That’s Another Story

For the person who digs deep I feel like I have to explain myself 🙂

We started this journey so simply thinking about math and reading and teaching my kids to be obedient to my direction, yet free thinkers and hard workers. It’s so easy to feel like you’re not doing enough and so with those feelings we began to join groups, even when we moved I managed to have not one group but two up and running within the year. I love being with people and gathering people BUT they’re so hard to manage and it takes so much time away from what I really want to be doing.

If you’ve read this far you know we have 7 children and our youngest three are adopted. Two years ago, after 4 years of belonging with us I couldn’t fit our then 15 year old into this tangle of curriculum that I’d tied us into with hurricane strapping. My book shelves, colored boxes and filing systems all focused on the curriculum. That along with a scout program that he never found compelling. So, off to government school and down the rabbit hole of future incarceration.

What a joke that year of highschool was. It started off with me thinking he was back to lying because he told me things like, they don’t post the grades, they aren’t allowed to give homework, he had to bring extra supplies because some kids couldn’t afford it. (at the free government school?)  Well, when I contacted a teacher she told me it was all true. Can you imagine? Well you may imagine that they must work really hard during the 8 or so hours they’re at school but you’d be wrong. 9th grade English, one book of your choice and only excerpts of a very few others. He happened to get the best grade on the 9th grade Algebra test yet an F on the state test (which by the way is still passing? I’m serious) and to top it off in the Ag Mechanics class that was 18 weeks long 50 minutes a day, that’s 75 hours, and the only product was a pre-threaded, pvc sprinkler head because God forbid you use glue because that’s dangerous!

I realized I couldn’t do worse and it so happens the year he was at school I set aside most of the curriculum to work on math and reading with the 6 and 7 year old. It was really freeing!

This year that now 17 year old has made a variety of things like welding a rabbit hutch, doing a great geography project, staying on top of his math at his own pace, and reading more than one whole book for sure. He’s been working with older neighbors learning some extra skills in cabinetry and welding etc. Doing his chores, keeping his room clean along with lots of cooking, which he loves.

So, as I look out into the future, since our youngest is 8 AND the grand children are starting to show up I think . . . . .

I want to return to the garden and all of the learning that takes place around it,

I want to share what we’re learning with others so they don’t have to make the same mistakes

I want to gather resources that everyone can use and contribute to so we can all have a more sustainable home based learning experience.

Want to join me?

Sustainable Homebased Learning

As we return to the roots of our homeschool journey we’re returning to the garden and learning to dig deep into thinking and understanding the natural beauty of creation.

When we were young, had one car and less cash we automatically operated our homeschool in a sustainable way so that I could actually stay home with our four young children. As we gathered resources and were blessed with more cash we joined in on the expense and busyness of the homeschool community. Spending tons on curriculum year after year and being busy following someone else’s schedule.

Fortunately, we had a series of unfortunate events two years ago where I threw in the towel and decided I had to get back to our home and family. Wouldn’t you think after almost 30 years I would have this figured out? Oddly enough in many ways I had it more figured out at the beginning then I do now.

First – Family should come first. We’ve told ourselves over the years that we were doing that but when you add up all the various calendars from co-op to scouts, church, neighbors, 4-H, soccer or whatever else you’re doing, if you’re like us you’d put all of those thing on your calendar then try to figure out where “family” went.

Try this: Agree for 3 months to stop doing everything outside your home. (except work)

Second – Focus on teaching our children to be adults, prepared to live in an adult world.

Try this: For each child observe 3 ways you can help them manage themselves. 

Third – This means removing the word “school” from our vocabulary and replacing it with words like, work, jobs, learning, thinking and adventure. Notice the “homebased learning” concept above 🙂

Try this: Every time you say “school” stop and put another word in that an adult would use. i.e. learning, work, incarceration. 

Fourth – Schedule your stuff around your goals. Goal #1 – Dad has to get to work on time, Goal #2 – we want to reduce our expenses, Goal #3 – we want to grow our own food etc.

As you develop and organize these goals into priorities start your calendar with the first goal in mind and work your way down the list.

Try this: During your three months off make flash cards with all the things you want to do and put them in a box or envelop. At the end of that time take them out and prioritize them into what you believe is most important. 

Fifth – Communities of shared interest. One friend or family won’t be interested in everything you’re doing, so figure out what YOU want accomplished with your children and gather different people to do those different things with you.

Try this: Even if you didn’t take the three months off 🙂 Take one of your top priorities  that would work with other families and invite people to your house to learn that skill. Like canning or making sausage, raising chickens or something fun like camping. 

As the grown ups it’s your job to design your family’s schedule – resist being “normal” and start thinking about your personal family goals.

If there are long gaps between posts, you’ll know I was in the garden. If there are a gazillion posts in one day you’ll know it’s either storming or roasting hot. The garden is one of the main goals 🙂

Design away!

Design Your Own

If you’re here you probably have at least one of the following questions:

1-How can I save money while homeschooling by planning my own stuff?

2-My kid has a gap in the learning process, how can I help get them over it and beyond?

3-My kid wants to learn something that I can’t find a curriculum for, how do I plan for that?

4-We have a project at our house that needs to get done, how do I design a plan for wholistic learning to take place?

Remember that Curriculum is basically, “A course of Study.” Historically it’s a relatively new expression beginning around 1576. As we progress through time it takes on different meanings and today people may give it a complicated definition to make it seem much more complicated than it actually is. However, if you have decided to be a life learner things are going to come up that you’re going to want to develop a plan for!

Some basic things that will help you plan are:

1) a spreadsheet or notebook, 2) internet for research, 3) possibly a book on the subject if you’re not finding clarity online, 4) a mentor or experienced person.

Other things to consider:

1-If you’re saving money using the library and internet are excellent options. We began our homeschool journey in disagreement so I didn’t have a budget for homeschooling and I would go to the library (think 1990) and hand copy math problems and phonics lessons onto free green bar dot matrix paper. My dad bought me a big stapler so I could fold it like a book. Now, there are so many free resources with either online or printable items that you can use, so money shouldn’t hold you back.

When my kids were young, under 11, I could pretty quickly make a list of activities that we could do in order to accomplish whatever idea they had. I did however have trouble managing the outcome sometimes. Like, let’s learn about chickens. Great! We went to a feed store, bought some fertile eggs, got directions for an ice chest incubator from a book, and three out of twelve hatched. We learned tons about chickens but did you know chickens poop everywhere? They have absolutely no manners! We gave one away for someone’s dinner and our neighbor took one to his country place.

Most “courses of study” for younger children don’t require an elaborate plan, just a willingness on your part to get a few things together and make it happen. I feel like the dad on “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Give me a topic, any topic and I’ll design you a quick course of study!

2. My kid has a gap in their learning. Even with awesome curriculum you’ll find that your kids can get stuck or have missed a concept and you know that going on is a bad idea until you’ve closed the gap.

Recently our 9 year old was having trouble with the back and forth converting of six place numbers between words, expanded notation and the simple number. I looked up some Montessori ideas and using index cards and a giant roll of white paper I made a fill in the blank form for her to work with and we can talk about without all the erasing and getting it “wrong” on the paper. I like to color code things so you’ll see that here also.

3. My kid wants to learn something I can’t find a curriculum for and can’t figure out.

This is a great opportunity to find a mentor or a club that does whatever it is your kid wants to do. Watching youtube or reading books can only get you so far, sometimes you need that hands on learning from someone who knows what they’re doing.

Some fun examples in our town are a Caving group, Civil Air Patrol, Scouts and 4-H.

4. We have a project at our house that needs to get done

Who doesn’t! As we learn more about sustainable living, we’re amazed at how much science, history and even children’s literature that is involved in a family growing, harvesting and processing their own food.

Whatever it is that your family needs to get done, figure out a way to do it together. Start with a chore chart that keeps the house clean and work your way up to building a house.

Remember

Teaching your kids good habits, courteous behavior and follow through will make all of this more enjoyable.

The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book – dictionary

Buy the book here

The Cat in the Hat Beginner Dictionary

This is a great book to spark a conversation with your little people!

Crafts –

Drawing silly animals – you can even use them to create your own dictionary and for the kids who don’t like to draw you can cut things out and glue them in to make a dictionary.

Reading –

At any level Dr. Seuss can be a challenge 🙂 It’s a really excellent tool to see where your kids are missing knowledge in this area. For much older kids the read aloud practice is fabulous.

Math –

Dr. Seuss is full of colors, shapes and groups to practice one to one correspondence.

Writing –

Learning about rhyming with younger kids is a great way for mom to work on her printing skills while she writes down the rhymes.

Science –

Animal classification is great to talk about here. Is there a 7 hump whump? If there was where would he belong in the Linnaean classification system?

History –

You can create a Dr. Seuss timeline of books and print off these stickers that go on the timeline as you read them.

Reading Club

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Over the years we’ve participated in the library reading clubs but we live out in the country now and we invite friends to join us and now it’s time to invite YOU!

Wherever you may be,

Whoever you may be,

Follow along on our adventure and create one of your own!

Step 1 – Select a theme – this will be our fourth year for Dr. Seuss and we’re adding the Chronicles of Narnia series for the older kids.

Step 2 – Select a series of weeks that fit with your book choices and calendar.

Dr. Seuss has 60+ books and the Chronicles of Narnia has 7 so we’re going with 7 weeks this time. For our Caldecott series we took six months to finish.

Step 3 – Create a prize structure

Last year we had a prize table that everyone contributed to but I think it took to much time and money so this year each family will be setting their own goals. There are also many national reading clubs that offer prizes like Pizza Hut’s Book It.

I’ll be making up a weekly gift bag that will have a variety of prizes and activities like ice skating, or a trip to the river. Things we’re going to do anyway 🙂 but it’s good to have goals.

Step 4 – Once you decide which books or series you’ll be doing, divide them into weeks. If you don’t have time for that you can just let your kids pick whatever they want to read and set a book or minutes goal for their reading.

Step 5 – Check out pinterest if you don’t see the book ideas you’re looking for here and you’ll find lots of ideas!

Step 6 – Now follow through! The main reason we invite friends is to ensure that we follow through and it’s more fun for the kids.

Our Goals:

This summer as we work through the Dr. Seuss and C.S. Lewis books, creating games and activities we’ll be posting them here to share. Feel free to add your ideas and pictures to the individual book comments as you join us!

 

 

Progressions

defined – the act of progressing; forward or onward movement.

We’re going to use this term, progressions, to define what most people might call levels. Levels are usually equated with a static spot you’re in as related to the person next to you based on a born on date with the intent to keep everyone on the same page and moving along in an “equitable” fashion.

This is what “leveling” is bringing our society to: “Harrison Bergeron.”

When you think about progressing or moving forward you’ll need a starting point. Your child might be a beginner in math and intermediate in reading so just being 8 or labeled as a third grader isn’t going to help you find out where to begin.

We’d recommend that you read through some of the ideas and start at a slightly easier progression then you think your child can do. Build a little confidence in a subject and then move on from there.

We’ll have the following starting points for each subject:

Beginner – Intermediate – Advanced = Grammar Stage

Apprentice – Journeyman – Craftsman = Dialectic & Rhetoric Stages

 

 

How to Use This Course of Study

Well, you’ve probably learned by now that everyone does things their own way and we all get frustrated when we try to follow someone else’s plan that we don’t quite understand or doesn’t work for us. So, we’re wanting you to take what we have here and adjust each thing to fit your own needs and goals by following these simple guidelines

1 – Decide what your looking to accomplish

Accomplishment – I want to use Dr. Seuss to advance my kids learning in a fun way.

If you’ve been reading anything about our food sources lately you probably have heard the term – monocropping – and you may understand that planting all of the same crop in giant fields isn’t good for the soil or for us to eat. If you can grasp that and agree that a garden full of diverse foods with beneficial insects eating the bad ones is better for us to consume maybe you can visualize then how monocropping of children in government schools as being just as unhealthy as monocropped foods.

There is absolutely no way to ensure that all children in a 3rd grade class know all the exact same material by the end of a given school year because we perceive and remember information in our own way. Let that sink in and let it allow you to advance on this learning journey with the freedom to teach, learn and share all of the uniqueness that surrounds your very own life. Stop trying to fit a curriculum into what you’re doing or someone else’s ideas and begin to take ideas that fit your goals.

For each lesson we venture to accomplish our main goal is to allow the unique nature of our kid’s brains to grasp the concepts in their own way and understand how to move them along a series of activities that will enhance the concept they are learning. Hopefully, many concepts rolled into one fun activity.

For this How To I’m going to use our Dr. Seuss Summer Spectacular as an example.

Accomplishment: As always this is a series of things generally with a main focus.

Main Focus: Working on our reading skills

Additional Activities: Incorporate, games, math, puzzles, themed foods, crafts, gardening  and add a bunch of friends.

2 – Find a plan (outline) that you can use as a spring board

The www is an amazing! There are so many things already done for you to print and copy that you won’t need to start from scratch for everything. Starting with someone else’s work and adjusting it is very helpful.

Here’s our current Dr. Seuss plan – I’m updating it for summer 2016 so it’s going to be going through some changes but you’ll get the idea.

Learning how to set up either a hard copy filing system or online system will be really helpful and depending on your personality type, the number of children you have or other variables yours is going to look different than someone else’s. I started with spreadsheets years ago because that is my husband’s brain format and that’s how I get him to understand why I need money for something 🙂 I’ve really come to enjoy google drive because I don’t lose it and I can access it from my phone for library lists and other things.

For the younger kids we’ll use the crafts and activities from last year, already saved in our spreadsheet. Another reason I love spreadsheets is they stick around to be used again each year!

3 – Do some research toward your goal

Currently I have 5 kiddos in my care that are; 3 yo granddaughter, 4 yo friend’s son, 8 yo son, 9 yo daughter and 17 yo son. You’re probably thinking that Dr. Seuss isn’t going to work for everyone BUT you’d be wrong. While my 17 yo won’t be fully participating he will help with games, reading stories and he really listens in when I’m reading. This year I’m going to have him help add more science to our summer.

3 year old goals: have fun, learn to participate obediently and be nice. she’s learning colors and shapes and will love the gak and other gross Seuss stuff we do.

4 year old goals: He’s learning all his letters so we’ll assign him a few words for our 7 week study, he loves math so I’ll find some of math activities on the www and find ways to use our math tools in a Seuss way.

8 year old goals: He has some learning challenges – auditory processing disorder – that we’re working on and I’m hoping the complicated words will be really fun for us to say back and forth while he learns to listen and pronounce them correctly. He needs some physical games and science experiments, hopefully engineering type things, to round this out.

9 year old goals: She loves crafts and making fun food. She was able to read some Dr. Seuss last year so I’m excited about helping her build confidence when she sees the progress she’s had. She struggles some with math concepts so playing math games should improve her confidence.

17 year old goals: Learning to lead with kindness, reading out loud with inflection, (that’s harder than you think!) doing research for science activities and games. So far in the 10 years that we’ve had him his best learning takes place when he’s sharing it with others. We also need to do a bit of literary analysis using Seuss – that will take some research and I’ll have to write that out.

4 – Now Make Your Own Plan

I generally start with our family calendar. This year in order to focus more time on our 17 year old we’ve eliminated some of our busyness so our calendar is pretty clear. Twenty five years of following the “normal” 9 week quarter, 18 week semester, 36 week school year I’ve spent the last two years refining what works best for us.

It fascinates me in a sad way to see how the government school agenda drives so much of our society instead of the needs of the individual family.

Here’s what we’ve found in the last two years that works for our lifestyle and the seasonal cycle of our South Texas weather.

Summer is HOT and we go swimming alot – normally we do an 8 or 9 week summer session with friends but this year we have a June wedding so we’re doing 7 weeks with friends.

We take September mostly off from group things and focus on getting our new chores in order, working on our food forest and this year we’ll be canning!

Our Fall session is 9 weeks that finishes before Thanksgiving because in the homeschool world this is when people start flaking out and doing family and community stuff. Which is awesome so why be burdened down with co-op while you’re trying to teach your kid some great service skills?

Our winter break is full of gardening also because, well, this is South Texas and there’s spinach, lettuce, onions and potatoes to plant and harvest 🙂

Winter session begins after the New Year and goes for 9 weeks.

We take March off and usually go camping for a week!!

Then we have a 9 week spring session.

June is a month off because we have lots to water and we don’t always get rain!

Then we’re back to our Summer session 🙂

It’s taken a few years of not doing the normal homeschool based on government school co-op model but this year we’ve found a number of families that are going to join us in our family focused homesteading, homeschool gatherings.

Let’s wrap this up

In order for you to find your own way into homeschooling freedom you have to start with some goals in mind. Next either find a plan someone already made up or create a general outline of goals and some activities. Follow this with a pile of research from both the www and friends. Finish it up by setting up a calendar and adding the activities and days work into a great schedule that works for your family.

You are the designer of your homeschool. You’re in charge of funding, research, teaching, classroom management, discipline and resource gathering. The more you think about your long term goals the easier it will be to find the smaller goals that will fill in the gaps to reach the final goal of adulthood for both you and your child.

Family Calendar

Our oldest son will be 30 in October and we’ve been on our homeschooling journey since before he was born when I began to research the best opportunity for our future children. Early in our homeschool journey we followed the calendar of seasons aside from some church activities but as our kids got older and homeschool became more popular, more “school” like in the co-ops we wandered from our seasonal calendar and far from the adventure we’d planned in the beginning.

Here’s how our calendar looks now:

Sunday – we have some friends come over on Sunday for a great time of fellowship, learning, eating delicious food. It’s just that simple. We start around nine thirty and sometimes chat until 4 about interesting things going on or ideas.

Monday – We try to stay home and get most of our actual school work off to a great start for the week and Monday night is a “work” night at our house now. Rooms should be very clean and we generally have a project to work on.

Tuesday – We also try to stay home on Tuesdays to get our basic learning in along with our new Youtube Tuesday where we look up all the things the kids have asked during the week. On Tuesday nights friends come over for a gardening club that covers many homesteading topics where the adults and big kids are learning things to take home and share with their kids while the kids mostly play. Again the food is delicious 🙂

Wednesday – Again – we’re homeschooling and we try to stay home these first three days of the week focusing on the basics with a family night in the evening.

Thursday – This is our day with friends for our 6-9 weeks sessions of co-op and it takes up the whole day with getting ready and cleaning up when they’re all gone. It’s also date night so the kids get lots of tv when the house is clean.

Friday – This is our adventure day – except when we have two cars and try to stuff in as many adventure days in a week as possible 🙂

Saturday – We hang out and have projects at the house.

We’re open to adventure on any of these days but that’s generally how our week goes.

Here’s our Months:

January – it’s very cold here (for Texans) and we stay in and get lots of arts, science and basics in. This past year included learning how to play the recorder.

February – again this is usually cold so it’s a great time to stay in and work on inside things.

March – this brings really cold and really warm days so we gear up for adventure, camping and field trips during this break from the usual learning.

April – this is a really hard month to get back to co-op but I do love a schedule so we plug back into school.

May – is generally really hot but we have the added benefit of getting our work done quickly so we can go swimming!

June – hot but not scorching yet so we try to do the fun outdoor summer things during this break.

July and August – scorching – we may as well be inside doing school

September – BREAK again – we try to get an entire week of camping in here before heading into the fall.

October and November are back to school times with friends.

Thanksgiving to New Years we’re off! We have lots of fun things to do and cookie exchanges to attend.

It’s a great idea to sit down as a family and look over your calendar for the weeks and years and make sure your activities are meeting your long range goals.

We found over the years that we volunteered to much and didn’t spend enough time with our kids so now that we’re working with our second herd of children we’ve opted out of many time consuming things that distract from our family learning together and have found a group of friends that feel the same way.

Design your life to meet your own goals.

Course of Study

An integrated subject series of adventures!

Dr. Seuss – A series of activities and ideas that combine literature, reading skills, physical games, math, puzzles, crafts and making Seusstacular foods!

Sustainable Home Based Learning – As we return to the roots of our homeschool journey we’re returning to the garden and learning to dig deep into thinking and understanding the natural beauty of creation.

Ancient History – This will be a complicated web of interesting activities developed over the 2016-2017 calendar year as we gather with friends and enjoy leather work, singing, harvest eating, science projects, writing assignments, history and whatever else comes up surrounding things prior to 0 AD.

 

 

 

Dr. Seuss

10712930_10205082279399640_6393466967634475744_nThis is one of my favorite adventures to take with my kids in the dog days of summer here in South Texas or early September when our schedule permits.

Read more about Theodor Seuss Geisel here

Booklist –  in order of published date

Booklist  – in the order we’re doing them for our summer of 2016

Reading Club – where you can get ideas and post your ideas!

Spreadsheet – this is how I organize and track information when planning an activity for my kids or with friends.

All the individual activities, games and ideas will be added under each books page with links to pinterest, and other resources, along with last years pictures and this summers as we get to them.

Every subject you can think of can be added to this exciting authors work to spark imagination and learning.

Remember when you homeschool, the bell never rings, dad can read some of the bed time stories and a grandparent is great for “You’re Only Old Once.”