Homeschooling: Where to Start? by Jane-Emily

 

Getting started in homeschooling can feel overwhelming. There is so much information, so many curricula, so much stuff! Sorting through it all can take ages — and it means you spend a lot of time on the computer instead of with your children, who are, after all, the point of the exercise. One mistake nearly all of us make at first is overbuying: in our excitement and our anxiety to cover all the bases at once, we spend too much money and buy too much of everything.

Preliminary Research

When I first got started, I spent a whole lot of time reading. I was a little bit lucky in that I started thinking about homeschooling when my first child was two years old, so I had plenty of time to research. But anyone could do this kind of reading as a long-term thing, though not everyone would want to.

I had already found out that classical homeschooling was what I wanted, but I still read just about everything I could. This often meant that I requested books at the library through InterLibrary Loan so that I could read them without spending hundreds of dollars on books I might not find useful. Then, if I really loved the book and wanted to use it as a permanent reference, I purchased it, which helped me not to overbuy. Because I wasn’t committing to the books by purchasing them, I was free to read across religious lines and homeschooling philosophies. I could choose to mine conservative Christians for tips on teaching math, and radical unschoolers for ideas on making my home a learning environment. I read about people homeschooling so they could focus on African-American culture, and people who spent a year bicycling across the country, and all sorts of things.

The only books on homeschooling (not curricula, but how-to books) I ended up purchasing new were:

I also found some books used at library book sales and so on. I got a full set of E. D. Hirsch’s “Core Knowledge” series that way–which I mostly did not use, but it helped me feel secure.

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Kindergarten Math

Other People: A Fantastic Resource

Once kindergarten was closer, I started looking around for people to meet up with. Please understand that I live in a small city, and at that time there weren’t a lot of homeschoolers for me to meet; you may have far more available to you!

My neighbor down the street told me about her mothers’ group and invited me to go. This turned out to be a group that was very welcoming to me and did not have a statement of faith, but was entirely composed of evangelical Christians (I am not).  The criterion was that members had to be independent homeschoolers, not connected to any charter or public school with an independent study program. They were lovely to me and I always enjoyed the meetings, but I also knew that some of my more secular friends would not have felt comfortable. I may well have been the only person in the room not teaching young earth creationism.  I learned so much from these women and am grateful to have been able to do so.

I also heard about a group that met for a park day, and I tried that out. They were welcoming, too! This group tended to be comprised mainly of unschoolers and crunchy folks, but welcomed everyone. I’m not an unschooler either, but again, I made good friends and learned a lot. My kids had a great time running around the park and playing in the creek. We have also shared field trips and other events with these same families, and these times have been wonderful for all of us.

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Park Day at the Creek

 

I never did meet very many people like me; there are very few classical homeschoolers around here. I never joined a co-op or even heard of one I could join. Instead, I learned to make friends wherever I could and learn from them. I met lots of people whose homeschooling philosophies I did not share, but who made great friends. I could take care of my own homeschooling philosophy myself.

Purchasing Curriculum

I had gathered many recommendations for curriculum from the books I’d read, especially the ones I purchased. My next problem was how to choose among those recommended curricula — which ones would fit our style and what I wanted to teach? Even the most detailed recommendations couldn’t tell me that, although they often helped me decide that I did not want something.

I visited a lot of websites and ordered a lot of catalogs. I loved looking at them, but I was often frustrated by my utter inability to inspect the actual books. These days I think it is a bit easier to find long samples so that you can see more of the book, which is hugely helpful, but I really prefer to pick up the book and handle it.

I live quite far from the places where homeschooling conferences mostly happen, but there was one in a large city about two hours away. It was unschooling-focused, and I didn’t want to pay to attend the whole conference, but the exhibit hall was free (they usually are). I drove down and explored, visiting as many vendors as I could. Since I was mostly looking for classical vendors, there still weren’t that many for me to look at, but I could inspect Saxon Math and some other basic things. Later on I traveled further to attend an evangelical-focused conference, where I was able to find and inspect other products.

Used curriculum swaps were also helpful to me, although they often ‘helped’ me buy books I ended up not using. The mothers’ group had a yearly used curriculum sale, which gave me the chance to really look at some things! The prices were always right, too. Used curriculum swaps seem to be going a bit out of style in favor of selling online, but I think there’s a lot to be said for an in-person sale first; you can see the books, and there’s no shipping to pay.

Some things I just had to order and hope they worked out. It felt like a leap of faith, but I was rarely disappointed. I ordered some books based only on recommendations and short samples. Most of the time, it worked out fine. My biggest leap was buying Prima Latina, a Latin curriculum for younger children, and that turned me into an enthusiastic convert to teaching Latin to children.

The local teacher supply store was not helpful as far as curricula went, but it was great for other materials. I bought many math manipulatives, test tubes, art supplies, and posters there. We often really enjoyed our trips to that store, because they had tables set up with activities for young children and they often raised silkworms in a box on the counter. I don’t think I ever had to order materials online; I either got them at the teacher supply store or, sometimes, made them myself.

Homeschooling is a huge job, and getting started is overwhelming. It can often feel impossible to figure out how to select the right curriculum — for several different subjects! — when we haven’t picked up a textbook since our own long-ago schooldays. It’s OK to take things slow and steady, adding as we find good materials. (And meanwhile, head to the library and borrow lots of good books to read!) As homeschooling moms, I think that one of our weaknesses is our desire to get everything chosen and planned right now! In our anxiety to do right by our children, we tend to think that we need to get every subject started right away. It is hard for us to remember to take things one day at a time, one child at a time. It’s a long journey, so we need to pace ourselves.

Another mistake we make is to make the perfect the enemy of the good. We are always wondering if this math book, this grammar text, is really the best possible option. Is this other textbook better? Switching all the time is usually self-defeating, as we spend too much money and jerk the children from one thing to another. If a curriculum is working for you and not making your child cry on a regular basis, switching mid-stream is not productive.

Seek out other homeschoolers to befriend. Read about homeschooling and figure out what sounds good, and then seek out the curricula that will help support the philosophy you choose. Take it slow. And sometimes, make a little leap of faith.

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Janjane-emilye-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict.

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Arts and Crafts Explained: Beginning Colored Pencils, by Apryl

 

Colored pencil has to be my favorite medium to work with. I love the control and the feel of using them, and I love the results.

“Emma” colored pencil portrait.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a colored pencil and what makes it different from regular pencils?

For an interesting look at how colored pencils are made, check out this video from “How It’s Made.

What is the best brand of colored pencil?

Although individual preference can dictate which pencil will work best for you, there are some favorites among serious artists. Most often, Prismacolor pencils come out on top for quality and color selection, followed by Faber-Castell polychromos. Personally, I would recommend Prismacolor to start out with and then experiment with a few other brands. You can usually buy colored pencils from open stock at art supply stores, so you can experiment without investing in a full set.

What is the best type of paper to use?

While you can draw with colored pencil on just about any type of paper (and even wood!) some papers perform better than others. In order to layer colors and blend without marring the paper, you need thicker paper with a little bit of tooth. (Tooth is the rough surface of the paper.) I recommend using a heavy weight paper such as Bristol. Hot press papers will have a smoother surface, while cold press will be much more rough. My personal favorite is Arches Watercolor paper, 140lb Hot Press. It is smooth, but still retains enough tooth to allow several layers of color. I buy it in large sheets at the art supply store and cut it down into the sizes I need.

What do I need to start?

For a beginning artist who wants to seriously explore colored pencils, I would recommend the following:

Prismacolor Premier Colored Woodcase Pencils, 12 Assorted Colors/set. You can often find the larger sets on sale for half price, especially around Christmas.

Prismacolor Premier Colorless Blender Pencil, 2 Pencils

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Pad – 11-Inchx14-Inch – 20 Sheet Pad

X-Acto Home and office Electric Pencil Sharpener (19210) Yes, I do recommend an electric pencil sharpener. Don’t go all out and buy the most expensive one, as colored pencils will be hard on your sharpener. That said, I’ve had an X-Acto similar to this one for several years now and it is still going strong.

Sanford Design Kneaded Eraser

Extras that are handy, but not essential:

Mini Dusting Brush, 10in for dusting off pencil dust without smudging your drawing

• Masking tape for taping off the edges of your work for a clean edge

• Rulers

TECHNIQUE

Outlining:

Colored pencil can be hard to erase, so laying out your drawing beforehand is recommended. I often draw a sketch entirely in pencil, and then trace it lightly onto clean paper for my final colored pencil drawing. I will usually use a light gray or brown colored pencil to trace with, and use a very light hand. For easy tracing, tape your original drawing to a window or glass door and tape your clean paper over the top. The light will shine through, making the tracing easier. You can also purchase light tables for that purpose.

As you can see in this photo, I am working on top of a lightly sketched drawing.

Laying down color:

Colored pencil drawings are slowly built up by layering the colors one over another. You nearly always want to keep each layer of color light, adding more light layers to make it darker or to modify the color. If you color with a heavy hand, the wax of the pencil will build up too quickly and you will find that you cannot add more color. It will end up looking blotchy. So, when coloring in your drawing, use light even strokes.

Keep your pencils sharp. A sharp tip will fill in all of the little hills and valleys that occur in the paper surface. This results in an even coverage and fewer white specks showing through. When your pencil is blunt, it will skip over any small valleys in the paper, allowing the paper surface to show through.

You will also want to begin with the lightest colors first, gradually building up your drawing, and finishing up with the darkest colors.

Here you can see where I have begun to gradually build up color and shading.

more gradual color building

A very handy tool when using colored pencils is a colorless blending pencil. These pencils are just wax, and can be used to blend and smooth your colors. This should be done near the end of your project because it will lay down a layer of wax that makes adding more layers difficult.

Beginning to blend the skin tones more with a colorless blending pencil. The eyes and lips are also blended.

Lifting or erasing color:

Colored pencil can be very difficult to erase, and will rarely erase completely. However, you can use a kneaded eraser to “lift” color. You do this by firmly pressing a small amount of eraser onto the area to be erased and lifting it. Do not rub it across the paper. This technique will pick up small amounts of colored pencil. Be sure to use a different area of your eraser for each lift, so that you do not smear color back onto your paper.

You can also use an electric eraser. I have read that people can get good results from them, but I have not tried it.

Highlights:

There are several ways to create white or “highlighted” areas in your drawing. If you are using white paper, you can leave the desired area blank. You can color it in with a white colored pencil (with no other colors beneath). You can “lift” an area of color with a kneaded eraser. Or you can use a knife or other sharp object to gently scrape the area clean of colored pencil. For very fine areas of light color (such as hair) I have used a needle or thumbtack to lightly trace the area, leaving an indentation. When you color over it with a darker color, the pencil will not hit the indented area, leaving it white.

Below I have used a combination of highlighting techniques. In the eyes, the light reflections were left uncolored until the end, and then I went over them with a white pencil. The forehead and cheekbones needed a little more highlighting to make them more rounded, so at the final stage, I went over the skin tone in those areas with a white pencil, lightening them slightly.

The finished piece. I left the background unblended.

PROJECT

In this project you will create a color wheel and learn how to blend colored pencils to create different colors and shades. If you would like to learn a little more about color theory, check out my previous article, “The Science of Color.

First download and print this mini poster onto paper. You can use regular copy paper, but you can also use artist paper cut to fit your printer.

For this project we will only use 3 colors: red, blue and yellow. I used Crimson Red, Ultramarine, and Canary Yellow. You can also use a blending pencil if you have one.

1. With your three pencils, color in the primary color wedges — red, yellow, and blue:

2. Color in secondary colors:

orange = yellow + red (because of the way colored pencils blend, I recommend laying down the yellow first. This will keep the orange lighter in color.)
violet = red + blue
green = blue + yellow

Remember, use a light, even hand and a sharp pencil when coloring.

3. Color in tertiary colors:

yellow-orange = yellow + yellow + red
red-orange = red + yellow + red
red-violet = red + red + blue
blue-violet = blue + red + blue
blue-green = blue + blue + yellow
yellow-green = yellow + blue + yellow

4. Now you can use these color mixing techniques to color in the pictures around the color wheel. Experiment using different combinations of the three colors to create shadows and contrasts. *

*Be sure to read “Pencil Control and Shading” for more on how to create realistic shadows and gain pencil control.

Below I have a photo showing the same image colored on two different papers. The paper on the left is just white copy paper. The paper on the right is Arches 140lb Hot Press watercolor paper. You can see the difference in vibrancy and that I was able to add more color depth. Also, if you look at the cherries in this photo vs. the cherries in the above photo, you can see where I have used the colorless blending pencil to smooth and blend the colors.

Have fun with your new colored pencil skills!

apryl

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

A Tale of Two Boys: Learning How to Write, by Megan

 

PIGBY

I’m worried that this post will make me sound a like a fairly uptight or perfectionist mom. (More so than I really am, because I sort of am.) I tried not to be that way when my oldest son, Pigby, was doing “preschool” with me. He demanded I teach him how to read, so I did. He never showed any signs of wanting to write, and anytime I tried teaching him it led to struggles, so I backed off. For several years, I didn’t push the issue at all; I didn’t want to kill his love of learning.

When he was five, I figured it was time to start in earnest. I thought most kids learned how to write in kindergarten. I vaguely remember being able to write all my letters as a kindergartner. We struggled big time. We started with one program that offered no instruction in how to form letters. It just provided the dotted lines and expected him to copy the letters over and over and over and over. Oh my word, just remembering it makes me want to pull my hair out. He could not copy them well. Some of his letters were so skinny, some were so fat, and most missed their marks on the three guiding lines. I was struggling so hard not to freak out about it in front of him. “How can this be so hard for him? All he has to do is recreate each letter?!” I was figuratively pulling my hair out every day.

I ended up switching him to Handwriting Without Tears. It started with using gross motor skills and would eventually translate those same motions into fine motor skills (writing the letters on paper). Someone pointed out to me that he disliked anything to do with fine motor skills and he always had. That was why at age three he’d had no interest in stickers, buttons, shoelaces, glue, scissors, or coloring; he avoided them all. In fact even now, at eight years old, he still struggles; he’ll try to get me to do lots of things requiring those pesky fine motor skills. When he was five, people recommended that I help him build those hand muscles, then it wouldn’t be so hard for him.

We started by coloring every day. I was advised by one person to use crayons because they require children to push harder, which would build the muscles. Another person advised me to use colored pencils, because they required more control and precision. I compromised by having him alternate colored pencils and crayons every day.

As time went on, I had to adjust the way we did school to accommodate his hatred of writing, while still working on that particular skill. Some of the things we did:
• I used Handwriting Without Tears to help me teach him how to break down the formation of letters. This program really did stop all of my tears over teaching him. Copywork wasn’t enough; he needed to practice creating each stroke.

• Once we completed the first two levels of HWOT, he wanted to learn how to write in cursive. I bought the StartWrite software and created my own copy pages. I created pages of one letter filling the line. The letters were dotted so that he could trace them. After he got proficient at copying, I’d leave space in between each letter so he could try to recreate the letter next to the one he had traced. Then I started doing the same things with his spelling words. Then we moved on to sentences. We took as many baby steps as we needed.

• In subjects other than handwriting, I would often write for him. I wrote for him in math, grammar, writing, spelling, science, and history. That way his progression in certain subjects wasn’t hindered by his desire to not write.

• We used phonogram tiles for spelling. We do use the program All About Spelling, but I got my phonogram tiles from Mama Jenn, printed them on card stock, had them laminated and put some magnets on them. Using the tiles greatly cut down on the amount of whining because as with math, his abilities in spelling greatly surpassed his progression in writing.

As we took these little baby steps, I was often worried that he’d never be able to write on his own. I worried that I would fail him somehow. It was all for naught because now at the end of second grade, he does almost all writing on his own. I’m glad we took it slow and steady and I’m glad I took the battle out of this issue.

 

DIGBY

(All his letters in green, mine in gray)

Teaching Digby to write has been a completely different story. Whereas Pigby was reading at three and avoiding handwriting, Digby showed no interest in reading, but was extremely proficient in all things involving fine motor skills. He was very proficient with scissors, tape, stickers, buttons, markers, etc. I first started giving him pages of letter outlines made with StartWrite because he wanted to do school like big brother. I would show him how to write one letter, then he would do the next.

Last year, I found a fun app for my tablet that gets kids to make the correct letter formations by having them start at the green dot, trace the line, and end at the red dot. If they veered too far off the line or didn’t start and end at the right place, they had to do it over. This app pretty much taught him the correct way to form letters. Now all I do is make sure he writes them properly on his own (he often writes a backwards “N”). I plan on starting him with more formal HWOT work in the fall when he starts kindergarten.

 

Megamegann–Megan is mom to three children: Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 4), and Chuck (girl, age 2).  She loves history, ballroom dance, and crocheting.  She made the decision to homeschool when her oldest was three and they’ve been on this journey ever since.

 

Handwriting: Learning Cursive First, by Briana Elizabeth

 

I taught my children cursive first. Not because I thought it was superior, or because I read the studies saying cursive made kids smarter. I taught them cursive first because it’s easier. Yes, that’s right, cursive is easier to teach than manuscript. Why? It has fewer strokes.  And it actually uses more of your brain, and is beneficial for cognitive development.  But mostly because I’m lazy.

My lefty son was the first child child I taught cursive (my older two learned cursive in their public school). It was very frustrating until I learned that his using a pencil made him ‘push’ and that a fountain pen enabled him to ‘pull’ like a righty would do. This lessened wrist fatigue and enabled him to write more and for longer periods of time. If you’d like to start a young child with a fountain pen, I recommend the Pelikano Jr which comes in lefty and righty. If you’re starting with older children, try the Platinum Preppy which is very affordable and comes in lots of fun colors.

Now, for teaching the actual letters, we went with the French styled cursive, which I am partial to.

The French Cursive book starts out with letting the children copy simple strokes, then moves them on to letters. I cheated a bit though, so let me explain. For example, the French styled ‘a’ uses three strokes, but I  taught them to not take their pen off the paper. So don’t be bound to it.

Once they graduate from the French stroke and letter booklet, we found Seyes ruled notebooks (which is the lined paper you see in the above picture) for their copy work. There are some free printables that you can use to practice on.

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We love doing copy work this way. My children are very proud of their handwriting and their notebooks which, when finished, will be beautiful books of poetry that they will be able to keep for the rest of their lives. Children can respect beautiful things, and they can be taught to use these tools with care. I taught mine that they were not allowed to scribble in their copy work books, and they were supposed to respect them.

There is something very reverential about writing poetry in a beautiful book, with a beautiful writing utensil, and the children actually are proud of being trusted to use them. But best of all there is a gravitas during that portion of our schooling, which gets done almost as a morning benediction for the day.

 

Brianbrianaa Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Healing Modern Warriors Through the Past, by Jen W.

 

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood “- John Green

A recent item in the news helped solidify for me the fact that warrior cultures throughout the course of history have held many of the same values and had many of the same problems. A group including actors and directors known as “The Philoctetes Project” is performing Greek tragedies for current and former members of the military, but not just any tragedies. These tragedies deal specifically with some of the problems faced by ancient warrior cultures.

To quote from their website:

“Ajax tells the story of a fierce warrior who slips into a depression near the end of The Trojan War, attempts to murder his commanding officers, fails, and takes his own life. It is also the story of how Ajax’s wife and troops attempt to intervene before it’s too late.

Philoctetes is a psychologically complex tragedy about a famous Greek warrior who is marooned on a deserted island by his army after contracting a horrifying and debilitating illness. It is also the story of a young officer who attempts to betray the wounded warrior by stealing his weapon, but then faces a moral dilemma about leaving the suffering soldier behind.”

As a society, we sometimes seem to believe that war is something invented by modern societies, that modern wars are particularly brutal or that modern man is more psychologically fragile than warriors of the past. Programs like this emphasize to warriors that what they are experiencing is not new, and that they are not pampered nor spoiled by modern society in a way that makes them more fragile. They emphasize to the modern warrior that they are not alone, and that what they are experiencing is something that is part of the common experience of man.

But, it is important to do more than connect with modern warriors. Only one percent of Americans will ever serve in the military. A year ago the New York Times published an opinion piece on the disconnect between the modern American military and the majority of the American people.

Americans and Their Military Drifting Apart

I thought about this article when my husband recently deployed to Afghanistan and the most common response I received from civilians was, “Oh, I didn’t know we were still sending people there.” Unless they live in a military-heavy town like Fayetteville, NC or Clarksville, TN, most Americans are unlikely to have regular interaction with members of the military or their spouses and children. This is in stark contrast to World War II when Victory Gardens, scrap metal and rubber drives, rationing, war bonds and other methods to support the war were something that Americans participated in on a daily basis. The American people were part of the war effort. There have been no such initiatives for the Global War of Terror; we have simply added the blank check to the already crushing and mind-boggling national debt.

Veterans often talk about the fact that people rarely ask about their experiences. It is something most people avoid because questions might seem nosy or intrusive or might bring up painful experiences. But to veterans, it often feels like a disconnect or that people believe it is something of which to be ashamed.

We need a project like this that reaches out not just to veterans, but to the American people. We need a project to help the American people start to understand what soldiers and their families go through. I believe that reading about the “thousand yard stare” or the anger of warriors when mistreated by the institutions they trusted in an ancient context will help people start to realize that these are common experiences that should be shared, not shouldered by a small percentage of the people and ignored by the rest.

 

 

Jen W.– Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen jen_wstarted on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

World Biomes: The Taiga, by Cheryl

 

Previously:  The Rain Forest

The taiga or boreal forest has been my favorite biome so far. The variety of animal life within these forests is amazing! Much of the variety is due to migratory patterns of birds and other wildlife. We spent some time studying migration as we read about the wildlife in these forests.

aidan-on-the-timberwolf

My son, four years ago, on the timber wolf statue in my parents’ back yard.

Books on this biome were hard to come by in our library system. We found a couple of general information books and then selected some specific animals from the biome to study more in depth. Some of our favorite books were:

Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson was a quick read and a great introduction to the biome. We loved the illustrations and the many interesting animals it introduced.

Ecosystems: Boreal Forests by Patricia Miller-Schroeder was more in depth than our first book. We read and studied portions of the book. For older children, this would be a great place to start.

Forest by Frank Howard offered a couple of pages on each type of forest. We reviewed our rain forest knowledge and got a hint of what is to come with our other studies.

Look Inside a Beaver’s Lodge by Meagan Cooley Peterson gave us a fun look at the life of a beaver.

A Moose’s World by Caroline Arnold went through the first year of life for a moose.

Angry Birds: Playground: Animals: An Around the World Habitat Adventure by Jill Esbaum covered more than just our taiga animals. My son found it and has made it his extra reading. We plan to hang on to it through the rest of our study.The Angry Birds characters introduce you to animals in a variety of habitats.

Why Do Birds Fly South? another Weekly Reader ‘Just Ask’ book we had at home provided a good explanation of migration. We found that many birds of the taiga are migratory, so we added a short study of migration to this area of our study.

Animals of the Taiga

Non-Migratory – Moose, Beaver, Snowshoe Hare, Brown Bear, Lynx, Wolves, Voles, Great Horned Owl, Red Fox, Ermine, Timber Wolves, Grizzly Bears, and the Stone Centipede.

Migratory – Tennessee Warblers, Whooping Crane, Pelicans, Cross-bills

(It just happened that as we finished up our study of the taiga, my son’s IEW assignment was to write a report on the whooping crane. This made an excellent extension to our study. I love it when things work out that way! This can easily be added to every biome, if your student knows how to write a research report. They don’t have to be long; my son’s was only three paragraphs.)

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Plants

Spruce, Fir, Pitcher Plant, Birch, Larch, Poplar, Lichen, Mushrooms, and Moss

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Vocabulary

Migration, Chlorophyll, Isotherm, Permafrost, Deciduous, Evergreen, Coniferous, and Hibernation

Fun Fact

Boreal means northern, after the Greek god of the North – Boreas. The boreal forest covers approximately 50 million acres.

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Lapbook

Our lapbook entries covered migratory and non-migratory birds, deciduous and evergreen trees, animals, photosynthesis, and migration.

Coverpage, Animals, Birds, Trees, Map, Review Sheet, Migration, Photosynthesis

 

Next time: The Ocean!

 

CherylcherylCheryl 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.

Parents are Teachers: From Classroom to Homeschool, by Brit

 

 

There are two sentiments I have heard many times over when people learn we homeschool our children. Either they say, “Well, you can homeschool because you are a teacher,” if they know I used to teach, or they will exclaim, “My children would never listen to me to learn anything.” Both statements make me groan internally while trying to smile sweetly on the outside, explaining that no, my credential really doesn’t help me educate my children, and yes, your children can learn from you.

When we made the decision to homeschool, our eldest was only a year old. I had just retired from elementary teaching, was teaching very part-time at the local community college, and was expecting our second child. Though my husband, also a public school teacher, was always supportive of homeschooling, he even expressed concerns that our children would not learn from us but would need a “stranger,” someone outside the family, to teach them.

 

If one thinks about it, we are our children’s first educators. From reading them stories, to encouraging their first words and steps, to redirecting them when they try to play with unsafe or forbidden objects, we are teaching them. We teach them social norms from the time they are old enough to yell loudly in a restaurant. We teach them kindness when we help them apologize for stealing a toy from their siblings. We teach them virtue and faith, letters and numbers, colors and shapes from the time they are born.

Homeschooling is a natural extension of that teaching. Once they know their letters and numbers, then we show them how numbers can combine to make bigger numbers and how letters can combine to make words. We show them how blue, red, and yellow are very special colors and can be mixed to make other colors. Suddenly, numbers become algebra and words become novels and essays.

 

It is interesting that after our daughter was born the sentiment, “You can homeschool because you are a teacher,” was no longer used. Most everyone outside our immediate family and friends assumed we would send her to school due to her having Down syndrome. Instantly our credentials, Master’s degrees, and classroom experience, which were the reason we were qualified to homeschool our sons, were not good enough to homeschool our daughter. Without a special education credential, we were no longer qualified. For us, her Down syndrome has only solidified our belief in homeschooling being the best option for her. Where else will she have a completely individualized education? Where else will she have teachers who love her as their own child? Her education may look different from that of her brothers in curriculum choices, content, and scope. But the journey we take will be no different than the journey we take with her brothers – progressing naturally as we teach her letters and numbers, colors and shapes, virtue and faith.

All this is not to say that it is always rainbow and unicorns in our home. We have struggles like every one else. In all honesty, there have been days where I doubt if I can do this for the long haul. There have been a few times we have had to sit our boys down individually and ask if they want to go to school or if they are willing to buckle down and work hard. We deal with sibling fights and teacher burn-out. I have second-guessed curriculum choices; started, stopped, and restarted subjects; and even dabbled in unschooling (we definitely do not have unschooly children). But at the end of the day, I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach my own at home. I tell my boys often that homeschooling is a privilege. There are times I forget that being able to stay home with them is also a privilege. I know as I lead them towards a life of virtue and faith, ultimately God is leading me to a life of greater virtue and faith.

 

As my children get older (our eldest is finishing seventh grade and I honestly have no idea how that happened), fear tries to creep in. It can be a scary venture to take full responsibility for the education of one’s children. If they go to school, whether that be public or private, there are teachers and principals to blame when things don’t go well. When my children graduate from our homeschool, it will be my husband and I that are judged. Did we do well? That will be measured by whether our children need remedial classes at the community college, whether they are admitted to a four-year university, or whether they even go to college. What I try to tell myself is that I must do my job faithfully; what my children do with that is up to them. For if a parent can take pride in a job well done when one child is successful in life, that same parent must take full blame for another child who is not.

As I type this, my husband is sitting to my left teaching our eldest about LCDs and GCFs. He, the eldest, is not a fan of math. Once he hit pre-algebra, I handed the reins over to his dad. I needed a break from teaching math to a child who would much rather do anything else. The beauty of homeschooling a non-math kid is that we can tailor his education to help him be successful. We are not bound to only one textbook and only one way. We are not bound to Common Core or the latest educational fad. We are free to meet him where he is and help him get to where he needs to be. This is true for all our children, including our daughter.

 

Parents are not only their children’s first educators, they truly are able to be their best teachers. Just because a child turns 3, 4, or 5 does not mean their education must be handed over to an official teacher. Believe me, I am very thankful for my husband, my cousin, and all the other fantastic teachers in our nation’s schools. All children deserve the best education they can receive. But I am also extremely thankful for the ability to continue the natural inclination to teach my children from birth as they continue to grow and develop. It may be a crazy life, but it is a beautiful one I would not trade, even on the bad days.

 

Brit was born and raised in southern California. She and her husband met at UC San Diego; he was taking a class and she happened to be the teaching assistant. You could say it was love at first sight. Brit and John are now living this beautiful, crazy life with their three sons and one daughter, still in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, and classical-wanna-be.