Here we are again at the beginning of another school year. I am excited; I love starting things! Fresh notebooks, colorful pens, and the routine of structured learning are needed. Summer was wonderful, but we need some focus back into our days. This year will have a new challenge. We will be covering pre-k through 5th-grade topics - so ABC's through Algebraic thinking. Easy-peasy(also the curriculum base we use) - No pressure!
I am a hot-beverage drinker. There are seasons where it is creamy coffee (yum), black coffee (to prove I am not addicted to unhealthy creamers) or tea (to prove I'm not addicted to caffeine). Then the cycle repeats itself. It is mostly ritualistic, something warm to drink during my process of waking up.
In this wonderful season, while I pry my eyelids open around 7:30, my kids fend for themselves. The older two assist the younger one with his breakfast needs if I'm not up tending to my French press yet. Our go-to breakfasts consist of toast, waffles, bagels, cereal, a piece of fruit or frozen pancakes thawed in the toaster. In the summer they were allowed cartoons or games for a bit, but during the school year, there must be Bible before any devices and devices must be earned as well as utilized for educational purposes first.
Our schooling doesn't usually start until 10 am unless we have some activity planned. From wake up until 10 it is prep time aka chores and self-grooming. After chores, we may go for a walk/bike ride around the neighborhood first.
We use the online curriculum of Easy Peasy or allinonehomeschool.com. This will be my fourth year using her outline (kindergarten and first grade we did scholastic books and more games). I love how I can add or drop things easily. If we have already read a book, we substitute a different one. I can't imagine trying to homeschool without Google. There are so many resources, that it is more about restricting resources to prevent overwhelm.
My youngest is an active little boy, so learning to recognize letters includes beanbags and Nerf guns. A lot of movement is needed. It will be a LeapFrog kind of year for him. We use random printables and crafts to cement learning the alphabet as his interest holds. Naiah might also run off and play super-hero in full costume in between activities while I answer questions about his sisters' assignments.
My hands-on-learner is always asking for crafts. Joining her sister for History and Science will give her plenty of hands-on lapbook assignments. She joins in on some of brother's crafts because she loves them that much! Having siblings work together for various subjects will also free mommy to work with the other unless my input isn't needed. Kei's favorite subject is math, so we also love xtramath.org for tracking her progress. (xtramath is also free!)
I am a huge proponent of independent learning. I try and wait to interject my suggestions until they seem needed. Its okay to let your child puzzle things out; it makes their brains stretch. I love the idea of strewing resources around so they learn without even realizing it. Seeing my kids work through their checklist on their own gives me confidence that they will be self-disciplined to meet accomplishments out in the real world.
My oldest, Dassa, is a grade ahead because of her problem-solving mind. She is an overachiever and makes me look good. Temperamentally, she is very much like me, however, so we are working hard on our communication. Mommy is still learning too! ;) I am learning where my boundaries should be in this new season of three students.
The two girls are signed up for an acrobatics dance class; we are all excited about this new element being added to the routine of our week. Baby boy will get some one-on-one dates with mommy and daddy during their hour of activity, so win-win for everyone!
Last year our schooling went 2+ hours a day, but with the addition of a third student it sometimes pushes to 3ish. We get the essentials done and then break at noon to eat some lunch.
At lunch, we go over our verse of the week (a lot of these are to song!), do calendar time (for the little guy mostly), and practice our languages (Russian, German, Spanish and Sign Language). We are learning a smattering of things just to round us out.
After lunch we finish what we didn't, read a book, play a game or call some friends.
Because our curriculum is primarily based online, we invested in chrome books this year with the touchable screens. We have a bit that is offline as well, including printouts, experiments, lapbooks, board games and reading. The little guy utilizes starfall.com, abcya.com and RosiMosi learning games. He also hops on shapes, letters and numbers, shoots them or tosses them into baskets.
My husband made us a long desk for our living room. This desk allows us all to work in the main area together, holds our printer and provides separate spaces for student projects. It is important to me that I model lifelong learning to my children. I am an author in the midst of several projects, so I am constantly reading, writing or researching too. Homeschooling just means I am keeping my own skills fresh as I assist in their learning process. It is a lot of hands-on in the beginning but it quickly flourishes into self-motivation and owning their responsibility.
Each student is unique. I have three lefties, but that is where the comparison stops. I seem to have an auditory learner, a kinetic learner, and a visual learner. The youngest is still hard to pin down completely; mostly he is just a bundle of indecisive energy.
We focus on attitude and progress over perfectionism. We stress problem-solving and independent thinking. Each year we pray for God's guidance and tweak things to fit the new dynamics. Knowing that we aren't restricted by a set schedule or expensive curriculum allows us all the freedom to adapt and grow. This was key mostly for mommy's personality. I crave change! We do have lists of responsibilities to keep us on task, but if life interrupts, great!
Our mornings are for learning and our afternoons offer opportunities for boredom which leads to creativity and invention. Sometimes we flip-flop this, depending on the time of the year, to enjoy the park with our friends because afternoons in Florida can get too hot! We bring down the Legos (I keep them up for my sanity) or bring out the board games. We also allow some device times when it has been earned; a house doesn't run itself.
Everyone pitches in around here, so pet care, laundry, dishes, cleaning and even some cooking is shared. Our library and park visits are regular. Dad is self-employed so this allows us a lot of flexibility for him to be included in field trips or family days. This also means, we occasionally work nontraditional school hours on Saturday if need be. We work with a flexible routine rather than a strict schedule.
So our typical home-school day, in a nutshell, is learning for a 3ish hour chunk around our other life activities. If Dad gets off early, we play with him and double up the next day. If daily rain showers hinder our play, you might find us in our bathing suits in the backyard anyway.
I love to hear how other's shape their learning environment. Leave a comment on what works in your season at your house!
As soon as Fourth of July passes, my thoughts start to shift into preparation mode. I know the shift happens for mothers and teachers way sooner than the students. Summer is still hot and fierce, but the wind of change begins to blow as soon as the last holiday firework smoke fades away. Kids are soaking up the last of the days by the beach or pool while we start preparing.
I am excited! I want to be ready for August and the first day of school. It is probably the cute holiday pictures with sparklers that starts my mind on dreaming up what we should do for back-to-school pictures. We have done signboards and black and white, so what should we try next? That thought then spirals into more checklists. What supplies are needed? Did I mention that I love paper? Yes, that is me in the back of Staples smelling that paper. Come on! You got to love that new paper smell. New pens, folders, and highlighters....oh yes I love office supplies! Don't get me started on sticky notes and new markers before the children get ahold of them...
We homeschool so I also get to ponder which curriculum tweaks need to be finalized. I have portfolio reviews from last year to send into the superintendent. This year we have new students, so a letter of intent needs to be brought in for one and fresh preschool supplies bought for the other. Preschool is the best - everything is so colorful and fun! Dropping off forms in person means I don't have to worry that they got lost in the mail! Thank goodness I don't have to worry about uniforms, or drop-off and pickups, but there is still plenty of other things to prep for when you are with your students all day. Ink? Check. Paper? Check. Grocery shopping and meal planning for easy lunches and snacks. They need to be quick, so as to not take too much time away from teaching, yet still be nutritious!
The structure of learning hours before free hours is definitely tantalizing to me by this point (maybe not to the kids quite yet). Summer and the freedom it brings to our family schedule is starting to wear off after two months of blissful vacation. The reality is lazy summer days mean I often have to fight off countless screen-time requests and arrange playdates! I am missing priorities, order, and goals. Seasons of rest and freedom are needed! But, by August, I am eager to get back into the cadence of learning and discipline. I love seeing my kids flourish into responsible people who understand play comes as soon as responsibilities have been accomplished. I enjoy seeing true appreciation for the fun times, won through self-discipline rather than an entitlement that Summer can breed. They become responsible masters of their time and future. Summer is nice, but life needs balance and mommy needs help.
I hate to shop, but I love Amazon! I can check reviews and order from the comfort of my home. Win! I have my go-to things for each school year but am always looking for new things to help us along this learning journey. Below I will link of a few of my favorites buys that have enhanced our schooling.
Please share with me some things that have made your schooling better!
We had such a fun year studying Zoology. Below you can get a glimpse of the Live Butterfly Project we did to celebrate the end of our official school year and welcome summer. (Thanks, Insect Lore!) We are now ready for some sunny beach days and lazy afternoons reading books in our hammocks.
Our school year consisted of making great use of our Family Zoo Pass (Thanks, Nini!) to the Sanford Zoo in Central Florida. We all enjoyed being able to meet up with family and friends countless times throughout the year to enjoy the splash pad, train, and carousel in addition to the animals. It was so nice to not rush and be able to take the time to observe so many different animals, knowing we didn't have to see it all in a day! The petting zoo was a favorite spot. Feeding the Giraffes was a special treat, but hearing the macaws screech my daughter's name was pretty neat too. One of my girls wants to be a vet, so this year of zoology has allowed her to really explore her interest.
I chose to be homeschooled, and really thrived under independent study. Facilitating my kids' curiosity, allows me to learn so much more by viewing it all through their eyes. They each learn differently and their unique observations make life and learning more interesting. Next year, we will be adding the little brother in on our studies, so our homeschool/family will be going through a slight metamorphosis of our own by adding a third student. We look forward to relaxed Summer learning.
Share with us your favorite hands-on learning activities!
Our education is never done!
I am a huge believer in life-long learning. I try to model this habit by signing up for lectures and classes, watching documentaries and researching my latest interests online or through the local library. So, needless to say, you will nearly always find me with a book in my possession. Learning is easier in certain seasons of life, but I think it is always advantageous in keeping a sense of self by pursuing your interests.
We are homeschooling right now, and I like to live out what I teach. They need to see that they are not alone in their thirst for knowledge. I want to create and keep an environment that encourages not only my children but everyone, myself included, to ask questions, pursue interests or at least test out things to ascertain what makes us come alive. This is the age of information and I am determined that we all take advantage of it before the grid goes dark and all these amazing resources vanish. ;)
Let's enjoy discussing all kinds of topics whether we have a firm stance or knowledge of them or not. There are stacks of books by my bed, as well as a full kindle app on multiple devices in my home. Even when a topic seems outrageous, or maybe especially when it seems outrageous, I believe we should dialogue about it. When we have fear or anger towards a certain topic or theory, then it is time to dig in and shed a little light on it. The world won't fall apart if we entertain a false theory.
Questions shouldn't create fear. Fear often comes from the unknown, so let's ask some questions and set ourselves free. Being wrong or ignorant is just a part of the journey, but it is more fun when we don't stay there.
I love that even the library has online catalog apps such as OverDrive with downloadable books on almost every topic you can think of, and if it is missing from their catalog there is a neat little recommend feature, which I take full advantage of. There are so many tools available to us from Google to Kindle and did I mention that I love free!! There are emails and blogs highlighting free e-book deals on all kinds of topics and in different genres. Maybe reading isn't your thing? I hear you! Sometimes, with kids underfoot and laundry to fold, I don't have the luxury to prop my feet up in the hammock to get lost in a chapter or two of my current read. But....
...I can pop my earbuds in and listen to a podcast or watch a short video on anything and everything from baking sourdough from a starter (my current obsession) to hunting (one of my husband's favorites) and back again. I am thankful for Youtube and Youtube kids which allows the entire household to watch and learn about countless topics. Sometimes though your brain needs a little break and then we switch to music.
Pandora allows us to put in our favorite artists and not only can we enjoy our favorite song, but the app also plays similar artists and helps us find new favorites.
Thank you to all those people who write informative blogs and vlogs to share their hobbies, interests, and expertise with us!! You make life rich and full for so many. Have a favorite app or blog? Comment below and share some of your favorite resources for learning!
So excited for our first official year (third year really) of homeschooling!!! Our oldest is in second grade, but since age 6 is the legal age of sending in the letter of intent in our state, this is her first official year. She loves to learn and is being joined this year by her sister in preschool (so mostly play learning) and her bubby who is potty training... errr kind of. He is only one so we will give him some time.
We started the year off with a visit to the Museum of Science and History with daddy which was super fun. They had a huge model dinosaur out front that growled and moved every few minutes. The history section was a little over their heads, but for my husband and I, it was fascinating to see what is now outdated from when we were kids. It was also a keen reminder of how much will probably change for our own kids over the next decade or two.
I love the endless resources to be found online and continue to add to my own skills. I was homeschooled as well, 7th- 12th grade, and thrived by being able to set my own pace and pursue my interests. My parents cultivated a love and thirst for knowledge as well as an independent spirit. I had no problem in college because I had already cultivated the self-taught rather than spoonfed attitude. I hope to do the same for our littles.
I want them to be out-of-the-box thinkers, pursue their passions and question everything ...yes even what mom and dad say!
I have every confidence that as my children learn and question that they will find the truth. Our God encourages us to seek Him and ensures us that we will find Him when we seek with all our hearts. I know the idea of our children searching without parameters can be scary to some, even myself sometimes when I let doubt creep in, but I choose to rest in the knowledge that perfect love casts out all fear. God loves my children way more than I ever could and I choose to trust Him as I let me children grow and outgrow convention.
I am attempting to balance managing a tech team from home, helping my husband with ministry, homeschooling and keeping a house clean. So, any attempts at blogging will be random at best. As I lead by example for my children, I pray that they learn more good from me than bad. I pray they see that God is way bigger than anyone knows. He is mirrored in creation and glimpses of His glory can be found in those around you. I want them to chew up the meat and spit out the bones and allow only God's Spirit guide them!
...not so secret now...
1. Will I be Okay?
Okay - by definition to me, means mostly sane and happy. Being around children 24/7 can do crazy things to you and I have already experienced some of this insanity with two young children. What happens when/if more come along or the difficulty of questions and repetition of questions increase? Thankfully, I have an incredible support system. My husband is all for homeschooling, many friends with similarly aged children are also starting this journey, and my mother (who homeschooled me) is only a phone call or short drive away. I have confidence that I will get through this season but do wonder how many brain cells will be left at the end....
2. What will happen after I become an empty-nester?
I know this is far into the distant future since my youngest isn't even old enough for school, but I keep hearing that they fly the nest faster than we can blink. So, rationally I don't think this a strange question to ask myself.
I went to college and received an AA. I was even close to a BA when I got pregnant and lost all ambition to do any more schooling. But what happens when they are done with school? Will I have to start over in my late forties waiting tables or taking classes? I don't know if living off the husband will be all that fair or fulfilling when I am not wiping noses and teaching his offspring to read. Starting over does not sound appealing either, as I have been there done that before children and don't really care to repeat that season. I work part-time from my computer at home when the girls nap. But if anymore children come along I don't see how I will manage even working part-time. I will just have to trust that this job or one like it will be available maybe even with a few more hours, when my raising children years are over.
3. Will all my friend lose interest in me?
You know how people get when they are immersed in something, good or bad, it can become a bit much. I don't want to turn into that friend that can only talk about her kids, and homeschooling her kids, and did I mention the wife that reports on her kids? Will I be able to tell when my friends are sick of hearing about homeschooling? I don't want to cause/start/tolerate any child/school/parenting comparing/judging!
....I think I may have a new obsession with the "/" sign...
How will I stay an interesting friend balanced enough to be able to hold a conversation about a vast number of topics? I'm thankful for those friends that are walking this journey with me, because we will be on the same page. I will strive to retain some other friendships that will be uplifting and non-kid focused to the best of my ability.
4.Will I butt heads all day long and have to fight to make it interesting?
When my first daughter was born I was convinced that I had a strong willed child. When my second one was born I realized I had two! Both are strong personalities, but thankfully they love being praised and cuddled. The whole family seemingly shares the same two primary love languages of Words of Affirmation and Touch. So, as much as they aggravate me with some of their antics, they equally astound me with their love.
As my four year old's curiosity increases so do the amount of her questions and demands. We are working on finding the loving balance of allowing the child to be heard but having respect for what mommy and daddy say. We have discovered peak times of the day that have the optimum attitudes for learning and others that just equal quiet time. Learning types are also showing themselves and allowing for tweaked lessons. But inevitably we run into a subject that has run just a bit too long or an interrupted lesson that doesn't want to be resumed. I want them to understand that sometimes in life we have to do things when we don't want to and there are deadlines in life. So, if we are already butting heads now, what happens when algebra comes along?
5.Will my kids hate me for not allowing them to do the "normal" thing?
This one I am only mildly worried about since I loved being homeschooled. I know it is not for everyone, but I thrived going at my own pace rather than waiting on the class clown to get his butt in gear so we all didn't have homework because of his antics. I had the opportunity to experience, public, private both here in the USA and abroad as well as homeschooling. I asked to be homeschooled after experiencing 7th grade in public school. I was tired of teachers and students wasting my time. From 8th on, I was homeschooled.
My girls won't be choosing but we will pray about options each year to see where they might thrive best. I am not set on it until they are 18 but I am hoping. They will have friends that are homeschooling like them, friends going to public school and private school as well. I am hoping I can shape their view of homeschooling to be one of advantage instead of them feeling left out of the "normal". We will have plenty of opportunity to socialize, so I am really hoping to avoid the issue by keeping a balanced peer group for them.
6. Will I get any alone time ever?
I recharge by myself and you have probably guessed by now that I don't get as much alone time with two young kids as I would like. I do try to plan either a date night with my husband or a coffee night out with gal pals once a week.
My daughters seem much more extroverted like their father and are constantly asking where we are going and who is going to be there. My oldest is definitely an extrovert like her daddy and she constantly wants playdates. Will we be able to maintain a healthy balance for her and for my introverted self?
7.Will getting involved in a coop be too much craziness?
I have actually been a part (kind of) two different coops. There first one was when I was in high school/homeschool and the other girls in it and I never really clicked. Some were so sheltered and shy they never made eye contact or engaged in conversation beyond yes and no. And the other kids I knew from youth groups did the 'who is dating who?' conversations which I found juvenile when you can't do anything legally with that relationship anyway. Why date until you can get married? Okay, that is another topic. ;) The other coop I taught in when I was pregnant with my first child. I grew up abroad and learned Russian so I taught a beginners Russian language class. I was not involved in the ins and out of the actual coop and only knew part of the families making it up.
When I think of coops I am wary of who to link myself with or allow to influence my teaching and my children. I know socialization is important, support and sharing helpful, but it can also get out of control quick! I love the idea of sharing resources/ideas and maybe even sharing the teaching load for subjects that aren't my strengths. I am leery of getting involved in a group where I am constantly having to explain/defend my beliefs about God and creation or teaching styles. I will have to pray long and hard about joining one or maybe start my own so I can influence the main vision of the coop. Time will tell if it is too much craziness. :)
8.Will i neurotically over-schedule or lazily under-schedule?
If you haven't guess by the list making, I have a Type A personality. I both like this about myself and hate it. A turn off switch would be very helpful for this trait! I love being organized and having a rough routine, but I am purposefully and slowly trying to train myself to be more Type B for several reasons. I know no one thrives for long under Hitler, so I don't want to be so scheduled and organized that I kill the love for learning and my children's natural curiosity. They are both left handed and think with the opposite site of their brain than I do. They tend to be more artistic and spontaneous and I want them to be free to do things differently than mommy.
I know no one thrives for long under Hitler...
But at the same time, reporting to the state and having a portfolio at the end of the year seems daunting at times. Will my idea of an awesome education balanced with field trips, book work, natural curiosity lead learning be enough to impress who it needs to impress? I have no doubt that the education will be unquestionably awesome (not because I am so awesome, but because my kids have a thirst for knowledge and are sponges!), but I wonder if I will do a good enough job tracking, and explaining all we learned into the correct school board lingo?? Time will tell....
9.Will I become obese?
You may laugh at this one, but for every woman or man who has been at home can attest, food is readily available in fridge and pantry. And I am sure I am not alone in being guilty of reaching for a comfort snack when I am overwhelmed....whether by children or just life in general. The added stress of not just being with children but fitting in quality teaching without regular breaks has definitely added to the challenge of not stress eating.
I am currently going strong with a personal workout Monday-Friday and have eliminated a lot of bad food from my diet, but as the scale refuses to budge there is that small irrational part of me, that cries to be a size 6, that wonders if homeschooling will allow me to reach that goal ever?! The more rational part of me just wants to lose the marriage/baby weight and be back to a heart healthy weight. Either way homeschooling the children will be an added stressor. :(
10.Will it all be worth it?
Okay, you know what they say about hindsight being 20/20? Wish you could jump in a time machine for a moment to know how it will all turn out? I guess what keeps me from complete panic mode when this question slips into my thought pattern during the day...... God's whispered "TRUST ME". God has placed in our hearts (my husband's and mine) the peace and desire to homeschool our children this year. We prayed together asking that God would make His will known and God kindly confirmed His calling for us. Following His direction is ALWAYS worth it!
....and peace returns....
My friend Cori and I gathered some moms together for a homeschool chat/playgroup. We hope to do more gathering in the future with moms at parks, for field trips and to encourage each other through the homeschool process.
A sanity recess for moms!
We might eventually and prayerfully turn it into a coop but for now, we are just a moms group. I am excited to see where the Lord leads us but it was very encouraging to share ideas, curriculum, deals and basically remember that we are not alone in this! There is a Flagler Christian homeschool group I may join when the girls are older and we get more serious but for now this smaller group is nice.
We share our findings and ideas in our Facebook group -
Savvy Home Learning.
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....