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Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Ideal Plan for Elementary Home Education (With a Lot of Links!)


My Ideal Plan for Elementary Home Education
(With a Lot of Links!)

Honestly, when I started teaching part-time at a private school last year and my kids transitioned into more traditional classroom education, I thought my 20+ home schooling years were pretty much over. However, since I was not rehired and my youngest daughter has asked to come home from public school, I am now planning to home school her for two or three years before I transition into full-time employment.  Our last year of co-op was rather frustrating and disappointing, so this is also a chance to redeem my home schooling memories and end on a happy note. I most look forward to spending time with just her. She's gotten a little lost in the shuffle the last few years.

We both quickly decided we want to do what I did with her oldest five sisters (now adults) when they were in the upper elementary grades.  My favorite approach for 3rd-5th grades is a good mix of unit study and Charlotte Mason style, along with a little “traditional” school and free-spirited fun.  I am taking a few things into account as I customize her education.  
  • She is extremely curious and creative, so I don’t want to quench the spark in her. On the other hand, we both have attention deficit issues, so we’ve got some work to do with basic habits, organization, and following directions.  I held her back a year already (August birthday), so we really need to nail these skills.  She is not a huge fan of workbooks or formal text books, and neither am I; hence the Charlotte Mason approach of lots of real reading and real writing, the arts, history, and nature studies.
  • She will be my only student at home this year, so I can focus on just her, without trying to coordinate group and individual assignments. That will give us a bit more flexibility and spontaneity. I am looking forward to that! Teaching a bunch of kids who all need attention at the same time can really scatter the brain.  
  • She will eventually return to public school. Elementary students in our area get very little history and science instruction because they are pushing basic skills for the standardized tests. The middle school and high school classes certainly do not promote a Christian perspective, so she's going to have to get that at home from me. She never got a substantial history education in our old co-op, and she was too young for our group history lessons the one year we stayed home. Therefore, one of my big priorities will be giving her comprehensive, in-depth, faith-based history and science instruction. 


With those factors in mind, here is what we plan to use and do this year:

Basic Skills:
  • Horizons math workbook 3rd grade
  • math manipulatives
  • on-line math games
  • A Reason for Handwriting
  • The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists (spelling and vocabulary)
  • Building Thinking Skills books
  • several grammar resources
  • chapter books that she chooses and I approve
  • writing assignments based on whatever she is studying, along with whatever zany stories she makes up 


American History:

We have dozens of non-fiction books, picture books, fiction chapter books, project books, and videos on our shelves. The year we were not in co-op, I compiled a list of them on my computer, sequenced by time periods, with page numbers, brief synopses, and reading levels. I will also use our weekly history assignment pages from that year.  See Favorite Books for Teaching American History.

Science:
  • science units on botany, zoology, and earth science using the books and videos we have on hand, as well as the Internet
  • nature walks around the neighborhood and in local parks
  • visit the Orlando Science Center once a month (I am about to get an annual family membership for $135 next week so I can take all of the kids to the IMAX movies over the summer, too.)


Other Subjects  
  • Bible - real version, picture books, and videos
  • P.E. at the co-op while I teach, as well as soccer at a local church  
  • arts and crafts on her own at the desk I just set up with art supplies in the dining room - we have a lot of drawing and craft books!
  • home skills - learn basic household skills, keep her room clean, cook together, visit her four small nephews (my grandchildren)  
  • music - sing favorite songs and American patriotic and folk songs 
  • Christmas - Advent unit study with stories, songs, poems, and crafts


(Note that I'm trying to keep it simple with this last section. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.) 

So, there you have it! That’s what we’re doing for school for 2014-2015!

As I thought through this article, I realized that I have a lot of blog posts about the foundations of elementary education.  Here are some of my favorites:

Home Schooling Approaches


Logistics

Basic Skills


American History


Bible & Christian Holidays


Enrichment

What do you like to do for the elementary years?  Leave a comment!

Virginia Knowles

www.StartWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com


"Colorful House" by Melody, 2012 

"Rainbow" by Melody, 2012

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Saving Money and Adding Variety with Used Curriculum


Saving Money and Adding Variety with Used Curriculum

Home schooling in the elementary years doesn’t have to break the bank!  I’m not for being “cheap” and skimping on quality when it comes to education, but you can build or enhance a terrific home library by acquiring some of your collection in the form of used books.  We have hundreds of children’s books and curriculum items in our home, and only a fraction of them were purchased new.

As I started planning out what my youngest daughter will do for home school next year, I realized I only need to buy a math workbook and a grammar workbook for her.  After over 20 years of home schooling 10 kids, we already have everything else right on our own shelves, and a lot of it was used when we got it.

Our favorite sources? 

Chairs in the Brightlight 
children's section
painted by Amy Huber
Used bookstores: We have a wonderful one a mile from our house with an amazing children’s literature section.  You can also order from their web site, Brightlight.  That store is my first stop when I’m looking for a great novel or biography for my kids – and these are the core of our history and literature program since we use the Charlotte Mason approach.  Our public library also has a used bookstore in it, again with a lovely children’s collection.  All of the kids’ books are a dollar or less there.


CFHE used curriculum sale
Annual used curriculum sales:  Here in the Orlando area, there are several annual used curriculum sales hosted by home school support groups.  In some cases, two or more groups will collaborate to pull off a huge, well-organized sale with thousands of books arranged by subject and grade.  Here is the web site for the Central Florida Home Educators Used Curriculum Sale. This sale is where we look for text books and work books, as well as more reading selections.

Family: Many of our books were given to us by family and friends.  I have a substantial vintage collection and many more contemporary titles from my parents and my in-laws.  Some of them were my childhood favorites that I wanted my own kids to enjoy.  In that spirit, I also pass along books to my own adult daughters for their children, too. My sister gave me a few huge boxes of books that her children had outgrown. 

Friends:  We've gotten a lot of great stuff from friends who were cleaning off their shelves and wanted to share with others. At times, I have put out a request on Facebook asking if someone has a particular title to loan and pass along for free.  That has been a huge blessing.  At our old home school co-op, moms would bring in boxes of books they weren’t using any more and leave them in the entry hallway for others to comb through.  Of course, I give away a lot of books to friends, too!

On-line:  Amazon and eBay are the two places I most commonly order used books on-line.  I also visit home school used curriculum sites such as Home School Classifieds and The Swap.  There are a ton of other sites that you can Google, but those are just the ones I have used.

Yard sales:  Looking for a really inexpensive way to supplement your curriculum? I’ve found children’s fiction, biographies, hands-on manipulatives, work books, and so much more at yard sales.  Yesterday, I picked up a a write-on/wipe-off math facts practice board for my youngest daughter, a lady bug paper model kit for my youngest son, and phonics flip book, a quiz deck, a construction vehicles puzzle, and some fun picture books for my oldest grandson.  I also saw a lot of educational software, good quality children’s dictionaries, and workbooks. Sure, yard sale finds aren’t the core of my curriculum.  I like to be a little more intentional than that.  But yard sale finds sure can spice up the mix for just pennies! 

My own shelves:  What?  Yeah, sometimes what I need is already right there.  I bought it for an older child, and forgot I had it.  Why not take a peek at what you have and see how you can used it in the future?

Public library:  I’m not talking about buying, but borrowing. I know you are raising your eyebrows.  Of course the books have been used – over and over again by hundreds of patrons!  And you don’t have to allocate long term storage on your own shelves.  All the variety, none of the hassle, and available in your own community. Perfect.

Where do you get your used books?  We want to know!  Leave a comment!

Grace,
Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Duck and Friends: Dinosaur Bones by Donna McFarland (Early Reader Review)


"I originally ordered this book for my youngest daughter, an emerging reader. However, I laughed all the way through it myself, so I decided to bring it into my classroom and read it aloud to my 5th and 6th grade students. They all agreed that is is hilarious, and they profusely thanked me for sharing it with them. I agree with the other reviewer: this is not your typical dull early reader book. The content is fresh and imaginative, and adds spark and sparkle to a child's life. As a mom and as a teacher, that's just what I want to see in a book. We also loved Ms. McFarland's book for slightly older readers, The Purple Elephant."

That was my review on Amazon.  Here is a little more for my blog readers...

Truly, though this book is written at the 1st-2nd grade reading level, is not your typical basal primer reader with "See Dick run!  Puff, come down from the tree!"  Instead, you have the quirky duck pleading with the cows (who have been frightened by his T-Rex skeleton) to come down from the walnut tree.  He promised them cookies, "To go with your milk."  Then you have the chickens who, while attempting to paint Duck's new dinosaur museum, fall into paint cans, get sprayed clean with fire hoses so hard that their feathers fall off, and then wear sweaters knitted by the kindly alpacas who live on Duck's farm.

I loved this book, and I'm even more delighted because it was written by my childhood friend Donna (Gielow) McFarland, who is also the author of the just-as-delightful Purple Elephant.  You can read that review and interview here: The Purple Elephant and an Interview with Donna McFarland

Cheers!

Virginia Knowles
www.StartWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home School Day in the Life (2nd, 6th, 8th & 10th Grades)





Hello!

My name is Virginia Knowles, and welcome to my Home School Day in the Life!   I'm linking up to Simple Home School's blog party on Friday. That's my big family in the picture above, including sons-in-law and grandsons, but I'm only home schooling four kids this year.


While you're here, take a peek at my free e-books on home schooling: The Real Life Home School Mom: It's a Life in ReVision <and> Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade (newly updated).  I also have five other blogs, www.VirginiaKnowles.blogspot.com, www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com, www.ContinueWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com (middle school), www.FinishWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com (high school and beyond) and www.WatchTheShepherd.blogspot.com.  If you would like to subscribe to my monthly-ish e-magazine, you can send any e-mail to hopechest-subscribe@associate.com.

This year, we are home schooling sons in 10th and 8th grades and daughters in 6th and 2nd grades.  We also have a 4th grade son in public school, a 12th grade daughter who is dual enrolling in a two year college as well as taking Florida Virtual School courses on-line, two other adult daughters who are university students but living at home, and two adult daughters who are married.  One of them has two young sons, and we're glad they live nearby.  We have been home schooling for over 20 years.  I say "we" instead of "I" because my husband has been an integral part of the educational process, especially in the upper grades and with paper work.  That paternal participation will have to be adjusted starting next week as he starts a full-time office job across town after working from home for over 10 years.

Our typical schedule varies by day of the week.  

On Mondays, we are in co-op classes from 9 AM until 3:45 PM.  The students have 90 minute classes in math, history, science, and English.  I assist in a 4th-6th grade history class and teach 5th-6th grade English.  I have to set aside several hours a week for lesson planning for the English class, where I cover grammar, literature, creative writing, and vocabulary/spelling.  While I use a variety of materials, our core resource this year is The Book of Virtues, which is a virtual virtuous treasury of stories and poems. I try to integrate many of the literature lessons with the time period and geographical region they are studying in The Mystery of History Volume 2 (Creation to Middle Ages) text they are using in history.   After our regular classes, we stay for Yearbook (10th grade) and Drama Club (6th grade), up to an extra 45 minutes.  We have been in this co-op with about 25 other families since 2006, with one year off.   

On Tuesdays - Fridays, our morning schedule for the five younger school age kids and I looks like this:

Around 7:30, I get up, eat breakfast, take a shower, and putter around, usually either reading or writing blogs. Our son who attends public school leaves before 8 and eats breakfast at school.  Sometimes I am up earlier if I can't sleep.

At 8:30, the other kids get up, eat breakfast, and get dressed while I continue to putter.

At 9:00, I spend an hour with my 2nd grader doing her co-op assignments (which are not that time-consuming) and reading good books to her.  Right now we are working our way through the Paddington Bear series.  She's great for a cuddle on the couch.

At 10:00, I spend an hour with my 6th grader doing history and literature.  It goes faster if we read it out loud and discuss it.  She writes out summaries of the history lessons every day, but we do the literature questions orally.  She does the writing assignments, language arts workbooks, science (Apologia Flying Creatures), and math on her own time with minimal help from me.  She's pretty spunky, and always a delight.

At 11:00, I spend more than an hour with my 10th grader doing history (Notgrass World History) and literature (just finished The Hobbit and now starting poetry).  He usually reads the chapters aloud to me, we discuss them, and he answers the comprehension questions orally or on the computer.  I have learned so much world history and classic literature this year!  I am so thankful for the opportunity to study along this way with my son, and I know he appreciates it, too.  My husband is in charge of his Algebra 2 and Apologia Chemistry assignments.

You may notice that I didn't schedule an hour for my 8th grade son.  He is a reliable independent learner and doesn't often need my help, though he asks for it when he does.  He's also really creative, so even most of his free time is spent learning, whether it is special effects video editing or nature study or whatever. My husband helps him with Pre-Algebra and Apologia Biology.

Around noon or so we eat lunch.  Usually everyone fixes their own, but my 12 year old daughter will sometimes fix something like macaroni and cheese for all of us.

Our afternoon/evening schedule is a bit more loose.  Yes, we work on academic school assignments until around 3 or so.  They also spend a lot of time on our computers and some watching TV. However, we are trying to get into a routine of going to the YMCA on Tuesday and Friday right after lunch, especially since they have home school PE on Tuesday.  We have to be home by the time my 4th grader gets back from school. I try to schedule all appointments for Thursday afternoons.  

Somewhere along the way the laundry and dishes get done (or not!) by some combination of adults and kids. Each of the five younger kids does an afternoon dish load during the week, and there is always a second or even third load in the evening.  Though we have basic organization for each room, we do tend to leave it a bit cluttered, especially with school books and papers.  Then, too, our big family has this funny little habit of eating lots of food, so it seems I'm at the grocery store two or three times a week refueling milk and such.


Speaking of food, I now interrupt this blog post because my 8th grade son just brought me a big bowl of fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt.  Yum.

Dinner is usually around 6:30, and after that we have free time, clean up, or more school work if not enough of that got finished earlier.  (I often help kids with school work in the evening and on weekends.)   The kids go to bed sometime between 9 PM and midnight, depending on their age and if something exciting is happening or not. 

So that's how we supposedly spend our days.  It rarely works out just like that, but you get the gist of it anyway.

You might also like a related post I wrote this morning: 

Who is the Proverbs 31 Woman? Not Me Yet!


What is your home school day like?

Virginia Knowles
www.StartWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com

P.S. This post will be linked at these other blog parties:



P.P.S. In case you missed my e-book, e-magazine and blog links at the top of this post, here's the rehash...

E-Books:


Blogs:
E-magazine:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

SeaWorld for the Holidays! (Florida Field Trips #7)






Welcome back to my Florida Field Trips series!

Our family had a marvelous time at SeaWorld Orlando yesterday during their Christmas celebration.  My husband and I took our five younger kids, ages 7-15.


Just one of many photo ops...
The park is decorated for the holidays, and best of all, many of the shows are themed for Christmas.  Live musicians all around the park added to the holiday spirit.  I wasn't having very good luck with my camera yesterday so pardon the lack of good show and night pictures here.
Christmas toy king

Saxophone quartet


In the snow globe
  
Of course, they have all the regular year round attractions as well, like the Shark Experience, the Turtle Trek, and the Blue Horizons dolphin show.  The only attraction that is closed right now is the Penguin Encounter, since they are building a new Antarctica Empire of the Penguins exhibit to open in the spring. 




Exhibits and shows aside, the older kids (of the five we brought) would have been quite content to just ride Manta, Kraken and Journey to Atlantis all day long. 

Kraken roller coaster

Manta picture from summer trip

My youngest daughter loves Shamu's Happy Harbor with all the kiddie rides and splash pad, so we had "Mommy and Me" time yesterday while the others went with Dad.

The Sky Tower is also now included in admission.  The view from 300 foot up as the rotating room ascends is quite something to behold.  



We attended three of the Christmas shows and my husband and I loved them.  (Most of the kids enjoyed them, too, but like I said, they go more for the rides.)  Some of the Christmas shows only run in the evening, you need to get to them 45 minutes ahead of time to get a decent seat, especially on the nights that the park closes at 9 and there are fewer shows.  Other nights, the park closes at 11 and there are more shows, but that may be too late for families with young children.  Check Park Hours and Show Schedules and click on the calendar for the day you wish to attend.  Most of the shows run for about 20-30 minutes.


I was especially touched by the "O Wondrous Night" show, which is a musical living nativity.  The singers are amazing, and though there were plenty of comedic moments, it was very reverently done, incorporating contemporary adaptations and medleys of religious carols.  While we waited for the show to begin, a spirited guitar and fiddle duet entertained us for a Christmas carol sing-along. 

(This picture is from a summer visit.)
The next show we attended was "Shamu Christmas Miracles" in the whale stadium.  I always enjoy seeing the whales (magnificent creatures!) and loved hearing the carols as background music to their performance, but I'd have to say my favorite thing here was the awesome saxophonist who played carols before the show!  


We bustled out of the whale show to make it to the "Winter Wonderland on Ice" skating show in the Bayside Stadium.  We sat up in the balcony, which gave us a great overall view from above, but I found it hard to take decent pictures without a telephoto lens.   

The other drawback of balcony seating during Winter Wonderland is that when the Reflections Fireworks and Fountain Finale fireworks go off at the end of the very last show of the night, you can't see the ones way up high in the sky.  

The 100 Christmas trees in the "Sea of Trees" out in the water also change colors to the music at various times during the day.  The Wild Arctic ride has been transformed into Polar Express Experience for the holidays, but we didn't go to it this time.  The two other Christmas shows are "A Sesame Street Christmas" and "Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas" (sea lions).  I'm hoping to see them next time we go. We want to tuck in one last trip before our 2012 tickets expire! (My mom bought ours for us this summer and we've certainly gotten our use out of them!)

The cool thing is that if you buy a ticket now, they will give you a Fun Pass good for admission all the way through the end of 2013!   Yep, Florida residents can buy one day and get more than a year of park admission!  Adult Fun Pass tickets are $89 plus tax, and kids are $81 plus tax.   (If you really only want one day, you can pay $10 less per ticket on-line only.)  Or you can purchase an annual pass and get free parking and other perks.  A SeaWorld annual pass is $149, but you can pay extra to extend the admission to the Aquatica water park and Busch Gardens amusement park.  Check for the best ticket options for your family.

A word about food:  SeaWorld has great restaurants, but for a large family on a budget, you can bring your own food and eat in the picnic area just outside the entrance gates.  You can bring snack portions of food into the park, but not big coolers or full lunches.  

Enjoy SeaWorld!

Virginia Knowles
www.StartWellHomeSchool.blogspot.com


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven" by Jack Prelutzky






"The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven"
by Jack Prelutzky
The turkey shot out of the oven
And rocketed into the air;
It knocked every plate off the table,
And partly demolished a chair.
It ricocheted into a corner,
And burst with a deafening boom;
Then splattered all over the kitchen,
Completely obscuring the room.
It stuck to the walls and the windows,
It totally coated the floor;
There was turkey attached to the ceiling,
Where there'd never been turkey before.
It blanketed every appliance,
It smeared every saucer and bowl;
There wasn't a way I could stop it,
That turkey was out of control.
I scraped and I scrubbed with displeasure,
And thought with chagrin as I mopped,
That I'd never again stuff a turkey,
With popcorn that hadn't been popped!
~ Jack Prelutsky ~


I'm putting this poem in the homework packet for my 5th-6th grade home school co-op English class this next week, and I thought you'd enjoy it, too!

Kids and cooking


Thanksgiving food

Friday, October 26, 2012

Golden Rain Tree with Autumn Seed Pods (Nature Study in the Neighborhood)




If you live in Florida,
you might see these trees a lot in the autumn.
They seem to be everywhere!
That's good, since we don't have too many autumn leaf colors.
This will do, I try to convince myself.

I wondered what they were, so I googled
"trees with red or pink seed pods"
and came up with the golden rain tree.


One golden rain tree in our neighborhood,
with bushes at the base


Pod in the hand, from the stem end

Pod in the hand from the open end
The seeds pods fascinate me,
especially their geometric construction.
I had to pull some apart,
just to satisfy my curiosity.
Two of my kids did, too,
as an impromptu science lesson:
kitchen table botany.


Golden rain tree
pods opened up to reveal seeds inside

You can read more about the golden rain tree.

Look for yellow flowers in the summer!


 God is so creative!

What are you doing for nature study this year?
Leave a comment!

Post will be linked at:


P52 with Kent Weakley
P52 Photo Project 

This week's photo theme: leaves (but my focus is on pods...)


Raising Homemakers 
Whole-Hearted Home
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