Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

Chronicling our adventures as a small homeschool family with mom and dad both as teachers

Archive for the tag “homeschool organization”

How Technology is Changing How We Homeschool: Revisted

Back at the end of October I wrote about how we were starting to use some technology tools in our homeschool plan.  I thought I would revisit this topic and give you an update.

First, before I get into that though, I wanted to share some exciting news with you.  Starting in February, I will be a contributing writer over at the site So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler.  I’m so excited to be joining this great group as we travel our homeschool journey together and to have the opportunity to write about homeschooling an only child.  I’ll be sure to let you know when my first post is up over there, but head on over now to check out all the awesome stuff that’s already there!

Now, back to an update on our use of technology in NDEW’s homeschool experience.

First, we still LOVE his Kindle.  Like love it so much that he uses it at least a little every day.  It was so worth the money we spent on it.  Some of our favorite school apps right now are:

  • (Still) 5th grade learning games
  • (Still) Stack the States
  • (Still) Rhythm Cat
  • Jog Nog
  • Grammar Up
  • Arithmemouse
  • All the (free!) classic myths and legends books from around the world (I know it’s not an app, but we still use these a lot!)
  • Notebooks

I have to say a little more about Notebooks:  With this app you create virtual notebooks and can then write information in them.  You can make as many notebooks as you like, for as many subjects as you like.  You can write in each notebook as well as attach things like pictures and drawings.  Here’s the really cool part to me.  You can export the content of each notebook as a pdf (including attached drawings and pictures) and then save it or print it out.  NDEW has five notebooks currently.  They are Khan Science, Khan History, Myths and Legends, Electronics, and Weather.  After he works in one of these subjects he does a brief entry in his notebook describing what he did and what he learned-like a learning journal.  Then, at the end of the year, we’re going to keep the pdf of each as a part of our records for the year.  It’s a great little tool!

Back in October I also mentioned that we were beginning to use Asana as a record keeping and planning tool.  This is working out so well.  Every Sunday night I go into Asana and enter NDEW’s tasks for the upcoming week.  The tasks are organized by “project”.  For us, a project might be a subject or a source of material that NDEW uses.  Some of our projects include (not a full list):

  • Khan Academy Math, Science and History
  • Literature
  • Other Reading
  • Kindle Extras (like the apps I mentioned above)
  • Non-Kindle Extras (like music and karate practice, doing the Wii Fit, even, sometimes cleaning his bathroom!)
  • Other Science
  • Grammar
  • E-Learning for Kids (more about this in a minute)

I set all the due dates in Asana to the Friday of the week and then, each morning NDEW and hubby go online to Asana and select which of the tasks NDEW will do for the day.  At the end of the day, they go in and check of the completed tasks and I get an email showing me what he checked off for the day.  Getting this email helps so much with the “What did you do for school today?” question when I get home.  Even homeschool kids like to give the “some stuff” or “not much” type answers!  Now, I get home and I can say, “So I see you read __________ myth today.  Tell me what happened in the story?”  or “I saw you finished that project today.  Awesome job!  Show it to me!”  As I said before, I use Asana at work but I am SO glad we started using it for homeschooling too!  It’s made planning a lot easier for me!

Lastly, I wanted to share about an online e-learning source we’ve started using.  The website is E-Learning For Kids.  Their content is divided by subject matter and grade level and it’s very well done.  NDEW really enjoys it and it provides great review of concepts for him.  He works on it three times a week.  Best of all it’s FREE!  Yes, that’s right, free.  I seriously kept looking all over the site for some kind of hidden cost, and I haven’t found one yet.  They do ask for donations, but it’s definitely not required.  If you have a kid in preschool-middle school and are at all interested in some online learning content, go over and check it out.

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I would love to hear of any online or technology resources you use in your homeschooling plan, in a classroom, or with your kids.  What are your favorite resources?  Please share!

Getting Back to School

Welcome back to school everyone! We hope you all had a wonderful summer. Ours was very low-key, (as you can tell by the fact that I didn’t post even once on this blog!); It was SO nice. NDEW especially welcomed the downtime after a school year that had been really challenging at times and full of changes. He continued his recorder/music lessons, but other than that, just enjoyed spending time playing Mindcraft, reading lots of books, hanging out, seeing family, etc. We had tons of rain this summer so the outdoor activities were kind of limited unfortunately.

We started our school year two weeks ago and we have definitely decided to make some changes for this year based on what we learned during our first ½ year of homeschooling (January-June 2013).  For one, we are rearranging our school day schedule a little.  We found out last year that Hubby was often interrupted during their morning “classroom time” with work needs.  (Hubby works full-time from home while also homeschooling NDEW.  Isn’t he awesome?!?!)  It seemed that he was most needed to respond to work needs in the morning and he came to realize that he was also more efficient at handling work responsibilities in the mornings.  On the other hand, NDEW is not at his best in the morning, never has been, so we found that he was best able to concentrate on new material in the afternoon.  We moved the activities that NDEW would work on independently to the morning and put the learning of new material that he and Hubby would do together in the afternoon.  The kinds of activities that NDEW does in the morning tend to be review of previously covered material or activities that he easily engages with without much prompting like reading and computer work.

We also discovered last year that NDEW and Hubby like to really dig into their topics.  When we were trying to do several topics a day they always felt like they had just gotten started when it was time to switch to another topic.  Toward the end of last year, they tried out a rotation schedule of subjects where they only covered one subject a day but really got to explore it at depth.  It worked really well so we’re basing their “classroom time” on that schedule this year.  The two exceptions are math and grammar.  I firmly believe that these two subjects require intentional daily practice of skills, so NDEW and Hubby do a little math and a little grammar almost every day.

One of the things that I love most about homeschooling is our ability to tailor NDEW’s instruction not only to provide him support in the areas where he struggles and challenge in the areas where he needs it, but also to arrange a schedule that works best for all involved.  When we first started homeschooling I had in my mind that we really needed to transplant a typical, public school day schedule into our home.  Thank you so much to those who helped us see that that was not the case and who encouraged us to explore what worked best for our family and to think outside the box!

In addition to our regular at-home learning, NDEW is participating in a few outside activities this fall and is really excited about them. First, he is taking a karate class and a painting class through our local homeschool group. The first day of class was last week and he had a blast. The same group is also scheduling monthly activities/outings and NDEW is very excited about taking part in some of those too. We are so blessed to have a group like this to be a part of here! I’m not sure how many families participate in this group, but just to give you an idea of the popularity of homeschooling in our area, there are more than 280 homeschools registered in our county; our county has a population close to 52,000.

NDEW is still also taking music/recorder lessons and is really getting good at reading music and playing his recorder. I don’t dread it when he takes it out to practice any more. His teacher is interested in having him start learning the alto recorder soon so that should be fun too! (How many of you knew there was more than one type of recorder?) He is also interested in learning a new instrument so that might become a spring 2014 project. I won’t give away what he wants to learn, but let’s just say that it relates to his Wallace heritage. 😉

Last but not least, NDEW is trying out for the play being produced by the local children’s theater this winter. His tryouts are on September 22 so send some good vibes his way! We missed auditions for the summer production of Night at the Wax Museum, but NDEW served as an usher and greeter for the three performances (complete with ancient soldier costume) and really enjoyed himself. He’s been in a couple of other productions in the past (not with this theater group) and has had such a great time. He’s never met an audience he doesn’t like. LOL We’re very hopeful that this will be a part of our fall/winter activities too!
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Speaking of fall-just a few leaves have started to turn here in the NC High Country and we’re having some cooler temps in the morning. Are you starting to see signs of fall where you live? I, for one, am looking forward to the new season and we’re all super excited about this new school year. Thanks for continuing on with us on this journey!

Our Homeschool Space

When we decided to start homeschooling NDEW I went online and started looking at all the beautiful pictures of amazing homeschool rooms.  Then I looked around at our house and thought “Yea, right!”  As I mentioned in the “About Our Family” section, we live in a cute little house in the mountains of NC.  It’s the perfect house for us.  Not a lot of extra room to fill up with stuff (or to have to clean!).  It’s two bedrooms and two baths, with a living/dining/kitchen combo room and it’s right around 1100 square feet.  The rooms are good sized with some nice closets, but there definitely isn’t a lot of extra space.  This definitely meant that we did not have a whole room to dedicate to NDEW’s homeschooling.  Hubby works from home and doesn’t even have a separate room for his office, so we definitely don’t have an extra room for homeschooling.

As we thought further about our homeschool space needs we came to the following conclusions:

1.  For the sanity of all involved, having hubby’s primary work space and NDEW’s primary school space both at the dining room (the only) table, was not a good idea.  Plus, there isn’t much storage in that area and we actually like to eat dinner as a family at that same table at least every now and then.

2.  NDEW would need to do school, for the most part, in a place where there weren’t a lot of toys around visually as a distraction.

3.  We would need to have some easily accessible storage for school materials.

4.  NDEW would need some room to move around as he worked.

5.  We wanted NDEW’s school space to have some good natural light.  My kid definitely needs to see the sun as often as possible.

6.  We didn’t have a bunch of money to spend on new “stuff”.

From this, we developed our plan.  We decided that NDEW’s primary school space would be in his room, although he will certainly be working in other areas as well.  For example, we have one primary family computer (separate from the laptops that hubby and I use for work) and it’s located in the living room.  Also, any especially messy art, science, or cooking projects will not take place in NDEW’s room.  After all, we rent and might like to get a deposit back one day.

The second step of the process was a good clean out of NDEW’s room.  It really needed to be done anyway and this gave us a great excuse to purge the toys.  Four bags of stuff for Goodwill!   Where does all this stuff come from?!?!?  As I mentioned, we are blessed with great closets in this house.  NDEW doesn’t have tons of clothes so we had lots of extra room in his closet.  The majority of the toys that remained after the purge went into the closet.  Out of sight, out of mind…hopefully-at least during “school” times!

Then came the organizing of the school stuff.  We decided for the time being to use an old library desk that we already had as NDEW’s school desk.  We placed it by a big window that gives great natural light and put some shelves beside it to house educational games, puzzles, some Legos, and NDEW’s microscope that he got for Christmas from his Meemaw.

We are also lucky in that NDEW’s bed has built in storage-four small drawers at the end of the bed and two large drawers on the side.  Into these drawers went math materials, science materials, office supplies, paper and notebooks, and art supplies.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to buy any of this stuff as I already had some things from my days in the classroom.  I know we’ll add materials as we go on, but we definitely feel like we had enough to start off on a great foot.  NDEW also already had a large bookshelf in his room, so we organized the books a little better and have a great start to our homeschool library.

Last but on least, we put a few things up on the walls including some reminders and some pictures NDEW had made that he liked, and we were all done!

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Soon-to-be-purchased future additions include a larger, wall-hung dry erase board and a bird feeder right outside the window, but we all definitely felt that it was a great little space to get started on this journey together!

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