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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can we afford to homeschool????

One of the things I struggled with when considering homeschooling was if we could afford it. Some of the curriculums out there can be pretty pricey. Some of the ones people recommend most, were out of our budget.

I have good news, it IS possible for even the most financially challenged family, to homeschool their children if they so desire. There are tons of free resources out there for early child education, the downside of that is that it does take some time to research, and also some preparation time to put it together and teach. Here are some of my favorites:

These are just a few of my favorite places to go, but a little research and you will be pleased to find there are MANY free resources out there. Decide what's right for you.

I homeschooled my 6 yr old since he was small, mainly to pass time together in a constructive way. I wasn't planning to homeschool, but it became such a part of our life, and I had a huge network of friends and support, that we decided to give it a shot. The year before my son was going to enter Kindergarten I did a full time homeschool regiment to find out what worked for us and what didn't. One of the things I learned was that I really needed to find a good concrete curriculum.

In spite of all the great free resources available, I felt like all I did was plan, plan, plan. I actually like the planning part, but it was taking time away from my family of very young children who really need mommy's attention and direction at this stage of their life. I found myself planning and putting together lessons the morning of the lesson, I felt frazzled and like I wasn't doing my best job, and I wasn't even sure I was teaching him everything he was supposed to learn.

I thought to myself, if I am going to do this I need to get a good curriculum that would tell me what to teach and have the lessons generally planned for me. I searched alot of different options and I found many affordable options. Here are some of my favorites:

www.rodandstaff.com (this is the curriculum we chose, it is a good solid curriculum, but I have had to do some adapting to make it more interesting and challenging for my son)

www.aophomeschooling.com (Alpha and Omega Publishing has some affordable options as well as some free resources)

There are a number of others as well. There is a book called 100 top picks by Cathy Duffy that I highly recommend to anyone considering homeschooling, it has great reviews on many curriculums out there.

In addition you should check your local resources, there are many used homeschool bookstores out there, they sell the books and curriculum and other resources that homeschool families have sold to them and they are offered at a more affordable price than buying brand new.

You may also find a curriculum you love for the core subjects, and then find other free or low cost resources to supplement the other subjects. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can teach what you want. There are a number of Christian books available at the Vision Forum a favorite site of mine for finding supplemental learning materials.

There is such variety out there, that with a little research I think you will find, that you CAN afford to homeschool, at this point for our family, I feel like we can't afford NOT to.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teachable ME! - Is it something I'M doing??

So after my crazy mommy week last week, I got to thinking, why in the world are my boys doing these foolish and crazy things SOOOO often, and as soon as the opportunity arises. After much thought and prayer, I concluded that they obviously have too much free time on their hands. Too  much free time, means too much time to think about foolish things, and this momma ain't raisin no fools! The other issue has been that they also are obviously not taking into account how their actions affect other people. Lets not forget to mention the obvious reason, they are sinners in need of a savior. The only obvious solution to that is to immerse them in scripture teaching, more than ever.

Therefore, I am implementing a new way of doing things around here. We will be having many more devotional breaks in the day. Our current curriculum is a Christian curriculum and is wonderful, but we need more time with one on one discussions about life using the scriptures as a guide, teaching them how it applys to thier life...Also Mommy needs to be more diligent to make time for QUIET TIME!!!! Now while I would like a little more "quiet", what I mean by quiet time is time for myself to be immersed in the scriptures, checking my own heart and seeing where I need to change...this time cannot be neglected, when it is...believe me it comes out in ugly ways, and guess what...little eyes are watching and learning. Often when I come to these times when things are overwhelming, it is really nothing more than my children acting out what they see in my own life. The Lord is always so faithful to reveal those things tenderly to me, to bring conviction and repentance.

From a practical standpoint, the oldest, and middlest boys are old enough to do many of the things that I do for them, so it's time to step up the responsibility level for them. From now on, if they create a mess, whether it be as a result of foolishness, or as a result of playtime, THEY will clean it up. I almost always have them help clean up after their playtime, but usually in the case of their foolish messes, I administer proper discipline, correction and instruction and then send them to a secure location (their room, the couch etc.) as sort of a time out, while I clean up the unexpected mess.

 That is NOT going to be the case anymore, they need to learn that it takes hard work and time away from things that are more important or desirable to clean up a mess that shouldn't even be there in the first place. Shame on me for not doing this sooner. To be honest, I think most often the areas my kids struggle with the most, are because I enable them, by doing not giving them enough responsibility over whatever area of life they may be struggling in, usually because of my own selfish desire to get things done the easy way....well easy doesn't always pay, you usually pay later, with interest! At least that's what I am  learning in my own life. I always try to see the bigger picture. I want to be faithful to deal with these issues now, when its just a spill on the carpet etc, so that I am not facing these issues in thier later years, when it will be harder to correct. I dont want to watch my kids spiral out of control like a tornado, leaving destruction in thier own lives, and the lives of those around them.

I've instructed them on why I am doing this, and that they need to take responsibility for their actions. I will provide them with the necessary items needed to clean up their mess, when they make one, as well as standing by with instruction when needed, for as LONG as it takes to get the job done. They will have to clean the whole thing up. Of course I know they are only 3.5 and almost 6 ysr old, and it's not going to be a job done to my high standard of course, but I can go over it afterward and "perfect" it if I have time or so choose, but mainly I am hoping this will make them think twice before choosing to do something foolish.

The other principle I am applying is that of keeping them busy with hard work. A child who is busy working hard on GOOD THINGS, won't have much time to think about doing foolish things. Right now I have decided to start giving Joshua more school work than I was previously giving him, of course breaking it up throughout the day, but instead of having so much "free time" I will be giving him some more fun projects focusing on what we've been learning in our class time. Also more review and studying on the things that he needs to work on. He is a very bright boy who loves to learn so this isn't like torture for him lol.

This is not to say that I am not allowing them to have free time, just not as much of it. I am hoping that they will realize the value of free time, and decide to spend it wisely when they do have it.

I will also be having them work alongside me more often, even if it is a little slower for me, or a little frustrating at times, I would rather deal with a little frustration, for a short time, until they master a skill and can be completely helpful and a little more self sufficient, than have to deal with the frustration of the many consequences of their foolish choices while unsupervised in their free time, as I am working on my stuff. So with dinner prep, if they are around, they can help me with what is not a danger to them, even if it's only helping me to clean up as I go. With laundry, they can practice folding things, or sorting things into piles of whose stuff belongs to who, matching socks etc. Sometimes I give them some baby wipes and have them wipe their toys tables etc down with them. These are all things they are capable of.  They enjoy doing most of these things anyhow, I usually just would rather do it myself so I can get it done, fast, and right....are we seeing a pattern here......

I think if we are to be good parents, and this principle works with most any relationship, we need to be willing to examine our part in the other persons failures, maybe we are not playing a part, but I think a wise friend/co-worker, brother/sister, husband/wife etc. will at least take the time to sit back and examine themselves to see if there is any way they are personally making a difficult situation worse, and if so, what can they do to help make it better. As a mom it is my duty and responsibility to be faithful in my training of my children, and I believe that means examining myself and if I am helping or hindering my young ones.

Even if I wasn't playing a part in hindering them, by allowing them too much free time, and doing too much for them, therefore not allowing them to learn that their actions have deeper consequences than just simple discipline and correction, I would still say that these are great principles to establish to keep your kids on track and not pummeling down the road to destruction.

That's my teachable ME moment. I love how the Lord provides these wonderful teachable moments to help us to grow in wisdom. Parenting is no easy task. I don't know what I would do without the wisdom and guidance that comes from above.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Teachable ME! What I am learning in my own life

I am a firm believer that there is something to learn from every situation, if you are open to seeing what there is to learn, you can be blessed by even the most frustrating and even heartbreaking circumstances, and grow in wisdom and knowledge.

This past week as I took some time off from formal schooling, to do our seasonal clothing switch, I was faced with a number of extreeeeemely frustrating circumstances, while my kids were off routine, and less supervised than usual, I have been dealing with one crazy mess after another, that my kids have created, using the insanely intelligent and overly curious minds that God gave them, and I truly rejoice in this about them, because I know the Lord created them with these qualities, because he intends to use it in their lives for his GOOD purpose. I love finding ways to channel these qualities for good in their lives. Sometimes, however, as in my own life, they use the gifts God gave them to do not so wise things.

I think the following series of pictures should be self explanatory…..But some others that were not photographed include, milk on the computer, hot sauce in the dog dish, and rice all over the family room floor….
Joshua, my 5 year old decided to carve his own pumpkin out of a pumpkin I had to make a pie...

Baby threw the leapster Explorer in the toilet...money down the drain...literally

 My three year old unraveled 3 rolls of toilet paper in thier entirety...

My 5 year old did this last mess trying to make cupcakes he said...

He put it in the oven

the entire house covered in green food coloring....

Yesterday, upon cleaning up the Green food coloring mixed with dish soap, ice cream and my dog (who ran through the concoction and then through the house) I was struggling with the frustration of having to clean up yet another mess, a mess that was making me less productive with the things I needed to get done. I continued to struggle with this in my mind all evening, “All I ever do is clean up after everybody else’s mess,  don’t they consider the consequences, surely they know better, surely I am training them to make wiser choices than this…..” I was having a hard time dealing with this graciously. I was at the end of my rope after this grand finale for the week of disasters. I was angry and frustrated and everyone was well aware.

After I got my composure and got the kids in bed. I lay praying about all of this pouring my heart of anger and frustration out to the Lord in brokenness. He is so faithful, He called to my memory, all the MANY times, that I have created a mess of my life, even with consequences that affected others I loved, all because of my poor choices and decisions, when I should have known better.

I was reminded of how graciously and mercifully he dealt with me through those situations. How often He gave me insight and restoration, all the while cleaning up my messes for me, not dealing with me as I deserved.  He is a just God, those whom he loves he disciplines, I have had my fair share of discipline from the Lord, but I have had so much mercy and grace poured out in my life, I have no right to not extend the same to my children when they fail.

The Lord has set the standard, and he has also set the example. I need to model the Lord and his attributes in my life, so that my children may see him through my example and come to know him. If I teach them about the love, mercy and grace of God, apart from his Justice, I am doing them harm and not good. Likewise, I need to provide discipline, correction and instruction, but if I do that apart from Love, Mercy and grace, I do no good, I am like a clanging gong or a cymbol.

That’s my Teachable ME moment for the week, as the Lord continues to be faithful to reveal to me my own sinful heart as he teaches me to be more like him. What ways does the Lord use your kids to reveal the areas of life you need to work on?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Re-purposing common household items for teaching

Re-purposing containers
We’ve been talking about how to take common household items you would normally throw away in the recycle bin and re-purpose them for your learning environment. This not only saves you $ in your budget, but it gives you more room to do some other fun things or buy other resources you need. Why pay full price for something that you could make yourself. That’s my motto with pretty much anything.
The other reason is that in doing this you are teaching your children valuable lessons about being good stewards of the resources they’ve been blessed with. Not only are you educating them on keeping the environment healthy, but you are teaching them resourcefulness, and creativity.
I grew up in a family, where my mom and her sisters were the most creative people I knew on the planet when it came to resourcefulness, my mom when shopping would always say, I’m not buying this I could totally make it myself, and then she would! I learned from her and plan on passing that on to my children as well.
We may be just creating simple learning tools, but it’s so much more than just what is on the surface.
That being said, today’s recycling idea of the day is re-purposing containers.  I am notorious for storing  up containers for a rainy day. I use them for everything. When I got a great buy 2 get 3 sale on some nut mixes in a plastic container I was overjoyed! We used 2  of them to make a time capsule to go along with a history lesson, and 1 to store pencils, and another to store markers. This is perfect so that my little 1 yr old will not be able to unscrew the tops and get to them.

The larger containers I use for storing random items, like this large container I use for storing some simple foam squares acquired in the dollar section of target that we use for counting and sorting and building.

Egg crates are another EXCELLENT recyclable. You can use them as paint pallets for keeping colors separated, for counting activities, sorting, creating games to practice learning. A favorite of ours is moving a board piece and you have to spell your vocabulary word and state the definition, if you spell the vocabulary word correctly you move one space, if you say the definition and spell the vocabulary word correctly you move two spaces. We’ve also used them for progressive story telling where I put some random small toy inside an easter egg and as the child opens the eggs they need to build a story around what is inside the egg. It is a great way to get them using their imaginations.

You can also recycle things such as Kleenex boxes, and baby wipe containers to hold things such as note cards and vocabulary words, you can even turn them into prize grab and go containers for rewards.  I recently repurposed a Kleenex paper towel dispenser  to hold my “what’s the weather like today?” cards so they are handy when I go to do that portion of our school day with the little ones. It even matches nicely :) I also repurposed a baby wipes container to store my chalk and eraser, I can easily grab one or put one back through the slot in the top.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to look beyond the container to see the many other ways you can enjoy creating fun learning activities and memories to cherish with your little ones to make their educational time fun and interesting.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Re-purposing common household items for teaching

I am beginning a new series on recycling everyday household items and making them into great tools for learning. Recycled idea of the day is, bottle caps! These are a favorite thing of mine to use when teaching. I save all of them in a big bin. Then I have the younger ones sort them by color.
I use them for all kinds of things, from counting, number/letter recognition and order, pattern making for the younger ones, to making mathematical equations, distinguishing vowels from consonants and spelling with the older ones. They are also great with art projects and games. A favorite of ours is tossing the caps to get them in a bowl while saying their memory verses, they have to say it until they get the cap in the bucket. You can do this with math facts, spelling, or any fact your little ones are trying to memorize.

This is just one of many ways to recycle common household items, and save your family money! Instead of spending outrageous amounts of money on fancy counting blocks or letter blocks etc., I usually don’t pay full price for something I can make on my own, buy a book or take a field trip instead with the money you save, your kids will also learn from your example on how to be wise with their resources.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What the Teacher Wants!: freezing weather, snow, and bears...oh my!

What the Teacher Wants!: freezing weather, snow, and bears...oh my!: Guess what? We had snow. I know, right? The day after Halloween, we HAD SNOW and it was only about this much . but I pouted like a 4 year o...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Curriculum Challenge Part 3-Homeschooling The Gifted Learner

So last time we talked about how we came to settle on a curriculum. This week I will share about how we have had to adapt that curriculum to meet our needs. I mentioned that We have been blessed by this curriculum, that it was great for my own strengths and weaknesses. But the one thing we have found to be a challenge has been Joshua’s intelligence. The first grade level curriculum we chose for him because he was already advanced, has not been challenging enough for him, it is very slow moving lots and lots and lots of repetition for a boy who grasps things very quickly, it has been frustrating for him. I think he is a gifted learner, though I won’t go through having him tested at this time, because I am homeschooling and can adapt to his educational needs with freedom. If he was going into school, I would have him tested only for placement purposes. I’m wary of testing because that just gives him a label, and I’m not into labels…that’s for another post.

Back to the curriculum challenge, I was very discouraged the first week of school when he was saying, I already knoooow this mom, I need something more challenging…most teachers would love this comment, and I am pleased that he is such a fast and eager learner, but I had no budget to go out and purchase a whole new curriculum, I had purchased this one with the idea that I wasn’t going to have to spend hours and hours planning lessons, and now it looked like that was exactly what I was going to have to do in order to keep up with his needs.

This is where having a positive network of friends and other homeschoolers is a must for the homeschooling family. I asked several of my friends what they would do in this situation, and I also posted a question on one of the blogs I follow stating my issue and requesting advice. What did we ever do without the internet? The response was amazing. I had so many people who had been in the same boat give me support, encouragement, curriculum recommendations and the like. So I have some different things to consider when we choose next year’s curriculum, though the advice that was so helpful was a recommendation, to stick with what we have, and teach it at an accelerated rate, and if we finish early, then we can take an early break and then even start on the next year.

So that is what we have been doing. I have been teaching 3 lessons at a time, per subject each day. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming to give him all those worksheets and workbook pages, so I split them up into “homework” that he works on later in the day after his nap, usually when I am trying to get dinner ready or at times when other mindless activities would compete for his time. Another recommendation was to supplement, supplement, supplement. Find different things, books activities, and fun learning excersizes to supplement what is being learned in class time. This has been working great for us. I am so glad I didn’t run out and get a new curriculum. I may try something new next year, I may just continue doing what we are doing as well, we have some things to consider, but overall choosing to make the curriculum we chose, meet his needs has been the best decision yet.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you dont also have to follow the teachers manual exactly as it is written, Im not even sure public/private school teachers do either. Though I think its a misconception and something we as homeschool parents can get hung up on, and it can hinder us sometimes. I skip over the things I know he already knows and/or adapt them to make them more interesting. Sometimes I even ask him for suggestions on creating a game to practice the lessons. Its wonderful to have that freedom.

I’m sure this is not the case in every situation, but it was the case in ours. My advice that anyone can follow, is to find a network of friends and other homeschool families that you can trust and lean on for advice and support. It is key to successful homeschooling.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The outdoor classroom-Taking advantage of a good thing!

Today is such a beautiful fall day, the leaves are falling, changing colors, there is a breeze in the air that with one breath brings a flood of memories of this time of year, I get the sudden urge to create some new ones. We have missed a few of these beautiful days recently due to my being under the weather, so we are taking advantage of this beautiful day, and I am so thankful that we homeschool and have the freedom to do that.
So how do you get out and enjoy the day, but not skip school. I could just say it’s a field trip day, observe nature day or something, but really we need to do some critical work today so its not an option. So I had Joshua practice his writing, (he is an advanced reader and writer) I had him write a story, and we are all going to act out his story in the woods. That’s fun, will work their imaginations, and he gets practice with his printing, spelling and punctuation.
We will also be practicing his math facts…He is very bright, he memorizes all his math facts in seconds, and even figures out the ones I hadn’t even taught him yet. We are up to the 8’s addition family and he taught himself the 7’s and 8’s all by himself!
This is great! Though I’ve said it before,in my M+M=MM MM Good Math time Learning post, that when it comes to math, kids need to learn word problems, so they learn the math concepts, not just straight memorization. It is critical to understanding math concepts they will learn in the later years. So I am going to have him create word problems and equations using items from the environment (ie: 5 red leaves, + 2 yellow leaves = 7 leaves, or the tree had 5 yellow leaves and 2 red leaves for a total of 7 leaves) who knows what we will come up with, the possibilities are endless.

We are also going to make more of our pinecone bird feeders, and hang them in the trees in the woods for the birds, and the squirrels.

We will finish with our PE lesson and a snack, which goes with today’s lesson, and then head home for naps. These are some awesome ways to utilize the outdoor classroom.Later I will have Joshua work on some workbook work, as "homework". Getting out of the house is not only ONE half of the battle, but its the second half of the battle too, two halfs equals a whole and that makes it 100% of the battle, so I better get moving! (Had to sneak in a little math time fun:))

I would love it if you would share with me how you utilize the outdoors for learning. Send your info and pictures if you have them, to teachableme@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Curriculum Challenge Part 2-Making An Informed Decision

So in my last post I discussed how finding the right line up of curriculum really depends on your family’s individual needs. Today I would like to share with you what my experience has been.  Very early on, I started out using www.hubbardscupboard.org just to pass the time constructively with my children. They provide a great variety of resources already planned out for you. It is a Christian resource which has the units designed in themes, centered around Bible stories at the younger ages, and character traits for the older ages, so if you are studying about Adam and Eve, you learn a corresponding Bible verse, the letter A, with a rhyme to illustrate the sound…”Adam at an apple a, a, a…” counting by putting apples on a tree which is a printable they have available to you…and a whole host of other activities to fill your week. This was the greatest resource for me. Once that curriculum finished I was at a loss. I wanted a curriculum that was laid out the same kind of way.
Joshua was not supposed to start kindergarten until 2011 bc of his birthday but he was clearly able and ready to learn, so I did kindergarten with him the year before he was supposed to start, this was the first time I did full time homeschooling in our home. I did it this way just so I could try to play around with what worked and what didn’t for us, before he was really supposed to be in school. It was a great decision, but that’s for another post J
I tried to do research, for a similar set up of curriculum most of the ones that were unit study, were out of my price range, so I tried a variety of things that I found at a local used homeschool bookstore, and utilized tons of free online resources. We made it work, but doing it this way, was a lot of effort on my part, to do the research and prepare all the things I needed for the lessons. It was a bit overwhelming, for me as I also had a 2.5 yr old and a 6 month old to care for as well.
In considering this, I knew that I wanted something with minimal planning on my part, I also had to take into consideration, my strengths and weaknesses. I observed as a weakness, that organization is something that takes a lot of concentrated effort on my part, as a strength, I am very artistic and creative and can come up with pretty much a creative way to teach anything. In considering Joshua’s strengths and weakness, I needed to take into account that Joshua is a very intelligent child, he learns things very fast, it’s fascinating to me. Basically I teach him something once and he knows it forever, he also does well using workbooks, and even taught himself how to read while we were working on beginning and ending sounds in a workbook we bought in the $1 section of target!
Weighing all these things, I figured that whatever curriculum I settled on, for the core curriculum (math, reading, phonics) I wanted it to be a Christian curriculum, a complete curriculum, one that was put together by one company and came with everything I needed to teach a full year of school, and that it have some workbook centered time. I wanted one that outlined everything I had to do, and had all the resources, and was workbook centered. And of course that it fit our budget.
Our pediatrician homeschools, and he recommended Rod and Staff to me. I checked it out online, and it was completely affordable and came with a complete 1 yr of curriculum, workbooks, flash cards, even art and music curriculum. Everything that needed to be taught was completely outlined for me all I needed to do was pull the things they told me to have ready for class, and then teach their curriculum. I was sold. I ordered it and was ready to go at the start of the year in 2011.
We have been blessed by this curriculum, it was great for my own strengths and weaknesses. One thing we have found to be a challenge, Joshua’s intelligence, the first grade level curriculum we chose for him because he was already advanced, has not been challenging enough for him, it is very slow moving lots and lots and lots of repetition for a boy who grasps things very quickly, it has been frustrating for him. I was very discouraged the first week of school when he was saying, I already know this mom, I need something more challenging…most teachers would love this comment, and I am pleased that he is such a fast and eager learner, but I had no budget to go out and purchase a whole new curriculum…what was I going to do…That will be covered in my next post, The Curriculum Challenge Part 3-Making the curriculum you chose work for your family’s needs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Top Challenges to Homeschool Families-(Part 1-Finding a curriculum that works)

So there are 3 main things that are a challenge to most every homeschool family, curriculum, home keeping, and occupying younger brothers and sisters. I am starting a series of posts on these three things.
Today I am tackling the ever complex topic of curriculum. To start I am going to just say, if you are a first time homeschooler and are asking around about what people use, do not have the expectation that someone will just give you a magic answer where you will be able to run out, buy it, and it will be your perfect ever curriculum, that’s what I was hoping for, it never happened. People would whip off names of like one hundred different curriculums and I was like, uhhh ok. I went to an informational meeting a homeschooling mom from our church organized, and I was so confident that I would walk out of there, with a better plan than I had.
I was W-R-O-N-G… Wrong. All these women showed up with what seemed like thousands of these mega sized textbooks and filled up a huge dining table with them. It was very overwhelming, I felt very discouraged afterward. I looked through so many of those books, there were toooo many choices. I had no clue which would be best for us. I had been mostly making my own Pre-K lessons all along, I am artistic and creative by nature, so planning fun activities around a theme was always something that just came natural to me as a mom, and for the more technical things, I had a little help from www.hubbardscupboard.org ,which I highly recommend as a place to start for anyone thinking about homeschooling, and its FREE! I left there thinking, how in the WORLD am I supposed to take a big ol’ textbook and make a lesson from it?!(I didn’t reaIize that those big ol’ textbooks WERE the lesson plans) lol. Either way it was very intimidating. Like I said, I left there, neither confident, nor with ANY kind of a plan at all, in fact I was more panicked than anything, wondering if I could even do this at all.
I continued to ask around, hoping someone would just tell me I HAD to use this one particular type of curriculum and that would be that. But I would ask and get like 200 different things they had tried, and what they were using now, and what they liked or didn’t like about each one and what they were switching to. Everyone always said, you just have to find what works for you….well what was that?
 We are on a budget, so I didn’t have the freedom to just be buying and trying out this curriculum and that, some of the ones people recommended where well out of our range to begin with and I was like, well if its that much money and it doesn’t work, then what?
I just kept researching. I found some great sites I have them on the side panel of my blog. The first is www.letshomeschool.com it has a wide variety of very helpful information, teaching tips, curriculum reviews , state standards, ideas and more.  The other is http://cathyduffyreviews.com Where the author of the book, 100 Top Picks, which is highly recommended for any homeschooling family, has detailed reviews of curriculum and more based on subject, and lots more information to help you find your way.
Now, the reason I say that you will never get an answer that will solve all your problems with deciding on a curriculum, is that what you decide will absolutely depend on what will work for you and your family. So to conclude this post, I would encourage you to think about what kind of learning style your children have, what kind of organizational/planning person are you, do you do well at balancing many different tasks, or do you find it hard to do that, consider how much planning time you have available, Do you want to do a lot of  the planning and prep yourself, or do you want something that just has everything done for you and you just have to organize it, and teach it, consider what YOUR strengths and weaknesses as a teacher are, and what your children’s strengths and weaknesses are. Write these down somewhere so that you have them, when you are reviewing the different choices of curriculum out there.
In my next post, I will talk about my personal journey down this path, and where it has lead us, and what it is looking like moving forward.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Written History-Making it personal

What is history? It’s the study of what happened in the past. I love to take what we are learning and make it personal. Today we studied that one way of finding out history of a person, place, or thing in time is to study written records. We learned about different types of written records, and what is held within them.
Books are the first thing they thought of, so we pulled out some different kind of books, learning books, entertaining books, true story books, of course the Bible. We talked about birth certificates, how they tell when, and where someone entered into the world, death certificates, to note the opposite, medical records to tell the history of a person’s health, Dental records, and how they can be used to identify a person, and finally personal letters which can tell you so much about the intimate details of a persons history, you can tell from a letter a woman wrote to her mother in the pioneer days how life was starting up, you can learn of wars, and wartime strategies, and even stories of love. I also showed them my “mother’s diary”, and we had fun reading all the little things I jot down that are funny, cute, or monumental that they do. There are so many written records we could hardly discuss all of them and it would be way above their heads, but I tried to have some of these available to them, to see, birth certificates, medical records, whatever I had on hand.

I am all for hands on learning, and I believe that when the kids can see touch, taste, feel whatever it is they are learning about, it becomes more personal and they are more likely to remember it. The night before this lesson, I remembered that a yr ago we had done a time capsule as a family, where we all put in items that characterized our lives, so I dug it out of the linen closet and had it ready to present. Then I had some empty plastic nut canisters and some note cards so we could create a written record of our current time. After presenting the lesson, we pulled out the time capsule from last yr, there was a letter from daddy, a church bulletin, and even some bible memory verses from the kids Sunday school class with the date on it, this was perfect for teaching how we can use written records to determine history.
If we were trying to find out about this time capsule, we could conclude that this was from a Christian family (Bible verses/church bulletin) , with a devoted dad who loved his 3 boys.  We could conclude that it was during or after the year 2010 because he mentioned baby Joseph who is only 1 yr old currently. We can affirm that year because of the date on the bulletin and Bible verse pages.
After this we created a written record time capsule. I had written out questions on the cards and asked each boy the questions. and placed their answers in a time capsule to be revealed at the beginning of next school year. I can’t hardly wait!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Teaching your kids to enjoy life-Priority and Privilege

There is such a beauty in the gift of being able to home school. You have a great opportunity to cultivate deeper relationships with your children than you would if they were off under the care of the public school system for the bulk of the day. This is a special reason we choose homeschooling. Through each subject taught and every moment enjoyed together, there are moments that we can make it count. Every day through teaching my children, I shape the way they see the world around them. Whenever I feel like I am not doing enough to “change the world” for the better, I remember that I am building up and training a generation of young men and through my influence and teaching, I hope that they will be changing the world to the glory of God.
One important thing I make sure never to neglect to teach, is teaching them to enjoy this life that God has given them. I want them to never take for granted, the beautiful things in this life, like a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the sound of the rain falling, the big round moon and all its changes, how the trees seem to have hands raised up to heaven, the lovely sound of the birds singing their morning song and the crickets singing a lullaby. It is so important that they are aware of these beautiful things in a fallen world that threatens to drown out the beauty with all of its seemingly inescapable noise.
I make sure that as we go about our day, I do not neglect to point these things out. It shapes the way they see things, when my 5 yr old exclaims with great joy, “Mommy! Look at the beautiful sky God painted for us!” or when my 3 year old, who incidently is supposed to be sleeping, but is instead staring out his window at the moon, comes to get me urging me to come and look at the big round circle in the sky, “The moon, the moon, what color is it mommy?” It happened to be yellow this particular night. “we have to wake up Joshua, he needs to see the pretty moon.”  afterwards praying, "Thank you God for the stars and moon in the sky." 
I love to take these moments and make them personal, I believe it is important to bring life into the classroom, and take thier learning to another level through hands on activities. For example, since John Carlos was so fascinated by the moon, the next day we did a learning activity about the phases of the moon, where we scratched them into the cream of an oreo cookie. (see previous post moons over my oreo in the food for thought series) Since Joshua had been so amazed by the beautiful sunset, we made our own finger paint and painted sunsets with them.
Today, we are going to just go and enjoy Gods creation by being out doors in the beautiful places, observing and taking it all in. Who knows what kind of teachable moments will come out of our time together, there are always teachable moments, you need to be aware of them, and never let them pass. Being together, enjoying life, it’s such a privilege of homeschooling.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apples to Apples-Food For Thought Series (3)

Can you compare apples to apples? Absolutely! That’s exactly what we did with Todays history lesson on archaeology. Last lesson, we talked about history, and that it is the study of what happened in the past, we talked about how you can learn history based on what people in the past have written about. But how do we find out the history of a given time, if there were not any letters written. We talked about how studying the things people leave behind, can tell the story of history too.
We learned about Archaeology and did a backyard dig, that they were not as interested in as I had thought they would be. So I brought them in to do another activity in which I had dumped out an entire bag of apples on the table and told Joshua to choose one…He chose one and began eating it…not part of the plan…so I told him to choose another one. I told him to tell me in detail every single thing about the apple he had chosen (the uneaten one of course) I wrote down each distinguishing characteristic he told me
1.       It has a dent on the bottom of the flatter side of it
2.       The stem is brown and skinny with a rounded top
3.       One side sticks out more than the other
4.       Its green around the top
5.       Its green on the bottom with pointy leaves
6.       It has a lot of dots all over it
7.       It is red
Then we placed the apple in a bowl with all the rest of them and I read him back his description and he had to find the apple based on his description. That is what archaeologists do they carefully examine every detail of things to learn about history of a person, place, or thing in time.
We enjoyed the lesson and plan to try it out on daddy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

M+M=MM MM Good Math Time Fun-Food for thought series (2)

My Joshua was feeling less than challenged by the way I was teaching his math facts. I was following the teacher’s manual to a tee and he was frustrated with the repetition and boring way it was being presented. He said, mommy, I need something more challenging than this.
That is the beautiful thing about homeschooling, and also the reason I LOVE it! You have the freedom to teach a lesson any way you want.
For today,  I just taught the basic math fact concepts outlined in the teachers manual, but instead of having him do worksheet after repetitive worksheet, I Pulled out some colorful coffee mugs and a bag of M&M’s and had him create math equations for each of the math facts that he learned.
It is important for kids to understand the why about the math facts and not just memorize until they are blue in the face, otherwise they can have difficulty in later math when logic and other critical thinking components are more important than straight memorized facts. Therefore I had him create a word problem to illustrate each equation, which was quite comical at times. I also gave him word problems and he had to make the equation with the M&M’s. The bonus was, when he got it right he got to eat the answer! We did that until we ran out of enough M&M’s. Then split the lot J
Then I wrote equations on the board using the math facts we were covering and he had to tell me a word problem to go with it, and I would say a word problem and he would write the equation on the board. Then I even wrote an equation on the board and said he wanted to write the word problem out in pictures, "One beach ball bouncing on the waves, plus two beach balls bouncing on the waves, equals 3 beach balls bouncing on the waves." I love it!
He replied at the end. Mom, that was much more challenging, thanks!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moons over my Oreo -Food For Thought Series (1)

This is my first post in my "Food for thought" series, on using food as a motivational and fun way to teach.

One great thing about home schooling is having the freedom to teach whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want.  A great example of this is what I did today with my boys as a result of my 3 year old John Carlos fascination with the moon all of a sudden.  Last night, I heard some thumping around when he was supposed to be going to bed and found him staring out at the full moon. It was shining bright in a sort of yellowish hue. He was saying, the moon, the moon, I see the moon! What color is it mommy? So we talked about the moon and looked at it through binoculars, it was a moment to be cherished.  I told him it was time to say “Goodnight Moon,” but that we would learn more about the moon tomorrow.

So I found a cute lesson plan online at one of my favorite websites for free learning printables and ideas, www.teachmama.com  whereby you use the cream of the oreo to make the moon into all of the moons different phases. They had fun with it and Joshua, my 5yr old was fascinated by the way the phases are changed by the different positions of the sun, moon and earth, and practiced moving the sun and earth into the correct placements above each phase, using the sun as a vanilla oreo and another chocolate oreo as the earth.

It was a fun way to teach these things, I don’t think John Carlos Got it 100% but he enjoyed eating the cookies and frosting and we even crushed up the leftover oreo tops that no one wanted in paper bags by stepping on them…any boy will love that idea…we will be rolling our vanilla ice cream cones in the crushed oreos to make it look like our favorite phase of the moon, after supper tonight. Great times!