Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colored Rice

In our lesson about ancient China we learned about the importance of rice to the sustainability of the communities in the Yellow River Valley.  As a fun art extension, we decided to dye and make pictures with rice.

The whole process was easy and fun with neat results.  We are saving the left over colored rice for letter tracing or future art projects.

Here are some pictures and basic directions:
--Place 1 cup of long grain white rice in a plastic bag.

--Add 1/2 tsp of vinegar

--Add a few drops of food coloring
--Seal bag

--Knead, shake, and mix the color with the rice.  Add more color if needed.

--Place on sheet of parchment paper in thin layer and let dry for 1-2 hours.

We drew basic pictures, painted glue for where we wanted color and then sprinkled the rice on much like glitter.

The end result was a fun texture piece.  This would be a great activity to talk about color, texture, 3 dimensional, and maybe throw in a little social studies and talk about ancient China's unique crop of rice!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Learning History

One of our new curriculums this year is Story of the World.  It includes a daily reading, including fictitious stories of children who lived during the respective time to tell how they ate, slept, interacted- the story of their world.  Then there are map activities, color pages, and optional explorations to help engage the students further.

Our first lesson was actually the introduction to explain how history is learned.  Through stories, written or otherwise, and from finding artifacts buried over time discovered by archeologists.  Each piece or letter helps put together the puzzle of the story of the world for its time.

A suggested activity to discover what it is like to dig up artifacts and try to figure out the story of a lost world was to create an archeological dig in the yard, all taped off just like they are 'for real'.

I decided a more simple route for our purposes.  I collected artifacts from the long lost civilization of "Barbie and Polly" and buried them in different layers in a disposable aluminum pan in corn meal and corn flour.  Wetting areas created a thick, rocky clay to dig through.  Using baby spoons, paintbrushes, and some play dough tools my girls got to work unearthing the treasures.

We had a wonderful time piecing together the story of the dolly world.  I threw in a couple of unknown elements so my kids learned that sometimes archeologists have to talk to each other and look to other resources to discover what things are.

Even if you aren't doing Story of the World, this was a great little activity to talk about history, archeology, mystery, civilization, artifacts, team work and all in a tactile way!

 And yes, even the toddler got in on the action!

Hip Homeschool Moms

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Day in the Life

There are many questions or comments we get when people find out we homeschool.  One of the most common ones is some variation on "What do you do all day?".  I think most are not asking this in a condescending way as if I've got my feet up eating the proverbial bon bond, but more out of curiosity of how school works in a home.  What does it look like to learn when you aren't sitting at a desk with 25 other kids for 7 hours a day?  How do you live, cook, clean, play, and now learn all in one day in the same place?
Best laid plans.  My weekly planner
(I try to plan out about 3-4 weeks ahead).
Color coded for each kid.

For us, a day in the life is not a simple answer.  We do not have a strict schedule, but rather a rhythm we strive for.  So, in my best efforts, I will describe the best way I can of how we 'do it' (or at least what we're trying right now because frankly it doesn't always work!)

I made our own calendar book in a
presentation binder with laminated pages
This year Monday's will have Izzy gone all day at a homeschool ancillary program where she will be doing classes in drama, art, music, science experiments, math games, Spanish, and gym.  It is also dance day for both older girls.  Therefore, Mondays I will be fitting in some learning time one on one with Liliana, but otherwise not much else school wise will happen.

A typical 'other day' looks something like this:

7-8:30--Wake up, breakfast, chores, dressed and ready for the day

One of my custom pages for k-2
8:30-- Calendar time and devotions.  We love starting our day together, laughing and learning.  While calendar is not needed for Izzy much, I have found it to be a great time of review for other concepts for her while Lili and I sing the days of the week song and such.  Lucy joins us and colors or sings along.  We pray and get ready to start the rest of our learning day!

9:00-- I pow wow with Izzy and go over her daily checklist.  This gives her the scope of the day and lets her see what the goals are.  This was something we started late last year and has helped build her independence as well.  Often I teach her new math concept and she then goes and does any work she can do independently- usually her math lesson, handwriting, and some of her reading/language arts or writing.  Then I do the best I can to do math and reading with Liliana while maintaining Lucy's attention as well. Since we have not done much school yet, this has yet to be determined to be successful.
Daily Checklist for Izzy- grade 3
   10:00-- snack and break time

   10:30-- Finish up and review any independent work.  I also use this time to have Izzy watch Lucy while I finish up with Liliana.

   11:30-- break for lunch, chores, playtime

   1:00-- While Lucy is napping I do the subjects with Izzy that she needs teacher direction including story of the world, spelling, and some language arts.  Lili often plays a game on the iPad or reads books.

   2:30/3-- hopefully most of our work is done for the day and the girls enjoy some quiet playtime while Lucy finishes her nap.

Late afternoon and evening-- I do the rest of my 'mom' chores like cooking and laundry as we finish our day.  Usually about this time I have the girls 'reset' the school room to make sure we have a clean table and fresh start to our day tomorrow.

Some days look like this
Others, like this!
And the big Asterisk to this is the fact that I have an 18 month old running around and an untested attention span of a 4.5 year old.  Life gets messy.  Crayons get eaten.  Puzzles get dumped.  Errands have to be run.  Some days are joyfully pleasant and we enjoy books and crafts together.  Others, I about want to raise the white flag and summon the big yellow bus.  You never know what you will find in the day in our life, but it is sure to be filled love (even if its deep down!).

You can check out more homeschooling families day in the life at the ihomeschool network blog hop today!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School Photos

Hard to believe we have entered our second year of homeschooling- it already feels 'normal'.  I am thankful to not have to say goodbye to my oldest every morning and not see her until almost dinner time.  I am nervous about beginning to teach my middle to read, but yet excited that I can start even though she is "not old enough" by law to go to Kindergarten yet.  I am still trying to figure out how we'll do all of our learning and exploring while chasing down a busy toddler.  Whatever the case- we are excited to be home, learning together, enjoying each other, and being intentional about life.

Here are our 'first day of school' photos:

Liliana age 4.5- Kindergarten!
Lil is our resident extrovert who loves and lives deeply and passionately.  She wants to read and learn just like big sister.  She's excited to take dance again this year and also do science experiments.
 Isabelle age 8- 3rd Grade
Izzy is our quiet courage girl.  She has just blossomed over the past year into a sweet, kind, helpful, and compassionate young lady.  Izzy will be doing a Monday program at our homeschool building where she will get drama, music, art, Spanish, gym, science, and math games.  She really wants to learn about prairie dogs and read the Kit series.  She will also be in tap dance.
 Lucy age 18 months
Lucy just had to get in on the action. She's the one we have to chase all day and keep busy.  She wants to do learning just like her sisters and color on the marker board.  Now the trick is getting her to not eat the markers or color on herself.

We are excited for our year!

I'm taking part in this week's not back-to school hope over at ihomeschoolnetwork!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2nd Year of Homeschooling Launch- Our Room

Last year was our first year.  As much as I was warned and I tried to stay away, our room and set up ended up being more of a 'school at home' rather than the lifelong learning intentions I had.  While I found some benefits to the school at home set up, I did make a few adjustments going into our second year of homeschooling.  This was also partly due to the fact that the youngest is now 18 months old and into everything- so many things need to be 'locked away'!

Our room is a main floor office we had originally intended for a play room.  It has great natural light and some large built in bookshelves.  We used an old dining room table we had downstairs, an old sofa chair with a slip cover, and a massive white board found at habitat humanity ReStore.
 We have a small bulletin board for sight words, clock, reference guides, and 100's chart.  Around the room we attached magnet strip to hang art work, maps, and counting strips.  The built in desk area houses our printer, pencil sharpener, and magnet boards for AAS.
 In one of the big cupboards of the built-ins we have added doors and child locks.  This way the markers, stacks of paper, and our pink bins of school books stay safe from the active toddler.  Our pink boxes hold our daily workbooks and TM.  Above the cupboards I have a blue bin of easy access glue, scissors, pencils, index cards, post its, and my green planning binder.  Both girls have a decorated mug filled with their pencils and pens of choice.
 The window wall hosts our chair and small play area to help keep the toddler and sometimes 4.5 year old (who's doing some K work this year) entertained.
Often our room expands into the dining area when the 3rd grader needs quiet work time or to the couch for read aloud time, but this is a great space for school central.  We are very thankful to have it. Welcome to our room!

My post this week is part of the not back-to school hop over at ihomeschool!

Monday, August 4, 2014

3rd Grade and Kindergarten Curriculum Choices- 2nd Year Launch!

Last year was a big year.  Our transition to homeschooling from public school for our oldest (then second grade) had its ups and downs.  We switched curriculums around a few times and ended up with a year of memories and growth.

I was able to attend a Great Homeschool Convention in April which was helpful in touching and feeling different options.  So after praying, exploring, and a little trial and error, here are our curriculum choices for (at least the start) of this year!

Izzy- 3rd Grade

Math:  Christian Light Education (CLE) 300
Reading & Language Arts:  Total Language Plus (TLP) "The Courage of Sarah Noble" and "The Whipping Boy" with a Unit Study on the  American Girl Kit series in the middle since she enjoyed our Samantha and Addy series so much last year.  I also have daily language skill sheets for her to do if needed to supplement during unit studies.
Writing:  Our biggest struggle last year and we ended up with basically copy work and a few journal entry responses with our unit studies.  I'm hoping our new choice of Essentials in Writing level 3 will be a great fit for us!
Handwriting:  A Reason For Handwriting cursive.  She will get printing practice with TLP
Spelling:  All About Spelling finishing level 2 and going onto 3.  We started this program mid-year last year and have mixed feelings about it.  The phonics education has been great for her (she learned to read primarily on sight words) but the spelling has not improved as much as I would have hoped.  I've been encouraged to keep with it- so we'll at least go through level 3.
Social Studies:  Story of the World vol 1 and Abeka's Our American Heritage for grade 3.  I was intrigued by the Story of the World idea but wanted to keep going in our American studies so we will probably filter back and forth.  The Abeka will be more independent in nature and less up front for me for those busier weeks or when I'm working with little sister.
Bible:  Adventure Bible Devotional by Zonderkidz.  We are going to also focus on applying to Fruits of the Spirit to our lives as they are one of our 'school rules'.
Ancillary Program:  We are going to try a local homeschool program all day on Mondays which will give grade level experiences each week in Art, Music, Drama, Gym, Math Games, Spanish, and Science Experiments.  It will be nice to have such a variety of experiences for her to draw upon and to be in a more 'classroom' setting which she has missed.  We are hopeful this will be a great addition to our family.

Liliana- Kindergarten
Lili is 4.5 but ready to start some basic Kindergarten.  She is past preschool curriculums, so I project taking 1.5 years to do K work, but will let her dictate her own pace.

Calendar: I have a homemade presentation book with laminated pages for our calendar/circle time.  Pages include counting, temperature, monthly calendar, venn diagram, tally marks, writing numerically, math problem of the day, patterns, time, place value, and money.  It works great, its portable and customizable, and was super easy to do!
Math:  Christian Light Education (CLE) 100.  Technically 1st grade books, but she was beyond their Kindergarten books, so we will start slow.  I do not expect to finish, but rather use this level for 2 full years.  We will supplement with extra practice pages as needed so she does not move too fast for her stage of development.
Reading:  I got drawn into the Horizon's program's beautiful books.  I'm not sure I love it and kind of wish I had done something different, but we'll see how it works.  I have a feeling we will fly through the first book as she already knows most of her basic phonics.  I also have some readers like BOB books and an Usborne Ted and Friends books on cd to help boost sight words.
Handwriting:  A Reason for Handwriting
Social Studies:  Story of the World with big sister as her attention span allows.  I figured out some adaptable activities to engage her while big sis is working on more intricate projects.
Bible:  Adventure Bible Devotional by Zonderkidz.  We are going to also focus on applying to Fruits of the Spirit to our lives as they are one of our 'school rules'.

My blog is shared at the not back-to-school hop over at ihomeschoolnetwork!  Head over there to see other great curriculum choices homeschool parents around the world have chosen!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Starting Well after a Chaotic Ending

I had great intentions for our last month of school for the 2013-2014 year.  Wrap up a lap book unit on the Addy series by American Girl, Finish CLE math books through 209, go on a couple field trips and do some free journal writing, and do some beginning Spanish since we knew that Isabelle would be adding Spanish with her co-op class in the fall and needed to catch up.

Then came a mini-flood.

Our refrigerator sprung a leak in the water tank and went all under the laminate flooring and soaked the basement bedroom.  Two weeks of demo of the damaged goods.  A domino affect of remodel projects.  Our house became a flurry of construction workers, noise, and mess.  School was attempted in other locations, but just didn't work well.  Things finally put back together and we resumed summer life late June.

For about 6 days.

Then another water leak.  Same spot, different problem.  We had replaced the fridge, but this time is was the water main to the fridge that leaked.  Ripped up brand new flooring.  And here we are August 1st still waiting to have it "finished".

Needless to say, my expectations for finishing out our first year of homeschooling didn't quite lead to reality.  In all, it has been ok.  We've spent time with family, read different books, and just played a lot.  We didn't end well, but the beauty of homeschooling is that learning never truly ends and you just roll with that.

Once our fall activities and commitments started filling in, I realized how important it was going to be start intentionally with more structured schooling.  Our days of play and pajamas needed to start resembling a little more purposeful learning.  So this week has been our "soft start" of school for the 2014-2015 year.

We have focused on exploring our new curriculum books, making goals and 'rules', reviewing concepts, and slowly starting to add new subjects.  We'll have a week of camping and a week of a cottage trip, but hopefully this steady start will help us successfully navigate our fall launch of activities and full school schedule.  It has been a hair pulling week at times (you forget how much kids forget after a few weeks off!) but overall it has been great for us to get back into the routine.  I hope that this intentionality will pay off as September rolls around.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Year End" Curriculum Review

As we wrap up our "year" I'm taking a moment to give ratings to the curriculum we tried, toiled with, and loved.  Every homeschool family is different.  Each child requires different learning sets, so while something didn't work for us (or did), I'm hoping that you will put it through the filter of your child and make the best informed decision for your group.  I will give each program two ratings.

1)  An teacher perspective on ease of use, implementation, and feel of the overall curriculum
2)  How it worked for us, specifically to Izzy

B+    I loved the easy to follow teacher manual, minimal student materials, and guided writing portions.  The publishing crafts were crazy, but we adapted to them.  Great for the creative writer.

C-    Izzy did not do well with this program.  It was too creative for her 'black and white' personality.  She became too dependent on my help with the guided writing so she wouldn't want to write on her own.  The writing prompts were not enjoyed by either of us and required too much adaptation.

Christian Light Education Math 200 (CLE)
A-    Easy to use.  Everything flows very well.  Love the tight spiral.  Lessons can get a little long with too much review, but we adapted.  Some story problems are a little strange due to the farming/mennonite culture.  I like the way they teach math in the classic way, include plenty of real life story problems, and focus on basic facts.  The workbooks are great to be able to finish and get a fresh new one every 17 lessons!

A    We tried another math program for 2 weeks and went running back to CLE.  Izzy loves that can now do Math almost 90% on her own and is thriving in the independence of it.  She likes that she can skip problems that I cross off.  The tight spiral has built her confidence because she doesn't have time to forget anything.

CLE Reading
C   I could see how this program would work wonderfully if you started with it from the beginning as it  builds on previous skills with phonics and language.  However, the stories I find are quite boring and there are not enough basic comprehension questions.

D  Bored.  Bored her to death. We had to skip much of the workbook because of her lack of phonics education at public school.  Just wasn't worth the tears.

All About Spelling
B-   This program is very teacher friendly and easy to use.  I could see its high benefit for kinesthetic and tactile learners with the magnet pieces.  It also breaks the rules down very well- even I learned something!  It is a little overwhelming with all the pieces and cumbersome to get through, but adaptable to what your child's needs are.  I can't imagine trying to do this program with more than 2 or 3 kids- it would take forever!

B   Our goal was that this program would help Izzy build her phonics (reads above grade level but no phonics understanding at the start of the year, thus terrible at sounding out words and spelling) to help with spelling and reading.  I can say that this program has for sure met that goal and got us back on track for keeping up with new vocabulary and spelling.  However, the words I found were not high use enough for what she was using in her writing, therefore we aren't seeing the application or retention as much as we'd like.  Sticking with it at least for the remaining of level 2 and through 3 and then will reevaluate.

Progeny Press
C  Not memorable.  Not growth inducing.  Way about grade level mentioned.  Adaptable and there are some good bones there.  PP has a great selections of books to choose from.

D  Ineffective at meeting our reading goals.  It did not provide enough meat in return for investment of time in our day.  Needed something more encompassing of language arts as a whole.  Did not fit us well.  Did not like the font or layout of the booklet.

Abeka- Social Studies and Science
A-  (on both counts).  We utilized just the student books as general readers for some of our science and social studies.  They were a great asset.  It was nice to allow Izzy to practice "reading to learn" with these readers.  While we did supplement and these subjects were not as core to our year as the other subjects, these books fit the bill nicely.  They give a nice little taste for each subject.  They also helped wet the appetite to learn more about different matters.

A-  We used lap books to help us study Bangladesh (in preparation for a missions trip), 1904 (as we read through the Samantha series from American Girl), Addy (to add to throughout the book series).  We also did mini versions for penguins and rainbows.  We enjoyed the hands on and review aspect.  They were a lot of fun to put together.  Though, some aspects took a long time and my daughter focused more on filling each line or paper in a template rather than just expressing what she was learning.

Self Written Samantha Reading and Language Arts
I just wanted to mention that after trying CLE and Abeka for reading, we ended up tying together language arts, writing, and reading through the Samantha book series by American girl.  We focused on dictation, copy work, vocabulary, adjectives, adverbs, similes, comprehension, and forming predictions or opinions.  This worked very well for us and I believe helped give a reason for learning and spawned a desire to write which was needed.  It was more 'fun'.  It became the highlight of our day, but was very teacher intensive, especially since I had to write everything ahead of time.  Hoping that next year's choice of Total Language Plus will bring us similar results without so much time on my part.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Response to Mr. L

There was an interesting conversation happening on my husband's Facebook friend's page.  A homeschooling dad sharing a great article on raising our children to be independent, critical thinkers with freedom in their learning.  A friend of this friend, whom I'll address as Mr. L, responded very critically.  It was both ignorant and intolerant at the same time.  While spewing "facts" based on his "experience" he had made a stereotypical judgment about the vastly diverse homeschool world.  

Here were a few of his statements:

"I've always been against homeschooling. 99% of the time it's done for far out religious or anti government beliefs. School is less about the work itself, and more to do about social interactions and how to make your way in the world. Throw out the old timers, and show me a top salesman, CEO or sucessful businessman who was homeschooled. You won't find any. Almost every homeschooled kid I knew growing up has the same job: "youth minister". I'm not saying home schooled kids aren't smart, they're just behind the 8 ball when it comes to the real world."  
May 19 at 11:51am

"In the Huffington Post (A counter response given to Mr. L's statements) article I only
found one person, and that was Condi Rice. The rest were either 100 years ago or pro
athletes, and who knows where they would be if they had to rely on brains instead of
athletic talent. And I'm sure everybody knows somebody or two that is the exception,
good for them. But that's a few out of how many million?" 
May 19 at 1:09pm

I'm not saying they're not smart enough, I'm saying most of the time they can't handle doing 
the job in the real world making real money. Getting along with co-workers, having to play
office politics,navigating the world. Most of the time the church is happy to have them there
working for peanuts so they don't give them a hard time

...but out of how many tens of millions of kids who have been homeschooled over the past
20 years or so, do you think there are more hits or misses? For every homeschool kid who
"makes it" there are a few hundred who were homeschooled because they're parents
didn't want the "guv'ment brainwashing their kid" and doomed them to a cycle of failure.
Give me ten thousand kids raised by wolves and I could probably find a dozen that ended
up okay. Does that mean letting wolves raise your kids is a good idea? No.
"  May 19 at

So after shaking my head in shame on Mr. L's behalf of his attitude and responses, I decided to respond.  

Dear Mr. L,

I'm so thankful your public school indoctrination of tolerance is serving you so well in this issue.  It is also interesting to see your knowledge of statistics, propaganda, and forms of logic and reason being used so effectively (hope you are catching on to my sarcasm).  

I am a successful product of the public school sector and proud homeschooling parent.  While I know those who preach "tolerance" tend to be the least tolerant of opinions they disagree with, I hope you will at least see the invalidity of your arguments against homeschooling.

First of all, homeschooling branches history from ancient times to modern.  In America, it has a strong backbone in the founding of our country and many of our early heroes.  However, with the modern institution of the government school system, homeschooling became an abnormal or even illegal form of receiving education.  It wasn't until 1992 that homeschooling was finally recognized as a legal schooling option in all states once again.  One of the reasons to invalidate your "claim" of minimal "successful" adults whom were homeschooled in our current era goes back to the fact that many homeschoolers in our modern age are still coming of age and beginning to make their impact on society.  I would argue that if you look at the span of history, students who are given the freedom to learn and develop in ways that do not put them in the box of the median end up being some of the most impactful and brilliant minds of their era.  

Your argument also breaks down because of your minute definition of "success".  It appears from your statements that in order for one to be heroically successful they must become president, cure a disease, or end a war.  While I note that those positions are successes, you exemplify ignorance to the fact that the backbone of America, the heartbeat of the nation's innovation, and the soul of its ideals often does not inhabit those on the front page of the press.  They are in the small businesses of every town, the boards of every non profit, and reaching the third world with life saving innovation, training, and discipleship.  Success is beyond titles, awards, and letters behind your last name. It is becoming the person you were Designed to be, making the most of every moment, impacting your community with your skills, talents and abilities, being a productive member of society,  and doing it with a humble and compassionate heart. 

Your argument breaks down further with the idea that the government school system breeds great success.  Yes, it can.  I was one of those who fit perfectly in the box designed by the standards and organization.  However, you do not take into account the number of failures the government school system produces.  A better statistic for your mathematical argument would be comparing homeschool and public school numbers of graduation, retention, productivity, and fulfillment.  I'm reminded of the story of Dr. Ben Carson.  The youngest pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins ever.  Innovator.  Life saver.  He took on the cases other doctors thought were hopeless.  Now, you may say, "well, see, another public school success story!".  I would argue that Dr. Carson would have been in the category of public school failures.  As Dr. Carson neared the end of his elementary years, he was self admittedly the worst student in his class.  He was failing everything.  The system was doing nothing to save him.  They did nothing to bring him out of the mire and onto the road of success.  It was his Mother who did.  It was his mother who wouldn't let school be a failure for her sons.  It was in the home that Ben flourished.  By her enforcement of reading library books, writing reports, and staying inside to do homework- Dr. Carson finally made progress and became "successful".  I would venture to say that Dr. Carson would not thank the public school for setting him on the path, but actually thank his mother for what she did at HOME (I've read his books and heard him in person and this was important to his message).  How many other "successes" would actually praise the public school system?  I bet many had a parent, a mentor, a coach, or a single experience that set them on the road to success.  The public school more a means to an end, rather than impactful experience.

Most of what makes the public school has been built on meeting the median need and what was the most accommodating for the administrators and teachers.  (with a BA in elementary education, I know how this works).  Schools were sorted into grade/age levels due to the growing population of students entering one room schoolhouses after the government mandated education for all children.  It was deemed the most feasible to sort children by age, rather than any other way.  It seemed best for the teacher to teach kids who were all the same 'grade' so they didn't have multiple age levels in the same room to work with.  The standards that are required by teachers to teach each grade level are determined by govnerment boards and politicians who often do not have teaching and development backgrounds and have not engaged inside a classroom since their school years.  The corruption of education has seeped from  from the federal level down.

Every homeschool parent comes to the decision for a different reason and in a different way.  So whether the parents decide they don't want to force their child into the box of public school expectations, are tired of interference from people who don't know their child, want to engage their child to be a life-long learner in ways that work best for them, have more intentional influence on their child, or just simply like being with their kids- they are expressing their free right as that child's steward on Earth.

And your ignorant socialization point?  As seen on a blog recently, and I paraphrase, "To call the best form a socialization putting a child in a room with 25 of its same age peers is like saying we should learn table manners from a monkeys"  Do I really want my kids learning respect, kindness, play, and problem solving from kids who are in the same maturity scan of them?  My almost 8 year old is getting more socialization now than she did at public school- and I can guarantee it is higher quality and preparing her more aptly for 'the real world'.  She socializes with her babysitters, her grandparents, her family, the cashier, the dentist, the librarian, her ballet class, her sunday school teacher, her classmates at church, her neighbor friends, and the list goes on.  Compared to the 6-8 hours a day she used to spend sitting at a desk quietly, walking the halls quietly, trying to eat her lunch in 20 minutes or less, and spend countless minutes, perhaps hours, a day 'transitioning', she is actually socializing in a way that makes practical sense.  When adults look to grow in a life area- they don't look to people who are at the same level- they look to those who are older, or wiser, or more experienced to provide advice.

Now all this to say, I'm not an anti-public school.  I have a teaching degree.  I went to public school 2-12th grade.  It works great for many families.  For some it is the only option.  I respect their choice, they have made it freely and have done what is best for their child at that time.  Perhaps even someday we will send our daughters back.  

When you can have a healthy and balanced discourse without spouting from the hip imaginary statistics and practice your brand of 'tolerance' than perhaps we can have a more profitable conversation.

What arguments have you faced in the world of homeschool vs public school.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Intentional Influence at Convention

As previously mentioned, my husband and I recently returned from our first trip to a homeschool convention.  It was a fantastic trip and I cannot rave enough about the uplifting and enriching experience it was.  

One of our reasons for homeschooling our children is to be making strides towards intentional influence- making  the most of life's opportunities to shepherd our children's hearts and minds towards Jesus and as productive members of our society.

As I prepared for convention I planned on going to sessions that would review (I have an elementary education degree so many pedagogical ideas are not completely new to me) or teach me how to engage my girls in math, reading, spelling, and WRITING (still the thorn in our flesh of homeschool at the moment).  

I highlighted sessions that I felt would train me to be the best teacher I could be to my children.  Then my husband encouraged me to look at the bigger picture.  I am their teacher of the three r's, yes, but I am first and foremost their mother.  I am their caretaker.  I have been given charge of these children, on loan from God, to train up in the ways of Him.  That is what the heart of intentional influence is all about after all.

After a disappointing first session on writing strategies, I shifted my strategy towards sessions that attracted me from the standpoint of a mother, wife, or Christ follower.  By enriching those areas of life, I knew that it would surely filter down and affect my role as teacher.  

I am so thankful my husband's wisdom was better than my surface desires.  I was so incredibly blessed by the sessions that engaged my soul, quenched my spiritual thirst, and encouraged my endeavor as a mother.  I know that these sessions while not "academic" in nature will have a profound impact on the environment of our home, our school, and our family's trajectory.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Homeschool Convention Trip Tips

At the end of April, my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend our first homeschooling convention.  Back in October I heard about Great Homeschool Conventions and found out that in Cincinnati Dr. Ben Carson was going to be speaking.  It was an experience I didn't want to pass up!

While utterly overwhelming at times, our experience was absolutely fantastic.  I highly recommend the GHC to anyone.  It was like a wonderful marriage and parenting conference through the lens of homeschool, though not always the focus.

Here are a few takeaways I wish I had known before my first homeschool convention.

1)  Wear comfortable shoes!  With the massive exhibit hall with concrete floors, walking to food establishments, and even the walk between meeting halls, comfortable shoes are a must.  I tried a cute pair of sandals one morning but quickly went back to my new go to comfy shoes- my Skecher Go Walks.

2)  Wear Comfortable Clothing!  I was not really sure what to wear to an event like this.  While you do have a wide range of clothing from the religious perspective, the general rule of thumb is go comfy and modest.  Sitting in chairs, walking a lot, and changes in temperature from varying rooms requires layers and easy clothing.  I found wearing a modest pair of capris (it was quite warm), nicer plain t, and a scarf were perfect for most areas.

3)  Look more at session leader descriptions instead of session titles:  I preplanned my sessions based more on session titles.  I wish I had paid more attention to the biographies of the speakers as I missed out on some key sessions because I didn't think the title meshed with my purpose.

4)  Look beyond academics.  I went to 1, count it one, purely academic session (and it ended up being my least favorite).  The others were more geared towards parenting and marriage.  I had not planned it that way, but that is what ended up enriching my time the most.  I left empowered, encouraged, and uplifted as a parent and wife which I believe will transcend into my teaching.

5) Be open about Curriculums.  I found that I gleaned a lot from talking to booths of curriculum or programs even if it was just to get a solid "not for me" in my head about the option.  That is just as confidence boosting as a "yes" in my mind.  I also learned about some options to keep in mind for the future when my kids are older or more multi level learning compatible.  I had some fantastic conversations from very passionate people that were enriching (even if I didn't end up being 'sold' on their product)

6)  Schedule breaks.  Sessions are great and can be tempting, but schedule meals, downtime, and even hall shopping or you will find yourself rushed, hungry, and so tired you can't even pay attention to any of the other sessions.

7)  Only buy if you are sure.  So much money could be so quickly spent on all of the wonderful educational and toy materials offered.  Only buy if you are sure you want to use it.  I knew exactly what I wanted for math and kindergarten programs so it made sense to buy to save on shipping costs (some booths offered small convention discounts as well as free shipping).  If you aren't sure on pricing comparison (especially on things like manipulatives) come back after you've done a price check back at your hotel room or on your smart phone.

8)  Bring Your Spouse.  My husband had a fantastic time.  He wasn't too sure about the whole homeschool convention as the idea of learning about writing strategies and building math fact fluency isn't his cup of tea.  We were so blessed to experience some of these great speakers together, talk about how to apply them in our marriage and general parenting, and just spend time together.  The couple sessions we separated were not nearly as fun as the ones we went to together.

9) Ask Others.  Two of our favorite sessions ended up by being referred to the speaker through stranger we met at convention (one eating at a shared table at lunch time in the hall the other in another session).  Use other attenders as resources.  Ask if they had any favorites as you wait in line at the gumbo station or stand on the escalator.  If nothing else, it may help you decide if you want to purchase the cd of the session.

10) Pack Extra Grace.  There will be long lines at lunch time.  There will be busy check out counters at your favorite booths.  There will be pushy sales people.  There will be crying babies in a session you are trying desperately to hear.  There will be packed full meeting rooms.  There will be sugar hyped children wielding swords.  Shower it all with grace.  Empty the expectations of perfection and go forward with the understanding that sometimes things don't always go as planned.  Remember you've had those days as a parent as well.  Grace abound will change your attitude and may make their day.

*Bonus #11, Meeting Dr. Carson and hearing him speak was pretty awesome!

Hip Homeschool Moms
Hip Homeschool Moms

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Distractions, Motivation, & Changes

I've heard many homeschooling parents want to quit at some point in November and February.  While I did not have those feelings this fall- I have feelings of failure, discouragement, and apathy in full force the past couple of weeks.  Whether the never ending snow storms and arctic temperatures, rounds of stomach flu and colds, or never ending transitions of childhood development have anything to do with it, I am not sure.  What I do know is that I have allowed distractions and the lack of motivation to deter my desire for the "why" of homeschooling to become less important than the "how's".

We have undergone many curriculum changes over the course of 6 weeks.  I began writing our own reading/writing curriculum based on the Samantha series from American girl which has been much better than any other reading we've done and has replaced the 'bust' of a program in WriteShop.  We began All About Spelling in early January and are doing quite well with it.  Izzy seems to be better at transferring spelling knowledge to her writing and her phonics understanding and ability to 'sound words out' has dramatically improved.  We are wrapping up CLE math 205 light unit and will be working through Horizons for awhile for a change of pace.  We started cursive handwriting.

In all of this curriculum change, our schedule has been uprooted and required changes that I'm still trying to catch up with.  Lucy, 14 months, has transitioned to 1 nap a day and is quite the explorer and destroyer when awake.  Therefore, most of our teacher intensive activities have to happen between 12:30 and 3:00 pm.  This is Izzy's least favorite time to do school.  I currently work for my husband 2 afternoons a week, so this has forced school to happen in the mornings while juggling a four year old and a very busy toddler.  At the point of exhaustion and exasperation I fight to just get the 'basics' done which has led to very little in the fun department (like art, experiments, etc).  And, embarrassingly, this has led to Bible being put not he back burner.  I wanted Bible lessons to be our priority- but the girls love doing crafts to go along with each lesson and I just don't know how to fit it all in.  Liliana has had to turn to the iPad to do learning games with her as I desperately seek time to teach Izzy new concepts.

All of these distractions and changes have caused Izzy's motivation (and my own I think) to slip, stating for the first time since we started this journey that she wants to return to public school.

My confidence is gone.  My enthusiasm dwindling.  And my intention for intentional influence on the lives of my girls seems to have evaporated.  But, I am not giving up.  With God's help we will work through this bump in the road and figure out what is best for our family, for the time being.  Every season of life will change the look of how we do school- I just need to keep the "why" as the filter for each decision.

I am hoping that verbalizing these frustrations and desires will help me set goals anew and finish the year strong.  Couple that with fresh new curriculum and perhaps our motivations will change and distractions minimized.

Some days look like this....
While others play out like this.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Late Fall of "Field Trips"

Once November hit in our house, it was a season of day to day survival.  Many of our 'extra' projects and fun crafts went out the window.  We worked hard on doubling up on lessons some days since many days would not have anything at all.  While December was filled with the typical holiday rush, we also add a birthday 12 days before and 5 days after Christmas.  Really.  Its like one big, never-ending party.  Despite the hustle and bustle and the desire to keep some sense of structure and learning- we made room for some experiences that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom or by reading a book.  One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was to be able to freely say 'yes' to opportunities like this.

In early November, Isabelle had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh to visit a children's home we have supported for many years which in turn allowed her to interact with 420 children and meet our three children whom we sponsor.  She went with her daddy, grandma, grandpa, a great aunt, a second cousin, an uncle, and a cousin who is about her age.  From the 24hrs+ of travel, new foods, new language, the heat, 11 hour time difference, and the flurry of that many children wanting to touch your pale skin and play with your blonde hair- it was quite the experience!  For our timid observer it was a stretch for her personality, but she did well after acclimating a couple of days.  She served the children meals, helped teach a song in chapel, danced Bangla, went to 'school' and learn some bangla words and writings, delivered gifts to sponsor children, played games of uno and double dutch, was the ultimate playmate, little sister, and even big sister to the children.  She showed God's love with a child like faith to the 'least of these'.  Her dad and I are so proud of how she handled herself and are so thankful she could take advantage of the opportunity.

In true 'homeschooling fashion' I had her journal while she was away.  Then, when she returned, we compiled her 5 favorite memories and wrote them in newspaper article form (It just so happened that our next unit in WriteShop was on newspaper narratives!).  It was a great way for her to process what she had done and seen and give her a chance to contemplate the 'why's' and feelings of it all.  It also gave me an opportunity to hear about what they did.

We squeezed in some good schooling in late November before Thanksgiving, but then early December we were off on a vacation with extended family.  18 travelers in all, including 8 kids under 10 and an 84 year old great grandma.  While I was tempted to do journalling or keep my eyes open for great learning opportunities, I decided that this field trip needed to be about just enjoying each other.  We watched our girls play in the sand, go down the watersides, and swim in the pools.  By being free to encourage and get excited with one another, Izzy finally warmed up to the idea of swimming independently.  We had done swim lessons in the summer which did not go over well (screaming and gnashing of teeth would be an understatement) but she was capable.  In her own time, she finally did it, swam across the pool, and was on her way.  By the end of the trip she was doing cannonballs and triple somersaults underwater in one breath.

What did I learn from all this?  Sometimes homeschooling adventures are about lifelong behaviors and reaching the heart of the children.  Sometimes it should just be about being.  Being 100% present as parents and cheerleaders and let kids just be kids.  Learning is still happening- sometimes more is gained when I stay out of the way.  Perhaps times of intentional 'absence' as a 'teacher' are the most influential.

I'm linked up at the Hip Homeschool Hop this week!  Check out the other great posts!