Friday, April 11, 2014

Homeschool Teacher Education

Utilizing the Summer Months for Our Own Education
As homeschooling parents we pour so much into our children's education. We read countless articles and books seeking to ensure that we are making available the highest quality education we can afford them. We spend large portions of time preparing for school and teaching them. But for their benefit and our own, at some point we must also attend to our own education. We must pursue our own intellectual passions. We need to show our children that we must never stop learning and that education isn't confined to our years in school.
I try to find topics throughout the school year to pursue but an ideal time to really delve into a subject is during the summer.

Public Library
It is helpful to make a list of topics that interest you and then find books to help you learn about your chosen subject. But besides books, your library may offer programs and events that you may find helpful A quick glance at my local library's schedule showed poetry groups, the opportunity to meet authors and listening to local storytellers and musicians. There is also a book group that meets to discuss some of the great classics.

Attending Classes 
Summer is the perfect opportunity to take a class or learn a new skill. Your local extension office may offer classes on gardening, canning, cooking, livestock and many others. I have also found that I enjoy going back and going through some high school classes . All-in-one-homeschool offers too. I have been going through the Music and Art appreciation classes and have really enjoyed them. They don't take too much time but I have been learning quite a lot. And besides the benefit of my own enjoyment, the information I learn can be used as I teach my children. Ask around and see what you can find in your community.

New Experiences
We can learn as we experience new things. For example, I would like to learn outdoor skills and since our family loves to go camping I figure I can learn these skills while we are out camping. I can learn how to start a fire without matches, build a shelter, or find alternative food sources. Some other ideas might be learning a new craft or even joining a sports team.

There are so many fun and interesting things to learn out there. Make the time to pursue some of your own interests.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Homeschool Week in Review: Field Trip and Science Fair

Looking back, this was a much busier week than I thought it would be. 
Tuesday was April Fool's Day and all of the kids had Dentist appointments. (That's kinda funny in itself...) I tried to talk my oldest into wearing gross, fake teeth to her appointment but she wouldn't go for it.  Instead she said I could send a picture of her to her grandparents showing her "clean" teeth.  At the very least, I was amused. ;)


In general this week, we continued with Easy Peasy All-in-One-Homeschool and Chalk Preschool.  We created some fun, simple crafts and activities like making an April journal cover and planting some seeds.  And  I am trying to continue on with some of our Read-Aloud books, Hymn Study, and Spanish.  They ended up getting dropped due to us trying to sell our house and between packing, Open Houses, and showing the house we had to minimize school some.  We still haven't sold the house but we have settled into this new routine and can add some things back in.

 Extra Activities

-Science Fair
We are participating in our first ever Science Fair!  Hopefully we make a decent showing.  The topic we chose is "How Do Raindrops Affect Rocks?". We found an experiment in the book "Janice VanCleave's Rocks and Minerals" that consists of dripping water drops onto a small mound of flour to show how particles of rocks are displaced by raindrops.
  This week we completed the experiment, looked up what rain- weathered rocks look like, found some real examples and worked on the display. 

-Field Trip
Thursday we went on a field-trip to the Police Station.  We had a very large group and I helped out with the baby to 2 yr old group.  They didn't understand much but my little guy loved the patrol car.  

-Co-op, among other things...
On Friday we went to Co-op and then went to a play called Chasing Charming that was put on by the local college.  The kids loved the play and it was a good introduction to sitting through a play.  It was short, lively and funny. They enjoyed meeting the actors afterwards as well. We didn't get any pictures of the play, but I did get some neat pictures of the kids exploring a really neat brick sculpture that we found on the way back to our car.  :)
Trying out the couch...

We all needed a nap by this time!

Re-enacting a scene from Tangled.

 And that was our week!  We accomplished a lot and had a lot of fun!  What did you do this week?

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Homeschool Week in Review: Mother's Education

We had a lot of fun this past week.  We did a bit of freestyle schooling and I have found some helpful encouragement.

Off the Beaten Path
This past week we went to my parent's house for 6 days to help my mom with some spring cleaning and to help with lambing out her sheep.  I know the kids loved seeing the lambs and the highlight of their trip was watching one of the goats kid, but I think I received the most refreshment just from going out to do chores every day and benefited from the extra exercise and change of pace.  I would go do chores in the morning to check the sheep and goats and then feed hay to the sheep, goats and horses and feed my dad's hunting dogs and the barn cats.  Then I would come in and my oldest and I would go over her Math and Phonics for the day.   Then, while she worked on her assigned pages, I would drink coffee with mom.
Even though we get out pretty often and have plenty of activities to keep us busy at home, it was so great to have a break from being the only adult in the house for the majority of the time. Mom(and sometimes Dad) and I played cards, visited and just generally kept busy.  I'm also potty-training our 2 yr old and it was nice to have an extra helper to keep track of him.

Continuing on with Trying New Things
One of my biggest struggles is in trying to find a way to improve the attitudes of the kids as we start school each day and to incorporate and entertain the youngest two during Morning Time.
-Keeping us on Track
To help the kids and myself transition from free-time to getting ready for school I set an alarm so we know it's time to turn off the television, put toys away and finish up with morning chores because school is almost about to start. It seems to help so far.  I don't get stressed because I got distracted and didn't get us started on time and the kids are happier  because I don't suddenly spring school on them.  :)
This week we started using Chalk Preschool.  It's a free, online preschool that includes, songs, videos and hands-on activities.  We all do it together, with my oldest daughter acting as my "assistant teacher" and it seems to get everyone settled into the daily routine.  One thing we didn't like was the alphabet song on Chalk (it doesn't follow the traditional tune) so we also add in portions of Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool for preschool.
In order to be a better teacher/mother to all of the kids, I have been trying to foster more independence in my oldest daughter so her schooling doesn't monopolize my time.  Previously, I would teach a subject  (ie. Math or Phonics) and then go over the directions for the workbook page. Then I would wait and watch as my daughter finished the assigned pages.  I have since switched to teaching the subject, going over directions in the workbook and then having my daughter place a bookmark in the assigned page to do after I am done teaching the other subject.  It's sort of an obvious, simple thing, but it has helped in that I am not pulled away from the other two kids for such long periods of time.
My oldest daughter and I also looked at and talked about Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool for her as well.  She really likes that she gets to use the computer and seems to appreciate the independence of working through the days' activities on her own. At this point we are going to give it a trial run, but she is excited about school for the first time since preschool.  She told me yesterday that she liked school that day and was happy that we were finally getting to the fun part of school.  I don't really believe that all of school has to be "fun", but it sure is nice to not have to deal with resistance from her.  I really want her to love school and learning!  Especially at this young age.
We won't be only using Easy Peasy for Math as I like the curriculum we are using. They do utilize some fun Math games in Easy Peasy so we might just supplement with it.  Otherwise, we use Rod & Staff Mathematics and I am impressed with how thorough it is.  Although I don't do every activity suggested in the Teacher's Manual and I do allow my daughter to use manipulatives to build answers or answer problems orally in her assignments.
-Easy Peasy Sample Day
I have to say, I had fun using Easy Peasy too.  So I thought I'd share what we did.  My daughter read a short chapter about Reddy Woodpecker and told me about the story.  Then she drew a picture of where Reddy lives.  While she drew the picture, I read the  Bible portion and we talked about what we read.  I also read from the suggested Optional Reading book, Tor, a Street  Boy from Jerusalem.   For Math, we did use the links from Easy Peasy as it happened to coincide with what we are working on.  She loved the Math games! After that she played a Rhythm game.  Lastly she read about the Life Cycle of a Plant.  When we were done we all went outside and planted some seeds in recycled containers we had been saving.
I know every day won't go as smoothly, but the younger two were content to play because they had already done their school and didn't feel left out and it's so exciting to see our little garden sitting next to the window and to hear such positive remarks from my daughter.
I still want to keep the heart of our school focused on Charlotte Mason methods, but in this season of our lives, these changes seem to be a good choice for us.
-Mother's Education
Speaking of Charlotte Mason... This past week, I have been thinking about what I can do to be a better teacher.  I don't want school to be just another chore to complete.  So I have been searching for ideas on how to improve my teaching.  Most of the information I have found is directed at Public School teachers and didn't really apply.  I inadvertently ran across a very encouraging and inspiring article on the Afterthoughts blog.  Brandy discusses Charlotte Mason's "Mother's Education" courses and how the mother's were expected to take these courses in order to better teach their children.  They would study many subjects and not just learn along with their children, but become students of many other subjects themselves.  I love how she says,  "It is out of the overflow that we teach."  Brandy suggests just starting with one book or subject.  I had already started reading Charlotte Mason's "Home Education" Volume 1, but I am going to be more intentional about reading it.   We have a Quiet Time/Tea Time every afternoon and I am going to read it each day during that time and work on doing written Narration.  Some other subjects I want to pursue are Survival Skills, the Sabbath, Native Plants, and U.S. History during the Depression.  What would you study?

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homeschool Week in Review: On the Go

Jan 27-31
Man this was  a difficult week to stick to our school schedule!  Our house is for sale and we had three showings and a Realtor Tour.  I don't think we had even one full day at home.  We had to get a little creative to fit school in.

I have gone back and forth and tried out all sorts of ideas for what to do about Bible learning in our homeschool.  This week I finally decided to go with Good Morning Girls as their kid's study mirrors mine. If you sign up for their e-mails, the links at the bottom of the e-mails have the adult and kid's studies.

I print off the bookmark for the week's reading and my daughter keeps it in her Bible.  After breakfast she is to look up the Scripture for the day and then write out her S.O.A.P. verse in her Bible notebook.  Then when we start school I read it again to everyone and we talk about and do the activities in the study guide.

We use Rod & Staff.  This week I started backing off on some of the instruction time unless they are introducing a new concept.  I'm still trying to find a happy balance between daily work on memorization skills and overwhelming my daughter because it's written for a classroom she's my only student and therefore gets the entire focus rather than distributing the work between multiple students.  We also don't do all of the writing in the workbook.  I allow her to "build" her answers with felt or foam blocks and beads or to just answer orally.

We worked on finishing Charlotte's Web this week in preparation for an Ocean Unit Study we are starting in February.  We made a lap book for Charlotte's Web, our first, and it really revealed a passion in all of us to continue on with that sort of thing.

One of the perks of homeschooling, I still get to participate in Art class!

The kids love re-reading their Narrations and checking out the activities they have put together.

We learned more about spiders one day which resulted in all of us getting distracted this week when a spider kept falling off the bathroom ceiling because the steam made it lose it's grip.  We watched it catch itself with it's web multiple times and climb back up.  I blew it over to the wall at one point and with the help of a magnifying glass we identified the eyes and spinnerets and talked about what kind of spider it was.  Then it fell again and barely brushed my daughter's hand and the fun was over! 

Unit Study
This is new territory for us.  We follow Ambleside Online and like it but we just felt like we needed something else. I'm not very good about doing Nature Study consistently, or Handicrafts.  So our curriculum was a little lackluster.  As I said above we recently jumped into a lapbook which lead to the idea of doing a Unit Study.  My daughter was reading a book on sharks that one of her siblings had picked up at the library and was super interested in them.  Which led to the idea of doing an Ocean Unit Study.  To say we are excited about it is an understatement.  She's been telling friends about it and poring over the books I've gathered.

She's helped me plan activities and come up with some great ideas.  I'm putting together a 6 week unit study that I'll be sharing as we go.  In fact, it will be the majority of my weekly review for awhile.

Creative Schooling
This week we ended up doing school at grandma's house and in a quiet room after Co-op.

We dumped money out on the floor and talked about the coins and what they were worth. We put together a book called All About Me.  My daughter saw one that my mom saved from when I was 6 and wanted to make one of her own.

 And we read books.  For being so unstructured, I am pretty pleased with how much we have learned.

What did you do this week?

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Waiting For Lions

I read an article this morning from Coffee For the Soul and she shared the verse below from James
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

 She followed that by saying

"When do things that we face in our lives devastate us? When we did not anticipate them, and were in no way prepared for them. What does the Bible tell us to expect in this life? Can we expect that life will be easy? Are we to expect that our walk with Christ will be easy? Does Scripture promise that unity in the body will never require work?
Scripture promises that we will face many trials in this life. Scripture promises that we will have to war against the flesh and fight for godliness. Jesus told us that following Him will cost us dearly; we ought to be prepared to give up our very lives for His name’s sake."

She goes on in the article to elaborate how we can find hope in Christ throughout the trials but it really struck me for some reason that I have been unaware of trials in my life.

I've been waiting for trials.  But I've been waiting for lions.  For an oppressive government.  I didn't see the obvious.   


I expected it to come from the outside.  But I found it right here within my very soul.

I found it in complacency.

When I am tired and the kids are fighting or not doing as they are told and I just let it go.

When the house is a mess but I'm overwhelmed and it's easier to check Facebook.

When my energy is low and I don't take the time to make a healthy food choice.

When we need to do just a couple more things to finish our school day but the kids are distracted after lunch and it would require so much to get myself and them back on track.

Am I making any effort to "war against the flesh and to fight for godliness?"

Am I giving up my life for His name's sake?

If my calling is to train up my children in His name, am I giving up my life when I make selfish excuses?

The short answer?  No.

So today I'm going to put on my armor.  I'm battling against the trials that have their source right here within me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How do we encourage feminity in our daughters?

I was watching my almost two-year old son the other day as he crashed his cars together and jumped off of every surface he could climb onto.  And in my thinking, as long as he wasn't getting hurt or hurting somebody, it was good for him.  It was teaching him skills he needs as a rough and tumble little boy and helping him grow.

However, with my daughters, I have fought tooth and nail when they get all riled up about makeup and fashion and planning their weddings. (Did I mention they are 7 and 5 yrs old?)

And my 4 yr old can't function without a dress on.  Which I actually think is just fine because she feels more modest and feminine in a dress and views wearing pants only (she will wear them under a dress) as "boy clothes".   So I don't mind encouraging that view point.

I believe in being tidy and wearing pleasant clothing but I don't wear makeup unless I go out (like on a date) and I try to not be in fashion if I can help it.  Who wants to wear the same thing everyone else is? 
When I was a girl, all I wanted was a ranch with some Herefords and to ride my horse.  I played outside in the gravel piles pretending I was in some sort of survival situation.  The one time I remember playing with my doll was when I was pretending to be a pioneer woman trying to cross the prairies with my child.

So all of this frill annoys me.  I try to discourage it.  I don't like that they are so focused on appearance.  I limit television shows and toys that focus too much on how they look or on petty friendship issues.  And I think I'm right in doing these things.  But at the same time, shouldn't I be encouraging the feminine side of these lovely little creatures?  Didn't God create us to be strong yet compassionate? Beautiful yet courageous?

So where in the world do you find balance?  I would love to hear your suggestions.  I started going through Preparing to Be a Help Meet by Debi Pearl with my 7 yr old.  It's written for an older group so I skip some areas.  But it's great for starting good conversations with her.  I figure if she is going to play "wedding" with all of her toys, even the horses, she may as well have a healthy perspective of marriage.

I am also trying to include all of the kids in daily chores.  To find joy in work well done, in caring for others.  And to find contentment in where they are now, knowing that more stuff doesn't necessarily mean happiness. I try to convey that we love them for who they are, not what they can do or what they look like.  
It's just so hard to encourage femininity in our culture when it's portrayed in such a negative way in media and when I myself am sort of oblivious to the desires of these little girls for all things girly. 

I really would love to hear how you approach this with your family.  How do we encourage femininity without encouraging self-centeredness?

Shared at Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thinking about my grandpa today...

My sweet grandpa passed away this summer. We lived with my grandparents until I was four years old and then lived in the same small town as they did until I was 18.  Any chance I got I stayed at the ranch with grandpa and grandma.  Grandpa would wake up early, as usual, and turn up the heat in winter or turn off the fans in the windows if it was summer.  Then go out and turn on the radio and start breakfast.

After we ate, we would go check the garden.  Or maybe go drive around in the pasture and shoot gophers.  And he would never complain when I missed again and again.  Although he did make me go pick up the gophers and bring them back for the cats.  At least he let me use gloves and the pliers to pick them up!
There were always little jobs to do around the ranch.  Sometimes we needed to go fill the drinking water down at the windmill, or fix fence.  He even tried to teach me to weld.  Looking back, he must have had more than his fair share of patience.

I used to love to ride my horse all over the place and grandpa would come find me if I was running late for supper.

We went to the same church and I still remember leaning against his scratchy wool coat and listening to his voice rumble as he sang.

I feel like I've come to miss him more and more over these past few months... Grandma gave me some of his old flannel shirts and each time I wear one all I can see is him standing in the kitchen making us breakfast. And I don't so much wish he was still here as much as I wish I could go back to when I lived all those memories.

I had a dream recently that he was still alive and he was still out at the ranch.  And when I woke up, for a minute, I forgot that he was gone.  It was like losing him all over again.  I felt sad all day.

It seems that we sort of downplay the loss of an older person or a grandparent seeing as how they aren't a parent or a child or a spouse.  But he meant just as much to me. He is such a vital part of who I am.  I think every one of us grandchildren knew we were grandpa's favorite. :')

Today is his birthday so I'm thinking even more about him than usual.  I hope that I can be at least half the person he was.  He was strong, hard-working, loving and fun.  As a family, my grandparents filled their lives with so many EXPERIENCES.  I want to share life with my family the way they did with theirs.  And I can't wait to meet back up again with him someday in heaven.  Until then I will keep him close in my memories and heart.