Learning

Homeschool Curriculum I Love.

Just this school year I feel I've worked out the kinks when it comes to curriculum for Elementary ages.  

 

It only took me five years of lots of trial and error, research, reviews, talking to other mamas, buying, ordering, trips to consignment sales and homeschool stores. It's been quite the process.

 

Rule 1: what works for me and my children may not work for you.  

Rule 2: try to figure out your child's learning style BEFORE spending hundreds on a curriculum they'll end up hating. Go here for a short quiz to find your child's learning style.

Rule 3: think outside the box.  

When I say think outside the box, what I mean is take that traditional school experience that you carry with you all of the time in terms of the word "school"...got it?...now toss it in a pit and light it on fire. 

 

Let it burn.  

 

If homeschooling was supposed to look like public/traditional school, then why bother homeschooling?!  

 

You have the opportunity to give your child a catered-to, rich, conclusive education enhanced by the vast experiences that come from home life. 

 

Traditional school (i.e. Public education, charter schools [most of them], and Private schools) was founded with the hopes of offering free education to all. And while education is very important in society, the way we go about educating is even more so. Check out this piece on the in's and out's about our current educational model.

 

The "free" public school system really costs almost $10,000 of our tax dollars per U.S. student, per year.  That's more than most private school's charge for a years worth of education. I'm not sure just where all of that money is going to, but our educational system is a mess and we have too many underpaid teachers to charge that much per student. 

 

Now, before y'all blast me over traditional schooling, I'm not against it. There are awesome teachers out there, classrooms that move a lot and have hands on learning. There are entire schools that have broken out of the mold that our current model suggests. These are the rare exception, unfortunately. 

 

With five children, I save the state about $50,000 a year, spend $1,000 in that year for our homeschooling materials, curriculum, co-op fees, extracurriculars, and field trips, but receive zero tax breaks for doing so. 

 

There's a mystery I cannot grasp my head around.  

 

But, it's worth it. Highly so. And with that said, let me break down for you my favorite curriculums (so far) for Elementary aged children. [I cannot speak for any middle or high school curriculum...yet, anyway].

 

Core Curriculum 

My heart beats for Heart of Dakota brand curriculum.  

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This award-winning curriculum is perfect for children close in age. Up to three grades apart can use the same core book. 

The way it works is each day has lesson plans laid out for you in each subject: history, science, bible, math, English, art/music/poetry, reading, and handwriting. 

Heres a sample page: 

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I use this book, which has lessons for 33 weeks and can be spread out to be completed in two years, instead of one, as my foundation. It's my base. It's my GO-TO for ideas. It's my springboard. It's my teacher assistant. It's glorious because it's done all of the work for me.  

 

As a group we do history and science together. Yes, I teach my fourth grader and Kindergartener and preschoolers the same history and science lessons. BUT they don't all have to do the same activities or assignments within that lesson. That's where Heart of Dakota gives you freedom to pick and choose what you want to do for each child. 

 

Heart of Dakota suggests many different supplemental texts for each subject. Like they recommend Singapore math and give the assignment for that day. But I never use Singapore math, and so while I may do the suggested math activity in the math box, I assign the children their own math assignments from the curriculum we've chosen specifically for their learning styles.  

 

The whole left side of every daily plan is solely history based. This curriculum doesn't skimp on the history. No sir. It's the core of what we do. Then the right side is called Learning the Basics and always includes English, science, math, and reading activities.  

 

Phonics/Language Arts/English

 

For Kindergarten/First Grades I use Explode the Code  set of books. We just start as little Kinders and begin with Get Ready for the Code and go all the way thru to level 8 of Explode the Code. 

 

They also offer an online version, as of recently that I have yet to try. Just go to www.explodethecode.com  

 

For reading, I love 100 Easy Lessons so much. In 100 lessons, your child can go from not reading at all to second grade level by the end of the program. Love it. It's been used three times with my oldest three and works very well.  

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Teaching your child how to read takes a spoon full of sugar and big spoonful of patience. But boy is it fulfilling. I dare you not to cry when your little one reads her first book thru knowing that YOU taught them how. It's awesome sauce! 

 

For reading beyond the 100 Lessons book, I highly highly highly highly highly recommend Life of Fred Eden Series. I know, you're sick of hearing about Fred. Then maybe you should just buy Fred and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. These reading books (not math books) are HILARIOUS and perfect for emerging readers. The artwork is colorful and odd and so fun. We can't get enough of this 18 book set.  

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Grades 2 and up I love Rod and Staff English.  

 Sometimes, the best books are black and white, boring, and to the point. I've tried other English/Phonics programs and they had lovely colorful, bright pages and worksheets. But my children always got distracted by the colors and fun-ness of the pages that they didn't complete their work diligently. 

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Horizons is one of those curriculums that I spent a lot of money on five years ago, and my child was just sitting down doing colorful worksheets all day long. It didn't work for us. If you're the type that enjoys colorful worksheet type instruction, then Horizons is for you.  

 

Math 

For Kindergarteners, I really don't force the issue. I make a lot of practical math applications thru daily life. We practice writing numbers, basic addition, maybe a hint of subtraction, counting, and comparisons. I'm really lax, overall, with my K's. Play school is still most of their learning, along with lots of reading, and some pre-writing/writing exercises. So I don't use a formal math curriculum with this age group.   

 

First grades and up use Life of Fred. Um, it's amazing. Like times infinity my favorite part of homeschooling besides teaching history. I absolutely LOVE Fred, and my second grade son is obsessed with math now because of him. Just buy all the Fred stuff because you won't regret a dime of it.  

 

Starting in third grade, and because I had yet to learn about Fred, I started with Teaching Textbooks. It's an amazing, amazing computer based math curriculum that keeps grades and records for you. I love it so much and my fourth grader does so well with it I didn't have the heart to switch him to Fred. It's completely different than Fred, but it's equally as loved. Well, almost. 

 

Science  

 I do a lot of science experiments. We also follow Heart of Dakotas science suggestions as much as possible, too. 

 

Elementary aged students LOVE The Magic School Bus science kits. Holy cow do we love these. The only one that was a little bit sketchy was the dinosaur one, but it gave a great opportunity to teach about what evolutionists do believe and how to counter that with the Truth of Creation. These are affordable, hands on kits that are easy for parents and children to do together.  

For a textbook based approach, Apologia anything is awesomeThis year, our co-op (I'll explain a co-op in the next post) is doing Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. It's such a great science curriculum that's Creation based and very thorough. 

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You can even buy these very cool large spiral science notebooks that pair with the text for additional science fun. Very cool.  

You can even buy these very cool large spiral science notebooks that pair with the text for additional science fun. Very cool.  

 History 

 For K/1st, History for Little Pilgrims is awesome! If you buy the packet, it comes with a teachers guide and a coloring book.

 

For 2nd and up, A First Book in American HistoryAmericans Pioneers and Patriots , annnnndddd all of the other amazing history books out there. ;) I just love history! 

 

The possibilities for teaching history are somewhat endless. Charlie Brown even has a series of historical figures cartoons that are hilarious and very educational. Those can be found on Amazon Prime on your smart tv. There's YouTube videos, documentaries, Civil War Reenactments (if you live in the south), museums, field trips, biographies, and experiences that will offer your child a very rich understanding of times past.  

 

 Spelling/Vocabulary/Handwriting  

After much trial and error. Okay, more error than trial, I finally found a spelling curriculum that I like. It's called Spelling By Sound and Structure, also by Rod and Staff.  

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A Reason for Handwriting is good. People swear by Handwriting Without Tears, although I have yet to try it.  

 

 Final Thoughts 

 Whew! I'm tired. 

 

I hope this is helpful for y'all.  

 

There are large curriculum bundles for homeschoolers that you can just buy and go for it. But, I've chosen a different way because I seriously want my children to have the best homeschooling experience I can give them. I've done the big, expensive packets and I haven't liked that as much as I do in having a foundation piece and then building my own HOMEschool with my favorite materials.  

 

You may choose a different way, and guess what?! THAT's OKAY!!!!! It's beautiful that we have the freedom to pick and choose and learn from what worked and what didn't from other homeschool parents. 

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post all about logistics/getting started and I may just add on a final post for all of this homeschool lingo. 

 

Please share this post. And for all of you homeschoolers, cause I know you're out there, share below what YOUR favorites are!!

 

I love you. Please share. It took forever to write. Like five hours forever.

 

Happy Homeschooling!

Alicia  

 

 

The Beauty of Homeschooling.

I come from a family that highly values Christian education. 

 

All growing up, there was this negative stigma that came with our encounters with homeschoolers. I, naturally, came to ignorantly believe that homeschoolers were weird, dumb, weird, unfortunate, weird, awkward, and weird.  

 

Never ever ever would I ever consider homeschooling for my children someday. 

 

Besides, doesn't every mother look forward to that day when their child is gone into someone else's care all day?! I mean, after five long years of correction, training, staying up all night, changing diapers, simmering down tantrums, and countless play dates, you're tired and all-day school will finally free you up to start a new career, a hobby, and finally get some things done without a baby, toddler, or preschooler underfoot. 

 

And why would you homeschool? Homeschoolers are weird. And you don't want your child to turn out like them...you want your child socialized, tested, and able to meet educational standards.  

 

Where does one begin, anyway?! You may not have a college degree, the know-how, or the ability to even teach your child, right?!  

 

This series of posts will help turn the tables on the many lies you've encountered about homeschooling and homeschoolers. And how you, yes you, can make homeschooling the most awesome, least awkward thing ever. 

 

As I was digging thru the past five years of homeschooling photos, I must confess that I broke down. The tears flowed as I was reminded of all of the wonderful memories we've shared over this journey I swore I'd never take. 

 

Some days, I want to pull my hair out. I question everything. I mean ev.er.y.thing.  

 

Last year, I'll be honest, I was a disaster. But these kiddos, by God's sufficient grace, did amazing despite my failures.  

 

It was proven when Hunter tested for the last school year and got in the 99% percentile for all areas except one. That's God's grace. I cried on that one, too. 

 

Homeschooling really is beautiful. It is. It's not just sitting down all day and doing book work. No. Not even close. It's mother (and fathers)  and children interacting in God's creation, reading stories of famous American's, making pies and cookies, serving others, discovering together, and learning all of the time. 

 

 

Our very first day of homeschooling, August 2012.  

Our very first day of homeschooling, August 2012.  

Homeschooling is watching butterflies, moths, cocoons, and chrysalises  

Homeschooling is watching butterflies, moths, cocoons, and chrysalises  

Homeschooling is caring for new life.  

Homeschooling is caring for new life.  

Homeschooling is developing a passion. Carter's passion is cooking.  

Homeschooling is developing a passion. Carter's passion is cooking.  

Homeschooling is being together.  

Homeschooling is being together.  

Homeschooling is setting up camp at 10am on a Tuesday.  

Homeschooling is setting up camp at 10am on a Tuesday.  

Homeschooling is understanding where food comes from.  

Homeschooling is understanding where food comes from.  

Homeschooling is French lessons while your little sisters play.  

Homeschooling is French lessons while your little sisters play.  

Homeschooling can be sitting down, but that's kind of rare.  

Homeschooling can be sitting down, but that's kind of rare.  

Homeschooling is creating.  

Homeschooling is creating.  

Homeschooling is painting on a cool, fall day on the porch.  

Homeschooling is painting on a cool, fall day on the porch.  

Homeschooling is Teaching Textbooks math, which is fun and not stressful.  

Homeschooling is Teaching Textbooks math, which is fun and not stressful.  

Homeschooling is baking cookies.  

Homeschooling is baking cookies.  

Homeschooling is watching and waiting patiently.  

Homeschooling is watching and waiting patiently.  

Homeschooling is preparing meals.  

Homeschooling is preparing meals.  

Homeschooling is sometimes a little bit like traditional school, but not really.  

Homeschooling is sometimes a little bit like traditional school, but not really.  

Homeschooling is hands on learning. As much as you want...even in your pajamas. 

Homeschooling is hands on learning. As much as you want...even in your pajamas. 

Homeschooling is the freedom to choose your field trips...and go on as many as you want to.  

Homeschooling is the freedom to choose your field trips...and go on as many as you want to.  

Homeschooling doesn't have to happen at home.  

Homeschooling doesn't have to happen at home.  

Homeschooling is one-on-one, and catered to your learning style.  

Homeschooling is one-on-one, and catered to your learning style.  

Homeschooling means having the most loving teacher in the whole world, who always wants the best for her child.  

Homeschooling means having the most loving teacher in the whole world, who always wants the best for her child.  

Homeschooling is solo cup bowling times.  

Homeschooling is solo cup bowling times.  

Homeschooling is making co-op lunches. 

Homeschooling is making co-op lunches. 

Homeschooling is about learning whatever you want...whenever you want.  

Homeschooling is about learning whatever you want...whenever you want.  

Homeschooling makes us really happy.  

Homeschooling makes us really happy.  

Goodness, is this life beautiful. It's beautiful because of all the reasons mentioned above and so much more.  

 

The days aren't rushed. Sometimes a simple question prompts an entire day of discovery. There is no "wake up" time, no rushing out the door, no lines, buses, or traffic. There's all of the time to explore, get dirty, play outside, learn household chores, develop passions, spend time as a family, and the freedom to go as you please. 

 

Want to to take a vacation in the middle of February? You can. And no one will give you a stack of make up work, or permission slips to stay gone that long.  

 

The next post will include what curriculums I recommend, and finally, I will post about the logistics of starting your homeschool.  

 

I am so thankful for homeschooling. I am thankful to be called by God and for the grace I need to do it. You can too. 

 

Love, Alicia  

 

Homeschooling is learning the states before your first birthday. :)  

Homeschooling is learning the states before your first birthday. :)  

Nothing Will Ever Be More Stressful Than...

Driver's Ed.

Summer of 1998. My first time ever stepping foot into a public high school. 

I was a Private School kid. Always had been. Where my entire grade could fit into just two of these public school classrooms'.  

Intimidated? Beyond.

I recall the labyrinth of hallways that overwhelmed my senses upon entering that large, musky-smelling foyer. 

My high school was one meek, little hallway that was overcrowded with about 200 total high-schoolers in regular, fifty-minute intervals.

 

I endured, like you, hours of lecture on the rules of the road with these horrifyingly graphic videos of roadside crashes filmed in the 1950's.  

Then came the driving portion. An entire week of hell.

Mrs.Williams was her name. And she was the meanest driving instructor in the system. She would slap our hands if we messed up just ever so slightly. "Hand over hand!!!!", she'd scream. She would make us drive her to Burger King just to make us watch her eat her Croissan'wich and tots. She never even assumed we would want anything.  

She made us drive to convenience stores where she'd hand one of us a $5 and say "get me a Dr.Pepper and make sure you bring back the change".  

When the driving test came, I thought to myself "there has been nothing, nor will there ever be anything else I will ever dread more than this"

I failed. 

Any taste of potential freedom I anticipated before that first testing of my (lack of) driving skills left with the man that failed me for my 37 point turn. 

When my next opportunity presented itself, my stomach had tied itself into a salted pretzel. I may have very well held my breath for the entire eight minutes we were gone. I turned my 37 point turn into a 5 point turn and passed. 

Relief.

"I'll never worry again", I thought to myself, "in fact, I can confidently go on with my life now, ne'er a challenge will come that can trump this one." 

 

Wrong. 

 

Then came college.  

Nothing quite prepares you for that hallowed moment when you watch the back of your family's car get smaller and smaller as it drives further away from you. In the midst of my extreme pleasure that I found in the "Dorm Style" section of Target, I had forgotten the real reality that lay in my immediate future. I was so caught up in buying wastebaskets, plastic dining ware, and ramen in bulk, that I failed to anticipate the extreme sadness that would come after moving all of these items into a 12x8 space with a complete stranger.  

 

"This is the hardest thing I'll ever face!!!...What could ever be worse than this?!" 

 

But then came Philosophy class and Statistics and living two-hundred miles away from my fiancé.  

Hardest thing ever, right?  

 

Nope.  

Then came marriage, and three weeks in, we were about to kill each other over the best way to do laundry.  

I thought that was the hardest part ever. 

But I was wrong again.

Because then came finishing my degree by watching VHS tapes and sending in assignments online, while working full time. All the while, with those familiar parental voices in my head saying, "you'd better finish...you have to finish....".  

 

When I was finished, I was relieved and thought, "that was the hardest thing ever, but I finished and now I can live the rest of my days in the middle of one huge, long, glorious sigh of relief. Nothing can be worse than trying to finish your undergrad while eight months pregnant and working full-time."  

Wrong. 

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I could go on and on and on because there's always that next hardest thing. And when the thing is over and runs its course, or when we just get used to the newness and the thing becomes our new normal, we sigh and think "ahhhhh, that wasn't soooo bad, I guess. Glad it's over, but nothing will phase me now."  

 

I look back and think, "wow, you're kind of an idiot, Alicia, to think that that thing you were dreading was the worlds most horrible thing." 

 

Especially now when I am thoroughly convinced that this anxiety/panicky/physically crazy/tormented body and mind I have is the absolute worst thing ever. Because it is. I'd go and sit thru  another week of Driver's Ed hell and probably end up loving the "me" time. 

I'd confidently take that driving test and show off my 100% perfect driving record (no tickets/no wrecks/no citations).  

I'd be used to watching my family drive away because I've had to watch them drive away so many times since then. 

The fights over laundry don't happen anymore. The worries about exams and term papers have long past. 

 

Those have been replaced by fears and anxieties that seem infinitely more ridiculous than any stress over a twenty page paper on Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development. 

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And so, I guess I say all of that to say that maybe there's this thing that "has" you right now and you're thinking "this is the worst/can it be over now?/awful-est thing" I've never experienced before. And, it may very well be. 

 

But life never stops for those moments when things are just "too much". Life keeps going. People still need you. Life still offers up its expectations in, sometimes, heaping amounts. Bills still clutter up your mailbox, and grease stains on your favorite jeans and car dents still happen in the midst.  

 

So everything that seems a bit "too much" right now is only a temporary "too much" until the next thing that's a bit more "too much". 

 

God is there. Big or small. Horrible. Awful. Overwhelming. Intimidating. He just is already meeting us in those "too muches". And that's something to always look forward to.  

 

 

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