What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Q & A: Homeschool Edition

When I opened the floor to questions last week, I never anticipated the reaction I got. I was hoping at least one person would ask something so I didn't look like a fool. Instead, I got *MORE* than enough questions to keep me busy while Matt was gone (and , in fact, kept me busy even after he returned! hehehe) The first post was full of fun and sundry questions that were lighthearted and a snap to answer.

There were quite a few others (these) that were not at all lighthearted and actually, pretty weighty, on matters of religion and faith and our education views. Naturally, I wanted to take time to consider my answers carefully and wisely and gave myself more time to do so than I did the flippant, fun ones of last week. Forgive me for using that as license to take FOREVER.

In an effort to get these published more quickly, and move on to my normally shallow every day goings-on blog posts (SOOO much to catch up on!), I decided to split the questions up once again. One more installment next week should do the trick. Until then~

On Education:

how you manage to integrate Adele into homeschooling? or how she amuses herself while you teach?

Adele is not quite two at this point so I don't integrate her into schooling just yet. Honestly, I have my hands full with the other two right now and am struggling to accomplish everything I must with them. Adele' does not amuse herself very well; she doesn't like to play alone, rarely looks at books by herself and always wants to be doing right alongside the other two. So I give her markers (I could kiss the inventor of washable markers), or crayons or pencils and let her have at it while the other two are sitting at the table working. I give her puzzles and playdoh or let her sit on my lap. I let her play with glue. (yes, yes I do.) One of her most favorite things to do is to play/sort/scatter the jar of coins I use for teaching money. That keeps her going for quite some time. Basically, I just try to keep those little hands busy-and if she learns things in the meantime (which she does, quite by accident), HU-RAH. ;-)


I, too, would like to know more about your homeschool. Curriculum choices and methods would be great.


I would love to know if/what curriculum you use and why you decided on it. It seems you offer a wide range of projects, subjects, and culture to your children. I would love to know more... how you order your day... anything...!!


what do you use for an art program?

Home educating, for us, is about way more than a set of grades. In fact, what I aim to do has not a speck of commonality with my public school counterparts, and will (Lord willing) produce far different outcomes. Primarily, we want a God-centered education and we realize that no education, anywhere, is ever neutral. But a good Christian school can cover that. It is natural to assume, then, that there are other reasons I am drawn to homeschooling...and indeed there are! I am "Classically Charlotte", if you will- following a classical curriculum while still recognizing the great advantages of children being children and giving plenty of time for them to explore and do and guide their own interests and learning as well. It is a dance between freedom and structure, but one that I don't find at all contradictory.

I want my children to be disciplined to do work that might not be all that intriguing but at the same time, it is very important to me that they have moments of self-discovery. Not having me tell them what to love but to discover those things out themselves. Then, to allow ample time to pursue with a vengeance things those things that they are passionate about. I want to show them how much fun learning is so that they might strive to learn something every day-not because they must but because they can.

But on the flip side:
As valuable as free time is for children, I consistently struggled with my own lack of self discipline in teaching. Homeschoolers are very capable of rationalizing "educational experiences" so far into every day life that their children end up baking bread but being completely lost on logic. It is very important to me that real learning is ACTUALLY taking place and we aren't just slicing pizza or planting seeds and calling it an education.


I can't take credit for this idea, I stole it from a brilliant friend, but I can say it has totally changed our days for the better. I will never go back to the way I was tackling the day to day. I created a weekly schedule and blocked off time to accomplish everything I hoped to cover on that particular day. Corynn has her work in pink, Andrew's is in blue and the activities both are involved in are red. I then laminated the schedule and as we complete a task/lesson, we cross it off. At the end of the week, we start fresh.

Last year, I felt I could offer the children so much more-but never got around to it. Corynn was ready for school to be over after Math (one stinkin' subject) and I was just disappointed at all the things I wanted to cover but never did. NOW-so much more is accomplished and Corynn is EXCITED to cross them off the list and move on.

We don't start at a particular time every morning and we don't use a buzzer between subjects. In fact, I purposely try to keep time out of it for the most part simply because I enjoy having freedom from clock-watching. (The same reason I don't wear a watch...) I wrote time approximations when I made the schedule to be sure it wasn't TOO much time devoted for schooling and not enough time for real-life and real-fun, but we never follow those intervals. If Math takes less time-awesome. If reading takes three times as long because we are into a good book, fine by me. If the day has been a long one and we don't finish all the tasks, we circle the task we didn't get to and, if there is free time throughout the week we can make it up. Or not. I don't get bent out of shape if we miss a history project or science experiment, because having a Godly education is our primary goal. That said, being given gifts from God, like a brain, means we have a specific obligation to USE that brain well, so we Christians ought not to be raising imbeciles. If we raise children to love God and to find passion in LEARNING, we will have succeeded.

One way that I do this is to surround them with books, whole books--all the time. Learning doesn't just happen "within school hours" but can and should happen at any hour of the day. Books are the door into those new worlds of discovery. If I can help my children develop a passion for books, they will develop a passion for learning. I give them books that are too young for them, too old for them, and suited to their age group. They love them all. I read baby stories to the babies and the big kids snuggle in. We read mature chapter books in the evening, and the babies listen while playing. No one is exluded and anyone can glean anything they want in the amount that they want from whatever books they can. I keep animal encyclopedias out on the coffee table, or artist biographies (grown up books) and they scour the pictures and paintings. We go to the library once a week and I request particular books throughout the week that would interest them/pertain to what we are learning. There are books in every room of this house, not just in bookcases, but in baskets and piles too.

As for curricula~

The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer is an incredible resource (nearly all the books she recommends, up to second grade, we own or borrow repeatedly from the library.) We also follow (more loosely) their suggestions for educating: like creating notebooks, etc. I love this book-and it has been a LIFESAVER for this girl who was completely unprepared for homeschooling.

For history~ The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. We love this. Whole-heartedly. This is one curriculum that I don't bat an eye to recommend. While the Activity book is pretty hefty in price, I will never go without it. It makes history come alive and offers so many extra resources that it well makes up for the price. You *MUST* check this out.

For Science~We don't use a formal curriculum at this point. Rather, I make lessons pertaining to the things the children are exploring or interested in. Animals, plants and the human body is what I hope to cover this year. We have covered rabbits early (thanks to Sassafras and Blossom having litters) and will do most plant work throughout the summer. For animals, I made an "observation page" based on The Well Trained Mind book that asks questions about the species to aid in observation. All these pages go in an Observation notebook.

If the children are interested in space or dinosaurs, I make up lessons and get loads of books on the subject. When they get a hunkering for experiments, I get out a few science experiment books and pick one. Science is pretty unorganized right now, but classically taught kids usually aren't taught any science at all until much later, so I figure we are doing just fine.

"Hey LOOK! Mama!! This is the spider we read about yesterday!" the boy shouts as he peruses a new animal book. Don't you just *LOVE* that?!?!

For Math~
we use Saxon, which is excellent but (in my opinion) offers far too much busy-work. We usually do HALF the work they offer in each lesson (two pages a day instead of four) and that is plenty sufficient. PLUS-that means that the OTHER half left undone will be Andrew's workbook when the time comes! Two for the price of one! Wa-hoo.

Spelling and Grammar-I can't recommend anything because we are hanging on by the skin of our teeth on these things. I haven't really found anything I get excited about....any suggestions?

Art~ I don't have a particular art program. I make projects up out of my head. I keep famous paintings where they can reach them. I keep a variety of markers, papers, scissors, paints, colored pencils, stickers, etc. around for whenever their fancy strikes. We look at paintings and make our own versions of them. We cut out magazine pictures and imitate them. We explore famous paintings, we read about artists, and we try and make our own art. There are so many great resources out there. So many. I could do an entirely separate post on this subject alone. Maybe I will. Someday. One thing I find extremely helpful in getting children into art and really trying their best at it, is to do it beside them. If they are watercoloring, you watercolor. If they are painting birds, you paint birds. And always, ALWAYS refer to them as artists. Because they are.

We do a composer of the month, an artist of the month, and we learn a new psalm to sing every month. We are continuously changing out the family read-aloud and I included several different genre for Corynn to read outloud for her reading time throughout the week, so as to expand her horizons. Poetry, Nature Reader, library book and her choice. Of course, those are just the books she reads to me. She always has her nose in a book. All the reading things I added to the schedule only to convey how much fun schooling is-because the way to my childrens' hearts is through books. :-)

Quiet time is after lunch, and is two hours where the babies sleep, Andrew reads (and sometimes falls asleep much to his chagrin) and Corynn reads/draws or plays quietly. After this, the afternoons are free for them to do anything their little hearts desire.


Tracy said...

Shurley grammar ALL.THE.WAY.

and the Institute for Excellence in Writing

Anonymous said...

I love First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. I have tried a few others but these are short and sweet and extremely effective.

Riahli said...

Love your ideas! I just saved this page because I really like the chart and want to see if I can make that work for us. I'm only doing preschool/pre K with my littles right now but I still need more focus and structure. My oldest will be six next year and we will be starting in earnest then. I've been planning on using Sonlight curriculum because I'm afraid to put my own together, although after looking at what you all do it makes me wonder if I could figure out my own. I think I might doubt myself too much though...I sadly feel more secure with a complete lesson plan that someone else planned. I have a feeling the first few years of our homeschooling is going to be a real learning experience {for me} as to what really does work for our family. By the way I love the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, and I really liked your explaination of how you incorporate that into your homeschooling. Sounds like a great balance to me.

Anonymous said...

...did you purposely misspell "Spelling and Grammer"-? love it ~

wish I could do it all over again an homeschool in your style. your children are SO blessed.

Nanci said...

Tracy took the words right out of my mouth.

Rebecca said...

Anonymous~ that misspelling was the result of many late nights (er, mornings) working on the post, not any cleverness of me.

Thanks for the note-I fixed it-hopefully before TOO many people think me an incompetent. :-) Thanks too, for the benefit of the doubt! :-)

stephaniegiese said...

I admire you so much for having the patience to home school! I don't think that is ever going to be in the cards for us because my son has many special needs as a result of his time in foster care and we rely heavily on the resources of our public school system. But I did want to let you know that in my former life before being a SAHM, I was a teacher. I taught gifted children elementary math & science and this is my favorite science resource for kids:

Steve Spangler has tons of experiments you can watch on the computer and lots of resources that cost under $5. My favorite is the InstaSnow!

There is also a website called TeachersPayTeachers where you can download a lot of free resources that are designed by teachers. Many of the products I designed are there under the name mrsgiese.

I think it's wonderful that you are including science, art, and music on a regular basis!!!

...they call me mommy... said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, Rebecca!!! It is SO great to read what you are doing!!! :) I'm still mulling over what to put in my homeschool tab on my blog! I've heard of The Well-Trained Mind book and have never read it...off to put it on hold now! THANKS! :)

...they call me mommy... said...

PS - I totally might steal your chart idea!! I am hoping to start both boys together in January on some stuff and am going to need a color coded system!! LOL! (EEEEEEEEKKKK!!! THREE students!)

Bonnie said...

I have decided that I am going to come visit you so I can glean from your wisdom in person, Rebecca, you have the ideas I can't think how to put into action, or get down on paper. Your homeschooling posts are some of my favorites!
Fantastically wonderful post, I have read it only a half dozen times or so now, and am inspired by something new each time.

Jinger said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all the wonderful details... and the time it took to get them into a post. I am excited to check out these books and resources. Yay!

BTW, the popcorn balls were a HIT here! :) The shaking turned into dancing, which turned into laughing... etc. Even my husband suggested we make them a tradition for this time of year!

Mommy said...

This post was wonderful!!! Thank you for all your advice:) I have not started homeschooling really, I do a workbook with my 3 year old and the rest is all exploring play with both kids:) As I think it should be!!! But with the thought in mind that schooling will start in only a few years I am trying to learn now what works best everyone else:)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this post. As a teacher (well, was one for 10 years before daughter arrived), I fully appreciate what you do with your children. If we did not have such a competent christian school near by, I would be taking all your ideas (or is that plagiarising? :o) What a blessing for your children that you realize that learning and fun needs to be together. I most of all loved your comment about "baking bread yet being lost on logic". That made me laugh!!

May God bless you in this task!

Rebekah Huggins said...

Hey Rebecca, I don't know if you remember me or not but I am one of Elizabeth's friends from the Syracuse church. I read Elizabeth's blog and occasionally click on yours, I love your photos! I think you do a great job of catching the world around you, what a blessing! Anyways, I happened to catch that you combine Psalm singing with memorization and think that is absolutely wonderful. I no longer live in an area with a Psalm singing Church. Although I find great pleasure in singing the hymns, if someone asks me I say I believe in exclusive Psalmody. My reason is very simple, I struggle with memorization of any kind (learning disability)and as an adult I always felt that I was letting God down because I struggled to memorize verses. But then I realized that God had blessed me in a tremendous way, I knew entire psalms (lots of them) and the only reason I knew them was because I had repeatedly sung them every Sunday and other days. What a wonderful way to teach children God's word.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this post. I tend to skip over italics and go straight to the post and that is why did not see the link. :(

Thank you very much for this post. Much to glean.

Catie said...

See? I told you I would look at your homeschooling posts. :) I love, "..refer to them as artists. Because they are."

I also like the idea of doing a different artist each month. Going to probably steal that one.

Stupid question alert! Do you just make up your own tunes for the Psalms or do you find a song? (I know there are plenty to choose from that other people have written.)