Monday, January 30, 2012

Struggling with Obedience

"You're not listening!" I shouted for the millionth time that day.

"But, Mommy!" she whined, sticking out her lower lip.

"I told you to clean up your toys. If you can't take care of them, I'll find another little girl who will appreciate them."

She crosses her arms, big tears welling up in her eyes before she stomps over to the pile of toys strewn around the room.

Great parenting form, Ralene. You're letting them get to you. Remember, don't raise your voice, get down on their level, tell them what's expected.

I'm sure that little scene is pretty common among families with kids, still sometimes I wonder if my kids are the only ones who seem to be out of control.

It didn't used to be this bad--just the last couple of months. The girls (5 and 4) are bundles of energy, and sometimes getting them to focus for more than a couple of minutes is like trying to catch a fly--buzzing from one thing to the next. Other times, they are so focused on whatever they're doing that they ignore me completely. It's frustrating.

My husband has also noticed the change--and is just as irritated as I am.

If I take the time to reflect on what might be causing it, I'm sure the number one issue is consistency. I know that we are not near as consistent as we should be. My husband has his health issues and works all day, I have my own issues as well and work at home on top of housework and homeschool. Sometimes I wonder if I'm maybe doing too much, if they need more of me. Am I inadvertantly causing this? Between those two things, I'm sure I definitely had a hand in it. After all, it's a parent's job to "train up" their children.

I haven't really made any changes as of yet, because I've been at a loss of what to do. I've taken up watching Supernanny and reading some books. I didn't know there were so many different views on child-rearing. I mean, I did know, but when you're looking for an answer, too many views leaves you no wiser than before--just more confused.

So, I've been doing some thinking and I've come up with a game plan. Would you like to know what it is? I thought so.

1. PRAYER: As with any problem in life, God is with me, with us. I can reach out for Him and ask for patience, for wisdom--I can even pray for my children to realize the error of their ways. A closer walk with God can only produce better fruit--though it still may take time.

2. CONSISTENCY: With my New Year's Resolutions, I created a schedule for our family. Whether I am working, schooling, cleaning, or playing with the kids, I need to realize what comes first. Those children learn as much by example as my saying so, probably more. I also need to make sure that my yes is yes and my no is no, no matter what I'm doing. I can't expect Kyra to quit carrying Connor around if I ask her to go get him when he wakes up from his nap and I'm in the middle of something. It sends her mixed signals.

3. TRAINING: Some of it is a lack of training. They can only be obedient when they know what to expect. Although we communicate rules to them, very rarely do we sit to discuss them, except, of course, when they're broken.

In hopes of helping with general behavior (especially obedience), I recently ordered a kit from We Choose Virtues to add to our homeschool curriculum. If you haven't heard of them before, check out their website. Most of the curriculum revolves around three main rules: Be Obedient, Be Kind, Be Helpful. Each one is fleshed out in the lessons.

I know my children are still learning, and they are only human (and, thankfully, so am I!). It is my job to train them up in a proper manner. I want them to be themselves, to fly to the heights they are capable of--and I want them to listen when I ask them to pick up their toys.

What about you? Do you struggle with obedience? Any suggestions/advice?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Educating Ourselves

This week we asked the bloggers here at Growing Your Homeschool,

"What are some ways you increase your knowledge and develop your potential as a homeschool mom through educational means or otherwise?"

Tracy- "I'm reading the Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer and tackling her reading list of "great books." She gives a terrific three-step reading process for each genre and then provides a list of books within each genre that is organized chronologically. The idea is to understand the history of the period as well as the famous people living at the time a novel was written. It's a project of self-education, and I'm loving it!"

Jessica- "I have found it to be very beneficial to understand different learning styles. Reading about methods of learning and how to facilitate them for my children has been great for our homeschool. One book I read that stands out was Discover Your Child's Learning Style: Children Learn in Unique Ways - Here's the Key to Every Child's Learning Success.

Ralene- "My library has a wide selection of educational resources for teachers and homeschoolers. When my kids check out books, so do I. :)"

Aurie- "I read. A lot. All the time. At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying How to Have a H.E.A.R.T for your Kids - wonderful insights for this momma! I also read blogs and Google Search is a wonderful resource when I'm looking for a specific topic."

Dorie- "Reading about homeschooling, methods of education, history, etc. is definitely one way I learn. Currently, I am reading The Seven Laws of the Learner. After this, I hope to read The Seven Laws of Teaching. Another way I learn is by attending lectures or workshops, or listening to them when I cannot attend. Last year, I attended a lecture that helped me learn more about how to teach active boys."

Beth- " I read books on parenting. I have also learned American Sign Language with my children. I love to learn and endeavor to learn about whatever might help us all in this homeschooling endeavor. One new project I have in mind is to learn about all the different types of trees in the community we live in."

Delena- "Temperament! If you know your child's (uh, this works great for the spouse, too!) temperament, it's easier to understand why they act the way they do, like the things they do, and learn the way they do. The Temperament God Gave You is a really great book.

What are some ways you have found to increase your education and poetential as a homeschool mom?

(NOTE-The listing of books above are for informational purposes only and not to be considered reviews.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Using the One Room School House Approach

One of the beauties of homeschooling is diversity.  Every homeschool operates differently, because every family situation is unique.   

We are a family of six with children ranging from preschool to seventh grade.  For our school days, we use the one room school house approach.  Are you curious just how that works?

This is a day from our homeschooling journey...

It is 8:00, breakfast and chores are completed, and we start our schooling.  Gathering as a group, in the back room, we review the catechism question of the week, read a short devotional, sing a song, and pray.

On this day, my third grader has a cough, and I take the time after our group work, to make her some hot tea to sip.

The older children work on copywork, geography, and reading while I teach our preschooler. 

Today, our youngest completes a few worksheets covering the letter n and reviews previously learned letters and sounds.  We update his calendar, write out the date on the chalk board, practice counting, and work on patterns. 

After this, he rises from his seat, and we play store.  He learns concepts like more/less, how much more, and not enough as they relate to money.  Then, we play 'What time is it?' a game we have made up using a plastic clock.  After a few rounds, I ask him to find something to do.  He chooses a floor puzzle.

Next, I work individually with our third grader while the older two children finish their reading and begin math. 

Together, my third grader and I, cover new concepts in math (multiplication with carry over), grammar (helping verbs), and reading (defining vocab words with synonyms and antonyms).  She then completes all the review work independently as I work with her older siblings.

My fifth grader narrates a chapter from Heidi, her current assigned reading, to me.  Then, we discuss indefinite pronouns and how to properly address envelopes.  Her math on this day is all review, and she is able to complete it on her own.

After working with the younger children, I now ask our oldest son if he had any issues with his work.  He asks for help with some algebra questions.  We move to the chalk board and complete the problems step by step together. 

He will try a few more on his own later that morning.  For now, I check his literature assignment: character sketches from Last of the Mohicans and an outline of the main events.  We then discuss his grammar assignment on personal pronouns.

By now, it is past 10:00 and time for a break.  My oldest daughter walks her letter to the mail box while the rest of us move to the kitchen for a snack.

Fifteen minutes later, we settle into the back room ready for more lessons.  Once again, we begin as a group.  This morning we read aloud and discuss the imagery and tone of Lord Byron's "The Destruction of Sennacherib." 

Then we pick up our history studies and read about Prussia.  Today, the younger children color a picture relating to the lesson and the older sit quietly.  Once the selected reading is done, we discuss it.  Then, the three older children write summaries, as I help our preschooler get a few things down from the shelves.  He plays quietly (well, except for the truck vroom and crash).

Like the earlier session, I begin with our third grader.  This time, we read her Bible lesson together.  Then, she works on spelling and Latin. 

Turning to our fifth grader, I ask if she has any questions.  She does not and continues to work through her own Bible, spelling, and Latin lessons.

I administer a spelling pretest for our oldest.  Then we work through logic and apologetics.  Both are done in discussion with little written work on this day.

We then break for lunch.  Over lunch, I read the first part of a two day read aloud: The Chalk Box Kid.

After the kitchen is cleaned and teeth are brushed, we return to the back room for science work and corrections.  Once this is done, the three younger children are finished for the day.  Our oldest son will work on his Latin. 

As the younger play and the oldest finishes his school work, I record what we accomplished today and set out all the materials we will need for the next day of school.  We leave the back room by two o'clock, organized and ready for tomorrow. 

Quiet time follows our lessons.  Afterwards, the rest of the afternoon is spent playing outside until dinner.  The girls attend choir practice in the evening.

A few important notes:
* Not everyday is the same.  This is simply one of the 180 days of school for this year. 
* For us, we like to have a 'heavier' course load on Mondays and taper to a 'lighter' load by Fridays.  The day I shared was a Monday. 
* We don't do every subject every day.
* On this day, we were home.  Some days we have co-ops or out of the house lessons that we work around.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just a Regular Day....

This week we are talking about a day in the life of our homeschool.
I have to admit that since we were just on vacation we aren't quite back into our routine.  And by not quite...I mean that we are totally off.

Here's a basic outline of a typical day:

6:30am - I am up, quiet time, online time, shower & dressed.

7:30am - Sophie is up and dressed. She comes downstairs, plays and has her video time {which at the moment is either Itty Bitty Heartbeats; Thomas the Train or Curious George.}

8:30am - Bella wakes up and get dressed. She comes down and has breakfast. Sophie eats with her.

9:00am - Ken leaves for work.  Sophie and I start school.  We read a Bible story and talk about Jesus.  Then we work on writing her name. We do a craft, generally one that has her cutting, pasting and coloring.
9:30am - Bella is tired of entertaining herself and comes in to color or finger paint.

9:45am - Daddy comes home and I head out to the office.  Daddy finishes up with Sophie working on shapes {this week we made houses out of squares, triangles and rectangles.}

10:30am  - Playtime for the girls and Daddy does some work.
11:30am - Lunch time.

12:00pm - Naptime for Bella, quiet time for Sophie.

2:00pm - I'm home and Daddy heads back to the office.
3:00pm - Girls are up and have a snack.

3:15pm - Bella plays. Sophie and I do coloring/writing/painting and reading together.

4:00pm - Dinner prep. Sophie helps in the kitchen.

4:30pm  - Dinner.
5:00pm - clean up, playtime, bath time, story time.

6:30pm - Bedtime.

The rest of the evening is spent chatting with my hubby, blogging a bit and preparing for the next day!  How do you end your day?

Aurie Good is a pastor's wife, a "retired" youth minister, and probably the most relaxed mom that you'll ever meet!  She blogs at Our Good Life with quips about life as a stay at home mom to two girly toddlers, two wild & crazy dogs, and one cranky cat.  She is married to her best friend and consider the simple life that they've created absolute bliss!  They are currently embarking on a new path of fostering to adopt medically fragile infants and are thrilled to see where God leads them!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Day in Our Homeschool Preschool

Today, I am excited to share a day in our homeschool preschool with you.  I chronicled our day last Wednesday to share with you; it was a fairly typical day for us.  Most days, we have one scheduled activity (soccer, playgroup, field trip, doctor's appointment or errands) each morning and one in the late afternoon (swimming lessons, playgroup, playdate).

My girls are very young (Abigail is 3 1/2 and Charlotte is 16 months), so our schooling is more relaxed now than it will be in a few years.  

7:15 - The girls and I get up.  The girls start the morning with independent playtime while I make coffee and prepare their breakfast.

7:30 - Abigail and Charlotte sit down to breakfast.  A few months ago, Abigail asked if she could have breakfast with just Charlotte.  They both had so much fun during their sister breakfast that they have done it every morning since.  While they eat, I empty the dishwasher, fold laundry, and check emails.  After eating, the girls go back to playing.

8:00 - As I am checking my email, I see that our plans for the day need to change slightly.  One of Abigail's friends was supposed to come over for preschool today.  However, her mom e-mailed me to say that she is sick.  So, I hurriedly come up with a new plan for our preschool lesson.  Knowing that Abigail will be disappointed that her friend is no longer coming (and wanting to save the prepared lesson for next week when her friend will come instead), I try to come up with a fun lesson.  Luckily, I keep a handful of prepared, fun lessons ready for emergencies.  I decide upon our princess lesson (Abigail LOVES princesses right now!).

8:15 - The new lesson is ready.  My husband comes in to say goodbye to all of us.  I pour myself another cup of coffee and head to the preschool table.

8:20 - Preschool begins.  We start our day with our daily devotions and then read a few of our favorite stories from the bible.  Because it was supposed to be a special day (with a friend visiting), I did not have a bible lesson planned.

8:30 - We begin our Princess lesson.  We read a fiction book, complete two princess preschool packets (downloaded from other mommy bloggers who share their creations), and do a few activities that I created.  During our lesson, we work on spelling Abigail's name, handwriting, letter recognition, counting, number order, patterns, same/different, and putting objects in order by size.  At the end of the lesson, Abigail uses the leftover materials (and a LOT of stickers) to make a princess collage.  
We conduct our preschool lessons in the playroom.  During the lesson, Charlotte played independently and spent some time at the preschool table coloring and working on a peg puzzle (she worked for about 30 minutes total, which is a long time for a 1-year-old!).

10:40 - Preschool is over and we head upstairs to shower and get ready.

11:00 - We go to the grocery store.  Often the grocery store is the location of unplanned preschool lessons about money and healthy eating.  However, today both girls are busy driving the car cart and neither is concerned about talking to me.

12:00 - We return home from the grocery store.  I put lunch in the skillet to heat up while I put away the groceries.  Charlotte is getting tired, so she is very clingy and insists upon being held while I cook/put away the food.

12:30 - The girls and I sit down to lunch together.  We have spinach and chicken pasta and fresh fruit (clemetine oranges, blueberries, and apple slices).  During lunch, we talk about what we learned in preschool and preview our afternoon.  

1:15 - The girls get ready for naps.  Abigail goes to her room to play quietly while I put Charlotte to sleep.

1:45 - Charlotte is asleep and Abigail is playing quietly in her room.  I head to the kitchen to assemble dinner for my family and for a friend who just had a baby.  I bake gingerbread cookies and make two chicken tortilla casseroles.  While the food bakes, I clean.

2:30 - Abigail gets up from her rest time and heads to the playroom to have a snack (a banana snowman) and play while I continue cleaning/cooking.

3:15 - Charlotte awakens from her nap.  We load up in the car and head to our friend's house to deliver the dinner on our way to our playgroup outing.

3:45 - We arrive at the playgroup outing (at a fabulous play area near our house).  The girls happily play, run, and climb with their friends.  I spend the time chasing Charlotte and doing my best to be sure that she does not get hurt (she tries to do all of the same things that the big kids do and often hurts herself).

5:30 - We head home, tell Daddy about the playgroup outing, and put our casserole in the oven.  Abigail helps me set the table for dinner.

6:00 - While the casserole bakes, the girls and I talk with my parents via Skype.

6:30 - We sit down for a family dinner.  We talk about our days and Abigail asks what we will be doing tomorrow.  I tell her that we will be doing snowman preschool lessons, making pink lemonade (just like Pinkalicious), the babysitter is coming for a few hours so I can work on my dissertation, we are hosting playgroup, and she has swimming lessons.  She says that sounds fun and then asks what we will be doing  the day after that (to which I reply "a trip to the zoo, animal-themed preschool, and an evening playdate with friends).

7:15 - Dinner is over and we begin the bedtime routine.

8:00 - Both girls are asleep.  I begin my evening list of work:
          Preparing tomorrow's lunch so that it can be thrown in the crockpot in the morning
          Preparing the fruits/vegetables we bought at the grocery store this morning
          Baking muffins and preparing fruit to serve at tomorrow's playgroup

10:00 - I sit down with a cup of hot tea and my computer to respond to e-mails, check my Facebook, and blog.

11:30 - I begrudgingly go to bed.  I did not get everything I needed to done today (I never do!) and would love to stay up and finish more things, but know that I will regret it tomorrow.

I hope that you enjoyed a peek into our home.  Thank you for letting me share my day with you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Incorporating Homeschool Into Daily Life

Teachable moments.  We hear that phrase a lot these days.  As a busy mom, I am always looking for moments that I can teach my children something new.  I want life to be about education and learning.  We teach our children so that they can experience new things and so that they can grow into wonderful human beings, fulfilling their utmost potential.  Every moment in life is about learning, whether most people realize it or not.  When we sit down with books, pencil, and paper, that is more formal learning.  But does the education stop once we walk away from the table? No, it doesn't have to. 

This week we asked our panel here at Growing Your Homeschool,

" What are some spontaneous or impromptu ways you have incorporated homeschool in your daily life?"

Marla- I have Abigail look for the correct terminal (letters A-D) when we pick up Daddy from the airport.

Ralene- Grocery store: comparing prices and talking about nutrition; Cooking/Baking: life skills, fractions.

Dorie- We have had a few impromptu history lessons at the flea market - explaining what this or that is and how people used it. (Specifically it was a free standing radio cabinet complete with LP record player and milk bottles in carriers.)

Jessica- Homeschool accidentally happens often when we are working on our farm. One of the children will show extra interest in something my husband is doing, and he really enjoys explaining it and showing them how it works. The next thing you know, a section of your vegetable garden is hand-sown to wheat (true story!).

Aurie- While traveling we have worked on number recognition {exits, room numbers, etc} and finding letters on road signs. We also counted quite a bit while at the theme parks.

What are some "teachable moments" you have encountered in your daily homeschool life?

A Day In The Life...The Kelleys

I am taking a free pass today guys. I am sick right now, and just posted a day in our life in pictures on my own blog last week.

I also moved to WordPress and lost all of my Disqus comments.

What a week it has been! In light of my hectic, sick week, I am simply going to point you to my blog, where you can take a peek into how the Kelley house homeschools.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Our School - Today

Welcome to a day with our house! Each day is different, but I wanted you to see what many of our days our like. We front-load our weeks, so we are busiest Monday - Wednesday. Thursdays have no afternoon activities and Fridays are our lightest academically as well as having no activities scheduled. This is what happened at our house on Monday:

6:00 am - I'm up (I'm a morning person - big time - so don't think this as necessary for homeschooling!) and workout. I often run with a friend or go to the gym, but I tried a workout video today. After I shower and dress, I read a few blogs. My Farmer and I have a cup of coffee together and watch the news.

7:00 to 7:15 am - My Farmer tells the children goodbye (and wakes them if they aren't already up) and heads out the door. Depending on the morning and the child, they may come out of their rooms already dressed and ready to go or they may shuffle out and lay on the couch, snoozing for a while longer. I make breakfast and visit with anyone who is awake enough.

7:30 am - We start school with breakfast; I don't have a dress code so anyone who is still in their pajamas is welcome. We usually begin our day with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. I read to the kids from our current historical novel while they eat. When they are finished, they clear their dishes and color, work in their journal or they may move to the floor to work on legos, pet the dog or find another quiet activity while they listen.

8:30 to 9:00 am - We are finished with our group work by now (finding places on the maps we have been reading about, discussing the period in history, culture of people or new vocabulary in the history books). Everyone takes a break to do some chores - there are animals to feed, beds to be made, and sometimes there are still children who need to get dressed!

9:30 to 11:00 - Individual work becomes our focus. We do not keep a set schedule for this part (or any part, really) of our day. My oldest (ten, doing mostly fifth grade work) requires very little help or instruction and often moves to the living room to work. My second son (eight, doing primarily third grade work) works more on his own this year then he ever has before, but he is also very dyslexic and does prefer that I be nearby and available, so he typically works at the kitchen table. My daughter (six, working on first grade materials) does short assignments which all require explanation beforehand, so she also works at the table. Each child will have reading, math, handwriting and language arts.

At any time during this block of work, any child may change subjects or take a break to work on his/her list of other jobs. These include feeding/watering our pets and livestock, picking up their rooms, folding and putting away their own laundry as well as tasks I assign each day on an as-needed basis (today my oldest took the trash and recycling bin to the road, my middle cleaned the toilets and my youngest dusted). Often they stop for a snack or drink, or to watch something out the window. Generally it is a quiet, focused time. The younger the child, the more often breaks are needed and the more frequently their breaks include just playing for a bit. I try to let them self-regulate and typically it works well.

11:00 - Pick up and put away school work, lunch goes on the table. This is usually something I've made quickly (like sandwiches) or something I reheated from a previous meal. If I'm really on the ball, it's a hot meal I prepped the night before and just had to pop in the oven. Today it was just sandwiches, apples, and nuts. I had a salad. We usually like to read while we have meals, which can make it a challenge for me to eat with good manners, but usually I eat about half my lunch, read while the kids finish off their lunch, then finish mine while they are brushing their hair/teeth and putting on their shoes/coats.

11:45 - leave for band. We drive about five miles into the little town whose public school district we are in. My oldest is enrolled for band and plays the coronet. He loves it. The class is only thirty minutes, so I usually bring another book to read to the younger kids while we wait, or if it's nice we go to a park. Sometimes we run to the Post Office or wash the van.

However, even though my calendar TOLD me it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and even though I had a lesson on MLK, and even though I'd checked the night before and KNEW there was no band (public school not in session) - yep, I still took my kid. Thankfully I figured out before I left him there that the school was empty (the lack of bikes in the rack tipped me off). So we ran to the grocery store and Shooter just came with us.

12:35 pm - band is finished (or we finished at the store), we drive to Tae Kwan Do lessons. I drop off my oldest (who has been learning TKD for two years now) and youngest (who was given TKD lessons for Christmas this year) about quarter to one. My middle son and I arrive for his phonics tutoring (we began this after his dyslexia was diagnosed in the spring) at 1:00.

2:00 pm - Phonics tutoring is finished, pick up TKD kids, head home. My children like to read or draw while we drive. We also listen to music a lot. I play Geography Songs, Sing The Word, and math fact songs...but they prefer classic country.

2:30 to 5:30 pm - Free time! This is when the kids wrap up any chores or school work they did not have time to finish before we left home. Typically there is a chore or two left to be done, but for the most part they just play. If the weather is nice (above 40 degrees) they want to be outside. Otherwise they build Lego, play with action figures, draw or paint and read library books. Today the weather was nice, so the kids played outside. The kids also have a favorite PBS show that comes on at 4:00 each day. This is when I finish up *my* chores for the day and get as much done at my desk as I can (I do the bookwork and record keeping for our farm). I also check Facebook and email. Today I went through mail, paid bills, worked on a spreadsheet and checked Facebook. I folded and put away laundry and did some decluttering. Then I started dinner. I made roasted vegetables, baked pork chops and scratch biscuits.

6:30 - Supper time! This all depends on when or if My Farmer is going to make it home for the evening meal. If not, we may be delivering it to the field for him. He opted to wait until he got home today. So I let the children stay outside until they came in of their own choice & then served the food. Usually in the winter we eat earlier, but when we have a nice day I want the kids to enjoy every drop of sunshine they can!

7:30 to 8:30 pm - Time to get ready for bed! Everyone changes into their pajamas, has a bedtime story and maybe a snack. I let my oldest son read until 9:00 or so. I finish the dishes, get lunches ready for the next day, lay out all our school materials for morning and set the coffee pot. Then I headed back to my desk and visited with My Farmer when he came home at 10:15 pm. We headed to bed just after 11:00 pm.

A few things to keep in mind when you read this:

First of all, my children are all finished with the toddler stages. I can accomplish a lot with the hours in my day because their needs and independence level has changed. Secondly, we couldn't keep this tight a schedule every day, but a few days a week is fine for us. Third, I don't need a lot of sleep. Fourth, we have been homeschooling now for three years, so we have had some practice! We have figured out what times of day are most productive in which way for each of us. This took some ironing out! This also means we've had quite some time to work into this routine and we are very comfortable with and good at it. The day I've described here looks nothing like our first nine weeks of homeschooling in the spring of 2008 - because we have all grown and changed since then.

Find the ways that are best for your family - the ways that keep most of the people happy and learning most of the time. Wise homeschooling families (several right here on GYH!) have written about the changing, growing, living nature of a homeschool - it is always going to look different from one family to another and from one month/year to the next in your own family.

I know this is long - thanks if you made it all the way to the end!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Growing In Grace...daily

This year has been, well, a growing experience as I've attempted to maintain some resemblance to the structure of our past year in the midst of pregnancy ups and downs.

Before I plunge into a tour of our day, let me fill you in on a few nitty-gritty details. I have a son in kindergarten and a very free-spirited three year old. And I am 31 weeks pregnant!

Welcome to a day in our lives.

6:30 a.m. I stumble out of bed and grope through the dark house for my cup of decaf coffee (with 1/4 cup of sugar and lots of cream). For my devotions, I've been meditating on Proverbs 31 and praying the passage for my daughter as a part of 31 days of Praying Proverbs 31.

7 a.m. I quickly pray that the children will sleep just a little while longer while I answer emails or to try to write up a quick blog post.

7:30-ish Everyone is up. I've told my kids that the key to unlock mommy to make breakfast is to do their morning chores, and this has worked fairly well. As I close out of what I'm doing on the computer, my son feeds the dog and my daughter makes her bed. Then, I make my husband's coffee, pour some cereal into bowls, and we eat breakfast.

8 a.m. Hubby heads out for work, and I finish my breakfast.

The next hour to an hour and a half is totally unpredictable, depending on the day and how well I'm moving, how well the kids are listening, and other variables. In general, the kids are getting dressed, I'm catching up with my mom on the phone or answering a few more emails, showering and dressing, mediating the disagreements that have come up while I was in the shower, etc.

We try to start school around 10-ish (as opposed to our very regimented 9:00 last year).

10-10:15 We sing our months of the year, update our calendar, and say the pledge. My daughter (aka "the little one") pouts about where to stand during the pledge and insists on putting her left hand over her chest vs. her right. I take a moment to resolve the situation, and we finish the pledge as respectfully as possible. Now, it's closer to 10:20 than 10:15

10:20-10:30 We go over our Bible facts that we've been memorizing: how many books in the Bible; divisions of the Bible; Books of the Law are...; who wrote the Books of the Law; themes of Books of the Law; etc.

10:30 My son begins a handwriting page while I open up the day with the little one, reviewing the new letter she will be learning for the week.

10:45 The little one works through the rest of her workbox pockets peacefully (ha, ha!) while I work with my son on phonics and reading. Actually, I have had more success with my little one since letting her fill her own pockets.

This week, I had an important announcement for my son: Mommy is no longer doing any school on the floor. That's right folks, no more floor activities for me. I've finally drawn the line. My son reluctantly brings his phonics charts and reading book back up to the table.

My daughter shows me her paper, and I tell her how beautiful it is before telling my son to please re-read that last sentence. I have my son pause one more time while I tell my daughter to please put the lid on her dry erase marker and to not color on the back of her chair.

11:05 I supervise my son while he does his phonics worksheet. My son works patiently through a section of his worksheet while I "take a moment" with my daughter for coloring on the table instead of her page (or for licking the flashcards or for coloring with the side of the chalk until it is rather square-ish in shape, etc.; everyday it's something).

11:15 Both kids begin working with me on our geography study. This week, we are learning about the culture of China (last week was the geography of China). We read a story about a Chinese child, do a notebook page, and pray for an unreached people group in China.

11:30 The little one continues through her activity pockets, now beginning more math-related activities. My son pulls out his Building Thinking Skills book for a page of critical thinking. Then, we attempt flashcards. He happily trots through most of the stack, and then misses the same three we've missed everyday for the last two weeks, except today I've thought of a plan.

I pull out our small chalkboard and have him right the entire combination and answer to each problem he has missed. This, by the way, is not a punishment. Anything done on the chalkboard, no matter how tedious it seems, is an absolute treat—the chalkboard is the envy of our school room.

11:45-ish We've finished flashcards. I glance at the time and decide to postpone our "telling time" assignment for tomorrow; we pull out his last worksheet and finish up at about noon.

They rip-roar out of the school room and whoop and holler toward their bedrooms, and I savor a brief moment of almost-silence before heading to the kitchen to start lunch. Daddy has the opportunity to come home to eat lunch with us; and as the kids clamor around him with news of their latest accomplishments, thrusting papers in his face and enjoying his reactions, I revel in their delight and in the privilege of another morning of learning together—even if it did start a little later than what I had wanted.

Follow along on more of Tracy's journey at her blog Growing In Grace.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Day in the Life--Ralene

January is the month where we all give in and say we'll make some changes, tweak a few things, and make our lives just a little easier/better/smoother. Sometimes, though, we feel that the solutions to our problems are just beyond our reach. What better to renew our creative ducts than to see how other people do it. If you are one of those people who know that you need to get on top of your schedule this year, GYHS is ready to share! For the next two weeks, GYHS contributers will give you a glimpse into our day, show you how we do it (though we're far from perfect ourselves).

This is my crew. My husband, a military soldier who has been gone quiet a bit, but thankfully has been home for a year! Alana is 5 and Kyra is 4 (both in Kindergarten this year), and Connor is 18 months.

Ralene's Ideal Day vs Ralene's Real Day:

6:30--My alarm went off too early this morning. Let me tell ya, my new year's resolution to wake up at 6:30 every morning may not work. For now, this is the time I wake up, have my quiet time and start to check emails/blogs. Most mornings it works pretty well--if I get up. Otherwise...

7:00--Kid are up and we're having breakfast. They may watch a couple of cartoons while I finish with my emails/blogs.

8:00--Morning Routine/Chores--The kids march upstairs to make their beds, brush their teeth, get dressed, and then move to their morning chores. The girls alternate chores like dusting, picking up toys, vacuuming (some), taking out the bathroom trash, putting away clothes. As they finish, they run off to play before school starts.

9:30--School time. We tend to run our school like this: Subject, 10-15 min break, Subject, 10-15 min break. We start with Group/Bible time where we sing, read from the Bible, go over our verse of the week, talk about the calendar (20 mins). Next we move on to Math (w/ Math-U-See) for about 15-20 mins. Then we split up for Phonics. My son doesn't do well when I try to have both of the girls working at the same time, so usually one will play with him while I work with the other, and then we switch. Last of all, we spend about 15-20 mins working on a unit study. During the breaks, I usually try to do a little cleaning.


12:40(ish)--Reading time (this is when we read from a chapter book, right now we're enjoying the Little House series--talk about flashbacks!)

1:00--Rest Time (the girls are allowed to either watch a movie or read books), My office hours (1-3)

2:00--The girls are allowed to get up and engage in a quiet activity like drawing, or else go outside on nice days.

3:00--Snack time

3:30--I shoo the kids away so that I can workout while I watch one of my shows.


5:00--Dinner Prep, Cleaning


6:30--Cleaning. Baths

7:00--Hubby takes over with kids and my evening office hours begin

7:30--Kids Bedtime Routine: pick up toys, brush teeth, bedtime stories

8:00--Kids in bed

10:00--My office hours end, I unwind with a tv show or a good book

11:00--Lights out!

Friday, January 13, 2012

You Might Be a Homeschooler if

Today, we share the many ways that we might complete the sentence: "You might be a homeschooler if..."

...people at the store ask your kids why they aren't in school.  

...your 4 year old runs through the house squealing when she finds the missing South Carolina puzzle piece she has been searching all week for.  
(Sam) of your all-time favorite Christmas gifts was a laminator.  
(Marla)'ve occasionally taught princesses, brides, cowboys, and super heros (complete with mask) and girls with hair set in rollers.  
(Dorie) can go on vacation during school without needing a note.  
(Aurie) take field trips whenever you want (without the worry of parental consent slips).  (Ralene)

...your "online playtime" involves looking at teaching and homeschooling blogs.  
(Marla) don't need a note from the dentist/doctor/orthodontist for missing school.  
(Dorie) use 'Transformers" to develop fine-motor and critical thinking skills and the washing machine for teaching math and life skills.  (Beth)

...nice, well-meaning folk ask your six-year-old, "Where do you go to school?" and she responds, "Huh?"  


...your child has no idea what grade he (or she) is in.  
(Tracy) spend more on printer ink than you do on food. (ok, maybe not quite...).  
(Ralene) are on a first-name basis with the librarians at the public library.  

How would you complete the sentence?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Measure of Success

"The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you."
-Luke 6:38

We measure; we quantify; we can't help it. We're human. And we want our children to succeed. To be successful, according to however we measure success, which may be different (ok, I hope it's different) than how society measures.


Many homeschooling mothers want, in the end, to grow adults who love to learn, who aren't afraid to try new things, who love God, who are self-motivated. But sometimes the way we motivate and measure sends a different message to our kids.

Recently, my husband and I had dinner with a high-power business executive. He found homeschooling to be fascinating but incomprehensible. He regaled me with his own thoughts on education for quite some time.

He went on to say that if my husband's job ever takes us to his city, the schools there are "very good." He told me about his own children, how gifted they were in music. The schools in his area all have very good music programs. His children played all through school, competed nationally, and won multiple awards. Now, his job is slowing down and he finally has the time to learn an instrument. He has begged his kids to help him and to make music with him. "But they aren't interested in making music anymore. Least of all," he added drily, "with me."

Mmm. Yes, very good music program.

Charlotte Mason wrote, "At the end of a child's education the question is not how much does the child know, but how much does the child care."

But on a daily basis, I'll admit, I am tempted to emphasize the importance aquiring knowledge at a given rate over giving my kids time to process and really relate to what they are learning. Caring takes more time than aquiring.

How do I measure success? How am I measuring success now- does it jive with the ultimate success I envision for my children? Or is there a disconnect? Will measuring my child by comparing him or her to other kids, or to a scope and sequence chart, result in the type of success I want to see in him or her in 20 years?

If the measure (comparing my child to other children his age, expecting him to be interested in- today- what someone else thinks he should be interested in, muscling through and gettin'er done) with which I measure, will be measured back to me, can I expect to be measured back something else (self-motivation, passion, and courage)? Do I have the courage to look at my child and allow him the freedom to be self-motivated NOW, even though he may not be always motivated to do exactly what is on the schedule today?

It's food for thought.

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."
~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The One Room School House Approach

In the very beginning of our homeschooling journey, I had one incredibly bright little boy who loved to read.  We breezed through his lessons covering every subject, every day.  The next year, I had two sweet children to teach.  Our days still progressed easily as I 'ping-ponged' between the two.  Fast forward a few years, and, now, this year, there are four. 

Ranging in age from a preschooler to a seventh grader, I knew I needed a more structured routine for our days.  We had tried adapting other homeschoolers schedules to our days, but it never worked as well for us. 

Last summer, I decided to look outside of the typical homeschooling mainstream ideas.  I began to ask just who else has been successful at teaching children with large age and academic differences. 

That's when inspiration was found.  Well, technically I saw and bought the book in a gift shop at an amusement park.  It was a book that documented one room school houses.

Reading through the experiences of the teachers and students, I found a plethora of information on how the classes were taught.  There was even a few sample schedules to view. 

It was a gold mine!

After each chapter, I wrote down a few notes on what I could use or alter to fit our family situation and homeschooling style.  By the end of the book, I had devised a lose plan of action for our days.

Our Plan:
start the day as a group with Bible reading and prayer
work on the harder subjects first (for us: math, reading, grammar)
start individual instruction with the youngest first while the others do independent work
proceed through the ages, instructing the oldest last
have a mid-morning break (outdoor play, snack away from the school work)
begin the next section of classes as a group (we do history and aesthetics together)
work on the other subjects (for us: Bible, spelling, logic, Latin)
again, use the youngest to oldest approach
break for lunch
afternoon session of classes for nature walks, science observations, extra projects, co-op homework, etc

That first morning in August, as we began a new school year, we started using our new routine.  Though I have tweaked it over the ensuing months, it has served us well, and we will continue using it for as long as it works for us.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homeschooling on Vacation

As I was preparing for our Christmas vacation, I debated whether we should take a break from homeschooling or if I needed to take preschool work with us.  My husband wanted us to do preschool every day and I worried that Abigail would miss out on learning from life experiences if we spent time doing preschool.  In the end, I decided to take some fun activities so that we could use them if we had time for preschool, but limited myself to one expandable folder.  Any materials we needed for doing preschool had to fit into the folder.  While it was hard to limit my preschool materials (I am accustomed to having a lot of stuff), I am so glad that I took learning activities.  As it turned out, homeschooling on vacation is good for my family.  We did a short lesson (about an hour) each morning.  Abigail thrives on routine and being on vacation interrupted our normal routines.  So, when we sat down to do preschool each day, she was excited!  Having the familiar routine of "doing school" while the rest of our day was different from normal helped her.  Additionally, it was wonderful to do preschool work with Daddy and grandparents around; Abigail was able to show them what she knows and they all participated in her learning.  Despite my fears, Abigail still had plenty of time for fun with our families; homeschooling did not reduce her real-world learning experiences.  Now that we have successfully done it once, I think that we will plan to homeschool each time that we go on vacation.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Returning to School After a Break

For many of us, this has been our first week back to homeschooling after a Christmas break.  Today, we share with you how each of us return to homeschooling after a break.

Keep it simple and don't dive back in all at once!

After a long break, we start back to our school routine on a predetermined day with a slower pace and ample time for review.

My family really thrives on routine - so everyone looks forward to getting back to school! It helps my gang to give a few days warning; a countdown to our regular life. We dive back in, but not like gang busters! It is helpful to have a three-quarters day, or a short week when we first begin. Our family had a nice break over Christmas, but it was actually only eight school days that we took off. I also find that it makes a difference NOT to go back until everything is ready. If I need one more day of break to have all the items lined out for the week, it's important to take it. A smooth transition back to routine is helped by all the ducks being in a row beforehand.

We love the routine of school, and my kids do ask about doing school all through vacation. Nevertheless, I like to ease back in. I usually tackle the essentials on our first week back (phonics and math) and add our extras on the following week (art, geography, etc.)

What are your tips for returning to schooling after a break?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Journey

Homeschooling is such a journey, each of our family’s journeys look different. In my journey (year 3) I am finally learning to stop looking around me.

I am letting go of so many things that I clung to in the first two years.

I wanted to set up the perfect little classroom, that little place that separated our real home life from school. The pretty workbooks lined in a row just like my favorite public school teacher. Our little public school at home.

Today, I still line things neatly, because I thrive on order; we use some classroom items, like a dry erase board, because we’re visual learners, but other than that we are moving very far from the public school image.

Sam's Noggin

School has now spilled into every part of our life, or life has consumed our school. Not sure which, but I like it.

Literature now takes the spot of workbooks, drawings replace any type of busywork, Scripture memorization is our number one priority and continues into the evenings.

Above all, I am no longer entrusting our homeschool to the ideas of others, but am prayerfully looking for what God would have our home and school to become.

This is our journey, our life, our walk.

We can’t cookie cutter our life into anyone else’s; we shouldn’t want to.

Cut your own path through this homeschooling journey, you don’t have to do everything right to give it your all. Even when you mess up, I promise your children will be fine. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our Favorite Homeschool Tools 2012

Happy New Year! For my first post of 2012, I want to share with you the items we have discovered (or rediscovered) as homeschool essentials for our family this year.

1. Apps

My oldest son and I both moved into the world of smarter MP3s or cell phones this holiday season. We are already making use of them to look up unknown words with dictionary apps, find places with map apps, and make lists with note apps.

I do lots of different things to encourage writing in my dysgraphic son. Special writing items really help him to feel excited about writing. We discovered this product (thank you, Santa) is perfect as it allows him to erase as he is working, never breaks (he presses hard) and becomes permanent the next day.

My daughter is on the invisible thresh hold of truly "getting" reading and writing. She enjoys all work encompassing those subjects, but for some reason this tool has been like magic to her. She loves to write and erase, write and erase, write and erase. If I lived in a state with more stringent record keeping requirements, I would take pictures of her work before she erased it. As it is, I just mark her work as done in my lesson plans, and write on her work book "completed on dry erase slate."

4. Dedicated School Storage

You have heard me talk about this before, and I'm sure I will talk about it again - but it still bears repeating. Organize your materials ahead of time. Have a space devoted only to storing school items. In our case, it is an ugly old set of particle-board shelves I bought at a school garage sale. It's indispensable! I have a section for each child to keep their 'everyday' items like pencils, math books and journals. I have a section where I keep items I use every day like my lesson plans, the books we are reading that week, paper and flashcards. I have a section for books we have finished and books we have yet to come to. It saves me so much time and heartache!

5. Binders

How did I ever homeschool without binders?! I don't know either. I have a binder that contains the entire year's lesson plans, a binder containing enrichment materials, a binder for the appendix that came with my curriculum, and my own week-long binder. Each week, I move what I need for the five school days into it. This includes lesson plans for our core (shared) work, lesson plans for each child's language arts and reading, phonics materials for my first grader, and any seasonal coloring pages or enrichment activities. I separate each of these areas with tabbed, pocketed 3-ring dividers. I place uncompleted work (like spelling lists or coloring pages) on one side of the pocket, and completed work in the other. I also keep stickers for the kids' papers, a zippered pencil case for myself, and inspirational items there (this prayer card is my favorite).

What wonderful items have been a boon to your family in homeschooling this year?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tips on what to save and what to consign

As the books crowd on the shelves and the educational games, manipulatives, and other resources spill out of cabinets and closets, the inevitable predicament of "what to do with all of this stuff" becomes a higher priority. Do you consign, disgard, or save?

As a homeschooled homeschooler, one of the unique perks that I have are all the books, supplements, and other resources that my mom saved from my homeschooling days. Her foresight has saved us a ton of money when it comes to buying curriculum. But obviously, not all items are worth saving. So here are my tips on what to save and what not to save, what has benefitted us the most.

What to Save
1. Charts and flashcards.
This item is at the top of my list of money-savers. These items have been a tremendous blessing. I am using phonics flashcards, phonics charts, math flashcards, number cards, and alphabet cards—all from the time I learned to read, about 25 years ago! Not only do these items typically store well, but they are not likely to become outdated. If you can, laminate them to make them even more durable.

2. Reading books
Most reading books make great items to save and pass down. I own nearly all of the readers that my sister and I used through the elementary grades. Though new editions will undoubtedly have been printed, the assignments are not too hard to match up. And, for the money it saves, I'm willing to plot out a few of my own lesson plans to match what we've learned with what we ought to be reading. Besides, you can never have enough good quality reading on the shelves.

Note: The small beginning readers that are nothing more than stapled paper did not age very well, and the cost of replacing them was very inexpensive. These kinds of beginning readers might be better shared with another homeschooler or consigned.

3. Manipulatives and teaching resources
One of my favorite items to inherit was not even actually a "homeschool" item. My parents taught children's church for a number of years and owned a large felt board with the Betty Luken Bible story felts. Though I don't often have the time to plan and use the felts themselves, we use our felt board nearly everyday with homemade letter and number felts. To have bought a felt board for our school room would have been out of the question. Inheriting it was a tremendous blessing!

Many of the teaching resources that you have, particularly those that were an investment for you, are probably good items to save and pass down. The exception might be certain types of technology. But many math manipulatives and learning games are perfect items to store.

What Not to Save
1. Consumable texts
Though, depending on your state, it might be valuable to save your student's work for a certain number of years, definitely by the time your child graduates the value of storing these items is diminished. Because they are written in, the value of reusing them is limited. Feel free to toss these items, unless you have managed to use them without writing in the books (we used spiral notebooks for nearly all of our answers and rarely wrote in a text).

2. Non-consummable texts
These items could actually go either way, depending on the subject, grade level, and content. Literature texts and high school anthologies are actually great items to save. History texts, on the other hand, are very soon outdated. Consider time-sensitive content when making this decision. Most likely, it will be at least 10 to 15 years before they are used (even more for a high school text). Modern history will be greatly outdated; much of science may be irrelevant except on the most basic levels. On the other hand, math is always math, and language arts is another static subject for the most part.

Another element to consider are new editions of the text. If you are not able to save the curriculum and all other components that accompany a text, it might be extremely difficult to pair the item with future products. Is the item a stand-alone resource? If not, consider blessing a current homeschooler or consigning the product.

3. Technology
So much of our homeschooling these days revolves around some aspect of technology: DVD schooling, computer applications, electronic games, etc. Consider how fast technology changes when deciding what to store. A few items will be similar to fisher-price toys and will always be "in-style." I am continually seeing toys from my childhood that are still on the market many years later. However, other items are outdated nearly as soon as we've pulled them out of the packing material they were shipped in. Many of these fascinating learning tools are best shared while the technology still exists; share or consign them.

If you do decide to store a learning game or other device, be sure to remember to take out the batteries, or all of your efforts will have been in vain.

Some of you may not be able to envision your children carrying the homeschool torch at this point. Just getting them to graduate is battle enough. Your children may have even vocalized that they will never homeschool their kids. But keep in mind that a LOT changes from the time a child graduates to the time when they have kids of their own. And something miraculous happens when you are holding your infant in your arms for the first time, contemplating their future potential.

The child who fought you all 12 years may surprise you by their decision to be a second (or third) generation homeschooler. Having what the right materials on hand to get a homeschool started might make all the difference.

Homeschool Holiday Open House Winners!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I know, we're all getting back into the groove of things now that the holidays are over. Our schools are resuming, we're returning to routine, and maybe feeling a little bit of that after-holiday burnout/blues.

So, let's kick off the new year with some fun! Here are the winners from our giveaway week!

Monday: Educating the WholeHearted Child, by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson = Lisa Hurst

Tuesday: Preschool Pack of Transportation Counting Cards = Tristan

Wednesday: Educating the WholeHearted Child, by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson = Julie Lupo

Thursday: Walmart $30 GC = Tristan
Congrats to all the winners! If you could please email Ralene at raeburk01 [at] yahoo [dot] com with your addresses, we'll get your prizes out to you ASAP.
So, what are your goals for 2012?
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