Why I Homeschool, by Cheryl

 

My husband and his siblings were homeschooled, while I went to public and private school. I always wanted kids, but I also always planned to send my kids to school because that is what I did. I knew nothing about homeschooling. A few months after we were married we made friends with a family at our church; they homeschooled their three children. They were our best friends, and I spent a great deal of time with their family, even living with them for a week when a giant ice storm knocked out our power! It was watching this family that helped me gain the initial confidence that I could actually homeschool.

If we had stayed in Missouri, we were going to homeschool to allow flexibility to visit family in Oklahoma. When we moved home to Oklahoma, we researched districts and schools and bought a house in a highly ranked district with a great neighborhood elementary school! Then I called to enroll our oldest in kindergarten.

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Why we started:

Aidan had learned to read very easily at four years old. He loved to sit and do workbook pages. He could sit for an hour at a time and do thirty or more pages in a sitting. I let him. He learned addition and subtraction. He could do two-digit problems in his head, quickly. He could count to 100. His handwriting was better than most adults’ writing. He was more than ready for kindergarten; in fact, in most subjects, he tested at a second grade level.

We missed the cut-off date for kindergarten by three weeks, so he would have been in preschool where he would be “taught” his letters and numbers. There are no exceptions, no testing, just preschool. I checked with public and private school. I called the district office and talked to a woman who said, “We would hope that his teacher could keep him busy with work on his level.” Hope! Hope that a teacher with a class full of students could keep one kid busy with harder work. We decided that preschool was not the place for our son.

One private school said that if we homeschooled kindergarten, they could test him for first grade the next year but he did need one year of school before they could test him. (It is a blended school: two days at school and three at home.) That became our plan. Homeschool kindergarten, test into first grade at the private school; or if I really messed up kindergarten, enroll him in kindergarten at the public school and call our year at home a very rigorous preschool year. 

Kindergarten went very well. We loved every minute of our “school time,” and our son excelled. By the end of kindergarten, it was obvious that a brick and mortar school would not serve his needs. I don’t know if he is gifted, as we haven’t tested him, but he is smart and he is quick. He needed to move at his own pace.

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Once we moved on to first grade we discovered that homeschooling just worked better for our family for a variety of reasons.

Why we continue:

1. We keep a crazy schedule with our performing arts academy. If the kids were in school, most days I would only see them an hour, if that.

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2. When we have musicals, we are at the theatre until all hours of the night. I can let them sleep in during those weeks. We can even take the week off from school if we want.

3. We love the extra family time we get. Being a fully self-employed family, we are together more than we are apart. My kids don’t know how blessed they are to have as much time with their dad as they get.

4. All that togetherness means that my kids are each other’s best friends. Do they fight? Yes. But they get along really well most of the time.

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5. I can pick what they learn and when they learn it. I can tailor our school plans to my children’s needs and interests. We have had fun making up our own science this year. I have also thrown in some extra history when I have books and videos that line up with our curriculum. I also know everything they are learning. I am even learning many things with them.

6. My kids are still young. In three hours we are done with school. We can go to the zoo, the pool, the park, the science museum. We can do a puzzle, have creative play time, or just be lazy and watch TV. My kids get a lot of free-play time.

The longer we homeschool, the more I realize that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I cannot imagine my life if my kids were at school all day. My house might be cleaner and I would have fewer books (but who says that is a good thing!), but I would be bored. My kids keep me entertained and on my toes. I have not questioned for even one day whether we made the right decision for our kids and our family.

 

Chercherylyl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

 

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Co-op Chemistry, by Cheryl

Mentos and diet soda, in cold weather

Science With Friends

 

My kids love doing science experiments! I really do too, but with everything else we do at home, the experiments sometimes get put on the back burner. I wanted to be sure that my eight-year-old science enthusiast had a year full of science experiments. To be sure I followed my plan, I signed up to teach a class for our co-op. I have never had so much fun with a group of seven, eight, and nine-year-olds!

We have spent the last two months studying the basics of chemistry. We have covered atoms; the periodic table; mixtures; four kinds of reactions; four types of evidence of reactions; polymers, and more.

Experiments we have done so far:

Mixing things found around the house to check for reactions: baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, salt water, egg whites, and milk. As we mixed items, we recorded what happened in a chart. The kids loved baking soda with vinegar and baking soda with lemon juice. Milk and lemon juice was another fun reaction. We looked for bubbles or precipitation in these experiments.

We also spent a week studying the pH of various household liquids by mixing them with red cabbage juice. Acids turned our juice from purple to pink, bases turned it green/blue, and neutral items did not change the color. We also neutralized the acids by adding bases to watch the color turn back to purple. The kids had a great time mixing things back and forth to watch the color changes.

We tested mixtures. Our first project was to make a cake. We made a nearly homogeneous mixture as we stirred the mix, eggs, oil, and water then we added giant drops of frosting to turn it into a heterogeneous mixture. I think this was their favorite experiment because we ate it! While that cooked we tried mixing oil and water based liquids to see what would happen.

We checked for starch in food items with iodine.

The second favorite experiment was making gooey putty. Mix equal parts liquid starch and white glue to create a polymer that is fun to play with!

Our final chemistry experiment was the “Mentos in diet soda” reaction. We read about the reason for the reaction, discussed what we thought would happen with different types of soda and then we went outside with eight bottles (four types of soda) and two flavors of Mentos. We had a soda fountain show! Our soda did not shoot as high as Mythbusters’ did. Our hypothesis is that the soda and Mentos (which sat in my car all night in the freezing cold) do not react as strongly when cold. We plan to test it again when it is warmer outside.

The kids have been introduced to some important foundational concepts of chemistry as well as the idea of the scientific method in experimentation. We are only halfway through our class. I cannot wait to get started on physics with these kids!

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her cherylwhole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

FIRST Lego League Robotics, by Cheryl

Science With Friends

 

My oldest son is great at math and has been since he learned what numbers were! His brain does not work like mine; he breaks numbers down in his head in ways that make me dizzy (and I am good at math, too). He is also very visual and good at seeing how things work, how to make things work, and how to build. I have been looking for ways to take his mathematical and mechanical abilities and show him what he can do with them. We found it in FIRST Lego League this year.

We participated in the Jr. league this year. The kids are given a theme and required to build a Lego display with one motorized part and a couple of simple machines. At the meets they are judged on their design and how well it works. They are also judged on a presentation board they create and on their ability to talk to the judges about their project. This year was “Disaster Blaster:” the kids had to pick a natural disaster and create their project around that.

We live in Moore, OK. Our teammates do, as well. Our kids picked a tornado for their disaster. They built a town and a working tornado out of Legos. I was not involved in any of the design or build. I was very impressed with what I saw at the first meet.

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My eight-year-old had a great time! He learned about machines and a lot about gears as he attempted to make his tornado work properly. (He was even more excited when we were at the Oklahoma Science Museum riding the Segways, and we saw that the inventor of the Segway started FIRST Lego League!)

Next year he will be in FLL instead of FLL Jr. They build and program a robot with the Lego Mindstorms robot kit. The robot has to complete a series of tasks. The students are also required to do a research project and present their project. We loved watching the older teams practice at the meets, and my son cannot wait for next year!

I am impressed with the setup of this program. It teaches kids so much more than robotics! They learn team work, public speaking, and presentation design. The website (linked above) has information on starting your own team and volunteering to help run events.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taughtcheryl ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Grasslands: The First Stop on Our Biomes Tour, by Cheryl

Teaching Science at Home

 

We chose to start with the grasslands of the world because we live in a grassland. We could walk outside and see what we were studying and our local zoo is filled with grassland animals. Our method was to read books, go to the zoo, and make a lap book of what we learned.

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First, the books. I picked up all of the books at our local library. Links to the books are provided, but numerous good books exist on this topic; if you wish to do your own biome study start with your own library and see what they have!

A Grassland Habitat by Bobbie Kalman (Perfect introductory book to get us started.)

Here Is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy (This was my daughter’s favorite! It is a fun poem with good information about the animals and plants in the poem.)

Out on the Prairie by Donna M. Bateman (Another favorite at out house.)

Grasslands by Susan H. Gray (I was able to pull copywork for my son from this book! Lots of fun facts! This is also part of a series. Sadly, our library is selling them off, but I have grabbed some from the sale shelf!)

Temperate Grasslands by Ben Hoare (Part of a Series on Biomes carried by our library. It made a great intro to our topic and we will use the series, when available, for the rest of the study. Each book has great maps that mark all the biomes of the world!)

One Day in the Prairie by Jean Craighead George (This book tells the story of a boy taking pictures on the prairie as a storm comes in. It describes the animal activity on the prairie throughout the day. It was a fun read!)

An American Safari by Jim Brankdenburg ( Beautiful pictures of the American Prairie!)

I compiled a list of world grasslands, animals and plants inhabiting those grasslands, and general vocabulary we encountered on our study. Unless otherwise noted, we encountered all of these words in the books we read. Most were well-defined in the books; we did look a few up in the dictionary.

Animals of the Grasslands

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African Savanna and the Velds: Tick Bird (Yellow Billed Oxpecker), Hippopotamus, Zebra, Baboon, Lion, African Elephant, Giraffe, Impala, Cheetah, Gazelle

North American Prairie: Bald Eagle, Prairie Dog, Pronghorn, Ground Squirrel, Mouse, Rattlesnake, Coyote, Butterfly, Canadian Geese, Badger, Fox Rabbit, Hawk, Ferret, Bobcat, Deer, Bison, Grasshopper, Great Plains Toad, Howdy Owl, Meadowlark, Sharp-Tailed Grouse, Sparrows

Australian  Rangeland: Kangaroo, Dingo, Sheep

Steppes of Europe and Asia: Lynx, Eurasian Otter, Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, Przewalski’s Horse

Pampas and Llanos of South America: Anteater, Jaguar, Puma

Plants

There are over 9000 types of grasses growing the world! There are 200 in North America alone. Here are a few of the grasses we came across: Grama Grasses, Wheat Grass, Locoweed, Tumble Grass, Puffsheath Grass, Weeping Love Grass, Windmill grass, Big Blue Stem, Buffalo Grass. Other plants we encountered in out reading: Purple Coneflower (snakeroot), Clover, Primrose, Yucca Plants (soap weed), Bluebonnets, and Paintbrush.

Vocabulary

Tall Grass Prairie, Short Grass Prairie, Mixed Grass Prairie, Crepuscular, Nocturnal, Diurnal (we looked this up after we learned Crepuscular and Nocturnal, we wanted to know what animals who were active in the daytime were called!), Migration, Hibernation, Aestivation, Semiarid, Herbavore, Carnivore, Omnivore, Photosynthesis, Sod, Decompose, Nutrients, Humus, Festoon and Biotic.

Fun Fact: Cheetahs are the fastest land animal, and Pronghorns are the fastest land animal in North America!

Lapbook

I created a few lapbook entries for the basics of photosynthesis, animal behavior, as well as the plants and animals of the world’s grasslands. We also used a blank map to color and label all the grasslands.

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Coverpage, Animals Pt1, Animals Pt2, Plants, Map, “Circle of Life,” Animal Behavior (time), Animal Behavior (Diet)

Next time: Deserts!

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her cherylwhole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Biomes of the World by Cheryl

 

We spent a great deal of time outside this summer. We hiked in the Rockies, we swam in Lake Erie, and we explored the desert. My kids asked lots of great questions: What is that animal? What is that plant? Why does that plant grow here? I answered what I could and then I decided to change directions on our science plans for the year.

I purchased a beautiful Chemistry book with lots of experiments, but that is on hold while we study the biomes of the world as well as the plants and animals that live in each one. The whole idea of building my own course was overwhelming, but I think I have a good grasp on how I want the year to proceed and how I can find all the materials I need.

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First – I needed to know how many biomes there are in the world so I could decide how long we could study each one. This proved more difficult than you might think. There does not seem to be a consensus on how many biomes there are. Each book or website I studied had a slightly different list. The basic list I am going with is Deciduous Forest, Rain Forest, Grassland, Taiga, Desert, Tundra, Marine, Freshwater, and Ice. This works well for two reasons:

1) There are nine and I have nine months of school, and

2) They are the biomes as listed on the World Biomes Bulletin Board Set I purchased from Amazon.

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I also picked up Many Biomes, One Earth It has a nice overview of the biomes (it breaks them down differently than the map, but has a concise description of each biome). The rest of our books will come from the library. Our local library has a great selection of books on habitats and animals that live in them. So far we have picked up poetry books, activity books, story books, and general information books.

We live in Oklahoma, so it made sense to start with where we live. Our first unit will be on the grasslands of the world – the prairies of America to the Savannas of Africa!

Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Homeschooling While Owning a Business: How I Do It All…Or Not.

226558_1922289850788_1631326_nby Cheryl

We are busy. We co-own a performing arts academy, my husband is self-employed, we have three kids, and we homeschool. Some of my friends are amazed at how productive I can be. In one day I can educate two kids, snuggle and care for a baby, clean, do laundry, go grocery shopping, pay bills, order some dance costumes, cook lunch, get dinner in the crock pot, teach dance classes, and bake cookies!

What no one knows is, on days like that, school is Story of the World on CD, a Magic School Bus video, and a page of math for my son and free art time for my daughter. The laundry is washed, dried, and stacked in laundry baskets – not folded. The cleaning consists of loading and unloading the dishwasher in between everything else. The costume ordering is something I missed the week before for which I am now panicking about delivery dates. Grocery shopping was a just quick run through Aldi for something for lunch and a chicken to throw in the crockpot. It was my short teaching day (1.5 hours). And finally, the cookie dough was made a week ago and needed to be used up.

Is that a typical day? No. Every now and then I end up with a busy work day. In December I have to order dance costumes. In April I have recital packets, schedules, and performance orders to put together. Once a month I have payroll. Most of our days include two hours of school, one hour of me working from home, and three to five hours of me teaching. Sometimes, I can overlap the school and work at home hours a little bit. That leaves plenty of time to rest, play, clean, and run errands.

I have only been at this for three years, but here are some helpful hints for working (whether from home or away) and homeschooling.

  1. RELAX! You can’t do it all. (At least not in one day.) Prioritize. Make a big to do list, each day pick the top five to six things that MUST be done first (keep school at the top of the list on school days and add five other things). Mark them off as they are done and start the next day with school again, and then do anything not finished the day before, and finally add to it.
  2. Put chores on a rotating schedule. I tried assigning days, but that was too structured for our lifestyle. I have a priority list: laundry, kitchen, bathrooms, living room, refrigerator, front room, kids room, my room, pantry, garage. If I have time to clean, I do laundry first. If laundry is done, I clean the kitchen. If the kitchen is clean, or if I have at least started the dishwasher, I clean the bathrooms, etc. So, if I have an easy week, the whole house gets cleaned. I may even have time for other tasks – like organizing a junk drawer! If I have a few busy weeks at least the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms stay clean.
  1. Set your school schedule around your work and life schedule.We start school on August 1. We take a week for Thanksgiving, one or two weeks for Christmas, two weeks for performances in January (a continuation of Christmas break), and we stop formal school in the first week of May. If we don’t take spring break and if we have no sick days, that gets us our 180 days. This year we had sick days, but no spring break. We finished math, spelling, grammar/writing, reading, Latin, and science. We were short a couple of weeks so we did not finish history. We have made up those days with educational trips and activities this summer plus a week of intensive history catch-up.
  1. Ask for help. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed. This year it happened a lot! I was adjusting to three kids and it showed. I started asking my teachers to do things I normally do for recital. I gave up teaching the daddy/daughter dance. It is one of my favorite things to do, but I did not have time. I gave up the opening number. I am not teaching any summer classes. Mentally, I am now in a good place and have had time to plan out all of next year’s recital…almost!
  1. Take time for yourself. Read a book, go for a drive, go for a walk, watch a movie, surf the internet, go to lunch with a friend, or SLEEP!! You need time to reboot and refresh. Whatever you need, make sure you do it!

I am not an expert, but we are making it through. My dancers looked great at recital, the musicals turned out well, the house is clean-ish, and my kids learned a lot this year!

Cheryl has been married for 13 years and has 3 children. She has home schooled since her oldest started Kindergarten. She also runs a dance studio and teaches there 4 nights a week.