Simplicity: In the Homeschool

simplicity

 

Homeschooling our children is very important to us. It’s something we knew we wanted to do from the time I found out I was pregnant with Seahawk. We never considered any other option, and now that we’re ten years (almost eleven!) into parenthood and five years into homeschooling, I’m so glad we made this choice. I wrote on the “School at Home” page of our 2013 family yearbook that teaching our children at home is one of my greatest joys as a mother, and I truly mean that. Of course there are days when I wonder what it would be like if the older two were off at school for 8 hours a day. Then I come to my senses and remember why I wanted to be a mom! (Hint: It wasn’t so I could ship them off somewhere the minute they turned five so I wouldn’t have to “deal” with them until they were 18.)

So, how do we balance living simply with homeschooling? There are so many different styles of homeschooling out there – almost as many styles as there are homeschooling parents – and it’s all just a matter of finding a balance. I’m going to go over the way I teach today. This is not a tell-all, do-it-this-way-or-you’re-awful kind of post. This is just what works for us, and if you can take some or all of what I say to make your homeschool day easier or better for you, then that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. But enjoy a little glimpse into our day.

We wake up between 8 and 8:30 each morning. I prefer to be the first one up so I can have a little bit of quiet time before the day starts. That doesn’t always happen though. I’m working on getting the kids into a routine that involves them getting dressed, making their beds, and reading a chapter from their Bible before they come out for breakfast, but that’s still a work in progress. We eat breakfast around 9 (typically just cereal or toast, but sometimes biscuits or pancakes). On the days he’s working from home, Will takes Small Fry out in the mornings so the older kids and I can do school more easily and efficiently. (He works in the afternoons on those days.) Ideally, by 9:30 we’ve started our school day.

I’m a visual person, so I need my kids to “do” something for school, not just read a bunch of books and call it a day. I do know that they can learn so much from reading different books – and we run a very literature heavy school – but it still gives me an odd peace of mind when they do paperwork or projects. We’re somewhere between “school at home” and “natural learning.” The first thing we do is bring out the schoolbooks. After reading a blog post last year on homeschool organization by Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool, I totally took her idea and bought magazine racks – one for each kid. These have been worth their weight in gold for the simplicity it’s brought not only to our school day, but also to the bookshelf in my sewing room where I keep all the school stuff.

schoolbooks

 

Everything we need for a given day (except for the read-aloud books and pencils) is in those racks. Right now, our main focuses are:

  • Spelling – Spelling You See
  • Bible – Apologia’s What on Earth Can I Do?
  • Literature – Little House in the Big Woods study by Progeny Press
  • Cursive Handwriting – This is different for each kid. Munchkin just finished up Logic of English’s Rhythm of Handwriting, so he’s been writing a letter to someone each day; so far this week he’s written to his pen pal in Utah and his great-grandmother in Southern California. Seahawk is working through Patriotic Penmanship, a practice workbook that we received for another review. He likes it because the lessons are very short.
  • Math – Learning Wrap-Ups

We’ve been working our way through An Island Story: A History of England for Girls and Boys and The Burgess Animal Book for Children this year, too, but we’ve got so much other stuff going at the moment that we’re taking a break from those for a while.

On a normal day, we manage to finish all but one of our subjects before lunch – which one varies from day to day. I don’t let the kids choose what they learn per se, because they’re still young enough that there are tons of things that are non-negotiable (times tables and proper spelling, for instance). To help them feel like they still have some control over their own education, then, I let them help decide what order we do the subjects in.

At the end of the school day, all the books get put back in their magazine racks and the racks put away on the shelf until the next day. And that’s how we keep things simple – and organized! – in our homeschool.

What’s your favorite homeschool organizational trick?

Blessings,

Wendy

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Science4Us.com

Science4Us ReviewDo you struggle to teach your kids science? Looking for a great science system for early elementary kids? So was I, so when the opportunity for a Science4Us.com Online Subscription was offered to me in exchange for an honest review, I happily accepted.

What is Science4Us.com? I’m glad you asked. It’s a great program for early elementary kids, from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. It doesn’t cover experiments, but it gives kids a great foundation in a variety of subjects. Kids learn about the basics of science (starting with the tools that scientists use), and then move on to more “fun” stuff like animals and space. Each topic runs for 8 lessons, and each lesson takes roughly half an hour to teach. There are also fun activities that children can do on their own on the website. One of the cool things about Science4Us.com is that while it’s teaching science, it’s also reinforcing things kids this age learn in other subjects. One of Munchkin’s favorite activities was the “Silly Bulls” lesson, which is where key words from the teaching part of the lesson are broken into syllables, mixed up, and the child puts them back in the right order (get it? Syllables … Silly Bulls … ).

s4us silly bulls

Science4Us.com has a login page for each student as well as one for the parent/teacher. You can sit right next to your kids while they do the activities, or you can set them free on the site to work through the modules and check their progress, including information/activities from their digital science notebook, in your teacher dashboard. The website allows you to assign modules to your students, and also for your students to select what they want to learn about each day, so there’s a bit of freedom in how you work the program.

While the website is geared primarily toward younger kids (Kindergarten through 2nd grade, like I mentioned above), it’s also a great place for upper elementary kids to get a refresher course in what they learned when they were younger. Even though Seahawk is in 4th grade, he’s been using Science4Us.com and loving it. Because it’s geared to the younger children, though, I’ve been focusing on having Munchkin use it and letting Seahawk on there when time permits.

Once they finished the science tools module, it was interesting to see what each kid chose to study. Munchkin was all over Life Science, which covers Living vs. Nonliving, Plants, and Animals. Seahawk wanted to study Space, which covers Exploring the Universe and Earth in Space. The Exploring the Universe module was really cool. My favorite part, and I think Seahawk’s too, was the exploration of our galaxy. It opened up a map of sorts of the Milky Way, and you could click on the different planets and it would zoom in and give you all sorts of facts about each one. You could also rotate and spin around the solar system. They provided a “ring” showing each planet’s course around the sun, which I think was helpful in keeping them straight while you clicked through them, making sure you chose the one you wanted to explore further.

s4us space 1

This is the “main” view of the solar system page – what you see when you first open it.

s4us space 3

s4us space 2

And these two show you how you could flip all around to get different views.

s4us venus

And here’s Venus’ page. There was one of these for each of the planets, the sun, and Earth’s moon.

For a basic science curriculum for young kids, I think Science4Us.com is a great choice. There are so many choices in study topics that there’s something for everyone. With the “assign” feature, you don’t even have to strictly monitor your kids if you don’t want to. The website is ad-free, so you don’t have to worry about that while your kids are learning. As a subscription-based service, there’s a ton of flexibility, too. You can keep it during the school year and let it go during the summer, or you can keep it year-round if that’s your thing. They also provide printable pages for the kids if you’re a “worksheet” kind of teacher. You still need to have the online time, since the information is taught using online videos and interactive activities, but the worksheets are great for reinforcing what your kids have learned during their online sessions. And at $7.95 a month, it’s a really affordable option if you don’t know what to do for your young learner’s science needs.

To close, I just want to show you guys how big an impact this program had on Munchkin. We have a notebook that he and I write in, letters back and forth, and in one of his recent letters, he included this picture:

11397

Little things like that are what I’d call a glowing review!

Blessings,

Wendy

You can find Science4Us.com on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google +.

more reviews click through copy review crew disclaimer copy

Homeschooling Essentials: A Plan

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Welcome back to the Homeschooling Essentials series! I hope you’re enjoying reading about everyone’s Essentials and maybe even learning some tricks and tips for including some of them into your homeschool.

Today’s Essential from me is a plan. I have to know in advance what I’m going to be teaching or it doesn’t get done. It’s as simple as that. I’ve tried it both ways, with a plan and without one, and hands down, it’s better when I plan things out. I was blessed enough to win a copy of The Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner earlier this school year, and it’s made a huge difference in our school. Things are no longer crazy “what do we have to do today?” And the kids are more focused too ;).

You don’t need any specific planner, although I do highly recommend the Well Planned Day. Just find one that works for you and your specific needs. The things you’ll need to include are the different subjects you need/want to teach, and a space for the lesson required for each child. That’s it. You can even make your own. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to work.

Even though my kids are in different grades, we do pretty much everything except silent reading and math together, so my planner looks kind of blank, but it’s really not. I should be a veteran teacher by now, since this is our third year of homeschooling “seriously,” but most of the time I still feel like a rookie. Having a good planner and taking the time each week (or ideally, planning out more than one week in advance, although that rarely happens) to fill it in really helps me a lot.

In case you’re curious, here are the subjects we do regularly:

Bible (typically, I read 2-4 chapters aloud to the kids; last week, we read the Gospel of Mark, this week, we’re reading some of the epistles)

Math (currently the kiddos are learning their multiplication tables using flash cards; once they have those mastered, which I suspect will be soon, we’ll move on to age-specific stuff for them)

Reading (Munchkin participates in a book club at the public library so he reads that book; Seahawk decided he didn’t love book club, so he’s reading Johnny Tremain right now – he loves history, so historical fiction was the right choice for him)

French (we’ve been using the lessons from SchoolhouseTeacher.com, but I recently got a membership to Mango Languages – look for the review near the end of February!)

Science (another review coming soon – Science4us.com; also reading The Burgess Animal Book for Children)

English (we do a grammar lesson and/or creative writing/pen pal letters)

History (reading An Island Story: A History of England for Girls and Boys)

And that pretty much fills our day. I try to have us done with lessons by the time Small Fry goes down for nap (at 2:00) so that the kids can go play with their friends while the baby sleeps. There’s another homeschool family just around the corner from us, so our kids and their kids play together a lot. That’s been a real blessing. While the baby sleeps and the kids are out playing, that’s “my” time. I use those couple of hours to tidy the house, take care of the breakfast and lunch dishes in preparation for dinner, and then do any sewing or quiet reading of my own.

So there’s my thoughts for the day.

Don’t forget to check out the other posts, linked below.

Blessings,

name plate copy

Lisa @ A Rup Life

Jordyn @ Almost Supermom

Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers

Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog

Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy

Brandi @ Brandi Raae

Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

Homeschooling Essentials: Flexibility

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Welcome to Day 2 of my Homeschooling Essentials! Today it’s all about flexibility.

You have to be flexible to be a homeschooling parent. Things don’t always go exactly the way you planned, and that has to be okay. There are unexpected sick days (for the kids and you), last minute errands (or days of errands…), and burnout days. You have to be flexible enough to let things go and say “There’s always tomorrow.”

Earlier this month, we had half a week of the need to be flexible. Right around New Year’s, Small Fry was sick. I think it was New Year’s Eve, actually. He was just feeling puny and was not himself, and finally, about an hour before bedtime, it became clear why when he threw up all over me (sorry if that’s TMI…). That was on a Wednesday. Thursday was normal, and on Friday, Munchkin was sick with the same thing. He spent the day in bed, but was fine the next morning. But that morning, Seahawk was under the weather and slept most of the day. Sunday of that week, the day before I’d planned to start school up again, was fine. We went for a family bike ride and all was well. During the night, though, I came down with the illness. Here’s where the need to be flexible really struck. Even though it was Monday, and the day we were “supposed” to get back to school, there was no school happening with Mom stuck in bed. Let me also say, I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who’s self-employed and works (mostly) from home. He was able to take that Monday (which happened to be our anniversary…) off to take care of the kids so I could sleep and recover. Enter Flexibility Day 2: Tuesday. We’d missed school on Monday, and because we’d also missed our anniversary, we took Tuesday off from school, too. The kids spent the morning with Grandma so hubby and I could have our anniversary date. (We went to see Saving Mr. Banks. Have you seen it? Very good. I don’t even care for Mary Poppins and I liked Mr. Banks. In fact, hubby’s been reading the book Mary Poppins aloud to the kids this weekend. Then we’re going to watch the movie, and on Tuesday, which is discount day at the cinema, we’re all going to see Saving Mr. Banks again.)Anyway. So we started school on Wednesday the 8th instead of Monday the 6th. And did anyone die? Nope. Because we understand the importance of being flexible.

Now, this is not to say that you can call yourself a homeschooler and just never “do” school with your kids. There has to be a balance, and I think it’s better to err on the side of more school days than less. The education has to happen, whether you’re at home or sending your kids to school. But you have to accept that things aren’t always perfect.

So that’s my thought for today.

Don’t forget to click through the links below and see what everyone else is writing about today!

Blessings,

name plate copy

 

Lisa @ A Rup Life

Jordyn @ Almost Supermom

Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers

Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog

Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy

Brandi @ Brandi Raae

Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

Homeschooling Essentials: Pencils. Just Pencils.

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Hey guys! This is my first blog hop, and I’m really excited to spend the rest of the week talking about what I view as “Homeschooling Essentials.” When you’re done reading my post, make sure to head on over to the master list and read about everyone else’s Essentials too!

The essential I want to talk about today is very simple, and one we can’t do without in my homeschool: Pencils. Yep. Just the basic, yellow pencil. It might not be worth mentioning at all except when it’s time for school, the kiddos can never find one! No matter how many I buy, they’re always lost.

Have you ever seen how pencils are made? We watched a YouTube video with the kids once, a few months ago, and it was actually quite interesting. Here’s the short version. First, the wood, typically cedar because it’s soft enough to sharpen but hard enough to hold up under your grip, is cut into pieces and then a groove is added for laying the lead into. A layer of glue is added to each groove, and half of the wood sheets get lead in their grooves. Each sheet is enough to make 8 or 10 pencils. The other half of the sheets are then laid on top if the leaded sheets, where the “lead sandwiches” are pressed together with a vice for an hour while the glue dries. The pencils are then cut and painted. I found it interesting that it takes four coats of paint to fully conceal the wood grain. If you have five spare minutes sometime, I encourage you to watch one of the pencil videos (just search “how pencils are made” on YouTube; there are several to choose from). I think it’s good to know things like that, if for no other reason than to keep us from taking things for granted.

We couldn’t do school without pencils. I’m sure my kids wish we could, but I’m not one of those homeschool moms who goes the “unschooling” route; I need some sort of record of what the kids have done, and I need to push them to do things that they wouldn’t necessarily choose for themselves, which is the antithesis of unschooling. Don’t get me wrong – I totally want my kids to love learning, and I want them to develop ways of learning naturally. But I can’t leave their education up to them. Otherwise Seahawk wouldn’t be as strong a reader as he is, Munchkin wouldn’t know anything about history, and neither one would be proficient in their times tables. All of those things are important – as important as having fun learning. And without our trusty pencils, we wouldn’t have a record of what they’ve learned.

So that’s my first homeschool essential. Make sure to visit my fellow bloggers to read all about theirs, and come back tomorrow for another of mine!

Blessings,

Wendy

More Homeschooling Essentials:

Lisa @ A Rup Life

Jordyn @ Almost Supermom

Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers

Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog

Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy

Brandi @ Brandi Raae

Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles