Friday, November 29, 2013

To Break or not to Break?

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

This week, the kids and I traveled over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house! Now, we're snuggled up with family, enjoying our time together and eating too much food. I'm forgoing most of the mega deals this year, so no need to brave the Black Friday crowds.

This is the first time, though, that we've gone on a vacation like this and I brought our homeschool stuff with us! *gasp* I know, I know. Usually, I like to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off, or at least only focus on Thanksgiving-related activities.

However, this has been a really rough season for us, health-wise. I was sick for an entire 3 weeks in October, and all 3 of my kids seem to be taking turns getting sick themselves or making each other sick. That's put us way behind in our curriculum.

I'm not really one to obsess over something like that. Correction--I am that type, but I'm learning to overcome that bit of the perfectionist side of me. While I'm not in any hurry to "catch up," I also believe we need to stay on track. So, we're brought a little bit of homeschool with us.

Granted, many of our activities are still Thanksgiving (and starting Monday--Christmas) related--the books we read, the crafts we do, etc. We are still making sure to plunge on in our studies. The girls are enjoying learning about the medieval times and animal habitats in science. In another post, I'll have to share the travel books I made for them, which bits of math, spelling, reading, and history/geography in the form of games! Yes, I'm sneaky like that.

What about you? Do you continue to homeschool through the holidays? Why or why not?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sharing Thanksgiving Traditions

I am a big fan of the last two months of the year. Halloween kicks off an amazing time of year. As a military family, Veterans Day is very important to us, and then Thanksgiving, which leads into the Christmas season. Two months of love, compassion, thankfulness, and remembrance.

Many people think that Thanksgiving gets looked over, but I don't believe that's necessarily true. Although the original reason for celebrating might get lost in translation, its essence is highlighted even more in light of the Christmas season, which seems to come earlier every year. I tend to see Thanksgiving as the kick-off celebration. Christmas is all about Jesus' birth and what he would ultimately do. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have, thankful for what God has done for us.

The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of a full harvest of food after experiencing a particularly rough winter the year before. Of the men, women, and children who originally arrived on the Mayflower, only about half survived that first went. With the help of Squanto and his fellow Indians, the people learned to plant corn and other crops, to use the local plants, and to hunt/fish. By the time, the next harvest arrived, there was plenty to go around. They then held the feast to celebrate God's provision with their new friends.

Now, we gather together with friends and family for a meal to celebrate our "harvest," whatever that might look like for us. Some years are more bountiful than others, but we always have something to be thankful for, even if it is only the salvation provided by Jesus' death and resurrection.

Being a military family, Thanksgiving looks different every year. We haven't really been able to build too many traditions.

The past few years, though, we've done our thankful leaves. We all write what we are thankful for on leaves cut out of construction paper, and then tape them to the sliding door. The kids seem to have a lot of fun with it, and sometimes it amazes me what they find to be grateful for. There are the typical kids answers like their favorite toy or TV or the like. But, when, without prompting, they say something like Jesus's sacrifice or my family or time with Mommy/Daddy, etc. it just makes my heart melt!

And then there's pumpkin pie and fried turkey. Doesn't seem to matter where we are or who we're celebrating Thanksgiving with, those two items end up on the list somehow. ("Say, have you tried fried turkey--it's just mouth-watering!")

This year, I think I'm going to start a new tradition of having the girls weave our placemats for the big meal. We'll start with construction paper, but maybe when they're older, we'll try some weaving with something else. :)

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Anything fun or unique?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creating a Unit Study

There are plenty available. Just do a quick search and you are bound to find more than one unit study for the very next topic in your lesson plan. Some will cost you. Some are free.

One of them may just be perfect for you and your family. The topic, lessons, and activities are spot on. It couldn't get any better. After all, the work is done for you. You just have to implement it.

But what about those of us who actually want to plan our own? Maybe customize it completely? How do you plan a unit study?

Today, I'll walk you through a few quick steps to planning your own unit study. These steps will work for almost any unit study, whether it be a multi-subject unit study or a simple history unit.

How to Plan a Unit Study
  1. Pick a topic. Perhaps you'd like to study a time period in history, a specific culture, or science topic. Maybe you would like to build a unit study around a book you will be reading with your children.
  2. Find one main reference book, resource, or website. This resource will serve as a guide or starting point, depending how you choose to use it. Generally, if you want to build a unit study based on a piece of literature, this becomes your reference book.
  3. Create a list of subtopics. Good reference resources can be used to glean subtopics or areas of further study within one main topic. Some can be used as spines for the entire study. Usborne, DK, and other books like them lend themselves well to this usage. Their typical one topic per two page layout easily creates an outline for more in depth study. Unit studies based on literature, might use elements from the plot, characters, setting, and author. For instance, a unit study on Charlotte's Web could include subtopics like farm life, barns, spiders, farm animals, rats, and fairs.
  4. Collect {or create your own} ideas. Find books, projects, activities, and worksheets for each of the subtopics. Be sure to include ideas below, at, and above grade level. Generally, anything can be altered a little, and sometimes you may want an activity to serve as a review or a challenge for your child. In the past, before Pinterest, I used to collect all my ideas in a file. Now, I simply pin the idea onto a board.
  5. Find field trips. List local places and events which could relate to one or more of the subtopics. Check into virtual tours as well. Sometimes it may not be possible to visit a place, but students can 'tour' it through a website.
  6. Outline the order of study. It may seem backwards to place this step so far down the list. However, once you have the details collected, then you can decide which of the subtopics you'll likely spend more time covering or which are more important in the unit study.
  7. Assign a schedule for the unit study. Judging by the ideas you have found or created, you can decide how much time to allow each one. Be sure to keep it flexible and include a few extra days for topics of interest. Children often want to explore a specific topic further. Allow them the freedom to do so, by setting aside extra time.

If you are creating a unit study which is cross curricula, then you will need to pay careful attention to include subtopics, activities, and field trips which are indeed cross curricula. Balance your unit study by finding or creating lessons which include all the areas of study you want to cover.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began the homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Growing Your Homeschool . . . Co-op

Tuesday, the kids and I went to our final day at the homeschool co-op until the spring semester. The girls loved their classes this semester as they embarked on exciting journeys in classes, like World Missions, PE/Health, Backyard Critters, and Art.

Our homeschool co-op has been such a blessing. It is  new co-op, this semester only being it's second program, and we've been involved since the beginning. I even taught a creative writing class this semester (and plan to teach one next semester, along with another class).

These are the ways my family have benefited from attending a homeschool co-op:

1. Meeting new friends: We've only been in Kentucky for about 16 months now, and at the time we started with the co-op, it had only been 7 months. We live outside the city limits, so there are very few opportunities for any of us to make friends, outside of going to church. The homeschool co-op gave us the chance to connect with people who have similar lifestyles and were going through the same things we were.

2. Our homeschool is pretty laid back, so it was a great place for the kids to learn without feeling pressure to "do well." They just had fun, but learned a lot in the process. You should hear the girls talking about the animals they learned about (or got to hold) in their Backyard Critters class, or the ways they can better take care of themselves after a fun Health class.

3. It gives the kids a chance to learn from other teachers. When they grow up, or if they ever go to school,
Mommy will not be their teacher. Other people will not teach the same way I do, and the kids need to realize that. Also, there are things other people can teach with more expertise than I have. What a joy that we can share our strengths with others. For the older kids, I am able to share my knowledge of writing and fiction, helping them to draw on their creativity and life stories.

4. Some weeks, we may not go out otherwise. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I became kind of a homebody. It probably happened when I had two tiny girls, who were practically twins. It made going out to do simple stuff like grocery shopping such a chore. Then, I just got used to being home a lot. The co-op gives me an obligation to get out and do something.

5. Field Trips! We get some great deals either because we're a large group or because we are specifically a homeschool group. Our Field Trip coordinator has awesome ideas. We've been to Dinosaur World, the Creation Museum, a couple of different kinds of farms, visited an Amish community, and just gone to the park to have some fun.

There are many other smaller blessings, but those are the main ones.

Now, am I saying every homeschool family needs to rush out and join/start a homeschool co-op? NO! Co-ops are not for everyone. If you are looking at homeschool co-ops, make sure to find one that fits your family. Although a co-op is a conglomeraation of different types of people/families, some tend to be more formal, some less formal, some focus on academics while others offer "extras" (like sewing, instrument lessons, cooking, etc.). We subscribe to the "a little bit of something or everybody" motto.

*The top photo is the kids with some friends on the last day of co-op. The second is one of the other moms doing a science experiment with soda and mentos... And the last is my family at the Creation Museum, one of the many fun field trips we've done with the co-op.

Monday, November 4, 2013

You Gotta Have Friends

We were five moms seated around two squashed together tables at Panera Bread one Friday evening. All of us, over thirty with multiple children, laughing like teenagers. Each mom had her own story to tell and her own story to live. But for one Friday evening those individual stories intersected in fellowship, friendship, food and fun.

Sharing from our hearts, we encouraged one another in this journey of motherhood and wifehood.

Interestingly enough, that night, the majority of women who gathered homeschool, but not all. Did this leave us at odds, resulting in an educational war? No, of course not. We weren't there to critique each other or compare ourselves to one another. Our hearts were joined in our common roles as mommas and wives. We were there to share, to learn from one another, and be encouraged.

As I returned home, I thought about how long it had been since I had experienced a night like this. Honestly, it had been a long time. Too long. I had needed this evening out with friends.

When the schedule gets demanding, finding time for an outing with other wives and moms can almost be impossible. Yet, it is vital that we try to connect with others in real life.

Having connections online is wonderful. This is not a bash or rant about online support. Honestly, sometimes due to geography or circumstances, the online community is the only support one can have. For those of us with no geographical issues, who are surrounded by other
families within a reasonable driving distance: this post is for us {because some days I need the reminder too}.

We need real life in our face momma friends.

We need another seeing with their very own eyes our mess and lovingly encouraging us anyway.

For you see, we all know we can hide our junk from the online world. We can crop the pic just so, give it the right angle, or change the tone of our words with editing. We can highlight our children's accomplishments, presenting an illusion that they never struggle.

In some ways, I agree with doing all of this. Love covers the mistakes of others. I am not in to publicizing my children's mistakes {Believe me, they make many. They take after me.} And, for the record, I tend to naturally be a positive person. My glass is almost always half full. I know, it is kind of irritating to those half empty glass people.

However, online interactions don't always offer what a IRL (in real life) friend can. IRL friends can tell from the tone of your voice the day you've had. They can see the weariness in your eyes, and come aside you to help. Sometimes, they can offer another perspective, because they have seen the whole situation.

If you don't have any IRL friends, then seek them. Befriend another. You may not 'click' instantly, but don't write them off immediately. We are each part of our own story, but a bigger and better one is written when our stories intertwine. Those other moms/wives are seeking to live their best story too - and that might just be where you find your first common thread.

~ Dorie

Oh, and if you make your way to Panera Bread one evening, try the Autumn Squash soup - delicious!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...