our homeschool group. We have such a great group, and I am so glad that they’re there to cultivate the vibe we have that makes our group the best!

There was also cake… amazing, delicious cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, which is a fairly new bakery in our area. Y’all… it was ah-maz-ing. Seriously. My favorite cake now is the chocolate chocolate chip. It was SO GOOD!

 

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We also spent that day prepping for WMC’s After School Playgroup Color War 2K16 (link below). We made holi powder with cornstarch and food dyes and water – so much mess fun! When you mix cornstarch and water, you get a non-Newtonian fluid, which is SUPER fun to play with. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the best holi powder, so after some trial and error, we found that using only tiny bits of water and using gloved hands to mix the color in was the best way to get a good, bright mix.

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This week, we took the kids back out to Clifton Steamboat Museum, which isn’t really a steamboat museum at all – it’s more an eclectic history museum. It started out as a private collection that belonged to the owner’s grandfather. The theme is ‘Heroes Past, Present and Future’ and it’s such a neat place! A couple of years ago, on our last visit, the kids took a photo with this same statue, so they did a re-creation this time. It’s tradition now, so we’ll have to do it again next time!

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Friday, we finally got all the holi powder off the kitchen table! We picked up my niece and joined quite a few of our friends at a local park for WMC’s After School Playgroup Color War 2K16.

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Afterwards, we met some friends for dinner, and went to see a showing of The Goonies in one of Beaumont’s historic downtown theaters.

We’re coming up on the end of May, and since we school year-round, it won’t be a long break, but we do have a week coming up soon without class planned, so (even though we just had a week off) I’m ready for it. I will have a high school lesson planning post coming up in a few weeks – high school for LBB is only 3 months away! I can NOT believe that we’re there already. I did some preliminary planning already, but there are still some decisions to be made that I am stressing over. Too much; not enough; too rigorous; not rigorous enough… it’s a hard thing to decide on. Plus, our homeschool group is planning a co-op for high schoolers in the fall, so that’ll be on our plate as well.

Hope your last few weeks of school are passing quickly!

Warmly,
~h

 

 


Fall 2015 – Book Club, NASA, Shakespeare and more!

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It seems like I am always playing catch-up, especially when it comes to blogging. I’ve pretty much accepted it, but I always feel guilty when I finally get around to updating. It’s not intentional; I usually start a new post draft for everything I want to write about, only to end up with a bunch of stuff that I decide to condense into one post (like this one) because so much time has passed and making individual posts gets to be a daunting task. One sort-of good thing about the last few months is that I’ve been trying to be more ‘in the moment’ rather than behind the camera, so I don’t have as many pictures of things we’ve been doing as I normally would. As great as I think being part of the moment is, I’ve come to the decision that I regret not having the pictures to preserve the memory, so I’m going back to my normal photo-documenting because that makes me happier. I’d like to say that I ‘learned something’ from this experience, but I don’t think I was ‘addicted to the camera’ in the first place, which is what articles of that kind were targeting. In any case lack of photo evidence does not a clearer schedule make, so let there be words!!

Such is the life of a busy mom, right?
In any case, here’s a snapshot of our life over the last few months:

September
Once again, our local library system is hosting a book club for homeschoolers. And, once again, after a very strong start, our schedules never manage to sync up with the book club schedule. <sigh> I LOVE the book club format, I really do. I love that our library, and especially our fantastic Librarian, make the effort to host the book club each month for our homeschoolers, and it pains me that we’re never quite able to make it work for us. That said, I snagged a group shot from the introductory meeting in September, which of course I am posting in November, because #reasons (#excuses).

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There are actually two clubs; one for kids 5-12, and one for 12+, which is awesome since my kids would hardly sit still for another rendition of ‘Goodnight, Moon’. The meeting format for the older kids involves a list of open questions so the kids can share their thoughts and ideas about the books they chose to read. It’s nice to have that variety, rather than limiting the discussion to a single book, but the format took some getting used to, I’ll admit. After the discussion, there’s usually a game and snacks. The first meeting we did an index card ‘getting to know you’ game. Each card held a topic that you were supposed to fill out; things like: top 5 books, 4 musicians, 4 words that describe me, 4 things I like to do… things like that. Then, it 11058577_10153076466066404_3812504784520512969_nwas trivia time with prizes. PeaGreen points out as I am writing this that he won the most M&Ms that day.

We’re doing the ‘choice of books’ format again this year, rather than the standard single book format, and in addition to the books she chooses for the month the kids can choose any book that’s considered ‘classical literature’, or pick a book from the College Board Reading List, which give them plenty of options. For the first month, the kids chose Treasure Island, which we’re currently reading (since we fell behind). November’s option will be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – we’re working on Literature, too, so this is a great way to cover both. Treasure Island, is, of course, a classic and filled with swashbuckling adventure. One of my favorite adaptations is Disney’s Treasure Planet, but it’s really quite different, so a comparison will be fun. One of the cool things about reading classics is that the book is available online, through Project Gutenberg, and there are options for study guides and teacher’s guides online. Penguin.com has a Teacher’s Guide for Treasure Island, and Tears of Joy Theater offers a guide for 20,000 Leagues.

We also hit our local JumpingWorldUSA, which is a pretty awesome place. I grew up with a big rectangular trampoline, and my kids had a round one when they were little, but nothing compares to a ROOM full of trampolines – floors made of bounce!! Our JW also has a dodge ball court, which is super cool. The kids always end up sweaty and tired when we leave.

October:

Our homeschool group’s teen social for October was at a local comic book shop, the Book Stan. They set up, and brought in some people to teach the kids how to play Magic: the Gathering, which I thought was pretty cool. The kids have collectively taken to calling it ‘nerd cards’, which I find both funny and appropriate. I got to bee the ‘cool mom’ for a half second, because I used to play and still have a collection of cards from way back in the 90’s (that my kids still can’t have). Their collections quickly surpassed mine though and they’re the experts on ‘nerd cards’ now. In addition to playing cards that they’re collecting, the boys both play Hearthstone, which is an online card game similar (in some ways) to M:tG.
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Our homeschool group put together a Shakespeare Party in October, too. The kids made paper dolls with the intent of acting out a play, but that got tossed in favor of using the Shakespeare Insult Kit to come up with inventive and bawdy insults to roast each other. Fun was had by all, but I think next time we’ll have to come up with a more organized plan and maybe get a little more actual learning in. We did have some printable paper dolls and a Globe Theater (and don’t you dare laugh at my little theater – those suckers are harder than they look to put together!!)

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Moving on…

October is also when NASA and the Johnson Space Center host their annual Homeschool Day, which is ALWAYS awesome. We had an action-packed day, with classes from 9AM to 3PM. The kids worked on several really cool projects; they built an app for a smartphone, programmed a robot to compete in a mission with other robots, and got to design and 3D-print a keychain with their initials in Morse code. Between classes, we sat in on a STEM presentation, and LBB went through the ‘missions’ in the center of the Space Center’s visitor area. Of all the homeschool day programs, NASA’s is one of the best for kids in middle/high school.
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We also had the opportunity to tour our local college campus and spend the day checking out college life.

November:

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In November, we had another teen social – this time at a local coffee shop for nerd cards and hanging out like the college klids do. We have a couple of coffeeshops that are the gathering place for teens and various groups in our area. Our local Secular HUmanist group meets here, and NaNoWriMo’s local group as well. It’s a comfy spot with free wifi and the best coffee… what’s not to love?

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same old routine around here. Lately, it feels like we’re just consumed with pre-algebra (which I still hate but am learning to appreciate… begrudgingly). Math continues to be the bane of my very existence. As a homeschooling parent who has issues with certain subjects, it’s really difficult to be conscious of how my attitude towards those subjects can affect my kids’ learning. Math and I just don’t mesh, but so much of that is instinctive, and based in perceived insufficiency that comes from years of poor teaching/poor learning in school. As I go through the lessons to prepare, I have consistently found that, while math is still not my strongest instinctive subject, it’s not anywhere near as difficult or incomprehensible as it’s always seemed in my mind.

I did find a pretty cool project for science – Element Brochures. The boys are still working on their first set, but I made a template that you can use if you’d like to create your own.

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We just had our speech class this month (no pictures), and we’re getting ready for our Thanksgiving Food Drive next week with our homeschool group.

I do have a request for my lovely readers. Yesterday morning, a very dear friend of mine lost her house and everything in it in a fire. She and her partner and their two little girls are currently homeless, relying on the generosity of friends and family for all of their needs right now. Unfortunately, they were not insured, and so getting back on their feet will be a struggle. We’ve created a GoFundMe account for them to help. If you’re in a position to donate, even a dollar, every bit helps. Thank you!! ❤

Happy Thanksgiving!! 🙂  (I know it’s a little early, but who knows when I’ll update next, LOL)
~h

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Go With The Flow

When it comes to establishing habits and patterns in your life, experts will say that you have to do it consistently for anywhere from 2 weeks to one month for it to become your new normal. While there may be some grain of truth to that, I think there’s more to it than just committing to something new for a while and expecting the new thing(s) to magically become ‘how you are’. Particularly  when it comes to making changes to habits that you’re pre-disposed to having or that you’ve had for years, or doing something totally new in your life that also works against your nature.

For example, homeschooling.

For many of us, taking on the full responsibility of educating our kids is a new thing. If you had a child in school, then going from being the mom who gets the kids up, fed, packed and out the door to school everyday, to being the parent who gets to revel in the first (or third) cuppa long before the kids get out of bed seems like a luxury. And it is, don’t get me wrong! But all too easily, in even the strictest of homeschooling homes, ‘relaxing’ can go too far. To be fair, so can rigidity – but this post isn’t really about how relaxed or rigid your homeschooling style is. It’s about moving from your reality to a space that is more in line with your ideal (provided your ideal is at least somewhat realistic).

Lots of parents, when they first start homeschooling, have this vision of educational perfection in their heads. I am not excluded from this misty-eyed vision of homeschool naiveté; it’s such a great fantasy! But that fantasy rarely takes into account your level of introductory excitement vs. your maintained enthusiasm. It also rarely takes into account the family’s routines and patterns.

‘What is she talking about?!’, you’re probably wondering. Hang in there – I’m getting to the point, I promise!

So, as a new homeschooling parent, you may have this vision of greeting the sun, coffee in hand, with snuggly children all around you. The sun rises, the birds sing, the children yawn and stretch and get ready for the day. While you gather your materials, they brush teeth and finish breakfast and everyone gathers at your knee to  start their daily lessons, while you (indulgently) pat them on the head and offer gentle re-directions and instructions as needed. The little darlings are blissed out, understanding their privileged state of learning at home, and showing deep respect and appreciation for the time and effort that their dear mother puts into finding the right curriculum and materials and blah, blah, blah… you get the picture.

Only to find out, disturbingly, that instead of this beautiful fantasy, you end up with a life that looks more like the after picture in this equation and wondering what the heck you did wrong.

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So what’s the trick? How do you go from your frazzled reality to a more peaceful new world? More importantly, how do you get started in such a way that you don’t automatically fail after a week?

The answer to both questions is ‘go with the flow’. What I mean by that, is to plan on a routine or schedule that flows within your already established patterns. If you’re not a morning person, then creating a schedule that requires you to be up with the sun is probably not going to be realistic. It’s easy to plan on paper – but when we have an ideal that doesn’t reflect the reality of our lives, instead of making adjustments and keeping that momentum going, all too often, we chalk it up to failure and nothing gets done that day….or week, or month. While ‘try again tomorrow’ is a good theory, it only works if tomorrow’s plan is better than today’s, and being creatures of habit, we rarely take the time to analyze what went wrong today and make changes (that we implement) for tomorrow.  

If your patterns run toward more productivity in the afternoon, it may be wise to schedule a lazier morning and have your more in-depth studies later in the day. However, if you notice that your precious little darlings work better in the mornings, it may be necessary to work towards making an earlier start. This may take some time to accomplish, but it’s worth it if it’s what your kids need.

I notice that, in my family, none of us are ‘morning people’, however when it comes to schoolwork, if we are up by 8AM and start school by 9AM, the day seems to be more productive overall. If we wait until 10 or 11 to get started, then it’s like pulling teeth all day to get their work accomplished. This sucks for me, because I could win sleep marathons if there was such a thing; no time is better for sleeping, in my opinion, than between 4AM and 11AM. MY most productive time is typically between about 11PM and 2AM. But my kids are not that way, so I’ve had to make adjustments to ensure that we get at least a couple of days during the week where we are up early and working earlier in the day.

So how do you make those changes? Small steps add up to big ones. Start small – it may be a matter of slowly adjusting your schedule over the course of weeks or months to get where you want to be. You could take a different approach and designate one or two days as ‘this’ schedule, and one or two days as ‘that’ schedule. We tend to take the second approach; one day home, one day out. One day early, one day later. It works for us because it doesn’t require the odious task of making a permanent change that contradicts my personal needs (or desires, if you wanna get technical about it. Habits… how’s that?).

Another facet of ‘going with the flow’ is your ability to put in the time and effort – meaning, in short, homeschooling is hard. And time-consuming. And HARD for the parent. It’s much more-so if you choose to construct your syllabus, rather than rely on a boxed curriculum. Much of your free time is eaten up with school planning and studying so that you can provide for your kids. Realistically, after a couple of years, that gets old. Your eventual need for a break can outweigh your intent, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that. Implementing a change that helps the situation is better than dealing with burnout (which can last a long time).

I’m talking about getting help with school. If you can outsource in any way – whether that’s just having Dad (or Mom if you’re a homeschooling Pop), or Grandma or Grandpa or a homeschooling friend or co-op or community lessons or a tutoring center … if you can lighten your load, then don’t be afraid to take advantage of those resources. Some of them are costly, and for many (us, included) that takes them off the table – but some solutions just take effort to implement! A mini-co-op, for example: choose one or two days a week and one or two friends who have strengths in subjects you’re weaker in and school together. There are many free online resources that can lighten your load as well.

This year is the first year that I am out-sourcing some of the kids’ work – and ‘lo, it is *glorious*.  Math is not my favorite subject, and it’s my weakest subject, both for my own skills and my ability and confidence to teach, so we outsourced it this year. Having Maths off my plate to plan and teach has relived SO MUCH of my stress – I can’t even tell you. I’m not totally un-involved; we’re using Khan Academy, and we all have accounts. I ‘play’ too, and we compete. I brush up on my skills, learn new things, have my finger on the pulse of their lesson and it’s fun, too. But being able to oversee, rather than instruct has made this year so much more enjoyable for me (and less stressful).

Another way to ‘go with the flow’ involves maintaining the connection and relationship and communication you have with your child(ren). Successful homeschooling is a two-way street; it involves the kids just as much as the parents. Some days, the vibe is just ‘off’ and as any seasoned homeschooling parent can tell you, it’s far better to reschedule the day than it is to try to force something that’s going to make everyone miserable. I tend to build in ‘slacker’ days on our schedule so that we can either take that day with a lighter load, or play catch up if we needed that slack earlier. It all evens out in the end, and makes for much more harmonious days as we go.

So what are your tips and tricks for ‘going withe the flow’?
Warmly,
~h


Fall Update

The last couple of weeks, I’ve made some changes to how I am assigning the boys their work. We’ve tried using various methods (workboxes, STARS journals, various binders and lists, to name a few), but nothing has really stuck. Partially, I think I was pushing too hard for too much independence before they were ready, but now that they’re older, we’re trying some more self-paced scheduling.

Last week, I printed their assignments and gave the pages to the boys and allowed them to work at their own pace. Loverly Husband was off Friday (home DIY-ness related), so the understanding was that if they got all their work accomplished for the week before Friday, they could have Friday off. While they didn’t quite hit that goal, overall, this method was successful, so we’re trying it again this week.

I usually plan 3-4 weeks at a time, but having them knowing what’s on the schedule for the week is nice. In the past, LBB especially, has gotten overwhelmed with seeing everything laid out, but he’s able to focus on one day at a time and work neatly with the week’s schedule (thank goodness!!) – that’s an ADHD/anxiety success!

In other news, we’ve been busy with our homeschool group – the Houston Children’s Museum held their homeschool day a couple of weeks ago, and we had a great time! They have this child-sized city called ‘Kidtropolis‘ that has samples of real life – all kinds of jobs, including: a TV station, a postal service, a bank, a grocery store, city hall, police/fire/EMS, restaurant, vet – the kids can ‘work’ and get ‘paid’, make deposits at the bank, ‘buy’ things at the store, change jobs… it’s really neat. This was the first time that either of my kids really made an effort to experience it. LBB started working in the restaurant, and was eventually promoted to manager. It was fun watching him ‘work’ with all the other kids.

We also dabbled in some folk art while out at the park. The kids used glue and paints to faux-batik pillowcases. PeaGreen was pretty happy with his rendition of Link from Legend of Zelda, while LBB was less enthused about the entire project. Still, he managed a decent representation of the Destiny logo.

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We’ve been using Khan Academy for math, and after some initial trepidation, we’ve established a routine with it and it’s working well. Basically, the boys are ‘learning’ each new concept by watching the video. Then working through the ‘practice’ sessions, and then competing each section with a ‘mastery challenge’. Questions and concepts do come back up even though they’ve mastered them, so it’s keeping skills in the rotation, which is nice. The boys are spending about 5 hours per week on math, which is good at this stage. It was taking them a bit longer, but they’ve gotten the hang of doing it this way now, and it’s nice. I love that I am not having to ‘teach’ it – when they get stuck, we watch the video together (because I am often just as lost as they are), so we talk it out and work through the problems together, then they continue working on their own.

I think that having such a central subject taken off of my plate has helped me get a handle on things. I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with middle school curriculum – math is so not my area of expertise, so being able to pass that off to more qualified ‘teachers’ is awesome. Plus, I think that it’s helped the boys be more independent and not rely so much on me.

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Last but not least, this is the boys’ new bathroom! Loverly Husband spent this weekend ripping out the floor and walls and replacing everything from sub-flooring to fixtures. We had bathroom wallboard in there, but it wasn’t sealed very well, so water has been seeping behind it, and rotted out the floor and a lot of the wood underneath the wallboard. It was totally nasty in there. But thanks to all his hard work, it looks great! We bought a new shower curtain and will be painting soon and it will be all done. I absolutely could not be happier that the floor and bathtub surround are done though.

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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


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