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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One in which We Got Our Groove Back

This first (almost) month of school has been a whirlwind!  While homeschooling three has turned out to be quite a feat (for me, at least), I think I can finally say that we have found our groove.  We tried several different schedules before I felt we fell into a workable one.  

First, we tried a "little ones first" schedule, which equated to me spending about 90 minutes with my daughter for kindergarten followed by 30-45 minutes with my third grader.  This left my oldest waiting until after lunch for any focused time with me, which was just not working out for us.

Then we tried a modified "little ones first" schedule, which meant I still met with TS 3 first, but for a shorter time.  Then I met with TS 2 for about 45 minutes for Language Arts, and tried to squeeze in a little time in with TS 1 before lunch.  This schedule just left all of us feeling rushed all day long.

Our current schedule, which seems to be flowing more smoothly, looks something like this:
8:30-9:30       Meet with TS 3
9:30-10          Meet with TS 2
10:00-10:30  Meet with TS 1
10:30-11       Snack/Read Aloud
11-11:30       Meet with TS 3 while TS 1 & 2 take a short break
11:30-12       Meet with TS 2  while TS 3 takes her break
12-12:30       Meet with TS 1
12:30-1         Lunch
1-1:30           Meet with TS 3 while TS 1 & 2 have recess
1:30-2           Meet as needed (Recess for TS 3)
2-3                Meet as needed

While I am still bouncing from one test subject to the other all day, there is less waiting time for any one child for my help.  I was reluctant to separate the kids for their breaks, but I was noticing that TS 3 was choosing to do her own thing anyway during break time while the boys played baseball outside.  If she starts to feel lonely and wants to play with them during breaks, I will have to rethink this.  For now, though, we are all enjoying our homeschool groove :)

Everyone seems to be far enough into their studies at this point to know what to expect in a typical day in each subject.  This is probably also helping us to feel like we are in a groove with school.  

In other news, we had a great first week at co-op last Friday!  My first experience teaching at co-op went really well. I am teaching two U.S. Government and Election classes to two age groups, 1-3 grade and 4-6 grade.  I am so glad I did most of the planning and preparation over the summer!  I cannot imagine if I had to plan and prepare two group lessons every week.  Since most of the work is done already, I simply have to review my lessons beforehand and perhaps prepare a chart or two for visuals.

The weather was so beautiful after co-op on Friday that we wound up staying afterwards for almost three hours!  The kids had a blast playing outside together and the moms had the chance to catch up from the long summer break.

We went apple and pumpkin picking last Saturday.  

TS 3 and I have been reading lots of great picture books about apples these past few weeks, so it was a fun experience to tie into our reading.  She and I have been baking with apples all week.  We made apple muffins on Sunday.  

On Wednesday afternoon, we made an apple crisp to share with our home Bible study group.  We are thinking about making applesauce over the weekend.  

We have our homeschool group's kick off meeting this Saturday, which should make for a fun afternoon.  If we have another "groovy" week here at the lab, perhaps I'll have some time to share about what each test subject is working on in their various subjects :)

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Homegrown Learners

Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One with 2 Baptisms and a Birthday

Phew!  Homeschooling three test subjects is kicking my butt!  Moving from two to three students has increased the demands and busyness of my day exponentially.  I am still trying to find a schedule that seems fair and manageable for each of us.  In addition to the hectic school day, a few after-school activities, namely dance and baseball, started up again this week, too.

I am still working with TS 3 first thing in the morning for about an hour, and then sending her off to do centers and computer work while I rotate among the boys.  I have decided, though, that TS 1 must get to his math in the morning, so meeting with him in the morning is also a priority.  He doesn't really need me to teach him the material.  My presence at math time is usually more for moral support than anything else.  If he has to wait until the afternoon to begin math though, it usually ends in tears or conflict.  

I am also re-evaluating how much work I have been assigning TS 2.  He is an industrious worker for the most part and does not waste much time, yet he is often the last to finish each day.  Considering he is only in third grade, while big brother is in sixth, I need to figure this out.  As I mentioned last week, I am contemplating moving him back to Lower Grammar in TOG to see if that helps.

Moments like these, make all the frenzy of this adjustment period worth it:
TS 2 reviewing sight words and phonograms with TS 3 

Switching gears for a bit, I have to share that both of our boys decided to get baptized this Sunday!  TS 2 was the first to tell us that he wanted to be baptized when he heard an announcement at church about upcoming baptisms.  TS 1 was not sure if he was ready even up to Sunday morning.  We want our children to take the step of baptism out of of obedience to God and of their own accord and not under pressure from us, so we talked to him about why a believer gets baptized and we helped him decide if the reasons he had for and against baptism were valid.  In the end, though, we left him to wrestle with the decision on his own.  Of course, we rejoiced that they both decided to enter the waters of baptism.  It was a beautiful day!

Today is TS 3's sixth birthday!  SIX years ago today, the most beautiful little girl in the world was born in Guatemala!  A little girl, 2,000 miles away, was born in our hearts and changed our lives forever. 

We started the day today with her requested breakfast treat: chocolate chip pancakes.

Tonight we will celebrate as a family with her birthday dinner at the local Mexican restaurant we go to for all our birthdays.  Obligatory birthday girl in sombrero picture forthcoming :)  Cousins and friends will join us on Sunday afternoon for a gymnastics birthday party.

Well, friends, I think this is about all I can muster today.  I am wiped out!  And next week, co-op starts!  I think I can, I think I can...

Homegrown Learners

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: The One Featuring Back to School!

After a productive Labor Day weekend which included a healthy balance of work (garage and attic clean out) 

and play,

we started back to homeschool on Tuesday.  

If I believed in Murphy's law, which I don't, but if I did, I would have expected the unexplained and out of the blue fever that TS 2 came down with on Monday night.  He was so excited for the first day of school that he came downstairs on Tuesday morning fairly close to our regular wake up time anyway and even worked through part of his schedule.  I encouraged him to take lots of breaks throughout the day, which he did whenever the Motrin wore off and the fever crept back up.  He had fever on and off on Wednesday, too, but has been fine since then.

I had this idea that since we already had a year of homeschooling under our belts that we would just launch full speed ahead on the first day of this school year.  (Stop laughing!  I'm still a newbie, you know :)  After that first day, I took all of our electives out of our schedule and pared us down to the basics for the next week or so.  Once we are on a predictable schedule again, we will add subjects like Spanish and keyboarding back into our days.   

After this reality check, Wednesday went much more smoothly.  My biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to balance my time between the three test subjects.  The way my schedule is set up right now, I spend about an hour first thing in the morning one-on-one with TS 3, working through her main curricula (Bible, Calendar Time, Reading, Writing and Math).  

Then while she is off doing some independent activities (Center Time, Reading Eggs, Audio Books), I spend 30 minutes or so individually with the other test subjects to review math and any other subjects that need my attention.  I circle back with TS 3 for history or science later in the day.  This routine is working well enough, but I feel like the the boys are getting frustrated when they have to wait an hour or more for my focused attention.  I know part of this process is training them to wait, but part of their frustration is understandable because sometimes they need my help before they can move on with their assignments.

A dear friend and veteran homeschooling mom gave me this index card idea, which has been very effective in guarding the individual meeting times I have with each test subject.

I keep one of these colored index cards out on the table (or couch) beside me to indicate whether I am available to help anyone but the child I am working with at the time.  Red says, "please do not interrupt us at all right now."  Yellow says, "you may ask a quick question."  Green says, "you are free to ask anything, or tell me whatever you have been waiting to tell me."  It has been working very well so far, although one test subject, who shall remain nameless, keeps forgetting to check the card before calling across the room for me.  

Thursday was another productive day, but, boy, was I worn out by 3 p.m.!  Homeschooling three children is hard work.  I have a feeling there will be a revival in my prayer life this year.  After only three days, I'm fully aware that I will not be able to do this in my own strength!  

It's Friday, and we seemed to have found our groove now.  I am still contemplating possible tweaks to our schedule, but I want to wait on any changes until the end of next week.  The other issue I am wondering about is my decision to try TS 2 in the Upper Grammar level of TOG this year. The jump in reading (both the amount and the level) per week might be too much for him.  Again, I am not making any big decisions just yet, but I am thinking about changing over to a mix of Lower and Upper Grammar for him.

Some of my favorite moments from our Back to School Week:
TS 1 and 2 climbing the walls, literally

All three test subjects creating baseball stadiums during "recess"

The finished products

Big brother "teaching" little sister during center time

When all three wandered into the same room to work- love being together!

Homegrown Learners