Category Archives: Homeschooling

A day in the life of my 3rd grader

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I like schedules, but I also flip-flop between being really strict with times and then just using the schedule as a guideline/check-list for the day.

I like schedule tables with time frames for when the (older) kids act like they don’t have time to get everything done.  I can’t stand hearing, “But mom, I didn’t have time!!”  Breaking down their days helps SHOW them that they in fact do have enough time, and TEACHES them how to practice using their time wisely.

I’m happy to report that everything is getting done, so I can move to being more flexible with time frames for now 🙂  Here is a new revised run-down of what our 9-year-old’s day looks like…schedules

He understands the specifics of what each time block means:

  • Piano (practice for 30 minutes)
  • Computer (15 minutes of KhanAcademy, a lesson on typing.com, and a lesson on Xtramath.org)
  • Science, History, or Art
    • Science–a lesson in an Abeka textbook, is on Mondays/Wednesdays
    • History–read a section and answer questions in “Story of the World”, on Tuesdays/Thursdays
    • Art on Fridays, usually pulled from artprojectsforkids.com
  • Walk (we go 3-4 miles, depending on how I feel)
  • Journal (he writes on an assigned prompt, filling an entire sheet of paper)
  • English (one lesson from “Rod and Staff”)
  • Math (one lesson from “Saxon” textbook)
  • Reading (1-2 chapters from assigned reading book)

I used to be really lax about grading (meaning, I’d look through his things every other week or so when I got a chance).  What ended up happening is he’d completely misunderstand a concept and get it wrong over and over again before I caught it.  Or he’d just skip lessons altogether and give himself a nice vacation. I decided that I needed to buckle down and get serious about going over his work with him every.single.day.  I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and it’s worked much, much better.  I immediately know if he isn’t understanding something, and he receives immediate feedback (if his work is really poorly done, then he has to re-do it– more motivation to do it correctly the first time around!).

Choices for Homeschool Curriculum

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Thinking about homeschooling but does choosing “curriculum”, or material to teach from, seem too daunting or difficult?  It is true that there are literally hundreds of different books, authors, and publishers that provide educational materials.

If you just want to give homeschooling a trial run, or are looking for something that will not cost you a penny, you may be interested in knowing about this complete free homeschool curriculum online.  It is found at http://allinonehomeschool.com .  I do not personally use it, but a few people I know do and they are happy with it.  Just click on the grade level on the right hand side of the screen, and then your child follows the directions day by day.
Another great free resource is by Jenny Philips at http://www.jennyphillips.com/good-beautiful/. She has a book list of “clean” and moral books; I’ve personally found that MOST of the books aren’t available at our library… but the books she recommends that have been available have been exceptional! So many books for kids nowadays depict children back-talking and being disrespectful to adults.  It’s so frustrating when you’re trying to teach the opposite values to your children!
A few years ago, we lived in a state that offered a “public school option” of K12, which provides all your homeschooling curriculum for free (and mandates monitoring and assistance from an assigned teacher).  In fact, most states offer K12 free of charge!  Check out whether your state does here.  K12 is wonderful, but I also only had one homeschooler at the time– I imagine it would be an overwhelming curriculum for people with multiple homeschoolers.  I did NOT like the insane amount of work “required” by K12 (our Kindergartner was expected to log 6 hours of schoolwork daily!!).  If you have a struggling student, then K12 certainly provides ample opportunity to go over concepts again and again.  K12 is not for everyone, but it is a great resource to consider, especially if you are new to homeschooling.
Here are some other curriculum you may want to consider
 
I personally do not use an all-around “pre-packaged” curriculum because I do not think that one specific publisher has an all-around fantastic curriculum.  I pick and choose between different publishers depending on the subject.  Here are some great resources by subject area.
English:  (We do English every day)
  • Rod and Staff  http://www.milestonebooks.com/list/Rod_and_Staff_Curriculum/  We are on Level 3 and I REALLY like it, but it looks like 1st and 2nd grade are just readers… in Level 3 they begin intense English skills (grammar and punctuation).  Rod and Staff also offers Math, but I haven’t personally seen the Math textbooks.  As a note, Rod and Staff is NOT bright, colorful, or fun.  It IS thorough and complete.  Also important to know, Rod and Staff is Christian-based (it was developed by a group of Mennonite brethren).  We are Christians (I am Mormon), and I appreciate the amount of religion that is incorporated into the Rod and Staff books.
  • All About Reading  http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/  Several moms have very highly recommended this curriculum to me.  I haven’t purchased this, because by the time I learned about it, my child was already a very strong reader.  But I probably will get it when my younger children are ready to learn to read!  Go to their website to access the free placement tests to figure out which level your child is on.
  • It is also important for kids to listen to stories, because modeling good reading skills has been shown to help kids learn how to read 🙂  I recommend allowing children throughout Elementary school (and even beyond) listen to stories or books on tape every single day.  Our library website http://www.aacpl.net/kids has hundreds of free books online through “TumbleBooks” that read aloud.  They choose their own stories and listen to them on the computer.  Zero effort from me 🙂
  • Nessy http://www.nessy.com/us/ was recommended to me by my brother.  He says his girls have really benefitted from their reading activities.  This is a subscription based website.
Math:  (We do Math every day)
  • Mathematics by Scott Foresman & Addison Wesley http://www.barnesandnoble.com/listing/2691456887352?r=1&kpid=2691456887352&cm_mmc=GooglePLA-_-TextBook_NotInStock_26To75-_-Q000000633-_-2691456887352  I got this book for free from a homeschool swap, and it looks really fantastic!  It says it is 2nd grade level, but I think it is more 1st grade level.  It says it is “consumable”, but I generally have my kids write the answers in their own notebook so multiple children can use it.
  • Saxon Math http://www.amazon.com/Saxon-Math-Incremental-Development-Workbook/dp/0939798824/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1430235793&sr=8-2&keywords=saxon+math+2  This is what we are using right now.  The workbooks are redundant but thorough.  I do have the kids actually write in the workbooks.  For the nominal cost of these workbooks, it is worth it to have concrete proof of their work.  The kids generally work through them on their own now, but don’t expect them to work by themselves until 2nd grade…  Saxon Math goes up through high school math, which is nice.  A friend recommends always buying the 1st Edition of the textbooks (textbooks begin in grade 4/5, workbooks are for the early years).  The 1st Edition books only cost a couple of dollars on Amazon!
  • Right Start is another Math curriculum for early learners that several moms have highly recommended to me.  It uses many hands-on manipulatives to teach math.  http://rightstartmath.com  Make sure to have your child take their placement test to ensure you purchase the correct level for your child!
  • KhanAcademy.org is free and a great way to teach kids without having to explain everything yourself!  My kids work on Khanacademy for about 10 minutes/day.  They are given math problems; if they do not know how to solve the question, then they can watch a short video tutorial explaining the math concept.  I like KhanAcademy because they truly get to learn at their own pace, and they are introduced to new concepts almost every day (whereas in our Saxon math workbooks, they do the same type of problems over and over again to improve their accuracy and speed).  The kids also enjoy KhanAcademy because they get to earn new avatar guys with each new level they reach.
  • Xtramath.org is a free math drills website.  It doesn’t have any ads and is really, really simple to navigate.  This has really helped my kids get faster with their math facts (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication).  They “race their teacher” and attempt to answer math facts before their timer runs out.  I like this new updated version of math flashcards (and they don’t require me to take 20 minutes out of my day to hold up each flashcard one by one!).
History:  (We do History on Tuesdays and Thursdays)
  • Story of the World  http://www.amazon.com/Story-World-History-Classical-Earliest/dp/1933339004/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430236070&sr=1-1&keywords=story+of+the+world  I absolutely LOVE this curriculum.  It is so interesting, and takes very little time.  It is also pretty inexpensive!  ($11.53 for the book).  You can get an audio CD if you prefer not to read the book.  And it comes with a workbook if you are interested in adding activities to the lesson, or having pre-written comprehension questions.  I like the workbook, but I do not use it when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  My kids really enjoy listening to me read a chapter from Story of the World after lunch every day.  It only takes about 5 minutes 🙂 For older kids, I absolutely recommend buying the test book. I have my kids independently read one chapter per week, and at the end of the week I give them a test. Most of the tests are just two pages, and are PERFECT for making sure they’ve got reading comprehension down AND they remember important historical facts that they’ve been studying during the week.
Science: (We do Science on Mondays and Wednesdays)
  • I have an Abeka Science book that we’ve started using lightly, but most often I just pull Science from library books we get.  I plan to officially begin a regimented Science course for 3rd grade using the Abeka book I already have (which I got for free from someone).
  • For 5th-8th grade, I’m impressed by the Elemental Science books. They have the students read from the Usborne Science Encyclopedia (a beautiful, fun-to-read book!), learn vocabulary, and do a simple Science experiment each week. If I had the time, this is exactly what I’d type up myself for my kids to do! But it’s much cheaper and easier just to buy it…
  • Here is a link discussing several of the popular science curriculum.  This is a good place to educate yourself on the available options: http://teachbesideme.com/homeschool-moms-share-favorite-science-curriculum/
   Art: (We do Art one day each week)

Character Building: (We start off each day with this)

  • http://characterfirsteducation.com/c/curriculum.php  I highly recommend this website.  It is free and has wonderful videos with songs, poems, and stories to teach your children the fundamentals of good character.  I have seen drastic improvement in my children’s behavior since we began implementing this in our school day.  They now understand exactly what it means to show respect, obedience, attentiveness, etc.  One of my top priorities in homeschooling is to teach good moral values and to ensure my children are learning to know and love their Heavenly Father and their Savior, Jesus Christ.  Character First definitely helps to teach the moral values that are essential in building children of good character.

Computer Time: (each day) College and careers alike require proficiency in computer skills.  I want my kids to be familiar and comfortable with navigating the computer and internet.  With that being said, I gave an informal lesson on the dangers of pornography when they were 8.  They both were disgusted at the thought of seeing naked girls, but now they know what it is and what they should do (not look and tell mom) if they encounter it online. Every single day, my kids are allotted 30 minute of computer time.  They have these 5 items on their computer time checklist daily:

  1. xtramath.com They spend ~5 minutes on math speed drills on this site each day (see more info on xtramath above).
  2. Typing.com When I think about what skills I use each and every day in my adult life, typing comes in at the top of my list.  I am so grateful that my elementary schools focused on teaching us how to type.  The kids spend ~5 minutes/day on a typing lesson (which is free on this website!).
  3. Khanacademy.org They spend about 10 minutes/day learning new math concepts and practicing ones they already know (more info above)
  4. Little Pim They spend 5 minutes/day watching an episode of Little Pim, a children’s language learning show.  They are learning German 🙂  I bought the download from the Little Pim website.
  5. TumbleBooks They spend their remaining time listening to a storybook from our library’s website. (more info above)

I switch around our homeschool schedule based on the specific needs of my children at the time.  We do Math and English every single day.  Sometimes I alternate between Science and History (Science on Mondays/Wednesdays; History on Tuesdays/Thursdays).  Other times I simply do shorter lessons and include BOTH science and history every single day.  Do what works best for you and your children!

Incorporating God into my kids’ lives

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Over the past few months, my kids and I have been listening to “Scripture Scouts” in the car, everywhere we go.  These are stories and songs that tell and explain scripture stories.  The songs are really catchy, and even our toddler is starting to learn and sing them!  Here is their website where you can listen to some of their songs.  And you can purchase their CDs or MP3 downloads at Deseret Book.  I highly recommend it (and they didn’t pay me to say that!).

I also just learned about Seeds Family Worship.  These are short videos and songs of scripture verses that can help kids (or adults) memorize scripture passages.  I think we’ll try to learn one each week as a family.  It is important for us all to have something our minds can go to when we are faced with temptation or if we are struggling.  Having good passages to recall by memory will be wonderful.  Seeds Family Worship sells CDs with their music on their website, but there are also quite a few songs available for free on their Seeds Family Worship YouTube Channel.

Homeschool Assignment Chart

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I designed this homeschool assignment chart to help my child be more motivated and self-driven at completing assignments.

assignment chart

He was motivated using this chart because he could see EXACTLY what assignments he had, and he enjoyed checking off things as he went.  The numbers 1-10 on the bottom are where I write the spelling words for the week.  I like giving spelling tests because it gets my child used to taking tests.  Test taking is a part of life– for getting into college, for obtaining credentials, for work requirements, etc.  If I did not require him to take tests as a part of homeschooling, I think I would be failing to adequately prepare him for adulthood.

This might also give you an idea of what we cover in homeschooling.  Sometimes when you’re just starting off with homeschooling, its hard to know what to cover.

You can use this chart, or use it as inspiration to make your own based on your specific needs.  Here is a Word version of the chart that you can save to your computer and edit:

assignment chart