Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson Planning Made Simple

As I get more and more organized I realize how easy it actually is to homeschool my 1st grader and preschooler. When I first started homeschooling I stressed myself out worrying about getting it "right". I wish I could go back and tell myself to quit worrying because it really will start to fall in place. It is now finally starting to fall in place and I couldn't be more excited! However, I still worry about the challenges that we will go through as my children get older, but I am trying to take homeschooling day by day (or week by week). Thinking about high school is what makes me sweat now. :)  

One of my goals is to make my part in homeschooling simple. That is one of the reasons for the learning centers I am putting together around the house. All I do is put the center together, and then my children are able to spend countless hours using them and learning all on their own. As with math I have chosen a wonderful curriculum that comes with books that tell me exactly what to say and do and a set of manipulates so that I have everything I need in my math basket. All I had to do was take my book to my local postal center to make copies of all the worksheets and tests. Then each morning while the kiddos are playing all I do is open the math book for a few minutes to read over what we are learning and then call them down to teach it.

This is a picture of a week of lesson plans for both of my children. Simple! I have filled a magazine holder with five file folders labled each with one day of the week. I also have added a "basic unlabeled weekly" lesson planner sheet that I have filled out with our plans for the week. I printed the planner sheet from here.
We spontaneously decided to take off from school last week and this week, so this is actually filled up with next week's lessons. We normally just go on to the next devotional for Bible time and our next lesson during math which pretty much takes away all of the planning for those subjects. For reading we read what we feel like reading so again no planning. I have put the "Magic School Bus" chapter book we are reading in the container so that we can just grab it during group reading time.

The other subject we do each day right now is science and that is what takes a little bit of time to plan for me. I am currently doing unit studies with the children on subjects that interest them. Tonight I went through our unit study on rocks that we are currently doing and printed out every page we need for the lapbook we will be putting together. There are eight different components to the lapbook so I have decided to do one component Monday through Thursday for two weeks. On Friday we will do a hands on activity. I put the pages we need for next week in the corresponding folders, tucked the lapbook pages for the next week behind the folders, and then printed out information on how to make a volcano and put it in the Friday folder. It really didn't take much time time at all, but as the children get older I expect science to take more time to plan.

So how do you simplify lesson planning?

This post is linked up to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Homeschool Room

Our homeschool room used to be upstairs, and we were always downstairs. We NEVER did school up there, but all of our supplies were up there. The kids didn't get to play board games often because they were out of their reach upstairs. They also didn't paint or do crafts very often. I felt like a failure as a homeschooling mom!

Recently it hit me. There isn't a good reason why I shouldn't bring the homeschool room downstairs where we spend most of our time. Of course I didn't want everything out in the open for people to see. I wanted to be able to decorate downstairs where everyone who comes over sees and have all of the kids things upstairs where they don't see. But of course this was not a good reason to keep things as they were which was not enjoyable for any of us.

I have been working really hard on bringing everything down and I am almost done! It has been wonderful. Each time the kids want to play a board game and I am doing dishes I only have to walk to the dining room to get the game down and then am able to quickly get back to what I was doing. Most of the crafting supplies are now within their reach and they are able to sit at the dining room table and create while I am folding the towels. Their lives are richer and my life is easier. :) The room isn't finished yet, but this is how it looks right now. Well... after I had the kids pick up the toys they were playing with and just left in the middle of the floor.

I like it. I really love that my little boy can't tear it up without me seeing. That was a big problem. Nothing was able to stay in it's place. I am also very excited about the days of the week drawers that my neighbor gave me. I am going to try filling them up each Sunday with books, games, worksheets etc that I would like them to work with that day. They are very excited about the plan, but we will see how it works in the real world.

If you have posted pictures of your homeschool room on your blog please leave me a comment! I LOVE looking at other people's school rooms to get ideas for ours.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Geography Center

I have already mentioned in previous posts how much I love the book, "Educating the WholeHearted Child," by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I bought it this last summer from a homeschool convention and I have used it so much that it is already falling apart! One of my favorite chapters in the book is chapter 7, "The WholeHearted Learning Home: Creating a Home You Can Learn Within". This chapter has helped me to relax tremendously. One of my biggest worries when it comes to homeschooling has always been how do I spend enough time with them so that they are learning what they need to learn while also getting everything else done that has to be done outside of "school"? This chapter addresses that problem. Turn your home into a place where your children have to try hard NOT to learn!

"Creating a learning environment is the key. Make your entire home an exciting, vibrant place where learning is happening all the time - a place where loving to learn is as natural a part of your children's everyday existence as loving to play. Make it a child-friendly environment that is rich in interesting, inspiring, mentally stimulating options at every turn. Use every part of your home to engage your children's senses in the learning process and to strengthen their emotional ties to the home - the smell of fresh bread baking, the sounds of Baroque chamber music, the sights of beautiful Scripture calligraphy and interesting artwork. Your entire home should reflect your homeschooling values from the way you arrange your furniture to the books you leave out on tables to the pictures and verses you hang on the wall to the way you use your kitchen. There should be no discernible dividing lines between home and education. The natural atmosphere of your home should be alive with learning and life."

I couldn't have come up with a better description for a home "alive with learning and life" then this paragraph from the Clarkson's book. This is how I want my home to be! A major light bulb moment for lack of a better term. I am having so much fun filling our home library with beautiful literature, hanging posters that have information that I am challenging the children to learn, scattering Bible verses throughout the house, and creating "discovery corners".

"Discovery corners" have been a major blessing to our education at home. I have only created a few so far (art, writing, and geography), but my children have learned so much on their own through use of them. Their favorite corner is the geography corner which is housed in an old desk I have in the dinning room. I have filled it with a few puzzles of the USA (a small magnetic one, a medium sized puzzle on a board, and a large floor puzzle), our favorite geography book, "The Scrambled States of America", and the board game with the same name as the book. There is a vintage globe that I love sitting right next to the desk.

I was amazed today when my daughter knew the location of quite a few states (some I didn't even know!) without me ever teaching her any of it. My kiddos love to work the puzzles over and over again each day. They will pull the floor puzzle out and use the book to determine where the states go. They also have gotten very good at playing the game together. They may not be following the directions exactly right, however they are reading and learning facts about the states and that is all that matters to me.

I have far to go with turning my home into a place where the children have to try not to learn, however I am making progress which has been proven to me today to be paying off. I am on the right track and am very excited about that. I will never be able to repay Sally Clarkson for the positive changes she has helped me to make in my home. It is worth far more than the $20 I paid for her book and the price of admission into the homeschool conference where I had the chance to hear her speak.

So my question to you is if you work to make your home a learning environment what is it that has been most beneficial to your family?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Middle of the Week Check In

This week has been one of those weeks that just makes you realize why you are doing what you are doing and I am very blessed! I am very grateful that God choose me to be the mother of my two children and I am thankful that we have gotten into a good routine with our homeschooling.

Last weekend we went to Dewberry Farms and had tons of fun. It normally costs quite a bit to get in, but all of December it is free so I have been going and letting my kids run wild. We live in the suburbs (not my idea, but it was the best place for us when we moved here) and our yard is so tiny that we might have only enough room for two blades of grass. So of course anytime I can find a nice place to take the kids and let them experience a little bit of nature I am all for that. I took pictures and made the cutest photo collage in the shape of a heart that you can see above. I just didn't realize it would have such a large web address stamped across it. Too cute not to show so there it is anyways.

On Monday we did most of our school on the livingroom floor. It flowed pretty natural. We had our devotional and Bible reading. Then we had our math lesson which looked like this:

My son loves to get into the manipulatives while we do our lesson. As long as it keeps him happy I am happy. He used to crawl all over me anytime I tried to do lessons. Then I started writing on a small dry erase board that has lines on it that we were using for math. My daughter was interested and read what I was writing, and then wanted me to write down the story she told me. Once we finished that I told her to write her own story on the board and she did and she was happy about doing it. I was very excited about this because she never wants to write. Because of a tip from a wonderful homeschooling mom (http://www.ourbusyhomeschool.blogspot.com/) I pointed out two things she did right and just one thing she needed to fix. She felt very proud of her work because of the good things I said, and then fixed the mistakes with a smile on her face. What progress!

After lunch we cuddled on the couch while watching Narnia because we had just finished the book and the kids loved it. They sat and watched the entire movie which is unusual for them to do with any movie that doesn't have cartoon characters. I thought they would think it was scary, but they didn't but instead really enjoyed it. Then again I thought they would be really upset about my husband killing his first deer a few weeks ago, but they were fine with that. I am still having a hard time with it, but I think that is because of watching Bambie as a child. I think Bambie will be banned from our house!

The rest of the day they played board games and did art projects together nicely. One of the best things I ever did for our homeschool was fill a small chest of drawers with art supplies. There are markers, crayons, googly eyes, tissue paper squares, magazines, paint, paper, pipe cleaners, pom poms, scissors and more all within reach. They are pretty creative and come up with some wonderful art projects. What they come up with is always better than any of the mommy directed crafts I come up with. Not only are they able to use their God given creativity, but they practice there fine motor skills such as cutting, coloring and writing.

Tuesday went just as well. We started reading "Meet Kit" one of the books from the American Girl series. My daughter can't wait to watch that movie! Then today we did no school work at all. We did our devotional and Bible reading, went to Ballet, played and then went to church after dinner.

So how has your week gone? Leave me a comment even if just to stay hi. I would love to know how your week has gone, and to read your blog if you have one. I am addicted to blog reading and I need some new ones to read. :) And I would love to know that I am not the only one that reads my blog posts.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Favorite Homeschool Resources

I am a curriculum junkie! I LOVE going to the homeschool conventions and looking over all of my options. And if that wasn't enough during the year, when I am not at a convention, I read through many many blogs to get even more ideas for curriculum. So of course I can not help but share what we have found that works well for us, and please if you have any suggestions that you have found work well for your family reply to this post.

Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons - I had found a Hooked On Phonics Pre-K program at Wal-Mart on the clearance rack for $18 when my daughter was about two and she loved it. After she learned all of her letters and sounds with the computer games I thought, "Now what?" I was looking at Barnes and Noble at their Hooked On Phonics curriculum and a wonderful lady came by and directed me to a book titled, "Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons". It was only $22 which you can use your homeschool educator card to get it for even less. I loved that the entire program is focused on phonics rather than a mix of phonics and sight words. I also loved that the lessons took us about 10 minutes to do while my daughter was snuggled up in my lap. She enjoyed her time using this book and she advanced pretty quickly. The book says that when you finish your child will be reading at a solid second grade level, and I believe them. She was reading really well when we finished and now she can read at a forth grade level. However, I think that I will have to take a different approach with my son. I might have to write the lessons on the chalk board and let him jump around and stand on his head while we go over our lessons. He just will not sit still for anything. Well other than chocolate on Sunday mornings.

Right Start Math - I am convinced that this is the most awesome math program ever! We absolutely love it. We saw it at the homeschool conference and I couldn't resist all of the neat manipulates they had set up. Manipulates were my favorite part of math. I still remember those white beans and the geo-board we used in school. Of course I purchased it, and I am so glad that I did. I love that the program is not centered around a textbook, but instead uses games and an abacus to help the children visualize the numbers in their heads. The program doesn't come with a textbook, but rather lesson plans for the teacher's use, and a book with worksheets which is called for in the lesson plans rarely. My five year old can add two digit numbers in her head at the current time, and has learned to read four digit numbers to me. My mom was amazed when she could tell her that there were 10 tens in 100 and 100 tens in 1000 today. Another added bonus is that I am also learning to visualize numbers in my head better which I think is a wonderful thing. I wish that I would have been taught this way growing up.

TeacherFileBox.com - This website is one of the best ever! Or at least I think so. This is an Evan-Moor website. I love looking through their books at the book store such as "Take It To Your Seat" center books and "History Pockets". This website has the pages from these books and more. So far anything we have been studying I have been able to find some worksheets for it on this website. As a child I loved cut and paste worksheets and now that I am subscribed to Teacher File Box I am able to print as many of these out as I would like. Well, that is until the ink runs out.

Bible - I can not forget about the Bible. It is our most treasured homeschool resource we own. I try and have my daughter read to me from the Bible every day. We have a devotional book we bought at church that she is working through, and we will read from whatever book of the Bible the devotional is talking about that day. We do it each morning and it sure does make the difference in our homeschool. She is able to practice her reading while we all learn the awesome truth that the Lord has provided us with through his word. God is AWESOME and has blessed me incredibly with my husband and two children and has given me way more than I could ever deserve by calling me to homeschool them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Typical Homeschool Day

Ever since I decided to homeschool my children I have struggled with what a typical homeschool day would look like. I knew that I did not want to send my kids to public school, however I imagined having our homeschool set up just like a public school. I thought we would start at 8:00 in the morning with the pledge and circle time. Then at 8:30 we would do this, and at 9:00 we would do that. After lunch we would have a thirty minute recess. We would finally be done at 3:00 and go back to life. The only difference would be no homework once we were done with our school day.

Slowly I have realized that if I don't want to send my kids to public schools then I don't want to model our homeschool after them. I have been reading the book "Educating the WholeHearted Child" by Clay and Sally Clarkson which has given me peace of mind when it comes to doing things differently then they are done in public schools. I should know that because we have already done things differently and my daughter has made wonderful progress and my son has learned his entire alphabet and a bunch of the letter sounds without us following a curriculum for 7 hours a day. I haven't actually spent over an hour a day with my daughter using any written lesson plans yet.

This past summer I went to our local homeschool conference and there were two life changing (or homeschool changing) things that I got from it. The first thing was learning about Sally Clarkson and the book I mentioned earlier, "Educating the Wholehearted Child". I love Sally's whole book method. I love the idea of learning from real books rather than textbooks. I loved reading as a child, but not once did I have the desire to pick up a textbook for enjoyment.

The second thing I learned was that no subject or bit of information is more important than my relationship with my children. If I am fighting and struggling with my child over a subject then it just isn't worth it. For example, I purchased an English textbook for my daughter at the conference this summer thinking my daughter would like it. She did like it at first, but as time went on she ended up hating it and I would get into a struggle with her. I am now selling that book and we will be learning grammar by reading and writing during elementary instead.

Another struggle I have when it comes to a typical homeschool day is that I hate routine! Routine to me means boring! I am spontaneous and don't want to do the same thing twice. However, I believe that a routine (not schedule) is beneficial to my kiddos. Recently I have made progress in developing a routine for our family. I have realized a few things that have helped us. First thing I realized is that we are homeschooling! We live in Texas and do not have to report to anyone. Our routine is ours and ours alone. It doesn't have to look like anyone else's. The first thing I decided to do out of the norm was change bath time from night to right after lunch. No one I know takes baths after lunch, however that is the time that works best for us. I am not happy in the morning so morning doesn't work. At night time I am pretty much done for. Is that bad to say? I love my children, but I am exhausted at night and ready for a little bit of alone time. After lunch works great for us.

The rest of our routine is very loose. I have been slowly adding things in to where we have a bit of structure, but not too much to where I lose it and throw out my whole routine. Now that the kids know what to expect they help to keep me on track as well because they love what we do.

In the morning I wake up and make breakfast which now consists of either Cheerios or whole wheat bagels with Nutella, fruit, and milk. The kids are happy, and I don't have to cook. I am sooo over hot breakfasts! Did I mention I am not a morning person?

After breakfast we do a devotional and my daughter practices reading to me from her Bible. she then do math which takes 15 minutes or less most of the time. My son will play with some of the manipulatives in our math basket while she works. Then sometimes she plays some of the math games with him which helps him to learn his numbers, counting, patterns, sorting, etc. She loves the idea of teaching her brother, and I am happy to let her do it. Maybe one day she will grow up to homeschool her babies as well.

After math we do whatever we want to do until lunch. This is convenient because my daughter has ballet one day a week in the morning. We are easily able to eat breakfast, do our morning routine, go to ballet and be home for lunch and our afternoon routine. Also, if we want to meet up with someone at the park, or go do something fun nearby we are able to do so without messing up our routine. And if we do mess up our routine - so what? We just start again tomorrow.

After lunch we read. We read together, but we will also have silent reading. The kids love to grab a book and a snack before running off to their rooms to get comfy in their favorite spots to "read". My daughter is a good reader so she is able to read her books and she will come to me afterwards to tell me about what she read. My son will be in his room just looking at the pictures, but I am very happy with that. He is developing a love of books. One of my favorite things to see is that at night once in a while I will go into his room after he has fallen asleep and he will have a book open on his tummy going up and down with each breath. So sweet!

After we read we do science and then are done with our structured learning. Just because we are done with structured learning doesn't mean that we are done with learning. We can never stop learning because it is part of our life. When they are not directed by me they are choosing their own stories to read, playing in the different learning stations I have put together for them, or upstairs playing with their toys or make believe.

I love how things are going, and can't wait to add in some new things such as Spanish, history which will alternate days with science, and writing. Thanks to many other homeschooling mom who blog I have many great ideas for these subjects. And if my great ideas turn out to be duds then so what? I can decide one day that something isn't working and do something completely different the next day. One of the many things I love about homeschooling! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Sweet Little Blessings

This is either my first year, second year, third year, fourth year, fifth year, or sixth year of homeschooling. It depends when you start counting. My oldest is now five almost six and I can finally say she is homeschooled because she is kindergarten age. I have known ever since she was born that I was going to homeschool her, and have been teaching her ever since. It is amazing to me to watch them as they learn and grow.

It is equally amazing to me when I realize how different two people can be when they both grew inside of me. My other child is a boy and he is going to be four soon. My daughter couldn't be more different than my son if she tried. She is a princess always primping and playing dress up, and he thinks he is Spiderman always climbing and jumping.

But for being so different they sure do love each other. There is nothing more sweet to me than seeing them enjoy each other. I love to see them looking through a book together and giggling. The way my son's face lights up when we go to pick up his sister from Sunday School is priceless. And when I go upstairs to give them kisses before going to sleep and I see that my son has snuck into my daughter's bed and they are snuggled together looking like little angels my heart melts. I love that they are best friends and I am so happy that we have the chance to homeschool so that they have more time to grow in their friendship.

I wanted to start this blog to have a record of our homeschooling journey. I have learned in just the last five and a half years that they aren't kidding when they say that time just flies. My heart hurts sometimes when I look at their sweet innocent faces and realize in a blink of an eye they will be grown. I am so thankful for what a blessing these children are to me and the time that the Lord has allowed me to care for and love them. God is good!