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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.