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When I first began homeschooling, I always imagined learning fundamentals of math, language, science, and history in a playful and artful way. At that time, my oldest really struggled with writing-and-paper approaches to learning, and although we still included this aspect in our structured learning time, it worked best when I balanced these periods with stories, art projects, or outdoor/indoor play. These less structured lessons also helped me to include my three younger children, too. I should note here, so you don’t begin imagining a perfect world over here: my son (and my other children now) still balked at some of our more routine work, but mixing our days with play and art did create sweet incentives for the more challenging work.

At some point in the tumble of life and moving (twice in one year) last year, I lost the more artful aspect of our learning together. With so many other logistical things to finish around our home, I relied more on simple book lessons to work through our basics and then would release my children to their own whim. Our formal routine had reduced to reading and daily math, so I could make sure they were covered, and a ton of free play and self-directed learning. On a side note, if you’re new to homeschooling or even parenthood, be generous with yourself, your children, and your goals during this journey. As in nature, the rhythms within your home will have variegated seasons over the years, and each one will offer you something special to learn just the same, if you pay attention. Where ever you are, receive every bit and aim to be present.

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Over the last year, I’ve been re-evaluating the way we learn together at home and have adjusted a few details to include more artful expression and play, more dress-up and making, more discussion and room for independent pace of work. It’s certainly not a perfect science or formula. Some days, our routine seems to work well, in spite of the mess and distractions, and other days feel simply disastrous. But I’m learning as a parent to receive and enjoy those days, too, even if just to remember, tomorrow is new.

If you’re wanting to add more play and art to your learning experience, begin with an area that feels most natural in your own routine. For our family, studies in science and history have been the most natural place to begin again. This year, we’ve been creating body books about the systems in our bodies, and are also just beginning books about the natural world, too–one for animal life and one for plant life. Obviously, we don’t use each of them all the time, but the idea is to create a place to begin cataloguing the various lessons we’re learning along our way.

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At the beginning of this year, we received a yearly subscription to the Opposite of Far’s Endangered Animal Mask Club. This has been a small and simple way to intertwine our learning about the animal world, writing, and art together. Each month the kids receive one new mask and information card featuring a specific endangered animal. We check out books from the library or use our Animal Encyclopedia or new favorite picture book, Animalium, to see more images and read more about the animal. Because we have an entire month, we have plenty of time to create several types of lessons or play experiences from them. Here’s a few ideas we’ve tried or plan to try with our mask club:

READ / Read the included card and any library books together. Learn about the animal’s environment and the reasons for their endangerment. Is there any way we can help?

DIFFERENTIATE / Study picture books and the illustrated card together. Discuss colors, shapes, and sizes of the animal. Are they always the same? How are they similar or different from other members of their family?

PLAY / Use the masks for pretend play. Re-create animal environments with sheets, furniture, or cardboard boxes. Even your older children will enjoy this. Give them some of the harder details, such a painting or cutting paper for a backdrop. My kids often do this on their own, especially when a new mask arrives or when the days are rainy and keep us indoors like here.

DRAW or PAINT / Take time to draw and paint your animal within its habitat. Refer to color and shape again and how you might mix paints to create the colors you need. If your children are young or struggle with drawing, try to find drawing books at your library that might show step-by-step instructions. We really like the Draw Write Now series, which also includes a few sentences to use for copywork with early writers. Some of the more rare endangered animals will be harder to find a drawing book. Consider how you might break down the strokes for your child to copy from you.

WRITE /Discuss what you’ve read about your endangered animal together. Help your older children find the main ideas: Where do they live? What do they look like? Why are they endangered? How can we help? Older children and advanced writers can write their own sentences and paragraphs, whereas younger children and those who find writing a more difficult skill might benefit from copying a few sentences they dictate to you (from what they learned).

For our family, I love using these animal masks as a simple way to encourage more pretend play and to inspire our own animal books. In busier months, we may have only used one or two of these, using them more for simple play around the house. You might find a ways to use them differently–or even for a birthday party or a gift. Either way, what a fun way to learn together about some beautiful animals that are currently struggling for survival.

For any of you interested in trying any of the Opposite of Far products, Jessica Near, the OOF founder, is offering 15%OFF any purchase using the code ENDANGERED. If you purchase a (6 or 12 month) subscription, you’ll also receive the Polar Bear mask and card for free. Regardless, I hope these ideas inspire some new ways to incorporate the arts and play into your learning at home.

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This post was sponsored by Opposite of Far, a business providing high-quality, handmade “tools” to parents and children for a richly imaginative and playful childhood. As always, all thoughts and images are my own, and thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

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When I first began this home-education journey with our children seven years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t homeschooled myself, and I wasn’t even sure it was the right thing for our family. Homeschooling with little ones was hard, and I constantly wrestled with this looming thought, “am I going to screw up my kids?” For several different reasons, we kept moving forward, a few peers in tow, paving the way for our children to learn right alongside us.

As I’ve written here, on Instagram, or for other publications, I’ve realized more and more how large and diverse the national and international homeschooling community is. I’m looking to find out as a group, who are we? What are the needs and goals within this community? Would you mind helping me out by filling out this brief anonymous survey? It’s actually quite brief (2 minutes, maybe) and multiple choice for ease and speed.  And it truly is anonymous, no personal info necessary. Thank you!

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Reading was (and still is) one of the more intimidating parts for me of teaching my children at home.  On one hand, like so many other parents, I want my children to LOVE reading, not just know how to do it. I want them to enjoy the large varieties of stories and characters and ideas within books and, of course, to glimpse the freedom and gift of the written word. As a home-educator (especially if you are new), it doesn’t help the intimidation factor that reading often feels like the litmus test for outsiders looking in, “so  is (____) reading yet?” And of course, we all know or have met the children who are reading Don Quixote or something like it at age three (insert shock and awe). While I’m always impressed by these prodigious children, I have never experienced it. In their four and five year-old years, my own children always seem to be the ones running away from lessons. They say things such as, “do we have to practice reading today?” To those of you facing similar questions, keep at it a little each day. They’ll get there.

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Although there are several wonderful reading programs out there (and if you’re using one that’s working, stick with it!), All About Reading  is one of my favorite resources for so many reasons, including its multi-sensory approach, organized materials, manageable lessons, beginning readers, and pre-made consumable activities. I began using AAR with my oldest daughter, Blythe, when I realized how much she wanted more hands-on activities during her lessons. I ordered level 1 and we both immediately loved it! She loved the paper-cutting, coloring, and gluing mixed in with the more formal reading and decoding–and of course, the sticker chart too!  I, on the other hand, loved how that these activities were already organized and ready to use, that the lessons were manageable in length and easy to follow, and that there were leveled readers which naturally integrated with the lessons.

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Still, perhaps my favorite parts is the word/phonogram card organization, which easily sorts between what has been mastered, what needs review, and what is for future lessons. In other reading programs, I always felt confused about that line separating mastery and review. In this program, we review the same cards each lesson until they can say the word or phonogram without hesitation. Plus, I’m learning the rules and phonograms right alongside my children. I guess, in short, I love that All About Reading has everything I would have wanted to create on my own but don’t always take the time to do. Instead, I follow the simple 20-30 minute lessons! My one criticism is that the program can get pricey, as you have to purchase a new level each year (on average). As with any curriculum there are creative ways to offset these expenses or re-sell when you’re family is finished with it.

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Since moving last spring, I haven’t found a place in our school room for my magnet board–something we’ve always used for our spelling and reading phonogram magnets. Fortunately, I have a moveable alphabet on hand that I have used during the pre-K years with all of my children. The kids have always enjoyed building words and playing with the letters. Right now, we’re using it for our reading and spelling lessons. We use all of the concepts from All About Reading with these wooden letters. The only difference is my girls have to recognize the letter teams on their own, instead of seeing them together on a single magnet. This hasn’t caused any trouble thus far, instead it forces them to recognize associations through repetition, much like words on a book page.

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:: learning :: phonetic, multi-sensory approach to reading

:: time :: 20-30 min, 4 days/week

:: matierials :: AAR materials, magnetic board or moveable alphabet

:: lesson :: I meet one-on-one with each of my children for their reading lessons (one of the reasons I can at times be inconsistent).  Where we meet depends on what we’re doing that day. Both of the girls enjoy snuggling and often want to meet on one of our beds. We just bring the moveable alphabet with us (as shown). I follow through the directions written in the manual, usually beginning with reviewing old phonograms and words and then reviewing a previous concept. Then I introduce the new material. Sometimes we finish the step within the 20-30 minute window, if not, we return to the same spot the following day. I find shorter lessons are better for everyone involved. ;)

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From a young age, my children have each had their own bags, fitted to their size for a few of their favorite things. It seemed an easy way to teach them about responsibility and forethought while also giving them something that was their very own. Around age four, they were each required to load/prepare their bags for outings, whether an errand, an appointment, or a car trip. Of course, I always ask them reminder questions, “Do you have your book or supplies to draw/write?” “Will you want your [favorite toy]?” “Will you need a snack or water bottle while we’re out?” For the most part, I leave the details of what will keep them busy up to their own interests and planning, and it works. On occasion, I hear, “oh no! I forgot to bring ___!” Even these moments teach them something about innovation and problem solving: what will you do now?

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When Anna, the founder of Mamoo Kids, introduced me to her bags, I was instantly smitten. Handmade in San Francisco, each sustainably-made bag is designed in size and style for toddlers to early childhood, including toddler backpacksmini-messenger bags, and totes.  Mamoo bags are meant to encourage wonder and possibility, “to stimulate kids’ minds and imaginations, carry their most important things – and go with them on their journey.” Isn’t that a lovely vision? My girls carry their totes everywhere, packing them with everything from library books to their school work to their art supplies and collected treasures–weirdly-shaped sticks and wildflowers, small toys, or even bouncy balls found on the grocery store floor. Since our homeschool days can easily migrate outdoors with good weather, the girls often use their bags right at home, too!

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To get to know more about the purpose and vision behind Mamoo, I encourage you to read “Founder’s Story” on the site, where Anna shares the importance of her own childhood bag during her summer trips to Japan with her mother. It was so sweet to read how impactful her mother was in her own journey of motherhood and in her vision for Mamoo.

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This post is in partnership with Mamoo Kids, a small business committed to creating environmentally conscious and imaginative modern bags for young children. Blythe is wearing the Broken-Ka tote and Olive is wearing the Rambler tote.  All images and thoughts are my own, and as always, thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat.

When I first mentioned the Wild+Free conference here in May, the fall seemed so distant. We were in the midst of planning a summer of home projects and wrapping up the previous school year. So much has happened since then, but it’s now here. September. Fall. I’m still in shock. The conference is now only two weeks away, and I’ve been excitedly gathering notes and anticipating some of the incredible women I’ll be meeting there.

In case you missed it, this week Wild+Free launched a new subscription–monthly “content bundles”–created to inspire and encouraging homeschooling mothers internationally. Right now, you can download the first issue, PRAIRIE, for free! It includes beautiful projects, stories, images, and practical helps from so many impassioned mothers. You’ll even find a bit of our own homeschool in there each month, too, so go check it out! (Wink.)

Happy weekend, everyone.

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The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences. — Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

I’ve always appreciated how our environments affect and impact us. As parents, our ideologies about childhood and family inform how we create our home–the toys and furniture we buy (or don’t buy) and the way we arrange them, the color palettes for the walls and, of course, how we un/organize different spaces. If we were to browse the world, we might notice the margins for “healthy” homes are broad and diverse. The same is true in home-education. Some families prefer individual desks and formal school rooms while other families leave “school” less defined, a mixture of the home and outdoors at large. Like our style, our own “school” area has varied over the years, evolving with different family needs and spaces within our home. We have used everything from our dining room table to an entire bedroom complete with open shelves, a child-sized table with chairs, and an indoor swing. Both worked well in different seasons.

Our new home is quaint and simple in layout, a rectangle divided into 6 sections: living room, dining room, kitchen, and 3 bedrooms (2 bathrooms in the mix). We love its simplicity and size, something that has required us to be intentional about every corner and wall in order to accommodate all six of us. Since we needed to use all three of our bedrooms for sleeping, we gave our boys the large master and then artificially divided the room with open bookshelves: one (larger) part for the boys’ room and one part shared learning space–cleverly right where the kitchen and two kids’ rooms meet–a natural hub for everyone.

Like the rest of our home, this space is organized with natural materials and colors (minus a few plastics from our math curriculum) and open shelving. The bedroom also has two closets, so we were able to build out one for the kids’ books, puzzles, and games, while the low-dividing bookshelves house the kids’ individual cubbies, art supplies, paper, teacher manuals, baskets of math manipulatives, and beginning readers. We painted the large (and only) wall in the space in chalkboard paint, where we write/draw everything and anything. Although the space is large enough for a kids’ table, my kids often prefer working and playing on the floor, so a nice rug, floor pillows, and a couple of lap desks work perfectly and easily tuck away when they’re finished. Generally, we have math and other group writing activities at the dining table. For independent reading or work, they go where ever–to their beds, the couch, or even the outdoors when the weather is nice. Inspired by Montessori, I try to leave as much as possible within their reach. This way they learn to initiate their own art projects or writing or play. If you have younger toddlers or infants, you’ll want to keep certain activities out of reach for safety purposes, but make sure to keep baskets of special toys/age-appropriate activities available for them, too. Like many other parts of our home, this area is still in process. I hope to add some lights along the ceiling since the windows are on the boys’ side of the room and intend to hang a few things on the wall eventually, but for now, this works. I hope it inspires your own!

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When I was pregnant with Liam over a decade ago, I walked into a local baby store planning to itemize a few things we would need. I had expected the process to be easy. I would enter the store, write down a few favorite items, and leave. Instead, I was paralyzed. In each category from breast pumps and bottles to monitors and carriers, I discovered several options, each touting some award they had won or the latest technology or the best safety ratings. Overwhelmed, I promptly turned and left the store. I had no idea what I needed.

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I felt similarly when I first entered the word of homeschooling and had to begin choosing curriculum. The vast variety of options and styles buried me. Really, I get it. Curriculum varies because homeschoolers vary. We all have different goals and styles, but when you’re first beginning, it can be too much, even enough to send you packing out door. It’s one of the reasons I have tried (sporadically) to share the resources I use here, to give you an idea of what we use and how we use it. Before I continue, let me first tell you: you don’t need to outfit a full classroom to begin homeschooling. Over the years, we have accumulated a library worth of books from used book stores and gifts, but we began with a very small cabinet containing art supplies, reading and math curriculum, handwriting paper, and a chalkboard wall. It can be that simple. What I share below is in the context of my own children who now run the breadth of grammar school–Olive (age five, Kindergarten) to Liam (age 10, 5th grade). To save money, I have bought several gently used curriculums via homeschool classifieds (craigslist for homeschoolers) and also keep my ears open for local book fairs, especially the ones where parents have tables to see curriculum they are finished using. I also try to keep a mental tab of supplies we need and list them on our chalkboard wall, so when family or friends ask about birthday or Christmas gifts, I can refer to it. These are helpful tips because if you haven’t noticed yet, the tab to homeschool can rise as quickly as baby necessities (which every parent knows you don’t always need anyway).

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With that said, using curriculum offered me a concrete point of reference, a stepping stone into confidence as a home-educator. Over the years, I have learned how to teach complex math and grammar concepts to my children, how to correctly pronounce letters or organize them to spell a word. I have learned about the elements of shape and the parallel histories of different religions and cultures. Although I leaned heavily on teacher guides with my oldest, I do less now for my younger ones, using what I have learned to lead or direct our days. I have a very eclectic approach to education. I began staunchly in the classical camp and have over time borrowed methodologies from Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and even a bit of Waldorf. This is the glory of home-education: it will and can change shape in different seasons of life. We currently rely heavily on what Charlotte Mason referred to as “living books,” books that teach you through interesting narration, like the Burgess Bird Book or the Story of the World (see more book ideas via Ambleside). Inspired by classical education, I memorize tons of facts, poetry, and Bible scripture alongside my children each year using Classical Conversations curriculum. We use several different types of manipulatives (concrete things that represent abstract concepts) whenever possible as Maria Montessori encouraged. We do limit our technology usage, which is becoming more and more difficult as my kids get older–let’s talk more about this another day–and try to spend as much time as possible outdoors when it’s not August in Texas. (wink.)

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Since I regularly get questions about the curriculums/books we use each year, I thought I mights share a few with you here. I hope you see this list in the context above. Honestly, there are several wonderful choices out there. This is currently where we are:

READING // When my boys were learning to read, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This reading program was both economical and easy to use without planning. The first 20 lessons or so are quite simple and give the child a sense of progression and accomplishment. Although it does teach phonetics, it’s not in the linear approach most reading lessons use. It trains the child to read with the phonetic symbols, which can sometimes be confusing for parents. It is a great program, and more importantly, it works! With my busy-bee daughters, I switched to All About Reading, which complemented the spelling program we were already using and gave them color sheet or cut-and-paste activities with each lesson. They love it. The program uses a mixture of memorization of phonograms, pre-made activities (your child can cut and paste), and leveled readers. The downside of AAR is it’s a tad expensive, as you have to buy each level as they progress (on average one level per year). Also, for children (or parents) who don’t enjoy pre-made activities, you may find this curriculum cumbersome.

MATH // Saxon (if you’re interested in Saxon curriculum and are new to it, here’s a brief Saxon placement test to know which level to begin with). Right now Saxon is 20%off here. We began with Saxon after it was recommended to us several times in the beginning. We switched to Teaching Textbooks for a year, which was easier for me (and a really fun curriculum), but I realized I didn’t keep as close an eye on where my son was, meaning I didn’t know how to review the concept in the same way TT did. We switched back to Saxon the next year. Other recommendations: MathUSee

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SPELLING // All About Spelling (Blythe). This program is multi-sensory and wonderful for younger spellers, but can become tedious for older children. I’m using Phoentic Zoo this year for both of my boys. It’s an auditory approach to spelling and begins with older elementary age students. They have a placement test also if you’re interested and unsure where to begin.

HISTORY // I have used the Story of the World for years and love it. More importantly, the kids love it. We have learned so much, even though we’ve progressed slowly through the four volumes. I love the curriculum’s flexibility for ages and time. You can easily adapt it to your family’s needs or just listen the audio. You can read more of how our family uses this curriculum over here.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetSCIENCE // We have never used a formal science curriculum. Instead we read tons of library books, create occasional experiments, and take plenty of nature walks, especially in the cooler seasons. Several years ago, my in-laws gave our kids these Character Sketches, read-a-loud nature studies/stories that teach a Biblical principal and where that principal is illustrated in nature. This is fairly conservative curriculum and directs a lot of teacher direction to the father, which would be ideal but doesn’t always work in our family homeschool routine. Just so you know. (Wink.)

HANDWRITING + KEYBOARDING // I’ve used Handwriting Without Tears from the beginning at the advice of a dear friend who is also an Occupational Therapist, and I’m so grateful. I love it for so many reasons and have included it in several of my preschool posts. If you’re interested in HWT and want some ideas of where to begin, I wrote out what you’ll need here. Also, HWT introduced a new keyboarding program this year I plan to try. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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ENGLISH GRAMMAR // In the early elementary years, I have used First Language Lessons and at other time they have simply memorized parts of speech, lists of prepositions and irregular verbs via Classical Conversations’ curriculum. I’ve also led an English grammar and writing class, called Essentials, through a local chapter of Classical Conversations for the last four years. This year our family is taking a break to give some room in our budget and routine. I plan to use the grammar curriculum with both of my boys still this year because I’m so familiar with it. Unfortunately, it’s such an intense and differently structured program, so CC prefers you’re apart of a campus to use it.

WRITING // In the early elementary years, once they can easily write their letters, my children do tons of copywriting and dictation. Sometimes I have used a formal curriculum like Writing With Ease, but in recent years have leaned more toward pulling sentences out of our current read-a-loud or a recently read poem. The kids often practice dictation with their independent reading (having to summarize what they read in a chapter) or during our history reading. This year, the boys and I will use one of the Institute for Excellence in Writing‘s Theme-based writing, most likely this one.

THE ARTS // I’ve always admired artists and really try to encourage my children’s natural love to doodle and explore color and form. This is perhaps the hardest area to cover on a budget, since most art, music, dance lessons can be expensive. If you have something to barter I recommend trying to do so. If you want to introduce your children to these areas yourself, here are some of my favorite resources: Drawing With Children, The Story of the Orchestra, Can You Hear It? A Child’s Introduction to Ballet, A Child’s Introduction to Poetry, Discovering the Great Artists, and this series of piano books.

Now to go and organize our school area. Here’s a preview just above. More images coming soon. ;)

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The history curriculum, The Story of the World, is certainly one of my favorite resources we use at home. Although my husband has a graduate degree in History, I have always felt fairly weak in this area, knowing a smattering of events here and there without really understanding their connection. I remember when Liam was 6 or 7, he asked how old I was when I first learned about a certain event in Ancient history. “Right now!” I responded. And it’s the truth. Through reading this 4-part series, I am beginning to grasp a more comprehensive view of history, but the best part–I’m learning many things for the first time right alongside my children. I should note, they love this time of our day as much as I do, often pleading for me to continue.

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The Story of the World is exactly what it says–a story attempting to weave together the histories of various regions, cultures, and religions into a four volume narrative. Right now, we’re in the middle of volume 2, the Middle Ages. I love Bauer’s attempt to bring together the story of history from around the world, so we’re not merely learning about Western Civilization and religion but also about events occurring simultaneously in Eastern civilization. The materials are easy to adapt and use however you wish. I know some families who simply listen to the audiobooks while others create elaborate projects (from the Activity Book). You can adjust it to how your family wants to use it. I should also note, you can still use this even if you don’t homeschool. It would be easy to read-a-loud at home or have your children (reading level grade 3 +) read-a-loud to you. You can purchase each of the volumes separately, too. This is how we mostly use it.

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{learning}  Medieval history + practicing the early stages of writing through listening, coloring (or another project), discussing, summarizing, and writing,

{time}   approx. 30 minutes, 2-3 days/week

 

{materials}

  • book (we’re using volume 2 right now)
  • activity book    (includes questions and sample narrations for parents and activity ideas for each chapter)
  • student spirals (I printed and spiral-bound the student pages PDF for each of my children. These pages are also found at the back of the activity book, but are painstaking to copy. Trust me, this is easier.)
  • notebook paper   (I included a piece of notebook paper for each chapter in my older kids’ spirals. I inserted them before binding.)

 

{lesson}

When I announce it’s time for history, the kids grab their history spirals from their cubbies and sit at the table. They really do love this part of our day. I bring various coloring supplies to spread out for them. I let them situate and find their pages in the activity book as I announce what chapter we’re reading that day. I remind the littles not to talk while I’m reading so everyone can hear. This time we’re reading a part of a chapter on the Crusades. I prompt them with a few broad review/background questions to help connect what we’ve already read leading up to this point. This is helpful for all of us in building the connections.

Although sometimes I’ll have the boys rotate reading aloud, they really enjoy listening and working on the activities, so I mostly do the reading. (You could also play the audio for this part if you tire of reading aloud.) As I read the chapter, the kids are coloring a page on the Crusades, listening. When I finish, I grab the Activity book and read the review questions from that section. We briefly discuss the key characters mentioned and events that happened. After reviewing with questions, I’ll ask the older kids to tell me what we read in 2-3 sentences (practicing summarizing). My oldest writes his narration down on the notebook paper in his spiral. I usually write the other kids narrations for them, and they read them back to me. We don’t always do the last part. Sometimes we simply listen and color, but I try to include writing when I can.

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How do you manage four different children’s educations when they are all at different levels?

Truly? Tons of grace and flexibility. Since I wasn’t homeschooled myself, much of this I’m learning by trial and error as I go. I ask tons of questions of friends, especially those who homeschool older children and I plan ahead as much as possible. However, to be more specific, much of how I order our day’s plans has evolved with the ages of my kids. When my kids were young, I planned most of our formal lesson time (math and reading mostly) during baby/toddler nap times and used the majority of our day for playing and reading and creating. As my kids have grown, the amount and complexity of the skills they’re learning have as well. I found myself getting overwhelmed keeping track of what each was suppose to be doing, or how to distribute the morning so that I could work alone with one while the others worked independently. It always seemed to swirl together in the midst of our mornings–mostly due to how young and close together they are in age. As a result, a couple of years ago I implemented a clipboard system–terribly unromantic, I know. But it works.

The first clipboard is for me.

clipboardsAt the beginning of each school year, my husband and I plan out our goals for our family and children. Then I create a plan, usually in table-form (pictured above) and print 100+ copies to keep on hand. Each weekend, I pull out 4 sheets (one per weekday) and write the day, date, and what lessons each of the kids will be doing for that week. I like being able to have a birds-eye view of the day and what each child needs to do. As we work through each morning, I cross off a box as they are completed, usually with a colored pen or marker. That way, I can easily see what we didn’t get to (and if there are parts of our days we are consistently missing and need to adapt). At the end of the week, I hole-punch the sheets and stick them in a binder as a record for myself. (Note: I tried writing in times this year to help pace me through the morning–we are rarely “on schedule.” I’ll omit that part next round.) 

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The second group of clipboards are for the kids. In the past, I have used clip art for any of my non-readers (who wanted to have their own). I didn’t this year.

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Because I don’t need to keep each of their checklists, I laminated their pages to reuse. I created a page per work day: Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday (Wednesday is our homeschool group day). I formatted their pages as a checklist, a simple question: have you done this yet? Their clipboards give them a sense of responsibility in their own education and time management. They can freely move on to another job when they’re ready because they know what’s expected of them. During my weekend planning time, as I fill in my own clipboard, I write notes or fill in specifics for each of them for the upcoming week. This weekly prep time takes about an hour, but saves so much more time in the long run.

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I store our clipboards on the wall near the door to our school/playroom using this magazine rack. When it’s time to begin our school morning, each person grabs their chart to work through the day. Although we take periodic breaks to play throughout our morning, the older kids cannot have free time (doing whatever they want) until they’ve finished their checklist (including chores). This keeps them motivated (and accountable) as well,  as they often remind me, “hey, I need you to finish this lesson” or “we haven’t done ___ yet.” (wink.)

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Is this the only way to manage a homeschool? Of course not. Do we always finish everything like I planned? Of course not. Like parenting in general, homeschooling adapts to your own family’s needs, routines, and style–it’s what makes this education route especially unique. But I find in general that intuition, forethought, and tons of patience go a long way in any home (although a troubleshooting guide would be fantastic, too). I also want to note: I have hard days–weeks even–when nothing seems to go as planned, when I don’t have time to plan before the week begins, when chaos and noise seems relentless, and I feel I am chasing the day rather than ordering it. So it goes. Sometimes we scratch it altogether and enjoy the outdoors or creative time or an event out of the house. But overall, this system truly helps me to track my own consistency and the kids’ work.

Do you have other questions about how we homeschool? I’m sure you’re not the only one. Post it in the comments or send me an email.