Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday's Top 10: Why Homeschooling Is Right For Us

Tuesday's Top 10 is a new series of posts I am looking forward to creating.  I will look at many different aspects of homeschooling and family life and record our favorite top ten.  Over the last couple of weeks I have been brainstorming and compiling a list of "Why We Love Homeschooling."  I pray this encourages someone who is thinking of homeschooling their children.  I also hope this helps people outside the homeschooling community understand our commitment to homeschooling.

Top 10 Reasons Why Homeschooling Is Right For Us 
(and these are in no particular order)

1.  It creates strong family bonds.  Since our homeschool journey began, we have seen relationships strengthen...both between siblings and parent-child.  We have always been a tight-knit group, and homeschooling has only solidified those ties.

2.  The Bible can be the center of our curriculum.  All aspects of our learning can be tied back to scriptures and our growth in Christ.

3.  We are able to choose what our children learn and how they learn.  Parents have complete freedom over what subjects are taught, which curriculum to use, and the scope and sequence of information.  We also can decide how to deliver the information to our children...using whatever means is best depending on their learning style. 

4.  Our children receive one-on-one attention to address both strengths and weaknesses.  For example:  a 1st grader can be reading on a 2nd grade reading level, completing science on a 3rd grade level, and reviewing phonics skills from Kindergarten.      

5.  Homeschooling removes the constant, daily influence of secular culture.  I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.  

6.  There is no morning rush to get everyone to school before 8:00.

7.  We can have school on the couch in our pajamas.

8.  I know that we are in the will of God. Sometimes there is uncertainty, chaos, interruptions, disorganization, and fatigue.  But knowing we are in the will of God gives us a peace that cannot be undone.

9.   Eccentricities can flourish.  Dramatic play, storytelling, imaginations, and creative learning aren't stifled by schedules, the need to be quiet, and being lost in the crowd.

10.  There is lots of time for play!!!  Being done by lunch allows us to have time for tons of creative play, exercise, family field trips, vacations, and play time with friends.

Tune back in next Tuesday for ways the husband can help with homeschooling! ;)



Monday, August 27, 2012

St. Augustine: History Comes Alive

Early American Pioneers and Patriots...that is the focus of our history for 1st grade.  We will spend the year looking back at early settlements, pioneers, and important events from 1565-1800s.   As we are reading from our living books, I talk with Old Crow about creating a picture in his mind.  We try to have a mental picture of the people and places we are reading about.  Actually visiting the places and seeing reenactments of famous American events will help solidify his learning (and it doesn't hurt for Mom and Dad to review either).  The first week in our Heart of Dakota (Beyond) guide focused on the Spanish Pioneers Settling St. Augustine.  So we decided to plan a trip to St. Augustine!  

Our first visit was to Fort Matanzas...a fort built by the Spanish to guard from the invading British. A short ferry ride delivered us to this wonderful piece of history.

We were met by a Spanish soldier who began our tour by stating the requirements for becoming a Spanish soldier...Old Crow met one.  He has at least 4 teeth!  (Can you imagine?!?)

We got up close and personal with the cannons.  We learned they could shoot over a mile, and just the gun itself weighs over 3000 lbs.  So the soldiers used a pulley system with ropes to get it on the fort.

Inside the barracks were the beds and fireplace...with a big iron kettle just like we read about.

The boys took a peak from the guard's tower.

 Our next visit was to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. This is the site were the Spanish created the first settlement in 1565.  On the site we found a Timucua Indian village...those the Spanish encountered when they came to the New Land.  We saw how they once lived and hunted.  The boys loved seeing him practice with the bow and arrow.  He also demonstrated the use of an atlatl...a hunting tool that came before the bow.

We also saw Spanish cannons and watched a cannon firing demonstration.  El Fuego!!

Just for fun we also threw in a visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, miniature golf, and of course the beach!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Routine with Workboxes

For some moms creating a routine and schedule can be one of the most important parts of the homeschooling day.  Without a routine, disorganization and chaos can soon follow.  I have found that a routine works better for my family instead of having a strict schedule with time increments.  For example, we know the order of events and how long each will take, but some mornings we may start at 9:00 and some mornings we may start at 9:30.  This allows for interruptions and appointments to occur without making me crazy because I'm 5 minutes late for starting science.

The workbox system helps us organize our subjects and place them in order to be completed.  
Here is a look at how we took the Heart of Dakota guide and divided it into workboxes.  

Learning Through History (approximately 45 minutes)
Workbox 1:  Reading About History
Workbox 2:  Rotation Box (Science, Art, Geography, History)
Workbox 3:  Poetry and Rhymes
Workbox 4:  Bible Study and Music 

Snack Time 10 minutes

Learning The Basics (approximately 1 ½ hours)
Workbox 5:  Spelling (Grammar on Friday) 15 minutes
Workbox 6:  Copywork (Fun/free box on Friday) 10 minutes
Workbox 7:  Reading (Phonics & Emerging Readers) 25 min.
Workbox 8:  Math 20 minutes
Workbox 9:  Storytime 15-20 minutes

Extra Activities (approximately 20-30 minutes)
Workbox 10:  Monday:  PE
                      Tuesday:  Nature Study
                      Wednesday:  Art
                      Thursday:  Thinking Skills
                      Friday:  PE

Our workbox system is this 10 drawer rolling cart.  Each box holds the necessary items for that subject.  Even if there are no items in the box, Old Crow can look at the subject card on the front of the box and know what is about to be covered, what area of the house/room to go to, etc.  

Here is a closer look inside our workboxes.

Hopefully this will help some Heart of Dakota users see how the workbox system can be implemented with the curriculum. :)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our 1st Week With Heart of Dakota

Our first week of school went off without a hitch.  We opened up the guide to Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory and jumped right in!  It was such a relief to know that I had before me a well-organized, Christ-centered, complete plan for teaching.  

Here are some of the highlights of our week with 
Unit 1:  Pioneers From Spain Settle St. Augustine.

History:  Old Crow and I read about life and struggles aboard ships headed for Florida.  We learned what trials the pioneers faced and how, like them, we can also rely on God during times of uncertainty.  He began a timeline.  Throughout the year, we will continue to add important events in early American history.

At the end of the week, he completed a notebooking page to review what we learned during the week.  We will compile all the notebooking pages together in a History folder.  This is something extra we added to the guide.  You can find these pages here.

Old Crow is drawing the path the pioneers took from Spain to St. Augustine.  

Science:  Old Crow experimented with a boat, turkey baster, and a tub of water.  He learned about ocean currents and visually recognized how a boat can move through water due to currents.

We also discussed blubber in whales, sharks, and other ocean life.  Old Crow coated one hand in Crisco (blubber) and the other remained blubber free. He then placed both hands in ice cold water.  He described what occurred to his hands.  "The blubber is a little cold.  But my other hand is FREEZING!!!!"  This one didn't last long because he wasn't about to leave his hand in the ice water any longer than necessary.  :)

Bible:  We memorized Psalm 4:8 "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  Old Crow enjoyed thinking of hand motions to go along with the scripture and here he is reciting it.

Each week I will write the Bible verse on sentence strips and place in this pocket chart.  We read it together and create hand motions.  It also allows us to manipulate the pieces to help him put the verse in order.  He loves for me to hide them around the room...he searches for them and then puts it into the correct order.

Poetry and Writing:  Our poem for this week was "The Storm."  It went perfectly with our history readings and our current weather.  I am surprised how much Old Crow enjoys the poetry section.  He likes reading it aloud with me, acting it out, and creating his own poems.  Each day he copied a portion of the poem and then drew an illustration.

 Art:  He created a shield with symbols representing Psalm 18.  We read this scripture together and discussed how the pioneers may have experienced similar feelings as King David.  His shield has a star, fort, and a rock.

"The Lord is my rock and fortress, and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Reading/Language Arts:  Old Crow read aloud from his Early Reader's Bible.  I highly recommend this children's Bible.  Each Bible story is 3-4 pages and then discussion questions and applications follow.  Awesome!

Early Readers Bible

We also began All About Spelling, which practices both phonics and spelling skills.

For storytime, I began our genre of biography, and we are reading William Henry Harrison.  Storytime incorporates many important skills:  story elements, narration, and character education.  This week we focused on main characters and our Godly character trait was responsibility.

For grammar, we discussed the difference between a sentence and a fragment.  

Math:  We are using Singapore Math this year (it is recommended by Heart of Dakota).  It is a change for us, but so far so good.  It is a review for Old Crow at this point, but new skills will begin soon.

And that is an overview of our 1st week with Heart of Dakota.  Our "school day" goes by quickly which allows us to have time for PE, nature studies, and free time. :)

We are off to a great start!  

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's a Celebration!

Well, we made it!!  The first week of school has come to an end.  I am so proud of all three kiddos...each morning they woke up eager and excited about school.  Next week may be a different story ;)
So to celebrate our first week of school, we had a pizza and movie party!!  

While all the boys went to buy a small fishing boat (a treat by itself), Memphis Belle and I blew up balloons.  I always try to keep a helium tank in the house for special occasions like birthdays, spur-of-the-moment parties, etc.  I usually buy this tank from our local Dollar General.

We ordered pizza and decorated the table.  We wanted to surprise the boys when they came home. :)

And they were thrilled!  This was a well-deserved treat for them, and one that I (as their mom and teacher) was honored to do for them.

After dinner, it was movie time.  They chose Bob the Builder: The Big Dino Dig.  It was a perfect combination of the boys' favorite things...construction trucks and dinosaurs.   

We love celebrations.  We find joy in celebrating the big milestones in life along with the everyday events.  

"Celebrate, good times, come on!  It's a celebration!"


Monday, August 13, 2012

First Day Success!

Today was our first official day of the 2012-2013 school year.  Crazy Horse and Memphis Belle were excited to see their teachers and friends at our church preschool.  They will be there from 8:45-11:45.  Old Crow also enjoyed seeing the teachers he had in past years.  I am so thankful for this ministry in our church.  It has built a strong foundation in Old Crow...one that we can now build on at home.  

Crazy Horse is in Pre-K with a wonderful teacher we adore.  One of the main reasons we wanted him to remain in the church preschool instead of coming home was this particular teacher.  I am an advocate for homeschooling. We have found tremendous value in learning at home, but I also never want to minimize and overlook the gifts and God-given talent in others. 

Memphis Belle is in the 2 yr. class with many friends she sees in Sunday School.  She heard music and immediately started dancing in hallway.  We're going to get this girl into some dance classes. ;)

Once we got them settled in their classes, we came home and Old Crow began his 1st day as well.  He was so excited!  Heart of Dakota is a wonderful program and our first day was a success.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quiet Time Boxes

Quiet time bins and busy bags are all the craze right now.  If you look on blogs or Pinterest, you are sure to see a wide variety of them.  In the past when I've seen pictures of them, I've thought they were a great idea but they also seemed like a lot of effort on my part.  So I stored the idea for a later time.  

Recently, these quiet time boxes have been on my mind more and more.  My boys no longer take naps...for that matter they don't even have "quiet time" in their rooms.  With our electronics becoming overused and the weather too hot for much outside time, I began to see the value of a ready made activity box that they could use independently.  So I jumped on this idea and within one day was able to put together 6 quiet time boxes for Old Crow and 6 for Crazy Horse.  

Step 1:  I went to Walmart and bought plastic containers.  I wanted them to be large enough to hold bulky items like puzzles, but not too big to cause a storage problem.  Walmart had these containers in packages of 2 so I bought 6 blue ones for Old Crow and 6 clear ones for Crazy Horse.  While different colors aren't necessary, they help to quickly identify whose boxes belong to who.  It also makes it easier when loading them with activities.    

Step 2:  I began to look through all of the fun activities and learning games we have in the house.  Some I had previously bought to use with homeschooling and we just never had time to get to them regularly.  I didn't have to purchase anything new to fill the boxes.  I put 3-4 activities in each box and they were all things we had around the house.  Loved it!  I was so happy at the thought of the learning games we already had being put to use.  

Here's a look at what I packed in the boxes (and what I have ready to switch out in 1-2 weeks):

File folder games already made...shapes, colors, numbers, phonics, etc.
Plastic eggs
Assortment of small toy animals
Playdough and playdough mats: Create a face, girafferabbit
Legos or blocks with a task card...build a bridge, make this pattern, etc.
Felt picnic:  each food bagged separately
Travel size Aqua Doodle
Crayons and coloring book
Deck of cards
Tape measure
Fabric world map
Find It games (or make your own)
Peek-a-boo bags (or make your own)
Colored paper clips to match with colored paint strips

Step 3: I printed number cards to attach to each box.  Some pictures of quiet time boxes show Monday, Tuesday, etc. on each box.  Most likely, these will not be used everyday of the week so I chose numbers instead.  Then I found a permanent location to keep the boxes.  This closet between the boys' bedrooms is a perfect place.  

Step 4:  Let the fun begin.  :)  The first day we brought our boxes down to the living room and worked through them together.  
I explained the rules: 
1.  everything that comes out of a bag goes back in the bag
2.  play with whatever you want as long as you want
3.  if you want to climb into bed that is fine. ;)  

Ideally, these will be used in their own bedrooms while Memphis Belle is napping.  It will give them time alone to rest their bodies.  If they want to play with something in their room that is fine.  This isn't a requirement. :)  Although, they are excited about the "surprises" in their box.  

It will also be a perfect solution to rainy day boredom.  They can bring them downstairs, and we can all play them together.  The beauty is that they can be used in many ways and places.