Wednesday, October 2, 2013

homeschool tidbits

Homeschooling is an epicenter for the sin of comparison. Nothing in my life has so often caused me to sinfully compare myself to others like homeschooling has. Even when I feel like things are going along great, I will open up a blog post on what someone else's third grader is doing or see someone else's awesome project of some sort or other and immediately feel my spirits sink. Am I doing enough? Are my kids behind? Should we plan a more traditional way of doing things? Should I be using a more intense curriculum?

This school year, with three grade levels, one child with a very unique learning style, one very advanced child and one child who just likes to make noise and be busy and EAT, and, oh yeah, a cross-country move, there has been nothing left to do but to just give the whole thing to Jesus. Daily. Hourly. Every moment, actually. Because even though the academics are important, Jesus values discipleship even more. And when I feel like homeschooling is a huge disruption in my life, I know that it's my priorities that are out of whack because these children are my ministry and it's the other things (what I'd rather be doing) that are the disruption! So I pray for a change of heart and He is always faithful to give it.

My kids are learning. And we are unconventional in the way we do things. It's ok! It can be hard to gauge progress when you do things this way, but progress is happening nonetheless.

A couple weeks ago, I ordered Volume 2 of Five in a Row. Things were not going well and Volume 1 had worked so well for us last year, that I felt like this would give me some direction because I was, ummm, floundering. It's been nice and we have finally eased back into a successful school week. The ideas in these books are simple and it's very, very, very inexpensive.

Pinterest is a great way to supplement the lessons and get even more ideas and usually some free printables.

But I have released myself from doing things too methodically ;) Layla is really into science. So I get kids science books at the library and often she peruses them during her free time and picks a simple experiment to do. Last week she made a little cloud in a baggie. She followed the directions and we taped it to her window. It was cool!

I also signed Kelby up for There is a free trial and I knew it would help keep him busy occassionally, which would solve a huge portion of the problems I was having! He doesn't like to do it everyday, but he also has some workbooks that he likes, he likes to make file folder books sometimes and he builds Lego sets some days with us at the table. And I try to read books to him everyday. I loosened up my expectations of him because he is not a sit-down-do-this-everyday type of guy.

I have tried to incorporate more art and more science into our weeks because those are the things each my girls really love.

I do Body Math with just Layla each day (her choice of all my I love math books) and last week she was also really into a library book on the human body so when I saw this cute idea on Pinterest, I knew we had to try it. We had some glow in the dark paint leftover from something else, so we added that to ours. And googely eyes, obviously ;)It was super fun trying them out in the bathroom!!

This week we studied Owl Moon and on Monday we discussed rules. We decided to make a poster of some house rules, but I wanted them to be straight from Scripture, so we took a few from Exodus 20, two from Ephesians 4:32 and one from Matthew 5:9. The girls took turns writing after I read each verse and then they decorated it. It's now hanging in our dining room and it's been a wonderful reminder that God has told us how to make our home a peaceful one. The "make peace" rule has gotten a lot of discussion especially!

Today we made some resist paintings with oil pastels and watercolors, to go with our Owl Moon theme.
We sprinkled salt on afterward and now that they're dry, they're really cool and snowy!

The girls are also working on homemade books about an animal of their choice. I was wanting Natalie to learn some simple research and report writing skills and they are really having fun with it!

BUT, my biggest epiphany happened last Tuesday, when nothing was going well, the kids had attitudes and were being ridiculous and I melted down in my room :) We all do that, right?? No sugar coating it, homeschooling is hard and not always fun.

Anyway, Natalie has always been extremely resistant to math. Of any kind. I have never found any bookwork that she either liked or that she actually learned from. But, the problem is not that she's not good at it. When I had her keep score during a game we played recently, I taught her to add two digit numbers, carry the one, etc... and she got it just fine and had fun learning it. So I went to her room and handed her a paper and started making up a story. "A ballerina lost her tutu. She had to go searching for it and opened a closet that had 32 tutus in it..." The story went on from there and we added two and three digit numbers for awhile. Then she started making up the stories: "A fashionista went to the mall and had one hundred dollars to spend..." Then we moved onto subtraction. The next day, she was begging to do more story math!!!! My plan is to order this math book, Beast Academy when she's ready. I think it is right up her alley and absolutely perfect for her, but we had to get some bigger basics down first. A variation of this story math idea came from this book, which I highly recommend.
I also got this book from our library last week and it's pretty great too. Today we played a game out of it with Uno cards and learned about place value to the thousands.

Another gem I stumbled onto at the library is Everyday Graces.
It's a fat book of stories, poems or parts of stories (classics, no twadle ;) that teach kids manners and values. It's really lovely. I have the girls grab a coloring book while I read to them and then we talk about it. I'll be adding both these books to my Amazon wish list.

We've also been opening each school day with Bible time, using The Big Book of Questions and Answers . It answers theological questions, but is easy for the kids to understand and see for themselves through the Scriptures. When we finish this one, I'd like to try Long Story Short, which I've read great things about.

If you've made it his far (this was a loooooong post), you will enjoy this funny story before I sign off. One of the neighbor girls, age 8 (the neighbor kids switch back and forth from being fascinated by the homeschool thing and thinking we are complete weirdos) told me the other day that I should at least let my kids go to high school to they can be taught things and they can go to college. And I said that they can learn and be smart and go to college even being homeschooled in high school. And she said, "Well, you're kids aren't smart, though. I told them I take pills and they didn't know what that meant. They don't even know what pills are!" I told her they don't take pills, so why would they know?? And then she just once again decided we are weird and ran off to play. Ha! Are meds just the norm for children these days?? Funny story, but very telling also.


  1. Yes, that story is very telling. It seems a lot of kids are put on meds because the parents/teachers are too tired (and have too big of a class) to spend the extra attention on them that they need.

    I am very impressed by your homeschooling. Two of my church friends also homeschool and they too are great teachers like you. I know that I am not very organized or structured on my own, that's why we do Christian School. :o)

    The apples in your header make me want to make some right now they are so cute! :o)

  2. Did you laugh when the little neighbor girl said your children didn't know about pills? Yes it is very telling! Your children have a wonderful teacher. I was very impressed when you told about each of your children learning in different ways. They aren't missing out on anything!!!

  3. I am another homeschooling mom (former Christian school teacher) who visits your blog when I can. Love seeing about all your sewing projects...wish I had time for more of that...but homeschooling plus a new little one somehow seems to take up all my time =)
    Wanted to take a minute to say that long story short is a wonderful book! We've been slowly working our way through that book. And I'm anxious to check out some of the other books you talked about on this post. My oldest struggles with math...he's a "words" person (makes up his own languages!) and doesn't want to put much effort into numbers. I'm hoping some of the ideas in these books will help change that.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Definitely check into those books, but look into Beast Academy also! They are math books written like cute graphic novels about funny monsters. They look awesome for creative types.