Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advice for a First Time Homeschooler

My dear friend, Janae, texted me today asking advice for her adorable boys. She's pulling them out of public school. Now, I am certainly not the most experienced homeschooler around but I like to think of myself as a huge homeschool advocate. I honestly believe anyone who wants to homeschool can do it. So, Janae (and any other person who would like some suggestions) here is a huge list of resources: articles of encouragement, websites for kids, and my general advice. Loves to ya, and good luck!

Unschooling Articles: 
This gal has awesome articles about the subject. She herself was homeschooled and is very well written. Here are two great articles to get you started: New to Unschooling and The Reality of Structure in Unschooling. And this is a comic strip but if you think about unschooling and helping your child even though you may feel inadquate...I think you'll get it: Sense of Wonder.

Articles about schools around the world:
Finland's A+ Schools, Joyful Illiterate Kindergarteners, Characteristics of Japanese Math Lessons (to sum it up kids need to be involved in learning not just watching a teacher demonstrate, but you should still read the article), Less is More.

An article about how children learn: A Thousand Rivers.

Blogs and Sites about homeschooling with so many great articles and advice that I literally couldn't just pick one to share: Best Homeschooling, Simple Homeschool, Quill and Camera, Steady Mom, and Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers. These all give the reader a real look into real moms with real kids who aren't hiding the difficult and unpleasant days that we all sometimes have. They also share the joy that accompanies a simple homeschooling way of life.

Websites we love:
Kahn Academy: we use it for elementary math practice and interesting science videos. is also a super fun way to practice math and you can customize each child's profile to practice the specific grade-level skills you want them working on! Also, it is free as long as your child doesn't want to upgrade to be able to get all the pets or wardrobe options.

For young kids learning to read we like Starfall (free) and (about $100 a year).

Bedtime Math: it doesn't have to happen at bedtime, but it's just a few minutes of fun math challenges to think about and spend time together as a family doing math.

I just started getting into Math Inspirations but it is definitely something worth checking out. It focuses on the student and helping them learn to think and problem solve and not just memorize their times tables.

Here are articles from my blog that contain links to other articles and ideas: Why I Homeschool, Homeschool Encouragement Part 1, Homeschool Encouragement Part 2From Public School at Home to Unschooling, Not a Competition, Advice and Community, Field Trips...yes that counts!, Successful Homeschooling, and favorite YouTube Videos.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Variety of activities from our week

These are the challenge questions I gave the the Bear and Buddy this week. This is my new plan for math each week. We'll spend time problem solving and thinking about numbers.

We finished James and the Giant Peach and moved onto the Indian in the Cupboard. Grandiose was our word of the week.

The Bear is working on the electrical set that goes with her Roominate Chateau and Buddy got to go to the Rattle Snake Museum.

We also decorated for Christmas and spent a lot of time with the geo-board.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Inspire, Not Require

I love when we have days where everyone works away on their projects. The Bear has always loved art, but has really dived into it again since we moved. We found an under the sea coloring book and she decided she would do a picture in it for her cousin who is an animal/dinosaur fanatic. When she finished her picture she decided she'd take it a step farther and do a "research paper" for him too! I pulled up a few websites with hammerhead information, she read through it all on her own and wrote up this paper all by herself. 

The thing I love about having a group of kids who are all so different in ages and interests is that they all inspire each other with their individual interests. The Bear asked to do some water color painting and of course that got Buddy and Squeaker excited to do the same. Likewise, Buddy's interest in dinosaurs and building has certainly rubbed off on the girls.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How Circle Time Changed our Schooling and Relieved my Stress

I have to start this by saying that I have a really hard time with schedules. Unless someone else is expecting me by a certain time I'm not worried about when things get done. Laundry? I'm going to wait until there is no underwear to do it. Dishes? Pawned that chore onto my daughter. Homeschool activities? Does drawing all day count?

Of course there are days when I get super pumped about projects and then the opposite is true. I won't stop working until it's kids you can raid the pantry because I won't be getting up from this sewing, book, etc. I also throw myself into the kids school and plan big units that can keep us busy all day.

After circle time we've started playing math games I found on Pinterest

And it is inevitable that a few days into one of those big projects/units I get totally burned out. That's how I've been feeling lately, I'm blaming it on the move. Now that we're all settled we were all anxious to start some regular school activities but I've been dragging my feet about it. I feel burned out.

Our current "schedule"
Luckily for me, before we moved I made a nifty list of things I was wanting to change about the way we do school. I'm happy to say that all of those things have been implemented as well as including a Circle Time in the mornings. And to be honest, Circle Time has been the crutch that I needed recently to get our days going.

Like I said, I've been feeling burned out, tired and run down. As I finally roll out of bed in the mornings I think, "Uh, school. What the heck are we going to do for school today. Maybe we'll just skip it. We'll probably end up reading sometime."

And then I remember Circle Time! Oh yeah, I can do this. If all I do today is Circle Time at least I know we've done something together. The funny thing is that once we're done with our 30 minutes of circle time activities I'm ready to keep going! It's like a jump start to my school brain and I'm ready to play math games and give everyone the individual attention that they need.

Our Circle Time starts with a weekly scripture and song. Then we discuss our schedule for the day (grocery shopping, playgroups, etc.) and read a few chapters from our read aloud (this week it's James and the Giant Peach, which we're all loving). THAT'S IT! I think keeping it simple is the key for me. If it was a ton of stuff or required any planning I wouldn't have the momentum in the morning to do it. But because it's simple I can do it and then keep going!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekend Wisdom

 That's right, we found ANOTHER snake in our house this weekend! This time we tried...mostly unsuccessfully to measure it. We hypothesized that snakes like our heated tile floors.

In other news, our local zoo had a free day this weekend. As we walked through the gate, Squeaker grabbed a pamphlet with a picture of an eagle in it. As we wandered through the park she was constantly chattering about finding her eagle. She was thrilled when we walked up the hill to the train and found her eagle!

Another interesting event occurred this weekend. The Bear's birthday is this week and we're holding a big family party on Saturday for her. Husband and I sat down Sunday evening to plan the food and as we sat there with our notebook all three of the kids climbed up to the table with their notebooks and coloring supplies. It was a great reminder to of "you not them" and "inspire not require." Kids are always watching our examples and are eager to join in when we don't require it of them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Schedule

This is our new daily routine. It is really nice to be able to have so much time, to have such a free schedule. By the time we left California we had so many activities and classes that I felt like a crazy lady. I'm planning on being much more picky about the things we add into our schedule, mostly because anything to do is a 30 minute drive to town and you know I won't be doing THAT more than once a week. For now we have NO ACTIVITIES, just our schooling, playing and chores.

The Bear's binder
We start the day with breakfast and getting dressed. Then we have circle time...which is pretty much new for us. For now our circle time consists of: scripture (this week we're learning John 3:16...because the Bear saw it on the back of a semi-truck and had a million questions about truckers and scriptures and Christianity in general), learning a song (this week it is "Father We Thank Thee for the Night), we discuss our schedule for the day and then I read a few chapters from our read-aloud (this week it is Frank Einstein).

After Circle Time the kids are completely free to do whatever "school approved" activities they would like. They can work on their current goals (think TJEd compass...i.e. the kids decided on their own goals they want to work on for the next two months), do an art project, play any of the school games that don't require technology, etc. If they happen to do something on paper they can put it into their binder (again a TJEd inspired idea).

 Today the Bear wanted to start off by working on her goal to better understand fact families. I found a fun game on pinterest for her to do just that and added in a multiplication and division part. She rolled the dice twice to get her initial 2 numbers, then she had to find the fact families. EASY! She got the practice she wanted and it was FUN! Squeaker played with pattern blocks and Buddy built domino structures and knocked them down with his catapult.

And then they chose some handwriting practice. Buddy has really been wanting to write but gets frustrated that his letters and numbers aren't perfectly formed. So frustrated that he ends up refusing to do any writing. So I suggested that we practice writing the letters and numbers he has difficulty with and he's been pretty happy focusing on them. 

After about an hour and a half of school only activities we had a snack and the kids all ran outside to play soccer. Once it gets colder and wetter outside we'll spend some of the late morning using the computer, tablets or TV to do other "school" activities like typing.

Today we had lunch out with dad and then ran a few errands and stopped at a park. The rest of the afternoon will be freeplay at home. But this is also the time we could go to the library or go to classes, if those end up happening.

Around 4 pm we do chores. The Bear is in charge of dishes and sweeping. Buddy is in charge of the hall bathroom and garbage around the house. And Squeaker does the dusting. I vacuum and then start dinner. Dinner is usually low-key for us because we prefer eating a big lunch.

After dinner we play, read, and usually end up watching a silly show. Yesterday it was "The General" with Buster Keaton.

If you were curious about what the inside of the binder looks like: (goals and artwork)

And here is our new schedule posted on the fridge so I don't have to remember!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Weekend Wisdom

Now that we're FINALLY settled, I'm going to try to start blogging regularly again! So, here is the second edition of "Weekend Wisdom," which is the fun "schooly" things we happen to do over the weekend...because learning doesn't only happen M-F 9-3!

The most important schooling activity that went on this weekend was for me to sit down and figure out what our daily schedule was going to look like. What's funny is that not doing school this last week was actually really hard, because my kids were constantly asking to be entertained. Not that we've nailed down our new schedule everyone is so much happier!

This weekend we played with push pins, played lots of soccer, built with Legos and had a wonderful visit from cousins...I can really get used to this whole "living close to family" thing!

Both of my guys are building Legos in the new office. Not pictured here is the wall of food storage to the left, fire place to the right, treadmill behind and book shelves in between! I'm so happy to be in a house where we can have all the books on display again!
And they spent hours working with cousins on the city of Troy: