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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting ready for the (Home)School Year 2012-2013!

Why am I homeschooling?
First let me preface this post by saying...this is only my second year.  I am NOT an expert at this.  This is just what I am doing...or better yet...attempting this year. The way I do things may or may not work for you!

  So this year I have TWO school age children! Sounds daunting doesn't it, along with two little's and a another on the way! Ack...first thought..."What the hay am I thinking?" Then I reminded myself why I am doing this....why am I schooling my own children? Do I think public school is EVIL? Um, no.  Do I want to "shelter my children from the 'cruel, cruel world?'" Again, No.  Do I think every single parent/ family should homeschool...absolutely not! So why am I?  Every year Husband and I have to reassess this, and this is my thought process:
  • What are our motives?
  • What values/morals and life lessons are we wishing to instill in the kids?
  • What do we wish to accomplish this year?
  • What curriculum do I want to teach? (I allow each kid to pick a "unit study" on top of our normal curriculum)
  •  Do we want to do a co-op?
You see its not an irrational quick decision.  A lot of thought and prayer goes into our decision each and every year.

So here we are, we are definitely homeschooling.  I have decided to stick with the curriculum that has been working great for me, Abeka.  Goals have been set, and yep, we are definitely doing the co-op.  As a matter of fact, I love our co-op.  It is through a public school district, and the opportunities they offer are amazing! Piano, gymnastics, ballet, computer labs, reading enrichment, critical thinking...and for me....accountability.  That's not to say that all homeschoolers need that, but I enjoy having a "consultant" that I meet with once a month, that checks on my kiddos progress, and encourages me.  Not to mention an amazing resource library and a bunch of other homeschool parents to get encouragement and ideas from.  The kids go for a full day, to five classes.  They change classes each semester.  Also, because it is through a public school district, you receive so much funding per child to buy curriculum.  Unfortunately, Abeka is a Christian curriculum so it is not covered, but I do buy a lot of supplemental material to go along with what I am teaching. I went with Abeka originally because it lays everything out for you, and K went to a private school, for kindergarten, that used Abeka.  It made the transition easier for her and I into homeschool.  There is minimal planning, its all done for  you.  When you have a bunch of toddlers running around while you are trying to school, it really helps.  It's not for everyone, but it fits my style...for the most part.  I am always "tweaking" something. I buy the Parent and child kit.  I figure I'll only have to buy the parent kit once (per grade level), considering I will use it FIVE times. When the next child moves to that grade, I just buy the consumable materials the other kids already used up.  So the initial purchase...ouch,  but after not so bad. You can find great deals on Ebay...but the bidding can be cut throat!  They'll (Abeka) tell you that you should buy a whole new kit for each child....I say no friggin' way!  They say its because they are always "updating" their materials etc etc.  But the changes are soooooo minor that you can work around them.  Also, most of the extra stuff, like flash cards, that you have to order separately from the kit....I make them myself, and save them for the next kid. 

I would like to note that I put K in public school for the beginning of her first grade year.  I had a major meltdown that summer,: hormones, stress from A2's medical stuff, etc.  I didn't feel I was fit to teach my children at the time.  I think that it is very important for the schooling parent to be sound and stable enough to do it.  When we moved into our new home, and I was in a much better place,  I then began to homeschool.  I have to say, because Abeka is typically a year or two ahead of public school, I started at the beginning of the Abeka first grade material and it was still ahead of where K left public school.


Another task...organizing the curriculum and materials.  My good friend, who we'll call CK,  had a crate that she kept her sons materials organized in.  I loved it so I set out to create a similar system.  I see a lot of people on the online communities using it as well.  Each schooling child has their own crate.  I hung hanging files in them labeled with the name of the book or subject that belongs in that particular file. K has a seatwork file which I make a print out every night.  I also made each of them a "busy work" folder.  I added printouts related to what they're currently learning, along with work books from the dollar store that reinforce what they are learning.  If I am busy with another kiddo and can not get to them right away, they grab something from this file and work on it until I can give them my full attention. I just wanted to keep it simple.  Everything is in one place.  The kids know where all of their stuff is.  I can say "S, go grab so and so from such and such." No problem.  I also made up a crate for the A team. (my name for the two little's...A1 and A2) It consists of coloring books, manipulative critical thinking items, etc.  They can grab something out of there and feel like they are "schooling" along with us.  Which in many ways they are.  We already started school about a week ago and I was amazing at how much S absorbed just watching K and I last year.  I did no formal pre-school with S and she is leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I'd have to start with her. 

Then there's the matter of organizing when I would teach what.  To be honest I am still working on that.  Abeka comes with History and Science in each kit. I will be working out of these during our "group" lessons.  So I read ahead and I have basically taken each subject and searched out printables as well as ordered some supplemental material through our co-op that supports the time line and science being taught through Abeka.  I really like Abeka's history, but I don't think it goes into enough depth.  I understand that it is first grade level but I want to really explore it.  Also keep in mind Abeka is written for a classroom setting, you have to manipulate it a bit for individual learning.

Then there is my binders.  These are my "brain books" as Husband calls them.  It is what I use to keep track of what I have taught, what I plan to teach, and store papers the kids have done to take in to my monthly meeting to show our consultant.  I have a monthly calendar for each month to write down important dates, meetings, etc.  Behind each month is a weekly break down of the month.  This is where I write down what we did that day.  This is very helpful when I have to go online and submit my monthly progress reports.  I also make notes what needs to be redone, what the kids need more work on ect. I have tabs for each subject, this is where I put printables I plan to do or have done.

It is very tempting to stick the Waldorf style most of us grew up with.  You know, everyone at a desk, teacher at the front of the room teaching the lesson. I admit this definitely appeals to me but I have had to learn to LET GO of this!  I do have a schedule for the kids but its flexible.  It has to be for a large family.  Each child learns differently.  My oldest, K, is very much like me; give me a book with directions and I am good to go.  My second, S, is the opposite.  She needs stimulation.  She needs to be able to move.  If I stuck her in a desk and told her to sit there for to long she might go nuts.  That will come with maturity but for now, nope. They can find a place that is comfortable for them. Instruction, typically, takes place at the dinning table.  K usually does her seatwork in the kitchen at the island.  There's less chaos out there.

 This is what a typical homeschool day will look like for us this year...or what I hope for it to look like:
  • Wake up:
    • Make beds and get dressed pick up bedroom floor. (Somehow, while my children are sleeping, they manage to make a mess on their floor.)
  • Chores:
    • K feeds Josie the horse
    • S feeds Stihl (our neurotic husky)
    • A1 feeds Lucky the cat
  • Breakfast/ Quiet time with Mom
    • Quiet time is a Bible Devotional, we're currently reading out of "Jesus Calling" for kids.
    • During our breakfast we discuss what we have to do for the day
    • Clean up from breakfast
  • This is where schooling starts: K and S split up
    • K grabs her seatwork folder with her daily seatwork printout and begins to work that.
    • S and I begin her "instruction" time.
    • The A team sits at the table, with S and I, and color or play in the living room nearby. 

  • K and S rotate:
    • K and I review her seatwork
    • S works out of her busy work folder or finishes any sheets from her "instruction" time.
    • I give any lessons or review that K may need to reinforce her seatwork.  This is also where I introduce new concepts,  like right now K is working on suffixes.  So I may review what she has already learned before moving on to the next item.
  • Group time
    • This is where I teach our group lessons.  I teach history and science usually during this time.
      •   We are learning about our state, so both girls are making a large map with major cities, rivers, the state seal, flower, bird, so on and so forth.  We add to it each day.
    • Remember that each kid is two years apart I don't expect them to have the same understanding of what I am teaching.  
    • I print extra papers so the A team (my younger two) feel like they are involved.
    • We don't have group time EVERY DAY.  
  • Unit Study
    • If K or S finish their work before one or the other, they get to grab their unit study folder and work the next project.  This is like their rewards for finishing their other school work. Sometimes it's before group time, sometimes after. Sometimes, its during nap time...sometimes when Daddy gets home to help! You get the idea. Flexibility folks!
Now this is a typical day.  While they work assignments I am floating around; folding laundry, chasing A2, cooking lunch, etc. We usually finish up by lunch, sometimes we have to go after lunch.  It just depends on the day.  But I am not a slave to this schedule!  Sometimes someone may be getting flustered and need a break. That's the beauty of HOMEschool.  We don't have a certain set time frame to cram all this in!  Some days someone gets sick, some days MOMMY gets sick (I believe Mom's ought to receive super immunity with each child...).  Oh, and remember...Baby #5 is on the way.  We will have to be flexible!
      We have been working this schedule for two and half weeks now, so far so good.  We did much the same last year and it worked great as well.  I just had to add S into the equation.  The other beautiful thing is,  once they're done with school...they're done.  They have the day to themselves...with in reason.  When I say that, I have images of wild banchee children terrorizing the land....They still have other chores to do etc, but for the most part they get to be kids.  Right now They're out in the back playing Captain America with my pot lids.  They got their work done so they are free to enjoy some of the last days of summer.

Unit Studies
As I said above, I let each kid pick a unit study.  Something they are interested in at the time.  We will be doing unit studies at the end of the homeschool day.  Somewhat like a reward.


K chose to do a horse unit.  So I am gathering information, scouring the internet for ideas, talking to other parents that have done horse units, etc. It helps that we have a horse, so she has already taken over feeding and watering...under supervision of course. I have decided to do a lap book first, with the ins and outs of horses; anatomy, feed, care, tack, hooves, breeds, etc.  Then we will dive into the history of horses, styles of riding, etc.  There is a treasure trove of information!  As a matter of fact the farrier is coming today to trim her hooves.  K will be there right beside watching and learning.  Then we will come in and do a diagram of a horses hooves.  You get the idea.  I provided links for the printables I am planning on using for the lapbook and links to the resources I found online.    

Resources: (thus far)
  • If you are fortunate enough to own a horse or know someone close that does, the absolute best resource is working with the horse itself. 
    • Maintenance: what better way to learn than to feed, water, and groom the horse.  What tack is for what.  What brushes do what.
    • Farrier coming: great lesson on the anatomy of the hoof, and why do we take care of their hooves, etc.
    • Vet: Josie just had to have some pretty extensive teeth work done.  It was a great lesson for the kids and our vet very patiently explained what he was doing, why he was doing it, and what the importance was.
    • 4H or clubs like it.  We haven't got involved yet but we're looking into it for the older two.
  • Library
    • True stories
    • Readers
    • Drawing books: We picked one up yesterday and K has hardly done anything else!  Feed that artistic thirst!
    •  History of the horse
I will make a separate post when we are all done, I had a hard time finding a post or page that provided a complete unit study on horses without having to pay for it.  I am piecing this one together myself and I am still in the process of putting it together.

Jonah and the Whale

 S, of all things, chose Jonah and the Whale.  How do I do a whole unit on Jonah and the Whale?  Well, I break it down.  First the story itself, then there's:
  • The story itself and the moral behind it.
  • Can a whale really swallow someone whole? 
  • What kind of whale was it? (Some believe it was a great white shark!)
  • Whales themselves.
  • The geography of the area.
  • The people of the area.
  • And of course, the whole point of the story, obedience.
I haven't gotten to far on putting this one together.  When I get more I will create a post for those of you interested in doing a unit study like it.


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