The Start of a New Adventure….

So, for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided to begin homeschooling next year. One of the contributing factors is that we have seen some amazing kids who are homeschoolers…I mean truly wonderful kids. 

I homeschooled Zachary for one year, back in his 2nd grade. We did okay, but I know we could do much better. I think the main thing that I want to do differently is to be more intentional and a bit more structured. I know that I can be lazy, and I need the structure to keep me honest.

We also are going to use an enrichment center this year. I’ll have Zachary in 6th grade, Nate in 4th and Sammy in 1st. If we get the classes we are hoping for, each of the kids will be taking art, Sammy will take music and there will be a couple other classes. I’m excited for those additions.

I’m also planning on Fridays to reserve a room at the local library (great little library!) where we can do testing and the boys can get library books and Zach can work on learning to do research. We’ll have a friend watch Maddie on that day.

I’m also thinking that during the dreary days of winter when we’re wiggly and not having recess…we’ll head to Monkey Joe’s (bouncy place) or somewhere else where they can run like mad for an hour or two.

Those are my initial ideas.  Now. I need help. We’re still thinking on curriculums and structure.

Those of you who have some experience under your belt with homeschooling, answer a few things for me….

1. What is the biggest danger / shortcoming / failure  you’ve faced in homeschooling. What tripped you up?

2. What is something that worked really well / surprised you / you would never leave out of your homeschool routine?

3. What about curriculum? Especially those of you with older kids…do you like video curriculum, do you use the same across subjects…tell me what you like.

4. What’s the biggest wonder and joy you’ve found in homeschooling..

5. Tell me one structural or practical thing that you didn’t know going in, but that really helped.

Okay…go!

 

OH! And…I sent a note to a few of the kids of friends who have been homeschooled….would really love to hear your take on the questions.

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19 thoughts on “The Start of a New Adventure….

  1. Mona says:

    We’re pretty new to this homeschooling thing, and have some special needs to address, but I’ll give it a whirl.

    1. Trip up – my kidlet doesn’t want anyone to teach him, he wants to learn on his own. It’s a good thing he learns well by reading. I have textbooks for everything (except math – we do that online). The intent is that we talk about what he’s just read, but I get pretty lazy about that. It’s a good thing hubby loves all the “academic” subjects and will come home and ask all the right questions and fill in interesting stories and stuff.

    2. Works well – I create a list of assignments for two-weeks at a time. The kidlet organizes his work so that he can get it all done in those two weeks and has a balance of “fun” subjects and “boring” subjects each day. Younger students probably need shorter time periods, but giving a sense of control in the process really eases the day for me, and gives the child investment in what he is learning. Plus – that’s how the real world works – you have a task to do and have to figure out how to do it in the time given.

    3. Curriculum – Thinkwell.com for upper grades online curriculum is excellent. Brain Camp (http://www.braincamps.com/) has some study skills curriculum intended for junior high/high school. You can order it on their website. We are just starting a curriculum called, “Writing with Skill” that seems to step-by-step the writing process nicely and breaks it down into manageable steps (I have a reluctant writer). I got it off Amazon. Can’t say enough about Horrible Books (http://www.horriblebooks.com/horriblebooklist.htm) – history, science, math, geography – they make the subject fun. Choose the subject(s) your children are LEAST likely to enjoy – my kidlet hates history, but has read his Horrible Histories books many times over.

    4. Biggest joy – (finally) figuring out the pace at which the kidlet wants/needs to learn. And seeing him interested in learning again (he’d lost that in “regular” school). Homeschooling allows so much freedom for the kids to invest their energies into things that are interesting, and to make of it what they can. The kidlet is finally saying he likes math (he is quite amazing at it, but has said since 1st grade that he “hates” it and is bad at it because of the way and pace it was being taught).

    I highly suggest the book “Creative Homeschooling for Smart Families” by Lisa Rivero.

    Hope that helps! Welcome to the wild and crazy and relaxing world of homeschooling! 🙂

    Like

    • sarahkwolfe says:

      Awesome, Mona! Thanks so much…I’ve loved reading your blog and following a bit what’s happening with you and the kidlet.

      I really like the idea of giving Zach (oldest) some freedom on how he gets the material done. That is one of the goals…for them to learn to be more independent in tackling their learning. The books you suggested sound great…especially the horrible ones. I will check those out.

      Thanks! That’s exactly what I’m looking for.

      Like

  2. Mona says:

    Another great site: http://www.criticalthinking.com/index.jsp for critical thinking/problem solving skills curriculum.

    Like

  3. sarahkwolfe says:

    Mona…I looked at the Horrible books and they look great! How do you know what ages for the…or do you just fit them in with what you are studying?

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  4. Linnea says:

    Sarah, in the early years we used Sonlight Curriculum, which I really like because it had a missionary/world focus. It was intensive in reading, however!

    Saxon Math is methodical and has lists of “support” stuff….kids test well with Saxon Math.

    I really encourage you to go outside for enrichment classes. The kids have an opportunity to get with other kids and to learn how to adapt to different teacher’s styles. My oldest LOVED an architecture class, which required scale model building– the instructor was a professor at UNM and taught them everything he taught his Arch. 101 class!

    My youngest loves animals and spent hours perusing though Bill Gothard’s Character Sketches, which juxtaposed the characteristics of a particular type of animal with biblical characteristics and stories. Missionary biographies formed a lot of our nighttime read-alouds (like Bruchko).

    Getting hooked up with a group that shares your values is key!

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  5. Carie says:

    Hey Sarah!
    The biggest thing I found that I “had” to do is gaurd my school time. No phone calls, emails, cleaning the kitchen. We have set hours that are marked “do not disturb” and are able to get all of our school work done in much less time now that we can all concentrate.
    We’ve stuck with Abeka for Math and Grammar and are seeing good results in our standarized testing scores.
    Particularly for Zeke I have found the more games we play the faster he learns. We do the book stuff about half the time and the other half we play games like flashcard basketball and phonics cards Mother, May I.
    The best part for me is being with them!

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  6. sarahkwolfe says:

    Thanks Linnea and Carie! THis is what I’m looking for…some practical input.

    I’m excited about the enrichment place we will be part of, and I will see about options for co-ops up here and other groups for them to be part of. I’m happy that Zach will be starting youth group as well for another outlet.

    The more I think on it and talk to people, the more excited I get. I am hoping to get a weekend away to really think it all through and look at some curriculums. You all have helped spark some thoughts. If you think of anything else, please add!

    Like

  7. 1. What is the biggest danger / shortcoming / failure you’ve faced in homeschooling. What tripped you up? ~~ worrying about what “other” kids are learning or doing and comparing. each kid is different and having 2 girls w/ learning differences means it is even more of a stumbling block for me as mommy/teacher.

    2. What is something that worked really well / surprised you / you would never leave out of your homeschool routine? ~~ have to think on this one …

    3. What about curriculum? Especially those of you with older kids…do you like video curriculum, do you use the same across subjects…tell me what you like.~~ we use alpha omega lifepacs and anything free we find online , the library here is awesome to homeschoolers and they go out of their way to mke programs for us and do special things for the moms as well (middle of the day/HSers only story time etc.)

    4. What’s the biggest wonder and joy you’ve found in homeschooling~~ just being with them … knowing they are safe at home, and being able to just enjoy life with them . all of life not just a few hours between homework and dinner and bedtime…..

    5. Tell me one structural or practical thing that you didn’t know going in, but that really helped.~~ belonging to a homeschool co-op helped with them getting classroom setting and “social” skills and helped me with one free day where they learned but i wasn’t the one carrying the whole load to teach them .

    something else i will say is make a small bit of time for mom time once a month … because. despite my love for homeschooling. you can get burned out fast and you need other homeschool moms to cry and laugh and talk with 🙂

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  8. Cindy Paskal says:

    Here you go Sarah…

    1. What is the biggest danger / shortcoming / failure you’ve faced in homeschooling. What tripped you up?
    -Worrying about what other kids are learning and comparing them to my own child. What’s silly is, I still have to lay this down before the Lord. I read something once that basically said,” Lay down my expectations for her and allow Him to move and do what He wants in her life!”

    2. What is something that worked really well / surprised you / you would never leave out of your homeschool routine?
    -I’ve learned to be spontaneous, flexible even, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our day. Also, you can learn things beyond the desk.

    3. What about curriculum? Especially those of you with older kids…do you like video curriculum, do you use the same across subjects…tell me what you like.
    -We started with Abeka, which was wonderful, but learned what our daughter enjoyed and what worked for her. I have a friend that used My Father’s World and it looked really neat. She schooled both her daughters, close in age, from the beginning with it, adjusting it when needed. We borrowed the American History part from her and really enjoyed it.

    4. What’s the biggest wonder and joy you’ve found in homeschooling..
    -The flexibility of turning life, into curriculum.

    5. Tell me one structural or practical thing that you didn’t know going in, but that really helped.
    -One size doesn’t fit all, when it comes to learning styles.

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  9. sarahkwolfe says:

    Thanks, Cindy! These are the things I am looking for.

    I need to take some time to look at curriculum, although we might do Abeka this year since that is what the kids are used to from their school. I might pick up some things to supplement that…especially these Horrible Book series (they look great!).

    I’m starting to get excited!

    Like

  10. nina says:

    Oh Sarah….where to begin.

    I have pre-school, 3rd, and 4th grade homeschoolers. I work part time 20 hours a week. My husband is in school full time with part time job. Homeschooling for us is very challenging with no child-care options and juggling changing schedules (not to mention the half-time teenager in public schools…constant driving). Our homeschooling often resembles van-schooling, or un-schooling.

    curriculum: I started out with Sonlight because of the pre-made agenda. So nice to have someone else figure out what subjects to do on daily basis. They have quality, user friendly materials. We left Sonlight after 2 years because I still couldn’t do everything on the agenda and ended up with more materials than I could use. (Some people think their core curriculum is not enough and supplement with other stuff….not me.)

    Biggest Pitfall: slushy routine. Must have routine! Kids need it to do well. We only need 3-4 dedicated hours 4 mornings a week for Math and Language related work. We take a short 15 minute break for snack.

    Biggest Challenge: me. I had no idea how distractable and slack I could be. Like your other friend said….actively protect the morning school routine from yourself (facebook, phone calls from husband or electric company or whomever, meal planning, appointments, etc. ONly Maddie is allowed limited interruptions.)

    Homeschool Advantages I love:
    1. flexible schedule. Flexible for last minute trips to doctor, dentist, Grandparent taking us to lunch, friend in hospital, free samples at Trader Joe’s, make-up violin lesson, sister needs leotard at dance class, making meal for neighbor, learning other life skills such as cooking, volunteering to clean church, etc. Moms do all that stuff when kids are in school, but with us they see it done and help do it too. Also, I love older sibs teaching younger sibs.
    2. Tutorials: CHET is where we go. http://www.chettn.org. My kids LOVE IT. They take Music, Drama, Art, Fine Art Drawing, Hands On Equations (algebra), Dangerous Adventures for Boys, Science, Geography, History of Middle Ages, and in past Spanish. Private lessons in instruments are also available there. look on website for class offerings by grade. all students can sign up for classes listed one grade above or below current grade. We go Tuesdays 9-4:30. They do geography fairs, science fairs, art shows, drama productions, etc. (Sarah, you might teach a class there and get discount tuition! childcare is available for teachers!)
    3. ENHA: East Nashville Homeschool Association. I’m sure there are others, but I belong to this amazing group of homeschooling families as diverse a group as Nashville has to offer. We have organized field trips once a month, free-play groups once a month at Shelby Park Community Center, email list for other organized events such as Chess Club, Story Hour, Running club, curriculum trades, Mom’s night out, personal questions and needs. ENHA@googlegroups.com. These women make homeschooling so rich for me and the children. I LOVE IT.
    4. My kids. my kids are delightful. my kids can learn and grow at their own pace. I do not like the pace of “socialization” at public school. Kids are talking about sex on the playground in 4th grade. They don’t even know what they are talking about. (I tutor in the public middle schools….my greatest incentive to homeschool.) My kids are free to be innocent and wise at the same time with no social pressures to be otherwise. I love being with them as much as possible.
    5. Do school in a fun way….do it how it works for your family….learning is fun, learning never stops, learning is life. I don’t give tests. We just learn until we know something, review periodically, and keep going. We read lots. We listen to books on CD in car ALWAYS. Any classical book that I want them to read but they aren’t interested in, we listen to on CD. We listen to Story of the World on CD. We listen to classical music on CD. we are in the car LOTS. We go to the library once a week.

    favorite websites:
    http://www.reflexmath.com
    http://www.peacehillpress.com (I use Susan Wise Bauer language and history curriculum, also listen to her lectures MP3…AWESOME)
    http://www.amazon.com (for good prices on curriculum)
    favorite blogs:
    http://www.alinasadventuresinhomemaking.com
    http://www.aholyexperience.com
    http://www.hsclassroom.net

    what I do:
    [I copy other people’s plans. It’s more efficient. Then I whittle away from there.] I do language and math at home along with free for all reading and little history (via CD, no materials). Tutorial for everything else. I use First Language Lessons, Writing With Ease, Story of the World, Singapore Math, Mental Math workbooks, MCP Phonics workbooks, and Handwriting with a Reason. We read Proverbs daily and copywork a verse from a chapter each day. I have a few math manipulatives, a few fun language supplements, book report forms, and each boy has their own AGENDA (I ordered from Rainbow Resource). I fill their agenda out for the week, they check off when finished with each assignment. We are in cub scouts and many achievements they need to fulfill I just turn into homeschool lessons also.

    GOOD IDEA I picked up along the way….REWARDS: Each school day I reward a good ATTITUDE in SCHOOL with fake money. On Fridays I open the “store”, filled with fun gadgets and candy, for them to shop with the money they earned. BAd attitudes don’t get money. Bad attitudes on thursday or friday morning give all their money back to me. IT WORKS!!!

    Okay….I’ll stop the babbling. I’m so thrilled to be homeschooling even though it takes stamina, discipline, humility, strategy, perserverence, humor, and sometimes whiskey. I’m excited for you!!

    lovelovelove
    nina

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    • sarahkwolfe says:

      This is so perfect, Nina….all of these replies are helping a lot.

      We are going to be trying to get into CHET…I’m taking the application over on Tuesday and hoping to see the school. I’m holding Maddie right now and getting ready to go get the boys, so I’ll have to respond more when I get home. This is such great stuff, though!!!

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  11. obrienkevin says:

    Hey Sarah!. Excited to hear your looking at Homeschooling again. It has been a great Joy for us. I will try and get Jill to come by and drop her comments but as someone earlier noted “protecting the school time” has become a big priority and trial for Jill this year as they are getting older and doing more activities like Basketball, Volleyball, Piano, etc… that said she is in the middle of it today. 🙂

    1. What is the biggest danger / shortcoming / failure you’ve faced in homeschooling. What tripped you up?
    Jill often feels the pressure to compare how, where the kids are at compared to others. Several people have mentioned this already and I believe it to be a major tactic of the enemy to steal the joy from the homeschooling experience. We/Jill has been vindicated, if that’s the right word, several times proving that she needs not worry about it. Ryan scored way above average when it came time to test for entrance into NMMI, one year ago and he did did OK while there but last summer said he’d rather be home, had seen enough of the “world” for now and if he didnt need to see that right now he’d rather stay home. Faun had chance to go to Charter school this fall and said “I like spending the time with mom” She’s gonna be 15.

    2. What is something that worked really well / surprised you / you would never leave out of your homeschool routine? Jill and kids are doing bible survey this year and are in the Word over and hour every Day.

    3. What about curriculum? Especially those of you with older kids…do you like video curriculum, do you use the same across subjects…tell me what you like. We’ve used it all. Sonlight was a favorite because of all the classical book/reading. Similar style is “My Fathers World” which is what Jill is using with older kids now. ABEKA for younger years. We used Saxon math for years and struggled with it. Now using Teaching Textbooks for all three and they love it. HS Biology …I dont remember name, It’s Christian and very close to College level stuff I remember doing. I’ll make sure Jill comes by. Harley is doing RGES (Enrichment Studies) here in ABQ one day a week. AWESOME!. Ryan may take GED this summer and start at CNM (old TVI) next fall. He will be 16.

    4. What’s the biggest wonder and joy you’ve found in homeschooling..
    Relationships with the Children.

    5. Tell me one structural or practical thing that you didn’t know going in, but that really helped.
    hmm. .. ask Jill

    Like

  12. md says:

    Sarah, sorry to respond so late – my time is “crunched” these days… but i wanted to respond quickly to your blog! First congratulations on choosing to homeschool again- while it is challenging at times it is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life thus far! We call our homeschooling – “REALISTIC homeschooling”. This is our ninth year to homeschool, and we will continue to homeschool throughout our girls 12th grade year! They will recieve a diploma from our Homeschool that our state (KY) recognizes as a “real” diploma. Abby (10th grade) & Vivian (6th grade) have very different learning syles. So it will be key to notice how each of your children learn. All of the views above share great ideas, thoughts & answers- so you have plenty of GREAT advice concerning your questions. I wanted to write and say that the whole reason our family chooses to homeschool is so Gods word is constantly before them. We do not view the Bible as just a history book but as a life application “series” that allows us to all see His instructions & plans for each of our indiviual lives (hence “personal” relationship with Christ”). We have Bible daily & the discussion from this has grown our girls spiritually beyond our dreams. This being the most important subject starts our day off with our focus on God. We use a curriculum called Foundations that takes you through the whole Bible within 3 years, once you have completed the series you begin again. Gods word brings new “light” every time we read it & Foundations also gives extra reading & daily work as your children get older. There is scripture memorization & drills (great for younger children). We always use a “Bible curriculum” (Alpha Omega or Abeka) to teach the other subjects. We get a lot of help from the internet (Algebra, etc). (I do allow them to skip some of the things in the curriculum that is so repetitive if I know they understand the concept). We also DO NOT move on, until they “get it”. Our girls have music lessons (that their Dad teaches) & have learned Sign Language which they also use in church. We use Mission Work (done through church or through our family ministry) to give extra credits (incentives) & show them that is pleasing to the Lord & their parents. We have a Family motto that we have created & a yearly homeschool prayer that we begin with at the beginning of the year – this shows them how God not only hears their prayers but answers them…it has been amazing at the end of the year to see how God has guided & blessed through out our school year. I write a lot of our studies that pertain to our family & our rules (teenage, boy stuff, modesty, etc.) and always refer back to Gods word so it’s not just a Mom & Dad says so thing. The main thing to remember is – Do not compare your children to eachother & remind them not to compare themselves to other children. God has a unique plan for each one of them (parents too)! Sorry for the small novel, but wanted to write you back. If you have any questions let me know. I have worked for years with different homeschool parents (all over the US) and see it as the parents job to teach them our morals & values!

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  13. sarahkwolfe says:

    Md….thanks so much for adding your thoughts.

    All of these thoughts are confirming our decision. I’m getting excited!!! These are all great suggestions and great advice!

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  14. dusty says:

    1. What is the biggest danger / shortcoming / failure you’ve faced in homeschooling. What tripped you up?

    -lack of confidence…

    2. What is something that worked really well / surprised you / you would never leave out of your homeschool routine?

    -letting her use multi colored pens for homework…she is a visual learner…would never leave out of my routine- spontaneity.-play time

    3. What about curriculum? Especially those of you with older kids…do you like video curriculum, do you use the same across subjects…tell me what you like.

    -we changed up curriculum…started with BJU but for my daughter it was too ridged…used a mix of stuff after that…Saxton math, games, we still play “Africa” and “Europe” a lot…Easy Grammar plus was a God send…

    4. What’s the biggest wonder and joy you’ve found in homeschooling.

    – I still get joy out of it…seeing her work though things now…and knowing I taught her that…Things I did not realize she actually learned..fining out that she was listening after all. getting to be around while she is growing and learning..seeing the concepts click…

    5. Tell me one structural or practical thing that you didn’t know going in, but that really helped.

    – I did not know about learning styles going into homeschooling..but it helped a lot…it makes all the difference in the world…one person may learn better sitting at a table with a good eraser and quiet…while another learns best with music playing, colored flash cards, and laying on the floor…

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    • sarahkwolfe says:

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, Dusty! I need to check out the Saxton math…it seems to keep come up.

      You are correct about the different learning styles, and I need to really think about that, especially with my Nate. He is my creative little man and I think working with him in finding a style that excites him will be key…he loves making things and coloring and planning. I think if I can incorporate color and such that will be helpful.

      I need to be creative in thinking through our structure of how we’ll spend our days. I remember one friend reminding me that I don’t have to bring school home….to not feel like I have to sit them at the table the whole time and sit up straight, etc.

      These are all wonderful answers to the questions…I sure appreciate the input!!

      Like

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