Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Homeschooling Post

this is obnoxiously long.
unless you are one of the many people who've emailed me lately asking these questions, then it's probably not long enough.

About this time of year for the last several years, I get an email a week (or text or phone call or random stranger just asking because they need to know...but mostly emails) asking not-so-simple-to answer
 Homeschool Questions.

I'm gonna do my best to answer some of those questions here.
And I'd love to say that I'm going to do this once a week and be all organized about it but I tried that a few years ago and it's just not me.

Instead, let's do this.
If I missed something you really want to know - put it in the comments section and I'll just keep answering until you feel like you have all you need to know!

I am going to write this through the eyes of what our normal school day looks like.
Specifically today but also just a normal day (I'll bounce back and forth).
We do have a normal...but it's only normal because there are many days to contrast it too.

BUT, but but but...before we begin there is something you HAVE to promise me.
It's only one little itty bitty thing but it is so important:

YOU are NOT me.
I am ME.
You are YOU.
And that is beautiful.
So so beautiful!
Let's let it be, together?

God has wired us different.
Do not fight that, do not beat that, EMBRACE that and make it work for you.

Read what we do but read what others do and then make up your own way...

got it?


My alarm went off at 5:15am
(I've already lost 15 of you and another 15 of you are beating yourself up for one reason or another....you promised, remember?)
I went to a 6am Bikram Yoga class - because that is Jake's schedule today.
We work out my yoga schedule on Sunday nights when he knows his schedule.
This part will change every week...that's just our life...we just make it work.
He has to work, yoga is important to me, we make it work.

Other weeks I have to do night Bikram so I still get up at 6am but work out at home (Crossfit stuff and Yin Yoga) and 'emerge' from my work out at about 7:30 am.  

During this time, if I'm not at Bikram, I listen to sermons online.

Either way, I'm dressed and in the kitchen doing breakfast stuff by 8am.

The girls have a 7am alarm.
For Nora and Sophie this means they can't come out of their room until then - they are EARLY risers.
They have a morning routine and can start working on it quietly in their room, if they finish all they can in their room, then they can play quietly. (they have issues, can you tell?)

For Lydia and Samantha, this means: push the snooze button for the first time of 1,000.
Not so early risers in that room.
Lydia's main complaint about sharing a room.

Either way, 
They all have the same morning routine:
Make Bed
Make Room spotless
Get Dressed
Breakfast (they get their own)
Brush Teeth
Write the week's memory verse and the name of someone you're praying for.

The morning routine is part of their chore system (a whole other post!).
If I even have to say the words, "morning stuff" in the morning - you don't get credit for it that day and you start losing money!
I kinda got sick of hearing myself say it.

Morning routine must also be done by 8:30am.
(so now instead of 'morning stuff' I just shout out the time occasionally, I still feel like a nag but slightly less annoying....slightly...I will drop this habit over time, I'm being nice about it right now but will get tougher on that as they get older)

I eat breakfast, read a little (devotional type of things) or journal and do dishes between 8:00 am and 8:30 am.

So now it's 8:30 am or something like that.
I am not a stickler on the 'minutes' just the general idea of time.
So, from now on, if I write a time just know it's got a window of 30 min's to an 1 hr on either side.
(except wake up and bed time ;-)
I could care less about the exact time but I care a lot about the day getting away...I'm a big picture girl in a lot of ways - details not so much.
Plus, all those stressful years of strict scheduling with four babies has made me shiver at detailed time schedules.
I twitched when I see people's schedules of homeschool days and they are broken up by time slots.
Literally, twitch.  I am capable of them but they remind me of a very hard time so I just don't do them.

(BUT...for many people, it's beautiful and provides freedom, so if you see that and don't twitch, you should give it a whirl, even if it's just to see if you can or not!)

First thing's first.
Dogs go outside.
They think school and life is all about them and can get a LOT bit distracting so out they go!
Bonnie just stands here most of the morning waiting for her playmates to finish:
 I don't know how it happened but we have settled into a schedule that looks like this:

Gather at the dining room table.
I tried the whole school room idea, not me, it became the school closet...a large pretty one.  I need to be near the kitchen...I'm their teacher but I'm their mommy and a wife just as equally so my kitchen is my 'office' and I don't like to be far away from it..our school stuff is stored in three places.  The stuff used every.single.day is closest to the table in a storage thing and able to be put away quickly and easily

Math first, for everyone.
2 lessons a day unless I say otherwise 
(they get all psyched out when I say it's a 1 lesson day!), 
with a 8 lessons done a week, 
yes, you can do all 8 in one day if you want, Sophie does this a lot.
Actually, Sophie does more like 12-13 lessons a week.
(we are a math family, all the girls are good at it, I'm pretty good, Jake is awesome.  I am saying that to release you if you have a little more stress in your home here - it's actually funny - we have a family full of girls who are good at math  - think about it!)
 A lot of their math is done independently but some of it requires me.
Sometimes this is stupidly frustrating but #1 - they have learned to just be patient and wait their turn 
#2 - if they have to wait a really long time I have a basket of independently played math games that I have worked on building for a few years 

I'm guessing here but I'd say math lasts 30-40 min's a day.

 Whoever finished math first starts Language Arts, with me.
Our LA has zero to no independent work
but I knew that and I chose that.
LA's are what we put most of our energy into.
I figured out what we were doing late in the game - meaning we just started this program this year after fumbling around with other programs for years.
It took a long time but we have found what works and boy does it work.
We all love it!
Because there is no independent work one person starts while the other three finish up math.
When those three finish math, they move on to their Art Books..which are mostly independent with just an occasional explanation from me.
I love these for teaching basic art ideas and love them even more for their independent nature.
If they are not in the mood to do any from their Art Book, they can choose to do a Draw Write Now.
Which is kind of art and kind of handwriting.
They bounce between these regularly.
Most of the time someone is finishing art just about the time person #1 is finishing LA's.
So, I work with person #2 (or persons...Nora and Sophie do LA's together).
Then the last person/person's always finishes art before I'm ready so they can continue to play math games or go read quietly in the living room while they wait for me.

Lots of waiting on mommy in our school - I figure that's life and it's a great lesson to learn now.
Be patient.  Wait.
And some days they rock in this areas, most days they are just kids and don't but we will just keep working at it.

I don't really know where they learned this concept from but they made it up and I just went with it.

RECESS happens sometime between 10am and 12pm.

Some days we finish by 10 or 10:30am...some days we don't.

They 'recess' for about 20 min's while I reclaim the table, check email, pee, snack, whatever...

11:30 or so we start on the 'everyone together' subjects.
I used to start our day like this but that was bad.
I don't know why, it just was.

Right now we are reading through a book of missionary stories, it's so neat!
Today we read about Louis Braille and then all wrote our names in Braille, it was fun.

We'll get back to our Bible study we were doing soon, we still like it, this is just working for us right now.

2-3 times a week...sometimes more, sometimes less
Some days this requires an experiment/activity, I'll get that ready during recess, which just means a longer recess ;-).  I get all the supplies ready for experiments in advance a few weeks at a time - sometimes, when I'm on my game.
Sometimes we read the lesson and then go out after school to buy what we need and then do the activity the next day or that night...yep...we do it both ways.
Some days we do 2-3 lessons although not often, I don't like moving that fast through ideas in science like that.
They remember the concepts better in this area if we just slow down.

This is all over the place 
basically for the past two years we have been doing American History.
And we are slow.
But we love it.
I was given an old Abeka third grade textbook,
the table of content is a list of famous people in American History, listed in order of dates.
So, we have just been making our way through the people.
We use the library, I internet search fun activities and crafts for each person and we try to go to as many places we read about as possible.
History is very alive in our house and we get to talk about God through History with unabashed truth.
It's beautiful and truthful and I am passionate about truthful History.

I will not apologize for this but if you take God out of history, you have a false history, a lie.
(same with Science!)

We end our official school day with lunch, in front of the TV.
Lately the girls rewatched Liberty Kids but on a regular basis I try to find Netflix or Prime movies on the subjects we are learning about in History or Science 
(yes, we watch Science videos with evolution - we talk about it tons!).

i.e. Today they watched a Volcano National Geographic Documentary.

They know that once the movie is over it's FREE TIME!!!
And that is it.

I don't do lesson plans.
I used to but now I'm on a roll and know what I'm doing.
Now, I just journal what we do.

I used to lesson plan on one piece of paper, journal what we actually did in the book and then throw the lesson plan away so I didn't feel guilty but again, now I just journal.
I couldn't have started that way, I needed to start with lesson plans and as we grown and change I will go back and forth to lesson plans and away.
I go there when I need to go there....not any other time.

I journal into a blank lesson plan book thing, this is it:

Now, for the good stuff.
Lydia wanted to take my picture (s) so you could see what I look like during school:
while you 'enjoy' these, I'll share my favorite pieces of advice....

 #1 - ABOVE ALL.
In our day, in our weeks, in our months, in our years my #1 biggest goal with the girls education is this:

I am going to forget stuff.
They are going to forget stuff I taught them.
Education has gaps.
It is not my goal to fill them or worry about filling them or (shoot, I don't even think about it!).
It is my goal to teach them to love to learn 
WHEN they have a gap of learning later in life, it won't matter.
They will love to learn so much that figuring out the answer to what they want or need to know will be a joy and come naturally to them.

You could get spiritual, you could get practical, you could get emotional about this.
Heart, head, character - 

I don't know who they are going to be or what their skill sets will be.
But no matter what I want to watch them dive into it full force and that will happen if they love to learn.

We do stress academics in our home but it's not the #1 priority.
Yep, I just said it.
Oh...and I love the freedom that gives me!
I am not a total unschooler, but kinda.
I say kinda because although I do stress academics, I way way way stress purity of heart and character of heart and seeking God, MORE.
I care way more whether my daughters grow up virtuous, truthful, strong, courageous, honorable, etc....
Than whether or not they know how to count by 8's or divide sentences with perfection or whatever....
The condition of their souls matters more to God so it matters more to me.

 #3 - TESTING.
Yes, testing your children on a National Standard makes sense.
If you are a communist or living in a Class society where you are trying to sort everyone out into class groups.
Just sayin'.
But, we are not.
We are FREE.
I test when I flippin' HAVE to but promptly throw the test results away.

I know a lot of people who test 'for themselves' so they feel better about whether or not their child is learning.
Can I just challenge you here to find another standard to measure this by?
Test their hearts, test their character.
Academically, go back and look at old work and see the progression they've made.
'Standardized' tests?
I look for progress.
Are we moving forward, are we loving to learn, are we learning, are we not settling?
If yes, then you pass.
Each child should be their own standard, test your child against their standard, not someone else's.
I'll stop here, but really, do some digging here....just for fun!

Our worst homeschooling day is better than any other day my kids would have had in a traditional school setting.
This is true because homeschooling is what we are supposed to be doing in our family.
I don't beat myself up for time lost.
I quit that.
It was depressing and dumb.
Even if my girls were in a traditional school setting, there would be bad days with nothing learned.
That's life.
Go with it.
Don't give up the week but do give up the day.

Sometimes we start out our day meaning to do a full day but by the time Math and LA's are done, 
And so done we are.
 Now that I think about it, this is how it happened....we start out our day with Math and LA's because those are my two 'have to's' and once those are done, everything else is gravy to me, the fact that we do those first shows you how many bad days I've had....it's habit now to get the 'have to's' done so that if it is a bad day, we can quit and I don't feel awful about the day being lost academically!

I'd say we have a Math and LA's only day once every week to once every two weeks.
Honesty, feels good ;-).

I am a huge advocate of homeschooling conferences.
They are your gas station, your pep rally and if you are overwhelmed with looking at websites then going straight to the people who developed them and talking with them is so amazing.

Support groups, co-ops, church groups, random people you know...the more people you have around you to pool from the more normal you'll feel because you'll see, quickly, that NO ONE's day looks remotely close to anyone else's day.

Plus, they are typically a very very fun group of people.
After all, we are all completely insane or we wouldn't be doing this. 

#6 - get up before the kids do.
I have always strived for this.
Remember, whoever gets up first, wins.
I know that babies wake up if you do, just leave them in their cribs until they are 'supposed' to get up.
They will live...and thrive. (even if they are sCrEaMiNg at you...trust me!)

get dressed every day.
(you can wear your yoga pants...you can....I grant you that 3 days on a normal week...the other 4 - get dressed...K? Ok, maybe this is just me but when I feel frumpy, I act frumpy....this may not be you...if so, ditch this.)

Oh...and it totally counts as 'getting dressed' if you stay in your yoga pants but put on a cute sweatshirt/shirt and cute earrings....it does.

#7 - don't be lazy.
let yourself off the hook, have realistic expectations (you are being mommy and teacher and wife, that's a lot), but laziness is what will make the big guilt settle in.....just don't be.
I have to work on this hourly.
just sayin'....I do have one finger pointed at you but three at me...I just know what a culprit this is in my life...let's just not be lazy together, k?

#8 - HAVE FUN.
if something isn't working, sell it, chuck it, start over.
if something is boring, sell it, chuck it, start over.
if something is causing fights, sell it, chuck it, start over.
if you just don't have a good feeling about it, sell it, chuck it, start over.
no matter when in the year it is....just start over.
(p.s. easy not to be lazy when you're having fun!)

What does a typical day of Homeschooling look like?
I dunno.
Nobody does.
That is MY day up there but only for this year.
It will look different every.single.year.

Kids are changing every day so our day will change with their change.....

ok...what did I miss!?


Mandy said...

thank you! i love your homeschooling posts SO much. you had me tearing up and "amening" a bunch as i read through that. don't worry, i'll read it again and jot down questions i have for you. LOVE!

Becky said...

"Oh...and it totally counts as 'getting dressed' if you stay in your yoga pants but put on a cute sweatshirt/shirt and cute earrings....it does."

Did you put this part in for me?! I seriously lol'ed , yesterday I switched to yoga pants and a peace sign shirt, and earrings with eyeliner and called it fancy. (After I dropped food on my linen pants before 9 am. Somedays just need yoga pants!)

Bekah Boo said...

love you so freakin much!!!!

and please remind me of this someday if i have kids... its good truth here, holly.
thank you for speaking it!

The AB club said...

Thanks for the info. Very encouraging. I'm curious what your girls fix themselves for breakfast.

Melanie said...

I'm a total stranger who happened upon your blog. I too am a homeschooling, husband works for the Navy, Jesus-loving, girly family mom! (twin 7yr olds and a 2yr old, all girls.) I hope you don't mind that a stranger read your blog but I really enjoyed reading it. I loved your positive attitude and if nothing else it helped me to have a more positive attitude and outlook today!

Stacy said...

Sometimes I feel robbed that we live so far away.

Mache said...

Very encouraging like always, thank for sharing details it is so good to see how others do it and get new ideas that you have been looking for, sometimes just tiny details.
and I agree with you about getting dress, it helps.
love you girls and missed you a bunch.

Team Summers said...

Soooooo.... what's this LA program you love? :) And great post by the way :)

Liz W. said...

I might have to pick your brain. Claire missed 1 week of school b/c of our trip to Disney & I almost pulled my hair out, trying to help her do her missed homework assignments.

I am SOO struggling with your advice #1. I do NOT make learning fun :-(

Yes, please share your LA program. I might have to take matters into my own hands.

Miss you friend.

TheaBeth said...

Great post, great advice for me as I begin our homeschool journey. Thanks for sharing honestly.