Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homeschooling Different Grades

Most of us have more than one child that we homeschool and this creates the challenge of homeschooling multiple grade levels at the same time.  For me this entails 8th, 7th, 2nd and preschool.  Quote a bit of difference in these. 

For my oldest two I have found that I order the same grade level of history, science, foreign language, art and music.  They can do these together and we like to get in our reading time with our history lessons which are daily at this point.  I still like the kids to do reading aloud daily so we do our history together.  The fun part is that although the second grader has her own history curriculum, she learns more from the lessons of the older kids which she can't help but be involve in.  For our family we have always considered this to be one of the benefits of homeschooling. 

Because we don't have a computer for each individual and their schooling is mostly online they take turns.  While language arts is mostly consumables, two kids can work on that while one does math on the computer based math program Aleks.com.  They sit together at one computer for foreign language and science. 

Our curriculum is very time intensive these past few years.  I find that art and music fall short because we have a good six hours of curriculum to work on steadily everyday for the older kids.  This means that on Sundays we often spend an hour or two as a family doing art and music.  My older kids play an instrument and my younger ones are just starting so they do their individual practice times during the week and I count this as music attendance and the state is okay with it.

The hardest part for our family is keeping the preschooler on task and busy so that the other kids can actually concentrate.  This is harder than it sounds as our preschooler is a busy bee.  She is curious and always wants to be doing something but her attention span is short which means we switch gears multiple times per day to accommodate her learning style.  While doing history she likes to listen for a few minutes but then needs to be busy so she does handwriting next to us as we read.  We then have to have her use building blocks or clay while we do the rest of history.  It is always best if we do things she can clean up herself and get out by herself.  This cuts down on the work load for me.

Have any ideas or clever solutions to share?  Please leave comments!!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

K12 Advertising Heavily

You may have noticed that K12 has been using a lot of advertising lately. Almost all websites I visit seem to have banner ads of some sort and I have seen a ton of television advertising for them. Why is this?

Not only is K12 great homeschool curriculum but it offers your child the chance to be part of the school district that you live in. My children have been using K12 for about four years now. We love it but as with all programs it has its pros and cons.

We love being part of the public school system but it is on our terms. Our teachers put together fabulous activities, field trips and other programs like a science club, technology class and more. We can pick and choose what we are a part of and none of it is pushed on us.

We love having the contact with a certified teacher. She has so many ideas and so much to offer but she is never pushy, she is just a resource should we need one. This helps me know that there is someone who truly cares about my children and me.

Things we don't care for are the math program which I believe has been redone since we switched math programs. The good thing is that we can pick and choose which subjects we use from K12, it isn't an all or nothing curriculum. It is tailor made for my child so that makes me feel better.

I also do not like having to record every bit of attendance and every lesson completed, etc. This has given me a new level of compassion for public school teachers as I see that "the system" requires so much mindless busy work for teachers and I don't like them requiring it of me. I do it because I figure the curriculum is publicly funded and it is my job if I choose to use it but that doesn't mean I like it.

Over all we love this curriculum or we wouldn't keep using it. It comes with much more in the way of supplies compared to say Calvert Schools. I liked Calvert but this seems more inclusive and is much easier for me as a teacher at home.

One other thing you should know is that through the publicly funded version of K12 you do have to return your materials that are not deemed "consumables". This is not a problem for me as I have limited storage space and am glad they reuse things rather than waste them but it is a challenge to gather everything up and ship it back at times so if you do use this just try to stay organized so you are not hunting for objects at the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That Time of Year!

Here we go around! If you homeschool you may know what I am talking about.

If you haven't ordered curriculum or built your own it is time to get going. For some parents this can be a tricky time of year. Kids are transitioning into new grades and parents are trying to get organized and prepared as much as possible.

If you are new to homeschooling or are just one of those homeschool parents that gets a little stressed out at this time, here are a few hints:

1. Remember why you homeschool. For most of us, part of the reason is to take the frenzy out of the days and to slow things down to enjoy them to the fullest. This time of year should be no different.

2. Get kids to help you. Talk to your kids about what they would like to learn this year. This is an ideal starting point if you get to build your own curriculum. Kids can also be a huge help in getting organized. Even a toddler can help put crayons in their place or put books on a shelf.

3. Don't leave out the rest of the house. Don't be alarmed but schooling at home always goes better when the rest of the house is in order. If you start now and do a little at a time this does not have to be such a daunting task. Again, this is something the whole family can be doing together.

4. Try to think ahead. Prepare as much as you can in advance. Whether it is lesson plans, supplies or activities to keep smaller children entertained, try to have it as far in advance as possible.

This does not have to be a frantic time of year. Just keep in mind why you homeschool and remember to enjoy the preparation just as much as the schooling or unschooling that goes on in your home!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Over Scheduling Kids - Summertime Activities

Most parents reach this dilemma at one point or another: Are you kids over scheduled during the summer break?

A lot of this will depend on your homeschooling style. Some homeschool families do not have a homeschooling program that keeps them doing curriculum year round. Other homeschool families will have a program that allows for a summer break. Others will have a schedule like mine and your kids should have a summer break but because you are flexible throughout the year you end up using your summer to finish up the work.

It used to be that I thought that working on school through the summer was all bad but the kids don't mind being in and busy during the heat of the day. They also don't fall out of the habits that we created during the traditional school year. I guess the bottom line is that there are pros and cons either way.

As for over scheduling: whether you have curriculum to finish or not how much are your kids doing during the summer? Is yours a house where the children spend all summer on video game systems or watching television? Or are they enrolled in every sport and music lesson possible as well as church activities, Scouting and community activities? It is a hard balance to find and naturally, as with all things, it varies with each child. I know that my oldest is capable of being much more busy than my third child. His energy level and attention span can take more.

There are also children that need more time with their parents than others. My kids are great about being home all day and just doing what is needed here but a few are more ready to be gone for a majority of the day and then my second born needs more time with me. He needs the time to talk, to be heard and understood and to feel like he is okay in his corner of the world. As a parent, I am flawed, and this is not always remembered but on my better days I try to make sure that his needs are met.

It is my opinion from reading and life experience that kids grow and blossom when they have structured activities that expose them to new things and new people. They learn new talents and their self esteem sky rockets.

On the flip side, children who are over scheduled and doing too much suffer from depression, anxiety, lack of self esteem and more. These kids feel like their parents would rather pawn them off on strangers and activities rather than sit and have a game of Uno with them. That just isn't right and no one in the family benefits from that.

The advice would be to ask the child what they would like to do. Be careful because some children are natural over achievers and will want to over schedule. You are the parent. You should always preface this kind of conversation with something like "I want your input on this but after hearing your views and ideas I need you to be respectful of the decision made on your behalf from parents who want what is best for you". Yes, that sounds like something out of Leave it to Beaver but you get the drift.

Kids need time to be kids, to get into mischief. It wouldn't even be bad if your children were not enrolled in any activities through the summer if you are disciplined enough to keep them away from the monitors in the house. Television, computers and video games are great but only in moderation. Perhaps you should start by analyzing what your children's natural tendencies are and then go from there. You will have a better idea of what they will do on their own and what may help break them out of it or help them get outside and be active.

Most of all, spend some time with your kids this summer. Don't over schedule yourself. Homeschooling is wonderful but just because you may be home all day to "school" them doesn't mean that you are always spending great time with them. My kids get excited just by me sitting through a movie with them and showing interest in it. They love to share those experiences. They even love it if we play a video game all together and laugh and play. Make your summer memorable and make memories together no matter what your schedule. Perhaps you should schedule your family time into your life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too much time at home and too much responsibility?

Today my worry is that because my children are home all day with me, do I expect too much of them? I truly believe that children should be taught to do chores, work together and know the value of hard work but I also know that it is okay for them to simply be kids, surrounded by kids their own age.

I worry mostly for my oldest because he is a typical oldest child. He takes a lot upon himself and even though I try to not overload him, he does have the most responsibility which is just the true nature of life and birth order.

Should he be going to school for hours each day to be a "typical" kid? But then, didn't we choose to homeschool so we didn't have "typical" kids? This is not to be negative at all about other forms of education so please don't take it that way. We personally homeschooled because my son was born right around the time of the Columbine High incident and I didn't want the bullying, the attitude, the extreme expressions of self that start earlier and earlier every year. I didn't want kids consumed with name brands, trends, cell phones, online socializing, etc. This is not to say that my kids are sheltered from all of this but I think there is more moderation and very little focus on these things.

Sorry to go on and on. Our family dynamic has changed and life has caused me to need more help from my kids lately. I worry that they carry too much and just want to be sure that there is balance. As with most days, I will give it time and think it over. I will watch them and try to get a feel of what the right path is for them and I will take it one day at a time. After all, that is the key to homeschooling. No matter how you do it, you have to take it one day at a time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Subject Blitz

Speaking with homeschool parents can be very interesting. It is fun to hear the varied answers to why they chose to homeschool, what curriculum they like or dislike, what their schedules are like and what extracurricular activities they like. It is also fun to know if religion was a factor in their decisions or if they include it in their curriculum.

In our homeschool group we have a wide variety of folks who all homeschool for different reasons and although a lot of us use the same curriculum, we use it in different ways. I recently came upon one family that knocks out a whole year's worth of one subject at a time. For example, they did a "history blitz" last year. They spent about one month and did multiple history lessons per day to knock out the whole year.

This peaked my interest. I asked many questions and was actually pleasantly surprised by the answers. I asked why they did it. The answer was that they had gotten behind in history and really just needed to hit it hard. They did not set out intending to only do history each day but the kids (four of them) all got so engrossed in the lessons and what was happening that they were loved the saturation. It was the topic of many a family discussion (most in fact). They did field trips and experimented with different inventions they learned of in times past.

Because of how this family handled it they were able to focus on one subject, let it be fun for the kids because they couldn't' get enough of the history and having it really become like a live story to them. They were reading for hours a day and loving it. They were excited to write because they loved sharing their thoughts and ideas on what had happened in history. Then they even managed a to throw in some science by reenacting some inventions and trying them on their own or brainstorming on ways to make them better with the tools available at the time.

I was impressed by this family and while my own children have gotten behind in history and science this year I suggested this summer that they do a blitz! They are boys so they love this word and think of football. I challenged them to see how fast they could knock out the lessons but also to see how well they could do at them while being fast about it. I don't want speed to take over quality.

We'll see how it goes and I will keep you updated. In the meantime, remember that it is worth while to talk with other parents and see what works for them, read online about the experiences of others. There simply is not just one right way to homeschool but different techniques and skills can be used as needed to enhance the experience. Enjoy your homeschool day!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

End of Level Testing or State Testing

These tests come with various names. The bottom line is that they are tests that most states require of public school students. Many homeschool parents are very much against these tests but it is interesting to hear the various reasons as to why.

Some think that laws that require these tests infringe on the families Constitutional rights and privacy. Some argue that you can't really use tests to measure intelligence and knowledge.

While I can see both sides of this issue and could argue each whole heartedly I know that in the end it is right to teach our kids to follow the laws. I also think that kids should be taught to question things but to go through the right channels when challenging an issue. Blatant disregard for laws or just avoidance is not the answer and will not help kids become contributing members of society.

My children are required to do state testing each year because of the program we use. It is publicly funded and therefore we must follow the rules and we have agreed to do so. However, they use a different math curriculum which means that they are not tested by the state in that subject. However, I would have welcomed the chance to have them test in math so that I had a snapshot of what they did know and even to see how they test.

Test taking skills are highly underestimated. I was a student who always did my homework and was always in attendance but still to this day I have a mental block when it comes to testing and even multiple choice tests really cause me problems. This does not mean I don't know the information but I don't know how to play this part of the education game. In some colleges they actually have courses on study skills and habits and also test taking. Seems to me that college is a bit late to offer this information. I think it should start in 3rd and 4th grade.

I guess the bottom line here is that testing can be good, it isn't all bad. But as homeschool parents maybe we should help our kids play the education game so when it comes to college they know how to get in and do it right and succeed. Most homeschool parents want what is best for their children and that would include success in college or the work place.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Information on homeschool for Military families?

We are looking for anyone who has information regarding US Military families that homeschool. Some thoughts we are interested in are:
  1. How do you make it work while being stationed abroad?
  2. Do you find a lot of on base support?
  3. Do you meet much resistance or negativity?
  4. What are the pros and cons for your family?
  5. What programs do you find friendly for your family?

Anyone with input please feel free to leave comments. They do go through approval before we post them just so we don't get spam and because we are here as a support to families as well as a valuable source of information. We do not want comments full of negativity about homeschooling in general. We do welcome an objective point of view and knowing what works for you so please share!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homeschool Abroad

My family is in an interesting situation. My husband has joined the military a little later than everyone else (age 37) and he has just received orders to his duty station in South Korea. The interesting thing is that it is for three years. So, with our four children we are taking this huge leap into the unknown hoping that it will be a grand adventure, help our children educationally and culturally and let them have the best of both worlds.

Naturally, because I have not been to South Korea (or many other places for that matter, I am not normally an adventurous traveller) I am nervous. However, I have told my children that without stretching our limits or comfort zone - no growth comes. I hope I am right that this "adventure" will be what is good for them as a growing experience.

Part of what I find attractive about this experience is learning so much about the country of South Korea, it's people and history. I am also intrigued by the climate and geography of the country. It will be a wonderful place to be for inexpensive travel to so many places on that side of the world that we would normally not have the opportunity to visit. Places like Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan and more.

I am hoping that at least for a little while I will be able to continue our current homeschool curriculum and lifestyle. I will be enrolling in online classes for myself as well. It will be nice if I have to do a few general education classes (despite my previous college credits) because it will give me a chance to figure out what I would like to focus on with my degree. I can't imagine anything better than getting my education along side my children and showing them that even in your mid thirties it is never to late to have your grand adventure!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

It is getting warmer where we live! Just like the rest of the nation we are having weird weather patterns that are a bit unpredictable but lately we are up to 60 degrees which is heavenly!

The kids and I have a bit of spring fever so to mix things up and add some spice to our days we go to the park with our lunches. We are lucky that in our area there are several city parks that are within just a few miles radius of our home. We just pack our lunch and sports equipment and go! It's fun to swing in the sunshine, have a catch or shoot some hoops! The kids also love big open fields of grass where they can just run freely.

I have found that the kids are much more willing to get up early and get to their lessons and chores knowing that lunch time will bring such a welcome break and then when we return home they are always ready to focus again and so am I! Amazing what sunshine, food and exercise can do for your brain! It's been a welcome change and we are making memories to last a lifetime!

Another idea that I use for spring is that when the weather gets over 75, as long as their is not a strong breeze, we do schoolwork outside on the patio. The kids really love being outdoors and it gives them a change of scenery. I think that those of us who were schooled in public schools recall how nice it was to get to switch rooms or to go out for recess. Our homeschool kids need the same change of scenery and they deserve it!

Happy spring to all! Hopefully your weather is cooperating to provide you with some sunshine and fun as well!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cultural & Artistic Exeriences

Most communities are full of events that some of us never know about and even if we do we don't partake of them to the fullest! I know that in our community there are many musical events, art exhibits, theatrical productions and more that are little to no cost and we still don't use them as much as we should.

These events are great for kids. First they are exposed to the talent of others and gain an appreciation. They also see that if they have a real interest in something there is a path to follow and a way to be seen and heard. To me an important part of these affairs is to have people grow up and know how to behave and be socially comfortable in these environments. Then when they are older and they are asked to attend an art gala they know what to expect and how to mingle and dress appropriately. Knowing these things makes one confident and self assured!

Exposure to all different events (age appropriate of course) is a great tool in helping our children become well rounded. I am only living in my current area for about six more weeks but it is so rich in talent and events that I hope to take my children and let them experience as much as possible.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homeschool and Technology - Part 2

Today I read an article online about a homeschooling parent who believes that homeschoolers have access to all of the latest and greatest technology. That same parent believes that these tools of technology are only there to fill the gap of what knowledge we don't have. This person believes that computer programs and Internet are simply for fun and games. I see her point in a certain light but then I see things in another light as well.

In New York a new public school was chartered this year that is strictly based with technology. It covers all subjects but somehow puts it in a game format or a simulated way. From research the test scores show that this method works. That students are willing to sit at a screen and learn when it is well presented.

While I do firmly believe that technology can never replace human interaction but it can also help our human relationships along. For example, those with military parents can often use programs such as Skype or Windows Live to video chat for free! This is astounding. My children have been able to stay in touch with relatives that live across the country, see their cousins whenever they want to and as I write this they are in the other room on Skype with their father.

Technology does need to be monitored. Especially if you have students using the Internet. It's good to have your computer in an open place where you are passing by the desk often and can see what is going on and be involved in what your student is doing. It's great to monitor what games are being played and of course what social networking sites may be in use. Safety is key!

I think the lesson between my liberal attitude and the article author's conservatism is that everything is good in moderation with technology and education. I don't think it replaces text books and worksheets but I think it offers a great alternative. My own children have been on burn out from worksheets from time to time and I have been very glad that there are spelling programs and other helpers at my fingertips.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

6 Year Old Homeschool Boy Suspended in Iowa!

A six year old boy who isn't even part of the public school system was "suspended" because he brought a shotgun shell to a weekly meeting held at a church.

The state is claiming that homeschooling does not make the child exempt from following the same rules as public school children. The parents argue that they found the shells in their home when taking down a wall and had no idea the little boy even had it with him when he went to his weekly activity at the church.

While there is a place for standards that we should all be held accountable for I think that there are some things were a little discretion should be used. This was a six year old who is NOT in the school system. Hard to say that you can suspend him. How does a homeschool parent even follow that order? And age 6? If he had pummeled a fellow student at a public school I can see the need for intervention but this was not a weapon or even a bullet. It is pretty obvious what a shell is and what isn't and without exposing children to subject matter which is too advanced for their age how do you tell him why this was a bad thing to take to school?

This is not to say that homeschool kids should be allowed to just do anything but homeschool groups should have set guidelines and clear messages and perhaps they should be made to follow such rules. The hard thing in this instance was that no one was hurt or was potentially going to be hurt. This was strictly someone picking a bone in my opinion.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Not Much "School" Happening?

If you homeschool you know that there will be those days when nothing goes right and it seems that very little actual schoolwork gets done. But, if you change your thinking you will see that it is actually very little "coursework" or "text work" that gets done. Your kids are learning around the clock.

If you are ill or caring for another ill person in the family you can ask your children who are capable to fix meals. Everything you let your kids do to help them feel more self sufficient benefits them greatly! Not only does their self esteem sky rocket because they know they can do it but when they do go out on their own they will feel prepared. After all, if you think of the fact that from infancy we are gradually just preparing them for adulthood then you may see this as a form of "schoolwork". It will also make them better spouses and parents!

Most children that can say sentences can perform simple chores and more. These should always be age appropriate but in today's world it seems that chores are lost on a lot of families. Many people have housekeepers, never eat at home and dry clean everything. Gone are the days of tending the animals and land which instilled a value of hard work in children. Families with all of today's conveniences have to really think about how they will teach their children how satisfying physical work is as well as taking pride in your possessions.

So, if you, like many, are having a day where you think nothing is happening as far as formal education just look at it in another light. Maybe your kids are learning to get along and behave themselves without structure and instruction. Could anything be better than that?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Handwriting Without Tears - A Review

Handwriting Without Tears is a great handwriting program that takes the worry out of handwriting. For many parents and teachers handwriting can be a daily struggle. With this program your children are sure to come to you begging to do their handwriting for the day.

The above is just one of the many books available and as you can see they are extremely affordable. There is also a vast amount of support online for this program and the teacher's guides are the greatest because they take the guesswork out of how to present concepts and in what order to give things to the student.

Jan Olsen founded this method in 1977 in an effort to help her own son overcome his struggles with handwriting in the first grade. She was then asked to help the other students because of the level of success. Now we have a complete program for all ages that works like a charm. They also hold training events and more to help those that are using the program. It is excellent to have so much support.

If you are having doubts on which handwriting method to use this is a great one to try. It takes the guess work out of things and the curriculum is low cost. It has been proven to work for so many that chances are you will find great relief and success here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homeschool Handwriting

Some homeschool families may from time to time have problems with handwriting curriculum and/or getting your students to cooperate and write in a tidy manner. In my own homeschooling experience I have one out of three that has developed good handwriting and it isn't one of my daughters!

Here are a few great handwriting programs that may help you. Some cost little to nothing and then others are pricey. This is one of those issues where you simply have to think about what your specific needs are and what your budget is when considering.

The Writing Road to Reading by Spalding - This is for grades K through 6. The greatest part about this program is that it is easily adaptable for all ages and all grades. Another great aspect is that unlike most phonics based programs this program covers ALL the sounds that letters make. For example, the letter "A" actually has three different sounds in our language. This program addresses this and helps children decode our language readily once they learn all the sounds. It ties in excellent handwriting technique that is very specific and easy to teach and easy to learn. This program is very affordable. There is one main book that you need and then they ask you to have composition books for the student that meet certain requirements.

Sing, Spell, Read and Write - First off, this is a great program. With that said, be careful to shop around and not pay more than you have to for it. I have personally used this program and the child in my house that did it has the best handwriting and spelling. This is a fun and motivating program that puts learning to music and helps the child see their progress. They get up excited every morning for this program and it's all about having fun and enjoying learning. Truly a great time and so nice that it covers so many educational aspects in such a small amount of time each day.

These are just two ideas. There are many handwriting programs and if you use box curriculum you will find that each company or school uses their own method.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Homeschool Weekends

When homeschooling it seems hard at times to draw the line between school and the rest of life even when it comes to weekends. For my kids we are lucky that they are in a program that has set guidelines so that weekends remain family time to do with as we please. However, even using our current coursework we had one year where there just didn't seem time during the week for the music and art subjects in the curriculum.

The teacher that I correspond with suggested using these as a good Sunday activity. While that idea was a good one, it didn't work for me. I need two days off from school just as much as any student. It can also be a great thing for students to take a break and come back to their lessons with fresh eyes.

Naturally this really only pertains to homeschool families that use traditional school curriculum or a "school" schedule. For those that unschool or use other methods it may not be as much of an issue.

Some things you can do on the weekends that may enhance your homeschool experience are:
  • Visit local historic sites.
  • Visit local museums.
  • Visit nearby state and national parks.
  • Visit nearby bodies of water and study the ecosystems there while playing.
  • Work on family history, kids love to know where their ancestors are from.
  • Play games like Scrabble, Pictionary and Cranium that develop skills as well as let students express themselves.
There are so many things to do in a week that it is nice to have a day or two totally dedicated to fun. That doesn't mean that learning does not happen but it doesn't have to be full of text books and worksheets.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Homeschool and Technology

Depending on your method of homeschooling you may use anywhere from no technology to having 100% online based curriculum. Every family is different and has different needs and since you are the expert on your child you know what they need better than anyone. This isn't to say that those with teaching credentials do not know a lot or have things to offer but generally if parents choose to be involved and care, they know best.

A startling statistic I heard on the news the other day (can't remember the source) was that kids spend 7 hours per day, outside of school, using some form of technology. This took in texting, computers, video games, television, mp3 players and other forms of technology. I was astounded at this number. Either these kids get up really early or they stay up very late. My kids are all put to bed at 8 p.m. The older children have reading time but no video games aloud. If they finish school work at 3:00 p.m. that only leaves five hours. They are only allowed video games on the weekend and the four children share one cell phone. Hopefully my own situation will not become one of technology saturation.

On the flip side, as pointed out on the news, if parents learn to text they can have opportunities to be closer to their teens and tweens. It was also pointed out that if parents will sit down with children of all ages and watch television it can be the subject of some great conversation and teaching moments.

Video games have their place and their is even a pilot program school that just started in New York that is 100% technology based, using games to teach kids their usual school subjects. I suppose it is how you use technology.

The same news segment pointed out (I now believe that it was the Today Show) that we needed to help our children to have face to face conversation and interaction so that they are well rounded. Because some technology is so new, we cannot know the true consequence of the many hours spent say - texting.

Personally I believe that "everything in moderation" is a great way of thinking. I know families that ban video games (which is great, to each his own) but when the student goes to a friends house that is what they want to do, like forbidden fruit! I know parents who are 100% anti-television and then I think about my own children missing the PBS virtual field trips from Colonial Williamsburg and it's hard to imagine not having had so many hours of fun with them and even learning a lot myself.

Most things have their good side and their bad, this can even be said of homeschooling. As we consider the fact that we are in a technology saturated world we may want to consider making sure that our students are at least somewhat fluent in word processing, browsing the internet, using a cell phone at times and perhaps even playing a video game or two. You never know where their passion will lie and what job skills they will need and you surely want to help them be prepared.

For our family we are lucky. Our children are part of a homeschool program that has some online schooling and some text. The teachers involved do virtual classroom activities as well as face to face activities. Today my boys came home from a technology class (held once or twice a month) where they learned how to put a slide show together starting with taking the digital photos right to saving it to a thumb drive. Some of the slide shows were even set to music. They were so excited to share their creations and to show off what they did. It was a fun day for them and for me.

I guess the bottom line is the same as most of my posts: do what works for you and meets your families needs. I will say though that you should be careful of being too close minded and therefore cheat your children out of some wonderful things that were put here for us to enjoy and learn.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homeschool Organization

Anyone who has homeschooled for long may likely tell you that organization is an ongoing effort and sometimes a huge struggle. Just like most things in life there will be times where you are very devout about keeping all your supplies, texts, misc. books and more organized but then there will be seasons where you will fall of the wagon. No worries, just get back on when you can and enjoy the organization while it lasts.

Here are a few things to help you be organized, remember these are just suggestion and not things you have to have to homeschool or to do a good job.
  • Plenty of book shelves. This sums up a lot because on these shelves you can put your books but you can baskets and plastic containers with supplies and other objects. For example on my shelves I have three tubs of science lab supplies, a tub of crayons, a caddy for other art supplies, texts, stacks of lined paper, folders, a caddy of pencils, a bin for math manipulatives, etc.
  • Tubs, baskets, bins and caddies. By reading the above paragraph you can see why you may need these.
  • The Rubbermaid (or other brand) plastic drawer sets that are on casters are very helpful. This is a great way to store school supplies and such.
  • Plenty of supplies. Part of being organized is to be well stocked so that you are not making haphazard trips to the store. Planning ahead and preparing will ultimately save you tons of time as well as money.
  • Make zones. Being organized with everything in one place can be difficult if you don't have an area large enough for an "all in one" school center. You can divide the home into zones where there is a computer lab, a place set apart for science, a corner that is well lit and quiet for reading, a place for desk work (make sure the table is not to high), and a place where maps can be on the wall for reference in history, geography and more.
These are just a few tips to help you get started on homeschool organization. Different ways of doing things work for each individual. Most would agree though that being organized and knowing where things are takes a lot of the frustration out of educating your children.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Extra Curricular Programs

Do you as a homeschool parent start to wonder if your children are doing too much? Or do you wonder if they aren't doing enough? I think that perhaps all parents, no matter how their children are educated, come to this crossroads more than once in the child rearing process. I for one am someone who has a hard time balancing things and am all or nothing so I am always seeking for that fine balance between work and play, even with my kids.

My children do a full day of coursework as well as their individual reading and their music practice (30 minutes per day minimum). They have a great neighborhood social life, a church social life and my boys are both in the Boys Scouts of America and very active in that. My oldest just signed up for a basketball team which should be fun.

I guess that at any given point in time the needs of the child are different as are the opportunities! I have a three year old that is definitely waiting for preschool in the fall but she will go. Despite my homeschooling efforts for all other grades, preschool is something I just don't do. I have a seven year old that I think should finally get into music lessons, possibly dance and we are looking into Girl Scouts for her. She needs more social interaction. Not because she is "backwards" or socially impaired but because she thrives in social situations and I want to foster that. She is also very artistic and I want to plant her in places that she can bloom. She is my third child but she is the first that I wasn't quite sure if we should homeschool all the way. We take it year by year, month by month. I am ever evaluating our children's needs to see if a change is in order and I am very open to the thought of it.

The most important thing that experts warn parents about is finding that balance and not over scheduling our children. It is a very fine line we walk as parents between giving our children opportunities and helping them develop skills and talents and then over scheduling. It takes a lot of time, thought and energy. I hope that as your year continues you are better able to find this balance and I hope we can bring you more postings with information on ways to do that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When Reading Progress Halts!

What do you do when you are on the path of teaching a young child to read and all of a sudden the child has no interest in reading at all. Do you push, do you manipulate, do you entice? What is the right way to approach such matters?

One way of looking at this issue is to see that not all children are the same and even most public school teachers will tell you that in general some things will work for all children but that each child has unique needs. When it comes to reading this can be very true. It may be wise to back off a bit for a while but to keep in mind that putting off progress for too long can be risky for the child in terms of test scores or their learning ability in other subjects. Taking a week or two off of being pushy about reading can be a welcome break to both you and your child if you are a homeschool parent.

You may also want to look at the curriculum you are using and see if maybe it is too dry and down right boring for the child. This is not to say that everything should be vibrant or exciting (in fact, some methods of homeschool do not believe in anything "fluffy" or "dumbed down"). You may also want to consider how the curriculum or program you are using is progressing. Is it giving the child the necessary tools to be able to make the appropriate progress? Is there a foundation in phonics and knowledge of letter blending, etc. to help the child build upon? If not, it may be time to switch things up.

From experience I can tell you that Sing, Spell, Read and Write is a great program for such a time. I have used this on two out of four children who hit this wall during the learning to read phase. You can buy it new but you can also find it on EBay and other homeschool "used curriculum" sites.

Another great program that teachers a great foundation and can be used for years in the elementary level is the Writing Road to Reading. Both of these programs mentioned are wise in that the incorporate handwriting, reading and spelling. They are all so interconnected in our lives that it seems silly to disconnect them in a curriculum.

If you are having this issue with your child we wish you the best of luck. When you teach a child to read you truly hand them the world because they can go so many places and have so many experiences through the joy of reading. It can be magical and yet frustrating and it is hard to know just how to tackle it with each individuals learning style. Best wishes in your endeavors!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Homeschool Incentives and Rewards

In a perfect world we wouldn't need to entice our children to do what is simply expected of them and hopefully this is usually the case. Many child psychologists are against rewarding good grades in school and think that a child's education is just what their work is during childhood. While I agree with that to an extent and will not be rewarding a child's grades I do know that it is hard to keep up self motivation while homeschooling. This comes from homeschooling my children since Kindergarten (I now have a 7th grader).

We all become disenchanted with our lots at some point and we need some sort of change of pace and incentive to get us through at times. With this thought I started a new program with my kids today that I thought I would share. We came into this new year behind in science so I was trying to find a way to get my kids excited about catching up because quite frankly, the idea of just being caught up isn't doing it for them any longer.

This morning I made a list of this weeks educational goals and told them that if they achieved these (music practicing included) that we would go to a movie at the end of the week. When I say movie I should clarify. We are lucky enough to have a $2 per seat theatre in our town and so for under $15 we can all go to a movie at a theatre. And we were lucky enough to get gift certificates for Christmas.

The goals for this reward were not just science related. As I noted, we added music practice in but they also had all of their other daily assignments as well as personal reading time included. This means that they have to stay up on current work and get an extra science lesson in each day to get their reward. It will also be a reward for me! Win - win!

For those the unschool or don't do a boxed curriculum as I do you can do your own incentives. I'm sure there are many ways to mix things up for just about any homeschool style. I am a fan of just about all methods of homeschool and have tried many but I know the reality that we all at some point get bogged down in how large the task seems. It is good to have something to look forward to and it is always good to go do something fun as a family. The reward does not even have to be called a "reward" and most definitely wouldn't have to cost a dime. My children would be just as thrilled if not more so if I told them we would spend an hour or two at a park for an outing. Children of all ages are generally pleased with the more simple things in life, it seems that the adults tend to complicate things.

So what will you do when you are in a bind? Will you entice your kids by having something to look forward to?