Saturday, March 29, 2008

Questions answered- Part 2

I went to a curriculum sharing last Saturday. Sometimes choosing and purchasing materials for homeschooling is overwhelming. So a list was compiled about what people wanted to see and what people had to show. Hopefully, this can save us all a lot of grief and money at the homeschool convention next month as we look through aisle after aisle of material.

As I sat and listened to each mom share I was amazed at what an incredible job they are doing! They seemed so sure about what works well and their children bear this out. I had a few things to share, but of course walked away wondering if my children are getting what they need academically. Why is it that we moms are always comparing ourselves to others?

A few weeks ago some of you asked me some questions about how we school. Here are those answers only if you promise not to compare yourselves to me. Okay, go ahead and do it if it will make you feel better. I'm here to encourage you:)

Shay asked, "Do you ever want to 'quit' and send your kids to school? How do you deal with this? How do you know the difference between this and God asking you to change direction? "

In my heart of hearts I do not want to quit, though I have threatened this a few times. I've been doing this for 6 years now and am finally feeling some freedom because the older girls are becoming more independent in their work. Now ask me in another 6 years and I might answer that question differently.

We plan to send our children to High School where my husband teaches so I know that my days with homeschooling are numbered. I think that helps my outlook when I'm burnt out or frustrated. My hats off to all the parents who year to year faithfully ask God how to educate their children and follow that decision through.

...what do you do for Science?

Initially I bought Sonlight Science. It was too detailed and tedious. I want Science that engages all ages and opens doors for learning, not sucks all my energy getting experiments ready.

We are doing God's Design for Science curriculum. We've done the Body and now are on the Animal Kingdom. The kids love it and so do I. It's strikes a great balance for us.

Mary commented, " I am particularly interested in how you handle the kids activities outside the house. Are there rules about how many they can do, etc?

Along the same lines Catherine asked, "how in a large family do you figure out activities? I presume that just logistically you can't have each child doing several sports/music/lessons type activities, but how do you decide which interests are worth pursuing and which need to be let go?

This is a tough one for us for three reasons. First, we want to be a family, not 9 individuals going 9 different directions. Second, everything costs money and it's not growing on trees over here. Third, we are 9 individuals with different gifts and interests.

So we've decided this for now. Any extra curricular activity that can be done during the day should be scheduled then. We count it as school and try our best to keep our evenings freed up for family.

We want the kids to have opportunity to explore music, art and sports on some level, but not until they are old enough to appreciate it and actually develop some skill. We just don't have the resources to have our preschoolers in soccer or dance. I've felt guilty about this at times, but I know realistically that they won't ever know the difference.

At this point the oldest three take piano and art lessons once a week during the day. We started piano when Hannah was 7 and Lydia 6 and did that for a few years. Lydia stepped away from it for a while because it just wasn't her thing. She practiced hard and was learning, but she didn't love it. She cried a lot. We've started again and she wants to give it a try. Looking back, we probably should have waited until she was reading more fluently. I think this would have freed up some of her brain for learning music and alleviated some frustration.

The oldest four just finished up a winter season of Upward Basketball. We were really drained by the time it ended. They all practiced on Thursday nights, which worked out well. But we had games Friday nights and three games on Saturday. They improved greatly and learned so much. We don't regret it, but this was our first real season of sports and we are glad for a break. This is especially hard on Sean because I often work on Saturdays so he would be juggling all seven kids that day. We were thankful for grandparents and extra fans to help us. A winter sport in Indiana is almost a must because it is so dreary and blah.
We would like the sports that the kids learn to be ones that we can all play together. Tennis, basketball and volleyball are our top picks. But we know that each kid being different there might be a baseball player or a track star among us. We'll just have to keep our eyes open and ask God to show us.

The opportunity also arose for the Hannah and Lydia to be in a production of the Music Man. This was their first stage performance and such an awesome opportunity to see what it is like to sing/act/dance in front of a live crowd. I think trying out was the hardest, though. Again, the schedule was intense especially as the performance drew near. They worked hard and were quite tired when it was over. But because it was at Sean's school and he, too, was in the play we thought it would be the best possible scenario for our family. We prayed about it and looked over the schedule more than a few times before deciding.
I don't know if/when they will do something like this again. They are eager and we told them to just pray about it for now. One thing I do know, though, is that my girls look a little too grown up in make-up for my taste!

Hopefully, a little exposure to many things when they are young will spark in them a love of something in particular. I think BALANCE is the key here. I pray as they get older that their direction will become more clear. That is one of the many things I love about homeschooling- time to explore and learn together.

What homeschooling books?

I initially started out 100% Sonlight. I love their approach with an emphasis on great literature. I found the actual schedule a bit much for us; so at this point I'm using their reading books as the basis of our curriculum. We have a pretty amazing library now thanks to Sonlight.

Explode the Code for phonics

Miquon Math

Singapore Math (yes, we do two math curriculums)

Sequential Spelling (I can use this for the three oldest all at once)

Institute for Excellence in Writing (just started this)

Grammar Ace

Getty-Dubbay Italiac Handwriting

Mavis Beacon Typing

Catherine also inquired, "How do you decide what subjects to cover? How do you decide what curriculum or approach will be best for different children? How do you stay on top of it all?"

When we decided to homeschool I interviewed the moms of the homeschooling kids that I thought were intelligent and balanced. I asked them about their approaches, organization, and choice of curriculum. I read a lot of books from the library on learning styles and teaching methods. That's where I started.

And today? We do our best to cover the basics every day- Reading/phonics and Math. As the kids have gotten older they have more on their plates- history, composition, spelling, grammar, handwriting, science. These are added in slowly as they are able to read well on their own and work more independently. Many of these are weekly assignment at which they can pace themselves, which is nice.

We feel the best thing we can do is expose them to great books and books that explore a particular interest they may have. So every day they get to read for one hour quietly. We lovingly refer to this as "resting and reading time". I'm not teaching them, but they sure are learning a whole lot and the little ones are getting a little nap, too.

How do I stay on top of it? Well, since I'm quite a failure at following any preprinted schedule so nicely prepared by curriculum companies, I make my own for each child. I plan a semester at a time and write down their assignments on a blank weekly sheet which is kept in a binder. They are able to see what is required of them on particular days/weeks as well as field trips, lessons and co-op days. I also schedule in days to work on projects for Rosebuds and required practice. It's their own personal calendar. I check off their work as they do it.

I know that it seems very time consuming, but each of them is so different and goes at a different pace that it serves to help me set realistic expectations for them. With the preprinted schedule I never could easily adjust for their learning needs and I felt really blind as the teacher not knowing where we were headed. When I do the planning, I can see the big picture and teaching is much more enjoyable. Plus if I find some good supplemental material I can add it in or just as easily take out what isn't working.

Planning for the three oldest took me about two days for each semester- not bad really. And I saved a load of money doing it myself. These schedules can cost as much as $100 per grade.

Thanks for the great questions. It is good for me to sit down and answer them. Hopefully some day the kids will read this and realize that, yes, there was a method to my madness.


Cindy-Still His Girl said...

I would love to see their schedules/ assignments and how you've done it.

You're so inspiring... almost inspring enough for me to think I could do all my kids again next week. Almost that inspiring. ;)

Sniz said...

Monica, I find it very surprising that you felt that other moms had it more together than you at the swap. Reading your blog is very encouraging to me because you are sooo real and I see your heart; because in real life, you seem so calm and laid back and stress-free. You seem so much more together than me...who struggles like crazy. But I know you, and I know you truly love others and want to be an encouragement and have struggles just like me...I'm so glad I've gotten to know you this year!

soccermom said...

At what age did you start the science books?

I hope Betsy starts feeling better soon.

Once we get all these kids healthy we need to get together!

mom24 said...

You've got a great idea about the scheduling. I have a daily schedule but only use it loosely as kind of a checklist. And for weekly, I have a plan laid out per subject which only I see (right now while they are young - I want to incorporate their involvement more as they get older, like you you do). I have a small hanging file labeled per day in which I put all copies or papers which aren't in books. J loves to look in his folder of the day to see how much he has to get through! And R loves hers just because they are pink (i don't have much for her yet -she's 5).
I love these ideas and have thought about Sonlight. THanks for the info!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of this out. You were so complete in answering. Thanks for the opinions and suggestions.

Wish I lived close by. I think I'd have such fun homeschooling near by!