Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tackle-It-Tuesday: Homeschool Pre-Planning

I realize everyone plans their homeschooling differently. I happen to make a lot of plans and then we do lots of other things instead, add things here, get rid of things there, take days off and then catch up, and so on. I think we're pretty normal. We're not unschoolers and we're not rigidly structured. I'm somewhere in between.

This system I'm trying out is new to me. I have previously had stuff EVERYWHERE all over bookshelves and it was a pain to find what I needed so I'm doing something different and sharing it with you.

First I had to TRY (key word) to block out some time and space so I could concentrate. I took frequent breaks and had my favorite beverage on hand and make sure I was eating regularly. I put on some music or talk radio. You might want to try to get the kids out of the house if you can. Get all your supplies together: trash can, pens, pencils, markers, paper, sticky notes, white-out, labels for notebook dividers and so on.

Step One is to get rid of what is not working. Weed out stuff you don't need anymore or need to update. File away things you want to get to sometime/deal with later.

Step Two is to find a system and get started organizing it. I have one binder with folder dividers that I got at Target (they are dividers that hold stuff on two sides) which holds papers by subject (like English, Math, Science, History, PE, Art, Music). Instead of loose papers everywhere, I have them all organized and can whip out a worksheet if someone wants to do one or if I need to demonstrate a concept and need help doing it. For instance, in my Math tab I have worksheets for different grades, math game ideas and funny math problems I make up. In Art I'll keep the snowflake making cheater sheets the kids love in the wintertime.

In this binder I also keep other misc. things we might want to do like field trips or activities. This page says stuff like "hearing tests x 5" and "Exchange City."

In another binder I have a tab for each of my kids. I might file the grade overview I got from the public school to make sure I'm hitting key points. I file a copy of the table of contents of the "What Your X Grader Needs to Know" books by grade and highlight things as we complete them. We skip around, so don't think I'm all anal and perfect. I'm definitely no Homeschooling Nazi.

Now we have a system all set up. Next week we'll talk about the actual lesson planning for multiple grades Kerrie Style. We're a little unschooly, a little structured, very eclectic!

*I wrote this post in 2012 and now I do different things different years :-) Right now I am putting everybody's stuff for the day in one spiral notebook and sometimes transfer that to an Excel file so I can keep track of time. My state doesn't require that, but I like to see that I am actually accomplishing something!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

There are No Snow Days in Homeschool

Just like there is no crying in baseball, there are no snow days in homeschool. Today in Peculiar, MO it's in the 20s and icy and windy and snowing. Schools are cancelling further north ("in town") and the huge trash company called it quits for the day. My eye doctor's office closed for the day, so my son and I will reschedule. I wasn't going to go anyway ... my huge van doesn't do so well on icy roads. I miss my front-wheel drive minivan sometimes. My husband works a good half hour from home, and I wonder how long it will take him to drive home in this weather.

And the educating goes on. It looks like this inside my house when it's a crummy day outside:

My oldest made pancakes!

Fancy hot chocolate mixes from a gift basket from my mom for Christmas

Eva loves extra time by the fire to play LOL dolls, Shopkins, Num Noms

Michael and Sam hanging out during reading time by the fire

This is Crash Course on YouTube (free) and is hosted by John Green (Fault in Our Stars author and hilarious). I love when I introduce the kids to something and they don't hate it but instead ask to watch more! Today we watched 3 videos on the Agricultural Revolution (World History)

KHAN ACADEMY for math (sorry, no picture of this)

Michael is our resident artist for sure. He just sits down and starts doodling stuff like this

Michael was trying to be funny when he drew this "self-portrait" of his brother Sam

Callie making chocolate chip cookies for science, math and life skills and tossed in some white chocolate  morsels and some mini marshmallows.
Yes, if it snows REALLY good sometime, we are taking the day off to sled for sure. Sledding looks a little different now that we have moved to the country and 8 acres of land. We hook up two sleds behind the mower, make sure the blade is up so we are not mowing snow, and off they go.

If you homeschool, and your local brick-and-mortar schools close, do you also take the day off? Do you think it's more laid-back to take a snow day or to continue life as normal, in your usual laid-back fashion, seeking some sort of continuity after the long Christmas break?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Articles I've Had Published About Homeschooling

I've been writing articles for parenting articles almost as long as I've been homeschooling, so I figured I should pair my two loves and make some money for my family at the same time. Currently this money is paying for some "roadschooling" to Florida for two weeks in October 2017 :-) Most of these articles have been published in multiple magazines so I've just picked a few magazines to represent. Thanks for checking them out!

Back-to-Homeschool Tips and Traditions in Birmingham Parent

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Homeschool in ParentMap

Top 10 Homeschool Mistakes to Avoid in Montgomery Parents

Homeschooling 101 in San Diego Family

How to Find Your Homeschool Tribe in Calgary's Child

10 Unique Benefits of Homeschooling in Calgary's Child

Venturing Into Unschooling in North Texas Kids

Virtual School: Where Homeschooling Meets Traditional School in Orlando Family

Friday, August 11, 2017

#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Boomerang Book Selections

The following is taken from the Brave Writer website:

The Boomerang is the monthly digital product that features a classic work of fiction each month. These novels are used to teach the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary elements). In addition to the weekly passages used for copywork and dictation, The Boomerang includes 9 discussion questions which are designed to enhance a student's comprehension of the novel's themes and construction through discussion and writing.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustStation Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) (purchased paper book and audiobook on estories)
SeptemberWalking (Henry David Thoreau) (purchased paper book)
OctoberThe Thing About Jellyfish (Ali Benjamin) (purchased audiobook on estories)
NovemberGeorges (Alexandre Dumas)
DecemberThe Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
JanuaryThe Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London)
FebruaryNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
MarchWhen You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
AprilThe Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Adam Gidwitz)
MayAnne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children. Some of these titles do contain adult language and themes.

#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Arrow Book Selections

The following is taken from Brave Writer's website.

The Arrow is the monthly digital product (like a magazine) that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (novels listed below, not included with purchase). The Arrow is designed for children ages 8-11 (3rd - 6th grades) and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.
This year's Arrow Guides are brought to you by Melissa Wiley, well-loved children's novelist and Brave Writer instructor! Mary Wilson, popular blogger, is adding a page of Book Club Party ideas for each book this year as well.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • Writing activity
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustThe Bad Beginning, (Lemony Snicket)
SeptemberEsperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
OctoberThe Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)
NovemberJohnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
DecemberWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin)
JanuaryFinn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson)
FebruaryElijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis)
MarchFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsberg)
AprilThe Red Pencil (Andrea Davis Pinkney)
MayThe Thing About Luck (Cynthia Kadohata)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coffee and Co-op Planning 2017 Semester 1

This will be our third year participating in a Catholic co-op as a family. The first year I was a classroom helper and cafeteria cleaner. Last year I taught PE, Creative Writing and Drama. This year I feel like I'm getting the hang of things finally and will be teaching 5th/6th PE, 9-12 PE, and 5-8 Creative Writing one semester/Drama the next.

June was funky with my kids off at different camps and activities. July was funky with my husband working double hours. Have you ever tried to do homeschool planning with five of your own kids running around plus neighbors and friends? My brain was short-circuiting from all the stops and starts so I focused on organizing physical stuff like backpacks and bookshelves.

Anyway, last year I did a little too much seat-of-my-pants teaching and I don't want to do that again. If I have it all planned out for one entire semester of 16 meetings then I won't be freaking out the night before/morning of trying to figure out what to do. I don't feel this benefits my state of mine OR the kids and their learning. I know when I have things planned in advance that I'm excited to teach, I am a much more fun teacher. This goes for at home as well.

My husband's work hours went back to normal, it's Saturday, so I checked the calendar and it looks like a great (rainy) day to head to somewhere with Wi-Fi and coffee and knock out some planning. Parents and kids like a good syllabus, and I'm gonna give one (well, three) to them.

I have the basic layout of the syllabus so I know how many days/slots to fill in so I can get my topics and activities organized. I'm finding I have a lot of fun to be had with poetry, something I personally didn't think I enjoyed but am finding I really dig. And if I dig it, I know I can get the kids to dig it!

Heading out to fill in those slots, which will hopefully turn into an hour a week of homeschool co-op enchantment and discovery and enjoyment. My biggest problem is that I'll be in Florida for a couple of weeks and don't know what I can give up for my helper to teach. I just want to do it all! If only I could be in two places at once :-)

Check back for my Homeschool Co-op Creative Writing Syllabus for grades 5 through 8 (yes, quite a spread but we'll make it work).

I'd love to hear about your planning processes, successes and challenges!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Using Reward Charts in Your Home and Homeschool

I love Target's cheap aisle that's right in the front when you walk in the door. Starting in the summertime they always have fun teacher things and they run out fast! I picked up these reward charts that came with cute apple stickers to try to motivate my kids to get into some good habits for a reward.

I'm getting tired of hounding the kid, but a Pokemon booster pack speaks for itself loud and clear.

The booster pack Sam wants is about $4 so I am doing the same type of reward for Callie. She will fill up 2-3 of these charts doing her math, so she can save up and get a $12 piece of jewelry instead. She is way behind in math and I'm trying to get her caught up. We only have one PC and 5 kids running around the house, so getting her math done can be a feat sometimes.

Supercute reward stickers.
I'm the kind of mom who believes in doing things that make mothering more fun and easier and fosters the relationship I have with my kids. I don't want to JUST be the dictator homeschool teacher; I want to have fun with the learning process. That can't happen all the time, obviously, but I give it a shot. So, yes, I believe in bribes and I believe in rewards. And we don't do that all the time. When I get compliments on my older kids I know I have done something right and I just need to keep up the character-building work with my two youngest kids even though I am getting exhausted during this parenting journey (wink).