Now I would never want someone to become so overwhelmed that they closed the post and walked away feeling it was way too much for them. This is meant to be a resource; I don't intend for you to read every post in this series today! *wink* I hope to be an encouragement. To offer a vision. And possibly some direction, maybe new ideas, maybe some relief by removing some of the mystery of homeschooling.
When I was preparing for my first year of homeschooling I only knew a couple of moms doing it and so I went to them and asked, "Okay...so how do I do this?" And with a little smile and a twinkle in their eye said, "Anyway you want to." I thought, "What?!" *ack!* That's not what first-born me wanted to hear! I like to hear a recipe for success! Give me steps 1-2-3, mix well for so long, bake in the oven for this time, and you have a beautiful cookie! *laugh* Well it is true that families can shape their homeschooling pretty much however fits them. But I still longed for some direction and to have some questions answered...but I didn't know what to ask. So let's dip our toes in and feel the water...
Here are the contents for this series:
- Homeschooling: WHY Do We Do It?
- Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 1 of 3
- Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 2 of 3
- Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 3 of 3: K-2
- Homeschooling - Preparing for the School Year
- Productively Occupying Young Children: Inclusion in Homeschooling
- Productively Occupying 3-Year-Old Boys
- Incentives & Rewards for Children's Behavior
- Computer Learning For Kids - How We Utilize It
- Character Training for Children - A Core Aspect of Discipleship (and homeschooling!)
- Homeschooling - Adding in Extra Fun!
- Homeschool Standardized Testing - at Home
- Government School-at-Home Programs/Co-Ops - Be Warned and Informed
- Two Golden books I recommend!
Homeschooling: WHY Do We Do It?
Bob and I are products of the public and private school world. Furthermore, I am a government-certified teacher trained at Western Washington University, a fact which has opened my eyes to what truly goes on in the schools and what is taught both in front of and behind parents backs. (And I’d like to add, this certification has not served to aid in our home-education efforts; in fact I have had to unlearn many things in order to become a better home educator.) Because of our direct experience and personal study, Bob and I knew we would not be sending our children in to the government school system, so we chose to homeschool… But homeschooling can seem intimidating at the beginning – even contemplating the possibility of beginning – so unfortunately this can stop people from considering home education. So let's look at 3 main reasons why people homeschool, and a whole lot of scripture pointing out the Biblical mandate for homeschooling. In this post I will share with you WHY we homeschool, and in a future post I will share HOW we do homeschooling.
- Some Reasons Why People Homeschool
- A Biblical Mandate for Homeschooling
Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 1 of 3
How do we homeschool with 9 children? *smile* We currently have a plan for our family that is working beautifully for us, and the curriculum is a new type as of these last 2 years. We spent our first 6 years homeschooling one way (watch for a future post on how we began), but as our family continued growing and our oldest children were needing the freedom to become more independent we developed our current plan, which we've been implementing for two years now (as of summer 2011). We've grown with the process over time and have enjoyed homeschooling more and more. Not that homeschooling is always easy-breezy (well, academics are easy, it's the character growth that's harder!) But with all of the hard work and our leaning on the Lord for strength, perseverance, faithfulness, creativity, there is abundant blessing, well-being, success, vision and encouragement for the future, and peace in knowing that we're within the Lord's will. Continuing my homeschooling series I'll share with you how we homeschool currently with 9 children. In this part 1 we'll look at:
- The blessings in using Christian textbooks
- What about learning styles?
- What our school day looks like
- Making time for school
Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 2 of 3
In Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, part 1, I shared with you about the blessings in using Christian textbooks, about learning styles and how those fit in, about what our school day looks like, and how to make time for school. In this part 2 I will share with you:
- Managing our school days
- Daddy - how he is involved
- Mommy - how I manage myself
- Our annual first day of school
Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, Part 3 of 3: K-2
Homeschooling kindergarten through second grade was probably where I've grown and changed the most in my homeschooling career of 10 years so far. I've been asked about this many times specifically regarding K-2, so let's sit down together for tea and I'll share with you:
- My first strategy for homeschooling kindergarten
- My current strategy for homeschooling kindergarten
- How I homeschool 1st grade
- How I homeschool 2nd grade
I've begun seeing fall decorations and supplies cropping up in the stores lately and that always flips a switch in my mind from summer thinking and plans in to the next school year. My birthday is in the fall, October 31st, and since Halloween is the next holiday people purchase decorations for after the USA's Independence Day (4th of July), reminders of my birthday with Halloween decorations begin showing up in the stores in August! I almost always give a little gasp when I see this and think, "Oh! Wow...I'm almost [so many] years old...amazing..." We personally do not celebrate Halloween, but the decorations in the stores do move my thinking in to the fall season, and ramping back up to a full homeschooling schedule again. *smile* I begin de-cluttering our homeschool areas, re-organizing them, shopping for the supplies we'll need, and preparing on purpose to make our transition in to the next school year a smooth and enjoyable one. I get myself 2 steps ahead of the family so that I can lead them in to homeschooling as gracefully as possible. I'll share with you how I...
- Clean out last year's stuff
- Organize this year's stuff
- Why I stick with our same curriculum every year
- Prepare for the first day of school
Productively Occupying Young Children: Inclusion in Homeschooling
|Three of the girls having "water play" time.|
In our homeschool we strive to not just occupy non-school-age children, but to include them; to not chase them away, but to draw them in. Children need to know they are a valuable part of our family, and not just to be tolerated until they’re older. It is also invaluable practice with focusing their attention, sitting, and having limits on their freedom in preparation to begin homeschooling with a little curriculum starting at kindergarten age (age 4-6 depending on the child). We’ve learned several strategies for including our littlest muffins along our homeschooling journey and many people inquire as to how we do this, so here are some of the ideas we implement regularly.
- Towel Time (or blanket time)
- Table Activities
- Play Yard or Pack-n-play
- Crib Play
- Play Stations
- The Jumper
- Computer Learning
- Nap time
Productively Occupying 3-Year-Old Boys
I've been asked this question many times, "Could you please give me ideas for ways to productively occupy my rambunctious 3-year-old little son?" And since most all of us moms have striven to learn to do this well, I'd like to give you a thorough, detailed answer from what I've learned. *smile* Not that I've "arrived" by any means, but these are ideas that have worked well for us.
Now may I just say first that our sons are wonderful, happy, energetic little guys and we love them absolutely to pieces. And the 3-year-old little man that I'll be highlighting today is absolutely a joy! But they and he have been a lot of work, too, and different work from the girls. From my experience, boys are an entirely different ball game. *wink*
So how can we productively occupy these little guys while we're trying to homeschool our older children, and manage toddlers and babies simultaneously? I'll share with you,
- Boys vs. girls
- How I keep him safe without having to follow him around all the time.
- How I schedule our 3-year-olds time on a typical day.
- A list of specific toys and activities that our 3-year-old sons have liked to occupy their time with.
- Five catalogs and online shopping resources that I've gotten many great activity ideas from over the years.
I strive to bring as much delight as I can into all of the children's character and behavior training. So I look for the little things to praise for and try to jump at those with affirmation. Now I am very aware that there is value in children doing things simply to develop good character; but we also do not think there is anything wrong in offering a tangible reward sometimes. When daddy goes to work, he is rewarded for his effort by his paycheck. So from what we've learned it is also fine for children to experience rewards when they do good work or have personal successes. Since I've been asked for specific strategies for incentives and rewards with the children, here are 9 ideas for you...
- Mini sticker charts
- Scratch-n-Sniff stickers
- Honey on their tongue
- "Ice cubes"
- Jelly Bellies
- Competing with themself
- "Smackeroo kiss" or a squeeze hug
- A little more of a movie or documentary
- Crackers for 5 min. success
- Earning Money
Computer Learning For Kids - How We Utilize It
We have found that computer learning can be incredibly valuable for our children, when carefully monitored, and with certain provisions, guidelines, and restrictions. Today I'll share with you how we structure these learning experiences in our home.
Here are some questions I have been asked:
- What learning programs are they using?
- Do they do online learning?
- Which kids use the computers?
- Where to find computer learning programs?
- When and how long to do they "play"?
- Computer as a tool or a toy?
Character Training for Children - A Core Aspect of Discipleship (and homeschooling!)
Have you ever told your children that you expect "orderliness", or "diligence", or "gratefulness" from them, only to have them look at you with a mystified expression on their face revealing that they have no idea what you're talking about? Or maybe when you tell them that you expect these types of character traits they ask you "...Why?" and then find that you can't actually explain that character trait to them in a way they can understand it? I certainly found this to be true for me! I began to discover how vague descriptions of character traits were to children and how that made them very difficult to understand. When I actually tried to come up with an explanation of what I desired and what they needed to develop it was not something the children could follow easily, and my description was still not specific enough. Let's look at,
- What is "character" exactly, anyway?
- Why should we care about character?
- Here's one of the ways we teach character to our children
- How our own character can re-enforce or undermine our teaching efforts
Homeschooling - Adding in Extra Fun!
Homeschooling can be hard at times. It can be monotonous and stressful some days. So we look for things that add extra smiles and variety in our homeschool days - on purpose! But still allow us to maintain our weekly schedule. These things I'll share are inexpensive, space-saving, not too distracting, and easily done at home while we do school (except for field trips, obviously, which is school away from home!). Here are some of our ideas. *smile*
- Crazy Hair Day!
- Window Happiness!
- Thinking Putty!
- Fruit Loop necklaces!
- "Friday school" books for the younger ones!
- Silly Willy!
- Great video documentaries!
- Audio books for lunch!
- Green Eggs & Ham!
- Red shirt day!
- Field Trips!
Homeschool Standardized Testing - at Home
Perhaps you have memories like my own, as a student myself, dreading the annual standardized testing. Feeling that I wouldn't do well compared to all those other people in the testing room. That I wasn't as smart. That I might need some help but there would be no one there to help me, and then I'd fail simply because I needed help understanding part of the test but couldn't get that help... *smile* I did not desire this for our children, so the first year that we did standardized testing I was delighted to learn that I could test our children at home myself. This has also been a huge blessing for us as a large family. I was also not sure how I could get the required testing accomplished for multiple children of varying ages and grades without spending huge amounts of time attending multiple tests, and without dropping young ones off and leaving them out from under my care. Here the Lord brought us a beautiful, simple, inexpensive solution. *smile* I'll share with you:
- Why we love standardized testing at home
- How we do it
Government School-at-Home Programs/Co-Ops - Be Warned and Informed
Home-education verses government school-at-home programs (a.k.a. Government-funded alternative learning programs / Virtual schools / Parent partnership programs) is a very sensitive subject amongst the homeschool community. There are several serious issues to consider when joining the government programs. Did you know, for example, that if you participate with the government school-at-home programs you cannot also be members of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) for legal protection should you need it - because you are not technically homeschooling. With these programs your student is a public school student...
Two Golden books I recommend!
When ever people begin asking questions about homeschooling such as the ones answered above, I pretty much always end up recommending one of the two following books. These books are thorough and full of practical how-to's, and yet also concise.
1. Managers of Their Schools, by Steve & Teri Maxwell ($18)
This book absolutely transformed our homeschooling process and practice, especially as our family grew larger and my initial plans were no longer working for us. Here's a synopsis (from the Maxwell's website)
"This book is filled with practical information regarding how one family [of 10] homeschools, what they use, why they do what they do, and how it all works for them. Details of homeschooling in a real-life family are set down, from how they make curricula decisions to whether their children take tests.
Have you ever wanted to sit down with an experienced homeschooling couple and ask them every question you could think of about homeschooling? Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling is the next best thing. With eight children and twenty-five years as a homeschooling family, Steve and Teri share their answers to the questions they are frequently asked.
After spending their first twelve years searching for a homeschool method that met their Scriptural and educational criteria, they finally began using Christian textbooks and have never wanted to change direction again. In this book, Steve and Teri share the benefits their family has gained from using textbooks, and they refute the reasons many will say homeschoolers should not use textbooks.
There is a chapter written by four of their adult children sharing some of their homeschool thoughts, particularly with regard to using Christian textbooks. One of the chapters is directed specifically to dads and another one to moms. The appendix of Managers of Their Schools includes ten of their school schedules, several assignment sheets, a listing of the school curricula and resources they use, plus coupon codes for discounts on some of them, and their reading criteria.
Whether or not you use the same method to home educate as they do, you will find a wealth of tried-and-true, daily-life homeschool information. Make your homeschooling journey that much easier, more efficient, and more joyful by learning from a family who has already walked the path."
2. 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum, Kathy Duffy ($18 from Amazon)
This book has the potential to save parents a *ton* of time and money! Cathy Duffy gives reviews of the top curriculum and shares about the quality of it, the pro's and con's, the type of student it fits best and the type of teacher it fits best, what is involved in implementing it, whether it's scripturally based or not, and much more. It helps parents determine which of the typical homeschooling styles is most likely "them" and best fits their family, without spending years to determine it. It helps to determine what types of student learners they have, and also what type of teacher mom is, and then which curriculum is the best fit for both. You do not have to purchase curriculum after curriculum wondering if this the best one? Or maybe this one? And if a child is struggling you don't have to wonder so much if the curriculum is the problem, or if that child has a learning difficulty, or if the curriculum isn't the best fit for the family; this book gives insights into all those things enabling parents to act confidently in their decision making and in how they proceed with the school year! It's miraculous, marvelous, priceless, and absolutely a must have for all homeschooling families in my humble opinion! *beam* (Can you tell I like the book?) Here's a synopsis: (from Amazon)
"101 Top Picks makes it easy for home educators to select the right curriculum for each family situation and each child's learning style. Widely-recognized curriculum expert Cathy Duffy walks you through the curriculum selection process: goal setting, figuring out which educational approach to use, developing your own philosophy of education, determining your teaching style, and identifying your children's learning styles. "At-a-glance" charts highlight key features of each Top Pick selection. Scanning through the charts allows you to quickly identify products likely to be of interest. The charts are followed by extensive reviews of each of Cathy's Top Picks. This is an updated and heavily revised edition of 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (2005)."
Well I hope this glimpse at the whole "pool" helps you to feel all the more excited, prepared, and with a vision for your family while you "dive in" this year! *smile* And as always we'd all love to hear about more ideas and resources.
Blessings on your efforts this year!
Managers of Their Schools, by Steve & Teri Maxwell ($18)
100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum, Kathy Duffy ($18 from Amazon)