Monday, August 20, 2018

A Letter to the Struggling Homeschool Mom

Dear Home School Mom,

Get a cup of coffee and settle in for a Mom to Mom chat.


So I hear you are feeling overwhelmed. It is almost time for your school year to start, and you aren't ready. You have children you need to teach, but you have a baby in the house. 

You feel like you should already have a 36-week-lesson plan figured out for all your subjects, and right now you are just wondering if there are enough clean clothes for everyone and what you will serve for dinner tonight.

Well, let's start by breaking this down piece by piece.
  • Laundry: Okay, so someone might have to wear something that's not exactly clean today. That is the beauty of home schooling. You aren't going anywhere (school), and this isn't a beauty contest. If Child #1 needs to loan a shirt to Child #2, or Child #3 needs to wear yesterday's outfit, life will go on. Get the kids each to grab an armful of dirty laundry and meet you at the washing machine. Put the baby in a bouncer seat on top of the dryer and start a load of darks in cold water. Now the only important thing you need to remember is to come back in about an hour and move the laundry to the dryer. Set a timer on your cell phone.
  • Dinner: Take stock of your freezer and your fridge and see if you can pull something together. If not, call your husband and tell him the situation. Ask him if he 1) wants to get some stuff at the store on his way home from work; 2) wants to get something like pizza; or 3) wants cereal or pancakes or something like that for dinner tonight.
 Next, let's talk about planning. You might not have thought of it this way, but there are actually two options for filling out a "Planner" -- in advance, or after the fact. When you can't plan in advance, you write things down as they get done. It isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be. So here's your basic plan, and you write it down as they do it:
  • Math: Most of us purchase some sort of Math textbook. If you have a text book, it probably has about 140 lessons in it (more for higher grades). Public schools consider it "good enough" if they get through at least 75% of the textbook. There are 180 school days in a 36-week school year, so there is a lot of lee-way, even if you don't do a lesson on days when you give a test. Aim for a lesson a day 5 days per week, and when you do less, you record that you did less. That's all. No guilt.
  • Science: Textbook or non-fiction library books, projects or interest driven, just try to record something "Science-y" in your "Planner" each day. It might be a weather record for the full year (which also covers "Math" by doing a calendar) with Cloudy or Sun, Rain or Snow, temperature, windy, etc. Consider reading books about clouds and what the different types of clouds mean (stratus, cumulo nimbus, etc.), books about what conditions cause snow, sleet, what causes dew. Take one "nature" walk per week and find one thing to focus on for the day, and come home and learn about it, whether an oak tree, a dandelion, a butterfly, a squirrel. Take a photo if you can. At home, everyone draw a picture of it in a nature journal (art).
  • Reading: Right now might not be time to stress about Phonics, unless you are able to use an on-line program. Otherwise, consider some lovely books to read aloud to everyone. That still counts as "reading" -- it doesn't have to be that the child read to herself. Some of my early favorites were: Heidi, Black Beauty, PinocchioMary Poppins, The Saturdays, Winnie the Pooh, and A Child's Garden of Verse. Visit the library frequently; keep costs down.
  • Social Studies: This can mean history, geography, and that type of thing. You don't need to do this every day of the week, but you can. You can cover material by time period/topic, or can cover material by more specific interest, like studying mummies and learning a little about Egypt as a result. You can keep it light and think of ways to make it fun. You can weave many subjects together, like read Little House on the Prairie (reading/literature), locate where they are on the globe (geography), follow an item mentioned in the book, like what is a prairie hen, and look it up (science), do something mentioned in the book like make a corn cob doll (art)... Just write it all down in the appropriate categories. It looks real impressive! 
  • Phys. Ed. - most active play is Phys. Ed., whether it is riding the tricycle in the living room or chasing the dog in the back yard.
  • Art: Pull out scrap paper and crayons at least once a week. Add more structure as you are able. Some glue and torn construction paper makes a nice layered picture. Add scissors and you can make paper chains. Get a craft book out at the library.
  • Music: Play classical music in the background at various times during the day, like while everyone is eating lunch.
  • Health: this doesn't need structure. We are teaching health every day at home. Just periodically note in your planner things like "Health: discussed the importance of washing hands with soap regularly to prevent the spread of viruses like colds."
In our early years, each day at the end of the day I would make entries in my "Planner" of what we had done. Example:
Bible: Read Psalm 17 and Eph. 3
Math: Made cookies. Worked with units of measure (teaspoons, cups) and fractions (1/2 cup)
English/lit: Discussed that sentences have a subject (or thing) and a verb (or action). Read Chapter 11 of Pinocchio
Social Studies: Discussed time (1800's) and place (Italy) of Pinocchio, when there was no electricity and heat was in fire place. Located Italy on globe.

Science: Studied square foot of ground in woods. Picked a fern. Brought it home and read about ferns.

Art: Drew and labeled a picture of a fern.
 "Health" - ate three well-balanced meals; discussed types of fruits and vegetables
Phys. Ed.: Walked around the block. 

On really rough days, have older kids read to, play with and take care of littles while you take care of the baby. Reading is still reading. Play and care of younger kids was part of a high school course when I was in school. What could be better than taking care of your own siblings.

For longer term survival, I recommend you plan a menu for next week, creating a shopping list at the same time. Ask your husband to help you by shopping for you on Saturday. Have your older kids help you work on dinner during the week days, allowing plenty of time. This is part of their education, too. An 8-year-old can learn how to scramble eggs, make a grilled cheese sandwich, or mix up a box of macaroni and cheese. A 12-year-old who has been taught can usually make an entire (easy) dinner, like baked chicken, rice, and steamed broccoli.

Hang in there. One day your newborn will be graduating, and all these days will be memories. Do what you need to do to make them fond memories for everyone!

Other members of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew are also participating in the 5 Days of Homeschool Encouragement. To see more posts please click the button below.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Week in Review - 8-17-18

Nearing the end of summer, and it was a busy week at Homeschool Review.

To start with, our County Fair is in full swing.

At tne end of last week I entered some items in the Fair. I have some antiques I like to enter in the Old Timers' Building (not a competition) and entered some sewing items in the Home Arts Building. A child's pair of slacks got a red 2nd place ribbon, as did a gray pair of maternity slacks I made for my daughter.
 My quilt that I entered (my 3rd quilt ever) got a blue ribbon!
My son was able to enter a whip in a category for woven fabric, narrow bands. He got a first place! Sorry, I don't have a photo.

Sunday afternoon my husband and I volunteered for almost 5 hours at The Big Cheese, where grilled cheese sandwiches are sold to fair goers, along with cheese selections, nachos, pretzels, sodas, etc. We walked around afterwards, and that's when I learned about our placing on our entries.

Tuesday my husband and I had a Civil Air Patrol meeting for the Senior Squadron we are a part of. Thursday my daughter, son-in-law and I attended the fair together. Afterwards my husband and I attended my son's Civil Air Patrol meeting to participate in his promotion to Cadet Sr. Master Sgt.
He is working hard to rank up to Lieutenant while he is a cadet. He wants to earn the Billy Mitchell Award, which is received when a cadet completes the requirements for 2nd. Lt.

Soon he will be leaving home to attend college out of state. He plans to continue participating in Civil Air Patrol at a squadron near the college. While in college he will be participating in Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). He'd like to be an Air Force pilot one day and hopes to fly A-10's.

And today I played "catch up", getting some much needed things done. So how was your week? Let me know. Drop me a comment.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

God Schooling - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

In July I received a book by Julie Polanco to read and review.

Julie Polanco Books

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {THE GUIDE for HOMESCHOOL PARENTS} is a relatively small book - about 5" x 8" x 1/2", and 160 pages plus a bibliography.

God Schooling is broken down into two sections: (1) Dispelling Myths (two chapters) and (2) Practice (eight chapters).

God Schooling is an easy read, yet I found it very challenging. One must think constantly while reading this book. Any home schooling parent reading this book will either agree, disagree, or be constantly evaluating the content. I fell into the latter category.

The title of the book, God Schooling, is a twist on the "Unschooling" movement. Ms. Polanco promotes the concept of unschooling following God's leading, thus "God Schooling". (Aren't we all trying to follow God's leading?) 

So, there were many things discussed in each chapter. In Chapter 3, "Thoughts on Teaching Children Under Age Eight", the author recommends immersing the child in hands-on learning opportunity while resisting what is known as "Formal Education". I had been exposed to this type of thinking long ago, being familiar with writings by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, pioneers in promoting late formal education over early formal instruction.

When I began home schooling, the year was 1992. I firmly embraced the Moore's philosophy, while nevertheless planting myself with one foot firmly on both sides of the fence. (Don't bother pointing out that I am contradicting myself. I realize that.)

In 1992, 98% of the population had not even heard of home schooling. We tried to stay out of sight during "school" hours. Otherwise it confused my kids to be asked, "No school today?" While I firmly believed in the philosophies the Moores promoted, I was also faced with proving to my husband, my in-laws, my parents, and my neighbors that my children were, in fact, getting an education.

We were largely "God Schooling" in Science and History, but there was extreme pressure in Math, Reading and Grammar to be able to demonstrate an education commiserate with the child's age and grade. My oldest made me look like an amazing teacher with her reading abilities, and usually adequately held her own in her Math lessons. Then along came child #2, and I was humbled.

At that time we also left Colorado, and their easy home schooling regulations. We moved to Maryland, where we were no longer required to submit to standardized testing on odd grades 3, 5, etc. (which we had never done, not yet being to grade 3). Now we were required to demonstrate regular and diligent instruction each year in Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Music, Physical Education and Health (even though the younger grades of public school did not cover all eight each year). We were subject to one to three reviews of our home school program each year, which our children were not required to attend (but they were usually there, because who could find a babysitter in the middle of the day?).

The pressure was intense to conform, or to be able to demonstrate effort to conform even if the student was not learning well (child #2). In addition, we were expected to teach what the child would learn at that grade level if they were in public school, but we were not told what they would be studying if they were in public school. (This was before the Internet.) We were invited to visit the county and photocopy pages and pages of curriculum at a high cost. Instead we often purchased a grade-appropriate textbook and satisfied ourselves that we were covering the appropriate material.

All this, even though Maryland has a very strong unschooling movement. I didn't have the confidence to completely walk our own walk, knowing I would be reviewed either by the county representative or by a private "umbrella" group. The alternative would be to join the unschooling umbrella group, but we found their fees prohibitive.

I could go on defending myself, but I won't. My main point in my personal rabbit trail was to assure you that you are not home schooling in the 1990's and God Schooling is attainable for you. If you are at all intrigued, you are going to want to purchase God Schooling to learn more. (And, by the way, the ebook version is currently on sale until 8/22!)

The biggest advice I will give you upfront is two-fold:
  • Make sure you know what your state regulations are, and comply with them to the best of your ability as you pursue your child's education, and
  • Journal, journal, journal everything your child is doing that you are counting as education, taking lots of photos. I wish I had taken more.
That said, can you imagine an education where your child's education was hands-on and could stick in their memory forever? My children did get a lot of this, like I mentioned. My son knows what it is to chase butterflies!

My girls know that baby bunnies will die if they are born outside when the weather is too hot and that llamas spit tobacco-juice grass-stain fluids!

My middle knows what it is to get grand champion in a dog show

And my oldest became quite the violinist! Homeschooling gave my children time to excel where their interests led them. 

My oldest pursued ballet, then gymnastics, then violin. She was very active in 4-H, doing community service, and learning sewing, knitting and crochet as well as baking and candy making. She was 4-H Queen of our county fair in 2005.

My middle child was also active in 4-H all her years. She played soccer, studied flute, and also learned the home arts of sewing, knitting and crochet as well as baking cakes and cookies. She developed a love of dog-training and showing, as shown above. Both girls regularly visited the local nursing home to visit the elderly residents.

My youngest had time to pursue his own interests as well, while we did guide him away from some things and toward other interests. He became an Eagle Scout, and is active in Civil Air Patrol. He plans to go through Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and go into the Air Force after college.

God Schooling in your home schooling can give your children time to find interests and excel at them in ways difficult for children with a vigorous academic planner. This does not mean the "God Schooled" child is not educated; it means they are less stressed. They don't have to put down their art project because their Math isn't done yet, or forget about baking the cookies because there is a composition that needs to be written.

Julie Polanco has written a gem here, and whether you completely agree with her perspectives or not it is still worth your while to read through God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn. It will challenge your thinking and give you plenty more to think about.

I received a copy of God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn in exchange for my honest review. To read more reviews of God Schooling please click the link below.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Paddington Bear - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Today I get to tell you about a product by a British company called Branch Out World
Branch Out World

For the past month I've been looking over a unit study by Branch Out World about the children's picture book, Paddington Bear
Picture Book Explorers - Paddington
I did not own a copy of Paddington Bear, and my library did not have a copy that I could verify was what I needed, so I was able to order an inexpensive copy on line.

The Paddington Bear Unit Study is a digital product and is geared towards children ages 5-10. It is, however, flexible. There are many younger children who would love to be part of these activities, and there are many suggested activities that an older child would love to participate in as well.

I do not currently have any children in my home, and I was asked to write an informational review of this product as one who has raised children who were once that age, and as someone who still works with children and has a grandchild on the way!

The first thing I noticed that the Paddington Bear unit study suggested was that part of the plan was to read Paddington Bear to the child(ren) each day for five days in a row. This reminded me of other unit studies I have seen. It also reminded me how much young children like repetition!

I then glanced quickly at some of the content of the study and thought to myself that with older children one might want to take more than a week to do these activities! Then I read through the book.

I was previously familiar with Paddington. In the deep recesses of my brain I have a recollection of Wellington boots and a rain slicker. On reading this book, the one that kicks off all the Paddington stories that follow, I realized that I may never have actually read this before.

This book lays out the story of how Paddington first came to join the Brown family in London. Paddington came from Lima, Peru. I knew none of this! After reading the story I went back to look more deeply at the study.

I was so fun to be exposed to British terms that I didn't understand! At the very beginning I read this:
I chuckle every time I read it. I imagine a "Library ticket" has something to do with reserving a copy of Paddington Bear at the library. The rest of "Before you start" includes ways to prepare for your week.

When I was a new home schooler, it is embarrassing but true, there were times when I would open something like this study on Monday morning for the first time and expect to be able to just roll into using it without any preparation at all. That is just silly, but I wasn't good yet at preparing.

This unit study is like a smorgasbord, and you need to prepare for using it by reading it through and choosing which activities you will do, and then preparing for those activities. 

The week's plan is divided down this way:
Day 1: Explore the setting;
Day 2: Exploring the words;
Day 3: Exploring the pictures;
Day 4: Exploring Science; 
Day 5: Exploring Maths, Crafts and More

I decided to read through the plan and brainstorm about which activities I would choose if I had a child to do this with. So on Day 1, I would start by reading through the picture book. Then we would color maps of England and Peru. Then we would pull down the globe, and I'd help him find Lima, Peru and London, England so he could see how very far Paddington had traveled. If I had found easy books on each, we would read books on England and Peru. You can also create a time line. It was fun to learn that Paddington Bear was first published the year I was born, and that is also the first year ant farms were created and marketed! Who knew?

On Day 2, after reading through the book I would ask my child to give a narration back to me of the story. If he wanted to, he could draw a picture or two to go with his story. I would pick words out of the story and ask if he knew what they were, and explain if he didn't. I'm thinking "stowaway", "tart", and "marmalade".  The rest of the vocabulary seemed self-explanatory, though. I would totally serve tea and buttered toast with marmalade.
I was going to buy some and make up the toast and marmalade anyway, but I couldn't bring myself to do it as the first listed ingredient is "sugar". ::sigh:: I liked the idea of focusing on correct grammar by zooming in on the speech of the cab driver and seeing if the child can catch the improper words for correct grammar. In this section of the study I learned that there is a chapter book called A Bear called Paddington. I think this is the book I remember from my children's childhoods.

On Day 3 we would take a slow study of the pictures in the picture book. I totally love the suggestions given for doing this, and suggested questions to ask. Picture study is a bit of a lost art, but one I encouraged with my son, who was my last student and was an only student all his years in our home school. I was delighted with the special information given about architectural features to look for in the pictures to discuss. I liked the suggested art project to teach about depth using methods of overlapping.

Day 4 is Science day, and we would totally want to learn about bears native to Peru. We would spend some time learning about and playing with shaving cream. We would make our own foam! There were instructions for making Foam Food ("Do not eat!"). I'm not sure I would do this one because 1) I'm lazy, and 2) I had kids that if I said, "Do not eat!" they saw it as a challenge or an invitation. I would want to steam up the bathroom so he could write in the steam on the mirror! I also loved the idea of taking time to do some "Nature Study". Paddington arrived at the Brown's house to find a tortoise, birds and plants in the garden. What can we spot in our own yard? Shall we take a walk and see how many types of birds we can spot? Shall we name the types of trees we see?

Day 5, Maths Day, starts with discussion of parallel lines. Parallel lines never touch, but I would love to discuss with him how, as you look down the train tracks, they look like they get closer together (but don't actually). I actually live near a train station, and I would probably have hopped in the car and driven to the station for a little field trip. We would have a snack in the station cafe (just like Paddington did), and would also discuss the parallel train tracks and look at them. Coming home we would do some work with paper, pencil and ruler, learning about shapes with parallel lines. Day 5 also has a suggestion for making a shaving foam map of Peru, but in a more permanent form. I love it!

The pages following Day 5 include wonderful recipes to try out (Strawberry Tart and Marmalade). One ingredient might be hard to find in the US, so I'd substitute if I had to, no worries! There is information on snacks in Peru, and ideas for more things to do. I would totally want to take my little guy to the bear section at the zoo to see the bears from Peru.

The Paddington study is full of appendices with all sorts of information and material to use to complete your studies. There are maps for coloring and marking up, flag pictures for coloring and learning what each country's flag looks like, mini book templates you can use in your study, information about migration (immigration, emigration), passports, a notebooking page about Andean Bears, and loads of facts about England, Peru, Andean Bears and population migration.

Branch Out World has many unit studies of this type available, so follow the link and check out your options. If you are still thinking about what you will do this fall, and how you will make learning fun, check out this Paddington Bear unit study. 

Other members of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew also rewed this product, and you can find their reviews by clicking the link below. Go check out their photos of projects they actually did with their kids!
Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}

Monday, August 13, 2018

Planners I Have Loved

Let's talk about planners!

Planners are very important to a home schooling mom. Over the years I have had the opportunity to try out many planners. I have been able to try planners that included everything in one place (home school plus meal planning, medical appointments, and all outside activities) vs. having one planner for school plans in one place, a family calendar on the wall in the kitchen for family commitments, and a list on the fridge for the meal plans for the week. I have tried a computer-based planner that anyone in the family could tap into from any device vs. all planners in print, whether printed out from a word document or written out by hand.

What method works best? Is it a question I can answer? Or is it an answer that varies from year to year?

At one point in my life, with three kids at home (one high school, one middle school and one pre-school), I lived by a schedule similar to the one recommended in the book Managers of Their Homes.
I had a column for each day of the week, with the first column indicating time of day. Each activity had to be scheduled, with time on the schedule for driving. It varied from year to year but went something like this: Child #1 had co-op on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 - 11:30 and violin on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 2:00. Child #2 had flute on Thursdays at 11:00. On Mondays I took child #3 to gymnastics at noon to 1:00. Everyone had 4-H first Wednesday night of the month; and the girls had the church girls program every Monday night. #1 had care group on Tuesday nights, and mom and dad had care group on Thursday. There was a care group leaders' meeting once a month on Fridays, and periodically a church meeting on Sunday evenings. Busy days! I color coded with highlighter to show which child did which activity at a glance.

I could not have survived without my planner, right down to the weekly menu plan, which I kept on the kitchen calendar. Regular updating of the plans was essential.

Years change, and there have been issues of getting non-drivers to jobs or driver's education classes. There have been times of having three drivers and two cars, and making sure someone who needed a car to drive did not get left with an empty driveway and a commitment they were unable to fulfill. 

Years have passed and students have graduated. As we got down to one student only, scheduling got easier, but it is still just as important. Meal plans are still essential to reduce food waste and to minimize unexpected fast-food meals! There have still been church commitments, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, and additional activities to keep track of.

Last year I was delighted to be able to use Homeschool Planet for most of the year. Yet I found my family inflexible -- they never did learn to log in to check the schedule. They did not add their activities, and they did not look there to see what was going on.

The planning method I have gone back to through the years has been a redundant method. It sounds like extra work, but I keep a calendar in my purse to record things when I am out, and I try always to keep the kitchen calendar up-to-date with my commitments on my purse calendar. I don't like to use a cell phone calendar, because I like to see the entire month at-a-glance. The phone calendars show a dot if there is an activity, but it can mean some obscure aunt's birthday. I don't like having to open the day to see the entry, and I don't like having to check all the hours to see what's coming. I also don't like the mistakes where I have missed something because it got entered as PM instead of AM or vice versa.

For school work, I loved creating a word document for a 36-week daily lesson planner. (I am willing to share my template to those who ask by comment below.) 

I used to keep my dinner menu plans on my kitchen calendar. Now I create my menu plan weekly on a word document, where I also create my shopping list, which gets printed out. After the shopping trip, we fold the paper so the plan shows and post it on the fridge.

So what planners have you used and loved? What are you doing this year? My so is starting college, so I created a Word document for him with the format I discussed above; first column is hours of the day, then a column for Monday through Friday with commitments listed in each column. I am hoping he will find this helpful.

So what kind of planner will you use this year? Do you like to write out your plans in a school planner? Do you double with a calendar? Do you create a word document? Do you use an on-line planner?

Whatever you use, happy planning to you! I pray you have a wonderful school year this year!