Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

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

Archive for the tag “planning”

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!

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Time for an Update! (With lots of pictures!)

Wow! How quickly time flies! I didn’t realize that it had been three weeks since I posted an update. Things are still going really, really well. Every day we grow even more thankful that we made the decision to homeschool. We knew that it would impact NDEW’s education, but we didn’t realize the impact it would have on our entire family. Our family is so much calmer. I cannot tell you how much I don’t miss the race to get out the door in the morning. We also have so much more time together as a family. I know that sounds like a “duh” kind of statement, but it’s true. We can do things together in the evenings, and not worry about fitting homework in or if bedtime is a little later. Our daily conversations don’t revolve as much around schedules, due dates, keeping up with paperwork and assignments, what money is due when for which event at school… Now we actually talk about what Nathaniel’s learning, leading to some great discussions. We see him extending his learning, especially math, into everyday life situations. Most importantly to us, we see NDEW’s natural curiosity coming back and his ability to handle stress and anxiety increasing. I don’t think we’ve regretted this decision once in the past two months.
In the past few weeks since I posted, we traveled to Pinehurst, NC for NDEW to be evaluated by a pediatric neuropsychologist. We have been working with this doctor for a couple of months now but he has been wonderful in sending us assessments that NDEW could do at home via mail or online. The last bit of the evaluation had to be done face-to-face, so we spent two days in Pinehurst finishing that up. The evaluation went really well, but we won’t have Dr. Franklin’s report for another week or so. I’ll be sure to share what we learn and a little more about what made us decide to seek the evaluation (and homeschool) when we have the report in hand, so stay tuned for that. One especially fun part of this trip was the stop we made on the way home at the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, NC. Here’s a picture from our adventure!

Science Museum
As for what we are learning: We still haven’t settled on a set curriculum and, honestly, I don’t think we will, at least for the remainder of this year. We’re still learning lots though! NDEW is still studying Colonial America but has gotten more into what day-to-day life was like then. In science we have moved on from astronomy and are now studying meteorology. We’re focusing mostly on extreme weather right now but starting to explore other topics as well. We’re approaching math in a couple of different ways. First, we are using the book G is for Googol and NDEW and hubby are going through it a few pages/topics a week. It’s been a really fun way to explore some new math topics. For instance, they made and learned how to use an abacus a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a picture!

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We’re also studying fractions, decimals, percentages and how they all are related to one another. One thing NDEW did was an activity where he had to put clothespins with different decimals on them in order. Here’s a picture of that activity.

clothespin math
In geography we are studying US geography and, as I mentioned in my last post, receiving postcards from all over the country. This is such a fun project and NDEW is learning so much! I think we have around 75 postcards so far from over 30 states!

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In addition, NDEW has been doing tons of reading. We are soooo lucky to have the ASU library as a resource here in our community. We go weekly and NDEW has already read several good books he got there, not to mention all the great nonfiction resources to use!

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Add in homeschool association music class, ASU homeschool PE class, skiing lessons, and Wednesday night church activities and there is lots of fun learning going on around here! Not to mention that we don’t have to take snow days…..Poor kids in public school around here are going to be going to school until mid-June, are looking at some Saturday classes, and are looking at losing a couple of days from their spring break. Yikes! Yet another homeschooling benefit for our family!

Our plan….for now!

One thing we’ve realized from the start is that it would take some time for all of us, the least of which being NDEW, to make the transition from an away-from-home education to an at-home education.  For many, many years, our school life has focused on the schedules and requirements of someone else teaching NDEW.  This doesn’t even get into the fact that hubby and I both attended public school from kindergarten to 12th grade so we don’t know anything else either!

When we started planning this transition it was really, really tempting to just transplant NDEW’s school schedule to home.  Times, subjects, and all.  As a former public school teacher, my first inclination was to break out all of those planning resources and use them to educate my kid.  Luckily, we kept reading and realized that, if we did that, we would not only miss the opportunity to offer NDEW what we feel he really needs but we would also miss the beautiful freedom that homeschooling gives us to allow NDEW to direct a good portion of his education.  As we were reading we came across a great article that said what has become our (at least for right now) homeschooling motto.

It’s not about what we can teach NDEW, it’s about what he can learn.
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It’s not about what information NDEW can retain it’s about whether or not he’s learning to learn.

So with that as our background, we started reconsidering our plan.  Now, I fully expect that this plan will change again, possibly even by the end of the week!  What’s that saying…”No plan survives first contact, in tact.”?  But here’s our plan as we get started:

  1.  NDEW will be participating in a music class and a PE class with other local homeschool kids.  This is in addition to other evening activities that we already do, like church.  We fully plan to plug in to other local homeschool co-ops and activities as time goes on and as we settle on a more set schedule and curriculum.
  2. We will start each day with a “100 minute homeschool”.  Hubby and NDEW will do four, 25-minute lessons at the beginning of each day.  Each day will always include math and writing.  The other two lessons for each day will rotate through history, science, geography, reading, and spelling/vocabulary.  These lessons will be a combination of lessons that hubby leads NDEW through and independent work for NDEW.
  3. Wednesdays will look a little different than other days.  Hubby has a lot of conference calls on Wednesdays so NDEW will do quite a bit of online skill practice on Wednesdays.
  4. Each day will include an 1.5 to 2 hour “time out” period.  The point of this time is for computers, TVs, phones, etc. to be off (unless the computer is needed for research) and for hubby and NDEW to do something very hands-on together.  NDEW will actually take the lead in planning this time at the beginning of each week.  I have made up a list of suggestions for this time, but just to get the creative juices flowing.  We really want NDEW to take direction of this time, including planning what they will do and what materials they’ll need to do it.  We realize it might take a while to fully get to this point.   We’re thinking this time will include building stuff, reading, making things, cooking, science experiments, etc.
  5. Each day also has an afternoon activity time that’s designed to get hubby and NDEW out of the house.  This time could include running errands (How about a budgeting and math lesson at the grocery store? ) but also could include going to the library, volunteering at the humane society, going for a hike, going swimming, etc.  We do know that it won’t be possible for them to get out every day based on weather or hubby’s work schedule, and we have some options for that as well.

So that’s our plan right now!  For all you veteran homeschool parents out there who may read this, please don’t laugh.  Remember we’re new at this!  I’m sure we’ll look back at this plan in a few months and laugh at it too!  This is going to be a learning experience for all of us!

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