Daily, Homeschool Basics

First month of school 2017-2018: Homeschool Kindergarten and Preschool

It has been terribly difficult to find a routine this month.  Between *still* adjusting to another deployment, trying to get my Etsy shop back up and running, starting Classical Conversations and gymnastics, and last minute hurricane evacuation, we are really just taking it a few days at a time.  I do have to admit it has been so wonderful being back in NC for a while.  I miss this beautiful fall weather.  Florida beaches and winters are nice, but it’s not home.  There is just something about a beautiful 65 degree day out at the park with two boys; collecting leaves, rocks, and bugs.

August and September 2017

The boys have done very well with the start of the school year.  I thought Tanner would really love the memory work and songs associated with CC.  He does, but not nearly as much as Wesley has taken to it.  It’s so neat to see a little 3 year old skip counting 3s and 4s, and singing about the Pilgrims.  I think his favorite is the Timeline song and sign language that goes along with it.

The boys start their school days with their daily notebook (I plan to make a download for anyone interested in that), and their memory work.  We sing the Timeline song a few times, and sing the history and math memory work.  We then go over the other CC subjects.  I have various activities that go along with those.  Some art activities, notebook pages, and puzzles are a few things we add in each day.

Once the dual school work is done Tanner will usually start his math while I start Wesley’s reading (fun) curriculum.  I’m not pushing anything on Wesley, especially the sight words that are used in this curriculum.  I don’t really like the idea of teaching sight words.  I just used this mostly as something fun for him to do, and practice counting, writing letters, and learning about books.  It’s the same thing I used with Tanner two years ago.

While Wesley is doing something that’s slightly more independent, or if he’s done with his work, I’ll go over Tanner’s math and/or help him with his math, and then we go over his Logic of English lesson.  He will do some of his science and poetry notebook pages during this time as well. Once a week he writes a “thankful for” page. It’s mostly for handwriting practice.  He will pick three things he is thankful for that day or week.  I’ll write them down on the board and he copies them down on his paper.

The next few months I hope to start adding in a bit more life skills for both boys.  Things like laundry, baking, helping with lunch or dinner prep, gardening, and chores.  I also hope to really dig deeper into our devotionals during breakfast time and I want to add more read aloud time in, as well.

Having two kids doing school work at the same time is definitely a struggle more times than not.  But we are just getting started.  I know I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I think the longer we stick with it, we’ll find what works for our family.

Homeschool Basics

First Day of School – Kindergarten and Preschool

It has been 2.5 months since I’ve blogged.  I didn’t mean to take such a long break, but with it being summer, I didn’t really have a whole lot to talk about dealing with school.  I have considered writing more about our life and school, but haven’t decided yet.

It’s been a difficult and a bit overwhelming few weeks, but I was able to gather, plan, and clean to prepare for the first day of homeschool. It went well, but there is going to be a major learning curve, on my part, when it comes to teaching two kids different material, at the same time.  Especially when I have one who want my full attention.

We started out with the pledge and our morning binders that I created.  They both have the same pages so we were able to work on that together. We then moved on to Tanner’s math worksheets and Wesley’s preschool Reading the Alphabet curriculum.  Tanner needs a little more time to learn how to do work more independently (since he’s always had my undivided attention with school), but it was really great to see him work diligently on his math while I worked with Wesley.  When he completed math, I gave him some cutting practice worksheets that he loved.  It kept him occupied while I finished with Wesley’s work.  Once that was done I had Wesley go play while I focused on Tanner’s Language Arts/reading.

School Day Poem

All in all, it was a good start to the school year.  I have a lot to learn, still.  Especially once CC starts up next week!

 

 

Classical Conversations, Homeschool Basics

Classical Conversations – An overview and why we are giving it a try

Classical Conversations - An overview and why we are trying it

Classical Conversations. To know God and to make Him known.

This mission statement for Classical Conversations (CC) is the biggest reason I was drawn to this form of homeschooling.  But it hasn’t been an easy decision.  Before I get into the details of why we decided to give this program a try this coming school year — and why I was totally against it last year — I will write an overview of this homeschool community to give you a basic understanding of how it works.

There are many different forms of homeschooling.  Traditional, classical, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, unschooling, and electic are a few.  If you can’t tell by the name, Classical Conversations is based on the classical education approach.  The focus of classical education is how a student learns.  The following information has been adapted from the Classical Conversations Foundations Guide, written by Leigh A. Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations.

Classical Conversations is not really a co-op, but a community. The communities are broken up by ages, so the classes are small. All Classical Conversations’ communities meet once a week for 24 weeks.  There are three cycles.  Every student, of any age, will be learning the same material.  Just at their own level.  Which makes it tremendously helpful when you have multiple children learning at home.

Classical Conversations (and classical education) divides learning into 3 stages: the Grammar stage, the Dialectic stage, and the Rhetoric stage.

Classical Conversations Programs

Grammar Stage

The Grammar stage is not ‘English Grammar’. It is the time in a child’s life where they learn by memorizing facts.  The age for this learning is around K4 through 6th grade.  In Classical Conversations this program is called Foundations.  Here tutors (CC moms who are paid to to lead a community group) help load facts from a variety of interesting subjects.  I know more about the Foundations program because of the age of my kids.  I won’t be able to go into detail on the community day for the other CC programs.

Each week during community day the students review previous memory work, get introduced to new memory work, practice public speaking, complete a science experiment, and work on a form of fine arts (art work and music-playing the tin whistle, or learning about classical composers).

Dialectic Stage

The Dialectic stage is when the student learns how facts relate.  This CC program is called Essentials, and is around the 4th through 6th grade age.  From what I’ve read and been told, here the students really start to focus on writing. In the Foundations Guide, it says “the tutors model the grammar and dialectic tools of learning in English grammar, writing, and math drills. [The students] develop mental skills to sort and classify facts and learn the tools they need to become effective writers.”

There is a second program in the later years of the Dialectic stage (7th and 8th grade) called Challenge A and B. Here the students become much more independent, and the material becomes more challenging.  They focus more on group discussions as they learn logic and debate.

Rhetoric Stage

The Rhetoric stage is where the student begins applying the facts they’ve learned in the grammar and dialectic stages.  This CC program is Challenge I, II, III, and IV, and the age is 9th-12th grade.  Since I really only have young kids, and not much experience with CC in the older years, I am going to quote the Foundations Guide again.  The students “not only discuss, but learn to lead discussions.  Students can fully express themselves in creative, meaningful, and practical applications of subjects”.

The Bible even acknowledges these stages. In Proverbs 24: 3-4, they are referred to as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Classical Education - Stages of Learning

Now, that most of the basics of the classical education has been explained, I will start talking about our idea of it.

I first learned about CC when Tanner just turned 3.  I thought the idea of a community was awesome, and I loved the idea that CC put God in the center of all the different subjects.  But there were a lot of things about Classical Conversations that I didn’t understand, and due to that misunderstanding, completely pushed me away from wanting to join. There’s lots of memory work.  And it seemed odd to me to make a child memorize so much stuff, but not really learn it.  Also, they learn Latin.  LATIN!  Is that crazy to anyone else?  I also figured I could put my own curriculum together.  You have to use separate Language Arts and Math curriculum anyway.

The turning point.

It was almost like God was leading me to this.  It happened fairly quickly. I was struggling a bit trying to figure out how to put my own curriculum together.  I wanted to make sure I covered what I needed to but didn’t over do it.  I was literally searching for a book to help me learn about gathering my own curriculum when I took a Facebook break.  And while I was scrolling through my newsfeed a homeschool mom shared a blog post from Family Style Learning about Bullet Journaling.  I didn’t really read the title, I just glanced at the pictures and saw how cool it was ( I love journaling).  So I clicked on it and began reading it.  Which lead to me being blown away by what the upper level Challenge students do.  Which then lead me to do more research on Classical Conversations.

After a few days of researching and reading, I finally understood how the Classical model works.  How the memorization in the younger years is NOT actually a waste.  I learned how the three cycles work well for the students.  For an example, Tanner will start cycle 3 this next school year.  Then he will be in cycle 3 again at age 8/9.  He will re-learn the information in a completely different way at that time. He will start asking more questions about the material because he will remember it from the first time.  So we will then be able to dive deeper with learning the material he is most interested in.

After learning more about CC,  I even realized that THIS IS HOW I LEARN!  My mom would help me memorize skip counting when I was younger, and I still remember it to this day.

Let’s give it a try!

So, I figured this was the best time to figure out if this will work for us.  If it does, I want the boys to have as many years as they can with this form of learning.  If it doesn’t work, it was only one year, and a kindergarten year at that.  Also, we don’t just have to memorize the Foundations memory work.  If there is something Tanner is interested in, we can dig a bit deeper with more activities.  There is CC Connected online where other CC parents and tutors create and post activities and printables for the students to use.  And Pinterest, of course.

This next school year is cycle 3.  Tanner will be learning about the USA in History and Geography, and Anatomy and Chemistry in science.  All of which he loves.  With CC you have to choose your own language arts and math curriculum, both of which we already have. I’ve heard that you either really like CC or you don’t. So why not give it a try?  I’m really looking forward to this community.  I, personally, need a community of other experienced homeschool parents.

This was a crazy long post.  But there was a lot of information I wanted to share.  Next week I will be attending the 3 day Classical Conversations Parent Practicum.  It will help me understand this program, and classical education, much more.  I am planning on sharing my experience after I complete it.

What about you?  Are you interested in Classical Conversations?

 

 

 

Homeschool Basics

Tot School- What we did in our home

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” -George Dorsey

When I wrote my ‘Why We Homeschool‘ post I explained how Tot School is really how I fell in love with the idea of homeschooling.  I loved being able to watch my children learn.  And I truly loved the fact that it was all play based.  It is so important for children to play.  There is absolutely no need for anything structured so early. I still have a mostly play based homeschool and my 5 year old is doing kinder/1st grade work.  Just because it’s “play” doesn’t mean it’s not learning.  In this post, I will show you a lot of examples of activities we did when my boys were doing Tot School. (Disclaimer, the picture quality will not be that great.  Most of these pictures were taken on a phone several years ago. Also, there are quite a few ideas with pictures in my Homeschooling with Toddlers post)

Tot School Trays

So, make it fun!

Make it colorful, make it noisy, make it messy! The one thing both of my boys loved the most, and still do, is sensory activities.

The very first sensory boxes I made for both boys were color based.  Each week we would spend learning one color.  You don’t have to have anything special.  With Tanner, I literally walked around the house and gathered little things that matched the color we were learning.  Toy cars, pipe cleaners, small stuffed animals, blocks, flash cards with colorful pictures, etc.  The fun came as the kids dumped everything out.  I also love using sensory bins with a”base”, such as: dry beans, large buttons, string, dry oatmeal, dried and colored rice and pasta. I then throw little manipulative toys, cards, etc into the base.  It can be a natural/nature learning experience as well, using sand, rocks, dirt, snow, and water/ice.

Tot School Sensory Bins Color sensory bin collage

I created a lot of different activities for the boys to do as well.  A favorite was popsicle stick shoebox puzzles.  I made one with colors, and one with shapes.  I also made a few puzzles that had velcro and magnetic backs.  It helped little fingers assemble the puzzle easier.  There is no need to spend a lot of money on this either.  You can even print out a coloring page twice.  Color and cut out the pieces of one, and let the child place the colored pieces on top of the black and white picture (like in the garden/flower image below).

Tot School Color Trays Tot School Shoe Box Puzzles

Tot School Activities

In the above picture you can see the oil drip pan we purchased for under $15.  We used that as a magnet board.  I hot glued magnets to colored pompoms, and sewed magnets into little felt shapes.  I always incorporated the colors and shapes each week.

Some other manipulative toys I created were really easy and made from trash.  An empty, clean parmesan cheese container is perfect for fine motor.  We used large popsicle sticks for the large opening, and coffee stir sticks for the small openings.  I also used a cleaned icing tub and a baby puff container.  I cut a small hole in the lid for fine motor control. The boys pushed pompoms into the containers through the hole.  Another idea, flip a colander over and have your toddler try to stick pipe cleaners into the holes.  It’s hard work for a 1-year old.

Tot School Fine Motor

Felt is a fun item to use in tot school, as well.  You can create your own felt board and felt pieces.  Some people use pieces to tell stories.  I used felt to learn shapes.  You can create a body outline and cut out pants and shirts out of different colored felt and allow your child to match the clothing on the felt child to the clothes he or she is wearing.

Tot School Felt Shapes

Some tips:

Don’t make tot school (or even preschool) structured.  It will only cause issues in the future for both you and your child.

Some topic ideas: colors, shapes, numbers, and holidays

Keep it simple.  Don’t force too much in one day.  Sometimes our learning was 10-15 minutes, and that is ok! Don’t get frustrated, their attention spans are so short.

Make the activities easily accessible.  Put the activities on trays, or in bins, on a low shelf or table top.  You may find your child playing with them many times throughout the day.

And once again, because I can’t stress this enough, make it fun! Play, play, play!

Tot School Shoe Box Puzzle

 

 

Homeschool Basics

Homeschooling with Toddlers- 3 Helpful Tips

Child doing schoolwork with toddler playing with "Homeschooling with Toddlers Text"

Homeschooling can be hard and overwhelming on it’s own.  But add a toddler into the mix and it can become much more difficult.  At least in my case, it was.

Nap time!

Homeschooling with toddlers in the household is pretty distracting.  The very first tip I can give, from my own experience, is to try to plan school learning and activities during nap times.  Of course, this doesn’t always work.  When Wesley was younger, it took him forever to fall asleep, and stay asleep, for naps. And he didn’t nap every day.  But when he did, we were able to knock out a solid hour or two of school work and crafts.  (We were doing pre-K reading at the time, so it didn’t take long anyway)

All by myself boxes and sensory play, always a winner!

Sensory bin picture collage

During those days that Wesley did not sleep, I needed to try to distract him with other activities while Tanner and I did school work.  Sometimes I would put together an “All By Myself” box for him to play with.  In these boxes I would have a puzzle or two, flash cards, an activity game (like lacing cards, or color sorting manipulatives), a smaller box of sensory items (dry beans and lentils, colored dry rice and pasta, large buttons of various colors and shapes, dry oatmeal, seashells, rocks, etc…), and tools and cups. Sometimes I would add playdoh to the box instead of sensory items.  We would always do school work with Wesley and the box right next to us because a lot of the sensory items were small, and he obviously needed to be watched while playing.  The only issue with using these boxes, was that Tanner really wanted to join in, as well.  So it was a nice incentive for him to finish what he was working on, so he could play with the boxes.  Also, I’d like to add that you don’t have to go spending a ton of money on this.  The Dollar Tree has a lot of very good manipulatives and crafty trinkets.

Color sensory bin collage

All by myself sensory box picture collage

Begin fine motor learning.

As Wesley got a little older, we started doing a little more fine motor play.  I gave him a dry erase board to scribble on, a fun dry erase book, and of course, crayons and paper.  Another great activity for toddlers is do-a-dot learning pages.  I really like the do-a-dot markers because they are like paint and markers, but not nearly as messy!  Which is wonderful when you’re trying to teach another child at the same time.  Toddlers are awesome at creating messes in the smallest amount of time!

Toddler sorting shapes

These are some of the things that really helped me out when Wesley was a small toddler.  If everything else failed, I would put a movie on and hope it distracted him long enough for a little productive school time.  Things have totally changed for us now as Wesley is adamant on joining us every minute, to do his own school work.

 

Homeschool Basics

Where do you start? Beginning general homeschool topics

Books with "where do you start?" text

So, you want to homeschool, but where do you start?

(Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert.  I can just share tips from my own personal experience)

Laws.

The answer to this question can vary greatly between people.  But I recommend the very first thing you do is learn the homeschool laws in your state.  Some states have very relaxed laws.  Others are a little more strict.  In any case, knowing the laws for your state is a great way to start building the foundation for your homeschool. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is fantastic.  It is a non-profit organization that was created to defend the constitutional rights of homeschoolers.  Here you can search for your state’s laws.

Ask around.

Another good start is to find someone you know, maybe a family member, friend or someone at your church, who homeschools their children. I learned so much from the 3 people I spoke with about homeschooling.  Each person had a very different perspective on it so it really helped me see homeschooling from different angles.  I just recently found my notes I took when speaking to one veteran homeschooler.  There was such a wealth of information I learned from her, and I am so thankful to have had that opportunity to speak with her.  One big point to remember, when speaking with veteran homeschoolers, is that the best curriculum or co-op that they just couldn’t live without may not work at all for you.  That’s one of the joys and hardships when it comes to homeschooling.  It’s so individualized to your family, and sometimes, to your individual children.

 Read.

I really enjoyed reading Homeschooling 101: A guide to getting started by Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler. It’s a very easy read.  She also has a lot of information available on her blog and Youtube channel. There are also many books that have been recommended to me, that I have not had a chance to read yet.  Once I do, I’ll let you know how they are.  I learned a lot from online blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels.  Here is a small list of some of the websites I have personally used to learn more about homeschooling.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media.  Search on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.  Homeschooling is really booming right now.

Co-ops.

Homeschooling has changed drastically since the 90s.  I hear many people joke about barely ever homeschooling in their home.  They’re always on the go with different activities, trips, experiences, and co-ops.  Check your area for co-ops.  They can be very different from one another.  But basically, they are classes, activities, field trips and/or sports that homeschoolers can do together. The co-op (ours is called a community) we are joining actually gives families the option to sit in on a community day to see what it’s like.

Curriculum.

That can be a scary word.  It’s a scary word for me! There is just so much out there.  Individual subjects, box curriculum, online curriculum, religious based, and secular.  Cathy Duffy has been reviewing curriculum for decades. Her reviews are non-biased and can be very helpful when you’re torn between a few different choices.  You can find her reviews here.

You also don’t need to buy everything brand new.  Check to see if there is a local homeschool book swap on Facebook.  Homeschool Classifieds is also another place where you can find used curriculum.  Many of the local homeschool co-ops in my area have annual curriculum/book drives as well.

After you are slightly more familiar with homeschooling, you can learn about the different types of homeschooling.  I won’t go into detail in this post about that (I’ll save it for another day).  But once you figure that out, your choices for curriculum may change a bit.  You’ll use different materials for a “traditional homeschool” than you would for a “classical” or “Charlotte Mason” type of homeschool.

What is your ‘why’?

Why are you homeschooling?  What is it that is driving you?  Write it down, and put it somewhere you will see it often.  If you are having a stressful day, or having (the very normal) fears that you might not be doing everything right, look at your reason.  Remind yourself why you are doing this very hard but extremely rewarding thing for your family.  One of the hardest parts about homeschooling, is making the decision to do it.  Especially if homeschooling was never on your radar.

I hope this very basic, general list can help you figure out how to get started on this wonderful journey!