Homeschool Blog

  • Yesterday's field trip, today's art

    Submitted by Homeschool on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 11:46am

    We were able to go on a tour of the Sea Life aquarium at the Mall of America with a local homeschool group. The discount rate was really nice and going along with friends was lovely, too! It also allowed us to get a behind the scenes look at the tanks, the lab, and the kitchen where the food is prepared for the animals. What fun!

    The souvenir I purchased from the gift shop was a Melissa and Doug stencil set. William wasn't excited about it at the time with all the other "cool" stuff to look at. But sure enough, today he spent a good hour making all the different critters and they turned out awesome!

    We also discussed the W questions (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and he answered them about the tour in his journal for a writing activity.

    I think we need to go on more trips! It really inspires learning. Today it's the local radio station with another homeschool tour. William also has a Lego class this afternoon through community ed. What a busy day!

  • Curriculum

    Submitted by Homeschool on Tue, 10/04/2011 - 12:07am

    After my last entry, I feel the need to clarify my feelings about curriculum. I'm very thankful that there is a lot of good curriculum out there. It is great for classroom teachers, especially when they are new to their grade level. There are always way more good ideas than anyone could ever use. It is great that a teacher, unexperienced in education, can pick up a curriculum and teach the necessary concepts. The dangers with curriculum are many. They can easily turn the learning process into a dry, rote method of completing work. I have also seen them do the same for the teaching process. They often have great enrichment ideas that are never even explored by teachers who get into the rut of daily lesson plans. Teachers who are in a rut are not inspiring to learners. In the education world, teachers are too highly trained to depend so much on curriculum. I believe it does a disservice to our children, our teachers, and our education systems when we adhere too strictly to them. In homeschool, we have the luxury of being able to go at our own pace, do what we are interested in, and spend large amounts of time on a project that we can delve into deeply. I know what my child needs to know, in large part because of my education background. Also because I know my child. A lot of homeschooling parents haven't been trained in how to build a foundation of understanding in each subject area. And for that, I'm thankful for curriculum.

    In our case, my son just completed the Peabody Assessment which was administered by a woman locally in her home while I observed. It took a little over an hour. It took a little longer than average for us because William likes to take his time. And also because he is well above grade level in all subjects and in this test they need to get a certain number of questions wrong before each section of the test will stop. After a while, I was rooting for him to get questions wrong so he could be done - especially in the reading comprehension section. I'm assuming if we do this test again next year it will take less time since she knows where he was at this year. But my point is that the last thing my son needs is a second grade curriculum or even a third grade curriculum, thank you very much :)

    My son needs real life experiences. He needs to take his hard earned money and go to Target. He needs to play the piano. He needs to run outside and ride his bike. He needs to play with his friends. He needs to train his new puppy. He needs to learn to behave appropriately in a variety of situations. He needs to learn to greet people. He needs to learn to take turns when talking. He needs to eat well. And sleep well. He needs to be loved and cherished. He needs to realize his talents. And accept his faults. He needs to learn to persevere through frustration. And know when and how to ask for help. These types of goals are ones that we believe we can work on best at home and it's going great!

  • Pet peeve

    Submitted by Homeschool on Fri, 09/23/2011 - 9:43pm

    Yes, I already have a homeschooling pet peeve. I guess there are some in every crowd, but I thought that maybe the homeschooling crowd would be less-so because there are as many types of, and reasons for, homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. And I would think I would be surrounded by other people who were all about paving their own way and bucking the system. But homeschool parents who, maybe because I'm new to homeschooling, are quick to let me know what I'm "going to want to do" or "should do" or generally offer unsolicited advice, really irk me. Possibly this offends me because I have more experience educating than most of the parents I've met, and more higher education than most, and more education in the field of education than most. But most likely it bothers me just because it assumes a lot and sounds arrogant. When someone finds out that I like the unschooling approach, they need not offer opinions against unschooling or direct me to a curriculum I would want to use. Did they not just listen? I hope I don't degrade their curriculum choices, even though listening to people talk about canned curriculum is like listening to nails on a chalkboard for me. Maybe it's because I've had a lot of training and practice working with adults and discussing the most personal of topics, parenting, with groups. I have no doubt that I have said things in a way that offends people. Maybe other people get irritated when people say what works for them. Personally, I'd be much happier if people, if they don't like the unschooling approach or love their curriculum, just said that! It irks me when other parents, because they've schooled their X number of children at home for Y number of years, proclaim to know how _I_ am going to want to teach _my_ child, who is undoubtedly unique from every one of their X number of children just as I am not the same parent they are. And that is my soapbox. I'll step off now.

  • The best 50 cents I've spent...

    Submitted by Homeschool on Wed, 09/14/2011 - 11:54pm

    on homeschool materials.

    These rainbow sticky notes that I found on clearance at the Target dollar spot are awesome! They make the perfect sized checklist for a second grader - not too overwhelming. I put two really short, simple tasks at the top for him to complete first thing in the morning. (Don't we all feel great when we can cross things off a list?!?!) And then there are two other tasks to do before we do something fun, like choose a science experiment, play a game, or go for a walk. But honestly, he usually loves most everything on the list. Practicing piano is never a chore to him. Although I can tell he enjoys seeing his accomplishments in writing. And so far these colorful notes have been a huge help for keeping William on task when most of what he does, he can do independently. The time spent at night putting out his materials and his sticky note is time well spent!

  • Exhausted

    Submitted by Homeschool on Fri, 09/09/2011 - 4:22pm

    This week we've been more intentional about making sure we're covering a variety of subjects each day and keeping track of our learning in a journal. We have had a few battles about not wanting to do or complete certain things. But frequent breaks to play in the park, free time to play legos, trips to the store to spend birthday money, and snacks and exercise as needed have been helping. So far, William likes homeschool. The fall activities are gearing up with the local homeschool association. This week we had homeschool play group at the park, piano lessons and chess club. Next week we will have our first co-op where parents take turns teaching different subject to small groups with another parent on hand as a helper. All these things are new adventures, which is stressful and exhausting, especially with a 3 1/2-year-old in tow. Each time will get easier, but right now I need a nap! It's nice that Eliana is starting back at her daycare two mornings a week and her ECFE class also starts next week. One-on-one time with the kids is really a treat!

  • The First Day of School

    Submitted by Homeschool on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 2:53pm

    People keep asking me when we start school. My best answer would be that we started the day we decided to homeschool. Darren was asking how we get a first day of school picture like everyone is posting online lately.

    Our first day of homeschool

    This has to be the closest we can come. It was on our summer road trip to Arkansas, which started on the last day of first grade, that we made the decision to school William at home for second grade. Since then it has been a gradual easing into what school will mean to us.

    He has learned a lot over the summer. This past weekend he got to tour Charles Lindbergh's boyhood home, which was a great bit of history and inspired him to want to visit our county history museum. We have been meeting lots of homeschooled friends and doing a ton of educational activities. Now that fall is upon us, summer activities are over, and school is starting for me again. Our routines will become more predictable for the next 8-9 months. One part of this new routine will involve practicing math facts, which have been getting rusty this summer. And generally keeping better track of what we are covering. But, as I've said before and will say again, we are always doing school. For example, today William:

    Made and mailed a Thank You card (language arts)
    Went to OT (phy. ed)
    Read a science magazine about robots (science/reading)
    Went to homeschool play group (recess/social skills)
    Did a printmaking project (art)

    Take-out container print making

    While I typed this, he and Eliana played the Lego board game he got for his birthday and colored some pictures in her Tangled coloring book. He just complimented her on changing colors rather than coloring everything on the page one color. So sweet!

    I'm trying to be careful not to let lesson planning get in the way of learning!

  • Exploring our community

    Submitted by Homeschool on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 11:11pm

    The last couple of weeks have been very relaxed around here. We've been able to take our mornings slow and spend some long hours exploring our community. There have been hours spent in parks and the library. My kids both enjoy park adventures. We have taken long walks through rarely traversed areas of popular local parks while learning about the history of the area. I have been able to show my children my high school and college campuses. They have learned about their mom's history. Since we live in the community where their dad went to school, they often get to hear about his school and sports history. And since football season is starting, we will be spending many weekend days on Dad's college campus. Learning has been such an important part of our lives, I like being able to show our children how much we value our educations.

    William has certainly inherited that love of learning. He is constantly asking questions and wanting to look up answers. I wish I could keep up with him. I hope he keeps this inquisitive nature and love of learning. This is one of the reasons we are choosing to homeschool. We want to give him that time to pursue his learning, which he does readily with minimal encouragement.

    The biggest challenge for me in homeschooling him is going to be to protect the blocks of time that he is going to need to be a productive learner. With all that is available to homeschooling families in our area, I am finding that our time is filling up quickly. And with two children's schedules to manage, it sure gets busy. He will have two big blocks of self guided learning time to work at the desk across from his dad who works from home 3 days a week while I teach a class and attend a class with Eliana. I am grateful that he'll have this time with no one getting in his way. Obviously his dad works well that way, too. I'll have Eliana in daycare one morning by herself, so I'll have that time with William alone. The times that both children are home, she is going to learn a lot, too. William is a great teacher, helping her learn to ride her bike and coaching her to play games that are way above her level. She has grown leaps and bounds this summer.

    I have learned so much about my kids this summer, I am thankful that I don't have to send them off to a stranger who doesn't know how they learn best, what they already know, and what motivates them. I am thankful that we get to continue tomorrow right were we left off today.

  • Summer "school"

    Submitted by Homeschool on Fri, 07/22/2011 - 2:36pm

    This summer has been a blast! William has been really busy. Electronics Camp was the highlight of last week. This week we started swimming lessons. Next Tuesday he'll have his last piano lesson for the summer. And soccer ended last week already! Our homeschool park days will continue and hopefully we'll be able to make it to more of them as our activites gradually end. We've started scheduling our own play dates with one family who has children my kids' ages. That's been really nice as they tend to socialize more in a smaller group.

    We've revived our use of the website now that Accelerated Reader will not be available to us. The site has an amazing number of reading comprehension quizzes. It keeps track of the child's score and they offer some incentives or you can come up with your own. We will probably go out for ice cream when he reaches 1,000 points.

    This morning we didn't have any activities planned. It was lovely to sleep in and let William go ahead and watch cartoons if he wanted. Well, he didn't (and he often makes a different choice.) This morning when I got up he had written an amazing silly story and created a talking fish by adapting ideas found in a craft book we checked out at the library. For more details on these projects, check out William's blog post today. I was very proud of him for correcting some of his own spelling (he looked in books to find out how to spell "said" when he couldn't remember.) He also used his problem solving skills when he realized his tape was on time out (because it didn't get put away) and he needed some for his project. He took a piece from another project and reused it! I should sleep in more often ;)

  • Fun with music

    Submitted by Homeschool on Sat, 07/09/2011 - 12:45am

    One of our favorite school subjects is music. An entertaining addition to our homeschooling adventure this week has been karaoke! I found a fun, free website where you can do karaoke on your home computer. The words scroll across the screen... great for reading fluency! And you earn a score based on how well you hit the notes (learning numbers into the thousands place). It even shows if you are singing too high or too low. I've already noticed an improvement in William's singing. There are tutorials that teach good technique for breathing and posture. We invested in a cool rock star microphone that was shipped today! Hopefully it will make better recordings, which are great for critiquing your own articulation and performance. It should be a good confidence builder. Not to mention, it's a ton of fun!

  • Prayer corner

    Submitted by Homeschool on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 11:42am

    This morning we created a prayer corner in our home. When we first brought up the idea of homeschooling with William, he was resistant not because he would miss his friends but because we didn't have a little chapel area. He went on to explain in detail their little alter space in their classroom. Well, sheesh, I said, we can create an alter! So this morning we dug out a little side table we've had put away for a few years. The kids helped decorate it with all those lace doilies we got for our wedding 14 years ago that have been in the hall cabinet. They would've entirely covered those with candles if I hadn't drawn the line at 5. We also added a cross and an angel. On the shelves next to the table are bibles, devotional books, and bible stories. And I almost forgot the best part - the candle snuffer! If I could just remember where that came from... The kids were really excited to try out our new space. Mommy got to light the candles. We flipped open our children's bible and it came to the story of Joseph. Then we did a little devotional about trusting God's word. After a short prayer, it was time to put out the candles!!! I look forward to having this spot for the kids to go spend their own quiet time with the bible. I might just use it myself.

    I've prepared some other spaces around the house for homeschooling. I put together a more organized storage system for writing tools and art supplies, which was much needed. And last weekend I finished cleaning up my neglected desk area downstairs so William can work by Dad when I have to teach.

    We're having a lot of fun on our homeschool adventure. Time to get ready to go to the library. We are out of A to Z mysteries!