Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Day in the Life

This homeschooling thing is fairly new to us, just going into year two. Our first year was kind of a practice year as neither of our children were at the compulsory age for attendance in our state. So we buffed up our knowledge on the law, researched curriculum, attended our first homeschool conference, and established a game plan. Now we're in week six of our new school year with a second grader and a kindergartner. So, what's a typical day like in our world? A little crazy, full of love and laughter, and surrounded by God. 
                                                               A Day in the Life
I'm an early to rise person, up before the sun! I often start my morning with a quick spin on the treadmill and then a shower and coffee. I try to finish any house work before the boys wake up, too, and I check my meal plan for the day. I finish my morning routine by praying the rosary. If the kiddos are not awake by 7 a.m. I go ahead and get them up for breakfast and to prepare them for their school day. Our plan is to start school by 7:30, but this doesn't always happen. I've been working really hard at not rushing them and yelling for them to "hurry up". I've realized that this is the antithesis of a productive statement as it has absolutely no influence on a 5 year old and a 7 year old. I do not want my children to portray the poor little guy above! Not to mention the negativity that it places on myself and just really tends to put me in a bad place spiritually. So, anyways, school starts around 7:30ish! We combine religion, history, science, read alouds, and extra-curricular subjects. We start our morning with religion - bible study, timeline & maps, scripture memorization, virtues, saints, and Catholic topics and teachings. Next comes history, science, and our read alouds. After we finish our read alouds we take a short break for snack and some free time. I usually spend this time changing out laundry and prepping for future lessons. After a 15-20 minute break we meet again for our individual lessons in Language Arts and Math. Boogie Man and Sweet Pea each have a checklist of things that have to be finished. They can pick what the want to do first, second, etc., but everything on their list must be done! After everything is finished, each little one spends some time practicing the piano and then they are finished for the morning. We have lunch and then some free time in the afternoon. This is time for me to finish any work that I need to do. We meet again around 2:00 p.m. for our extra-curricular subjects and then Boogie Man and I have some one-on-one time for his sacrament preparation. He will be receiving his First Reconciliation and First Eucharist this year! That usually wraps up our typical school day. We're into soccer season now, so our evenings and weekends are filled with practice and game schedules, too.

There it is: A day in our life!
God Bless, 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You Shall Teach Them Diligently

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. - Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
There it is! God's word from the Bible asking parents to educate their children in the home. Unfortunately, however, that is not enough for most people to understand why you have made the choice to homeschool your children. And, unfortunately again, your loudest critics will be the ones that do not want to hear the facts concerning education, religion, and politics (oh my gosh, she said it!) which also impact your decision to homeschool. I'm going to push the envelope and discuss some of those reasons why homeschoolers, well, homeschool.

According to recent research done by HSLDA, homeschooling students out-perform their public school peers. In this study, homeschool students scored between 34 & 39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. Also, the national average for homeschoolers ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math, and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading. If that data isn't enough to convince you that homeschoolers must be doing something right, then let's turn the tables and look directly at the public school system. Now, what I am going to say has nothing to do with the teachers and parents who have chosen to utilize the public schools, for I truly believe that they are sincere in their desire to educate children. However, there is a growing concern and a dominating corruption, along with a loss of ethics, that has taken over public education. Most of this is occurring at the federal and state level; however, there is also a large mass of school administrators and board members that are getting sucked into using public education as a means of promoting their self-interests and to make personal gains. It seems like every election year taxpayers are faced with voting for or against a new scheme to bring the local school district more revenue. "It's for the kids" is plastered all over yard signs, newspapers, mailings, and flyers. The average amount of money spent on each child in the public schools is about $10,000. Yes, you read that correctly. $10,000! You can say it's for class size, standards, accountability, and hiring qualified teachers until you're blue in the face, but do you ever really see a difference in the product of public schools? Is the overall outcome ever any better? In comparison, the average homeschooling family spends between $400 and $600 per child. Now, considering the earlier information, a homeschooling family is able to spend substantially less money on education and receive much greater results. Therefore, the answer to our public school problems cannot be a lack of money! Next, teachers are being forced to sacrifice the teaching of the curriculum in order to prepare the students for the test. THE TEST. That seems to be all that matters these days in terms of state education. I'm sorry, but when I look at my children I see bright eyes and smiling faces. I DO NOT see a test. Children are more than a test and they shouldn't be judged, placed, and labeled by what they can or cannot demonstrate on a test. Let's move on now. Shall we?

I believe that God has given me and my husband our children. He has entrusted us to raise, protect, and educate them. When our children were baptized, we made a promise that we would raise them up as Children of God. A biblical model of education is very important. In my opinion, it is the main ingredient that has been missing from most children's educational, and life, experiences. Education needs to focus on the Word of God. The home needs to be the center with the father in charge and engaged and standing up as a leader for the family. Schools do not teach to fear the Lord, that our actions have consequences beyond this life, that what may feel good to us now is not what truly matters. What matters is how our life lines up with what God has planned for us and commands of us. This does not include the moral acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, violence, racism, drugs, and murder. Whether you want to admit it or not, public schools do teach religion. They teach atheism - the absence and complete exclusion of God. Could there be a connection between failing schools and the absence of God? Let's move on.

If you believe and understand the Constitution, you already know that the federal government has no constitutional authority to make education policies. Even the U.S. Department of Education's website states that the role of the federal government in education is limited and most education policies are decided at the state and local level because of the tenth amendment. However, the federal government also allows the Department of Education to "promote educational excellence throughout the nation". And with the current state of our education system, it is easy to see how this allowance will result in limitless control and interventions at the federal level. (Cue drum roll) Enter COMMON CORE! Currently many states are looking at a federal take-over of their educational systems. Oh, they will deny that this is a federal take-over and that the control still lies with the local and state governments, but a skunk by any other name would still stink. And this stinks! So, what is the common core? It is a set of kindergarten to 12th grade standards that outline what students are expected to learn in language arts and math each year. The goal is not to promote literacy or proficiency, but to make students either college or career-ready. Not only will these standards do nothing to promote a greater educational experience, they will lower previously held standards and limit the teacher's ability to individualize instruction. This one-size-fits-all approach to teaching is a complete contradiction to the recent (and I guess now out-dated) approach of individualized and differentiated instruction. Under the common core, a teacher will be forced to teach from a nation-wide checklist of skills and follow a nation-wide pace and schedule of learning. This does not sound like a very interactive, hands-on, individualized, and advanced system of learning. It reminds me more of a factory system with the children sitting quietly along the assembly line and being stamped with bright red and blue and orange colors indicating which new skill they were just infused with. Where do the classics and the arts fall into the common core? Where does the ability to think for yourself fall into the common core? They do not. With all great accomplishments comes a great sacrifice. We are sacrificing our children's happiness, potential, and the ability to know how to think and not just what to think.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Do You Plan?

We, at Country Homeschool, have already started our new school year; however, I know that many are still in the planning process. So, to backtrack a little bit, I am going to explain my planning and scheduling process for our homeschool year and I will be sharing some of the documents I have created.

I started the planning process by creating our school calendar. Last year, we pretty much went the entire year with very few breaks and by March/April I was feeling the burn-out and I know the boys were, too. So, I am going a different route this year. We are going to be in school for about four weeks at a time with a week long break in between. This will allow us to schedule appointments, field trips, and just a bit of a breather to REALLY evaluate how things are going all while being able to address some vital "me" time!

We decided to try out the Sonlight Curriculum this year. This has allowed me to have a lot of planning already completed. Yeah! However, it did leave me with four separate planning pages (core, science, LA 2nd grade, LA kindergarten), plus math, extra-curricular, and the extras that I will be throwing in. So, I decided to create an all-in-one form where I can plug in our Sonlight lessons along with everything else. Here's a freebie of my lesson plan form!

As for documentation, in our state we have to document hours in the core subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies) and total learning hours. So I created a daily time log for each subject and labeled the core subjects and I also created a log for our weekly hours. Here is a sample of that:

Weekly Hours

2nd Grader
Core Subjects



Life Skills


Total Instruction for the Week

Pretty simple! I love that I have been able to free up a lot of time by having almost everything planned in advance. It takes a little bit of nothing to make a few copies and finalize our weekly plan which means I have more time for fun and family. Love that! I hope that my ideas for planning can help you out a bit, too. 

God Bless!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ancient Egypt, St. Bernadette, and My Family ... What Do They Have in Common?

What in the world could Ancient Egypt, St. Bernadette, and My Family have in common? Well, they have all been a part of our second week of homeschool - that's what!

I'll start with Ancient Egypt. Our history and Bible stories coincide pretty well with each other. The first week we learned about Adam and Eve and how the first people would have lived, hunted, built homes, and traveled. This week our Bible stories expand to Ancient Egypt with the story of Joseph (and coming up - Moses) and his coat of many colors. We have also learned about how the Ancient Egyptians lived and dressed and about pyramids and mummies. Of course the boys were fascinated to learn about mummies! The house was filled with loud "ewws" and "that's disgusting" and "awesome" when we read about the mummification process and how the insides were removed and placed into jars. This discussion led us into examining King Tut's death mask. We drew and painted our version of his death mask. Check them out, they turned out so GREAT!
That's Sweet Pea's (5 years old) on the left and Boogie Man's (7 years old) on the right. I'm very impressed!

Moving on to St. Bernadette. We will be learning about a new saint each week, last week was St. Ann and this week is St. Bernadette. We watched portions of youtube videos from The Song of Bernadette and a video tour of Lourdes, France. We will also take a trip to a local church which has a depiction of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Finally, Sweet Pea has been working on family words and has mastered the recognition, spelling, and reading of his name, his brother's name, and Mom and Dad. I created a My Family book for him to read using our own pictures. The text is as follows: (brother) plays. (himself) plays. Mom smiles. Dad smiles. I love (brother). I love Mom. I love Dad. I love me. He really loves reading this book and looking at the pictures. I'm looking forward to creating a new book for him to learn next week using his new words.

We have had a very adventurous and fun-filled week! This is why we absolutely LOVE homeschooling!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our Homeschool Classroom

It's about that time! Time for a new school year! Last year we used a spare bedroom, the dining room table, and the living room as our classroom. I didn't like the clutter that school was throwing into our regular living space. So, this year, we remodeled a basement room to suit our classroom needs. It will be handy because I also have my at-home business (candles, soaps, and other handmade products) set up in this same room.

Here are some photos and descriptions of the areas pictured.

 Our computer area with printer. The drawer system stores paper, printer ink, and miscellaneous supplies.
 A few from the outside access door. You can see the computer area in the bottom right corner. The colored totes hold some language arts supplies and the green tote on the top contains prizes (I love the Target clearance aisle!) My Sweet Pea 5 year old will be learning to read, so he will get to choose a prize when he masters an emergent reader or a sight word list. My Boogie Man 7 year old will get to pick from the prize basket for mastering math facts. In the back of the photo you can see our desk work area.
 This is another photo from the outside access door. Just to the left is my sewing machine work area and just the right - beyond the half wall - is a kitchen area that I use for making soaps and candles. The double doors at the far end lead to a messy play area.
 The two storage drawers in the back hold math manipulatives. The front storage drawers hold my desk supplies (sharpies, post-its, staples, etc.). Look at that! You can see a BOB Books box in the basket. We love those!
 Maps, flags, crucifix, copies of the Morning Offering and Guardian Angel prayers, and copies of the Pledge to the Cross, and the Pledge to the Flag.
 We made a fun trip to the fabric store - at least it was fun for me! Boogie Man chose Lightening McQueen for his chair cover and bulletin board cover, while Sweet Pea chose Batman.
 This is my work area. I have my laptop, teacher books, my plan book, and binders for storing documentation. The shelf underneath stores the read alouds that came with the Sonlight Curriculum.
 Here is the work area for the boys. They have a folder for each day of the week and will get a checklist of things that need to be completed each day. Sweet Peas work will require a lot of intervention on my part, but Boogie is more capable of working independently.
 Here is another display area. This area is just behind our work area. The bulletin board on top shows our weekly Bible verses and the Saint of the Week. I imagine that this will hold additional things in the future! Next is our dry erase board and pocket chart. You can see to the left that we also have a TV and DVD player.
Finally, additional storage. I have a ton of teacher resources, so on the shelf are some random books that I felt may come in handy this year. The drawer system holds extra markers and glue sticks, our construction paper and cardstock paper, and sentence strips. On top of the drawer system we have tubs with markers, crayons, glue, glue sticks, scissors, and colored pencils. You can see a bathroom on the right side of the picture. 

Well, that's it. Our new homeschool classroom! 

God Bless, 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We Love BOB Books!

You know those little emergent reader books - BOB books - we LOVE them! I think I probably have every title, plus maybe doubles of some. Between teaching and parenting we have definitely went through these books. Why do I love them so much? Let me count the ways! Each book has a letter - sound focus. The books introduce and encourage sight word reading and consonant-vowel-consonant words. Some of the books introduce punctuation. The books are great for working on fluency. I've even used them to do running records. And, finally, they have great pictures that go along with the story and help with comprehension and decoding.

It is absolutely amazing what you can do with one little book! Therefore, I am excited to present to you a packet that was designed to go with the BOB Books Set 1: Beginning Readers. You can find it here. This is a 70-page packet that includes the following for each book in set 1: a sound chart, upper and lower case letter search, short vowel fill in the blank, consonant fill in the blank, phoneme segmentation, phoneme blending, and sight words: read, highlight, copy the sentence, and illustrate the sentence.

I hope that you will check it out and find it as useful as I have! Like I've said, I love them and the possibilities for incorporating them into a reading program are practically endless!

God Bless

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Led Us To Homeschooling?

Welcome to Country Homeschool! I like to think of us as a typical homeschooling family. However, I'm afraid to say that we are not very typical. The Country Homeschool family consists of my wonderful and hard-working husband, a 7-year old, a 5-year old, and me. We share our home with many of God's creation; including three dogs, four cats (plus several strays that share the bounty!), eight chickens, three rabbits, two hermit crabs, and a tank of fish. That is a lot of creation to take care of! As for myself, I am a former school teacher with a masters degree in education. I make homemade candles, soaps, crafts, sew, and create teaching materials.

What led us to homeschooling? It began with a little tug on my heartstrings and ended with a quick and harsh kick in the backside before I became truly aware of what God was trying to tell me. Because of this, I absolutely believe beyond any question, that God is always sending us messages. However, we fail to yield to these messages most of the time. We are too busy living our life and following our dreams to realize that maybe God has other plans for us. That's definitely what happened with us. I was too busy going from day to day, getting caught up in things that I shouldn't concern myself with, and becoming more and more oblivious to God's calling. Then, one day it happened ... God got tired of waiting for me to wake up and suddenly I was faced with the harsh reality that I was at a place where I didn't need to be anymore. That was a hard time and I was forced to reevaluate my needs and desires. I shouldn't say just my needs and desires, but I needed to look at my children's needs and my husband's needs, too. After all, it seemed that God was calling me to something that was going to impact all of us as a family unit.

Deciding to venture into homeschooling required a lot of soul searching, planning, and commitment. It required letting go of the social stigma that children needed to "go" to school. And what about socialization? Ahh! The horror! At least I can laugh about it now as I have spent the last year enjoying the fruits of my labor and seeing my children come into their own as children of God. Because of homeschooling, we have been able to find a true family identity, we have been able to reprioritize our lives, and we have enhanced our ability to hear God's calling before the next kick in the rear happens!

So, here's to hoping that you will find where God is calling you!

God Bless,