Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sticking to a Schedule, How I Make Homeschooling Work for our Family

Each year while preparing for the coming school year I always sit down to make a daily schedule.   Previously my schedule has been used more as a guide rather than a "must do".  However, this year I knew it had to be different.  This is the first year I have 4 children to homeschool, not to mention a very active 2 year old son to care for.  I knew I must treat my job as homeschool teacher SERIOUS! THIS IS A JOB!  We can convince ourselves our days can be fudged around and other less important things can be added to the days but in reality it never works.  It doesn't work because homeschooling like anything else takes dedication, attention to detail, and yes...ORDER. Would we send our children to a school where the teacher had her laptop open and hopped on Facebook and Pinterest throughout the day?  Would we think she is a very effective teacher if she skipped out on a lesson to talk to a friend on the phone?  But aren't we all guilty of that?  I am as guilty as anyone in this area!  This is why I am determined to be different.  I am determined to give my children the type of educational environment they deserve.  I am dedicated to the task and consider this my top priority and MY JOB!

So how is it going to be different this year?  Besides the obvious attitude and heart change, I saw a need for several things to change.  For one I am waking to an alarm clock each morning at 7am. This also means going to bed at a decent hour (usually by 10pm).  I make sure I am dressed and ready for the day (usually before the kids are awake) and also make them get dressed before breakfast.  We do all this before 8:30a.m.  I do not allow myself to get on the computer unless the kids are on lunch break or until after school.  THIS IS A MUST!  I do not answer the phone unless it is an important phone call (such as our Realtor saying someone wants to see our house).  I do not pick up my cell phone to text unless it's a break.  Cell phones go in the same category as the computer.  I also do not let myself get distracted by the house work.  It can wait!  It can wait because if I went to an actual teaching job I couldn't run home to clean and do laundry.  Why do we think we are super women and can handle both keeping house and homeschooling?  Only one can effectively be done at a time! What about appointments?  Can they be made in the afternoons so not to interrupt the school day? Do what you need to do to ensure success in your homeschool.

Do you know what I have found since implementing these few rules for myself?  PEACE.  I don't wake up angry and disgruntled thinking about school.  We stay on task so my children are also more focused on school.  They know what to expect each day so everything runs smoothly. This in turn means they finish up earlier in the day because there are less distractions.  We are usually done by 2pm or ealier each day.  This gives everyone more time to do the things they enjoy.  Everyone's happy.  Sure there are still those moments when kiddos don't cooperate or they grumble and complain about a lesson.  This is life with children.  Homeschooling does not have to be a burden though.

This brings me to our schedule. We keep the same basic schedule everyday with a few minor changes in the afternoons.  I printed each daily schedule out and laminated them. I punched a hole on each side at the top and put them on ring clasps.  The schedule hangs on the wall and is flipped around to match the current day.

*When I say C& I, I am referring to my two oldest children.  When I say E & J that is my two youngest.  N is the baby. 

Here is the basic schedule:

8:30am-  Prayer and Devotions (Bible Memory)
9:00am-  Boy’s Bible Lesson, Worship, Bible Memory
C & I- Language Lessons, Phonetic Zoo (switch)
9:30am-  Boy’s Calendar, Number Chart, MFW Lesson, Book of the Day
C & I- Write Shop, Piano Practice (switch)       
10:30am- Boy’s Snack, Outdoor Time, Sensory Play
C & I- Math
11:00am-  E's Hooked on Phonics, J's Work Page, N's Busy Bag
11:30am-  Mom Prepares Lunch
Boy’s Free Play
12:00pm-  Lunch Break
1:00pm-  N's Nap, E & J's Handwriting Without Tears (Mon.,Thur. and Fri.) KinderBach on Wed.
C & I- Chores
1:30pm-  E and J’s Yoga
C & I- History with Mom (Mon. and Thursday)
or Science (Wed. and Fri.)
2:30pm- Music Composers (Mon.) Home Economics (Wed.) Art (Thur.) and P.E. (Fri.)
3:00pm- School Ends

To see our curriculum choices for this year, go here.

Tuesdays we have homschool coop so we have a shorter day at home.  This means only the subjects scheduled before lunch are completed that day. My kids each take 2 classes at the coop and my older two take piano lessons directly after coop. It's a busy day, but I have kept all the busyness to one day a week so its not so bad.

Another thing I have done to make this school year run more smoothly is plan the entire year before school started.  This wasn't easy and was very time consuming.  However, I know myself well and know I procrastinate all the fun projects because of lack of preparation.  I knew if I had a written out plan for each day (more detailed then our schedule) that it would make things so much easier in the long run.  What I ended up doing for my older children (grades 7th and 8th) was print off a weekly schedule chart, like this one here for each week of the school year.  Ended up being over 30 schedules to print for each child.  Then I hand wrote what they need to do in each subject for each day on the charts.  Here is one of them so you can see what I am talking about.

This helps me so much because I do not have the older kids asking me all day what lesson or project they need to do.  They simply go to their chart and get to work.  They also cross out as they finish so they know what they have done so far.

I store all the weekly schedules in a thin 3 ring binder.  I have one for the older kids and one for the younger.

With my younger two I did things a bit differently.  Since they are not independent in their work, I made monthly calenders for their binder which tell me any extra things we need to do each day.  I am using My Father's World Kindergarten curriculum for them and it comes with an already written out daily plan.  However, I wanted something I could write down the snack of the day, bible verse, field trip ideas, book of the day, etc.  Here is what our monthly schedule looks like:

  I also do any shopping or extra preparation on Sundays so I am fully ready for the week ahead.

How do you keep your homeschool running smoothly?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.  Fill free to leave the link to any blog posts you have written on the subject. I would love to see how other families stay organized.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Day of Homeschool 2014

This is our 8th year homeschooling.  I can hardly believe it has been that long!  This year I was especially excited because Little E starts Kindergarten and it is my absolute favorite grade to teach!  We actually started last Monday, August 18th but as usual I am late in posting.  Sometimes life takes priority, what can I say!  Anyway, wanted to share my children's first day of school pictures and I hope you all enjoy them.

We started the day with a hearty breakfast, breakfast burritos!  Baby N thinks he is King and likes to eat on top of the table!  Silly boy!

 East Side

Our School Room

West Side

 Baby N (age 2)
Tot School-A.K.A "Run all over the house and do whatever I please school"

 J Bug (age 4 3/4)

 Little E (age 6)

Miss "I" (age 12)
7th Grade

 Mr. "C" (age 14)
8th Grade

Mama- The Teacher
(I actually never sit at my desk during the school day. I am always busy doing things.)

This year my children are doing a wide variety of activities and we are using a mix of curriculum.  To see what we are doing read my curriculum post, here.

My kindergartner was soooooo excited to complete his first reading lesson.  He even read a simple story and got to put a sticker on his reading chart!

For my little boy's writing we are using Handwriting Without Tears.  Here are my boys jamming out to the "Where do you start your letters" song.  They are such a hoot!  They love to dance.

More Dancing

 Here they are practicing their F's with the Wet-Dry-Try method.

 Handwriting is fun!

In the afternoons as baby naps, I teach my older children either their History or Science.  While teaching my older children, the little boys do yoga!  They think it is the best.  We have several kid's yoga videos they love to use.

Yoga Time!

That is some of what we did the first day.  It was an absolutely perfect first day of school.  The kids behaved and everything went as planned.  I was so pleased!

Do you homeschool?  I would love to read about your first day/week of school post?  Please share the direct link to your post in the comments section below.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School Dinner 2014

Last Sunday my family and I celebrated another year of homeschool with our semi-annual back to school dinner.  I say semi-annual because although I WANT to make this an every year family tradition, it never seems to turn out that way.  Our last back to school dinner was in 2012, read about it here.  The one before that was back in 2006 when my oldest son was entering Kindergarten.  I'll get better... at least I didn't let a 6 year gap go by this last time! ;-)

As usual, "Apples" is our theme.  I decorated the table with school supplies, apple place mats, apple cups, and of course a bowl full of apples!  I also burned some apple cinnamon incense to make the room smell nice and applie (is applie a word?  It is now!).

Oh, and guess what I found at the grocery store while shopping for the back to school dinner menu items???
So fun.  It tasted a lot like sparkling apple cider.

My oldest and youngest son.  I love how baby N poses for pictures now.  He melts my heart!  
He is 2 now by the way.  Turned 2 on June 1st.

Miss "I" (now 12) enjoying her apple pop!

Little E and J Bug (ages 6 and 4)
They were pretty excited about the dinner this year, especially Little E who is entering Kindergarten!

Time for the feast!

On the menu was BBQ turkey loin topped with fried apples and onion, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and whole wheat rolls.  YUM!

The whole fam!

My baby boy enjoying a good meal.

 Mama made Apple Crisp!

 Nothing beats warm apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream.

Does your family do something special to celebrate back to school?  Please leave a comment and tell me about it.  If you have blogged, please share the link.  I would love to see how your family celebrates this special time of year. #backtoschoolfeast 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

I have had a lot of fun planning our school year this year.  In fact, I spent most of my summer planning.  My main reason for all the extra planning was to be as organized and prepared as possible.  You see this year I am going from having only 2 kids officially in school to 4!  I now have an 8th grader, 7th grader, Kindergartner, and a Pre-K student.

Here is what my children will be using this school year.

For my 7th and 8th grader


The past couple years I have pretty much neglected Bible time in my homeschool.  I am realizing more and more the importance of putting God first in everything and this includes our homeschool day!  I have now vamped our schedule so morning devotions and prayer are first.  I really like this devotional.  It is simple, yet powerful and geared towards older children.  Along with our daily devotion, my children will also be memorizing a different scripture verse each week.


This is our 5th year using Teaching Textbooks. I can't say enough good things about it!  My kids love it, they learn a lot and I don't have to do much.  What more can you ask for, right?

Language Arts

I have been on the look out for a simple, yet effective grammar curriculum.  I was so excited when a friend told me about Queen Homeschool's Language Lessons.  These books are based off the Charlotte Mason method of learning and cover all the basics without being overly repetitive and time consuming.  I am hoping these books will be the answer to our language arts frustration.  So far so good! 


We started the Phonetic Zoo program at the end of  last school year and I am so pleased with it.  I had researched which curriculum was best for older kids and read numerous good reviews of this program. It is yet another simple but effective curriculum and only takes minutes to complete each day!


A family member passed on her Write Shop 1 curriculum to me and I am so excited to try it out.  Both my older children have struggled in their writing.  So far it has been simple to use and seems very thorough.

History & Geography 

Last year I used Abeka's Science curriculum for my older children and was quite pleased with it.  This year I decided to give Abeka's History a try.  I visited one of Abeka's curriculum displays this spring and got to take a good look at this before I bought it.  I think my children are going to enjoy it.  Covers history from creation all the way to the early 21st century.


Again, I really enjoyed Abeka's Science last year and decided to continue with it.  It is simple to teach, covers a wide variety of topics and includes fun experiments for the kids to try. 


Piano Lessons and Meet The Composers 2

Piano-  My kids are on their 5th or 6th year of piano lessons and will continue lessons throughout this year.
Composers- We started this curriculum last year but did not finish it.  This is the 2nd book in this series.  My children finished up the first volume early last year and are eager to get through this second book.  Very interesting, easy lessons and these books each come with a musical cd with a sampling of the composer's works.

Home Economics

Each Wednesday afternoon I will be teaching my daughter a home economics lesson.  To start we will be going through a Proverbs 31 Bible study and then putting together the "Ruby Doll" kit (above left).  This will take several weeks to complete as the study is quite in depth.  Next, we will move on to the "Goldie Doll" kit which has a doll to sew as well as another in depth study on inner beauty.  Then we will also be going through the book Personal Help For Girls put out by Pearables.  Lastly, I will teach my daughter how to sew using a pattern.  I will probably have her sew a simple dress or nightgown for the project.

Extra Curricular

This year for our extra curricular activities we will continue with out homeschool coop every Tuesday afternoon.  This semester my oldest son will take a comics class and a cooking class.  My daughter will take a rag quilt making class as well as an American Girl history class.  I will be teaching a preschool class using my favorite preschool curriculum, Mother Goose Time.  My little boys will be in my class as well as a Lego building class.  Busy, Busy!

For my Pre-K and Kindergartner

Last spring I started researching Kindergarten curriculum and the pros and cons of each.  Along the way the learned so much about the Charlotte Mason method of teaching.  If you are unfamiliar with this method click on the link above to learn more.  I realized with having boys my schooling for them needed to be as hands on as possible.  Boys are natural explorers and Charlotte Mason's method is all about nature studies, art, and using living books as learning aids instead of boring textbooks.  I have heard nothing but good things about My Father's World curriculum which is also CM based.  I decided MFW would be my choice for E & J this year.  It contains 26 unit studies over the course of the school year, each teaching a different letter of the alphabet.  It also integrates math concepts, history, science, and of course language arts!  This curriculum also utilizes many fun children's books to go along with each lesson.  I am going to do my best to blog our school year using this curriculum, so stay tuned!

Years ago I taught my daughter to write using the Handwriting Without Tears program and LOVED it!  Naturally this was my first choice for teaching my little boys to write as well.  Although My Father's World covers handwriting, I wanted to supplement with this.  You see, HWOT not only teaches handwriting but also teaches the steps of properly forming each letter.  They use several hands on methods that are fun for children and really get the steps into their little brains!  It is easy to use and doesn't take a lot of time to teach. This year I am using the Pre-K book for J Bug and the Kindergarten book for Little E and both boys are using the slates, wood pieces and mats.

Once again, yes, My Father's World covers phonics, but for Little E I wanted more.  He is an older Kindergartner (turned 6 last April) and already knows all his letters and sounds.  My Father's World only touches on reading and I really felt my son needed something more aggressive.  I used the entire Hooked on Phonics program from Preschool to 3rd grade with my older children.  It worked great with them and I have had no complaints.  The books are interesting, colorful and fun and the kids loved all the games and sticker charts that came with it.  This year I am using the Kindergarten program with Little E and he already read his first story page yesterday on his first day of school!  He was so proud of himself and was beaming all day about it.

For music I am teaching my boys using KinderBach, a dvd curriculum.  My older two kids used this when they were younger.  Super fun dvd lessons teach note reading and simple piano songs to the young child. Here is a sampling of one of the lessons.


Character Badges

For discipline and behavior (good and bad) I chose to use Character Badges for my boys.  With Character Badges you have charts to track both good and bad behaviors.  Kids can earn badges for good behavior as well as prizes. They also learn some awesome character qualities along the way and scripture verses that back up those qualities.  I am excited to use this! 

Some of the extra curriculum I am using for Kindergarten this year are Rod and Staff preschool/kindergarten workbooks, Mother Goose Time leftovers (I used their curriculum all last year for preschool), Pattern Blocks, Hot Dots, Bedtime Learning Books and lots of beginning readers.

It will be a very busy, but fun filled school year for my children!  I am looking forward to it.  

Want to see how I incorporate all this into the school week while also managing a toddler?  Stay tuned as I will be blogging our school schedule soon.

*Links within this post are not affiliate links. I am not trying to sell any products.  Links are posted simply to direct you to the curriculum should you have interest.* 
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Patty's Day at Our House

St. Patrick's Day is never a holiday we seem to prepare for much, but one we all seem to enjoy.  The kids get a kick out of wearing green and I always prepare the traditional corn beef and cabbage dinner.  Over the past few years, I have added the tradition of buying a leprechaun cake and ice cream for dessert.  The day started with preschool for the boys.  As you know Little E and J Bug attend a little Lutheran preschool twice a week (as well as homeschool).  At school everyone wore green, made leprechaun hats, and they got a special treat of shamrock cookies for their snack.

In the evening while they were waiting for dinner Little E decided to use his green play basket and go around finding any toys with green.  J Bug joined in and they had a fun little scavenger hunt.  

Here they are so proud of their green toys.  Even baby N had to join the picture.  I thought this was so cute, because he acted as if he were one of the big boys.  Just look at him!  I love it!

That's a whole lotta green!

After the bigger boys abandoned the basket and hat  Baby N had to try them out.  Tee Hee!

So cute!

This boy cracks me up!

My plate
We also had cream soda with our meal and my hubby had green beer.


(In case your wondering, his shirt says, "Pinch Me, you will not".)

I can't tell whether they like it or not.  

Me and my sweet baby boy

Very excited for dessert!

Our Leprechaun Cake 

Served with mint chocolate chip ice cream

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