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Friday, February 14th, 2014
- The most important ingredient of homeschooling is simply love. Homeschooling is about the relationships, not the curriculum we use.
- Some days will be wonderful, other days… not as noteworthy, but at the end of the day did we connect wit the kids, snuggle with the kids, help them find their own voice and strengths. I help motivate them and support them.
- I try to keep in mind that at the end of this journey I hope the kids are self-confident, independent adults with the skills to tackle life beyond high school.
- Have I fostered that love of learning?
- Have we built strong, loving relationships that we can all rely upon?
To Believe in Ourselves
- You will probably question yourself a lot when you homeschool. I do, my homeschooling friends do, many homeschool bloggers do… It comes with the territory, but ultimately we know our children best. We know the kids’ strengths and weaknesses and should trust our own instincts.
- Every homeschool is unique. Blogs, books, magazines, pinterest, articles… they can give you inspiration, freebies, ideas but the journey we take is our own.
To Believe in Our Children
- If a child is balking at math or in a frenzy about writing don’t be afraid to admit that the curriculum doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to scrap it and try something new.
- Children will learn from everything… provide rich opportunities that aren’t necessarily “school like” in appearance — a nature walk, a long afternoon reading, an afternoon of the Magic School Bus.
To Find the Routine that Works for your Family
- Do you greet the morning with a smile? Find that the kids are freshest in the morning? Or is your family like ours where we stagger out of bed at different times? Do you all start together or start separately and then re-group? Do you school in the afternoon when your youngest is napping? Does your family work best on the carpet? at a table? on the couch? outside? There’s no right answer, but find a routine and schedule that works well for your family.
- Homeschooling can take a lot of effort. I spend a lot of time talking with my homeschooling friends about what we’re covering, what they’re covering, what worked and didn’t work, good resources… and as a consequence I find myself thinking about homeschooling a lot. I really, really enjoy planning and preparing… and find myself often staying up too late! Sometimes I need to remind myself to give myself a bit more of a mental break and to focus on myself and my own interests (outside of homeschooling).
To Ease into It
- If you’re starting a new school year (or if you’re reading this later and are just starting to homeschool mid-year), don’t feel like you have to jump in full-force. It’s important to let homeschooling become a natural part of your family life.
Give Yourself Permission to Take Time Off
- If you’re feeling burned out or if the kids aren’t responding well, it’s okay to take a break from homeschooling. Honest — it’s better than plodding on like weary travelers. I need to write this down (and highlight it) because when we’re in the groove of homeschool it can be difficult for me not to keep at it — even on days when we’re really not at our peak.
A Good Sense of Humor
- We’re with our kids all day. Things happen. ‘Nuff said, right?!!
- Um, we’re with our kids all day!
- It’s great to find a method to help you organize your homeschool materials. We found that “workboxes” work well for us. We have them labeled with the subjects the kids are working on and I always remind the kids to put their work away when they’re done.
- about the laws of your state. Homeschooling is legal in every state in the U.S., but laws and requirements vary from state to state.
- At the same time, don’t worry about knowing everything your child will learn. You can/will learn alongside your child. You can also find alternatives… a tutor, a co-op, an online class, a community college, etc.
The Ability to Block Things Out
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- There will always be jobs that need to be done around the house, but it’s important to learn to block out the mess, dishes, laundry, Facebook, looking for the perfect activity to supplement your unit (or whatever pulls at you) to get to the job at hand… focusing on homeschool.
- Turn off the phone… don’t let others dictate the rhythm of your homeschool
To Connect to Other Homeschoolers
To Take Care of Yourself and Find a Way to Pursue Your Own Interests
Thursday, February 6th, 2014
When I opened the propane bill yesterday, my jaw nearly hit the floor. Our propane bill had more than doubled from this time last year! Augh! One reason for that is of course that it was much warmer last January than this. But also, the price of propane has gone up drastically. Last year (2013) in February propane was $2.40 a gallon. This year? It was $4.70. So having consumed more propane this year to heat the house AND the fact that propane is close to double in price… oh man!
Although this isn’t being widely reported in the national news, our propane company explained that the real reason for the propane crisis (the shortage and higher prices) was due to fracking. They wrote:
Two years ago the combination of the very warm winter and the new supply of natural gases from fracking lowered the domestic price of propane by about $1 which changed its economics in many ways. In particular, the changed economics caused a large portion of the traditional propane supply and storage infrastructure to be reallocated to other fracking produced gas liquids. Now with a normal cold winter a lot of the old traditional infrastructure in not available for propane fuel.
As an example, the three propane import terminals on the East Coast became economically unfeasible when, for the first time ever, the domestic price moved below the international price for propane. And the lack of imports combined with unprecedented exports that took advantage of the price disparity in the international market created today’s critical supply situation and the much lower domestic inventories are reflected in the relative doubling of prices from last winter.
Today the whole retail propane industry is in a state of meltdown as it recognizes that the domestic supplies of propane are depleted or that what propane is available cannot physically be relocated to where it is needed for distribution and consumption.
Since we are home all day, we had been keeping the day-time temperature at 66F with it set warmer in the morning and evening and 65 overnight. But you can be sure that we ran to set the thermostat even lower… and we’ll to hunker down in the homeschool room near the wood stove even more.
So maybe this is a good lesson for the kids on economics: supply and demand… and mathematics: #of gallons x price… and environmental studies: turn down the heat!
Did your heating bill catch you by surprise?
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Saturday, February 1st, 2014
It’s always time to fill the house with love, right? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s timely to think about what this means. Sometimes love isn’t just the feelings you have, it’s the actions you take.
We are spending a lot of time at home these days because of my medical problems. You can read more at the previous post, “My Ear is Broken…” So I’m trying especially hard to pour some positive energy into our home! It’s time for me to focus on being thoughtful, generous, kind and supportive to those around me. So here are 10 ways I plan to fill our home with love…
1. Nourish the relationships around you, no matter how you feel: Ask questions and really listen. This is a huge, important point for me right now… to step away from my own issues and really focus on my loved ones; tune in to them and listen (without distraction) to their hurts, dreams, joys and goals.
2. Find small, thoughtful ways to show love and caring… give a back rub, be generous with hugs, snuggle, be gentle in how I ask things (not to snap when I’m frustrated, exasperated or angry.) Say “Good morning,” “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome” often.
3. Say yes more often: This goes hand-in-hand with the first point about listening, but I have to be conscious about not always putting the kids off. When the kids want to show me something, to come watch their little show, to read them a book (or whatever the scenario) I have a default that goes something like this, “Just a sec,” “Maybe later,” ”Can you wait until I finish what I’m writing?” I need to be mindful of their needs (in balance with mine.)
4. Bake something: It makes the house smell nice and sure brings a smile to my loved ones faces!
5. Show the kids how to do something new: This fosters independence, might free up time later (teach a man to fish and all that!), but also builds their self esteem and shows that you trust them. What do I mean by this? Well, show them how to whittle a stick, change the batteries in a flashlight, change the air filter, pop the hood of the car and check the oil together, have the kids make scrambled eggs… You know, something you can do together (of course, depending on the age of your child). What better way to build family bonds?
6. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep and enough exercise: Honestly, everyone knows this, but Hubby and I sometimes fall down on the job. We lose track of time and don’t get the kids to bed as quickly as we should. Hubby and I are often guilty of not turning off the light quite as early as we should. As for exercise, the kids have plenty of exercise time due to their sports, but I need to remember myself in the equation to– to get out and walk, stretch and get the exercise that I need.
7. Make family meals a priority: We make the majority of our meals, but our family does get pretty busy in the evening. We need to sit down together as much as possible. I’ve read a lot of those studies showing the benefits of family meals (you probably have too, right?!): Families who sit down to eat together are healthier; Kids tend to eat more fruits and veggies and less junk food when their families eat together; Family meals contribute to language development; Kids tend to do better in school; Teens who eat family meals together are less likely to show signs of depression (Time). And according to a Columbia Study, teens who only eat dinner together once or twice a week were 3 times more likely to have tried marijuana, 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes and were 1.5 times more likely to try alcohol. (New York Times). There are lots of good reasons for making our family meals top priority!
8. Play some board games: It brings the family together and it’s plain-old fashioned fun. Some of our family favorites right now: Dix it, Bombay, Settlers of Catan, Love Letters (a card game) and Charades for Kids.
9. Read a book together: No matter how old the kids are, this creates a lovely opportunity to share an experience. It’s free, often exciting and creates shared memories without having to leave the house. Right now, I’m reading the Voyage of the Dawn Treader with the kids. Hubby is reading the Harry Potter books (the first one with ED and the fifth one with the older two). I remember my family reading Macbeth together as a family when I was in 4th grade and my sister was in high school. I still remember the creepy lines from Shakespeare, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble,” even though I’ve long since forgotten the main plot of the play! Here are some of our book recommendations for families with elementary kids: Because of Winn Dixie, Ella Enchanted, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Hatchet, the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Pippy Longstocking, Here’s a Penny and the second book Penny and Peter.
10. Family Slumber Party: My kids get really excited when we shake things up at bedtime. For some reason my kids think it’s really magical to pull out all the sleeping bags and sleep together in the living room. They talk about how fun it was for months afterwards. It’s another free, fun activity to build shared memories!
If you have other great idea for filling your home with love, I’d love to hear from you over on my Homeschool Den Facebook page!
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Monday, January 20th, 2014
The past three months have been very difficult. If you’re a regular reader, you know I had ear surgery in October. I have more complications than I can count on one hand. Healing was very slow and a couple of weeks after the surgery I came down with something called BPPV in two semi-circular canals (in my ear) which causes vertigo, the entire world to spin, balance issues and incredible sea-sickness and nausea. At one point I was so bad I couldn’t do anything but sit on the couch holding my head so it wouldn’t move. I couldn’t drive at all for about ten days or so. Eventually, that seemed to get better, though the swelling in my ear never went down. My ear canal and the skin graft though was still not improving (and of grave concern to my ear surgeon.)
I had three good days in mid-November and then one Saturday, I was leaning under the couch trying to get a book when I felt something happen in my ear. From then on I had symptoms like balance issues, sea sickness when I turn my head (or nod in agreement), ear aches, swishing and loud (LOUD!) pulsating in my ear, vision issues such as tunnel vision and trouble focusing on objects when I walk or move… I’ve been very sensitive to loud noises. Sometimes even my own voice bothers me. Oh–and the brain fog and fatigue; it has been debilitating, scary, and exhausting.
One of the doctors I saw, said that my brain is working over-time trying to figure out where my body is in space (since my balance system is out-of-wack), trying to get my eyes to work, and processing all these extra noises. For weeks and weeks my ear doctor thought all this was still connected to the BPPV I had in November. I went to 2, 3 and 4 doctor’s appointments a week to try to get to the bottom of all this. Meanwhile, I was on and off steroids and antibiotics to see what would bring the swelling down, though open wounds started festering on the scar behind my ear. I had a CAT scan which showed fluid in my middle ear.
Finally, last Monday (a week ago) I told the doctor that I noticed that when I pushed on my ear things go wildly out of focus, the bone feels gooshy, and I can hear popping. Plus, it feels like I’m tapping straight on my eardrum. My doctor’s eyes kind of got wide and said, “We need to do some surgery and it can’t wait.” He thinks that I am allergic to the bone filler they used (thus the swelling and unhealing wound behind my ear). And he also thinks I have a “third window” in the superior semi-circular canal (a very rare syndrome-first discovered in 1998)… and that the bone between my brain and canals is too thin (the pulsating, SHHhhing noises are the sounds of blood moving through my brain… some people can even hear their eyeballs moving!) My doctor started thinking about when he could make the surgery work (“Hmm… he said, not this week…”) and said something about Monday (today, Jan. 20). I mentioned that I had tried to book an appointment but that he was out of town. He said that he hadn’t bought the tickets yet (to take his son to visit colleges) and that he would make sure he was back in time for surgery if he could get a slot at the hospital. So after a few phone calls — it was set. I was to have surgery in a week (Monday, Jan. 20th).
The surgery will entail drilling out and removing all the bone filler. Then taking some bone material from the skull above my ear and using that to patch the hole in the canal and to add to the temporal (skull) bone in the affected area. It’s fairly major surgery probably to be followed by some minor surgery later to deal with the areas where the bone filler was removed along the ear canal. What a crazy journey this has been.
Let me tell you, that threw me into a tailspin for a couple of days. For one thing, I felt horrendous and for another I thought I’d have longer to arrange for care for the kids, etc (since we homeschool, that’s a bit tricky). After numbers of phone calls my sister said she and my niece would drive up from Tennessee to be here. My niece (who also homeschools) will stay on after my sister leaves (my sister works as well as homeschools, so she will need to drive back down to go back to work).
Since the doctor put me back on yet another round of steroids to bring the ear swelling down, I started to feel a bit better on Wednesday and Thursday… though haven’t felt very good this weekend. I managed to get in another three doctor’s appointment, make plans for the kids and tried to pawn off some of my other responsibilities (I was running a science fair type event and am on a board that’s dealing with legal issues). Ugh.
Through all this, I’ve really learned a lot. I’ve tried to be forgiving of myself. I’ve tried to nurture the kids (because it’s obviously scary for them to have a Mom that is at times out of commission or snaps or cries more than usual). I’ve learned that we just have to keep going (chin up and all that). I’ve learned to take help (I’ve accepted people’s offers of meals, had friends drive the kids to activities, let friends take the kids for sleepovers). I’ve leaned on my friends (HARD!) and family (HARDER!). I’ve paired down my expectations of myself.
A couple of friends who don’t know me quite as well (who don’t really have any idea of what we do for homeschooling and don’t even know that I blog) asked why I just didn’t put the kids in school until I’m better. It was suggested out of concern for me, but it made me laugh or groan (inside, not to them of course). Homeschooling is so much of who we (our family members) are. Yes, there are definitely times when the kids did the absolute minimum and then watched a movie. But at those times, I made sure it was an “educational” movie. They might have “played” more, but it wasn’t a free-for-all (we still have fairly strict rules about electronic/TV time.) I am fortunate that my older kids (8 and 10) are in general “ahead” (whatever that means) in math — and right on target in other areas (I guess). Honestly, homeschooling is a vision of where I want them to be as young adults. Learning life lessons like this are valuable too (when people are ill, they cope as best they can, cry at times, and then smile and get the hugs they need to keep going). Back to the suggestion, “just put the kids in school” I told my husband, these same (well-meaning) people would never look at a lawyer or an accountant or a IT person and say, “why don’t you quit for a few months until you feel better.” The final thing that bounced around in my head (and probably many other happy homeschoolers can relate to this) — is that my kids love (I should have capitalized that!) — yes, they just love homeschooling. It would be very difficult for them to suddenly be thrust into traditional school especially when they have no interest (at this point — we’re always open for that in the future) in going. Right now, my kids need the stability of continuing on with our Civil Rights Movement unit even if there’s three or four days of a break rather than one or two… They need to know that this is just a temporary blip. People go through those, get through those, and come out stronger for it on the other side.
So, like any teacher I have plans laid out for my “substitutes…” Some math marked out; some cool, fun science kits that have been sitting around; a couple of “educational” movies lined up (The Story of Ruby Bridges and Selma, Lord, Selma) Plus, the kids have each chosen a new Newbery book to read… ED will read Henry and Mudge stories to my niece…
So there you have it. I am pretty relieved and happy to be having this surgery even as apprehensive as I am. I’m hopeful that this is a huge step forward in recovering, hearing, seeing and walking normally again. :)
And my wonderful blog readers, I was able to get a number of posts done ahead of time… so I haven’t forgotten you (or the blog). I have a lot of math and writing posts coming up which include a number of freebies. Usually, I have posts set to go early in the morning, but instead I’ll have the new posts come out around noon or so this next week.
My other ear posts:
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BPPV, ear surgery and dizziness, ear surgery and vertigo, ear surgery complications, homeschooling while ill, Superior canal dehiscence, third window | Categories:
Homeschool Den, Mom Stories, Our Homeschool (what our day is like, curriculum choices, etc.), Random Thoughts
Saturday, January 18th, 2014
Someone recently asked me how to get started homeschooling. She was interested in creating some unit studies for her kids and wanted to know where to start. Since I tend to create our history and science units myself, I thought I’d try to share how I pull our units together.
I’ve written a lot of related posts about homeschooling things like planning, preparation, assessing our long term and short term goals, thinking about homeschool philosophies… and even general homeschool encouragement… like the true thing you need to homeschool… love, patience, commitment, permission to take time off and more! You’ll find tons of links to other articles at the end of this post.
I am interested in creating some unit studies for my kids. How do I get started? What program do you use?
I have a lot of homeschool curriculums on hand (things like the Story of the World, A Children’s History of the World, Real Science for Kids, NOEO science ), but to be honest I still tend to create our own units from a hodge-podge of resources, books from the library, Internet resources and the “curriculums” I have on hand. I’ll explain more below.
So back to your first question… How do I get started?
My first step is to decide what unit the kids will study. Sometimes I just ask them… But also I have a general plan in my head of where our homeschool is going. So, for history, for example we started back with the Ancients and went chronologically forward until we hit about the 1800s or so. With American History we started with a unit called This is the United States (we had just moved to the U.S; my kids were all born overseas in Australia). Since then we’ve moved forward chronologically in American history again through the mid-1800s. I skipped all the major wars… We have not gone into depth, for example, about the Civil War or the World Wars simply because I had a younger child and did not want to go into detail about why the wars were fought and what war really means. Since I felt we were not ready for the modern era (well, for the World Wars, etc.) we spent last year studying Africa and this year the plan was to study Asia. We spent most of the fall studying India and finished up with Gandhi. Then it occurred to me with our in-depth study of Gandhi it would make sense to do a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. Last year, we had gone into quite a lot of depth about triangular slave trade (and slavery in the New World) when we were studying West Africa. It just made sense to jump into this topic. So, what I’m saying is sometimes we follow rabbit trails — and that’s how some of our units develop!!
I usually spend about two or three weeks preparing for our unit. I gather a LOT of books from the library (10-15) both fiction and non-fiction and start reading through the children’s books. I almost always try to borrow the hands-on activities types of books as well for inspiration. Books such as Janice VanCleave’s books for science or 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience… (Egypt, Ancient Greece or what have you).
Then I start taking notes in my homeschool notebook of topics and good ideas I come across. Eventually, I make my way onto the Internet and look for activities. I have found ProTeacher to be a great source of ideas!
Once I have a pretty good handle on what we’re going to study, I’ve found it helps me to create notebook pages for the kids. That way I know I’m highlighting the main points I want the kids to retain… The various packets you’ll find on my blog are the way I pull everything together for myself and the kids. I’ve made worksheets on all kinds of topics we’ve studied: Human Body Systems; Black Plague; Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses; Islam; Hinduism; Gandhi; the Transatlantic Trade; Geometry; Rocks and Minerals; and Simple Machines… and I could go on and on! I didn’t do this when the kids were younger. Back then it was much more about the process and experience. Not to say that we didn’t cover content, but we covered content in a different way… often with Lapbooks (click on the link to see some of our past projects).
Just recently I answered this same sort of question for science… How we create a homeschool curriculum for science. You might be interested in looking at those two posts. I talked about the process of deciding on the science units we cover and some of the topics that are on my mental “gotta cover that at some point” list:
Some I’ve gone through to find some other posts that might help you get started:
Planning for the New Homeschooling Year:
- Here are the questions I consider as I plunge into the planning process.
- Assess Your Homeschool Philosophy: Are you happy with *how* you are homeschooling I talked a lot about the books I’ve read that helped us find the homeschool style that works for us.
- This post looks a back at our school year. (The kids would have been finishing Grades 3, 1 and preschool) I talk about what went well and what could use some improvement.
- Long Term Homeschooling Goals
- Short Term Goals and Planning
- What is a “Typical” Homeschool Day Like (Grades 5, 3, K)
- Our Homeschool Plans This Semester (Jan. 2014, Grades 5, 3, K)
- Homeschool Year in Review (Grades 2 and 4)
- Last Year’s Homeschool Units (Grades 1 and 3)
- Typical Day when the Kids Were Tots and PreK (Ages 18mo, 3 and 5 yrs.)
- Homeschool Preschool Year in Review
- What Happens in a Homeschool Day? Our week or two in review (K, Grades 3 and 5)
- An overview of many of the unit studies we’ve done in our homeschool: Hands-On Activities Tots to Ten Year Olds – with links to over a hundred units and categories.
General Homeschool Inspiration and Thoughts:
The most important thing to remember is that homeschooling is a journey and an adventure… and no one really knows what you’ll see, experience and delve into along the way!
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getting started homeschooling, homeschool basics, homeschool unit studies, how do I homeschool?, how to create a homeschool unit study, how to start homeschooling | Categories:
Homeschool Encouragement, Our Homeschool (what our day is like, curriculum choices, etc.), Planning and Preparation, Random Thoughts