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Week’s Worth April 16-22

We are all two shades tanner and ten levels frecklier since spring has begun.
We planted our two vegetable beds at the end of March, and although we tend beds every spring, this was the first year we felt so passionate about the fine details.

I attribute this to children old enough and interested enough to help. This is the first year in nine that I’m not pregnant and/or carrying around a baby, so there has been much more freedom in yard tending for me. Plus it’s been really rad having kids old enough to help!

This spring has been so fun! We’re annoyingly obsessed with our little plant babies and check on them numerous times a day which feels like it makes the growing slower, I think.

It’s amazing how much beauty and diversity are packed in to the infinite amount of variations of things that grow. We’ve spent the week studying soil in our Kinderfarmhomeschool Gardening Curriculum, and what I really want to know is at what point in my life did things turn to where I am so fascinated by dirt and such things?

I do not know, but at least it has been a family affair. We’ve all been learning so much about minerals and temperatures and shades and ph levels and propagating and sunlight and blah blah yadda yadaa. All the good and boring things.

My friend was on vacation this week, and we even got the privilege of tending to her garden while she was away. We never grow cucumbers because none of us eat them, but when we had permission to pick one of hers, we ate them and flavored our water with them, and basically we have a bed going up this weekend for cucumbers since there is just no stopping us now.

We had a tough week this week in math, so while we battled the sorrows of subtraction with both of our math students, we pretty much nixed everything else other than our gardening. Hello summer, we are reaching for you ole pal.

These are the resources we’ve gone back to with the kids. How to be a Wildflower isn’t as educational as it is beautiful, but since I have a love for both, we’ve carried it around outside a few times this week for inspiration. My girls adore it! Dirt is definitely geared toward older children, but it is jam packed with good info. Compost Stew has been much enjoyed by my youngers, and we even let my little four year old do a glue and dirt project with the letter D:

It’s the brown page, which is kind of hard to see with this Hipstamatic shot, but I can’t help that because I’ve re-downloaded that early 2000s app and pretty much am obsessed with it.

We haven’t added a lot of new guys to the flower beds this spring, but we did add a pot of these pretties. Pictured is Sally, Susan, Sable, Juan, Hector, and Poe. We do not know who stuck Poe there to guard, but we leave him because he’s charming.

So far we have vegetable beds with lettuce, kale, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, peas, and melons. We’ve added olive trees, a mulberry tree, fig tree, and a pomegranate tree to our little Kebby orchid of citrus trees. We’ve got some basil, rosemary, peppermint, and lavender. We’re trying our hand at some coffee and blueberry plants this year too!

What are you planting? What should we add in besides cucumbers (because who knew everyone loves them when we all thought we hated them?) What’s your favorite thing to grow? Talk planty to me.

Homeschool

Why We Ditched our School Schedule

We don’t have a school day schedule.
Sometimes people find that weird.

It doesn’t make sense in my head either, but in real life it unfolds well.

Why doesn’t it make sense in my head?
Because I am a time manager. I’m mediocre skilled at it.
I even factor in cushion time for the inevitable meltdown, drink spillage, or broken dish.
Just ask my husband. He’s undoubtedly always late, while I just sit there and silently solve all of this late-induced problems with a sharper schedule. Shower takes 12 minutes, getting dressed and grooming, 4 minutes, walking the dogs takes 5 minutes, put your shoes on for a minute and allow yourself 3 extra grace minutes and he just needs 25 minutes of getting ready time before he needs to leave the house. Easy-that is if you follow my schedule. (Also if you can find your shoes, because sometimes that’s the spoil to perfectly good time management. Good places to check for a missing shoe is known to be: the boy’s toy box, under the couch, the linen closet, and occasionally in the dog’s kennel.)

Us on a school schedule should work.
But it just didn’t.

And this is where we take the freedom of homeschooling into our own hands and mold it into what will work for us. I laid down my mental picture of what I thought our teaching and learning should mimic and really fine tuned it to the dynamic of our family. We have four children ages 2, 4, 6, & 8. The wildcard in there at present is going to be my 2 year old, although we are growing into a season where he is slightly more tamed and predictable than he has been. He is a high maintenance baby (and now toddler) and requires much of my constant attention. All. day. long. (Really though last week he baby powdered himself, my Labradoodle, and entire bathroom, wrote on the walls with an ink pen, broke into the pantry to feed the dogs an entire loaf of bread, and spilled a container of coffee grounds onto the floor all in one day.) Mommas schooling with babies, I know you feel me. It is difficult to teach on schedule and simultaneously prevent these things from happening.

Scheduling produces thriving for some families, but I’ve found at this stage in our learning it just produces pressure.

I think a strict time format is an incredibly fruitful, well-disciplined practice, and I would love to better revisit it when my children are of older ages.

For now though, if lunch time comes and we haven’t squeezed in all of our normal routine subjects, I don’t feel like a failure. I feel normal. I feel like someone somewhere along those lines needed my attention somewhere else besides teaching, and that’s a beautiful part of home learning. If someone scrapes a knee and needs a cuddle for 20 minutes, I’m here. If a couple of them are struggling with conflict, we make time to figure it out. If we get an invite to bring four wild children and two wild dogs to a dog park, I get to say yes. When my sister needs help with her newborn, we get to run on over. The books will wait. There is so much freedom for me in not being a slave to a schedule right now, and it makes the moments even sweeter for us.

We get to explore so much child led learning this way too. So many times a Geography lesson turns into an Art lesson which turns into a Science lesson which tip toes over History and ends up in Dictation. These snowball learning days are free to come whenever they might because we’re so liberal with the whens, wheres, and hows.

I like that- being free. I want my kids to feel that way while they still very much are.

We are busy people. I have a little calendar in my bag with things jotted on every single day of the month, but I like not having to turn over my school hours that way right now. They get to learn and play and snack and nap and read this way at a much more organic pace.

Years ago when we first began homeschooling I had an hourly schedule something like: breakfast at something o’clock, free play for thirty minutes, clean up for ten minutes, math at something o’clock, art at something thirty, lunch no early or later than noon, etc. It put so much pressure on me-on us, that I was a nutcase by the afternoon. If the youngest wouldn’t go down for a nap on time, or someone threw a tantrum somewhere it threw our whole game off and just stressed us all out.

When people come to me for homeschool tips and advice this is usually among the first thing I talk about especially to those teaching with babies and toddlers in the mix. I understand this just doesn’t work well with some families, and that’s okay. The rad thing about learning at home is that you get to format it to what fits your family best. If your school flourishes by scheduling, then you get to implement that how you like. If the clock brings you stress, you get to throw it out. No one way is the right way, and sometimes the right way shifts.

Right now, for us, we are thriving in the freedom of having ditched the o’clock boss.

Reading

10 Ways to Encourage a Love for Reading

Okay, so I’m not a master of much other than crying during This is Us and spending too much money at Target. I can admit this.
That being said, you should understand I am not a professional in teaching reading.
I would, however, say I’m decently skilled at encouraging a love for it though, which has subsequently made the subject delightfully easy if not near effortless around here.
We have 2 readers in this house, 1 eager learner, and a toddler who has memorized much of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” which could be mistaken for a reading 2 year old by someone who didn’t know better.

I thought I’d take a little minute to share some easy to implement tips that have worked for us in developing a passion for books and reading.

1. Respect the books. Around here things get messy. But not your books. I’ll walk around the 30 blocks and 12 tsum tsums you’re playing with or by, but if there is a disregarded book kindly return it to it’s home please. Nice and neat. Are you old enough to color-coordinate? Because that too.
2. Library love. There is a love order of buildings we frequent. We’ll go ahead and put church first, because that’s generally true. I’m going to be honest and tell you I’d have to let Target and Starbucks duke it out for second place, but I assure you the library is third. Squeals abound when we are headed there, and four small body’s on the verge of bursting with excitement is exactly what the library is not about, but we’re ever working that out.
3. Only book bring-alongs allowed! Doctors appointments, dance class, play-dates, grocery stores, and general errands generate a need for all children involved to bring toys, gadgets, kitchen tools, and/or rocks. Nope. Only books in this girl’s minivan. You may bring as little or as much as you like to keep you entertained, as long as it’s a book.


4. Movie comparisons. This is fun. We love to read the book before a movie comes out so we can compare the two. Jungle Book, BFG, Peter Pan, Star Wars are some fun ones we did as read-alouds so the whole family could chime in. We don’t haul the six of us to the theaters often, so when we do it’s a big ordeal and spending prior weeks reading the book amps up the fun even more!
5. Coffee talk. I don’t know if this is right, but I don’t want to know if it’s wrong. My people are about coffee milk. It excites their very souls, actually. I take mine black, because I have no room for folly. The rest of them take it about 75% milk, 12% coffee, 7% chocolate syrup, and 6% sugar. It’s a general science so I felt the need for the percentages. They get to drink it out of my breakable mugs. This is earned privilege people, and the only participants allowed are those willing to discuss characters and settings in books they are currently reading or have recently read. Coffee talk is near to my heart, and out of this list it is surely my favorite.
6. Daily read times. You know that time when it’s not quite bedtime but is quite youregonnaneedtogivemeandeachotherspace time? Yea that time. Everyone gets a book. Everyone gets a bed. Read. If you can’t read, enjoy a wonderful world of illustrations. Take as many as you need and take your dear, sweet time.
7. Book to toy ratio.  It might sound silly, but it works. Have more books on hand than toys. It minimizes your space clutter and keeps them reaching for books. Plus that’s just one less miniature Darth Vadar you step on. Because respect the books, remember?


8. Monkey see, monkey do. I am not calling you a monkey. I am not calling your children monkeys. Maybe I’m calling my children monkeys. The truth is though, I cannot come close to ever counting the times I was reading in bed, on the couch, at the table, on the swing, and a little human scooted next to me with a book of his/her own. It’s a sobering reminder that whatever it is I’m doing on my personal time is closely watched and mimicked, so I like to model well. (Someone help me learn how to insert emoji girl with hand out into blogs.)
9. Don’t push it. If they aren’t ready to read, I don’t ask them to read. There are plenty of books to choose from around here heavy in illustrations, and they are never under any pressure to perform for me. I find that in order to cultivate a love for reading, it’s best to just set it up and let them move at their own pace.
10. Read alouds for everyone. I have two independent readers here and two more I read aloud to daily. I like to make sure I don’t limit that to the littler ones. If I have a child interested in a book above his or her reading level, then we go in as a family read aloud. The kids love it, I love it, the dogs love it, the chickens love it. Just kidding we don’t read to the chickens very often. If family read alouds are too stressful (ex. when you have a toddler that takes interest in bopping heads for spontaneous duck duck goose 3 chapters in), I suggest reading aloud during meal times. If their mouths are full of food and their fingers are busy building a carrot tent then they’re less likely to bop each other and more likely to enjoy the story.

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. —Victor Hugo

Books Homeschool

School Book Favs

We have so many resources we pull from for our learning, but today I wanted to share some that are our tried and true go-tos on at least a weekly basis. I’m talking if nothing else, these are thumbed through, devoured, loved on, or rediscovered every few days around here.

Lehgo:

Okay so these little books were included in an All About Reading curriculum I purchased 4-5 years ago. The curriculum itself wasn’t a good fit for our family then, but these books ARE.
My new readers love these books. They are cute little stories with black and white illustrations as well. I love the simplicity and my kid’s love the confidence boost that comes with reading one of these in 10-20 minutes and feeling like they read a big “chapter book”. My 6 year old son absolutely loves the little reading guide card at the bottom, which actually would be simple to DIY, laminate, and help guide along any early reader feeling overwhelmed by paragraphs or many words together. Looking these up now I see they’ve been redone in a color format and are available here.

These are our absolute favorites. If we have down time and I ask the kids to work independently I’ll bet my ten chickens they’ll grab these and get to reading, drawing, and/or creating their own “lessons” to teach the younger ones from. Seriously they’re on the table daily. The illustrations in these are fantastic, and the short blunt subject pages are honestly captivating for all ages in my opinion. These are wonderfully priced and available here. We give these as gifts, we love them so much!


This year we’ve found ASL to be easily incorporated to every lesson. We pick 1-4 words a week/day depending on how well the retention is between my four, and we generally keep this dictionary at hand to do so. For example last week when did a bee unit study, we learned the signs for bee, honey, hive, and spring. I love to outsource YouTube for this or @signedwithheart on Instagram, but my kids also get a lot out of referencing the signs in this dictionary.


This one. Just get it. It is another great gift book for even those not homeschooling. The map illustrations are so incredibly fun and the book is so very versatile. This fall we studied Europe and each week would take an imaginary train through each country. We used this book as an I Spy inspiration for each kid to pick landmarks, culture references, native animals, etc. that inspired them and we’d concentrate on each one by referencing other books and videos to dig deeper. They key pictures around the countries/continents are great memory markers and this one was well engaged with by all of my crew and even myself.


I’m an art girl, and I’ve got an art girl. So we do art things. Usborne has various titles for us art lovers, but these are two that my littles gravitate toward most. They’ve got some beautiful classics and provide lots of sweet tid-bits about pieces, and the best part is that they almost always end up providing some artistic inspiration.  They go well with the Art sticker books and coloring activity books Usborne offers as well. I get mine here.

Oh I do love this one. Again, you just get me real good when you’ve got some bomb illustrations and this one delivers there as well. My 8 year old daughter loves this book, and she often uses it along side her personal journaling. This one’s more geared towards girls ages 6-10. Angie Smith is so gifted, and this book is nothing short of a treasure around here.

I love discovering new favorites, so be sure to let me know if you think I’m missing out on something!

Homeschool

How Our School Looks

Let’s compare homeschool to a wardrobe.

You have a variety of pieces to choose from.
Some are worn and well-loved.
Some are new and need to be tried on.
Some have holes in them and need to be repaired.
Some are no longer functional and need to be thrown out.

This is absolutely comparable to the way we school. We aren’t a uniform kinda family. We like our options.

We are the stripes with polka dot people.
Plaid on plaid.
Print on print.
Print on plaid on polka dots.
and just when you think we’re going to show up in worn out holey denim and a stained Mickey Mouse tee shirt, we come at ya smooth and classy in all black with red lipstick and heels.

Where are we going right now?
Oh yea. Not to dinner. To school.
kaaaay

Yes. School.
There are several different methods/styles (Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Unschooling, just to name a few).
We like to try them all on, which has us generally landing in the Eclectic style of home educating.
We dabble and pull from all kinds of styles until we’re working with the best fit for us.

I say all of this to preface this point:
No one way is the only way.
This works for us.
It may not work for you.
and that’s okay.

It took two years of homeschooling before I figured this out.
I can buy a curriculum now and not feel mandated to use every single component.
I can research a learning style and not feel required to implement every single aspect.
I can receive a suggestion and not feel pressured to apply it.

Once I figured this out, our schooling that took on a freedom that sparked both in myself as a teacher and my kids as learners.
If I announce right now that we have some school to do, I will undoubtedly hear cheers and yays and tiny feet running over whereas there was a time where that announcement brought groans and eyerolls and attitudes all over.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats

I love these words. I love them dearly and not only because we literally light things on fire sometimes for “projects”, but because the objective in my teaching right now is to give these little ones a craving for knowledge and a passion for seeking it.

So right now we stride in our ripped denim and worn out stripes, while will we even get out of pajamas tomorrow?

Homeschool

Hello world!

Ten years ago I was probably in front of a computer screen writing a history paper for college with a degree in Elementary Education in my line of sight.
Now I’m in front of a computer screen writing a blog about how I homeschool my four children and I’m not seeing much other than that because my it’s 9:26pm and if we’re being honest, my brain likes to check out shortly after 6pm. It’s on airplane mode until bedtime, basically.

Didn’t see that one coming, 2007 Courtney, did ya?

As the story goes, I gave birth to my first little treasure in 2009 when God shortly after began to reveal homeschool as our future. I won’t say there wasn’t resistance met there, but I will say it is a calling I’ve been blessed by answering. 2014 came and all of a sudden there were four of them I had to keep alive and love and teach and not mess up too badly.

We are in a place now where learning is more like thriving on life for all of us. I’m on my second education here while I’m totally winging this thing, and these kids think I hold the key that unlocks knowledge itself. I’m no expert, but I’d like to ehhem a bit and bring in my small voice on this topic that I love.

This space here to do so excites me, and I thank you for reading.

Allan Bloom is quoted to have said, “Education is the movement from darkness to light.”

Oh and am I ever a lover of the light.