Saturday, August 30, 2008

A little oceanography

This week we kicked off our Planet Earth study. We are going to be watching these amazing DVDs and following up with research, reading and activities.

We started with Shallow Seas. It was incredible. If you haven't seen any of these DVDs, check them out!
Here are some of the books we are using as we go through our ocean study.

I can't get this picture to turn, and I'm done trying. Oh, and everyone, meet my toes.

Since we are nowhere near an ocean, we took a trip with friends to an aquarium this week. We got to see some amazing things we have never seen before. I think everyone's favorite part of the aquarium was the stingray and shark petting tank.Most of the kids at the tank were able to use their hands only, and walk away dry...yeah, most...
Hey, look! Cole went with theme clothing. We totally did that on purpose.

Watching the shark feeding.

It was Homeschool Day and they had classes for the kids. The younger ones had a shark class and the older ones a pirate class. I got some pictures in the classes they attended, also. A really great one of Riley and Cole looking through a real shark's jaw, and one of Cole holding a shark tooth as big as his hand. And then my camera said "formatting error" and I fell on the floor and sobbed like a baby. Not really, but kinda, and now my pictures are gone, anyone know how to get them back?

Garrett, Tyler, and Riley's wrap-ups after the field trip.

A little "stained glass" ocean art.

Friday, August 29, 2008

That's what I'm tryin' to say

"Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to the answer to all questions." -- William Allin

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our first day 2008

Today was our first day of school. We spent the day looking at our new stuff and discussing what we would be doing. It was fun just hanging out and talking and getting back into a routine.

We looked through a book about nature journaling, and then went on a nature walk. I love nature walks because they help everyone appreciate the beauty that is around us and they always naturally lead to other lessons.

Does anyone else find this funny? We are in the middle of nature finding all kinds of cool nature things and what do you know, we find a cherry. From our Hi-Ho-Cherrio game.

Riley sketched a couple of things she found. These things led us into a conversation where I introduced her to compound words as she labeled her mushroom. We also talked about past tense and writing -ed when she wrote uprooted. I love the natural progression of learning this way.

Garrett and Tyler were looking at something with a magnifying glass which led to
melting chocolate with a magnifying glass in the sun...

And that led to…you guessed it, lighting leaves on fire with a magnifying glass, which led to a lovely lesson in fire safety and why burning our house down in the name of a science experiment could possibly lead to regret…and how we must try to avoid regret. Anyone feelin' an "If You give a Mouse a Cookie" book comin' on?

We also did our traditional diet coke and mentos experiment that we always do on the first day.

And then we took a break for showers.

We ended our day by meeting David at Incredible Pizza to celebrate the beginning of our school year.

I can not tell you how thankful I feel today that I get to do this with my kids. Sure it is challenging sometimes, but we are smack in the middle of each other’s lives, and I couldn’t be happier. It is truly a blessing.

As we get started on some of our units this week I will be posting what we are doing so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Think about this one...

Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.-- Plato

Read it again. Makes sense, huh?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wecome to our homeschool blog

We are so excited about our new year beginning next week. We have lots of fun planned so stay tuned. Feel free to browse around until then and read about how we do things. We know every family is different, and what you will read here is what works for our specific family.

Riley will be doing History with American Girl books. We'll be starting with Felicity. We are going to have tons of fun learning about Colonial times and doing all kinds of activities from that time period.

We are going to be using the amazing Planet Earth dvds for some science this year. We'll be sharing some of our activities and field trips that go along with that.

We'll also be using three different levels of Five in a Row, some Mystery of History, and Math-U-See for everyone. We'll throw in some nature studies, some co-op classes (Garrett will be dissecting in Biology), and probably some stuff we don't even know about yet! It's going to be a great year.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why we chose this path

Our oldest two children started in public school. We had six years of a pretty enjoyable public school experience. We don’t have any horror stories. We were very involved in the school and always had sweet, caring teachers that we thought highly of.

During Garrett’s 5th grade and Tyler’s 2nd grade year, God started placing the home schooling idea on our hearts. We had always struggled with the fact that we didn’t’ have time to do what we wanted to do with our kids. We didn’t feel like we were getting to pour into them the things that we felt were important because we were tied to such strict schedules with school and the commitments that came with it, not to mention the homework.

After a small period of denial:),we started doing some research on home schooling. We saw the successes. We saw the hard statistics. We were impressed. We started observing other families that chose this, and we loved what we saw in them. We loved the relationship aspect. We loved the freedom it provided. We loved the high quality of education we were seeing in others who made this choice.

Although the fear of change and the unknown loomed over us, we knew it was ideal for our family. We were learning that education is not just limited to academics.

We were sold.

That decision set us on a path that would be the beginning of an amazing, life-enriching journey that keeps getting better with every step.

Our Educational Goals

These are the current goals David and I have laid out for our family. All of our educational plans are filtered through these goals. If what we are doing doesn’t line up with at least one of them, it gets tossed out. We see no point in wasting anyone‘s time!

We take academics extremely seriously, but we realize it is only part of a great education. Above all we want to pour love into our kids and help them grow spiritually and learn to follow God’s lead in their lives. We know he has amazing plans for them and we don‘t want them to miss a second of it. After that we want to…

-Provide a well-rounded liberal arts education

-Develop leadership skills

-Teach strong communication skills, both written and oral

-Incorporate art in every area we can

-Establish a desire to be life-long learners

-Create self-educated students who are able to find anything they need to know

-Teach social etiquette and respect for others

-Create skills for strong interpersonal relationships

-Develop personal finance skills

-Cultivate a passion for helping those in need

-Develop an appreciation of beauty: in art, people, literature, and nature

-Instill strong character traits

-Develop a Biblical-based world view

-Enrich character through exposure to great literature and inspirational people

-Provide an environment that encourages keeping family a top priority, our family and their future families

-Mentor our children to become exactly what God wants them to be

-Enjoy the moments, they are gone too fast!

Frequently asked questions

Here are some questions I have been asked. And some that I just made up. I can do that. It’s my blog.

Q-Do you do school in your pajamas all the time?
A-We almost always get up and get completely ready before we start our day. We are usually going somewhere at some point in the day, so it’s just easier that way. We do occasionally have PJ days though, especially in the winter, and we love them.

Q-Do you have to be smart to be able to provide your kids with an education?
A- You just have to be smart enough to be able to distract them while you secretly Google their question. Oh, I’m kidding. I think not knowing the answer is a great learning experience for them. When I don’t know something they want to know, we research it together and find the answer. It teaches them that they can find the answer to pretty much whatever they want to know.

Q-How do you teach the stuff that you don’t understand or that requires labs or other equipment?
A- We are involved in a co-op where a various classes and labs are offered. We are also involved in programs that offer a variety of sports and activities. We have found that there are extra classes for pretty much everything you can think of. Later on, in high school, we will take concurrent classes in college that will count for high school and college credits.

Q-Are you going to keep teaching them all the way through high school?
A- That’s the plan. Unless God directs us otherwise.

Q-Do you teach in a school room?
A- We keep most of our supplies in our mudroom, but we do not have a school room. We do our learning all over the place. I’d say we are in our family room or dining room most of the time, but we also love to be out on the deck, at the park, the library, or in the playroom or bedrooms. Tyler wrote part of his novel last year in the laundry chute. Veeee-ry few distractions in the laundry chute. Other than laundry. Which apparently isn’t distracting to Tyler.

Q- What curriculum do you use?
A- We do not use one specific curriculum. We use whatever fits our needs in each subject. That changes as we do. We base most everything off of really good books. I use parts of curriculum for enhancement. Our math curriculum is Math-U-See. We also love Five in a Row, Mystery of History, and Apologia science.

Q-Isn’t providing an education at home really expensive?
A- Homeschooling can be done with as little or as much money as you want. You can provide an above the boards education with just a library card and the Internet. You can also go berserk and buy tons of materials and books and subscriptions and memberships and pretty boxes of flashcards and manipulatives (oh…uh…at least that’s what I’ve heard). I am learning to resist the temptation to buy unnecessary things that I may not use. But sometimes the packaging is just so pretty! I am learning.

Q-Are your kids around other kids?
A- Frequently. We are involved in different groups. The myth that home schooled kids don’t spend time with other kids is such a…that's's a myth. You can be involved in as many or as few groups as fits your family’s or individual child’s needs.

Q-I understand that the government compensates you generously with a large salary and amazing perks in exchange for your teaching of these children, is this true?
A-Of course

Ok. That one I made up.

On textbooks...

The first time I heard Cheryl Lange explain why she usually doesn’t use textbooks for more than just a resource, I was hooked. She pointed out the simple fact that all of the good, active learning was already done by the textbook writers.

Consider how a textbook is created. It starts with a group of people who go out and gather information and do research. They talk to experts in the field, test out theories, and learn everything they can on the subject.

Then they all get back together and they organize their findings. They discuss and write and debate and connect their thoughts until it is all clear, concise and easily understood. At that point they put it in a book and send it to the publisher.

When you open the book, you have dry, often boring facts. Leftovers from someone else’s learning experience.

This is not interesting! The process they went through to make the book is the learning we want! We want to be the ones to gather and discover and analyze and organize. That is where the meaningful, exciting learning takes place. Not in memorizing facts from a textbook.

Textbooks can be wonderful resources for learning. But alone, most of them are pretty uninteresting and uninspiring. However you can find a few textbooks that are like living books. We have used Apologia science books as a resource and have loved them. For our family, being involved in the process is an important part of our learning.

How we go about it

We live our learning. This is what works best for our family. We don’t do a lot of fill in the blank worksheets or any busywork. We prefer a more active, advanced level of learning at all ages.

We don't rely too heavily on textbooks. Whatever we want to learn, we do so by researching and reading living books on the subject. We read biographies, and lively informative books written by experts on our topics. We do Internet searches and dig up whatever we can find. We also find ways to experience what we are learning. This can be through field trips, experiments, interviews, observations and projects. We do a lot of discussing, documenting, exploring, researching, and writing. We have notebooks full of data, sketches, and research papers.

Everyone is actively involved in the process, not sitting back just listening to someone spoon-feed information to them. We have found that this higher level of thinking makes our learning meaningful and interesting and much easier to retain.

This method helps us own what we are learning. We cannot just sit passively by because we are right in the middle of figuring it all out.

We do occasionally use quality textbooks as resources. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are quite capable of learning textbook-style, and they do so when they take outside classes that require textbooks. Obviously we use workbooks for math. Math is math. But as a general rule, we prefer to take it a level beyond that. We just get more out of it that way!

Why I'm nuts about it

One of my favorite things about home schooling is the sheer freedom that our family feels.

Freedom to teach what I want my kids to learn

Freedom to take more time to develop deep family relationships

Freedom for my kids to spend more quality time with friends

Freedom to let my kids spend as long as they want on a topic they love

Freedom to enjoy chatting over coffee in the mid-mornings with my kids

Freedom to do family activities late at night if we want to because we can start school a little later the next day

Freedom to ingrain morals, good character traits, and faith into my kids all day

Freedom to do our learning wherever we want. Inside, outside, friends’ house, or, whatever works

Freedom to be my kids’ main mentor all day

Freedom to allow my kids to spend plenty of time on their passions and hobbies

Freedom to give my kids an appropriate amount of work so they can still have time to play and act like kids

Freedom to go on vacation whenever is best for us

Freedom to allow my kids to work above their grade level and not get bored

Freedom to incorporate Biblical principles into our lessons

Freedom to set the standards instead of follow them

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some of my favorite resources

Lodestar Cheryl Lange's homeschooling and ministry website

Five In A Row message boards There is so much wisdom and you can find great ideas here!

The Library (Oh how I love you, online search and reservation)

Usborne books (especially the internet-linked ones)

Google Did people seriously home school before Google?

Seasoned home educators who have already walked this path, like Cheryl Lange and Robin Meadows.

Cheryl Lange's EFL (Educating For Life) meetings. I love to sit and listen to the truth ooze from her. I always leave feeling revived and excited. I’m a Cheryl groupie.