"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31 ESV

Friday, September 23, 2011

Home-based Learning in a Small Space

Ah, homeschooling...it is what we believe the Lord has called us to do, yet there are days when I feel inadequate. Last year was my first "heavy duty" year with a first-grader and I took on too much. I felt so overwhelmed and disorganized and I knew---this year HAD to be different! It is no easy task homeschooling a 2nd grader and kindergartener while also caring for a 2-year-old, household responsibilities, church responsibilities, tutoring part-time, trying to sell our house and many other things I won't bore you with. I thought to myself, "this can be done....look at all the mothers of 3, 4 and even more children who do it and are caring for a newborn, too! So I sought advice from friends, strangers, and of course, my Heavenly Father. I took a tidbit from here and a gem from there and came up with a schedule that works for us (with occasional tweaking). Here is the gist of it:

We are a bit slow-moving in the a.m., (ok, I mean *me*) so we don't rush too much unless we have to be somewhere that day (co-op, Bible study, etc.). We finish breakfast and clean-up a little after 8 a.m. and I try to get the kids to start on their chores by 8:20 or 8:30 at the latest.

Then, I try to do all the work that can be done for both girls together. Maggie can play in the other room or sit on my lap, or color at the table (some days this works better than others). I encourage the older girls to play with Maggie during their breaks, and Mary Beth is loves to read to Maggie.
8:45-9, Girls start on independent work from their folders (usually copy work such a spelling list or Bible verse)
9-9:20, Bible lesson, review verse, sing, pray
9:20-9:30, Review CC memory work (all subjects, including Latin) for the week and up to five previous weeks
9:30-9:45 English/Writing lesson for both girls taken from First Language Lessons Levels 1 &2 (this includes mostly English Grammar and poetry) and Writing With Ease workbook.
9:45-10 Geography- We work on memorizing states and capitals for the week (Mary Beth traces and lables; Abigail labels some but mostly points and says).

10- Abigail takes a recess while I work with Mary Beth individually.
10-10:30 Math (Combination of Saxon worksheets and math facts/drills)
10:30-10:45 Spelling review and Cursive writing practice.
10:45-11:00 Reading, Mary Beth reads her lesson aloud to me (McGuffey Reader or Rod and Staff Reader), and then reads library books silently.
11:00 recess for Mary Beth
11:30-12:00 Abigail Reading lesson (phonics, sight words, easy phonics reader) and Math (skip counting and adding/subtracting with manipulatives and other kindergarten/1st grade math skills).

12:00-12:30 lunch

After lunch, we finish up any unfinished work, read books related to history and science, and do any fun projects we have planned (currently making a "Mayflower" ship out of old o.j. containers, construction paper, and straws).

Maggie takes her nap while the older girls play quietly, play video games and/or watch a video.

So that's what it looks like right now, more or less. I try to focus on weekly goals more than daily goals, that way we have flexibility--which is a great plus of homeschooling.

Of course, there is also the issue of space. We do not have a "homeschooling room," so most of our schooling happens at the kitchen table (besides field trips and other learning experiences at places like the grocery store, bank, etc.). I only have one small bookshelf (crazy for a book addict like myself...yes, I have books crammed in other random place in my home) in the living room and a coat closet to use for storage. I had to purge my home of many unused items and organize the rest of it. Here are some pics of what my homeschool storage areas look like. The bottom line is that I just can't keep everything I would like to keep or buy all the resources I would like to buy. The public library has definitely become my friend!

We keep the girls' daily folders, workbooks, etc., in their personal book bags. A friend of mine keeps her children's work in baskets or bins.

Then there is the issue of motivation. A tip I found very helpful is to reward the children for a job well done. I found some gently-used and inexpensive toys and videos that I set out each week and let the girls pick one item as a reward for completing their schoolwork (and household chores ;) with a good attitude. This is a great tool to motivate them throughout the week. Of course, as a Christian family, we try to live by the verse, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31 ESV.

I have also started planning only 2 weeks ahead (in detail) and then, in pencil! I plan to type up all final plans at the end of the week to have a nice record of all instruction but we will see if that happens.

I hope this is an encouragement to others that homeschooling can be done with limited space and limited time, brain power, whatever. If you are truly willing and lean on the Lord for strength and help, it is possible! I am not saying I will always be homeschooling, but for now I am making it work! (I cannot forget to mention that our weekly homeschool community, Classical Conversations, helps to keep us accountable, on track, and encouraged!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our last year...whew!

So.....it's about time for a post, I'd say!

Life has been hectic, er, I mean, exciting, with three kids to train, homeschooling with a toddler underfoot, a child with food/health issues, work, etc., but it's been a great year! Here's a few things we've now got under our belt:

Enjoyed our first year in CC, or Classical Conversations, our Christian Classical homeschool community, where the girls watched a rocket launch and painted "Monet-like" masterpieces, memorized the world history timeline, and recited Latin among other things. I jumped in with both feet and taught a highly entertaining, bright-eyed class of 4-year-olds, aka "Abecedarians," or "ones who study the alphabet."

This was also our first year in CBS (Community Bible Study) where we studied some of Paul's letters in the New Testament. I enjoyed "grown-up lady time" in core group while the little ones sang, did crafts, played, and memorized scripture. I don't have to worry about finding another Bible study next year because our group has homeschool classes for the kids all the way up through high school (if I'm that brave!).

We loved our field trips to Avery's Branch Farm and the Pumpkin Patch in the fall and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Aquarium in the spring. Then there was a trip to see my baby sister graduate college in South Carolina in May, the Virginia State Fair in October, a trip to Philly in December, and overnight trips to Massanutten and North Carolina in the last two months. We have put some *serious* miles on the minivan!

We were so thrilled to welcome Harleigh Ann, my niece and the girls' cousin, in September. Cousin Preston is doing a great job as a big brother and Harleigh is getting cuter each time I see her!

Congrats as well to my cousin, Laura and her husband, Jake on the birth of Olivia Grace!

John is still enjoying his job selling insurance policies to companies and life insurance to individuals. He is on the road quite a bit and that can get very tiring!

(Disclaimer: Here comes the kid-bragging, so avert your eyes if you're not up for that! ;)

Mary Beth has become a fluent and avid reader! Although technically she's in second grade, she loves math and is progressing in 3rd grade math now with learning her multiplication tables. Soon we will also begin cursive writing and hopefully piano lessons.

Abigail is well on her way to reading as she continues to practice phonics. She enjoys playing with manipulative while learning math and is she *ever* on a puzzle kick recently! (Seriously, as in doing the same puzzle six times in a row!) She has come a long way this school year and is somewhere between kindergarten and first grade.

Maggie enjoys puzzles, music, baby dolls, and dancing to any tune she hears! She has had her share of tantrums, but overall she is a mild-natured child. She is almost always smiling and will chum up to almost anyone within seconds of meeting. This child seems to have no fear!!!!

We have all been learning Ephesians 6 which was our passage of Scripture at CC this year. The girls also learned and had fun in camp at the CC practicum in May with Mary Beth in Geo Draw Camp and Abigail in Play Camp.

Both older girls completed their second year of tap and ballet. It may have been their last (sniff, sniff). We might try soccer this year. I'm hopeful but not too sure how the schedule will work out with that. We shall see.

As part of our nature studies, we hatched painted lady butterflies in our butterfly habitat which was a huge hit! See the video below. The girls have also caught, studied, and released many toads, grasshoppers, and praying mantids (yes, that is the correct plural form, I just checked).

Mary Beth and Abigail were stunning little flower girls in their Uncle Brian's wedding and then again in their Aunt Melissa's wedding--and John and I were proud to serve as honor attendants for our siblings and give some rockin' toasts!

I must give a shout out to my baby sis, Melissa and her new hubby, Philip--congrats, you two! Too bad for us East Coasters the lovebirds moved to a land far, far away (aka Denver). *Sob!* It's not the same without you!!!!

Maggie kept me on my toes as I chased her all over the house and all over town. That girl loves to tear up my house! If she weren't so cute.....;) And my part-time job tutoring students was a blessing--how lucky am I to get 3 different kids who were all fantastic!

This summer our plans include attending Vacation Bible School and visiting the dollar movies, the pool, the beach and botanical gardens and the Science Museum.

I am thankful that things have slowed down quite a bit from the school year, although it never seems like I have time to really catch up. I'm hoping to finally make it to my scrapbooking club in the next week!

And yes, we are still trying to sell our house! Uggggg.....

It's so easy to get frustrated, overwhelmed, just plain tired, and to wish and dream for a different season of life, but then I reflect over *just* the past year and how quickly those special moments and difficult times passed.

Sure, I dream of a big house with space to stretch out, rooms to organize, shelves upon shelves of books, and no doubt the unhurried, leisurely afternoons to enjoy it all. I wistfully glance at the latest HGTV episodes about how to have the perfect living space. I yearn for trips to Europe and the Virgin Islands...but for now I have little ones to train and soon these days will be gone. As the song goes, "You're gonna miss this, you're gonna want this back, you're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast..."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer 2010

Of course, it has been a busy summer! Some highlights were visiting the strawberry patch and celebrating Mary Beth's 6th birthday and Maggie's 1st birthday!

Things we've been working on:

  1. Preparing to be a tutor at Classical Conversations (the older girls will be attending classes there in the fall).

  2. Working with Mary Beth on her reading fluency and with Abigail on phonics.

  3. Swimming at the pool at the gym and occasionally at friends' pools.

  4. Spending time with family at the botanical gardens and the beach.

  5. Doing our best to keep Abigail well and out of the hospital...remembering daily meds, etc.

  6. Most of all, trying to get our house ready to sell! (Major stress!)

Can't believe the school year will officially start in a couple weeks! We will be going to classes one day a week (and schooling at home/elsewhere the rest of the week), Bible Study and then dance another day, and then there will be field trips and playdates to fit in as well. Plus all the house stuff, so it will be interesting!