Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

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Home and Family, Homeschooling

Change is a good thing!

One of the challenges of living as a homeschooling family is the reality that you spend LARGE quantities of time together.  While that is a tremendous blessing, it can also be hard.  And same-y.  Daily anything can become a drag.  This summer as you spend time together, and during your planning for the coming academic year, insert some change.  (If you have children that depend on a routine, plan ahead, and let them know what is coming!)

  • Take a few days and reverse your meals.  Have dinner for breakfast, and vice versa, or eat outside.
  • Plan your meals using different themes.  Try all finger foods for a day.  Or add a previously untried fruit/vegetable at each meal. Don’t turn on your stove for 24 hours, but still eat at home.
  • Introduce a different culture’s cuisine every few days, and learn to make food from another part of the world, or explore the same basic food from different countries.  Some foods appear in most places, just in a different form.  Sandwiches become quesadillas, bao, etc.  Looks for examples of soups, one-dish meals, salads, pies (sweet and savory), or desserts.  YUM!
  • If you generally spend Friday running errands, pick a different day of the week, or check out a few less-familiar stores.  You never know what you might be missing!
  • If you live in a “touristy” area, become a tourist for a day and explore all those places people come from all over the country to visit.
  • Spend time at a different local swimming pool, library, or park.
  • If you can have access to them, teach your children to use a typewriter, or carbon paper, or use a slate and chalk for a day rather than paper and pencil.
  • Have a game day as a family.  No academics.  Minimal chores.  Easy meals.  Play games together-board games, card games, go outdoors and learn hopscotch and jacks and kick-the-can.  Laugh together.

As we open up the world to our children, we encourage them to think a little differently.  Flexibility is a requirement in today’s craziness!  Take some time as a family, and develop some together!

Homeschooling

Let’s DO school!

It’s that time again.  Homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and planning.  Lots of planning.  I remember worrying as a young homeschool mom that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or enough (or too much?), or that I didn’t have everything I needed in order to truly teach my children the things that would best serve them for their future.  Now I watch as my daughters and friends do the same thing.  When I began our homeschooling journey in 1991, there were few resources available.  Scraping curriculum together took time and hunting.  Fast forward 24 years. There are so many options available now, it is enough to make your head spin!  Two thoughts I have had in the last few weeks as I watch this dance happening around me:

First-There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  Often we think we have failed, when the failure is in the book…or box…or file.  There are very few prepackaged kits that I would regard as safe bets for just about anyone, and often those will still need tweaking a bit depending on the child.  Stop looking for perfection; consistency is what can make the difference!

As plans are made for the upcoming year, take time to DO things.  Math often makes more sense with manipulative use.  Grammar seems plainer with diagramming if you have a visual learner.  Science is more easily remembered, and more enjoyable, if you get out there and experience it rather than expecting facts to be absorbed by simply reading a book. Go to the zoo.  Dig for rocks.  Lie on the ground and observe the night sky.  Experiment in the kitchen.  Go on field trips to make your studies come alive.  Take regular breaks and get the whole gang moving.  Run up and down the stairs as you drill math facts.  Take a walk and practice observational skills.  OUr children need to learn to cook and do laundry as well as diving into academic studies. Jump on a mini-tramp between subjects for a quick brain break. Role-play or act out history lessons. Duck walk as you review spelling lists or phonics rules.    Doing wakes up the brain, increases retention, and the ensuing giggles aren’t bad either.

As you spend time exploring the world and all its wonders, remember to keep active verbs in the mix.  Do. Try. Experiment. Observe. Move. Fail. Laugh. Create things: messes, meals, and memories for a lifetime.  And cut yourself some slack.  It’s not up to you to find the perfect books, or be the perfect parent, or have the perfect family.  The only perfection we will ever attain will not come from us.  It comes from He who wants us to succeed.  Lean on Him, and go DO something!

Homemaking, Homeschooling

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

I had a discussion with a young homeschooling mom this week about curriculum planning and development.  After exploring her daughter’s interests, strengths, struggles, and individual quirks, it became apparent that traditional seat work was not the best method for her.  She is active, personable, bright, obsessed with animals and art, and generally delightful!  Spelling, language, and science worksheets are of no interest to her, and cause the family school time to be uninspiring and, ultimately, discouraging.  She needs art, geography that is associated with the natural world, spelling that involves her whole body, and tons of experiential learning.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when Mom looked at me, and expressed that what she was looking for (without realizing it) was permission to allow her daughter to be herself, and throw away the mold!

While I am NOT a fan of allowing children to lead out in their education, nor do I advocate beginning the school year without a plan, I do wonder how much more we would all learn if we accepted who we (and our children) are, how we learn, and focused on our strengths rather than the areas which need work.  Math, science, language arts, geography, manners, etc. need to be taught, and even the least favorite subjects are required, but if we spent a bit more time looking around for methods that effectively teach, reinforce, and encourage our children, their love for learning would increase, and they would retain more!

Here are just a few ideas to keep it fun!

  • Allow them to make lists, diagrams, or charts rather than writing a paper with complete paragraphs if they are inclined to do so.
  • Use role play, games, and field trips more often, in order to make connections that might otherwise be missed.
  • Use music or art media to express and explore what you are learning.  Memorize or write a song, or create a logo which applies to the unit you just finished.  Construct a game or map.  If they can recreate it, they have learned it.
  • Use more manipulatives, and oral answers for math time-especially for the young ones.
  • Allow more movement.  Finger-spell.  Run laps while you drill. Get out the Legos or crayons for quiet activity while someone else reads aloud.  Our magnificent bodies were created to MOVE.  Don’t just read or write about things…DO them.
  • Collections are wonderful.  Learn to classify, organize, label, display, and enjoy things.
  • Find things to write that matter.  Family newsletters, journals, research papers,  interviews with those who have experience in what you are studying, etc.
  • Volunteer.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Connect with those around you.

Remember, we don’t generally live in “model homes” or have a “model schoolroom.”  That’s okay.  Fill your homes with other models…love, activity and exploration, creative expression, lively discussion, and laughter.  Focus on the gifts your children have and are.  They will surprise you with what they can become.

 

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Plumbers use jackhammers. Who knew?

Life is a constantly changing opportunity to play the game of “Associations.”  You know the one I mean- when I say a word, you say the first thing that comes to mind (Christmas/tree, spring/garden, birthday/cake, etc.).  I am learning a new group of associations.  Fascinating.

Plumber/jackhammer.  Not generally the first thought I would have had, but I am so grateful it is true.  How else would they get to the collapsed cast iron pipe under my foundation?  All drains are now working properly.  YEAH!

plumbersWM

Small children/medicine balls.  We found two of these at one of our favorite “odd lot” haunts (6 and 10 lbs. respectively), and brought them home.  What a wonderful thing!  Having the young ones roll them around, use them to get through a quick obstacle course or two, or push them in laundry baskets helps so much with large muscle use on a cold winters’ day, and gets them turned back “on” for academic time!

Penmanship/white clay.  For the eight-year-old, penmanship entails a piece of paper, a pencil, and the assigned items to write.  For the six-year-old?  Not so much.  Due to the differences in learning style and approach, he is creating clay letters and using those for word creation.  Since dyslexics see life in 3D, working with 3D letters helps him orient himself to the task at hand, and he is much more successful.  Love it!

Jacobclaywm

Cleaning/joy.  During the last week, we have had the opportunity to help clear the family home following the death of my father-in-law.  The eight, six, and four year-olds were troopers and carried things up the stairs from the basement so that they could be sorted and given away.  When my sister-in-law commented on their ability to focus and work as hard as the adults, the eldest beamed at her and said, “we love to work!  Especially with Grandpa in his garden!”  And then he got back to the task at hand.  What a payday for the parents and grandparents of that little boy (who is well on his way to manhood)!

Life is full of surprises, and the unexpected can be a learning experience all its own if we are watching for it!  All these, and so many more, are a great reminder that I am not as smart as I wish I were-and that’s okay.  Someone else has it covered, and He will send the unexpected and unanticipated to us when we need it!

Homeschooling, Parenting

“Felt is soft.”

Learned an interesting lesson this last week.  My instructor was my five-year-old grandson, J.  (Children are often the best teachers!)  As I attended the vendor fair for our state convention, I found myself in the Story Time Felts booth…again.  They are a company which makes and sells felt activities for children.  Some kits are literature-based.  Some are for preschoolers; some for older children.  All of them are brightly colored, soft, and have multiple uses.  (I love their product, but have always wished it were cheaper, and that I could justify the expense and the work to assemble everything.)

I have purchased from Joy, the consultant at the convention, in years past.  We have fun as she shows me what is new, and asks thoughtful questions.  Last year I purchased a few different kits, uncut, and set off to put things together.  Some got finished; some did not.  As we visited, I confessed that there were things still waiting to be done at my house.  So she told me to bring them the following day, and she would finish them for me.  YEAH!  Now everything is usable.  (You can find them at storytimefeltsandmore.com.)

2013-06-22 18.06.10

Now, what was the lesson I learned that relates to this wonderful company?  I went home that evening and asked my grandsons for their thoughts on the felt activities we had used.  M, the seven-year-old, was chatty but not overly helpful.  T, who is three, had lots to say- some of it even applied to the question at hand.  Then J, who has Sensory Processing Disorder which causes him to under-react and miss much of what is happening around him physically, quietly said, “Felt is soft.”  He later confided to me that he was fond of the pictures with bright colors that were fun to look at as he worked with the activities.  That’s all it took.

2013-06-22 18.09.19

I made a fairly significant purchase from Joy this year, fully cut and ready-to-go.  I went to the local second-hand store and bought a number of 3 inch 3-ring binders in which to store the lesson plans and pieces.  All the grandchildren love them.  And J is grinning.  As a twice-exceptional child, he has a new medium with which to explore.  The felt acts as great therapy as he fingers it.  And I feel like the hero of the hour.  I am so glad I took the time to talk to the boys before assuming that I needn’t bother this year.

We can learn so much if we simply ask questions and then pay attention to the answers.

Homeschooling

Handcart list- odds and ends

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on items not listed anywhere else which I used as part of the backbone of my children’s studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-282013.)

Discovery level-

  • One Smart Cookie and Cookies:Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer.  These books are wonderful introductions to terms and ideas for character education discussion.  We would read 2-4 pages at a time and then talk about the traits listed, how to develop them, and situations where they are used.  Cute illustrations.  Great read!
  • Manners books by Munro Leaf-  This series of 5 books originally printed in the 1950’s uses simple text, quirky illustrations, and straight-forward language to teach the rules of civility to children.  Another book to read in snippets and discuss.

Analysis level-

  • Vocabulary From Classical Roots by Nancy Flowers and Norma Fifer- I used this series to teach Greek and Latin roots to my children.  We would work through a lesson or two, make a 3×5 card for each root taught, and then drill the cards before moving on to the next lesson.  (As you create cards, add them to the pile you have already learned; drill all of them.)  The card pile got taller and my children learned became more and more comfortable with each root and its meaning.   As you complete the series, you will have learned hundreds of root words.  Great for vocabulary development and comprehension.

I am sure this list will be ever-expanding as I discover new resources.  I am always on the look-out for quality, user-friendly curriculum.  Sometimes what I find helps me love what I already have even more; sometimes I fall in love with something I had never seen before.  Who knows what wonderful things I will find next.