Getting “Out of the Box”

Education in America is compartmentalized, regulated, standardized, and even (I feel) dehumanized. When I hear the words public education, I almost cringe. In the context of public or government education it conjures up images in my mind of our teachers putting children into labeled boxes. Predetermining for them what they are and how they will succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some great teachers in the public school system… my own sister is one of them… but just because the teacher is good – doesn’t mean that the system is.

If American public education is packaging our children into tidy little boxes…then what is homeschooling doing? My thoughts are this… homeschooling is the banner cry for freedom within education circles. Children over the past few decades that have been homeschooled have gone on to prove this point. Homeschool statistics demonstrate that it works! Childhood learning – with all of its amazing intricacies – can be experienced to its fullest within the freedom of homeschooling. The opportunity to educate your child the way that you deem appropriate and according to your own personal beliefs and preferences is the epitome of freedom… this isn’t home school fiction… this is the real thing!

If your child just hasn’t fit into the box of government education… it just may be time to give homeschooling a try – and get “out of the box!!”

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?

10 Reasons Why Homeschooling is Exploding!

homeschoolAs a parent of six children, I truthfully cannot imagine our life without homeschooling. Yes, I know just from those few words I fit the “norm” of the weird – unsocialized- homeschool mom. For many that has been the big dividing line for homeschoolers – the opinion that others have of them. Which often these opinions aren’t based on any facts. Yet, in reality homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. People are turning to homeschooling by the hundreds, and the homeschool statistics are still rising. There are millions in America today that claim homeschooling as the method of educating their children, I believe that the following reasons have a direct correlation to this trend!

1) Desire for a safe school environment. (27% of homeschoolers cite this as their reason to homeschool)

2) Moral and religious reasons. The moral fabric of our nation is undoubtedly deteriorating and our children are the most susceptible.  The homeschool movement was greatly propelled by this reason to homeschool, and still to this day the statistics reveal that 78% of homeschool parents attend church regularly. (21%)

3)Dissatisfaction with academic instruction (19%)

4) People who move around alot, or who travel extensively –  this includes the military. I’ve been surprised to see just how many military families have chose homeschooling!

5) Health issues are often another motivating reason to homeschool.

6) Freedom to learn at one’s own pace- or to provide a non-traditional form of education. (5%)

7) Special education and the ability to educate without stigma. (5%)

8) Financial reasons

9) A desire to have more family time.

10) For all of the above reasons!

My opinion about Homeschool Learning

Forgive me… but today I just have something to say. I’ve been hearing so many “wonky” ideas on learning lately that I just have to put my opinion out there! So that is what today’s post is… my opinion.

Homeschool Learning takes on many forms from learning through vicarious experiences, online resources and even educational songs to texts, workbooks, and literature. From every aspect the homeschool learning process is amazingly flexible and resilient. There really is no limit to what you can do with education in your own home and done your own way.

The opponents of home school education will often downplay the positives focusing on things like socialization, political correctness, and religious education. Yet, the success of homeschooling I believe comes directly from what I mentioned above… it’s flexibility. You see, learning doesn’t take place in  a vacuum ( or classroom) as some people believe. Learning is organic and comes naturally in its most pure form. So, the natural learning that takes place in the process of homeschooling is essentially fulfilling each person’s innate desires to learn. Every person was created with a hunger to learn, how else can we explain the huge amount of information that is learned in the first few years of life. It’s the experiences that we have in life that altar that desire to learn, sometimes even snuffing it out.

In contrast, the simply homeschool life that encourages and appreciates learning the little things along with the big things is what makes our children life long learners… so there… my opinion.

Why do You Homeschool?

So, yeah… this post is a little personal. So, let’s just have a chat…

I hope that you, my blog friends, will respond and give me a glimpse into what your motivation is to homeschool your children. For me, it’s several things. First and foremost, the freedom to teach my children the way that I feel they should be taught. That does encompass the fact that we are a Christian family and do believe that our country was founded on Christian beliefs and those historical and Biblical beliefs should continue to be propagated. Thus, we are doing our part to teach the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith as well as the historical foundations that our once great nation was founded upon. I believe that my children can be a part of changing our world and our nation for the better because we educate them in this manner.

Secondly, the fact that our American public schools are riddled with bullies, peer pressure, inferior academics, and substance abuse makes it repulsive to me to think of putting my precious children in such a place. I understand that there are still “grassy knolls” left out there. My own sister is a public school teacher and is free to teach “the old fashioned” way. Yet, those outstanding examples are few and far between.

Christian homeschoolers constitute a large portion of the general homeschooling population. In fact, Christians were historically the main population group to spearhead the homeschool movement. Today, we see a large movement toward homeschooling from all demographics and religions. Consequently, homeschooling is now the fastest growing form of education. Even the public schools are trying to monopolize on this trend through their online public school version of homeschooling.

It’s really quite amazing how homeschooling has grown and changed over the years… so back to my question… just why do you homeschool?

5 Methods of Homeschool Scheduling

I must admit that I am one of the people who believe whole heartedly that if you can organize it – it will work better. So, of course, that ideology flows over into my homeschooling methodology. With six kids, I have been made aware that without organization our homeschooling endeavor really doesn’t work out well.  I am always on the look out for better ways to organize  our homeschool. Whether it is physical organization or the organization of how we learn – I always NEED ideas! So, while on the hunt for these ideas I came across some really great ways to organize your homeschool schedule.

First of all here are two things to remember… these two things help me keep my sanity!

1) Set your start time – I know some people are unschoolers and this just doesn’t work for that method… but for us… it does! Having a start time gives us a motivation to get going in the morning. Otherwise with this bunch we might just sleep till noon everyday and forgo schooling all together.

2)Stay flexible – I know, I know I just said set a start time and then I said – be flexible? Well, what I’m trying to say is – if you miss your start time or have many interruptions throughout the day don’t sweat it! You’re homeschooling! You can be flexible, it will work itself out.

Ok – now on to those methods of scheduling

1) Block scheduling – this method is when you divide your week into blocks of time and study one particular subject at a time. We have used this method in the past and we like it. It can be difficult when the kiddos start learning more advanced math… it seems to work better to keep that fresh on the brain daily!

2) Carousel scheduling – This is what we call a mix of all subjects every day. A little of this and a little of that scheduled throughout your homeschool day – just don’t forget to schedule some fun stuff too!

3) Daily scheduling – though similar to block scheduling this method sets aside one day for each subject.

4) Year round scheduling vs. 9 month/9 week scheduling. As a homeschooler you have the freedom and flexibility to choose how you want to homeschool. Of course, you will need to follow your state’s guidelines for how many days, etc… but you can work that into a full 12 month plan or fit it into 9 months.

5) Six weeks on one week off – this is a type of schedule made popular by the FiveJ’s and is referred to as a low stress schedule. This is the newest type of scheduling that I have found, and we just may be trying this next year!

…don’t forget to schedule some fun activities into your homeschool routines – like this make a word search resource! My kiddos love it!

Homeschooling and the Chair of Cheer…10 Fun Homeschooling Resources

chair of cheer tips for homeschoolingThere is this mysterious disease that my children get every year right before Christmas. It ends up being so contagious that they all come down with it, and everyone in our house is affected. In fact, some days it is so bad… that we can barely do school! Have you guessed what I am referring to?

You got it… it’s that crazy “visions of sugar plums” dancing in their heads… the general-  fever inducing excitement over Christmas! I have to admit that it really drives me nuts at times. The kids are more wiggly, more talkative, more easily distracted… just more of everything! So, at our house it really isn’t the chair of cheer – but the chair of insanity that I reign in!

In any case, what do you do during the pre-Christmas insanity? There are days when I can get a regular work load out of my kids, but some days it’s all I can do to just to get them to play “games.” So, here is my list of favorite – crazy holiday – Chair of Cheer Games!

1) Vocabulary Games and Word Search Galore!!

2) All things Geography and Social Studies related!

3) Science games and videos for loads of learning and fun!

4) Cool math games and even more fun math learning!

5) We also use you tube to look up videos on things that we are studying in science and history and watch short videos! (Mom does this job!)

6) Story starters are fun ways to get your kids writing – and laughing!

7)Bible games to get their brains thinking!!

8) Input your own spelling lists and sit back and watch them have fun!

9) Art and music learning games!

10) Learn a new language with these free online language lessons!

The Simplicity of Teaching Reading

homeschool readingYes, as a homeschool parent teaching reading can often feel like a huge mountain to climb. In reality, it isn’t all that difficult. Teaching reading does include some specific instructional steps. However, the act of learning how to read is quite simple – theoretically!  Over the years, we have all seen that the wide and varied methods of teaching reading don’t always work. However, over the years… one tried and true method has stood out from the rest. It’s one that has worked time and again and across a wide variety of students. Homeschool requirements vary by family, but this method typically works well for almost every child and still helps the learner even through adult life. This method is based on instruction in the same way we do our other subjects using a mastery approach or building on a foundation. If these educational theory works for all other subjects – why wouldn’t it work for reading as well?

The educational theorists and researchers have done extensive studies on the best way to approach reading. These studies have finally agreed that the method of teaching phonemic awareness or otherwise known as teaching phonics… is the winner! I know, I know, many of you are saying… big deal… I’ve known that for years. Well, you are right. This isn’t a “new” thing. In fact, it is a very old thing. This is how reading has been taught for centuries, I guess our highly intelligent educational gurus are just now catching up. I love this great yet simplistic Reading Skills Pyramid that Time4Learning has developed. I keep a copy of it in my homeschool binder.

Here are a few simple reading fluency guidelines to make sure that you include in your reading instruction…

1)Students should be able to recognize individual sounds in words – you can accomplish this through games such as clapping for each sound.

2)Students should be able to distinguish first and last sounds of various words. Again, you can play a game where you say a few words and ask the child to tell you what the first and last sounds are.

3)Once students know their letter sounds and can recognize the letters, they can begin “coding” and “decoding.” This is simply sounding out words and then breaking apart the word’s sounds to be able to write the word.

4)Two very fun ways to practice and gain word familiarity are to recognize syllables in words  and to make rhyming words. There are a ton of fun games that can be played to practice these skills. We enjoy clapping/stomping to find syllables in words, and then we have a blast making rhyming words from a simple word that they know and recognize!

Best Homeschooling Apps

Well, in honor of the fact that this blog is “Online Education for Kids”, I thought that I would post about all my favorite techie things to use in our homeschool. I love using my ipad to teach my kiddos, and one of the most important aspect of that are the apps! The apps make it all happen, and so without further ado… here are our absolute favorites…

My pretty much all time favorite is the SHOW ME app. It’s free and it works like a white board and allows me to teach anything. I can even snap a picture of a worksheet and have my little guys fill in the worksheet via this app. I can even record a teaching session! How awesome is that?

I love McGraw-Hill learning apps. We have several of the math ones including multiplication and fractions. They work well and they thoroughly help the student drill and practice.

For all of you who struggle with homeschooling spelling curriculum. Your answer lies in the Vocabulary and Spelling City app. It works great, is easy to manage through your regular account and the kids love learning their spelling words this way!

My kiddos are all taking music lessons and love music games. We love the GRAND PIANO app because it is fun yet it encourages the kids to use the proper keyboard fingering as they learn various songs. This is very fun and interactive!!

If you love learning about space and constellations. The SKY VIEW app is incredible. You simply take it outside and it shows you the planets and constellations that are in your sky right now. It highlights them through the camera view on your ipad! This app is sooo cool!

For those of you who are history buffs, the SMTHSONIAN app is for you. It has episodes of The Smithsonian shows that you can watch on your ipad. We love the science and animal videos!

Another of our all time favorites is the METEOR MATH. It encourages quick thinking of all mathematical operations. You can practice addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. It continuously gives your child a challenge and allows the game to get harder with their increasing speed.

For our youngest MATH CAKES is a favorite for learning addition. She loves playing with cupcakes any day!!

Learning short vowels is easy with the SHORT VOWELS app. We haven’t downloaded the long vowels one yet, but plan to very soon!

The iLearn series is also very good. We like the CONTINENTS app to teach our kiddos about the continents of the world. We are studying this in our geography so it works great for us.

Last year we learned about the states and capitols and used several apps to teach this. STACK THE STATES, US STATES, and US PUZZLES were great to help us learn our states and capitols.

Brain Pop Jr. is also a really great app. However, this one requires a fee. It shows a weekly video that is educational and fun.

The NATIONAL PARKS app is pretty cool, might not be too useful at the moment… 🙂

The ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA is a very nice app that allows you to browse A-Z as well as read top articles  and even search.

I am sure that there are alot more that are great and useful for homeschoolers… can you share your favorites with us?

Homeschooling the Big Family…just a few tips!

Yes, I am a mom of six! …and we homeschool… which means we are together most of the time! That is usually a good thing, but there are days when it is the last thing that I want.  Yet, for the most part… the kids work hard, help out, and are the best kids I know! – yep, I’m a little partial. However, there are still days when I feel totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that needs done. Which is why over the years, I’ve pretty much established a mental health routine along with our school routine.

1) First, with a big family there are just a few things that you have GOT to let go. When friends ask you to help out with other things, most of the time you have to politely decline. I have a hard time with that. I love to help… but, I’ve realized especially over the past few years… I cannot take on any more responsibility. So, you may want to review all that you are doing… and cross off your list those things that just are not necessity.

2) Second, I try to be organized. Yes, it really is difficult… and I’m not saying that I’ve arrived. BUT, having a semblance of organization can really make a huge difference with how well our school goes, how well the house gets picked up, and how well we eat during the week. To make my life simpler, I even color code the kiddos supplies. That way we know at a glance whose stuff belongs to who. Making a plan and sticking to it allows you to operate on auto pilot at times!

3) Focus on the important things. Yes, I try to be organized – but if my house is a mess… I’ve got to let it go. If we’ve spent hours on force and motion for kids schoolwork and the kiddo still doesn’t get multiplication… let it go for today. Don’t allow the “norm” to oppress you! Do your best, and leave it there!

4) Use homeschool curriculum that makes it easier for you. Don’t be afraid to use curriculum that is video based, or that is an elementary online curriculum. It will enable you to help all your children, and may help you keep your sanity.

5) Find curriculum that can be used across grade levels. I love using the vocabulary games in  Vocabulary and Spelling City for this very reason. I can import all my lists and then set my kids to it. I don’t have to hold 5 spelling tests each week! Definitely freeing! I also enjoy the Apologia science because I can use one text book with all my elementary aged children. It’s fun and very easy to plan. Makes my life a whole lot simpler.

As a mom to a big family, don’t be afraid to take advantage of resources that you might have at your disposal. Ask a friends daughter if you could pay her to clean your house, have your older children help you cook dinner… the list could go on. Be creative, not stressed!