About Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Is University the Only Choice?

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*This piece originally ran over at Simplify and is posted here with full permission*

The world of work has changed, and our educational system hasn’t kept up. In some cases, students have a career plan decided upon at an early age. If not, you shouldn’t overlook community college, tech school or interning for a year as post-secondary options. The old school advice that anything less than a university degree is second best is just old-fashioned. The Community College where I grew up had the initials CLC, which held the nickname “college of last chance.” That isn’t the case anymore.

Many students, even ones with straight A’s, find themselves on the treadmill of expectations earlier than ever. They are taking classes in eighth grade to test into prestigious high schools which they then study hard at to be accepted to selective universities. Many assume that they should know what they want to study and when it isn’t clear it can be frustrating for the entire family. Choosing something innocuous like “business” and hoping that upon graduation they get hired somewhere is a common outcome.

Communication between parent and student is essential. Begin early in high school if not before. Talk about how your child sees her future. Expect the view of the future to evolve and keep adjusting the plans to accommodate those changes. Taking some time to consider all paths shouldn’t feel like a luxury.

Community colleges are and have always been a real bargain. Many have teamed up with four-year schools so that you can complete a bachelor’s degree without living in a dorm. Many students can test out of credits in Community College using either the CLEP system or using the  Proficiency Examination Program that allows students to test out of many classes not available through the CLEP system. Both the CLEP and the Proficiency Examination Program give ample information on the material covered in the exam, and a motivated student can save a sizeable amount of time and money pursuing credits in that way.  In some academic areas, students may show proficiency through appropriate means other than written tests. Alternative forms of testing include a musical performance, review of art portfolios, review of credentials, work skill evaluations, or other means.

Consider that there is a growing need for skilled tradespeople (mikerowe.com), yet the stigma surrounding vocational technology vs. the traditional 4-year college route remains entrenched. Homeschoolers, especially, have the time to introduce Vo-Tech skills into their chosen curriculum. All students should at least witness the creative energy surrounding welding, machining, woodworking, plumbing, carpentry, and heating systems. With the growing trend toward green technology, creative and practical opportunity abounds in solar, wind turbine, geothermal, radiant heat, and green construction/fabrication in general. Most of these new technologies do not require a four-year degree. Rather than retype the advice, I would give for considering a career in the trades, go read this excellent primer on the subject at The Art of Manliness (don’t be fooled by the title…there is good advice there for us girls as well).

Interning during a gap year is another valid option. Usually, interns are not paid and can work part-time (allowing the student to save for College) while interning in an industry that interests them. Internships are highly competitive so applying for them before the end of high school is necessary.

This is the time of year that seniors are making their final decisions and writing essays for college applications. If your senior isn’t sure about their future plans, now is the time to consider all options.

 

Jen Naughton reviews books for homeschoolers at GeekReadsKids.Com and is a Homeschool/College Muse at Simplify.

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About Classical, About Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Sometimes I Waffle About Classical Education, but Then I Remember My Own

  • Welcome to Farrar Williams our first guest contributor since the re-boot

I’ve been homeschooling for a while now, and in the course of educating my kids, I’ve tried on a variety of different styles and methods. My boys have their passions in the arts and sciences, not the humanities. They’re performers and creators. They’re much more interested in creative and hands-on learning. In the end, I’ve educated the kids I have, just like we all do, choosing experiences and styles that meet their needs best.

 

I’ve really only been classically influenced. However, every time I start to think about moving further away from that influence, I get dragged back to my own education, and I know I can’t let go of that influence.

 

I was fortunate to have attended a public magnet school where the humanities programs were profoundly influenced by neo-classical ideas. While newbies like Susan Wise Bauer and Leah Bortins and older writings like those of Dorothy Sayers and Charlotte Mason tend to dominate the classical education conversation in homeschooling circles, one of the loudest voices in education encouraging a return to classical thinking and great books was once Mortimer J. Adler. Adler’s work How to Read a Book, originally published in 1940, was a bestseller in its day. He helped solidify the term “Great Books” and proposed a system of classical education in his work The Paideia Proposal.

 

The school I attended took the idea of reading through the canon seriously, though it thankfully made it a more diverse canon than Adler ever envisioned (Adler’s refusal to include non-Western and non-white authors was one of the things that eventually made him unpopular in academic circles). It started slow, but by the time I graduated high school, I had read a dozen Shakespeare plays, several major epics like The Odyssey, classic works of British literature from The Canterbury Tales to Heart of Darkness, American works from The Scarlett Letter to The Joy Luck Club, and pretty much everything in between. I read Things Fall Apart in tenth grade. I did a deep dive on Native American authors in eleventh. People I know are often astounded by the number of books that I offhandedly mention were required reading for me in high school. I decided not to become an English major in college after realizing I’d spent four years mostly rereading.

 

In addition to the longer works, we read poems and excerpts of longer works. In history class, we tore through primary source documents in piles. I read The Communist Manifesto and A Vindication of the Rights of Women. We used Adler’s Paideia seminars as a reading approach, discussing everything from creation myths to Candide to Freud. Adler talked about ways to encourage close reading and then bring that knowledge to a classroom seminar for discussion where students would deepen their knowledge through other understandings of the text. The Socratic discussion was encouraged and modeled.

 

This is not to say that I was always the best student or that I didn’t cut corners occasionally. It was still high school, not an ivory tower paradise. However, overall, I loved it. I was challenged and academically fulfilled most of the time, given real work that was really worth doing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

 

When I look at my own kids, just beginning to be assigned classic literature like The Time Machine and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which I read in high school, I’m pulled back to just how much I value that time in my own life. I am a better person to this day for having been pushed to read classic literature. I’m more informed, more cultured, more able to participate in that Great Conversation. I have more references, a better vocabulary, a deeper understanding of history, and a better understanding of other cultures from having read literature from Asia, Africa, and South America.

 

My own sons aren’t the bibliophiles I was as a child. I don’t think they’ll ever read the sheer volume of books I had to go through. Nor would they intentionally choose the harder options like I sometimes did, devouring Anna Karenina as a supplemental read instead of a shorter option. Instead, I find myself picking a smaller selection of those books carefully, looking at the shorter titles and thinking about how to push them toward that ability to read, understand, and most importantly, enjoy what they read. Despite having exposed them to history from start to finish and to as many good read aloud and well-written children’s versions of classical stories, they’re just not ready, even on the eve of high school, to be thrown into the deep end. I’m not letting that discourage me though.

I’m determined to give them a taste of that classically flavored experience to help them become well-rounded, literate individuals who can also participate in those deeper conversations about the world around us that are based in understanding our past.

Farrar Williams has headed the online homeschool community for Washington, D.C.-area homeschoolers, taught theater classes, at different local arts programs, coached Destination Imagination, and helped run a small, family-centered learning co-op. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she writes fiction and blogs about home-based education at I Capture the Rowhouse.

About Homeschooling, Education is a Life, Uncategorized

Who’s Keeping Score?

Post on any social media group where homeschoolers gather and you’ll find plenty of advice for compiling a transcript and making sure that your child has the extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and all the rest of the hoops that college entrance requires. There are people out there like Mike Rowe, a famous example of someone who will tell you that college isn’t for everyone. I think that intuitively parents sense that college may not be the right path for one or more of their children and trying to push them into it is stressful for everyone.

I guess what I want to address is the peer pressure aspect of it all. I would have loved to just keep my kids on a straight path like college attendance. Sure, we homeschooled them, but now they are going to be “normal” and go away to a four-year school like all our neighbors. This time of year it is especially in your face- dorm shopping sales, pictures of college campus visits on Facebook, and the curriculum catalogs that promise that if you buy their text, all will be well. Everyone still seems to assume that college attendance is the ideal and anything less is a failing on either the child or the parent for not inspiring them to attend.

I don’t want to dwell on my own family too much, for several reasons, one is this: what works for our family may not work for yours. Our family is full of fantastic academic under achievers, and that goes back at least three generations on both sides. We are a family of hands on specialists. We get going with something and don’t stop until we’ve conquered it. The traditional two years of Gen Ed classes can’t compete with starting life and getting good at your passion. I think if one of us had a career goal that required a degree he/she would do well at a university because of the requirement.

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I’ll use myself as an example. In my third grade, public school classroom my teacher had paper hot air balloons for each class member. As you completed quick math fact sheets, your balloon was raised higher on the wall until at the end of the year everyone else had their balloon on the ceiling while mine was very low to the ground. I didn’t care. I spent the end of math class writing stories and couldn’t care less about memorizing math facts. Coincidentally, part of math that year introduced calculators so it really seemed like a waste of time to learn facts that you could look up in seconds.

I’m not saying that learning or formal education is not necessary- it is. I just want to live in a world where more people pursue their passion and not just go through the motions and get a degree, graduating not having any idea what they want to devote their working years too. Many times that can be alleviated by taking a gap year and working at something. I’ve seen it go a couple ways. Either you discover that what you thought was a dream job isn’t or it is and now you are motivated to get qualified for that field.

In some ways, this is an introductory article to what I hope will be a series that tells the other side of homeschooling. We all hear about the academic over achievers getting accepted to fantastic schools. Statistically, and in my own experience I know that there are plenty of homeschool students who are average and who graduate high school going straight into the job market, trade apprenticeships, or Community College Certificate Programs.

 

 

 

Education is a Life, Uncategorized

The Kitsch-en

“I can’t believe you have the patience to homeschool.”

“I could never do that.”

So often, it is not the actual act of planning lessons and teaching subjects that defeat us. It is the coffee that no one else seems able to make, but they are sure willing to drink it. It is the dirty dishes and the greasy stove that cast a shadow over what was otherwise a delightful meal.

I’m excited to see the beauty of these daily tasks through new eyes and the reminder that joy is present in the drudgery if I can open myself up to a new way of seeing.

 

“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

Pursue immortality, searching for forever,

lemon

But postpone to consider where momentarily time delays,

silverware

Repeating always, labors never finished,

salt

Abode of classic timelessness, residing in the kitchen

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Hidden in unwelcome chores, nonpareil moments lay

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As bubbles gleam thoughts form and too, ascend

water

Swiftly comes dissatisfaction, focused outwardly on substance

fire

Searching, searching, never seeing beauty in the fire

steaming20coffee

Awaken tendrils softly, contentment rising onwards

grease

Does reflecting grease portray unrivaled stardust from within?

volunteer

Resentment of vulgarian tasks procures no advantage.

Opportunity begrudged by me is celebrated by another.

 

Poem by Madeline McQuilling

About Homeschooling, Distance Learning, Uncategorized

My Ideal Online Student

Our very own Courtney is a teacher over at  Well Trained Mind Academy. I asked her to write up some guidelines for both students and parents who may be considering online classes there or anywhere else. It’s not too early to be thinking about next Fall. –JN

My Ideal Online Student Would:

  1. Read the syllabus. Most teachers put lots of time and effort into their syllabi. I provide a week-by-week breakdown of assignments, allowing students to plan their entire year in advance. Also, since I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to provide an answer in advance to most of the questions I receive in an average school year. This year is 2/3s of the way completed, and I’ve yet to receive an assignment question that isn’t already answered on the syllabus.
  2. Provide me with valid contact information for both themselves and their parent (I teach middle/high school). Online classes mean that most communication takes place by email. I faithfully update the parents of my students on their progress every week, but I inevitably receive emails from blindsided parents who provided no email address, a wrong email address, or never check their email.
  3. Reach out when they have difficulty. I don’t see these students every day to give them side eye when they fail to turn in their daily work. I can’t stop them after class for a quiet chat about paying attention while completing homework. I’m not across from them at the dining room table when they’re frustrated. I want to help–it’s my job to help–but I can’t help unless the student tells me there is a problem.
  4. Create a personal study schedule, and stick to it. Just because the Well-Trained Mind Academy caters to homeschoolers, and these are online courses, doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them seriously. Online classes quickly fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Even my 6th – 9th graders often require parental support in scheduling their study time and class attendance.
  5. Familiarize them with the online user interface. Most online learning systems have a significant learning curve. Blackboard is the most widely used software (over 1/2 of all K-12 students, nationwide), but it’s not necessarily intuitive. I provide an orientation session and work hard to establish a routine at the beginning of the school year so as to minimize confusion, but I inescapably have students who email me 3 weeks into the semester to ask me how to turn in their work.

Last, but not least, I treasure all my students. I attempt to establish a warm, professional relationship with my students and run my classes so that they have clear but reasonable standards and expectations. I deliberately schedule assignments so that students have less opportunity to forget about their classes. I offer daily office hours so that students can have one-to-one assistance. I answer my email after dinner and before breakfast to help my students. Every student matters, and I hope they know it!

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Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncts, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats

 

Science, Uncategorized

Textbooks in Moderation

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First, I’m a fan of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) by Dr. Nobel. It’s entirely hands-on, written to the parent. It meets and/or exceeds California state standards for science education, as well as the science standards drafted by the National Research Council, (the staff arm of the National Academy of Sciences), the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science–the Next Generation Science Standards. In my opinion, no other science program I have reviewed has such depth of inquiry in the early grades. Finally, BFSU is integrated science, which is essential for building practical skills in science–working scientists don’t tend to silo themselves in their disciplines.

However, BFSU is not open-and-go for educators. Some of the factors that contribute to its quality as a science program — the lack of a textbook, the depth of inquiry, the hands-on nature of the program — also create difficulties for day-to-day implementation. It’s written in dense text that can be difficult to parse with a busy classroom or screaming toddler in the background. Also, the highly verbal nature of the program can make it difficult for some students to cement understanding or skills. Further, it lacks some of the rich background content that classical education (and some traditional science textbooks) bring to science education. BFSU attempts to make up some of those lacks with a recommended reading list and some written assignments, but they produce little or no historical illumination.

To address these concerns, I have created a custom unit-based science program for my elder daughter that blends BFSU, Prentice Hall’s Science Explorer textbooks, and the book list from Beautiful Feet’s History of Science program.

The first week consists of reading, section questions, and narration from Prentice Hall’s Science Explorer textbooks, as well as a lab from the accompanying lab manuals–all centered around the BFSU chapter concept. This week helps cement the science concept and hands-on skills.

The second week consists of reading and narration from a middle grades biography of a historical figure central to the idea (when possible, and when not, a key historical figure or concept in the history of science), as well as filling in a science historical timeline. This week brings in the richness of classical education.

The third week consists of the discussion questions and lab with accompanying student-written lab report from the BFSU chapter. This week uses the understanding and background from the prior two weeks to dig deep into the BFSU chapter concept.

This science blend is an ambitious project. To make the project more manageable, I created a spreadsheet that listed all the BFSU chapters and sections in the order I want to use them and then listed the concepts addressed in those pages. Next, I listed relevant pages from the Science Explorer textbooks and the page numbers of the relevant labs in the lab manuals. Then, I listed the relevant page numbers in the Beautiful Feet History of Science pamphlet. Finally, I listed the books I want to use from the Beautiful Feet Booklist, the BFSU recommended reading, and others I’ve researched for supplementing the list. This overarching view helps me stay organized.

I’m using the spreadsheet as a guide. To make using the BFSU chapter easier, I also write lesson plans that pull out the key questions from the BFSU chapter, list lab materials, and dictate the lab report contents. The lesson plans are time-consuming because the BFSU text is so densely written, without any notation of key questions or manual lab items. I realize that Dr. Nobel wishes to make it as flexible as possible for educators, but that same flexibility and density are intimidating to the casual user. These lesson plans help me outsource some of the daily instruction time, which is critical to me. I did ask Dr. Nobel for permission to sell the lesson plans I write, but he refused, saying that he had already made an agreement with someone else. As of now, the lesson plans are apparently not published, so I continue with that work.

Finally, I’m creating a daily guide as I go, listing books and page numbers. The guide is a Word document, like the lesson plans. This work helps me keep track of what we’ve done, as well as where we need to go. Flipping back and forth between the three Prentice Hall textbooks and their accompanying lab manuals, the trade books and biographies, and the BFSU lesson plans can be confusing. As a result, the daily schedule is the document I refer to most often. It’s laid out in calendar format, in three-week chunks — again, based around the BFSU chapter concept.

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One of the joys of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible. Blending three different styles of sources of information (while using one as a spine) is more flexible than the do-the-next-textbook-page science that is unfortunately so common. We can compress a week if the reading is short or she finds the book so attractive she can’t put it down, skip a lab if we’ve done it before, or watch a video for a supplemental background. But I can do any or all of those things knowing that the overarching goals of knowledge, skills, and competencies are being met.

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Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.

About Classical, Uncategorized

The Link between the Heart and the Mouth

“Training the mind is no simple task!…But in a classical education, we are willing to work through these difficult mental exercises because we recognize that the mind is the vital link between the heart and the mouth.”

I recorded this into my commonplace book some time ago without an attribution. If you know who said it, please let me know, and I’ll attribute the quote.

In any case, I heartily agree with this sentiment. So many times I’ve heard the assertions that homeschooling must be so hard, so time-consuming, so, so, so…

You know it too. If you are just starting out, you’ll soon have a canned answer ready that you’ll whip out without a second thought. I joke that I didn’t want to awaken early enough to get four kids on a bus. I’ll admit that is was partly that and the fact that I wanted my children to know not only how to think, but how to think independently.

If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live.-John F. Kennedy

I’ve found the classical education method to be the best avenue to achieve our educational goals. We go astray sometimes for months at a time, but always seem to return to our core basics. Reading and being read to are key. The more literature that children are exposed to the better.

 

Classical education is not all about being able to recite facts. It’s studying the past extensively and therefore having the knowledge to avoid mistakes that have been made again and again. It’s gaining empathy due to reading story after story of tragedy and loss. How can you relate to time you haven’t lived through?

 

You can get a real sense of history through both historical fiction and fact. Knowing the dates is a bonus as it allows you to have a sort of timeline in your head for what happened when. That doesn’t preclude the student also relating to the point in time creatively. Repeat after me: Classical Education is not boring. The materials and presentation can be annoying. A student will have subjects that he/she prefer over others. That doesn’t mean you skip it.  I don’t think specialization should be encouraged until age sixteen or so.

I’m afraid that this is turning into a generalized rant of how classical education is perceived by most of the homeschooling community. It isn’t meant to be that. It also isn’t intended to say that all other methods of education are inferior. Every family needs to determine their goals and values for educating their children soon after they decide to take on the responsibility themselves. I’m speaking as a classically influenced homeschooler who has been at this gig for over sixteen years.

This then is my actual point. Only through learning about the past and gaining empathy can we link the heart and the mouth thus providing the world with educated souls in what are seeming to be very interesting times.

 

 

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Jen N. – Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she lives in a world of fandoms. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and reviews books at  www.recreationalscholar.com

Literature, Uncategorized

Harris Burdick

 

harris20burdick Everyone has read The Polar Express and Jumanji, but are you familiar with Chris Van Allsburg’s more obscure work, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick? When I was a new 5th-grade teacher, this was my very favorite book to teach and to use as a jumping off point for creative writing. Each page features a mysterious drawing and a title as well as the first few words of the story – however, the rest of each story has been lost. It is up to each reader to make up their own story for each page.

Through the years, I’ve used this book in many different ways. As a young teacher, I had my students choose which illustration was the most interesting to them and then made an impressive hallway bulletin board with copies of the drawings and each student’s story posted beneath it.

As a young mother, I sent pictures to family members so each one could write a story to share at the next family gathering. One of my college-aged children sent “The House on Maple Street” to ten people of various ages and backgrounds around the country. She then attempted to analyze what each story had in common and what was unique about each one.

One day I was browsing at Barnes & Noble with my younger girls and realized I had never introduced them to this fantastic book. I saw an almost identical but thicker book right next to it on the shelf: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. What in the world? An anthology of short stories corresponding to the original Harris Burdick illustrations, each written by a famous author.

I started screaming, right there in the children’s section. My daughters were not too young to be mortified. When I was paying, the cashier commented on how neat my new book looked. I told her that the only thing that could be cooler was if it had a story by Stephen King.

I was so excited by my discovery that I had to start perusing it before the little girls had even gotten on their seat belts. When I looked at the table of contents, I saw stories by Sherman Alexie, Lois Lowry, Lemony Snicket, AND both Stephen and Tabitha King! All I can say is that I’m glad that the windows were rolled up because I started screaming again.

I resisted the urge to go home and read it cover to cover and decreed that no one was allowed to read any story if they had not already written their own for that particular illustration. Then I started a weekly writing project with my younger girls. We examine one picture, then all write a story to go with it. Then I read them the similar story from The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.

This is such a painless way to get kids thinking and writing. I encourage you to see if your library has these Chris Van Allsburg books. But be forewarned, screaming may ensue.

 Daydream Believer (and Homecoming Queen)

Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time, she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy.

Uncategorized

New Beginnings

Some of you might have noticed that things have become very quiet over the past few months. This was nothing that we had intentionally planned, and it has weighed heavily on our collective conscience.

The group of us came up on some very hard life situations — cross-country moves, life-altering sickness, older children who needed so much more of us — and due to those stresses, we lost the spark that made writing for the Sandbox fun.

But we never forgot you, our readers, and our responsibility toward you.

To remain true to its original vision and continuing to help homeschoolers everywhere, we decided to hand off Sandbox to Jen Naughton, the author of Recreational Scholar and Viking Academy.

We are so very thankful to her for taking on this huge project. We know we’re leaving our project of the heart in good hands, with someone who will spark a vision for its future and serve the readers we’ve become so endeared to. Thank you for your support these last three years, dear readers.
Bon Voyage!

The Founders of Sandbox to Socrates

How We Make it Work, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant, I have a toddler, and I still have to educate older children! by Cheryl

Courtesy FreeImages.com

First, take a deep breath! (That’s just as much for me as it is for you.) Then, take a nap.

Okay, now you are ready to think about school, a toddler, and a baby.

Last time I was pregnant with a toddler, I only had one school-age child, and he was only in first grade. We had relatively few problems, even though I was very sick for six months of the pregnancy. Now I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and an energetic preschooler.

The best thing I have done with our homeschooling was to train my oldest to be independent. He works alone, and then I check his work. We go over troublesome issues together, but he normally does well on his own.

Not all kids can do this – my daughter cannot. I have to sit with her for every minute of school. So, how do we make this work?

We are combining some subjects. Last year we started The Prairie Primer but only made it half-way through the book. We will spend this year finishing that. With this curriculum, we cover literature, some history, some science, and some nature study.

My oldest is working on a book of centuries for history. He is reading through the Kingfisher Encylopedia of World History a couple of pages a day, making notes in his book, and following up on what truly interests him with other books we have at home or that he finds at the library. He can also make entries from our Little House on the Prairie studies. This is completely independent.

We have always used Real Science 4 Kids for science. We will work through the middle school series for geology and astronomy this year. Because they are only ten chapters each, it is easy to finish two in a year. Even if we miss a few weeks, we can still finish the books. If we are on track to complete everything, we can supplement with other labs, books, and activities. The flexibility is great!

Everything else – math, grammar, writing, reading, etc – is open and go, just do the next thing. No planning, no searching out supplementary books. I simply track our days, and we do the next thing until we have completed 180 days, or really close to it.

We also attend a weekly co-op. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always been great for us. I enroll each kid in a class that is fun and fluff and one class that is more educational. Plus, they both do PE. If I put them each in a science class, I know that if we fall behind at home and skip science, they will still be getting science all year.

While these things help us maintain our education in the busy times in life, it is not perfect. I still have to remind myself that this is just one short season in life. I am only pregnant for a short time, they are only babies for a short time, and while toddlerhood seems never ending – too soon they are preteens.

We got behind a little when Matthew was born, and again when I had gall bladder surgery. Both times, we caught up and even surpassed what I had planned. The break from the norm may help reset everyone so that your school time is more effective. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the new baby smell.