Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top Ten Challenges to being a Homeschool Mum

The Top Ten Challenges of Being a Homeschool Mum...

1.  Realizing that pencils will constantly roll off the desk, and any focus that you had established will be gone while the student wiggles under the table to retrieve it.

2.  Providing enough pencils at the start of each day, without burning up the pencil sharpener, so that no one has to climb under the table to retrieve pencils, until the end of the day.

3.  Playing the roll of dean, custodian, cafeteria lady, phonics, algebra, and P.E. instructor...in one day.

4.  Realizing that no matter how well a particular curriculum works for another family, or even another sibling, that doesn't make it a good fit for all/any of your children.

5.  Finding space in your house to store all of the school supplies you bought at the beginning of the year, while they were on sale.

6.  Keeping the kids out of the school supplies so that they do in fact last the whole school year.

7.  Finding what motivates each of your children and developing their strengths.

8.  Dealing with the reality that building your child's character is far harder than teaching Algebra.

9.  Not having a nervous breakdown when you realize that every flat surface in your house is covered in science projects, models, or art work.

10.  Deciding that you do not care that you are eating lunch on one end of the dining room table, because the other end is covered in school work.

This post is linked here - http://ohamanda.com/2011/08/29/green-your-fall-top-ten/

Friday, August 26, 2011

Feedback Friday - Teenage Rebellion

Children are born as individuals.  If we fail to see that, if we see them as clay to be molded in any shape we like, the tougher ones will fight back and end up spiteful and wild, while the less strong will lose that uniqueness they were born with.  -Melvin Konner

How do you feel about this quote?

Were you the tough child Dr Donner describes?  As a result, did you become wild?

Did you rebel as a teen?  Now that you are grown can you look back and determine the reason for your rebellious behaviors?  In other words, what were you looking for?

Were you the less strong kind of personality and do you feel like your uniqueness was lost?

Have you started to regain these qualities that were molded out of you?

If you are dealing with a rebellious teen, does this quote make you think a little differently about the child's actions or behaviors?

Have you read any of Melvin Konner's books, newspaper columns or essays?  If so, please share your opinions on them.

I look forward to hearing your responses!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cheating in School...Will our Homeschool Children Resist the Temptation in College?

In 2004 the American College Health Association reported that 40-50% of college students had experienced depression so severe that they were barely able to function.

The association also revealed that sixty percent of the students in college had experienced, "feeling things were hopeless."

Furthermore, the 29th Who's Who Among American High School Students found that 80% of the country's best students cheated, to get where they are.

A few years ago, while working with some youth at our church, I heard some of them mumble something about cheating.  I asked what they meant, and this evolved into a discussion where they explained that everyone in high school cheats.  A few weeks later at our Wednesday youth meeting, I proposed that as Christians we are called to not be of the world. I knew these teenagers and I could tell that they understood this principal, and that they agreed with it.  So, I continued my discussion and explained that cheating because everyone else does it is wrong.  Their faces went blank and they sent a clear message - we hear you, but we are part of the system and this is what you have to do to succeed.  They had closed the door and I knew I wasn't going to get through to them.

While I believe cheating goes back to a lack of character, I propose the following as another reason why cheating in school has become the norm.

"...a culture of cheating has cropped up in response to an educational system which unintentionally tells young people that where they are going matters more than why they are on the journey."
(from "Your Child's Strengths" by Jennifer Fox)

So, here is my question...

Are we (home educators) teaching that where we are going matters more than why we are on this journey?

Are we instructing our children such that they love learning and creating people who will long to learn their entire lives?  Or are we teaching them to master subjects, score well on the ACT/SAT, get their degree, and find a job that offers financial security?

Is it fair to reason that students (home educated or school taught) who are learning because they want to know more about a topic are less likely to cheat?  And conversely, children who are mastering a topic in order to get into college and secure a great job, are more likely to cheat because it is all about making the grade and nothing about learning?

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

School Pictures - September 2011

My students...

A four legged student...she may understand phonics better than my human students, on some days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Biography Books by DK - BAM Discount Card

Recently, while wandering the aisles of Books-A-Million, I found a new series for my children.  I do most of my book buying online, but I adore touching and smelling books, so occasionally I'll drop into BAM for a few minutes.  I have a BAM teacher's discount card that offers 20% off your purchase, toward anything you need for school.  If you home educate and can offer documentation as such, these cards are free.

This series is called, "A Photographic Story of a Life."  We purchased Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and Helen Keller.  They were on sale, such that if you bought two, you got one free, for a total of about $10.

These are what I call intermediate readers.  The words are easy and there are plenty of pictures and vocabulary boxes.

They are about the size of a novel.

Other biographies in the series are: Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, John F. Kennedy, Harriet Tubman and many more.

I would recommend these for ages 9 and up, however, I think any age would enjoy getting a quick overview of these famous people with these biographies.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Managing Chores - A Blessing To Any Homeschool! - Guest Post

By Carlie Kercheval

I found Carlie's two blogs - "So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler" and "So You Call Yourself a Christian," while browsing The Homeschool Lounge. I enjoy her style and her strength. Her husband is on his 5th deployment to the middle east and she shares her family life, homeschooling, and faith on these two sites.

She agreed to let me repost "Managing Chores - A Blessing To Any Homeschool," but I encourage you to check out her blogs.

It's been a little bit since my last blog post as my husband is officially on deployment #5. The last week was very intense for us and we are grateful that he has safely made it to his destination :) We love and miss him dearly and are already counting down the days until his return! Now on to today's post.

You may remember recently I had blogged about scheduling and how in our current state it was driving me crazy :) Since then, we purchased Managers Of Their Chores AND Managers Of Their Homes. After reading Managers Of Their Chores, we were able to successfully create and implement our Master Chore List. Last week was our first "trial run" using our chore packs. Chore packs, are simply "packs" made for each child with their expected chores inside of them. This gives the child clear expectations of what they have to do that day, and also gives the parents a tangible way to keep track of everything. I have used the "keep-track-of-everything-in-your-head" method; and believe me, it's not all it's cracked up to be!

Here is what our chore packs look like:

These are the cards that will be inserted into the chore pack (clear plastic holder on left). 
I was able to get a subscription to the Choreware software on titus2.com for only $12/yr. 
This allows me to streamline the chores into templates designed for the pack.
Worth the investment of $1/month!

These are Hannah's chore packs. 
White = daily chores
Yellow = weekly chores
Orange = bi-weekly and monthly chores

This is what her chore pack looks like first thing in the morning.
We opted to tie a piece of yarn to these to make them 
into necklaces rather than clipping them on.

Here is the completed chore pack for all 3 children. 
Every morning I take these out and slip them into 
their chore "necklaces" and we're all set!

I am a HUGE fan of the chore pack and am so grateful to have stumbled upon this wonderful system! I would highly recommend reading the book and putting this system into place. It has only been 2 weeks since we started and I can see a major difference in the way our household is functioning. And the added bonus we've received implementing this system is the fact the the children are excited to do their chores! All 3 of them. NO KIDDING! 

Just an FYI - this book is not only for those who need help in managing the housekeeping portion of their homes. For those of you who don't know me, I am a very organized and serious business housekeeper. So my reason for purchasing this book was not because of an issue keeping the house clean and organized; rather it was to give my children the opportunity to serve while teaching them responsibility, time management, and so on. 

So if you are wanting to change the way chores are done in your house - this system is worth a try! I'd love to hear what you think of chore packs if you have used them. I'd also love to answer any questions you might have if you have not used them but are considering it!

Carlie K.

Check out Carlie's blog here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shel Silverstein

Every now and then I stumble across something on the internet that makes me grateful for the web.  Today I was looking for a poem and found the Shel Silverstein site.  It is fun (as we would expect from his site) and very educational.  I am not a poet and any help I can get to develop poetry in my children is welcomed.  Who better to inspire our children in the art of poetry, than Mr. Silverstein?

There are teacher guides, downloads, coloring pages and e-cards.

About page for the famous poet.

Link to the iPhone app....oh so much fun.  The kiddos have been playing with it while I cooked breakfast.

There are animated clips from his books, so kids can see them and learn which they want to buy next.

And games and puzzles in, "The Kids Only" section.

Just Check it out!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homeschool Mom Exhaustion

Last week a thoughtful lady responded to my post - "Burned Out?  How About a Refresh?"  I asked her if I could share her wisdom with you and she agreed.  I am grateful for her introspection, and I think you will be, too.

Exhaustion is a real issue when you homeschool your children, especially if you have a large family with many age groups to minister to. I think your post is a good one and would love to see how other mothers/teachers deal with this issue!

For me, I have had to realize that I am just as important as my children. That might seem like something we should automatically know, but it isn't for all of us. As mothers we give, give, give with everyone taking and not realizing that if mom doesn't get something back as well, she will be running past empty. I 'ran' many years on fumes, look back, and can't believe I put myself through that or that I have come out on the other side.

These are some of the things that I have begun to do for myself:

1. When my day starts to unravel or get hectic I fix myself a cup of tea:) It has become a ritual that I really look forward to. It doesn't matter what is going on, if I need a break, then I allow myself this cup of tea. I let go of the problems/hassles for the time it takes to make it and drink it. I guess you could say it is my 'pause' button in an otherwise non-stop day. Depending on the intensity of the day will determine how many cups of tea I have:)

2. If the school day has proven to be a challenge then I will sometimes forget about the house for a spell and pick up a good book. I LOVE to read, but as the mother of 7 children I don't always get a lot of time to indulge. By allowing myself to forget about cleaning for an hour and lose myself in a good book, I refuel for a spell.

3. I have started to see the Dr. (and a counselor when needed). I always made sure that my children had their check-ups and dental visits, but I never scheduled any for myself. That is changing, especially now that I am over 40, and I have seen the wisdom in taking care of myself.

4. I try to visit with a good friend once a week in the evening (after husband is home and can care for the little ones). Lately our schedules have conflicted, and I have had sick children, but it is still something that we try to maintain. It has been lovely to just talk to another adult:), to share our lives with each other, and try to encourage each along this journey called life that we all are on.

5. Once a year, usually in the heart of winter (we have very long winters where we live) I go to a hotel for five days and nights, all by myself! I did it for the first time this year and it was amazing. Unfortunately, it took me almost all five days to get relaxed:( I suffered through a lot of guilt for leaving my children that long, but just seeing how much better I felt after wards makes me realize this is a necessity. I don't go to a fancy hotel, in fact, it was the cheapest in town:). The idea is to go and relax, not stress about the cost.

6. When I purchase homeschool materials for the children I remember myself as well. I find two-three books that I think will really minister to me in that year, and I purchase them. Each year is different, depending on what I am dealing with that year, but I have let go of all guilt with spending this bit on myself.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our Home School Room...I mean Chests

I know that many people have organized their school supplies, sold last year's curriculum, purchased new books and back to school supplies, and their school room is in spic and span condition.  I am not an organized person, and after many years of teaching I just don't get that uptight about getting everything ready for the new year.  Plus, we aren't going back to school for a few weeks.  So, I have time.

But, I did want to share my HomeSchool Chests.  We have a relatively small house and there isn't a whole room that I can dedicate to teaching.  In a lot of ways, I wish there were.  I'd cover the walls with maps, timelines, charts etc.

I moved this tall chest from our bedroom to the corner of our dining room, which we use for school.  Luckily, the chest has three large drawers, and we have three children to teach.  The oldest is in college.

Each child keeps his books and notebooks in his drawer.  The middle holds staplers, flash cards, blank paper, hole punch...basically all of those things you need in a classroom.

What doesn't fit we store in this small dresser, on the other side of the room.

Seriously though, before the year starts we'll sort through this and get our "stuff" together.  These two pieces of furniture and an extremely long dining room table work very well for us.  One of the elements I like the best about this system is that all of our materials are out of site, when we clean up for the day.  Bookcases can be very unorganized in appearance.  This is made only worse when young people are pulling books on and off of them, all day.  By putting the main texts that we use in these drawers I am able to keep the bookcases in the living room far more tidy.

If you are like me...completely unorganized and embarrassed at the state of your home school supplies let me hear a word from you.  Don't leave me hanging!  I need to hear that you appreciate that I have aired my dirty laundry here.

Happy Day!

This is part of a blog hop that features school room design.  Click here to join.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Burned Out? How about a refresh?

Even if you haven't burned out as a home educating mother, chances are you've experienced this at some point in your life.  Have you considered that it could happen to you as a mother?

My oldest is 21 years of age and I have been teaching my children at home for over eleven years, now.  I've had periods of, what I would call burn out, and I am currently suffering from a bit of weariness.  My oldest daughter is in her senior year and I if I had to describe my current attitude I would do it with a huge sigh.  This would be the kind of sigh that you would let out after completing a final exam.

This is a minor burn out and I am addressing it by relaxing the school day for my younger two.  It won't be as structured and I am going to focus on enjoying the learning process with them.

Sometimes the burn outs are much bigger.  I've known mothers who couldn't recover from them without enrolling their children in school.  I believe that to avoid this we have to use preventive medicine.  We need to schedule time during the day and the week to refuel.

My daily refuel comes early in the morning before the kids get up, and again during quiet time.  I have a dear friend who is an evening person and she enjoys her quiet time after the kids go to sleep.  When my children were younger I would walk in the morning, before Boodhound left for work.  The kids would snuggle under our sheets and talk to their father while he got ready to leave.  My friend, in New Orleans, had a teen-age neighbor who would watch her kids ride bikes, while she walked around the block.

As much as these daily quiet times invigorate me, I still need longer periods of quiet time, and I don't do a great job of scheduling them, at all.  I am going to work on that this year.  My goal is to get away for a morning every two weeks.

Just the same, what if you are already burned out?  What if all the prevention didn't nip it in the bud?  What if your hormones went whacky?  That happened to me, and I reached a level of depleted unlike anything I have ever experienced.  And I think it left my family rather exhausted, too.

If you are feeling rather worn here are some suggestions I've created...

*  Scale back
*  Prioritize - the dishes and the dust will wait.
*  Delegate - I'm constantly amazed at the chores my children can do, when asked.
*  Do things that make you happy.
*  Find some quiet time.
*  Exercise - I'd say this is one of the most important steps, but, also, the one you are least likely to do.
*  Make a doctor appointment.  See previous hormone comment.
*  Review your focus.  Why did you start homeschooling?  Did you write a mission/vision statement?    
    Can you add specific steps to it?

Now, I'd like to hear your thoughts...

How do you prevent burn out?  How do you treat exhaustion?  How can we refresh ourselves?  What refuels you?

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

To read more about my relaxed school structure click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How to Home Educate with Younger Children

One of the biggest challenges in home education is when you have younger children that need attention, while the older ones are learning.  My third son was a very active toddler and pre-schooler when my oldest was in high school.  I can clearly remember how frustrated we became trying to find a few minutes of uninterrupted time to do our school work.  It was truly a very trying time and I am glad it has passed.

Here are some of the strategies we tried.

1.  All the children were on separate schedules.  My oldest daughter would watch the younger ones while I taught my oldest son, and then they would trade, so I could teach her.  This worked but stretched the day out.

2.  We had a large box of toys that my younger children could play with while we studied.  It was only used at this time and I tried to keep it stocked with new play things.

3.  When the weather was good we would work outside while the young ones played on the swing set.

4. Hire another home schooled pre-teen/teen to "nanny" a few hours a week.

5. The younger kids had a strict quiet/nap time.  They didn't have to nap but they did have to play quietly in their rooms.

6.  We started school at 7am while the younger kids slept.  I tried to get math taught before the younger kids needed breakfast.

7.  Have school on Saturday morning, while the other kids played with Bloodhound.

If you have survived this hurdle or have a general home schooling helpful blog post you'd like to share, link up below.

Please include a dire link to your post, not your mine blog web address.  Here is an example of the link to my post: http://hammockhomeschool.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-home-educate-with-younger.html

Also, please link back to me.  I want to meet your readers, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Standardized Testing

Recently, while reading “Your Child’s Strengths” by Jennifer Fox, I was challenged to
consider the function of standardized testing, and its impact on a child's learning experience.

I’ve tested in the past, because the state requires it. Some parents use the test results to determine the child’s weaknesses or strengths, but in my case the test indicated that the child was weak everywhere. I knew this was not the case, and I witnessed her marking the wrong answers, knowing in my heart that she knew better.

So, if I had taken the time to teach her how to quickly find the correct multiple choice answer, or test strategies in general, would we have sacrificed real learning time in the process? Would the natural learning, and the wonder of such, been lost while we focused on how to find the answer that the test would be looking for?

I do not believe that what my children have learned over the span of twelve months, can be reflected in a four hour multiple choice test. I wouldn’t want to have my homemaking, gardening, photography, or parenting skills determined by such.

Consider the task of bread making. There are many elements at play to create a blue-ribbon loaf of homemade bread. If you provided a multiple choice test to determine if a person knows the basics of bread baking, you might offer the following questions.

Which wheats are high in protein?
What role does salt play during the rise of the dough?
What ingredient could you add to prevent baking a dense loaf?
How does humidity affect the bread making process?

All of these answers can be found with a quick internet search, and memorized rather quickly for a standardized test. But, would a person who knew these answers be able to bake a loaf of bread. I seriously doubt it.

There is not a set amount of flour needed to make a tasty loaf. You have to work with dough for a while to know when you’ve added enough flour, as the humidity greatly determines when enough, is enough.  How do you write that into a standardized test question?

Yet, if you tested me, on the questions above, I might not remember the correct answer.  I just know what it takes to make a delicious loaf.  Can you imagine how devastating a poor test score on this topic would be for me? Especially, if being hired at a bakery was determined by such a test. Would I have come to love bread baking if the emphasis of the learning was on such boring facts, and my ability to memorize them?

How do you use standardized test results? Are they a true reflection of your child’s knowledge? Do you share them with your children? Do you spend time reviewing and preparing for the test?  Do you believe that preparing is a valuable use of your learning time?

As you consider these questions, here are the thoughts, of one boy, regarding testing:

“Anyway, I don’t really like to read so much anymore. I feel like we have to read fast and like there are only some things in the book that matter, the things on the test, and I can’t think about the story as much as I used to because I am trying to guess what will be on the test.”

“Your Child’s Strength” by Jennifer Fox, copyright 2008, p.33

Monday, August 1, 2011

Next Year's Curriculum and A New Teaching Strategy

After home educating my children for over a decade, I sense a change in my approach to teaching.

I fear that I have made two mistakes with my two older children, and I want to correct that for the younger two.

Mistake #1 - I educated at the cost of learning.
Mistake #2 - When my children became frustrated or didn't understand a lesson, I simply repeated the instruction (more times than I care to admit), rather than find a new teaching strategy.  I forgot that each child has a different learning style.

So, I am slowly planning the new year.  I am not rushing into it, and I am allowing an evolution in teaching style to take place in me.

My oldest daughter is a senior in high school this year.  She is currently flipping through the pages of the Rainbow Resource Catalogue, she will determine her year for herself.  I am hoping that, this year of self discovery will correct all the teaching mistakes I've made with her.  I realize this is impossible, and a fantasy, but I do get some comfort out of this notion.  So, please...let a girl dream!

I want to follow my children's learning desires a lot more this year.  Children have a naturally curious nature, and my hope is that if I surround them with learning opportunities they will indulge this urge.

So, our days are going to be broken into two parts.  We will start with the core subjects.  During this time, all three of us will work at the table together and cover math, memory work, and language lessons.  Then each child will sit with me for 30 minutes while I read to them. This will be the time that I direct the learning, and I am hoping that we will have it completed in 2.5 hours.

For my ten year old who is entering the 5th Grade:

Core Subjects

Math Mammoth 
Michael Clay Thompson Language Lessons
Memory Work
Reading Time with Mom

For my 5 year old who is entering Kindergarten:

Core Subjects:

The Writing Road to Reading
Explode the Code
Memory Work
Reading time with Mom
Note - At this time I do not have a math curriculum picked out for her.

When these core subjects are complete the children can choose which of the following they would like to do.  This is their time to direct their learning.  I am dedicating three hours to this kind of learning.

           Hands-On Bible 
Documentary from Netflix
Spelling - Spelling City, Spelling Games, Mom's Skittle Game
Board Games - Scrabble/Chess/Carcassonne/Alphabet Bingo
Online learning websites for spelling, typing, and math.  I will offer these links in a new post.

Television (outside of pre-chosen documentaries) and computer/video games are activities that are earned, and can only be enjoyed on the weekends.

I am not sure how this year will play out.  I may lose my mind by October, return to a tight schedule, and right this off as a bad experiment.  I'll post how it is working out in the weeks to come.

Not Back to School Blog Hop
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