A is for Available

I had big plans last year to write about my homeschool journey. Those plans were derailed by job changes, busy school schedules, and just life in general. Transitioning to my husband working from home – which started in my schoolroom until we turned half the garage into his own office – was quite the transition. For everyone.

But, January is the month for new beginnings. So I’m starting again. I’m starting with the letter “A”. “A” is for “Available”.

One things I really love about homeschooling is how “Available” I am to my kids and my kids are to me.

1. Available to experience their first reading success – it’s just as good as their first steps when they were toddlers.

2. Available to talk about what they think of history – you’d be surprised with what my 7yr old can come up with

3. Available to watch as they discover something fascinating in science – and often make a mess in the process

4. Unfortunately, I’m also available to clean up the mess from science

5. Available to see them create their own art – the creation process is way more interesting to me than the final product at their age

6. Available to just sit down and talk, or let them play for a few minutes break if we’re having a bad day

7. Available to see them use the math they’ve been learning – it all started with counting out eggs from the fridge drawer

8. Available to teach them fun things like cooking – and why we do not set raw eggs on the edge of the counter so they can roll off and splat on the floor

9. Available to take them to a museum for a hands-on learning day

10. Available to watch an older child teach a younger child – there are so many things (like counting by 2’s) that I’m not going to have to teach my 2nd born because the first child taught her for me

If you homeschool. What’s something you love about teaching your kids?

 

Homeschooling Mondays – what I’m up to

This year has been an interesting year for homeschooling. And we’re only a month and a half in!

1. I have a 2nd grader and a Pre-K who’s dying to learn to read. Yay! It’s way easier to each reading when the child wants to learn.

2. We decided to do Classical Conversations this year, and I’m tutoring a class of 7yr old boys in my first year in CC. As if tutoring wasn’t enough of a challenge! Actually, we’re settling in and I’m learning a lot about teaching. Every week is better than the previous one so I think we’re going to have a great year!

3. I moved the schoolroom downstairs to our office/den. My 2nd grader has her own desk, whiteboard, and all our art and school supplies are downstairs instead of in my kitchen. It’s so nice to have all that off my counters.

4. Our first official week of school I was in the Band that Sunday so I was up at Church by 7:15 am and I arrived home around 12:30 (it’s a long morning!). We were also celebrating my oldest’s birthday with pizza and cake, so by the time I arrived home the party was in full swing.

Monday we had Classical Conversations – it’s a homeschool co-op. We had to be there by 8 and then we got home around 3:30.

As you can imagine, by Tuesday, I was super tired. Tuesday was a rough day because everyone was tired (starting school two weeks before this to settle in before CC hadn’t worked as well as I hoped). I gave up around noon because it just wasn’t worth it.

At 4:00 on my very bad Tuesday my husband called me to tell me he had been laid off. This has never happened to him before so he was pretty upset. His company was being bought by another company and they picked a bunch of people to let go, and he was one of the “lucky” ones. Needless to say, I had a pretty bad week after that. I’m not a fan of change. He was told he didn’t have to come back at all, so he was home effectively immediately.

I have my own system during the day and having him home for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s last year was not fun and we had already decided to spread out his vacation days a little better this year.

So, now he’s home. All the time.

He’s always dreamed of having his own consulting company, so we decided that now would be a great time to give this a try.

It’s a month in and we haven’t killed each other yet. We’re actually figuring out a decent system. As long as the weather is good. When winter arrives I’m just not sure. Currently me and the kids take all our school stuff out to the back patio because it’s so pretty out and he can be on phone calls and such without being disturbed too much.

Oh, yes, maybe I forgot to mention, the new schoolroom setup? It’s the same room as my husband’s office. I hadn’t planned for any overlapping time in there. So, we basically haven’t used our schoolroom – or the nifty whiteboard – since school started. I think I’m just going to get the dry erase markers and draw funny pictures on there one night.

The first day he was working from home I tried to do school in the schoolroom. Right in the middle of a phone call the 2yr old decided that was a great time to have a meltdown, and the girls were working on memorization work out loud, with music. Yeah, that didn’t work so well.

IFI really, really don’t want all the school stuff in my kitchen again this year. I’m actually leaning towards “office hours”. Times when my husband can be on calls and times when he can’t. That way we can all get our work and schoolwork done without interrupting each other too much.

I had plans for this being a really great school year with fun project with the kids and lots of time spent on language arts – mainly it’s the english grammar that needs help, but if I work on all of it (reading, writing, grammar, spelling) it makes learning the grammar rules a bit easier.

On a happier note, math is going way better this year. I switch curriculums and I seem to have found the right one for my 2nd grader. She’s learning way more, doing way better, and actually enjoying it this year. Yay!

I’m excited about all the changes, but change is hard. And hopefully by next month we’ll be settled in and have some sort of schedule to our school days.

Homeschooling Mondays – 4 ways to save money on books

I love homeschooling, and I have my favorite curriculums, but seriously, all these books can become really expensive! Here’s a few ways I save money.

photo_18977_201011091. Don’t buy the teacher’s keys – My kids are 2nd grade and pre-K. I can do their math in my head like it’s second nature. There’s no reason to buy the teacher’s keys when I can come up with the right answer faster than checking it in the book.

Once you get up into the higher grades you’re going to want those teacher’s keys – there’s no way we’re doing algebra without a teacher key. But for the lower grades, you can save yourself a lot of money by only purchasing the books you actually need.

2. Re-use curriculum – My hooked on phonics I only had to purchase once, for all the kids to use. History and science text-books through 2nd grade don’t actually have workbooks that the kids need to do so I only need one set for all the kids. The same thing for reading/literature. You don’t need multiple copies of 1st grade readers. Get one set and use them for all your children.

3. Don’t be afraid of used books – I saved so much money in college by buying lightly used books. The same thing works for homeschooling. Amazon sells used books, so does e-bay. Before you pay full price look and see if you can save by buying used.

One warning with this though – most companies like to put out new versions every few years. It’s confusing to try to mix versions. So if the version 3 workbook is the only one available, you’re not going to want the version 2 teacher key. Usually, they change just enough that it doesn’t work well to mix versions.

Anything that is a complete set or that can stand alone (like readers), if it’s cheaper used, get it used.

Education4. Always accept hand-me-downs – I’ve saved a lot of money because my mom and my mother-in-law both homeschooled. I haven’t had to buy readers (I have 1st through 6th grade on my shelf) because they passed them on to me when they were finished. My mom gave me all their flashcards (and those things can be so expensive!) and a full set of hooked on phonics (K – 4th), and my mother-in-law is constantly giving me random educational items for the kids.

If it’s something I’ll use later (like my 6th grade readers) I save it. If it’s something I’ll never use I pass it on to someone who wants it.

What are some of your tricks for saving money?

Homeschooling Mondays – My 4 Favorite Curriculums

Having been homeschooled myself I entered homeschooling my children having already formed some opinions about curriculums. So I like to pick and choose what subjects to do from what curriculum based on what my children need.

1. A Beka Book – This is the curriculum I used the most as a child. I really like their math. I tried saxon with my daughter for Kindergarten and First Grade and it just didn’t work well for us. We’re using A Beka this year and it’s going way better.

And I love their reading/literature. They have the kids reading many classic stories and lots of random chapters from classic children’s books (like Little House on the Prairie). This is great for expanding kid’s literary horizons and encouraging them to pick new books to read.

Their history, science, and english is equal to any other comparable homeschool curriculum provider but I tend to buy from them because I’m ordering math anyways so it’s easier to just place one order.

I really like their Bible curriculum but it’s very expensive because you have to purchase the entire kit to do it. So I’ve never actually purchased my Bible curriculum from them.

2. BJU press – I get my Bible curriculum from here. It works well for us and we’ll probably use it for a few more years. Once the kids are old enough to do more of a Bible study format I’ll be searching again for something that does more of this. BJU Press is great for teaching kids the basics of the Bible and the Bible stories.

I have also use their history and science and really like them as well. This year we’re using A Beka for science and history because they’re half the price of BJU Press.

Their reading/literature is acceptable but I don’t like it as well as A Beka’s. And their math and english are pretty much the same as every other homeschool curriculum.

Mostly the differences between A Beka Book and BJU Press are in how they present the information. Depending on how your child learns best you may find one curriculum easier to use than the other.

3. Hooked on Phonics – This is by far my favorite curriculum for teaching my children to read. Once they’re reading the A Beka or BJU Press readers are awesome. But for getting your child to read, I prefer Hooked on Phonics. I started with Kindergarten and about halfway through the First Grade set my child was reading well enough that she didn’t want to read them any more. We actually started First Grade Hooked on Phonics about halfway through her Kindergarten year and took a break for the summer. Over the summer she did a lot of reading and when we came back to the First Grade set to finish it the beginning of her First Grade year she was way beyond it. It had made learning to read easy and fun and with the dvds, books, stickers, and workbook there’s so many ways to teach reading it’s easy to find a method that works for your child.

My 4yr old desperately wants to learn to read this year so we’re working on the Pre-K Hooked on Phonics with her. Another month and we’ll start in on the Kindergarten set!

And they’re easily reusable for multiple children. So, buy one set, and use it for all your kids.

4. Saxon – Even though Saxon Math did not work well for my daughter, I have many homeschooling friends who just love it. My husband used it as a child and he liked it. So, the curriculum itself is great, it just was not the right method for my daughter.

Even if you’re not using their curriculum, the Saxon Math Manipulatives Kit is great for using with any math curriculum!

Education

There’s a lot of great homeschool curriculums available and if something doesn’t work for you, try something else, and eventually you’ll find the perfect fit for you and your child!

This post does contain affiliate links and I do earn a small commission on any sales from those links.

Homeschooling Mondays – Why Homeschool?

For my homeschooling series I thought I would kick it off with why we’re homeschooling.

I myself was homeschooled from 1st grade on and my husband was homeschooled his entire life so when it came time to pick what we are going to do for our kids education there was really no discussion, we both benefited greatly from the education we received and we want the same positive educational experience for our children.

So, now that you know how much I just love homeschooling here’s some benefits I see for my kids.

1. Education is tailored towards my child’s needs and aptitudes – For example, last year we used Saxon for math. And suddenly a subject that hadn’t been a problem, became a problem. For my 1st grade daughter, Saxon math just didn’t work. She dreaded it every day.

This year, I’ve switch to A Beka math, which was my favorite when I was in school. She complained about it the first couple of days – because that’s how she approaches math – but when I introduced her first “speed drill” a week in, it appealed to her competitive personality and she loved it. Just in case you don’t know, a speed drill is about 8 to 10 math and subtraction problems that she has to answer in under 1 minute. The A Beka curriculum comes with one a day for the entire year. I loved these when I was a kid!

Now, every time there’s a row of equations to solve I have to set my stopwatch app for 1 minute and time her. Usually she’s done in 30 to 45 seconds. And she begs to be allowed to do multiple speed drills per day.

Also, I don’t feel that I have to use the same method with every child. I’ve started teaching my K4 daughter to read and I find that I teach her differently than I did my oldest because she has different strengths and different areas of difficulty.

2. Flexible Schedule – This is one thing I just love. And honestly, after being homeschooled myself I’m not sure I would survive as a mom if I was locked into my local school schedule.

What this means is we can meet friends at the zoo in the morning and do school in the afternoon. We can take a vacation after peak season and have more of the beach to ourselves. If we’re just having a bad morning, we can all take a break, go play outside for an hour, then return and finish school when the kid’s are better able to focus.

I’m required to do 180 days of school per year but I choose what days those are. This past year, we did school through all the snow days. So, while other parents are going crazy with stir-crazy kids who are stuck at home all day, we did our school. And then we got out about 2 weeks before the local schools did in May.

3. Socialization – I know this somehow gets a bad rap for homeschoolers and from my perspective, it just doesn’t make sense. Here’s the thing, when my child gets together with other children – which does happen on a regular basis – I am getting together with moms and oftentimes moms and dads. So, I know the parents of the kids my child is hanging out with. I also get to observe how my child plays with other children and we can talk about it later when we get home. I will often observe something that while not something I want to call my kids out on in public, it is something that I want to have a conversation about in private.

For example, she was playing with some kids and one of the boys just got a little too rough and pushed her over. No big deal, she wasn’t injured, and he didn’t mean anything by it. It just happens when you have a group of kids playing. He apologized, and she didn’t play with him the rest of the day.

I wasn’t going to force her to play with him because he wanted to play more rough like little boys do and it was better that she not get knocked over again. But, when we got home we had a talk about how boys do tend to play a little rougher and it’s something to consider when she’s playing. At 7yrs old the boys often don’t realize how rough they’re being, so if she doesn’t want to get injured, muddy, or dirty playing army with the boys is not a good idea. It’s ok to say you don’t like playing something and do something else. We never would have had this conversation though, if I wasn’t there to observe.

Also, one thing I notice when you get a group of homeschoolers together. The kids do not normally clump together by age. My 2yr old son was right in there with the 7yr old boys plus all the other little boys and older boys. The older kids are aware of the younger ones and do a good job of playing with them while still playing their own games. You put together a group of children who are normally grouped together by age, and that’s the way the’ll group when they play.

4. Family Values – I know my children and they know me. I know everyone is so happy to have their kids go back to school after a long summer. And I get asked a lot, “so don’t you get a break?”, “you mean they’re with you all the time?”, “don’t you get any time for yourself?”, and many similar questions.

The answer is yes, I do get time to myself, from 2 to 4 when the baby naps. The kids are required to play quietly and they usually do. The key is, It’s not a problem that they’re with me all the time. Because we have worked out what behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable, what times of day are quiet or alone times, and they are used to being with me all the time.

If there’s a behavior that is disruptive, I correct it, I can’t just look forward to school starting again so I don’t have to deal with it. I’m also aware of when my child is unusually tired, cranky, or just bursting with energy and can make allowances for that throughout the day.

They also know me, they know when I’m having a bad day, when I’m just downright busy, and when I need extra help.

And subjects like bible, history, science, reading, art, music,…um well, all the subjects I guess, are gateways to talk about what I believe about something and our family values. And to get some feedback from them and see what they think about something.

For example, we studied freedom of speech in history the other day, so after talking about what it is, we talked about our responsibility with this freedom. Is it ok to call people names? Is it ok to lie? Is it ok to disagree with someone? and on and on. We also talked about how it is important to stand up for what you believe in and how to politely disagree with people.

5. Learning is fun – I like to use a curriculum for most of my subjects just to make sure I don’t miss anything, but we also do fun things that don’t involve books. A lot of basic math is learned in the kitchen, where the kids just love to help. At their current ages it’s basic counting, measuring, and learning to read a recipe. As they get older it’ll be measurement conversions, more science behind why something works or doesn’t work in the kitchen, and more freedom to experiment.

If we’re learning about elephants in science a trip to the zoo is always great. And science experiments are always fun – and often messy.

I like having my kids with me, I enjoy learning with them, and I enjoy teaching them. Homeschooling is fun.