weird, unsocialized homeschoolers.
Why on earth do you ask???
We had our first field trip of the season yesterday, and what a great time it was. Read all about it at my field trip blog, Homeschoolers’ Adventures.
I have been trying to get organized around here as we gear up for our new school year. Normally, one year flows into another, as we do not follow our district’s school calendar but rather school year-round with light Fridays, breaks when we need them, and a lighter load with just a few weeks off in the summer.
But last Christmas I decided that with a new baby coming in May, we’d go ahead and take off the whole summer, so we plowed through spring doing “regular school” every day and even on Fridays. “Regular school” should probably be clarified in a post by itself, but suffice it to say that “school” and “real life” have much overlap around here, and we like it that way.
Some people have wondered out loud over the years how I manage to keep so many kids’ attention all day long as they sit
chained to at their desks from 9-3 while I teach their lessons. [insert howling, knee-slapping laughter] But I digress. That is not how we “do school,” and this post wasn’t going to be about that anyway, was it?
I’m here to show you my new bookshelves!!
This shelf is nicely organized now, and the others (I already had two in the school room) are still a work in progress.
This past week I hit the library’s annual book sale and found some fantastic deals, further adding to my organizational work load. A selection of these, though incomplete, will be very helpful for Hannah’s Cantering the Country history/geography/science studies this year. We thoroughly enjoyed that curriculum guide when I used it for the “big boys” when they were her age.
Really, moms, it is okay (and sometimes preferred) to do this to books, provided they belong to your own library:
Just make sure all the kids know that this is a job for mom only; otherwise they may try to help.
Next year’s homeschool planning has begun in earnest, ever since last week when I momentarily panicked myself upon the realization that I will have a young baby AND a high schooler (not to mention four grades in between) when we make the switch to the new school year.
Not only that, but there’s the rest of a busy spring/summer to think of, with gardening and yard work and so much else to oversee. AND a baby coming, which will mean less time to figure it all out if I wait too long.
I rarely send myself into a panic but when I do, I feel the need to pounce on whatever loose ends I’ve got and get them tied up as quickly as possible, which usually means get it done yesterday.
Any personality types out there who can relate to this? Or do you all just think I’m nuts?? No, don’t answer. I already know what you’re thinking.
I’ve always loved teaching the kids myself and for the most part have shied away from self-directed workbooks, internet school and DVD curricula. Year-round schooling and the life-is-a-classroom approach have helped this be doable, even with multiple ages. But I’ve been wondering how I’ll keep that same pace next school year and have decided that I cannot . . . and that’s okay.
control freak hands-on teacher that I am, I hate to change gears and delegate teaching, but I am strongly considering a few DVD classes for Nathan (my soon-to-be high schooler) next year. Does anyone have experience with Switched-on Schoolhouse from AOP? A few of those classes would be very helpful, and we think Nathan would do well with that approach. It’s also much more affordable than other similar options. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used it.
At the same time, I realize that in one sense I should be working myself out of a job when it comes to teaching the big boys, especially, as they learn to take more initiative in their work and become more self-motivated in their learning. They’re becoming men, after all.
So there is a lot to consider here . . . the child’s personality and preferences and also what he or she needs to be guided and directed into (preference or not) . . . also what mom has the time to accomplish . . . and a dozen other family dynamics. And for us mix-and-match-the-curriculum types, it’s not as easy as ordering the next grade level and being done with it. As much as the intensive planning can make me dizzy, I kind of thrive on it too. I know—crazy, huh?
So, I took a few days this week to focus on making lists and doing the research. And praying for wisdom! And the good news is that we’ve got a plan in place for our littles, with just a few loose ends to figure out for the big boys. Whew. I think I can breathe now.
Sometime I’ll share about some curriculum favorites I used with the big boys, which I’m excited to have unboxed to use again. It brings back fun memories! And I’m still trying to process that Nathan will be in ninth grade. NINTH. Already. How his school years have flown by.
Then you’ll love this rendition of the Twelve Days of
No, we’re not late getting started, as we actually “school” quite a bit in the summer too. And since we try to live a lifestyle of learning, I am reluctant to divide “real life” education from “school” since there is often no clear delineation in our family. One does not need to crack a book to “do school” and learn something, although of course we regularly do that as well.
We had a lighter work load during the summer, of course, since there is so much to be done outside. But as those chores become less and less demanding, we ease into a complete “school” load until we’re going full steam ahead.
Last week was very diverse and enjoyable. Since I’m teaching multiple ages, that is often the case. Some of our highlights were . . .
Preposition bingo. I first got the idea from our Easy Grammar book, but you certainly don’t need the book for this game. Just print off some bingo cards like this or make your own. It’s much more fun than memorizing a list like we had to do in school, and even more fun if you have the kids take turns making up sentences with their prepositions. They come up with some doozies!
Cow eye dissection. We’ve been learning about the human body this summer, so it just made sense, since cow eyes are quite similar to human eyes. I’m sure you could get some free eyes at a slaughterhouse, but the closest one I know of was farther than I wanted to drive, so I ordered ours from Home Science Tools. For the faint of heart, you may prefer simply watching this informative dissection video we found online. And for the very faint of heart, please accept my apologies.
Fire station field trip. Always a hit with the kids.
I wanted to do a life sciences unit that the whole family could enjoy, and this one is a winner! Lyrical Life Science has several volumes available, although I’m only familiar with Volume 3—The Human Body.
As you may have guessed, music is involved, and we have been singing along for the past month or more. Everyone knows that words set to music will be remembered (like it or not); thankfully, in this case there is much to like.
There are 13 songs on the CD—a song for each system of the body and then some, along with 13 corresponding teaching chapters, workbook sections and quizzes, and even sheet music. These are not your typical annoying, dumbed-down children’s lyrics set to equally annoying music. The songs are FANTASTIC and are performed by the talented Bobby Horton, known for his works featured in various historical public television series. The song styles are “traditional, patriotic and camp tunes of long ago.” No rock, rap or anything distasteful here.
The lyrics are all great too. In case you’re wondering, the “Reproductive System” is handled discreetly and is actually one of my favorites, with lyrics like “our genes and our dreams to the children yet unborn, to continue life’s cycle again,” tugging at a mother’s heartstrings.
These songs are absolutely brilliant and are jam-packed with educational content. The skeletal system, which we recently finished up, is set to the quick-paced Italian Tarantella, and names many of the body’s bones, states how they’re attached to each other, how many there are, etc. It’s hilarious trying to keep up with this one! My big boys are able to, although you may not be able to pry the song out of them in public. And when my 3-year-old goes around singing the songs and telling everyone how to correctly pronounce “appendicular,” I know they’re all learning something about how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.
If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about the human body—something all ages will enjoy and benefit from—then look no further. Our family loves this, and we know yours will too!
Edited to add: While the “Reproductive System” song is discreet and rather vague on details, I see the teaching book packs more facts that you may want to share, depending on the age and maturity of your children. So if you plan on handing them the book for independent reading, I’d recommend doing a preview of this chapter first.
Almost every day something new happens. Today, Mom and I made a weather vane, and Mom and Joseph are making a toy hot-air balloon. We got both of those experiments out of the book 101 Great Science Experiments.
For the weather vane, we cut out 6 triangles, 2 big ones and 4 little ones, and on the 4 little ones we wrote north, south, east, and west. Then we cut slits in a (drinking) straw, and put the big triangles in the slits.
We loosely tacked the straw to a pencil eraser and cut a pencil-size hole in a sour cream container and glued the 4 triangles on the rim of it. Then we put the pencil in the hole, and we were done! Test it first, to make sure it spins.
We took it outside, and it worked.
The hot-air balloon isn’t finished, so I don’t know how it will work.
A few days ago, I got an idea from one of my favorite books, Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things, by Cy Tymony, who also wrote Sneakier Uses for Everyday Things, and Sneakiest Uses for Everyday Things. (They’re available through Vision Forum.) There is a project in his book where you use a string, toy dart gun and camera to take a picture of a thug, (or anyone) who opens your door too far. I thought of a similar idea where you use the same concept to turn on your room light.
I took an old spiral-bound notebook and cut out a piece of the cardboard cover (the shiny side.) I taped this to my door and then stuck a suction cup to it. (Without the cardboard, the suction cup wouldn’t stick to the door.) I tied a string to the suction cup as seen in the next picture:Then I wrapped the string around the hinge of my closet door, which is right next to the main door:
The only problem is that every time you leave the room, you must reset it, by looping the loop around the switch, and then squeeze through the door, without turning on the light.I hope to be able to improve this, by running the string through stick-on eyelets, stuck on the wall.
Moms, here is some excellent food for thought from Kelly Crawford at Generation Cedar, with my own commentary following.
“Instead of duplicating the only method we knew regarding how to “do school”, we backed up and began to ask ourselves the simple question:“What is education”? In order to begin building, we must know what we’re building in the first place. A storage shed and a cathedral are going to have very different-looking blueprints.Most parents fail to realize that the structure the state is trying to design is in the shape of a TEST.Tests are the gage schools use to determine their success. And while a test can be an important tool for assessing progress, it should not be the end-all for determining the method. In other words, if we teach solely for the purpose of achieving a desired test score, we have missed the entire purpose of education.” From Think Outside the Classroom
Several discussions about education this week caused me to revisit what I believe are fundamental flaws in the way most of us think. And our thinking about education is so deeply entrenched that the topic causes heated controversy and reaction to anything that challenges our opinions.
I would love to challenge some of your thoughts without evoking that reaction.
Standardized testing has long been the accepted measure of academic achievement. I do believe those test can be a good tool and can reveal a certain level of achievement–sometimes.
But I also think we are the victims of fear which can drive us to bow to the tests at the expense of a more “real” and thorough education. When I taught school, even at a Christian school, we were required to write our lesson plans based entirely on which standardized concepts (including the number of the test section) we were covering.
“The first thing to consider, obviously, is what you want to teach. This should be developed based upon your state (or school) standards….Having your lesson plan correctly aligned with state standards helps to prove its worthiness and necessity. It also helps in assuring that your students are being taught what your state requires.” Lesson Plan Page
We must step back and ask, “Are we responsible for ‘teaching what the state requires’?”
Even in states that do not require standardized testing, we homeschoolers acknowledge it as the standard and live in fear that our children won’t measure up.
I’ll surely be misunderstood, so let me clarify that I am NOT opposed to testing or standardized measures to help guide us as we educate our children. (And I also know that many occupations require that testing.)
I AM opposed to teaching in fear of the state, as a Christian parent who has been given authority over my children as well as specifics for the important things they are to be learning…
“Teach them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and mind…”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”
“Him [Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
And let’s remember to what extent He commanded our efforts…”bind them around your necks, write them on the doorposts of your home…when you rise up, when you lie down, when you sit in your house, when you walk along the way…”
It is a deliberate “saturation” of teaching our children to know the Lord.
“But, we must teach them things besides loving the Lord.”
And to that I would say absolutely. But not apart from it. To recognize God as the Creator in which we “live and move and have our being”, to recognize that He is the Author and Finisher, the One for Whom we were created, should drastically change the way we think about education.
It is not that we throw away the academics, it’s that they become secondary to our pursuit of the Word of God. Yes, I said it. They become our servant, not our slave. And here’s how it works: if our children become saturated by the principles of Scripture, taught to “search out wisdom”, learn to love the precepts of God in the deliberate, intense way Scripture commands, then academics will be held and studied in the right light.
Diligence will be the force that bolsters their studies. Thoroughness will be the inspiration that carries them through. Awe and wonder will be the spark that ignites their desire to learn more. And a sense of responsibility and good stewardship will be the energy that propels them when things are hard.
At best, I would say that we often have our educational paradigm upside down. We do not serve man, but God. Let’s be consistent in all things, including the education of our children, if that is true of us.
Amen! That’s a good word to help us maintain the right focus, isn’t it?
Actually, I have always been a tester. In fact, we’re testing this week, so it’s presently on my mind and in my schedule.
I do not have the fear of man part, though—at least not quite the same kind. In the first years, I had no anxiety that my children would not measure up; my only fear was that they would not be in the very highest percentile, because I was determined to have intelligent children, along with the test scores to prove it. (I’m not proud of that—just being honest.)
While it is convenient to be able to tell the naysayers, “My children test very well,” I hope that since then I’ve grown enough to realize that academic achievement is secondary. I’ve always said that it was, but to my shame I have not always acted or taught accordingly. Maybe you can relate to that a little.
In the beginning, my primary motivation for testing was for simplicity’s sake. Knowing myself the way I do, it seemed that testing would be easier for me because, although I do keep thorough records, I do not have the self-induced (and unnecessary) stress of compiling a picture-perfect, beautifully embellished, heirloom-quality scrapbook of each child’s yearly accomplishments for a portfolio review (a second option for homeschooling Ohioans).
Over the years, as I have become more relaxed (yes, really—you should have seen me earlier on!), and now this year having to purchase a test for child number three, we may re-think that decision. But if you’re considering testing, I wanted to give a recommendation I’ve passed on to many over the years.
In my first year of testing, a friend mentioned Christian Liberty Press, and so that’s what I have always used, and happily so for a number of reasons. First, as Kelly addressed, we do not teach to the test, nor do we teach to the public schools’ scope and sequence. As far as standardized testing goes, the only score Ohio requires is math and language composite, so that’s all we provide. No need to test history or science or anything else, especially if you’re not studying it in the same order as the public schools do.
I like the 1970 version of the California Achievement Test from CLP because the tests are very inexpensive compared to other testing options. Also, since the test is not modern, we have not run into any objectionable content which may be a problem with newer versions of any test. I’m also told that the older versions test more accurately because they are not “dumbed down” as newer ones may be, and like I mentioned before, it tests only math and language.
There are more specifics on why I think this particular test is a great choice for homeschoolers, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
In the meantime, as our schedules relax or change this time of year, it’s good to do an assessment—a “mom” assessment, that is. Why do we do what we do? Is what we’re doing consistent with what we say we’re doing? What is it that motivates us in our homeschooling task, and is that motivation God-honoring or simply a reaction to the fear of man?