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:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Back in the Groove

The past 3 weeks or so have been nearly devoid of all "schooling" activities. But we're finally moved in and unpacked in our New Mexico country home and feeling happy!

Yesterday I did mini interviews with the Bear and Buddy to find out what their goals are for the next 2 months and then discussed how to go about achieving those goals.

Today we started up again with something that almost resembles a schedule! Each of the kids spent a little time doing school-like activities...and THEN WE FOUND A SNAKE!

The little guy was curled up on the floor of the kitchen. He's so tiny we thought he was a worm. After lots of handling and observation we finally let him go in the back yard...probably to get eaten by one of the giant grasshoppers we have!

I am relieved to be settled in, happy to have tons of storage for homeschool/crafting supplies and excited about all the amazing new creatures we get to learn about first hand!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Time for Change...Again

We already changed a lot about my approach to homeschooling, especially in regards to Buddy. (You can read about that HERE, HERE, and HERE.) But the thing I ADORE about moving, is that it is the perfect time to change things. Somehow it seems easier to make habit changes when you're already making so many big changes about where you live, who your friends are, where your library and neighborhood grocery store is located, etc.

They did a lot of this during the 22 hour drive out to New Mexico!
So, we have finally arrived out here in "the old cowboy country" as my kids put it! We're spending lots of time with family and slowly moving into our house. But once we finally get settled and unpacked these are the things I am excited about implementing in our new SW homeschooling routine!

1. Math games! I get the whole workbook thing, it feels like you're accomplishing something. Like you can prove what your kid is learning. But I've started to really, REALLY dislike math workbooks. I have found a bunch of math dice, domino and card games on Pinterest that I am STOKED to try out! You can check out my STEM board on Pinterest to find these games...go ahead and click on the Pinterest link right now so you don't forget!

2. Get input from my kids about what they want to learn. We already do a really good job of looking things up and learning about things they have specific questions about. But so far they haven't had much input about what direction we move in. Does the Bear want to really focus on art? I have no idea, because I haven't asked her. Maybe they are a bit young to even know what they want to do. I guess I'll find out once we get settled!

3. Be less busy! This fall we took on A LOT of activities. And while I'm glad we did it so they had a bunch of fun stuff to do right before we moved, I'm happier that we now have NOTHING to do. I like being at home. I like sitting on the floor playing games and reading. When all the kids have 2 activities each week plus on-site classes to get to we just end up running around all day with very little time to sit and be peaceful. The only thing I'm going to do before Christmas is try to find a co-op/support group that meets for activities.

4. Really incorporate gospel study into our every-day lives. I think I'm going to work on ponderizing a scripture with the kids each week. Find a verse that is uplifting or encouraging to help focus our thoughts first thing in the morning.

Monday, October 19, 2015

All About Moving

We are relocating from the NW to the SW. It is a big change and we have a behemoth of a road trip two days away. But I'm glad to report that everyone seems to be excited for the move.

I was excited for our move (and still am) until we went to our last class of Girl Scouts and sewing group. I guess I hadn't given myself time to think about all the good and fun things we have done here in the last year and a half. As my friend announced that this would be the Bear's last G.S. meeting she got all choked up! And then I was all teary too. It's really great to know that we have such good friends who love us and will miss us.

Some of my good friends at sewing group! Amy, me, Danielle, Kathy and Carin
But we have lots of great things to look forward to! We are moving closer to my husband's family so we'll be able to see grandparents and cousins on a very regular basis, which I think is really helping the kids to be excited and realize they are gaining more than they are losing.

Here is the official list of things we will miss (not in order): the $1200 per child to put toward any curriculum or extra-curricular activity for each of the school-aged kids each year. And all my awesome friends! We've had so much fun at play-groups, exercise group, sewing group and church activities. I'm grateful for their advice and support and friendship over the last year and a half. And being surrounded by lots of natural beauty. I'm sure the desert has its good sunsets, right? But grass, ferns, Redwoods, and the beach 5 minutes away is pretty hard to beat!

What we're gaining: 1. Self-employment which embodies a plethora of benefits for my husband who is the sole bread-winner for our family...and in the end a happier, less-stressed husband means he'll be happier at home. 2. Closer proximity to my husband's family! We currently live about 9 hours from most of my family but will soon be only an hour away from most of his family, plus we've lived in the NW for the last 6 years, so I guess it's his family's turn! 3. And the other main thing we're gaining is cheaper cost of living: we live in California right now, 'nuff said.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Weekly Update: We're Moving!

 The good news is that we won't be any farther away from Disneyland, instead of being 12 hours north, we'll be 12 hours east! Hooray!

This week we've been cleaning and organizing and getting rid of clutter. We're waiting to box things up until this weekend. I scheduled movers, cancelled utilities, got an oil change (we are going to miss the carousel at the Toyota service center!) and finished our samples for the charter school. The Bear and Buddy got to bring home some of their work from classes:

"Monkeys groom to show they care."
The Bear drew a scene, copied it and colored each one differently. She is going to miss this art class!

The kids have been more interested than ever in some of their toys they found under their beds and in books we haven't read for a long time, since we haven't gotten new library books for about a week.

We've also spent a decent amount of time dreading the long drive that awaits us Wednesday...22 hours in a car with normal traffic. In a Uhaul it could take a lot longer. Ugh.

We've also tried to keep things as normal as possible this week, like going to on-site classes, gymnastics and martial arts. And of course, with all this change and excitement everyone decided to get sick too...lovely. However, I think we're finally done passing this nasty virus around and we should all be healthy to enjoy EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE of our long road trip!

Wish us luck! And I should be back to blogging much more regularly once we finally get settled in the next few weeks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


 We've been working on lots of projects at our house. We've painted Halloween nails and organized and cleaned out all the closets and cupboards of extra junk.

 The Bear finished her quilt top and I finished my entire King sized quilt.

We've made our Halloween costumes!

And we've been working on math, writing, science and social studies samples for the charter school. This was a probability dice game the kids love to play.