Monday, August 31, 2009

Snail Trails

Do you have these at your house? My kids leave snail trails behind everywhere they go. We observed the slimy trail left behind one day outside and ever since then this analogy has made perfect sense to my kids.

When Sweetheart is finished watching TV, she gets up and leaves the room. Blanket and cushion she was using still laying in floor. When Little Bit has a snack, the paper towel gets left on the kitchen table along with the cup she was drinking out of. Someone takes their shoes off under the table and there they sit. Someone draws and then leaves the pencil and paper on the coffee table. I could go on and on.

If I am present to remind them, these things get picked up immediately. But heaven forbid I get busy doing something in another room. I've actually taken them on a tour of their day through all the rooms pointing out the trail of slime they have left behind them. They get it.

One day I just KNOW all this nagging....I mean reminding is going to pay off. In fact, some days it seems like it is already paying off.

But I am convinced that when they finally stop leaving the slime behind, my house will be clean. I've had other theories over the years. When my children were younger I had what I called "the horizontal surfaces theory." See, I always walked around saying, "If these toys just weren't all over the floor, my house would look clean." But in reality, when all the toys got picked up and put away, there was still mess. It was on every horizontal surface in the house--the kitchen island, the side table in the living room, my night stand, the formal dining table, the fireplace mantle, etc. They were, by the way, all surfaces that my kids couldn't exactly reach at the time. Or at least the contents of the table was not theirs.

So....that blew my excuse about the toys. Now I'm blaming the snail trails, but I could be wrong.

What do you figure is the one reason why your house gets messy often?

(If your house does NOT get messy, you may leave a comment but only if you promise to go help a friend this week who is not as fortunate as you!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Life Is a Whirlwind and Our House Proves It

Hi! Allow me to introduce myself. I blog here....sometimes.

I am the one who is learning to homeschool 2 kiddos at once. I know, I moms of many are laughing right now. HA! Two??? That would be like a vacation to me! But it's really new territory for me. It would be easier if they were a bit closer together in age.

I am the one who is actually trying really hard to write lesson plans every week. And keep the homeschool table cleaned off. I will not be sharing a picture of how it looks right now, thank you very much.

I am the one who has been driving to my sister's house this weekend to check on the dogs while she's out of town. She checks on our rabbits while we are gone so, I can't complain.

I am the one who has been sewing and painting furiously trying to get inventory ready for a booth at our local craft mall. We need some more scratch and this would be really nice if it worked out as we can be at home while we work on stuff. I like it when we are all home together.

I am the one who planned and hosted a birthday party last weekend for Sweetheart. She's 10. TEN!!!!

I am the one who has not been to the grocery store in well over a week except for little trips to pick up a day or two worth of stuff. We REALLY need a grocery trip and yet, we've eaten somehow.

I am the one who is taking a day off tomorrow (with husband's blessing--Thank you!!!) to get things in order around here because.....

I am the one who didn't finish the lesson plans.

I am the one who hasn't put sheets on the kids' beds in 3 days.

I am the one who, as mentioned previously, needs to go grocery shopping.

I am the one who must pay bills tomorrow.

I am the one who...who...who..... going to bed now.

Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:6-8

Why don't you tell us who you are today??? Leave it in the comments or leave a comment linking to your post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sometimes Things Work Out Right

Right? Our new schedule.

I think I actually planned it pretty well. Sweetheart is doing this subject while Little Bit does this, etc. It's hard juggling two different grades and I honestly don't know how moms of many do it. So, the schedule? It worked out. (so far)

Wrong? The attitude during school.
One of the daughters who shall remain nameless but was born first has a tendency to complain. Whine?'s more complaining. The last subject of the day before lunch found her with her head on the table complaining about how hungry she was. I may or may not have lectured her about how she was NOT a child from TV who was up for sponsorship and she had INDEED been given food on this day and can we please get on with the work? Five minutes later when she had been released to play before lunch she came dancing in the room full of smiles and laughter.

I think I partially hit the roof. All I know is in the midst of what came out of my mouth, she "yes ma'am'ed" me approximately 13 times. And I pointed a finger at her while I talked. Needless to say, that is unacceptable to me. I have made a "Complaint Card." There are 3 boxes drawn on it. When a complaint comes out of her mouth, I will color a square in. When all 3 are colored in, extra work will be assigned. If 2 more get colored in that day, a conference with Daddy will ensue.

I'll let you know how that comes out. It's important because it's a character issue. I don't care what all she's learning in school if she's learning to do it with a complaining attitude...that's no good.

Right? The VBS.

I sent the girls to the same Vacation Bible School I've been sending them to for the last 4 years. Our church hasn't hosted a VBS in a long time, and this church does a great job. They are a very small church and in fact they sold their building several years ago and have been meeting in their gym, which is where VBS takes place. They do such an amazing job for a church their size and this year's theme was "Rome--Paul and the Underground Church." Little Bit wasn't at all sure she wanted to go but when we walked in she was captivated. There were tents set up all around, with fake stone roads and roman columns everywhere. EVERYONE was in costume. They were whisked away immediately to the costume tent where they were outfitted in 1st century-ish attire. Here they are the night their cousins came with them:
Because Sweetheart was recovering from the flu, they didn't get to to go to all the nights, but I'm so glad they got to go to part of it. I love the picture of Sweetheart wearing a Toga that is now on my fridge. :)

So why did this work out so well? This year we are studying The Mystery of History Vol. 2, which begins with Paul and the underground church!!!! Yesterday we were reading about the catacombs (new to Mommy as well) when Sweetheart lit up and told me all about how they had crawled through a dark tunnel at VBS to visit with some Christians who were in hiding. They had also visited Paul while he was in house arrest and witnessed some Roman soldiers take down a peasant who had stolen some bread. Sweetheart had been chosen one night to take a secret message to the Christians in hiding. Needless to say: they brought history to life. This week I will be writing to thank them for sure!

Wrong? The day is still young....give me time.
Hope your day works out right today!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Heart My New Schedule

How annoying is that title? I wish I could give credit to the blogger who says this but I can't remember who it is....but I pink puffy heart it! That cracks me up.

ANYWAY.....I love our Thursday and Friday schedules this year and I just have to tell you about them. OK, OK, so it's only been ONE Thursday and ONE Friday but I love them for now.

Today we did a few subjects here at home and then packed our lunches in our new lunch kits and went to the library at 11:00. We don't got to Preschool Story Time on Tuesdays anymore and I really like having Monday-Wednesday mornings at home. So we got to the library and picked out our books for the week. Then I checked out a laptop for Sweetheart and a Leap Pad for Little Bit and we sat down at a back table. Sweetheart did her Math lesson (Math U See--needed the laptop for the DVD) while Little Bit worked happily on the Leap Pad. I know Leap Pads are such ANCIENT technology, but she hasn't really ever played with one much so she loved it. Sweetheart liked doing math in a new locale and we were all happy.

Then we ate our lunch at a park....inside the car because it was raining. And after lunch we went to our homeschool group's play day at the gym. This Thursday rocked. I hope it keeps working.

Last Friday was our first FUN FRIDAY of the year. On Fridays, I plan either an experiment or a "book cook." Last Friday we planted seeds in little pots my parents brought home from Branson for us. This week we will make spider snacks because Little Bit has been learning about Mother Goose rhymes. (Little Miss Muffet, Itsy Bitsy Spider)

Then, we do an art project. Then we do a Spanish lesson. Then we do some activity on their theme of the week. Then we watch a movie and eat lunch in the living room. It's all fun! They know they must work hard Monday through Thursday in order to get to participate in Fun Friday. In fact, I give them a ticket to let them know if they "made it" or not.

And THIS Friday we will also be getting ready for a very special birthday. Sweetheart is turning TEN on Saturday!!!!! It's just not possible. Here she was 6 years ago. Sniff. Sniff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When You Grow Up With Technology....

So I told you how we read the book Listen Buddy on the first day of school, right?

And then I had Sweetheart write a letter to Buddy telling him how to listen. She said, "I hope he writes me back!"

That spurred an unplanned string of events in which I wrote a letter to her in Buddy's handwriting. (He said, "Please excuse my handwriting, it's hard to hold the pen in my little paw.") She was very excited but Little Bit just about went crazy. A REAL letter from BUDDY??? How COOL!!!! (Sweetheart winked at me.)

So Little Bit wanted to write a letter to Buddy. She asked me, "Mom how do you spell....'Dear Buddy, How are you? I have rabbits too.'?" I told her I was reading a lesson with Sissy and I didn't have time to spell all that for her right now but she could copy Buddy's name off the book if she wanted.

So here was her letter:

She put it in the book which is where Buddy leaves the letters. Before bed, THANKFULLY the child said she couldn't wait to see if Buddy wrote her back. Thankfully, because I'm not sure I would have remembered otherwise. Kinda like that pesky Tooth Fairy at the Joyful Chaos house.

And good thing too because she was up right when I was and walked straight to the school room to see if a letter was there. She was very excited!!!! See? The best lesson plans in the world can't predict this kind of stuff.

But the best was when she was sitting in the floor by me trying to write her letter to Buddy. She was flipping through the book looking at the pictures and she said,

"Mom? I want to go to Buddy's house."

Um, yes. The illustrated one. I told her I wasn't sure where his house was.

"Then use your GPS!" was the reply.

These youngsters and their technology!

Regretfully, It's Day Two

So yesterday was our first day of "real" work. After our first day of school, the next day was our first Fun Friday. I'll be posting about that later. Yesterday there were tears, a proclamation of "feeling dumb", hugs and kisses, and lots of work done. Sweetheart forgot a lot of math since the spring, even with practice each day in June. So....we will begin back where she is and forge on. Hopefully today will be a better day.

Little Bit is loving Kindergarten, except it's not enough in her opinion. She clouds up each day when she is done. Talk about polar opposites!

So yes, Sweetheart said this morning, "I wish it wasn't a school day today." Obviously, we're off to a great start.

It'll be fine. We just need a few weeks to work the kinks out of our schedule.

This weekend is Sweetheart's birthday so I shampooed the carpets yesterday. Today I will rearrange and clean up the play room in expectation of 11 children playing in there on Saturday. She hasn't had a "friend party" in several years so she's looking forward to it.

Also, S and I are being very crafty and working to open a booth at a local craft mall for some extra cash. Well, actually it's not so much "extra" as it is "more." S has all his stuff almost ready to go and I haven't done one thing.

With all that said, I think I need to get off the computer now!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The First Day

Every year I scour the internet looking for a way to make our first day special. Most of the books teachers read to their students on the first day of school and many of the activities don't make sense for homeschoolers. (Getting to know you? Learning names?) Anyway, I thought I'd share what we did today in case it helps anyone else.

We started with school pictures BEFORE breakfast. :) I saw that Sprittibee had her kiddos hold up their fingers to indicate what grade they were in and thought that was a great idea. Then it occurred to me that "K" for Kindergarten was sort of a problem, so I came up with this:

I think this will be a new tradition!

I planned to make pancakes this morning. I purposefully did not drink all the milk so I would have enough. Then I realized I was out of pancake mix. Well....thankfully I had a few bucks in my purse so I just didn't mention the pancakes and we did this instead:

Nutritious, no?

The first thing we did was an "All About Me" lapbook. I like to get their weight, height, favorites, handwriting sample, a picture they drew, etc. They are so cute to look back on later! Last year we did a book, but I found this free lapbook at Homeschool Share and liked it. They did 4 or 5 little items for the inside before we moved on. We'll finish it tomorrow. Here they are working hard:

Then I read a book to them called Listen, Buddy. This book was PERFECT because I have a certain older child who might maybe sometimes possibly have trouble listening. Ahem.

To go along with our listening theme, we played Sound Bingo. My friend Carrie dropped it off at my house for me yesterday which just made my day. It was fun and we will probably play it again tomorrow.

Then we broke out our Bible to read and discuss James 1:22.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We made jingle bell bracelets. That was for the Kindergarten set. Then I split them up a bit and had Sweetheart write a letter to Buddy (from the book) telling him how to listen. Little Bit and I made a fingerprint book about a little bunny. Lastly, I had them play Sound Concentration online.

Then I gave them a play break--it had been about an hour and a half by then--and Little Bit was very disappointed. I told them not to worry, Monday would be a "real" schedule. After the break we took turns looking through their books, talking about what subjects they would be doing this year, and making a cover for their Botany notebooks.

Oh yeah, I had some little memo notebooks--the kind that fit in a front pocket--and had them decorate those. These are the "Good News" notebooks. I can give them stickers to put in them, or write a note about something good they did that day. These will serve as brag books for Dad to look at when he wants to know how they have been doing. Also, hopefully, to reinforce things I want to see more of--"Thank you for reading to your little sister today", "Thank you for being quiet while Sissy did her math lesson" etc.

This day was not about academics or even being on schedule. It was just about waking up our brains after a long slumber and getting back on track. Sweetheart yawned ALL day so I know she needs a few more days to get into the routine before I throw hard work at her.

But most of all, I'm just glad it's over. Now we can get over all the photo ops and get back to real life. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One More Day of Summer

School starts tomorrow! I am not ready, but not far away from being ready.

I guess I should say I'm almost prepared. I'm not sure I'm ready at all. We've definitely fallen into some lazy habits over the summer. We need to get back to eating all of our meals at the table instead of letting the girls spread out a blanket and eating lunch in front of the TV. We need to turn the TV off more. We need to get back to getting our morning chores done quickly instead of taking hours.

Which is why I say I'm not really ready for all this.

I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of our first day! Cause ready or not, here it comes!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Homeschooling for a World View

I was looking around our homeschool room yesterday and had a thought. No, it didn't hurt. :) Our homeschool room looks quite a bit like a typical classroom. We have school boxes, and the months of the year on the wall, and a pocket chart, and a map, and a white board. So someone who didn't know might wonder, "why not just send them to school? It looks like they are doing just what kids in school are doing."

But there is so much going on that can't be easily seen from just looking at our room. I know there are as many reasons to homeschool as there are homeschoolers, but my philosophy on the whole thing has changed even since we began. Well, actually it hasn't changed....more like expanded.

One thing I am profoundly grateful for is the chance to use Christian curriculum with my children. I thought it was a nice bonus when we first started, but now I think it is far more important than that. Teaching my girls science from a Christian, Biblical point of view is a SUPER thing. (History also!) I think they are learning to defend God's word, in addition to just being in awe of His creation. Many, many times this year Sweetheart has pointed out inaccuracies on TV shows or in books. These are things I hadn't even thought of until last year, but my daughters are already aware of them. That's very cool.

I read a book last week. Have you seen this book? It has some interesting points. I won't go into all of the research here, but suffice it to say, we MUST work on how we teach our children about God's word. They must be able to see that the Bible is more than a collection of stories. They must be able to see that absolutely everything in the Bible is true.

So we are homeschooling. And it will take effort. And these are not things I had thought about when we first became parents.

How are you teaching your children to view the world?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Help for the Homeschooler: One Last Thing

For now.

I am going to be busy, busy, busy today so I won't be throwing posts at you right and left, OK Karly? :)

But I wanted to say this. With all of our planning and taking control of our homeschool year, there is something we need to remember: we are not in charge.

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Pray. Pray. And pray some more. Your schedule will get thrown off. Your plan might not work. We do not know what tomorrow holds--but God does. Depend on Him and commit the educating of your children to Him. It isn't really about themes and subjects and activities--it's about training our children in the way they should go. Remember that.

And also, remember what matters most.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Help for the Homeschooler: Little Things

Series starts here.

Last year, as I have mentioned, I didn't plan very well. Live and learn. Sometime during the first week of school I realized the Olympics that were going on would be the ONLY Olympics of Sweetheart's elementary school career! I rushed around and organized an Olympics unit. It came out great, but it was a mess doing all that at the last minute.

THIS YEAR, (I am so full of plans--which I will probably be laughing at later), I hope to NOT log onto Google and think to myself, "Why do the Google letters look like the Cat in the Hat today?OH! It's Dr. Seuss' birthday!!!!" I'd like to be a little more on top of things around here.

So, out with my trusty calendar. This one. I'm going to highlight all the special days and make a note of what they are in the margins.

So far, just so you don't have to do this work, I've got:

Grandparent's Day--Sept. 13, which is a Sunday so we'll do Grandparent's stuff as a 1 day unit on Friday, Sept. 12.

100th Day of School--this is different for everyone depending on your start date. I've got it on the calendar for January 22, but we'll see. It should be AROUND that date anyway. I've got it on the calendar so it won't slip up on me.

Fire Prevention Week--October 4-10. Yep, that's when I have it on Little Bit's calendar.

Dental Health--The month of February. So, you can just pick a week in there. Or a day.

President's Day-- Monday, February 15, 2010. This is not normally something we "celebrate" but this year they are both doing a President's unit so I'd like it to coincide.

Dr. Seuss' Birthday--March 2. This will be a 1 day unit.

It's nice to have these on the calendar so you can plan ahead for them and not be scrambling around at the last minute.

Of course there are TONS of things to celebrate. What am I forgetting? Even if I don't want to do it, someone else might. So share, what special days do you make time for?

Oh! And don't forget your children's birthdays!

Help for the Homeschooler: The Fun Part

You can begin this series here.

******Edited at end of post!!!*****

OK--up until now with all the talk about schedules and textbooks and school calendars and holidays and teacher inservice days you are probably getting the impression that I am one of those people who try to replicate school at home.

You might be partly right, but not totally. The truth is, my girls and I love school. We love having a room to have school in. They beg me to put up classroom decorations. They want to say the pledge (we do sometimes--Little Bit needs to learn it).

But we also do school all over the house. We go outside a lot. We take advantage of every field trip we can afford. We cuddle up on the couch to read. Even though there is a lot of "schooly" things about our homeschool room.....this is a home, not a school. And here is where you start to see that play out in the planning.

I cannot teach without themes. I tried it last year. I tried the year before that. I try to just stick to the curriculum but eventually I find myself thinking about sticking myself in the eye with a sharp instrument. The curriculum, by itself, is just so......bleh. I. Must. Have. Themes.

This is easy to understand in Kindergarten and the younger grades because even in public school they teach by themes in these grades. As you get higher up in the elementary grades, themes begin to disappear. When I taught 4th grade a hundred years ago, we used themes. The kids LOVED it. The other 4th grade teachers weren't so sure at first but they caught on. It just ignites their interest to walk up to the classroom and see big dragon footprints in the hallway and a castle made out of butcher paper surrounding the door. (fairy tale unit). I stayed myself at school past 5:00 hanging blue saran wrap from the ceiling and we studied the layers of the ocean and suspended fish from all around. The classroom floor was the ocean floor so there was seaweed all around the walls. The kids swam to the pencil sharpener every day. It was awesome.

Well, there is no need to decorate my house in this way (nor do I believe husband would appreciate it), but the point is: themes make life more interesting. For the past 2 years I have just chosen themes when we got bored with the curriculum and the planning was very haphazard.

But THIS YEAR, it will be grand.

We are not limited to the four walls of a classroom. We can go on field trips, outside, to the kitchen to cook, to the living room to watch a movie, whatever goes with the theme we are studying!

I have made separate lists of themes for the girls. Sweetheart is in 4th grade this year and she's DONE the Johnny Appleseed unit and she's DONE the turkeys, etc. I think it's time to move on to "more mature" themes for her. OF COURSE we will be up in each other's theme business. There is no way they won't want to participate in each other's activities. So, I may change my mind later, but here are their themes for the year, planned with the calendar in mind.

Kindergarten: Back to School, Nursery Rhymes, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Grandparent's Day, Dinosaurs, Fire Safety, Apples and Pumpkins, Scarecrows, Pilgrims and Indians, Corn/Popcorn, Turkeys, Christmas/Nativity, 100th Day of School, Quilts, Texas/Rodeo, Presidents, Dental Health, Dr. Seuss, Kites, Ladybugs, Zoo, Rain/Weather, Circus, Camping.

(Some of those are 1 day units, others last for 1-2 weeks.)

Fourth Grade: Back to School, American Girl--Kirsten, Pioneers, Explorers, Grandparent's Day, Castles, Acorns and Squirrels, American Indians, Corn/Popcorn, Christmas/Nativity, 100th Day of School, Quilts, Frogs, Rodeo/Western, Presidents, Dental Health, Dr. Seuss, Hawaii, Ladybugs, Inventors, Pigs, Cicus, Camping.

Whew! You can see there is a lot of overlap. That will make it easier on me. So now I am in the process of bookmarking helpful sites for these units. When planning during the year, I will open the folder for that theme, and make my plans.

This is the part that gets me really excited about school. I can plan cooking projects, art projects, field trips, movies, books, everything to along with our themes.

Do you teach this way? How do you plan your themes for homeschool?

Next up: The Little Things

*****Ooooooh!!! Happy! Happy! Happy! Look what I just found to help with planning your themes throughout the year!!!

Help for the Homeschooler: The Nerdy Part

OK--this part is what I did not do well last year but I have found that I really like it. It satisfies my inner nerd.

If you have a curriculum that breaks it all down for you (like Abeka or My Father's World, etc.) then consider yourself lucky. You can skip this step. Mostly.

If you have grabbed an eclectic mix of curriculum from all over the world like us, you will need to do some figuring. So grab your textbooks and curriculum.

The other thing you will need is a calendar. Here's a great one to print out from Donna Young. I also print out a few calendars from local school districts around me so I'll know when their Spring Break, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are. You can plan to go with those or against them.

With all my calendars and textbooks around me I begin to think the year out. If you live in a state where you have to have school a certain number of days, then count that out. When will you start? When will you be done (remember to give yourself a cushion for sick days, etc.)? What holidays will you take off? Don't forget to give yourself some "teacher inservice" days so you can get caught up on planning and paperwork.

Whew. many days does that give you before Christmas break? How many days after? You might be taking months off during the fall and schooling through the summer so that marker might not work for you. The point is, find the midway point of your year. For me, it's Christmas break.

So, now you need to look at your curriculum. My history book this year has 28 weeks worth of lessons in it, so I know I need to aim to finish through week 14 by Christmastime. Figure this out for all of your subjects and then you will know how many times per week you will need to do that particular subject. I believe we can use a 4 day week this year and still get done. I might be wrong, but that is what I have concluded. :)

I think this is the part of the planning that will really help us stay on track. Write down what you have decided so you can check your progress during the year. If you find you have fallen behind in a subject, you might let things like handwriting go for awhile until you can get caught up.

The point is, PLAN. It might change, but it's better than just diving in without any planning at all.

Next time: The Fun Stuff

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Help for the Homeschooler--More Dreaded Schedules

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I don't really know what to tell you about the daily schedule because this year I am going to be teaching Kindergarten and 4th grade and those don't mesh too well, you know? But here is what I do know:

You need to decide on a start time. You won't hit it every day but it's nice to have a goal. We aimed for 9:00 last year but really, really need to move that up to 8:30 this year since we are adding a student and grade to the mix. And I don't want to run around screeching at my kids each morning "FIFTEEN MINUTES UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS AND YOU HAVEN'T EVEN BRUSHED YOUR HAIR!!!!". I will give reminders about the time. If we consistently don't hit it due to dawdlers, school is going to go deep into the afternoon. A few times of that and I think they'll get going on their own. And there are times when we just all need to sleep in a bit later. Remember: flexible.

You'll need to break for lunch. As I mentioned before, it's good to know what subjects you want to finish before lunch. A lot of moms squeeze in read alouds during lunch. (We do).

For the last 2 years we have been done with school by lunch time so the afternoons were theirs except for chores at 4:00. This year I'm thinking that will not be the case. So....

You need to decide how long the day will go. After lunch, will you start right back up or have a break? Being consistent with this is important to stave off the whinies "but yesterday you let me play first." Will you stop at 3:00 no matter what? Deciding these things ahead of time makes it easier and then you and your kids can relax inside that schedule. Certainly if a child has not been working they may need to go past the stop time as a consequence, but as a rule, decide when you want to be done. There are other days to finish things. Plus, YOU have other things to do.

Let's just put it this way: I'm no fan of school from 8:00-3:00, but if I need to do that a few times to make a point to the kiddos, I'm prepared. :) We are happier as a family when we get nearly everything done before lunch. So, that is my goal.

You need to decide on an order. I hate to admit it, but I used to let my daughter pick what she was in the mood to do first, second, etc. No more. I have learned that some things just need to get done and out of the way. You will learn later how long each subject takes. You will readjust your schedule many times. And you will fall into a good routine. Just give it time and be flexible.

And this is where you'll need that Course of Study we made in step one. That way you won't forget to add in whole subjects. Believe me. I know. I would think this would be especially helpful if you are homeschooling 3+ children.

Next: Planning to Make a Nerd's Heart Flutter

Help for the Homeschooler--The Dreaded Schedule

**Remember, this is not THE way to plan. It is A way to plan. Just trying to throw some help out there for those who are newer to all this than me. Or whoever it might help! Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

There is not a homeschooler out there (probably) who has not sat down at the beginning of the year and made a beautiful schedule (color-coded, formatted, laminated, posted...), only to laugh their head off at it later. I've certainly done that. Several times. In fact, after my first year of homeschooling I was cleaning up my storage cart and found the schedule from the beginning of the year. I think my mouth might have fallen open. Not only was the schedule WAY more ambitious than real life turned out to be, but I had completely forgotten about it!

What I'm trying to say is, you probably need to make a schedule, but don't go crazy. Forget about the kind of schedule where everything is decided in 5 minute increments. That's not how homeschooling works. Even as a public school teacher, we had to make schedules that said things like: Restroom break-10:00-10:07 but we all know that's completely out of our control.

And if you have kiddos at home who are not "doing school" then you have a double whammy. Because diapers will explode when it is not the designated "diaper changing time", someone will get hungry in the middle of read-aloud time, the phone rings, errands must be must be very, very flexible.

So you really need more of an "ORDER" than a "SCHEDULE." And if you really, really need to put times to things, then play around with things in 30 minute blocks of time. It's easier that way. Or, my personal favorite is to chart: "Things to do before lunch" and "things to do after lunch." That way you have a goal. :)

Here is our Weekly Schedule for the upcoming year. Subject to change 50 times if needed:

Weekly Schedule

Fourth Grade: Bible, Botany, Math, History, Spelling, Reading, Handwriting
Kindergarten: Bible, Math, Phonics, Handwriting, Theme activity
Fourth Grade:
Bible, Botany, Math, History, Spelling, Reading, Handwriting
Kindergarten: Bible, Math, Phonics, Handwriting, Theme activity
Fourth Grade: Bible, Botany, Math, History, Spelling, Reading, Piano lesson
Kindergarten: Bible, Math, Science, Theme activity

Fourth Grade:
Bible, Botany, Math, History, Spelling, Reading, Handwriting
Kindergarten: Bible, Math, Phonics, Handwriting, Theme activity
Fourth and Kindergarten:
Bible, Book Cook, Art, Spanish, Homemaking, Movie day

I've indicated in blue the changes. Everything else is the same every day. I've been wanting--longing--for our Fridays to be different ever since we started. The first year it didn't work out because we Girl Scouts on Monday mornings. The worst time ever. And last year we had Tuesday mornings at the library for preschool story time. But THIS year, we don't have anything in the mornings, so we should be able to achieve the "fun Friday" schedule I've been wanting.

OK--so that's how our weeks will look. Except when they don't. Flexible, remember? And I try to put things in order of importance. Bible is first because--it is the only subject that REALLY matters. Botany and Math need to be done while Sweetheart is fresh because otherwise it is not pretty around here. Spelling, Reading, and Handwriting are last because if we didn't get them done every single day the earth would continue to orbit.

Next up: The Daily Schedule

Help For the Homeschooler--How to Start Planning

In this series of posts, I am going to assume that you have chosen your curriculum. If you have not done that, here are a few tips:

*Research, research, research. Google "(name of curriculum) reviews" and you'll find out all about it from folks who have used it. Ask real friends. Ask online friends. Go to a store or curriculum fair and look at it.
*Ask your husband once you have narrowed it down to a few choices. They may surprise you with things you would never think of and help you make the decision.

OK--now. You have your curriculum. You have a little space to work. Now what?

This year I began with Donna Young's printables. She has amazing resources! Specifically, I used some forms from the Garamond Collection. I began with the Yearly Course of Study Record. That link will take you to the PDF, but what I like is there is a Word version that you can type right onto and print.

What this form will do is help you decide: WHAT are we going to study? and WHAT DO I HAVE that will help us do that? This will help you later when it's time to make a schedule.

I plugged in our curriculum and had a nice, neat record of what we are going to do this year.

Sweetheart--4th grade

Bible--Bible Study Guide for All Ages, Devotions for Girls—God and Me!, the Bible, copywork/memorization of Bible verses, various children’s Bibles

History--The Mystery of History Vol. II, various atlas books and maps, supplemental reading materials and videos on topics

Math--Math-U-See Beta and Gamma student books (we are going to try to plug through both this year as we are a bit behind after switching over in Feb.), computer ( for online drill, Math U See DVD’s and laptop to watch them on, blocks

Science--Exploring Creation Through Botany—Apologia textbook, Botany notebook

Spelling--All About Spelling Vol. 2, index card box with spelling cards

Handwriting--Handwriting Without Tears cursive book

Reading--Abeka 3rd grade readers (they are HARD so we only read the first few last year. I really like them for their topics), library card

Little Bit--Kindergarten

Bible--no idea. Still working on what to do with her.

Reading/Phonics--Explode the Code student books,

Math--Math U See Primer student book, laptop to watch DVD’s on, blocks

Science--botany through children's literature, Apologia science experiments,

Themes--pocket chart activities, art projects, lapbooks, library card for children’s books on theme, materials for hands-on activities and thematic play, cooking

Handwriting--Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten book

Now. Print that out and put it in a notebook. You'll need it later.

Part 3 of the series here.

Help For The Homeschooler Just Starting Out

Ha! Me--with my whole big two years of homeschooling under my belt--I am going to dispense help today. Let me explain...

When you've been teaching 10 years or more, it's really difficult to remember what exactly would be the most helpful thing to tell that new teacher you are mentoring. BUT, when you've been teaching 5 years or less, it's more fresh on your mind what they need to hear. That's where I find myself now. I have enough experience to know a little something, and not enough that I've forgotten where you are.

'Cause I'm kind of still there with ya! :)

THIS year I feel like my planning is actually...helpful. The first year I had NO IDEA what I should do. I remember e-mailing a homeschool friend to ask her "what on earth school supplies do I buy?" It was my first time not working off of a list that the schools gave me. And planning? Puhleeze. Thankfully, I was using Abeka curriculum and every book they have has 170 lessons. When you finish, you are done.

Last year I branched out and chose some new curriculum. I didn't plan out my lessons very well though and we ended up not finishing one book at all, and finishing the other only by great effort and much doubling up of lessons. I think we took it a bit too slow last year. And we switched math curriculum completely in February. I rebelled a bit against lesson planning, which I have always hated, and it didn't work out too well for me. Now I know.

THIS year finds me in brand new territory. I think that's the norm for homeschool families. This year we add a kid to the mix as Little Bit is beginning Kindergarten--meaning school is no longer a choice for her. Just when you think you've got something figured out, the new year brings changes. That's just how it is with homeschooling.

So I have just enough experience to be dangerous, basically.

Today I'll be sharing my planning. Hope it will help somebody. Anybody. Why should we all have to do the work from scratch?

Part 2 of this series here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


AAaaargh. It's 4:30 and I'm wide awake.


Why do I keep doing this? What could I possibly need to lay here and think about at this hour of the night?

The hermit crabs need water. Must remember to do that in the morning.

Oh yeah, the fish tank needs a new filter.

Did I take the ice bottles out of the bunny house tonight?

I need to do more laundry tomorrow.

I sure am glad S is home this weekend to help me.

I'm glad Sweetheart is feeling better too. I sure thought we were all gonna come down with flu too. Can't believe none of us have had any symptoms.

I should call the church hosting VBS to tell them she won't be there until Wednesday. (compose phone conversation in head---WHY?)

I am SO not ready to start school.

Well, actually I am ready for 4th grade but not Kindergarten. There is so much pressure to make her first days of Kindergarten wonderful and I haven't thought about it much yet.

I need to clean off the homeschool table.

You know, I've read this happens. Women can't relax because they are in their office basically all the time. It would be like asking your husband to sleep/relax amongst all this work at his job. You are constantly reminded of all you need to be doing.

I need to return that Netflix movie tomorrow, buy flip flops and drop them off at church for the ladies' thing....

See??? I'm doing it again.

I'm hungry.

I don't need to eat. I need to go back to sleep.

Everyone else is asleep. Why have I been doing this for weeks?

I gotta get a snack. Maybe cereal? It'll be so loud--I don't want to wake anybody up.

I'll find something.

Then maybe I'll be tired.