Showing posts with label Homeschool Mom Thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschool Mom Thoughts. Show all posts

My Homeschool Bible Recommendations



I didn't want to finish my curriculum series without including Bible, but to be honest, it's hard to sum up our Bible "curriculum" in one post.  We don't use just one resource to teach our kids the Bible, and we don't do it at one time of the day and then check it off our list.  My goal in teaching my children the Bible is that we will talk about biblical truths often, throughout our day, in formal and informal settings, and that it will be embedded into every part of our homeschool curriculum.  Do I always succeed at this?  No, there are alot of days where I drop the ball and our Bible study doesn't look like that, but it's what I want to strive for.

At the same time, I think it can be really useful for kids to have some sort of resource to guide them in Bible study and help them think about what they are reading, especially as they get older.  My oldest son is getting to that age where he has been working on reading through the Bible on his own, and he could handle a more structured study, so I've been mulling that over and thinking through different resources.  Here are some of the resources that we've used, or that we plan to use.  Some of them are actual "curricula", and some are other types of resources I've used.  This isn't even a comprehensive list, but these are the things that have stood out so far.

The Bible (Like, The Real Bible)

I think sometimes we forget that the most important way we can teach our kids is just to read it with them!  Alot.  Derek is really good at reading them a chapter each night, and I'd like to do better at bookending that with reading a chapter to the kids at breakfast as well.

I firmly believe in reading the actual Bible even to little kids, but I do think for the younger ones it's nice to add in a Bible storybook too, so the next couple are my favorite Bible storybooks.

Egermeier's Bible Story Book

I've collected quite alot of storybooks in my day, and this is one of my favorites.  I like how this storybook is so thorough - no part of a Bible story is skipped, not even the hard parts, but it presents it in a kid-friendly way, with beautiful illustrations to accompany each story.

I Am: 40 Reasons To Trust God 

This is another Bible storybook that I really like - each story is connected to a different name and attribute of God, and a short devotion and prayer is included at the end of each chapter to get the kids thinking further.  I think the illustrations in this are just gorgeous, and it's a great bedtime storybook.  Our copy is actually falling apart, so I'm going to have to purchase another one.

Answers Bible Curriculum

This was our main Bible curriculum last year!  We picked this up at the homeschool conference, and we got about halfway through, so we'll continue it this year.  The book comes with pdf files for slides to show on your computer while you teach, memory verse posters, and coloring pages.

The curriculum was written by the folks over at Answers In Genesis, and uses their method of breaking biblical history up into "the seven C's" - Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, and Consumation (and my kids can recite those now, so that's a plus!).  While a lot of time is spent in the Old Testament, the curriculum is an overview of the whole Bible, and I think it lays a great foundation for understanding why Christ had to come and die on the cross to save us!  That is the most important thing for my kids to know, and I love the focus on the gospel through this curriculum so far.

Since we are stretching the curriculum out over two years, I've looked ahead to see what is coming, and the second half of the curriculum seems to focus on answering different questions about God and the Bible.  It has more of an apologetics focus, and I think it'll fit nicely with another resource we are using.

The Answers Book For Kids

There are eight volumes of these little books, and they are completely full of questions kids may be wondering about the Bible, along with the answers of course!  We use these in our morning time right now - I'll read a question and the answer, and then we'll look up the Bible verses that are listed and read them together.  I think this is a really convenient little resource to start some good conversations, and it's really easy to add into a morning routine or read over lunch.

Big Thoughts For Little Thinkers

These books are really similar to the Answers Books For Kids, but each page has cute illustrations and a different truth about God to talk about with your kids  Once again, I usually read the thought on the page, and then we look up the Bible verses and talk about it more if needed.  I really like this for all the kids - the thoughts are deep enough to bring up some good topics with the older kids, and simple enough for young kids to learn and remember.

God Is Really, Really Real

This resource goes a little more in-depth on some of the main concepts that we learn in Scripture about God, man, sin and death, Jesus, and salvation, etc.  I think it could easily be used as the core for a more formal curriculum as well.

As it says on the front, there are 30 Bible doctrines covered in this book.  The first part of the book has colorful illustrations and a poem-story that relates to the lessons, and the second half guides parents through teaching different biblical doctrines to their kids, along with "tuck-in questions" to remind your kids what they learned during the day.  There are also more in-depth explanations and Bible references for parents in the back of the book.

I think the book is geared toward younger children, but with the more in-depth information in the back, it would be easy to use this to teach older kids who already have something of a grounding in these doctrines too!  I honestly forgot I had this resource until late in our school year, and we used it in morning time, but going forward I am thinking I might add this one to our bedtime routine instead.

Bible Survey For Kids

This is one of the new resources I purchased for the upcoming school year, put out by Mike Fabarez's ministry.  This curriculum is super simple and straightforward, a way to give your kids an overall view of each of the books of the Bible.  Each lesson covers one book, and the main things that are included in that book, and then Bible book cards are tacked onto the wall in chronological order, or in genre groups.  I really like this idea for giving the kids a "big picture" of the Bible as we continue reading it and studying it with our other resources.  I'm thinking we'll do one of these lessons a week for the upcoming school year.

Explorer's Bible Study

This is the other new resource I bought for Wyatt, because I think he is big enough to find this sort of book helpful.  The Explorer's Bible Study books go through different eras of Bible history through a simple fill-in-the-blank format.  Just flipping through this book, it is really similar to the Community Bible Study workbooks we did a couple years ago.  Since we aren't ready to re-start CBS this year, I think having a similar book will be helpful.  Each lesson is broken up into five segments, one for each day of the week.  The text of the Bible passage is included in the book, and then the student can answer questions.

Depending on the day, I might sit down and do each lesson with Wyatt, (and possibly write his answers for him), or I might have him work on it independently once he gets the hang of it.  However, if he works on it independently, it's important to me to still sit down with him and talk about what he wrote.  I think this will be a great guide through different biblical books, and a great chance to get Wyatt used to more in-depth Bible lessons.

Devotional Books

One more quick little note - I am a fan of devotional books for kids.  When I was about Wyatt's age, I found a devotional book I liked at the Christian book store.  I ended up buying it, and it helped me get into the habit of reading a chapter of the Bible and a devotional every day.

I really would love if my kids developed that habit as well, and so I bribe them with devotional books!

Actually, I picked up a couple kids devotion books here and there a few years ago, and just put them on the bookshelf and forgot about them. My kids discovered them this summer, and my big kids have been reading through them on their own, along with their Bibles. These are some of the ones I've found:

My Big Book Of Five-Minute Devotions - This book includes animal facts along with lessons about God, the Bible, good character qualities, etc.  Each devotion has a Bible verse and prayer to go with it.
God's Amazing Creatures And Me - This is another book that includes animal facts tied in with a lesson about the God who created these animals.  Can you tell that I have a kid who loves animals?

One warning about devotional books - often they can be rather superficial, especially when written for kids, so I think it's important to not use them as your child's only Bible-related  resource.  Devotion books aren't a substitute for true Bible study and biblical instruction, and they often do an inadequate job of presenting the gospel, so I try to be aware of that and do some extra explanations where necessary.  But I do think they can be a fun addition to Bible reading.  What I like about devotion books for kids is how they can emphasize the ways that biblical knowledge relates to anything they could encounter in their day or life.  So that's the value I think they can add here, when read in addition to the Bible itself and regular Bible instruction in other areas (and not just reading a devotion alone, because they aren't enough by themselves).



In case you didn't notice, I am all over the board with Bible instruction.  I told you that I wouldn't say we do one Bible "curriculum" - the curriculum is all these things put together and done regularly (or for some of them, sporadically) over the course of many years - my kids' whole childhood really.  I hope we are always in the middle of this or that Bible resource, and in the middle of some book of the Bible itself, throughout my kids' childhoods, until they no longer live in this house.  I want them to be saturated in it, so they can soak it up constantly, and take it all with them when they go.

For a Christian homeschool family, I don't think Bible should be just another homeschool subject.  Bible instruction will never be done.  If I want my kids to learn anything in this homeschooling journey, I hope it's that - to never stop seeking after the Lord through His Word, to love Christ, and never be done learning about the One who created them and died to save them.  If I succeed in that, I will have succeeded in everything.

And maybe that's also why I have way too many Bible-related resources to choose from, ha!

What do you use for Bible instruction in your home? (Aside from THE BIBLE, of course!)



Homeschool Chat: Science



Science has always been my favorite subject, and my love for the subject started back when I was a homeschool student.  I love learning about the intricacies of God's creation - His fingerprints are all over everything in the natural world, and studying what He has made is one of the best ways to get a full understanding of the vastness of His power.

It is extremely important to me that whatever science curriculum we choose as our core, that it is firmly grounded in a biblical worldview.  Unfortunately, I think most children that stray from the faith in their college years first started to doubt in science class.  It is a sad fact because this trend is so unnecessary.  The study of science is 100% compatible with a faith in God and His Word.  I was fortunate enough to be homeschooled through high school, and rather than shaking my faith, my science studies bolstered my faith.  I want that for my kids too.

So that said, here are my science curricula picks for the upcoming school year!



Apologia Young Explorers Series

I was first introduced to Apologia when I used one of their biology textbooks as a homeschool high school student.  Oh, how I loved that book!  Not only did it let me deep-dive into a subject that always interested me, but it was written from creationist perspective in such an equipping and fascinating way.  I learned so much about the scientific method, the specifics of biology, and how it all fit in with the Christian faith, and it truly made me love science best.

When I saw that Apologia had courses for elementary students now, I knew that's what we would use!  We've been using Apologia for three years, and I still love it.  The textbooks are written in a really engaging way, they include alot of colorful pictures, and the experiments suggested are fairly simple and doable.  The programs also come with accompanying Notebook Journals (and Junior Notebooks for younger kids), and I have more thoughts on those below.

How We've Used It

Kindergarten/1st Grade - We used the Zoology 1 textbook as a basis for a couple unit studies.  We read the textbook and then found a bunch of colorful books from the library to read alongside.

2nd Grade - We went through the Chemistry And Physics book, and the Human Anatomy And Physiology book with our co-op.  If that sounds like alot for 2nd grade, it is!  We mainly just enjoyed the experiments they were running at co-op and read a few sections here and there, and supplemented with books from the library.  I wouldn't recommend doing either of these courses until upper elementary (or even middle school), unless your child has an interest in these subjects at a younger age.  It wouldn't have been my natural choice for 2nd grade.

3rd Grade - We finally hit our stride with the Astronomy book this last year.  We read the chapters together, and all the kids enjoyed it.  It was also even more interesting since we had just visited Kennedy Space Center on vacation!  The kids did the experiments at co-op, and we read the chapters together each week.  The chapters are fairly short, so we were able to read them in one sitting and my kids stayed interested.  I usually had my kids draw or write about something they learned from each chapter as well.  Of course we threw in a bunch of related library books and documentaries too!

This Year

We are not doing co-op this year, so it will be the first year that I will be going through Apologia with the kids and doing the experiments on my own.  My sister and I both decided to go through the Botany book, and we have a plan to meet weekly or bi-weekly and do the experiments!  I think this will be really fun for all of us, and my kids will be so excited to see their cousins regularly.

One thing I love about Apologia is that the experiments they recommend are pretty reasonable in the kinds of materials they use.  Most items you would probably have around the house, or they are items that would be easy to find at the grocery store.  Occasionally they'll have special items that may require a little more searching, but for the most part it's kept pretty simple.

The Notebooks

I have only used the junior notebooks so far, and I truly think they are optional.  There are fun little mini books to cut out and put together, and then facts can be written inside them.  There are also many coloring pages and copywork sheets included.  However, everything in the Apologia notebooks you could also do one your own with a blank ruled notebook, and that is what we have mostly done.  I bought the Astronomy Junior Notebook for Wyatt last year, but he quickly lost it somewhere, and I had him take notes and draw pictures in a blank notebook for the rest of the year instead (I wasn't going to buy another notebook!).

I am still undecided about purchasing a notebook for this year - I would like to see what is included with the regular notebooks (as opposed to the junior notebooks), but I also suspect that once again, everything included could be done with a little creativity in a blank notebook.  One criticism I have of this curriculum is that I would be more likely to purchase the notebooks if I could purchase a digital version and print the pages for each child in my own family - as it is, there is no digital version, and I'd have to buy a $30 notebook for each kid.  That is just too expensive for my larger family.

A Quick Note About The Order

As I mentioned above, there is a little bit of variation in the complexity of these studies.  If I were to recommend an order, I would say that Botany and Astronomy are really great ones for younger elementary.  Chemistry And Physics and Human Anatomy I would save for 5th or 6th grade probably.  And I think the Zoology studies (Flying Creatures, Swimming Creatures, Land Animals) could be done at any time.



Other Curricula We've Used

I have used some other curricula for science over the year too, and I wanted to include those here!

Northwest Treasures - Geology For Kids

This is a geology curriculum for grade school, and it is fantastic.  It comes from a smaller curricula company, and I've heard the author, Patrick Nurre, speak several times.  He is a geologist himself, and he covers geology from a creationist perspective.  The curriculum really equips kids to understand how the study of geology is compatible with what we read in the Bible.  You can also purchase rock kits that go along with the curriculum, so you can see examples of everything that is learned!

We have two of the books Geology For Kids and Rocks And Minerals For Little Eyes (our co-op purchased the rock kit when we went through it last year).  Apologia does not have a geology curriculum in their Young Explorers series, and I think that is too bad, because geology is one area of the scientific world where creationism is really attacked.  I'm so glad we found this series to fill in that important gap, and we will probably purchase a rock kit ourselves and go through it again in the future.

Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding

This is the one secular resource on this list, but I wanted to include it because we've gone through several of the lessons, and I really like how the book suggests teaching more abstract concepts to kids - like the particulate nature of matter, for example.  I like having this resource on my shelf to fill in my kids' understanding here and there, because the activities and experiments in the book are simple but really aid in understanding some difficult concepts!

Exploring Nature With Children / 100 Creative Nature Walks

These are two digital resources that I've used for nature study with the kids.  I love the idea of nature study, and I want to be better at it but I often don't know where to start.  These guides are really helpful!

Exploring Nature With Children breaks the year down into different weeks, and gives information and resources for studying a different aspect of nature that will most likely be prominent during that week of the year.  My kids still talk about the "Harvest Moon" study we did from this guide a couple years ago.

100 Easy And Fun Creative Nature Walks is really a bunch of print-and-go sheets that help aide in observation skills while you are out there in the wild!  For example, in one idea called "Below My Knees", it gives suggestions for recording everything you see out in nature that is below knee level.  It has a bunch of really simple ideas like that to give more guidance to your nature walks.  This would be a great resource for nature walks with preschoolers too.  I am wanting to use this resource more with my little ones this year.

That is my plan for science right now!  Have you found any science resources you really love?


Homeschool Chat: Rightstart Math


Multiply the number of chairs in each row by the number across...

Just kidding.

Homeschool math is an easy subject for me to write about.  We've used mainly one resource from the start, and plan to continue it for now, so I'll mainly just give you some pros and cons below.

Rightstart Math (Second Edition)

In the latter half of Wyatt's kindergarten year, we were floundering a bit when a friend told me about Rightstart Mathematics.  She said she liked it because alot of the concepts were taught through games.  I knew that was a winning idea (what kid doesn't like games?), so I looked into it more and was quickly sold.

Rightstart comes with a scripted teacher's manual, a printed appendix and student worksheets, and a very large collection of manipulatives.  There is also a separate book of math games that is used through all the levels.  

The way a lesson typically goes is that I read through the lesson on the spot while explaining the concepts to my kid, I usually demonstrate with some of the manipulatives, and then we do whatever worksheet is attached to the lesson (if applicable).  Sometimes I'll split a lesson in two if we are having a particularly hard time with it, and sometimes I'll run through two or three lessons in one sitting if my child already understands the concept.

Pros

There are a few things I really love about Rightstart Math, and surprisingly the math games that initially drew me to this curriculum aren't even very high on the list.  

I love that it's a spiral curriculum, as opposed to linear mastery.  In a spiral math curriculum, a concept is taught and lingered over for a few days or a week, and then the next subject is introduced.  But then later the curriculum "spirals" back to previously covered concepts and reinforces them in a different way.  The idea is that instead of sticking on one subject or skill until mastery (which could mean months on one concept if your child was having a hard time with it), it rotates through different topics that are reinforced and mastered over time.  This has been great for my kids - they never have a chance to get bored in this curriculum before learning something new, but concepts are reviewed very often.

The other big thing I like about Rightstart is that there is a big emphasis on understanding the "why" of math, on wrestling with the underlying concepts.  This curriculum emphasizes teaching not just the "tricks" you learn about math, but why those tricks work.  This is something I don't remember being taught at all when I was in public school (1st-3rd grade) - I remember being taught the math tricks, and then later coming to the realization of why they worked.  And even in my own homeschool student years, it took me a while to pick up on the why.  Rightstart really tries to incorporate the underlying concepts before teaching the tricks to solving problems, and I like that.

I could go on and on.  Rightstart teaches numbers in a way that makes sense to me, because it's the way I naturally think about math.  The lessons are pretty short (especially in the beginning levels), so my kids rarely got overwhelmed.  Though the order of concepts is not traditional, overall the program is very thorough and challenging.

Cons

One "con" to Rightstart for me is that it is rather teacher intensive, at least so far.  I am the one who has to explain the concepts, and I do have to sit there for the entire lesson (especially in younger grades) while they do the exercises.  This is going to be the case with every math curriculum in the younger years, but the time investment does worry me a little as I add more and more kids into the mix.

Last year I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, and I signed Wyatt up for his level of Teaching Textbooks, which is an online math program.  We did those lessons on the side all year long while I tried to decide if I could handle teaching Rightstart to three kids for this upcoming school year.  In May, I asked Wyatt what he thought - which program did he enjoy better, and he said Teaching Textbooks ("because it's faster").  Then I asked him which math he understood better, and he scrunched up his little face in concentration and said "Probably the one I do with you."

So.  I decided to stick with it.

The good news is that I noticed last year that there was alot more worksheets and independent math work as the kids get older, and I'm hoping the trend continues this year.  If Wyatt is spending more time in independent math work, it shouldn't be too difficult to add in lessons with Clyde (the first level is really quick and enjoyable).

Another con is that this is a pretty expensive math program in comparison to some.  The manipulatives kit, though it is used through all the levels of the program, is a big one-time cost.  I was able to get a partial manipulatives kit used at our homeschool conference one year, and that was a huge help.  I just purchase individual pieces that we are missing as we go.  I've also started purchasing the digital version of the worksheets, which I can reprint for each of the kids.



I honestly foresee us sticking with Rightstart all the way through middle school (which is all the currently available levels), unless doing lessons with multiple kids becomes way too overwhelming.  Time will tell, but I really want to stick with it.  After Wyatt said that he understood Rightstart better, I spent some time reading about the different levels, and it reinforced to me why I picked this program in the first place.  If we can make it all the way through the levels, I think the kids will be extremely well prepared for high school math (which will hopefully make my job easier then!).

If Rightstart sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend checking out this free webinar page, or reading the objectives and free sample lessons here.

What are your thoughts on homeschool math?  Are you a math person?  What do you look for in a math curriculum?

Homeschool Chat: Language Arts



Language Arts has always been a bit of a struggle for me in our homeschool journey.  While I have a few thoughts about certain teaching methods I like to avoid (ex: sight words), I have no very strong opinions about how language arts should be taught or what curriculum I like.

Part of the difficulty is that language arts is such a broad term - it covers reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and speech.  That's alot!  I think it has helped me to realize that I don't have to have a separate curriculum for every one of those areas every year, and I don't have to find one curriculum that covers every one of those areas either.  Some areas of language arts are age-specific, and alot of those different aspects of language arts can be touched on in one curriculum.  

In our house, our language arts curriculum for 1st and 2nd grade is only reading instruction, with handwriting practice on the side.  I don't start spelling until my kids are reading decently well.  This is the first year I've really thought about grammar since we are starting to get into more in-depth writing instruction with my oldest.  I'm not even going to think about developing speaking skills right now aside from oral narration practice - we'll have time for more formal speech later.  

Alot of homeschool families might incorporate all those things right in the beginning, but my point is, you don't have to.  Language Arts is a marathon subject if there ever was one, and the skills build on each other throughout schooling.  

All that to say, Language Arts is very messy in our house, but as my kids get older I'm sure I'll develop a more defined philosophy.  It's okay to figure it out as you go.



What We've Used Before


When Wyatt was in Kindergarten we did used Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, which worked well at first but became drudgery for him about halfway through.  So we switched to All About Reading, and it's what I've used since.  The lessons are scripted, letter tiles are used to build words, there are paper activities, and really great readers that fit with the phonograms taught in each lesson.  I love it.  I will say though, that I still recommend 100 Easy Lessons if your child has trouble learning to blend sounds, because the blending procedure in that book is something I still use.

Spelling - All About Spelling

This curriculum goes along with All About Reading, though you don't start the first level of spelling until your child has completed Level 1 of All About Reading.  It works fine, but in our experience the spelling may be slightly too easy.  Wyatt really started reading complicated things after AAR Level 2, and the spelling was still taking him through words like "lake".  Reinforcement of the spelling rules is good, but I think he could be stretched a bit.


Last year we tried IEW's theme-based writing curriculum, the "All Things Fun And Fascinating" book.  It was the one I had been eyeing, and our co-op was using it anyway.  

IEW's theory about teaching elementary students to write is that writing their own versions of existing content or stories is easier for kids to do than to try to think of interesting things to say, hold those things in their brain, and then mechanically get their thoughts onto paper.  That's a set of coordinated skills that alot of younger kids don't have yet.  So the workbooks take a paragraph or short story, have the kids outline the information in the piece using keywords, and then on a different day they re-write the information in their own words, trying to make it better than the original.  This is basically the method Benjamin Franklin used to teach himself to write well.  

I really liked this idea at first - my child would learn outlining, write his own work, learn how to "dress up" his sentences.  It made sense to me and sounded great.  The problem is that Wyatt didn't love it so much.  Part of the problem was writing stamina and those fine motor skills that needed more time to develop, and part of it was that the whole thing just bored him.  By mid-year I was desperately wanting to try something else, but I felt like I was stuck with IEW because our co-op was using it, and I was actually helping to teach the writing class!  

I still like the method, but in practicality, it wasn't great for my particular kid last year.  I don't think we were ready for it, and it wasn't engaging him.  Now I've got a slightly writing-traumatized student, so we are going to have to really change our approach this year.

I will say, Wyatt did really well with IEW's cursive handwriting book though, so we'll be continuing with that.

Grammar - First Language Lessons, N/A

I bought First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind way back when, which is a very early grammar instruction curriculum, but I'll be honest, it didn't get much use.  Aside from very basic noun/verb/adjective/adverb definitions, we haven't done anything formal yet.



What We Are Using This Year


Gwen (2nd) and Clyde (1st) are going to continue with AAR/AAS this year.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Handwriting - Assorted Copywork

I did grab a couple of workbooks for the kids to go through, but I usually just write out a Bible verse and have my kids copy it, and that's their handwriting practice.


It's important to me that my kids learn to read and write cursive.  That's the style in which so many historical documents are written.  Wyatt got about 3/4 of the way through his cursive book last year, and I may order another one for Gwen to start on this year.  I like that way IEW teaches cursive, and there are a ton of practice pages.


After researching a bunch of writing programs, and trying to figure out what would help Wyatt develop writing skills without making him hate the process, I decided to give Language Lessons For A Living Education a try.  These workbooks include grammar instruction, writing, and spelling all in one book.  The pages are colorful, and the daily assignments seem short and doable.  I think it will be a good balance for encouraging Wyatt in writing.  He also will be doing more writing in his history curriculum this year, and that will be plenty of writing for 4th grade I think. 

I also ordered Gwen's level, just because the girl loves workbooks and hates to be left out.  After flipping through the books, I think it will work well for her too.  The only thing I don't love for the 2nd grade book is "sight word" lists, because I don't believe in relying on teaching sight words.  Most "sight words" lists are full of words that can be phonetically sounded out.  But we will be continuing with AAR for reading instruction with her, so we'll skip those sections in the Language Lessons book.

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Can you tell that Language Arts overwhelms me?  I don't think I'm alone in that either, but I'm hoping that this curriculum combination will work for us this year.  One year at a time, right?

What do you use for Language Arts?


Homeschool Chat: History - 4th, 2nd, 1st



While we are fully enjoying our summer break, over the last month I've been giving a little thought to our last homeschool year, and how I would like this year to look different.  I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, and so many homeschool topics I'd like to cover, that I've been having a hard time knowing where to start when it comes to sharing on the blog.

Sometimes when I get stuck like this, it's best just to jump into writing out my thoughts and see what comes of it.  This week I want to break down what I am thinking we will be using for each subject, and then maybe next week I can get into more of my general strategy and feelings about our upcoming homeschool year.  So let's talk about history, shall we?

General Thoughts On Homeschool History

With everything that has been happening in America over the last several months, I think history is the subject that has been weighing on me most heavily.  It is a travesty, what has happened to American history education in this country over the last decade, and if you doubt it, check out this video of college students not being able to answer simple questions about the American founding.  In all fairness, there were several who did know the answers.  But all the people they interviewed here agreed that they didn't learn enough history in history class, and the two teachers in the video admitted that they don't teach much history in social studies classes, they teach current events.

There is a saying I'm sure you've heard - those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. (That's the idea, accurate quote is here).  It's a common saying because it is true.

It's more important to me than ever that my kids really know the history of America, and the world.  I want them to know the mistakes and failings of the past so they can do their part to not repeat those things, but I also want them to know the victories and heroism that is their heritage as Americans.  I want my kids to recognize the good and true and beautiful in our history, and aspire to those good qualities themselves.  That doesn't mean we ignore the sins and failings of historical figures, but I think kids are smart enough to be able to see both, to honor the admirable traits and accomplishments of our Founders while also recognizing that all - every one in our history - have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God in different ways.

All that said, my homeschool history philosophy is that I want my kids to be really firmly grounded in American history first.  Of course knowing world history is important as well, but I have a couple reasons American history takes precedence for me.

One is that my kids ARE Americans, and I think it's important for the children of every country to be especially well-versed in their own history. For my kids, they will need to know the purpose of America, why it was founded, what makes our form of government unique, our national symbolism, how the states came to be, what wars we fought and why, what we've accomplished and what things nearly ripped us apart - they're going to need to know all that to just be good citizens, and to have any chance of holding this country together in the future.

My other reason for emphasizing American history first is that it just makes sense to me.  It seems natural to start with the history of the familiar before branching our into unfamiliar territory.  And also, world history is really complex.  I believe the context of world history is very important, but it makes most sense to me to learn the most immediately relevant history first (for my American kids that would be American history), and then build the world context up after that.

Okay, sorry, that was long, on to my curriculum thoughts!

(From our last field trip before quarantine and all that.  We went to a railroad museum!)

What We've Used In The Past

Beautiful Feet Books

Over the past couple years we have used Beautiful Feet Books for our history curriculum.  I liked Beautiful Feet Books because it teaches history through interesting picture books and chapter books, which is way more fun and memorable than reading a dry textbook.

We did the "Around The World In Picture Books" set last year.  It was fun to give my kids an introduction to different areas of the world, and especially because I tried to incorporate Christian missionary stories in with it, which had a big impact on them.

However, I find the teacher guides for Beautiful Feet Books to be a little burdensome for my homeschool style.  I'm more of an open-and-go sort of homeschool mom, and the Beautiful Feet Books guides throw something different at me every day, which ends up making me rather scared to open the book.  Pre-planning might fix this, but like I said, I'm an open-and-go type of girl.  I don't like to have to pre-plan.

Toward the end of the year I found myself drifting back to unit studies about different parts of American history, rather than finishing out our "world tour".  We will probably casually finish that Around The World curriculum set this year, but I've realized I need to make some adjustments.

Christian Liberty Press

When we got in a history rut last year I picked up "American Pioneers And Patriots", and we did a pioneer unit study.  I loved that book!  Each unit was a story about a pioneer family, with suggested activities at the end, though we mostly made up our own related activities, including playing the old Oregon Trail online.

Story Of The World

We also used Story Of The World last year because our co-op was using it.

The positives of this curriculum are that it's very thorough.  Each year a different era of world history is studied, and most countries are covered.

The negatives to me are that it's alot of focus on world history, which I've already explained is not my preference for elementary school.  There are also some really brutal events in world history that are difficult to explain to my kids' age group.  Story Of The World includes overviews of some barbaric cultural practices that I would rather not cover with my kindergartener (think Aztecs).  And overall, jumping around to different areas of the world for each historical period is pretty complex information for a grade schooler to keep straight (sheesh, it's complex for me to keep straight!).

Story Of The World wasn't our favorite resource, and we probably won't use it again unless we rejoin co-op.

Oh yeah, we quit our co-op.  That's a different post.

What We'll Use This Year

Looking ahead to this year, I knew I wanted to go back to American history after our brief attempt at elementary world history last year.  I want to cover America's founding again, learn more about westward expansion and pioneers, and lay the groundwork for getting deeper into the Civil War and the 20th century with Wyatt next year.  I decided to change things up, and I'm putting together my own hybrid of a couple different curricula:




Beautiful Feet Books Early American Beginner

This was the curriculum I used with my kids two years ago, and that was a great year for history.  We basically read all the picture and chapter books in the order recommended by the teacher's guide, and that was it.  No random videos and library resources to plan for, no extra crafts or projects.  Just the books, and if I felt ambitious I'd help my kids record what they remembered into their individual history notebooks.  It worked well, and we all enjoyed it, so that's what we're going back to for Clyde (1st) and Gwen (2nd), and Wyatt will listen to the read-alouds too I'm sure.

America's Story 1 + BFB Early American Intermediate

With three elementary school students to do lessons with this year, I knew I wanted something a bit more independent for Wyatt when it comes to history.  The curriculum I settled on was America's Story 1 by Masterbooks.  This curriculum comes with a student book and a teacher's guide - the student book has colorful pictures - including famous American art - and engaging text that covers the founding to the Goal Rush.  The teacher's guide includes student work pages, and guidance on creating an American timeline project and a "book of prayers for our country" project that I'm excited about.

As an extra, I also decided to buy only the chapter books for the next level of Beautiful Feet Books American History to read over the school year.  My idea/hope is that Wyatt should be able to read through the weekly America's Story lesson by himself, and probably also accomplish some of the projects independently (with a little help from me).  Then he and I will either read the BFB book recommendations together (aloud), or I'll assign some of the easier books for him to read independently as we go.

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Overall, my plan for history this year is more complex than in previous years, but I feel good about the resources.  Despite my current plan requiring more work to accomplish than usual, I feel that I've landed on a curriculum combination that will actually get done.  Will we be spending more time on history than we have in the past?  Yes, and I feel really good about that.  This is the subject I want to focus on most this year, so it's fitting.

What is your style for teaching history?  Have you used any of the curricula I've tried?


How I'm Changing Our Homeschool During The Pandemic



As schools and libraries and businesses are shutting down, many assume that nothing has really changed for us homeschool moms during this pandemic.

That's partly true, but only partly.

For us, our co-op has been canceled, most likely for the rest of the year, and our weekly library trips are put on hold (ha! I keep stumbling into puns this week).  My kids have been asking me every night "What are we doing tomorrow, Mom?", and the answer continues to be "nothing".   It doesn't seem right to continue on with our schedule as though nothing has changed, when my kids obviously know something has.  They know we aren't going to co-op or church, and they know why.

While I'm grateful for the stability that homeschooling has given us, I decided to make a few changes over the coming weeks.  I find myself a little jealous of the extra time so many public/private school moms are getting with their kids.  I am blessed to get that amount of time with my kids every day, and it's easy to forget that!  This whole thing has reminded me that I get to choose the quality of the time that I get with them, and I want to up the quality during this unusual series of events.  I want to make some special memories with my kids too, even though homeschooling means not as much has changed.

So here are the things I'm doing to make the next couple weeks more exciting for all of us.



Take a step back from the three R's.

For much of the homeschool year, my main focus is keeping up in the "three R's" - reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Obviously those things are important, but we aren't going to fall behind if we lighten up on the tedious bits of homeschooling for a couple weeks. I want to pull back on the "have-to's" and focus a little more on the homeschool "want-to's".

More history and science.

I love elementary school, because there is so much flexibility in what we choose to study!  We get to follow our whims.  Right now we are going to focus on westward expansion in history, and see where that takes us.  And science will include alot more nature walks and special activities.



Add in those activities we never get to.

Amidst keeping up with our regular curriculum, sometimes I don't make time for the things I really want to do with the kids.  Things like nature study (still trying to figure that one out), art lessons, physical education (our basketball hoop needs more action), cooking instruction, and life skills (such as letter-writing, how to clean a bathroom, etc.).  I want to take this as an opportunity to spend time on those things right now.

Watch more movies.

Books are wonderful, but often movies really make things come alive. I see alot of Little House On The Prairie in our future.

Take advantage of all the free resources!

In light of so many people finding themselves accidental homeschool moms, alot of websites are offering more free educational resources than ever.  I'm taking full advantage!  I've already downloaded a couple free studies, and I'm keeping an eye on my inbox for more.  If you have any resources to share, please do!  I know there are a ton right now that I don't even know about.

(Just for a couple things, I really am enjoying Chantel's homeschool posts this week, and Raising Up Wild Things and Cottage Chronicles both have the cutest printables that I've seen anywhere!)



If you are a homeschool mom, are you changing anything about your school during the pandemic?

You can read all my homeschool posts here.


The Real Reason Why We Homeschool



"So, why did you decide to homeschool?"

I've been asked this question many times over the last several years, and sometimes it feels like a loaded question.  My standard answer has been that I was homeschooled myself and always knew that I wanted to homeschool too.  It's my non-confrontational, let's-not-get-too-far-into-this answer.  People can potentially get pretty fired up over educational choices, so I've fallen back to citing my own experience in an attempt to not rock too many boats.

But the truth is my standard reply is not really a real answer.  It's not a real "why".  "I always knew I would homeschool" is not a reason that gets you through the hard days when you wonder if it would have been easier to just put them on the big yellow bus.

If you know a homeschool mom, even one who grew up homeschooled like me, homeschooling is not the default choice.  You have to be a little bit of a rebel to homeschool, and you have to have a reason why you think it's better.  That might ruffle some feathers, but I do think it's a necessary ingredient to homeschool successfully.  As a homeschool parent, you have to have a solid reason why you think homeschooling is the better choice for your family in order to stick with it, because it's not easy.  That reason might vary from family to family, but you need one.

It occurred to me that maybe I’m not doing anyone any favors by not getting into the full reason why we homeschool.  So in this post I wanted to be little more up-front by sharing mine.



The main reason why we homeschool is because it is very important to us to protect my kids' childhood, and to train our children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  And we think homeschooling is the educational choice that is most conducive to those goals.

There are a lot of reasons we choose to homeschool and think it’s beneficial, but this is our most important one.

First, let's talk about protecting our kids' childhood.

Your mind probably jumps first to protecting their innocence, and that is part of what I mean here.  With things like comprehensive sex education and a rampant por.nog.raphy problem among younger and younger kids, if I can "shelter" my children from those things from a while, you bet I'm going to.  But there are other aspects of a childhood to protect as well.

To me, homeschooling is more conducive to protecting childhood in the matter of simple time.  I want my kids to have chunks of their day with time to play together, to read books for no other reason than interest, to explore God’s creation, to build something with their hands.  I want them to have time to connect meaningfully with the rest of the family each day, to be creative, to get bored, and time to just be.  To be a kid.  

I knew from my own homeschool student experience that homeschooling takes much less time (I found the estimates in this post to be pretty accurate), and there is obviously no homework.  That leaves my kids more time in their day to experience all the fun of childhood.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.



My second reason is that I want to train my kids up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

As a Christian parent, I believe it is my duty to train and instruct my children in the faith.  This is backed up by Scripture.

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

We will not hide them from their children, but will declare to the next generation the praises of the LORD and His might, and the wonders He has performed. Psalm 78:4

There is no shirking this duty to teach the next generation about the Lord, whether our kids are homeschooled or go to public or private school.  My greatest desire for my children is that they would repent of their sins and trust in Jesus as their Savior, and that they would want to serve Him with their whole lives.  My goal as a Christian parent is to do everything I can to bring my kids to Christ and encourage them in living their lives for Him.

In my experience, homeschooling is more conducive to training my children in the faith because I have the freedom as a homeschool parent to integrate this instruction into every aspect of their education.  Every subject they are learning is an opportunity to also point them to the Giver of all knowledge.  

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  Proverbs 9:10

It is a huge perk to me that homeschooling allows us to start with a biblical foundation for our kids' education and build their faith along with their studies, as long as I am faithful in teaching them this way.




A Few Things I Am Not Saying

You should know that I am NOT saying that if you send your kids to school, you are not doing a good job training your children up in the faith.  I don't believe that at all.  I know many godly, Christian parents who don't homeschool and are doing a great job with their kids.  But it also can't be denied that there is a more limited window of time in which to train them up in the faith when they are at school most of each weekday.  I don't believe education is neutral - all instruction is guided by a worldview, one which may or may not be biblical.  You can be successful in training up your kids in the faith with any educational road you may choose, but some roads are going to have more obstacles to work around than others.  Personally, I would rather go with the road with less obstacles.

I am not saying that if you don’t homeschool your kids won’t have a childhood.  I am saying that it might take more vigilance and intention and effort to protect innocence and time to be a kid when they are at school for much of the day.

I am not criticizing anyone for making a different educational choice, and I’m not criticizing teachers.  I'm fully aware that not everyone is able to homeschool, and I personally know many public and private school teachers who care about their students.  Parents I respect may come to a different conclusion about what they should do about their child's education, and that's ultimately up to you as a parent.  This post is not meant to be taken as a criticism.  I’m only hoping to share a few of my honest thoughts about an educational choice (homeschooling) that is certainly not the road of least resistance, though I may have given that impression with my standard answer in the past. 




When it comes down to it, I think people ask me this question because homeschooling is a novelty still.  Public or private school has been the default option for many people, and they wonder why someone would choose something different.  My hope in sharing my honest thoughts here is to bolster anyone who may be thinking about homeschooling, and to provide more meaningful insight as to why someone would choose to homeschool for those who have not thought about it seriously before.  You may disagree with my reasons, and that's fine, but this is why we have made the decision to homeschool our kids.



Maybe I should turn the tables next time and ask "Why did you decide to send your kids to school?"  That might make for an interesting conversation, ha!

If you are a homeschool parent, what is your main reason for homeschooling?

A Typical Homeschool Week




I've thought for a while now of sharing one of our typical homeschool days.

The only problem is we don't really have "typical" homeschool days.

We don't do the same subjects every day.  Some days we might run errands or go on a nature hike, and school looks a little different.  Some weeks are lighter, and some weeks we really accomplish a lot.

What we do have is a typical homeschool week, so I thought I'd share a sample week for you to see how we fit everything in.  This is an actual week of school that I pulled right out of my record book.  I tried to pick a fairly average week.  Some weeks we squeeze in more (especially with science or history), some weeks we accomplish less.  This is just to give you an idea.

You might also notice that we don't necessarily do a math or reading lesson every day - that's because we are actually ahead of where I had scheduled us to be at this point in the year, so some days we skip.  I shared a video about how I planned out our school year, and as long as we are staying close to my goal points, I'm fine with giving us a break on certain subjects some weeks.

Okay, here we go!  I had to guess on some of the surrounding details since I don't remember exactly how the day went several weeks ago, but in general these kinds of days are pretty typical for us.


Monday

The kids wake up around the same time that I do, but I tell them to stay in their rooms until at least 7:00 while I try to squeeze my devotions in.  Some days I can do morning devotions before starting the day, some days I can't.

I get the kids eating breakfast, and fix my makeup.  Then they play while I eat my breakfast and watch the news.  We enjoy having slow mornings.

Sometime around 10:00 or 11:00, I get Wyatt started on doing his math on the computer.  We are supplementing with an online curriculum this year, so some days he does math on the computer, and some day we do one-on-one instruction.  

He finishes math, so I have him practice his cursive while I do a reading lesson with Gwen.  The reading lesson goes quick so we move right on to Gwen's math.

After Gwen is finished I switch back to Wyatt, and we do a reading lesson.  Then I take a break to start lunch.

After we eat, as I'm getting Georgie down for a nap, I have Wyatt start outlining his writing assignment for the week and cut out his "mini books" for his science notebook.  I settle Clyde in with his kindergarten workbook too.  Gwen reads or plays quietly.  I help Wyatt with writing after Georgie is settled, and then we enjoy what's left of the afternoon.

Tuesday

I decide to try to get an early start today, so I start working on reading and math lessons with Wyatt right after breakfast.  As he finishes worksheets or math problems, I start working on spelling with Gwen.  When Wyatt is finished, he takes a break while I move on to Gwen's math.  I want to get her ahead, and she's already got a handle on the concepts in these lessons, so we do three in a row before we quit.  The little kids interrupt us a few times, but mostly play together upstairs, and Wyatt reads a book in the play room.

I make lunch and have Wyatt do an extra computer math lesson while I put Georgie down for a nap.  In the afternoon I work with him on adjectives and verbs, and we start writing his story for the week.  Then he practices his Spanish lessons for co-op before we quit for the day.

Wednesday

It's a rough morning, and we get a late start.  An hour before lunch I get Wyatt started on a math lesson, and Gwen started on writing practice.  We're going to focus on science and history lessons today, so I read a chapter of our Astronomy textbook to all the kids as we eat lunch.  We're learning about Venus, and they are fascinated.  After I get Georgie down, we do our Bible lesson and read a little bit of a book about Lottie Moon, since we are studying China in our history/geography curriculum right now.

We don't have time for anything more since I have to leave around 4:00 to take Wyatt to his soccer practice.  But after dinner, Derek and I pack up pajama-clad kids in the car and take them as far from civilization as we can so we can stargaze.  We see a few planets and identify several constellations.  We give the kids cookies on the way home, and they ask to go stargazing again soon.

Thursday

We have errands to run this morning, so I have the kids take some of their work on the go.  Gwen does math practice in the car and works on handwriting (this is probably tricky to accomplish while we are driving, now that I'm thinking about it).  Wyatt does some cursive practice, and reads his current chapter book, a kids' version of Swiss Family Robinson.  When we get home, I feed everyone lunch and Wyatt does a computer math lesson while I get the littlest ones down for a nap.  We are all wiped out, so I help Wyatt finish his story before co-op tomorrow, and we call it a day.

Friday

Co-op this morning!  We run around like crazy people trying to get out the door, but we manage to get there in a reasonable amount of time.  We are all scattered on co-op mornings.  The kids go into their classes and learn some subjects together with other homeschoolers their age.  Gwen and Clyde hear a history lesson, do a science experiment, and do literature (which involves picture books and possibly a craft).  Clarice and Georgie are in the "preschool" class, so it's mostly playing, snacking, and crafts.  Wyatt has a spanish lesson, science experiments, and writing (which I help to teach).

I always have good intentions of doing some extra "fun stuff" when we get home from co-op - like music or art practice.  But honestly, we usually come home and just crash.

Weekend

Typically we do nothing on weekends, but this particular weekend we squeezed in a field trip to a "Living History Days" event after Wyatt's soccer game!  The kids got to see how people lived and worked in colonial times, which is very appropriate since that's what we're studying in our co-op history this year.



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And that's it guys!  A typical week in our homeschool.  Here is a breakdown of what we accomplished.

Wyatt (3rd Grade):

6 math lessons
2 reading lessons
3 days of writing work
2 days of cursive practice
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free reading time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Gwen (1st Grade):

4 math lessons, and 1 day of practice pages
1 reading lesson (which is fine, because that's all I planned for the week since she is ahead of schedule)
1 spelling lesson (only one is planned per week)
2 days of writing work
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free book and play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Clyde (Kindergarten): 

Kindergarten workbook pages
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op


Clarice and Georgie (4 and almost-2 years old):

Lots of playing and books
Joining in on field trips, Bible lessons, etc.

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Looking at the breakdown, I am pretty happy with the amount of work we accomplished in one week, even though a couple of the days felt like light days.  It just goes to show how things tend to even out over time.  

I will say that after typing this out here, I'm reminded that I need to spend a little more time with Clyde doing more one-on-one lessons.  He is mostly getting workbooks and the whole-family lessons right now, since I'm still trying to figure out what kind of work he is ready for and how to work it into my daily schedule.  So maybe I'll make that a goal for the next couple weeks.

It honestly feels a little vulnerable for me to share this with all of you.  I know some people will look at this sample week and think we are totally slacking, while other moms might look at it and focus in on the things that make them feel like they are slacking in their homeschool.  

But keep in mind that this is just one week of our homeschool.  This is how things are working for us right now.  Like every homeschool mom, I am always adjusting our methods and figuring out our schedule a little better with each passing month and year.  As I said, things tend to even out over time.  By the end of the school year, I'll look back and be amazed at how much we learned and how much my kids grew in their skills and knowledge  - and if you are a homeschool mom, I'm sure you will be able to say the same when May arrives!  

How is the school year going for all of you?

How We Homeschool On The Go

(Picture from our nature hike the other day.)

Today I had a dental appointment, and it got me thinking about homeschool on the go. 

Ideally we could be home every day until we finished our school work, but that is not always how it works our. Sometimes we need to schedule appointments or errands in the morning. For our family, this particularly complicates our homeschool day, because we live in a rural area and it typically takes us 30-45 minutes to get to town. Factoring in drive time, whenever we have a morning appointment we end up being out of the house for at least half the day.

However, that doesn’t mean the day needs to be a wash as far as school goes. When I was a homeschool student (4th grade through high school), I would just grab all my homeschool books and do my school work in the car. While its best to work at home, a nice thing about homeschooling is that you can do your work anywhere! For the younger grades, when kids are less independent, school on the go is a little trickier, but still doable. Here is how we make those days work.

1. Make it a light day.

I’ve come to accept that appointment days are going to end up being lighter days for our homeschool - and that’s okay. Homeschool days do not all have to look identical. If I know we’re going to be out and about, I’ll try to plan for a lighter day, and save more difficult subjects for another day. It all evens out by the end of the year.

2. Bring worksheets.

Before we leave I’ll look through our lessons for the day and see if there are any worksheets we can bring. Worksheets are one thing my kids can do independently!

3. Audio resources.

Because we live in a rural area, we usually have to drive 30-40 minutes to get wherever we’re going. Sometimes (if I'm thinking ahead), I'll see if I can find any audio that goes along with whatever we are studying in history or science, and we can listen to that in the car.  This might be the audio version of one of our read-aloud, historical dramatizations or stories, or even podcasts!  There are some great Adventure In Odyssey history stories that are free online, and a lot of fun educational kid podcasts if I take a minute to look before we leave!

4. Games on iPad.

I try to limit my kids' screen time when we are home, but when we are on the go, it's a great time to let them play with some educational apps.  These apps don't replace curriculum, but they can be fun for review or light learning on the go!  A couple that we've used are Teach Your Monster To Read (one-time cost) or ABC Mouse (monthly subscription for which we occasionally splurge).


5. Educational stops.

Because of where we live, a quick appointment can turn into a half-day event, so I try to consolidate trips and think of any educational places to stop while we are out and about.  If I know we will be going somewhere, I almost always squeeze in a library trip, which absolutely is included in school time.  I might turn the day into a mini field trip by stopping at a museum or historic park, or doing a nature hike on the way home.  You could even get a little creative and use somewhere like the grocery store for math practice (I have my oldest add up the prices for me while we shop).  There are all kinds of ways to incorporate learning opportunities and real-life experiences if you keep your eye out, especially for younger kids!




(Just a few more pictures from our nature hike.)

Homeschool moms (especially with non-independent kids), how do you get school work done while you are on the go?  Any other tips you want to add to mine?
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