After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Pursuing One's Passion

On Sunday afternoon, we gathered to celebrate this beautiful woman...
now known as Doctor Ursula!

I was honored to be part of the celebration.  
Urs and our crazy pastor

I am honored to call her my friend!

Throughout the celebration, family members took the mic to speak about Urs and all she has overcome to achieve the title of Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature.
Grandpa, direct from Cameroon

Something she said when she stepped up to the podium struck me powerfully.  She was describing the initial process of deciding to pursue this degree.  She knew it was what she should do when she realized she was being given the opportunity not only to pursue an advanced degree on a scholarship, but an advanced degree in the very field she loves!  How could she not pursue this?

I woke up this morning thinking about pursuing one's passion.  It's a big part of our homeschooling philosophy and mission.  The celebration of Dr. Urs, an African immigrant who was not afforded the luxury of full-time focus on her academic goals, but who had to work hard throughout the process both at a career and at the academics, reminded me that pursuing one's passion will not always be easy.  It will not always be fun.  In the pursuit of her passion, my sweet friend wanted to quit... more than once.  At times, it even looked, to her at least, as if she should quit.  But with the love, support, counsel and exhortation of family and friends and through the grace of God, she pressed on.  She did the hard things.

Today, I am telling my children her story.  The story of how one moves from dreams to reality.  I am telling them how this journey is marked with exhilaration and exhaustion.  With sorrow and joy.  With waiting and waiting and waiting.  With family and friends who support you, pray for you and encourage you.  And always, always, filled with the grace and strength of our great God because 
"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" Phil 1:6  
As we teach our children the three R's and as we give them time to discover and pursue their God given gifts, we also offer counsel on what we believe might be God's plan for their lives.  We pray with them and teach them to pray on their own for God's will in their lives.  We help them discern what He might be doing in their life circumstances, both good and what seems not so good.  Because if they set themselves on the path He has laid out for them, they can never fail.  That path might be difficult at times, marked with suffering even, but it is the only one worthy of walking.  

As my sweet friend Ursula always does, may my children give Him all the glory.  For the sweet successes.  For the painful defeats.  For everything- blessed be His name!
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."  1 Tim 1:17

Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with Field Day

As I mentioned in last week's post, we are winding down our school year right now so I don't have much to report other than the test subjects are buckled down and trying to end "on time."

Today was our last co-op meeting for the year and it was a Field Day!  It has been raining, drizzling, misting or just plain damp for much of the past couple of weeks here.  It poured yesterday and was misting this morning.  Despite the poor forecast, we were able to have almost the entire Field Day outdoors.  It did rain for a 15 minute period smack in the middle of the event, which happened to be during snack time.  We simply moved the kids indoors to eat and by the time they were done, the rain had let up.  We were blessed for sure!

TS 1 on the black team

TS 2 on the green team

Our curricula for next year has been slowly arriving all week, adding to the fairly large stash I have from the convention.  For now, I have the boxes and bags piled in a corner of the homeschool room in the hopes that I can just switch everything out in a few weeks when we end the school year.  The pile is getting a bit out of control, though!  

We are looking forward to some fun with friends tonight, a baseball game for TS 2 tomorrow (unless it rains...again), church and a celebration for a friend on Sunday and Monday off!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with rest and family fun!  

Convention Recap and Tips

About two weeks ago, I attended my first homeschool convention!  I went with a friend from church who is considering removing her children from public school to homeschool them next year.  It was a great experience for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to be alone with another adult, a dear friend, for two whole days :)

The convention was wonderful- well organized and informative with a vendor hall chock full of great resources. Over the course of the two days of the convention, I attended a variety of workshops that ranged from vendor-sponsored workshops to workshops focused on encouraging and inspiring the homeschool teacher to those focused on helping children with special needs.  There were many other interesting workshops I was unable to attend due to the time conflicts or my desire to shop in the vendor hall.  Fortunately, I was able to purchase a CD recording of everything I missed and have been listening to those workshops over the last couple of weeks.  The convention also had a kid's program and a teen track, but since I left the kids at home, I did not take advantage of these resources.  They also aired the documentary IndoctriNation both days in the middle of the day.  So, as you can see, there was plenty to keep us pretty busy the entire time!

Because all of the workshops were recorded, I was able to spend quite a bit of time shopping knowing that I could get a CD to listen to later.  It made sense to shop at the convention because the shipping is always free- even if an item is not in stock, if you purchase it at the convention, they will ship it to you at no charge.  I got almost everything on my list for next year except for Tapestry of Grace and Growing with Grammar, as they did not have booths at the convention I attended!

Here is the whole kit and caboodle!

For TS 1

For TS 2

For TS 3

If you plan on attending a homeschool convention in the near future, here are some tips I think might help make your experience even more fruitful:

  • Utilize the Convention's Website
    • Find out if audio recordings will be available for all workshops
    • Check out the workshop schedule beforehand and decide which workshops you will attend and which you will purchase a recording of
    • Determine when you will shop and make sure you leave ample time for it as the vendor halls can be overwhelmingly large
    • Decide on which vendors you definitely want to visit, find them on the vendor hall map and mark it clearly
  • Go with a Plan
    • Determine what you definitely want to buy beforehand as much as possible by perusing materials online, browsing a friend's materials and reading product reviews
    • Make a list of the products you want to buy and be sure to visit those vendors as soon as you have time to shop
    • Make a list of the products you want to learn more about and the questions you have for the vendor and visit those vendors as soon as you can
    • Browse the rest of the vendor hall as you have time and interest
  • Buy, buy, buy!
    • For the reasons I mentioned above, it makes sense to buy as much as you can at a convention
    • Check out the Used Curriculum Sale before you buy full price.  While I was unable to find anything I needed at the Used Curriculum Sale, you never know when you might stumble just what you were looking for at a fraction of the retail price!
  • Bring a rolling crate or suitcase
    • This is a must if you plan on buying almost anything at the convention!  As I mentioned, the vendor halls are very large and even a few paperbacks in your purse can feel like lead after a while.  
    • I didn't have either with me and it was not ideal.  Fortunately, the convention I attended had a book check booth, where for a very nominal fee, they boxed and stored my purchases and brought them to the curb for pick up when we were leaving.  What a blessing that was!  Find out if the convention you are attending has one.
  • Skip the vendor sponsored workshops if you already own and use the product
    • I attended three vendor workshops and only one of them was worth the time.  If you own and are using a curriculum already, chances are you can get any questions answered more efficiently by stopping by the vendor booth and chatting with an associate.  If you are researching the product and know very little about it, then one of these workshops might be worth your time.  Chances are though, you could still get the information you need at the vendor booth without using up your precious workshop time.
I hope these tips have been helpful and you have a wonderful time at a convention near you :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Interview with TS 2

Several months ago, I read two posts by Susan at Learning All the Time in which she interviewed her daughters about their homeschooling experience.  I loved the idea and finally got around to interviewing our test subjects.  Here is our second grader's (TS 2) interview:

Q: What are your favorite subjects?
A:  RFH (A Reason for Handwriting) and MUS (Math-U-See).  RFH is one of my favorites because it is fun to write.  MUS is one of my favorites because I like tests and I get 100% a lot.  

Q:  What are your least favorite subjects?
A:  WWE (Writing with Ease) because it's hard work.  (I've blogged about our challenges with WWE before, and why we've decided to stick with it if you're interested.)

Q:  When we first told you we would be homeschooling this year, how did you feel? 
A:  I was excited because it was a new thing.

Q:  And how do you feel about homeschooling now? 
A:  I'm used to it and I know how to do everything.  I feel warmed up and comfortable with it.

Q:  What are your favorite parts of homeschooling? 
A:  Break time.  I get to do work with mom and dad.

Q:  Is there anything about homeschooling that you don't like? 
A:  I don't like when I get things wrong because I have to do it again.

Q:  Does it bother you when people ask you about homeschooling?  How do you answer them? 
A:  I don't mind.  I tell them I like it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview with TS 1

Several months ago, I read two posts by Susan at Learning All the Time in which she interviewed her daughters about their homeschooling experience.  I loved the idea and finally got around to interviewing our test subjects.  Here is our fifth grader's (TS 1) interview:

Q: What are your most favorite subjects?  And why?
A:  GWG (Growing with Grammar, ECA (Exploring Creation through Astronomy) and TOG (Tapestry of Grace).  GWG is fun because the assignments are quick and it has easy to understand concepts.  (This answer surprised me- see why here.)  I like ECA because we learn about what is beyond the earth.  It is interesting to know what it is out there.  I like TOG because we learn about the world and people's discoveries and achievements.    

Q:  What are your least favorite subjects?  And why?

A:  MUS (Math-U-See) is hard because they want you to learn every single concept possible.  (This is exactly why I chose this curriculum- lol!)  

Q:  When we first told you we would be homeschooling this year, how did you feel? 
A:  I was excited because it would be something new.  I was also a little nervous because it would be kind of strange to do homeschool and I wondered what it would be like.

Q:  And how do you feel about homeschooling now? 
A:  I like homeschooling, except some of the academics I don't like and I wish they were not on my list.  

Q:  What are your favorite parts of homeschooling? 
A:  It's a flexible day.  In school, you have to work, work, work all day and in homeschool you can take breaks and change around your schedule if you need to.  I also like that there is no homework, because homework is extra work.  I love the extra free time!

Q:  Is there anything about homeschooling that you don't like? 
A:  I don't like having to go back and forth to school for RA.  Also, I don't like the same things I didn't like about school- the hard academics and hard work.  

Q:  Does it bother you when people ask you about homeschooling?  How do you answer them? 
A:  No, I tell them about my homeschool experience.  I tell them what it's like and why I like it.  I am grateful that we are homeschooling because not many people do it and we have the opportunity to do it.

Interview with TS 2 tomorrow!   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The Home Stretch

It certainly feels like we have entered the home stretch both here at the lab and at school for RA.  I sent back TS 1's PASS test answer sheet and now we wait for the results to be returned to us in the next two to four weeks.  We have four more weeks of school left and while most of the academic work has entered the review stage, there are a few subjects in which we are still working full steam ahead.

Both test subjects completed their science curriculum with Dad this week, including a comprehensive review of all they learned.  They have a planetarium field trip planned, as well as some hands on activities to reinforce what they learned this year.

As for history, we seem to be right on schedule.  We have about three weeks of lessons to go so we will take it at a slower pace, delving deeper into the subjects that are more interesting.  We have all learned so much and been exposed to such wonderful literature through Tapestry of Grace this year.  I am excited to study colonization and early American history using TOG next year.  

TS 1 will be starting the last unit of Growing with Grammar by the end of next week, so it looks like he will complete the book by the end of the year after all.  I was not sure he would, as I've mentioned before.  I think he still needs some drilling on the fundamentals of grammar and parts of speech, but I have a summer plan for that.  Writing class is also coming to an end.  He has one more assignment to write for the class, a persuasive essay.  As for math, I think TS 1 will be about halfway through the Epsilon book by the end of this year.  You may remember that he started at the Delta level of Math-U-See at the beginning of the year.  I have some ideas for math over the summer that I am mulling over, but I am hoping that by September, TS 1 will not have much of the Epsilon level left and will hopefully be ready to begin the Zeta level sometime in the fall.

TS 2 completed All About Spelling with flying colors this week.

I'm not sure what to do for him in terms of spelling for next year.  He certainly does not seem to need a formal phonics based program anymore, yet I am hesitant to abandon spelling all together at such a young age.  A friend mentioned I look into Spelling Power, so that is on my to do list as I plan for next year.  (If you have used Spelling Power and have any feedback, please leave it in the comments!)  We are working on the last few lessons of First Language Lessons, which are mostly a review of the concepts he learned and poems he memorized throughout the year.  We are actually a little behind in his Writing with Ease curriculum, with 5 weeks of lessons left and only 4 weeks of school.  I plan on looking through the lessons we have left and simply excluding one.  He is also almost finished with his Math-U-See Beta curriculum, with only two lessons to go.  

RA has had so many fun experiences in Kindergarten these past few weeks.  Her class cared for 12 chicken eggs and were blessed to have one hatch into a healthy little chick!  Fluffy is an adorable, if a bit noisy, addition to their classroom.

They are also currently observing butterflies emerging from their cocoons in the classroom.  And last week, we had a Mother's Day celebration in class.  

On Monday, they had their spring musical, Bugz!  She was a love bug, perfect, wouldn't you say?  

Yesterday, her class went on a community helpers field trip to a local police station, fire department and library.  Today, she will participate in the school's annual walk-a-thon.  We are all so excited to have her join us in homeschool next year!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012-2013 Curricula and Our Homeschool Style

As I already mentioned, I went to my first homeschool convention over the weekend.  It was a great experience all around!  I'm so thankful I went to the vendor hall with a plan for next year's curriculum as it is so easy to get overwhelmed.  I could have seen myself either buying way too many things I would not end up using or buying nothing at all, had I not thought things out before hand.  

It turns out that our 2012-2013 Curricula is not drastically different from our 2011-2012 list, with a few exceptions and the addition of TS 3, of course.  I purchased quite a bit of what you will find on the list below at the convention.  TS 1 will be in sixth grade next year.  TS 2 will be in third grade.  TS 3 will be doing a combination of kindergarten and first grade work during the 2012-2013 school year.

As you might be able to tell from the mix of curricula below, our homeschooling style is decidedly Christian, mostly Classical and Literature Based, with a touch of Charlotte Mason.  You can read the details of why we are homeschooling and what our goals are in our homeschool mission statement.  For now, in nutshell, our aim is to balance a rigorous academic program with time for extracurricular pursuits, fun and family activities.  I try to plan and prepare our work schedule and materials as far ahead as I can, so that we can all enjoy the process and I can still have a little free time for myself.

So without further ado, our 2012-2013 Curricula:

Humanities Core:
Includes History, Geography, Church History, Music and Art Appreciation
TS 3- Story of the World, Sections selected to correspond with Tapestry of Grace readings for TS 1 & 2 as well as selected Lower Grammar picture books from Tapestry of Grace

Language Arts
TS2-  Christian Light Publishing Reading, Grade 3 (Reading Comprehension)
TS2- A Reason for Handwriting, Book T (Cursive Handwriting)

TS 3-  Institute for Excellence in Writing Primary Arts of Language (Reading, Writing, Spelling and Handwriting)


TS 3-  Human Body Study using a variety of workbooks and books from the library

Foreign Language:


Art/Music/PE/Sci, SS or Lit Enrichment:
Activities within Tapestry of Grace
Weekly Piano Lessons
Weekly Homeschool Co-op (Three Group Classes on Fridays with Other Local Homeschoolers)
Community Sports

And that about sums it up!  

How about you?  Have you planned your curricula yet?  If you have blogged about it, I'd love to read about it!  Simply leave your link in the comments.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Better Late than Never!

Better late than never, right?  Since I was unable to post a weekly wrap up two weeks ago, I wanted to catch up with a post about last week, even if it is Monday and we have started a new week already :)  I have a good excuse though, really I do.  

A friend and I took a road trip Thursday evening to the great state of Pennsylvania.  We were there through Saturday evening to attend the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's (CHAP) annual convention.  It was a wonderful, if a bit overwhelming and exhausting, experience.  I hope to write a post soon highlighting some things I learned and all the curricula I purchased.

The most interesting development at the lab last week was TS 1's standardized testing.  

Our state requires an end of the year evaluation and for TS 1 I chose to administer a standardized test to fulfill this requirement.  I decided on the Personalized Achievement Summary System (PASS) test because I wanted something I could administer at home.  One of my goals is to finish up our school year by mid June and taking three days off for testing right now would have interfered with that.  The PASS also only tests Reading, Language and Math, the three subjects from which I am interested in getting an objective assessment.  TS 1 completed the Reading and Language sections of the test last week.  He is working on the Math portion as I write.  The first two sections took him just about an hour to complete, making it possible for him to complete most of his regular school work  and still finish up close to our regular time each day.  The math section seems a bit longer, so I minimized the rest of his school work for today, as he has writing class this afternoon.

In case you are curious, the PASS has been extremely easy to administer.  Since it is TS 1's first year with the test, he first took a pretest for each section to determine the level of the actual test he would take.  Next year, the level will be predetermined based on his results from this year's testing.  After we complete the three sections, I send all the materials back to Hewitt for scoring.  Results will be sent to me 2-4 weeks after that, just in time to submit them to our school district with my final Quarterly Report.

As the end of the year report for TS 2, I will submit a written narrative of his work and progress this year.  Since he is only in second grade, he could not take the PASS this year as it begins in third grade.  Next year, I will probably opt to administer the PASS to him as well.

On Tuesday night, I hosted the monthly Mother's Meeting for our local homeschool group.  The meeting topic was Teaching Science, which was ironic since Tom teaches Science to our test subjects.  It did not much matter though since my role was simply to provide a location, some snacks and talk a bit about how our homeschool day typically looks.  I enjoyed hosting and hoped the ladies left feeling refreshed and encouraged.

Since I was gone all day Friday, my parents were here supervising the boys.  They told me that the boys were very independent and got all of their assigned work done.  I'm very proud of how independent and industrious they can be.  It doesn't have every day, believe me.  Remember our late winter-early spring blues?  But when it does, I am thankful.

Hope to post here again Friday with a Weekly Wrap Up!  Before you go, be sure to go and read our exciting news about next year :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Official!

We have decided to homeschool all three of our children next year!

Our sweet RA will become TS 3 :)

We are all very excited!  Mixed in with my excitement is a little trepidation about how to manage my time homeschooling all three.  Of course, many moms have successfully homeschooled many more children than three, so I know it can be done.  It's just hard to imagine how it will play out day to day.  Over the summer, I am going to research and work on some scheduling ideas that we can try come September.

In the meantime, I have been busily researching and mapping out a curriculum for RA over the past few weeks.  I hope the homeschool convention I am attending this weekend will help me narrow down some choices.  I plan to meet with her current Kindergarten teacher in a few weeks to get her feedback as well.  My plan right now is that we will do a mix of Kindergarten and First Grade work based on the strengths and weaknesses I see in her at this time.

Stay tuned and expect to see and hear more of that cutie around these parts!