Tag Archives: homeschooling

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

A Picture is Worth…a Lot!

Today, we visited with some new friends from our co-op. And during that visit, I was encouraged to move our photos off of the hard drive to places where everyone could enjoy them.

The family we were with reminds me so much of my own — about five years ago. Their young children, ages 2 – 9,  are always running, shouting, and laughing; it was so much fun to watch. As my friend showed me around the house, I saw some of the neat ways they’ve commemorated holidays, trips, and  occasions with their photographs  — things similar to those I used to do before life became so hectic. So, if time seems to be flying by for you, too, take a day or two or three, and try creating some of these special reminders:

  •  Instead of  just saving your family photos on the computer, display them with a digital photo frame. Some frames have a place for a thumbdrive, so you can easily change out the photos you display. Our friends have separate thumb drives for Christmas pictures (displayed during the holidays), vacation pictures (displayed before they go on vacation again), birthday pictures (showing all the birthday parties of a particular child), etc.
  • Decorate a frame: Buy an inexpensive photo or collage frame for your favorite holiday or vacation pictures. If it’s not the color you want,  paint it with some inexpensive craft acrylic paints. Hot glue fun reminders to the frame: sea shells, ticket stubs, small ornaments, etc.
  • Create a photo book: You can arrange your digital prints in a photo book in which you can add your own captions and text. These are available online at sites such as Snapfish or Blurb, or at local drugstores as well. You’re book can focus on one event or a whole year of events. You could even create a book for your child of photos they took themselves.
  • Display a scrapbook page: If you’re like me, you love scrapbooking but don’t have much free time to do it. Instead, try arranging some photos on just one page, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
Sometimes, when I mention to the kids something that we did when they were little, they don’t remember. But with photos available for the viewing anytime, I know they won’t forget!

The Year of the Taxi

This fall is our first venture into organized sports. We live in the country, and it takes us about 15 minutes to get to the closest grocery store, or 25 minutes if we’re going to do any other shopping. Because of this, I knew that signing one or more children up for a sports program would require quite a bit of driving. And time. And driving… and driving…and driving…

But my daughter Cassie wanted to take the plunge. She loves meeting new friends, so we signed her up for a volleyball skills session in June. Twice a week, she met with other girls to learn how to play volleyball. I figured it was a good sport to learn, as that’s the game of choice when extended family gets together. Next reunion, she’d be ready.

And she loved it!  So when the teams form and she was placed on the middle school girls’ volleyball team, it was hard to say “no.” As soon as we received the schedule, I marked everything on the calendar — times and places of practices and games. And then I wondered how I was going to juggle it all.

All four of the kids are taking music lessons of some sort now, and my oldest son is also teaching piano to some young friends. That was already four places I had to be. We also have co-op classes twice a week. Then there are the spontaneous get-togethers with friends (especially for my 10th grade son).. Still do-able, except that when the school year started, my husband began part-time work most weeknights, so he’s not available to help run anyone around.

So far (and with extra help!), we’ve made it. We share rides with some friends to/from co-op, which cuts out one trip for me. Some other friends who also have a daughter on the team have been able to give Cassie rides to some of the practices and even a couple of games that were far away.

It does get complicated, though. Monday’s are the trickiest, and I actually have to write it all down so I don’t miss anything. On a typical Monday afternoon, this is the plan:

  • 2:30 pm – Co-op classes end
  • 2:40 pm – Take Cassie and her friend to volleyball practice
  • 3:00 pm – Pick up son John and 3 friends (we carpool with them) from co-op
  • 3:10 pm – Pick up daughter Lillie from friend’s house where she went there to play after her classes were done
  • 3:30 pm – Drop off John at the home where he’s teaching piano lesson
  • 4:00 pm – Drop off John’s 3 friends, pick up son Luke who’s been playing at the friends’ house with their little brother
  • 4:15 pm  – Drop off Lillie and Luke at their grandmom’s house (next door to ours)
  • 4:30 pm – Pick up John
  • 4:45 pm – Pick up Lillie and Luke, take all home
  • 5:00 pm – Leave to pick up Cassie from friend’s home
  • 5:30 pm – Arrive home and start supper

So far, so good, though I almost forgot to pick up Lillie last week. And since we only have about a month to go until volleyball season is over, I can soon take a small break from the taxi service.

But then, John’s wants to try out for basketball….

 

Photo by K Rosseel

A Little Help, Please

Tomorrow is our first official day of co-op, when all four of my children will have classes to attend. We joined the co-op two years ago, and it’s worked out well for our family. We’ve found friends there who could help us with our homeschooling adventure, and friend whom we could help out as well.

When we first started, my oldest son John was entering the eighth grade and my youngest was starting kindergarten.  While I still felt fairly confident about teaching the eighth grade curriculum, I knew I would have less time to spend with him now that all of the kids had lessons to do. His classes at co-op consisted of Geography and Physical Science, and he did well in both. He learned how to manage his time, keep up with assignments, and study for tests. The next year was even more challenging as he took Geometry, Biology, and World Literature.

This year, as he enters the tenth grade, he’ll be taking Algebra II, Chemistry, and American Literature. While I can help him with his homework, I’m not certain I could see him through the math and science courses successfully. But fortunately, there are other moms who can.

Part of the requirement at our co-op is that at least one parent from each family takes on a role, whether its in teaching a class, organizing activities, or helping clean up the facilities. This year, I’ll be teaching two writing classes and an art class. I love to edit the students’ papers and try new art projects, something that isn’t easy for some moms. So while we’re receiving help in some areas, we’re able to give help in others.

If you’re not part of a co-op but are overwhelmed with so much to teach, here are a couple of things you can try:

  • Contact other homeschoolers in your area and find out what their interests or strengths are.  Ask if they would be interested in teaching a class in a home or at a local church. You could either pay the teacher or perhaps trade off by teaching another subject yourself.
  • See if there are any upper level high school students who would be willing to tutor your child in a particular subject. Often high schoolers can do the work but charge a much lower rate than a traditional tutor.

We’ve homeschooled all of our children since kindergarten, but I’m not sure if we could have done it alone. So if you find yourself needing some assistance, don’t hesitate to ask. As they say, we can all use a little help sometime. 🙂

Lacking Confidence?

This past week, my 15-year-old went to the DMV to take the written test for a beginner’s driving permit. His birthday was at the beginning of August, so he had been asking me for a couple of weeks when we could go, so as soon as we had all the paperwork together, we went. But the night before we planned to go, his attitude suddenly changed.

“We don’t have to go tomorrow,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked. “You’ve been asking and asking to go.”

“I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

“Sure, you’re ready. You’ve been studying the driver’s manual, haven’t you? And, even if you fail the test, so what? You can always try again.”

“I’m just not ready,” he replied.

“You can’t get your permit if you don’t try,” I said. I was starting to get a little frustrated. During the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling a lot of the kids’ activities, trying to get everyone where they needed to be when they needed to be there. We had set aside this particular time for him to get the permit. I didn’t want to re-figure the whole schedule.

Though he wasn’t convinced, off we went, my son very nervous and myself just glad we were going. He took the test and came out of the DMV a proud owner of a driving permit.

I’d like to say that the lack of confidence has only been on his part, but lately, I can really relate. As we start another school year, I’ve been reassessing how we’ve been doing and what needs to change. But sometimes, I’m just not sure. There are so many opportunities available; which ones should we make time for? What activities are the best ones to be involved in? Are we getting too involved in extra programs? Should we stay home more? Are we spending enough time with the books? Are we spending enough time as a family?

There’s no single answer to the questions, as every child is different, their needs are different, and family dynamics are different. And for us right now, I don’t even have an answer. We’re trying a sports program for my daughter that’s requiring a lot of time and a lot of travel, but she loves it. Yet as our co-op gets ready to begin, so do the big assignments, and I know we’ll have to start working on those for the majority of each day. So as we begin a new year, I’m thinking, like my son, “I’m not ready. I’m going to fail.”

But like my son, even if I fail, so what? I can always try again. And I can keep trying until I find what works. After all,  that’s one of the reasons why we started homeschooling in the first place.

And as for my confidence as a homeschooling parent? I’m thinking that might come after they’ve all graduated…or made it through college…or have families of their own…or maybe just through a lot of prayer! 🙂

 

Photo by karlzbobarlz

 

Lots of Pen Pals

Last year, a friend of mine with a daughter close to my daughter Lillie’s age asked if Lillie would like a pen pal. Lillie loves to get mail, so she thought it was a great idea, too. Thus began their letter-writing adventure, which included handwriting practice, spelling practice, and friendly letter composition, not to mention learning how to address envelopes. A fun and educational activity!

This year, I’ve decided to expand on that idea. Instead of just one pen pal, I’ve assigned both my daughters  a number of people to write to. So now, as part of each school day, they work on one letter to either:

  • an out-of-state family member, such as their grandmother and great-aunt or
  • an friend  who lives far away that we don’t often see or
  • a child we’re supporting through Compassion International.

Though handwriting is usually met with a few groans and moans of “Do we have to?”, this has quickly turned into an exciting assignment they can’t wait to do. On their own, they’ve continued to add to the list of recipients.  Even my seven-year-old, who doesn’t do much writing yet, has joined in and started writing letters to his cousins.

To make it even more fun, we’ve also added:

  • decorative papers to write on
  • small items to include in the letter, such as stickers
  • photos of family members and pets

We’ve been using scrapbooking papers as stationery, but there are a lot of websites that feature free stationery for kids. Here are a few of them:

ActivityVillage.co.uk – notepaper, holiday stationery, and thank-you notes

DLTK Kids – lots of themed and customed-designed writing paper

KidsPrintables.com
– over 30 stationery designs just for kids

If you’re children need an interesting way to get in that handwriting practice, consider finding some pen pals. If they’re like my children, they’ll have as much fun writing the letters as they do receiving them!

 

Photo by dancerinthedark

 

 

 

All About Egypt

This year, my younger children are  going to be diving back into world history. Because we did a little bit over the summer, I decided to start off the new school year by reviewing ancient Egypt. While we’re using the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer as our primary text, we’re also supplementing with some great books from the library. And, as always, I’m learning a lot right along with them!

If your family is studying ancient Egypt, here are some resources you might like to look into:

Books:

Ancient Civilizations – Egypt by Christy Steele.  A nice book to read aloud together or assign as silent reading for older elementary students. Includes a glossary in the back.

The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann – The story of the Pharaoh Khufu and the construction of the Great Pyramid. Contains both actual photos and traditional illustrations. While older students could read this book  on their own, it’s one I would choose to read to them, as we could go over all the information as it’s presented.

Tutankhamun by Robert Green – A book full of information about King Tut and the discovery of his tomb. Contains  interesting photos, including one of Tut’s mummy and one of the dig site at the Valley of the Kings.

Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself – To add in some hands-on learning, check out this book with projects such as making boats, papyrus, bread, jewelry, and hieroglyphs.

 

Other Resources:

Ancient Egypt Unit Study and Lapbook by Jodi Small – Contains a library list and over 30 “minit” books.

Ancient Egypt Lapbook by JoAnn S. – Includes a reading list, activities, crafts, and cooking ideas.

Ancient Egypt Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities
by Mr. Donn – lots of lesson plans featuring the geography, history, religion, art, and daily life of ancient Egypt.

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery for Kids
– Ancient Egypt – online activities featuring ancient civilizations, including Egypt.

 

Photo by embalu

Easing into School

Remembering back to my elementary, middle, and high school years, the first days of school were always an exciting time when I met my teachers and found out who shared my classes. Then the teachers went through the school handbook and discussed all the rules. Though we may have had a homework assignment or two, it was a good way of “easing” into the new school year.

Well, my kids already know their teacher and classmates, and the rules of the house are still the same. Because of this, I tend to want to jump back into school “full steam ahead.” I have to remind myself that we haven’t been on a regular schedule for a while, and it might take a few days to get into a regular routine again.

But there are things we can do to make the change easier for us all to adjust to:

  • We’ll spend time talking about the subjects they’ll be learning, and how and when I can help them individually. We’ve had the problem in the past of one student interrupting me while I was trying to help another. This time, they’ll know just what to expect.
  • I’m not assigning them work in every subject…yet. We’ll tackle a few of the basics first, especially reading and writing. I’ll introduce the other subjects as the week goes on and they’ve had time to readjust.
  • Although the kids are going to wake up at the same time and eat breakfast together, they’re going to go through the day at their own pace.  Some of my students will get right to it and get things done, while others will work in a much more leisurely manner. I’ve found it only frustrates all of us when I try to keep everyone on task together.
  • We’ll play some educational games together.
  • We’ll plan an outing with friends towards the end of the week, giving them something special to look forward to.

Even if you homeschool, or rather, especially if you homeschool, those first days can still be an exciting fresh start!

 

Photo by earl53

 

A Pig Parade and a Cupcake

This summer, my children participated in our library’s summer reading program. To win all of the prizes, younger kids had to read 80 picture books (that was a lot of books!). Needless to say, we made multiple trips to the library looking for new books to read. Some we read were pretty good, and some were not so good. And two of the books that we read really surprised me. They were A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Micahel Ian Black and Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper.

While I figured A Pig Parade would have be one that the kids would enjoy, it actually turned out to be so much fun for me to read aloud. While it doesn’t tell a story, it does tell you why you shouldn’t try to have a pig parade. Discussing everything from the majorette uniforms to the music  to the floats and balloons, the book offers convincing arguments for avoiding a piggy production. It has some bigger vocabulary words, making it a very entertaining book for older children and adults.

The second book that surprised me was Cupcake. This one features a cupcake that thinks he is very plain. All of his decorated brothers and sisters are quickly chosen (and eaten!), while he is left behind. As I’m reading  along with my kids, I was thinking this was one of those books that was going to be very hard to get through. It was obvious what the moral was going to be, and it seemed so “cheesy” (or rather, “sugar-coated?”), that I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the book. However, we needed to read 80 books, so we kept going.

Well, about half-way through the book, the cupcake meets a candle that is also plain. The candle has the idea of putting different things on the cupcake to dress him up a little.  The things he chooses are so funny — pickles, smelly cheese, even a squirrel! By this time, we are all laughing, and then my daughter guesses what the ending will be — the candle will hop onto the cupcake. But she has guessed incorrectly, and the surprise ending brings even more laughs. No lesson — just fun.

So, if you’re looking for an afternoon read to enjoy with your kids, give a pig and a cupcake a try!

Are You A Rule-Follower? – Part 1

Last month, we met with my sister and her family for a fun day at a nearby theme park. We had gone to the same park last year and had such a good time,  and this time my kids were excited about sharing the experience with their cousins. I felt confident about navigating through the park and handling the high food prices — that is, until we went through the main gate.

As with many theme parks, the drinks, snacks, and meal deals weren’t deals at all, but we knew that ahead of time. Last year, we took some snacks along with us to save some money, and no one working at the gates commented on them at all (we did buy our drinks there). Because the park had such a family-friendly policy of allowing snacks into the park, I assured my sister we could do it this year as well.

So, before we headed off to the park, we each packed a bag with snacks and a few extra waters. We were ready for a great day.

That is, until we lined up to go through the turnstile. This summer, as the workers  looked through the bags,  if you had any extra drinks or snacks, they told you to throw them away or take them back to your car, at least a thirty minute walk there and back.

“Really?” I said, incredulous. “Take them back?”

“Yes,” the worker repeated. “You can take your water through this time, but the snacks have to go back.”

My sister went through in a different line. The worker there told her she could keep her snacks just this once, but she had to throw her drinks away. We watched as others had to throw away some of their stuff, too.

Shocked and angry about the randomness of it all, we put a few of our snacks in my sister’s bag, and I headed out with the rest. I wanted to put all of my snacks in her bag, but she insisted that she was a rule-follower, and said that we shouldn’t do it. So we’d eat her snacks, drink my water, and make it through the day without having to spend too much on extra food.

Back in the parking lot, I unlocked the car and put the backpack in the van. I stood there a moment, thinking about all of the snacks in there. Included in the stack of snacks were two tuna packs in foil, the kind you would take if you were camping. I had bought them for my husband, as he’s a big guy and granola bars just don’t fill him up. I thought of him, thought of my sister, then put the packs in the pocket of my shorts. No one would even notice.

On the long walk back into the park, I had a lot of time to think about that tuna. Was it the right thing to do? Was it right to break this rule that just didn’t seem fair? What did it say about my character and integrity?  Could we afford $10.00+ hamburgers for everyone? Did my husband really need that tuna?

I decided he did. After all, it was a bad rule. It was not family-friendly, and I had a family to look after.

On the way out of the park, I had my arm stamped, so to return, I had to go through a special entrance. When I approached the gate, I saw one of the workers and a security guard. I held out my arm to show him the stamp. Then I had to pass through the metal detector.

A metal detector…