Educationally Speaking: Homeschooling updates or why I have more gray hair now

Based on the title you might think my children are causing me stress during our homeschooling journey, but they are not.

I’m causing my own stress by worrying I’m not teaching them correctly and comparing our journey to the journey of other other students, homeschooling and otherwise.

Or at least this is what I had been doing for part of our school year but in the last month or so, something clicked and I realized my children are following their own educational path and that’s not only okay, but a good thing.

In addition, the students who are attending public school around us right now aren’t even receiving a consistent education with students being pulled in and out of the classroom and tossed onto virtual learning on a whim. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for public school students right now to figure out whether they are coming or going in their subjects.

I think some parents who do not homeschool their children, see homeschooling parents as being foolish, unqualified, and unable to provide their children an actual education. In some cases, this may be true, but in the majority of cases, a parent truly can provide a very well rounded, high quaility education for their children at home. One reason they can do this is because of the plethora of homeschooling and educational resources available to parents, students, and teachers in book form and online.

Another reason they can do this is because of all the support available within the homeschooling community. Homeschooling parents love to see other homeschooling parents succeed, no matter why a parent has decided to homeschool.

One thing I have had to overcome with the idea of schooling at home is my preconceived notion that children have to be sitting at a desk with school work for six hours at time to be properly educated . This really isn’t realistic and isn’t even how children are taught in public schools. In public schools there are breaks for recess and lunch and extracurricular activities, so a child isn’t strapped to a desk for such long periods, but somehow new homeschooling parents seem to think our children should be.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it isn’t traditional schooling, which means it doesn’t have to operate like traditional school.

I find that Little Miss (6) does much better with short spurts of learning and breaks in between for art, creating or playing. Since we are homeschooling, we have that luxury and flexibility to allow that for her.

She’s also learning a lot more with this style of education than I first realized.

During the beginning part of the school year, I really felt like I was failing her because she is behind on her reading, or at least I feel she is behind. On one particulary frustrating day I wanted to cry I was so frustrated. I gave up on reading for a bit. Instead, I handed her a paper about sea animals and said she could color the animals. The paper suggested the child look at how plants and animals rely on each other, but also how some animals rely on another animal to survive.

I explained this to her and she said, “Oh, you mean like this Oxpecker bird and the crocodile.”

I looked at her with wide eyes and waited to see what else she would say.

Without prompting she said, “So, the Oxpecker bird helps the crocodile because it cleans its teeth and the crocodile helps the Oxpecker because it gets fed. Symbiotic.”

“What’s symbiotic?”

“Their relationship. It’s symbiotic.”

Symbiotic? Whoa. Where had that word come from?

“Where did you hear that word?”

“Wild Kratts,” she announced.

If you don’t know, Wild Kratts is an animated show on PBS about wild animals. It is a shoot off of other shows with the Kratt brothers (Zomoomafoob, etc. ). The brothers travel the world (or at least pretend to) and encounter different animals and teach their young viewers about the animals. Wild Kratts presents them as animated characters who have joined with other characters to rescue various wildlife.

It wasn’t only that she had learned the word that startled me, but that she had retained the information, was able to repeat it clearly, and also remembered the rather large word to describe the relationship.

She moved on as she pointed to a fish on the page and slid her pencil across the paper to indicate it was related to the shark on the page.

“So this is a Remora fish,” she announced, pointing to the picture of the fish, which was not labeled. “Remoras hang on to the shark and when the shark kills something there will be little bits of food for the Remora to eat. It swims underneath this shark because it gets the pieces of food that drop from whatever the shark is eating. They have a symbiotic relationship. Their relationship is kind of different from the others. I mean, Remora is a fish and the shark is eating fish so it’s a little weird for him, but it still gives him a meal and it’s still a symbiotic relationship. It’s good for the environment. It’s how everyone survives.”

I just sat and stared at her and wanted to cry, this time from joy. Thirty minutes earlier I had been in tears because she was writing her “c” backward and blanked on identifying “s”, but here she was now defining symbiotic for me. And when she couldn’t figure out I wanted her to combine the sounds of letters together to create words? I was like “Oh my gosh. She probably has a learning disability.”

Mind you, this was the first week we were really focusing on blending sounds so why my mind went to her having a learning disability, I have no idea, other than I knew I’d have to research how to teach her differently if she did have a learning delay. I wanted to nip it in the bud early so she doesn’t struggle later.

I should have realized she is learning a lot more than I thought by how she speaks about activities or crafts, such as when she was making slime and was explaining to me, “You mix it until, well, you know, you get the right consistency.”

She couldn’t explain what consistency was with an official definition, but she knew that her slime had to be either thicker or thinner and knew that was somehow related to the word consistency.

My son was similar at her age. Reading letters wasn’t really his thing but his comprehension and verbal skills were way beyond his age. It’s the same now, which is why at 14 I have him reading books he probably wouldn’t be reading until 10th grade, at least at the public schools in our area.

Right now we are reading Lord of the Flies, which I think I read in 10th grade, but maybe 9th. I can’t remember.

In the first part of our school year we read Silas Marner by George Elliott, which isn’t really a book I hear about a lot of 14-year old boys reading.

We will read To Kill A Mockingbird in the last half of our school year.

In addition to reading and comprehension, I will be starting a new math program through The Good and the Beautiful with my daughter once it arrives in the mail. The program incoporates storytelling in teaching math and since Little Miss loves storytelling (making them up, reading and watching them) I think she will love this curriculum. I bought it on sale last week because they are going to be phasing it out for a new curriculum sometime this year.

We have also started a science program that I can use for both of the children. It offers an extension for my son to answer questions from for additional information from each lesson. It is also through The Good and the Beautiful.

For my son’s history, we continue to use Notgrass’s From Adam to Us and I continue to supplement with various videos, books, web sites, or activities. We also use resources they provide through their history site.

Two weeks ago I started adding open-book quizes to his History lessons by developing the questions and answers myself. I allow him to use his books to find the answers as I feel it will help to solidify the information for him. It means I have to sit and read every section I assign him and take about 30 to 45 minutes to develop the quiz, but I like the idea of getting even more out of the reading than he can simply by reading the section.

I am trying to add more to his schedule, but I am also trying to not stress if he either misses an assignment or we both forget to complete one. I have learned that homeschooling is a journey in education and the more relaxed we are about it, the better the kids and even I learn, because through homeschooling I am also learning more about the subjects they are studying.

I either forgot a lot of what I was taught in middle and high school or my school did a horrible job at teaching history especially.

I would like to add a government course to my son’s classes in the spring, but we will see if that happens or if we push that off until the fall. With all that is going on in the world I think it would be a good idea for him to know how our government is supposed to work instead of how it is working right now, which isn’t great.

I’m finding one of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to take the time to show my children what actual adults should act like and that bullying, while glorified now by Hollywood and all of the media, is not what we should be doing. In some ways I am sheltering them from this by keeping them in a home education environment versus a public one but in other ways I am exposing them to the cruelty of the world in a slower, less overwhelming and panic inducing fashion.

There are a lot more the kids are learning this year that I haven’t mentioned in this post, but I plan write about that in some separate posts in the next month or so.

Homeschooling is under way

We started homeschool last week and so far it’s going fairly well. The whining from both has been limited, thankfully. We decided to ease into lessons by only working on three subjects a day during the first week for the oldest. I’m adding another subject this week and possibly a fifth by the third week.

So far The Boy is doing Bible, English, and History every day. He does Math Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Science Tuesday and Thursday. We also plan to add some grammar lessons later in the year (see my rant on Sunday about grammar if you want to know what I think about grammar *wink*. Seriously, though, I think it is important but last year we had an extensive course so this year it will be less extensive.)

We plan to add economics to The Boys homeschooling experience this year, even though the course was written for high school students. I tend to think my child is pretty smart and want to rush ahead into educational territory that might be beyond him in some ways. On the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes pull back and decide not to teach him something because I think he’s not ready but he’s clearly ready and beyond that lesson, because his comprehension is so advanced for a kid his age. My mom says I underestimate him at times and I think she’s right, but then I worry, “But what if I overestimate him and he ends up feeling overwhelmed and inadequate because the subject matter was beyond his capabilities at this development stage of his life and he doesn’t say anything because he thinks I’ll be upset???”

I don’t overthink too much. I don’t. Do I? Maybe I do. I don’t know. I’ll think about it some more and get back to you.

For the youngest, I had to ease into the sit-down work by taking breaks and allowing her to go outside when she asked to (she loves going outside since we moved to a more rural setting) and turning it into a math lesson. I suggested she go outside and collect 20 autumn colored leaves and then we would count them together when she got back.

We need to develop a unit on trees this month I think. She loves collecting leaves. I need to figure out how to collect the leaves in a book. Surely there must be DIY information somewhere about how to do this? If someone reading this knows how to do it, let me know in the comments?

Last week I was reminded Little Miss loves numbers and is a whiz at them. Whose child is she? Oh. Right. My husband’s. Because she certainly didn’t get her love of numbers from me. Numbers make my stomach do weird things and then my head goes all funny and I have to reach for a book (with words) to steady myself. The Boy is good at math but hates it. Little Miss seems to love the counting, but she is only 5 (almost 6) so what does she know?

As for curriculum for The Boy this year, we are using Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science (second edition) for science; From Adam to Us by Notgrass for History/English/Writing/Vocabulary/Bible; American Literature by Apologia (which is also being used as history and writing on some days); CTC Math online for Math; and Exploring Economics by Notgrass for economics. From Adam To Us includes several fiction books to read throughout the year, which count for literature/language arts/English. We also plan to add Wordly Wise in soon for grammar and vocabulary.

(FYI: If anyone is interested in the American Literature book, the hardcover student textbook and the student notebook, where the student answers questions, is currently 76 percent off on Christianbook.com.)

So how about all of you parents out there? Are you homeschooling this year? Virtual school through your district? Or are your kids back in the physical classroom? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what curriculum you are using if you are homeschooling.

No. Seriously. We homeschooled before it was the thing to do. And yes, you can do it too.

To say watching parents clamor to homeschool in the United States is a surreal experience for me is an understatement.

When I started homeschooling my son three years ago I was looked down at by former friends and his former teachers. I remember hearing a former friend disparge another friend who had chosen to homeschool her children. I had a feeling similar things were said about me when I chose to do the same. I was ostracized as soon as I chose homeschooling over the small private school he has attended before.

Now here we are starting another year (in a couple of weeks), watching parents rushing to enroll their children in online learning or planning to homeschool their children in other ways. Most of the parents I know who are choosing to homeschool this year will be using their school district’s online programs. They will have access to their children’s regular teachers in one way or another.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

In our state the governor changes his mind about every five minutes on policies and guidelines for the schools so I’m pleased as punch we don’t have to worry about all that mess. Before COVID, we had considered sending my son to the local public school (this county is so sparsely populated it has one school for the entire county.). Now we aren’t even mulling it over. He’s staying home and I’ll be using curriculum I chose that hopefully he will enjoy. Let’s be honest, though: it’s school so he probably won’t enjoy some of it no matter how hard I worked to find curriculum I felt would provide him a proper education while also being slightly interesting.

I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who are terrified about homeschooling their children or having their children be educated online. No matter how you’re handling your child’s school year this year I am confident you can handle it, Mom and/or Dad. If you are worried about your child’s education then that already shows what a good parent you are.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If I could give you any advice at all it would be the advice I gave myself just today when my mind started racing about my need to lose weight: one step at a time. It works for homeschooling too. I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I always think I have to apply everything I’ve ever read about weight loss or homeschooling in one go. I have to do it all at once and if I don’t do it like the people I read about did it then I might as well give up. At least that’s what I hear in the back of my head on a loop and today I took the scissors to the loop.

I don’t have to start working out like a madwoman right now after years of not working out. I don’t have to eat exactly like someone online who lost 20 pounds in a month. Their body is not my body.

I don’t have to buy every single curriculum out there for my childen and fill their days so full that their head spins.

This school year will definitely have its challenges but I have a feeling parents and children alike are going to find some moments during it that they will look back on as a memory they’re glad they made. Yes, schooling at home will be hard for parents who work outside the home and sacrifices may have to be made but I have a good feeling those sacrifices are going to be worth it.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

Homeschooling my children hasn’t always been easy and I often wonder if I’m screwing them up but when I see how relaxed they are learning at home, when I see the variety of experiences they are having and when I see the struggles public schools are facing this year, I am glad we chose to homeschool and were in the position we could.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If you have decided to homeschool this year, for whatever reason, here are links to a couple other posts I’ve shared in the last few months (and beyond) about homeschooling. Some of the links might not apply now that we are moving out of the COVID situation and into a new school year, but others will.

Suddenly Homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry I can’t send wine.

More Links For Parents Suddenly Homeschooling

How Homeschooling Has Made Life Easier and Less Stressful. Well, sometimes.

Our Homeschooling Journey So Far This Year (2019)

More links for parents suddenly homeschooling

American parents! How are you doing?! Are you surviving with all the kids home? I know, you love them, but it can be overwhelming when you’re not used to it.

Pennsylvania’s governor announced Monday that public schools will be out of session for another two weeks so parents may be further stretched and stressed about how to continue their children’s lessons. On Saturday I shared a post with some advice and ideas about how to tackle this hurdle.

I had already started writing another post to help parents in need of resources to help with educating their children during this time and planned to post it this week before I heard the news about the extended closure Of course, and luckily, many parents can either connect with their teachers online or were sent home with work for their children to do.

But, on the off chance some of you weren’t provided with these connections, I’m jumping off my previous post and adding a little more information and some additional links.

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If you have further links or know of bloggers, etc. who have lists of resources and ideas for parents who are homeschooling against their will (so to speak) let me know in the comments so I can include it in future posts.

When I mentioned Notgrass social studies/history curriculum this past weekend, one thing I didn’t explain is that it can be used to cover English and Bible as well because the curriculum (there are a variety of different sets for different ages to choose from) offers reading, creative writing, a “Biblically Thinking” assignment, and vocabulary.

The America the Beautiful curriculum includes various books on various subjects that can be read separately or at the same time as your daily reading to support what you are studying. These are usually classic books such as Homer Price and Little House on the Prarie and somehow tie into the history lessons the child is reading about. We have been reading other books , either for our local homeschool group’s book discussion (though we never made it to one of the discussions for various reasons) or on our own, so we have only read one of the suggested books so far (Homer Price, which we are currently reading).

Notgrass offers a variety of history curriculum for a range of ages (elementary to high school). It does cost, of course, but you could find the curriculum used on eBay or other sources (including a used homeschooling curriculum group on Facebook) and then sell it when you are done.

In addition to the resources I mentioned Saturday, we have also used Easy Peasy Homeschool in the past, which is a free homeschool site that can be used as a complete course or supplemental resources.

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For math, we are currently using CTC Math. This math site can be used for children of all ages, but we are currently using it for our 13-year old.  There are some things we like about it, but one we don’t like is that when the student completes their online assignment, the program does not show them what mistakes they made and how the teacher came to the answer. There is a subscription fee for this program, but you can choose the monthly option.

In the past, we have also used Teaching Textbooks for math. We are not using Teaching Textbooks at this time because we are waiting for them to upgrade so they no longer need to use Adobe Flash, which is being phased out of web sites in the next year and which browsers are now blocking, making accessing their lessons difficult for us at this time.

Someone has started a Google Docs link with a list of live streams and other online events and what time they are being held. Many of these are for younger students.

For my youngest, we use The Good and The Beautiful’s language arts curriculum (we haven’t used their math curriculum yet), which I mentioned Saturday, but I forgot to mention that we also use ABC Mouse, which I’ve heard is offering their service for $5 a month for the first two months because of all that is going on. We pay $10 a month to use it and it provides lessons to help toddlers, preschoolers and Kindergartners learn their alphabet, numbers and a variety of other subjects. It is all online learning and utilizes characters, games, videos and ebooks to educate.

My daughter loves it, but my one issue with it is that she likes to spend more time dressing and changing the appearance of her avatar than actually doing her school work, so I have to limit her fashionista time when we log on. We don’t use ABC Mouse every day. In fact, I don’t spend a super long time on set lessons with Little Miss. I find her attention isn’t great so short lessons broken up throughout the day are best for her. We also use everyday situations as an opportunity to educate.

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The past couple of weeks we have used a couple of the links I had provided Saturday and so far my daughter (who is a huge animal lover) has loved the live animal cams at the San Diego Zoo (she is in love with orangutans and the siamangs) and any of the lessons about animals on the Classroom Magazine that Scholastic is offering for free for the next 30 days.

My daughter has loved PBS’s Wild Kratts for a couple of years now and has learned so much about animals she simply regurgitates it now.  When we were watching the African Safari Exhibit live cam Monday I said I thought I saw some antelope and she informed me: “Normally they live on the Serengeti.”

I said, “Oh. Wow. Okay. Well, how many 5-year olds know that let alone can say Serengeti?”

She said, “Well, other 5-year olds don’t watch Wild Kratts like I do.”

So, there you go. Check out Wild Kratts streaming on Amazon with the PBS Kids app so your younger kids will know as much about wild creatures as my 5-year old does.

My daughter and I also spent a good amount of time watching the bald eagle on the live cam in Hanover, Pa., sponsored by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Just watching that eagle sit there on his/her egg (not sure if mom or dad was there Monday) was so relaxing and we plan to watch every day until, and after, the eggs hatch.

We have a bald eagle nest near us and people go to look at it, but some people yell and say we need to leave the eagles alone. They are afraid all the people looking (it’s off a main highway) will chase the birds from the nest, but they keep coming back every year so I don’t think they will. Plus, most people who take the walk to the area to see the nest are quiet and respectful, take a photo if they can, and then tip toe away. We may try to go see the eagles when the weather is better.

Michelle at Blessings by Me also suggested Super Charged Science for free and paid science lessons.

Here is another article listing tons of online learning options.

The Great Courses Plus is offering 30 free days of its online courses with the promo code FREEMO.

One of the only things I am loving about all of this craziness (because there is not much to love at all!) is that the tradition of reading to children is coming back by authors who are offering live readings of their books each night around bedtime.

Those you can follow include:

Andrew Peterson and his The Wingfeather Saga.

Miss Frizz Mobile Learning

Josh Gad on Twitter

Author Christina Sootornvant reading from her book Diary of an Ice Princess.

This site has list of a bunch of other authors/illustrators and celebrities doing the same thing.

For adults, or older children, who enjoy William Shakespeare and Patrick Stewart, he is reading one Shakespeare sonnet a day on his various social media sites.

There are tons of bloggers writing about their “suddenly homeschooling” or “continuing homeschooling” situation, including:

All Things Momma (who shares some ideas for entertaining your young children at home and educating them at the same time.);

and Kat at The Lily Cafe.

and, of course, Heather Dawn at Every Small Voice, who I mentioned in Saturday’s post.

If you have any other bloggers who are chatting about all this, please feel free to share their links in the comments and also share any other resources you know about.

Suddenly homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry, I can’t send wine.

If you are a parent whose children attend public or private school and now they are suddenly home you may be panicking a little. That panic may be because you know they are going to drive you crazy, or it may be because you are afraid they are going to fall behind on their lessons. Either way, you’re feeling the stress right now.

Welcome to the world of this already homeschooling mom. *wink*

Seriously, though, stay calm. It’s not as hard as you think.

Maybe your child’s teacher has already given you lessons, paperwork, etc., but maybe your child has already worked through it or would simply like some supplemental educational resources. Either way, I’ve pulled together some links and advice that might help you feel a little calmer about the situation you’ve been placed in.

Blogger Heather Dawn from Every Small Voice had some great advice about this on Friday, actually, so make sure to check out her post as well. 

One of the most important lessons I have learned from homeschooling is something Heather mentioned on her blog as well and that is that homeschooling is not going to look or act like public school and that is okay.

As I told a friend this week: The issue is that a lot of parents think homeschooling has to be exactly like public school, in that the kids have to be sitting in a class for six hours at a time. That’s not the case. Kids aren’t even in instruction time all day at school. They have recess and lunch and study hall and getting on and off buses and by the time they are done they really have only had 2-3 hours of instruction time, perhaps a little more as they get older.

Also, with younger children, everyday activities can be a chance for learning. For example, when my daughter wants to play a game or watch something on my phone she has to type in my passcode and has been learning her numbers that way. If she wants to watch one of her kid-friendly shows on YouTube, she and I search for it together, which helps her practice her letters.

On Friday my daughter and I were outside drawing with sidewalk chalk and she was practicing writing her letters at the same time.  Homeschooling creates many hands-on situations like this for every age.

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DSC_8912Unlike what some may think, homeschooling families do not simply sit at home playing video games, though they probably have more time to do that than some students since they don’t have homework. They do all of their work during lessons, which means homework is completely unnecessary. 

And speaking of lessons, some students are self-sufficient when it comes to their lessons and assignments and some students require the parent to be more of a teacher to them. Every age group and student is different. Our family has set curriculum that I research prior to each school year, but we also supplement with a number of resources, both written and digital.

We currently use America the Beautiful for our social studies; Apologia for our Science; CTC Math for math; Saxon Grammar and Writing for part of English and we read books through America the Beautiful and on our own for English.

For my 5-year old we use The Good and the Beautiful.

I won’t lie that we have been pretty thrilled with the free resources popping up for parents who have been flung suddenly into a homeschooling situation so I want to share some of the links I’ve found that have popped up recently, as well as resources we use in our regular homeschooling lessons.

So far, we have enjoyed Mo Willems, who is the current Kennedy Center Artist in Residence (literally), and is offering an art demonstration and lesson for young children every weekend day at 1 p.m.

Michelle at Blessings By Me mentioned a resource in the comments and I’m adding it here. Supercharged Science will send you science experiments via your email and explanations of the experiments, according to Michelle. Thank you to her for this additional link!

Crash Course offers digital learning on their YouTube channels related to history and science and current events. Their channel is aimed toward older children maybe 12 and up. My son has already been a little more mature than his peers so it’s hard for me to gauge the age that this would be appropriate for accurately. You might just want to watch a couple videos and see if the channel would be right for your student.  We use their videos as supplemental resources for our Social Studies and Science.

Speaking of YouTube, you can find a lot of supplemental videos there for a variety of subjects, but always be sure to vet them and double-check they are from reliable sources. 

Also on YouTube are a few videos from a farmer friend of ours. It’s good for students to understand the importance of farmers, especially right now when people are panicking about a possible lack of food. Mark creates videos to educate children and others about dairy farming. I don’t know how he even has time with all the work he has on the farm! My 5-year old really enjoyed this one.

I also saw a blog post from Cornerstone Confessions that shared a huge list of online activities to support music education.

I’m barely on Facebook, but I did happen to catch a very extensive list of sites offering either virtual tours of museums and zoos or other educational opportunities. The sites range from offering ways to learn about art, history, culture, and music and other academics to simply offering ideas for child-related activities. FYI: not all these sites or activities are free.

 

Have any tips of your own for parents who are “suddenly homeschooling”? Or links to blog or sites that do? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave links (I’ll check my spam in case any of them get kicked in there.)

 

Our homeschooling journey so far this school year

Homeschooling: the ultimate experience in making sure a parent is humbled and made to feel completely bewildered and inadequate.

I’m not totally serious with the above definition but homeschooling my children has brought out some of my worst attributes – the biggest ones being insecurity and extreme self-doubt. This our second year of homeschooling and I have more of a grip on it all now than I did before but I still feel like I’m dooming my children to a life of sub-par education and a future of cleaning toilets. I feel this way until I speak with students who attend local public schools and then realize I’m doing okay and they’re going to make it. Take that last sentence however you want. I get myself in enough trouble these days when I try to explain myself.

This year we are using Notgrass’s America the Beautiful for history and so far we are enjoying it. I like the additional family activities at the end of each lesson, as well as the short lesson reviews that help reiterate for the students what they have already read. I think the curriculum may be a little young, in some ways, for my almost 13-year old, but I like the overall review of the lessons and will use it for at least the first part of our school year.

Last week we made Navajo flatbread (which I’ve only known as Navajo fry bread) as one of the family activities at the end of a lesson. The children helped me make the dough and spread it out and then I did the frying. They, of course, also helped with the eating. My almost 5-year old helped with making a huge mess but not so much with cleaning it up.

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For English, we are using Saxon’s grammar and writing curriculum for seventh grade and also reading various novels. I like the Saxon curriculum because it incorporates actual writing and dictation lessons into the grammar.

We are still plowing through The Hobbit, even though the local homeschooling group already held a book discussion centered on it. My son is alternating listening to it being read aloud on YouTube and reading the actual book. For my part, I am very behind on the reading and need to catch up. I may need to listen to it being read out loud as well.

Science and math have our heads spinning a little. We are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation through Physical Science but honestly, I think it’s geared toward higher grade levels. I’m going to try to keep plowing through it, though, because I know my son is bright enough to catch on. I both like and hate that it features two or three experiments a lesson. I like it because it breaks up the large chunks of text in the textbook and I hate it because I have to find the supplies for the experiments ahead of time and I’m not always the best-prepared person. Hopefully, this curriculum will teach my son science and teach me organizational skills.

For Math, we are using Teaching Textbooks for now but they have had a lot of crashes on their online program this school year so we may look for another program when our subscription runs out in November. What I like about their program is I don’t have to teach math. I have some sort of math dyslexia and I was in remedial math in high school so math is not my strong point. Luckily my husband knows a little about math so I pass that duty off to him when I need to.

We are also attending a genealogy class with the local homeschool group once a week and that has been very interesting. The man teaching the class is a fellow homeschooling parent and he’s focusing not only on the biological information we can learn from our ancestors, but also their values and the importance of passing those values down to the next generation.

I will be adding art and, hopefully, music into our homeschooling routine, as well, as the year progresses.

How about all of you? If you’re a homeschooling parent, how is your homeschooling year going? If your children attend public/private school, how is school going for them? Let me know in the comments. And if you are a homeschool parent who has curriculum recommendations, let me know because I love to find new curriculum we can consider for the future.

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How homeschooling has made life easier and less stressful. Well, sometimes anyhow.

Homeschooling is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart yet here we are only two more weeks away from another year of homeschooling beginning and I, one of the most anxiety-ridden people I know, is looking forward to it, though I’m sure my 12-year old son is not.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock.)

Last year was a bit of a bumpy ride when it came to a routine but this year I at least have a tentative plan for a routine and for lessons. I also have a better handle on the curriculum for this school year – in some ways at least. I don’t feel as panicked about curriculum as I did last year but like last year I am concerned about how we will pay for it all. Truth be told you don’t have to spend a lot to homeschool, but I’m a stickler for getting the best curriculum I can.

Luckily I snagged our history curriculum on eBay and there are other sites where you can purchase high quality used books or sets. Last year my brother, who is a librarian (and a blogger. You can find him at Still An Unfinished Person.), had some curriculum dropped off for the library’s book sale and he snagged it up for me, not knowing that part of it was what I needed to complete my son’s science unit for this year. Actually, that particular curriculum is geared toward eighth or ninth graders and my son will be in seventh this year, but he’s very quick with subjects that interest him and science does interest him. The only subject that doesn’t interest him is math, something I hope to remedy at some point.

I also think I’ll be using a Language Arts curriculum I picked up last year but thought was too confusing and advanced for him at the time. There is one other place we don’t have to spend extra money. Yeah! I really want a grammar and spelling curriculum this year, which adds to the budget but is much needed (probably for me too! Ha!)

My daughter’s birthday is actually after the cutoff to go to Kindergarten, but she’ll be five this year so we are stepping up her education and I hope to be able to pick up a full PreK and Kindergarten curriculum for her to add on to what she already knows.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock).

Despite the extra costs that homeschooling can bring when it comes to curriculum, I truly feel homeschooling has been a blessing and perfect fit for our family in this season. For one, my son, daughter and I can visit my parents whenever we want, no longer having to work around my son’s school schedule. We simply take school with us. Last year my son also spent some days and nights with his grandparents and his grandfather taught him how to build things, pour concrete, repair tombstones, weed, and flatten the ground to prepare for a pool. The lessons he learns at his grandparents are well beyond the scope traditional education would provide for him and I love that.

Another aspect I enjoy about homeschooling is that I no longer dread the end of August, knowing it will be a crazy rush of trying to buy school supplies and back to school clothes and pay for books and tuition. I also no longer have to dread my son being gone all day long. I’m one of those weird parents who actually likes having him home with me and being able to interact with him throughout the day and the school year. I know that before too long he’ll be grown and out of the house and I’ll miss those moments together.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock)

Lest you think my “poor unsocialized” kid and I are attached at the hip,  however, we are involved with a local homeschooling group to encourage interaction with other children of various ages and also make sure my son spends time away from me so neither of us contemplates running away from home, screaming and arms flailing.

Just because I like having him home with me during the week, doesn’t mean I never let him have a life away from me. I don’t know why I’m desperately trying to clarify that my son isn’t unsocialized, but it’s probably because I’ve heard the weirdest ideas about the lack of socialization of homeschooled children. There are some people that seem to believe that homeschooled children don’t ever have interaction with other humans and are being held hostage by their parents in a dark room with only a tiny light to do their school work.

Actually, maybe our children are being held hostage by us in some ways since we make them actually learn during the day, often without the breaks for recess or study hall that traditional school allows for. Poor kids. Ha. But they are definitely socialized – either by joining with other homeschoolers in a type of co-op or by interacting with adults when their parents drag them to stores, the mechanics, church, or doctor’s appointments. My son has developed a bit of social anxiety, but I don’t attribute that to homeschooling, I attribute it to a bad experience he had in traditional school and also the fact he’s a preteen (for two more months anyhow) and that’s a natural stage for preteens.

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Look…he’s being social with other homeschoolers. Just look at them all. Ha!

 

Incidentally, many homeschool students are able to complete their work in about four hours and devote the rest of their day to other educational or life skills related activities, including socialization. The reduced hours my son was “in school” during our first year of homeschooling last year was actually disconcerting to my husband until I pointed out that our son doesn’t have to wait for other students to catch up before he moves to another lesson, doesn’t have to wait in homeroom, doesn’t need a 45 minute lunch break, doesn’t get recess or study hall and his extracurricular activities are simply included in everyday activities.

This isn’t to say that these activities held in a traditional school are wrong or not appropriate. Not at all. They have their place and reasons. I’m just explaining that may be why a homeschooling student doesn’t seem to be in school “as much” as a “traditional student” (for lack of a better word).

There are many other benefits to homeschooling, for our family anyhow, and among them is no longer having to buy our son an entirely new wardrobe at the beginning of each school year. At his previous school, he was required to wear polo shirts every day and on Friday he had to wear dress shirts, khakis, dress shoes, and a tie. We needed to budget for those expenses, in addition to the cost of books and tuition, every summer. Also eliminated from the budget are the various lunch items. We no longer need to pack sandwiches and snacks or provide money for a snack card. Instead, he makes himself a sandwich for lunch or I cook him leftovers.

The grocery budget may have increased in some ways since my son procrastinates from work by declaring he needs a snack every couple of hours. Last year I finally told him he could eat his snacks while working and that cut down on the procrastination at least. We will see if it helps with the grocery bill at all this year.

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Photo by Lisa R. Howeler (available on Lightstock).

One other benefit of homeschooling I’ve discovered is that I can learn along with my son. The fact I am learning things I never learned in public school or college has made me more aware that maybe my education wasn’t what I thought it was, or maybe I was simply in a total tachycardia related fog all through high school and a sleep-deprived haze in college. I don’t know, but homeschooling my son has made me feel like I still have a lot to learn about history, especially.

In addition to me having the chance to learn more about a subject, my son also can spend more time on a particular subject or unit if it interests him. We can take the time to really focus on what he is interested in and expand on lessons, while making sure he still learns his other subjects. Often in his other school they had to end a unit or simply “never got to it” and then the next year they’d start back at the beginning of a subject, so to speak, and still never progress past certain points in the subject, especially when it came to history.

I can’t tell you how many times the beginning of the year would start learning about the pioneer days, end with the Revolutionary War and then repeat the next year. It was the same when I was in public school. I swear we never learned past the Civil War when I was in school, so by the time I graduated I knew very little about history beyond the Civil War. At least I knew all there was about Pennsylvania history, though.

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I’m sure I’ll update my homeschooling journey on here throughout the year and hopefully, it won’t be a tearful post, asking questions like “what was I thinking???”

 

Tell Me More About … Debby Frisk, Mom and homeschooling parent

Debby Frisk is a homeschooling mom from Athens, Pa. She is also simply a mom who cares about her children. She encourages other parents who want to homeschool their children, for various reasons, but don’t believe they can.  I asked her if she would tell my readers a little about her journey in homeschooling and offer some advice for parents who might be considering  this style of schooling for their children.


 Photos by Lisa R. Howeler
Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, your interests.
My name is Deb Frisk, married to Tim Frisk for 25 years, with 2 daughters, Elizabeth age 19, and Leah age 16.  I’m originally from Ellwood City, PA.  We moved to Bradford County upon finishing college.  I enjoy reading, puzzles and games of all varieties, watching musicals, going on walks, cats, and spending time with my family.

What careers have you held or do you hold now?
I was hired by Towanda Area School district in 1992 to teach math and work with the deaf and hard of hearing students in the district.  I worked there for 6 years before starting our family.  Since then I’ve mainly been raising our children and homeschooling, but have worked for short times as a sign language instructor and for Early Intervention. 

You are a homeschooling mom. How did you get involved in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was always on our radar as an educational option even before we had kids.  Because I have a teaching degree, I was asked to perform homeschool evaluations for a few homeschooling friends of ours.  I was impressed with the quality curricula that is available to homeschoolers and with the character and academic excellence I saw in the homeschooled children that I met. 

When our first child was diagnosed with autism, we were strongly encouraged to enroll her in school to help with socialization.  We listened to the experts and put her in a year of private preschool and a year of public school for K-4.  Although she had fabulous teachers and aides in both places, it was obvious to us and her teachers that school was not a suitable environment for her to learn, so the decision was made to bring her home for kindergarten. 

We first enrolled her in a cyber charter school, which is public school done in the comfort of your own home.  This worked well for us for several years, but whens he reached middle school, it became cumbersome to jump through all of the hoops that the school set before us and the decision was made to begin pure homeschooling. 

What is your advice to parents who are considering homeschooling?
I have a lot to say to people who are considering homeschooling.  The first thing is that you CAN do it.  You do not need a teaching degree to be a good teacher to your own children.  Research has shown that parents without a teaching degree are just as successful as those with one. 
The next important thing to know is that there is no one right way to homeschool.  It looks different for every family.  Sometimes it takes a year or two (or three) to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.  It’s good to talk to other families and see what they like and what works for them, but trying to copy others will likely make you unhappy.  Do what’s best for your family. 
Next I’d suggest that you try to connect with other homeschoolers.  Some people desire a lot of support others do it all on their own.  There’s no right or wrong amount of connection either, but initially it’s good to talk to others to get ideas and to look at curriculum.  Pennsylvania has an amazing homeschool convention in early June in Lancaster that I strongly recommend. 

It’s a good place to attend seminars on homeschooling, pickup curriculum and examine it, possibly purchase some materials, and begin to network with others who’ve been-there-done-that. 
My personal preference on curriculum is to buy used, sell used.  This keeps cost to a minimum for us.  There are several different places where you can do this — used curriculum sales in your area and online sales being the main ways. 

Do you have suggestions for resources or web sites where parents can learn more about homeschooling?
For PA residents, my favorite resource is askpauline.com
For anyone in the United States, I’d recommend hslda.org
These 2 resources are great for telling you your state’s requirements for getting started and other required record-keeping. 

Many use ebay for curriculum shopping, but my favorite is homeschoolclassifieds.com.  I also use the Facebook group Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace. 

There are probably hundreds or thousands of other quality websites to learn about homeschooling.  I just don’t have specific recommendations.

What does homeschooling look like at your house?
Homeschooling looks different for every family.  Some people do school at home, copying what they’ve experienced in the classroom.  Some people use a variety of materials including textbooks, workbooks, instructional DVDs, computer programs, field trips, hands-on projects and experiments, etc.  While still others  throw out conventional methods of learning and just follow their child(ren)’s interests and explore the world with them.
One thing that we always say about our schooling is that the only subject that’s ever done at a desk or table is handwriting.  Often you’ll find us curled up on the couch or in a bed reading together or alone.  We use clipboards a lot when writing needs to be done. 

We’re pretty eclectic meaning that we use a wide variety of resources for our learning.  I prefer literature based curriculum.  Usually whatever books the girls are reading for literature is related to the same topics they’re reading about in history.  For some subjects my girls rely pretty heavily on traditional textbooks.  In recent years we’ve moved towards instructional DVDs for some high school topics like chemistry and writing.  They’ve both used computer programs for learning foreign languages. 

I have one child who enjoys art, drama, and dance and we use a lot of outside lessons to provide instruction in those areas since that is not my area of strength.  I also should add that what works for one child often is not appropriate for another.  My girls have very different learning styles and strengths.  I’ve often used totally different curriculum to cover the same subject material for them. 

Some people have found that having a schedule is necessary for school work to be completed in their home. We’ve found that our girls work best when they can choose the order of their subjects and when they work on them.  My only rule is that the assigned work needs to get done each day (though exceptions to the rule do happen).  The girls have learned very good time management and planning skills.  For example they’ve learned that it’s not wise to save their hardest subject for late in the day.  One of my children likes to get up and get all of her work done as quickly as possible in order to be free for the rest of the day.  This works really well for her.  My other child does a subject and takes a break, does another, then takes a break.  School takes her all day, but the result is the same at the end of the day and Mom is happy. 

What do you like most and what’s the hardest part about homeschooling?

The answer to these questions is the same —  Time spent with my children.  I love the amount of time that I get to spend with my kids.  I know them inside and out because we spend so much time together.  I love being part of what they’re learning.  We tried public school for a year or two with each of my girls and I really hated not being involved in what they were learning.  I love being able to tie what they’re learning into everyday life, but if you don’t know what they’re learning in school, you’re not able to do that.  I think my absolute favorite part of homeschooling ever was teaching them to read. 
I will be honest though.  As much as I love spending time with my kids, there is never a break.  When they were younger, sometimes they would be the only people I’d see for days at a time.  It’s easier when they’re older and do activities on their own and aren’t always in the house, but the younger years were sometimes tough, but just sometimes.  Mostly the time is a gift and I try to enjoy every moment of it. 
Oh, another perk for us is taking family vacations during the off-season.  The crowds at most places are lowest in September right after all the kids go back to school.  It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road.  The same is true for any kind of activity or field trip.  My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend. 

What misconceptions do you think people have about homeschooling?
The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that we homeschool — “Oh, I’m not against homeschooling or anything, but I just worry about socialization.”
There are always exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that most homeschoolers are better socialized then their public school counterparts.  Most homeschoolers joke that we don’t know why it’s called home schooling because it sometimes feels like we’re never home.  First of all, because we spend so much time with our kids, homeschool parents have lots of opportunities to train them on how to interact with people.  Homeschooled kids as a group are extremely respectful and courteous.  We attend a lot of group events (like roller skating, bowling, play practice, science fairs, and field trips) with other homeschoolers. 

This gives our kids a chance to interact with other kids, but not just their age peers; they become comfortable with kids of all ages.  Our kids spend more time in their communities than their public school peers.  They go with their parents EVERYWHERE.  They go shopping with us, to the dentist, to the post office, the gas station, you name it.  They become very proficient and comfortable interacting with adults, not just other children at a young age.  And like public school kids, you’ll find us participating in other things in our communities such as soccer, swimming, Little League, dance class, art class, piano lessons and recitals, etc.