Thursday, October 24, 2013

Homeschooling: According to Me

When I told my sister we were getting chickens she burst out laughing. She said something along the lines of, "not only are you homeschooling, but now you are going to have chickens" and then continued to laugh. It's okay. I spend most days thinking I'm crazy, too.

Never in my wildest dreams did I even consider homeschooling. Not that I didn't love and adore Isabella after she was born, but I really couldn't wait until the day she would be old enough to go to school. I was counting down the years until I could go to graduate school, or get a job and finally become a real adult. Some days I dream about walking around campus again, being challenged by favorite professors, and working toward a goal to teach in a University, but I know that right now what I want most is to be present for my family.

The decision to keep Isabella out of public and private schools did not come lightly. After a lot of prayer and weighing all of the options, homeschooling seemed like the best choice. I told Walter I would do it for one year and then we'd reevaluate. Here's the thing, I don't do things like this half way, so if I say I'm going to homeschool, you better believe I'm going to research the socks off of homeschooling. Full speed ahead--there's no stopping me. I'm not joking, I have Isabella's schooling planned out until high school graduation. I'm not saying she's going to stay at home until then, but just in case. During my research I found that I cannot possibly prepare for the elementary years without simultaneously looking ahead to what she would need in order to successfully complete middle school and high school.

In addition to researching curricula, I decided to take a look at how other moms plan out their day of schooling at home. That's when I met some crazy people. Moms who wake up hours earlier than their children just so they can get a head start on the way. Clearly, those moms drug their children before bedtime so that they can actually sleep all night--what a luxury. As wonderful as it sounds, there is no way I am purposefully waking up before my kids. Isaac has taken a liking to a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call, so I'd have to wake-up around 2:00 a.m. to get anything done...yeah right. I quickly gave up on reading all about other moms with perfect schedules because I like to enjoy my coffee and read a couple chapters each morning and there's no way anyone is going to make me feel bad about that. So, when we can, we take our time in the morning.

What exactly do we do? If you are knowledgeable of any homeschooling theory, we are a mix of Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. When people ask me what curriculum we use, I shy away from giving an answer unless I know that they are a homeschooling family. Basically, if you aren't familiar with what's out there in terms of building a curriculum, you aren't going to understand what I'm talking about anyway. Most people are familiar with on-line programs, which I am not opposed to, but they're not for me. After a lot of mind-numbing research I built my own curriculum and this is what it includes:

All About Reading, Level 2 -- This is a wonderful, multi-sensory approach to learning phonics. We will finish Level 2 in a few weeks.
All About Spelling, Level 1 -- A multi-sensory approach to spelling. We will finish Level 1 in a few weeks.
Story-time Treasures and soon, More Story-time Treasures
First Language Lessons For the Well Trained Mind, Level 1
Writing With Ease, Level 1
SRA Phonics -- This is not a book with which to learn phonics. I use it as reinforcement and as "busy work" because now I understand that teachers give busy work just to keep kids quiet. I employ the same reasoning.
Horizons Math 1, Book 2
Life of Fred, Apples
Tapestry of Grace -- This should probably have its own blog post since it is a very interesting program. Basically, TOG, as people call it, covers history, geography, literature, grammar, philosophy, art enrichment, Church history and Bible.
Apologia Science, Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day
Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks

These are some books I've read that have helped me figure out what I'm doing and why:

The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
Educating the WholeHearted Child: Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life! WholeHearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4-14 by Clay and Sally Clarkson
For the Children's Sake: Foundation of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Some pictures related and unrelated to homeschooling:

Our first history unit is called: The Books of Moses, so we've read a lot about Egypt. Isabella had fun building this sugar cube pyramid.

We also did this science experiment/history project of mummifying apples:

Last week I thought I would try to win the Parent Award of the Day (since Walter is the reigning champion) so I took the kids to the zoo. It rained the entire time but we still had fun. This penguin was so funny because it followed Isabella's hand and did flips for her.

Since only crazy people go to the zoo in the rain we had the place to ourselves.


Isabella's ability to read more complex words and sentences has really taken off in the last few weeks. She spends a lot of time arranging her books and planning what she will read next.

Stella is thinking she really just wants a second chance at snatching a chicken.

These are old pictures that never made it to an earlier post...

I've held Isabella off long enough--time to play the grocery game.


Saturday, October 12, 2013


I don't think I've ever abandoned my blog for three weeks, but such is life. Life has been busy and I haven't been getting enough sleep, thanks to my charming three year old who does not believe sleep is important, but I am constantly reminding myself that our daily (and nightly) life is so much better than it ever has been, so I can survive this as well. 

I am going to offer a quick update and a bunch of pictures before resuming a (somewhat) regular blogging schedule. I know my Grandma and my siblings will be very grateful.  

Isaac continues to love preschool and expresses renewed excitement every Tuesday and Thursday morning when we announce that it is a school day. He is achieving new goals in therapy and is currently working on: self-regulation (major success in this area), walking up and down stairs with help (he still breaks out in a sweat and needs quite a bit of trunk support when it comes to walking down steps, but he is doing very well going up steps), touching food, speech and oral motor skills, counting, colors and self-helping skills (bathing, dressing, etc.--we are a long way off from independence). I could list many more things that his wonderfully talented therapists are working on, but those are the highlights. 

Isabella is doing incredibly well in first grade (here at home, of course). This year is so much better than last year, and also more fun for me because she is reading and writing and doing amazing things in math. She loves to explore and has recently created her own field journal where unprompted, she gathered her materials and raced outside to observe, document, tape, glue, and draw her discoveries. This time last year, she was still learning to count to one hundred and could only read one to three words, so exciting things are happening. One of these days I will get around to detailing our approach to homeschooling and also the books/resources we use in our day to day schooling. We do have our challenges. I believe it was last Monday when she announced she was quitting school forever. In these cases I tell her she can either get her school work done or take a nap. Since a nap is basically a death sentence she always chooses to complete her school work. If she ever chooses to take a nap I'll now something is seriously wrong with her. 

Isabella reads to Isaac for at least twenty minutes every day. They snuggle in bed together and at the end of each book Isaac shouts, "read book, read book!"

Some Fall Fest Fun:

I still can't believe it was just a year ago that Isaac could barely stand being outside for more than five minutes. He and Isabella happily play outside together for an hour at a time and it is so fun listening to the things they come up and how she readily involves him in her play. 

My father-in-law decided this tree needed to go. I don't always understand his reasoning for chopping down trees, but Isabella had a blast playing in it and in this picture she is pretending to be a sloth. 

I've decided that a little bit of time painting can make everyone happy. On this particular day I was struggling to keep them both occupied so I pulled out the watercolors and turned Isabella's painting time into a history project (we are studying Egypt). Win-win situation. I always ask Isaac to tell me what he made with his painting and this one is a "Firetruck" or in his words, "Woo-Woo". 

My friends are probably tired of hearing talk about how amazing the program All About Reading is, but seriously, it's amazing. This activity is all about practicing the hard and soft sounds of 'c'. 

 Annual Apple Picking. Bonus: This was the first year Isaac didn't spend most of the time crying! 

Field Journal: 
"a tree has lots uv bugs and bark."

Isaac really only cared about getting his turn with the magnifying glass. I know we have a bigger one around here somewhere. 

As you can see, Isaac's reading skills are so advanced he doesn't even need to look at the words. 

That's all for now.