Wednesday, October 15, 2014

handling the questions...

How do you know if you measure up, how do you handle the 'what grade are they in' question, how do you know if you are covering everything that needs to be covered, how do you know you didn't accidentally miss something along the way...

These are questions I have been asked, I myself ask, and wrestle with continually.  Anytime you do something different than how the majority of people do something, there are going to be questions, concerns, comments etc;  Something I have learned on this journey is that no two homeschools will look the same.  That's the beauty of homeschooling.  Some people choose traditional textbook routes, some people unschool, some people pick and choose, some people ascribe to a method (Charlotte Mason or Classical), and some people order a ready made full curriculum and everything in between. 

For us, we bounce around between classical method, with picking and choosing, and ready made curriculums :).  So, in order to cover my bases and make sure they are getting what they need, I have this awesome thing called The Checklist.  Cindy Downes created it.  I discovered it years ago when a friend mentioned it and love it.  You can use it no matter what state you live in, it is just an awesome resource.

I also wanted to mention The Well Planned Day planner.  I have tried various planners over the years, but this one has worked for me for the past three years.  Oh and Donna Young has an awesome website where you can print out great resources for your various record keeping needs.  Free of charge!  I jot down what we get done as we do it.  I make the plans in pencil (FINALLY learned that lesson...just two years ago actually) and then mark down in pen what we actually complete.  I usually just write the pages read (or wkbk completed) or time spent on a lesson and sometimes a small note if it is something I need to delve into more on my side (find more examples, books, resources etc;).  Giving yourself homework is a good thing, I love finding new ways to explain something...that moment when it clicks, well there isn't anything like it. 

No matter what you choose, just remember that although sometimes the questions feel daunting and the days long, the years truly are short.  Hang in there, enjoy your kiddos, and take the questions as they come.  You aren't going to please everyone, focus on loving your kids well, teaching them thoroughly and remember if one approach doesn't work, come at it from a different angle.  No two kids learn alike or at the same pace. Be patient.  Pray...a LOT.  Keep seeking answers, don't give up.  Work really hard, they copy you way more than you think they do. They will learn and thrive and it will all be worth it in the end :)

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Ahhhh science.  I am not sure where to begin because we do a wide eclectic mix of things.  I guess I will just point out a few that have stood out to us over the years.

Apologia series.  We have used and really like several of Jeannie Fulbright's books.

Sonlight.  We bought one year of their Science curriculum.  It was ok, my kids loved the read alouds they chose for it.  I prefer a more traditional route like Jeannie Fulbright's textbooks, but I do have to say my oldest still remembers a lot from that year...four years later, so that's a definite plus.

Biographies.  This is SO important!  I cannot recommend this enough.  Kids need to be exposed to the men and women behind the ideas, theories, concepts, and scientific facts as much and as often as they do the ideas, theories, concepts and scientific facts themselves.  We really like the Who was or Who is...series.  They are perfect for an introduction into these neat men and women of science. Such a neat website!

Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia.  Love, love, love this resource.

Science Activities Vol. 1,2,3. We only own these three, I am not sure if there are more?  But we really, really like the experiments (when we make time to do them, it's hard, but worth the effort)

Nature study.  Not enough room to write down all of the awesome resources there are for this.  A few top mentions...The Handbook of Nature Study and this blog, The people...series (The Pond People, The Night People...), and finally Holling C. Holling books (this could be a cross over for geography too).  These are our top favorites.

I want to do a post on study aids all by itself,  but I want to mention one thing we do for science that seems to help.  We have a huge stack of plain Manila folders (the beige color ones).  On the tab I label it a topic, example would be bones for anatomy class.  Then I have my kids take notes, paste and glue examples, use cloud or mind mapping, illustrate it etc;  they use post-it's for a peek a boo type thing, they make pouches for little pockets to tuck stuff into, fold outs etc;, much like a notebooking page, just inside a file folder instead of on a piece of paper.  They have a small file folder box they keep their info in for quick study/review.  They pull them out and take them when we have unexpected dr. appts., errands to run, unavoidable interruptions etc;

Monday, October 6, 2014

Language Arts

Grammar, writing, reading ... I love language arts.  Right now, we are in a transition period for language arts.  I decided to just share what we've done in the past that has worked for us, but will wait to share what we are embarking on until I have a little experience using the new tools with my kids.

First Language Lessons.  These four books by Jessie Wise are a great introduction into grammar.  The text is completely scripted out for you, the memorization goals are clearly outlined, and the content is long enough to cover what you need, short enough to keep the kiddos engaged.

Writing With Ease.  This series by Susan Wise Bauer is a great introduction into dictation, summarizing what you've read/comprehension, types of writing (narrative, informative, narrative/informative), and offers many rich examples of solid sentence construction.

Spalding Method.  We have used this for learning to read (my two oldest), for spelling, handwriting, and a bit of their writing/reading portion.  This is intensive, time consuming (preparing lessons, teaching them, and learning for parent/teacher and kids it requires a lot of effort), but it worked for my two oldest.

Handwriting.  Writing wizzard apps on the iPad are phenomenal.  Spalding method teaches their own handwriting and we've used textured touch and trace flashcards as well.

Vocabulary.  Using a pencil and underling words in books as we read aloud or as they read silently and then utilizing the dictionary (and index cards if additional reminders are needed) is the most fruitful thing that we do to enrich their vocabulary.  Wordly Wise 3000 is another awesome tool.  We have used (and continue to use) both the workbooks and the app (for review, practice, and quizzes using the word lists from the workbooks).

OK, I think that's it for now, have a great week.

Read Alouds

Ahhhh my favorite part of the day.

They encompass every subject we study from history to Bible to math.  They are an amazing avenue to reach my children's hearts, a way to stimulate their minds, an amazing way to awaken and feed their curiosity, their creativity, and an endless source for their imaginations.  They knit our hearts together, give us awesome topics of conversation, and help us crawl out of our own limited perspective and see the world through someone else's.  Read alouds are one of the singly most important things I do as a homeschool mom.

With that said how do I choose which books to read?  How do I organize it all and make sure they are getting what they need?  Well, that's easier said than done.  But I have a list of go-to websites, books, and blogs that have blessed us richly over the years.  Also don't be afraid to ask your family, friends, and favorite bloggers what they are reading.  Keep your eyes peeled for those awesome posts that say something to the effect of 'what's on my shelf right now'...

Here are my top favorites in no particular order:
Simple Homeschool
Sarah Clarkson's book Read For The Heart
Ambleside Online
Charlotte Mason Help

There are so, so many more awesome websites, these are just the ones I use every single year to guide our selections.  Happy reading!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Homeschool helps

We are seven and a half-ish years into this journey.  It has been full of ups and downs...good days, awesome days, hard days, awful days...and everything in between.  I want to start blogging more about what we've learned along the way, because more times than not a break through came when one mom was brave enough and generous enough to share their struggle and what (eventually) worked for them.

I wish someone had told me starting off (& in all fairness, maybe they did & I just didn't pay attention) but I wish I had known that in order to get the beauty you have to have lots and lots of mundane days stacked upon each other.  What I mean by that is that in order to get to the beauty of being able to curl up with a good book and get lost in a world completely different than our own, we'd have to have days and days and days of working of phonograms or sight words etc;  Now I know that there are many great readers who just seem to be born with the ability to pick up reading, it's as if they go from learning their ABC's to reading full sentences overnight.  I have friends whose kids have done this, that's just not been our experience.  And mundane isn't all bad, look at all of the mundane chores we do each day to keep our life running (somewhat) smoothly.

Today I will start off in a History. We use three things that have made all the difference in the world to us.  The first is The Story of the World, the second is The Atlas of World History, and the third is a homemade anchor chart coupled with a review day.

We stumbled around for a few years before we settled on the four book series called The Story of The World by Susan Wise Bauer.  Then last year, I think it was last year, I saw a post on Simple Homeschool talking about a book called the Kingfisher Atlas of World History.  This book has been awesome for our history classes.  Last year we started the history cycle again and I added the last step.  I make an anchor chart (if you don't know what anchor charts are, I will be doing a post on them next, love, love these.  For now just google or check Pinterest, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of awesome ideas out there for every single subject) but I make an anchor chart using cloud mapping and we start tracking important dates, names etc; around each central theme that we cover.  For example our first central theme was the fall of Rome/ the rise of the Byzantine Empire.  About once a week or week and a half we will spend most of our history class reviewing what we've already learned and tying it all together.

These three simple things have helped us tremendously, my kids are excited and engaged in learning about history and they remember it.  I don't have to test them to see that, I hear them in their play, building and renovating the Hagia Sophia.  I see it in the excitement in their eyes and hear the depth of understanding in the questions they ask.  I do have them keep notebooks for each subject.  They are supposed to notebook pages after we read, but sometimes we get wrapped up in the story, lose track of time, and when that happens we just make the notebook pages on our review days.

* one small note! I have my older kids also use The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia to supplement and they make their own outlines as they go.  I got this idea from The Well Trained Mind (another awesome homeschool book).