Monday, November 30, 2009

Organizing it all!

One of my concerns about homeschooling, has been to make sure we cover everything we need to throughout the year.  There are lots of different thoughts on this, as many traditional homeschoolers prefer the unschooling method (children learn on their own without parents pushing subject matter).  However, in order for our homeschool to work I need some form of structure. 

I stumbled onto a homeschool organziationsl system, called the workbox system and after much reading, decided this sounded perfect for us.  Here are the basics of the system:

  • Each child has a set of 6-12 workboxes (dependent on age/subjects).
  • I fill each work box with that days work assignments & materials needed for each assignment, this could include workboooks, worksheets, books, flash cards, games, arts & crafts, snacks, etc.
  • The idea is that each workbox has everything Ella will need, so there is no hunting around and being distracted from the task at hand....schoool!
  • Each box is numbered and has a direction cards like read mom a story, write a letter, 30 minutes of free time, etc.
  • Ella will complete one box before moving to the next.
  • Workboxes can be completed by children independently unless tagged with a “Work with Mom” tag.
  • and when all the boxes are completed , school work is over for the day.  

Sounds simple enough right?  We'll let you know how it all works out, once we start homeschooling in January. 

Well, we decided on a sense of structure for completing our work.  Now, we had to find the perfect workboxes for us to use.  I searched everywhere, but wanted something that was going to look the least obtrusive.  There is nothing like a bunch of tupperware bins sitting all over a room or a wire shelf, when there is an active toddler around.  One late night, while I was reading another homeschoolers blog I saw the perfect shelves:


 These shelves are from Ikea Trofast line and the nicest I found that fits perfectly with the workbox system. 

The benefits of the workbox system and why we decided to go with this particular system of organization:
  • Forces me to be organized and plan the school day ahead of time.
  • Saves Time – Everything is completly laid out before the day begins (no running around looking for scissors, markers, a certain worksheet, etc.)
  • It's flexible and easy to adapt to our ever changing daily schedule. When we have a class (piano, swimming, horseback riding) during the day, I can have Ella return to finish her work and she will know exactly where she left off.  Also, if I am tied up with Eric or a chore, I can have her do her independent work until I am free to do “Work with Mom” one-on-one.
  • Ella will know what is expected of her, how much work there is to be done, and when her work is completed. 
  • Ella will see all her work for the day at all times, as well as see it disappear as completed. Helps her learn self-discpline and independence, giving her a true sense of accomplishment when she's done for the day.
  • Since everything is laid out, Ken (Daddy) can also help! So, if I have to run an errand during the day and he's watching Ella he can work on some boxes with her as well or have her work independently on  a workbox until I return. 
There are more benefits to this system, but these are the reasons why we decided it sounded perfect for us.

The nice thing about the Ikea Trofast system that we have chosen to incorporate the workbox system, is that it is so versatile.  We can use it as a bookshelf or to store all kinds of toys, activities, games, paper, you name it and this system will store it.  We liked these tall pine shelves so much for the workbox system that we purchased two, we also decided to purchase a couple lower units for the rest of our future school room for more toy and art storage for the kids.


 We can't wait to put these together and start  organizing everything!  Ella and Eric had fun picking their color buckets and we'll be decorating Ella's workboxes with laminated designer numbers, once we move into our house in Colorado.  She already likes our clocking in and out of school cards, which I made. She is so excited to see all the fun projects I'm putting together for her to complete. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sonlight Arrives!

Wow, I couldn't believe how many different curriculums that are available for homeschooling.  I've read countless books and did even more research online.  We finally settled on the Sonlight Curriculum, a Christian and literature based curriculum.  Ella loves to read and has always learned best through reading, this was the perfect fit for us.  Not to mention, the reviews were great!  This curriculum covers mainly language arts, history, and religion. Therefore,I will be supplementing with seperate Handwriting, Math & Science curriculums as well. 

Ella was so excited when we received our Sonlight Curriculum in the mail.  She saw all the books and just went crazy, flipping through them all (like a kid in a candy store).  Even Eric wanted to get in on all the learning fun!

I am so excited to see Ella thrilled with the idea of homeschooling.  She gets even more excited when she sees all the books and materials arriving daily. 

I've been up late preparing lessons for the first few months of the new year.  I'm slowly transitioning from the traditional method of schooling to our homeschool curriculum. We're so excited to start our school year in the winter!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Home School.....

I begin this new blog, as a way to document and chronicle our homeschool journey. The most basic question I have been asked; time and again, is why we have chosen to homeschool. Those that don't ask the question, we can sense their dissaproval and uncertainty.

We have actually pondered and prayed for guidance over this very subject for the last couple years. I had always assumed like all others, that I would be sending my children to public school, after all isn't that what we are supposed to do. My husband and I are both products of public education; didn't we turn out just fine?

Well, truth be told and in talking with my husband we both wish we would of had more opportunities to learn and grow individually, then as a collective whole (in a classroom). As our daughter approached preschool age, we decided to view our options for local schools. The public schools were ranked some of the highest in the state, but parent after parent complained about the health hazards of the old asbestos filled buildings. There were budget cuts, bussing lower income children in, teachers on strike, overcrowded classrooms, and the list goes on. I found local teachers choosing homeschooling, instead of sending their own children to public school.

We made a decent income; I thought perhaps private school was the answer. However, I didn't see much of a difference in learning styles from school to school. We even tried a summer program at one of the most prestigious and well to do private schools nearby, but our daughter did not seem to take to the whole experience. She was bored, wanted to do more arts and crafts, reading and less free play.

Our daughter was only 3 at the time; perhaps there was another school out there for her. We visited a handful of well known private and Christian schools, but none really fit the bill.

Finally, I thought I found our answer. A small Christian school (with a student body of less than 40 children) in town was willing to test our daughter into their PreK/K4 program. Ella passed their test with flying colors and we were told was operating at a Kindergarten level, not a preschool level. I always figured as much, but it was nice to hear from an objective source. I was concerned starting full-time school at such a young age, but my options were limited. Do I hold her back, knowing she would be bored in nursery school or do we let her move ahead? We wanted Ella to love school, as she already loved learning.

We were told the classroom was limited to just nine children, a combined K4/K5 classroom. The children arrived by 8am and were done by 1pm. This was a shorter day than most other schools we had visited and although this was five days a week, we couldn't find another school willing to let her in at this level.

Our daughter is one of the brightest in her class She participates with ease, has mastered all her required sight words, and is quick with her math and science skills, and she is just a social butterfly quickly making friends with classmates two and three years older than her. She has blossomed into a full fledged school girl in a matter of just a few months.

However, with every great rise there is a fall. I noticed she started to display nervous habits. She would resist what we would tell her, because her teacher told her something different. She would display reactions never seen before and words she would never hear at home. She would come home starving for food, because she didn't have enough time to eat her lunch. She was spending at least an hour a day on homework, all at the tender age of almost 4 years. The work was taking it's toll, our once eager learner didn't want to touch the computer any longer or didn't care to read as she once had. She is exhausted by the end of the day and by Friday, struggling not to fall asleep on the car ride home. She is so upset by the end of the night that she never has a chance to play much any more. Who could blame her, I'm getting burnt out and I'm not even the one attending school.

Finally, we have decided, enough. She needs a break and time to be a kid again. But, how would we give her the time she needs to just be a kid, while still meeting her demand for academic curiosity and freedom.
We have found our answer in home schooling!

What better opportunity for spiritual, character, academic, social, and family development than when home schooling. We got so caught up in running Ella from school to one activity to the next, we hardly ever spend time together any more. Even Ella, is screaming for stay at home days on the weekends (she is just so burnt out on school, during the week). Home schooling will give our family the precious commodity of time together. I do get quite a bit done with Ella in school, but I'm quickly reminded that I will have more than enough me time, when my children move on and have their own lives. Time passes us by way too fast, as I’m quickly learning with two growing little ones. I don't want to look back and think I didn't spend enough time with them.

At home, I can make sure we have mastered subjects before moving on, go at the children’s pace, have one-on-one (not one-on-twenty) teaching, and I can tailor my curriculum to their needs and desires. No more, spending all day at school and another hour or more at homework. We can venture out into the real world and see everything first hand, what better way to learn than in God’s playground. If we want to take in a play, a musical, travel, we have no limitations.

The largest concern I have heard with home schooling is, “what about the children’s social development. We have always been very active with activities and if anything, this will provide us the opportunity to experience even more outside activities for the children. We had to cancel a few of Ella’s favorite classes, as she just had too much going on with school and something had to give. I am always surprised at how many people think socialization is spending time with 20 other 4 & 5 year olds. Somehow, this is the proper form of ‘socializing’ my child. Personally, I can’t think of many behaviors I would like other 4 & 5 year olds teaching my child. Ella learned to share, take turns, say please and thank you at home. She was getting left out at Sunday school, because she wouldn’t bully the other children, like others toddlers did (hitting, grabbing, screaming). Ella can talk to most adults with ease; she interacts with kids on the playground and plays well with almost everyone. She has no problem letting you know how she feels or what she wants. We’re active in our Church, with the local Mom’s group, team sports like soccer

and will find a home school support group as well. I think we’ve got this base covered and if anything, I think our kids will probably be more socialized to the real world, than most “real” school children.

We want our children to learn about the Bible, to hear its message and follow the scripture. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6. It is our job as parents to guide our children on the right path. Our children are our most precious gift, how can I entrust them to a complete stranger.

We want what all parents want for their children. For them to be healthy, confident, and to know they are beautiful and loved individuals. We want them to have good manners, to be compassionate, to be respectful, and to be humble in spirit. We can hold on to our children’s innocent a bit longer, as we don't have to deal with peer pressure, Our kids will be established in their faith and know who they are, before having to face tough grown-up decisions that many 3rd graders are facing in public schools (drugs, sex, money, etc). My children will continue to sing nursery rhymes and children’s songs and not the latest pop song. Our kids will enjoy cartoons like Veggie Tales and Brother Bear, not Bart Simpson. Ella won’t look down on Eric as the younger sibling because he isn’t cool, they will become best friends learning to play cooperatively with each other.

We don't have to worry about who's taking & picking up the kids from school, unhealthy meals (no more cereal & PB& J five days a week), or overwhelmed teachers. My favorite, we don't have to get up at 6:30am everyday to get out of the house for school!

Wow, what a long post! Perhaps, now you see the benefits of home schooling…or perhaps, you have decided we have really fallen off the deep end. Whichever you decide, we have made a commitment to home school. Check back often as we approach the Swift School House launch, January 2010.