Monday, November 29, 2010

Space Unit: Sun, Planets, Moons, and Stars

We are now doing a unit about space in our homeschool.  We began this unit by learning about the sun, we will learn about each planets and their moons, and end by learning some of the constellations.  M6 chose this unit during the summer, when I asked each of them to choose one thing they would like to learn about this school year.

While studying this unit, we will learn when each subject was created by God in the seven days of creation, several facts about each of them, and will take a trip to the planetarium in Richmond, KY for a first-hand view of our solar system. We are also making a lapbook to go along with this unit, and have already made a petal book with facts about the sun.

M8 and M6 love making lapbooks, and because it is their own work, can remember the things we've learned much easier than if I were to just quiz them about the unit.  In addition to the space unit, M8 is learning compound verbs, several tenses of verbs, as well as helping verbs.  She is also learning to carry and borrow three-digit numbers, and her 1s and 0s multiplication facts. M6 is now reading (!) and is enjoying this new-found independence.  He is also learning to count by fives and tens, count money, and to tell time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Parenting: Attitudes

With homeschooling comes a tightrope that a parent must walk between teacher and nurturer.  As a teacher, you must not coddle your child, nor be too rigid.  As a parent, you must be able to love your child, as well as discipline him.  But in both roles, there must be a balance.  As I have seen some of our days too full of raised voices, talking back, and selfishness, I picked up a book borrowed from my MIL, Dr. James Dobson's, The Strong-Willed Child.  From this book, I have found a wonderful chart that our family will begin using at the end of each day.

Until now, I would have never described either of my children as being a strong-will child. However, at times, they each have the tendency to be selfish, defiant, and - yes - strong-willed.  And this disrupts our classroom, and life.

Because my husband and I realize that we still have the dominant influence on our children's lives, I've decided to take a pro-active approach and hold our children accountable for their attitudes.  I pray the Lord helps us to use a kind and loving manner, no matter the end result, and that our children will become more aware of how their behavior affects others.  I will update at the end of the year as to what changes (if any) have taken place.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Unit Study: I and Indiana

M6's 'Explode the Code' books are still working our wonderfully.  He is learning the last of the alphabet, which are the vowels, only has three more vowels to go!  He has begun reading, spelling, and sounding out words.  His spelling tests will change next week from writing down the letters I name, to actual words that he has learned to spell.  What an accomplishment!  This week he is learning the letter 'I'.

So, while M8 is off on a trip to the beach with her grandparents, M6 and I are doing a 'mini-unit' on the state of Indiana.  Because I have relatives in Indianapolis, we are traveling there for a few days.  M6 will learn many facts about the state, and we will visit several places that he learns about.  I've made him a notebook which includes printables of the state flower, tree, flag, and bird, as well as facts that we will discuss throughout our stay.  We plan to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as the Eagle Creek Park and the Earth Discover Center which is found there.

As Maya's trip was a spontaneous one, our trip is as well.  I'm hopeful that we will find more things to do once we get there and talk with our relatives.  M6 is taking along his math workbook and his Explode the Code book, so he will be one full week ahead of M8.  Wonder how long it will take her to catch up?  :)

Have a great week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reading, Writing, and Field Trips

We've entered the month of October and have officially begun the Book It! program.  M8 will be reading chapter books and writing about one of the them per month.  She has 'starters' to choose from for each book, and her writings will be posted on her blog.  I will read specific books to M6, and he will draw pictures about them, create a model, or tell me the answers to questions I have prepared for each book.

We have also changed the way M8 practices her spelling words.  Instead of just writing each word several times, she uses them in sentences or stories at least two days per week.  This takes the place of her 'grammar' on those days.

M6 has begun reading and writing words! I had no idea how long it would take to reach this goal, but am shocked that it happened in our eighth week of school!  His determination to be able to read like M8 has been the deciding factor in hitting this milestone.

We took a field trip last week to the Creation Museum, which was a huge success for all the children.  As we have been talking in depth about God's creation in our study of Autumn, this was a great trip for them to visually learn about what we've discussed.  M6 particularly enjoyed the planetarium, the dinosaurs, and the film about dragons.  M8 was fascinated by the depiction of Noah and the ark.  We are now looking forward to our first co-op meeting this week, and getting to know the families involved a little better.  What a busy life the homeschool family leads!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unit Studies (General)

A Unit Study is an approach to learning in which the bulk of the school day revolves around studying one particular subject, and usually lasts between four and eight weeks.  This subject can be anything from the solar system to the human body, the rain forest to the desert, or an event that is happening right now.  This approach gives the teacher the option to study in-depth where there is a lot of interest, or just hit the high points when it is something that doesn't keep the children's interest or is very difficult to understand. As we are entering our second unit study, I have found several pros and cons for this approach.

  • Concepts are better understood by children when the information is repeated, or revisited, then built upon on a daily basis
  • Information is better understood and retained when it is discussed across the curriculum (Bible, math, history, science, etc.)
  • Finding books about a particular subject encourages children to think creatively (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)
  • The children know what to expect next, and look forward to what else they can learn about a subject
  • The teacher has the freedom to see what events are taking place in the world or what her students are interested in, and teach the things that they are interested in learning, while still reaching pre-set goals for the school year
  • The teacher can extend a study or follow a unforeseen path when there is a need or desire from the student
  • Varying ages can learn together, though the expectations are not the same
  • There is a lot of homework to prepare to teach a unit study, organization is key
  • It is still necessary to use textbooks in some subjects (spelling, grammar, etc.
  • Information must be found in many different places (internet, textbooks, library, etc.
  • It is difficult to plan in advance the many activities that a unit may require, so many options should be prepared
I have downloaded four of Amanda Bennett's unit studies, and have really enjoyed them. My children love making lap books, and they will have them to look back on in the future to refresh their memories of the things they learned. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see their very own book! I've also gotten a lot of information ideas from KONOS, which is very detailed and filled with activities from across the curriculum.
So far, my children have enjoyed this approach and have really enjoyed learning so much about each subject. We've studied the five senses, and have begun studying the four seasons. Fall is upon us, and I have found that there is a vast amount of information to discover right under our noses! Although I planned this unit to take six weeks total, it appears that it will take eight. As long as there is interest and the desire to learn more, I am going to fill their minds with whatever we can find.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unit Studies: The Four Seasons and The Five Senses

We are finishing up our unit about our five senses, and have begun our unit of the four seasons.  Our last sense to study was hearing, and we listened to Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons' as well as took a nature walk to record what things we heard, and collected leaves along the way to make a bar graph at home. This was a great way to bring the two units together. It has been a great transition week, and the kids are still excited about learning.

To add to the excitement, we have planned our first "real" field trip to a nearby apple orchard/pumpkin patch at the end of this week.  We will collect more leaves (along with other homeschooling Moms, including Andrea over at ClippingMakesCents), pick out our pumpkins, go on a hay ride, and drink apple cider.  This will be a great introduction to fall, and we will begin studying it in detail on Monday of next week.

We have continued our study of explorers, and have learned about Lewis and Clark, Davy Crocket, and Daniel Boone.  I hope to continue this study, as well as hear more of the tall tales that go along with some of these men.  M5 has especially loved this side study in explorers, and M7 has really gotten into the tall tales.

A device that we have used quite a lot thus far is called a Playaway.  To describe it simply, it is a book on a mp3 player.  The mp3 player is about the size of a credit card, comes permanently attached to a lanyard that the child wears around his neck, and uses one AA battery.  All you have to provide are your own ear buds.  You can check these out from your local library.  There are many choices available in both children and adult sections.  The children version will either be several picture books on the player, or one chapter book on the player.  I try to find the books included on each mp3 player so that they can read along.

As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, I have begun looking for activities to enroll the children in to have an outlet for their energy.  I pray for the Lord's guidance as we search for what is best for each of them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Finding that M7 and M5 were getting very overwhelmed with the amount of work we tried to fit in every day, and the amount of time between breaks, I made some changes to our daily schedule.  It now looks like this:

  • 7:30 - 9:00 - Bible, Prayer, Spelling, English, Math
  • 9:00 - 9:30 - Chores
  • 9:30 - 10:30 - KONOS/Science/History (rotating)
  • 10:30 - 11:00 - Art/Lapbook/Music/Game (depending on subject matter)
  • 11:00 - 12:00 - Lunch, Recess
  • 12:00 - 12:30 - Spanish/Typing (rotating)
  • 12:30 - 1:00 - Read Aloud
  • 1:00 - 2:00 - Quiet Time
If we have library day, or errands to do on a specific day, I make sure all of our subjects are covered between 7:30 - 10:30, and still have time to get our daily tasks finished when we get back home.  It's a flexible schedule because with a toddler in the mix, a first-time teacher, plus two elementary students, you never know how the day will go.

The typing class is only for M7, who is up to 6 letters and 12 WPM.  She uses this website, which is easy on the eyes, and not very distracting for a child.  I'm very happy with the results.  M5 will begin once he has completed the alphabet, which he's on task to finish in about two more weeks.  I'm still looking for the "perfect" Spanish software/program, so if you have any suggestions, please send them my way.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trying and Testing

We have entered into our fifth week of school, and I've began making changes to our curriculum.  Maxwell (5) has breezed through learning his numbers, so I ordered him the same Math books as I am using with Maya (7), Horizons Math.  The two books will (hopefully) be here by the end of the week.  M5 has already finished 4 addition pages, and is hungrily asking for more!  I hope this enthusiasm lasts for a while!

One bit of information that I learned from this purchase is that waiting until late-August (or later if it fits into your schedule) allowed me to pay about half-price for the books I purchased, compared to buying them before our school year began.  I also plan to buy the same phonics books for M5 that we've used this year, so I will be watching the prices of those books to get the best value for next year.

For those of you thinking about homeschooling, I can tell you about one overlooked bonus - your house stays clean!  I know you think that having your children home all day will leave your house looking like a tornado has touched down in every room, but that just isn't the case.  The bulk of our day is spend in a structured learning setting, with scheduled lunch, recess, and activities planned into the schedule.  Your children are not running from one room to another just looking for things to do, which happens a lot at our house on Saturdays and summer days.  Plus, adding a chore for each child to complete into your daily routine helps to ensure that they are doing their part to keep the house in shape.  Elementary-aged children can:
  • empty/take out the garbage for pick-up day
  • sort/fold/put away laundry
  • dust
  • wipe kitchen counters
  • vacuum
  • make beds
  • straighten rooms
  • wipe down sink/toilet in bathrooms
  • clean the windows/doors with Windex 
  • loading/emptying dishwasher
  • setting table for meals
I'm sure there are more they are capable of doing, we just haven't found them yet.  Do you have any suggestions for chores/activities for elementary-aged children?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Weeks of School

We are now entering our third week of school.  To answer your question of whether our first year is off to a good start, I would give a resounding, "Yes!"  It wasn't easy learning to teach to our two children on two different levels (with a toddler in the background, I might add), but the Lord has given me direction and I am able to teach them at the same time without losing my focus.  With thanks to one of my sisters in Christ, I have found this verse to meditate upon for our school year: Eph 4:29 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." May the Lord bridle my tongue and use me to build up my children, as well as train them in the way they should go.

Our first unit of our year is the "Attentive" unit from the KONOS book.  (You can read more about it and the other books for our curriculum here.) We are studying our five senses, as well the expedition of Lewis and Clark.  It will be a seven-week unit in which we will spend one week on each sense individually, as well as an overall look at the five senses in general for one week at the beginning, and one week at the end of the unit.  We have just finished week two, studying the eye and sight in-depth.  The kids are really loving this unit, and I'm glad the Lord gave me this path to take.  (If you would like to have more details about this unit-study, feel free to check out my 7-year old's blog here. She "tries" to update daily.)  We have found some great exercises and videos online, and are looking forward to learning about our sense of taste this week.

When we begin our study of the ear and hearing, we plan to visit one of the free performances at the Singletary Center, which will have a full calendar once the college students are back full-time.  We're also hoping to visit the Hummel Planetarium in Richmond, KY for one of our weeks, but I'm going to have to make sure we don't have any belief conflicts before I plan that trip any further.  From there, I don't know where this unit will take us, but I'm very encouraged by the excitement I see in my children, as well as their desire to learn more.

Do you have any suggestions for our upcoming weeks?  I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We Dove Right In!

Well, since my first post, so many things have changed!  I traveled to Louisville, KY with a couple of other first-year homeschooling moms to visit the CHEK conference.  I absolutely loved it, and got a lot of encouragement from attending.  I enjoyed the Mom2Mom room most of all, where we got to ask homeschooling moms specific questions about their homeschooling experiences and methods.  It was that discussion that helped me decide on a curriculum.  I had been leaning toward a unit-study program, but had no idea where to start.  Most of the ladies that I had the pleasure to speak with in the Mom2Mom room used a Charlotte Mason/unit-study approach, and this helped me gain confidence to know that YES, I can do this!

So, I decided not to go with a boxed curriculum, and instead picked spelling, math, grammar, and other books based on each child, and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  I am also using KONOS to help direct our unit-studies approach.  From the books I purchased, I'm MOST satisfied with my 5-year old's Explode the Code, and my 7-year old's Horizon's Math.  These were perfect for them respectively, and I look forward to seeing their progress as the year goes along.  We bought several other books that I will talk about in upcoming posts.

In our first two weeks of school, we have seen some difficult days, as well as exciting ones.  However, most importantly, I can already see them moving on up the ladder as the build on each skill on a day-to-day basis.  I should also mention that although KONOS is great as far as giving you a starting point and a basic foundation of a unit-study, I have found that my outside sources (books from the library, videos online, electronic information) are what I use most when teaching for our unit studies.

And you know what? Worrying really didn't help or change anything, so why did I waste so much time doing it?!?  :)  May God bless you on your journey!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Homework, Questions, and Decisions

We have been quietly considering homeschool for our children for about a year now.  Our decision was ultimately made for us last year because of our newest addition, Nina Grace.  At under a year old, I didn't think that was the atmosphere to begin such a big change in our lives.  This year, Nina is almost two years old, and is very satisfied with playing on her own, looking at books, and listening as we read.  She will provide her fair share of distractions and entertainment, I am quite sure, so I pray the Lord give me the grace to handle each day as it comes.

Our "Homework" prior to making our decision to homeschool has included reading a basic book of introduction called, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling, which my loving husband generously found for me at a used book store.  We needed to start somewhere, and this was a good start for us.  It introduced many factors and ideas that we needed to consider, including the plethora of curriculum available to choose for our family to use.  Obviously this was going to be a hard choice, and one that would require a lot of reading and exploring.  This was the next part of our "Homework."

Once we had our cirriculum chioces narrowed down to a handful, I emailed many of the parents I know who had homeschooled their children, or are homeschooling now with many of our "Questions."  I also contacted several of my friends who had been homeschooled by their parents.  The feedback I received was overwhelming, full of helpful information.  There were both pros and cons to think about, and some of the cons were some we had never considered.  However, upon prayerful consideration, we decided that the pros far outweighed the cons, and continued with our research.

I found a great book at the library with a lot of great insight, Rebecca Rupp's Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why to Teach Your Kids at Home.  Seth read this book first, and was enthralled by some of the approaches the Rupp family used in their homeschooling approach.  I've been reading this book, and am equally intrigued by her ideas.  

We are becoming more and more sure that this is the right choice for our family.  However, we are also doubting some of our lifestyle choices, and the way they may affect our children's education.  I am working hard at becoming more orgainzed and task-oriented.  We're decluttering our home so that the distractions surrounding us are at a minimum.  I'm also trying to find out (from observing our current home life) which times would be the most appropriate for our schooling to take place.  For this decision, I have to consider Nina's sleeping schedule, the children's work ethic, and my own habits.  There will be some shifts in our daily schedule, and some of them will be less than desired - for me as well!  But in the hopes that the education of our children will be improved upon, those sacrifices are willingly made on my behalf.

Please pray for our family.  This decision is one of the most important we have made thus far, and we pray for the Lord's hand be upon us as we try to find what is best for our family.  We know His plan is perfect, while man's plan is hopelessly flawed.  Therefore, we pray that He lead us to His plan, and not our own, and that we accept it willingly.