Saturday, September 25, 2010

Snapshots of Homeschool

The question was posed by this week's Carnival of Homeschooling host, Sprittibee; "What does your homeschool, schooling room look like?" and I just had to answer!

Most articles I read on this matter give an in-the-box answer with one room and one way of getting things done... just last year I gave an in-the-box answer to this question!  But something changed.

I have an ADHD child, a Dyslexic child and a child who LOVES to learn the traditional way.  My teaching style has become very eclectic to accommodate all of their needs and see success as a result.  I would love my homescool to look like this:

(I love old school houses and the thought of teaching in one!)
I so wish I could fit three of these desks in my house!!
But it doesn't... it isn't even close.  I do still have our "school room" ...

But it is in our dark, dank, no windows, basement and after a while... it gets kind of depressing!  So, it has been converted to rec-room now.  The maps are still up and the corner with table is the same only its main use is as art and craft area (all our lovely messes blend in with the dark carpet!!)
First day of Fall art this past week!

Bulletin board in our arts and crafts area with pictures we did during a study of Uruguay last fall
Our actual "learning area" is everywhere now! For example, kitchens just aren't for cooking anymore:
 Ok, so this looks like cooking... but it isn't!  Above, we are practicing spelling words in flour... it has helped my visual-spacial learners do better on their tests!  Although... it does make more mess to clean up!  But worth it!

Below, they are practicing math facts with quizzing calculators while I make french toast for breakfast.

The dining room table is often used for homework...
... and therapy

However, the couch, the coffee table (the living room in general!), and even the picnic table on nice days can make lovely work areas as well!
The kids made "stores" and went "shopping"!

Garden planning and seed charting
And field trips.... God has given us such a marvelous classroom in His creation!  Our favorite was after reading The Secret Garden and we went to some public gardens near by to sketch and observe

Although, winter field trips for some P.E. at the ice rink are always grand!

I do miss the 'traditional' classroom set-up we had when we first started homeschooling, and I do have certain areas that are set aside for homeschooling materials, but as you explore my blog and get to know me, you will quickly learn that, in as much as I miss the traditional, we have a lot of fun learning in the eclectic, out-of-the ordinary ways and places!

May God Bless you and your homeschool classroom today... no matter where it is!

Friday, September 24, 2010

When the Guilt Monster Growls... Just Growl Back!

My week fizzled... just-like-that!  I had ambitions and, sick daughter aside, the other two children and I were pursing them quite well until Wednesday!

We decided to tackle this school year with 4 day weeks.  Something I have read about over the years with some homeschools and I felt it would be worth a try in our own.  The kids are older, the curriculum is meatier, we could use a day without "work".

Originally this day off was going to coincide with the weekend to allow a 3 day break before working hard again.  That worked wonderfully for week 1... but each week since has just gotten crazier and crazier!

Through our missions work we recently answered a calling that pulls us out of the house on Wednesday.  It used to be just for the evenings, but as of this week, we will now be gone from first thing Wednesday morning until bedtime Wednesday night!

We do consider it a blessing to serve and we are excited about our treks into town to do God's work.  It just mixes up the homeschool schedule in an unexpected way!  And, as my darling 7 year old lamented at the beginning of this school year... we love our schedule!

This weekend I will be sitting down with that bless-ed chart and praying over it.  Then, I will formulate a game plan of sorts to give us peace AND progress in our busy weeks of homeschool and volunteer work.

I must confess, though, I temporarily lost hope after spelling today.  I realized that I did not go over their words with them... not once... since Monday when I issued them!  Oh, the guilt monster just wanted to sit down and have a good growl at me.  But then I glanced over at an article from a spring issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, (Yes, I take FOREVER to get to reading magazines in their entirety!).  The article was, "That Guilty Feeling", and I was reminded that I am not alone and I am not a bad teacher/mom for dropping the ball.  With all we had going on (our new Wednesday schedule, a missions retreat, and my one public schooled child's open house) in the last two days... even if we were trying to keep up in public school they would have been unprepared!

So now, with the guilt monster pushed back, my only regret today... I didn't have the camera when my 7-year old darling daughter decided to do an art project while cuddling her pet rabbit!  Normally it is her stuffed rabbit she is hugging while she works, but I looked over and it was our live one that she was sharing her project with!  Oh, how I love homeschool!
Brooke's usual companion, Blueberry
Brooke's cotton tail rabbit, Peter (named after Beatrix Potter's fuzzy friend!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


My 12 year old is sick today :-(  Actually this makes two days in a row.  However, she is old enough now to catch herself up on schoolwork and my other two diligent students have plenty they can do to keep  busy and stay current on their studies! 

This is the first year I have been able to do this and, well, I kinda like it!  It use to be; everyone was so tightly knitted together and their dependence on me was so ingrained that having one kid down was no better than having all down... and heaven forbid they took turns getting sick over the span of a week or more!

The only area I had to adjust in our schedule today was Bible study.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, we are working on a study of the heart, kindness, and doing what is right and good.  Our reading and the activities I have planned with Ephesians (and more of Solomon's early rule) needs to be done as a group.  So I used a fall-back I have owned for years:  "WWJD For Kids".

I used this book to form the base of an entire summer curriculum for elementary level Sunday school one year.  It is a wonderfully illustrated book with short stories, pertinent questions, prayer, memory verse, and an activity.  All which can be completed in its simplest form in under 10 minutes.  However, you can add extensions and draw out the studies.

Brenden and Brooke picked the story of the Boy King (Josiah) and the moral question of, "What do we do when others are doing bad things?"  After the story and questions, they were challenged to think of TWO things that are good and right they can do for a family member today.  We wrote these answers in our Bible study journals and Brenden added some pictures :-)  Needless to say... one of the tasks on their lists was to help their sick sister ;-)

What WOULD Jesus Do?  Well, if you need a great Bible study book, snag one of these and find out!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Falling in Love with Autumn

My favorite season starts this week... FALL!  Creative writing assignments and crafts just dance around my mind when I think of this time of year.  Maybe it is because fall is the prelude to many fun occasions and holidays.  Maybe it is the yummy food that is harvested this time of year.  Perhaps it is my dream of being a farmer and pulling in the harvest, canning (a favorite activity of mine) and settling down for the winter.  It could be the colors of all those trees or the crisp cool air that settles around us after a hot summer.  The most likely reason is all of the above because Fall is a season of senses.

An early childhood educator's dream is the season of fall.  What can we hear, see, smell, taste and feel that we can not quite experience all at once with any other season?  An elementary educator's heaven exists within all the decomposition experiments happening before our very eyes.  Upper elementary and high school can even be inspired by this season's life cycles and microscopic happenings!

Fall is back to school, it is autumn, it is harvest, it is cool outside and warm inside, it is family at Thanksgiving and it is memories.  Warm, cozy, childhood memories of a season where nature is going to sleep and our senses are coming alive.  I LOVE FALL!

I know I sound like a crazy woman!  But there you have it!  As I prepare for spelling lists and writing assignments this week, I was researching a good fall poem.  I stumbled upon this website,

An absolutely adorable website!  Click here.

 Teaching Heart is put together by an elementary school teacher.  Not only does it have a lot of great do-dads, but it has a wonderful and welcoming 'atmosphere' (those who know me, know I LOVE atmosphere!).  I could sit and go through her site alllllll day and feel just marvelous for it!

What especially drew me to Teaching Heart today was her section on Autumn.  There are a lot of cute crafts, language arts ideas, bulletin board inspiration, and math.  She also has a wonderful book list to get those creative juices flowing in you and your kids!  If I could, I would vote this site, "Site of the Year"!  Visit it when you get a chance :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bible Studies with Children

I am quickly realizing how I got behind on blogging last year!  We get so busy with the day-to-day of our homeschool schedule that, before I know it, days (or weeks) have passed and I haven't updated!  Add to that our busy missions schedule now and some nights it is all I can to make it to bed without falling over in exhaustion!  The complexities of life are a blessing though... truly!

We began a study this past week on Ephesians 4 to coincide with a story we are reading about some of King Solomon's life.  Our self-constructed study is meant to stress the importance of obedience, wisdom, and being a functioning part of the body of Christ.  I honestly feel that we can never start these lessons too early with our children.  All we need to do is approach the lessons from an angle that is age appropriate and speaks to their understanding.

A good study Bible is a start.  My kids have adventure Bibles that were given to them by our church.  We enjoy the little, kid-appropriate notes that sit within the pages.  They even provide extension activities to help bring some of the scriptures to life. 

We also have a devotional that helps us to tackle the sticky problems that often come up when kids get into mischief or are trying to tackle some of life's big problems.  Our favorite resource is the "My First Message Bible Search".  Don't let the name deceive you, it isn't for preschoolers.  It is actually a great tool for elementary level students to learn about the Word of God and what it has to say about our daily challenges.  It provides activities and memory scripture to help really reinforce the message.

I'm not trying to be a sales lady for books, materials and Amazon.  But as we settle into our school routine this year I am realizing some resources and materials we use that are invaluable and I want to pass that along!

I do have a goal over the next week to share our journey through the scriptures on the topic of moving the Body of Christ forward through our actions.  So check back for a great study!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Musings Of A New School Year

I'm exhausted, and it is only Tuesday!  Worse than that... we are doing 4 day school weeks and today was our 'Monday'!  But it is all wonderful.  To sit and listen to kids read, work through math together, study Alaska (and the Iditarod!), and best of all HUGS at lunch time :-)

First day of school... they went all out ;-)

Backpacks (couldn't tell from the front!)

These pictures were from last week when we had our 'official' first day of school on August 30th.  The kids were so excited, and we were blessed with some new backpacks and supplies from a church we volunteer at, they thought they just had to wear them!  I guess traversing the stairs to our 'classroom' certainly warrants the extra gear!

They truly bless my soul!  I hope your children bless your soul today!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Learning Through Environment

I'm spending my Labor Day working at the computer and putting together Language Arts Lesson plans... but I like it that way ;-)

While I was working I looked up at our wall map of the world and thought of something my 12 year old said recently...

We were preparing to go and listen to some friend's tell us about their trip to the Holy Land.  We were reviewing our "Circling the Globe" book to brush up on facts about Israel.  We got sidetracked talking about some of our Missionary friends who live and work in Africa.  My daughter instantly pointed out Uganda and I asked her how she knew that so well.  She told me that when she takes showers and baths she studies our shower curtain map! 

I was instantly grateful I had purchased this tool and that it was serving its purpose! 

I have had people say they don't think they could have their house double as a classroom all the time.  I say, why is it such a stretch?  When you integrated learning tools into the everyday spaces your children look at and use, whether they are homeschooled or public schooled, you are giving them a hand-up.  I know it isn't for everyone.  However, if you have a knack for integrating your regular decor with your child's tid-bits for learning... it is worth a try!

Not every room in my house has maps or things of that nature on the wall.  As a matter of fact, the kids' bathroom and parts of our rec room are the only two places this is done in an obvious way.  We have bookshelves piled with books because a) I love books and b) I pray the kids are encouraged to read by their home library (they play library sometimes!).  Here are some alternate ideas if you have a small space or you don't want to use common space:

-  The children's bedroom is a great place to hang a calendar (to work on various calendar skills), maps of places they are studying, ABC charts or Number Charts, a chalk board or dry erase board with spelling words and/or a cork board to post various other learning tidbits and skills they are working on.  You don't need to use the entire room, but one area of a wall could be dedicated to this.  When possible, make it interactive so the kids WANT to learn with the materials.  I had a large classroom calendar hanging straight across from my pre-k/kindergartner's bed for a few years.  She would look at it before she went to sleep every night, ask me questions about upcoming events on the calendar, days of the week and generally learn all the calendar skills she needed.

-  Coat and pantry closet doors, on the inside, are a great place to hang charts and information.  I currently have a poster about measurement on the inside of the coat closet door.  I have one about Mass on the inside of the pantry door.  Every time they go for a coat or a snack, they are coming in contact with information measurement math skills.

-  The refrigerator may be coveted in your home.  Or, it may be plastered with the kids' latest artwork!  Our refrigerator sits across from the counter where my kids eat breakfast and lunch.  I have a chart about measuring time hung on it.  The adjacent door, which they ponder and discuss the contents of daily, has a chart about temperature measurements posted on it.  My children have been learning the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit and what temperature water typically freezes and boils at... without me cracking open a single workbook!

These are just a few ideas.  If you have any others, please, share them here! 

Also, I wrote an article last summer about "The Process of Being Organized".  In it I explain how to take small space and make it work for your homeschool incognito!

Happy Schooling!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Off to a start...

We are off to a good start in our schooling so far.  Mostly introduction to this year's curriculum and schedule along with a bunch of review.  It has been nice to be back in a routine, if nothing else!  My 7 year old daughter thinks so too since she asked me Sunday night, "Do we start school tomorrow?"  I replied in the positive and she was pleased, "I am so excited."  I asked her why she was excited and she explained, "Because I like it better when we have a routine!"  I still laugh inside when I think of that! 

Our adventures have been positive and revealing as to our direction (and the means to that direction) this year.  Even the projectile milk that was knocked off the dining room table during math yesterday has provided comic relief (once I realized it was almost lunch time and starting math right then was a bad idea to begin with!)  I never new a cup, knocked on the floor from 3 feet up in that spot, could ricochet liquid as far as over my desk and up 6 1/2 feet to splatter all over a picture hanging on the wall!  I know milk is suppose to be good for the skin, but I am thinking, books, carpet, furniture and fixtures don't quite fall in that category!  At least I had a good cleaning crew and, between all of us, we had it cleaned up in no time (and a rule is in place that NO milk is allowed at the table while we do school work!)

The only down side to our week is that not all of our Lesson Plans are done.  I still have a lot of work to do and all while I am working to get our Missions newsletter together for September.  But, I do trust that God will provide the time and the guidance to do all these things through His will :-)  I do look forward to most of our schedule being in order so that I can blog more often.  In the meantime, if you have a fun back-to-school story to share, I would love to hear it!   Post in reply to this entry :-)

Blessings to you this September 2nd!