Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Was This Really a Sharp Idea?

So I'm starting this blog because I started homeschooling my children. I love the idea of homeschooling them, I just hope I love putting it into practice too.
Anyway, I figure this whole homeschooling gig is going to take some time to figure out, that and a lot of trial and error. Hence, the blog. I need a place to put down my ideas, thoughts, frustrations, successes, etc.

My son, Logan is a 2nd grader. He attended Kindergarten and 1st grade in public schools. He loved Kindergarten, but didn't care much for 1st grade at all.

Taylor misses the age cut-off to go to Kindergarten this fall. Her birthday is in October. I worked with her on reading and writing last year while Logan was at school and she just grew and learned so much. She was truly eager to learn.

I really went all out on the decorations!
Just imagine that it says "First" day of school.

So this school year has officially begun for us. Yesterday was the big day! I decorated the door at the bottom of the stairs with balloons and a sign that said, "Happy First Day of School." My son loved it, but was disappointed to find out that was all the decorating I had done. He said, "The dining room and the front room look just the same as they always do!" So the first item of business was to decorate some more.
Then we all went down stairs for breakfast and to start school. We were all excited about it and wanted to talk about it.

Okay, so I didn't take any pictures on the actual "first" day of school.

I used a small whiteboard to write, "Today is Monday, August 29, 2011. Today is the first day of school. Today we will be talking about rules, behavior and subjects in school." Then the kids argued about who was going to read which sentences on the whiteboard, both talking at once. I had to remind myself that we hadn't actually talked about the rules and behavior yet. We'd only talked about talking about them.
The kids did come up with their own rules though. Logan's first rule was: No Sound Effects. (You would think that he heard that every time we were in the car, all summer long... or something).

Taylor's first rule was: Don't Go Crazy. (Again, you'd think they'd heard this a lot. Not your typical classroom rules).

My first rule was: Ask First, Then Wait For an Answer. (I'd already been having trouble with the kids just shouting out something like, "I'm going to go get this from my room" or "I'm going to go check on that" and then jumping up and running off before I could even register that they were gone. I knew that had to stop fast).

The kids came up with a couple more rules like, raise your hand before you talk and no interrupting.

Then we went over the subjects I want to cover this year.
History - US history starting with the pilgrims, but we're still working on Native Americans (Pre-Europeans). We're almost done with that. We've been reading about the Ancient Americas this summer.

Science - Starting with plants, then weather/seasons, then oceans/tides/currents. I want to get to the ocean stuff before the weather turns too cold because I want us to go to the coast on a fieldtrip.

Math U See is the math program we're using. Logan's right at the 2nd grade level.

Taylor's somewhere between Kindergarten and 1st grade. I bought the 1st grade math book for her, but she's not quite there. When I watched the little video blurb about the Kindergarten level, it seemed like it would be too easy for her. So I'm working with her on other math worksheets right now. Math is a weak subject for me. I'm not sure the best way to teach it. There's so many opinions out there too. I'm just trying to teach it without confusing her too much. She likes using the math blocks (manipulatives). I need to teach her place values soon.

The kids each have individual, quiet reading, on their own, stay in your room, don't-bug-me-I-mean-it-go-back-to-your-room time. :)

So History, Science and Math. What else? Oh, Visual Arts and Music. Those will each be once a week. I wanted to do those mostly for Taylor. I know she will love them. Logan will enjoy them too. He's actually very musically inclined.
We're also doing a "Saying of the Week," which is very good for teaching character building lessons, such as, "practice makes perfect" and "treat others the way you want to be treated." The kids really love them. We've been doing them all summer too.

Then there's what I call "The Fun Stuff," but maybe I shouldn't, if that suggests that the other subjects aren't fun... oh well. The Fun Stuff is really writing, grammar and spelling in disguise. Once a week we're going to write cards to someone. I found a list of interesting holidays, for lack of a better word. For example, January 17th is "Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions Day." Who knew. Anyway, there are a ton of them like that. Plus, birthdays and "real" holidays too.
Another "Fun Stuff" we're going to do is a Getting to Know Me journal. I will write a couple of questions in their notebook and they will need to write the answer. With Taylor I will focus on her penmanship and writing lowercase letters (in other words, not random capitalization). With Logan we will work towards writing in complete sentences, grammar, punctuation and spelling.

And the last thing labeled "Fun Stuff" is their What I Learned This Week journals, where they will write what they learned or what was the favorite thing they did that week.

As the kids do worksheets, art projects or such during the school week, they will tape them to their bedroom door. On Friday afternoon they will write in these journals about what they learned at school that week and to help them remember, they'll just need to look at their door. Then sometime during the weekend or Monday morning we'll clear the door for the new week. The old papers will be filed away or somehow kept in an ultra organized manner. Definitely not in a stack on the floor in front of the bookshelf, to collect dust and get stepped on. No, I'll not let anything like that happen to these precious worksheets and artwork my children have toiled over.

Okay, on to the next topic. I should probably mention that we have no money for those expensive homeschooling curriculum books and programs. Well, I'm assuming they're expensive since we don't even have enough money for me to look into whether they are expensive or not. So basically, the public library is my biggest resource for homeschooling curriculum. I decided on my curriculum and set up an outline of when I'd be teaching what, especially with science, art and music. Then I get online and see what books and DVD's the local library has and put them on hold. Hopefully I'll be able to stay on top of the curriculum enough to get the books when I need them. And hopefully I won't owe the library anything in "lost book" fees. When we came home from our Sunriver vacation, I had over 25 books waiting for me to pick up at the library. They were all for our first couple of weeks of school.

So back to our first day of school. The difficulties were:
1) The kids had a hard time adjusting from summer mode to school mode. They would go up to their rooms just to put something away and I'd wait and wait and wait for them to come back down. Turns out they had started playing with toys in their bedrooms.
2) Logan finished everything much quicker than Taylor and I didn't have anything else for Logan to do and he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing, so I usually just told him he could take a break and play for a few mins.
3) We have half our stuff upstairs at the kids' individual desks and half the stuff downstairs in the dining room. So we were up and down all day. It seems like there's got to be a smoother way of doing things. I tried to do group subjects first, downstairs and then individual subjects in the afternoon, upstairs. But then we had a science (a subject we do together) worksheet for each of them and they went to their desks to do it. Then back downstairs again when they were done.
4) Oh, and Taylor insisted on calling me "Teacher" all day. Today was better though. I just kept telling her that I preferred "Mom" to any other name!

The things that went well the first two days of school:
1) We sat down and actually learned and talked together instead of the kids playing all day or slowly getting around to getting stuff done.
2) We did get outside and got some exercise. It's part of our school schedule.
3) We came up with some great rules and expectations for the school year.
4) We spent the day together and enjoyed it, mostly.
5) The kids already have stuff taped on their bedroom doors.
6) The kids are excited to tell their dad what they did during the day.
There you have it, the good outnumbers the bad! Yay!

When I asked Logan what he liked and disliked about school so far, he said, "Well, what I don't like about it, is that it's school. What I do like about it is that we get to do Math U See and History and Science and painting
and Music and Fun Stuff."

When I asked Taylor what she liked about school, she said, "I like painting!" When I asked her if there was anything that she didn't like about school, she said, "No!"

Although, when we were doing the Getting to Know Me journal yesterday she had to answer 4 questions: What's your name, How old are you, When's your birthday and What are your favorite things to do? She needed help with spelling her middle and last names and by the time she got to the 3rd question she looked up at me and said in all seriousness, "School's hard!" We're saving the 4th question for another day.

Earlier tonight Taylor was trying to brush her teeth using a brand new tube of toothpaste. She was having difficulty getting any paste on her toothbrush, being sealed on the inside still. So I unscrewed the entire lid and took the tiny, silver seal off, then put a little paste on her toothbrush. She'd watched me the whole time and smiled really big when I handed her back her toothbrush and said, "Oh, thank you, Mom! You're so romantic!"
I said, "What?"
She repeated, "You're so romantic."
I asked, "What does romantic mean?"
She said, "Something. It sure isn't Bo-mantic!"