Category Archives: homeschooling

Cross Country 2016

First Day of School 2016-2017

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It’s back-to-school time! I cannot believe I get to spend every day with these crazy kids. Here’s hoping they learn something this year.

Foster: 7th grade. He has been going on and on about how his life is over now that school has started back. It’s like prison he says.

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Katie: 5th grade. My precious breath of fresh air. Excited for school to start, couldn’t wait to go over her assignment sheet, look at her new textbooks and jump right in!

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Theodore: 3rd grade. He’s changed so much. The extra time to let him mature and grow could already be seen as he began tackling multiplication today.

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Parker: 2nd grade. This boy. He NEVER SITS STILL. He’s a cuddly, little, intense boy. We will see how school goes this year.

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Jonah: K4 (Kindergarten – year one). Yes, he wakes up this handsome. I couldn’t believe what he knew today! He’s excited about schoolwork. Maybe he’ll take after his sister.

Family Meeting

If I had to name two things that bring me joy they would be organization and change. I happen to think these are good qualities that enable me to be able to thrive in chaotic, stressful environments. My poor husband on the other hand really likes for things to be predictable. I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into when he met me 15  years ago. Even when we were first married and we would be working different shifts or days, he would come home and the furniture would be rearranged and the plates moved to a different cabinet. I would be fired up about a new plan for getting a pet, moving, a new place to buy groceries or new budget spreadsheet. Bless him.

I have tried hard for his sake to limit these changes and he’s done an awesome job at realizing that his wife isn’t trying to make him crazy, she just loves change.

When it comes to having children in your home, whether its one child or eight children, organization and change are imperative. Now, I am not saying that consistency goes out the window. All children flourish with consistency. What I’m talking about is organizing environments and schedules and being willing to change methods and plans.

For example, yesterday morning I called a family meeting with the kids. There were 3 major discussions we needed to have; chores, schoolwork/reading time, “that’s not fair”.

In the area of chores, our kids have a good amount of responsibility. Now that everyone is getting older, I’ve added a few more to their list. We talked about combining a few chores and made assignments for the next week or two. For example, Foster has laundry and bathroom #2. He is responsible for washing, drying, putting away all the laundry. He also wipes down the bathroom sink, mirror, toilet at least once a day. He only has to scrub the tub if it needs it.

The second thing we discussed was the expectation that they need to either work on schoolwork (we never finish Math in a typical school year) or read for one hour before they have any screen time or friend time. With breakfast, chores and reading time they should be done by about 10:30 am and that leaves the next 8 hours for them to be free and have fun.

The third item on the agenda was about attitudes. We discussed how much we have in way of toys, clothes, safety, security and comfort compared to other children. We talked about gratitude and not comparing what someone else gets to what we get. In our home, we have lots of discussion regarding “sometimes its your turn and sometimes its not”. This week Foster was able to spend extra time with visiting family and go to the science museum. Katie got to go with them to the Lost Sea. The younger boys got to go to Chick-fil-a (like go inside and play, which is a rare treat).

This understanding is imperative in our family because not everyone is the same age and maturity level. And the gap will just continue to widen as everyone gets older. When Foster gets a phone or is able to drive the younger boys will still just be 12, 10 and 8 years old. They’re going to have to see him with a lot of privilege and freedom that will be years off for them. In keeping with that, I told them that if I hear “that’s not fair” in any form, like “but he got to, Katie got more than me, I didn’t get a turn,” then they would get a check mark on the white board in the kitchen. Each check mark equals 5 minutes earlier bedtime.

When we have these family meetings, I try to keep the list of items or things we’re changing or working on down to 3 or 4 items so that the kids don’t get overwhelmed and the expectations are clear.

The kids really respond well to these meetings. They will chime in with their own ideas and opinions. They are willing to be flexible and try new routines and rules. Each time I make these changes in the house, I’m showing them that they can learn new things and change their own attitudes. Chris and I are trying to teach them that a family is a team. We work together and not against each other. When we do work together, we feel closer and we can accomplish more.

 

A few days ago, a giant box arrived with a Christmas gift for the kids. Foster spied it outside first and called “dibs” so he could have the first shot at playing with it. So I when it was emptied, I respected his “dibs” and gave it to him alone. As you can see from the pictures above, he didn’t keep it to himself for long. He realized quickly that playing alone isn’t as much fun as designing a tank and fighting a war with fellow soldiers. They all had their roles to play. Katie helped with the tank design and decoration, Foster used his knife to carve holes for the front guns, Jonah and Parker had missile launchers so they could walk alongside or behind the tank. Theodore was allowed to drive the tank with Foster. I’m not sure what their exact jobs were once they were navigating the battlefield.

I shared one of these pictures on social media yesterday with the hashtags imagination and homeschooling. I should have added siblings to the mix.

Recently, our decision to homeschool has once again been questioned. Even after 8 years and obvious success, there are naysayers who either don’t approve or just really don’t understand.

So when I labeled the picture #homeschooling, I wanted to double check myself. Was this 3+ hours of experimental, imaginative, building, teamwork play able to happen because we homeschool? Couldn’t any 5 siblings ages 4-11 have an experience like this?

The answer is no. While it is possible they could, it is not likely. Children, once grouped with peers for a number of years, do not “play” with much younger children and they have less tolerance and patience with their younger siblings.

Foster and Katie have their patience tested multiple times daily by the three younger brothers. The reason they persevere is because these three younger brothers are also their most common companions and playmates. They don’t have to just deal with them for 3 hours at night and then escape them to be with their same-age classmates for the majority of their days. They have an internal motivation to get along with each other.

The other reason this is not likely to happen is because time is finite. Our schoolwork is usually done by noon. This gives ample free time for this kind of creative play. Unfortunately, not only are kids in school all day following a tight schedule, they are often times overscheduled afterschool with sports, music lessons, church activities and more.

If there is no unscheduled, being at home with nothing to do time, then children won’t have the opportunity to turn a heap of cardboard into a tank, a yard into a battlefield and brothers into an army.

 

Grayton Beach 2015

My parents’ generosity allowed the kids and I to experience another adventure. We left 2 days after Thanksgiving and made the 9 hour trip in their RV to stay at Grayton Beach State Park. This park has a lot of restrictions like no pets on the beach, no walking on the dunes, that kind of thing. Also, you either pay to stay in the campground or you pay by car to visit for the day. The restrictions didn’t bother us and we were thankful for the pristine, peaceful beaches. It was the prettiest beach I’ve ever visited. Even on the weekend days, there were maybe 30 other people around. Filled with plenty of places to bike and walk nature trails, it was an excellent destination for people who aren’t looking for a lot of partying or shopping. There was a Publix close enough and some small little shops around but it wasn’t overgrown or overcrowded. Of course, we were there in December so that could have a lot to do with it. We lucked out and had 3 days that were above 75 degrees. While back home our friends and family were virtually floating away from inches and inches of rain. The last day there the rain caught up to us, so we decided to watch the new Peanuts movie at a local theater.

The kids had a wonderful time. And I enjoyed being with the people I love most in the world. But, I missed Chris (he was bear hunting and working). I also missed personal space, quiet and solitude. With 8 people (5 of them under the age of 12) in an RV you don’t have much of that. Being an introvert has its challenges.

Homeschooling Year 8 – Part 2

In my last post, I described our core subjects.  I did not add our religious education and science or any arts, physical education or character building because as homeschoolers, most of that isn’t offered in a tidy curriculum.  You can buy curriculum for everything mind you, but we usually meet those areas in other ways.

So here’s the part 2 of our homeschooling year 8:

Religious education: Attend church! We are members of a local Baptist church that is pretty traditional in its schedule. There is a Sunday school class, Sunday morning service and Sunday evening service. Our kids love Sunday school for the friendships, the novelty of being taught by someone other than mom AND they love the crafts, doughnuts, bible lessons and taking turns to pray. Our church also has activities on Wednesday evenings for children and youth.  If you grew up in a Baptist church that had more than 40 people in it you may recognize the program names; GA’s, RA’s and Mission Friends. Usually in the winter, Bible drill practice is added on Sunday evenings. I appreciate my kids being able to participate in Bible drill because in our homeschool we are pretty laid back and there isn’t much memorizing going on.  Their brains are getting a good workout with the best content.

Arts: Chris is a natural artist, although he doesn’t spend much time drawing these days and he has a banjo that he desires to learn to play and actually can when he’s trying. I, on the other hand, well, I’m just not crafty. My creativity is limited to organization and words.  I suppose that’s why none of our children have taken formal music lessons at this point. We do tell them all the time that if they have the desire to learn to play any instrument we will support that.  I know very little about musical training, but I do know that my brother didn’t have formal music lessons but instead taught himself to play the keyboard, guitar, banjo as a teen and young adult, just because he had the desire to learn. I feel pretty confident that if my kids wake up one day and decide they want to learn, well, then they’ll figure out a way to get that done. The kids do attend children’s choir at our church and Katie has just joined the youth choir at a local college.  Katie, Theodore and Parker will also get a chance to start learning how to play hand bells at our church this fall. As far as other art forms, painting and those sorts of things, again there is not formal training. They draw and color and cut and paste and build beautiful creations every day. I gave Jonah a small sliver sparkled clothes pin to play with the other day and he runs to Theodore and Parker and says “Wook guys! It’s boot-i-ful!” And therein lies my defense that my kids are learning to recognize beauty in the world.

Science: Oh poor science.  Constantly planned for and never actually taught. I used to start each school year with a plan for science. I really did. This year though I completely left it off the assignment sheets and told the kids that we will add it in a little later in the semester. It was honest. Does that mean my children are not getting any science education? HA! This is how science goes down in our house.  We watched an episode of Reading Rainbow (I know. Thank you, Netflix. You have my heart.) the other day and it was about chain reactions. But it wasn’t boring and described like that…”chain reactions, blah, blah, blah”. No! It was reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and watching some guy build these awesome domino creations and knocking them down. After watching the episode a few times (it was fascinating stuff), they ended up with some old Jenga blocks and other wood blocks on the garage floor building and building and building.  Lots of trial and error and what made the blocks continuously fall down or what made them stop on turns. From there the kids begged us to watch domino YouTube videos and so we spent some time doing that. You think you know what people are up to out there in the domino world? Well, you have no idea. That is a good description of how science gets done around here. Natural learning, unschooling, whatever you want to call it.  Also, a couple of my boys are growing tomato plants and they hunt and fish and take care of a real live dog. So they get plenty of science, for now.

Physical Education: Again, the reason this subject would have to be planned out really escapes me. If someone asked “what about PE?” I would answer “Tell them to go outside.”  I would mean it too. They have a trampoline, a basketball goal, bikes. Children naturally want to move. Even the ones who don’t love to go outside, they like to roll on the floor or spin in their seat or jump on the couch. I think the only way you could not meet this requirement in the 13 and under crowd would be if you tied them up for 12 hours a day. Foster will be playing soccer this fall for parks and rec. So he’ll have practices and games.

Character building: Also known as parenting. If you are any parent worth your weight you’ll care to teach your kids to share, be kind with their words, don’t punch people, ask about others feelings, take initiative, practice self-control (like not punching people).  This is tied in with our religious education but is also just boiled down as much as possible around here. As in, if you don’t want someone to punch you, then don’t punch them. Don’t like getting your toys taken? Don’t take someone else’s toys. Pretty common sense stuff but this type of teaching is what the majority of my day is all about. I actually told one new homeschool mom I was talking to that this is THE biggest challenge in homeschooling. Not the price of curriculum or the fact that they are with you all the time. No, it’s the constant shaping of character. I have ages 3 to 11 in my house right now and when I talk about character building or putting out fires you may think I mean just the youngest kids? Oh no, even my intelligent, sweet, funny 11-year-old son has to reminded not to throttle the 3-year-old when he messes up his army men that he’s been working on for an hour.  And my super responsible 9-year-old girl? The whining and arguing that can come from her when she feels something is not fair. It’s ugly, folks. Just ugly. So I have to address this about a zillion times a day. That is a pretty big challenge considering I’m human too and have my own bad attitudes and ugliness that God points out to me. So, yep, turning them into decent human beings? That’s the hardest part of homeschooling.

As you can see from this post, homeschooling is far from getting together simple lessons plans. It’s really all about life. I have friends who have homeschooled and now their kids are in public school and ones who are on the flip side and are homeschooling for the first time this year. All of these parents want what’s best for their kids and doing the best with what they have. Which is exactly what I’m trying to do.

Homeschooling Year 8

We began our 8th year of homeschooling today. I have been looking forward to starting our schooling again because it’s been 4 months since I was able to do school with the kids. They did finish up the last month of school while I was having spinal fusion surgery and recovering, but I didn’t have a chance to teach them directly and I’ve been missing it!

As I prepared for the upcoming school year, I was reflecting on how much more confident I was in my curriculum choices, planning tactics, testing plans, etc. I feel like I felt when I had a third, fourth, fifth kid. Been there, done that. Mistakes in curriculum purchases, switching from the not testing camp to the testing camp, going with an umbrella program, turning off screens on school days…all of the changes we’ve had every school year have allowed for the preparation and beginning of this school year to be very smooth and positive. Of course, it has only been ONE day.

I have 2 readers and 3 non-readers this year. But not one child in diapers. I’m not nursing and I’m not pregnant. It truly feels like the beginning of a completely different world. I do rejoice in the fact that I’m able to write this while my children are awake (at least until I have to put out the next fire) it is a luxury that hasn’t been available to me for the past 11 years or so.  However, I’m spending a good portion of my free time researching and reading and praying about adoption and foster care.  I guess I’m not ready to throw a “I have no littles in my house party”.  I know I’m not, but more on that in a later post.

So what are my little darlings learning this year? I’ll lay it out for you.

Our 2015-2016 paths of study:

Foster (6th grade) –

Typing – Typing Instructor Platinum 21

Creative Writing – Minecraft story startersThe Creative Writer

Spelling – All About Spelling Level 5

Latin – Visual Latin

Test Practice – Spectrum

Grammar – Easy Grammar

Math – Math-U-See Epsilon

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise

Reading, Literature, History and Geography – Sonlight

Katie (4th grade) –

Typing – Typing Instructor Platinum 21

Spelling – All About Spelling

Test Practice – Spectrum

Grammar – Easy Grammar

Math – Math-U-See Delta

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise

Phonics – Explode the Code

Handwriting – A Reason for Handwriting

Reading, Literature, History and Geography – Sonlight

Theodore (2nd/3rd grade) –

Reading – All About Reading

Math – Math-U-See Beta

Grammar – Easy Grammar

Phonics – Explode the Code

Handwriting – Draw-Write-Now

Test Practice – Spectrum

Sight word practice

Reading, Literature, History and Geography – Sonlight

Parker (1st grade) –

Reading – All About Reading

Math – Math-U-See Alpha

Grammar – Easy Grammar

Phonics – Explode the Code

Handwriting – Draw-Write-Now

Test Practice – Spectrum

Sight word practice

Reading, Literature, History and Geography – Sonlight

Jonah (Pre-K) –

All About Reading (Pre-Level)

Pre-K workbooks

Just fun preschool stuff!!!

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