Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's All Worth While

Homeschooling is a hard path. I can't gloss over the reality.  Buying books and supplies for an entire year is a challenge.  Keeping up with each subject for each kid is more challenging.  Recording grades and filing proof takes diligence and organization.  Being kind and patient as you repeat the same instructions over and over and over is challenging.  Breaking up another fight when the kids have lost their cool without losing yours is more challenging.

When homeschooling is added to a life that already includes three meals and two loads of laundry a day, the task can only be tackled with Undaunted Courage.

But, every day, there is always that little reminder,

that little reward,

that little encouragement...

....that reminds you that it is all worth while...

(a love note on top of the pile of work that needs to be corrected)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

School on a "Raft"

One morning, Rebekah decided to do her school on a "raft." In case your family doesn't play this incredibly fun game I used to play with my siblings, the rules are as follows:

1. Make a raft. Usually it is a blanket on the floor.

2. Collect your supplies. You must be well-prepared. This includes snacks...

...sleeping babies.....

....schoolbooks and tea. (in the background.)

3. Stay on the raft. You may not leave the raft once you shove off into the salty ocean waters because there are sharks in the ocean.
It was a good thing we weren't far from shore, yet. Rebekah had to retrieve my forgotten coffee cup so had to jump from the "dock" to the "raft" so she wouldn't get eaten by sharks.
(This is the trump card that the adult holds and the kids don't understand until they are adults. Yes, they are playing a fun, creative game, but they are STAYING IN ONE PLACE. :) Get it?
It can make a mess, so I remind the kids that supplies are limited and you have to live primatively on a raft. We are into survival, not luxery.)

Jon, after courageously braving a shark attack to stoke the fire, decided to stay in the murky waters, despite Beka's urgent warnings.

AAWWWWWWGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!! Bitten by a shark.
He'll have to learn to listen to a woman.

Friday, September 18, 2009

File Folder Games

Every year, I have added a few more games to my File Folder Games box. Of course, with no toddlers eating my markers, drooling all over my papers and stealing my scissors to cut their own hair, it is much easier to cut, color and paste in peace.
Self-checking file folder games are great for filling in those quiet moments when you are teaching one child and another is ever-so-patiently waiting for your attention. They are a fun way to emphasize a new skill you are introducing.

Early on I could never afford the colored folders. When buying colored folder, make sure there isn't printing on the inside. My early games were also very simple, but the kids enjoyed them, anyway.

This summer, this was my book of choice.
ISBN # 0-590-96380-5 Phonics Quick and Easy Learning Games by Wiley Blevins, published by Scholastic.

It isn't a file folder game book, but all the games were easily adapted for this format. The games reinforce beginning consonants, short vowels, consonant blends, long vowels, digraphs, rhyming words, r-controlled vowels and more.
Unlike all my other file folder games, these games are for the parent to play with their kids. Since I only have one in elementary school, this will work for me this year.

I made copies of each of the games and put the pages in their own file folders. I bought a plastic accordian folder at Target for $1. I also stocked a pencil case with with colored pencils, markers, scissors, and glue sticks and put both items in a tote bag. Every time I was going to be in the car longer than a half an hour, I carried the bag with me and worked on my projects. As I was working, I used post-it notes to mark what still needed to be done with each game.

The book has a pattern for a die you are to make, but I knew that would last about one minute, so I opted for these paper spinners from a dollar store. I used little stickers to adapt each spinner for the options needed for each game.

Office Max had free laminating for teachers last year, so I was in for about three weeks in a row with games and manipulatives I had been coloring for a few years in preparation for teaching first grade. This year, they offered 50% off, so I was thankful for that.

If I don't want to laminate, I use peel and stick laminating sheets from Avery. It is much clearer than clear contact paper, doesn't bubble, but it more expensive and harder to find. When I tried to buy it this year at Wal-Mart, the kid sent me back to the fabric store where the rolls of clear vinyl were. When I tried to buy them at Fred Meyer, I ran into a pleasant clerk that hadn't learned the English term, "laminating" yet, but was eager to help me. I knew there would be NO WAY I would be able to describe what I needed, so I hunted myself, but didn't find them. These are my final sheets from last summer's cutting and pasting.

I glue the instructions on the outside of the folder and glue the game boards on the inside.
While putting these away, I found a few I didn't finish from last year. There's ALWAYS something for a homeschooling mommy to do, isn't there?
Check out:
Childcareland You also can sign up to receive daily emails with worksheets, craft ideas and video instructions for projects. My favorite site for pre-school and kindergarden.
Preschool Printables I made some of these years ago. Very fun!
Hope this inspires you to create fun learning activities for your homeschool.

Monday, September 7, 2009

ABC Jars - Part 2

These are the additions I've developed for the ABC Jar Project.

I made an extra set of vowels, "blanks" and a question mark.

You can make them find the missing vowel in the middle of small words,
or you could leave off either the beginning or the ending consonant.

I began collecting mini things to begin sorting when school begins this week.
I raided the Barbie accessories, the bathroom, my sewing cabinet and the junk drawer.
Have fun crafting!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I can finally cross this project off my list of good intentions!

The original idea came from my daughter Jana's first grade teacher, Mrs. Benson, but she used white frosting tubs. Each week they highlighted a letter of the alphabet and the kids brought items for the jar.

I loved the idea of having see-through jars, but if you have toddlers and glass isn't an enticing idea for a manipulative, you might choose the plastic alternative.

I started with 26 baby food jars. Thanks, cutest granddaughter, Brookie!

I bought a can of gray spray paint ($3) and alphabet stickers ($5).
I can't believe how expensive stickers are!
You could choose a cheaper option, but I loved that they were puffy, plasticy and bright.
I spray-painted the lids outside on a sheet of plastic.
One coat covered the colored caps well.
It dried in four hours.

Beka and I applied the lower case stickers to the lids

and uppercase stickers to the jars.

For her first grade phonics, Beka is excited to fill the jars
with little items that begin with the letter on the jar.
We began scouring the house today for tiny plastic animals,
monopoly movers, and scrabble letters.

Other ways to use the jars:
1. Match the upper-case letters on the jars to the lower-case letters on the lids.
2. Cut out alphabets words from magazines to put into each jar.
3. Cut out pictures from magazines to put into each jar. You could choose a theme like animals or food.
4. Use the jar lids to spell simple words.
a. Give them an ending like "in", "at" or "it" and choose the beginning consonants that form words.
b. Give them the beginning and ending consonant of a three letter word and have them fill in the correct vowel.
c. Give them a beginning sound like "ba", "pi", "bi" and have them choose a final consonant to form a word.
5. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes after.
6. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes before.
7. Choose two letters and have your child choose the letter that comes in between.
Anybody have any good ideas on what to put the jars in?
Any other ideas for uses of the alphabet jars?
I'd love to have your input on this project!

part 2

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Breaking the Monotony of Home Schooling

I have to admit, after 15 years of home schooling, there can be some monotony. The books all look the same. The phonics charts become tedious. The miles of handwriting worksheets are overwhelming.

We all know

"If Momma Ain't Happy

Ain't Nobody Happy."

I have been forced to find ways to make Momma and Company Happy. Last spring I began playing more phonic games and doing less of the repetitious charts. I threw away several handwriting worksheets and allow Beka to write letters, love notes to me (aren't they sweet at that age?) or copy something instead.

When that no longer was working, I created a new variation to break the monotony. I explained to Beka how her Grandma Mary used to teach in a one room school room in North Dakota. I sent her to search her dress-ups for appropriate clothing, we gathered students, also dressed them appropriately, and she school began.
I quickly explained the worksheet to Beka and she "taught" it to her students, asking questions and filling in the right answers. It was adorable!

My Mom really isn't this old, but we also garnished ideas from our cherished "Anne of Green Gables." Notice the old school bell? The adorable elf rubber stamps were a gift from my mother-in-law when I first began teaching.

These model students are attentively listening to Miss Rebekah explain the phonics rules. After they finished phonics, they listened to their teacher read out loud.

As we begin a new year, I am praying for the inspiration to KEEP the monotony away instead of fighting it back, to keep our enthusiasm high and to keep learning exciting.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Organizing Daily Work for Elementary School

I began home schooling with one student in second grade and four kids running around the house distracting us and making a mess. I had the foresight to understand that I would need order, and a lot of it, in all areas of my life.

Beka is removing her MONDAY FILE.

On a minuscule budget, the Lord blessed my shopping one day by with these white file boxes, two in a package, for $2.50. I bought enough for each child and a few extras. The boxes are now "teenagers" and still used, although worn and slightly tacky from left-over sticker residue.

I have a file for each subject, one for goal charts, one for special projects, and at times, have included Sunday School or Kids Bible Club (like AWANA) files to include all aspects of their lives that need daily or weekly attention.

I remove the pages from the workbooks and fill daily files for 2-4 weeks at a time.

Colored folders make it easier to tell what week you are on.

It is cheaper to buy a box of file folders
than the smaller cellophane wrapped packages.

At the beginning of each year, I create a simple chart with classes on the vertical and the days of the week across the top. I have also included Bible reading, memorization and chores.

If you use dark-colored markers or stickers,
you can't go back and see what work they have done.
We prefer highlighters or colored pencils.
If you file all the charts, it also keeps track of the number of your school days.

As each worksheet is completed, I correct it and hand it back to the child.
They do the problems over until they are correct.
This is one of my main teaching strategies; we don't go on to another lesson until the previous one is mastered.
I might not have taught something clearly,
or, they might have not have put enough effort into their work.
A finished page receives a smiley face, a sticker, or a rubber stamp, before being filed.
If a concept is not understood, the following lessons will not land on a firm foundation.
I would rather repeat a lesson, patiently and kindly, and allow them to be successful, instead of moving on in frustration.
I also make them write each misspelled word ten times - this is K-12.
(Thanks, Mom, for the tip. She used to teach in a one-room school in North Dakota.)
If they miss a simple math fact, I may make them write that ten times, as well.
Repetition does aid memory! It can also be overhwhelming, so use discernment.
As the years flew by, I began teaching the other kids, then added a sixth child to the family. I was very thankful I had started school in an organized fashion. Each day, all of my kids went to their file and pulled out what work needed to be done. The only problem came if I hadn't kept up my end of the system, and hadn't assigned goal charts or filled their files.
This system actually works with just the daily filing system, OR just the goal chart. I have worked this system in many different variations over the years and have found it to work for me.
I never said that my children did all the work without complaining.
I never said I haven't found worksheets hidden in toy boxes or under couch cushions.
I never said we didn't spend hours looking for a PENCIL so we could actually do the worksheets.
I never said they were finished with school before the school buses rolled by the house.
I never said that each worksheet was taught in a patient manner.
We'll talk about that later....
.....after you get your school organized!

Organizing - No School Room! #1

The split-level home we purchased when we moved to Washington has given us many challenges for home schooling. Because the kitchen, dining room and living room are basically one room, and we don't have the luxury of having a "school room", we have need to fit everything into this room, without making it look like a school room.

I need things to be convenient, accessible, organized, attractive and inexpensive.

This has been a lifesavor. Called the Quilting Mate, it cost $12 at Wal-Mart. I priced them in craft and sewing stores for 2-3 times as much.

We use it for putting together puzzles, coloring, crafts and painting. It has a washable surface, keeps the dining room table free (especially if it is near meal time) and can be shoved under the couch for storage. Our favorite useage is for puzzles, since we can keep storing it under the couch until it is completed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tackling the Laundry Room

Why have my laundry room under the home schooling blog? Because getting laundry done in the midst of all the other demands of a home schooling mom can be a challenging task. You can't neglect school to do laundry, and you can't neglect laundry to do school. You HAVE to do them both. Granted, you are at home most of the time, and nobody will know the egg on your favorite sweatshirt is from last week, not that morning, but there's something so refreshing about having clean clothes in the drawers....all the drawers....all the time.

Having an efficient laundry room is half the battle. The size is irrelevant, as you can see from my pics below. Functionality is #1, looks is #2. OK, so I like antiques and I like to see them when I am working. It might not be a priority to everyone, but something as simple as hanging pics your kids drew or a beautiful painting or photograph above the washer and dryer can certainly make the time spent in the room a little more pleasant.

My mom, who raised six kids, was the one who began this system of sorting dirty and clean laundry into appropriate containers. I have added my own touches to her system, making sure that the laundry room has everything I need to keep up on the laundry the most efficiently.

Not only do I always know what laundry needs to be done and I enjoy being in this little space because I have made it attractive to my eyes.

As you can see, my laundry room is so tiny, I had a hard time getting a picture of it. The smallest doll dresses on the wall were made by my mom when she was a young girl. I cherish them.

The shelf on the wall contains some stuffed bears and some old laundry supplies. In case you ever wondered - if you knock over an old bottle of bluing that doesn't have a cork in it, it makes a really, really, big mess. I carved my own cork for the bottle after that incident.

Begin with the full hamper. This is in the upstairs hallway by the bedrooms. If the clothes aren't in here, they don't get washed. If they are in here inside out, they get washed inside out. If the undies are still in the pants, (sorry, gross reality - you'll get used to it) they get washed, dried and put in their laundry basket whatever way they come out of the dryer.

Laundry gets sorted into baskets. From left to right I have whites, red, lights and darks. (I haven't labeled the baskets yet, haven't hit on the idea that would be sturdy enough to last and would fit the decor...any ideas?) The towels/jeans basket has to go on the floor on the left side. When a basket is heaping full, it makes a load.

In my other homes that had larger laundry rooms, the dirty clothes containers were kitchen-sized garbage cans, either under an antique chrome/red table or under a counter. Then, clean laundry tubs could be placed on top of that work surface.

My husband mounted a white shelf board flush with the tops of the washer and the dryer, giving me a little extra space for stuff. On the far left, the round enameled tin holds clothespins and lingerie bags. The rectangle shaped tin holds two or three boxes of extra dryer sheets. There is a red tin cup you can barely see in front of the red dress, but it holds all those little treasures you find in pockets - legos, chapsticks, phone numbers scribbled on scraps of paper, business cards, bobby pins - you know those things that would ruin the wash? I KEEP all money I find.

On the left side of the white shelf are tubs, the first for linens, the next is for Mom and Dad. You can barely see it, but tucked between the washer and dryer is a folding rack to dry items that cannot go in the dryer.

Everything I need to do laundry is in this room. The door mounted ironing board was a huge bonus I added recently. It makes it so much easier to actually get the ironing done. The red gizmo attached below is for plastic bags for the garbage can. You can get a view of the other sorting tub, for towels and jeans, and the box that holds laundry supplies.

Close up of the washboard container I found to hold soap, bleach, oxy, Spray 'n Wash, and an old tooth brush for scrubbing collars and stubborn stains.

This is in front of the dryer. Dish pans labeled for each child. Clothes are folded straight from the dryer into these bins. I don't leave them in the dryer or leave them in baskets to get wrinkled up again. I save a huge amount of time by being faithful to this routine.
The bottom bin holds iron, extension cord, cool plastic cup to fill my iron with water. Notice the garbage can? It is an old diaper pail. Love my old junk. Love the old washboards hanging on the walls, so glad I don't have to actually use them.

And, by mounting the ironing board on the door, you are guaranteed solitude when ironing because the door is SHUT and nobody wants to come in and help.
Jon took this pic of me multi-tasking: I am sipping a latte and listening to a podcast on my Zune on Roman History from Berkeley Professor Isabelle Pafford, while ironing, of course.
By creating an efficient, pleasant room, you are more productive and less likely to get behind and create the "Mt. Washmore", referred as such by my friend, Annie, with or without the latte.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Converse of the Angle Bisector Conjecture

Geometry doesn't come easily for Grace. It's a given that she's brilliant, she's in the Gifted and Talented Program in our Home School, but it can be downright challenging for this child of mine to grasp different tools and use them for solving problems. She can hardly handle a pencil, let alone a compass, a straight-edge, "why can't we just call it a ruler?!?!?!?!" and a protractor.

Today her challenge came with the following question from her textbook:

"In this lesson you discovered the Angle Bisector Conjecture. Write the converse of the Angle Bisector Conjecture. Do you think it's true? Why or why not?"

The first challenge came when she tried to remember what this conjecture stated. Of course, she was supposed to have this term neatly penned in her Geometry notebook and firmly embedded in her brain. Instead, she thumbed through the book until she found the definition and mumbled it back to me. Urging her to try to grasp the concept, I made her repeat the definition.

"Pretend you're the teacher. You learn it, then you teach it to me," I brilliantly challenged. This time she clearly was able to illustrate and explain this geometric concept.

"OK," I said brightly. "Now, what is the converse of this conjecture?

Blank stares accompanied by giggles and fidgets clearly shouted volumes to me.

Backing up my track, I asked, "Grace, what is converse?"

Meekly, she speculated, "A type of shoes?"

"What?" I was flabbergasted. (Doesn't that sound like the right adjective to put here?)

"A cool type of shoes?....they're really, really cool shoes."

I'm either going to have to buy her a dictionary, Geometry for Dummies or a new pair of tennis shoes, preferably Converse.