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Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’

I get butterflies in my stomach each first day of school. Each one. Did when I was a kid. Did when I was a teacher in a real classroom. Do now in my own small dining room table classroom.

When I was a kid, it was the butterflies of wondering who would be in my class. Who would be my teacher. Would I like him or her? (Would that teacher like me?)

When I taught in a classroom, it was meeting a whole new crop of kids. Wondering what this year would hold. Did I prepare enough for the first day? What kind of kids would they be? What kind of class?

Now, I’m not meeting anyone new. It’s my kids, and we’ve done this routine, four times already. But the butterflies still come. I think because I know I’m jumping into the deep end again. And the shore, it’s still distant. And I know that in the middle of it lies February. The dark days when the sun doesn’t shine enough and we’re all a bit tired and the ending is still hard to see.

So, I get butterflies. Will I really be able to teach my kids all they need to know, each and every day? Will I be enough? And will I be content knowing that I won’t? That there will be gaps (there always is)?

It’s a nervous feeling. It’s also an excited feeling. I’ve got books, great ones, that I can’t wait to dive into with my kids. I’m looking forward to those curled up on the couch reading together days.

And some of those February days? We’ll ditch the books and curriculum and  bake a batch of cookies. Make some hot chocolate. Do something different, just for a day. And February will pass, and before I know it, I’ll be shaking my head and wondering how June got here so soon.

So, I’m looking forward to the year. I’m looking forward to brand new notebooks, clean, with endless possibilities, sharpened pencils, and new books and curriculum. This year…. it will be a good year.

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Spring break is coming to an end… so sad. Spring break really has to be one of my favourite holidays.

We get rain in the winter. Lots of rain. Days and days of rain. January and February can be really dull, and homeschooling can have its slow moments. Moments when you feel you’re really not creative at all – and you really don’t feel like getting up and cracking the books anymore than the kids do. And you really just want to curl up in bed when the alarm goes off at six o’clock instead of getting up for your morning walk….

And then spring break comes. And yes, the rain doesn’t miraculously disappear, but there are sunny days. And those days are longer. And the trees outside your front window are starting to blossom. And you feel like getting things done.

Truthfully I had a very long to do list that I was going to tackle spring break. Very long. And honestly, I really didn’t get many things done on it. At all. (I did, however, clean off my office desk. I really was planning to have it stay that way too – for at least more than a couple of hours. However… the best laid plans, and all that…)

Here’s what I did do, though. I went hiking with my family.  We went across a suspension bridge, and hiked down to the bottom. We splashed around in the river, and managed to come home with a couple of soaked feet. We went to the ocean together with our family. We checked out the starfishes clinging to the pier, listened to the barnacles on the seashore (they really do make noise!) and turned over rocks and found tiny little crabs. We wrote messages in the wet sand. We had ice cream at one of the little shops on the beach. (As a side note: you know you have a big family when the grandfatherly man ringing up your ice cream tells you the total and then says, “Ouch.  That hurts, doesn’t it?!”) We introduced our kids to sushi.  My girls and I went Value Village shopping. Cute clothes, without breaking the bank. My kind of shopping!

And all those things were so much better than my original plans. My to do list can wait. Spring break was fun, and life is good.

So next week, reality is going to set in. I’m going to have to get up at the crack of dawn (sort of) for my walks. My days will feel like a whirlwind again as I teach, keep my house clean, make meals, do laundry, work…

But I’m ready for it. I really didn’t get the planning done that I thought I would, but that’s okay. Learning will happen and we’ll all be ready to go again. We may even be able to do some schooling outdoors in the sunshine. Really, does it get any better than that?

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Life has gotten very busy around here the last while. My kids have felt like I’ve been living in my office.  And to be honest, I’ve felt that way some days too. But the good news is, it’s for a short time – and I’m  getting to the end. In my job, I have busy times, and slower times… and this happens to be a busy time.

I love my job. I really love my job. I am a curriculum consultant and support teacher for other homeschool families. So not only do I get to homeschool my own kids, I get  to work with other families who are travelling down this same path. How great is that?!  I get to work from home. I get to spend time with my kids. I get to spend time with other homeschooling moms talking about homeschooling.  But one of the greatest benefits is that I get to see so many different styles of homeschooling, and I get to see lots of great ideas in action. There really are  many different ways of homeschooling, and it is fun to see what other people are doing.  March is one of the busy times, when  I do home visits, look at portfolios, and write report cards, but I’m almost done them now – and I’ve got some great new ideas!

What else has kept me busy? After being inspired by Moneysavingmom, I decided to really get an idea of where my  grocery money was going, decided to work on using coupons more effectively, and created a price list of all the best prices I’ve found for items in my area. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s been fun! I always thought I was careful with my grocery money,  but I’ve been able to shave a significant amount off my monthly bill. It’s been a great contribution to our budget too.

We’ve also had an international student from Japan living with us for the last couple of weeks. The kids have really enjoyed it, and it’s been fun for them to learn a bit more about Japan. And  I’m quite sure we got the best student  – he’s so eager to learn about Canada, so polite, and so friendly… and so interested in hockey! That of course makes him a hit with my boys! They’ve had fun introducing him to road hockey, watching the Canucks together, playing video hockey…  It’s been interesting for me as well… Besides learning about Japan, I’ve learned: fifteen year old Japanese boys are the same as Canadian boys; they eat a lot! Also, driving back and forth to school across town each day takes a lot of time (making me appreciate that my kids are home schooled). And, I learned I’m not such a big fan of making lunches! Really though, it has been a neat experience. My kids have been learning about other cultures around the world this year, but nothing beats seeing someone else’s culture up close and personal.

Next week we’re taking a week (mostly) off school. I’m really looking forward to getting organized for the last term of the year, and I’m also planning to spend some time organizing and decluttering at least a few rooms in my house. I am a big fan of living simply – but somehow with five kids, even living simply takes time and effort! In between, I’m hoping to be able to get outdoors with my kids, and just enjoy being a mom. Here’s hoping for some sunny days!

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January is always a fun month to focus on the seasons.  When you get snow, you can plan some fun activities with it, and it’s great to take a day off and enjoy  the snow.  Whether you get snow or not, here are  a few fun school related activities that you could do as you enjoy this season:

1. Grow your own snowflakes: This is a fun science and art activity for January.  Using borax, water, and pipe cleaners, you can make your own snowflakes.  These are fun to make!  Here’s a link with step by step directions: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/winter/crystalsnowflake/

2. Winter Art Projects: This is a great time of year to add a little more art into your homeschool. Art Projects for Kids is a great website with many excellent art ideas that don’t need a lot of materials and are fun to do. Surprise your kids one morning by starting with art – they will love the change in routine. :) Here’s a link to some winter art projects: http://www.artprojectsforkids.org/search/label/winter

3. Winter Acrostic Poem: Write the word WINTER down the side of your page, and describe it with words or phrases starting with each of those letters.

4. Write step by step directions for how to build a snowman, or how to build a snow fort (and then, if there is snow, try to follow those directions and build it!)

5. Find a good read aloud and curl up on the couch together and read.

If you get snowy days, enjoy them, and be sure to take some time to play outside in the snow with your kids!

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When I look back at my school days, geography was not a strong point for me.  I remember colouring maps and memorizing capitals and countries, but for the most part, I didn’t find it that interesting.

When I first began homeschooling, I didn’t worry too much about geography either.  However, as I taught history to my kids and read historical fiction to them, I began to realize that  history and geography belonged together.  So I bought a globe and a world map, and we began to find places on them as we learned.  It was great to see the kids being able to point out places on the globe.

Still, while the kids were able to recognize the continents and some of the countries, I really wanted them to get to know the world we live on.  (I wanted to learn more about it as well!)  Because of this, we decided to focus on world geography this year.  We would explore the world, continent by continent, and see how far we got.   Our goals were for the kids to get a good general knowledge of all of the continents and the countries of the world, and to explore a few countries from each continent more in depth.  (You can read about the lapbooks we created when we studied Asia here.)

Because we have students in grades one to eight in our co-op, we wanted to make sure that the material we used would be easily adaptable for different ages. We found a great resource from Cindy Wiggers called Trail Guide to World Geography. This resource gives an overview of the geography of the world and has atlas and map work at three different levels: primary, intermediate, and secondary.  It also has many extra activities to make your study more in depth.  The student work pages can be ordered as a download or a CD.  Although the book is organized to work through all the continents in a year, you could easily make this into a multi year study if you included more of the additional activities.

In any geography unit, you need a good atlas.  One of my favourite atlases to introduce the kids to the continents is called  The Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World.  It has different flaps and mini books for the kids to look through, and is very fun and engaging.  A couple more atlases that we like are  the Rand McNally Classroom Atlas and the National Geographic Kids World Atlas, which has internet links as well.

We also  wanted the kids to be able to memorize the countries as they travelled the continents.  Our favourite resource for that is Sheppards Software, which has a variety of free online mapping and geography games.  Our kids have learned all of the countries of Europe and Asia through these games. (I have also!)   We’ve also really enjoyed the Geography Songs CD, which has been a great tool for learning country names.

We’re having a great time travelling around the world!  In addition to the books mentioned above, we’ve checked out lots of information books from the library, and have enjoyed reading  historical fiction together…  Hopefully this year will ignite a love of geography in my kids.

Even if geography isn’t your focus, here are some tips for incorporating geography into your curriculum:

1.  Have maps up in your home to refer to.  It’s a great idea to have a markable map where you can label places as you hear or learn about them, or to use push pins and string to highlight places that you’ve learned about or where you know people.

2.  Have a globe handy too!  It’s very different locating places on a globe and a map.

3.  Bookmark the Sheppard software site, and have your kids play the games for fun.  Have contests to see who can name the most countries in the shortest amount of time.

4.  When you read about a place in a book, look it up on the internet.  That can really help bring the book you are reading to life.

What do you do for geography? Please add any activities or resources that you’ve liked for teaching geography in the comments section.

Happy learning!

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It’s hard to believe that today is the last day of 2010! It was a good year; nothing extraordinary, but lots of fun moments….
Visiting Vancouver during the Olympics.  We got to pretend for a moment that we could actually drive this thing.  I wouldn’t even want to try, but I have a feeling that my boys would love the chance.

One of my three hockey players.  We’ve spent many hours at the rink over the past year, and had fun cheering for our favourite teams.

A hockey themed birthday cake … I think I baked three of these this year.  Hockey is a bit of an obsession at our house!

Hiking with family.  We are so blessed to live near the mountains, with plenty to explore.

A spring find in the yard!  We’re not sure what happened to the mama bird ….

Raising butterflies this spring.  No one was that keen on feeding the caterpillars – who grew amazingly quick, but we sure loved watching them transform into butterflies.  God is amazing!  It was fun to see them now and again around the yard after we released them.

Summer camping with friends – definitely a highlight each summer.  These teenagers who never rose before 10:00 when camping set their alarm and headed to the lake to watch the sunrise!

We started school a week late in September and enjoyed some beach days at Birch Bay.  Definitely one of the benefits of homeschooling.

Visiting the pumpkin patch – an annual tradition.

Decorating Christmas cookies - we got this idea from Pioneer Woman.  We had so much fun making these cookies, we did it twice!

Decorated Christmas cookies.  This was a great idea that we found on Pioneer Woman. We had so much fun with this we made them twice over the holidays!

It was a fun year.  Here’s hoping the next year will be just as good.

Happy New Year!

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Love to Write

How do we raise kids who love to write? We all know about the importance of the 3 “R’s”: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. However, while homeschoolers are traditionally very strong in math and reading, writing is an area that many struggle to fit in to their day. It doesn’t come in a neat package, progressing from a to b to c, and it can be difficult to motivate our children to write when there is no specific audience. Despite these challenges, giving our children strong writing skills and a love of writing and words is probably one of the best gifts we can give them.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions:

1.  Just as you make time for reading and math each day, make time for writing. Have everyone write each day for a certain amount of time, even if some days it is just 15 to 20 minutes. Have a set time so that your kids know what to expect and it becomes routine. (If you write  at the same time as well, it will help them to see that this is a life long skill.)

2.  Make it fun! Don’t edit everything your children produce, or expect spelling to be perfect. You will want to go through the editing process with some of their writing, and you can make that a big deal – edit for spelling and ideas, print it out on the computer, bind it together into a book form, etc., but don’t do this for every piece of writing.

3.  Get a good idea book, and run with it. One of my favourites is If You’re trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! written by Marjorie Frank. It’s full of excellent ideas to inspire creativity.

4.  If you are doing multi age teaching, you can do this together! Give the kids all a topic to write about, but don’t stop there (or you’ll end up with blank stares and blank papers!) Come up with ideas together, and write them on a board. Think of some excellent descriptive words that you could use for your topic. Write a brief outline, so they have a framework to write from. Then each child can write their own story (your expectations will be based on their age and ability) or they can write a story together. One can scribe for the group, and they can go around the table sharing ideas or contributing sentences. Generating ideas together is also helpful for informational writing or written narrations, after you have read about something together.

5.  Have a younger child dictate a story to an older child, who scribes it for him or her. This is helpful for both students. The older child can encourage the younger child to express ideas in a sentence form, and at the same time, the older child is organizing what he or she hears into paragraphs, using correct punctuation.

6.  Make a new ending to an old story (or read almost to the end of a book and have your child write their own ending). Again, this could be a cooperative venture, or each child could do this at his or her own level.

7.  Find some fun pictures in magazines, and talk about what might have happened before or after. Write about it.

8.  Journalling is an easy and fun way to add writing to your day, and when kids journal about what they’ve learned, it helps them to remember it more clearly. A great idea is to take pictures while on a field trip, and use those pictures to illustrate the writing. As a bonus, these are always fun to look back on. Again, if they are stuck with a blank page, discuss ideas together, and talk about what you enjoyed or learned.

9.  Do a variety of writing! Write letters, lists, recipes, how-to instructions, poetry, power points… There are so many ideas, but the main one is….write!

Remember: Have fun, and keep up the writing!

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