Monday, September 21, 2015

FREE FROM QUEENS from 9/21-9/25

Queens is giving away this great freebie this week only!  If you have been curious about Queens and/or the Charlotte Mason method of teaching, then this will be a great read for you!  Often I have had a hard time explaining Queens ability to do "Charlotte Mason in a text book".  This FREE BOOK will help you wrap your head around both!  ENJOY!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How to ACTUALLY START homeschooling, like actually.

     I have had so much positive feedback from my two latest posts on Dear New Homeschool Mom and How to choose curriculum but that has led to an overwhelming amount of people contacting me and saying "But HOW do you ACTUALLY start"?!?!?!  Here is my attempt to guide you.  Take what you like, ditch the rest, I won't be offended.

      As a Homeschool Mom I will:

  • Start slow and ease into things.
  • I will not overwhelm myself or my children by not adhering to the first thing.
  • Keep everything simple.  From curric to storage, take the path of least resistance.
  • I will keep realistic expectation of myself and my children.
  • I will not call myself or my children a failure if things do not go quite right.
  • I will remember that reading/writing/and comprehension are 3 SEPARATE things and do not need to be learned together.
  • I don't need to be good at math, there are computer programs for that.
  • Some days/weeks/months will be really hard and others will be really great.
  • I might have to back off from school and deal with "heart issues" from time to time.
  • Homeschooling should not look or feel like "public school at home"
  • Make any changes in your schedule, wake up time, chore chart, ect. a week before hand.  Get those kinks worked out BEFORE school starts.
Each child has a "school box".  They fit 2 to a
 shelf on my Ikea book shelf.  Each childs box
holds their specific books.
ORSH curric goes on one of "my" shelves.

  • Are you legal?  Have you researched the laws in your state?  Have you done what you need to do in order to be legal?  Make sure this side of things is good to go!  If you need to fill out a "declaration of intent" (or any similar form) to turn into the state, make 3 copies, sign them all.  Turn one into the state, one goes in your file box and one in your car.  (the last one is less about "proving your children are not truant" and more about "having documentation" in order to get the teachers discount at places like Barnes and Nobles and Joanns =)
  • If you do not legally need to register with the state OR IF you do not need to register a child until they are a certain age/grade (e.g. in WA you do not need to do anything until your child's 8th birthday)  Print off a piece of paper that states you are homeschooling and under what law/code exempts you from having to notify anyone.  Print, sign and place in your file box)
  • All Tablets ready!.

  • If you have any computer programs you are using, Make sure they are loaded on your computer, your kids have their discs and passwords.  Bookmark online programs and write down a master list of websites and programs and put in a handy spot... like on the wall above the computers ;)
  • Get all your curric into a specified place.  Mine are on my ikea bookshelf.  I have a spot for all my "One Room SchoolHouse" stuff and then each child also has their own "school box" for individual work.  For us, that is math books or cd's, LA books, Handwriting books, Spelling Books, Math multiplication grids (older kids), Geography (highschoolers), personal bible studies if not doing group stuff, and general work binders.
    Bought these at BIG LOTS
    they are the PERFECT size!
  • If you have ordered A LOT of curriculum/subjects.  Pare it down for an easy start.  I like starting with our wonderful Language arts books from Queens (so awesome!  One lesson for each day of the school year and no teachers manual needed!) and math.  Within the first week you can add the rest of your LA stuff if you have extras.  We add in handwriting (K-junior high) and spelling (3rd/4th grade on up). Get into that groove, then add in, say, science the next week and then history.  Keep adding in your subjects.  If you feel like you have reached a doable limit but still "have more" consider chucking the rest or saving it for summer.  Another thought is to make a "one year" program into a "two year" program in order to lesson the load
    I hate running out of supplies
    when they are needed.  This
    really helps make sure things
    run smoothly!
  • If you have something that requires "supplies", like, say, science, go through the book, get a tote and fill it with all the supplies you need.  This way you have them ready when you hot that lesson.  Put the tote in a closet where kids can not reach and take down when needed =)
    When I had toddlers in the
    home, I always had totes
    with lids =)
  • Make sure you craft and school supplies are in order.  Crayons, glue sticks, scissors, pencils, colored pencils.  Label things with words(not pictures silly- get the little kids used to WORDS) to make things super easy.


     This is the hard part because your schedule will morph and change through the years.

     Lots of school age kids already:  If you already have older children I would suggest checking out my Block Scheduling/4 day work weeks.  This is what works for me with my 10 kiddos!

     If you are just starting school (ever) with say a kindy or first grader.  I suggest the following.  First read this on 3 hour limits and this on schooling when they are ready... you may also need or want to check out this one on schooling with babies and toddlers in the home.   Next, consider these things:
3 kids "playing" Stratego

  • Do school when its convenient for your family:  If you have younger kids, you may want to save school time for when they are taking a nap.
  • Make sure your house is ready for it.  Pick up and get ready for the day, this way you are not trying to function in a mess.
  • Break it up during the day:  Your 30 minutes of "reading" may be during bath time.  Or 20 min of math while you make lunch.
  • Be willing to "call it" if it's not working.
IF you do HAVE TO HAVE a schedule to look at, pick a 2 or 3 hour block of time that is normally peaceful in your home.  let's say:

  • 8-8:15/30 LA (phonics/book work/reading/handwriting)
  • 10-20 min break because you can.
  • 8:50-9:05/20 MATH. 
  • 10-20 min break... because, again, you can (use these breaks to tend littles, flip laundry ect)  If you are a "snack time" family, this is a good spot for that too =)
  • 10-11 SCI/HIS.  Read some books, watch a video, take a walk.  Honestly, I do not stress these areas until MUCH OLDER.  My little kids do them because my older kids do.  I love Queen's Sci curric because they are enjoyable and doable across multiple ages, they are so great that I would even do them if I did not have older kids.  With History I still would not do anything formal until they were 4th ish grades if I did not have big kids in my home.  Teaching "ORSH" make it so that I teach from the top down.  The younger kids do things with us but when it gets "long" I let them go play.
  • 11-12/LUNCH and you are done.  If you did not get to anything earlier you can do it after lunch.  Or save the whole routine for when littles are down for naps.

Some days are just going to suck.  There is no better way of saying that.  BUT DON"T FREAK OUT!!  "Mama said there'd be days like this" and she was right!  Sometimes those days become weeks or months.  Get through whatever is going on in your life and then reset and start again.

What about starting when your child is behind???
     Behind what?  I know it's hard when they are "behind" but that really is subjective depending on who you are comparing them to.  If you or your child are discouraged by being "behind" I would suggest a few things.

A10 with his Spelling Workout

  1. Pick out curriculum that is more subjective and doesn't use grades.  Another reason I love Queens.  It's all by progressive levels and not grades.  You can use them for EVERYTHING except math.  Progressive curriculum is encouraging for you and for your child.  In spelling I love "Modern Curriculum Presses "Spelling Workout""  They go by "letters" and not grades. Queen's, Mystery of History and Story of the world are all great for history that offers "levels" within the application and not by grade.  Math is different, it just is.  I like Teaching Textbooks and have found that my kids who were "behind" in math were quickly able to catch up and move ahead using this program and Khan Academy. Another curriculum I am LOVING is the "do it yourself homeschool journals".  These are especially good for new learners that should not be bogged down and for older kids to keep the love of learning going! 
  2. Look at your childs learning over the scope of allllllll the grades they have left and not just "this year".  If they are "not good" in math then they prolly won't want or need to go beyond algebra so if it takes them from 6th grade-12th grade to pass algebra- who cares?  If your child really struggles with LA then hone in on making sure they have the basic skills and can navigate Language arts (reading/writing) capably but don't stress if they only produce one or two good essays a year in highschool.
  3. It's okay to acknowledge that not all kids are going to be "college" material AND that college isn't worth what it use to be.  There are also trade schools, certificates and general jobs out there.  Many, Many, Many of these pay really well- more than many college degrees!  Be realistic at what your childs academic and personality potential is.  Don't push them to be who they aren't, instead helped them to be "the best version of themselves".
  4. taking time out for a bike ride
  5. Don't let "being behind" discourage you from the get go.  This will not be good for any of you.  Instead look at it as what it is, the CHANCE to iron things out, let your child learn in their best environment and to move forward at their pace.
Alrighty folks!  If I think of anything else to add I will but for now ;) That's all I got!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dear New Homeschool Mom...

Dear New Homeschool Mom,

     Welcome!  We are so glad that you have made the leap into the Wonderful World of Homeschooling!  We know that your decision to join us has come about after much time, thought, research and prayer!  We too have been in your spot, the beginning!  But, what else is about it?  Confused yet?  Is the warm fuzzy glow already leaving as the mountain of "but how" seems ever bigger?  The good news is, you are not alone and there are answers! (The answers just might not be what you thought they would)

     New Homeschool Mom, I can still clearly remember looking around at all the experienced homeschool moms around me and asking,-nay pleading with them for some direction.  There were just too many choices and avenues.  Everyone has there favorite "this and that".  I was LOST!!  So here are some answers I have for you.  Take what you will, throw out the rest, I am hoping you are encouraged nonetheless =)

How do you start?
     Start first by making sure you are legal in your state.  Every state has their own requirements.  Normally, you have to at least 1)notify the state/school district you are homeschooling and 2)comply with annual testing and/or attendance.  Some states ask for more and some less but most require at least these.  Often the laws sound very overwhelming and "govermenty" so find someone in your area who homeschools and ask them to tell you in English what you need to do.

How do I pick Curriculum???
     First go and read THIS POST on how to choose.  Now that you have done that, regardless of if you are starting out in Kindy or with a gaggle of big kids, remember to keep it simple.  It takes time to re-train your public school brain to be a homeschooler and to discover who you are as a homeschool family.  Doing too much will overload your family and make you crazy.  Try and keep it basic and simple.

How much time should be spent schooling?
     That depends.  I have a different note for the different categories of you Newbies:

  1. Newbie with Kindy's:  Please don't stress your kid out and make them do 5 days a week, 4 hours a day.  Remember that in PS most of kindy is glorified babysitting of 20+ kids.  They have to do things different because of the institution that they are.  I have found that a goal of 3 days a week is doable and shoot for about 30-40 minutes of "school time" (this is working on reading (and maybe writing too) and math).  If your child isn't really ready for one or the other, don't stress it!  Eventually (and it might be years), they will be.  Keep it fun and relaxed!  Remember that school is happening all day with: Sharing: toys with your sister, sorting: helping mom with laundry, letter: thank you leap frog and letter songs, counting: the goldfish on your plate!  Learning is always happening so count all of it!
  2. Newbie with Olders:  Keep. It. Simple.  I like combining as many subjects as I can and block scheduling (see this post and this one too).  Those 2 things will really help streamline your schooling.  With that said, limit it to about 3 hours a day-ish.  Some older kids may need to do more.  Factor in about an hour of math (and for the love of everyone use a computer base program with the big kids.  Khan and Teaching textbooks are great) that leaves 2-3 hours left.  Factor about 30-40 minutes for LA depending on the kid and the rest is for sci and or history.  Then be done.  
This does not seem like enough school!
     Right.  From simple curriculum to short school days, it may not seem like it, but it is!  Your children are basically in a tutor setting and getting pretty instantaneous feedback from you!  It does not take a long time to get school done in such a setting.  The hardest part is what is going on in your own mind.  YOU THINK you are failing but honestly YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE!

But how do I REALLY KNOW they are learning enough?
     Right.  Most of us gauge things based on progressing through the curric. we have chosen.  Many of us also either choose or are required to do year testing (The CAT SURVEY from Seton is inexpensive and easy).  It can be stressful though trying to figure out if your kids measure up... if YOU measure up.  It's so hard not to compare yourself to others.  
     It's important to realize that everyone homeschool functions differently.  Just like there are different public/private schools out there, so are there vast differences in homeschools.  Try to focus on your children. Ask these questions:
  • Are they progressing in their learning.  NOTE: I did not say "are they progressing quickly", I only said progressing.  
  • Did I look at their over all progress and not just one subject?  One of my kids was/is a VERY late reader but is almost two years ahead in math.  Obviously this child is progressing but has strengths and weaknesses, BUT over-all, progressing in both.
  • Do I know my child?  When comparing yourself and your kids to others, remember that YOU KNOW your children and YOU KNOW their growth, don't worry about what others are doing just focus on what your child is accomplishing!
     Many of the books out there about "What your child should know in the ____ grade." are all based upon decades of public education.  Everything from what to serve them on their educational plate to how they should eat it, EVERYTHING is based on OTHER PEOPLES PUBLIC SCHOOLED CHILDREN.  It is not based on your child.
     It does not consider your family dynamic.  It does not understand that even though your 3rd grade can't read, she has memorized 92 poems from her poetry cd and can do 4th grade math.  It doesn't consider that you 7th grader is in 4th grade math but can make a working lego robot with no instructions.  Those books don't factor in that your kindy child is ambidextrous and can't actually hold a pencil, let alone walk straight!  That book has no ability to know that by the time she is in 9th grade, the problem wont exist anymore and her writing will be just fine.
     If you must get a book, or compare to the public school or your neighbor just to gauge yourself, then do it, but don't loose yourself and your children in the despair of comparison!
     On another note, if you really are faltering, it's okay to look around, do some checks and balances, take ALL THINGS into consideration and make changes as needed.  This doesn't mean you have failed, it means you are are succeeding by continuing to tweak things and make them work!

Will I mess up my kids?!
     We all have had this fear.  When you feel like you are totally screwing them up remember 2 things.  1)You could seriously not do any school until your child was in 7th grade and then get everything accomplished in the next 4 years and still graduate them into a college program as a Junior.  It's true.  So, New Homeschool Mom, don't freak out, you have got time!  2)Academics isn't everything!  Have you cultivated their heart?  That counts more than anything else!
     There will be plenty of moments when you will feel like giving up everything because of the possibility of failure and messing up your kids.  PERSEVERE Homeschool Mom!  Show them that you will not give up on them or you.  What a lesson that will be for them to see!  No messing up there at all!

What should I expect from my kids, and myself?
     Well her'es the tricky thing, New Homeschool Mom, right now you expect everything!  You expect that you and your children will and/or should excel above and beyond every brick and mortar school system out there.  What will happen is that within the first 30 days of homeschooling you will want to give up.  And then as you get to know your child in a way that only homeschooling provides, you will really feel like you are failing.  Add to all that the new baby and the toddlers causing so much mayhem during the day that you have barely done school in a week and you will for sure think you are failing.  ANNNNNDdddddd on top of that you have a child "behind" because of every reason under the sun but ultimately (you will think) Because. Of. You.
     Sounds great right?  Okay, New Homeschool Mom, we all Freak Out from time to time.  (Read this post on freaking out it will encourage you!)  One of two things will happen to you when you do, you will either give up and send your kids to public school or you will keep persevering.  The truth about expectations is that there are soooooo many unrealistic ones that makes us think we are failing when we are not.  You may barely hit much school until your oldest is say 4th or 5th grade.  You May stop schooling for 3 months after you have had a baby.  You may only get 1/2 a years worth of schooling done because you moved 3 times.  Your child may not be a quick reader, your child may hate math, you may not find the right curric for 7 years, your kid might only like science that involves mud!  I could go on and on.
     Here is your expectation:  Expect that if all else fails, your highschooler can learn all they need to know in 4 years as far as what the Public schools expect.  Expect that with homeschooling, if you cultivate a home of learning you will see that they are learning ALL THE TIME.  Expect them to listen to you, obey you and be apart of your team!  Expect your children to respect education and seek out knowledge.  Expect yourself to have seasons of good schooling and seasons of  "not so much" but every season still includes learning.  Expect your child to learn as he or she progresses on their level and expect yourself to question everything and to learn to count every little advancement they make.
     And if you must... I school 4 days a week for about 3-4 hours a day.  My little kids, 2nd-3rd grade on down only really do like 2-3 days a week of math and reading, maybe a total of 40 minutes each day.  I don't have little ones in my house currently, but when I did, I did save the bulk of our "Mom needs to be involved" work for naptime.  (For a real look at how I school, I have laid most of it out in my series on homeschooling lots of children).  Also I have a post on HOW TO ACTUALLY START.  You may enjoy that too... and picking out CURRICULUM.

What they should actually learn
     Again, different people will have different opinions.  For instance, I gave up on the times tables.  The years of frustration and crying and trying so hard to get them to memorize it and they just didn't, finally wore me out!  I gave up!  I printed off multiplication sheets that they use.  Yah, yah, yah, put away your shock face.  A wise homeschool mom, who also use to be a public school teacher told me this, "if they understand what multiplication is, and how it works, it really does not matter if they memorize them.  They will go faster if they do but it's not going to hurt them that much.  Even many public school kids "never get it".  Oh the freedom I felt when I realized I could make exceptions to "rules".  New Homeschool Mom, please realize that you too CAN "make exceptions to "rules" made by the world".
     What your child should learn by 12th grade:  How to read and write, math (at least through algebra would be nice because you need that to get into a Community College), good general science (I love QUEENS!... this is my fave or LA too) and general history (my fave is Mystery of History).  Thats it.  you are good.  That is the basics!
     (So if your child doesnt want to read until the 5th grade, it's all good.  Did you know it takes 30 hours in an adult reading course to teach reading to illiterate adults?  So tell me why it takes us sooooooo many years with little kids?  Because most of those little kids are not really ready for reading until later and if you wait until the child is ready, it will click more naturally.) 

I'm trying to get advice from other homeschool moms but can't seem to break through!
     It's because we don't know what to tell you.  You have to learn what we did.  We can offer suggestions but we know that what worked for us might not work for you.  We know that you have to trudge through the homeschool trenches just like we did. There are some things you can't be taught and you just have to learn.  Hopefully you can find some homeschool moms around you to journey with you and encourage you.  In the end though, you have to make the choices for your family, and you will prolly have to re invent that wheel in your home many times over before getting it right.

Where are these homeschool families anyway?
     I have lived in multiple different states while homeschooling and some places are easier than other to find homeschoolers.  Facebook is the number one place for groups to get listed.  Local libraries often have a list of groups.  In a town where the homeschool groups are not obvious, you have to do a lot of calling around.  Find our which gymnastics/dance/art/ect places have "homeschool time".  Take a free class and meet some other families and ask them what they know of local.  Go to the the library/park/zoo/grocery store/ect during school times and if you see another family with kids, ask if they homeschool.  Troll local church websites, maybe even call the office and ask if they have something going on or even the number of a homeschooling mom in their congregation you can talk to.  It seems like finding homeschoolers should be a no brainer but it can be really difficult.  Think outside the box, ask questions and if all else fails, start your own group on FB and see what happens!

I still feel lost
     I know, I did too.  In fact, I felt pretty lost until my oldest was in 6th grade.  That's when I finally had everything drop into place.  During the really hard times I told myself this "It is NOT my inability to teach, or their inability to learn, we just haven't found what works for us yet".
     I know it's a scary and exciting road you have started on .  Some of you will move ahead quicker than others.  Some of you are really going to struggle for many years.  Just like our "mommy-ing" was a learning curve, so is homeschooling.  You will get there.  Be encouraged.  Try not to over think everything.  YOU WILL DO GREAT!

With Much Love,
     A Veteran Homeschool Mom