Saturday, August 31, 2013

On our walk...

Just a few quick pictures of our walk today...

Younger Cracker Jack

Elder Cracker Jack.

Going down the 2-track.

From the back of the farmer's field.
These deer prints were really deep in the sand ... it must have been a good sized deer!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

September books are in!!!!

6th Grade English and Math
3rd Grade English and Math

Part of Pre-K English, Math, and Bible
We just got them in today!!! I'm doing the happy dance, the kids not so much but they do love getting new books ... it means they've moved on in grades. Noni brought them out to the house today and it felt like my birthday lol. A little quick planning on my part (adding page numbers to lesson plans) and we're all set for Sept. 2.

Just had to sneak this picture in of ECJ falling asleep at his desk trying to finish writing up a small book report for us.

How to Begin Homeschooling, Part 6, Unit Study Planning

Unit Study Planning

Little confession here, I don't do many unit studies. They are a great way of incorporating some, if not some, of our main subjects into one focused unit. You pick a topic and fill in a ton of different ways to learn everything you can about that topic in a specific (or not so specific) amount of time. I do use them from time to time, but I'm just not as keen on them for grades higher than first as I am for pre-school and kindergarten levels. So... before writing this I had to refresh my memory about them by doing some research online and pulling out a few of our older unit studies to look at.

First I wanted to share a wonderful link to a page filled with free resources for planning ... if you haven't checked out this site yet it is definitely worth a peak or three. There is at least one file here free to print that will help you plan a unit study.

Now, we need a topic to do a unit study about ... Fall is just around the corner so I thought we'd do something about that. It's a VERY broad subject, but this allows for a lot of leeway in planning. 

You can place leaves changing and animals getting ready for winter into a Fall unit study for Science.

How people harvest food, and how they used to store it for winter before greenhouses and grocery stores for Social Studies/History. Or the true history of Halloween (if that is appropriate to your home).

Counting fall objects (acorns, leaves, pumpkins, etc.) or doing Fall printable worksheets for Math.

Journal about Fall for Language Arts. Check out a lot of books about Fall from your local library as well.

Incorporate Fall Art craft projects that you find online. Or do leaf rubbings before the leaves all get crumbly in fall colors.

There has to be Fall music out there somewhere as well.

Plan some nature walks at parks around town or your nearest state or national park for field trips. 

Rent or borrow videos about fall.

You can also take into account the ages of your children (because you can do a unit study across all ages if you chose) and say that child "A" needs to paint a pumpkin for art, while child "B" writes a report on the first Halloween, and child "C" watches a video about how pioneers prepared for winter during the Fall. Ok, so you'd probably have all the kids paint a pumpkin, have the eldest ones write reports while the youngest ones talked to you about Halloween, and show them all the video together. But, you can see what I meant there.

I may have chosen too broad of a topic for a nice lengthy unit study but I only used it as an example. Your possibilities out there are endless. If you find a subject that your child is really drawn too see how many places you can plug that into their life. ECJ is really drawn to electricity and electronics and I find as much as I can for him in all of his subjects so that he can see how it relates to things. I just haven't made a true unit study about it.

Have fun with unit planning, it really can be fun to do and it's really nice to have a couple little ones prepared for those weeks when things come up and you need something to do but don't have anything planned (or the kiddos need a break from text books).

** All clip art on this page was found on free clip art websites and was not created by myself. **

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Begin Homeschooling, Part 5, Scheduling Your Day

Scheduling Your Day

Okay, you don't always NEED to plan, but sometimes it's good to have one. When we're having our relaxed weeks I have a few vague goals that I want to accomplish before the end of the week. Never anything major but definitely something, even if it's just that each kid spends some time each day reading or on the computer. 

BUT, during our regular school weeks we do have a schedule that we tend to follow and I'm going to attempt to show you how to schedule your day. The very first thing you have to do when thinking about how to schedule your day is to think about how YOUR family functions best. I NEED coffee before I seriously start my day, it's a must have. 
So, sit down with me for a cup of coffee and let's look at the calender and talk about what you want to do or have to do each day.
 I know it's not something
that either one of us really want to think about without coffee.
When I fist did this for my homeschool day I failed miserably. I just didn't have realistic expectations for my family. I had to tweak, tug, pull, yank, and wrestle with my schedule to get it to work. Some mornings thinking about everything I wanted to get done that day I just wanted to pull the covers back over my head. BUT  you can do it! Don't think of it as being written in concrete, matter of fact I suggest pencil or a word processing document on the computer where you can change things.

The first thing you need to decide is what time does mom/dad want/have to get up. If one of you work then that's pretty set in stone most of the time. If you get up with your spouse but it's really early are you going to stay up even if it's hours before you HAVE to be up? Lately Principal Daddy has been letting me sleep in while he makes sure the kids have breakfast and do their morning chores but that's about to stop as we enter back into our usual routine.

Next, if you do chores do you do them before breakfast, after breakfast, or later in the day. And you go along blocking in some time for the "unchanging" things in your life such as the chores, meal times, bed times, etc.

Then, figure out how YOU would like to start your official school day. Do you want to start with the Bible, Art, Music, Calender, Circle time?? Maybe, depending on the age of your children, you would like to talk to them about this. You'd be amazed at some of the ideas kids can come up with to get their brains working in the morning.

After that it's a matter of plugging in subjects/units into time slots and being aware that some days math will just take longer, that doctor appointment you thought would only last an hour has drug on for three, and the baby has finger painted your floor with jello pudding right in the middle of your History lesson.

Below is a quick run down of how our day is scheduled to be and a few of the reasons I chose these times to do them. (I'll be posting something about our regular scheduled programming when we get started full swing in September with lots of photos of how it REALLY goes.)

5:30 Mommy up (I'd like for this to happen every day)
6:00 ECJ wakes up.
7:00 YCK up. Both Cracker Jacks do chores while I make breakfast.
7:30 Cracker Jacks eat breakfast quietly while I log off of my online accounts.
8:00 Daily set up by ECJ while I do dishes.
8:30 The Cracker Jacks get the wiggles out (this is a time when they get to act goofy for a few minutes so that they can sit still for a little while) and usually Peanut gets up around now and eats.
9:00 - 9:20 School officially starts for the day and we do our morning binders together. I go over their lesson plans for the day and make sure everyone has all the supplies they need to get started.
9:20-10:00 ECJ moves into his room to do his lessons (he works better in there) and YCJ starts her Language Arts work for the day getting plenty of help from me. I divide my attention between her and Peanut at the dining room table and this is the time that Peanut works on her letter of the day work.
10:00-10:15 Get the wiggles out!!! All the kiddos do that while I start a load of laundry or wipe down the kitchen counters or some other household           task. Then I switch out the Language Arts texts for our Arithmetic                 texts.
10:15-11:00 Arithmetic time!
11:00-12:00 Any special projects and Peanut's computer time.
12:00-1:30 Lunch time, free play (especially outdoors), return phone calls, ECJ watches his CNN Kids News for current events work.
1:30-2:30 History, Science, Health, OR Art.
2:30-3:00 Clean up and daily discussion.
3:00-5:00 Our daily walk and YCJ computer time. 
5:00-6:30 Prepare dinner, eat, and evening chores.
6:30-7pm Free time for everyone.
7        Peanut's medicine and everyone winds down from the day.
7:15-8:30 (approximately) The girls watch a movie together and everyone gets ready for bed. ECJ likes watching TV with Dad during this time.
8:30 Bedtime for the girls. Quiet reading for ECJ until 9:30. Parents have no set bedtime as we're both insomniacs.

And somewhere in there we work in showers. Prayers are said at each meal. ECJ and both parents do personal daily devotional reading, nightly and morning prayers, and the rosary every day. 

Starting the 10th of September the Cracker Jacks have catechism classes every Tuesday evening and their swim classes (for all three) begin in early October. Which means that those three nights we'll be having dinner either earlier or later depending on what it is. 

And that's what the day is supposed to look like (sort of). A lot of the time this isn't what happens, we either end up looking like we're crazy chasing after dogs or running to appointments or catching up on things that tantrums caused us to not finish OR we finish everything so far ahead of time that the kiddos are grinning at each other at having a whole afternoon without text books.

I hope that this helps you figure out what your daily schedule might look like (at least on "perfect" days).

Thursday part 6 of this series should be out dealing with unit studies. Friday I'm hoping to have the first week of Peanut's Pre-school schedule up (Friday will officially be Peanut Pre-school days, so if you don't have a pre-schooler feel free to skip them unless you're just curious ;) ).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Begin Homeschooling, Part 4, Lesson Planning (Texts)

Lesson Planning (texts)

When I first began lesson planning this was one of the places that completely terrified me. I am not the most organized person in the world and somehow the thought that I had to plan out the whole year all at once had gotten into my head. I was freaked out.

So, I followed a good friend's advice and took a deep breath. (Which is why I'm always saying to breath.) I had to break this down into something I could manage. I had to figure out how I could get everything I wanted to get done finished in the amount of time I wanted to do it in. 

My first step was to decide how long each year I wanted to homeschool. Was I going to follow the traditional public school year? Was I going to do a few weeks on and a few weeks off? Did we want to school year round? Take a month off for December? My answer?? Well, I don't like weeks on end of review so we decided to homeschool year round. We take two weeks off usually at Christmas from the text books and loosen up a lot during the summer, but we do school year round.

This gives me roughly 50 weeks to work with when working with the text books. However, because I don't want to use them hard core during the summer, I drop that down to about 45. I use this number when deciding how many pages per week my children should be doing out of the text books so that we can finish each text. So, if you take my son's Arithmetic book from last year and look at the number of pages it contains before the review section (300) and divide that by the magic number I came up with of 45 you come up with 6 pages of Arithmetic per week. Not every page in this book has math problems to solve and we work on our school work five to six days a week so this is relatively easy to do. 

Now, I always do Arithmetic and Language Arts five days a week as these subjects are very important to me. So, when I make my weekly lesson plans (I do this on Sunday evening after the children go to bed) I take the children's books out and look at the 6 pages that they should get done that week. If the problems look fairly easy then I assign all of the problems, if he knows most of the work I assign every other problem to keep it in review, and if it's a really difficult or long page then I'll assign half for one day and half for another day ... combining two easier pages together for a third day. Yes, it takes a little while to do. It takes me about half an hour total for the Cracker Jack's each week and I try to be about two or three weeks in advance right now for Peanut.

As I stated above we do Arithmetic and Language Arts five days a week. Science and History we do twice a week each. Science is on Monday and Wednesday and History on Tuesday and Thursday, currently these are more relaxed as we don't start with our texts for either of them until October. We'll be adding Health in November and we'll do that on Friday. 

I figure that our by looking at their books first (we may not do all of the History or Science books) and figure out what we may not do. I subtract those chapters from the number of pages of the book (thank God for tables of contents) and then divide by how many weeks "left". So for Science and History it's 41 weeks and for Health it's 37 weeks. This all gives me the total number of pages we "should" do each week and then I split that number over two or three days (we can do extra on Friday's or Saturday). 

Art is also on Friday. Our family is religious and so I do some religious instruction at home five days a week, but the Cracker Jack's have catechism class at the church on Tuesday evenings. And this year we're adding swimming to the agenda this fall which will occur on Monday and Wednesday evenings. I know it's a lot of math but it's really not so bad, and I only do it before the start of each "new" school year. 

I use the same method to divide up sections of their workbooks. It's not terribly complicated but it's effective. Just remember that if you end up spending twice as long as you allotted for long division, that's OK! Just adjust what your doing the next week (this is why I only do lesson plans for the Cracker Jack's a week at a time).

Part 5 of this series will be about scheduling your day and part 6 will be about making a lesson plan using unit studies. They'll both be out later this week. If you have any ideas about more helpful posts on how to begin homeschooling I'll continue the series.

***all clip art used here was found on free online clip art sites***

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Day in Our Life

This week for the Not-Back-to-School blog hop (the final week for this particular blog hop by the way) the assignment is "A day in the life". I took that to mean a post about our day unscripted, unedited, with candid photos even if they weren't the most flattering. We're not in the full swing of our lessons yet as we're easing back into it after our "some-what" summer break (we only do "review" work, book reports, religion, and life lessons for about five weeks out of the summer ... 45 weeks of "full" schooling a year).

This week is a very relaxed week for our family, we start our new grade levels the first week of September and these last few weeks of August we usually do some worksheets, maybe some workbook work, and computer time. Today was a PJ day for the kiddos, tomorrow we'll go to the pool, the rest of the week we'll pretty much play by ear.

I was going to make breakfast this morning (I try to a couple of times a week) but the kids unanimously asked for pop-tarts ... not something we usually go for but what the heck? 

 They are not at their most photogenic first thing in the morning. ECJ was the only one even remotely interested in glancing at the camera. 
Doggy breakfast???

After breakfast it was time to get some chores done. This morning the Cracker Jack's didn't have to straighten up their rooms because they were actually clean...
So, they helped Peanut clean up her room. I swear, we didn't let her play with an atom bomb last night.
Meanwhile, I made sure that Daddy and I had coffee. YCJ gathered up her little sister's laundry to take to the washing machine, and yeah she kinda looks that way every morning until she's been awake several hours. ECJ made sure to get Peanut's room organized before he came out to see what his Dad was doing.

After my first cup of coffee I swept up the floor. And then Peanut helped me give fresh water to Fancy bird.

 It was then computer time for everyone. No one had any set assignments today it was just to practice our Internet safety and have a little fun.

Each of them chose something different, which didn't surprise me. And interestingly enough Peanut ended up playing a counting game after which YCJ decided to play a spelling game. It's not often that ECJ is allowed to use his social media account and he took full advantage of it for the whole 20 minutes he had the computer.

ECJ chose to read his sisters Chicka Chicka Boom Boom after computer time.
This is really not the best shot but by this time Peanut had made a bit of a mess of her room again. 

ECJ making hazelnut spread sandwiches for lunch for everyone.

After lunch they all decided to do something different and apart from each other. YCJ worked on her crochet in her room for a little while and then asked to watch a movie quietly.
Peanut wanted to color a printout from
out in the living room.
While ECJ installed a new light switch in my bedroom under strict supervision of his Dad.

Later, ECJ snapped this picture of me preparing dinner for the family right before he fed the dogs their dinners...

And other than us eating dinner and getting ready for bed, 
this was our day. Pretty laid back and relaxed compared
to most days.

Next week will be different and the following week we'll be back to our regular scheduled programing folks. But this is a glimpse into our everyday life. Look into hour everyone else handles things by going to the blog hop ... or post something about you and your family and hop right in.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our weekend...

Just had to show off what we did this weekend. It was nothing special, just an overnight stay at Grandma and Papa's house and a few visits to the park. Saturday started out with an eye doctor appointment for Peanut but ended on a high note. But, it sure was a blast!!! BB and BS (Big Bro and Big Sis) were at Grandma's this weekend and that meant an inpromtu get together was in order! Auntie showed up with her four girls and everyone was having a blast!
Grandma's kitchen sure does get full when you put 9 kids in it!
 Grandma's house is pretty big but her yard is even bigger and it was a beautiful day so everyone scooted outside for tag and other fun imaginative games! No one got hurt and everyone played fair, it was a good day! By the way, those kids range from ages 13 to age 1!

 After the cousins left BS snuggled Peanut for this cute picture and then everyone piled up on Daddy on the love-seat for a quick pic. All those happy smiling faces! Then it was off to the park for bike rides and playground time.
YCJ sure is serious when she's trying to go fast!

BS had a grand time riding Grandma's 40 year old bike!

Hard to believe that these two boys are only two years apart in age!!!

Peanut was not to be undone when it came to riding bikes.
 Everyone rode around the basketball courts at the neighborhood park down the street. And the two boys almost didn't seperate the whole time!!

We migrated to another playground (this one is on the other side of the local public school) for the cute shot you see below. Don't worry, Daddy had his feet firmly on the ground.

By Saturday evening Peanut had learned to ride "one-handed" just like the big kids and we're all super proud of her! (There she goes chanting "One-handed, one-handed, oh yeah, one-handed!")

We ended Saturday by watching a couple of movies and then heading off for bed. After church on Sunday we all went to the local diner for lunch and just had time before everyone had to leave to snap the picture below. One big happy family.