Thursday, May 31, 2012

Free {or almost} Field Trips and Activities

As a child, my parents taught me to seek out deals and sales.  If there was a coupon or discount for a product, we used it.  When something we needed, or used regularly, went on sale, we bought it. 

There are many ways to apply this mindset to homeschooling as well, especially with field trips and activities.  A few ideas or ways to find free, or almost free, field trips and activities include... 


Field Trips -
  • Attend open house days at various places - Near us, a group of ten museums open their doors to the public free of charge one day in February.  Though the crowds are plentiful, it is a great way to visit a museum and determine if your children are interested in a second visit or not.
  • Check schedules for customer appreciation days, these are sometimes sponsored by the place itself or a nearby business.  In our area, the art museum is free on Sundays.
  • Ask businesses for a tour - We took a free tour of a bakery.  Post offices, donut shops, and stores offer free tours in our area.
  • Visit county, state, or national parks - These are often free, but check their websites first.  Many parks have historical information centers or nature centers that can be toured. 

Activities -
  • Ask the librarian - our library invites area businesses and companies to sponsor free programs for the public.  We have listened to a classical music concert, complete with a discussion about the instruments and have participated in a hands on history lesson about pioneer life at our local public library.
  • Consider church activities - area churches can put on some great free programs.  Close to our community area churches, including our home church, have hosted art camps, VBS, and family fun days.  Our church has a theatrical group who perform plays for the community for free.
  • Community days - small cities often have community days which bring the community together in a variety of festivities.  Parades, fairs, agriculture days, festivals, and fireworks are some of the activities families can participate in at local community days.
  • Park programs - local parks often offer visitors a variety of activities for free.  During the warm months, our parks offer free musical festivals, concerts, hawk watches, nature hikes, and butterfly counts for the monarchs migration.

Almost Free...

Field Trips -
  • Dollar Days are popular during the summer months.  An industrial museum, natural history museum, and a zoo all offer admission for one dollar on special days during the summer.  It is typically a weekday when admission would normally be low.  However, generally, dollar days are very popular.  Websites often have the dollar days listed in the schedules or calendars. 
  • Homeschool Days are gaining popularity in our area.  A few places of historical interest even include additional programing for homeschoolers during homeschool days.  We have visited a farm, learned about farm animals, and made butter during one homeschool day.

Activities -
  • Consider bartering or trading - one time my daughter wanted to learn ballet.  We could not find a short (six week) class to try ballet before we signed, and payed, for an entire year.  A family friend offered to teach her ballet for six weeks in exchange for a six week Spanish class for her children. 
  • Volunteer your time to teach, lead, or help with the activity - often children of teachers, leaders, or helpers can take the class or participate in the activity for a very small price or even free.  It will cost you time in preparations and actual teaching time. 


Field Trips -
  • Get a group together and take advantage of group rates.  Many places offer group rates, and sometimes the grown up chaperones can get free admission, which cuts the overall cost even more. 
  • Consider visiting during off times - sometimes places discount admission rates during evening hours or off days.  Always check the website for discounts and coupons before your visit. 
  • Homeschool days aren't always free, but are often discounted greatly.  Be sure to check under educational opportunities on websites.  This is where I have often found out about homeschool days.

Activities -
  • Places that have activities and sports for school aged children are typically deserted during the weekdays.  Consider getting a group of interested participants together and approach the businesses for a discounted time during these times.  In our area, an ice skating rink, skating rink, bowling alleys, and gymnastic centers offer daytime hours to homeschoolers for a discounted price.

These ideas are all ones my family has used in our homeschool journey.
I am quite confident there are even more ways to find free,
or almost free, field trips and activities.

What are some other ideas you have for finding free or almost free field trips and activities?


Dorie enjoys being outside, photography, art, writing, a strong cup of coffee, and good conversations seasoned with much laughter. She and her drummer husband, Jerry, share a life built on faith in Jesus, love, and grace. They have been blessed with four active children. Each day, whether easy or trying, is a wondrous part of this grace filled journey, and Dorie blogs about them all at These Grace Filled Days. Their homeschooling adventures can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Designing your own free curriculum - resources

We pulled our children from their school after spring break when the boys were in second grade and kindergarten.  We wanted the nine remaining weeks of the school year to "try it out" in case homeschooling wasn't for us.  We had no curriculum, no experience, and no idea how things would turn out.

We did, however, have internet access.

And library cards.

And lots of people who found out we were homeschooling.

This became our trifecta of curriculum through which our early experiences of homeschool flowed.  If you are interested in designing any or all of your own homeschool studies, these can be your greatest aids.

The Internet

I can't imagine how much effort homeschooling was before the internet.  I could type in 'kindergarten science' or 'second grade math' and seven billion sites would pop up with unit study materials, other moms blogging about their great ideas, free printable worksheets or coloring pages, and lists of scope and sequence (which I would then google because I had no idea what scope and sequence even meant - it's okay if you don't know what that means either).

I ordered gently used copies of the "Core Knowledge" series of books and based most of what we did for an entire year off of those books; they were an essential resource for guiding our learning by grade level. Their website states:

"In one convenient volume per grade — from What Your Preschooler Needs to Know through What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know — the eight-volume Core Knowledge Series provides parents, teachers, and children with an engaging, illustrated introduction to the important knowledge outlined in the Core Knowledge Sequence. Each book suggests related readings and resources. The kindergarten and first grade books also include sections on how children learn to read."

I also searched several variations of "homeschool for free" or "homeschool resources" and listed the books and read the blogs and fell into internet rabbit holes full of magical ideas and tips.  I wrote lists of books that looked helpful.

I knew what my children had been doing in school up to this point, so we tried to pick up from there.  We finished the math workbooks the school sent home with them.  My kindergartener had only the letter "Q" left in his phonics studies, so I printed off worksheets and coloring pages.

I asked my children what they wanted to learn about.  I wrote down those topics under the list of books I had made for myself and off we went to the next critical stop on our journey:

The Library

Our library contained a small but rich homeschooling section.  Among the books I read were "Homeschooling on a Shoestring"  by Melissa Morgan and Judith Allee, "The Ultimate Book Of Homeschooling Ideas" and "Homeschoolers Success Stories" both by Linda Dobson, "How to Write a No-Cost/Low Cost Curriculum for Your Homeschool Child" by Borg Hendrickson, and racks of homeschool magazines - full to the brim with lessons, activities and tips.

We spent a great deal of time in the non-fiction sections of our library.  We found books covering the topics the children were most interested in, as well as resources recommended by the Core Knowledge books and suggested by internet sources.    We discovered DK Eyewitness books; three years later they are still our favorites.  We chose fictional books to read out loud together, including the first Harry Potter book and several Newbery Medal winners.

We branched out into the Audio-Visual section of the library.  We checked out classical music CDs, books on tape or playaways, and instructional DVDs.  Our favorites were the "Signing Time" series, "Families of the World" series, and (surprise!) DK Eyewitness.

Then, I discovered an entire "Teacher's Resource" section.  Just a few steps away from the homeschooling area!  There were reams of pages for copying to create classroom-type crafts (we did a Halloween skeleton from one of these books the next October) as well as themed books for different subjects, different times of year, month-by-month, and even fully written curriculum for certain subjects.  It was a goldmine for free curriculum planning.  As far as directly impacting the work my children did each day, though, the teachers resource area remained a distant second to...

People Who Heard We Were Homeschooling

We tried to quietly fade into the nine weeks away from school, to privately decide whether or not we were going to continue with this crazy idea.  It didn't work out that way.  First of all, people want to know where on Earth  you have gone.  Secondly, people care about you and your kid(s) and want to show it. Third, everyone has tons of stuff sitting around their house taking up space and are all in a constant state of decluttering.

Paper bags started appearing on my doorstep pretty quickly.  A cousin's unfinished math book from the previous school year, a barely used stamping set, puzzles, educational games, an expensive math manipulative set, and flashcards became part of our curriculum.  My sweet mother unearthed a box of worksheets with wipe-off plastic covers and black, oily pencils that we used during the preschool years at my own childhood home.  We were given old textbooks, garage sale books, early reader books, coloring and activity books, matching sets, art kits, craft boxes, jewelry making packs, clay, sorting kits, beads, prizes, and more stickers than you can imagine.

And we used them.  We used them all.

I started meeting and talking to other homeschooling families.  I was also fortunate to already be friends with three homeschooling families and related to a fourth.  They showered me with curriculum samples, borrowed books, group introductions, and reassurances.  They let me use their curriculum books, look over their children's work, ask questions about what they used and other families used. The best things that came from these friendships included the book "Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education" by Laura M. Berquist and invitations to used curriculum sales, where I continue to gather information and materials - even as we enter our fourth year at home.

Was designing curriculum for my children easy?  Actually, yes.  It was pretty simple.  I'm not going to say it wasn't a lot of work or a great deal of time, but the information and resources are abundantly available.  What required the most work was the sorting, organizing, storing, copying and printing of the materials.  The researching and teaching parts were fun!  Do we still school in this way?  No, we purchase a planned curriculum now.  But if I weren't also contributing to running our family farm or we were in a tighter financial situation I would want to go back to this method of curriculum design.  I still exert a similar technique and level of control over some portions of our children's education.  And it was a great way for me to learn what sort of style and rhythm where best going to fit my family.

There is something else I took from my experience of homeschooling without a curriculum:  I loan my curriculum out.  I give away the manipulative sets, puzzles, craft kits and unfinished workbooks we don't need anymore.  I try not to bombard them, but I give entire boxes of borrow or keep items to new homeschooling families when they tell me they are going to give it a try.   I loan out science, language arts or reading packages and sets to anyone who is interested in what we have used.

And then I tell them all to get out their library card and start making friends with the most knowledgable librarian working in that wonderful place.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Homeschooling with Google (and online resource list)

Back when my mom first began homeschooling me over 20 years ago, the choices for curriculum were much different. You either bought the same materials used in the schools (public or private), or you made your own from what you could find at the library and at garage sales.

Today, there is the internet—and oh, how that has changed the homeschool scenery! High speed information just a click away. With all of the resources of the internet, it really is doable to homeschool for free or nearly free if you choose to. However, what you save in cash you spend in time. Pioneering through the wilderness of cyber space is no easy task. You've got to know what you're looking for and where to look. So, here are a few tips that will have you well on your way to constructing your own Google curriculum.

Know What You Need

You'll never find what you need if you have no idea what that is. Google is close to miraculous, but the computer does not read your mind.

What I have found helpful is a unit study planner. Even if you are not necessarily taking the "unit study" approach, these planners are helpful for defining objectives and listing resources as you find them. You will need to know what you hope to study and some basic objectives. Brainstorm what you'd like to find: information, worksheets, maps, notebooking pages, library books, lesson plans, etc. Then, begin brainstorming some search phrases.

Know Where to Look

It may help, when you first begin to search, to go to particular websites rather that search the entire internet. Knowing specifically where to look can save you a lot of time, particularly if someone else has already done the searching for you. Squidoo, for instance, has a number of lenses (long posts) where the author has numerous links and valuable information on particular topics already gathered for you. (NOTE: You do not have to create an account to search the site.) Search Squidoo for your Ancient Egypt study, rather than the world-wide-web, and save yourself some time. Pinterest is another great place for searching other people's collections.

If you are in need of research information on a particular topic, begin with reputable sources. Not everything you find on the internet is reliable information, even if it comes from Wikipedia. The best information comes from either government websites, university websites, or "name brand" websites like National Geographic,, etc. In fact, many of these websites may have lesson plans to download and use on particular topics—another tremendous time-saver.

When you do get around to using a search engine, a good search phrase is the key. For instance, when I'm searching for graphics, "free clip art" brings up images that are royalty-free but still require a charge to download them. Instead, "public domain clip art" has been a much better search term. Though there are tips for creating a good search phrase, most often a good search just requires several tries. To help with this, brainstorm different ways of phrasing what you are looking for, at least until you get the hang of crafting the perfect phrase.

Know Where the Freebies Are

Sometimes, it just helps to be in the right place at the right time. Attend Facebook and Twitter parties for free giveaways; visit the sites that find the freebies for you (my most recent favorite is; sign up for notification emails for the products or subjects that you are interested in; join forums where other moms share about their latest finds.

This strategy is especially effective if you plan way ahead. For instance, I know that next summer I want to study plants and gardening with the kids. As I run across those free resources, I snatch them up and file them away for next spring/summer's study. I'm not spending hours at a time searching; I'm just keeping my eyes open.

Homeschooling does not have to break the bank. Before you decide you can't afford to educate your children at home, spend a little time on the web. I think you'll be surprised at how far your budget can go.

Need a little more inspiration, visit 10 Days of Homeschooling for Free and Frugal and read tips from a homeschool mom who has educated her kids for less than $100 a year for the last four years!

To get you started on your search, I've compiled a list of some helpful online resources. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section. Happy searching!

Tracy is a pastor's wife and homeschool mom of three. She herself was homeschooled from 1st grade to graduation and, after college, had the opportunity to write and edit for the Christian textbook publisher A Beka Book. Tracy loves a rainy day, a cup of coffee (lots of cream and sugar), and Rachmaninoff. She blogs at Growing In Grace.

Online Resource List

Worksheets and Worksheet Generators

Printable and Create-your-own Worksheets (all subjects/grade levels) 
More Printable Worksheets (all subjects/grade levels)

Lapbooking/Notebooking Resources

Homeschool Share
Notebooking Fairy
Practical Pages 
Notebooking Pages
Notebooking Nook


Free Animal Unit Study (scroll to bottom of page)
Free Unit Studies (history/social studies/science) (tons of free resources for every subject/grade, plus lesson planners and more) (free homeschool planner forms) (regular freebies on a variety of products)
Homeschool Buyers Co-op (deep discounts on tons of curriculum)

Look What We Did (link-up with lots of ideas from other homeschoolers)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Embracing Homeschool Freedoms

Are you afraid to embrace the freedom homeschool offers?

Do you fear what others think?

If you do something different than school at home,
do you worry that your family and friends just won't understand?

Does doing something different, or being considered odd,
make you cringe?

What holds you back from embracing all the freedom
homeschooling offers?

Are you trying to homeschool like your friend
and it just isn't working for your family?

Do you think you've chosen the less than path
in homeschooling because of these choices?

There is diversity in homeschooling! 
Embrace your family's unique path.

There is opportunity to make changes,
and to do things differently.

Sure, you will make mistakes.  We all do.
{I know I have made plenty.}
Learn from your mistakes, and make the necessary changes.
Learn from others' mistakes as well.
{Sometimes, I think those that have messed up a lot,
have more to teach us than those who did it all correctly the first time.}

As we close out one school year,
and begin planning for another,
it is a fabulous time to embrace your family's freedom,
making the changes you need to for your family.

Homeschooling does work. 
It works for each family in a unique way.
Find your family's homeschooling path, don't try to walk another's.

And, please, don't let fear stop you from trying something different next year.
Embrace all the freedoms homeschooling has for you!

Dorie enjoys being outside, photography, art, writing, a strong cup of coffee, and good conversations seasoned with much laughter. She and her drummer husband, Jerry, share a life built on faith in Jesus, love, and grace. They have been blessed with four active children. Each day, whether easy or trying, is a wondrous part of this grace filled journey, and Dorie blogs about them all at These Grace Filled Days. Their homeschooling adventures can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom --- End of Year Celebrations

This week, our writers answer the question, "How are you planning to celebrate the end of the school year? Does your family have a special tradition for the end of the school year?"

We school year-round, so we don't really do anything special to end the year. We will take two weeks off {that is the plan} and we will then start the next year. The new year is when we take our homeschool photos. :)

We school year-round and don't have any kind of celebration. However, I do change our schedule up and begin adding in lots of nature study. We are all looking forward to the summer schedule.

We celebrate the end of our school year between grades. We invite family and close friends, cook up simple refreshments and create displays. The children all choose something to recite, perform or give a talk about. We set out examples of work done over the year and display the books and units we have studied. I also make a slide show on the computer of snapshots from the year. It is not only great fun, but also a wonderful way to show friends and family how rich and full our homeschooling lifestyle is.

We aren't planning anything, since we are not taking the summer off. We'll have a lighter schedule, but right now Sophie loves doing school so we have decided to keep going!

We take a summer break from our normal school schedule. However, we do still work on some subjects over the summer, but it is not a full day of school. Every year at the beginning of June, we meet friends at a park and hike. It is a tradition that helps celebrate the end of an 'official' school year. One year, I made a green 
eggs and ham cake to help celebrate.

We actually are just starting back up with school after slowing down (but not completely stopping) schooling during our overseas move.  We plan to school year-round, though, so will  likely not have end-of-year celebrations, but instead 
celebrate accomplishments in learning as they happen.

How are you celebrating the end of the school year?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tackling the Trivium

I have been eagerly waiting for two years to begin this next year. Up until now, we've focused on reading skills, math, and some basic geography. This fall, my son will be entering first grade, and we will begin our first year of a classical education.

Our core curriculum for this year will be Tapestry of Grace, a classical curriculum that beautifully integrates classical study for multiple ages with a strong foundation in Bible and church history. Eventually, our writing, literature, and art will tie in with the history, geography, Bible, and church history studies. But for right now, just starting out, we'll use Tapestry for history and Bible with a little geography sprinkled in, enjoying the fun projects and read-alouds without adding a lot of pressure to "do it all."

For first grade phonics and spelling, we will be continuing with A Beka, adjusting it as we need to fit our family and our homeschool style. His reading will be a mix of the A Beka readers, saved from the days when I was homeschooled, and some Tapestry books.

We'll be using A Beka first grade math as well, but this year, I'm armed with materials to supplement when we get stuck or when A Beka moves too quickly. Math Mammoth has been the perfect solution for us to supplement A Beka. I love how smoothly the material presents each concept and progresses through the drills. The curriculum is a download program, which makes it extremely affordable and very convenient for use as a supplement. It also provides a number of games suggestions and internet resources for each concept being introduced. I love this curriculum! (Math Mammoth also offers a ton of free samples on the website.)

These are our priorities, our everyday subjects. I also intend to add science and art appreciation into our school year, but more as activities than as a complete subject. I ran across the idea of "one more thing" in the afternoon that is perfect for what I want to do with these activities. For science, I'm putting together some unit studies on anatomy and nutrition using a mix of resources from our own library of Usborne books and some internet resources and notebooking pages.

For art, we usually pick one artist and one composer to study sporadically throughout the year. This summer, for instance, we will be learning about Monet and Mendelssohn. I haven't yet decided which artist we'll be using in the fall. For our art study, I usually use the material from Harmony Fine Arts first grade curriculum (this is my second year to use this one year's worth of curriculum; it's immense!).

My daughter is starting K4; and instead of buying new books for her, I'm collating the papers we did not use from A Beka's ABC-123 book and A Beka's K5 book. We'll have more than enough when I supplement with Letter of the Week K4 and School Sparks downloads. So, essentially, I'm getting by with a free year of school for her. She'll also be tagging along in our other subjects as much as she wants to.

That's our year, in as much detail as I've planned out so far. We've had so much fun these last two years  that I absolutely cannot wait to begin this next stage of our journey.

Tracy is a pastor's wife and homeschool mom of three. She herself was homeschooled from 1st grade to graduation and, after college, had the opportunity to write and edit for the Christian textbook publisher A Beka Book. Tracy loves a rainy day, a cup of coffee (lots of cream and sugar), and Rachmaninoff. She blogs at Growing In Grace.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom --- Motherhood Moments

Happy Mother's Day to all homeschooling moms! Today, we would like to share with you some of our more memorable motherhood moments.

The moment that I became a mom. We had our struggles on the way to pregnancy, but the moment that they put Sophie in my arms was worth every bit of the struggle.

Becoming a mom for the first time-being terrified I had no clue-realizing it all came so naturally and that I was fiercely independent as a relatively young new mother.

I'm not sure about the most memorable, but the most defining moment of mothering in my life was deciding to homeschool. I went against the grain, set my family apart, and took what we felt was a huge risk in order to meet my children's needs in the best way I could.

There are so many moments, but a recent one has been my son's first love note to me, composed and written all by himself on our dry erase board. I took a picture so that I would still have it after it was erased. So sweet!

The moment that I found out that I was pregnant with my oldest was amazing!  I am not sure that I have ever been as happy or as excited as I was at that moment.  For days, all that I could think about was the beautiful little baby growing inside of me.  Motherhood is wonderful and I am so blessed to be a mommy!

Please share your memorable mommy moments with us!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What to Do with Used Curriculum

You've finished the year, or are getting very close to wrapping up the year, either way, congratulations!

You've evaluated your year, are making changes, and are getting ready for next year, but what about all the books and resources you used this past year? What should you, or could you, do with them? No matter what homeschool resources you have, you always have a few options.

If you will use it again:

Keep It - If it is something you will use again, and you don't mind where it is, then keep it right there on that shelf or in that bin. {I personally love when this happens! No need to deliberate or decide.}
Pro - You know exactly where it is all the time.
Con - Items take up precious space on bookshelves.

Store It - If you think you will use it again, but not this year. Are you willing to store it? Find a tucked away shelf or closet, and put it there. Or, maybe box up all your first grade curriculum, label it, and store it in your attic or basement? {A thank you to Tristan for this great attic storage idea! She wrote it in a comment to this post.} If you are worried about moisture, plastic bins may be a great option.
Pro -  You will save money by not having to repurchase items.
Con - There will be space used.  If you are tight on storage space it may be difficult to find a spot.

Share It - You'll use it again in a few years, but a friend is looking for that exact resource for this upcoming school year. Then, lend it to her. Be sure to write your name somewhere inside/on the resource and write down who you lent what. Most planners have a list as part of the pre-made forms, but notebook paper works as well. Be sure to keep it in a safe place, a school year is a long time to remember who has what resources. {We've lent out curriculum and have been blessed to borrow from others as well.}
Pro - Helping out a friend is wonderful.
Con - The materials may not come back to you in pristine condition.

If you will never use it again:

Toss It - You don't need it, and will never use it. No one else can use it, because it is falling apart and missing pieces. Feel free to toss it into the nearest recycling bin.
Pro - Technically, it is being reused.
Con - You could have used it as kindling. {kidding, sort of}

Give It - Have a friend who is looking for a math book you have, you could give it to her. Don't know who needs it? Perhaps you could bring it to co-op, a homeschool support meeting, or play date. Chances are someone will take it off your hands. If not, maybe consider The Book Samaritan, a non profit organization which will take donated curriculum and give it to other homeschool families who need it.
Pro - Helping out a friend is always a blessing, and it far out weighs the following con!
Con - You could have gotten cash. {sounds crass, but it is true}

Sell It - Need some money to buy next year's curriculum? Perhaps you could sell this year's unwanted stuff. Ebay, used book sales, and online stores are a few markets to consider. There may even be a store nearby that does consignment for used curriculum.
Pro - You get cash that you can put toward next year's books.
Con - It can be a lot of work, and if your items don't sell you still have to figure out what to do with them.

Can't decide what resources and books 
you will use again and what you won't?
Perhaps this article by Tracy will help you decide.
Already decided what to get rid of,
but can't decide what you need for next year?
Perhaps this article by Jessica will help guide your decision process.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Teaching with Technology

I am constantly amazed by the many teaching tools that are now available via technology.  There are educational DVDs, computer games, computer instruction programs, and iPad apps. Plus, the countless activities and videos available via the internet.  There are even entire curriculums available completely on the computer!

I hate to admit it, but I have a love-hate relationship with technology as it applies to teaching and homeschooling.  Almost daily, I struggle with the role that technology should play in my girls' education.  I read about the positives and the negatives of using technology to teach. 

The world is becoming more and more technology-driven and in order to succeed as adults, today's children will need to be proficient in its use.

Technology-based instruction can be used to meet the needs of different types of learners.

Children can be active and independent learners via the use of technology.

Technology can allow children to explore information that is unavailable to them otherwise.  


Some research has suggested that "screen time" in the first few years of life actually changes the way that a child's brain is formed.

Technology-based learning does not involve interaction with people, which is an essential skill for success in the workplace.

Technology-based learning is not hands-on in the same manner as traditional learning (especially for Science).

As my child's teacher, it is harder for me to gauge her learning when she is using technology than when she is sitting at the table, working 1:1 with me.

For now, I am just striving to find a good balance between technology-based instruction and traditional instruction that gives my girls the opportunity to learn the necessary skills for their future.  How do you use technology in your homeschooling instruction?

Marla is a former special education teacher, PhD student, and stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two little girls (ages 1 and 3).  She blogs about homeschooling at Marla's Motherhood Musings and her family's experiences living in Zambia at Our Life in Lusaka.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom - Measuring a Day and a Year

Although we spent each Friday in April evaluating our current school years, most of us are still finishing up our school year. 

Today, we are responding to two questions.
The first: What is the one thing (or few things) your children must finish before you feel as though they have completed a day of school?

Sam ~ School is finished at the Kelley house when we do all of our studies. We don't have lengthy seated work, and can finish in a few hours. I will allow math to be skipped in a pinch though. ;)

Marla ~ The one subject that we must cover is our bible lesson. Occasionally, that is all that we accomplish and I still feel like we had a productive day. Preferably, though, I like to make sure that we also do language arts, math, and a fun activity (art project or game) every day.

Jessica ~ Individual reading and Math (as well as phonics for my smaller pupils) are 'must-do's' for me - but my children wouldn't consider the day of school complete without history. We also work on science, handwriting, spelling, geography, literature and art - but not every day.

Tracy ~ Phonics and math complete our day. As long as we've completed at least one activity in each, I'm okay with calling it a day.

and... How long is your family's school year?

Marla ~ We homeschool year-round.

Sam ~ We do year-round as well.

Jessica ~ We schedule 36 weeks of school days in a calendar year. We are flexible about when those weeks take place. When we began homeschooling we set our year to our area schools. After three years we keep beginning sooner and ending earlier. We take breaks when we need to and work extra days when we feel like it.

Tracy ~ We homeschool year-round but have two distinct schedules. Our summer schedule is much less informal than the schedule we keep during the winter months, and I try to include subjects and activities we didn't have time for during the regular school year (art/nature study) as well as phonics and math.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homeschool "Enrichment"

In most fifth grade classes here in Kansas, children begin their year determining if they will participate in beginning band, and if so, which instrument they will play.  Band was a great part of my childhood and I wanted my children to be offered the same opportunity if it was possible.

As it turned out, we were homeschooling when fifth grade rolled around.  I had met several other homeschooling families who utilized other public schools for many different resources, so we decided to check into our town's band program.  We aren't sorry we did!

The principal (and all of the staff) were courteous, helpful, and happy to have us.  We were the first homeschool family to be partially enrolled in the intermediate school, and we found their attitudes to be refreshing and interested.  At enrollment I paid a $20 fee and the principal himself gave my son a tour of the school.  We worked together with the secretary to create a safe system of drop-off and pick-up.

The band program itself was the big seller for us - there are three teachers who work with all the children in band from fifth grade clear through high school.  Should our son decide to continue with band, he will maintain a relationship with the same teachers as he continues to grow.  The high school band in our town has the largest amount of student participants compared to all other school activities.  The teaching is well structured and they managed to have four concerts for the fifth grade to showcase their talents.  Our son made several new friends and absolutely loves playing his horn.  He has written papers and journal entries about band and will be giving a presentation about being in band at our end-of-the-school-year party.

I am encouraging him to consider other extracurricular activities through the school.  He can join sports teams, academic clubs, and school organizations if he develops the interest or desire.

I also know that, one day, he is going to surpass my knowledge and abilities in mathematics.  There will be many choices for how he can continue his learning, like internet courses, tutoring, courses structured for homeschoolers, and homeschool group learning.  I will also consider partial enrollment if he is interested.  We have had a wonderful experience this year with band!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summer Month Activities for Kids...

As the school year is coming to a close, I've started looking for activities that could keep our kids interested, engaged, and entertained throughout the summer.

Or that would make a great field trip for the next school year!

Unfortunately, most of these activities seem to come with a price tag.

If you're looking for something to do during the summer--and you just happen to live in the bi-state area of Kansas and Missouri--here are a few kid-approved activities for the whole family that are worth the money.

1.)  Sedgwick County Zoo.  You would think living in a big city like Kansas City that the zoo would be a-mazing.  You would be wrong.  The Sedgwick Count Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, though, is one of the best zoos I have ever been to.  The layout is great, the exhibits are good, and you can make your way through the entire zoo in a day.

2.)  Exploration Place.  Found in Wichita, Kansas, Exploration Place is THE place for kids to be kids.  Complete with exhibits on flying, a "miniature" exhibit, and hands-on exhibits, Exploration Place also has a "Tot Spot"--complete with activities just for the young kids.

3.)  Tanganyika Wildlife Park.   Found on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is full of exotic animals--some of which are near-extinct--and many you are able to physically interact with.  Where else would you be able to walk out onto Lemur Island and feed ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar?

4.)  Botanica of Wichita.   With more than 20 themed gardens and over 3,600 species of plants that spread over nine acres, Botanica of Wichita is the perfect place to take your children for a natural science lesson.  Make sure to stop in during late March and early April when there are over 43,000 tulips in bloom!

1.)  St. Louis Zoo.  While the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, KS is a great zoo, the St. Louis Zoo has been ranked #2--right behind the San Diego Zoo.  And can I get an "Amen" that this zoo is FREE to get into?!  While on vacation, our family spent several hours at the St. Louis Zoo, and we didn't even see half of the park.

2.)  The Magic House.   THE place where a kid can be a kid.  Found in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri, the Magic House is amazing for kids.  From the "Construction Zone" where kids can shovel gravel and build with PVC pipe to the "Bubble Room" where kids can get inside of a bubble, the Magic House is worth every single penny.

3.)  The Steamboat Arabia Museum.  Found in the Rivermarket area of Kansas City, Missouri, the Steamboat Arabia Museum is a tiny treasure that not many people know about.  It started with a group of men looking for treasure, and it ended with pulling up a steamboat out of the ground filled with perfectly preserved artifacts from 1856.  Millions of seed beads, beautiful china, bolts of silk in the most brilliant of colors.  The Steamboat Arabia Museum makes everyone feel like a kid again--with the hope of finding buried treasure!

4.)  Sea Life Aquarium and Lego Land.  Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri boasts a large number of shops and restaurants.  Sea Life and Lego Land are two NEW attractions to Crown Center.  The Sea Life Aquarium boasts over 5,000 sea creatures including sharks, rays, and jellyfish.  Move over to the Interactive Pool where you can hold a crab or touch a starfish!   The Lego Land Discovery Center is THE place to go for all lego enthusiasts--young or old.  Visit "Miniland" to see over 1.5 million lego bricks put into action!  Or visit the "Earthquake Tables" where you can build a tall tower of legos--and then stand back to watch the tables shake to see if your tower can withstand an earthquake!

Happy learning!
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