For Homeschoolers on the Verge of Calling it Quits

Image result for quittingPiles of books, completed tests waiting to be graded, notebooks full of to do lists, scraps of paper, and pencils… all the miscellaneous daily products of homeschooling. As a “neat” lover, these bits of disorganization and mess just really push me over the edge at times. This is not to mention the daily stress of making sure that work is completed, books are read, and multiplication tables practiced. Sometimes, it just puts me in a… bad mood. It’s overwhelming, and seriously intimidating.   I have to admit, there are many times that I want to act like our youngest and sit on the floor and cry in a heap of pity party. Or. Maybe. just maybe… quit.

Then, as I sit and look at the mess surrounding me, I see the note placed on my desk earlier by my next youngest daughter. A note that expresses her love for me and thankfulness that I love her and take such good care of her. She’s thankful that we spend all day every day together, and she loves me even when I’m frustrated and grumpy. Wow. It’s clear she doesn’t see things the way I do… she sees it from the eyes of a child. The important things aren’t necessarily the cleanliness of our school room, or that her tests from 3 weeks ago aren’t graded. She sees the important things counted in minutes and days… time spent together. That’s exactly what homeschool is, and investment of time.

Forget the minor details, choose the things that will last and provide joy and amazing memories in days to come. Choose laughter, and take the time to purposely invest in your children. The tests that need graded will wait… in fact, they can wait awhile!

Isn’t it amazing how one little note of love and gratitude from an 11 year old can change your whole perspective?

Popcorn Month

I love using special days as a way to jump start an “interest study.” The month of October is Popcorn Month, and would make a perfect reason to study popcorn in a variety of ways.

History

PBS History of Popcorn

Small portion of fresh homemade Popcorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create a history of popcorn timeline along with loads of fun!

Geography

Take time to research which states are the top “corn producing” states in America. It’s great to know where your popcorn comes from!

Science

Exactly what is it that makes popcorn pop? Find out the science of popcorn.

Measure the popcorn prior to popping, after the corn has been popped, and calculate the difference in weight. What is missing?

Watch a video showing just how corn pops.

Video Showing How Pop Corn pops

Video on Popcorn from field to table.

Literature

As a creative writing exercise write an essay on the chronological story of popcorn from the field to your mouth!

 

Summer Learning CAN equal FUN!

Summer… I look forward to it all year. I know, I am supposed to  be the mature one around here. Yet, I think I look forward to the more relaxed lifestyle that we lead during the summer than the kids do. It is just a much needed break that really renews and invigorates me. If it wasn’t for a bit of time off in the summer, homeschooling in the fall would be impossible.

Even though I like to take a break in the summer, I still try to keep the kids learning. Their little minds are so active and really are constantly learning in some way. Why not maximize on their cognitive interests? I try to organize several websites that I want the children to visit over the summer break to catch up on math or vocabulary. To make it as simple as possible, I add them to my favorites bar so all the kids have to do is click on each site I want them to visit.  These sites range in interest from vocabulary games to math and science fun. The kids usually have a great time playing and taking a break from the heat… while I sit back with a contented smile knowing that they really are learning through all that laughter!

Our Summer Homeschool

SUMMER LEARNING

Yes, we are… most homeschoolers are asking the big question right now. Should we homeschool during the summer or not? Well, personally… I need a summer break. Yet, for my kiddos I know that they need to give their brains a bit of a workout during the summer or when we start up officially in the fall… it will be a very. very. bad. day.

So, even though I plan on requiring a little brain work this summer… it won’t be alot and hopefully my kids won’t be forced to rebel!

1) Each morning, I plan to have them start the day with some lessons in Time4Learning Summer. Once they completed about six lessons (2 in each math, LA, and 1 in science and 1 in history). The lessons are typically funny and engaging and the time really flies by for the kids.

2) We’ll use Spelling City for their summer learning program that also includes fun games and interesting vocabulary lists.

3) And then we’ll read -read – read!

Getting Ready for Summer Learning

Cozumel, Mexico - Going here in January! Hope it is as beautiful as this picture suggests. :DI know, this post just might not be the most popular post – especially with the kiddos. Yet, this year I am realizing that I need my children to keep on working through the summer. There are alot of areas that I feel they are slack in and could use the extra work. We’ve talked about it this week, and I must admit I felt as if their stares would burn a hole right through me.

Though my children do school just about every single day, there are still some gaps that I have noticed. So, our goal this summer is to fill in the gaps and get ready for the next “official” grade.

My first grader has a bit of dyslexia. She is struggling with reading, and is getting pretty frustrated. I plan on keeping her working on basic phonics skills and small readers throughout the summer. We will use the first grade language arts lessons from T4L to help her review what she has already learned. I also love Bob books, and will use those in conjunction with a Disney princess early reader. (simply because she adores Disney princesses!)

My third grader does well with her writing and grammar… however, at our house this is the pivotal year for multiplication tables. She understands multiplication, but just doesn’t have the “facts” down. We will be working through those during the summer- getting them to the rote memory stage. I love using kids learning software along with other math learning games.

My seventh grade twins are both doing fairly well. They are currently writing their first research paper (translate- I’m losing my hair). They also have begun learning some basic algebra. So, during the summer we are going to continue using Time4Learning as a supplement and reviewing the spelling lessons through Spelling City’s customizable lists.

Homeschool Standardized Test Options

♥ TruthAs one of the fastest growing methods of education, options available for homeschoolers are growing accordingly. Over the years, the availability of different types of standardized tests has made testing our homeschool children much easier.

Getting Started with Standardized Testing

Standardized Test requirements by state is the first place you should look. It’s vital that you know and understand what your state requires from you as a homeschooler. Once you’ve determined if your state requires you to administer a standardized test to your children, you can move ahead with complying.

Which Standardized Test is Best

While there are many different tests available as options. There are a few that stand out simply because they are tried and true. A few of those are:

The Stanford 10 – We’ve used this test for many years. It’s a good option and one that can be given easily with a group of students. Typically this is a group administered test, however there are 3rd parties who allow for you to purchase this test from them and administer at home.

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – This is a great test that I’ve used many times. This test cannot be administered by a parent, it requires that a professional with necessary qualifications administer the test. This test is great for students who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The proctor can account for those differences in each situation.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills – another “oldy but goody”… I took this test as a young child. Though updated several times since then, this test is definitely a good example. This test is also typically group administered, but is available through many different 3rd party test providers.

The OLSAT and CogAT tests test School Ability Index or what used to be known as Intelligence Quotia or IQ.

Where’s a Good Place to Take the Test

While some people have begun to take their standardized tests online, I do prefer tests of this type to be done in person. However, ease of use makes the online option very desirable for most homeschoolers. You can usually take standardized tests with your local homeschool co-op. There are also 3rd party testing centers where you can test.

Which Tests Should We Take

There are two types of standardized tests that are most commonly given to school aged children. These consist of achievement tests, and ability tests (IQ). Achievement tests test what the child has been able to achieve or learn over the course of the year.   If you test every year, you don’t need to test IQ (School Ability Index-SAI) each year. The SAI tests a child’s innate ability to learn. Most often when taken together the tests compare the child’s abilities to what they are actually achieving… letting us as parents know if they are really applying themselves.  The School Ability Index doesn’t change dramatically over a year. I would suggest that the SAI test be given once every 3 years. In our state of GA, testing is only required once every 3 years. So, when we do test – I usually do a combo test. This year we will be using the Stanford10/OLSAT for the last time. The Stanford will be retiring after this year.

Should we take different tests for different grade Levels?

Whether your child is using elementary homeschool curriculum or high school you can use the same “brand” of test. In fact, I would suggest sticking with that brand of test as you school your children. It’s not a huge concern, but each test is a little different and staying with one style of test will help you compare their achievement more acurately.

How to Begin Homeschooling Online

Did you know that statistics relate that 5% of all school aged children in America homeschool? With the numbers of homeschoolers growing rapidly, many of them are choosing the online option. While there are many incredibly different yet viable methods of homeschooling, the online option is definitely one that is attracting more and more attention. What makes homeschooling online such a viable option? For each family, that would be different but here are just a few reasons…

  • Ease of Use
  • Burden of Teaching isn’t on one person
  • Reaches varying learning styles
  • Keeps students engaged
  • 24/7 access to courses
  • Immediate feedback/grading
  • Records are usually kept
  • Organization/Lesson plans are pre-made

Before you begin homeschooling or before you choose a specific curriculum, check with your state’s requirements for homeschooling. Make sure that you have fulfilled or can fulfill those requirements with the curriculum that you choose. As online homeschooling has grown so have the resources that help you accomplish it. In just the past few years, this area of homeschooling has grown exponentially. There are a myriad of varying resources that you find in one google search. Yet, in your decision making process just take a minute to write down the characteristics of the curriculum that you think would fit your family. There are so many different “kinds” of online homeschool options, I really could write a book! But to make this post short and sweet (and hopefully helpful) I’ll limit it to a few bullet points.

  • Video streaming
  • Animated teaching, songs, games
  • Complete curriculum
  • A la carte curriculum (choose what you want or need)
  • Text and Online curriculum combination
  • Online testing (provides immediate feedback)
  • Virtual school (connected with the public school – accountability to them)
  • Interactive games

It’s pretty easy to implement an online homeschool curriculum. You typically will have to sign up or register and pay a fee. Once you’ve got “log in ” information, it’s simply a matter of learning. Some parents will still want to set up some type of schedule and accountability measures to make sure that a progression of learning is made. However, some of the online programs will have a complete set of lesson plans that are premade. This allows the parent to simply schedule the particular lesson on a certain day. While every homeschool family has different tastes, homeschooling online is very flexible. Many curricula have created apps that allow the student to continue working while traveling. This makes doctor’s appointments a breeze! Since we have highschool as well as fourth grade online curriculum we’ve got alot to keep track of. At our house we do maintain a semblence of a schedule which keeps us moving forward.  Here’s what I typically do when I begin a new year:

  • Check with my state – to make sure that we are still in compliance
  • Review what my children have already learned and then research and discover what they need to learn next and set goals
  • Research curriculum that will help me accomplish their goals
  • Purchase curriculum
  • Review scope and sequence
  • Align our calendar schedule to cover the scope and sequence for the year
  • Set assignments for the kids and set up any type of record keeping or grading that I plan on using (some online curriculum will do this for you)

Tips for Working at Home WHILE Homeschooling

Ever since we started homeschooling about 10 years ago, I’ve worked at home. When we made the decision to homeschool, I was a principal at a local private school. I love working in schools, and I love making a difference in children’s lives. However, seeing my own children sacrifice things to attend school, made me realize that they are my number one priority and that I needed to make a difference in their lives first!

However, working at home and homeschooling is never a breeze. There is always some type of major incident, someone who needs help with math, a dog that thr   ows up in the floor, or a drink that has been spilled on a math paper… there is always something. Yet, that’s part of the “wonder” of raising children. I know that one day I will miss all the little catastrophes that each day brings in the life of a child. In the meantime, I’ve learned some survival skills that really do help to make working at home a little less crazy.

1) Review your responsibilities – eliminate the things that are not NECESSARY. Which means – prioritize your life!

2) Establish a schedule, and use planning resources. I often print out about 6 months of calendars and post them on the fridge. We write all over them. With six kids, there is always a scheduling issue, and this common calendar does help. I also use Google Calendars and thanks to my friend Kerry – I have set up text alert notifications as well as email notifications of each event on my calendar. This is definitely a huge help – it reminds me every day of the upcoming tasks that I need to complete.

3)Anticipate change, life happens! Of course, right after I tell you to establish a schedule – I tell you to break it. LOL!! Really, the schedule is there more “as a guideline.” If have a basis, and your children get used to it, it really is easier to go about your day. Especially if you are distracted by something regarding work – the kids are in the habit of following their schedule.

4)Use a homeschool curriculum that enables you to work while they are learning. An intensive curriculum that requires a lot of teaching might not be a good choice for someone who has to work everyday. There are tons of great resources out there that really help make it easy to work and homeschool, from online spelling program s, video courses, and high quality online curriculum. We tend to use an eclectic mix of them all!

5) Use downtime like breakfast and lunch to catch up on work tasks, and make phone calls while the kids are busy and engaged with something. I find it is useful to have a “talk” with them before I actually make the call. They understand why they have to be quiet for a few minutes.

6) Use your kiddos to help you work. I love to include my family in as much as I can. So, if the opportunity ever arises I try to get them involved in what I do.

7) Organize your homeschool and work area to facilitate efficiency. I have found that keeping my kiddos stuff in “workboxes” or those craft drawers. This help s them keep all of their school stuff in one place, and in order. I don’t have to look for missing school books everyday. Keeping it in one localized area helps alot! (See #10)

8) Use automated record keeping or keep school records on the computer. I know the online curriculum that we use has an automated record keeping system that really makes this easy!

9) Schedule fun things into the day. I have found that my kids love art and music. However, I have realized that it is one of those things we will always skip if we run out of time. Make it part of your weekly schedule and it will happen!

10) Have a dedicated area for homeschool. I find that this is one of the most important things for me. Homeschooling and working is stressful, but wonderful. If I can close the door and leave that area, it makes me feel as if I have “gone home” from work and can relax.

 

 

Using Film Projects as Part of Homeschooling

Yes, I know this a rather random and maybe never considered subject. However, a recent article really made me sit up and take notice. Using film projects in your homeschool is a great learning tool. Video projects always captivate student’s attention… it involves their creativity and allows them to express themselves. Most student’s time during the day already contains a vast amount of electronic media… so why not harness that interest? Using film projects can also challenge  student’s in the area of language and expression… thus giving them the opportunity to realize how film can influence people. A film project isn’t limited to highschool students either – students using a third grade online curriculum could get involved as well!

Most mom teachers may be reluctant to incorporate this type of assignment into their homeschool simply because they aren’t familiar with filming. However, there are tons of great resources online that can help make this project a no brainer. However, to make the project a success the mom/teacher must create a rubric or lesson plan to give the project continuity and help the students with a goal. It’s great to give the students a standard for the quality of film and sound as well.

When introducing a film project it’s always great to start with a bit of instruction on basic filmmaking concepts. These should include the ideas of shot, take, montage, edit and export. Alfred Hitchcock once said that “the foundation of the art of making films” was the montage. Each of these means of expression gives the filmmaker the tools they need to create a successful film project.

Once you’ve taken the time to educate your students in the various aspects of film making its time to get started. Since, filming can be done on a multitude of devices there is a lot of flexibility with this project. First, request that your student use the best equipment that they have to shoot their film.

First your students should PLAN…

… then of course developing a STORY BOARD or SCRIPT is always important.

Then once your goal is formed and you know where your headed FILMING can begin…

however, your random shots even though following your story board must still be EDITED.

After editing, it’s time for the final review… and then you can submit your project. It’s always a good idea – even for homeschoolers to find a contest or some other to which you can submit your project. You can even upload to you tube and share on social media outlets! Be proud of your accomplishment and share it with the world!

Homeschool Scheduling Variations

I know one of my major concerns in homeschooling is that we break up the monotony. Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over or having the same schedule year after year – really makes for a BORING day. I appreciate change and I believe that my children do as well. Here are a few variations on daily scheduling that might be an encouragement to your homeschool.

First of all the best schedules for learning are based on your student’s needs. If you have a particular need – more time for math – or more time to do fine arts – make that your priority in creating your schedule.

1) Typical schedule – Many people use this type of schedule regularly. This is a good method, and you can get creative with this type of schedule. You can rearrange it – or create it with fun classes in between the heavy serious classes. This is great for the fourth grade online curriculum level. You can schedule your online classes then intersperse art, music, or PE between computer times to get the kiddos moving!

2) Block Scheduling is another creative way to adapt the schedule. This is when you take a particular subject or subjects and focus on them for a set amount of time. Then you move to another focus block. For example, you could teach History, Geography, Foreign Language, and Grammar/Writing for the first 9 weeks of school. This could also be accomplished with a daily schedule of four 90 minute sessions. The second nine weeks you could teach Math, Reading, Literature, and Science. Some people love this method – others feel that it leaves to much rest time from the subject and students begin to forget.

3) Block schedule variation – Another way to use the block schedule method could be adapted by having Language Arts  for 90-105 minutes each day, and then science/math alternate days with 90-105 minutes, and then scheduling your other courses like history, art, etc. at 50 minutes each.

4) Alternate block scheduling – Divide your courses into 8 blocks. Students do four the first day and the other four the second day. In the course of two days students will cover their “block.”

5) A four day week is a method that can really help busy families or families that have music, athletic, or art lessons each week. You would simply spend a bit more time schooling each of the four days that you are in school. Doing an extra lesson throughout the course of the week.