Posts Tagged With: homeschool

Why Didn’t I Think of that Sooner Homeschool Ideas

We start slowly into our homeschool year in August, but we’ve been in full swing for about a month now.  This is our fourth “official” year and for any of you struggling out there I just wanted to say, it’s finally coming together.  And since I’m banging my head wondering why I didn’t think of these ideas sooner, I thought I’d share what’s working for us in homeschooling.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

For clarification, I’ve got a 3rd grader, a K/1st grader, and a two year old with special needs.  I’ve recently started working from home, plus this blog, and a husband who works long, hard days.  We’ve got farm animals and community responsibilities and a house that doesn’t clean itself.  I know what busy looks like.  Actually, I’m quite familiar with crazy.

Previously our days were a hodgepodge of schoolwork and housework and disagreements and bribery with a fair amount of getting lost on Facebook and sneaking candy my kids didn’t know about.  We learned.  But it wasn’t what I wanted.

This year it’s finally going better.

This year when school starts I quit being mom, housewife, blogger and become teacher.  I’m focused, the way I want them to be.  Sure, sometimes I run a load of dishes.  But mostly I don’t.  No computer, no iPad, less phone.  I want them to know this is important to me.  That mind-set is making a difference.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

A couple of books I read this summer also helped me rearrange my living space.  I really thought about the square footage in our home compared to the use we get out of it.  For us that meant converting the home-business office into the school room and a massive overhaul of how we handle paperwork.  To help with the toddler/homeschool situation I had a garage sale and used the money to put bar-height tables where the office used to be.  I now love this whole paragraph.

I also took a look at the subjects we must cover (Missouri requires 600 hours in math, language arts, science and social studies) versus important extras (religion, PE, art, etc.).  I’m working to combine them in practical ways.  My favorite example is journals.  We were writing typical prompts– “what I did yesterday”, “what I like about fall”, etc..  Now we’re journaling everyday in response to our devotion.  Same time frame.  Same skills.  Whole new meaning, and it’s a core subject.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

One thing I thought was a concession has turned out to be a blessing.  I had never used a computer-based teaching programs because, well, I guess I thought homeschooling meant I should be doing the teaching.  But homeschooling is so much more than subjects.  By using Teaching Textbooks for math I have more energy to devote to phonics or to make a social studies project happen or to help them create their own cookbook just because they want to.

So it’s taken three years to reach a clicking point.  Naturally it’s still not perfect.  But it is good.  I mean, I’ve been a parent for eight and a half years and I’m still waiting to feel confident in that. 🙂

What made homeschool click for you?

Categories: Homeschool | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Logic of English– No Really

If you’d have asked me I would have said I was taught phonics as a kid.  I vividly remember being sent to the hallway to finish my paper because I couldn’t decide if I should circle “p” or “d”– was it a dog or a puppy!?

So when homeschool curriculum contained most of the phonics I remembered I never questioned it.  Then a friend shared her recent discovery of The Logic of English.  I’m pretty sure my first reaction was to laugh.  Like there is any logic in English!

Turns out I was wrong.

English follows many rules.  The problem was I just didn’t know them.

My review of the Logic of English curriculum.

He loves spelling now. Who loves spelling?

Immediately upon learning these rules, however, I knew it was exactly what my struggling reader needed. He thrives on logic.  Case in point, our second (or was it third?) curriculum I tried with him taught students to memorize “the,” pronounced as “thu”.  Months later he still struggled with “thu”.  But when The Logic of English taught him to pronounce it “thee” and gave him a rule for why, he was fluently reading the word within days.

My review of the Logic of English curriculum.

The company I buy the rest of my curriculum from has a simple program for reading that doesn’t include a kit with bells and whistles.  While it’s true that reading may come naturally to some, and buying all the extras might not be necessary for all families, I would recommend this program to anyone.  We use the teacher’s textbook which gives you word for word instructions, teaching tips, extra games, multi-sensory ideas, etc., and the workbook which is simple, colorful, and very, very doable.  We also purchased the phonogram cards and two sets of the game cards (one cursive, one print).  I use the doodle boards (see the first pic of Brett) from my usual company since they are much cleaner than dry erase markers! 😛

My review of the Logic of English curriculum.

There are also lots of little pieces, like the fluency word cards and game boards from the workbook, that I laminate and use over and over, so I bought this plastic box from Target to hold all of our stuff.  I love it.  I call out “time for Dragon book” (because now on our third, or is it fourth? curriculum my kids despise “phonics”) grab the box and we all gather on the carpet.  I did book A with both kids together (ages seven and four) but Brett is ready to move quickly now and Anna is, after all, only four, so I let her listen to book B and then review old lessons.

My review of the Logic of English curriculum.

Snuggling on the carpet with hands-on cards, boogie boards, laminated readers, and the occasional race is now a family favorite.  Handwriting and spelling are included in the curriculum so I get to check off three subjects from my daily planner.  LOE also offers the choice between print and cursive and as an added bonus we are also learning with better handwriting because, who knew, cursive is easier for kids, fine-motor wise.

I’m also amazed at all I’ve learned while teaching this curriculum.  I’m actually a better speller, and we haven’t finished the second book! (Admittedly it wouldn’t be that hard to make me a better speller…)

In fact, if you asked me now I’d say no.  I was never taught phonics as a child.

I’m so glad I can teach it to my kids.


(In fact I’m so glad I’m writing this post just because.  I received nothing from Logic of English.)

Categories: Homeschool | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

How We Begin Our Homeschool Year

If you’re thinking it’s a little early to be back in the classroom you might be right, but I wouldn’t change the way we start off our homeschooling year!

As a public school teacher there is something of a shock when you go from working in your classroom whenever you want to the day the students arrive and suddenly you’re on a SCHEDULE.  That shock times ten best describes my transition as a homeschool mom.

How we begin our homeschooling year.

Getting my kindergarten classroom ready for the year was one of my favorite things about teaching public school. I still love preparing a bright, clean room for learning at home!

I think the adjustment is harder for me and my kids because we’re at home.  (Hence homeschooling…)  Our environment hasn’t changed, our behavior has to.  And there is no one to oversee that but me.

How we begin our homeschool year.

Like most homeschool families we make do with what we have. My craft desk doubles as a teacher’s desk. Not every teacher has a sewing machine! 🙂

I also hear this as a common fear from parents who want to try teaching their kids at home.  “I’m just not sure I could make us get the work done.”

So here’s what I do.  We start the first full week in August, but we don’t jump in with both feet.  Today we’ll be doing calendar, our first phonics lesson in two months, attempting a short handwriting session, reading together as a family, and playing with some of the “toys” that come in our curriculum for critical and hands-on thinking.

How we begin our homeschooling year.

This is today’s workload. A light schedule helps all of us transition to a full day of school!

Next week we add history, since we had the most trouble finishing this subject by the end of the school year in first grade.  I’ll also throw in two of our “daily” workbooks, geography and word problems, which are 5 minute daily practice lessons.  The third week we’ll begin math, add the daily writing lessons, and begin our religion read-aloud.  By the last week of August we’ll add science (it has the fewest overall chapters) and specials like art, music, and PE.

It means we’re doing a full workload about a week after most of Missouri’s public school are back in session, but we’ll have more total hours since we’ve been at it for three weeks already.

This is how we begin our homeschool year at my house.  What works for you?

Categories: Homeschool | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

My Journey for the Perfect Homeschool Curriculum

Be still my beating heart- our homeschool curriculum for next year has arrived!  As a mom, foster parent, and former kindergarten teacher you can be sure I have opinions on education–  if you’re not homeschooling, hang in there, I have opinions on games and toys too. 🙂  My first year homeschooling I created my own stuff.  I have a degree in early childhood, I’d taught kindergarten, and I was pretty confident I could handle it.  Yes, you may all laugh.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

Mommy wasn’t the only one with a happy smile when our order came!

We had a great kindergarten year, but honestly first grade needed structure.  But oh my, there is SO MUCH stuff!  You can school online, or just on the computer with CDs, or you can read aloud to your kids all day, or you can give them workbooks, or you can sit down and cry because of all the overwhelming decisions.

I don’t want to know how many countless hours I spent researching just the right program.  What I do know is after filling most of a notebook and downing three quarters of a bottle of tylenol over a two-month period I had pretty much decided to use a different company for each subject to get the critical thinking, phonics foundation, hands-on approach I was looking for.

And then I found Timberdoodle.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

A friend reviewed their Block Builders set on her blog.  I clicked around for a while until I found their first-grade core curriculum.

It had everything I’d already picked out for my son.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

It was tempting to bang my head against the desk in frustration of all the wasted hours, but I was too thrilled to be angry.  In addition to the math, reading, history, and science they also had fantastic extras.  The Block Builders, but also mazes for building fine motor skills and games for memory retention.  I ordered Thinking Putty for my kinesthetic learning to use while listening and beautiful books of illustrated history.  I added writing and geography, which I hadn’t planned but have been favorites all year.

I ordered Christmas presents, Easter gifts and birthday surprises for my kids, niece, and nephews.  We had a great first grade year and I can’t stop looking at the pile of stuff for second grade!  I even ordered most of the kindergarten kit for Anna.

I’m not on their blogging team and can’t be till I can secure 26 more followers (if you can help with that…), so this really is just my opinion.  I’m sharing because if you order a core curriculum before April 15th you get a free Boogie Board, which I never would have spent money on but here’s the pic of us about two seconds after we opened our box.

My Journey to find the perfect homeschool curriculum.

Boogie Boards were the first things to come out of the box and held the kids’ attention well enough I slipped the Easter gifts out and they never knew!

So I just wanted to share, in case anyone is questioning the millions of choices for the perfect homeschool curriculum.  Order from Timberdoodle.

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Preschoolers and Pumpkins

I know October is almost over, but I had to share this pumpkin unit I did with the preschoolers at our homeschool cooperative yesterday.  Actually I plan to share all of the lessons I did with them, but this one is time-sensitive. 😉

We’ve been learning Nursery Rhyme, reading them over and over each week, but focusing on one in particular every Friday for the three hours I have them.  This week we did Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater of course!

Pumpkin puzzles are a favorite both in my house and here on the blog.  I tried making them several ways, but these horizontal rings are your best bet for holding together.

A nursery rhyme pumpkin theme!

Since everybody (who doesn’t have to clean it up) loves glue, the pumpkin mosaics were popular.  I could have cut pumpkin shapes out of cardstock or whatever, but I’m a believer in process over product when it comes to this sort of thing.  Time is money.  Less is more.  Whatever.  The kids loved this station best and that’s what I care about!

A nursery rhyme pumpkin theme!

We also used unifix cubes to measure pumpkins.  These kiddos range in age from almost three to five years old, so for some of the older ones I encouraged them to measure the pumpkin, then the stem, and add them together.  I also allowed free play with the cubes and we ended up with pens for some My Little Ponies.  Just think what they’re learning about area and diameter. 😉

A nursery rhyme pumpkin theme!

For art I cut these great little pumpkin shapes on my Cricut and left them at home.  So I quickly cut out some hand-drawn pumpkins and the kids ignored them almost entirely since the paint was such fun.  After all, it isn’t everyday someone lets you paint with straws!

A nursery rhyme pumpkin theme!

I helped them make a small mound of paint with regular water colors and then blow the paint across the page to make vines.  This little artist had the coolest vines which he choose to cover up with the only one of my hand-cut pumpkins to be used.  This is both the joy and the irony of working with children.  I thought about making my own so I could show you how cool this project can be, but if you do this with preschoolers, this is what theirs will look like, so why lie?  And unless you can figure out how to isolate the green in the water color pack they will also use all the colors.  Just being honest.

We also read the Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater poem from two different books and (who knows why) these kids were amazed at how different the artists’ renderings were.  We had an in-depth conversation about actually living in a pumpkin and if it could have a window box with flowers.

If you need more great ideas, check out the unit I did with my son for kindergarten last year.

Pumpkin thematic unit for preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade. {}

And leave me a comment if you’ve got some great pumpkin activity up your sleeve.  I’ll need it for next year!

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

A New Addition

I told you in my last post we welcomed a new addition to our family.  I’ve been hoping to add sheep here on the farm for a while now, but that’s not exactly the direction we went…


Its fun… for now!

On the previous Monday we got our foster care license, and last Tuesday we picked up a little baby boy!  For privacy reasons I can’t post pictures of him, but he is a bright-eyed, 5 month old with the biggest grin!  We’re loving him already!

A new addition to our family! {}

We waited at the Children’s Division office for a while to get all the paperwork etc., and only had my phone to entertain us…

I can, in future posts, have pictures of him as just part of the family and not labeled as a foster child, however, so faithful followers may catch a glimpse of “Baby” here and there. 😉

Brett and Anna have been the best big sibs.  Brett actually wants to help change diapers and I’m working to convince him he doesn’t have to hold Baby standing up to be a big kid!!  Anna wants to be the baby’s mommy and loves nothing more than to hold the bottle or give Baby his pacifier.  In fact, I bought pacifiers for her benefit, not Baby’s!  Not really sure he likes them at all-lol!


Never mind the fuzzy pajamas. Anna believes that warm weather needs warm pjs.

We’re keeping up with the school schedule I’d already set, Praise God, but if you’d like to offer a prayer on our behalf, pray Baby soon switches to the more age-appropriate 2-3 naps/day instead of his preferred newborn pattern of sleeping part of each hour!  This momma really would appreciate it!  (The prayers and the naps!)

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

My Favorite Homeschool Secrets

We did it!  We completed our first week of homeschool AND we did so with a new addition here on the farm (post to follow on this soon!).

Tips and Tricks that I love!  {}

I know some people like to show you all around their homeschool classroom and list their curriculum for the year (, if you didn’t read this post) but I think the most useful thing I learn from other home educators are just those random tricks that work wonders for your sanity.

My favorite was shared on a park bench after Co-op last spring.  At my house it looks like this:

Our secrets to a happy homeschool {}

That’s a closet door with two of Mardel’s hanging file folder pocket charts.  Not that impressive, I get it!

But within these rather simple looking pocket charts lies the secret to happiness in dealing with my head-strong, strong-willed, stubborn, determined first grader.  Because this system allows him to choose, well, almost everything.

I have one of those homeschool, school-day planners in which I write down assignments for each subject and can plan out the yearly scope and sequence if I want and track all our expenses (again, if I want…), so I’m choosing all of the work.

My favorite homeschool secrets  {}

But he gets to decide the way our day looks.  Each night I create a pile of the next day’s work and place it in the bottom pocket.  The next morning Brett pulls everything out and places it into the pockets in the order he wants to do them.  If two things go together, like working on the 100s chart and today’s math page, I just give him one item and pull the other out when we get there.  I also give him pieces of cardstock labeled “break,” “recess,” and “snack,” which he can also schedule as he likes.

My favorite homeschool secrets!  {}

Besides allowing him to make his own choices, this as also been a great motivator for him since he can visually see the amount of work we’re doing.  School has a beginning and an end and he chooses all of it.  (Well, almost all of it.  I do insist on prayer, calendar and reading to begin the day!)

The friend who shared this idea with me uses the cardboard mailboxes common in public school classrooms and organizes her children’s work for them to purposefully create independent learning time for one while she works with another.  Her children enjoy working for the snack and break rewards placed in their boxes.  I tried this with Brett and found he needed a little more than raisins (or even suckers.  Yes.  I did that.) to work for.  Like I said, he’s… determined.

My other great idea came from Pinterest.  (Actually, aren’t we all just amazed that something DIDN’T come from there?!)  Its a chart with picture cues for “cool down” ideas.  When my determined child has absolutely had enough– or I have– either of us can call for an automatic time-out by choosing something from the cool down chart.  He can shake a jar filled with colored water and glitter and watch it settle out.  He can get a drink of water, climb under his covers, hide in the closet (he came up with that one– and he loves it.) or color a picture.

My favorite homeschool secrets!  {}

So there you have it.  My two favorite way to make it through the day.

I’d love to hear yours!

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

6 Steps to Consider If You’ve Ever Wondered How to Begin Homeschooling

It can be totally overwhelming.  Public school is mostly straight forward.  You sign the kid up, they assign you a bus number, your gargantuan task is getting them out the door on time.  But if you’ve ever wondered how to begin homeschooling your child you may be at a complete loss.

Well, there is good news and bad news.  The bad news is that you will need to make seemingly thousands of major decisions about your child’s life-long education by yourself.  The good news is you can watch the bus pick up the neighborhood kids while yours are still in their pajamas.

So, if you’ve wondered, here are a 6 steps to begin your homeschool journey.

6 Steps to consider if you've ever wondered about homeschooling  {}

1.) Google your state’s laws regarding homeschooling.  I can easily find mine by typing “Missouri Homeschool laws.”  Look for a resource provided by your state– with a (dot)gov address probably.  At some point I highly recommend paying for a membership to HSLDA, (Home School Legal Defense Association).  They have a page for each state and all the laws and lots of other resources available to members.

2.) Find a friend.  Seek out homeschoolers either in real life or here in the virtual world.  I belong to a few Facebook groups and we love nothing more than to help with questions from those who are thinking about teaching at home.  The local cooperative we attend on Fridays is my most valuable resource.

3.) Decide on a budget.  Almost any homeschool materials are a fraction of the price of private school, but you can spend as little as the cost of a library card on up.

4.) Choose your curriculum.

I think your best bet is to purchase a curriculum set– meaning a box comes with pretty much everything you need to teach a certain grade level.  EVERY homeschool mom will have her own opinion on what to use, but since this is my blog, I’m telling you is the best.  Its reasonably priced and gives you FANTASTIC resources; more than just a math workbook or a science text.

For the first-time homeschooler I’d unequivocally recommend just buying their “complete curriculum package”.  As a former teacher I drove myself batty (no comments please) trying to choose from more than 50 math companies.  Which one was perfect for my son?  In the end everything I bought is offered by Timeberdoodle.  Someone there must already be batty…

Also, if you need to bounce around a little (my son does 2nd grade science, 1st grade math, and K phonics) you can buy the pieces you want.  Tailoring the learning to your child’s specific needs is the best part of homeschooling.  I’d already started teaching Brett D’Nealian handwriting (pre-cursive), so we chose another book for that study.

5.) Organize. Create a binder.  Figure out your weekly schedule.  (Some core curriculum packages come with one.) Choose a space in your house and design a storage solution.  Most importantly here, decide how you will be complying with your state laws regarding record keeping.

6.) Make it your own!  Homeschooling doesn’t need to look like a classroom to be productive.  Work outside.  Read aloud after dinner.  Arrange lessons so you can be gone all day on Thursdays.  Make karate your PE class.  Do what’s best for You.  Your kids.  Your family.

Veteran moms– any other advise?

Categories: Family, Homeschool | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

A Book for Your Tractor Lesson

You know that great feeling when you stumble on something great completely by accident?  I have it today!  We were at the library looking for books for school, which means I’m scribbling down reference numbers and chasing children’s books from all their misplaced places, when the title of this book caught my eye.

A great book for your tractor lesson plan!

Being “Daddy’s Tractor” of course, we had to check this one out.  And we’ll probably renew it too!  Its a whimsical book with bright illustrations and a bit of nostalgia for the by-gone era of small family farms.  Grandpa takes his grandson out to the old homestead, now fallen into decay.  There they find a forgotten (red!) Farmall tractor growing up with weeds.

A great farm book for a tractor lesson plan

Please note that Farmall is a predecessor to Case IH.  And if you don’t know what Case IH is, kindly refer to the photos in the blog title.  And for all of you cheering for green and yellow, just allow me this moment.  It is hard for all of us in ag to find truly good literature, but do you know how hard it is to find books with red tractors?!

But back to the actual point…  Grandpa tells his grandson all about the work the tractor used to do on the farm when he was a boy, making this book a fantastic addition to our History of Agriculture Theme Unit.

A great book for a tractor lesson plan

The author/illustrator is not a farmer (or even remotely connected with ag in any way) and it was not written to be a scientifically, historically, or otherwise perfectly accurate portrait of farm life, but I thought Michael Garland did a nice job and avoided any of the usual mistakes of drawing all roosters instead of hens etc..   And the story of how this book came to be, featured on the last page, is probably my favorite part of all.

So now you can be as excited as I am :-).

Categories: Homeschool, Thematic Unit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can You Spot the Differences?

There are five insignificant differences between these two photos.  Can you spot them?

anhydrous originalanhydrous changed

Little differences can be hard to spot.  In fact it is possible for someone to change something so slightly that others don’t even notice it isn’t the original.

I was thinking of that this week as I wondered how to teach my children how Satan attempts to confuse issues by making the smallest of changes.  A misused verse of scriptures.  A common phrase attributed to the Bible.  A tiny sin.

Did you find the changes?

anhydrous answers

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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