Educationally Speaking: Fall Homeschool Update

Homeschool has been trucking along fairly well this year. Our days have been filled with more book learning than hands-on learning for the last couple of weeks.

Little Miss and I are still working with math and reading/English curriculum from The Good and The Beautiful. She’s not fighting me as often as she was last year when I say it is time to do our lessons.

For Science, we are using the space curriculum from Apologia’s Creation series.

We finished our history and are now doing individual unit studies. Last week we finished a book about George Washington Carver which I combined with videos and an art project where we recreated paintings of his. Well, I tried to recreate one, but she sort of did her own thing, which is fine as long as she was enjoying herself.

Next up is a unit on Native Americans and I have ordered a fiction book — Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac — that I hope will tell a Native American story in a creative way and allow us to talk about real-life events. I looked up a bunch of picture books about Native Americans but our library only had one of them so I’ll either have to buy them or look at larger libraries.

A couple of weeks ago when it was still nice enough outside for Little Miss to jump on the trampoline, we had an assignment in our reading/English book for Little Miss to orally relay to me a story she made up.

One day she spent three straight hours working on the book, using my computer, even with my messed up “s” and “w” keys which sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Since then she’s asked a couple of times to work on her book and wants me to publish it for her at some point, which I hope to do next year.

The Boy is still working with his grandpa a couple of days a week, which is part of his life skills education, in addition to his regular schoolwork.

For his book-based schoolwork, he is reading about Medieval History via The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer, Biology through Apologia, and classic literature in the form of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which he is actually enjoying. He also has math through CTC Math, which is an online program and grammar through FixIt! Grammar.

We have been trying to secure him a place at a school near us for next year that is similar to a trade school but seem to be being stonewalled because he is homeschooled and not enrolled, even though under state law we are supposed to be able to access those programs as well. The local school district will not return phone calls and it is very frustrating.

Hopefully it will work out.

The Boy is 16 now so we will be starting driving lessons soon, but first we will be studying the manual, which is now online. My husband printed it out for him, but The Boy isn’t in a huge hurry to get his license so we will take our time in that area.

I need to find a field trip for us in the next month or so and I think I’ll look into a couple small museums near us that have Native American artifacts. Winter seems to have started a little earlier with temperatures already in the high 20s or low 30s and our first snowfall coming yesterday, so any field trips will have to be inside at this point.

If you are homeschooling, how is it going for you? If you aren’t, how is school going for you children or grandchildren?

Let me pour you a cup of tea and we can chat

Can I get you some tea?

I’ve got some herbal and regular and chamomile, but chamomile makes me sleepy. Does it make you sleepy?

Well, anyhow, I thought it would be nice to catch up today and just chat.

My bloggy friend Erin has a coffee chat feature she shares on her blog, but I don’t drink coffee, so I thought today I’d offer some tea instead. Then again, if you’d like some coffee, I can make some in the Keurig. I think. I tried one time, and my son said it was fairly watery so…maybe you’d better make the coffee.

I have milk for cocoa but it’s lactose free, if you’re okay with that.

I’ve been drinking lactose-free milk (Lactaid brand) since it first came out when I was maybe 11 or 12.

Before that I either had no milk or soy milk. I’ve been lactose-intolerant my entire life and I generously passed it on to my first born. Luckily, Little Miss doesn’t have the same issue. Not yet anyhow. My mom developed the issue when she became an adult and my brother was older when he started having issues with dairy as well.

Anyhoooo….I digress, which is actually what I intend to do for this entire post.

The other night The Boy and I were talking about his blog nickname, which I chose as a joke because The Husband always comes home from work and says “Where is The Boy?”, but now keep using because I don’t have any other ideas for blog nicknames. I don’t know why I don’t use the children’s real names on here. I mean, I have my real name on here so people can figure out my kid’s names, but I guess I just like the whole nickname thing so I have stuck with it.

I also have no idea where I picked up “Little Miss.” My daughter is not dainty or proper by any means and maybe that’s why I chose it. Because she’s the exact opposite. *snort*

We have had some nice, sunny days here and despite almost all of our leaves having already blown off, we still have a few bright colored ones hanging in there and helping to make everything beautiful. Little Miss is getting as much trampoline jumping in as she can before the snow starts to fall and our neighbor puts up their trampoline.

Our evenings are cool, which has brought animals to the ends of our beds and in some cases right onto my chest. Winter is cuddle season around here and it’s when our youngest cat, Scout, seems to revert back to being a kitten. She still likes to curl up on my chest, even though she doesn’t fit as well anymore. I hate to move when she curls up that way but I have to hold my arms a certain way to give her a bed and eventually my arms give out. Yesterday I had cat fur up my nose but hated to move her. Cuddles with her are a rare thing for much of the year so I have to take it when I can get it.

When I find myself dreading winter because of the dark, cold days that loom ahead, I remember that at least I will be able to cuddle under a fuzzy, warm blanket with a cup of tea or cocoa, a cat or dog curled up on me, and hopefully a good book in my hand or a cozy mystery on TV. The mention of a warm beverage reminds me — do you need yours warmed up? I usually have to warm my tea up about five times a day, if not more, just like coffee drinkers have to do.

The Boy has been working every Tuesday and Thursday with his grandpa, a tradition we started around the same time we started homeschooling at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. I’m really glad that my son has this time with his grandfather and that my dad can have some extra help around the house and property.

We are continuing homeschooling lessons, but I am a lot less strict this year than I have been in previous years. I am still requiring “book learning” so to speak but if the opportunity for a hands-on experience comes up, that trumps books and worksheets any day. I don’t even mind if the opportunity is what others might not consider “educational.” If we have the opportunity to get out of the area on a drive or spend time with family, homeschooling gets laid aside and we go.

Earlier this month we visited my 89-year-old aunt, traveled 90 minutes away to take Little Miss to a small (very small) Build-A-Bear store, and grocery shopped in place of more traditional math, reading, history or science lessons. Each opportunity offered its own unique lessons, even math when it comes to grocery shopping trips. Those trips also help to teach the children how to interact with others and offer assistance to strangers when needed.

In some ways, I find the life lessons more valuable than the “traditional” lessons and I am more grateful for them this year than in previous school years. I used to feel like I failed as a homeschooling parent if my children didn’t complete a list of traditional assignments I had for them. It’s taken me almost five years to break out of the mindset that homeschooling has to be like traditional school and now that the wall has been broken it is a liberating feeling and one I plan to continue doing.

I’ve found myself drawn to lighter movies or shows as the news of the world becomes heavier and heavier and more and more upside down. Recently I have enjoyed watching my favorite, sweet and innocent kisses from movies, including this one, from The Quiet Man (parodied in ET), which is pretty much my all time favorite.

I miss the days when kisses in movies were sweet and tongue free, or at least you didn’t see the tongues swirling around each other while characters attempted to suck each other’s face off.

As I sit here in my living room with schoolbooks piled around me (I just finished lesson planning for the week), Little Miss chatting with a friend on her phone (they can video chat through Kids Messenger), and the animals sprawled on various pieces of furniture, snoring away, I am trying to bring to mind other favorite movie kisses that aren’t gratuitous and cringeworthy.

Let’s see, there is:

  • Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in From the Terrace, even though I hated the movie overall;
  • Anything with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart
  • Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride
  • Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life (when she’s on the phone and he’s listening in and he’s so close and wants to kiss her and it overwhelms him and … swoooon)
  • Rhett and Scarlet in Gone With the Wind
  • And Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones at the end of Bridget Jones’ Diary.

I guess I’ll have to bring this chat to a close. I need to read my son’s history lesson so I know what he is learning, teach Little Miss history (we are reading a book about George Washington Carver instead of reading lessons in a book) and reading, and then get ready to make dinner early so I can take Little Miss to gymnastics for her make up class.

I hope you enjoyed your cup of tea (or coffee) and our chat. We’ll do it again soon.

Educationally Speaking: homeschool round up

It’s hard for me to believe it, but this week is our final week of homeschool.

We are finished with most of what I wanted to complete before the end of the school year, but there is still tons I wish we had been able to shove in. It seems with homeschooling is you never exactly feel like you are finished. You also never exactly feel like you did enough. When you go back and look at the entire year, though, you usually realize you did a lot more than you thought you did. Still, I often look back and think about how much more I could have taught or included in lessons.

We are tying up some loose ends this week, including writing an essay and a book report for The Boy. Little Miss needs to finish up a few math lessons so we can put part one of this particular level of math behind us and pick up with part two in July, which is when we can start recording school days for the next year. While I do plan to do some math with her starting in July, I don’t plan to start full on school. I want my kids to have a break where they can be kids and have fun during the summer but for Little Miss, I know it is important to keep the continuity going so we don’t have to do too much review at the beginning of next school year.

Also, this week I have to start putting together a portfolio of schoolwork for each of them to present to the evaluator next week. The evaluator will then type up a summary of our work which essentially is a sheet of paper that tells the school district we are in and the state that we did what we were supposed to do as set by the homeschooling law in Pennsylvania.

I have to present that evaluation by June 30th to the local school district office. I also plan to present them with an affidavit that declares our intent to homeschool for the 2022-2023 school year. The affidavit isn’t actually due until August 1, but I usually present the evaluation and the affidavit at the same time. Last year I completely missed the deadline for the evaluation, but the district secretary was very understanding and accepted it anyhow, telling me that as long as I had it in before the next school year started then it was totally fine. Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief when she told me that.

While gathering together material for the portfolio, which includes a sample of all the work we did this year, I also have to have a list of any textbooks we used and any books we read.

For Little Miss we used:

Notgrass’ Our Star Spangled Story for history/social studies

Spectrum Science for science

CTC Math and The Good and the Beautiful for Math

And The Good and the Beautiful for reading/English

Notgrass also included half a credit for English with their course because their curriculum comes with a selection of historical fiction books to be read with the book.

As part of the English part of the Notgrass curriculum we read:

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry

Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady

Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark 

Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates 

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill (which we hope to finish by next Friday)

These books were read in addition to the books I read to her at night, including the Little House on the Prairie books, the Misty of Chincoteague books, and the Paddington books.

The Boy’s curriculum this year included:

CTC Math for Math

Notgrass for World Geography

Notgrass for Economics

And Apologia Biology for Science

For English, we used a few sources, including Fix It! Grammar, Apologia American Literature and the books which came with the Notgross World Geo curriculum

Books that The Boy read this year included:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Know Why You Believe by Paul Little

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

And Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

We had four or five more books we were supposed to read as part of his geography course, but we ran out of time, partially because I added To Kill A Mockingbird to our reading on my own and partially because The Boy already had a lot (and I mean A LOT) of text to read in his other subjects.

One thing we didn’t do enough of this year was field trips. We had a couple of trips in the beginning of the year but then we were hit with Covid and then high gas prices, so the field trips were put on the back burner. That didn’t stop the kids from learning things from their grandparents and others and through other activities at home.

What I like about homeschooling is that learning isn’t only done through established curriculum, but from everyday activities. Homeschooling allows for a lot more flexibility than traditional schooling, as I have mentioned here before.

So far we have decided to continue homeschool for next year. If either of the children decide they want to be educated in a different way over the summer then we will revaluate that decision.

If you are a homeschooler how did school go for your kids this year? Let me know in the comments.

Educationally Speaking: New reading course, Biology is like hard, and less arguments after winter break

The kids and I started back to homeschool last week after being sick and our Christmas break. I don’t know if they felt this way, but for me, it was nice to get back into a routine after being sick for almost a month and a half.

We got back into the swing of things and oddly Little Miss didn’t argue at all about her lessons. She actually seemed interested and excited some days. That was very refreshing. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am going to enjoy it while I can.

She and I started a new unit for reading, also from The Good and the Beautiful. The lessons are longer but she’s breezing right through them. The book features  four or five pages words for her to study the entire unit but she breezed through all of the words on day one. I have a feeling we might jump into the next level before the year is out.

We are finishing her math unit from Kindergarten and will start first grade math the week after next, I think. She catches on to math quickly so I have a feeling we might move through the first grade math faster than we did kindergarten. We got a late start last year on this particular curriculum and also broke it up with CTC Math, which is an online program.

Science is our biggest issue because I can’t seem to find a science curriculum I like. We are doing some very simple science books for now.

History is a little bit of a challenge as well because she really can’t remember everything I read to her at her age, but we do our best and at least she’s learning something about the founding of our country.

The curriculum we have (Our Star Spangled Story from Notgrass) also includes literature so it allows me to cross off history and English/Literature in one shot.

We are currently reading Freedom Crossing about a pair of siblings who are hiding a runaway slave sometime in the mid-1800s.

The Boy is making his way through Geography (Social Studies) and Economics and barely through Biology. Biology is going over both our heads and I’m beginning to wonder if the curriculum I have is for college level. It claims it is for tenth grade so I thought The Boy would be okay since he is in ninth grade but, wow, the definitions and concepts that are taught are extremely complex and a bit overwhelming. Hopefully we will survive the next few months.

We just finished Blood Brothers, which is a selection from the literature part of his Social Studies course. There was another book that we were supposed to read but I didn’t feel he would really enjoy it so I decided we will wait until the next until when a new book is assigned.

I’m considering introducing him to poetry this week which should induce some mocking from him but that’s okay. That’s what kids at this age do but hopefully they will come to appreciate it later on.

He is still continuing CTC Math for his math and he’s also doing a grammar course through Fix It Grammar.

The kids had a lighter day on Friday of last week when it snowed. I let them play in the snow, or in The Boy’s case shovel the driveway. He still had to do school work but I think the break for some time outside was welcomed.



I don’t have any major outings or projects planned for January, but I hope to get us out of the house more in February and March. So far this year I am glad we stuck to homeschooling. The schedule is flexible and allows us to have more time with my parents, including my son working with my dad on various projects around the house and community. In addition to a flexible schedule, we don’t have to worry about masks, the kids being pulled in and out of school for closures because of You Know What, and other issues facing public schools at this time. This is not a slam on public schools at all. These are just some challenges that they are facing right now and we are glad we currently don’t have to face them.

If you are homeschooling, how is it going for you this year? If you aren’t homeschooling, how is school going for your children or grandchildren this year? If you don’t have children or grandchildren, then how are YOU doing? Let me know in the comments.

Homeschooling Notes: Homeschooling grade school level verses high school level

I had an epiphany this week about homeschooling my first grader. Yes, it is a little sad it came at the beginning of our third month of school, but, hey, better late than never.

I am in a unique position in that I am teaching an elementary school student and a high schooler at the same time. Well, maybe it is not that unique since I know parents who are homeschooling multiple children of various ages. I suppose it just feels unique for me because the majority of people I know (with the exception of one who is teaching five from ages 6 to 15) who are homeschooling are teaching one child or a couple of children around the same age.

My problem was that I was trying to apply the same tactics that I used for teaching my high schooler to how I teach my first grader. While my ninth grader can handle multiple subjects a day and comprehend everything presented into those subjects each day, my first grader is a bit overwhelmed and when she gets overwhelmed, she shuts down and doesn’t want to even try to learn.

She wasn’t brought up in a school setting where a teacher presents several subjects to students a day and expects them to retain all that information. My son was. He was taught to be a little learning soldier, moving forward to the next thing whether he understood what he’d just learned or not. No time for trying to understand. They had a schedule to keep and a goal to reach before the end of the day/week/month/year.

Little Miss is used to more leisurely learning days where she can focus as much time as we feel is needed on each subject, only I wasn’t really doing that. I was making myself a list of at least four subjects that had to be done each day. This left us feeling rushed and scattered. Instead of lingering on a concept she might not have been grasping as quickly as others, there was a clock ticking in my head that said her work had to be done within a certain time frame so we couldn’t dilly-dally on place value, for example. In my mind, if she didn’t grasp the concept in the time frame we had, well, too bad. We’d address it again the next day because I still had Reading/English and Science to do.

This week, though, I abandoned the traditional idea of school and decided to focus on only two subjects a day for Little Miss. Two main subjects and an extracurricular on some days, plus Bible every other day.

We are homeschooling for a myriad of reasons and one of those reasons is the luxury it gives us to take our time to learn. Unfortunately, I wasn’t taking that time or recognizing the benefit of homeschooling very well. I was trying to make homeschooling like traditional schooling and doing that negates the entire point of homeschooling.

So, for now, I am going to do Math and Reading, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The lessons I have for those right now are short and to the point, so we are doing two lessons on those days. The math lessons are a little more time-consuming and now we can take time on them and give Little Miss the time she needs to be a bit of a goof while she figures out whatever concept she is learning that day.

I might decide we need to do one of those every day so I will see. The great thing about homeschooling is I can change our schedule as needed.

For now, I am going to do science and history on Tuesday and Thursday. Two lessons on science maybe depending on each subject, each of those days, and most likely only one on history on those days.

Art will be Wednesday and Friday or other days if it fits with the other subjects. Then I want to add music in on certain days – maybe Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I am hoping this schedule will help Little Miss stop dreading school days. She knows she has two subjects, Bible and something like art or music each day and that’s it. She can focus better and not feel like her brain is stretched too far. When I mentioned the idea of only two subjects a day, without mentioning why her response confirmed for me this is the right move.

“Oh, good because when we do all those subjects, I can’t keep all of that stuff in my brain.”

Here is to hoping she can keep more stuff in her brain with less of it being poured in each day.

Yes, you can homeschool your children. No, you don’t need a teaching degree. Links for parents ready to step into the world of Homeschooling

From what I am seeing online, there are even more new homeschooling parents this year than last year. Also again this year I am seeing parents doubt their ability to homeschool, questioning if they can do so if they don’t have a teaching degree. As a parent who just started her fourth year of homeschooling, I can tell you that one, you don’t need a teaching degree, and two, yes you can do it. It might have challenges, but, yes, you can do it. I am saying this even after having a mini breakdown this morning as I worried I am not doing enough or doing it right.

Last year I wrote a couple of blog posts aimed at helping new homeschooling parents connect with some resources to help them. My posts were aimed more at “traditional” homeschooling parents — those who choose their curriculum and teach their children themselves — versus those who sign their children up to a cyber charter school or online school.

With cyber/online schools, your children are given their assignments and lessons exclusively online. In traditional homeschooling, which is what I am doing with my children, the schedule is a little more flexible and what you teach can be changed, adjusted, or updated, even if you are using a set curriculum.

Neither way is superior to the other, but one way or the other can be superior to a family based on their personal situation.

For us, our option for schooling had to move away from the stricter educational process due to the fact my son had lost all love for learning at his past school. He needed a more relaxed, flexible approach to help encourage an interest in learning again. It hasn’t totally worked because school is still school and kids don’t always love school, but he can explore topics further at his own pace if he wants to, versus waiting for his class members to catch up.

Because my experience comes from a place of “traditional” homeschooling, my post today will mainly offer advice to parents who have chosen to educate their children this way.

As an aside, related to online school, my neighbors’ daughter is currently doing her classes at home through the local school district and she is able to have a flexible schedule similar to ours. Not all online schools keep a child or parent from being flexible, though some do.

The flexibility for my neighbor’s daughter has benefited her because she can work at her own pace, work a job, and also have a schedule where she can visit more with family. It benefits her parents because all of her assignments are on the computer for her and she does them on her own and at her own pace, as long as all assignments are handed in by the end of the week.

For our family, I like the flexibility of being able to give my children assignments and even changing them if need be so we can study an aspect of a subject less or longer or take field trips, outings, etc. I like being able to use different curriculum and maybe even changing it in the future or in the middle of the school year if it isn’t suiting my child’s learning style.

Most parents I see jumping into homeschooling this year are completely lost, just like I was three years ago. I see them in groups asking, “Where do I even start?”

That’s a good, scary question, but it doesn’t have to be scary at all. Online searching is your friend. You will find that homeschooling parents love to help other homeschooling parents by sharing resources on their blogs, sites, or social media. Here are a few I pulled offline after a quick search.

This list will also not be the most definitive list. There are so many options out there for homeschooling and so much information that it literally makes my head spin. Looking it all up gives me hot flashes and makes me dizzy so I search only so much.

https://hslda.org/legal

https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/thinking-about-homeschooling-heres-what-you-dont-have-to-do

https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/8-homeschool-tips-and-tricks

https://thesurvivalmom.com/my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers/

https://www.horizoncharterschools.org/5-tips-for-homeschoolers/

https://simplehomeschool.net/advice/

https://www.thesimplehomeschooler.com/8-homeschool-moms-share-their-best-advice/

One of the main aspects of homeschooling that a new homeschooling parent is worried about is, of course, curriculum. It was my first concern as well.

There are literally hundreds of curriculum options available for the homeschooling parent. Some are online, some are in textbook form, and some are a mix. I found a couple of sites/blogs with curriculum ideas and a couple with actual reviews. One of the most popular sites for curriculum reviews is Cathy Duffy’s Homeschooling Reviews https://cathyduffyreviews.com/. She reviews a variety of curriculum, much of it, but not all, faith-based.

A quick internet search also brought up a couple of other blogs with curriculum suggestions:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/best-online-homeschool-programs-4842632

https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-101/choose-best-homeschool-curriculum/

https://www.howtohomeschool.net/homeschool-curriculum/the-best-homeschool-curriculum-list

https://nyhen.org/homeschool-curriculum-reviews/

https://hslda.org/post/selecting-my-curriculum

For us, we are currently using the following curriculum (but this could change in the future, which is a tip I give to new homeschooling parents: don’t be afraid to switch up the curriculum when it isn’t serving your child.):

For the first grader

Math: CTC Math (online program) and The Good and the Beautiful (finishing the K-level and will start the level one later in the year.)

History/Literature: Notgrass Our Star-Spangled Story

Science: Right now we are using School Zone Big Science 2-3, but I am searching for a set curriculum and hope to purchase one later this month.

Reading/Grammar: The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts for Kindergarten (will be moving to the next level by end of October or beginning of November. We are just finishing up last years.)

Art: various lessons

Music: None yet. Searching.

For the Ninth Grader:

Math: CTC Math (online)

History/Literature/English: Notgrass World Geography (comes with a set of books for the literature/writing/English component so it can be used for social studies and English credit), Apologia Literature.

Social Studies: Notgrass World Geography

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd edition (there is now a third edition, which we chose not to use after the author of the second edition pointed out some major areas in the textbook).

Economics: Notgrass Exploring Economics (also can be used for a half an English credit)

Grammar: Fix-It Grammar (our first year using this. May be a little too simple for a ninth grader. We will see how it goes.)

Art: various lessons

Music: none yet. Searching.

Books on our lists to read this year (or try to) through the Notgrass curriculum include:

First grader (I am reading them to her):

  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
  • Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady
  • Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates
  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass

Ninth grader:

  • Know Why You Believe by Paul Little
  • Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour with David Hazard
  • Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story by Patricia St. John
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park  
  • The Day the World Stopped Turning by Michael Morpurgo
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat
  • Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
  • Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
  • Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma by Sharon James
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger

We may not get through all these books, but they are part of the curriculum so we will see how we do.

Tomorrow I’ll offer some additional homeschooling tips, especially if you are homeschooling outside of an online school setting.

Until then, here is a link to a few other posts I wrote about homeschool in 2020 and a couple I shared about how own homeschooling journey recently. Some of these post may have links that have since expired.

Homeschooling Notes: Learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk

More links for parents suddenly homeschooling

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

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

Homeschooling Notes: Learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk

 We started homeschooling this week, a day earlier than we planned because we thought we were going to visit my aunt and would need our originally planned first day for traveling. When that trip was postponed, we decided to stick to the new first day, which surprisingly didn’t bother either child.

I was way more prepared than I ever have been since starting this homeschooling journey in April of 2018. Yes, you read that right. I was prepared. Crazy. I know.

I not only had the curriculum purchased, but I started drawing up lesson plans at the end of last week.

What in the world has happened to me? I have no idea.

I was excited for this school year to start, partially because I was actually organized.

We have some great curriculum this year and some exciting opportunities to utilize them to their full potential.

I have started us off light this week, with only three subjects a day for the oldest and two or three for the youngest.

I couldn’t wait to break open the curriculum I had bought for Little Miss. She, however, thought we should deviate from that curriculum and reminded me that learning isn’t only found sitting at a desk (or in our case, the dining room table or couch or sometimes the coffee table in the living room).

I left science for last because I had a feeling it might get out of hand once we started it. Little Miss likes hands-on learning and she loves coming up with ideas on how to make the most of those learning moments, usually not by using a book but by doing something.

On our first day, I started a unit on insects and Little Miss became excited when she saw a section on the worksheet about how to make a jar to collect bugs. Little Miss was collecting bugs all summer, especially grasshopper and katydids, so, of course, this was right up her alley. We cut the top off a water bottle, closed it with a rubber band wrapped around a paper towel stretched over the top, and headed outside. The next half hour was spent with me trying to read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry, which is part of our social studies/language arts curriculum, to her, while she hunted down bugs.

It was all going fairly well until she called out, “One just hopped toward you!” and when I looked up something black was flying straight at me and bounced down the front of my shirt. I screamed so loud I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the cops, thinking I was being murdered.

We didn’t have much luck in the yard so Little Miss wanted to go to the garden. While there I picked some tomatoes, and she found an absolutely huge grasshopper which she caught and we put in a larger container for her to study for a bit.

I tried to keep an open mind the next day, but I had a list I thought we should complete that day. This is the first year that I legally had to file an intent to homeschool for Little Miss, so I want to make sure I can show we did actual schoolwork at the end of the year. While I was trying to tick off my list, Little Miss had other ideas.

“Hey, can we go splash in the puddles?” she asked.

We were getting rain from the remanents from Hurricane Ida.

I told her, ‘no,’ because I had my plan, but then I decided we could do it if we tied it into her science lesson about insects. So there were, standing in a steady rain while she splashed in puddles, then lifted rocks and searched for bugs and worms, telling me all about the bugs as we looked as if she was the teacher.

“Oh, I found an isopod!” she cried lifting a rock in our front yard, with no fear of what she would find.

“And what’s an isopod?” I asked.

“They are the ones that roll up when you touch them,” she said and then proceeded to ramble off some more information.

Later, I looked them up so we could learn more about them and learned they have seven pairs of legs, flat backs, and aren’t actually insects, which have six legs.

Little Miss’s favorite isopods to look at and collect are roly pollies, which are also called pill bugs.

The Boy and I are easing our way into his lessons. This week, in addition to reading from his World Geography and Economics books, he is reading a book called Know Why You Believe by Paul Little, which is written for Christians to helps us learn more about why we believe what we believe because even longtime Christians have doubts or questions. We will add science next week. His English is part of his World Geography but later in the fall, we will add some grammar lessons.

He and I are also watching To Kill A Mockingbird, after reading the book at the end of last school year. We watched half an hour of it, Little Miss saw a dog being killed (it was not graphic) and fell completely apart, even though she has seen much more frightening scenes in movies or shows involving dragons, monsters, or supervillains. We have decided to watch the rest with her either out of the room or wearing her headphones.

It is still raining as I write this, so I’m not sure what today’s lessons will lead to, but I can be sure that they won’t be the simple, straightforward lessons I had planned, and that, in my mind, is a good thing. Being able to wander off in different directions is one of the biggest reasons we homeschool. If one of the children becomes interested in a subject that jumps off of the subject that we are on, then we go with it. It keeps them curious and in a mode where learning is fun and not an obligation.

Hopefully I can remember that for the rest of this school year.

Educationally Thinking: Homeschool wrap up

We finished our school year last week and then tied up a few loose ends the beginning of this week. On Wednesday we met with our homeschool evaluator who wrote up a quick letter to the local school district to confirm we had completed all the requirements under our state’s homeschool law.

Honestly, it’s a little disconcerting and depressing to have your entire school year — all that hard work and volumes of text read and answers to math problems hammered out — boiled down to three vague paragraphs. I understand that it’s all that is required by the state and my evaluator doesn’t feel that she should provide more than is necessary, but it’s still a bit of a let down after an entire year of lesson planning for six subjects every weekday, gathering together a portfolio, selecting examples of your child’s work, organizing a list of all the textbooks you used and books your child read, and then not having most of that mentioned in those paragraphs.

The school district or state never even sees all the hard work we did when all is said and done and in some ways that might be a good thing. But in other ways it would be nice if they knew we actually take homeschooling seriously and really do educate our children, not simply let them play video games all day and call that school.

It should be noted that none of this  is a complaint against our evaluator in the least. She’s amazing. She homeschooled both her girls from grade school to graduation. She knows her stuff. She’s doing her job. It’s just a reminder not to look at that one sheet of paper and draw the worth of our entire school year from it’s contents.

Since I didn’t have to report what we did to the school district, I will use my blog to brag on my 14-year old. He read seven books this year, including four classics: To Kill A Mockingbird, Silas Marner, Lord of the Flies, and A Christmas Carol. He also read the three final Harry Potter books. We almost finished a course in economics as well and plan to continue that course next year. And of course he finished courses in Math, history, science, grammar and English.

We did have to  complete a standardized test this year since The Boy was in 8th grade. Standardized testing is required in fifth, eighth and eleventh if I remember right.

I did not have to provide a portfolio or any information for Little Miss because under state law she doesn’t even have to start attending school until she is six and she was not six when the school year started. I will file an intent to homeschool form for her with the school district for the upcoming school year and I will consider her in first grade since we worked on kindergarten curriculum this year.

Overall, our homeschool year went well. We learned about a lot of things but I do see a lot of room for improvement for The Boy especially. We will have to increase our focus on science this next year and also add some more music and art as well as a writing and spelling curriculum for him.

For Little Miss we will focus more on science and history this upcoming year. Little Miss is also going to be having a few days a week of lessons during the summer so she doesn’t forget what she has learned.

We may choose to have set curriculum from one curriculum company this year as well but I have not decided that yet.

I know most parents love when homeschool or school is over for the year and they have a break all summer but I actually miss it. I liked making lesson plans and reading the lessons with The Boy. I liked knowing that each day I had a purpose other than cooking dinner and letting the dog in and out of the house and writing my silly stories. Luckily I now have a summer to begin planning for next year. I also will be teaching Little Miss some starting next week, as I mentioned, and starting in July The Boy will begin reviewing math lessons so he doesn’t forget everything he learned this year.

If you are a homeschooler, I’d love to hear about your homeschool year. Is it over yet? What are your plans for next year? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Educationally Speaking: Homeschooling Updates

For those who might be new to my blog, I started homeschooling my children a couple of years ago, so our homeschooling journey is unrelated to the reason others are homeschooling these days. That isn’t to say our experience is more valid than others, this is simply an explanation of our homeschooling journey.

My situation may be unique to some homeschooling parent since I am teaching a Kindergartner and eighth grader, but I also know many parents teaching ages from preschool up to 12th depending on how many children they have. So, really, it’s not that unique, I suppose, but it is a challenge for me at times.

What is interesting about teaching these two age groups is that we can overlap some of our lessons, especially for the Kindergartner who can often learn from her brother’s science and history lessons, as long as the history isn’t about wars or genocide, which is obviously a little too heavy for her young brain.

What we learned last month or are doing this month. The Boy:

History

We are continuing to use Notgrass History’s From Adam to Us for history.


This past month we mainly focused on Rome and its rulers, including Julius Caesar. I’m sure I studied Julius Caesar at some point during high school or college, but I don’t remember a lot about it (I’ve mentioned before that my schools seemed to only discuss the landing of the Mayflower, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War and then start back over at the beginning of the next school year and review those same topics again. I swear we never even learned about the World Wars or Korea or Vietnam.). It was very interesting to me to learn how Julius Caesar came to power and that he was a general before he was declared “dictator for life” by the Roman Senate.

I found an interesting video on Caesar and this part of history, but my son spent the time watching it criticizing how they portrayed Roman weaponry and battles (not bloody enough for him apparently).

In February we also learned about Alexander the Great, the Great Wall of China and Judas Maccabeus.

I have started creating my own quizzes for The Boy’s history lessons, which is fun for me because I am able to read over the chapters and learn along with him. Notgrass may offer quizzes for this unit, but I didn’t see one so creating my own allows me to make the quiz as difficult or easy as I like. Plus it means I am reading the chapters along with him and learning more myself.

English

The Boy and I finished reading  Lord of The Flies for English and we used a supplemental curriculum I ordered off of Christianbook to focus on vocabulary and specific plot points and literary analysis. The curriculum was ordered from Christanbook, but it is not strictly Christian curriculum, for anyone who is curious. It provides quizzes for every two chapters and an exam for when the book is finished.

The Boy did not enjoy discussing the symbolism of the book. He said something along the lines of it being a depressing book and he didn’t want to analyze all the reasons why. I’m summarizing his complaints, so I may not have quoted him accurately (in case he one day reads this and says, “I never said that!!!” Which he often does when I repeat things he has said.)

I plan to take a week break and focus on some Mark Twain short stories or excerpts, and then move on to To Kill A Mockingbird for April and May. I had considered reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but I think The Boy might appreciate a break from the challenging language for the rest of the school year since we read Silas Marner in the beginning of the school year. One of the most fun aspects of homeschooling has been able to read classic books I either read in school or wanted to and books that public schools are trying to ban because many have lost the critical thinking needed to understand we can learn from books even if they have words or ideas in them we don’t agree with.

The Boy is also completing assignments from Wordly Wise for English, which focuses on vocabulary. We started grammar lessons from Saxon again this week. Don’t get me started on Grammar. I know that some grammar obsessed people are thinking, “we won’t because your grammar is atrocious”, but good grief some is the terms that are in this grammar book are insane and I have never heard of them and could not identify them in a sentence to save my life. Apparently I never needed to know all that for my 14-years writing as a reporter or my 43 years of life. I am convinced that grammar teachers teach children grammar so those children can become future grammar teachers and they just repeat the cycle over and over. People don’t even use half that stuff as adults and could care less what an adaptive phrase is. Oops. I guess I got myself started on grammar. (Also, do note that I  understand the importance of grammar. I also understand the importance of not over doing it and going so in depth your brain explodes.)

Math

For Math he is continuing CTC Math and we have discovered additional testing and worksheets that I hadn’t noticed before. He is not appreciative of this latest development because it means more work for him. One issue with this online program is that if he misses one question it brings his grade down and if he misses two he can end up with an “F”. He can make these mistakes by hitting a number by accident. So far, doing the test again doesn’t seem to improve the grade but I am going to contact the site administrators and see if there is a glitch with that.

Economics

We are using Notgrass’ Exploring Economics for Economics and they include history and some Bible along with all the economic terms and history and analyzing. So far it is one of my son’s favorite subjects.

It isn’t his favorite subject this week because I am making him study five units for a unit exam at the end of the week. He is used to me allowing open book tests but I told him we are going to try studying the old fashioned way and doing tests that way too. He is not a fan of the old fashioned way.

Little Miss (Kindergarten)

History

Little Miss has her own history lessons about the time around The Revolutionary War and early American history. We use old episodes of Liberty Kids from YouTube to supplement her lessons. I do not have a specific history curriculum for her this year, but will next year. She also watches some of the videos we watch for her brother’s history lessons, if they are not too violent, or she listens along with Notgrass.

Science: We are doing a unit on deserts for the next couple of weeks and will be doing separate little lessons on some of the animals of the desert. This is a plan I am putting together on my own, but will include some reading, math, coloring, comprehension, and simply learning about the different kinds of deserts (colder and warmer ones).

English:

Little Miss is working her way through language arts curriculum from The Good and The Beautiful. I would say English is the most difficult for her in many ways because she seems to forget her letters and how to sound out words one day and remember it all again the next. I don’t know if it is she really doesn’t remember how to do it all or if she is just showing her stubborn streak (which she totally gets from her father’s side of the family) and pretending she doesn’t remember how to do any of it. Either way, it makes me want to scream some days so teaching her is also teaching me patience. Every day. All week long.



Math

Math is Little Miss’s thing. She loves it. She does not, however, always love doing it the way she is asked to do it. We are currently working with a curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful which utilizes manipulatives so the child can use some hands on activities to solidify not only numbers and how to count, but also how to recognize patterns and follow directions. The other day I asked her to use the wooden blocks the curriculum came with to build a stack of blocks the same way it was built in the photo. She did it differently and when I corrected her she flopped her hands at her side, flounced a small amount, and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling.

“Well, that’s not how I do it,” she huffed.

I told her it wasn’t about how she does it this time. The assignment was to follow the directions. She responded with another eye roll and arm flop so I finally completed the build for her and told her why it was right and hers had been wrong.

“That way is boooring,” she informed me.

A lot of what we do is “boooring” to her right now so I have skipped ahead in math to give her more of a challenge. That will only work if she does it the way she is asked to, but then again, letting her change things up can help her as well, as long as she comes up with the right answer.

The other day I skipped ahead to look for challenges and we stumbled on “odds and evens.” I asked her to wait to do the activity until I could figure out the right way to explain odd and evens to her. She barely listened when I did explain, interrupted me and started completing the activity on her own so apparently she didn’t even need me to explain what it meant. Her brain moves quit fast when it comes to mathematical concepts, which means she is absolutely nothing like her mother and a lot like her father, which is not a bad thing.

Science

Little Miss and The Boy both use The Good and the Beautiful’s Energy Unit. I teach them at the same time twice a week and we may increase that to three times a week for the remainder of our school year.

Art

We do art whenever and wherever but I try to encourage the youngest, at least, to do some form of art through painting, drawing, or crafts throughout the week.

This week I set up a meeting with our homeschool evaluator for the end of our school year. In our state we file an intent to homeschool letter with the school district we live in at the beginning of the school year. We also file an affidavit attesting to what we will teach our children throughout the year. Our state recently lowered the compulsory age for children to attend school to six, when it was previously eight. I think I have that last age correct.

Anyhow, because Little Miss turned 6-years old after the Sept. 1 deadline we did not have to file an intent to homeschool for her this year. Technically I didn’t even have to teach her this year because I don’t have to file an evaluation for her at the end of the school year (prior to July 1). Regardless I taught her last year and I am again teaching her this year. Last year we focused on preschool and kindergarten and this year we are focusing on kindergarten and branching into first grade.

I do have to file an evaluation for The Boy and he also has to take a standardized test, which he can do on the computer. I know the children are anxious for the school year to be over, but, alas, they still have about three months left so they will have to hang in there. Luckily our weather is warming up so at least they can do some of their work outside on the porch or even scrap part of that work for a couple of field trips.