Back to School?

Is it really time for school… again?

Back to School?Okay – I have to admit that I look forward to vacation breaks from school just as much as the children do.  I have always looked forward to the breaks – even when I was a teacher.  I can remember feeling almost giddy after sending home all those wild first graders on the last day of school.  I have relished every moment of this summer vacation. Well, today it hit me – –  time is almost up.  I know, I really don’t want to remind myself.  Yet, in the back of my mind I have purposed that in this new year we will get a new start and hopefully a better go at things.

I am proud of the distance that the children have come in the last year, but know that we have gotten slack in some areas.  I guess my new  resolution would be to improve the “slack” areas, make sure Chloe really “gets” her multiplication tables, help Jordan get over the hump in Algebra I, show Slater how to write a research paper for the first time, and go on MORE field trips. I don’t know – maybe I shouldn’t make it such a tall order, but I have always been one for making big goals.

The new year is always a great time for a fresh start, especially when things seem to be too difficult to manage.  Homeschooling is no different. So often, by the end of summer, we feel like we are being dragged in to work.  I am sure that many of you feel the same way. Well, take heart! Look at the new year as an opportunity – a new book with no writing – – yet!  Start over – do whatever it takes to renew your outlook and encourage yourself and the children.  In other years I have been so discouraged with how the curriculum went that I completely changed what we were doing.  If you are feeling desperate – do something drastic.  I have found that a drastic change really perks the kids up too!

Personally, this past year went pretty well so for us so we will just tweak our program a bit and perhaps change our schedule.  Just a little “new” makes it more exciting to the children as well. I look forward to the fresh start – and new outlook.  Wherever you are on your homeschooling  journey – take advantage of the new beginning. It may make all the difference in the world, and by the way Monday morning will be here before we know it!

February Freebies

Freebie February Top 5One of my favorite months is February… and not just because of Valentine’s Day. I love the Freebies that are floating around everywhere. So, to join the amazing efforts of Freebie February, we’re sharing our all time faves!

  1. Ultimate Classical Literature Unit Study Resource

This is an awesome resource for studying the classics. It has the free ebook, study notes, writing prompts, etc.

2. Free Printables on Earth and Space

These free printables are great! They would be perfect paired with a few books on earth and space making a nice little unit study!

3. Free Printables for High School Homeschool

These printables and downloads are pretty much everything that you would need to keep up with homeschooling high school.

4. Free Games for Drill and Practice

These are games are a great resource for practicing what your kiddos have been learning. With videos and games for almost every subject it’s one of our go-to resources.

5. Get a Free Spelling Resource 

This is my all time favorite resource. I used to teach 5 different levels of spelling to my kiddos. Now, I use this and spelling is a breeze.

Writing – Our Biggest Challenge – What’s Yours?

OEFK writingIt’s back to school time again! Have you gotten all of your ducks in a row? I think we are about there… but I’m still working through a few details. One of which includes correlating a creative writing study with our other curriculum. Creative writing, essays, and research paper writing are sadly the bane of our home school existence. Though I would love for my children to be great writer’s, giving them the individual attention that they need to accomplish this is another story. It’s always so difficult when we have multiple children that we are homeschooling, isn’t it?

My typical go to is technology… thus the theme of this blog. Online education helps a homeschooling parent of multiple children and when writing is concerned things are no different. Making great writers requires time, instruction, practice, and feedback…labor intensive for the parent for sure. However, using online resources is a super way to activate this learning without stressing out the parent. Some of my favorite resources include:
1) using online grammar games, parts of speech games, and even analogy games. This helps the creative thought process and ultimately the ability to write creatively.
2) Online writing courses (with individual attention and feedback at an affordable price)
3) Online FREE vocabulary instruction. This is a whole separate post in itself, but vocabulary instruction is fundamental to reading comprehension and ultimately successful writing.

4 Truths about Homeschooling

You know years ago – homeschoolers were the weirdos. The fringe crazy religious that wanted to brainwash their kids – Well, at least that’s what those who hated the idea thought. Fast forward about 20 years, and we see that the homeschooling is more main stream normal… and might I add  – a little trendy? Of course, there are still the haters… but we all know about them… haters just gonna hate.  But – back to homeschooling – there are some little known, maybe even shocking “behind the scenes” facts about homeschooling you need to know.

  1. Homeschoolers are not geniuses (well there are probably some – but not around here!) Homeschoolers are just normal, average kids that study and learn at home. I think they are pretty awesome… because even though they aren’t geniuses, it takes a special kind of kid to learn independently.
  2. Homeschooling is hard. Yes, I know we are supposed to be encouraging one another here… but the post title does say “truths” about homeschooling. It is true that homeschooling can be tough, and some days I stay in the bathroom brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, cleaning the toilet, etc… just so I don’t have to face the five kids in the schoolroom. With that said, there is a DEEP conviction in me that DETERMINED to homeschool our children when I saw the wonderful effects it had on them. So, the bad days can be… well just stinking bad. But there’s a diligence that allows the homeschool mom to wake up the next day and realize… “it’s a new day… it can be great! Let’s give it another go!”
  3. Homeschooling can bring huge rewards. As mentioned previously… uh hum… it isn’t easy. However, homeschool parents see the progress and achievement that their children make on a daily basis. They see the light bulb turn on when they finally get division or can read a whole sentence. Those moments are priceless and are what give homeschool parents the motivation to teach on – day after day.
  4. Homeschoolers are flexible, fun loving, and fearless! Yep, what a combination! But each is true. Homeschoolers are flexible and learn at all differen times, in different ways, sitting up, laying down, online, from a text, at home, or even at the park. Homeschooling is totally out of the box!

If you are interested in homeschooling and don’t know how to GET STARTED… try this free guide – it’s quite helpful!

Getting Ready for College?

I’m sure one of you is in the same situation I am…about to graduate one of my children while trying to help guide her in making decisions about college and her future. Shew. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

One of our major concerns – right behind the graduation and party – is to find a way for her to attend college without costing a fortune or piling up huge student loan debt. When our oldest graduated, she determined that she was going to work and attend college. She also wanted to make sure that she didn’t acquire a bunch of student loans. The same goals apply for our second daughter. We’ve found a few a simple practices help to enable new students to keep these goals.

  1. Do test prep. You don’t have to pay someone to help you with this. A little effort and you’ll be able to find a lot of free online resources that can give you the test prep you need.
  2. Take your ACT/SAT as many times as needed until you score the same score twice. You’ll know you’ve reached a plateau then. However, the more you take the test, the more relaxed you get. This enables you to test more accurately. Make sure that you’ve researched and found out the minimum score needed to qualify for the state scholarship. This is one of the easiest scholarships to get  – so take advantage of it.
  3. Depending on the level of scholarship you were able to reach with your ACT/SAT testing, you  might have to find a few scholarships to top it all off. Let’s Homeschool High School has a great quarterly post that reveals TONS of great scholarships perfect for the homeschooler.
  4. Work. I know it’s popular belief that college students need loads of time to study. Rubbish. I worked a full time job (para pro teacher) and went to school 16+ hours each semester. My daughter worked a full time job and went to school 15 hours a semester. Not only can it be done, but it also requires you to budget not just your money, but your time! I’ve also noticed that it causes the student to be much more appreciative about their courses, their grades, and even the free time that they do get. Try to pay for your classes as you go. For example, make sure that semester 1 is paid for before you move on to semester 2. I know just this year, my daughter’s college opened up a payment plan so that students didn’t have to apply for a loan.
  5. Bottom line – work hard. If you make a little extra effort and try – with your college classes, assignments, tests, and with a job – you’ll be on your way to getting a great education without a lifetime of debt.

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?

Why in the world would you homeschool?

I started homeschooling a long time ago… over 11 years to be exact. When we started things were very different, and homeschooling was definitely not as easy or as accepted as it is today. But things have changed… what a relief!

What do you think has caused the change?

1) Socialization used to be the BIG topic. For good reason, when homeschooling started there weren’t many people to hang with. Which caused some families to be “loners.” Though I have to admit, even those that didn’t have loads of homeschool friends still turned out great… so in reality was there ever really a “socialization” issue?

2) The cost of homeschooling has definitely changed for the better. Homeschooling can now be done for very cheap or even free using the internet or the public library and some creativity.

3) The public schools are not what they used to be. In today’s world the public schools have all kinds of issues – we’ll save that for a later post. But let’s just say, I don’t let my children spend the night or go off with people that I don’t know. I definitely don’t know the school teachers, and my children would be spending more time each day with them than with their family. Somehow, I think that’s just backwards.

4) Homeschooling is actually a bit more convenient (at least for a big family) than sending children off to school. I can’t even begin to imaging what it would cost to buy school clothes and lunch foods and then preparing the afore mentioned each day. Not to mention getting them to school, to any extracurricular activities, and music lessons. It’s actually giving me a headache. Though there is more involved in preparing and determining what my children will learn each day, it is truly MUCH LESS STRESS.

What’s your view of homeschooling today?

 

What is the Common Core about anyway?

The Common Core State Standards is definitely the education buzzword these days, and with good reason. Even homeschoolers, of which I am proud to be, are concerned about the long term affects it will have on our freedoms to educate. Though many people look at common core as a way to get everyone on the same page with learning… others ( mostly our government) look at it as another way to control what happens across our country. A perfect example of good intentions gone awry – or maybe it is simply a bad intention cloaked in a “good” cover.

As a classroom teacher, I realize that fundamentally the common core just can’t work. There is no way that someone in Washington can determine what Susie needs in my 1st grade classroom even if it is 1st grade online curriculum. The power to decide how a child is educated must remain with the parent and those that are local. Whose child is it? Definitely not the US government’s child. It is my child and I should always have the right to decide just how he/she is educated.

How did the Common Core get started?

The idea began in 2008 with the National Governor’s Association. Soon after NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officials began accepting grants to develop the CCSS. In 2009 and 2010 Race to the Top funding is set aside for schools that adopt the Common Core State Standards. (HMMM… this looks like a bribe to me???)

Is the Common Core already in effect?

Each state is different but initially there were 45 states that adopted the CCSS. However, once these standards went into implementation states began to see the major flaws and issues surround the standards. Many of these states have now backed up and decided not to adopt the standards.

The Federal Government’s Involvement?

Technically there are three sets of laws that prohibit our Federal Government from delineating state education requirements. Yet, our government went out of its way to promote the standards by: setting conditions on grants that make them contingent on implementation of the CCSS, offering waivers for the most difficult parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if states began implementing CCSS, and awarded millions of dollars to the state consortia to craft assessments for CCSS.

Does centralized education work?

The US has spent billions of dollars over the past decades to improve our educational system. However, with all the money involved, we still have only seen a marginal increase. Financially, a very poor investment. However, in Finland the educational system ranks nearly the highest on earth and their government has increasingly DEcentralized education. Taking Finland’s example would not only save us money – but make education better for everyone in the long run!

How will CCSS affect homeschoolers?

As the federal government gains increasing power of the educational decisions of our nation, I believe that this will carry over into homeschooling as well. There is supposed to be a nationwide educational database that will be formed as the states implement CCSS. This database would give information regarding every child that is educated. The other aspect that will affect homeschoolers is the alteration of the assessment instruments. Homeschoolers still take the same standardized assessments that their public school peers take to enter college. These tests are actually changing this year, so we will see soon enough.

So, what’s your opinion of the CCSS? Do you think it will impact your homeschooling efforts?

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.

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.