An Educational Experience

Playing Games

The kids playing games with my in-laws. Listening to my kids carry on conversations, can be quite a riot!

I find it interesting that, even though my children take periodic chapter tests, I learn just as much about what they have retained, through their conversations with other people. It is definitely an educational experience!

I may think that I have done a decent job teaching, they might have even gotten perfect scores on their tests, but it isn’t until someone outside of our immediately family starts asking them what they are learning, that I really get to see what they remember the most.

It amazed me that sometimes the littlest things are remembered and yet the big picture gets overlooked. It amazed me how much detail they remember and how much of an impact a particular topic can have.

I love listening to what they found to be fun and what they are struggling with. I enjoy hearing their take on how a topic was taught and how they retell a lesson.

I wonder if this isn’t an essential part of the whole learning process; not just the taking in of information, but the giving out.

It helps me to truly know how much they understood and how I might improve my methods. It helps me to see what was appreciated and what they need.

My sister-in-law is currently in town and right now mommy is doing some learning of her own. She is learning by listening and it has been an educational experience.

Do you find this to be true in your household?

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Love A-Fair

Today we decided to once again venture out into the “real world” and do some learning. Along with our homeschool PSP, we tackled what remained of the LA County Fair.

The weather was not as nice this time; hot and sticky. The grounds were a little more crowded; Fridays usually are. Despite all that, the company was great and we conquered some areas that our family hadn’t gotten to the first time around.

Choo-ChooThe vintage trains that you can explore at the train depot. There was a neat museum too!

CabooseExploring the caboose of “Big Boy”, one of the largest engines to run on the rails.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears... Oh, my!A very educational bear show, teaching us about conservation of wildlife.

Polly Wanna Cracker?Mojo’s Jungle allowed us to view all types of exotic animals; birds, scorpions and more!

Monkey BoyThe little man, being as silly as a monkey!

Eeeewww!Just one of the many spiders on display at the fair. Little man loves his spiders!

Aaarrrggg!Who can resist a good lesson on pirates, matey? I be loving me some good fun.

Yes, Your Majesty!

A very beautiful display on Queen Elizabeth, completed with flower seeds.

VintageI enjoy vintage items, this booth was in the art center and was a treat to see.

Having FunMommy Fun

 

 

 

Trinity and I riding on G-Force! Who says mommies can’t have a little fun too? This ride was awesome!!

 

 

Bring it On

Instead of ending her day with rides, Mouse and Little Man opted to run off their energy!

I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

“I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts; there they are standing in a row!” I couldn’t seem to resist these beautiful coconut shell necklaces. I bought one for myself and the girls all opted for a birthstone ring.

Our day at the fair was filled with fun, sun, and family. We love hanging out with our homeschool group, learning new things and fellowshipping. This concludes our fair trips for the year. We enjoyed every minute and can’t wait until next time!

Do you usually spend one day at the fair or do you find yourself taking a return visit?

 

 

 

Organizing Chaos

All week we have tackled various areas of organization; filing the old stuff, creating our new portfolios, and putting in the new school books. Today’s project… replenishing our art supplies!

Homeschooling is more than just reading, writing, and reasoning. While those areas are essential, I also want to make sure that my children have an opportunity to be creative and artistic.

The week before we head back to school, the kids and I make sure we do a thorough inspection of our art supplies and restock anything that might be low. Markers are taken out of the box and each one inspected, just to make sure they aren’t dry. Paint bottles are checked, ink pads are tested, and glue bottles are consolidated. We reduce all we can, before determining what needs to be replenished.

Once we have determined what is low (or out), we make a list of all that is needed in order to keep our closet stocked. Then, we thoughtfully add anything that might be wanted. We then head out to Wal-Mart or Target and take advantage of all the back to school sales, using as many coupons and promotions as possible.

Upon returning home, our loot is unpacked and organized into our homeschooling closet. We have a plastic bin just for our adhesive and scissors. We have separate bins for ink pads, card stock, decorative paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Each type of art supply has a separate container, making crafting and cleanup more organized. (It is also a huge time saver.) Each bin is clear so that the children can easily identify which box is needed and a step stool is placed in the closet to help them grab whatever they might need.

Our homeschool closet is now refilled, organized, and ready to go! The kids are excited to know that everything they need is available and mom is excited to know that I won’t be needing to make any last-minute runs to a craft store because we ran out of something!

Do you have a cupboard or closet that you keep your supplies in? How do you keep your’s organized?

 

The Art of a Good Portfolio

Yesterday, I mentioned that we planned a particular project for each day this week. When we start school on Monday, I want to be ready and relaxed. Today’s project… our portfolios!

When most people think of a portfolio, they think of an artist or professional showing their well crafted work in order to gain recognition or obtain employment. However, did you know that homeschoolers can have a portfolio as well?

When I first began to homeschool, I read everything I could on the laws of our state and ideas on how to keep ourselves protected. One great suggestion that was made were portfolios; simple, three-ring binders that hold all pertinent work and tests the student has done for the year. In the event it should become necessary, examples of the students’ work are on hand and available.

Yesterday, we cleaned out our homeschool cupboard and filed all of last year’s portfolios in a safe place. Today, we wanted to get our new portfolios ready to go and organized. We grabbed our three-ring binders, some dividers, pens, crayons, and markers; then, we got busy!

For the new portfolios, the first thing the kids worked on is the cover for their binders. I created a simple cover with some clip art that was available via Google. We all (I have a binder for this year too) sat down at the table and enjoyed some coloring. We had a great time, visiting and being creative.

Next, we grabbed our dividers and started getting things in place. I made sure the kids have one divider for each section:

  • Reading (I keep track of all the books they read)
  • Writing
  • Language Arts
  • Arithmetic
  • Geography
  • Spanish
  • KONOS

Lastly, I made sure to print out the children’s names and cut them into narrow strips. These were placed down the outside spine of the binder. This way the children easily recognize which binder is theirs and are able to grab them at will. Our portfolios are now ready to be filled with all sorts of learning projects and assignments. They are tucked into the homeschool cupboard, ready to be used come Monday.

Our children’s portfolios have really come in handy. When we have family over, it gives our children an opportunity to share all of the things they have been working on and how much they have learned. The portfolios have even been a great way for me to show new homeschooling moms examples of different curriculum we have tried or examples of different learning styles (as each of my children slightly vary). While I hope this never becomes necessary, in the event it should, our portfolios may also be used in court in order to show examples of our children’s progress.

Hooray! Our project for the day is complete and we are almost ready to start school on Monday. Let’s see what tomorrow brings….

Do you have “portfolios” of your children’s work? We would love to see examples!

Out With The Old

That time of year has come around again. The time to clean out the homeschooling closet and begin anew. The time to minimize, organize, and prioritize. All summer we have been doing projects, being creative, and having fun. Now it is time to prep for this exciting new year of our learning adventure.

Each day this week, we have assigned ourselves one organizing project that needs to be completed in order for us to be ready next Monday. Today, it was minimizing the amount of items we kept from last year’s schooling and filing what we wanted to keep. 

So, off to the homeschooling closet we went. We pulled all our files out and got to work. We went through our binders and set aside only our main tests, our writing assignments, and work that was special to the kids. We looked at any projects that were sitting out and took stock of them as well. All items that we wanted were carefully labeled and filed in the garage, in mommy’s handy filing bin.

Our closet is now emptied out of anything unwanted or not needed. Ah, that feels nice!

 

The High School Handbook

Our oldest daughter is in sixth grade this coming August. Not one to wait until the last-minute, I wanted to spend some time this summer reading up on Junior and Senior High. I want to be fully prepared for what lies ahead. I want to know what I need now so that I am not panicking at the last-minute, worrying if I am doing something correctly or not.

To this end, our ISP principal highly recommended The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. In The High School Handbook, Ms. Schofield does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for Jr. and Sr. High. She provides a helpful, step-by-step process to organizing your students workload, as well as ideas on how each can be implemented to their fullest. She explains, with clear reasoning, why each step is taken and how it benefits both your student and yourself. To further assist you with each step, Ms. Schofield has graciously placed helpful sample forms throughout the book, showing how her family has organized each area. She has also included blank forms for you to copy and use at your own disposal, making your job even easier. 

Ms. Schofield covers every area of Jr. and Sr. High that you could possibly imagine. If you are unsure of how to organize your classes, this book will help. If you are unsure which classes are needed to attend a university, this book will help. Need tips on grading, courses standards, transcripts, and college? This book is definitely the one for you. From Language Arts and Arithmetic, to Driver’s Ed and Work Permits, this book has something for everyone.

On a personal level, I am extremely grateful that I chose to read the book this summer. Our daughter is still in elementary school (being that we are not including sixth grade as part of “middle school”); had I waited until the summer before junior high, I might have stressed myself out with the amount of paperwork and organizing that needs to be done. However, having read the book a full year in advance, I have plenty of time to prepare whatever forms might be necessary. I have the time to systematically lay out classes and to talk with my daughter about where she feels the Lord is leading her. I very much appreciated the sections on Missionary Opportunities, Apprenticeship, and College at Home, as each of these areas are of particular interest to our family.

Our HS Outline

The High School Handbook is highly recommended for everyone with a child going into Jr. and/or Sr. High. Even if you don’t homeschool, it will help you to better understand what classes your child should be taking in their studies. It will help you prepare them for ACT and SAT exams, College Applications, and other areas common to all students. I highly recommend this book. Don’t wait until your child is about to start their higher education, help them now. You won’t regret it!

For those of you with children already in Junior or Senior High, was there a particular book(s) that you found helpful in organizing the chaos? I would love to delve into a few more books. The more ideas, the better!

Fair Competition

Well, we are finally done. All of our competitions for the L.A. County Fair are complete and, as of this morning, turned in.

The kids did a wonderful job creating all of them and did very nice work. They are proud of what they have done and that is always a good sign. In all, Trinity completed 7 projects, Noel and Angelina 6, and Joseph 4. Once the fair opens and the competition results come in, I will have to take some pictures to post. 

The only things left to complete are the Read-to-Ride book reports, which we have about halfway done. When six reports are completed, you get passes for 9 rides at the fair. With four kids attending, free carnival rides come in handy! There are two weeks left of summer, I am sure we will be able to get it done with no pressure to rush.

We are very excited to explore this year’s fair and can’t wait until it opens. Then we will be able to see what the judges thought of their work.

¿Usted Habla Español?

I am part Puerto Rican, but my father (the Spanish blood in my genes) left when I was a child and never looked back; thus, I don’t speak Spanish. My mother-in-law is Mexican by birth and my father-in-law Spaniard by birth. Coming to America they wanted to become fluent and so they only spoke English in their home, therefore my husband doesn’t speak Spanish well.

Despite the fact that neither of their parents speak Spanish, our children grew up becoming more and more interested in their hispanic heritage. They love listening to their yaya and yayo (grandma and grandpa) speak fluently and try to figure out what they are saying. They love listening to Spanish music and learning to dance. They even have dresses, brought over from Spain, which they wear as often as possible when they are having play dates at my in-laws. They love Spanish and Mexican cuisine, paella and tacos being the top picks, which makes my in-laws very proud.

It seemed natural when at some point my kids asked if we could start learning Spanish. Always willing to give a learning area a shot, I quickly looked up some good Spanish curriculum for young kid.

The curriculum that best met our families needs was Teach Them Spanish! This curriculum starts as early as PreK and covers a lot of ground. I like the fact that it starts off with everyday items that the children will use; colors, numbers, family members, and parts of their body, are just a few topics covered in PreK. Each new grade level stars off with reviewing what has already been taught and then builds upon it. If you learned 10 colors in PreK, you will review those 10 and add 5 more in K.

The best part of the curriculum, in my opinion, is the fun activity list that accompanies each lesson. Not only does the curriculum offer workbook pages to help you with learning, but it has Bingo games and other ideas to help make learning fun!

For those absolutely new to Spanish, like myself, there are also very helpful teacher pages. These pages follow each lesson, offering suggested questions to ask your student. For example: When studying colors, the teacher pages will teach you how to ask your student what color their shirt is, in Spanish with the English translation next to it. It will then teach you how your students should respond, in Spanish with the English translation beside.

This curriculum has been a lot of fun and we are learning a lot. Come high school, we are going to have to go with a more formal program, but for now this is working for us. The kids are having a blast and my in-laws are having fun supplementing what we are learning.

Do you have a Spanish lesson that you enjoy? I would love to hear suggestions.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:

Monday:

  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Tuesday:

  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Wednesday:

  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Thursday:

  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom

Friday:

  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Four

Fail-to-plan“Mommy, can you explain this?” “Mommy, I don’t get this one!” “Mommy, is this supposed to look like this?”  “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

There are moments when I wish I could figure out how to be five places at once. This way when I am homeschooling my kids, I could stand by each one of them and help them with their needs. (Why five places when you only have four kids, you say? I would be sitting on my husband’s lap, having a fun conversation about his latest piece of artwork.)

While it may be summer time and school won’t “officially” start until August, this might be a good time for me to sit down and figure out an easier way to balance my kids’ schoolwork; since being in five places isn’t logically possible and being in one place can be stressful enough without trying to be in five!


The first thing I want to do is list all of the core curriculum that needs to be covered. 
Each of the kids have a certain amount of schoolwork per day. It helps to list each person’s work separately and then compare. For example:

Trinity – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Noel  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

‘Lina  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Joseph – Bible, Spelling, Handwriting, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Just looking at the list above, I can see that most of the subjects are the same, it is only the level of work that will change.

The second thing I want to do is figure out which subjects can be taught as a IMG_8068group. Having the kids come together on a subject cuts down on my teaching time and on my stress level. I usually make a point of doing Bible, History, and Science together. We do the initial lessons together and then work is handed out to each child based on their skill level. The other subjects I will need to balance.

The third thing I want to do is put my curriculum in order of how it will be taught. It always helps to know what direction I am heading in and to set up a routine; it is good for me and the kids. This will also help me figure out the pace at which each of my children will progress. For example, I know that Noel, Trinity, and ‘Lina will be working on Spelling at the same time, but JAG will start with Handwriting. This will make him slower at getting to Language Arts than his sisters, which will buy me some time. Between Trinity and Noel, Noel’s Spelling list is shorter, so I know she will progress to Language Arts faster. Knowing how fast they progress will help me to determine the order of the subjects and how much “bouncing around” I am going to have to do.

The forth thing I want to do is add in my electives. On top of my core curriculum I often have electives that either I or my children would like to cover. Our family has chosen to add Typing, Spanish, Piano, and Coding. Our electives are done in what I call “rotations”. Each of my children will be at a “station”; any one of our three computers or the piano. They are given a certain amount of time at that station and when they hear Mom call out “Switch!”; they know it is time to change.

The last thing I want to do is make sure I schedule in breaks and lunches. Once I know what needs to be covered and the general order of how it will progress, I need to make sure that I start figuring out where to give my kids some breathing room. Schooling is necessary, but having scheduled breaks gives them something to look forward to and a chance to reset their minds for more learning. Our schedule usually goes something like this:

Breakfast and Short Free Time                                                                                        Bible, PE, Spelling, Language, Arithmetic, Geography
Break
History & Science
Lunch Time and Short Free Time
Chores, “Rotations”

Notice that I don’t put down a time for each of these. Our family works on a routine, not a schedule. If we start at 8am, great! If we don’t start till 9am, no sweat! My kids don’t have a certain amount of time per subject, they are only told how much needs to be done. How quickly they work through it is entirely up to them. The faster they work, the sooner they get done, and get to have free time.

While our routine isn’t perfect; it certainly works for us. With much prayer (and much trial and error), we have finally come to a place where the kids are learning at a wonderful rate and Mommy isn’t feeling like a rubber ball.