Thought for the Day

For the last couple of days, when I sign in on the Internet I see that the Yahoo page comes up with school supplies all around its logo. I usually enjoy their little graphics for the different seasons and holidays, but I must say I’m not quite ready for school supplies. As I write this I am sitting in my backyard enjoying the nice weather, there’s a slight breeze that is making it very pleasant. Recently the days have been so hot we spend our time out in the early evening. The little guys play in the sandbox while my husband and the twins shoot some hoop, or we’ll take a ride on our bikes. The long days are nice, but as I look at the calendar, I know the beginning of school is fast approaching, so I must begin preparing.

The first thing I do is make my list of what books I need to purchase. We always start our school year the day after Labor Day, and those four days are spent on reviewing things from last year, and just getting back into the routine. So I can usually wait to purchase my books at the end of August. I also make a list of school supplies they’ll need and start picking them up here and there as they go on sale. One thing nice about homeschooling is that we don’t have those extensive school supply list I hear so many parents complaining about. Every year at Wal-Mart, I see a couple of parents with their lists in hand and a frustrated look on their face discussing products on the list compared to what is on the shelf. I secretly envy them, a school supply scavenger hunt sounds like the most fun. But then again, I’ve never had to do it.

The next thing I do is create my calendar for the year. For our State in Illinois, the required days of instruction are 176 days. This is not mandatory for private or home schools, but I use this as my guide in planning my days off and breaks. I pretty much follow the traditional school calendar, having Christmas and spring breaks. I decide which federal or state holidays we observe, sometimes on that day. “It’s Casimir Pulaski Day, hey we’re Polish, let’s take the day off!!” Having a guide for the year like this helps me alter it easily. We can take an unscheduled day off if we want to visit with relatives from out of town, or if my husband has a day off during the week and we want to do something. Then what we can do is have school on one of the planned Federal Holidays like Columbus Day or President’s Day. The kids will get a copy of the calendar on the first day of school. The first thing they do is count how many days until their first day off.

I have read articles from other homeschool Mom’s who will go away for a weekend by themselves before the school year starts. I have done this once before, and I used some of the time to go over lesson plans, and review curriculum. I usually take a semester break in January or February and just stay at a hotel and do nothing but enjoy the time by myself. I do have an opportunity to get away for a weekend in a couple of weeks, which I am taking full advantage of. I haven’t always taken these breaks, I used to think wanting to get away was selfish, and a sign that I was a bad mother and wife. I would feel guilty wanting to leave the kids with my husband for a whole weekend. But I have felt the benefits of time away to re-charge my batteries. It doesn’t have to be fancy or far away, unless your budget allows it and you want to go to Hawaii. I just know how good it feels to get away and I highly recommend it.

Being that August just started, I do have some time left to enjoy the summer and that’s what I plan to do.

  

I know that different areas of the country may start their school year at different times. If you could have it your way, would you have school start before or after Labor Day?  You can add your opinion below.

                                                               

Looking Back

I have just enjoyed my first full week of summer vacation. We usually end our school year the first week of June, but this year we ended on June 26. This winter was rough with 6 people taking turns getting sick. I myself was out of commission for a whole week, actually in bed. That’s the great flexibility of homeschooling. But I must say the last couple of weeks of school had been hard. I pray next year we are healthier and stay on track.

The report cards are done, and the books are finally put away, so why I am already thinking about next year? Well with the accomplishment of another year behind me, I look forward to the new and exciting things for next year. The twins are turning 13, so they will be going into the 7th grade. My 7-year-old will be doing second grade and my 3-year-old will be doing a lot of coloring. I don’t know if I’ll have the twins start a foreign language or not. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can at any given time teach other things. I personally focus on the basics, because they need that foundation. I do want them to do a keyboarding class. I don’t know how soon traditional schools teach typing, but I know it will be beneficial. I know grown-ups who still hunt and peck, which works for them, but I am grateful for my typing skills. Each year with the twins the math gets more difficult. I had general math classes when I was in school, but I understand the geometry and some algebra that they have been introduced to so far. I look forward to the challenge as they progress, but if I cannot rise above the challenge they will have to do an online correspondence course. With my second grader I will focus on the basic fundamentals of math and continue his reading.

There is so much available for homschoolers, it is sometimes hard to choose. This year was the first year I deviated from the curriculum I have been using from the beginning. I have used the Abeka Book curriculum www.Abeka.com. It is used in many of the private schools in our area. I have enjoyed using it, and I think it is a good curriculum to use if you are homeschooling for the first time. Their day to day lesson plans are mapped out for you, they have tests and quizzes available and a grading scale and progress reports you can create report cards from. The workbooks are very colorful, especially in the earlier grades, which makes it more exciting for the younger ones to learn. Even thought it seems to be an excelerated program, my twins have done well with it. This year I used another language and spelling program with them. I have read and agree that the 5th grade language from Abeka is quite difficult. The curriculum I used this year instead is Easy Grammar www.easygrammar.com. I was very impressed with the different, yet simple approach. They teach the different parts of language by process of elimination. The first thing they teach is to remove prepositional phrases from a sentence. It is much easier to identify the other parts of speech, once that has been removed. The kids seemed to understand it better. The only thing I didn’t like was the teacher’s edition. It is huge and not organized very well. The book contains all the pages in the students’ workbook, and answer key, and answer key to all the tests. I never experienced that with Abeka, so it took more effort on my part to come up with the day to day lesson plans and when to schedule the tests. I will continue to use it though.

The spelling program I used was Spelling Power www.spellingpower.com. This is completely different then anything that I have seen. There is no grading, but I created my own grading scale and had certain tests graded. The Spelling Power approach is focused on the words that students do know. You start out by doing an assessment test to see what level you should begin with. Once you have determined that, you then give the students daily tests for 5 minutes. The daily tests consist of you giving the word to the child, saying the word in a sentence, having them repeat the word, then write the word, and then you correct the word, if they get it wrong, they write it correctly. When I first read this, I was like how many words are you going to go through in 5 minutes? You would be surprised. It is something to get used to. But what encourages the kids, is how many words they actually know. There’s no studying and memorizing words prior to the test. Once the daily test is over, they then study the words they missed, with a 10-step process. The next day they are re-tested on the words they miss. They continue to do the process until they spell the word correctly. I also altered this program a little. I was actually doing more than five minutes. We did a group a day. As the words get harder, I will probably adjust and maybe do half the group. The main advantage to this program is the concentration on the words that are missed. If you are interested in using this program, all you have to do is buy one book. That wasn’t mentioned on any of the websites, and usually I purchase one book per student. But the book isn’t for the student; they never use the book. They do have workbooks for the students, which are the pages for the assessment tests and daily tests and 10-step worksheets. These are also included on the CD-ROM that comes with the book that you can print out yourself. Also, this program can be used for all grade levels, starting with 8-year olds up to 12th grade. I will continue to use it, and look forward to starting my youngest on it probably next year.

Maybe I can enjoy a couple more weeks of summer vacation, before I start making my lists of things that I will need to purchase for the upcoming school year. But it’s hard not to think about it as you shop in Wal-Mart and Target, and they already have the school supplies out. That is my biggest weakness, I love shopping for school supplies!! Maybe if I can just buy myself some new pens or something, that will hold me over until August. Maybe not.

Issues to Consider When Deciding to Home School

Deciding to homeschool your children will be one of the most important decisions you will make for you family. You will find though, that there are many valuable resources to aid in your decision. Before you do anything, find out what your state law requires, because each state is different. The best place to obtain this information is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Listed here are a few of the pros and cons of homeschooling.

Pro: Individual Attention: This is probably the best benefit of homeschooling. Your child gets the undivided attention that they need to excel, as opposed to competing for attention with 30+ kids in a classroom. This especially benefits boys who tend to have more energy that needs to be channeled. Even when you are homeschooling more than one child, you can still focus on each of them. This is very helpful in determining how your child learns. Even in the same family, what works for one may not work for the other. By spending time with each one of your children, you can see how they learn the best and tailor their curriculum accordingly.

Pro: Set your own schedule: This includes your daily schedule as well as yearly. It’s best to give children consistency. A daily start time, break, lunch and end time is beneficial and will prepare them for the working world. But you can start at any time and not have to worry about getting them up super early to catch the bus, driving them yourself, or carpooling.

Your child’s daily schedule will not be as long as a traditional school day. You will not have to spend eight hours teaching them, unless you want to. Keep in mind your child is not in a large classroom, there are far less distractions. They don’t have the time in between classes to switch from room to room. Usually a day for a younger child will last 3 to 4 hours, with you spending the bulk of the time with them. For older children, their day can be completed within 4 to 6 hours with your involvement of about 1 to 2 hours.

You can follow the traditional school calendar and have the same days off and breaks as well. Some people homeschool all year round, working for six weeks and then taking 2 weeks off. You determine what works best for you in conjunction with what your state requires for attendance.

One of the best benefits of setting your own schedule is that you can alter your schedule at any given moment. You’ll be able to spend time with out-of-town guests. If your spouse’s job keeps them away for periods of time, when they are home you can spend that quality time with them. You can plan vacations during the year. Also take advantage of free days during the week at local museums, art galleries or cultural events.

Pro: Save Money: You will be saving money on tuition if your child would otherwise attend a private school. If they would attend a public school, their wardrobe would not have to be as extensive, or you wouldn’t have to buy uniforms. Mind you, they do need clothes at home. Homeschooling in PJs is probably not the best idea, so they do need to get dressed. But they will only be seeing you and their siblings, so the need to look hip and fashionable is no longer an issue.

 There will also be savings for lunches, you won’t have to purchase special juice boxes or “lunchables,” or provide lunch money.

Con: Responsible for education. You have the sole responsibility of your child’s education. You decide what and when you teach them. You’ll have many choices for curriculums, and finding the right one for each child may take some time. But just because a curriculum might not be achieving the results you desire for a semester or even the whole year. All is not lost. Keep trying until something clicks. Your child is not falling behind; you set the pace and the schedule. They are still learning something. As long as your child is not spending the whole day in front of the TV or playing video games, they are getting an education.

Many well-meaning friends and family members may question your ability to teach. Many people think you should have a teaching degree. Many curriculums have extensive instruction for the parent to teach. You must be willing to put the time in for preparation. As long as you are willing, you are more than capable.

Con: You are with your kids all the time. We love our children; there is not doubt. But when you homeschool, you do not have the luxury of a quiet house while they are at school. Unless they are involved in outside activities, for the most part, you will be together for the majority of the time. The key to keeping your sanity is to work something out with your spouse to get some time for yourself. You need that to recharge your batteries, and to continue to enjoy this experience.

If you live in an area where there is snow in the winter, there are no snow days. This of course affects the kids more than it affects you.

Con: Sacrifice an income. This is probably the biggest sacrifice you will make. If you are used to working, and then begin homeschooling, it’s a big adjustment to live on one income. But it’s worth every penny.

You will also have to purchase the full curriculum for each child. Some textbooks can be used for other children, but you usually have to purchase workbooks for each child each year. This is still the fraction of the cost of tuition. It also depends on the curriculum you use. The least expensive is buying the books, teaching and keeping all your records. There are also teaching DVDs and correspondence schools, where you pay them to keep track of record keeping. Choose one that fits your schedule as well as your budget.

Final thought: Before my first child was born, I knew that I would be homeschooling. When I became pregnant, I started reading up on the subject. Then when I found out that my first child was actually twins, I realized I would have a mini classroom. My twins are now 13, and I have been homeschooling them the whole time, along with their brother who is in first grade, and I have one more to go after that. I plan to homeschool all the way through high school, with the thought of using an online school or correspondence school at that level. It’s a lot of work, but I continue to enjoy it, and learn things myself along the way.