Showing posts with label Homeschooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschooling. Show all posts

What I Learned In Our First (Real) Year Of Homeschooling




This past week we finished up our homeschool year.  I have to say, I was a homeschooled student, but coming from the mom side is a whole different thing.  There are a lot of advantages I have as a homeschool mom from being a homeschool student myself, but there are also a lot of things that you can't learn until you are on the teaching side of it.  I thought I'd take a little time today to reflect on what I've learned over this first year of homeschooling (first real year anyway - in my book, kindergarten doesn't count).


Homeschooling Is Great For Developing Patience

I would in no way consider myself a patient person.  Patience is something that I've struggled with over the years - I get impatient when things don't go smoothly, when I have to repeat myself, when things don't go my way.  Getting married cured me of some of that.  Having kids has grown me even more.  But having my kids with me 24/7 and teaching them myself at home is a whole other ball game when it comes to patience.

When I mention that I am homeschooling my kids, I've had lots of moms say to me "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience for that."  This year I learned that I don't have the patience for homeschooling either.  The secret is, a lot of moms who choose to homeschool don't have the patience for it.  But homeschooling is an excellent facilitator for sanctification.

I know you've heard it said that if you ask God for more patience, He'll give you opportunities to practice it, and that's exactly what homeschooling has done for me.  It hasn't always been pretty, and my deep-seated impatience has never been more obvious to me, but I can honestly say that at the end of this year that I am more patient then I was at the beginning of the year.  And that's purely through God enabling me and giving me practice at developing patience through this thing called homeschooling.  It's hard, but I know this is exactly why I should be doing it.

It's Okay To Change Curricula In The Middle Of The Year

I mentioned in a recent post that we ended up changing curricula in the middle of the year.  A lot of homeschool posts will advise you against switching your curriculum, will tell you to give it a really good chance before you drop it.  And there's some wisdom in that.  You obviously can't be switching curricula constantly - it would waste a lot of money and stunt your child's learning.  But this year I learned that when something just isn't working, you should find something else that will.  I'm so glad we didn't muddle through the whole year with the curriculum I had originally bought for reading - finding a curriculum that fit was so life-giving to our homeschool days!  Switching curricula mid-year does not mean you are a failure for starting with the wrong one.  When you are in the early homeschooling years with any kid, it's going to take a little trial and error to figure out what will work best with your unique blend of personalities.  I imagine we might have to switch curricula mid-year again at some point since I have five different kids with unique learning needs, and that's okay!

You Will Be Miserable If You Don't Learn To Stop Comparing

I remember seven years ago, as a brand-new mom, I struggled constantly with comparing my baby to all my friends' babies.  I doubted myself whenever another child started rolling over, walking, talking before my own baby.  Every new mom has to learn not to compare her baby to others, because every child learns and develops at their own pace.  I eventually became secure as a mom as I learned those things.  What I didn't expect was for all those insecurities to come roaring back as soon as my oldest hit school age.  This year I had to re-learn all over again that kids' learn and grow at their own pace, and that this will necessarily affect the way we homeschool.  While kids' need to be challenged to grow, there are also times when they are just not ready for a certain academic skill and you have to sit back and wait until they are.  Learning when to challenge your child with a new skill and when to wait a bit - and learning to stop comparing your child to other children - is part of becoming a good homeschool teacher.  



You Actually Can Have A Baby In The Middle Of A Homeschool Year

I have to admit, I was nervous about how having a new baby in the house would affect our homeschool year.  This is the first year we have had a legal requirement on the amount of days we needed to do school, and I was really worried that having a baby would make it hard to hit our target. But I learned that having a baby in the middle of a school year is not really a big deal.  The great part of homeschooling is that it is so flexible!

I tried to get ahead a bit by schooling a few days here and there over last summer, but we only accumulated 20 extra days.  When Georgie was born at the end of October, I took the entire months of November and December off, and we didn't do a single thing (aside from some field trips).  But we still finished up our school year before June!  Our school days after Georgie arrived were laid-back and simple - we did practically no school work in the mornings.  When the little ones were down for a nap in the afternoon, then we would work on our reading, language arts, and math.  When the younger ones got up, we'd read our history and science books together.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that homeschooling fit easily into our new life stage - and the key was letting our days be flexible.  I'm actually glad I didn't have to deal with getting my kids out the door in the morning and picking them up by a certain time every day, not to mention all the extra preparation for lunches and school events - it might actually be easier to have a baby without sending my kids' to a school building!

Learn To Love What Must Be Done

I am admittedly an academia-loving person.  I get excited by school supplies.  I love studying and learning new things myself.  I actually love the idea of teaching my kids history and science!  But there are some areas of being a homeschool teacher that I was not as excited about.  I've had multiple friends make comments to me too about not looking forward to homeschooling, not feeling excited or passionate about it.  However, through this first year of homeschooling I've learned that it is possible to learn to love what must be done.

I can't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has become a constant refrain for me this year, as we pushed through our lessons on days when I was just not feeling it.  It's impossible to be passionate and excited about something all the time, and I think to be successful at homeschooling you have to realize that. You can push through and learn to love what you are doing anyway.

It's the difference between the newly-married, heart-pounding love, and the steady deeper love that you have when you've been married for years.  As the fresh excitement of the school year faded, and the seeming drudgery of daily work took over, I learned that there is a deeper satisfaction and passion that develops when you push through, as you find the meaningful in the midst of the everyday, as you learn to shake things up and give yourself a fresh perspective throughout the journey.

That's how you learn to love what must be done, by sticking with a commitment even when you don't feel a superficial excitement about it - there's a deeper accomplishment, and yes, even a love, that comes with the commitment.

Next year is my first year homeschooling two kids in two different grades, so the learning has just begun!  Stay tuned.

Homeschool friends, what was the biggest thing you learned in your first year of homeschooling?


Homeschool Curriculum: First Grade In Review

(Note: Some affiliate links below.)

I sat down and counted up our school days the other day and realized we have less than 20 days left before we hit our required number of homeschool days.  That means I'm less than a month away from having my first true year of homeschooling under my belt! (I am not counting kindergarten.)

Last year before we started I shared all about my curricula picks for first grade.  So how did all that work out for me?  Here's the breakdown:

Math

What We Started With: Rightstart Math

What We Ended With: Rightstart Math

I have zero complaints about this curriculum!  Rightstart has an unusual method and order for teaching math, but I was really impressed it.  I love how it teaches underlying math concepts, instead of just rote memorization!  This curriculum was such a good fit for my teaching style and Wyatt's learning style! We love all the manipulatives, the way it reinforces concepts through games, and the focus on teaching kids to visualize numbers in their heads.  It is so much more enjoyable for Wyatt and myself than doing endless math problems and worksheets.  I am really happy with it, and will use it with all my kids as long as it fits their learning styles!

What We'll Use Next Year: Rightstart




Reading

What We Started With: 100 Easy Lessons and Rod And Staff

What We Ended With: All About Reading

As we were entering the school year last fall, I knew we were going to be finishing up 100 Easy Lessons before the year was out...so I knew I'd have to shift to something else.  We limped along with 100 Easy Lessons until I had Georgie, and to be honest, by the end we were kind of hating it.  I really love the first half of that book, which takes your child from knowing nothing to reading sentences.  However, by the time we got about 75% of the way through the book we were really bored and frustrated.  I was also a little irritated because that book took forever to introduce all the letters/sounds, and didn't go over all the rules I wanted to teach Wyatt.  It got him reading, but by the time Georgie was born we were fighting through the lessons and I was ready for something different.

We were loving our math curriculum so much because it had different activities and manipulative to go with each lesson, so I was wanting something more like that for reading.  I did a little research and decided to give All About Reading a try.  I've heard so many good things about it (and it was recommended by a great blog friend too!), so I ordered our level and got started.  Wyatt flew through that whole curriculum in a few months and we both stopped dreading reading so much!  It gave him so much confidence, so it was definitely the right call!

In the end, I don't regret starting with 100 Easy Lessons, because I still think that book has the best method for teaching blending that I have come across.  Blending is only covered in one lesson in All About Reading, and if your kid doesn't naturally get it, 100 Easy Lessons would be a great resource.  I think the reason we got through AAR so quickly was because we started with 100 Easy Lessons.  For my other kids, I will probably start them on 100 Easy Lessons and then switch halfway through the book instead of suffering through the last half.

What We'll Use Next Year: All About Reading





Writing/LA

What We Started With: First Language Lessons, 100 Bible Verses To Read And Write
What We Ended With: 100 Bible Verses To Read And Write

I took a more casual approach to writing and language arts this year, since the language arts priority was solidifying reading skills.  We did copy work (mostly with the 100 Bible Verses book) and wrote notes to family members for writing.  For language arts concepts, we had plans to use First Language Lessons - but if I'm honest, we hardly used it at all.  We talked about some LA concepts as we were doing All About Reading, and I'll review a few things over the summer with Wyatt before we start a more structured writing program this fall.

What We'll Use Next Year: TBD



Science


What We Ended With: Apologia Flying Creatures, BFSU, and random library books

I'm going to be honest and tell you that science kind of took a backseat with the whole having-a-baby thing this year.  I had so many grand plans to do all the experiments in our Apologia science book, the science activities in BFSU.  I was going to be a science-super-mom!

However, after Georgie was born I just was not organized enough to plan a bunch of experiments and do a really organized study - so we ended up going through a few random sections of Apologia and BFSU (according to whatever looked interesting), and grabbing coordinating books from the library.  We did a couple field trips, and a couple science experiments - all interest led though, not really what was in the books.   We kind of just went flying by the seat of our pants!  I'm actually quite happy with how this turned out.  Science at this level is mostly to get kids interested anyway, and I'm fine with that!  My plan is to do a few more science activities this summer to introduce different concepts that I really wanted to cover this year, and then start fresh in the fall.

What We'll Do Next Year: Stay Tuned, I'm figuring that out now.



History

What We Started With: Beautiful Feet Books

What We Ended With: Beautiful Feet Books

I love this curriculum!  For history I knew I wanted a literature-based approach to American History, so we chose the Early American History set from Beautiful Feet Books.  There are all kinds of suggested activities in the study guide, but we have really just read the books and done coordinating field trips this year.  We are stretching this curriculum out for two years instead of just one, so we are finishing up half the curriculum this year, and we'll finish it next year.  We haven't covered a huge range of historical events, but what we have covered I feel that we've covered well - my kids have retained a lot of what we've read this year.  It makes my heart happy every time they see a historical reference somewhere else and exclaim "It's just like in our book!"

What We'll Use Next Year: We are continuing with Beautiful Feet Books Early American History for sure, and may throw in another set (possibly the World History set from BFB or Story Of The World).

Bible

What We Started With: ?

What We Ended With: CBS

If you remember, I was a little unsure of what we would use for a Bible curriculum.  I had a really hard time finding something I was satisfied with, and I honestly just gave up searching as I approached my due date.  Then after Christmas we attended a visitor day at our local Community Bible Study, and I loved it! I did CBS growing up, and I forgot how thorough and deep the lesson books are.  This will basically be our Bible curriculum from here on out.  Once the kids reach grade school, they get their own lesson book that coordinates with the adult lesson books, which I love!  We work through the passage together and then attend our CBS meeting each week to discuss with others, so it's a social opportunity and Bible curriculum all in one!

What We'll Do Next Year:  CBS

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I'll do a more in-depth post soon about what we will be doing next year for 2nd grade and kindergarten!  But in the meantime, I've been searching for books to read for me over this summer.  I like to read a few homeschool-related books in the summer to keep my motivation up and give me ideas.  If I get a good list going I'll write another post, but I'm excited about this one:



My blog friend Elizabeth is also one of my favorite homeschool bloggers - she gives so much inspiration, ideas, and encouragement on her site.  Well, she wrote a new ebook called Lifestyle Homechooling, and it's launching today!  I'm really excited to pick this one up, because I'd say "lifestyle homeschooling" is a perfect term for what I'm going for in our homeschool.  This past year I have been loving how flexible homeschooling is, how I'm able to work it into our family life and fit it into the life stage we are in right now with a baby.  I'm looking forward to getting some ideas from Lifestyle Homeschooling - definitely check it out!

(Note: I am part of the launch team for Lifestyle Homeschooling, and will be receiving a free copy of the book in exchange.  Follow me on Goodreads to see my eventual review!)


Thoughts On Homeschool Rooms



Each year in the spring, I start to think in the direction of all things homeschooling (at least ever since my kids have been old enough for me to think about school).  I start planning next year's curriculum, I break out all my books about homeschooling, and I watch a bunch of videos on Youtube.  I happen to follow several homeschooling moms on Youtube (one of these days I'll put a list together for you), and I've come across quite a few "homeschool room tour" videos.

Now, most of you know that I was homeschooled growing up, and this homeschool room idea honestly surprised me.  I had never even heard of having a "homeschool room" until the last couple years.  

We do not have a homeschool room.  You can watch this little video to see our current homeschool setup:





We do most of our schoolwork together right now, and it happens most often at the kitchen table. 
The kids seem a little less wiggly when I have them sit at a table (which is probably also why most homeschool rooms feature a table).  Occasionally we do work on the couch, but that's always a little more chaotic.  Since the only table we have is in the kitchen, that's where we work.  This works out really well for us, and I'll often have Wyatt read to me while I fix dinner or whatever.  Having him at the kitchen table allows me to multitask part of the time (and he actually seems to read better when I'm not sitting right next to him looking over his shoulder).

When I was growing up, we did not have a homeschool room.  School was a more casual affair, and my mom gave us a lot of freedom as long as the work got done.  As a child, I would grab my schoolbooks in the morning, and take them wherever I felt like doing school that day.  My typical routine was to fix a big glass of ice water and lay down on my stomach in the morning sunlight that came through our living room window.  In the afternoon when the sun shifted, I often put on my swimsuit, gathered up my books, and did school in the hot tub (in retrospect, kudos to my mom for not worrying about me dropping my textbooks into the water).  Doing school wherever I wanted weirdly made the whole thing feel less like work and more like fun.

So honestly, even if I had an unused room, I'm not really sure if I would designate it as a homeschool room.  I don't want to restrict my kids to doing their schoolwork in just one area of the house.  As a former homeschool student, I know how much I enjoyed shifting to different areas throughout the day, and as the kids become more independent with their schoolwork I want them to have the freedom to go wherever is easiest and most fun for them too.

Though I tell you, if I had an extra room, I would definitely consider a homeschool library room...

Do you have a room designated for homeschooling?  Or do you just do schoolwork wherever, like me?


Homeschool Curriculum Picks For First Grade



I’ve been gearing up for this year of homeschooling for months now, and I’m happy to report that I finally have all my curriculum choices ironed out!  

I wrote last year about different homeschooling styles, and if you are familiar with homeschooling philosophies you’ll probably guess that my style (so far anyway) is an eclectic Charlotte Mason.  I like learning through real books, but I do use some workbooks and texts too, which is where the eclectic side of it comes in.

Without further ado, here are my choices for the first grade!  I have high hopes for this school year and am curious to see how all these choices work out for us!

(Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.)

Science

For science this year we are working through Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures Of The Fifth Day.  I did Apologia science in high school when I was homeschooled and I LOVED it. I read through my science book just for fun sometimes - it was that good.  I was really excited to see that Apologia had a science curriculum for elementary school as well!  I love how it not only teaches solid science, but is written from a biblical worldview.  It points out where science and the Bible intersect, and I love that!  Wyatt is also very interested in “flying things”, particularly birds, so I think he’ll soak this science book up.

Some of the assignments/concepts are probably a bit much for a first grader, so we are just going to work through as much of it as we can, and I plan on keeping the book to repeat in a few years.  This science curriculum is really rich, so I think he’ll get a ton out of it even if we do it in a future year.

Since we will be doing a lighter version of Apologia to fit our level, I am also planning on alternating and incorporating some lessons from Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding.  I’d say this book is more of a guide for teaching science, but I really like how the lessons are laid out to build on each concept and teach the scientific method.  I think this will be a great guide to use especially in the middle of the winter when birds and insects become a little more scarce.

Math

For math, I decided to go with Rightstart this year.  Over the last year I’ve started to figure out Wyatt’s learning style a bit, and I think he will do well with the manipulative and games that are used in the Rightstart curriculum.  A lot of friends use Math-U-See because of the manipulatives, and I was considering that one because I really like Steve Demme - but I’ll be honest, sometimes the way he visualizes the math in that curriculum confuses ME (and I already know how to multiply/divide, etc).  I went with Rightstart because it looked a little more doable for ME as the teacher, and because I think Wyatt will really enjoy the games that reinforce the concepts. I also like that Rightstart is a bit of a “spiral” math curriculum (as opposed to a “linear” curriculum like Math-U-See) in that it circles back to concepts, because I think we will all need the review to really tie everything together.  

If you know anything about Rightstart though, you know that it is NOT cheap.  I would have paid the full price because I am really thinking this will work for Wyatt, but I was so blessed to find it used at a used curriculum sale for about a quarter of the price!  

I also got a math workbook, called Math Lessons For A Living Education, because I think in those couple months after the baby comes this will be a great fill-in.  It’s a book that introduces math concepts through stories, and will be an easy thing to do with Wyatt sitting next to me on the couch while nursing Baby or whatever.  I wanted to get this just to make things a little simpler on myself until I can get back into a regular routine again after the baby.  This book can be a full curriculum itself, but I think we’ll be using it as a fill-in/review this year since it’s an odd school year for our family - and I’ll hang on to it for Gwen, because she is definitely a workbook girl!

History

I am probably most excited about teaching history to Wyatt this year, because I decided to go with Beautiful Feet Books!  I got a big box of beautiful REAL books to read to the kids, with all kinds of wonderful stories about people and events from history.  Beautiful Feet Books sends all the books I need along with a study guide with a schedule, questions and assignments for the students, etc.  This curriculum can be done in one year or two, and we will definitely be stretching it out for two years.  We’re doing the Early American History 1 course, and I’ll do another vlog soon to show you all the books.



Reading/Writing

For reading and writing we are continuing on with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons until we finish it  - though we’ll see how it goes.  I loved the first part of this book, but I find myself getting annoyed the further into it we get, because a lot of it is really repetitive, and my Type-A side is irritated that we’re already moving on to two-syllable words and consonant blends before we even cover all the basic consonant sounds.  It makes it tricky to incorporate most early reader books using this curriculum because a lot of basic sounds/rules aren’t covered until later.  I’m adding in phonics rules and sounds as I deem appropriate.  We are also working in some Bob Books for days when Wyatt (and I) get sick of using the same old reading book.

Either way, we will finish this book before the end of this semester, so we’ll roll into Rod and Staff’s first grade reading curriculum after that.  Rod and Staff incorporates workbooks and readers, but what I really love about Rod and Staff is how Bible-focused the curriculum is. Wyatt has also enjoyed their preschool and kindergarten workbooks in the past year, so I think he’ll like that aspect.

For writing practice I ordered Teach Your Child To Read, Write, And Spell 100 Easy Bible Verses to use as a companion to the Teach Your Child To Read Book, because I love how the whole point of it is to get your kids memorizing and writing Bible verses.

Language Arts

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do for Language Arts, because a lot of grammar can’t really be covered until a kid can, you know, READ (and write).  However, I found First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind at the homeschool conference with basic language arts concepts that I can start to introduce now, even before the kids are independently reading and writing.  These lessons are simple and quick, and I think it looks really doable.

Bible

I agonized a bit over what to do for Bible this year, because in a way Bible is incorporated into every subject.  Everything can be related back to Scripture and our faith in Jesus, and I intend to teach that way.  However, I did want something more specific particularly for myself, to make sure I won’t start to neglect spiritual instruction in the midst of the busyness of all the day-to-day subjects.  

I went to Cathy Duffy’s site and started looking through Bible curricula, and I landed was interested in Bible Treasures, which covers Genesis to Ruth in the first grade year, but after ordering it and looking through it, I decided against it.  I didn’t like how it explained salvation (it almost made it sound works-based).  I could have worked with it and explained things better to the kids as we worked through it, but I have a tendency to get irritated when books geared toward children don’t explain these concepts well.  So I sent it back and now I have no Bible curriculum to work with after all.  

We are currently reading through some of our Bible storybooks, reading from scripture, and learning catechism questions, which is great, but not exactly the well-organized plan I was hoping for.  If anyone has any suggestions for a Bible curriculum, I’m all ears!



Extras

I'm planning our Fridays to be the day for extras - including poetry, cooking lessons (with Usborne's Start To Cook), crafts and art lessons, and maybe some music/composer exposure (using Spotify and My First Classical Music Book).  I'm planning to loop schedule all these different things, so we won't be doing each thing every week.


So there you go!  Our curriculum list.  you may have noticed that for several of the subjects I bought two resources instead of just picking one - which, I’m going to be honest, may be a mistake.  I’ve heard it said that you should specifically NOT buy extras, because it is likely that you will never use them.  However, for the subjects that I bought two curricula it was either because one of the curricula will only take us through half the year, or because I needed something less fussy to use in the couple months after the baby is born.  The exception is science, but we’re just going to play that one by ear and see which curricula sticks (if our jump-start this summer is any indication, it will be Apologia).  I do think that between this year and next year we will end up using all this curricula though, and I’m excited about our choices!

Homeschool moms - what curriculum are you using this year?


Solar Eclipses & Personality Types




Confession: I was this close to not doing anything for the solar eclipse this week.

My thought process was that solar eclipses are cool and all, but do I really want to spend $10 a piece on glasses?  And how many stops will I have to make with my FOUR kids to find these stupid things? And will it really be worth it since it's only a partial eclipse where I am anyway?

I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where anything that requires too much effort and isn't absolutely necessary just isn't really worth it to me.  Plus, I was a little paranoid about the kids hurting their eyesight.

So I really had no plans for anything, until I was laying in bed last Saturday night with sudden anxiety when I realized that I might be depriving my children of something. What kind of homeschool mom skips a solar eclipse?  On the first day of school, no less?  What was I thinking? How could I have even considered stealing this experience from my kids?!

In my sleep-deprived haze, I settled on cereal box projectors, which I was more comfortable with anyway because of the whole eyesight thing.  We had a grand ole time decorating them and checking the eclipse on Monday.  The kids did try to glance at the sky a couple times, but I scolded them enough to put the fear of retinal scarring into their little hearts.  I'm glad I actually did something with them after all!  We had 93% totality, and it did start to feel like evening there for a bit, which was cool.  Complete totality would have been better, but in 28 years another eclipse is coming through that puts us right in the path of totality, so I'm just going to wait until then.

 (That's glitter on my nose, from our decorated boxes.)



(I didn't realize I needed to make the hole so tiny for the box to work, so that's why there are several holes.)

On Monday evening after that eventful day, I went to work out and I tried out a new podcast.  Despite it being a fun day, I was having a particularly anxious/getting-down-on-myself type of day at the same time, and I needed a distraction.  I listened to Personality Hacker, and I came home feeling like I understood myself better and determined to find out Derek's Myers-Briggs type so I could understand him better.  He took the test, and I thought I'd take it again too just to see if any of my percentages changed.  I was confident I would still be an ENFJ, and I like that type.

Imagine my surprise when the test tells me I'm now an ESFJ!  What?! No!  I knew my type!  I have a type!  You can't just change it on me!  I retook the test.  Same result.  I read the description.  It didn't sound like me. I retook the test on a different website.  Now I'm ISTJ.  Huh?  I read the description.  Nope.  

At this point it's 11:00 PM, and I'm exhausted, so I put the computer away and decided to figure it out later.  It took me at least a half hour to fall asleep, because this was all just so upsetting.

I woke up in the morning and pulled out my laptop again (I get a little obsessive about things when I'm pregnant - yes, I'm blaming pregnancy).  I retook the test again and adjusted some answers - it said ENFJ, but now I felt like I cheated.  So read an article about cognitive functions (which is what this whole crazy test is based on), and it seemed to me I'm an Introverted Intuitive, Extroverted Feeling.  Which would make me an INFP.  I read the description.  It sort of sounded like me, but not really, because I'm just not a dreamer.  I don't think of myself as a dreamer, I don't daydream about things or invent fictional characters.  I call myself an optimistic realist.  

I went back and read the ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ descriptions, and then all the descriptions of their cognitive functions, and I finally decided that I'm...wait for it...an ENFJ.

So that was a lot of effort to tell me something I thought I already knew!  Ugh.  I'm just going to own that type now though and not retake the stupid test.  I read somewhere in the midst of all this that it can be hard to type a person if their personalities are really underdeveloped, or if their personalities are very developed.  I'm going to say I'm just a very developed person.  Because very developed people clearly spend 3+ hours scouring the internet with anxiety, trying to figure out their type.

Now I'm completely exhausted and have been dragging myself through the day.  I had things to do this week, Personality Hacker!  Sheesh.

So out of curiosity, what Myers-Briggs personality type are YOU?  
You can start with this test here.  And I'm sorry in advance if this leads you on a wild goose chase that keeps you up half the night.  


Homeschooling With Toddlers Underfoot - What We Actually Do





Last fall, after years of mentally planning, we started homeschooling Wyatt for Kindergarten.  I've had a lot of interest, not only in blogland but from my real-life friends, on all the workings of our homeschool, and a frequently question is: "What you do with the baby and toddler happy while you're working with Wyatt on his school?"

My first thought on that question is that if you have a younger child that's not that much younger, you probably don't have to do anything.  The only thing I'd suggest buying extra workbooks for them if they decide to participate.  That is what we are doing with Gwen, who was three years old when we started the school year. She often wants to follow along and do her own schoolwork, so I help her with the activities she's interested in - and if she's not interested, she can go and play or do whatever else she wants.  I believe in letting kids be kids before the school years, free from unnecessary obligations, so I really don't put any pressure on her.

The youngest two are another story.  Clyde was two years old, and Clarice was one last fall, and they do require more attention.  Since I was asked so often about how I was going to handle schoolwork with the little two running around, I thought I should probably have some sort of plan.  After I attended the homeschool conference and got all my curriculum choices together, I went on a mission to find activities for the younger kids while I was working with the older two.



I came up with a few activities via Pinterest, and I was really excited about giving them a try (activities listed below).  I also pulled aside a few of their educational toys and put them in a special box.  I figured I could pull all these things out whenever we started on schoolwork, and keep them occupied with their special "school toys".

These are the activities I found:

1. Nuts And Bolts Matching Activity.  Buy nuts and bolts of different sizes from the hardware store, and paint the outside of the coordinating hardware the same color.  

2. Clothespins and Paint Swatches.  I picked up some paint cards from Home Depot - two of each color.  The idea is to cut up one of the paint cards and glue a piece onto the back of a clothespin.  Then the kids can pin the clothespin onto the matching color on the cards.  

3. Felt Activity Books.  A lot of people make their own, but I just buy the $3 ready-made version at Target.

4. Lacing Cards.   Lacing shoelaces through colorful character cardboard cutouts (how's that for alliteration?).  I'm sure you've seen these.

I have a few more ideas in this blog I made for this post a while back too:





All these activit├ęs are great for color matching and fine motor skills, and I patted myself on the back for being so prepared.

But here's my little secret.

We haven't used a single one of these activities.




Do you know what Clyde (and even Clarice) like best?  A notebook and a pencil.

When I am working on writing or number practice with the big kids, Clyde likes to feel like he is doing the same sort of thing.  He wants to do "school" too.  He doesn't want to be left out, or relegated to a separate activity - he wants to be part of the action.

So I sit him down with his "school" notebook and a fat pencil, and he scribbles in it until we are done.

I think in the midst of all those inquiries about how to keep the little kids happy while we did our schoolwork, I forgot three things.  

1. My kids like to do things together as much as possible.  Clyde and Clarice both want to feel like "big kids".  They are always so proud of themselves when they accomplish something that they've only seen their brother and sister do up to that point.  It was silly of me to think I needed to entertain them separately from what everyone else is doing.

2. All my kids have always been independent players.  Most of the time while we are working on reading or anything else, the little kids just go off and play by themselves.  I've never been one of those mothers who structures her preschoolers' schedule.  We don't do a lot of organized projects or educational projects.  I just let them play, because that is my preschool philosophy - and my kids are great at independent play.  This is a big advantage in homeschooling, and I should appreciate it.  Some moms might need to plan a lot of activities to keep their younger children entertained - but I don't!  My kids have always entertained themselves.  I should just enjoy that!

3. Each round of work in kindergarten takes 15-20 minutes, and we take breaks in between.  Fifteen minutes is not a big enough amount of time to have to fill it up with baby and toddler activities.  Homeschool kindergarten is not a whole-day endeavor, like public or private school counterparts, because a lot of kindergarten actives are regular life activities.  Kids have free play time.  They color and paint.  They eat snacks.  They take a nap or "quiet time".  None of which actually feels like school.  The part that does feel more school-like is the bookwork, and that's the part that literally takes 15 minutes.  It's really not intimidating at all, and I was making it way too complicated.

So this summer, when I'm planning for next year, I'm going to try to remember what happened this last year and restrain myself from buying a lot of fancy extras for our homeschool - because it is likely that they will go unused.  I'd much rather take the kids outside and let them get dirty (or wet and cold) in the winter than spend all my time and money planning activities for them.  I'd much rather do "school" all together as much as possible and continue to encourage those sibling relationships.  I'd much rather just keep the whole thing simple and easy on myself, instead of overcomplicating things and adding more work to my plate.  I'd rather be not-Pinterest-worthy and happy, than Pinterest-worthy and stressed.

But I will probably keep my box of extras handy...just in case the littles are being extra needy one day and I need a backup plan!  I went to all that work, after all.

If you are a homeschool mom, especially if you have young children in the house, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you make homeschooling work with babies and toddlers underfoot?









A Homeschool Usborne Book Wishlist (First Grade)



One of the most fun things about homeschooling so far has been researching and trying to decide on different curricula.  For Kindergarten we haven't really done a curriculum per se, we've just been working our way through a bunch of different books, doing crafts, and working on reading and math skills.  I haven't quite made up my mind what curriculum we will use for first grade this next year, but I've been searching through different options, and I've come to a conclusion - whatever we pick, I want to use (or build) a curriculum that uses real books.



We got Wyatt the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia for Christmas, and he poured over it for two days.  He asked me questions about all the pictures, and I told him what the words on the page said, and he was just fascinated.  It was so fun to watch him learning just for the joy of it.  While I think we will follow some sort of curriculum, I want to make sure we have plenty of interesting books around that fit in with what we are learning, to make the whole year more fun.

I've been making book lists galore, but today I wanted to focus on Usborne books!  A friend of mine, Brittney, asked me if I would host an Usborne Facebook party, and it sounded like a lot of fun - so I've been going through their thousands of books and making a list of the ones I'd like to get for school next year.  I'll share the ones I'm thinking about getting, but first, let's talk quickly about the ones I have, shall we?

Usborne Books We Already Have




The Children's Encyclopedia - Like I said above, this one has been a hit.  I think it's the full-page gorgeous illustrations that have really sucked Wyatt in.  I'm not going to lie, there were a few pages I felt the required more explanation (like the world religions or aliens pages), but they are easy enough to skip if you don't agree with or your child isn't ready for some of it.







How Things Work - This book is just so cool.  It's a flap book, and under each flap it gives pictures and descriptions about how the different things in this book work. 






Horses & Ponies and Weather - I bunch these together because they are the same type of book.  These books have fun illustrations and less text because they are meant for younger readers - but I love it because the few words are used really well, and these books get a lot deeper into the topics than you would expect them to.  They have a bunch of these on different topics, and I'm hoping to get more!




Birds Pocket Book - Have I mentioned that our family is really into birds?  We don't know a lot about distinguishing birds, but we would like to learn more.  All of my kids love flipping through the Audubon bird app on my phone, and this is like the book form!

Starting Chess (not pictured) - I forgot I had this one until I sat down to start typing!  Derek is very good at chess, and I picked this up as a supplement for when Wyatt is ready to start learning (which probably is sooner than I think).

So those are the books I have, now on to the books I want.

Usborne Books On My Homeschool To-Buy List

These are the books that I would love to have as we introduce different subjects over the next few years, in addition to the ones I already have.


Science And Nature

The Outdoor Book - I think we would love this for ideas of activities to do outside and nature study!

Human Body Reference Book and Shine-A-Light Human Body Book - This is my area of interest (biology), so I think this looks fun.  And the shine-a-light book adds an interesting element!

Poisonous Animals (etc.) - This is one of those great books for young readers!

How Things Grow - I think I need this book to help my black thumb.

Astronomy And Space Reference Book - I don't know if I even need to explain this. Yay for space!

100 Science Experiments - Someone told me I need this, and I think I do!

History

Big Picture Atlas - I think this will be good for context with different historical events.

Living Long Ago - I'm still not sure my kids grasp how different life was 200 years ago, so this looks great!

Christopher Columbus - One of the few American history books.  Usborne, I know you are British, but more on the American History front please!

See Inside Exploration And Discovery and The Story Of Inventions - These looked really interesting to me.


Reading and Writing

Illustrated Grammar And Punctuation - We are a way off from needing this yet, but my grammar nerd is coming out!  I love this idea!


Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn And Other Stories - This is one of a few classics collections that are condensed and rewritten for young readers, and I am really curious about them.


Miscellaneous (aka. Just For Fun)

Over 50 Secret Codes - I would have loved this as a kid.

Fingerprint Activities: Animals - This just looks adorable, and would be so fun for everyone, including the little two!

First Book About The Orchestra - The kids love Maestro Classics (#affiliate), and I think this book would be a great visual to understand the different instruments.

Big Keyboard Book - We are still hoping to teach our kids how to play the piano, and this looks useful!



I could go on, but you get the idea! There are just a lot of really fun books.  Clearly it's probably going to take me longer than the next year to collect all these!  Maybe I should retitle this post "Usborne Books For Early Elementary", because I think all of these will last well beyond first grade!

Now for a little plug - the Facebook party is tomorrow night at 8 PM EST, and Brittney has a bunch of fun things planned - including a drawing for a book prize!  So if you want to check Usborne out, this is a good chance! If you comment below saying you want to join, I'll send you an email to add you to the party!  Or if you have your eye on something and want to buy without attending the party...can you purchase through any of these links and select my eShow on the left before checkout? Because then I can earn discounts on books! (Shameless plug, I know.)  Party is open until next Monday!

Do any of you have some Usborne books?  What would you recommend to me for the elementary school years?  

I'd love to hear!




P.S. Brittany also made me this handy graphic for Usborne books that go with different curricula!  Pin this!






Homeschool Philosophies (And Which One I'm Picking)


Is it just me, or are public schools starting earlier and earlier every year?  When I was growing up, I remember starting school the last week of August or the first week of September.  I have to admit, I kind of resent how schools start mid-August these days.  Even though I don’t have any children in public school, it still feels like it’s cutting the summer short.

In our house we believe summer lasts until the end of August, so we started our homeschool kindergarten this week!  And let’s just commiserate for a moment on the fact that my firstborn baby is starting kindergarten…

In honor of our first week of school, I thought I’d share with you all my homeschool teaching philosophy.  When I was a homeschool student I never even thought about things like choosing a curriculum and philosophy, but as I’ve been preparing to teach my own kids I have been thinking about it more and researching different educational philosophies.  I’d thought I’d share a little summary of what I’ve learned with you, including what I think about each philosophy.  If you hang in there until the end of this rather long post, I’ll reveal the method we’ll be utilizing!

(Warning: this post is long, but I’m going with it, because I know those of you that are interested in homeschooling philosophy will eat it up.  For those who aren’t already familiar with some of the “flavors” of homeschooling - I recommend watching “The Five Flavors Of Homeschooling” which is a great explanation, or checking out some of the books on my new homeschool mom’s book list!)



Charlotte Mason

The first real philosophy I started reading about was Charlotte Mason, and as I tell you more about it you will probably be able to guess why I like it.  Charlotte Mason was a teacher in England in the 1800’s, and she had a lot of things to say about education, but her biggest point was that learning should be done not through textbooks but through “living books” - basically high-quality books that you would read if you were actually interested in a subject.  Her philosophy also focused on giving kids a lot of time outside to explore nature and a firm grounding in the arts.

What I Like About It 

In case it isn’t already obvious, I LOVE the thought of learning through reading actual books!  I think this is how we learn most things as adults - when I want to learn something new, I pick up a few books on the subject, I don’t purchase a textbook.  I like the idea of teaching my kids how to find informational books to learn.  I especially like this philosophy for learning history and art, and I think it could be done well with some science topics as well.  

I also love that this method includes a lot of time reading aloud and having children recount what they remember from the book in either verbal or written form.  I want to read aloud to my kids a lot anyway as part of our schooling, and I think reciting back everything they remember is a good way to cement the information for them and practice communication skills.

The Charlotte Mason books I have read talked about creating a “book of centuries”, which is a book the kids create themselves to place different people and historical events in the appropriate pages for each century in their book.  I love how this could give kids a big picture of history and help them remember generally when things occurred because they wrote it down themselves in their book.

I also love the time spent outside that is emphasized with Charlotte Mason, though we are a bit limited based on the weather.

What I Don't Love

While I love the idea of teaching through living books, there are also things that would be hard to learn from that type of book.  Math is a good example.  I still haven’t figured out how learning math can fit into this philosophy, and I think we will have to resort to textbooks for subjects like that.

Another negative is time.  Teaching this way would take a lot of time.

Charlotte Mason Philosophy discourages forcing kids to memorize large amounts of information, which is a negative to me because I actually like the idea of having kids memorize important facts, and especially Bible verses.



Classical

Classical education is based on the idea of the “trivium”, grammer, logic, and rhetoric.  The thought process behind this is to take advantage of the natural development of children - younger children’s talent at memorizing, middle school children who like to argue anyway (so they might as well argue logically), and synthesizing that together for high school students as they learn to communicate their opinions.  The bottom line is that a lot of information is memorized in the young years, around middle school students start learning to reason, and in high school they study long hours and learn to synthesize all these skills together to form and argue their own opinions.

What I Like About It

The concept of the trivium does make sense to me, and I particularly like focusing on memorizing important facts for younger children.  That is the stage we are in, and I remember how easy it was to memorize things when I was in elementary school, so I like the idea of taking advantage of that during the younger years.  I also like the idea of teaching middle and high school students to think logically and debate well.

What I Don't Love

Classical education is really very intimidating to tackle without a program or guide.  One of the marks of classical education, especially for older students, is rigorous study.  I see the value in that, but I also feel intimidated just thinking about keeping up with it as a teacher, and I would hope it wouldn't take up so much of their time that they couldn't also pursue their interests.

Classical Conversations

You get a little bonus section here! I know several people who are part of Classical Conversations, which is a group-based organization that forms the basis for a classical education for it’s members.  Families meet each week to learn together and provide a chance for children to present or debate.  

I have mixed feelings when I think about this program.  There are aspects of it that I really like, and if we were to go with a classical model all the way, I think Classical Conversations would be a must.  However, I can’t quite make myself join for a couple reasons.

First, I am not thrilled with the format of circling through different periods of history every three years, which is the model classical education uses.  In this program kids will learn about ancient history, the middle ages, and modern history over the course of three years, and then they’ll circle back through again.  Honestly, when I start teaching my kids history, I want to start with American history and work backward.  I like the idea of starting young kids with the history of things that are most familiar to them, and then branching out from there.  I personally think it’s most important for my kids to learn the history of their own country first, and once they have a good grasp on that I’ll be ready to introduce other historical periods and countries, so ideally that is how I’d like to handle history education.

Second, I am not thrilled with some of the things that Classical Conversations treats as important to memorize in the younger years.  A lot of it is wonderful information, but some of it is not particularly important in my opinion, especially for young children.  I would much rather my kids memorize Bible verses than lists of mythical Greek gods.  It is more important to me that my child grows into an adult that loves and serves the Lord than an adult that knows how to win an argument.  In the younger years especially, I would much rather focus on instilling values and biblical truth than secular facts, and I just am not sure there is a lot of the former in CC.  For me, the perspective is a bit lacking with this program, at least from what I’ve heard of it so far.  I reserve the right to change my mind.


Unschooling

Unschooling is basically the philosophy that children don’t need a formal learning program.  Learning occurs every day, in everyday situations, and if you make the tools and opportunities available, children will teach themselves the things they need to know.

What I Don't Love 

I’m switching the order here and am going to tell you what I don’t love first.  I don’t love this as a complete learning philosophy.  I heard a speaker once quote Proverbs 29:15 in the context of unschooling.  This is what it says:

"The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

It is clearly not biblical to leave a child completely to himself.  Proverbs also speaks in many places about the value of hard work - and I don’t think that is something that a child learns without direction.  

Now to be fair, I think that most “unschoolers” are not actually leaving their children with no direction or education, so I wouldn’t say what they are doing is unbiblical unless they are truly neglecting any education of their children.  I think that is rare among unschoolers who are serious about preparing their children to be successful.

Overall, this philosophy is somewhat extreme to me, and there is too much variability.  It would be so stressful for me not to have some sort of guide to follow as I educate my children.  Some people make it work, but I don't think t's for me.

What I Like About It

That said, I think there is definitely something to be said for giving children enough time and space to learn what they actually want to learn.  I’ve already seen how much Wyatt can teach himself and how much information he can retain when a subject interests him.  The kid knows more about race cars than me.  I read the book Free To Learn this summer, which talks about an educational philosophy that I would liken to unschooling, and it opened my eyes to some ideas I had never considered before.  I like the idea of letting my kids have some time to pursue their interests and explore outside.

Traditional

Traditional schooling is basically what you would find at a school, only at home.  It uses mostly textbooks to teach, and tests to reinforce learning and measure performance. 

What I Like About It

There is a certain comfort in frequent tests, and tests are a good way to evaluate where a student may need to review.  Textbooks also have all the information in one place.

What I Don't Love 

While there are exceptions, many textbooks are rather dry and don’t exactly inspire love for the subject matter.





The Reveal: Eclectic Homeschooling

After all this research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we will be an eclectic homeschool family - meaning we will be using bits and pieces of several different educational philosophies and ultimately doing the things that work best for our family!

Below is a summary of how we will most likely incorporate parts of each philosophy.  I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this - obviously.  A perk of homeschooling is getting to experiment until you figure out what works best for your family and each child.

How We’ll Use Charlotte Mason

While we may still use textbooks as a guide, I definitely want to read a lot of living books with the kids, especially for learning history.  As they get older I love the idea of having them practice writing through recounting what information they retained from our reading.  I love the “book of centuries”, and we will definitely be incorporating that into our school, as well as spending as much time outside as we can get away with.

How We Will Use Classical

We will absolutely be using a lot of memory work in our kindergarten and elementary school homeschool!

How We Will Use Unschooling

I want to make sure to leave space in our day for the kids to learn about the things that interest them.  I also agree with the idea that every situation in any given day can be a learning opportunity if you take advantage of it, and I hope to do that as I teach my kids!

How We Will Use Traditional

I like the idea of textbooks and tests most for math, particularly in the higher grades.  Math is a subject that is very hard to teach for a lot of people, and while I don’t know how we’ll fare yet, I think when we get to more complicated math we’ll make use of textbooks and tests.  We may also do periodic tests with other subjects so I can evaluate where we may need to work a little harder.


These are the philosophy elements that I like right now, but that very likely might change as my kids grow and I figure out more about their learning styles.  We will adapt as we need to.  When it comes down to it, that is really the beauty of homeschooling - the flexibility.  We get to do what works for us - for me as a teacher, for the kids as students.  And no one falls through the cracks because I am their only teacher, and I am going to make sure they know what they need to know, no matter what methods we end up using.

What philosophy do you use in your homeschooling?  Or do you take bits and pieces like I do?



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