Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finally got Started!

I share for those who are curious what one homeschool family does.  

My Story
I was excited to get started homeschooling.  So very much so that I tried to start a year ago, when Z was four and totally not ready to sit for long.  When "school time" failed miserably last year, I was nervous to try again.  I was sneaky all Summer (as I wanted to get started with the baby coming this Fall), and sneaked school in on him without ever calling it that.  For the record, I am a huge fan of Charlotte Mason, who believes that children should have no structured school time until the age of six.  That's one point that I take comfort in, yet slightly disagree with.  I think the earlier kids read the better, so if I can help that along when they're three or four, I will! Make them hate school, I will not.  I am prepared to fight the battle of "We are doing school now, like it or not" after age six, but not now.

So, after numerous people asked Z this Summer if he was starting school soon, I watched in amazement as he began to beg for school time.  Though we did tons of educational stuff over the Summer without his knowing it, we officially began "school" about four weeks ago.  I have read books upon books on Charlotte Mason approaches, Suzuki Pre-School, Organized Home-Schooling, etc.  and I took notes on the practical suggestions I liked.  Finally, I made them into a plan for us.  Since, I LOVE to read what other moms do, their schedules, how they fit housework, chores, school and life into a week, I thought I'd share our rough, informal schedule that we've just begun.  My final disclaimer is that I cast no judgement on anyone who does not homeschool, we may not always do this ourselves!  We will take it year to year, child by child.  I was very nervous to start, and now that we have, I can see how low the stakes are for preschool/kindergarten.  In Ohio, I don't even have to report our homeschooling to the state yet as he's not six yet.  Pretty much anything I do educationally with him is great, as long as it doesn't give him a bad taste in his mouth for learning.

What We Do
I pick three days of the week between Tuesday and Saturday (Daddy's work days) to do school and allow myself the other two days to shop, work on my giant nesting to-do list or make plans with others.  Those three chosen days are completely dedicated to school, even though it only takes a couple of hours.  It's my black and white way of making sure school happens.

We have been rotating through four sets of school work, so with a three day week, one week never looks the same as another.

School Days
6:30am I wake up, get ready and make last minute preparations for school time
7:30am Wake Kids Up, they eat and dress
8:30am-9am Start school.  Review day of week and what we'll do that day.
10am snack time whether we're done with school or not
10-11am finish school
11-11:30 Z helps Juju on "" while I make lunch
11:30 Lunch
Noon - Clean up house together, do dishes, etc./free time to play Legos until quiet time
1pm - Quiet time
2:30 -  Get them up if they fell asleep - I only make them stay in their room reading for an hour if they can't sleep - Half hour TV show to wake up if they slept, no TV if they never slept
3pm - Start Supper - kids have free time or can help me in the kitchen
4pm - Straighten up last time before Daddy gets home, send kids outside if weather permits
4:45 - Daddy gets home and mows or splits wood for a half hour lately - kids help
5:30 - Supper Time
6pm - Clean up Kitchen
6:30pm - Ben has been playing with the kids outside so I can work on my "nesting list" right now I'm making dog coats for the Winter
8pm - Library Movie/Snack Time
8:30pm - Get Ready for Bed, Story Time, Pray, Blessing, then kids read in bed
9pm - Lights out! Mommy preps for next day of school, Daddy folds laundry

Ben and I tend to go to bed between 9 and 10pm depending how well we slept the night before.  We still do a giant family bedroom, but the kids have their own beds.  Below is our classroom.  The rug was $10 from Menards, the cube chairs $15 each from WalMart - the kids like to sit in them.  I stashed all the puzzles in mine.  The chalk board/white board was $7 at a garage sale.  The metal shelves holding their cubbies and the paper supplies were $15 at Lowe's.  The purple shelves we've had from a garage sale years ago, but I bought way too much plum paint to give them a fun face lift for the classroom.  Let me know if you need anything painted "plummy".  The big bookcase I paid way too much for ($80) a while back for our living room, but now it holds all the kids' books, which is fun.  We have a big green couch facing the bookshelves for cuddling and reading on.  We are fortunate to have what we called a "music room" (aka a formal living room) that we could make space for homeschooling in.

OK, so here's the rotation schedules of school: you'll notice there's a pattern of Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Bible everyday with something fun thrown in.  Sometimes a lesson only takes 5 minutes, sometimes it's 30, it just depends on how attentive he is, how cooperative Juju is, and how much I have to do with them.

School Day "A"

  • Math: How to tell time
  • Practice identifying letters and numbers with Juju
  • Reading: Word Quiz (Jelly beans for reading words correctly) or Letter Bag where we go around house filling a bag with things that start with the letter "G"
  • Writing: Practice writing name on white board
  • Bible time*
  • Games - just playing kids board/card games
Writing Activity from a "D" Day

School Day "B"

  • Bible Time*
  • Puppet Play - we pull out the couch and take turns telling each other stories with puppets (I always tell the Bible story we read with puppets)
  • Math - Money
  • Reading - Poetry Books 
  • Write letters to family - kids get to pick who we send it to.  Letters currently look more like artwork, but they see me write a little letter to the person to go with it.

School Day "C"

  • Science - we're currently learning the 5 senses and had fun doing taste tests and sniff tests, etc.
  • Reading - Lesson out of "Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons" - I write the letters and words he needs to read on the white board ahead of time so we're not stuck with our noses in a book for this.
  • Writing - Write letters from 100 Easy Lessons in lasagna dish sprinkled with corn meal, jello or whipped cream
  • Math - Addition & Subtraction with lighting and blowing out candles.  This sounds dangerous, I know, but I only have two kids at this time and I do all the lighting for now.  That's why we homeschool, so we can do crazy things like this if we want.  I definitely need to think of something else once baby is here.
  • Bible Time*
  • Fun Box - I have a box full of activities: crafts, balloons, special sticker books we were given, Wonder Coloring books, felt coloring pages, marshmallows and toothpicks to build, etc.  and let the kids pick an activity out of the box (almost all are in a gallon ziplock baggy for easy picking).  
Today was a "D" day and Z's  improv story was about a "colorful boy" who had no hair and as he ate different colored candies, which he is holding, his hair grew in different colors until he had a whole head full of colorful hair.  

School Day "D"

  • Word Scavenger Hunt OR Improv Storytelling with Pictures (this is where we take turns making up stories and drawing them on the white board or chalk board as we tell them) Yes, Juju participates too!
  • Writing: Make letters with sticks, rocks, beans, etc.  
  • Math: Count the sticks, rocks, beans, etc. that we made the letters with
  • Bible Time*
  • Reading: Kids choice of books, read for a half hour
  • Art Project - This is different every week and I have to plan and prep ahead for it
This is our art room (aka mudroom), recently renovated thanks to my nesting and a useful husband

*Bible Time is a structured time the kids love because it involves candy.

  • Scripture Memory Verse (right now we're doing the Lord's Prayer, so we open up with that).  
  • Review the Old Testament Books of the Bible (thanks to this CD from my father-in-law we have a song to sing them to)
  • Catechism (we use this book.  They get 2 jelly beans or m&ms if they answer correctly even if helped by each other, but only one if I have to help them and they repeat after me).  We've been doing the same five questions over and over.  
  • Bible story.  I read it from this book for two days, then this book for two days, then from my Bible.  Then we change stories.  I hope to get this one someday for even more variety.

That's Bible Time!

My Weaknesses: Ben helps round me out as I don't tend to get them outside as much as I should.  He keeps them moving, wrestles, outside every night, etc.  My excuse is being 34 weeks pregnant.  We recently added "Stretches" to begin our school days, and we have a dance time nearly every day while we're cleaning, so we do get a little movement in.  Later my weaknesses will include, but not be limited to: Science, History, Advanced Math, etc.  Thankfully, those are areas my husband enjoys and is good at.

New Variable: Can I keep this up after Baby comes in six weeks?  Thankfully, I started secret undercover school at the beginning of Summer and can afford a lovely two-three month break over the holidays after baby arrives.  After that, I do feel like, for the most part, we can do school this way.  It's getting dinner on the table and keeping the house clean that seems more daunting as I have to be on my feet using my hands, but that's what slings are for, right?  My back hurts just thinking about maybe don't come see our house for about a year after baby is born, ok?

Keeping it Fun: Z and I get bored with routine quickly, so that's why the schedule is ever changing and mixing things up, but even the above schedule can get monotonous, so I plan to ditch it every once in a while and do unit studies (like study everything Dinosaurs for one month).  For now, I keep notes on what he likes and doesn't as well as big successes or deficiencies in his learning.  Week to week I've mixed up and customized the above schedules to meet Z's likes/dislikes and needs based on my observations.  Though school time is currently geared for Z, Juju participates in everything we do by her own choice.  Once in a while she pulls out a puzzle and skips reading time, but usually she wants to do it too, especially if there's candy involved!

The Socialization Issue: Thankfully, we are finally getting our out of control social lives a little more restrained now.  We were going, going, going, doing, doing, doing.  It wasn't good for my kids and I admit, it was a form of avoidance of home responsibilities on my part.   So, the two things I wanted most to be awesome in, being a wife and mother, were both weak at best the more we did.  I felt God's Spirit leading me to "defluff" our busy lives in January this year, and I stepped down from Mommy Group leadership, teaching classes at a large and wonderful homeschool co-op, even attending it as it was a half hour away and generally stopped making constant social plans like weekly playdates, etc.  Now, we have a monthly local homeschool co-op that I started with some friends, we had our first field trip last week to Hartzler's Dairy.  We still meet with our Guatemalan friends weekly for about 3-4 hours.  The kids are picking up Spanish really fast, which is fun for us to hear.  They look forward to church every week and monthly family gatherings and go with Daddy to play with the neighbor kids regularly.  So, we still do plenty, we're just learning to curb our overly social lives and find some moderation.

In Conclusion:
I confess all Summer I was really nervous to make the big change toward structure and "formal" school time, but we are all enjoying it.  It's still very flexible and like I said, the stakes are low in Kindergarten, anything we do together is good, as long as it breeds a love of learning.  Next year will not look like this, I'm sure.  We may do another year of "Kindergarten" if we need, or start some first grade stuff, we'll see where Z is at.  Right now, he is preschool level writing, Kindergarten level reading and math, first grade letter and number identification and sounds.  So, he says he's in Kindergarten, but it's not really that simple.

Thanks for reading, now you know what we've been up to.  BTW, if you call during school, we won't answer the phone.  But we'll call you back after lunch when I'm needing a good excuse not to clean.  :-)

Friday, September 9, 2011

The wee turkeys aren't so wee any more

Just thought I'd share what our flock is looking like these days...

Here we have Tom and Hen Turkey with some Ameraucanas (green egg layers) and a Welsummer on the right (brown egg layer)
Yes, his face turns blue when he's gotten himself worked up. He has done a great job protecting the whole flock, though Buddy doesn't like him much as Tom isn't afraid of him and will charge at him if provoked. They stay in their fenced in area and usually this isn't a problem.
Here's one of our newest feather-footed Brahmas. We have four of them and an all black Jersey Giant. None have started laying yet, but it won't be long!
A few months back we had to slaughter one of our Ameraucana chickens because she wouldn't stay in their fenced in area and was getting into the neighbor's garden. Last week, we had to slaughter a female turkey because she started pecking "Shorty" one of our favorite chickens till her head was bleeding. Here she is in the cage of doom.
She almost looks sorry doesn't she? Ben did all the work, we all watched. Juju was a bit upset afterwards, but only for a minute. I found myself eating tomatoes out of the garden while the execution took place. We're all getting a bit tougher. I threw one of her feet in my last batch of chicken stock I was making, as I heard chicken feet help make wonderful stock. I saved the other one with the frozen turkey meat which we're saving for a holiday this year.

We still have a male and female turkey, and as long as they can behave, we hope they'll stick around to make baby turkeys next year for us. We'll see!