Monday, September 12, 2011

wedding frenzy

We are at the 12 day mark until Josh and Amy's wedding.  I am in the midst of sewing dresses this week.  Last week I finished my part in getting their apartment renovated, although I am sure a few plumbing items are going to pop up before its all said and done....

So, what about homeschool?  It's been going on at a slower pace.  Essie has helped me out by guiding the little ones through their lessons.  Caleb has had a few "instructional" lessons at Home Depot with me.   I'm sorry but I love Home Depot, I love the smell of lumber and WD-40!!  :)   (Thanks Dad!)

Next week will be exciting and crazy and everything else that goes into a wedding....SO, if any of you happen to think of us, say a prayer!   I'll get back to homeschooling in full swing and blogging in October.

Til then, enjoy and breathe...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

what I hope to use this year...

My "curriculum" list for this school year is going to look something like this... I hope : ) 

For Everyone-
     Mystery of History, volume 3
     Truth and Grace - scripture memory work

For Esther, Isaac & Sarah-
     Apologia's "Exploring Creation with Astronomy"

For Caleb (9th grade specifically)-
     Saxon's Algebra 1/2 and 1 (he's determined to get "caught up")
     Apologia's Biology

For Esther -
    Saxon's 7/6 math

For Caleb & Esther-
     Lively Latin
     Phys. Ed.  (various team sports and work-outs at the YMCA)
          Spelling Power
          Roots on the Vine
          Daily Grammar
          "Elements of Literature" lapbook
          "A Peek at Poetry"  lapbook
          Shakespeare's "A MidSummer's Night Dream"
          Research paper process
            probably have them each pick a Biome to research - want to deal with
            facts not opinions at this point
          4 book reports on books of their choosing.
     "Reformation" unit lapbook - correlates with Mystery of History
     "Mary, Queen of Scots" lapbook - correlates with Mystery of History

For Isaac & Sarah
     The Arithmetic Primer then Saxon's Math 2 when ready
     Dinosaur unit study
     various animal lapbooks  - hedgehogs, penquins, polarbears
     Copywork from Scripture, AAMilne, Aesop, RLStevenson, Mother Goose etc.
     Reading skills
          using resources such as "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons",
          Scholastics phonics readers,  
          the "Bob" books and Step 1-2 and Level 1-2 books  
     Reading (by me to them)
          "Redwall", "The Hobbit",  "Arabian Nights", stories from C.S. Lewis,
          Hans Christian Andersen and
          other classic fairy tales (not Disney - nothing against Disney, just want
          them to know about the
          originals that Disney "modifies")
     Literature lapbooks - Flat Stanly, The Horse and His Boy, A Fish Out of Water, etc...
     Journal writing (and coloring /dictating)
     Spelling Power - in January for Isaac

I'll have to check back at the end of the year and see how we did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

beginning the new school year

First days back to school were always exciting ones to me as a child growing up.  I was pleased to notice that my kids were happy to start back to school too- even if school was just downstairs!  A few things that worked for me, maybe they will help you too...

Start back easy for the entire first week.  If you are chomping at the bit to dive into all that great curriculum you spent a fortune on, don't worry, be patient, it will still be there next week.  Likewise, if you spent all spring and summer downloading free unitstudies and lapbooks, and have everything sorted and cut out, glue sticks and colored pencils ready, relax, take a deep breath and start easy.   You will all burn out by Friday if you go at it like a race horse out of the starting gate!

On our first "first day" of homeschooling I gathered the kids around me, we opened in prayer, sang familiar songs, started learning our first Bible verse and then we went on a "field trip".  We didn't go far or spend much but they were thrilled!  Afterall, for Caleb and Esther, their old school friends were sitting at desks in a hot stuffy room, and nobody ever went on a field trip the first day of school : )

Last year we had an end-of-summer "Pirate Party" with bandana's, eyepatches, and little sandwich boats with cheese slices for sails.  We read a pirate story, did some pirate crafts and happily entered into a new year of learning.

This year was more relaxed.  The girls had been asking me for a week to start school already... humm why do the boys never ask that?  I had individual "conferences" with Caleb and Esther.  As Caleb is starting high school this year we sat down to plan the next four years of his learning experience.  We looked at what the state requires students to accomplish.  We also looked at what the college he hopes to go to requires.   We talked about the SAT and GED exams and I reassured him that he will be ready for those tests and he will succeed.  I discussed with Esther the plans for her schooling this year and we discovered together her need to feel more organized, so we sat at the computer and created a planner to carry her through the year with all the little details she wanted.  Of course by the time I finished with individual conferences and planning, Isaac and Sarah went to night school : ) LOL   This morning everyone was up, showered, and dressed. They had their coffee and they were ready to begin again...

Yes, we started early.  I know what our year is going to hold and we will need more time off than usual at the start of it, so.... hold on, here we go, off like a herd of happy turtles!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

family-style curriculum

In my "Introduction" post I had mentioned something called "family-style curriculum".   This concept is very important to me as I am trying to teach 4 young minds and I am only 1 person.  The beauty of these pieces of curriculum that I purchased is simply this:  I read 1 lesson to all 4 kids together and then they have activities based on their ages.  This post will focus on the curriculum I chose for History.

The series is called "The Mystery of History" by Linda Lacour Hobar.   /  She writes from a Christian worldview.  She does it respectfully to all Christian faiths.  She also does a wonderful job presenting what the other faiths believe as she goes through the world history.  There are currently three volumes available in print and the author is working on the final fourth volume [hopefully due out before next year when I'll need it : )]

We started with her second volume, which covered the Early Church and the Middle Ages.  The text is broken up into 28 weeks of lessons in which she includes pretests, biweekly post tests that alternate with biweekly review exercises, a time to make Memory Cards for each lesson of the week, and finally the activities section.  She also includes a wonderful semester review and test and a final review and test.

Each lesson that you read is written as if Ms. Hobar was right there talking to you and your children.  She even includes warning notes if something might be too intense for younger or more sensitive children so you can skip over that section and continue reading without realizing too late.  On the average, I would read maybe two pages per lesson.  It took me about 15-20 minutes (including the usual kid interruptions) to read out loud.

I would use the pretest, post test and biweekly review with only Caleb and Esther.   Sometimes we would do it orally and other times I would run it off and have them do it on paper so I would have something to file.  Speaking of which, she recommends each child having a 3-ring binder with 8 tab page dividers, labeled by the 7 Continents and miscellaneous (that's where their tests and review sheets go).

Memory cards are very important in family style learning.  Memory cards are simply 3x5 index cards that the kids record what they remember from the lesson.  Caleb and Esther would record their own card.  Isaac would dictate what he remembered to me.  (Sarah just drew pictures, especially of princesses and castles.)  The older kids would use these later when filling in a review worksheet.  It also helps you to see what is getting through to them and maybe point out an important highlight they might have missed.

The activities section is usually broken into three sections:  younger, middle, and older students.  This allows you the flexibility to use one curriculum yet meet all the age levels you are teaching.  The younger kids may have a simple coloring activity while the older ones might have a detailed mapping activity or a fun web search.

The one thing I like the most about this series is that it is completed in 4 books.  We started with Volume 2 last year.   This year we will do Volume 3.  Hopefully, if it's completed, Volume 4 next year.  Then we will go back to the beginning of the series and start Volume 1.  The year after that we will repeat volume 2 with the understanding that Isaac and Sarah who were four years younger the first time they heard it, will now be at a higher level of understanding and will take in more information.

One more item that is a wonderful supplement to this series is putting together each child's own copy of a Time Line Notebook... but that is for another post! :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

on a budget?

     If you are homeschooling on a tight budget, as I am, then I have to tell you about my favorite website...   It is a wonderful site that specializes in literature based lapbooks and unit studies.  AND IT IS ALL FREE!!! 

     If you are new to homeschooling then that previous sentence probably sounded like I was speaking Greek...  Let me take it from the beginning...

     "Homeschool Share" is a site created by Homeschooling moms who share all of their wonderful wisdom and insight with you (for free - no hidden fees or user membership dues... well I suppose you could argue its not totally free because you have your own printer expenses of ink and paper and you also need to buy file folders and gluesticks - but on their end it's free).

     "Literature based" means simply that you pick a story from their list (and they have a list that goes from PreK through middle-school and beyond), get the book (from your own shelf or the library), download the packet of information they have prepared and do the lessons.  Generally it takes about one week to accomplish.

     "Lapbooks" and "Unit Studies" are two ways of learning and preserving the lessons learned.  "Lapbooks" are basically file folders that you refold and glue all these little mini snippets of information into.  "Lapbooks" can be used with just one story or combined with a "unit study".  "Unit Studies" are based more on one topic and use two or more stories on that subject, with the "lapbook" as the method of recording all the lessons learned.
    Within each story you read or "unit study" you do, many different elements of education are covered from science, history, writing, handwriting, and practical math.  They also include links to other sites with correlating material, maybe coloring pages and games or recipes and even videos. 
     The following pictures are of one that my kids did together on Volcanos.   It is from their website and it is a combined "unit study" with a  "lapbook".
the cover

this lapbook used 2 file folders

we also used a "flap" that we taped on for the extra information.

      I used this one with all 4 of my kids.  The little ones listened to the story and enjoyed coloring in pieces, while the older 2 acted as "secretaries" and recorded all of the answers.  Everybody helped glue things in place.   Sometimes we will do one lapbook altogether.  Other times they will do individual lapbooks.  Later on they really love to go back over their lapbooks and remember the fun things they learned.

     I really encourage you to check out their website and to give lapbooking a try!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Journey - Introductions

     I want to use this blog to record our journey as we homeschool.  We are finishing our 2nd year and looking forward to this new year.  The 1st year was wonderful...the "honeymoon" so to speak of our new lifestyle.  The 2nd year... well let's just say the "honeymoon" was over!  :)  I had heard that would happen though, so I wasn't disappointed.  I am really looking forward to this year.  I know I haven't messed up my kids (yet) but I am ready to tackle some of the issues in their education that fell a little short.  
     All in all I have 7 kids+...Josh just graduated college, commissioned in the Army, became engaged and then they moved home to help Dad pastor our little New England church... Anna is a Junior at Bible college and she and her boyfriend come home every weekend to run our youth program at church... Stephen is a Junior at our local public high school - he chose to stay in the public system when we began this journey. Caleb, Esther, Isaac, & Sarah have been my students here at home for the last two years.Caleb & Esther I pulled out of public school when they had finished 6th and 4th grades.  Isaac & Sarah have never been to public school.

     I generally teach them in 2 groups;  Isaac & Sarah together, Caleb & Esther together, and we really enjoyed some family style curriculum this past year for history and science.  Caleb & Esther have worked out of the same math book, just at different speeds.  I am hoping in future blogs to give reviews of the curriculum I use and to share styles and methods that have worked for me.   I have found homeschooling blogs to be so helpful to me in my part of this journey so far.  I really want to be able to give back and help others who are starting on this journey of educating their children at home.  It is so worthwhile!