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.

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?

Spring Ideas for Great Homeschooling

It’s tough to stay inside when the weather finally warms up! I we do try to stay in the house, I feel like I’m competing with something I’ll never overcome. The kids are distracted. Every bird that flies past the window grabs their attention. It’s crazy. So, during the spring and summer months I always try to incorporate something fun to make them still want to “keep their head in the game.”

1) Don’t fight ’em – join em… we are now studying birds. Since, the birds are so interesting and they can’t keep their eyes off them- I think we will study them. I’ve got the Apologia science book about flying creatures and we have several bird guides for our state.

2) Incorporate outside time into your daily curriculum. Some people find that reading is an easy subject to work into the outdoors. It works great for us – we have several comfy outdoor chairs and the kids find a cozy spot and get to it!

3) Use Homeschool Spring Resources – I love to pin ideas on pinterest and then get back to them when I have time.

4) Homeschool Elementary can be so much fun when you add a course or two that the kids CHOOSE!

5) Take time to do some outdoor physical education. This counts as part of your homeschooling as well!

Teaching Tip #1 – Lesson Planning

When starting down this road called homeschooling, some things can seem like insurmountable mountains that we just can’t climb. I know that many of my “first time” homeschooler friends feel like they just can’t do it because they know nothing about teaching. Well, if it’s really scary there are ways to get around that. Homeschoolers have so many options today it is almost unthinkable. There are online options that have online teachers, there are video courses that have teachers, and even computer programs that make learning automated. All the scare has been taken out of homeschooling!

However, if you are more of a hands on type of person. You might just want to learn a few “teaching” basics. Yes, just because we are homeschooling doesn’t mean that we don’t use sound “teaching methods.” These methods aren’t scary, they aren’t intimidating, but they are useful. One of the first things that I teach my students in my college Introduction to Education course is the basics of lesson planning. For those homeschoolers who really want to be involved in teaching and learning with their children and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty… this is for you!

Tips for making your own lesson plans…

Lesson plans are basically a way to focus instruction for maximum effect. It’s our bullseye – and we all know if we aim for nothing we will surely hit it!

1) To start at the very beginning, if you are planning a unit study you will need to begin with your overall BIG goal. What do you want to accomplish/learn for the study. Write your goal.

2) Determine how long you want the unit study to last. If it is a month. Then divide your study up into weeks and write goals for what you wish to accomplish each week.

3) Once your weekly goals are in place, you can make daily or lesson goals which we usually call objectives. These daily goals are more specific and should include “measurable” action words. Teachers will often start these goals off with “The learner will be able to…”

4) Now you’re ready for your lesson plan. Taking each of these daily objectives, you will need to determine how you’ll teach the lesson, which methods you will use and any materials or assessment that you want to include. When I teach teachers how to do this I encourage them to use this acrostic – GOMMA.  It’s something I was taught in graduate school and I feel it really helps keep things focused.

Homeschool lesson plan

5) I take the acrostic for each day and fill in exactly how I wish to teach the lesson along with any correlating tools. For example, if I am teaching a unit study on science then I might include in my daily assessment some second grade science worksheets. The assessment doesn’t have to be a test, it can be a time of Q&A, a worksheet, or even a drawing. It is simply a way for the student to show that they understood the lesson.

6) I usually keep my lesson plans and all accompanying materials in a three ring binder. That way they are all together and ready to use if I have to teach that subject again!

Homeschooling? Is this normal or is it insanity?

homeschoolingAh… my homeschooling friends. There are days that we really need each other. Days that just being able to ask one another if my regular crazy is anything like yours? …and then the refreshing feeling when we are told just how crazy our fellow homeschoolers are. It’s great, and without it I know I would have been discouraged many years ago.

At our house we have a first grader, a third grader, two seventh graders, a tenth grader, and one in her first year of college. Days are full, busy, and always crazy. I do find that the older the children get the more independent they become. Which is quite a blessing. This allows a little more time for other things. Yet, my first and third grader require A LOT of my attention. So, until I get them functioning independently… I’ll be facing a big dose of crazy.

Most of my children have always preferred to do things on their own. However, there are a few of them that really have been dependent on me and have a difficult time breaking that. My twins, though in seventh grade, have been very dependent on me and up until this year had to have me in the room sitting there with them to work. This year, in order to help encourage more independence, I purchased them a video curriculum. This has definitely helped untie the apron strings.

My third grader is great, she can go in the school room and get out her books and get to it. She still needs review and help with certain problems, but she will work without my ever abiding presence. However, my youngest will only focus on school if I am sitting there beside her. This can make for difficult days especially since I work from home. So, most days I sit with my laptop right beside her desk while we work on numbers, letters, and 1st grade science curriculum. Some days I get alot done, and other days I get nothing but her schoolwork done. Seriously, nothing – not even a shower… and then dinner is something quick. So, there is the source of most of my crazy these days.  Sure, it’s a trade out… and it limits my personal freedom… but one day soon she will be grown and gone. My oldest had some of these issues and now she is in college doing her own thing. So, I know… it will be over soon… and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

So, there is my crazy for now… what’s yours?

Too much of a good thing?

The controversy about education continues to rage in our country. As we, in our complacency, continue to rank lower than most modernized countries around the globe. As a proponent of homeschooling, many would tell me to mind my own business. Yet, as a patriot of our great republic I want to see America’s children grow up to be global contributors. Yet, with all the money, dialogue, effort, laws, and standards that we are throwing at public education… it still continues to limp along.

Thomas Jefferson warned against too much government control of education. He realized that if education was completely controlled by government it would be badly managed. “The key to local school districts, according to Jefferson, is that they give parents direct and ultimate control over how their children are educated…Elementary education should be the concern of local communities under the supervision of parents; it should not be controlled by the Federal or State governments.” (See Thomas Jefferson on Education)

Talk about having prophetic vision. Thomas Jefferson truly could see the future. I am thankful that our founding fathers had enough insight to “build in” some safety features in the form of government checks and balances. Though over the past decades these limiting walls to our federal government’s extent of power have been crumbling. We are now looking at the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) as the future of education. The Federal government without directly requiring it, will bring the US States games into one arena. If unanimously adopted the CCSS will allow the government even more control. Simply put… it translates into more government control over education. Everyone answering to a common rule or standard. How can that work? The local communities, individuals, and parents are what make our nation great and what can once again bring education around.

Though there are a myriad of pros and cons of homeschooling, the easy thing to see here is that homeschool can play a huge part in bringing the level of education up in the US. I understand that many people feel it isn’t a big deal to lag behind these other countries. Why should it be when we are still a global leader in many areas? The issue is, we may not have that privilege forever. As a result of our complacency in this area we may quickly lose this privilege before we realize it.

What are your thoughts about education in America? What is the answer?

Homeschooling High School Free Downloads

Homeschooling high school involves creativity, organization, details, and of course… paper work. Don’t you love it? Well, to be honest, not really. Paper work is something that I just don’t have time for. Which is why these few amazing downloads can really “tame the paper tiger” and allow you to do what you really need to be doing.

I typically start organizing my high schooler’s schedule with a calendar. Sometimes, I will use an online spreedsheat which I make in Google Docs, and  other times I will use a paper calendar. Here is a free downloadable version of a 2013-2014 homeschool calendar.

I find it very helpful to start recording our homeschooling high school courses and course descriptions on some type of transcript as soon as they start highschool. Here is a great free high school transcript template.

Another frequently needed document that I often used to organize my homeschooling highschool endeavors is that of the report card. Though many homeschoolers really don’t use the highschool report card that frequently, there are times that a report card can be helpful. They are often required as proof of good grades for insurance purposes.

As you homeschool your highschooler it’s always wise to keep track of everything they do during these years. When you finish up their records make sure that you’ve recorded all of their accomplishments both great and small. Everything from volunteering to course work should be included and used as a way to create a “big picture” of who your student is. Whether your highschooler goes to college, becomes an apprentice, or some other grand thing… they will need a picture of what they accomplished during their high school years. It’s our job to make sure that picture is recorded accurately.

If you have some other great ideas for organizing your highschool homeschool, please share them!

Guest Post: Homeschooling with Down Syndrome

Hello everyone… drum roll please… yay! We have our guest poster with us this week to share on a topic that is dear to her heart. Homeschooling with Down Syndrome. So, without further adieu… here’s Janet…

To say homeschooling with special needs is to cover a wide spectrum of diagnoses.   Even within the diagnosis of Down syndrome, there can be differences.  Each child is individually different.  I can share my experiences in homeschooling our daughter with Down syndrome, but it may vary for another child with Down syndrome.  Yet there is still the common factor of the diagnosis and the implications that carries, such as the fact that it takes our kids with Down syndrome longer to learn new concepts and new lessons. Our children with Down syndrome are visual learners. They learn through repetition and imitation, which is best taught if you homeschool Down syndrome.

We’ve been teaching our daughter at home since Kindergarten.  We also homeschool our two older children.  It takes much discipline and consistency to teach our daughter with DS.  We need to cover a topic or concept for several weeks or months before it becomes concrete. And even then, we still need to review a few weeks later to make sure it’s not forgotten. You know the term ‘out of sight, out of mind’? Well, that’s very true with Sam.  It could take years to learn a concept that may take a typical child months or weeks to learn. At times it can be a challenge to continually teach something when it may seem like it may never become concrete.  Teaching our daughter Sam has been more challenging than teaching our other two children, but it has also been the most rewarding.  Not to say that teaching our other children is not rewarding.  Let me explain. When we’ve been working for so long to teach her to tell time, for example, and I can see that she’s trying and she wants to succeed, but she just cannot understand how a clock works, it can be discouraging.  With a typical child we can say, “Oh, they’re not ready for this.  We’ll revisit this in a few months.”  We cannot do that with our daughter.  Though it seems like she’s not ready, we need to persevere.

In our culture today, clocks are rare. We’ve got digital clocks on our oven, our microwave, our watches and our cell phones. Yet it’s still important that she not only learn to tell time, but that she learns to add time and subtract time. And this is easier to do on an analog clock. If you have to be somewhere in two hours, what time will it be? This involves problem solving and analytical thinking, which is difficult for a child with cognitive challenges or with Down syndrome. We need to consistently practice telling time, and adding and subtracting time every day until we see that glimmer of understanding.  At this point, if we miss a few days, it could mean backtracking and starting from the beginning.  For fun daily practice we use educational videos and educational games and activities until we know it’s concrete. That means that we’ve missed a couple of days or more and come back to it, and she still remembers it. That’s when we say, “It’s worth it!” It’s worth the discipline and time it takes. It’s worth the extra time of research for new ways to teach a concept.  It’s worth the tears…mom’s tears.  Of course it’s worth it. And it’s rewarding. You see, I always tell her, “Yes, it’s hard and it’s going to take some time, but you CAN do it.” So it’s rewarding when she’s been trying for so long and I finally see that big smile when she realizes she CAN do it, and she squeals, “I did it!”