Tag Archives: homeschool

Homeschooling and the “S” Word

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschooling EXPO has been going on this week. I’ve been in and out, but when I’ve been in, I’ve been listening. Good stuff! The topics are varied: learning styles, high school writing, home economics, homeschool politics, and more (my brain’s a little fuzzy, haven’t brewed the coffee yet for today).

Dr. Brian Ray spoke at the end of the day yesterday, and even though I’ve heard him speak a few times before, it was a good reminder, both of the statistics that show that home education works better (at the very least in terms of test results and socialization) than institutionalized school, and of the opposition to home education on the part of the social elitists. Seems as if they’d like to make it some kind of a crime to raise free-thinking people — who actually know how to think, and are able to think for themselves.

Anyhow, the “socialization” concept came up during Dr. Ray’s talk, and there was quite a spirited discussion going on in the chat sidebar, too. Someone shared a link to a blog post, and I saved the link and read it this morning. Good post! If you’re concerned about socialization, or you’ve been fending off well-meaning people who ask you about it, here’s some food for thought from Home Schooling Goodness.


School planning

I just realized I haven’t said anything about our school planning for this year.

Some of the planning just took care of itself, more or less, in the sense that someone else did most of it. That’s part of being a part of a Gileskirk co-op (history, literature, worldview — actually, Moral Philosophy is the term, I think). The syllabus is laid out, and the lead mom in the co-op has worked out what she wants in the way of quizzes (er, Opportunities), discussions, projects and papers. Bless her! It’s making the transition to the greater complexity of high school so much less intimidating.

So I just take the Gileskirk assignments and plug them into our weekly plan. Am trying for a mix of working together and independent work, and it seems to be going fairly well. I need to keep checking, though, I think. What’s that old saying, “You get what you expect when you inspect.”

Anyhow, I worked out a schedule, included here.

Yellow are blocks of group time, blue are blocks of individual time. The chores listed at the bottom are just the after breakfast chores. Whoever is chief cook for the day also bears the title “bottle washer” and washes all dishes, and that’s a rotating job so it shows up on the menu plan rather than this generic chart that fits every day except Thursday, our outside lessons and errand day.

Some individual activities have to be coordinated. Math, for example, involves a book used by all (at the moment) but since everyone is at a different lesson, only one person at a time can do math. Same thing for French on the computer, and music practice.

CheckUp is accountability time. I want to see the fruit of their labors. It might involve inspecting chores, or it might just be a glance at their progress page to see what they’ve been working on. I might ask for a short oral narration, or read a 200 word summary, or look over a worksheet or page of math problems.

The blank progress page looks something like this (it’s a work in progress).

The lines at the top are “off” because I haven’t fixed them yet. I deleted a child’s name, for one thing, and a term and a year that had been typed into my blank form, and it messed up the lines. It’s an easy fix, just haven’t taken the time.

At the moment the girls are doing several lessons of Life of Fred a day. That’s because they all started the Fractions book last week and are going through at their own pace, from two to five lessons a day, depending on the ability of the student. Eventually I expect them to find their places in the program, to where they might not be whizzing through the math books. (After all, LoF goes on to higher math, stuff even I don’t remember how to do.)

The “Assignments” column gives an idea of how to document their work in a particular subject. This form was adapted from an earlier version where I filled in chapters or page numbers that needed to be done by the end of the week. I assigned a week’s worth of work at a time. At the moment, though, I’ve given them responsibility for figuring out how much work they’re going to get through. So far it’s working. I think. I had a bad headache yesterday and didn’t do any CheckUps, and today’s Thursday, the weird day with the crazy schedule, so tomorrow is when I’ll find out how far they got this week. It would be nice to be pleasantly surprised.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ultimate Homeschooling Expo! (May 3-7)

The Expo is on! I’m listening to a workshop right now while reading an ongoing chat with Felice Gerwitz (of Media Angels) and Cindy Rushton.

To learn more, go to this website:

I signed up but my schedule is crazy and I have no time at the moment to listen to the ongoing workshops. The one I really wanted to hear today is scheduled for the middle of violin lessons!

However, thankfully, later I’ll be able to access the audio files of the workshops I’m missing today. Hoorah! (throws confetti)

Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education

Have I mentioned I love this resource?

Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education is a book from Simply Charlotte Mason that simplifies the planning process. You don’t have to be a CM educator–it works well for anybody who uses books (even textbooks) in their homeschool. It’s especially useful for someone educating using CM techniques, though, as the name signifies.

You can buy it as a physical book, spiral bound, or as an e-book if you want an instant download and don’t mind reading off the computer or printing out the book and putting it in a binder or getting it bound at the office store. (With the official school year fast approaching, I have one friend who elected to do just that.) Purchasers also can download PDF pages of the forms in the book, for convenience in printing.

In five steps you go from big-picture planning through planning for the year, the term, the week, and finally, the day. The author allows for natural differences in families and styles and throws in lots of resources, lists, and examples to help you in your planning. Using the free Bookfinder at the site makes planning even easier! (I haven’t tried the free trial of the online CM Planner yet. I’m kind of afraid to. What if it turns out to be so convenient that I don’t want to go without it after the free trial runs out?)

I’m on step 3 out of the 5-step process. I kind of stalled there a few weeks ago due to being over-busy with daily life. Need to get cracking!

Summer Schedules

Our first year homeschooling, we made several mistakes.

Well, okay, we make mistakes every year, but hopefully we’re learning from them and not making the same mistakes over and over again! (Like Eldest likes to say, “I might make lots of mistakes, but I don’t make the same one twice.”)

One mistake was to do school-at-home. We ordered an entire 2nd grade curriculum from a well-known Christian curriculum company. We tried to do everything in the Teacher’s Manuals. We tried to stay on schedule, a lesson a day in each subject. We were sitting at the kitchen table from just after breakfast until well after dinner. We were exhausted!

At least we didn’t go the whole route and buy a little school desk for Eldest, and set up a schoolroom with chalkboard, flag, etc. I know homeschoolers who’ve done this but it seemed kind of excessive for a single child. Also, considering we abandoned the textbook route some time later, we saved ourselves some expense, when you consider the cost of a teacher’s desk, student desk, chalkboard, flag, etc.

When summer came, we took the summer off, just like the schools did. (Our second mistake, did you guess right?)

We had worked through the previous summer (i.e. the summer before we started homeschooling) because that was our test: Our dd had gone all the way through first grade and couldn’t add 1+1. I researched and settled on (Happy Find!) a math curriculum that sounded good. It was advertised for struggling learners and gifted learners and everyone in between. This was the test: If I could teach Eldest addition all the way up to 9+9 over the summer, I could continue homeschooling in the autumn.

By the end of summer, she’d learned not just up to 9+9, but she could add six-digit numbers and columns of numbers and do word problems like adding up all of a family’s menu items at a hamburger place and being able to figure out the bill!

However, we took the summer off after our first full year of homeschooling. We needed it. She did. I did.

When autumn rolled around again, she’d forgotten a lot of what she’d learned.

How most math textbooks are designed

Sometime during this period I heard a homeschool dad talk about math. He said that math textbooks (specifically a certain brand, popular with homeschoolers, but those from other publishers as well) were designed in a way new homeschoolers (who tend to go through a textbook from start to finish) didn’t understand.

The first third of the textbook would be review of the previous year’s material, counting on the fact that the students would have forgotten a lot during summer break. The middle third of the textbook introduced and drilled the new material for that grade. Your average math class didn’t get more than 2/3 of the way through the text. The last third of the book was for advanced classes so they wouldn’t run out of material if they went through the text at a faster rate. This material was repeated in the first third of the next year’s textbook.

Thus, this father opined, you really only had to use the middle third of the book, if you never took a break longer than about two weeks! His children went very quickly through that whole math series as a result. Only if they struggled with a concept did they work the “review” lessons in the first third of a book.

Breaking free from convention

It wasn’t until our third year, I think, that we decided to break free from the institutional school schedule and keep on through the summer. We modified our schedule, to be done by 11:00, and let the neighbor children know not to knock on our door before then.

We cut back to the bare bones: Bible reading, half a lesson of math per day, and fun-but-educational readaloud, things like the Burgess books (Bird Book, Animal Book, Flower Book, Seashell Book, Old Mother West Wind, etc.) and Hillyer’s history and geography books.

We read aloud on a blanket in the front yard, and what do you know? The neighbor children began to join us for our readaloud time! They liked our fun-but-educational books just as much as we did!

Benefits of not taking the summer off

Benefits of keeping a modified schedule through the summer:

– better behavior
– no boredom
– less fighting between siblings (we started homeschooling an only child and added two more along the way)
– easier to ease into a heavier academic/activity load in the autumn
– able to add special activities like swim lessons or swim team, or take a week off here and there for camping

We haven’t started our modified schedule yet. The Parents in the household (yes, dh and myself) have decreed this week a clean-up-the-house week. Our house has gotten pretty trashed from the busyness of the end-of-the-year madness (recitals, plays, Outdoor School, and the like).

Let’s hope we can get it done in a week…

Best laid plans…

It was a cliche around our house. My mom was a planner. She was such a planner that she had a Plan A, and a backup plan (Plan B), and a backup to the backup (Plan C), etc. I remember one evening when I heard her say to nobody in particular, “Well, we got as far as Plan F, but we made it through…”

Of course, she didn’t really have a sheaf of written plans. She did most of this in her head, quickly figuring out what she was going to do if a monkey wrench was tossed into her spokes, reformulating her mental map of her course for the day as many times as unforeseen events required. (There are a lot of unforeseen events when you’re a mom, have you noticed? No matter how carefully you plan, too.)

I asked her once what the rest of the saying was. For years, all I’d heard Mom or Dad say was the first part of it. Best laid plans…

Mom looked at me blankly for a moment, as if she’d nearly forgotten it herself, and then smiled and answered, “…gang oft aglee!”

Evidently it’s a Scottish cliche. Since I didn’t speak the dialect, she translated for me. “…go oft awry.”

All this to say, I had my plans laid, but I’ve had to go to Plan B.

You’ve got to admit, life is never boring.

Do you ever have your ducks all lined up in a row, only to wake up the next morning and find someone’s moved them?

I started coming down with a cold yesterday, all the while hoping that it was just allergies. But nope! I woke up this morning with a fever and sore throat and general aches.

It’s the first day of school. Three of us had appointments at the chiropractor this morning. Our Keepers at Home/Contenders club is meeting this afternoon for a BBQ and instruction in decoupage and lawn mower maintenance.

It’s okay, though. I’ve reshuffled the deck and taken out the cards that won’t work. (Rescheduled chiropractor for later in the week, called to say we won’t be able to come to Keepers meeting.)

The girls are disappointed over the meeting, of course, but one is sick with the same cold I have, so we probably would have ended up staying home anyhow. They’ve thrown themselves into cheerfully making breakfast and tidying up, and then we’re going to have our Bible reading and hymn singing. (Hymn croaking? Um. Let’s call it hymn-listening, on the part of the two sickies.)

Since we were going to ease into academics this week, it doesn’t hurt our plans too much. We were already planning to do Bible and hymn singing today, along with some homekeeping projects. (Dejunking the younger girls’ bedroom, for one.) Youngest asked plaintively if we could *please* do some math today, too. How could I be so hard-hearted as to refuse? So I’ll do some math with youngest, too, though math was not on my schedule until tomorrow.

If I’d planned to jump from summer vacation into a full-blown “school day” I’d be feeling quite the failure at the moment. Of course, teachers in institutional schools catch bad colds, too, and I imagine there’s at least one of them, somewhere in the world, who had to stay home from school today.

Hey. I’m staying home, too, and feeling like something the cat would have dragged in, if we had a cat. But we’re chugging along according to Plan B, and everything’s going to be okay.

More on planning soon, I hope.

Homeschool Freebie of the Day!

“Great Resources for Homeschool Families” — that’s what this website promises, and delivers!

Every day they feature a new “freebie” — e-books new and old, videos, audio books and plays for the downloading. We’ve downloaded books on handicrafts and old radio shows, for instance. If you join their newsletter you get advance notice of what will be on offer during the coming week.

Today I stopped by there and saw they’re having an End of Summer Bash with eight free resources from earlier in the year, but only until tonight! So hurry on over–for your convenience I put the link below.

If you happen to read this after Monday, September 1, don’t despair! The link is still good for whatever the current freebie might be!