90 Days of Homeschool and Evaluation Time

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We recently completed the first half of our homeschool year, we’re due for portfolio evaluations soon and I’m stressing out probably more than I should be. It’s been a wonderful experience. I love homeschooling all in all. Some days it feels like an uphill battle, some days none of us want to do it but we know we have to so we do anyway. Most days are met with enthusiasm and “what are we learning about today mom?” though, which I’m greatful for.

Everyone’s looking forward to our upcoming holiday breaks, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

Here are some things I’ve learned from our first half year of homeschooling:

  • If you need a break, take one. The public schooled children get lots of days off for teacher development, snow days and federal holidays. It’s OK for you to take one off too.
  • Make it a point to get your kids involved with other kids. My oldest is an introvert, he’d be happy building Legos in his room all day. My middle is a social butterfly though and he needs to be around kids that are not siblings. We usually do some kind of activity, from taekwondo to ballet to boyscouts, every afternoon so that we get out and see other people.
  • Stay organized, have a routine, have a plan, but stay flexible. I plan out what we’re going to do every Sunday but sometimes that plan changes. Recently my oldest has been interested in DNA, cell division and cloning. We spent a week learning about that instead of our usual science.
  • It’s realistic to expect that you children only spend a couple of hours a day on seatwork. Something that surprised me was how fast my kids got all their work done. For my Kindergartner he does maybe 45 minutes of seat work a day, for my 2nd grader he does 1 and a half to 2 hours. I later learned that the homeschool “rule of thumb” is 1 hour of seat work per grade level, so we were right on target. Remember that much of the day at public school is spent doing busy work, waiting for other people to finish their work, standing in line, traveling from class to class and on break and lunch period.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource just a bit. I hate teaching art and I feel underqualified to properly teach music so my kids take those two classes, along with drama (just for fun) at a co-op every Thursday.
  • You don’t have to follow your curriculua verbatum. My kids move slower in science than the lesson plans suggested in their curriculum, that’s fine. My oldest moves more quickly through his reading and spelling, again fine. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can tailor your lessons to fit the pace and style of your kids’ learning.

So far it’s been an adventure, bring on the next 90 days!

Life Plus Homeschool

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We started homeschooling 12 days ago. I know it has been 12 days because of our handy calendar system (which the kids love, by the way). It’s interesting to see how much my “style” of homeschooling has evolved in even this short amount of time. When I went into this, I thought I’d be regimented. I had my days planned out in a spreadsheet in 15 minute increments, just like they do in school. I wanted to make sure that I was spending enough time per subject per day.

I realized something a little while back though, my kids don’t need 45 minutes for math. They don’t need 30 minutes for writing. The blocks of time that one has in a school are there to accomidate kids that learn at different paces, they’re there so that the teacher can address every student as they are doing their task. When you’re one on one, or one on two as it were, things move much more quickly.

The county that we live in suggests that you spend 6 hours a day on school. 6 hours?! I suppose they don’t account for other things that happen in a school environment like recess, lunch and PE.

My kids actually spend about three hours a day “doing school”. They do their every day subjects like Math and English first thing in the morning, from 7 until about 8:30 or 9. They do their every other day subject when the toddler naps at 10:00 because that’s either History or Science, both of which are more involved with large projects or lengthy explanations.

Their afternoons are spent playing, building with Legos or doing their extracurricular activities like taekwondo and dance (which also count for PE!). They go grocery shopping with me and bake with me and tromp around outside in the woods. The other day my oldest child made and buried a time capsule for “future archeologists” completely on his own. It wasn’t part of the curriculum, it wasn’t in the lesson plan. He just did it.

So far I’m really enjoying this. We’re more relaxed as a family. The boys still fight, my oldest still has to lock himself in his room sometimes just so that he can have his alone time but the pace of life seems more natural than it ever did when we were rushing out the door at 8:15 every morning to make the 8:45 school bell.

More activities begin in September like co-op and cub scouts, it will be interesting to see how things shift when that happens but so far the kids are doing well, I feel less stressed out and our house is slightly more harmonious than it was before. I count that as a win.

Curriculum Rundown

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When we first decided that yes, we are going to homeschool I felt overwhelmed. The first thing I started doing was looking for a boxed, ready made, all in one curriculum. There are a bunch of fantastic ones out there but in the process I started discovering different individual subject curricula and instead started picking and choosing which of those I liked the best. So far the process has actually been pretty fun. This post has been a couple of months in the making because we’ve spent that long gathering our resources.

My state requires me to teach English (they call it Language Arts but I’m going to be calling it English), Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, PE and Health. My older child will be 7 in July, a 2nd grader and my middle child will be 5 in July, a Kindergartner.

First we’ll talk about the curricula that I’m going to use for both of my older children to do in combined lessons. You can see them all pictured above but I’ll examine them piece by piece.

Science: Apologia

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Our science curriculum for next year is called Apologia. I like it because it’s a Christian world view centric curriculum and it doesn’t speak to the students like they are idiots. I was dubious at only doing one subject for the entire year at first but Apologia’s reasoning about it makes sense. I like how deep they delve and how thorough they are with each subject they cover. We actually bought all of the elementary text books and all of the junior notebooking journals to allow the children to choose which topics of study they want to learn in which order.

They chose swimming creatures followed by chemistry and physics for next year.

 

Social Studies – History: Story of the World

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I love anything by Susan Wise Bauer. The Well-Trained Mind is a valuable resource for homeschooling parents and really just parents in general. We actually purchased her history books before we decided to start homeschooling, all we had to buy for this were the student pages. It’s important to me to teach history chronologically. History is a passion of mine and I dislike very much how country-centric most History programs are. American kids are taught about the world from America out. British kids are taught about the world from Britain out. I like that this series does not focus on one country as the “center” of the world.

Most kids my kids’ age will be doing “all about my community” or similar things in their social studies programs, I think that this is kind of a backward way of teaching things. The best way to tell a story is to start at the beginning.

Next year we’ll be starting with stone age man and moving up to the Egyptians. If they want a faster pace, well go faster than that.

 

Music and Art – Story of the Orchestra and The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas

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Art will be done at our co-op for the majority of the year, but we are going to have a semester in the spring of 2016 where I will need to teach Art because the co-op is doing cursive writing that session and that is something that I’ll be teaching as part of English. I like the Usborne art book, it’s good for once a week lessons. There’s also a free art curriculum called Art Tango which has a lot of artist appreciation in it that we’ll use.

For music, I actually bought the pair of the recorders and a recorder lesson book (heaven help me) but The Story of the Orchestra was recommended to me by a homeschooling forum, so we’ll use that as well.

Now that we’re through the combined subjects, time to explore the individual subjects.

2nd Grade English – All About Reading, All About Spelling, Shurley Grammar, Watch Our Writing, Copycat Books Copywork, Journaling

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All About Reading / Spelling:

I was actually having a lot of trouble finding a reading and spelling curriculum before I discovered the All About series. It’s important to me that my kids learn to read and spell using phonics, I really liked the program that my oldest child did in 1st grade this year and I wanted something similar to that. All About was something I kind of stumbled on and I absolutely love it. It’s quite teacher intensive and there are a lot of fiddly little bits like magnetic tiles and flashcards but it is a good, solid program.

Shurley Grammar:

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The Shurley Grammar series is something that my kids’ private school uses starting with level 1 in 2nd grade. I’m a little dubious about it, it gets mixed reviews and the teacher book is quite a complicated read but we’ll see how we do. The great thing about homeschooling is that if you don’t like something you can scrap it and find something else. I like the jingles that this series has, my oldest likes to use jingles to learn things.

 

Watch Our Writing is a custom cursive curriculum that the private school graciously gifted to me. The Copycat Books copywork was downloaded for $5 a piece, we used the “Traditional” cursive pages and they’ll likely compliment our History curriculum. Finally, my oldest loves to write stories. I’m going to get him a journal and encourage him to just write whatever he wants to write.

 

2nd Grade Math – Singapore

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My oldest did Singapore math in private school this year, it made sense to just continue with it. The Singapore materials are bright, colorful and explain things well.

 

Kindergarten English – All About Reading – Prereading, Explode The Code “Get Ready”, “Get Set” and “Go”

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My oldest did Explode the Code in 1st grade, but I’m not sure if we’ll use it for second grade. I do like Get Ready, Get Set and Go though for my Kindergartner. We’ll be doing a “letter of the week” curriculum that I have written myself, these books will be a great compliment for it.

 

All About Reading – Pre-reading

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My Kindergartner will be starting to learn phonics next year, I don’t expect him to be reading next year but if he wants to I won’t stop him. We’re starting with the AAR pre-reading curriculum and moving on from there. We also own AAR / AAS 1 in case he’s ready for that next year.

 

Kindergarten Math – Singapore

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The Singapore Kindergarten Math books are interesting. Book A moves appropriately slowly, book B moves, in my opinion very fast. So what I did was go through book A and find more free examples online of the sort of activities that are in the book to pad my lessons out with. We intend to only do book A next year, but again if he’s ready for book B we’ll do it too.

 

For PE they take Taekwondo twice a week. For Health we work that into our daily lives.

 

Scanning System –

I have taken all of the consumables from these curricula and scanned them to our fileserver. I did this because it means that we won’t have to buy additional consumable books in the future, I can just print out pages as I need them. Sure, we’re going to go through a lot of printer paper and ink but I prefer it this way. It means that when our youngest is ready for school, all of his materials will be ready to go.

 

Subject Card System –

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This is my subject card pocket folder. I initially had a very detailed XL file with every day planned out in 15 minute increments. Then I stepped back, took a look at it and said “why”? My kids don’t need to be that regimented, they need to get certain subjects done yes but part of homeschooling is flexibility. So I came up with this idea. Each kid has his set of cards, I’ll put the cards that he needs to do that day in the folder in the morning and he can take the card out when he’s done. We’ll be doing Science and History twice a week, Art once a week and Music once a week.

Latin is a subject that I have added but I’m not sure how often I’m going to teach it. I think that Latin instruction is important, but not more important than the other subjects. I’ll be playing Latin by ear next year.

 

My favorite thing that we bought for homeschooling this year, however, is this –

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What kid wouldn’t want to have recess here?

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Homeschool Room Tour

Hello everyone! I’ve been waiting to post because my husband and I have been working hard on gathering materials and creating our homeschooling space. We’re finally pretty much there (though I do have a “Carpe Diem” wall sticker on the way!) so now I can post some images and do a walkthrough.

Before we actually get into the room itself let’s look at the library / tot area in the living room.

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We have a very large living room area that we visually separated into two areas. A couple of Target bookshelves are on the left, a play rug and a chair. I plan on doing DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time here as well as circle time type activities for my two younger children. The two rainbow things there on the right are a little tot bookshelf, that my 18 month old loves, and a multi bin toy organizer. There’s also a fabric toybox beside the chair that you can’t see in this picture.

Next we’ll actually go into the homeschool room. This was just “my office” before, blank walls, very blah.

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Here you can see the rainbow cursive letter board, the Quartet cork board, two posters (one scientific method, one numbers 1-100), the calendar time board and my desk. Pretty much everything here was purchased off of Amazon.com, except for the calendar time board. I got the printables for that from here http://www.mamajenn.com/MamaJenn/CalendarTime.html . It was a little bit of work but in the end worth it. My toddler has already stolen some of the flip cards from it, I’m grateful for them being all held together with lose binder rings. If we had a traditional pocket chart calendar I could just imagine the little cards everywhere in a heartbeat.

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Here’s a closeup of our calendar time board. Mama Jenn recommends you make it on a piece of poster board, I actually made it on a foam board because I wanted something that would take the tacks a little better. I also had to make my own “year” cards.

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This is the desk area. We got a desk for the toddler too so that he can feel like a big boy. The desks are from hayneedle. They are the perfect size for my soon to be 5 year old and my soon to be 7 year old will get at least a year out of them depending on growth spurts. I really like these desks, they’re adorable, they’re made of solid wood and the compartments inside are large enough to hold a couple of binders, a pencil box and more. I like that each child gets his own little storage area. The whiteboard is a Quartet magnetic white board. My husband had one in his office that I like, we just got the smaller version.

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Here’s my desk! Yet another Quartet cork board that will be flanked by some shelving, our weather station on the right there is the “AcuRite 01036 Pro Color Weather Station” and the printer scanner combo is the Epson Workforce WF-3640. We’ve been pretty impressed with the Epson printers so far, we’ll see how it holds up in the long term.

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Finally, here’s the inside of one of the closets. The bookshelves are $30 specials from Walmart, they serve their purpose and I don’t need them to be pretty. Our curricula is all on the two top shelves, the second shelf with the magazine organizers is going to be for student materials for individual subjects. On the right I just have supplies. Down on the third shelf I have all my maniplatives and counters.

The glass jar may be a little difficult to read, it says “Fruit of the Spirit”. My middle son’s preschool teacher does this and I thought it was a cute idea. Basically when the children do something nice or follow the rules they get a piece of plastic fruit to put in the Fruit of the Spirit jar. Once the jar is full they get a reward like a picnic or a trip to the bounce houses or something.

Beside that there’s the obligatory laminator and electric pencil sharpener.

Finally the fourth shelf has a bunch of stacking plastic boxes for my middle kid’s “centers” activities. The other plastic shoeboxes have magnatiles in them. I’ll go more into Kindergarten centers in a future post because right now I have to run out and take my kids to school. I’m counting down the days until we don’t have to do the 40 minute early morning drive to their school. Not long left!

 

Our Home Education Adventure

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Remember the issue with our private school and my middle son’s pink shirts? Perhaps that was the tipping point for me, I don’t know. I have been considering homeschooling for years, ever since my oldest was a baby in fact. Things have compounded that have shown me this is the way we should go. The cost, the travel time (the poor toddler spends hours and hours in the car) and the general schedule. I want more time with my kids. I’m sick of rushing from school to extracurricular activities and then rushing home, rushing through supper and homework and bed.

I’ve been full of doubts, however. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to motivate my notoriously stubborn middle kid, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to juggle the baby and the dogs and the housework and trying to take care of myself and the extracurriculars along with having the responsibility of my children’s education. But you know what? I’m going to take that leap anyway.

I liken this feeling to the feeling that a parent gets when they are expecting their first child. Can I do this? Can I have all the responsibility for the upbringing of a brand new person resting on my shoulders? What if I screw up and ruin them for life? Everyone has these feelings. In spite of this, we still do it. We still take a huge leap into the unknown and have children. This is just another leg in the adventure.

Now that I’m over my initial terror at the concept, I’m actually really enjoying the process. Right after the realization hit me that yes, we are going to do this, I thought I’d just use an all in one boxed curriculum and call it a day. Since then I’ve become hooked on researching curricula, reading reviews, talking to other homeschoolers and piecing together my own stuff. It’s getting fun and not so daunting.

I’m excited! The money we would have spent on private school will be spent on our homeschool room, our materials, music lessons and a playground for the back yard (we need somewhere for recess after all). So not only will I be chronicling our chickens this year, but I’ll be posting stuff about our homeschooling adventure as well!