Our Typical Homeschool Day

our school table

Hi there!

It’s 4:30 pm in our household, and the school day is over. I’ve planned something quick for dinner, so I happen to have a few minutes to write this post. Today was a good one as far as getting all our school work done (this doesn’t always happen), so I figured I’d walk you through our day.

We started this morning pretty lazily (ok, that was all me). The kids had some new coloring books and other goodies from their visit to the police station yesterday, so they started playing and reading as soon as they woke up. I was still recovering from some very short nights earlier this week, so I half-slept in a bit more than usual.

Once I got going, I asked the older 2 kids to go get dressed while I got myself ready, and my preschooler continued playing on the floor. Then I asked them to set the table for breakfast while I got my youngest dressed.

After breakfast, I asked them to unload the dishwasher. As they did that, I sat down to update our accounts and check to see how our spending was matching our budget (we’re doing much better, but we still need to rein in our dining-out a bit). Realizing it had been more than half an hour and the dishwasher hadn’t been touched, I asked the kids again. They usually do this chore happily, but not today. Once they started though, they finished quickly and we were ready to start school.

We started with a quick lesson from “Manners Made Easy” by June Hines Moore. Then we did a few lessons from “First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind: Level 2” by Jessie Wise. I tend to only do each subject once a week (except Math, which I do twice), so today I taught 5 of the lessons from “First Language Lessons.”

I found early on that I don’t do well teaching the same 5 – 10 subjects every day. So I learned that I would rather have one or two longer lessons, once a week. And my kids seem to respond better to that as well. During this time I gave my preschooler a busy box (or two) so he could play without interrupting. This never goes perfectly, but it does work well enough.

After we finished my 2 subjects, the kids have independent study in Reading, Memory work, and Piano. For the next 3 hours they worked on those and other softer skills, like working together, communicating clearly, and building and creating. All this activity included a break for lunch and recess, during which they proudly built a snowman, without adult help, by working together. I’ve found that sending them outside for recess before lunch works well for me. Today I made soup and hot chocolate to warm them up once they came inside.

building a text

Around 2:30 pm, I put my preschooler down for a nap and the other 2 did a little more reading and playing independently. They had already finished their other subjects, so I didn’t mind what activity they picked as long as it wasn’t TV. Realizing that he had finished his schoolwork early, my second grader asked to go on to Khan Academy and practice his computer programming. He’s really enjoying this “extra” schoolwork and gets so excited about his animations.

Now it’s 5:00 pm and I need to get supper going. My husband is usually home just before 6:00 pm, so we’ll eat around then.

I hope your day was great and filled with Blessings!
Sarah

Facing New-to-Homeschooling Fears With a Plan

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Hi there,

Today I’ve decided to go back in time to when I was first considering homeschooling. I’ll be honest, it was a scary idea.

First of all, I did not think I had the patience to put up with all of my kids, all day, every day. And I wasn’t surprised the first couple years when I lost my temper, a lot. In fact, the first semester of First grade was the worst. I was feeling a lot of pressure to do school in a traditional way. Ironically I had researched different methods and decided I didn’t want to do traditional, but I was still teaching the way I knew.

But I think I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start with the basics:

  1. Why are you considering homeschooling?
    • We all have different reasons for this, for some it’s faith-based, for some it’s academics, for some it’s politics, for many it’s the realization that public school and your kid just don’t mix well.
    • My reasons are like a recipe of the above, a little of this, a little of that, and a lot of “my kid is too crazy for anyone else!” Heheh!
    • One thing a lot of old-school homeschoolers recommend is to write a mission statement for your homeschool. I don’t have one formally spelled out, but it’s given me the foundation I need. Here are a couple great articles on reasons and mission statements:
  2. What are your concerns about homeschooling?
  3. If you ARE still interested in homeschooling, then you need to overcome your fears.
    • We all inherently have a fear of the unknown, it is a survival instinct that we are pre-programed with. The trick is conquering it.
    • So my method of conquering fear is two-fold;
      1. Learn everything I can
      2. Make a plan
    • So first, I’ve referred you to Pinterest, and I will add some links throughout, and at the bottom of this article to help you out with research. Such as:
    • Second is what this post is mostly about, making a plan. So on to…
  4. Figure out which method suits you best.
    • If you are really new to this, you’ll be asking yourself, “What in the world is a homeschool method?”
    • A homeschool method is the style and set of guiding principles you will use to help you teach and select curriculum. Understanding how you want to teach (and how you actually teach) are important to overcome fears and get a handle on what can be an overwhelming selection of resources.
    • Basically, you will learn about at least 5 different methods:
      1. Traditional – often called school at home
      2. Classical – modern version of teaching style from ancient Rome & Greece
      3. Charlotte Mason – focuses on teaching out of real books and nature study
      4. Unit Studies – uses 5 or 6 week units for teaching subjects
      5. Unschooling – learning from living life
    • Here’s one of many articles detailing these, and other methods: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Methods – Teaching Methods 101
    • Sometimes, the best way to research different methods is to focus on them one at a time. This way you hear from individual homeschoolers the reasons why they like what they use.
  5. Once you start to get an idea of the method you want to try, then you can start figuring out what kind of learning styles will work best with your kid(s). You want to make sure you have a good idea of how your child learns best.
    • Fortunately there are a number of resources for assessing your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to search for Learning Style Assessments, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t need to pay for one.
    • I couldn’t find the one I used years ago, but here is a fun way to get some ideas: The Learning Style Quiz
    • Keep in mind that assessments are meant as guidelines. Don’t prohibit your kids from learning any way they can. I was surprised to find out that my little fireball of a girl, the one who NEVER stops moving, actually enjoys worksheets. Granted, she does them while sitting on top of the school table, but, hey, she’s learning.
  6. So you’ve figured out your reasons, your method, and your child(ren)’s learning style, now can we get to curriculum?
    • Yes,  now you are armed and prepared to venture into the curriculum market.
    • My first step to choosing curriculum was reading reviews of other moms and the choices they made for their kids, especially if they are using the same method (or variant thereof).
    • Actually, I can’t think of any of my curriculum that I wasn’t referred to by another homeschool mom, either online or in person (except Scripture Study).
    • Of course, you’re welcome to see what I’m using: My 2017-2018 Curriculum Plan
    • I also like this article, it’s short and simple, but it gets you thinking: Where to Buy Used Homeschool Books
  7. After you have your choices in your hot little hands, it’s time to plan out your year of lessons. Don’t rush yourself unless you have to, my first year it took me at least 4 weeks to put together my lesson plan. It took less than a week the next year.
    • Your first step is to go through the chapter titles and read through the first lesson. Do this the night you get your books (if you can) to get a feel for what you’ve signed up for. If you realize you don’t like it, don’t feel guilty about returning it and trying something else.
    • Some curriculum is easy to plan, 1 lesson per day. Others are not as easy, especially if your kid is a third of the way through the year already. If you are in that situation, where your kid has part of a year’s work done, but is clearly not ready for the next year, then you will need to go through the curriculum more carefully during your planning period.
    • I went through and combined or skipped several lessons that my son was past. From some lessons, I would only use one point in order to serve as a review. In that way, he didn’t get bored dragging his feet through something he had already mastered.
    • Don’t forget that YOU are the teacher now, you control what you want your kids to learn, not a school district, state, or nation. Though there are homeschool laws you need to be mindful of, they don’t decide the day-to-day learning needs of your kid. That’s all you!
    • If you are spreadsheet person, I have an example of how I planned my first year for you here (there’s a lot of real life in here, because this is the version at the end of the year, I updated it every week with our progress): Lesson Plan_First Grade
  8. By now you should be ready to get started.
    • Be sure to hit the back-to-school sales at Walmart and stock up on pencils, paper, and crayons.
    • Here is one of many school supply lists: Back to Homeschool Shopping List
    • Start day one with some pictures and celebrating, get excited and your kids will be too.
    • You can also use a First Day of School worksheet like this one (feel free to shorten it, my kids never get through the whole thing): First Day of School Interview
    • Have fun! And don’t try to do too much too fast!
  9. Finally, forgive yourself and your kid(s) for bad days. You and they will have them.
    • You may even end up with a lot of them when you start. If that’s the case, you’re probably trying to do too much in a day.
    • Part of my trouble my first year, was that I tried to do every subject every day. I gave myself a LOT of work in preparation each day, and I couldn’t keep up. I was also putting a lot of pressure on my oldest to get his assignments done because we needed to get on to the next assignment. It did NOT work well for us.
    • Fortunately I had a some more experienced friends in church that helped me see I was doing too much. It really is ok to do one lesson per subject per week. You don’t have to get through a book in a year. If you still want to finish one book per year, you can skip lessons or combine them so you have a block of each subject each week.
    • I have some core subjects that my kids have to do independently, and then I teach 1 or 2 lessons per school day. That way we still get done what we need to, and I don’t go insane. Heheh!
    • Here are a couple of articles on overcoming bad days:

However you do it, make sure it works for your family. Have fun and enjoy the journey!

As I was driving around last week, I was reflecting on what it would be like if my kids went to public school. What I could do with all that time! And then I realized that I would probably mope and feel lonely without them. My kids give me so much love and encouragement throughout the day, even when they don’t mean to, that I realized I would miss them. I know now that even if I could afford pay a tutor to teach them all the things that I think they would need, I would miss them too much to get anything done. I am grateful to be homeschooling and I hope you can be too!

I hope this has given you some ideas that help. Here are some other resources you may enjoy:

Blessings!
Sarah

My 2017-2018 Curriculum Plan

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Hi there!

So school is about to start and I’m spending time putting together my lesson plan and gearing up for school to start. We’re starting early this year to coincide with the kids’ new “Monday school.” Monday school is a one day a week enrichment program for homeschoolers in my area, where the kids get to do Art, PE, and other classes I don’t usually focus on. I am better at teaching the “core” curriculum, so Monday school is perfect for balancing my kiddos out.

I am definitely more of a classical method teacher than a crafty teacher. I have often beat myself up over not being able to help my kids get creatively messy. But it’s just NOT one of my strengths. So I was VERY grateful to find this enrichment program. Now my kiddos get social skills and messy and creative, and I don’t have to clean it up! (Heehee, Woohoo!)

Anyway, this is my 3rd year homeschooling and I’m just starting to get into a routine that I like. Though I realize that will be turned upside down by adding my kindergartner.

My oldest homeschooled kid is starting Second Grade and we are both excited for the new year. I’ve decided to use the following books for my core subjects this year:

For Scripture Study, we will be reading through the New Testament, I have a manual from Sunday School (Primary 7) that I use to hit the highlights and teach the gospel topics. The picture shows the Old Testament book (Primary 6) because we haven’t received the New Testament book yet (see my note in the next paragraph about being a bit behind my plan). I chose Old Testament last year to coordinate (loosely) with the History curriculum, which started with Ancient Times. So this year we will continue forward in time.

For History, we will continue using Story of the World. We will start on Volume 2: The Middle Ages in October or November. We moved across the country last November so we fell behind quite a bit. I had hoped we would get more done during the summer, but it’s summer… I let go of stressing about it months ago. After all, this is part of why we homeschool. We don’t have to be slaves to a book’s beginning and ending. This year should be much more stable so I expect we’ll make good progress.
(On a side note, while we were packing and moving and unpacking, we were using unit studies and life lessons on the days that we could.)

For Language Arts, we are using 2 different books; for Grammar we’re studying First Language Lessons, and for Spelling we’re using All About Spelling Level 2.

For Math, I’m trying out Lessons For a Living Education. I wanted a curriculum that balanced worksheets with real world examples and this seems to do it nicely. It also doesn’t overwhelm my kiddo with dozens of practice problems. It has a nice balance between practicing new skills and reviewing old ones. So far my son really likes it. And he can do it mostly independently, so I like it too. This is the first time I’ve stuck with a Math curriculum for more than a week, so I’m very pleased with it (we’ve been using it since April).

This year I’ve decided to add something new into the mix, with Manners Made Easy For the Family: 365 Timeless Etiquette Tips for Every Occasion. I’m going to try one tip per week and see how it works. Also for Life Skills, each child has a chore to do for the home (on top of keeping their room and bed tidy). I’ll do another post on how I do this later.

Of course, all of my kids will be expected to read to himself each day and sit and listen while I read-aloud. This year we are going to start with Aesop’s Fables and then move to Fairy Tales as we get further into the middle ages.

For my kindergartner, I’m still not going to do a full schedule. But for her part-day, 5-10 minute lessons, I am going to have her join us for Scripture Study, History, and Manners. Then we’ll work on Handwriting and an occasional All About Spelling (Level 1) lesson for Language Arts. One thing I really like about All About Spelling is that I can help her learn how to spell without her having to write the words. Her handwriting is struggling quite a bit, but the tiles AAS uses helps her learn the methods and rules without requiring her fine motor skills to be perfect. We’ll round out the plan with Math games or manipulatives.

My toddler preschooler will join us when he feels like it. I have books and busy boxes for him when he feels like hanging out in the school room with us. He wants to be close to us most of the time, but sometimes he wanders off into the play room for awhile.

(FYI: For your convenience I’ve linked to the sites for the curriculum I use, so you can research them more if you like. But I don’t get anything if you follow the links, so I don’t have a “disclosure policy.”)

So there it is, I’ll do another post later on how I organize my kids to be more independent, as well as one on how I organize myself. But this is enough for now.

Good Luck and God Bless on your journey! And please feel free to add your comments below on what works for you.

Blessings!
Sarah