Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jam-packed Thursdays

Jam-packed Thursdays form a solid wall as I gaze at my calendar. Every Thursday, I teach two writing classes to local homeschoolers and we zoom from there to our karate class. Before heading home, we usually make a mad dash through the grocery store since we are already in town. When we arrive back at our cold and empty home, four hours of computer work await me (my daily job).

I adore teaching writing. I'd like to write more about that. I will. I promise. Someday.

Right now, I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How do you teach what you don't know?

One question I sometimes hear regarding homeschooling is: How do you teach what you don't know?

I acknowledge that this is a valid concern, especially for high school.
Some moms wonder about their own basic knowledge. You are not alone in realizing that you made it through school and didn't necessarily master all the knowledge that was presented to you or perhaps you have forgotten it somewhere along the way. I know a lot of homeschool moms who say they are in whatever grade their oldest child is in. As in, "Suzy is in 5th grade and I'm in 5th grade too!" You can learn the content along with your child. I would suggest previewing the teacher materials beforehand so that it's fresh in your mind when you teach it.
Sometimes there will be something that is just outside of your range of teaching abilities. For instance, my oldest took Pre-Calculus in his senior year, which is not something my husband or I took in school. Nor did either of us ever imagine ourselves learning it. So, our son taught it to himself. (And did quite well, actually!) So, your child becoming an autodidact (look it up!) is one possible way to handle the problem. Several companies, such as Teaching Textbooks (pictured) and Alpha Omega's Switched-on Schoolhouse, produce curriculum that is designed for independent learning.

Tutors are often an effective solution in situations where you don't have the necessary knowledge or perhaps the time (or desire) to learn the skills. Tutoring can be a paid situation or a trade. For instance, last year I taught my friend's daughter essay writing and she worked with my daughter to complete her Biology dissection lab with my daughter. Science is NOT my thing. This was our second trade like this, as we also did the same thing with our oldest sons. Several other friends have found paid algebra tutors for their high school students.

An additional option could be dual enrollment in college. Several families I know have chosen this route for their high school students, who are then earning college credit while learning their high school curriculum.

So, as you can see, not knowing everything is not a barrier to homeschooling. Don't let that stop you!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Bible verses are not just words." or The Value of Memorizing Scripture

"Some people question the value of rote memory, and I'll admit that just memorizing words for the sake of words is of limited value. But Bible verses are not just words. We may not fully understand every verse we memorize, but the act of learning it pins it to our short-term memories. From our short-term memory, it filters into our long-term brain cells. It sinks into our subconscious minds, and as time passes the results can be dramatic.

And always dramatically good."

- from 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert J. Morgan

Monday, February 24, 2014

My kids do a lot of chores.

Emily mowing the yard, age 16
My kids do a lot of chores.

Sometimes people are surprised by this, perhaps thinking that kids shouldn't have to do much "work" around the house. I'm always shocked when I see chore lists for a 10-year-old that read like this:

  1. feed the dog
  2. clean your room

Kids are capable of so much more!

Emily, Suzy, and James
painting the barn in 2012
At the same time, I am certain some kids do far more work than mine. We live in a small house with a small yard in a small village. We have no animals (pets or otherwise). Our duties are limited in those ways.

My childhood included a lot of chores and helping out. I have five younger siblings, four of whom are at least ten years younger than me. Therefore, my mom was often occupied with them and relied on me and my next-youngest sister to help both with chores and with the younger ones. I think it was effective training. (Didn't think so then, though, not surprisingly, and neither do my kids!)

A few years ago, I read a book called 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home by Bonnie Runyon McCullough, which I found very inspiring. The book includes checklists of skills children should know at various ages. I photocopied these years ago, when my oldest (now 19) was still a preschooler, with the goal of ensuring that I would not miss any essential household skills.

Kids need to work in order to feel useful. Also our job as parents requires us to prepare them for adulthood. We aren't doing them any favors if we don't teach them how to load the clothes washer or what cleaners to use on the flooring. These skills are essential for real life and kids need to learn them.

Suzy age 11, helping Grandma and
Grandpa move some belongings
Since I am a work-at-home mom, my kids and I have a deal. If they want to continue to be homeschooled (and they do), then they need to take up most of the slack left by me working 25 hours a week. This means they do a lot of the daily duties that I would do if I was not working for pay.

I thought I'd share a list of duties my kids accomplish on a regular basis and would love to hear your reactions. Are they doing enough? Too much? The right things? What do your kids do and why?

Outside Chores regularly include:
James age 13 and Suzy age 11,
helping their dad paint a cabinet for Grandpa
Mowing (age 11+)
Snow shoveling in season
Weeding and other gardening
Taking out the trash

Inside chores regularly include:
Cleaning their own rooms
Washing windows and sills
Sweeping floors
David, James, and Suzy
painting our barn in 2012
Mopping floors
Cleaning bathroom
Washing baseboards
Folding laundry

In addition, my kids handle most of the kitchen duty in the home, including:
Cooking meals (usually the kids make all the meals)
Cleaning up kitchen
Doing dishes by hand
Putting away groceries

I have done many different chore charts over the years and they all work well - for a while. Currently the three kids living at home rotate kitchen duties weekly and housecleaning chores monthly. If you'd like to know more, please comment.

Are the kids always cheerful? NO
Are the jobs always done well? NO
Am I always glad that they are doing the chores instead of me? NO

But it's important and it works.

Note: most of these pictures are taken on special work occasions because I don't often grab the camera and snap photos of the kids doing their toilet cleaning or dishwashing. Maybe I should. Nah, they wouldn't like it at all.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

7 Posts in 7 Days!

Winter has come and stayed and stayed and stayed.... The blogging has slowed to a trickle.

I know you miss it!

So, here's my promise to you: new posts every day this week! I found this challenge on the Conversion Diary blog HERE.

Let's get this party started!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Co-op Classes

When is co-op? Is co-op this Friday?

Those are questions I have heard numerous times over the years. My kids love our homeschool co-op which meets, as you may have guessed, every other Friday during the school year. Co-op provides the opportunity to take unique classes, especially ones that mom cannot teach.

This year my kids are taking the following classes.

Emily - age 16
What Color is my Parachute Careers Class
Play! Improv (improvisational drama)
Shutter Bugs (Advanced Digital Photography)
Written & Illustrated (each child writes and illustrates a book)

James -age 13
Outdoor Survival Skills (building fires, using knives, etc.)
Electric Mischief (creating projects that use electricity)
Beginner Guitar
Personal Protection & Fitness (self-defense and krav maga fitness)

Suzy - age 11
PE for ages 8-11
Zoology Swimming Creatures (Apologia)
Little House Activities (based on the Little House book series)
Cupcake Creations

So, now you know what keeps us busy every other Friday!

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Look Back at a Day... Eight Years Ago

A friend posted a "day in the life" post on her blog and it made me think of this post I wrote eight years ago. Wow, how life has changed in eight years of homeschooling. My youngest is now the age that my oldest was when I wrote this. Enjoy! Maybe I will give you an updated look at our homeschool day sometime soon.

Tuesday February 21, 2006

BIO – We are a family of 6.  Bob and I have been married for 18 years this June.  Our children are David - age 11, Emily – almost age 9, James – age 6, and Suzanne – almost age 4.  Our children have always been homeschooled.

CHIRP CHIRP CHIRP  At 7:45, my alarm startles me out of sleep and I see that Suzy, age 3-1/2, and James, age 6, have climbed in bed with us at some point.  I thank the Lord for a king sized bed for the umpteenth time!  The four of us cuddle and chat.  I do an impromptu speech lesson with James – pronouncing “licorice”.  We work on his speech sounds throughout the day, as they come to our attention, since he has trouble with several speech sounds, including “L” and “R”.

Around 8:05, I haul myself out of bed and my oldest, David, age 11, comes pounding down the stairs, also jumping in bed with Daddy for a quick cuddle.  Emily, nearly age 9 and the late sleeper of the family, is still asleep and will probably have to be awakened sometime soon.  I peer outside to evaluate our Michigan winter weather conditions and notice a few snowflakes floating down.  The high today is expected to be 33, which is warmer than the last few days but still not warm enough for extended outdoor play, depending upon the windchill.  So, another day of indoor activities looms ahead.

Suzy announces, “Me made your bed, Mom!”  I thank her, grinning at the mental picture I get of the bed's appearance.  David shares some Everlasting Gobstoppers with his siblings, bought with his own money; this is not our usual before breakfast fare, but still a sweet thought.  Emily appears, to my surprise, and  I ask her jokingly if she smelled the candy and she says YES!

By 9:00, all beds are made (or so I'm told!), breakfasts are eaten, heads are combed, teeth are brushed, and bodies are dressed.  It's time for school!

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love,” I sing out, calling the children to the kitchen table for Bible study.  This is the opening line to the hymn we are currently learning.  They come running, with schoolboxes in tow, joining in with the song.  I have seen the singing of hymns disappear from modern churches and I am determined that my children will be familiar with a number of these masterpieces, so we learn a new one each month.

Today in Bible study, we are studying the character trait of Deference, which has been a real eyeopener in our home.  Thankfully my children have risen to the challenge of deferring to others and I've seen a real change in their behavior in the few days that we have been working on it.  Hopefully this new trend continues!   We are using Character Building for Families: Volume 1 by Lee Ann Rubsam.  We alternate character studies out of this book with units from our regular Bible study book – Bible Study Guide for All Ages: Volume 2 by Charles and Mary Baker.

After Bible, most days we do Art.  I have found that my children tend to do their regular schoolwork better if they have done something creative beforehand, so I've instituted art as the second subject we study each day.  The main resource I have been using for our lessons is How to Teach Art to Children from Evan-Moor Publications.  This is a great book that teaches the 7 art elements with great step-by-step directions.  We are currently studying texture and today's project, scratch-board paintings, has been a 2 day project.  The paintings turn out wonderfully, with multicolored highlights shining through the black finish!

Next is Science which is the most challenging subject for me to teach.  After a false start earlier this year, we are now doing a unit study on ecology using The Earth Book from Learning Resources.  Soon we will begin a study on Nutrition.

I move on to History with David and Emily while Suzy and James, who take a break from schooling at this point, play a new Sesame Street game on the computer. We are using Mystery of History Volume 1 by Linda Lacour Hobar this year and our topic for today is The Trojan Horse.  This history curriculum is just what I have been looking for and I plan to stick with it throughout the 5 volume series.  (Volume 2 is currently available.)

Bob leaves around this time for a worker's compensation vocational counseling appointment and some errands.  He is looking for work after being injured on the job 4 years ago and having been under medical care for most of that time.  My kids have really been blessed to have their dad at home with them, even though it's been a long recovery for him!

At 10:30, we finish history and have some pretzels for a snack.  I decide to make banana bread with Suzy while James does his math.  First he does a math test out of Math-U-See Alpha and then I have him work on addition sentences with the Learning Palette (Educational Insights).  Emily does a Math-U-See math test also, from the Beta level, and David, who is waiting for delivery of Math-U-See Epsilon, does 3 math pages from a book on metric measurement.

After math, Emily reads Luke's Fate (a Star Wars reader), David reads The Phantom Tollbooth, and James reads a Bob book aloud with me.  I read a Bob book to Suzy at her request and then she looks at some herself.   I confiscate a green sticky ball from the boys and redirect them to their work as I make some notes for the day.

It's time for Alphabet Island Phonics with James; he is working on 3 letter words with short “a”.  I supervise David doing Handwriting at the same time (cursive h)and then he begins his Electronics study.

Emily, who says she has finished reading, needs some redirection.  I take a balloon away from her and point her toward her Handwriting book.  David and I have a disagreement about how far he is in his electronics book.  He's been working with his dad but not doing the written work.  He says it is hard and makes his head hurt. I encourage him to keep at it and I'll help him later on.

We can all smell the banana bread cooking now – yum!  Emily has finished handwriting and is now reading a short book about Helen Keller – she has a minor fit when it becomes apparent she has not read the whole book even though she said she had and I send her back to read the rest.

At noon I take the bread out – yummy!  Suzy is so proud of it!  David is my helper for food preparation today.  Lucky for me – he decides on a meal (chicken noodle soup & biscuits) and then cooks it all.  Suzy sets the table.  James is playing computer and Emily is reading.  Those 2 will clean up meals today.

At 12:25, we sit down to eat.  I try something new I read about – reading aloud to the children while they eat, and eating my own meal afterward.  I pull out Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis and they cheer!  T

One of my biggest downfalls as a homeschool mom is my lack of reading aloud to the kids.  Our schedule is so full and varied that I have found it difficult to find a regular reading aloud time. Combine that with my general dislike of reading aloud (It's so SLOW!) that we haven't made it a priority.  I generally feel quite guilty about that and when I heard the suggestion to read aloud during lunch, I felt that maybe this was our solution!

After lunch, Emily clears the table, James does the dishes, and David starts his folding.   In our home, we have what we call “1:00 Jobs”.  We do 2-3 loads of laundry a day and it all gets folded in the afternoons.  Each child, even Suzy, does his or her own folding and puts it away.  They each have an additional folding job, such as matching socks, folding washcloths, etc...  Besides the folding, they each complete a chore.  David washes a couple of windows, Emily cleans the bathroom, and James does some dusting.  Suzy takes the recycling out to the bin.

David has such a great attitude today!  A little praise during lunch-making has gone a long way!  James, on the other hand, is being especially recalcitrant during 1:00 Jobs.  No matter, it all works out in the end.

Slipping my shoes off for a minute, I check my email while the kids do their folding.  Most of the schoolwork is done now, with just a few odds and ends to finish up.  The kids finish their chores and James puts in the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD.  We've been watching either this one or the Word Factory every day and it has been helping reinforce his phonics lessons.  All the kids watch, even though it is obviously aimed at lower elementary age children.   After a while, my friend Jen signs on to AIM and we chat for a bit while the kids finish their DVD (and I finish my Diet Coke – ahhhh!).

Just about 1:45, the DVD ends, and I sign offline.  I work with David and Emily on English From the Roots Up (Latin root of the day: video/visum).  While they are making their memory cards, Suzy colors with dry erase markers on a large dry erase board and James plays on the computer (Toy Story).   I strip the sheets off my bed and throw them in the washer.

Once they finish their root word cards (it takes them different amounts of time), David and Emily each have Spelling Power to do.  While I give David his words, I mend a shirt.  Seeing me sew, Suzy decides SHE wants to sew as well.  Not being prepared for teaching an almost 4 year old to sew today, I pull out the lacing cards and she plays with those as I finish spelling with both the older kids.

At 3pm, we have the banana bread as a snack.  I have a difficult time setting aside some bread for Bob to have when he gets home as the kids enjoy it so much!

By 3:15, the kids have donned snow pants, boots, and assorted winter gear and headed outside.  It is a lovely sunny day and much warmer than I imagined it would be, so I think they should be good for at least half an hour outside.

Just before 4pm, I call the kids in as they have pleaded to watch Cyber Chase (PBS) today, one of the very few TV shows that we watch.  While they watch the math show (today's concept – mathematically predictable body proportions), I blog and read email.

The remainder of the afternoon is free time for the kids as I straighten up and make dinner.  Suzy sets the table for me (not without some drama over her favorite plate being dirty) and David assists me with some dinner prep.  After dinner, Emily and James clean up.  Tonight the older 2 kids have baths; the younger 2 had theirs last night.

It's 9pm and I've just tucked the last child in after a few rounds of Uno and a couple picture books.  Now I'll exercise, check email again, spend a little time with my husband and settle down to watch a DVD before heading off to dreamland myself somewhere around midnight.   It's been a long fulfilling day at home!

~ ~ ~ ~
Hope you enjoyed that look back! I have been reminded of some important ideas that may make their way back into our lessons.