Friday, July 29, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom --- Nontraditional Subjects

This weekend, please tell all of your friends about "Growing Your Homeschool"!  If we reach 100 followers by Monday, we will be hosting a giveaway next week.  Also, please "like" us on Facebook!

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you get to choose what to teach.  Instruction does not have to be limited to the typical subjects of language arts, math, science, and social studies.  You can teach anything that you want.  Today, the Seeds of Wisdom panels answers the question: "What nontraditional subjects do you teach as a part of your homeschooling curriculum?"

We cook and work in the garden.

Right now we incorporate Bible and ASL(American Sign Language.) As the kids get older, and their interests and abilities develop and become more clear, we will tailor our homeschool experience to best meet their gifts.

World Religions. We believe that it is important to teach our children about other faiths, because simply put people fear what they do not understand. We focus on the similarities; not the differences.

We have a whole separate agenda in our home that we consider under the umbrella term of "life skills." It includes cooking, cleaning and running a household, along with things like laundry and grocery lists. We also take every opportunity we can to include the children in our family business (we are farmers) or expose them to confidence-building life experiences. These tasks and activities range from helping fix engines or hitch up trailers to volunteering to help with a funeral dinner for a family who lost a loved one in our church. Taking full responsibility for our children's education has made us focus on fully seizing every learning opportunity we can, when before we looked to the school to educate and considered it our job to be sure they had play time.

We start our daily homeschool work with Bible lessons; we do a devotion, read bible story, do an art project related to the story, and work on our memory verse.  Additionally, on the side of my weekly lesson planning page, I make a list of "extras" for the week that we do whenever we have time in the day.  For Charlotte (10 months old), I plan at least one sensory activity each week - playing with cool whip, chocolate pudding, oatmeal, pasta, etc.  Abigail's (3 years old) extras include at least one cooking project, as well as fun art projects.  Abigail also has daily chores and helps make dinner every night, but I don't consider those part of our homeschooling curriculum (just a part of parenting).

We also have a whole separate "subject" for Life Skills. This includes cooking, cleaning, etiquette training (Etiquette Factory). We also have a CD of 41 weeks of Unit Studies (Amanda Bennett US). So every week or so, we have a focus study using the Unit Studies. Right now the kids aren't old enough to incorporate too much beyond that. We do Bible studies  too.

Right now, I'm not doing a whole lot out of the ordinary with my kids. We do study art and music together, and they help with cooking and cleaning around the house. But at 4 and 2, we're limited on extra-curricular. I thought, instead, I could share what my mom did with me during my homeschool years. My mom was awesome about finding outside opportunities for us. When I took a health elective in highschool, she found a nurse in our church who let me come up to the hospital and practice taking vital signs. When I was interested in journalism, she called our local newspaper and set up a volunteer opportunity for me that later worked into a part-time job. I think allowing some time for your child to develop their own interests is a huge asset to any homeschool.

What nontraditional subjects do you teach in your homeschools?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can't find a curriculum you love? Make your own!

My daughters are both in first grade this year. When we attended our state homeschool convention this past May, we made curriculum choices for every subject except Social Studies/History. Many companies told us they did not offer Social Studies for grades under second. The few companies that said their program could be used for first grade didn't seem age appropriate.

After a few hours of hunting, and ultimately being unsuccessful, my husband suggested buying a few books and making our own curriculum. "Are you kidding? Do you realize how much work that is?" Was my initial response. You see, we attempted that approach with a few subjects in Kindergarten and it was so difficult. Maybe it would have worked better if I would have planned the entire subjects out at the beginning of the year, but I didn't. Therefore, I was constantly looking for material and constantly feeling like I wasn't doing enough. It was not a fun experience. Thus, I completely threw out the idea of piecing together our own Social Studies program.

Fast forward 10 hours or so. After a good night's sleep and a couple more hours of unsuccessful curriculum shopping, I started to think more about my husband's idea. What we wanted in a Social Studies curriculum was a study of people and places. At the Usborne Books table we found an awesome book titled Book of Peoples of the World. We loved it, but that one book wasn't going to be enough. We went a found a quiet corner (YES, we found a quiet corner at a homeschool convention!) and talked about our ideas. We decided we could come up with a year-long study of people/places/religions. It would cover history, geography, cultures, arts, and foods. We would cover 26 of the major countries at a pace of one or two weeks per place. Now we were on to something!

So back into the convention we went. This time we knew just what we were looking for. We found a book of World Religions at the Usborne Books table. My Father's World has a study similar to what we are doing, but according to people we've spoken with it is took advanced for first grade. However, we found a set of two awesome books at the MFW booth entitled A Trip Around The World and Another Trip Around the World. These books have reproducible flags and maps for each country. They also contain great information and activities (art, language, recipes, games) for each land covered. At a used book table, we even found a book (it happens to be Usborne too- do you see a theme here?!) called Stories From Around the World. Now we were all set and ready to go!

When we got home, we sat down and planned out the entire year. We determined which countries could be covered in a week and which would require two weeks, and we made our own lesson plans. The girls each have a passport and they get it "stamped" each time we enter a new country. We learn about the people, the land, the language spoken, the main religions. We either make an ethnic dish or visit an ethnic restaurant for each country. We sing native songs and make different art projects to reflect where we've "been" that week.

This is easily our favorite subject this year. I am so excited for our "trip" around the world!

For which subjects are you struggling to find the "perfect" curriculum? Which subjects are you just really not happy with your chosen curriculum? Don't be afraid to step away from them. Find some resources and come up with your own lessons. It will be more work in the beginning, but a much more enjoyable road ahead.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cooking with Toddlers

I am not a confident cook.  At all.

I wanted to make sure my girls were comfortable in the kitchen, so I added cooking to our homeschool curriculum.

I started with one of Sophe's favorite foods {blueberry muffins}.  We looked at the back of the box and she counted the number of eggs needed, and we talked about how to measure a liquid {water} and solid {butter}.

She learned how to crack eggs and break them into the bowl, how to add additional ingredients, how to stir and how to pour the batter out of the bowl.
We have made cut out cookies, a gingerbread train, muffins, cake, ice cream cone cupcakes, and {most recently} cake pops.
Bella started her cooking lessons this week and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute!
I love that my girls are learning a life skill and that I am learning right along with them.

I love that Sophie can read a basic recipe and knows the difference solids & liquids.

I love watching Sophie teach Bella to mix and stir.

I love that homeschooling gives me the flexibility to cook with my girls.

Do you have cooking in your homeschool curriculum?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Additional Alphabet Activities

In my last two posts, I have provided activities for working on the alphabet with young children using art and movement.  Here are a few more fun ways to incorporate letters into your child's day.

Magnetic Letters
Purchase a cheap set of magnetic letters.  Let your child play with them on the fridge or on a cookie sheet.

Sidewalk Chalk
Use your chalk to draw the alphabet on your sidewalk.

Letter Cookies
We love cookies and other sweets in our house and I am always looking for a good excuse to eat them, so I often use food for instructional purposes.  You can purchase cookie cutters that are in the shape of letters, use frosting to write letters on your cookies, or purchase letter-shaped cookies at the store. 

Letter Scavenger Hunt
Go on a walk or a drive and help your child look for letters.  When we go to the mall, we sometimes look for our "letter of the day" on the signs in the store windows.  If you have more than one child, you can make it a competition.

Alphabet Puzzles
Purchase a few alphabet puzzles and help your child put them together.  As he/she is working, point out the letters.

Read alphabet books
You can purchase books about the letters.  Our favorites are Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom and Eating the Alphabet.  You can also print alphabet books.  Webbing into Literacy from Virginia has some very cute, free printable alphabet books (  You can also print alphabet coloring pages and make them into a book.

Alphabet coloring pages
Children love coloring and coloring the alphabet can be a fun way to play with the letters.  Two of my favorite places to find alphabet coloring pages are and

Letter Stamps and Stickers
My daughter loves art supplies and is always willing to work with letters if it means she can use her stamp pad or do stickers.  Because finding letter stickers can sometimes be a little expensive, I often write the letters on cheap stickers that I buy. 
For teaching letters, I love the website  It has an interactive video for each letter and Abigail also loves the ABC song.  Starfall also has an iphone/ipad app for the letter videos.

Alphabet Printables
There is a plethora of free, printable alphabet activities on the internet that you can use.  Here are some of my favorites:
Bingo -
Caterpillar -
Dominoes -
Flashcards -
Train -

There is an almost limitless way to incorporate letters into your day.  Have fun and enjoy guiding and observing your child's learning.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Combatting a Critical Spirit

You've nailed down your convictions. You are persuaded of them and determined to stand by them. But sometimes, after determining those convictions, it's really hard to not feel that everyone else ought to share them.

Especially within homeschool circles, we tend to rob ourselves of our greatest asset: the fact that homeschool is not an institution and does not have to be the same as everyone else's. We find the curriculum that we love, the dream schedule, the clock-work routine, the perfect system of record keeping and organization—and we just know that if everyone else only knew what we knew, their homeschool would be better off.

That's not to say that there aren't pitfalls to warn others about or methods that are destined for failure, but how do we combat our own critical spirit of others? And how do we offer advice without discouraging someone on the journey?

Listen, rather than speak. The more experience we gain, the harder it becomes to just listen. Most people are not seeking for advice; they are seeking encouragement. Listen to find out what they are saying and why they are telling you! Did he just find the perfect solution for a problem he was having? Did a new homeschooler just figure out what you've known for years? Did she just discover the "perfect" curriculum, the same one you gave up on last year? Rather than preparing your counsel, listen for cues that will let you know how to simply encourage.

Ask, rather than tell. Ask questions rather than speak your mind—genuine questions, not sarcastic ones. "What are your thoughts on that?" "How's that working for you?" "Have you had any trouble with ____?" By asking a sincere question, I show that I'm willing to learn something new, I'm able to celebrate what she has found to work with her children, and I nurture a friendship rather than creating an enemy. Nothing builds hostility like poorly timed advice.

Encourage others, rather than extol yourself. Really, it's not about me. I don't want to be passionate about homeschooling or unschooling, classically educating or traditionally educating. I want my passion to be about educating children, giving them the best start to life and, as a Christian, the tools to serve God well.

I love homeschooling, and I am very excited about the style and approach we are taking with it. But I also understand that mine is not the only right way; that smart, godly individuals can come from public school, private school, or homeschool; that successful individuals don't all have to have a college degree or don't have to be homeschooled a certain way to succeed in college. When I'm in a conversation with another homeschooler, my goal should be to find ways of encouraging their success not broadcasting my own success.

So what happens when a homeschooler is in trouble? How do you warn or offer advice without discouraging them?

First, don't prey on their fears. Every homeschooler lives with the weight of their child's educational future. Never insinuate utter failure: "your child will never learn to read"; "your child won't get accepted into college if..." And never pull out the "you know, they say..." arguments. Second, give several options as solutions not just your own method: "we do this, but I know others who really love this." Last, point them to a general source rather than your specific solution. For instance, give them links to websites that provide reviews or blogs that specifically post on that particular topic.

If you must give a warning, do so casually rather than ominously. Remember that the goal is to encourage, not discourage. For instance, be honest about what didn't work for you and how YOU might have contributed to the failure. And be willing to be proven wrong.

Realistically, homeschooling is a long, hard road with lots of readjustments along the way. Let's encourage our fellow pilgrims and be willing to admit our own shortcomings. Afterall, one man's failure could very well be someone else's success.

  • For more on combatting criticism, click here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom --- Finding Your Motivation

As wonderful as homeschooling can be, it can sometimes be difficult to find the motivation to do it everyday.  Today, the Seeds of Wisdom panel question is "How do you motivate yourself to homeschool (particularly when you are sick/tired/busy/etc.)?"

I have time worked into our daily schedule, so it is really routine for us right now. I've made a comittment to educate our girls, and nothing is more important than that!
Homeschool is so much fun - I have a problem keeping myself motivated to work on other things! But seriously, it is the same for me as it is for Sam. I have the entire year planned, and I want to stay on track so we can finish. If there is something that gets rough or I begin to dread, that is my clue that something is amiss in my planning or the curriculum. I start trying to figure out what's not working and go from there. If I am sick or overwhelmed, we take the day (or maybe just part of the day) off. It's amazing how the flexibility of homeschooling can work toward fitting all those lessons in even when it feels like there isn't time for anything! We front-load our weeks in order to leave Fridays mostly open, which gives us extra catch-up time if we need it. We also like to work right up to Christmas and take a shorter summer break. It all works out in the end. Remember, you can homeschool on the weekend if you want! M-F from 7:50 - 3:30 is not the only time your children can learn.
I think about my ultimate goals for my girls and remember that daily instruction is the only way to achieve those goals.  It also helps that Abigail gets up in the morning and almost immediately asks to "do school" - how can I say no!  

Knowing that the path to their futures lay in my hands motivates me to get up and give them everything I've got everyday ♥

I remember that I have all of our weeks planned for the year, and if I mess up a week, I have to redo all of that work. We do a 4 day week, so I give us the option every week of either taking Monday or Friday off. We end up taking Monday more than Friday, as Sunday is the busiest day for a minister's family. It is nice to have that flexibility built in.

Routine and having the lessons already planned are key for me. Also, I think it's important to know yourself. For instance, if I start making too many exceptions or becoming too flexible within a given week, it's hard for me to stay motivated. I have to be rather rigid with our schedule simply because I know myself. So if flexibility motivates you, allow yourself room for flexibility. If routine is your motivator, than allow for that. If fun crafts and activities motivate, plan for them. Sometimes, just the fact that I need something to blog about is accountability to put the extra work into it. Find what works for you!

How do you motivate yourself?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Mission Statement

Do you know what your goal for homeschooling is? Is it for your child to have the best academics possible? Do you have spiritual goals that come before all else for home education?

When we first started homeschooling we knew we wanted a direction for our school. We also wanted a place to refer to our purpose, to remember why we decided to leave public education to start with.

We also wanted a name, a mascot, and school colors. This would provide a sense of belonging. We decided we needed a mission statement.

If you have no idea where to start with a mission statement, you can take a look here at ours, which my husband made back in 2009. Our goals have not changed, so the mission statement remains the same now.

Kelley Christian Academy
Mission Statement

Isaiah 40:31
“…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Family/Education Goals:
We plan to educate, inspire, motivate, provide spiritual emphasis, and instill the heart of a servant, in a Christ-centered environment.
Is A matter of our Christian spiritual conviction.
Statement of Purpose:
We believe that children are gifts from God (Psalm 127:3), and that parents are responsible for the training and education of the children God has entrusted to them (Ephesians 6:1-4). Each parent stands accountable to the Lord for the course that is charted, and the course that is followed.
Philosophy of Education:
Eclectic- “Choose the best, leave the rest.”
School Colors:
Black, Gold
American Bald Eagle

Our purpose and goals are easy to see, and we have a constant reminder of where we want homeschooling to take us. I hope you will make one as well, and include the whole family in coming up with yours!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the greatest benefits homeschooling has offered our family. Here are some wonderful points to consider regarding the ability to change that are not offered with other methods of education:

Late night event? Go ahead and sleep in the next morning. Family crisis? Put lessons on the back burner and take care of each other. Exciting opportunity? Take it! Lessons will be waiting for you when it's finished.

Someone needs help? Offer. Or better yet, do it without even asking. You can work your lessons around assisting your friend or loved one. And take your children with you - they can learn compassion by seeing yours in action.

Gorgeous day? Head outside right away. Have lessons when it's darker/hotter/colder. Or take your lessons outside with you! New learning opportunity presenting itself? It's not part of the planned learning for the year? Who cares! Let your children follow those interests and passions.

Is your child struggling? Slow down. Does your child already know this? Skip ahead. Is your child uninterested? Drop it and brainstorm a new approach. Your child isn't ready? Wait. Is your child a slow bloomer? Allow the time needed to mature. Is your child a fast bloomer? Allow them to forge ahead at their pace.

Do you or your child hate the program you are using for math/science/phonics/reading/spelling/history? Stop using it and look for something else. Have a hard time mastering something this year? Put it on the schedule for next year. Is your child particularly interested in any topic at all? Tailor your assignments to include it.

Everyone having a bad morning? Drop everything and do something fun as a family. Pick it back up another time. Is your child experiencing a strong emotional reaction to something? Allow them time to talk it out with you and sort through their feelings. Is your child ill? Lessons can continue, and the sick child especially will enjoy reading together and quiet activities to give them interesting things to do other than lay on the couch and watch television.

Plan your family vacations, well-child checkups, physicals, dental appointments, and field trips during the regular school year in your area...when those places are the least crowded and most pleasant. Didn't have time to read that history lesson together yet? Do it in the waiting room of those places, or while waiting to pick someone up from music/sporting activities, or at bedtime, or during supper.

Are you and your children morning people? Night owls? Freshest after lunch? Good, because that's when homeschooling takes place. Not finished in May? Keep going. Need a break in February? Go right ahead. So excited to start you can't imagine waiting for August? Don't wait!

Are you type-A, super-organized, laid back, plan every detail, just want a general framework, want someone else to do most of the planning, need to map it all out yourself, rely on advice from those with experience or prefer to research everything yourself type of person? Excellent, because that's how homeschool planning works. You have the opportunity to tailor your school to your own individual family, and even to the individuals within it.

What is an aspect of the flexibility of homeschooling you enjoy or are looking forward to?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The School of Life

 So, over the past few weeks, we have had a steady flow of family members coming to visit. This may not seem like a big deal, however, in our world, this means our every day lives are put on hold temporarily. Schooling, in essence, stopped, as our schedules were thrown to the wind and we embraced the fun of having family at our new home - being military, we recently were restationed from the southeast, near where we are originally from, to the midwest, where we'd never been before - so this was the first time in approximately 8+ months that we'd had family come out to visit.

At first, it was a nice break from the day-to-day to just sleep in a little and get up and go exploring and sightseeing with our loved ones... but then, after a couple weeks of it, while still having fun, I began to feel concerned that my kids were getting out of the habit of doing school and the schedule that I had worked so hard to get them on... I was worried that they weren't really learning anything and wouldn't be interested in going back to our normal "routine" of just reading and practicing writing, etc... All of the fun of going to museums and historical landmarks and rock climbing/hiking our way up to waterfalls was going to make regular school seem drab! How could I get them interested in learning again?? 

Then it hit me: they had been learning all along! For example, my son learned the difference between a canon and a missile launcher when we explored the field artillery museum on the post we live on. He learned about the Apache Indians and how they fought with soldiers like his Daddy when we went to visit Geronimo's gravesite... He learned about how flowing water slowly erodes away at rocks and that's why certain waterfalls might have alcoves or caves behind them sometimes... My 4 year old can explain erosion to me! He learned that some fish eat algae, while others like bugs and worms, when we took him fishing... He can tell the difference between a bison and a water buffalo, and a buzzard vs. a vulture, and that Roadrunners are not just cartoon characters that get chased by coyotes, after visiting the wildlife refuge near our home. He learned about heights and how binoculars and telescopes work when we walked around the top of the nearby mountains and used different tools to look down at the beautiful views surrounding us... He learned about Bible stories when we visited the life-sized replica of the Holy City nearby and got to visit places that could be similar to the stable Jesus was born in, or King Herod's court, or the tomb Jesus was buried in, etc... He learned that crawfish like to burrow under rocks in creekbeds to hide, and that they pinch as a defense mechanism (guess how he learned that ~ haha) ... He might not be proficient in addition and subtraction quite yet, but he is still learning... 

So, what have I learned over the past few weeks we've taken "off" of school? I've learned that school - homeschooling, teaching, learning - is about much more than book knowledge and learning to read and write your ABC's... It's about letting life teach you and having a passion for knowledge. It's about teaching your kids to have that passion by allowing learning to be fun. It's about looking for a learning opportunity in everything you do and everywhere you go, because in the end, we are teaching our kids in order to enhance their lives, and by teaching them to love living life and to let life be their school in the most positive of ways, we are giving them the best education they could possibly have. 

What are fun, interesting, and/or unique ways you have found to teach your children, or what activities/experiences have you had with your kids that turned out to be a wonderful learning opportunity?

Monday, July 18, 2011

6 Tips for a Child's Homeschool Schedule

Little kids are full of energy, there's no doubt about that! As they get older, they may calm down some, but they still have silos of stored up energy that we just can't comprehend anymore. (Oh where, oh where did those days go?)

Yet it is our job as homeschool teachers to rein in that energy and focus it on the task at hand: learning. And what a task that can be! Here are some tips to help rein and focus with (hopefully) better results:

Tip #1: Keep the lessons short. The younger the child is the shorter the lesson should be. This keeps them from getting too frustrated because they're antsy. Most experts recommend that you keep a Kindergartner's subject to 10-15 minutes at most. Now, if you're both having fun and on a roll, that's great! But don't push it--it's always better to end on a happy note so that they'll be excited to start again tomorrow.

Tip #2: A break between each subject. Even a short 5 minute break, while you set up for the next subject, can get those wiggles out long enough to get through the next increment of the day. I often flip on a kid's CD and let the girls dance around for a bit. They come back to the table with smiles on their faces!

Tip #3: Make the lessons interesting. If you know how to best appeal to your child's interest and learning style, you'll better be able to hold their attention. Aurie talked more about tailoring the education to your child here.

Tip #4: Fidgeting is okay as long as it's not disruptive. Some children have too much energy to sit still. My youngest daughter is like that. She doesn't even stay still when she sleeps! Anyway, I've learned that letting her wiggle around in her chair, fiddle with pencils, or whatever keeps her body moving doesn't necessarily detract her attention from the lesson at hand. In fact, sometimes she's more focused then if I make her sit there and "pay attention". My tendency to make her sit there comes from MY public school days where we were forced to be still.

Tip #5: Spread it out throughout the day. If you really have a hard time keeping your children from going nuts in the four hours of the morning--spread it out. Do 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the afternoon. Work an hour, play for a half hour. Fiddle around until you find what works for you!

Tip #6: Ease into the homeschool day. Doctors and experts advise us to create routines for our children to help them settle in for bedtime--something like bath, pick up toys, reading, goodnights. Why not do the same for school time? In the 15-30 mins before school starts, have the kids get into a routine that creates the expectation that school will be starting soon. At our house, we're trying to be consistent about 30 mins before school starts, we get dressed, brush our teeth, and do our morning chore. This way the girls know that after their chores are done, we'll be starting school. It just becomes habit.

These are just a few of many, many tips--but there's enough to get you started. Remember, homeschool doesn't have to be anything like the public schools we grew up in. We have the ability (and the joy) of making our homeschool our own...just right for our kids.

What advice do you have for creating a schedule that works for our kids?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Begin With the End in Mind

Begin with the end in mind. That’s something I keep thinking about. Being a parent is probably the most challenging thing I have ever done. I have these little people to shape and guide into the big people they are going to become. Where do I begin? At the end. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But think for a moment. No artist randomly just begins painting. They first get a picture in their mind of what their completed work is supposed to look like. They know what they are creating.

Our Father God is the Great Creator. All life comes from Him. He told Jeremiah the prophet, “Before you were in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart;”(Jeremiah 1:5) He also spoke through Jeremiah to the nation of Israel telling them in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…” We should know the plans God has for our children and begin there.

We can ask ourselves several questions. What do I believe are God’s plans for my child(ren)? What natural talents and abilities do they have? What does God say about them? What does God say to do with them?

As homeschoolers, we have chosen to educate our children at home. Part of my reasoning for doing this is because I believe I am shaping the whole person, not just educating the mind. I have to include God’s plans and purpose for my child so I can get a clear picture of what I should be doing and stay focused on the masterpiece that with God's help, I am creating.

How do I determine the plans and purposes? I can pray. I can go to God and ask Him what I should be doing with my kids. I can pray for God to show me what natural gifting and abilities they have been given so I can help them cultivate and develop those gifts. I believe it is also important for me to be sensitive to them and keep my eyes wide open so I won’t miss something they might demonstrate interest in that will ultimately be a part of their beautiful picture. Most importantly, I must study the scriptures to find out exactly what God says that I must do and teach my children in order for them to be a success.

I know I am going to make mistakes. I already have. But I am constantly striving toward that goal of "training my children in the way they should go."(Proverbs 22:6) I believe that whatever they do, and whatever God has for them will ultimately glorify God and be an open door for them to share Jesus with their world.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom - Motivating Children

Sometimes, it can be hard to motivate children to do their schoolwork.  They may be tired, frustrated, bored, or simply not in the mood to work.  Figuring out how to motivate our children can sometimes be a huge challenge to homeschooling.  Today, our panelists answer the question: How do you motivate your child when he does not want to do his work?

I haven't run into this much {yet!} so when we do I switch gears. If she is getting antsy while doing table work I'll pop on a music cd and we'll do a silly dance to get some energy out and then we go back to finish up.

I think it would depend on the age of the child. Children who are younger would be treated differently than older children. If the child is having trouble with a particular subject also, you might change up the way you are teaching the material.

I think there is a big difference in not wanting to do schoolwork and being frustrated by the work. If they simply don't want to do it, then I take the approach of telling them that we can't move on to something else until they finish their... work. Usually that works pretty well. If they are frustrated by the work, I try to figure out why. Are they bored with it? If so, spice it up a bit. Play a game, sing a song. Make it more interesting. If they're not understanding the concept, I will try to present it in a different way. If that doesn't work, taking a break for a few minutes and coming back to it will typically help us.

For my kids, it is a hard and fast rule that lunch begins *after* your work is done. This is a terrific motivator. Often, I have found that if I sit with them, they can work through it when I have a helpful attitude. I also sometimes sug...gest that they lay aside the project that is frustrating them and work on a different assignment for a break. A change of scenery can also be a good change - I might say something like "that looks like an uncomfortable place to read, why don't you sit on the front porch?" Keeping things fun in the first place is most helpful, but kids have their "off" days just like anyone else, where patience and a stiff upper lip come into play for me as the parent.

I try to make all of her activities fun and built around her interests in order to avoid a problem with motivation.  I also use a sticker chart.  She receives a sticker for "doing good work" in each of our five subjects.  She really likes to see the stickers on her chart and will often work hard just to get the sticker.  If I can tell that it is going to be a rough day, I sometimes tell her that if she gets all 5 stickers, we will get a special treat.  When I taught in public school, I used reward charts.  My students each started a work session by choosing what they wanted to work for (time with a toy, a sticker, etc.).  During our work session, I would periodically give the students stars; at the end of the work session, the students who had the required number of stars got their reward (I made sure that the students almost always got the required number of stars).  Because I had control of when the stars were given out, I could give stars faster to children who were having a rough day and needed extra motivation.  I will likely change from our current sticker chart to something more like the star system for Abigail in the near future.

I tell him that the longer he stalls, the longer it will be before he is free for the day, and that he is not free until that work is finished. I really believe you need to let them know that the ball is in their court. The work is not a suggestion, just like when you are out of the house and working. You can't play or get paid until you do your job.If there is frustration I work with them very closely to see what is going on- we may step back, drill on what isn't being mastered, or see if we need to supplement or switch the curriculum.

I haven't hit too many spots like this yet, but so far my go-to options are to either take a break from the subject he is frustrated with, then coming back to it at another time, after there's been time to refresh a little... OR, I try to t...urn the school work into a game... For example, pulling out dominoes to do counting and addition or matching... Also, I'm not against the reward system :o) If he completes his school work - especially the tough parts - then afterwards, he can choose to do a favorite activity such as going to the park or swimming or playing a game or doing arts & crafts, etc... anything that involves doing something active and/or engaging the mind (rather than something like rewarding with candy or another type of junk food, or playing video games, etc...) Usually, the motivation of working toward a reward or the rejuvenation time given will help him focus on his work and get it done.

I have a timer set for each activity (10-15 minutes). If the kids are just not wanting to do the work, then I remind them they have to try their best for 15 minutes and then we can move on. If I see one of the kids is not making an effort, ...than the extra time it takes to complete that page comes out of the next fun activity. I also break up our schedule a lot, with 15 minutes on a work page, 15 minutes on a craft, 15 minutes on drillls, 15 minutes on a puzzle, etc. As Heather said, I deal with frustration much differently than lack of motivation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recording God's Creation: The Use of Science Journals

"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good."-Genesis 1:31

Since it is the beginning of many homeschoolers school year, I thought I would share something I did with my students when I taught 6th Grade Science. There is so much I could say about using science journals, but I will try to keep it brief. I love Science. It is the study of God’s creation. In using science journals, children get to record their observations of all that God has made.

When I taught 6th Grade Science, my students had a notebook that they brought to class every day. Things they included in it were notes they took, observations they made, vocabulary, drawings, charts, and assignment questions. They were graded on whether or not they had the correct amount of entries for the journal, and I took off points if something was missing. I didn’t grade on the quality of the contents, because it was their journal; it belonged to them, and they could use it for study purposes for testing for which I did take a grade.

Although Leonardo DaVinci is probably most well known for painting the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, he was also a scientist who kept extensive journals. He conceived in his mind things like the tank and flying machines before man ever had the capabilities to produce such things. He also dissected human cadavers and drew the human body. (Gross, I know.) His drawings are incredible, very detailed. He is worthy of further research, but I point him out because of his use of journals.

Using a science journal as part of your homeschool curriculum will accomplish many things. You will give your child a way of expressing himself/herself. Science journals will give them an avenue for authentically expressing the knowledge they acquire aside from simply testing and giving the right answer. If you choose to use a science journal you can cover several different subject areas. Using the science journal, your child will be practicing their writing skills, which is a language arts requirement. If your child chooses to include drawings and science poems in the journal, this would be art and language arts. Drawing graphs would meet a math requirement. There are so many things you can do with this. At the end of the year, you would have a neat little record of what your child learned, and a keepsake for the future.

Creating the journal could be something special you could do with your child. You can get as creative as you want or not. A simple spiral-bound notebook will suffice. Simply put the child’s name on the front and voila! You have a science journal. You can the also modify the use of science journals to fit the assignment requirements of the student from kindergarten up through high school.

So when it is sunny outside, grab that science journal, a pack of colored pencils, and go outside to study that anthill. Challenge your child to put those poetry skills to use or encourage the budding artist to record his/her perspective of the ant hill. Then go inside and research how an ant creates that hill! The science journal is just one more tool for your toolbox in educating your child. Have a great school year! Blessings!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The spiritual upbringing of my children is one of my top priorities. Proverbs 22:6 is a verse that is constantly playing in my head. "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it". In my opinion that is one of the greatest lessons of the Bible. It's the sole responsibility of parents to foster spiritual development in their children.

Not only does spiritual development involve your child knowing Jesus (don't get me wrong, that is VERY important), but it also involves character development and training your child to have values and morals. Reading Bible stories and memorizing Scripture will help a child to know Jesus but it won't necessarily lead a child to live like Jesus, which is the very life He wants us to live. In order to live like Jesus we have to learn about the virtues Jesus (and many other religious figures) exemplified. We have to learn to live by these virtues and that doesn't always come naturally.

As a homeschooling family, we have chosen to make character development the core of our Bible studies. My husband is a religious studies student and is the mastermind behind Project Conversion, in which he is practicing a different religion every month for a year in an effort to increase knowledge about the major religions of the world. In just 6.5 months, my children have learned more about world religions than most adults know. This experience is so valuable. My girls love Jesus and know all about Christianity and now they also know about and respect Hinduism, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism and are beginning to understand Mormonism. Instead of knowing what makes each religion different, they can tell you about the virtues that unite us all. Seeing this amount of acceptance and respect in a 5 and 6 year old is amazing and our prayer is that it continues for the rest of their lives.

A lovely Baha'i family gave our family a book entitled The Family Virtues Guide by Linda Kavelin Popov. This is an incredible book that will hopefully bring out the best in our family. The book is based on the Virtues Project that was founded in Canada in 1991. The Family Virtues Guide is "a tool for parents to use in guiding and teaching their children so that the content of their character is a first priority." But this isn't just a book used in guiding your children. If followed correctly, your character will also be strengthened. "Many find that as they use this simple tool to parent their children, they are at the same time re-parenting themselves." The first few chapters of this book explains the author's view of children and tells you how to use TFVG. It's built on the premise that children are not born as a blank slate. Each child is built with all the virtues, it's the role of the parent to assist the child in bringing them to light. Popov states that what a child becomes is a result of a combination of 4 things: nature, nurture, opportunity, and effort.

The second part of the book consists of 52 virtues. How you choose to use this book in your family is completely up to you, depending on the ages of your children. We plan to tackle one virtue each week. Each of the 52 virtues contains 4 pages. Page 1 explains the virtue and contains an inspirational quote from one of the Holy Books of a world religion (Christianity, Baha'i, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism). For the weeks that contain a quote from a Holy Book other than the Bible, I plan to also show the girls a Bible verse that corresponds (trying to point out similarities in all faiths). Page 2 of each virtue tells us why we practice it. Page 3 tells us how to practice it and gives discussion exercises. Page 4 tells us about signs of success and gives us a daily affirmation to review every day of that particular week.

We received The Family Virtues Guide a few months ago and I've read it twice already. My husband and I spent a some time talking about how we planned to implement the project into our family. Finally, just last Sunday we had our first family meeting and introduced the first virtue we would be covering. The girls were very receptive to the concept and I've already caught them "practicing" their virtue.

I only wish I would've come across this awesome book a few years ago. According to the author "Much of a child's character development is complete by age 7." Oh my word. Our oldest will be 7 in just a few months...and we have a long way to go.

How are you training your child in the area of character development? I would love to hear feedback regarding what is working for you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tailoring an Education

Sophie is all about trains. 

A little blue train named Thomas.

Her obsession started with a book that I found at our consignment store for $1.00 - and grew from 12 pieces of wooden track to the mountain that we now own today.

When I started to work with Sophie on colors, letters & numbers she was not interested.  No many how many cute animal themes, or princess themes, or color themes I tried - nothing drew her attention away from the trains. 
After banging my head against the wall for a few weeks I realized that I needed to relax and use a subject that I knew she liked.  I threw all my carefully chosen learning tools out and started over with basic items that we already owned.

We work on colors {how many engines are green; putting all the same colors together}

We work on numbers {finding the number on each engine and putting them in order}

We work on motor skills {putting tracks together in different configurations}

We work on patterns {different track pieces and colors}

We work on letters {thomas flash cards}

We go to the library and we have checked out every Thomas book they have.

We take field trips to the local train station to watch trains go by, and talk about the different parts of the track.
Sophie is doing great!  She knows all her colors, numbers through 20, and her alphabet.  She has amazing spacial recognition skills and can build any track configuration without issue.  She can name most parts of a train, can tell you the difference between a diesel engine and a steam engine, and explain what a switch is and how it works on the tracks.

Could I have been successful if I'd stuck to my original plan and made it work?

Yes, I believe so. 


I believe that she is engaged because it's fun!  By listening to her and using her interests she is less aware that we're doing *school* and more interested in learning about the world around her.

I would encourage you to tailor your approach and materials to each individual child.  If you feel like you are hitting a brick wall, take a step back and re-evaluate.  Ask someone to observe and/or look over your materials.  You don't have to start at the beginning, just tweak your program a bit and see what happens!

Is there anything that you are struggling with right now?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Active Alphabet Activities

In my last post, I provided ideas for using art to teach the letters of the alphabet.  While art is a great tool for teaching some children, it does not work for all young children (or parents).  Some children learn better from movement, so this post provides a few ideas for active ways to teach the letters and letter sounds.

Color Around the Room

Print alphabet posters and place them around the room.  Have your child start on one end of the room with you and give him a marker.  Say a letter or letter sound (or write it on a dry erase board for children who are still learning the letters).  As quickly as he can, your child needs to run to each poster and color in that letter.  You can make it more fun by setting a timer each time to see if he gets faster.

Bowling for Letters
Write one letter each on plastic soda bottles and place them in a line on the floor.  Give your child a ball and say a letter.  Your child's goal is to hit the soda bottle that has that letter.

Gather the Letters

Place alphabet flashcards on the floor or alphabet magnets on the refrigerator.  Have your child start at the other side of the room.  Tell him a letter and have him run to find the letter and bring it back to you.

Hunting for Letters
Hide letter flashcards around the room or the yard (similar to an Easter egg hunt) and have your child hunt for them.  When he returns, pull the letters out of his basket and have him tell you the letter.

This is just a small sample of the ways that you can make learning the letters fun for your active child.  My next post (the final post in this 3-part series) will include more fun alphabet and phonics activities for you and your child to enjoy together.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Combatting Criticism: The Art of Shrugging

I've had to teach my son the art of the shrug. It began when several times a day he would come to me in a heated fury with a remark like, "Mommy, she said I wasn't a boy!"

What do you tell a four year old who feels his masculinity is in question? Well, I told my son to shrug it off. "You are a boy, aren't you? You know you are. So just shrug it off, son. It's not worth a fight."

But "shrugging" criticism isn't always easy. The hurtful remarks and cynicism can pierce pretty deeply sometimes. Why? Because the words prey upon our fears and doubts. When our convictions aren't nailed down, when we feel a little uneasy or inadequate, the criticism haunts us.

The key to defending yourself against this criticism is not lashing out in fury and reacting on the outside, but establishing your defenses on the inside.
  • Forming Conviction. Criticism absolutely demolishes weak convictions. If I'm only "more or less" convinced of what I ought to be doing, then I start to second guess my motives. Some re-evaluation is healthy, but constantly doubting your conviction leaves you paralyzed with fear. If my conviction is based only on what "feels right" without the concrete answers to anchor the conviction, criticism has an easy target.
  • Gaining Confidence. Bottom-line: confidence comes through experience. When your convictions have weathered a few storms and remained buoyant, confidence begins to break through the clouds. Confidence is not an evil, by the way; close-mindedness is. You can be confident in your conviction, while remaining open to better ways of accomplishing your goals. When you have confidence, the focus is on finding better solutions.
  • Remembering the Cause. Sometimes, it's not the lack of conviction that makes us an easy target. Rather, it's the feelings of inadequacy. We aren't sure we are carrying out our convictions in the best way. I don't know any homeschool parent who hasn't stopped at one point or another and had to ask, "What on earth am I doing?" But realizing that others feel equally inadequate is a defense in itself. Your feeling of inadequacy doesn't make you inadequate. Remember why you are striving and what you are striving for.
Chances are, when you remember the cause you are striving for, you will be less concerned with how smooth the march becomes. Most battles are not won with a straight charge ahead, but with a series of charges and retreats. So your homeschool might not be as creative, as structured, as routine, as ordered, as whatever as someone else's. What does it matter?

Do you know that you are doing what God has called you to do? Then do it with all your might. God knows, and you know. So together, let's practice the art of shrugging: deep breath, shoulders up. Now let it all go.

For more on "Combatting Criticism," visit Tracy's blog Growing in Grace.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom --- Homeschooling with Young Children

Congratulations to Cra33120, who is the winner of The Signing Time The Zoo Train DVD!

Several of us have young children and we assume that some of our readers do too.  It can be difficult to meet the needs of all of your children while homeschooling, so this week's Seeds of Wisdom provides some ideas.  Today, our panel question is "How can younger children be included in the homeschooling process and how do you meet the needs of young children while still homeschooling the older ones?"

Beth - Let them participate as much as possible and modify the lesson to meet the younger child's abilities. For example, if you are doing an activity that requires writing, cutting, coloring, and pasting, just allow the little one to color and experiment with the crayons.

Marla - Charlotte (10 months) sits in her highchair with us for about half of our homeschooling time.  She enjoys snacking on fresh fruit and Cheerios and watching while we do the bible lesson, circle time activities, and Spanish lesson with puppets.  When she gets bored, she plays in the playroom, where she can still hear the lesson and I can watch her.  When she is having a clingy day, I put Charlotte in the Ergo carrier and wear her while I teach Abigail.  When there is a lesson that I am teaching that requires a lot of focus, I teach it during Charlotte's naptime.  In the next few months, I am planning to start giving Charlotte some "work" too (foam letters, blocks, stacking cups, etc. to play with); currently, I do a sensory activity (water, cool whip, jello, pudding, oatmeal, rice, etc.) with her a few times a week and I think she will be excited to do more.

Ralene - I was just homeschooling while my son slept, but as he is getting away from his morning naps, I find myself having to entertain him. Mostly, he likes to pretend he's doing whatever the girls are. So I usually set his highchair at the table with us and let him play with different little toys.

Sam - I encourage them to stay close by and listen while they play with play-doh or blocks and then play games with them that are educational. Reading is fun for all of the kids to do together. If they get bored, I let them play with whatever toys they have nearby and they still pick up on what everyone else is learning.

ShamberleyI am still in the process of figuring this one out, but because my kids are so close in age - about 18 months apart, one being 2 1/2 (girl) and one being 4 (boy) - they are used to doing almost everything together. That being said, I try t...o include my daughter somehow in everything we do school-wise with my son. This has been quite a trying task at times because my daughter is very bold and outgoing and LOUD, and she loves to be the center of attention; so getting her to settle down and focus on something for a few minutes, so that my son is able to focus as well, proves difficult.
One thing I have done is to find an age appropriate task/toy that she can play with that is similar to what we are doing. If I am working on counting with my son, I pull out blocks or dominoes that my daughter can count/play with. If I'm working on letters, I have a magnadoodle that she can practice "writing" (or scribbling) on... I have a basket of "For School Only" toys that she is allowed to use/play with during school time ~ these include the toddler version of the TAG Reader Pen and Books (​eapfrog/jump/View-All-Tag-​Junior/category/cat270017?​utm_source=google&utm_medi​um=ppc&utm_term=leap+frog+​tag+junior&utm_campaign=Ta​g+Jr+Brand&gclid=CMLavdKq8​KkCFYZrKgod0zskZg) , the Magnadoodle, Blocks, Sorting Toys that help her learn shapes, colors, etc... and even a special school DVD that focuses on Letters/Phonics lessons with Music (because she loves to sing and dance)...
If there are any subjects that she just becomes too disruptive during, we try to wait until her naptime to go over those ~ just to allow my son the time and atmosphere and attention he needs to focus...
Also, if there is something he has already mastered - like his Alphabet, I ask him to help me teach it to his sister ~ that way, it serves as a review for him, but it isn't mundane because it makes him feel like such a "big boy" being able to teach his "baby sister" something.

Tracy - For my two year old, I fill her workbox with activities I know she'll enjoy—coloring pages, do-a-dot activities, lacing cards, etc. But I also have a "cozy corner" with a basket of books and other toddler-friendly activities. By making her ...feel that she is doing school, I can keep her quiet long enough to get a lesson in. I've also read that ten minutes at the top of every hour works wonders for little ones; give them ten minutes of your undivided attention, and they'll play better on their own.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Starting A New Year

We took about five weeks off for our break, it was mostly for me to do planning. We officially started back to school on July 5th. From our previous experiences, I recommend not jumping in full-schedule at first!

It is really hard to go from this:

to this:
It can be a bit of a drag, quite honestly.

We are easing into our school year with these steps~
  • School is downstairs, not in the classroom.
  • We are doing one week with only History and Science {plus leisure reading & phonics for K}.
  • We will add 1 or 2 subjects each week until we have a full school load.
  • We will  adjust the our schedule as needed.
  • I am not ringing any bells. School will start when all are awake and fed.
I used to just jump in and do it all from day one. Hopefully with this plan, we will be able to avoid homeschool burnout from setting in! 

How about you? What do you do to ease your family back into home education?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

So you want to homeschool...Now what?!

Here are some steps to consider if you have decided to go ahead and take the plunge into educating and learning with your children at home.

First and foremost, read about the requirements for homeschooling in your state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has this handy reference on their site. In our case, we submitted a simple form online to our state's Department of Education, and then provided a copy of it to the school we were withdrawing from.

Next, although I'm sure you've read everything you can get your hands on, You will want to do some more reading about different homeschool styles. Tracy wrote a great post about defining your homeschool style. I remember reading this simple list of styles when I first got serious about the idea of bringing the kids home. There will not be only one that will fit your family (probably!) but knowing what all these terms are referring to will really help you decipher a great deal of the information you are going to encounter when you get serious about choosing curriculum. It will also give you a general idea of the direction you are interested in taking with your family's homeschooling journey.

Once you feel you have a good understanding of your state's requirements and the basic homeschool styles, you will want to look deeper into curriculum. Here is a site that has reviews written by homeschoolers who have actually used the product being reviewed, which I found to be very helpful when I was first considering curriculum. I also highly recommend going to any used curriculum sale or swap you can - this is a great opportunity to put your hands on copies of the materials you are interested in, and speak with someone who has used them as well.

It's important to consider your budget when you are looking at curriculum. I had some pretty serious sticker shock when I began pricing them! Then I started thinking about the things we had been spending money on that we would no longer need - school uniforms, textbook/technology/enrollment fees, school lunches, snacks/party items supplied to the class, gas to and from school each day, four different fundraisers each year, gifts for teachers and holiday exchanges, tickets to the school play each get the idea. Pretty soon I realized we could afford the curriculum I had fallen in love with. There are lots of great resources for homeschooling for less or for free, like this book, or this one, if you are working hard on saving money while homeschooling.

Most importantly, take some time to decompress as a family. Read a bit about deschooling. You are getting ready to embark on a great adventure; a fantastic journey. It is a very big leap to move into homeschooling if you have been in an institutional setting, and it requires courage to do so. Spend time just having fun together in the ways your family loves best - no planning, no pressure, just being yourselves. As you plan your first year, take a moment to write down your reasons and goals for homeschooling. It will be a wonderful memento to look back on, as well as a source of great encouragement on the days that are tough. Best wishes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Dollar Saved... Great Discounts Offered To Homeschoolers!

So, being fairly new to the world of homeschooling, I am learning all kinds of things as I go along, talk with other homeschoolers, and research… Recently, I stumbled upon some amazing information that I am SO excited to share ~ because maybe some of you out there, like me, are not aware of this: Did you know that many retailers, vendors, etc… offer homeschoolers the same discounts they offer to school teachers??!! Some even offer special programs strictly for homeschooled children as an incentive to work hard.
I had NO idea!!
I was so excited to learn this bit of information! I mean, as I’m sure we all know, buying books, curriculums, supplies, etc… can really add up over time, and while there are many resources that are free or, at least, inexpensive, such as libraries, sometimes, there are certain things, resources, etc… that you just need to own. That’s where many of these discounts come in. Don’t worry; I’m going to get to the list of discounts soon. First, I want to touch on the requirements of receiving such discounts.
Most of the vendors and retailers require that you first register as a homeschooler/educator in order to begin receiving the discounts and perks they choose to offer. While some do not require any proof that you are a homeschooler, most that I have seen do. In some states, you are required to register with the state as a homeschooling family, and are given “credentials” or a “license” so to speak in order to be able to legally home school. In those states, usually those certificates will serve as your proof. However, if you live in a state like I do which allows significant freedoms to homeschoolers, not requiring any formal testing, checking in, registering, etc… (they only require that school goes on at least a minimum number of days per year), you won’t have access to such “certificates” - or proof – of your homeschooling status.

If this is the case for you, then I have good news ~ you can still get proof! If you haven’t already, research homeschooling groups in your area. Many of them, especially if they have been established for a significant amount of time, will issue a type of “membership card” (usually upon request), which will serve as official verification of your homeschooling status, and as proof for the vendors and retailers. Once you have registered and provided your proof, you should be able to receive the “educator discounts” available! I have seen these save anywhere on average between 10% and 40%, though there are some places, such as amusement parks, that offer programs where you can get a free pass, or your students/children can earn their own free passes by participating in educational programs – often associated with reading an assigned number of books and such… It’s wonderful!
SO, I’ll stop rambling (for now) and get on with the part you’ve been waiting for: The retailers and vendors offering these amazing discounts and perks!!
In order to give credit where credit is due, I am going to link to the blogs where I actually found these wonderful resources of information. I will, in fact, create a post on here listing all of the discounts individually, and I promise that any more that I find, I will let you know ~ because, again, this is AWESOME!! But, in the meantime, I just cannot take credit for finding all of these fabulous discounts and such myself… Without further delay, the first site I stumbled upon which enlightened me to this fabulous world of discounts is The Frugal Girls blog. Secondly, while some of the discounts listed on the next site are duplicated from the first, there are a few different ones that are pretty significant! You can find these at The Homeschool Mom's site.

I know there are countless more resources out there both offering and listing discounts that could be beneficial, but these are some to get you started for now. I'll keep researching, and look forward to sharing my findings with you guys!! Happy Discount Shopping!! :o)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our Homeschool for 2011-2012

Yes, it's that time of the year! As we homeschool year round, today is the first day of our new school year! I'm so excited!

See, during June, we were kind of easing into a homeschool schedule so my girls would get used to having school every day. We really only worked on Math and Phonics, with some devotions and manners lessons thrown in. This week, though, we rock on with a full schedule.

Both of our girls are in Kindergarten. Here's a peek at our homeschool day!

7 a.m.--Rise and Shine, followed by breakfast and some free time

8:30--Morning chore time

9:00--School bell rings (I'm considering a real bell...what do you think? hehehe...). We begin with group time (well, right now it's all group time, but this is in prep for the baby to join us in a year or so. Group time includes: Devo and prayer, Calendar time, and Sing and Rhyme time (we try to memorize a new song and rhyme each week).

9:20--Bible and Character Study time. We're starting the ABC Bible Memory Verses book, with one verse/week, corresponding with the letters. Yay! It's in prep for next year when we start the Charlotte Mason Bible Memory Verse schedule (I think). Character study for the first 8 weeks is the remaining lessons from Etiquette Factory.

9:40--Phonics: All About Spelling


10:10--Math: Math-U-See Primer (will be in Alpha in November)

10:30--Social Studies/Science: I bought 41 weeks of unit studies by Amanda Bennett about a week ago when they had this super sale on them. We'll be picking through those, as well as using some of the basics from Lesson Pathways.

11:00--Lunch and free time

1:00--Baby goes down for nap, we read for 30 mins. Some books will be based on our unit studies, others are chosen by interests, and then we have one big book that we read from

1:30--Rest time

3:00--Snack time/free play

4:00--Art/gym activities

5:00--Dinner prep/Dinner

6:30--Family time

7:00--My writing time begins

8:15--Bedtime routine for kids (including reading time)

Oh, and Saturdays are Fun Science Experiments with Daddy!

So, that's what a day in our life looks like. Or should look like. Or I want to look like. A distant dream?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Creating a Learning Environment For Young Children

There are many ways to ensure success when educating your child in your home. One of those ways is to create a learning environment. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they come in contact with, so create a place that will help them learn naturally. Decide what you want them to learn and then plan accordingly.

When creating a learning environment you can do five things:

1.) Make sure there are materials accessible for learning.
Those materials might include books, blocks, videos, paper and crayons, markers, pencils etc. You might have to monitor use of some of the writing materials with young children lest you have colored walls! If finances are an issue check out the local library for books and go to yard sales to find new toys.

2.) Make everyday activities a learning experience.
When cooking breakfast you might have your child count with you as you crack open the eggs. One egg, two eggs, and so forth. Read the cereal box to your children pointing out letters and spelling some of the words. Buy paper plates with the alphabet on them. Get creative!

3.) As a parent, become an avid learner yourself.
One thing we have done in my home is to learn American Sign Language together. I use the video series Signing Time with my children on a daily basis. I have gone on to take further sign language classes online to facilitate my own knowledge, and have even gotten my certification as a Signing Time Instructor. I am so thankful for Signing Time because the videos have been an invaluable resource for our family in developing communication and increasing speech.

4.) Play with your kids.
When you as a parent interact with your child, you make connections with them, and that can facilitate your role as educator. I have often heard people say that they have to send their children to school because they will learn better from somebody else and that is just not true. God gave your children to you and told you to train them up (See Proverbs 22:6). You don’t send them to someone else to train them, so it is also possible for you be their teacher for educational purposes.

5.) Model
Model whatever you want your kids to imitate. One good example of something you can model for your children is reading. If you want them to develop a passion for reading, then you read too. Read in front of them. Read to them and with them, everyday.

This list is by no means all-inclusive. There are many more creative ideas you can come up with. I just wanted to encourage you today that you can create a successful learning environment in your home and daily lives. Remember to think of the needs of the whole child, spirit, soul, and body when you are planning. I believe you can become a confident educator of your children and have a successful school from home.

Giveaway-Today I am giving away a copy of the Signing Time DVD The Zoo Train! Simply comment below to be entered to win. The giveaway will end at 12:00 a.m. EST on July 7th. A winner will be drawn and announced on July 8th. Please check back to see if you are the winner! If I am unable to connect with the winner, a new winner will be drawn and announced on July 11th. Many blessings to you as you continue to teach your children!

Giveaway Day
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