Thursday, September 29, 2011

Record Keeping and Keeping Kids On Track

Every school year is different. I am not doing things this year like I was doing things two years ago or even like last year. I am a big fan of trying something out and changing the process until it works for you. Every child is different, every school year is different and so flexibility is a requirement for homeschooling. You must be able to adapt to current ages and needs (yours too).

We use the A.C.E. program and it has a lot of great qualities that I really like. The program was designed with goal cards. It really is a card, about the size of a large index card, with a colorful table on it and the teacher fills in goals for each day for each subject (in later grades the student writes the goals). I have been using those crazy cards for 5 years. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan. They are easily misplaced by overly active young children and we seemed to use way to many! So this school year I changed things up. I used one of my many one cent folders and created a goal folder for each, Sam and Makiah. I created my own table for each week that was designed with the child in mind; easy to read and with their specific subjects. In the folder they also have their reading list table to be filled out whenever they complete a book. It's big, so it's not easily lost. They can both easily see what their goals are and when they are done they check it off. I should have done this years ago! Then at the end of the week, I can make comments at the bottom about their week and all the extra activities they completed. (Hold on, in the next section you'll see why) I will put the new week's goal sheet in right on top of the previous week. Then at the end of the quarter they can look back and see how much they got accomplished! New quarter, new goal sheets and I'll file the old ones. This system is great. We all love it and its keeping them on track! It's also a great way for dad to come in and see how much they got done that day if he wants too. (Hubs usually just asks, but if he wants to see he can)

While homeschooling is NOT illegal, homeschool families tend to draw a lot of unwanted and unwarrented attention so record keeping is key. Even though I am not keeping transcripts (HALLELUJAH!) I still have a lot of record keeping to, well, keep. Every state is very different in their homeschooling laws and as responsible parents it is a very good idea to know those laws. Being prepared to defend your rights to homeschool is part of making the choice to homeschool. In Missouri, we have to complete one thousand hours of schooling per school year. There are a lot of ways to keep track of your activities, including programs you can purchase. But since we are not keeping transcripts, purchasing a program didn't seem like a solid financial decision since more than half of the program wouldn't get used. Being handy dandy with Word (this took no talent really, but you gotta give me something) I created my own spreadsheets for logging in our hours daily and what those hours were spent doing. Every afternoon, or at midnight when things have slowed down, I sit down and log in what we did that day for both Makiah and Sam. This log is for the core subjects, as well as art, P.E., music, field trips, etc. This particular record keeping is also something new I am doing this year. In the past I have just printed a form offline and manually marked absent, sick, holiday or field trip in an attendance sheet. Not good enough, but I wasn't aware of all the new crazy laws Missouri has in place (I'll say this for Indiana, their laws are MUCH less involved). Again at the end of the quarter those monthly logs will be printed and filed. As with almost everything else in homeschooling, find what works for you in keeping track and do it. And I wouldn't suggest getting behind because catching up is not enjoyable. I mean, I can't remember what I ate yesterday for breakfast so going back and trying to remember what things we did on specific days. . . not going to happen. ~Smile~

Tomorrow is Friday and we have an exciting day planned! I can't wait! I'll be taking pictures and posting our Fabulously Fun Friday on Monday!!

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Typical Day

Are there really any typical days?? Probably not. But I digress. ~~Smile~~

I thought I would post about what a typical day looks like in a homeschooling home. Not to jump on a soap box or anything, but, we homeschooling mama's (and dad's if they are working that stay home dad gig) are not overflowing with free time as most people so quickly assume. This will lay out what a day in the life looks like of schooling for this family.

6:00 a.m. ~ My alarm will sound. I will probably hit snooze once. Maybe twice. Then I am up and running. Theoretically anyway. This time is not highly structured because it's my morning devotion/prep/plan time. This time varies based on how much quiet time I need. We want a happy mama/teacher.

7:45 a.m. ~ Kids are getting up, brushing teeth, washing faces and complaining how early it is and how tired they are.

8:00-8:30 a.m.~ Breakfast

8:30 a.m. ~ Devotion (now you know why I need devotion first) During this time we focus on our scripture of the day, the character trait of the day and we talk about the project of the day.

9:00 a.m. ~ School work begins. While Sam sits in front of the dry erase board and works on letters and spelling words he already knows, I get Makiah started. We pull out her assignment goal folder. I have her start with Word Building. It's easy and it eases her into the work day. She doesn't need a lot of direction with it either. Daniel is at the table with his flash cards working on letter and numbers.

After I get Makiah started I begin working with Sam. He is typically learning a new phonetic sound for three days in a row and then review. So we learn a new letter sound and build new words with that letter and ones previously learned.

10:00 a.m. ~ Sam is now ready for book work and Makiah has moved onto the next subject, usually Bible Reading and for this she doesn't need me. I check in with her, help with any problems and then work with Daniel on spelling his name (this is a current right now thing).

10:15 ~ Break time, better known as "shake out your sillies time". We sing or turn on music and dance, shake out the sillies and basically giggle our way through the next 15 minutes.

10:30 ~ Now that we have shaken out our sillies we are ready for more learning. Sam works more in his Word Building and I usually kick off Math with Makiah right about now. We do drills or flash cards and then work on that days lesson. If it isn't new material I get her into the book right away. If it's a new concept we work together, going over the process and then onto the book. By now Daniel is coloring or cutting and gluing.

11:45 ~ Break for lunch. Right now they will work together on the scripture while I get lunch completely put together.

12:00-12:45 ~ We eat. We chill, it's a relaxing time. After they eat, I read a story to them.

12:45-1:00 ~ Physical Education, we do something physical. Could be calisthenics or dance contest or stretching.

1:00 ~ Daniel goes down for a nap. Sam works on his math and once he is done he is finished for the day. Makiah is ready for her Science lesson or English lesson. More book work.

2:00 ~ Makiah has a Social Studies lesson or Science and book work. Then she works on her Literature and Creative Writing (extra class if she has time).

3:30 ~ School is done. Daniel is awake and it's now free play. They earn computer time, Wii time or Netflix time.

3:30-4:15 ~ Mama scores work again. Puts info into the data sheets online and gets school work set up for the next day.

4:15 ~ Craft/Art time. I start them on a project and then start I cooking supper.

After this, it's just normal family stuff based on the night of the week. The kids bedtime is 8 p.m. and by that time I am more ready for their bedtime than they are! ~Smile~

This schedule is not set in stone. Like I said, it's a typical day, a sample of how the day should, hopefully and probably will go. Some days are better than others. Some days we stop school early because things aren't progressing, we do something else that's learning but we abandon the work books and lesson plans. Some days, we are all super focused and we are done early. Nothing in homeschool is written in concrete and that's the beauty of it all.

Every family has to create their school around their family. You pick the curriculum, you choose the scriptures, Bible stories, values and morals you are teaching. . . shouldn't you also design the schedule to best suit your family? YES!!

New posts coming soon about all sorts of FUN stuff!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Everything Lapbooking

I am ever so glad that a few years ago I stumbled, internet stumbled, across this wonderous idea of lapbooking!! So I decided that I should blog about lapbooking and all the great sites for free information and printables. Lapbooking can be used independent of curriculum study or as a companion. When I say independent of curriculum, I mean that it does not necessarily have to follow what is being learned. I will say though, that by going along with whatever your child is studying you will be truly driving home the concept you are trying to convey. Sometimes we follow current course study and sometimes we don't, it just depends on what the teacher wants. ~Smile~

Makiah has already finished her first lapbook of the year and it turned out great!! I have spent the morning deciding what we should do next. I really want Sam and Makiah to do a lapbook on the same topic so that I can help them together. Today I decided we would do a lapbook about Knights! I know it's not very girly but we will have an underlying Biblical theme complete with scripture. I am very excited! So where am I getting all this fabulous info and the printables you ask?!?! There are several sites, but here are a few that I really like!!

Homeschool Share is a great site!! It has all sorts of resources for homeschoolers, but if you click on the link it will take you directly to the Book Lists for lapbooks. Take time to look around the site, you will find all sorts of fun stuff!

Lapbooking 101 is another great site to help you get started! It gives you the nitty gritty on how to get started, the supplies and examples.

Lapbook Lessons is a site that I just recently found and I really like it! They have videos and templates and various links too.

Another great site for all sorts of information, resources and ideas is Homeschool Helper Online. It is another everything homeschool website, you will find lapbooking ideas and templates here too!

Here are just four options for great resources. All these sites also contain links to other sites for more info. For me, I feel like the internet is a homeschool family's best friend! I know there is a lot on the web to be cautious about, but take advantage of all the awesome resources online and most are free!!

You can make a lapbook from reading a book or make it a research project by having your older child google the info needed to fill in the templates you choose. Lapbooking is fun and creative. It gets your child learning while having fun! Great part is, it can also double as your art/craft project. Next week, all three kiddos, three different ages and grades will be doing a lapbook. They will all three be creating a Knight themed lapbook that is age appropriate for each! I declare that our Medieval week will be tons-o-fun!! (Read about my plans for Medieval week in the next post)

Folders: I like to use folders with pockets because invariably the teacher (he he, me) has printed out more stuff than we have room for or there is an accompanying book report to store. But you can use file folders or a combo of both. Explore the various folders and their uses and decide what will work best with your lapbook.

There is no wrong way to lapbook, get out there and have fun with it!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Week One in Review

The 2011-2012 school year has begun at Principle Things. And all in all, it's been a good week.

We started out on Monday, going over the rules and expectations. Every year I tweak the rules a little so that it's not a boring list of do's and do nots. This year, because I have two younger ones, we have the Do Bee's. I am working on the bees to go up on our bulletin board and when I have it all done, I will post a picture.

Here is a recap of what each child had done this week:

Daniel: He has been rockin' preschool this week. He is learning to write his name, all the right letters in the right order. He is also working on numbers and writing them. Recognition he has down, but now we need to write, write, write.

Samuel: He is a quarter of the way through Kindergarten and he is doing very well. He has several words that he can read and we are flying through the work. He is doing 1st grade Math and he loves it!! He actually wants it to be harder.

Makiah: The school that sends her books has been a little backed up and her books haven't come in yet. So I have been pulling from the extra curriculum I have. We already had her Bible books and Literature and Creative Writing so she has been doing that. I also gave her a research project. First one ever. The topic is Missouri and she not only had to gather the information, she is making it into a lapbook and then she will do an oral presentation to the family and then at our community tutoring program that our church does every Tuesday. She has been busily working on that and she has had a great time doing it! She has already asked me what the next one will be.

As for me, I am adjusting to school life again and balancing that with house work. We will soon be fully back into a routine.

Check back next week for a special post about lapbooking!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Homeschooling 101

I have had several parents ask me recently about homeschooling. They ask questions like:

What program do you use?

Do you keep their permanent records?

How do you occupy the younger child/kids while teaching the older kids?

Are you apart of a homeschool group? Do you suggest it?

Do you have a schedule you follow?

How do you incorporate art, physical education and music into the learning experience?

Most important question of all~~how do you keep your sanity?

Since I have had many questions asked to me and one friend even suggested I blog about homeschooling (little did he know that I already had a blog for homeschooling that I was seriously neglecting) I decided that I would post about the basics of homeschooling. I also decided that I would make sure to maintain this blog so that everyone can get a look into our little academy at home.

What program do you use?

We use the A.C.E. curriculum. We have had great success with this curriculum. There are 12 PACES for each subject for each grade, 3 PACES each quarter for each subject. Each PACE has a scripture and character attribute that is taught throughout the book. There are many, many curriculum's out there. It is my suggestion that you find one that completely suits your family. That may mean a combination of materials. While we use A.C.E. I also incorporate science experiments for extra fun and lapbooking (this a great blog post that explains it so well) as well.

Do you keep their permanent records?

No, I do not keep my kids permanent records. You have that option, like if you just choose to order books from the website then you would be responsible for all records. I choose to go through a Christian school. I give the work, grade the work and tests and then I mail in the completed tests to the school. They keep their records until we decide to change schools or graduation. I love it! While I am the one watching over her education I feel a certain level of security knowing that when their permanent records are reviewed by colleges no accusation of fraud can be made. Whether or not to keep your child's permanent records is totally a matter of preference. We have gone through the same school for five years now and we have no intention of changing anytime soon. If you find yourself interested in homeschooling, using the A.C.E. curriculum and want someone else to keep the records I highly recommend Heartland Christian Academy.

How do you occupy the younger child/kids while teaching the older kids?

This is a question that I often ask myself. ~Smile~ Because of the ages of my children I have always had at least one child that needs to be occupied. I have to admit that at times it can make things very interesting but you just have to get creative. In years past, I would set up the boys (who were to young for school) with stations such as; play doh, blocks, cars, number puzzles that were age appropriate and etc. I would have them in sitting within eye shot the whole time and they would have a learning type play time. Then when Sam got old enough to do preschool with, I only had to keep Daniel occupied. Now that Makiah and Sam are both doing PACES, Daniel is now old enough to do preschool, we all sit at the table together. Each child does work independently, I sit there too to help each child as they need it. Makiah needs less help, Sam is learning to read, so he gets very specific instruction and Daniel listens in. Things can get crazy at times and probably will. The key is knowing when you or they or all of you are overwhelmed. If you are overwhelmed, that is a good time to have story time or take a small break.

Are you apart of a homeschool group? Do you suggest it?

We have been involved in homeschool groups off and on. If you are a one vehicle family, it can make transportation interesting but I do suggest being involved in a group. It's nice to be able to get out and about with other moms and kids and do something besides book work. We will be joining a new group this year and we are all excited about it. As much as everyone talks about kids needing socialization, we moms (and dads if that's the case) need some adult interaction. It is a good thing for everyone.

Do you have a schedule you follow?

I have done several different styles or schedules over the years. For us, I had to be flexible with the routines from year to year (and sometimes day to day) because each year brought new challenges with it. This is the first year that everyone is doing structured work; 5th grade, Kindergarten/1st grade and preschool. That combo will bring it's own unique challenges with it, so being flexible to change is good. Having said that, we do have a basic schedule that we follow for school time. Set the schedule to fit your family, if you have early bird kiddos then work that. If your kids are like mine, they are a bit slow in the morning. The important thing about a schedule is being consistent. If school is going to start at 8 o'clock, then start at 8 o'clock. If everyone is a little crabby, still start at 8, but maybe start with a song or a story. The contents of your schedule can change up and be flexible, but the time schedule itself needs to stay consistent. My pastor has a saying that I have adopted because I love it, "Blessed are the flexible, for they will never be bent out of shape."

How do you incorporate art, physical education and music into the learning experience?

It is very easy to incorporate these fun and yet very important classes into your homeschool experience. Let's start with art.

Art: Crafts, coloring, painting and drawing are things your child probably already loves to do. Art doesn't have to be something that is elaborate and expensive, you can get some cheap supplies at a local Dollar store and your kids will be thrilled. Get craft ideas online to match what your kiddos are learning or what holiday is coming up next. I'll be putting ideas up on the blog each week for arts and crafts.

Physical Ed: Kids love to be active and it doesn't take much to have them having a good time and being active. Let them go outside for awhile, but make it a structured time and event. Have them run races, play leap frog, play tug-o-war or other various games. If the weather is bad, then use your living room and get them doing exercises such as; toe touches, jumping jacks, high kicks and stretches. Twenty to thirty minutes a day, they get a break to get their sillies out and they are moving. You may even want to go to a park when your school work is done or go to an area that has a trail (and going on a nature hike incorporates science into the activity).

Music: This is another one that is easily accomplished with younger children. We have music time almost daily in my house. We sing songs, some learning some silly, we have contests like a silly dance contest or a name that song contest. Also for more of a learning experience you can learn about different types of music and all the instruments you hear. When they are older you can look into music lessons of some sort. By making musical instruments you combine art and music together!

The bottom line with these three important areas of learning is to get creative. Use online resources for more ideas, read blogs and articles. There is a plethera of ideas out there to make your school excellent in all areas.

Most important question of all~~how do you keep your sanity?

For those who know me, they might say that I haven't kept my sanity! ~Smile~ I think they key to happy homeschooling with minimal stress is to know your limits. If you wake up one day and you are tired and stressed, the kids are tired and grumpy, it might be a good day to have a story day, complete with a living room picnic. Or a day to get out and go somewhere, even if its just the library. The parent that is homeschooling needs to keep themselves connected to other adults even if it is via the phone for a happy conversation with a friend during lunch. Also, know in advance that your homeschool will never be perfect and learn to be okay with that. Perfection is not required, striving toward excellence should be the goal. Some days you just need a break and that's okay. Some days are a struggle to get through but you press on and do and that makes "after school" all the more special. Some days everything will go without a hitch and other days won't. It's a fact, rolling with the punches and dancing during the good days will help to keep you sane.

I hope this has been helpful. I will be making this blog a priority this school year, to not only document Principle Things, but also to share with all of you ideas and helpful hints.

Homeschooling is always an adventure, sometimes a good one and other times it's rather stressful. But in the end, it's always worth it!