Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No School Today!

From all of us here at the Homeschooling Lots of Kids Blog, and from the family...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Juggling Extra-curricular Activities

We have 6 children who are, officially, being homeschooled this year. Each one has their own different needs (duh, right?). I love this about them, I really do. But, it can get really crazy around here.

Usually, when a parent asks advice for how to weed out activities and simplify their life, they are told, "limit it to one activity per child per semester." Hey, that's actually good advice. No denying that. BUT, having six different activities to juggle between two parents is STILL asking a lot. And, for me, I cannot count on DH to be here to help. His schedule is as flexible as a Chinese acrobat - only completely in his boss' favor and determination! It's nice when he can be here to help, but I cannot plan for it. So, we have to find a balance that lets everyone have experiences without running me ragged!

To start with, we have an age limit. They do not have an 'outside' activity prior to 7years old. This year that meant four who were eligible from summer-Nov. Now there are five, but so much has already started, his options are limited.... A little tricky, but still perfectly "fair". ;)

Next, we try my best to combine activities. If we can get TWO children in the same activity/class it lessens the load. If we can get MORE.... all the better. A few years ago all of the girls were in 4H. The monthly club meetings included everyone and had activities for the younger children. They each had their own interests and activity within 4H, but those were done at home and did not involve GOING all the time.

In addition, we have it worked out where we can have 'activities' come to us! The music lessons for the younger children are in our home. We have piano and guitar taught in our home. On the same day as those music lessons we have an art class. My DD is teaching this art class to her younger sister and a cousin. We also have science labs at our house.

My next secret.... carpooling!!! Many of our activities are planned to coincide with family or friends activities that are in the same place around the same time! :D So, I may drop off my eldest for her music lessons, but she is brought home to me afterward by a cousin who has a lesson after her. We also have a carpooling deal where my aunt will drop children off at the activity and we will bring them home.

We do say, "no" to activities. I hate to do so. When the children show an interest I want to cultivated it and encourage them in what they want to explore. But, I can only do so much. Usually, we can ask one of two questions to sway the child into giving up on it themselves. "What are you willing to give up in order to do this?" and "are you willing to pay for this, yourself?" If they continue to show an interest and are willing to make sacrifices, they may have to wait, but, we try to work it out so they can do it.

I realize this issue is not unique to homeschooling. I think we, as homeschoolers, have the additional concern of making sure school work gets done as well. The homeschool community can offer some really great opportunities - ALL DAY LONG! These things are rarely frivolous, and can be very tempting. I could sign up my entire LIFE to the things our nearby homeschool groups have to offer.... lol. After the weeding down process already mentioned, we have to insert a filter. Good, better, best.

Plenty of things are good. And, they are good for varying reasons, too! Some things are even better, and more geared towards our interests, desires and skills. But, those things may not be the BEST for our family, at this time. We have to make sure that the activity is really the best, overall.

We make sure it will not cut into study time. We verify that the need for it isn't already being met in some way or another. We look at the schedule of other things we're already doing to look for overlapping or otherwise conflicting times. We also have to consider how the activity will affect the rest of the household. We examine our motives for desiring the activity. And, we bathe the matter in prayer to beg for direction and wisdom to the best choices.

I still, frequently, feel as if I am running constantly. But, I know that we've minimized it as much as we are comfortable doing - for now. We also keep in mind that everything we do is optional and can be dropped if it becomes too difficult, or expensive!

Homeschooling a blended family

Never in my life did i think i'd be homeschooling a blended family.I knew i'd homeschool,but throw in the words "blended family" and you've reached a whole new ball game there folks.(we won't even go into the fact that i have 2 public school teachers in my new family)

I think the biggest concern or problem that arises when you're homeschooling a blended family is the trust factor.I mean the other parent that is no longer in the family has got to trust you enough that you're going to teach their kids and not just let school days go by without doing any work.For me my ex husband had seen me homeschool he knew i was perfectly capable of doing it,but the ex wife well that was another story. I remember her asking Jerry "well what kind of credentials does she have?Does she even know what she's doing?"

Jerry assured her that yes i did know what i was doing that it was a way of life i was used to,but no you did not need credentials to teach at home.He assured her that i take my job very seriously.For me I knew it would just take time to prove to her that no worries, i was not messing up your kids by homeschooling,in fact i was raising one of your sons reading levels,and decreasing the stress in the other ones life.We had all agreed upon giving me a trial period till Christmas of last year.Funny Christmas came and went and no one said a word.In fact the next month the oldest child won the spelling bee in the 4th-8th grade group,him being in only 4th grade.The next month I received a call from the boys mom telling me how amazed she was at all the kids were learning.This summer i approached her with wanting to school the kids year round i was surprised with a very enthusiastic "go for it"SO yes she trusts me,not only to raise her kids,but to school them as well and to teach them the things they need to know.

The second biggest thing a blended family may encounter is not about anyone else except for the homeshooling is the constant questioning of one self.I know every homeschool mom goes through this but then you throw in the factor of outside parents and it really gets tough.For me I am always worried "what if their mom doesn't like what they're learning this year or the way i'm teaching it"Lucky for me she very rarely asks about school she just kind of takes the kids word for it.I am still under constant pressure though because of us Waldorf schooling that she'll think i've totally fallen off my rocker or become too relax with the kids,instead of her seeing that this is one of the most natural ways for a child to learn.I haven't exactly used the word "waldorf" with her just told her we're taking on a much more hands on approach.She seems happy with that.But still in the back of my mind i am constantly questioning myself...i mean i know the kids are learning.One of the reasons i homeschool was so my kids wouldn't have to "prove themselves" to others constantly but yet here we are.I can only hope that she sees all the kids have learned and the good that is coming from this experience.I mean her kids more so then my own have told me numerous times how much they love homeschool or how they'd never be able to do certain acivities in public school that we get to do at home.

I have come to a point where i know she trusts me so i am trying to let go of the little voice in my head that doubts myself.I need to look at why i believe homeschooling is the best option an number one on my list is Sense of Security.I want them to know that their house is a place where they can always feel secure.Not go out and try to fine that somewhere else.I actually had one of my old highschool teachers tell me when she found out i was going to homeschool our brood

"oh no wendy they need to be in public school so they can feel secure and talk to people they trust while they're going through this adjustment of becoming a blended family"

ummm anybody else see something wrong with that sentence?I firmly believe that a child's sense of security should come firstly from his family not from a teacher or a school counselor.This is their house if they cant find security here where else will they find it?In a school setting where they're told if they don't do they're best on a state test they'll be held back,which causes that extremely bright kid to be sick for a week because he is worried he will not pass?(i've seen it happen to my oldest stepson ) How is that a sense of security?Or should he find it in his home where he's allowed to move at his own pace and excel in areas he wishes.Where he can talk openly about things he loves or what he is thinking without any of the other kids teasing him.

Homeschooling a blended family is a big job.But for me i have already seen so many of the benefits of it.i have gotten to know my stepsons as well as my own children so much more deeply then if they were gone from me for 6 hours a day.The children have made stronger bonds with each other as well.We have more time to be a family because they're not coming home from school and working for 2-3 more hours on homework.I get to see that spark in their eyes when tey finally "get" multiplication or are intrigued by the ancient mayans.I get to hear them tell their mom or dad all the things we did in "school" today and here the excitement in their voice.How wonderful is that?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Homeschool Thanksgiving

We are in the midst of learning about Thanksgiving. I think this was a subject we went over every year in school, and we learned pretty much the same things. This year I wanted to get deeper into the subject with my kids. Much like most of our homeschool, we are very ecclectic in our approach, sampling a little bit of this and that, and letting the kids choose what elements they want to focus more on.

In our homeschool, we have 2 core groups of learners. My 1st and 2nd graders work together, and their work is more age appropriate. Then I have my gifted 4th and 7th graders, who have their own grade-level work (such as for math), but for social studies and other like subjects, they work together. We really try to create a group learning atmosphere, where whenever there is a subject that is covered by all kids, the older kids sit in with the younger kids in their lesson, then go off on their own more advanced work. Then, the older ones come back and give the younger ones some "additional information" they found. This has worked very well for us, and really gives the kids a broad sense of group learning.

There is a ton of stuff available on the internet to learn about Thanksgiving. I'm going to link a couple of my favorites. There's only 9 more days to American Turkey Day! Here's to hoping your family has a great holiday.

Thankgiving Tradition and History -- This is a neat site in that they suggest you take their Thanksgiving quiz before you read the history. Then read the story, and take the quiz again at the end to see if you found the answers to the questions you first missed.

Billy Bear 4 Kids Thanksgiving -- Lots of fun games and crafts for your younger learners.

Thanksgiving Unit Study -- This article from Gifted Homeschool features ideas and links to site which feature information on how life really was for the pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving. This is an 11-day study, which is a bit late if you start it now. But elements can be used to create your own plan. Lots of great information.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Benefits of theLocal Library

I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks but school and children have been consuming most of my time lately. I have home schooled 10 of my 11 kids so far and one asset to our home school was and is the local library. We make it a part of our school week to get new books. I also require all my kids 10 and under to read for 30 minutes each day.The older ones are willing to read independently. Daily reading helps in many ways. It has helped educationally in their ability to read,and to improve their comprehension skills, and also with their creativity in writing. It also helps to get my non-readers to read more, due to it being mandatory in our home. I know life is busy but I believe 30 minutes a day helps in so many ways.

Helpful Blog Stuff

I've been making my sweep of the LOK Blogs this morning. If you're a regular visitor of this blog, you'll notice that our sidebar has been beefed up. You can now view our contributor's personal blogs, subscribe to our feeds, grab a badge to link to us, and much more. Another addition is a blogroll of our other blogs at Lotsofkids, so you can easily see what's going on elsewhere!

Thanks for your support of Lotsofkids and the Homeschooling Lots of Kids blog!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lapbook Learning

We finally delved into the wonderful world of lapbooks and let me tell you, it really is wonderful. A friend passed along a link to a great, free election lapbook and so we decided to try it out.

We brought out the big foldup table from the garage and put it in the middle of the livingroom. We all piled around it and went to work learning vocabulary, who the major players were in this presidential election and what their platforms were.. finding the similarities and differences. We wrote mini books with the youngest student given the topic of "If I Were President" and the oldest given the topic "The Importance of Voting." They learned about the symbolism of the donkey & the elephant, what the electoral college is & how it works, as well as the timeline of the presidential election process. All of the folders included a map of the United States. As we watched the evening news coverage of the election, the children colored in the states - red or blue, depending on if John McCain or Barack Obama won that state. It made for great dialogue all night long.

Our 15 year old son was a bit on the older side for this project but still seemed to enjoy helping our 5 year old put it all together. There was so much info and so many different activities, that I had to actually cut some out since we only had the one day to work on it. It was a wonderful way to have family fun and "school" at the same time. The cost was very small since it was a free lapbook design and the memories and learning that went on that day were huge.

The kids all voted and it was unanimous that we make lapbooks a new & frequent part of our learning experience.

If you haven't tried lapbooking before, here are a few sites to get you started.
Lapbooking on a Shoestring
Notebook Learning
Homeschool Share - Free Lapbooks
Homeschool Helper - Free Lapbooks
Lapbook Lessons

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Knowledge Quest's Homeschooling ABC's

When I was told that one of the products that we would be reviewing was basically a ‘how-to’ guide for first time homeschoolers, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to ‘get into’ this review. I mean, I’ve been homeschooling now for 7yrs, what more can I learn about homeschooling? I was pleasantly surprised by how well thought out this product is....Terri Johnson really packed a lot of information into these lessons, but in bite sized chunks.

Some of the topics they cover are:

  1. The basics of homeschooling
  2. Finding your philosophy of education
  3. Organizing your space and schedule
  4. Finding your child’s learning style and how to implement it into your home school

Some things that they also offer are:

  1. Free samples of curriculums; downloadable forms, and organizational tools
  2. Resources for other books that will help you to delve deeper into a specific topic
  3. Website links
  4. Ideas and suggestions from well-known homeschoolers and publishers

And so much more!

As a homeschooling mom to six children, I really don’t have a ton of time to be reading ‘how-to’ books. With Knowledge Quests’ Homeschooling ABC’s I didn’t have a problem with reading through the lessons because each lesson was short, but meaty in content.

There are 26 lessons and each lesson comes once a week, directly to your email. So you have a whole week to read and apply what you are learning to your homeschool. Along with the lessons, Terri has assignments for the parent to do, which really helps to reinforce what was discussed in that week’s lesson.

The cost to join Knowledge Quest's Homeschooling ABCs class is only $10 a month for 6 months (with a 60-day money back guarantee). That's only $2.30 per class session. Which is a pretty good price. If you still aren't sure you would be interested in this, they also have a 5-day mini class.

The creators of Homeschooling ABC’s have really thought these lessons through….there are so many tips packed into this product that even I have learned something from them (see you can still teach an old dog new tricks LOL). So, I would say that this product would be good for any homeschooler no matter how long you have been homeschooling.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Our lessons in November

Well, for us November is very traditional. I don't know aout other people but there is so much I want to teach our children in the month of November and December. So I have to pick and choose. We now take our field trips on the weekends in these months so that I can fit all I want to do in our class activities. Some of our favorites are learning about the pilgrims and the indians that helped them. This is ongoing for the whole month of November with it ending in the kids celebrating the first Thanksgiving. They draw out of a hat to see who get to be Indians and who are the Pilgrims. Then We dress up like them and have our own little feast. I also love the historical pocket book about the Pilgrims and Indians and the Mayflower. It is so much fun to learn about them this way.The girls have learned how to make pots in the American Heritage girl groups and they came home and taught the others how to make their own and we are even trying our hand at making paints out of berries and such to paint them.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

As if we didn't already have enough reasons.

While making my daily rounds of Fox News and CNN to get my dose of what is going on in the world, I came upon this:

Kindergartners Sign Pro-Gay Pledge Card

As most people know, Californians are on the verge of a major vote to decide if the ruling allowing gay marriages will stand. I'm not here to talk about that. I have my feelings on the issue, but that's not what this is about. The article shows that a kindergarten teacher brought in cards which the kids were required to sign, which made them pledge "not use anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) language or slurs; intervene, when I feel I can, in situations where others are using anti-LGBT language or harassing other students and actively support safer schools efforts."

This is just so wrong on so many levels. I can only imagine the mother of the child who found this card and how upset she was. Whatever your feelings on the subject of gay marriage, the bottom line is that the school itself acknowledged this was entirely inappropriate for the teacher to do. This topic and commitment to action is simply not suitable for kindergartners, regardless of what side of this issue you are on. I think the article sums it up best: "How do you teach a 5-year-old to sign a pledge card for lesbian, gay and transgender issues without explaining what transgender and bisexual is?"

This is just yet another example of how wrong our schools have gone. Admittedly, teachers have a right to create their own lesson plans and the administration doesn't necessarily have to see or approve it. Still, the fact that a teacher feels it is okay to allow her 5-6 year old students to be educated on and sign this card is a sad statement as to the direction many teachers feel they can move. A direction that is promoted by the public school systems desire to be "all-inclusive." This boils down to the fact that schools are prime locations to influence the youth. Spreading an ideology is easier when introduced at a young age, and as certain movements get more forceful, the age of those they wish to endoctrinate lowers. Whether it is religion, or gay tolerance, or whatever, the decision to educate our children on those subjects rests solely with the parents.

There are so many wide and varied reasons people homeschool. Some simply do not like the poor quality of education which is being doled out, others want to keep their children free from the negative over-competitive/bullying atmosphere. This story shows us starkly yet another reason: our desire to shield our children from being exposed to certain things before they are ready for it, or that we simply feel they should never be exposed to.

My reasons for homeschooling are many. There are moments I question my decision--particularly when you have a day where things just don't go right no matter what you do. The majority of the time, I am very confident in my choice. Certainly reading about situations like this makes me even more reassured of my decision.