Category Archives: Homeschooling

Second First Week of School

Homeschooling is so odd when it comes to a few things – dress code, extra-curricular activities, and scheduling to name a few. I guess odd isn’t the right word. Maybe ‘flexible’ is better. School sports, fun lunch breaks and main art events are aspects that home cannot offer, which I feel are crucial in the growing days.

Dress Code – really, do people think we do school in our pajamas? My kids are asked that all the time, usually in a jealous tone. Sorry, but no, we don’t stay in our pjs all day. Although on really grey, gloomy days, we’ve been known to snuggle on the couch with hot cocoa during our history lessons.

Or go to the beach.

Let's go to the BEACH for school - 2011

Let’s go to the BEACH for school – 2011

One of my friends actually bought school uniforms for her children during one of their homeschooling years.

“It did simplify things,” she says with a shrug, “but it didn’t last long.”

Probably went back to pjs. ;)

Extra-Curricular Activities – again, this is a very curious aspect of homeschooling. And one we’re occasionally still confronted with. As in, “Your poor kids, they must be so sad to be home all day without anything to do but school work.”

Sigh. Sometimes I think homeschoolers WISH they could actually be home more. Instead our time is often filled with:

1) Sports – our family has participated in swim team, wrestling and cross-country over the years
2) Homeschool specific activities – PE classes, drama programs, science and computer clubs
3) Weekly homeschool co-op – where the kids have the opportunity to take classes on DOZENS of topics including art, music, science, cooking, dissection, theater, foreign language, history, crafts and more
4) Ministry opportunities – helping with the local food bank, babysitting young children for church functions, AWANA, service projects
5) Work – lawn mowing jobs, watering job, pet sitting and walking, babysitting, cleaning
6) Programs in the local high school – JROTC for all three of our boys

Again, the opportunities are as many and as varied as there are families who homeschool. If we wanted to focus heavily on sports, we could. If we wanted to be involved in the local theater playhouse, we could. If we wanted to go deep into academics and eschew the “fluff,” we could. If were were a musical family, that could be our focus.

Or not. Or something totally different.

Unique, varied, flexible.

Which brings me to our “Second First Week of School.” Washington state grants a great deal of flexibility to homeschooling parents. We have only a few requirements that govern our homeschool. There are 5 basic statutes to follow: meet the teacher qualification, file a notice of intent, teach for the required number of days, teach the required subjects, and conduct an annual assessment.

Since many of our close friends are in private or public schools, over the past few years we have decided (or rather, I decided) to keep our schedule on nearly the same track as our district school. Meaning, we take our spring break when they do, start and end around the same time.

Again, this is only a guide line as we have some things in our schooling that make us unique.

This year David is taking JROTC at one of the high schools in the area. All last week he was in orientation from 8 am to 2 pm. Some of his public school friends started school at the same time, some of his homeschool friends had started the week before, some hadn’t started at all. Our online classes (where we take math, English and foreign language) don’t start until NEXT week. Last week was a “soft school start.”

It seems like only yesterday Joshua and Tim were cadets, and now David is in the program.

It seems like only yesterday Joshua and Tim were cadets, and now David is in the program.

Sarah did health, reading, IXL math drills, and Bible while David was at JROTC orientation. David did reading, IXL and Bible when he came home. That was our Week One School Start.

This week David began the regular JROTC class (one period, at the high school). We added in history and our Bible devotions (reading together), and David began his health and science books.

Next week The Potter’s School online classes will begin as well as our evening BSF study and homeschool co-op.

Not to mention AWANA, small groups and my women’s mentoring program.

David - freshman!!!

David – freshman!!!

Sarah - 8th grader!!

Sarah – 8th grader!!

So, when I see all the sweet First Day of School pictures posted on Facebook, and I look at our calendar, I feel just a wee bit conflicted. Do I take a picture the morning David went to the first day of JROTC orientation? Or when the online classes begin? Or the first day of homeschool co-op?

And who takes a picture of my three college kids who started in August?

Sept 8_9 017 (Large)

Sept 8_9 019 (Large)

It’s enough to make me either a little crazy or incredibly thankful for the unique flexibility of homeschooling.

I think I’ll stick with thankful.

And then I’ll make sure the kids actually did change out of their pjs.

Project 365 – Day 252

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Homeschool Planning

I have been homeschooling for just over 15 years.

I have graduated 3 students from high school.

I have sent 3 students off to college. With scholarships.

So, ahem, you would think I have this whole homeschool thing completely figured out. And you would certainly think I at least know how to plan out a homeschool schedule for the new year. And you might scoff at the ease of homeschooling just two measly children after a household full of 5 busy homeschooling students.

Well, that’s all somewhat true.

I definitely have a lot of things figured out for our homeschooling family. I know what curriculum we have loved over the years (Sonlight, Horizons Math, Rod and Staff English, Spelling and Health, and of course the EXCELLENT Potter’s School for so many online classes). I know that we have thrived at homeschool co-ops and made some of our closest and dearest friends there.

At the same time, I have made many mistakes. I have neglected subjects. I have spent more energy on people than school, opening up our home to friends during school hours. I have taught according to MY STRENGTHS and not based on my CHILDREN’S NEEDS.

This last week I spent a good deal of time trying to decide how I would map out our homeschool schedule for the fall. I have used a variety of planning schedules over the years – I have printed out individual weekly pages, I have kept loose schedules, I have made detailed charts, and we’ve had months where we plugged along without a written schedule.

Some of our current books.

My current stack of books.

So basically we’ve covered a broad spectrum of organizational plans.

This week I spent hours looking through Pinterest at blogs on homeschool planning. I downloaded files, looked at dozens of organizers and planners, made lists of paper, and tried to determine what was keeping me from just going ahead and making September’s schedule.

A mostly filled out chart

A mostly filled out chart

Finally I went back to the large chart that I’ve used for several years now. It has worked great for us in the past, and I have most of the template already created and in place. I use printable address labels for the individual subjects. The template works perfectly in Word, and I can easily and somewhat simply modify and change each month’s schedule once I have the first one in place.

I divide a 24 x 32 handwriting chart (from Amazon) into two halves (one for David and one for Sarah). I print out a cute graphic for the month, glue on their names, and proceed to fill up the month of curriculum lessons.

The address labels fit perfectly on the lines of the handwriting tablet, and having the document in Word makes it easily editable and changeable. The only thing that is difficult is the time it takes to fill out the assignments, but really that’s true any time you do careful planning.

You can see it more clearly in this pic.

You can see it more clearly in this pic.

This time I decided to just print out the subjects and write in the daily assignments by hand. I had mostly filled out September (which has a bit of a slow start for us with our classes beginning on different dates), when I stumbled on a review for some online homeschool planners.

I found this interesting article which included a graphic for picking the best online planner for your school. It also had reviews of several of the major online organizers. I signed up for several of them, downloaded one, and went with another one. I found myself really enjoying the ease of tracking things online and recording all of our books and info right on the computer.

I can print out schedules, send the kids special messages, track our assignments, move work to different days if we miss something, and so on. I’ve imported most of our September assignments, and am thinking about abandoning my large, oversize chart. We’ll see how the kids and I like it. I know Tim will laugh at me – I’m constantly changing and tweaking things in our school and household chores. I can’t help it, making adjustments, trying new things, and exploring different options, keeps our homeschool experience alive and fresh for me.

I’m also entering into the high school years with David and Sarah, and I want to do everything I can to help them have a wonderful, challenging, creative high school experience.

I finally settled on the Plan, Educate, Record online planner. I am very pleased with it thus far. The price (FREE) was great and the ease of figuring things out (SIMPLE) right what I wanted. I will review it again after we’ve used it for a little bit.

This was the first week of our Three Week School Start. Each week we’re adding in portions of our school. By the week of the 14th, we’ll be fully engaged and participating in all our classes (and our co-op program). Exciting! Once again, I find myself so thankful that I have the privilege and joy of educating my children. I am thankful that Tim has supported and encouraged me to be home with the kids, teaching and learning alongside them.

Here we go! Fall 2015!

Project 365 – Day 242 (Aug 30)

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Train Trip to Portland

Every year our homeschool co-op organizes a field trip to Portland. The field trip coordinator (who is amazing!) secures for us an educational discount, and we can take the 2 hour train trip to Portland and back for only $15! Our group gets 2 full train cars all to ourselves. It’s a fabulous deal and one of our favorite events of the spring. This year we went in June rather than May, and Rachel was home from college and could join us. We also invited some other dear friends (NOT homeschoolers, shhhh, don’t tell) to come along.

We got up early and drove to the train station. David was in California with Tim, so he wasn’t with us. We missed him the whole day. Felt strange not to have him there. Daniel took off work from Chick-Fil-A and was able to come. The train ride is a good part of the fun – roaming the cars with friends, eating in the dining car, reading books, playing games, being silly.

Goofy kids

Goofy kids

Rachel was smart and brought a book.

Rachel was smart and brought a book.

We’ve been on this trip several times. It’s always an adventure exploring Portland on foot. This year we were treated to a private tour of the Lan Su Chinese gardens in the center of town. Fascinating information, beautiful gardens, and great setting for pictures.

Our garden tour group.

Our garden tour group.

My beautiful college girl - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having her home this summer.

My beautiful college girl – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having her home this summer.

Nancy and I tried to keep track of all these teens.

Nancy and I tried to keep track of all these teens.

And, of course, we had to go to Powell’s Book Store. How could a bunch of avid readers and homeschoolers skip the largest used and new bookstore in the world?? Powell’s occupies an entire city block, and claims to stock over a million new and used books.

I wish I could have given each child $100 to spend on books while we were there. That would have been an amazing surprise and treat for the day. Ah, well, not in my budget.

Powell's Book store

Powell’s Book store

After all that book shopping, we definitely needed some sugar to sustain us. Time for some donuts.

People argue whether our very own Lakewood House of Donuts BEAT Portland's famous Voodoo Donuts.

People argue whether our very own Lakewood House of Donuts actually BEATS Portland’s famous Voodoo Donuts.

And, of course, nothing goes as well with donuts as some coffee. Off to Starbucks.

I don't know where all this silliness comes from.

I don’t know where all this silliness comes from.

Friends who photo bomb are the best!

Friends who photo bomb are the best!

This beautiful friend is an absolute joy and treasure in my life!

This beautiful friend is an absolute joy and treasure in my life!

I think we logged in miles of walking throughout the day. We enjoyed Thai food at the food trucks. Saw friends from our group as we walked around the city. And were so thankful for the gorgeous, sunny day.

A last look at the water before heading back to the train.

A last look at the water before heading back to the train.

Daniel spent the day with James and other friends, so I didn’t get any pictures of him. Funny what you realize you did or didn’t capture throughout the day on your camera.

All in all it was a lovely day. Friends, coffee, books, donuts, walking, gardens, laughter, train rides, water. Thank you, ACTS Co-Op, for providing a great family adventure for us. Thank you, Tung and Debbie, for letting Angie and Zach come with us. Thank you, Nancy, Julia and Daniel for being our Portland buddies for the day.

Project 365 – Day 168 (June 17th)

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Homeschool Testing

Monday and Tuesday the kids had their annual testing. Washington State requires homeschoolers to either participate in standardized testing or an assessment by a certified teacher. We’ve used the CAT-5 test and the Stanford Achievement Tests over the years.

The girls - taking a break from testing.

The girls – taking a break from testing.

We join with other families during the testing, which does make the time a little bit more bearable for the kids. On the second day of the tests there is a curriculum sale. This is a brilliant way to gather moms together and share curriculum. This year I had a table and managed to sell several hundred dollars worth of books.

At one point I was managing a table by my self for three other moms. Two of the moms proctoring the test, and the third forgot a box of math curriculum and had to run back to her house.

I was so wiped out after a busy weekend and two days of testing, that I fell asleep in the recliner. I then snuck off to bed to take a real nap. Imagine my surprise at discovering Tim, who was supposed to be paying bills, dozing on the bed himself. It was obviously nap time.

I’m so proud of these kids! They work hard all year long. Such a privilege and joy to homeschool.

Project 365 – Day 153

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Alice’s Midsummer Night Wonderland

It was all a dream! Or was it?

David and Sarah had their play performances this evening. They have spent the year studying drama at our homeschool co-op. Last year they were in the class together, but this year David moved up to Center Stage with the older students, while Sarah remained in Limelight with the younger children. Both teachers are dedicated and incredibly talented. They manage to bring out the very best in the kids, as well as design beautiful sets and tackle difficult plays.

Flowers from her daddy

Flowers from her daddy

This weekend, Sarah plays a little mouse in Alice in Wonderland. The costumes are vivid, and the players’ act with the perfect flair of the dramatic needed for this fantasy tale. Nearly all of the students in the play had more than one part. Sarah opened the first act as the mouse and ended it as Alice’s sister. She memorized her lines, followed her cues perfectly, and was calm and excited throughout it all. It has been a wonderful experience for her.

My beautiful mouse!

My beautiful mouse!

The mouse telling Alice a "tail."

The mouse telling Alice a “tail.”

And, of course, nothing heightens the enjoyment of the evening as much as filling the seats with friends. We were so glad Nancy, Daniel and Julia could come and cheer on David and Sarah. And we were honored that Becca and Beckie came as well. Tomorrow night we’re excited that some more friends are coming as well as the grandparents. We wish Joshua, Rachel and Mamie were in town, and we’re sorry that Daniel has to work this weekend and misses the fun.

Sarah, David and a few of their fans.

Sarah, David and a few of their fans.

After Sarah’s play ended, the cast and volunteers changed the set and get things ready for the next production. In this one, David stars as Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream. David is a wonder! He did an amazing job with a LOT of lines. Not just any lines, Shakespeare dialogue. So challenging. All the kids nailed their parts! I was very impressed. We laughed and laughed at the comedic moments, were moved by the various romances, and hoped for a happy ending! The students (ages 13 to 17) were not intimidated by tackling a Shakespearean comedy and approached the play with gusto and panache. I’m so glad I’ll have another chance to see it tomorrow night for the second performance!

Demetrius, Helena, and Lysander in the middle of a dramatic scene.

Demetrius, Helena, and Lysander in the middle of a dramatic scene.

It is such a sweet privilege to see your children come under the teaching and direction of talented people, and to watch them shine in a fresh way. I’m very thankful for the directors, Stephanie and Calice, who give so devotedly of their time and energies to teach drama and produce such wonderful plays at the end of the year.

Thank you!
Project 365 – Day 114

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