Aug 162012

Home schooling…. the very term strikes terror in people’s hearts.

“I could never do that!” exclaims one woman.  

“You must have so much patience!” cries another.  

“How DO you do it?” asks a third.  

So, from this very normal, not necessarily patient person, comes a description of my home school day…

My day begins with my coffee.  Usually, my telecommuter husband brings it to me in bed.  (If you don’t have a telecommuter husband, you could bring your own cup back to your bed.  It’s a wonderful habit.)  This is my time of reflection. I drink, look out the window, talk to the Lord, and read my Bible and/or my home decorating magazines (no computer). Basically, it’s the only time of day I’m alone and relaxed.  The important thing is, I get that time.  When I don’t, things don’t go as smoothly or as peacefully.

I rise, and hopefully, the girls are up!  This year, I am determined not to wake anyone. Each girl will use her own cell phone or alarm clock and wake up on her own.  One of our family’s main issues is being late, and this is the year we will change that!  My girls are old enough to remember to get dressed and brush their teeth.  Somehow, certain ones still need to be reminded to make their bed and pick up their clothes from the bathroom floor.  Reasonable neatness is our morning goal, not perfection.

To get everyone going, I might prop their bedroom doors open and turn on some peppy music.  I either put out cereal or make a hot breakfast, depending on how busy our day is.

I put on an outfit I like (even if it’s a workout outfit), and fix my hair and makeup.  None of that takes a long time, but if I feel I look good, I will be in a better mood, and we all know our moods are passed on to our families! I put on a squirt of perfume or body spray, too.  Now I feel like a together mom, and can face the day!

We eat breakfast together and then begin story time.  I have done story time on and off through the years, and I find that as long as you read from an exciting, age-appropriate book, the children do not tire of it. One way I plan to get the girls downstairs on time this year is to begin reading exactly at 9:00. If one is late, she misses that day’s installment in the story (and yes, I will be hiding the book in-between so no one can peek!)  Some of our favorites have been Farmer Boy, Hitty:  Her First Hundred Years, and Mama’s Bank Account.

My husband has “gone to the office” (at the front of our house). Depending on our level of noise, has inserted headphones into his ears and turned up his music volume, and sat down to work.  We will be in and out of the office all day, and he is very patient.  The desktop computer is right next to Dad’s, so he can monitor whether teenagers are checking their advanced math problems or peeking at Facebook. (He’s not that great at noticing… after all, he is concentrating on his own work!)  Still, it’s nice to have him there.  Life with all girls can get dramatic at times, and he is the voice of calm.

We do any subjects that we have to do together first. We really don’t have that many, but this year, my senior and my freshman are doing Bible together.  We will be going through the Epistles, with assignments given by my husband.  All three girls are attending or plan to attend Christian colleges, so we try to do structured Bible courses that also count as high school credit.  Hubby helps with Bible and art.  We use our children’s interests for electives… eldest (now in college) counted her piano and guitar lessons as high school credit. Middle girl spends as many hours at the ballet studio as she does in school, so ballet will be on her high school transcript.  Youngest girl is an aspiring artist as well as horseback rider.  More electives, plus P.E.  We also plan to do a course I’m calling “Appreciation of Fine Arts” this year, using Harmony Fine Arts as a starting point, and adding art and drama for the youngest and ballet for the middle, along with field trips to a play, art museum, and/or professional ballet.

Next, the girls work independently.  Each has a list. I use the inexpensive “Cat in the Hat” lesson plan book from Michael’s.  With my 40% off coupon, it’s about $6.00.  Middle girls’ lessons are at the top, and youngest at the bottom.  (When I had three in school, I divided it into three sections).  There is a grade book in the back, too.

This is for week one, where we’ll be starting “slow and steady.”

I have tried having set times for each subject.  With older girls working mostly independently, this simply does not work and ends with frustration.  Better to let them work at their own pace, especially when we add in activities for each child.  This year will be a challenge, as middle girl’s ballet lessons will be M-Th at 2:00.  If she gets a job as planned, that will also complicate our day (see why I can’t have a set hourly schedule?).  While they work, I am doing housework, checking e-mail, or exercising… returning often to the school room to check progress and be available for questions.

We have done school at the kitchen or dining room table, but I love the set up we have now.  My husband made the girls each a beautiful desk from plywood.  These desks can be set up in our guest room (which is a school room when we have no guests).  As you can see, the different personalities of my two school-age children are reflected in their desk organization!

He painted the desks to match our living room as well as our dining room, so in the summer or when Grandma comes to visit, we simply move the desks around.  

When school work is finished, the girls check the day’s chore list. I have the days’ chores written out, such as “vacuum downstairs… unload dishwasher… empty wastebaskets” etc.  The girls divide the chore list by two or three (depending on whether eldest is home from college) and choose the chores they want.  Eldest usually helps on her own, without being told.  (Ah, the blessings of adult children!)  The chore list is such a habit that the girls hardly even think about it.  I put it in the same place each day, with a pen to check off jobs once they are finished.

When we have something to do during school hours, such as drama club or ballet class, things are changed up a bit.  Youngest may bring her math in the car and do it on the half-hour drive to drama.  Or she may do all her work when she gets home.  Middle girl may accompany me and, after we drop youngest off at drama, we may drink coffee at Barnes and Noble while she does her work.  I look for little ways such as this that I can “treat” my children and give them a break from the daily routine.

Our afternoons consist of free time if there are no scheduled lessons.  I do have one that will stretch to fill the time she is given.  Sometimes her school work is not finished until dinner time, or even later.  However, if she has an activity to look forward to, such as ballet class, she gets it done sooner.   Can you tell our day often revolves around ballet?  Middle girl has a goal to be accepted into a dance ministry.   This requires much sacrifice of her time and ours, but we do the best we can to encourage our girls in their God-given dreams.  All of them want to go into fine arts… one into music, one into dance, one into art.  I wonder why we do geometry and pre-calculus when the only math they’ll need as musician or dancer is to count to 8!

In the afternoon, I catch up on phone calls or housework, take a shower if I have exercised that morning, and once in a while take a blessed nap or just rest on my bed with those home decorating magazines and a glass of iced coffee.  I may plan my lessons out further (never more than 2 weeks at a time).  One of us starts dinner.   My husband and I (and that wonderful eldest, when she’s home) take turns driving middle girl to ballet until she gets her license, and with this year’s schedule, the parent staying home will cook dinner.  I don’t know if I’d rather stay home and cook, or make the eighty-minute round trip drive and be cooked for.  Both sound good!  When it’s my turn to drive, I use the time middle girl is in ballet class to grocery shop, since we live so far out of town.  Almost all my errands are done while carting the girls around and waiting for them.  This gives me more time to stay in my favorite place… home.

Evenings this year will be different, as we’ll commute to ballet before dinner, not after.  We may have some more leisure time on our hands!  We have a couple of tv shows our family likes to watch on one of those channels that shows pre-recorded episodes.  My favorites are the “fifties tv” shows.   (Hubby is often still in his office, working on grad school or his second job, a personal web design business… but sometimes he will bring his laptop into the living room while he works on homework.  After all, it is art school! =).  Youngest and I also like to read together.  Right now we’re reading Millie’s Reluctant Sacrifice from the character-building Life of Faith Series.  We get into our pajamas and cuddle up and get into the story.  Since our girls are older, they usually go to bed around the same time we do.  Our goal is to have youngest in bed by 9:30 (she’s 13), and the rest of us by 10.  Rarely do we make it… but we try.  Since we avoid the school bus and morning commute, we usually get a good night’s sleep anyway.

As you can see, most often, we school at home with books to read, papers to write, and math problems to compute.  I keep a traditional grade book and our girls get report cards at the end of the year.  We take just a couple field trips a year, and they consist mostly of an art museum or a performance.  Sometimes we do something just for fun, like the zoo.  I keep it simple and low maintenance as much as I can, and it suits our family just right.

~Written by Kim A., The Daisy Muse

Flexible Homeschool Planner

 Posted by on July 19, 2012  4 Responses »
Jul 192012

When it comes to planning for the school year, I have tried just about everything. There are so many different options, I was bound to find one that works for my family. I have spent hours printing, writing lesson plans, printing, entering lesson plans on the computer, printing, researching products, did I mention printing? While each system, product and printable planner has great features and may be the best choice for another family, they did not work for my family.

After years of looking and trying out new products, last year I decided to pick up a school planner from the local office supply store and it has been a perfect fit for my family! Here is how it works for me…

The planner has a three year reference calendar in the front to help with long-term planning. It is dated from July to June, perfect for our school year which begins in late July and ends in June. Each month has tabs and a monthly calendar at the beginning. This is where I pencil in our events, field trips, sports practice, classes, lessons, etc.

After the monthly calendar is a two page per week calendar. It is dated and lined, but there are no times listed (you can purchase one with times). This is where I pencil in lesson plans, one month at a time. Each day is broken into 13 sections, I have a different child/subject on each one. I use a highlighter to separate each of the boys. If you click on the image to the right, you can view a larger image and see the details.

Notice I said “pencil in”…I am what most like to call a “free spirit”, so I like to be able to change things up a bit as we go. This planner is flexible enough for me and keeps me in line with our planning at the same time! And the best part…I get a planner for the entire year for about 20 bucks, even less if you have a coupon!

~By Heidi, Heidi’s Miscellany

Homeschool Graduation Success

 Posted by on April 26, 2012  4 Responses »
Apr 262012

I read an article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution on April15, 2012 that disturbed me. It was about the graduation rate for the State of Georgia. It appears there is a new method of calculating graduation rates and it tells us that more kids are dropping out of high school than the state thought. The state’s new formula shows the graduation rate at 67.4 percent instead of the former 80.9 percent.

From the AJC: “The rate is considered a key barometer of educational progress — so much so that schools use their graduation rates to prove they made Adequate Yearly Progress, the benchmark of success under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Businesses eye the rates when choosing where to locate. Even as the state escapes the mandates of No Child Left Behind, graduation rates will still be used to measure success in Georgia. Precisely how much weight will be given is still to be determined.”

The numbers show that the 57 Georgia high schools graduated less than half of their students! No wonder people are flocking to homeschooling every year. Here’s the kicker: we don’t have more dropouts. Schools have been covering up the truth when reporting their numbers. Yes, that’s what I said. Students who dropped out were reported as transfers even though they did not leave one school for another.

Another problem the article exposed is that many kids are taking longer than five years to graduate high school. Even when it takes a student five or six years to complete high school, the schools are allowed to count them as the same type of graduate as students who completed in the standard four years. Yet the ones who completed in a timely manner received no further accolades. The thought behind this is that it shouldn’t matter how long it takes as long as they eventually finish.

It was reported that students who attended rigorous high schools had a better acceptance into college. But what about the students who are dropping out or taking longer to finish? They obviously would not be able to handle a rigorous workload. What is going on with our public education that students are having such a hard time graduating?

They continue to raise the academic standards but I have to wonder why they would do this if so many are not graduating. Won’t this cause the graduating rate to plummet even further? It seems if the standards are raised even higher without addressing the issue of why kids can’t graduate, it sets more students up for failure. Parents of these students are undoubtedly worried.

What is hard to understand is how these students (middle and high school particularly) sit in a classroom all day and then come home with four or five hours of homework a night and then they still can’t seem to grasp the information enough to pass the classes and move on to graduation. What happens in the classroom all day? This tells me that something isn’t working with the system.

According to Dr. Jay Wyle in his report Why Homeschool for High School, he states that “only 33% of high school graduates are proficient readers. Slightly more than 25% are functionally illiterate. 63% of high school seniors could not point to Russia on a world map. 72% of high school seniors could not distinguish between an atom and a molecule.”

If these numbers are accurate (and I am sure they are and may even be higher now), it is no wonder the dropout rate is so high and no wonder it’s taking so long to finish school.

There are many reasons for the dropout rate. Besides being illiterate and the poor teacher to student ratio, kids have to deal with being bullied and living in fear of attacks by other students carrying weapons to school. For many students, school has nothing to do with learning. It’s all about socializing, which often leads students down the wrong road with the wrong bunch of friends.

One problem with the graduation requirements is that it takes 23 credits to graduate, so if a student fails a class or has to drop a class for any reason, he will automatically be behind his peers since it takes four full years to earn 23 credits. Georgia students can stay in school for free until age 20 so some may not be in such a hurry to graduate. When a student begins to fail, the desire to finish often flies out the window. They see no chance of ever catching up so they quit.

Many go on to earn their GEDs and head to technical school to get their starts but it is sad that they aren’t able to complete the normal four year high school educational program.

Thankfully, the new formula will not allow dropouts to be listed as transfers any longer. Schools will have to verify that a student has left and if he transfers to another school he will be counted. A file is kept on every child who enters the school system and it should make it much easier to determine where that child is until the compulsory age of 16.

Personally, I think part of the problem with the current educational system is that it approaches students as a whole and not as individuals. Not everyone is cut out to be a 4.0 student who goes on to earn higher and higher level degrees. We have a world full of artisans who, if given the right opportunity, will live a full life, earn a living, and make the world much more enjoyable for everyone else.

When we homeschool our children, we can stay on top of their education and also be there for them when they have issues. Some of the public school parents said they want the schools to find better ways of reaching out to kids. Since children learn in the different ways, this can be a difficult task. But I would wager it is not impossible. Perhaps one way to solve the problem would be to evaluate each student’s learning style and then place them in a classroom with other students who learn in the same way. Maybe the public schools could model homeschools and this would improve the educational system. But until that happens, lend a hand to your public school friends if they ask you for advice on how to help their children achieve graduation.

Apr 152012

I love spring, but it brings many activities around our house:  soccer, baseball, drama practice, a college graduation, and five birthdays within six weeks. On top of these this June, my oldest daughter is getting married.

With all this, I have not had much time to write a new post for Habits, so I thought that I would link up some of the homeschooling posts from my blog. Some are recent and some are several years old.

As I went back and looked over some of these posts, I realize how I really miss the days when my house was full of preschoolers.  For the 2012-2013 school year, my youngest will be kindergarten age. It will be the first time in 21 years that I do not have a pre-schooler.  Somewhat sad, but there are seasons for all things.

Homeschooling Highschool…you can do it.

Fifteen years of homeschooling…really?

Homeschooling with preschoolers

Back to the upstairs

Homeschooling real books and graded readers

My thoughts on Georgia Cyber Academy


Mar 082012

In the beginning, I ran my homeschool like a traditional school. We had a classroom, a bulletin board, and I rang a little bell. My background teaching kindergarten and first grade contributed to this way of doing things. My children loved it! It was everything they were used to, except they were in the security of home and Mommy was the teacher. Over the years, much has changed as our family adapted to homeschooling. One thing I’ve learned, though, is not to compare myself to others. There are so many creative ideas out there, but I can’t and don’t want to do them all. I’d much rather read than go on a nature hike; I hate messy projects, especially those involving Elmer’s glue; and I’d rather clean my house than do any kind of craft (and when I do a “craft,” it turns out terrible!) I am a left-brained, traditional-style homeschooler, and that is ok! Below are some things I did to add my style of creativity into our school days, both when my children were little, and when they got to junior high and highschool:

Playdoh or legos at their school table when they first come in to the schoolroom (or to the kitchen table)… a little fun before academics.

Chose my own readers outside of our curriculum, such as “The Raggedy Ann Stories,” by Johnny Gruel (you must read these!). Participated in a reading program with a prize… Six Flags or Pizza Hut, or others depending on where you live. Made trips to the library a big deal, building up the anticipation before we got there.

Sang songs for Bible or listened to music while coloring. Used large picture flashcards for telling Bible stories (A Beka has beautifully-illustrated ones… get them used, as they are expensive). Had them draw their own Bible story pictures as they listened.

Taught fun chants with snapping fingers/clapping when they learned to count by 2’s, 5’s, etc.

Had my first and third graders act out the Boston Tea party, dressed in Indian costumes and using our swingset/slide platform as a ship and iced tea to dump over the side. When they got older, we had a “presidential” campaign between my junior high and highschooler, complete with video-taped speeches and political propaganda ads. (One girl video taped another’s messy room, asking her viewers if they really felt this person could run the country effectively!)

Had “story time” everyday after lunch. We would work on a chapter book, and I’d read one chapter a day. When I was tired, I would let my eldest take over. “Farmer Boy,” “Hitty: Her First Hundred Years,” and “Mama’s Bank Account” were some of our favorites. I continued this practice into the junior high/highschool years, moving the time to first thing in the morning as a motivation to get them out of bed. If they didn’t show up on time, they missed that part of the story.

Did simple art projects that didn’t frustrate me. Better yet, let my right-brained husband teach the kids art when he got home.

Let each child decorate her own school desk with whatever objects she wanted.

Let them play school in the schoolroom in the late afternoons.

Had “spirit week,” as they got older…. International day, chocolate day, and superhero day were some of my favorites! I dressed up, too!

Had “recess” everyday in our backyard, or in their bedroom if the weather was bad. Aah, a break for mom!

We do have fun and get creative! It is just organized, neat creativity (the kind my left-dominated brain can handle). I also made allowances for my right-brained children… sometimes, instead of a book report, a diorama or poster. A mini-project of the student’s choice that incorporates her spelling words. A timeline drawn on poster board for history. And we do have some science projects… my favorite being our real-life project, the vegetable garden!

Everyone is different, so from all those wonderful online sources, take the ideas you like, leave the ones you don’t, and go homeschool your children the way that works best for you!