Homeschooling: A Lighter Load for Spring

I have gone to a lighter load already. My kids now do one assigned pencil drawing (art) assignment and a chore on Friday. Other than that, Friday is an unschooling style day. During the week, my kids do (in this order) one “spelling workout” lesson (4 pgs. long, including vocabulary, grammar and one paragraph of writing), 2 pages of “handwriting without tears” workbook, one worksheet of math in a binder I created for each child (from multiple sources), a half hour of reading non-fiction science book of choice, a half hour of reading non-fiction history book of choice, a half hour of reading fiction book of choice, a chore, and a half hour to two hours of interest-based learning (depending upon age).
This gives them more choices and they love it. Their spelling, vocabulary and writing skills are great. They are learning math every day. They get to learn the history and science that peaks their interest that day. I have a huge library of non-fiction books in all subjects and levels which I picked myself (and I am very picky) for them to read. I have a huge variety of fiction books for all levels and interests for them to choose from. 

We are constantly adding to our library, which makes the kids excited to see the new books. Sometimes, with their own money (the older they are, the more they generally earn), they buy books they are interested in.

As for the “boring” and “gave too much work,” I negotiate with my kids and change things up about every couple months. Last time, I took away some spelling (they used to do 2 lessons a day) and added the reading non-fiction (because my son wanted science in, and less spelling.

I also spend about two hours a week helping my eldest and about the same, teaching kids how to read and having then read to me (for the younger ones).

No Slave to a Style or Method

I am in Unschooling groups, eclectic groups, montessori groups, LDS homeschooling groups, TJED groups and regular homeschooling groups on facebook. We do not fit into any style. I decided a few months ago that pretending we fit into a box “we do this style,” was just fruitless. We do what works each day, what I feel like we will do that day, and on some days, what Heavenly afather directs. Ideally, every day would be “we do as Heavenly Father directs,” but in reality, I am not perfect and I just do my best every day. Some days, my best means I took a shower and the kids are alive.

I did purchase the L.I.F.E. School LDS Homeschooling Curriculum

I love it. I won’t say we do it every day, but usually whenever we do anything formal for aademics, we include it. It is what keeps me sane. I used to have to make lesson plans for all those subjects, but now I don’t have to and I know that it is included. I don’t have to worry over what to teach, as everything is right there (every subject is included except dance and math). My kids even have a lot of past workbook material to catch up on in LIFE School, so some days, when I di not have time, ability or desire to teach a formal lesson, I just say, “Do 6 pages of Life School,” and they know that means, from past lessons which I have taught, that they have yet to do work for. It takes them anywhere from one hour to never getting it done, to do that, depending on whether they try or not.

We still use Spelling Workout sometimes, too, because my kids need extra TLC in that area. We also use God’s Design For Science as it fits in with our Science in Life School, as a supplement, because it’s the most awesome Science program ever!!! It is not LDS, but Christian, and I add in LDS stuff because I am the teacher!

For more LDS and Scripture learning, we also use Discover the Old Testament, because that is where we are on the timeline of history in LIFE School, is Old Testament and Ancient Book of Mormon Times, for which we use Discover the Book of Mormon. One uses grades 1-3. The others use grades 4-7. They finished 1-3 in a different homeschool year.

Then there is the math, of course, which is also the best math ever because I am re-inventing the wheel. I have seen homeschool moms say of facebook, things similar to, “Why Reinvent the Wheel?” Well, in my case, because I do not like the wheel that is there. It is broken, so I am fixing it so that it works. The math used in public schools is the math used in homeschool, in most cases. I have heard of lots of homeschool math programs which just do not work for homeschool moms, unless they have just one, or very few, kids. I have 6, though, so it needed to be re-thought. It is a lot of work, but I do not follow a math program. Instead, I am creating a Homeschool math program which is a one room schoolhouse approach like LIFE School, which lets me teach math to all the kids together, and when it is fully ready, we will have math lessons as a family (instead of 5 separate math lessons for 5 separate kids old enough for them).

It is not fully ready yet. It is in the works. I do some of it, but mostly, I still have to teach each child a separate math lesson (which I think is so time-consuming)!

In addition to all that, we go when my husband is off work, on field trips to museums and kids learning places. I think it is easier on me not to try to do it without my husband’s help. We also are in a bunch of facebook groups and now and then, we do things with the others in the homeschool community locally. We used to do this more often, and have even tried the Co-Op thing. The Co-Op thing has not been in the mix of late, but I am trying to start my own LDS Co-Op lately, and we will see. Right now, I just plan a get-together once a month. That is all I can do now.

Here is a related post you will want to check out, too. The Current Mix of Our Homeschool Day

New Homeschool Routine For January 2015!

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Jeff said, “They only get 10 minutes of one on one time per day?” I said, “That is not all of the one on one time they get in a day. When they need help with Life School workbook, math, or discover the scriptures, they get one on one, but that is usually 2 minutes for this one, then 2 for that one, when they say, ‘I need help’ or when I check their work.”

Lest any forget, they get a ratio of 6 kids to one teacher (mom) all day long. That’s better than 25 kids to one teacher! When they have a question, it gets answered. Everyone’s every question gets answered almost every time. When they need help with their work, they wait in line behind one or two siblings for a couple minutes per sibling, then they get their one on one attention and help.

That is not even to mention that my 2nd grader can get help from my 5th grader or from my 7th grader if I am momentarily busy. My 5th grade son can get help from his 7th grade sister. Sometimes, my 7th grader can get help from my 5th grader (especially in Science, but, sometimes, he remembers some math things better than she does, and he reminds her). My kindergarten sin can learn how to read from 3 older siblings, when they read aloud to him. My 7th grade daughter makes teaching preschool and kindergarten one of her free time hobbies, which is wonderful and very helpful! She even uses the standards I have written up and in a book for each individual child, and asks me about teaching methods. I love that she is so willing to help in that way!

In case you are wondering, Life School teaches all subjects except dance and math, I believe. DTS is Discover the Scriptures,

I am excited for this, so I hope this works!

Peace out!

Public School, Homeschool and Behavior Issues

My son used to have major behavioral and psychological issues when in public school. In a week, I noticed slight changes. In a month, I noticed more changes. After 3 months, his issues had been cut to 60% what they were when he had been in public school. After one year of homeschooling, I think the behavior issues were about 40% what they had been in public school. Now it has been almost 3 years. He is older, so, granted, that could make a difference, too, BUT I think homeschooling has made a bigger difference than age. He has behavior issues still, but they are down to about 20% what they were when he was in public school.

I wonder so often, whether they would even exist, had he never been in public school, but that does not solve anything, so I shouldn’t.

I will tell you some things that I think made a difference for my son. They are important to me. I cannot guarantee they will work for you. Every family will do different things. I am sure something here could help someone, though, so here it is.

When I began, I had already read about 6 books written by amazing author Alfie Kohn, including “Unconditional Parenting” and “The Schools Our Children Deserve,” which I recommend you start with. His books are very thick because of solid references which are in the back of the books. These take up about one third of the book. I looked at the references and used them to decide which books to read next. These were also very helpful.

I love “The NDD Book,” about how your child getting enough sleep, exercise and the right nutrition, will spfor sure affect his or her behavior. My child does get more sleep out of public school, because if, for example, we happen to stay up late on a Thursday night, visiting relatives or something, the he sleeps in the next morning (Friday). When we do an exhausting field trip, project, co-op or gathering, he eats and naps. He naps whenever he needs it and I let him, because he does not do it very often, and I have talked with him about how his body will tell him when he needs it. Usually when he has a meltdown, we feed him (that helps) and then he will go lie down for a one hour nap. When he gets up again, he is cheerful, kind, helpful, obedient, etcetera.

We have discussed what works best for him, with him. He likes this. When we forget to do this for a while, things do not work as well. He also needs regular one on one love and individual attention. Before he really “got into” reading, I used to get up in the morning and, first thing, read to him sitting in a chair in his room, to help him wake up. I read for half an hour. This helped him get out of bed cheerfully. It also helped him feel loved and helped us bond. I cannot deny that it made him love books, as well.

I teach my kids via eclectic homeschooling, and one thing included in 60 to 90% of our homeschool, depending in the day, week and month, and what is going on, is letting him learn however he wants, and whatever he wants, as long as it is within our religious standards. A lot of people call this unschooling, but I prefer to just describe it, as the “un” has such negative connotations. He learns a ton this way, and the freedom of this approach takes away a lot of behavior issues.

We also use an LDS curriculum called “L.I.F.E. School.” “L.I.F.E. Stands for Life Integrated Family Education.” The kids all get the same lesson. Then they do their work, which is similar, so they can help one another, but it is different for each grade level. I love it. It makes things so much easier for me. I do not have to do as much work to out things together for my kids to learn. The gospel is woven into every lesson. It teaches art, geography, history, science, literature, poetry, theater, reading, grammar, paleography, spelling, and many types of writing. It teaches dictionary work and research, essay

The only subject not included in this curriculum is Math. I am fine with that. I work hard at math teaching, most of the time. When I do not, I have to make up for it later.

On “De-schooling” and Me

My friend posted a link on a local homeschool group board. It has really made me think, a lot. Here is the link. It is an article by Leo Babauta. You’ll have to read it, before you’ll understand my blog post today.

http://unschoolery.com/de-schooling

It includes 8 bullet points for beliefs we carry with us, given us by our society and culture. These are:
“Kids should get up early and start learning as soon as possible.
“Students should learn reading, writing, science, math, history, etc.
“Students should be learning at the same pace as others their age.
“They need to learn certain things by the end of high school.
“They need to focus hard and really study and be tested to make sure they’re really learning.
“We need to force them to learn because otherwise they’ll just watch TV and play video games.
“They need to go to college.
“We know what’s best for them.”
I will modify them to what my current beliefs are. They are:

1) Kids can learn without the kind of “focus” school requires, though they will have an even greater focus, when learning things they want to learn. When they are focused in this way, internally motivated, they learn at an exponential rate. I do believe that when in this mode, the “really study” is there, but it is not forced. It is the child’s choice. There are academic subjects that the children will not “really study,” but will learn more slowly, with their own learning style. but they will not remember it well because they simply do not care. I do not believe in “testing.” I do notice, though, when my child wants to understand, but is frustrated. I do notice when their eyes light up, hear them say, “Oh, I get it,” and see that they can do it quickly with little effort. This is how a homeschool mom knows whether their child “really understands it.” It does not, however, necessarily mean they will retain that knowledge. If they don’t use the skills in real life, they will lose them. This has happened to me, with many things my school teachers think I “learned” by “proving it” with a “test.”

2) Kids should get up before noon and we should do the personal, family and homeschool routine, before bedtime. The daily routine includes personal health and grooming, household chores, the learning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, my reading aloud to them and reading to themselves. It also includes 2 additional weekly academic subjects of the day (chosen by me). If they do not do these aforementioned, then every day, at least during the same calendar week, I will push them to “catch up” before they can have “just for fun” (not for learning) technology time, or play with friends.

3) I think my children need to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to have good values and character traits. I think they should love books and enjoy their parents reading to them. I think they should do their part in and learn how to clean the house, cook, and care for their family members. I think they should learn to spell well. I think they should have a regular habit of, and enjoy, reading on their own. I think they need to learn math in order that they might avoid debt and so that, with the entrepreneurial hearts they have, they’ll be able to do well in their future businesses. I think they need to learn science, as it is a part of us everywhere. I think that they need to learn to write and to draw, because knowing how to do these will be essential in their lives and will help them a lot. I think they need to know about their world (geography) and about what has happened in the world in the past (history). I think they need to understand freedom and how to keep it.

4) I would like my kids to have the desire to constantly learn and to progress. I do not believe that others their age learn at “the same pace.” I think all people learn at different paces, depending on their abilities and intrinsic interest levels in each area. I do enjoy instructing my kids and giving them the opportunity, should they want it, to learn all of the things that were required of kids at their “grade level” in public school in Utah from 2003 to 2011 (before the Common Core).

5) I want my kids to learn certain things by the time they reach adulthood. I do not have the same goals that the school system has, but I do have goals for them. I hope they will gradually improve themselves so that by the time they are adults, they will know:
a) To have lifetime habits that will help them keep themselves as healthy and well-groomed as possible
b) To be kind, considerate, good listeners, Christlike, wise, thoughtful, polite, honest, true, chaste, virtuous and to have wonderful manners.
c) To have strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ
d) To be able to see and understand boundaries in relationships and decision-making; To be able to “stand up” for themselves and their own beliefs and decisions
e) To be “responsible” for their own actions and decisions: To know they are accountable for their own decisions and actions; To understand that there will be natural consequences for their actions and decisions in life.
f) To be hard workers. To be determined. To set their own pace and their own goals. To learn from failure rather than give up because of it.
g) To have been given the “opportunity” (meaning, as stated above, that I “offer it” continuously until age 18, but if they choose not to learn it, that is fine. At least they were given the chance) to be instructed in, all of the things that were required of kids at each “grade level,” in Utah, before Common Core.

h) To be enabled to make and reach their own personal goals as they are on each given day and moment.

6) I believe I need to offer the learning aforementioned, each academic or calendar year, so that if it is that child’s desire (which desire some of my kids have), then they will be at least as instructed as their public-schooled peers. I have promised this to these children, and I must deliver on that promise. I know I will have kids “just goofing off” (with non-instructional stuff) some days, even when I am “offering” instruction. Some days, they will have the eagerness to learn that cannot be held back. On these days, I must give them those opportunities to learn, as well as I am able.

7) I do not believe people need to go to college. I do have the desire to offer them that chance, should they desire it. If that child desires to be ready to enter college by a certain time, I will do my best to give them that opportunity which they desire.

8) I do not think I am “better than” any of my kids, and therefore, do not think “I know what is best for them” in every aspect of life. However, I know I have gained much wisdom and experience in this life which can help my kids have happy lives. I will impart my wisdom when they ask for it. I will offer it but will not force it upon them.

Writing, Reading, Spelling and Math

I have decided we need to focus more on Spelling and Math in our home education. I think they are so important. I am not going to go into detail about which kids are behind their grade levels, or where I want them to be, but I am going to tell you that I have made yet another new schedule, one which includes more reading, writing, spelling and math than did the previous one. 

I am really hyped up about it and so are the kids. My kids have known they needed to work on these subjects more. We just haven’t, because I have tried to fit in every single thing I want them to learn before they are adults, into each homeschool year, which is just not possible.

I really DO want my kids to know how to be an adult. I am just slowing it down. They can’t know it all now. We are not superhuman and cannot fit more into a day than other people can. I have to humble myself and focus on the small things, in order that I may get big results over time.

For now, these are our focuses. One thing I like about homeschooling is how flexible it is. It wasn’t until my kids made me lose my patience, go outside and read the newspaper on the back porch for 5 minutes to “cool off” my anger and re-gain a heavenly perspective, while reading it, that it dawned on me, TODAY IS SEPTEMBER 11th. WHY AM I NOT MAKING THIS A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE? I went inside and had a new plan. Today would be PATRIOT DAY in our home. I asked the kids what September 11th was. They were clueless. This was unacceptable. My plans for the lessons of the day went in the trash, so to speak, and we watched things about September 11th. No child of mine would be unknowledgeable about this day. Not while I am in charge.

I tell you this because I don’t want you to think that because we are going to focus more on Writing, Reading, Spelling and Math, that we do only those, or that we can’t just grab any day we want to, and do something completely off of the regular plan that day. I do have the other subjects in my schedule plan, and I do allow us to do unscheduled, impromptu things, as needed. I have added more time to the subjects mentioned here, though, and I think that is needful now.

If my children were having a hard time with these subjects in public school, the teacher would not change the plan, or the schedule, or the curriculum, for my child. I can, though, and that is a beautiful thing about homeschooling!