Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

being homeschoolers, we run on a different schedule than the government mandated school schedules. spring is such a hectic time for us that we find ourselves taking a break from school to get the garden going. in a way, we are still schooling as the kids are learning to grow food to feed themselves, a lifeskill that is going to be needed more and more in the future. however, the more thought of subjects of reading, writing and arithmatic are set aside for the moment. we take an extended spring break to keep the homestead running smoothly. in the future, this may change, but for now, this is what works for us.

now that the garden is in, weeds are (semi) under control and food is pouring in for us to enjoy, days are hotter and more lazy. we have an intern that comes twice a week to help out and 2 wwoofers that are with us for 6 weeks. after that, 2 more come for 6 more weeks. time to get back to the grind.

jumping back in can be hard. after taking 6 weeks off to beat the rush of gardening, preparing for market and more, getting back to a routine can be difficult. i start by getting lots of books from the library on summer. this is a fun theme that gets us in the mood for more formal schooling.

during summer, we do a lot of free form (unschooling) schooling. lots of book reading on subjects we are interested in, time spent outside studying plants and animals, playing in the water pond and more.kids are very interested in the natural outdoors and i try to encourage that as much as possible. wintertime is for math, history, writing and more rigid studies when we are stuck indoors, plenty of time then for ‘boring’ bookwork, right now, it’s all about experiences!

i am in the middle of assembling nature kits for the kids so we can go off exploring the woods. i have collected ideas from various blogs to assemble items that will be interesting to the kids. i am making bags to stash these items out of old pants. these bags will contain:

a notebook with thick lineless paper strong enough to hold watercolor paint
a variety of art pencils, 2b, hb, 2h
pencil sharpener
water colors
various sized containers (small altoids, lip balm, etc) for stashing ‘finds’
muslim bag for storing leaves, acorns and other nature jewels
magnifying glasses
a small bottle of water for the watercolors

we’ll be set to explore and journal our experiences. a fun way to combine our love of being outside with science and discovery.i also lug along a few field guides so we can look up plants when we discover them. insects and critters are well noted so we can look them up when we return home.

for more ideas on assembling your own nature kits for kids (and moms/dads too) to use, try these great blogs/posts:

field bag show and tell (a post showing others’ nature/field bags)

make a field/nature bag from recycled clothing/pants

what to put into the field bags

ideas to get you started

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last month, i mentioned a few curriculums i like and a few book series that i have in my possession and use from time to time. this month, i thought i’d mention a few things we use that are not necessarily considered ‘proper’ for education plus i’ll go more into using our everyday experiences on the homestead as life skilling.

games are a lot of fun. it’s a great way of sneaking education in without the kid knowing it. my daughter at 4 loves to spell things out. she’ll ask me to spell words and she’ll write them on a piece of paper or on a mini chalkboard (laura ingall’s style) that i picked up at michael’s awhile back for about $6. we don’t always play games in their tradition sense though. for instance, dominos is great for counting. we draw one out and count the dots. scrabble tiles and bananagram tiles are great for that beginner speller…she calls out a word, i spell it out loud and she pulls out the tiles and spells the word. the games we play with and use most are:

wildcraft (cooperative board game)
dominos/mexican train
uncle wiggly
sky travelers (cooperative board game)
walk in the woods (cooperative board game)
match up games (we have two – ‘i never forget a face’ and ‘life on earth’ the pictures are lovely)

all these games offer different learning lessons and even a bit of physican education (have you ever tried to play twister with 3 or 4 kids???) math, spelling, art, cooperation, deduction/logic and botany are just a few of the things we learn from these games.

we also are fortunate enough to have a really great mexican restaurant in our town that is run by a mexican family. while we don’t get to go out to eat often, when we do, the waiters always speak in spanish a bit which gets my daughter’s attention. we usually spend the entire dinner discussing how to say various things in spanish. i sincerely believe that learning by a variety of means is the best way to learn. at home, we have muzzy spanish, rosetta stone spanish, as well as reading rods alphabet book (i found these at a library book sale, i need to find the actual ‘rods’ that go with them). we also watch dora or diego a few times a week and we have a dora cd-rom and another cd-rom for spanish learning. my daughter gets frustrated very quickly hearing one version so switching it up works well for her. i don’t feel like she learns much, if anything with dora but it gets her interested in the subject so i let her watch it.

the kitchen is a great place to learn math. since she can’t read yet, i will read her the recipes and have her count out the measurements of ingredients. we talk about doubling recipes or halving them as well. when grocery shopping, we compare prices of items to get the best deal. if i were more budget minded like i should be, i would start with a budget and we would work it out from there with our list of needs/wants. in the future, i’ll probably do this as well.

all my kids get equal treatment. they all learn to do laundry, dishes, help clean the house, take care of the animals and help out around the farm as needed. they all have cooked at some time or other (all except the 2 year old but i’m sure that will change soon). i do not refuse to teach any one of my kids a task simply because they are a specific gender. all the older ones can shoot a gun and all the older ones have their own assortment of pocket knives.

i include everyone in gardening. we discuss how much food it takes to feed our family and how much we would need to put away to keep us fed for a cycle of seasons. each one of these tasks teach the children to be more self sufficient and to know what’s important in life. if they only learn one thing before they leave the nest, it will be how to take care of themselves and others if need be.

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there are many ways to homeschool and each state varies on the requirements. (go here to find you own state’s laws). in illinois, we are fortunate to have very lenient requirements and are not even expected to keep records. personally, i like keeping records though, just so i know what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to see progress. when i don’t keep records, it is hard for me to realize just how much is being absorbed and i tend to feel like a failure.

i have 4 kids of my own (plus 2 step kids). due to reasons beyond my control, my older two go to public school. it disgusts me how much they bribe the elementary children with candy, pizza, soda and junk food. they are offered sweets on an almost daily level as rewards for good behavior and grades. they get pizza parties, junk food parties and banana split parties for reaching levels in various subjects…those who don’t reach that level don’t get to participate. actual ‘parties’ to celebrate holidays are really just relaxed classroom time. kids are not allowed to get up and run around the room. they must remain in their seat the entire time. they eat a snack and do some cheesy craft a room parent brings in and that’s it. in the middle and high schools, soda is available in vending machines along with junk food. all levels watch channel 1 daily which is a ‘news’ channel for kids but is laced with advertising to make sure kids have that desire to want stuff beat into them on a daily basis. the kids are treated like prisoners…elementary children are made to sit in a line behind their classmates in the gym until school starts, no free time to run and play and well, be kids. and they wonder why adhd is on the rise…combine all that processed sugar and corn syrup and other crap along with not allowing the kids to work it off and you’ve got the makings of a disaster. i’ve complained to the schools but it seems i’m in the minority on thinking that this is a bad way to educate children. i won’t even go into the educational aspects of the school because this post is not about public schooling.

this post is about some of my experiences in homeschooling my younger two. since they are only 2 and 4, it is really not considered homeschooling yet. even so, i hate the word ‘school’ in there because we are not like school. if anything, i’d call it ‘life-skilling’ because that’s what my kids are learning: life skills so that they can survive the world when they are on their own in this uncertain world we live in.

my 4 year old can cook. she cuts food with a paring knife. she puts it into a skillet and she turns it until it’s done and takes it out. she does many variations of this. i am usually next to her but there are times when i’m sitting down nursing sage and she’s on her own. at this point, i do all the stove adjusting and she never attempts to move a pan. and at 4, i honestly trust her to do that. she is very careful and knows her limitations. she won’t hesitate to ask for help if something is beyond her skill level. i can’t say that my 11 year old could do the same at 4 or 6 or even 9.

when i first started out, i was researching curriculums. there are so many choices out there, it can be daunting. so many styles, methods and all tell you how they are the best option. aggh! i love the classical methods but i also love the waldorf methods. for anyone who’s done their research, they know that those curriculums couldn’t be further from each other on the curriculum spectrum. so, for now, i’m putting formalities aside. oh, i’m still collecting materials i feel will help us in the future (the story of the world series, keepers of life, animals, earth, etc series, first language lessons, seasons of joy, muzzy, rosetta stone spanish, math-u-see, etc) and i even use some of them now but i’m not a fanatic about it. there are so many opportunities to learn in our everyday life that i don’t think we’re missing out.

when we are in the kitchen, so much math is needed that we can’t help but get a few math lessons in. right now, i do all the recipe reading out loud because jaden is not ready to read (well, she is but she doesn’t want to). but, we discuss fractions when i double a recipe or split it or increase it by half. (even as i’m typing this, an opportunity arose: sage brought me a wooden bead that had been stepped on and broken into pieces. he found two and we put them back together and talked about how it was half the bead). as we measure out ingredients, we count out loud. when i was a kid, i hated math and couldn’t understand how it would apply to my everyday life. my kids will never wonder that.

other math lessons include measuring the milk after milking, sorting laundry into like piles, counting how many loads we have to do and how many hours we have to do them in plus how long it will take to dry, how many pieces of firewood we are burning through in an hour and how many we’ll need to bring in to last us for 24 hours, how many table settings we’ll need based on how many kids are home.

during harvest season, we calculate how many pints or quarts of food we need to preserve for winter stores. during gardening season, we calculate how much food we’ll need to plant. we count how many eggs we get daily and compare that to how many chickens we have (hmmm, it could be time to cull a few! – another lesson on our homestead, including biology). we calculate how many sheep and goats we have and how many bales of hay we’ll need for winter.

since my kids are with me practically all the time, they are learning firsthand how to live. instead of being taught subjects, they are learning about them naturally. we plan meals, write out grocery lists, go shopping, look for the best value while shopping (and include the cost of our health into that price), budget our money and so much more.

one thing i’ve learned to do while embracing this style of learning is to create a chart in microsoft word. at the top, i have a place for the child’s name and the dates (one week per side). down the left hand side column, i’ve typed in the general subjects: art, nature (science), cooking, helping, reading, writing/spelling, music & movement, math, language, handwork. right now, i lump history into reading since i generally read her stories from The Story of the World. each day or so, i sit down with the chart and reflect on our day. that game of Uncle Wiggley or Uno? why a math lesson of course! watched an episode of Magic Schoolbus on dvd? – science!  listened to a music cd that was in spanish – double duty: music and language/spanish. the day adds up quite fast into an educational filled day.

does anyone else find themselves leaning towards a life skills type education for their homeschooled kids?

next month, i’ll discuss some other subjects and tasks around the homestead that round out our life skills curriculum.

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