Monday, April 30, 2012

We Love to Color

I don't know about most homeschool moms, but I would have to say that the thing we use most in this house is our art supplies. Seriously. If I would let my girls loose in the school room with access to all of our art supplies, I would never see them! Ever! I probably wouldn't even be able to find them in the eventual mess they would make.

But, oh, how they would love it!

I bought 24 boxes of the Crayola 24 crayons packs, thinking I would give both of my girls a pack at the beginning of each month. Boy, was I wrong! It's only been 8 months and we're already out. All 3 of my kids love to color.

In addition to buying several coloring books, I've bought boxes of plain white paper--partially because I use a lot of paper between homeschool, couponing, and writing; but also because the girls love to draw their own pictures.

Lately, though, I've been printing some fun pictures off of different websites for them to use, some even directly related to our homeschool subjects. Here are a few great websites:

Bible Printables--this website has tons of great pictures related to about every story in the Bible. For our Bible memorization studies next year, I work in at least one of these pictures into every week.

Disney Coloring Pages--Like most kids, my children love Disney. They get so excited when I whip out a Tangled picture.

Sesame Street Printables--My kids just recently discovered Sesame Street on Netflix. They fell in love with that show, just like I did when I was a kid. How cool is it that Sesame Street has lasted some 40 years?

Alphabet Coloring Pages--We haven't used these yet, but I intend to next year. They are a little more intricate, great for colored pencils or markers.

Precious Moments Pages--So, these are purely for fun. I loved Precious Moments when I was growing up, and these pictures are too cute!

If you like art and coloring as much as we do, I hope you enjoy these extra coloring pages!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Drumroll please....

Thank you to all you entered to win the Homeschool How To Conference Premium Pass!

Remember that the conference is FREE - so please join us May 1-3 online to listen and find some inspirtation for your own homeschool journey!

Thanks to the winner is...

Entry #65....Sam Kelley who said "This is great" 

If you would like to purchase a premium conference pass, which will give you access to over $200 in downloads and materials use the code "adventurz" to get 10% off the $49 price.

Seeds of Wisdom - The Children's Favorite Part

You've read our responses to a few evaluating the school year questions, today you will be treated to our children's responses. We are asking our children: What was your favorite part of the current school year?

Tracy ~
‎3 yr. old: "Hmmm. Let me see...Doing school on the computer." [our free trial of Reading Eggs]
‎5 yr. old: "Math!" (And I can't tell you how warm and fuzzy that made me, since math has definitely been our most challenging subject this year.)

Sam ~
Christian (14): Listening to mom read the stories from Trail Guide To Learning.
Hannah (12): Reading and Copywork with Trail Guide To Learning.
Noah (9): Drawing stories from Daniel Boone.
Emma (7): Doing the activities from Trail Guide To Learning.
Evan (5): Math.
Leah (4): Daniel Boone

Marla ~
Abigail: "when we counted and then got treats"

Ralene ~
Alana: "Playing art!"
Kyra: "My favorite part was when we were watching our math shows." (I'm not sure if she meant the Math-U-See teaching videos, or the LeapFrog videos.)

Jessica ~
‎1st grader: "I like math, phonics new learning, space, learning about the center of the Earth...and I like learning about plants and nature. Subtraction and telling time were the best."
‎3rd grader: "Read-out-louds are my favorite; they are so fun.  Johnny Tremain and The Journeyman were some I really liked listening to. Also I didn't know that sound can't travel in space - that's amazing."
‎5th Grader: "My favorite part is the family time; there is really a difference from regular school. I like being able to be with my family so much instead of just part of the evenings. I love being able to play with my brother. As far what we've studied, I would say the read-out-loud books as well. It's so fun to eat breakfast while your mother reads to you. I've loved my individual reading assignments this year, too, like Om-Kas-Toe because I was fascinated to learn how Indians lived. You can weave that into your play time by making games out of what you have learned."

Dorie ~
7th grader: visiting the science museum
5th grader: reading historically set books, particularly the ones from Daughters of Faith Series 
3rd grader: reading and studying the Bible
Preschooler: playing alphabet memory and reading My Very First Encyclopedia with Winnie the Pooh and Friends: Nature
(a book given to us by a fellow homeschooling mom)

What was your child's (or children's) favorite part of the school year? 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Season of Panic

You know what I’m talking about! Whenever it was- January? March? You decided that math program/ workbook/ reading schedule was too much for your child. So you took advantage of your freedom as a home educator and followed a rabbit trail. You built a rocket, you fished in the stream, you worked on math facts with legos and m&m’s, you wrote stories together.

It was awesome. You learned something. You bonded with your children. You knew you were doing the right thing when you saw joy and excitement in those glowing young faces.

And now you’re paying the piper.

Grade levels, state testing, unfinished math pages, units skipped and- gasp- your 9 year old can’t remember the difference between the stamen and the… pistol? You panic. You scold yourself interiorly for your lax ways. You resolve to homeschool through July. You WILL finish the math book before beginning the next one in September.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We want it both ways, don’t we. We want the freedom to follow our children’s needs, pause and go deeper when they need it, and nurture their special talents and gifts.

That’s why many of us chose to homeschool in the first place!

And we want it all to fit in tidily with the State of California scope and sequence.


Are you catching the irony here? You can’t have it both ways! Sometimes we have to have the courage to recognize what learning is going on ‘unscheduled’ and BELIEVE in it. Sometimes we have to find the confidence to follow our children and meet their needs in MAY and not just in October!

It is my oh-so-opinionated opinion that if we want to tailor education to fit the child, we will have to let go of the desire to fit the child to the system. And if you think homeschooling is outside ‘the system,’ generally speaking you are mistaken. Homeschooling mothers are often subject to the same ‘performance pressure’ that classroom teachers are.

It takes courage. It takes creativity, especially in states where you have requirements to fulfill. It also takes dedication to thinking outside the box all year long, even when curriculum catalogs flood the mail with articles extolling the latest school-in-a-box program (which promise to solve all your problems, from structure to discipline to lesson planning!).

I challenge you to let go of other people’s expectations this coming May and enjoy the season. The flowers are blooming in the fields and you have lots of identifying to do. The soil is ready for your hands and there are lots of seeds to plant. May is far too precious a season to waste bending over unfinished workbook pages.

So go on, get out there and learn, for real!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five Mistakes from Our Homeschool Journey

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again,
only this time more wisely."
- Henry Ford

Certainly, I have experienced many opportunities to begin again
with the mistakes I have made in our homeschooling journey.
Today, I am sharing my 'top five.' 

1.  Overburdening a child academically
Not that I really think you should rank mistakes, but I still think this one was my worst homeschooling mistake, ever.  One of our children advanced through academics very quickly.  Another did not, but I expected her to work at the same pace as her older sibling.  It was a terrible mistake.  One that I hope I never make again. 

Did you know that a llama will simply lie down if you overburden it? Wouldn't it be great if children had a similar signal? Oh, but they do!  Children show us in many ways that they are overburdened. We just have to know our children well enough, and observe/listen well enough to determine if they have been overburdened academically.

"When you get to the end of your rope,
tie a knot and hang on."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

2.  Not taking advantage of interest led studies
You know that spark you see when a child's eyes shine with interest?  He may ask numerous questions and want to do more with a topic.  Too many times, I haven't fanned these interest sparks into flames.  I should have.  Who knows what great discoveries and learning experiences we missed because I wanted to stick to the lesson plans and not alter them.

3.  Trying to do the same as another family
Yep, been there.  Dare I say it?  More than once.  Every family is unique.  What works for one may not work for another.  Even if you find a family with the same number of children aged exactly like yours, I guarantee, something about your families will be different. Personalities, interests, and budgets vary greatly.  While I find great value in another's suggestions, experiences, and advice, I can not make my homeschool just like theirs.  Nor should I try.

"I don't know the key to success,
but the key to failure is to try to please everyone."
- Bill Cosby

4.  Comparing myself and our children to others
Have you done this?  Tell me I'm not the only one!  Haven't you met another homeschooling family and started comparing yourself or your children?  For me, the other homeschooling family usually gets put on a pedestal.  She is more patient, takes a relevant field trip every week, or prepares her own lessons.  Her children know more math, read harder books, or have more activities.  This better mom/better child comparison does not encourage, and should not be done.

5.   Succumbing to discouragement
It's easy to do.  Mistakes discourage and rob us of the joy of homeschooling.  Moments that I succumb to discouragement, I want to quit.  It is then, that I must remember...we all make mistakes.  It is what we do with the lesson we learn that matters.

"I have not failed. 
I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
- Thomas Alva Edison

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Introducing the Homeschool How-To Conference {Giveaway!}

Since I'm new to homeschooling, I've really wanted to get to a homeschool conference - but it's been difficult to plan a weekend away from home. Between my hubby's schedule, and our fostering schedule it's next to impossible to find a weekend that everyone has free...which is why I am thrilled to introduce a new ONLINE conference: Homeschool How-To Conference ~ May 1-3, 2012

The goal of the Homeschool How-To Conference is to encourage and teach families to use God’s Word as the foundation of their homeschool when teaching History, Science, Math, Geography, Language Arts and more.  

The conference is FREE - or you can purchase a PREMIUM PASS for $49, which includes a goodie bag filled with extras from the sponsors of the conference, including MP3 downloads!  You can register here.  If you purchase the premium pass, use can use the code 'adventurez' to save 10%!

Want a sneak peak at some of the goodies included with the PREMIUM PASS?:

1 Year of Bible Curriculum from Foundations Press
Biblical Home Education E-book by Anne Elliott
2 Bible Based Nature Studies from Kelli Becton
and lots more - total package is worth over $200

Now for the FUN NEWS....We have 1 PREMIUM PASS to give away to one of our readers!! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Too Much Teacher, Not Enough Mother?

I LOVE watching my girls learn!  I think seeing those little lightbulbs going off in their brains is one of the coolest aspects of motherhood!  I am SO glad that I get to be my girls' teacher!

However, sometimes I wonder if homeschooling causes me to miss out on motherhood.  
Sometimes, I think that I would be a better mother if I let someone else worry about teaching my girls.
Sometimes, I am so busy trying to ensure that my girls get fabulous learning experiences that I forget to just spend time cuddling with them and playing with them  
Sometimes, I spend too much time and energy trying to ensure that my girls learn as much as possible from our experiences instead of just letting them (or me) enjoy the experiences.

When we go to the zoo, we spend several days before the trip talking about animals and after our return home, we do writing, art, and reading projects about the animals we saw.  Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to just take a trip to the zoo without doing extra learning related to the outing.

When we see a bug outside that piques their interest, we observe the bug, write about it in our Science journals, and often look for more information on the internet.  Sometimes, I wonder if my children would learn just as much and enjoy themselves more if I just let them observe the bugs on their own.

Much of my day is spent ensuring that everything we do leads to quality learning for my girls.

While I love that they are learning, I am beginning to worry that I am becomin more of a teacher and less  of a mother.  My first instinct when I see my girls enjoying something is to figure out how to incorporate it into learning.  Am I missing out on enjoying motherhood and being a good mother because I am too worried about teaching?  Am I forgetting about developing "the whole child" because I am so focused on developing their minds?  

Does anyone else have these thoughts/concerns?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom - Making Changes

Last week, we shared "our best of times, worst of times" moments. Today we are talking change. What is something you plan to change for your next homeschooling year?

Jessica - We will be changing our language arts and possibly our math programs for next year. I love the language arts we have been using, but my two sons feel very differently about it. We need something with a tighter structure, less creative writing and more disciplined grammar work. We have all liked the math we have been using but I feel we could find a better fit and I would like to find something that has a meatier self-guided bent for my oldest son. We are also considering taking a much shorter summer break and moving closer to schooling 'year round' so that we can take shorter breaks when we need and want to. This would be especially helpful during our busiest times on the farm (planting and harvest), through the holidays, or when the opportunity for a trip pops up.

Ralene - My girls will be in first grade next year. We will be adding new subjects like science, geography, and character study to our curriculum. I look forward to using Confessions of a Homeschooler's Expedition Earth series, and some of Amanda Bennett's Download'N'Go unit studies.

Tracy - We will be beginning Tapestry of Grace next year, which means I'll be experimenting a lot with our schedule and am hoping to find a balance between structured and less-structured learning.

Marla - This summer, we will be adding our first purchased curriculum to our homeschool routine. Abigail will be starting Horizons kindergarten math. I love creating my own curriculum and it has been great for us so far, but I think Abigail will really benefit from the addition of Horizons.

Sam - This coming year I plan to change my mindset. In much the same way I had to cement in my head that homeschooling was permanent for us, the third time around, I am doing the same thing with curriculum. We now know what works and doesn't work for us. There will be no shopping for better. We love what we use for the younger kids, and our oldest has also found his niche. Aside from reviews I will be doing, all curriculum decisions have been made, and are solid.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coveting Curriculum

I read a post awhile back that was really convicting. It challenged me to realize that just because I can resist impulse buying doesn't mean I haven't coveted. Sometimes, covetousness lurks in our minds and hearts, a desire waiting for the right opportunity to be fulfilled. 

And I'll tell you where I'm most guilty—not in shoes or clothes or bags or even jewelry, though occasionally something might catch my fancy. Truthfully, my greatest temptation is school curriculum. As a matter of fact, let's broaden that to anything education-related. A new catalog, a sale email, a link in a blog post—suddenly I'm ushered into a realm of utter delight and ecstasy, running my mouse over the virtual image in nothing less than desire and covetousness.

 I don't click "finalize order." I don't always "add to cart." Sometimes, I can even resist the "add to wishlist" button. But I dream.

 During my school day, I'll dream about owning that game. As I make out lesson plans, I imagine how perfect that particular curriculum would be. I've got many pleasant names for this: planning, researching, exploring, evaluating. But often, it's plain and simple coveting.
I intensely want what God has not given; (and/or) I'm not satisfied with what He has provided.
Grant it, there are times to look for the perfect curriculum, to shop and research and explore, to evaluate how best to afford the switch. But then, many other times, I find myself blinded by desire for a particular item, to the point where maybe I haven't been open to a more affordable and equally substantive solution.

 The test? When there is a little extra in the budget, when I have finagled and scrimped to get a little extra out of my allotment, does my heart immediately jump to the more expensive fabulous item that "everyone raves about" or do I prayerfully consider what God would want me to do with the extra? Am I stewarding my children's education, or am I fulfilling my own selfish desires?
Ironic, isn't it?
How the best intentions can be so unintentionally twisted into something much less than best.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Five Steps To Choose Homeschool Curriculum

There is an amazing selection of terrific supplies for homeschooling families. The internet brings this to our fingertips. Are you looking into curriculum for next year, or considering homeschooling for the first time? Here are a few ideas to make curriculum shopping less intimidating:

1) Create a budget.

What is the ideal amount you would like to spend? What can your family afford above/below that amount? Do you have money set aside to pay all at once, or will you be trying to take advantage of a payment plan (many companies offer these)? Nailing this down first will help you make tough decisions as you go, rather than getting your heart set on something only to realize you can't make it happen after all.

2) Create a master list.

Begin with considering which method (or methods!) of schooling best fit with your family. Think about what your mission is a homeschooling parent and what your goals are - as a family and for each particular child. Then list any requirements in your state for the ages of your children. Once you have these parameters in place, you can list the subjects you will be covering, leaving space to fill in which materials you will use as you find them.

3) Research your options.

The internet is the best shopping tool on the planet, hands down. Not only can you look over samples and lists at homeschool curriculum companies, you can also read the reviews of other parents who have used those materials and connect with other homeschooling parents to glean their perspectives on different items. Talk with the other homeschooling families in your area; ask what they are using, what they have used, and what their thoughts are concerning your curriculum quest.

4) Attend used curriculum sales and homeschool conventions.

Wether or not you purchase anything at these gatherings, you will benefit from the time you spend. It is one thing to look at an advertised book or system on your computer screen, but it is quite another to hold it in your hands, flip through all the pages and speak with the parent (and sometimes student) who used it. First-hand accounts like this and the option to read over the material helps a great deal in the decision-making process.

5) Fill in the blanks.

Once you get this far, you will have most of the items on your list filled. I usually don't make any purchases online (though I may have a saved 'shopping cart' waiting to click 'check out') until I've been to the events in step four. Then, if I have a few things I didn't find or still need, I can take advantage of bulk rates or discounted shipping when I add to my order. I may beg or borrow materials from a friend or put together lessons from a free resource online.

What have you found to be your best resource for researching curriculum?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wrapping it up...

Our first year of homeschooling is coming to an end.

Technically, we should be done in a few weeks, however, the "breaks" we took have edged us into May.  If that's not an incentive for keeping on schedule next year, I don't know what is!

At the beginning of this Kindergarten year, my son knew his letters and knew their sounds.  At the end of this school year, he can read.

At the beginning of this Kindergarten year, my son knew how to count pretty high.  At the end of this school year, he can recognize his numbers, count to 100, and he knows that 0 + anything = 0.

He has memorized and recited an impressive list of poems, and he knows his Catechism better than most other children I know at his age.

I'd give him an A for this school year.

Thanks to Jessica's post about her "End of the year awards night" she has every year, I hope to do something of the same sort for P.  I think he would like to show off what he's learned to our family, and Skype makes it easy for the grandparents to join in the fun as well.

I already started looking through the 1st grade syllabus for next year, and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief to see we would only need ONE new book.  Financially, this is a BLESSING.

God's timing was really nice to us this year.  As we wrap up school, we prepare to welcome our newest blessing in June.  This will give me about three months to re-coop and gain my strength back from having a c-section before starting a new school year with little sleep.  I'm more grateful for the three month break than my son, I think.

One thing I WILL continue to do this summer, however, is work on reading with P.  It seems to take him awhile to get back in the swing of things if we take a few days off--I can only imagine what a whole summer will do for him!

As the year wraps up, I have to say that my first year of homeschooling went a lot better than I thought it would.  I also enjoyed the process more than I thought I would, and I love watching my child evolve in his learning.

Here's hoping you and yours are enjoying the last few weeks of homeschooling and are looking forward to the next school year!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom - Homeschooling Highlights and Challenges

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 

Homeschooling can sometimes feel like that introduction to A Tale of Two Cities.  Some days, we are reaching the mountain top and other times, well, we are trudging through the valley.  Today's discussion is in response to a two part question: What was the highlight (or favorite part) of your homeschool year? What was the most challenging (or least favorite part) of your homeschool year?

Marla ~ Seeing both of my girls learn has been the highlight of the year. They have both learned far more than I anticipated this year and it has been so cool to watch them learn and watch them get excited about their knowledge!

The biggest difficulty of this school year was homeschooling during our move. Trying to continue teaching my child through boxes, a month of living with family and in hotels, and while getting adjusted to our new home has been rough. We are still working on getting back into our homeschool routines, but we have managed to keep teaching/learning throughout our move.

Jessica ~ The highlight of our school year has been our history studies. We have been focusing on the earliest parts of American history (beginning before European discovery) and it has been so fun to watch the children play out famous scenes from history in their free time. Even when they aren't 'in school' they are applying and enjoying what they've learned.

The most difficult part of this year was schooling during the long hospitalization and eventual death of my mother-in-law. Even so, school was such a comforting anchor for us in the midst of everything. It allowed us a level of flexibility that enabled us to meet many more needs than we could have otherwise. It also gave the children a schedule open enough to participate in as much of the care of their grandmother as they desired. It was a difficult time for us, but not because of homeschooling - our family lifestyle made dealing with a difficult situation easier than it could have been.

Sam ~ Math has been our biggest hurdle this year, and finding the right fit {at least for now!} has been one of our biggest accomplishments.  This year I don't feel so new at this, and having more confidence has helped me tremendously!

Dorie ~ Our biggest challenge was maintaining a momentum.  We had several major {beyond our control} unscheduled breaks in our school year that negatively impacted our motivation.  It has been a struggle that is finally ending.  Our highlight has been seeing our children's creativity develop.  Watching them try new things, express their ideas, and create art in many forms has been beautiful. 

Tracy ~ My highlights have come during our challenges—homeschooling through morning-sickness and the birth of our third child has presented a lot of challenges this year. The highlight has been seeing the kids learn when I've least expected it. It doesn't necessarily take organized crafts and well-planned lessons; sometimes learning can just happen.

Ralene ~ The highlight of my school year was whenever I saw my children apply what they had learned in their lives. Whether it be me catching them singing some of the songs we learned to their animals or when they come up and tell me that they were going to do something they weren't supposed to, but then they remembered their Bible verses and did the right thing.

The most challenging was dealing with Alana's struggles with school and her attitude when she wasn't getting something right away.

What was your highlight or challenge in homeschooling this year?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Amidst Chaos...

"Amidst chaos lies opportunity."
-Albert Einstein

I admire mothers who have it all together. Or who have it together enough to appear, you know, to have it together.

And while there are limited areas of my life where I do have things pretty well together, I will admit that homeschooling isn't one of them. It gets crazy around here.

I was more organized with 2 children and only 1 of school age, but adding children seems to make it harder. I certainly don't feel that God has called me to homeschool and limit my family size to make it happen in an, um, orderly fashion...

ON THE CONTRARY! It began to occur to me that the 'chaos' of a large household is actually a true benefit to a homeschooling family, depending on how it is received.


Well, look with me. With a smaller family, I as a mother, have more time and energy to make plans and execute them smoothly. As more children, and more pregnancies, come along, I am stretched thinner and- let's be real here- formal lessons don't happen with the regularity they would without those pesky morning of puking, or those insane growth spurt days where I nurse a baby so much I hardly have time to go pee.

And did I mention those mornings when the 2 year old wakes up screaming because he's not in his shark pajamas... and he won't calm down... till 10 am???

So what's a responsible homeschooling mama to do?

I'm not sure- hehe- as sometimes I'm definitely not that picture-perfect matron, but I can tell you what I, an average, sometimes wiped out, sometimes cranky pregnant lady with three wild and wooly kids, do on any given day that is so nuts-o I can't even remember what's for lunch, or if there is even anything to fix for lunch.

I sit back, smile really big, and open my eyes to the grace.

While I was calming the 2 year old down, or laying in bad trying not to throw up from ravaging morning sickness, my 8 year-old snuck off to write in his secret journal... or to copy Chinese characters from some packaging material (he's currently obsessed with all things Chinese)... or to build a block tower using every block in the house. And my 5 year old choreographed a dance to the Blue Danube which she can play over and over and over and over on the keyboard... or joined in the block building... or made her own slingshot.

Are these things somehow less educational, less important to their development both academic and human than math pages and grammar excercises? Not to me.

Is a day spent playing with siblings (and yes, fighting and making up with siblings) less worthy than a day spent memorizing verb charts or slaving over math facts? And if I think it is less worthy, why?

I remember very clearly the day I took the school books off the high shelf and put them down on the shelf with all the, well, normal books. And something happened. Learning became somehow more normal... more real to us. Interestingly, my kids choose their 'school' books as often as they choose their other books, but it ceases to be a point of contention if today that poetry anthology doesn't get opened. Am I worried that my children won't learn 'what they need to know' because I don't direct their choices like I did in the days of yore: those everyone-has-quiet-time, snacks-at-3 (and ONLY at 3!), march-to-my-drummer days?

No. I see to much evidence that, for me at least, for my children at least, learning happens ALL the time. I can't stop it, hold it back, even if I want to. And as sick as I get of homemade catapults crowding my yard, endless keyboard jam sessions (WHERE ARE THE HEADPHONES YOU GUYS?!!!), art projects that overflow from the 'art table', and requests for math worksheets to be printed at 10 pm (yes, this happens... it seems to be the time of night when the math angel whispers into my children's ears "don't go to sleep... go wake up your mother and ask for math to do for fun...") I wouldn't trade the exuberance, the shouts, the wild adventure, for anything.

My other realization was that I can't schedule every minute of my children's learning and expect to grow self-motivated learners. I need to trust more that their interests will blossom if they have the time to pursue them... and not just on the 2 hour lesson-break planned every Wednesday afternoon!

Some mamas need to be in control. They want to lead. Some mamas let go of all control and give it over to the children. They let the children lead.

But for me, there's Someone else who leads.

And when life hapens- and OH! does it happen- I remind myself Who is in control. Who is the real Educator. Who gives the Light. Who more than me communicates the important stuff directly to these precious souls in my care.

And He will never let me down.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Five Tips for Successful Field Trips

Visiting a museum, historical site, zoo, nature preserve, or local business can be a fantastic way to enhance your children's learning.

Last autumn, our science co-op spent an afternoon visiting a local museum. For a few months we had studied coral reefs and ocean life. A scheduled tour called Underwater Appetites, designed to teach oceanic food webs, was an ideal field trip to conclude our unit.

While it was not our family's first group field trip, it was the first multi-family field trip I had planned and organized.

During that same month, our family visited an aquarium on a family vacation. Knowing the younger children had extensively studied underwater life, it was another great field trip for them, and the older children benefited from the learning experience as well.

Planning and having a successful field trip for a group or for your individual family can be easy. There are a few ways to get the most out of your field trip that I have learned over the years. 

Getting the most out of field trips...

  1. Build interest and excitement - If you've been there before talk about the past trips. Show pictures, your own or online pictures, and read books to build a background knowledge. Down load online information, maps, and pictures to familiarize yourself and your children about the place you will visit.
  2. Plan the specific date and time - Whether you go on a weekend as a family, with fellow homeschoolers during the week, or by yourselves, plan the day, and select a rain date, if needed as well. If possible, plan specific times that suit your family's schedule best. If you are going to be gone over a meal time, decide if you will pack or buy a meal while on the trip.
  3. Plan not to see everything - Most likely you won't be able to do or see everything. The majority of places we have visited have had incredible amounts of exhibits, special talks, and scheduled activities. Generally, there are too many options to do it all. Instead, we decide ahead of time what exhibits and events we definitely want to participate in or observe. Then, we choose what items would be nice to see, but are not a 'must.' We plan our day and movement through the museum or place accordingly. Having a map of the place and a schedule of that days scheduled events ahead of time are extremely helpful.
  4. Remember who the field trip is for: the children - Though there are some places I thoroughly enjoy visiting, they may not be as interesting or all I hoped they would be. The same is true of our children.  During these times, we can try to generate interest by finding items according to our children's likes or dislikes. Or, if this fails, we simply move onto the next exhibit or event.
  5. Engage the tour guides - When visitors ask questions and show interest in particular things, tour guides generally extrapolate on these topics. Encourage your children to ask questions and speak with the guides. At an industrial museum, my children asked all sorts of questions of life during the 1800's.  Later, the guide added an few rooms to the tour, because she thought the children would like to see them. These rooms weren't part of the regular tour. She only added them into the tour because of our children's interest. We have also acquired extra written information (for free) to take home from other places, because of the questions we've asked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wrapping Up Your Year

Wrapping up your homeschool year for the first time can be a bit confusing. When do I finish? What do I keep? What's next?

When do I finish?
In Kentucky, I am required to educate 180 days. We are doing school year-round, and will surpass that by a lot. I don't judge school to be over by days, as much as getting our main curriculum finished. I don't feel the same way about math however.

I sometimes start a new book for math in the middle of the year. Sometimes we aren't finished with our math and use the same book going into the new school year. Since our break isn't that long, if we have switched mid-year it is better to stay on track anyway.

What do I keep?
Go through your child's work, pick some of their best work to keep in a portfolio, and keep some work that shows their growth for the year, like handwriting comparisons. Not only will that show you are teaching, but will serve as a way for your child to see just how much they have grown over the year.

What's next?
This would also be a great time to really sit back and assess the year before moving forward with next year. Don't wait to do this after your break, if you take one. Your mind won't be as fresh with things you want to remember or do differently next year.

Some things to consider:
  • Was the curriculum a good fit?
  • Was the grade level appropriate?
  • Did your schedule work well for your family?
  • Discuss with your child what things he may want to learn more about next year.
  • Are you happy with your planning/grading system?
  • What electives would you like to include?
  • Where are your weaknesses?
  • What are your strengths?
Write your thoughts down! Have them ready when you go to order curriculum for the next school year.

Perhaps you need to sell all of your curriculum and start from scratch-write down why you felt the curriculum didn't work for your family. That will help you find a better fit next time.

If you can, find a local homeschool convention to refresh your homeschool batteries and look through curriculum. Having a book in your hand will be much more helpful than looking at a small preview online.

Our break is very short, less than a month, and I spend a lot of time planning our year, clearing out shelves, filing school work and getting acquainted with our new curriculum. Nothing feels worse than being unprepared!

Pat yourself on the back, you just gave your children one of the best gifts you can give them-time. Time with family, time with you, time to be a kid. You deserve some chocolate!!

Sam is a Christian homeschooling mom of six, married to Rick, her high school sweetheart. Rick was called to be a preacher, Samantha was called to homeschool, and loves blogging about their journey. She is interested in Bible study, photography, exercise, organizing, and sweet tea. You can find Samantha blogging at Sam’s Noggin. She also writes for The Curriculum Choice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Unintended Curriculum

When I was teaching in the public schools, there was a lot of talk about the "unintended curriculum" (the things that we don't actually teach children, but they learn from us anyway).  Recently, I have been thinking about the "unintended curriculum" in our home.  I have been wondering what my girls are really learning from me every day (both in our homeschool and in our daily lives).  I wonder:

Are they learning that God wants us to help others.  Do the meals we make for our friends who have babies and the letters we write to the children we sponsor through Compassion International teach them about serving others?
Are they learning that caffeine is a requirement for moms to function?  Does my need for multiple cups of coffee during our homeschool lessons teach them that caffeine is a good thing (instead of a drug that I really need to give up)?

Are they learning that reading is a lifetime skill.  Does seeing my husband and I read make reading more appealing to them?

Are they learning to be good wives and mothers?  Does helping me around the house with cooking and cleaning teach them how to manage their households in the future?

Are they learning about the importance of family?  Do family dinners and family outings show them that family is important?

Are they learning that I am too busy (with cooking, cleaning, dissertation work, emails, etc.) for them?

Are they learning that I love them?

What am I really teaching my girls every day?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom - Learning Along with Our Children

As we approach the end of another school year, it is a great time to evaluate our academic years. Each Friday, during the month of April, we will share a little about our current homeschooling years.

Today, we are discussing:
What is something interesting you learned while teaching your children this school year? 

Ralene - I learned that a child is willing to learn anything as long as you put it to music or in a game. :)

Tracy - I've learned just how much a child can learn! I have to constantly remind myself not to put limits on what I think they are capable of because they are always surprising me.

Sam - This year I have learned to stick with what I love, and not question what works for us. I'm in the process of unsubscribing to a lot of companies that only want to sell me things, instead of helping me as a homeschooler.

Jessica - I have learned so much about American History this year! It has reaffirmed many of my personal views and reignited the passionate side of my patriotism. It is amazing that a story you already know can be so fresh and invigorating - no wonder we all like to read our favorite books or watch our favorite movies over again. There were so many details about the American Revolution that I had forgotten or never really understood before our studies this year.

Marla - I have learned a lot of cool facts about animals during our animal studies. It is so cool that teaching your child can help you learn too!

Dorie - Teaching our oldest informal logic has taught me a lot about how people communicate and draw conclusions.  {And, I thought it was going to be a dry subject that I would have to feign interest in!}

And, now we'd love to hear from you...
What is something interesting you learned while teaching your children this school year?  It could be a historical fact, way to teach, something about child development, or anything new-to-you. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Opposition Comes

When we made the decision to homeschool Sophie, I was ready for some opposition from the local elementary school where Ken is on the school board.  
Surprisingly, the superintendent was supportive. She listened to our explanation, and didn't question why. She listed all the activities that Sophie would be allowed to participate in, even if she is home schooled.  There was no criticism. No backlash. At all.


When we've told our friends who have asked which school Sophie will be attending their reactions have been quite different. Hostile, questioning, hurtful.....and these are our friends!

I feel like they are waiting for us to fail - and I'm wondering how many of these friendships I should hold on to, and which ones I should back away from.

To be honest, I am a people pleaser. I don't like confrontation, and have always kept silent when I don't have a positive thing to say.  Now I'm forced to continually explain what I feel is a personal choice for my family....and I'm getting tired of it.

I could use some tips....what do you do when you are faced with the sarcastic questions, the looks, and the never ending "socialization" conversation? 

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 fostering a lively two year old little girl who keeps them on their toes!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bulletin Board Bonanza

Before the school year began for us, we spent a part of the summer putting fresh paint in our kitchen, family room and hallway. We furnished the hall with an organ bench, a self-sticking map of the world (everyone should have one of these - ask for one as a gift if $15 isn't in the budget right now), and a small bulletin board.

The children have taken turns creating displays on the board. My younger son's first display was about beginning a new school year and included pictures of our family. My daughter chose a fall/Thanksgiving theme, and my oldest son created a pictorial pun with the heading "It's Winter Time" over a clock which, instead of numbers, had seasonal items around it's face. It's hands were pointing to the snowflake.

I have given very little guidance and encouraged this as a creative project instead of an assignment. My daughter mostly used stickers on orange paper to make hers. My older son spent most of his time thinking of something he felt was funny and clever and very little time actually erecting the display (it was all black and white and he asked me to make the snowflake). My youngest son is extremely visual, so the colors included and balance of items are really important to him. His turn came around again last week, and he decided to stick with the seasonal bent the other kids have been on but focusing on his obsession of all things farm:

Some fun and unexpected learning has come from these projects, with very little input from me. The children all agree that covering the entire background of the board makes it look nicer. They try to have continuity in the color of tacks they use to pin their items. They figured out how to count the letters and spaces in their heading to center it. They realized that using a pencil first allows them to make changes before going over it with something more permanent. They discovered useful tools and tricks for tracing, sizing, and measuring.

This was a simple idea I added to school just for fun this year, and we will be doing it again. Like most things in homeschool, it was a practical experience that added fun and hands-on learning outside of curriculum. What simple, unexpected treasures have you discovered while homeschooling this past year?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

'Cause you gotta have friends...

Within the last week or so, my five year-old has suddenly been VERY concerned about the idea of "friends."

He has played with the neighborhood kids every year, but THIS year seems to be especially important to him.

"MOM!  I can't eat this much dinner!  I need to go back outside before everyone goes inside for the night!"  and "MOM!  Why do I need to go in for bed?  All of my FRIENDS are out here!"

Being homeschooled, he just doesn't understand why his friends can't play outside at 11:00 in the morning like he can.  It's torture for the child to wait until 3:30 when all of the other kids start running around the neighborhood.

And with the exciting friendship for my son comes a feeling of uneasiness for Mom.

What kind of language do these children use?  What kind of ideas are they spouting off out there in the yard?  Where are all of the kids' parents?!  

As I sit outside and watch the socializing go down, I can't help but feel nervous for P.  

Will the other kids say something to him about being homeschooled?  What about the fact that he comes from a family with more than the 2.1 children deemed "normal" by society?  Are they going to hurt his feelings?  Do they appreciate his friendship as much as he appreciates their friendship?  Will they one day say something rude about his Catholic faith?

And then it hits me--all of these thoughts go through my head for about three hours during the warmer months.  

Homeschooling, however, has allowed me to keep an eye on the other kids to make sure they're not using horrible language around my child or being rude and inappropriate.

If he was at school, there would be eight hours of the day that he would be on his own, shoved into a classroom full of children that I don't know and have no control over what they might say to my child.

Homeschooling isn't just about pencils, books, and worksheets.

Homeschooling is also about making sure your child grows up in a safe and supportive environment so he actually CAN learn.

As for his friends outside, well, all I can do now is just be on my guard and smile when I see how much my son enjoys having friends.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Different Angle of Comparrison

It's funny how you can know something in your mind, but your heart can completely ignore it and cause you to fret and worry. We've heard about the dangers of comparing our homeschool to others, but on a more immediate level, we should learn not to compare one child to their sibling.

Alana (6) and Kyra (5) are finishing up their Kindergarten year. Both have enjoyed school and get excited about trying new things (well, except when it comes to food). Both love to learn, play games, and get dirty!

I've struggled this year with the fact that Kyra is exceling at school, while her older sister can't seem to keep up and has her own issues in subjects like reading/phonics.

This is where the knowing and the heart comes into play.

I know that each child is different. Each child has their own passions, their own strenths and weaknesses, and their own path. Part of the reason that we homeschool is to be able to cater to these differences.


Sometimes when I reflect on Alana's struggles, I can't help but wonder and worry. I mentioned a few posts ago about her speech therapy and possible delays due to being premature--and it could all very well be related. Or it could be something else, or nothing at all.

I worry about Alana's feeling inferior in academics and, in turn, not enjoying the learning process. This year, I've not pushed Kyra to her full potential because I was kind of trying to keep them on the same page--after all, Kyra was already doing Kindergarten stuff a whole year early.

As I consider our curriculum and schedule for next year, I can't help but compare my children and their strengths/weaknesses.

I've realized a few things, though, and trust me, some of them are very "duh!" in nature:

1. I can't expect that both girls will excel at the same things. Kyra is already reading, but Alana can wield a crayon/pencil to create the most amazing things. Alana can put a 100 piece puzzle together in no time and with no help, but Kyra can remember songs and Bible verses like their going out of style.

2. Children learn more when it's something they enjoy or that they can apply to themselves. Incorporating their passions into subjects like Math and Reading, or using unit studies can encourage them in their learning. Unit studies in particular can include children on any level, so they are all learning together.

3. We need to celebrate the differences! For the most part, Alana will only "feel" inferior, if we make a big deal out of the fact that Kyra is passing her--even when there's nothing wrong with her or with Kyra. Alana won't lose interest in learning if we continue to cater to her interests and encourage the stuff she does well. Little things, like giving her a small "art studio" will do far more for her self-esteem than having her sister working in different curriculum and whatnot.

4. Whta works for one, may not work for another. Children, in general, learn in different ways, at different paces. Kyra is remembers most things she sees and hears. Alana is much more a kinesthetic learner. I was using All About Spelling for both of my girls at the beginning of the year. About halfway through, I switched Alana to Horizons because she was having trouble with the auditory/verbal stuff in All About Spelling. She's done better after switching.

5. Comparing doesn't help anyone. What do I gain by comparing an apple and an orange? There is no comparison. And all it results in is useless worry and doubt that is anything but proactive and encouraging.

So, as I finish up this homeschool year and prepare for the next, I'm trying not to compare my children, but instead to celebrate and embrace their differences. I aim to deepen our relationships and encourage their trust in the Lord. I hope to instill and nourish a love for learning that will take them well into their adult years.

None of that has anything to do with comparrison.
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