Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Combating the AAAAHHHHH factor

There is a test question that sometimes plays in my mind, it goes a little like this:
1.  On some days Julie just want to: A.)  throw in the towel, B.) hang up my hat, C.)  move to Brazil, alone  D.)  send my kids to military school.......  and there are days........when..... I really wish there was option E.)  all of the above!

Ever felt like that?

Sometimes the choice to educate your children can feel so overwhelming.  You wonder if you are even getting through to them.  You wonder why you even bother to make a lesson plan if they are just going to ignore it.  Why was it again you slaved over a schedule?  You ask yourself why you ever thought it was a good idea to buy  that critical thinking curriculum... because now they can argue circles around you..... sigh.... ......It is thought after thought, reason after reason.... all negative thinking.... and not how God calls us to be.

As believers we are told not to let our circumstances dictate our joy.  In Philippians, we are told to rejoice ALWAYS....
I know, I can hear you already... but JU....LIE, you whine..... you just don't know what my days are like!  How can I choose to be joyful when the baby is crying, the three year old is fingerpainting with his jelly on the dining room wall, the 3rd grader doesn't want to read, and my junior higher rolled her eyes stormed off and slammed the door in my face when all I asked her to do was her Pre-Algebra!??!  (all I can say is.... where do you think I came up with that example?  I have lived days like that!)

If your focus is on the whelming in your day.... it will surely take you OVER!  Examine how much time in your day you spend talking with the Lord. Take your children to the Lord before your day starts....  Take them to the Lord when they want to be difficult.  Pray as a group if you feel the day starting to get away from you.  Daily time in your Bible is the best "teachers manual" you will ever read.

Aside from these very important things, surround yourself with encouragement. Every homeschooling mom needs a cheerleader.  Husbands are wonderful for this, and mine does a great job, but sometimes you need to hear from others that are in the trenches with you!   Seek out a co-op or other homeschool group where you can share ideas, ask for advice, and prayer.   Sign up for newsletters that have encouragement, (you don't have to read them all, but they will be there for the days you need the extra encouragement), go to a local homeschool conference and hear what other educators have to share.  If you live to far from a convention or conference, look for online options.  There is a great one coming up in May, the 12th through the 14th..... it is only $20.  ( $24.99 after March 31).  If you on a budget, there is no better way to attend one of these.... you never leave home, no resturant meals, rental cars, airfare, crazy gas prices.... just information and encouragement.   I hope to "see" you there!   click here to check it out.....  The Schoolhouse Expo

Monday, March 29, 2010

Expedition Australia!!

Two weeks ago, we went on an expedition.... where you may ask? ......... to AUSTRALIA! .... no packing... no passports, no awkward moments while TSA searches your carry-on and steals your favorite hand lotion...... we only had to "Download N Go".......

I have always wanted to visit this "land down under" ever since the movie "Crocodile Dundee".  (I think I may have just dated myself with that comment) My son knew next to nothing about Australia, and could barely find it on our globe. After a week working through Expedition Australia, he will gladly tell you all he has learned. Not only can he show you where Australia is located, he knows about it's climate, major geographic areas, how it was founded, it's national holidays, currency, and of course he learned about The Great Barrier Reef. He even studied the different marsupials that live on Australia and Tasmania. It was an action packed, fun filled week!

Expedition Australia is a 103 page E-book, that is a collaborative venture between The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Amanda Bennett. It can be found in The Old Schoolhouse Store, in their 'Download N Go' section. This is geared to work best within grades K-4, and at a mere $7.95, is worth every single penny. It downloads right to your computer after you purchase, there is no need to wait for anything to ship! It is very much worth the investment, and can be referred to again and again as your child grows. Created to be both a lapbooking study as well as a notebooking study, it is very well organized into daily segments, and has hyper-links to other sections of the book which contain the lapbook components. Expedition Australia is one of many E-books, in the Download N Go series, that follow this format. You can pick from their Welcome Spring bundle, a pick your own bundle, a whole semester of study, or even a whole year! ( the whole year option is the BEST value! ) I think that you could even incorporate this study into work for your older student. They could certainly work on their writing and research skills using this study as a starting point.

When I read through the book before we started, I noticed that it gave additional reading books we could use with each day's study. My library has an on-line reservation system, so I brought that up, and looked up all the books the authors had listed. Out of the 25 books that were listed, I was able to obtain 6 from my local library system. We got a very nice cross section of books for all 5 days, some were fun stories, and others were more informative. The E-book has links to all of these books for purchase, and if your budget can support the expenditure, I would recommend all of the reading material. There are resources that are contained in this book that will keep you busy for well past the week of study it is designed for.

Included in the book is an introduction to lapbooking. I found this VERY helpful, we had never lapbooked before. I found it a great hands on way to reinforce the material that was learned throughout Expedition Australia. One helpful hint was the suggestion to wait to add some items to the folder after the week of study was complete. My son is very much a hands on guy, and these activities were very interesting for him to piece together, he is still asking for little things to add to his folder.  ( I have added some pictures of his actual lapbook at the end of this post )

Each day we used this book as our complete curriculum. (Well, we kept doing our regular math too, so we didn't get behind). It does contain some math within each day, and it was good reinforcement for units of measurement, temperature and time. Each night I printed out the pages for the next day, my son would read from the page, and I would read the material from the computer screen. When there were links to videos, or to more information on a given subject, he would come over and watch it, and we would take turns reading it. We used the comprehension questions for each section as our handwriting practice; reading and words of the day, as our language arts and spelling; and the drawing exercises for our art. Science was well covered by all of the wonderful animals of Australia. The remainder of the E-book would fall under the social studies, history or geography category for our day's work. It took us about 3 hours to complete a days worth of work with a few breaks scattered in for a very active 7 year old boy.

Some unit studies are books or CD's that you receive and they are all inclusive, meaning that the information you will study has been gathered, and written out in a narrative form and you study that material. This E-book differs from that style. Most of the information that you get to fill out the notebook portion as well as the individual components of the lapbook, come from the internet links contained in each day's work. You really need to be at a computer for this E-book to function as it is intended. This was not a problem for us, we use the internet for many parts of our homeschooling day, but if you do not have a computer to use, you need to be aware of this feature.

My son really enjoyed learning all about Australia. His favorite thing was a link to study more about the Great Barrier Reef. It was very interactive and I think he had me scroll over every part of it at least six times to make sure we didn't miss anything. Since it was our first lapbook, I like that we now have a couple of keepsakes from our study for years to come, and to show Grandma the next time she is up to visit.

I recommend this study! Particularly to anyone who is interested in trying out lapbooking or unit studies for the first time. You will not be disappointed!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What does your kid "Wanna-be"?

We homeschool on a budget. I try to keep my homeschool spending below $350 a year for all 3 of my students. For product I am going to tell you about, I would gladly spend $8.95 out of my budget.

Last month I was given the opportunity to try out one of the "Wanna-be" Series  of E-books that are published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. It is a 10 book series on different jobs that kids often say they want to be when they grow up. The titles available include : Veterinarian, Police Officer, Artist, Pilot, Chef, Doctor, Missionary, and in the Military. The E-book I received was "I Wanna be a Firefighter". I was excited to start on it, because I thought my son might enjoy learning about what a firefighter does. The E-book was easy to download. It opened right up in my Adobe Reader. They are created to be used by a wide age range, 4-10 years old, my son is 7 and falls neatly into the middle of that range.

I realize that part of the reason we have created E-books, is to save on paper, BUT............... I printed out the entire 78 pages before we started, ( what can I say.....I am a hands- on kind of girl ) , and stuck it in a plain file folder to keep it together. I was amazed by how much "stuff" was in it! Over half the book is devoted to reinforcing activities and materials.... they even give you answer keys! There was copy work, both for manuscript and cursive writers, coloring pages for younger children, a word search, math, a test on the material that was to be read, bible verses, vocabulary words, activities and party ideas..... It is entirely self contained, you don't need to purchase anything else, or look anything up.... just print what you want, and GO!

We used the book for one on one instruction for my elementary school aged son, but I could envision how easily the book could be adapted for use in a Co-op setting, or for those with a large family. The many activities that are listed, to help reinforce the character qualities that are required for a firefighter would work best with multiple children. My older children ( high schoolers) were not so excited about participation, but if they were put in charge of younger children, and had to teach and supervise the activities, I believe they would have enjoyed it much more. My 7 year old, however, enjoyed the activities immensely. His favorite was the bucket brigade. I also think that the party ideas would be enjoyed more, if done in a co-op setting.

We began the study while we were traveling in a car to visit some relatives. My sister was driving, and the rest of the car was captive. As I read, I was impressed by how thorough the material was. It was more in-depth than I expected for a K-4 material. Everyone in the car, my high schoolers, my son, and even my 31 year old sister, were engaged and interested in the material. Each subsequent day we would read another section from the reading material and do one or more of the reinforcing work pages that were included. It would take about an hour during our normal school time. Twenty to thirty minutes to read the material, thirty minutes more to do the pages, and discuss what we had learned.  It tooks us  a week and a half to complete the entire book.

There was only one section in the book that seemed to be a bit "rough" in how it tied into firefighters and what they do. That section was Science. It was on robots. While there was an attempt to correlate: one robot was fireproof and was there to detect forest fires, another was one that could extinguish fires in chemical plants, this information amounted to only 2 paragraphs tying robots to firefighters in the 9 pages of the science section. Every time a robot and a fire were mentioned together, I would have a mental picture of a poor melted pile of microchips that gave it's dying whir to help a fireman. I would have enjoyed learning more about the science of fires. For example: how does oxygen feed a fire?, what benefits or harm do forest fires have on our environment?, what types of plants need fire to reproduce?, how do investigators tell where a fire started and what started it?, these are the things I think of when I think "fire science". Don't get me wrong.... my son enjoyed learning about robots and building the robot arm, this section just seemed disconnected from the overall theme of the book.

We really enjoyed this E-book. My son makes sure we either drive or walk by any fire truck that is parked at the grocery store. We go over all the gauges, hoses, ladders, and he tells me who sits where in the cab. He originally didn't want to start the material because he thought that if he read about what a firefighter does, he would be automatically committed to becoming a firefighter. After explaining that we were just going to learn more, not make a life long commitment to it, he relaxed and enjoyed all the new information. The material is easy to reinforce since we see firefighters living, driving and working in our community. I am pretty sure that it won't be too long before he tries to talk me into chasing down a fire truck to see how it hooks into a fire hydrant and pumps the water to the fire.

I would recommend this book, not just to those within the homeschooling ranks, but to everyone! Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles could use it when younger relatives come to visit. It would be easy to take on vacation and incorporate field trips into. Those who school outside the home, could use it as a supplement during holiday breaks or summer vacation. It would make a GREAT birthday gift.

So, ask your child what they think they may "Wanna-be", get one of these great E-books, and explore together more about what happens in their "dream" job.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A call for action

This was just brought to my attention thanks to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. It is from the HSLDA... and a warning that everyone should take the time to read.

Calls Needed: Government Home Visitations in the Health Care Reform Bill
William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations

March 15, 2010

We have previously encouraged you to call your U.S. representative and urge him or her to oppose the health care reform bill that is heading toward a vote in the U.S. House. We urge you to continue your calls. It is very likely that the U.S. House will vote on the health care reform bill this week.

HSLDA is aware of the high cost of health insurance and the problems this creates for individuals, families and businesses. HSLDA’s mission leaves us neutral on the issue of health care reform in general. However, HSLDA believes that the current health care reform legislation in Congress poses a serious threat to parental rights and homeschool freedom.

The problem is found in Section 2951 on page 568 of this 2,074-page bill. This section is titled Maternal, Infant, And Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs, and will create a federal grant program to fund state home visitation programs. Under the terms of this program, government officials, including social workers, will be able to visit the homes of certain families “in order to promote improvements in maternal and prenatal health, infant health, child health and development, parenting related to child development outcomes, school readiness, and the socio-economic status of such families, and reductions in child abuse, neglect, and injuries.”

The home visitation program in the health care reform bill is voluntary. However, all the details of the home visitation programs are open to being politically influenced by government bureaucrats who may think that they know more about parenting than do parents. They may pressure parents to adopt child-rearing methods that are against the family's religious beliefs. Home visitation officials may even threaten families with abuse and neglect investigations if the families do not choose to follow the official parenting education models.

And fundamentally, HSLDA believes that the federal government has no constitutional authority to fund and oversee home visitation programs and parenting classes. Once the federal government gets a foot into the door of families’ homes, will it ever stop?

These home visitations are the reason why HSLDA is opposing the health care reform bill.

There is still a very strong chance that the U.S. House of Representatives may approve the Senate’s health care reform bill that was passed on Christmas Eve. We ask you to call your U.S. representative and respectfully urge him or her to oppose the health care reform bill. There is no need to identify yourself as a homeschooler, because this bill will affect all Americans. You can use some or all of the following message:

“Please oppose the health care reform bill. Congress should not force an unpopular bill upon Americans, especially one that increases the power of the federal government and increases the national debt. I am also opposed the bill’s creation of government home visitation programs. Parents, not federal or state officials, should make child rearing decisions for their young children.”
You can reach your U.S. representative by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, or toll-free at 866-220-0044. You can find your U.S. representative by using HSLDA’s Legislative Toolbox.

................ voluntary? How voluntary are they planning on making Health care in general..... You know, historically and legislativly speaking, both Social Security Numbers and Taxes are supposed to be voluntary.... ...... If you don't speak up, you are giving your rights away.... please call your representative today!

Original article--- with hypertext links

Monday, March 8, 2010

Paper Flower Craft

In response to a request for this particular craft...Here it is...

I found this craft in a book called "175 Amazing Nature Experiments" by Rosie Harlow and Gareth Morgan published by Random House ISBN 0679820434
The book is full of great hands on activities for science for ages 2 and up. Even my oldest children still like to do activities from this book. If your library has it, or you can find a copy to buy, I highly recommend it.

My only suggestion is to use a very wide straw... when we made it we used thin bendy straws... and had to tape the petals to the outer part of the straw, because they didn't fit inside... other than that... it was a blast, and very educational. My son still sees flowers in the store, and will start naming off parts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Awkward Silence

I saw this fan page on facebook yesterday... it said " Hey, what school do you go to?" .... "I'm Home schooled." ..... "Oh..." ( Awkward Silence) ...

As funny as this is... and I found it very funny, it's humor lies in the truth of the statement. Often when you mention that you are a homeschooled child or that you homeschool, you are met with an awkward silence. I have often wondered what it is people are thinking at that very moment.... do they think that we are mutants now? I mean we looked so normal, until we said the word homeschool.

I think I might just start asking people what they are thinking in the midst of that awkward silence... I am curious to know their thoughts. How can we educate or advocate about homeschooling, if we just leave the person to have their silent thoughts.

Many times when this subject comes up, we hear responses like " oh my daughter-in-law homeschool's" or, "I had a friend that did that years ago." Most of the responses we receive are neutral, or positive in nature.

Have you ever received a negative response from someone at the store wondering why your children were not in "school"? If so, how have you handled it? Share with me a funny story of an awkward moment, or a positive or negative response you have had from a random person out in public.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A quick review on Teaching Textbooks.

First let me say their name is beyond boring... but they went to MIT... brilliant in math... lacking in the loquaciousness... we will forgive them..

Up to this point, we have used their Math 7, Pre-algebra, Algebra 1, and Geometry. I am waiting for Math 3 to come out so I can begin it with my youngest child. I have one child who just "gets" math.... the other, is like her mama.... and struggles with math over all. Both students enjoyed these books. My oldest, ( and the one who "gets" it) was able to come from public school 6th grade math, and then a year of no math, straight into the Algebra 1. I don't mean to say that this Algebra course is that easy, because I do believe it to be academic. I feel he had such success because the concepts were made clear, in every lesson. I tried to do Pre-Algebra that same year with my math struggler, and it was melt-downs and tears. So we went and printed out the placement tests they provide, and moved her to Math 7 for a wonderful tear-free year. I do like the fact that my children can work independently with their math curriculum, and come to me with questions vs. me standing there reading out of a teachers manual and explaining all the concepts. I think that when you home school multiple grades, you need to take the opportunity to let your children work alone from time to time so that you are available to help your other students. These books do a very good job of explaining the concept, and they provide either CD-ROM lectures, as well as the lecture written in the book. It is a nice tool for those who are more auditory in their learning process.

I learned things myself in Algebra and 7th grade math, that I was never taught. I feel like it filled the holes that were there from my own math education in "traditional" school. I have read dissenting opinions on this curriculum, and I do know if it is "behind" or not; I do not hold a degree in Math. To me, some of the word problems tend to be repetitive within a chapter, but it does the job of cementing the concept. It is expensive, however, I do plan to use the books with all of my 4 of my children, making the cost more like 50.00 a kid. I have noticed that re-sale value on this curriculum remains fairly high, should you choose that option to recuperate some of your expenses.

If you have a math genius, maybe this isn't your curriculum... But if understanding processes, and actually enjoying math is your goal.... these are the books for you.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our homeschool journey

The decision to home school is one that each family needs to make for themselves. How each family arrives at the decision to educate their children at home, is as varied as a field of wild flowers. Not one journey, or flower is the same.

When I grew up, the people who home schooled were either hippies who were thumbing their nose at the government, or the kids who couldn't, for some reason, "hack" it in public school. The two groups that I was familiar with were; too shy, and the social interaction ( more like total chaos ) of high school was such a strain they studied at home, or the kid had enormous discipline issues and had been kicked out of every form of institutional education, and home study was their only option. It was clear that my thoughts of the word home school was jaded by these extremes. I was under the impression that normal kids went to school and that was just the way it was.

After high school I began to babysit for a family that home schooled their two boys. They were not hippies, the children were not shy, nor did they have discipline problems. They were the most normal family I had ever known. They had pulled their oldest out of a private christian school, after he had completed the first grade. I don't recall being present when they did their school work, but I do remember that she never answered the phone during school hours, and they had the coolest school room with the neatest three person desk that the dad had made for the three of them to work at.

Fast forward to 1999 and it is now school time for my oldest child. The thought of him being old enough to be school aged, nearly triggered a panic attack. I remember driving to work and almost being in tears, thinking of parent-teacher meetings, report cards...... oooohhhh he was so OLD now! He was just born,... right?

After I regained my composure, we decided to enroll him in the same private school that I had attended as a child. I was familiar with their system, and knew personally many of their teachers and administrators. He did well, and his sister joined him at the same school a year later. I had taken a job with the school, and worked for a year as a Kindergarten Aide. I had lots of fun my second time through Kindergarten. Then I trained to be a school bus driver. I then became pregnant with my third child, and eventually fitting behind the wheel of a school bus became much more of an issue.

As I left that job, we could no longer afford the cost of private education. During that same time we moved to a different city. The school district in that city had begun to advertise in the media that it was allowing it's teachers to come "out" to their students. I really didn't want my children exposed to that. I just couldn't see how someones private experiences needed to become the social agenda for a classroom of 6 and 7 year old.

That became my initial catalyst into educating my children at home. I called the woman I had babysat for years ago, and asked her what material she used, and we got started. Our first curriculum was from School of Tomorrow, it was an all inclusive workbook curriculum and it worked very well for a very pregnant... and then mother with a newborn.

A few years later life changed again and we needed to move in with my parents for financial reasons. I needed to go back to work full time, and we were not able to continue educating at home. So we placed the older two in public school. My parents lived in a more "conservative" school district, and my original reason for homeschooling no longer applied. During the years we lived at my parents, the kids enjoyed 4th and 5th, and 5th and 6th grades. I learned much during those years. Much about what i didn't want education to be. While my children were in the public system, I was employed by a private school as the secretary, I was learning about education from the inside out.

We were afforded the opportunity to move to another state, and this move would allow me to return to life as a stay home mom. As soon as my kids realized this, the first thing out of their mouths was: "Mom, can we home school?" Initially I was shocked by this request, I thought they had liked being in school. As we talked it through we found out that they wanted to return to a more flexible schedule, and they had a desire to return to more Christ-centered materials than they were receiving in the "public" system.

As we returned to homeschooling, I purchased a different workbook based curriculum, because it was what had worked before, and that is really when it all fell apart. The kids hated it. I really couldn't figure out why... the work seems easy enough. Everyday was like trying to extract teeth without Novocaine.... and I was tiring of the struggle. Half way through that year, we stopped the workbooks all together, and went and got a library card for everyone. We read lots and lots for the rest of that year, on the various subjects that interested us.

This shift away from "boxed" curriculum, is truly where MY journey with homeschooling began. I knew i needed to supplement our trips to the library with math and science, so I began to surf the web, and reading books about different styles of educating at home. Eventually I found what works for our family. We use Teaching Textbooks for Math, and Apologia Science. ( Links to these websites are on the right) I know that many people have a concern about homeschooling their child through the High School years because of these two subjects. I am here to say, that even a NON math person ( that would be me! ) can teach these subjects with these text books. Both are conversational in tone, both come with CD-ROM helps... and answers to every single problem that is given. They are WONDERFUL! The rest of our curriculum is rounded out ( for the older students ) with reading material from Ambleside Online. It is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum, most of which can be found in a library, or they supply the Internet links for you to read the material online.

There are a gazillion curriculum's out there.... don't be afraid to try something, and don't be afraid to say "hey, this isn't working well for our family" Homeschooling may be a cost effective alternative to private education, but it isn't "cheap". You will need to pay a price in time. Time with your kids, time searching for what fits for your family. I will say, the cost of time is well worth it.

What curriculum do you use? What helpful tips do you have to share with other people looking into the idea of educating their children at home?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...