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Does Grade Level Really Matter in Homeschooling?

doesgradelevelreallymatter

You know you’ve wondered it.  You may have even asked it.  There are many sides to the debate too.   Where do you stand?

Does Grade Level Really Matter in Homeschooling?

Every child is different.  And when it comes to homeschooling, every homeschool is different.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.  You can cater to your child’s educational needs.

I’m going to tell you our story first and then I’ll tell you what side of the debate I fall on.

G was writing at 3 and reading at 4.  He could add, subtract, graph and measure by 5.  Part of the reason we wanted to homeschool is because we wanted to counter the boredom that would inevitably come from being in a Kindergarten class that had nothing to teach him.

Because BOY + Boredom = Potential for Trouble

Not trouble like doing bad things trouble.  But trouble like “can’t stay in seat” and “can’t be quiet”.  He’s always been a naturally inquisitive boy drawn to learning and teaching himself.  I did not want a bad school experience to ruin that.

But I thought since kids naturally started school at 5 years old in Kindergarten, that I had to “play along” and say he was in Kindergarten.

That worked for about 5 minutes.

Or more literally, about 2 months.

He wanted to know why all his books said “1” and “1st” on them.

“Mommy, am I in first grade?”

Should I say, “Well, no, you’re in Kindergarten but you can do 1st grade work so that’s what we do.”

Even at barely 6 that wouldn’t fly with his incredibly logical mind system.

So I said, “Well, it looks like you are, doesn’t it?”

And right there, in October 2014, just two months after starting Kindergarten, he was promoted to 1st Grade.

And we haven’t looked back.  As of writing this, February 2017, he is excelling as a third grader.

So there are three major sides to this debate.

#1: My kid is whatever “grade” matches his public schooled peers regardless of what his books/curriculum say.

#2: My kid is whatever “grade” his books/curriculum say.

#3: My kid just does his books/curriculum.

So which way is right?

All of them.

Group #1’s kids are often involved in sports or activities outside the homeschool realm.  Keeping them the same “grade” as their peers (even if it just on paper) simplifies registrations & and team sports.  And it keeps kids with their same friends who are progressing at the “normal” public school pace.

But that doesn’t mean Group #2 is in the wrong.  We are Group #2.  We changed churches from the church G had grown up in from infancy (where he was still in the class based on his “grade” had he been in public school) to a brand new church last year and I gave him a choice.  Go to the 1st grade Sunday School class (which is the grade his same aged peers would be in) or go to the 2nd grade Sunday School class (that matches his homeschool grade).  He chose 2nd grade.  He has a fall birthday anyway so he’s always been on the older end – so even one grade up he’s still almost as old as the youngest kids in that grade.  He chose 2nd grade because our new church contains homeschool families we know – including a friend of his that was in the 2nd grade.

But Group #3 isn’t wrong either.  They don’t want to be defined by a label.

So, does that mean grade level matters in homeschooling?

Well, it only matters as much as you want it to matter.

I know plenty of #1s who would NEVER consider moving their child “up” a grade even if their work is at a higher level.

As #2s ourselves, I don’t plan on moving G “up” again.  I feel like moving him once to get his workload to match his capabilities was sufficient.  But I don’t know what the future holds so I wouldn’t be opposed to it in the future.

And the #3s – more power to you.  Your kids will be the ones graduating high school with a 2 year college degree simultaneously at 16 years old.

There is no right or wrong on this issue.

If there is anything I could go back and tell my “new-to-homeschooling” self it would be to not worry about “labels” and how things are “normally” done.

As a “third grader”, G’s language arts and reading curriculum is for 3rd grade.  But for “fun” he reads books at a 5th grade level. His math is 3rd grade but it leans toward being slightly more advanced than other math programs.  His science isn’t even a grade.  It’s just “science”.  Same with history.

We still like to mark the start of each new year with the first day of school holding the “grade” sign. But I no longer let it define us or hold power over us.

Which group do you fall in?

 

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Balto and the Race to Save Nome, Alaska

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92 years ago TODAY (January 27, 1925) the race to save Nome, Alaska, began.

Seems like a good reason to go to the library and get a book to brush up on this event!

Here are the books you can look for:

Balto of the Blue Dawn (Magic Tree House Book #54).  There is also the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker, Dogsledding and Extreme Sports: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #54: Balto of the Blue Dawn.  But I haven’t read it so I don’t know how much of it is about Balto.  

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto

Balto
-the animated movie.  I feel it does a pretty good retelling of the story.  Great to get younger kids interested.  (You can stream it from Amazon here for $3.99)

Five True Dog Stories
-contains the story of Balto and other dogs who did amazing things

Alaska’s Dog Heroes
-another good one for the kid interested in more amazing dogs – also contains Balto’s story.

The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail

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Sometimes You Just Don’t Like a Book… #MCBD2017 #ReadYourWorld

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Last year I took part in Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016  and got to review a great book.  This year, I have the privilege to take part in the 2017 version of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

This year taught me something important.  Sometimes…. you just don’t like a book.  Or in this case two.

I feel strongly in the cause MCBD is trying to promote.  Children need to see themselves, their families and their cultures represented in the pages of books.  And children from a different culture need to be exposed to the others.

Being Sonlight homeschoolers, different cultures is no new concept to us.  Sonlight is a very culturally-minded and culturally diverse curriculum.  This year we have learned about the Akebu people in Togo who need Bibles in their language, the way of the present day Maasai peoples of Tanzania,  the struggles for people in rural Alaska and more.

So using all the books we’ve read that have made us more culturally aware, I have to measure the books we were sent for MCBD this year….

And they do not measure up.

The first in a new series about a boy named Trey Jones, is a book called I’m Trey Jones and I Know It!

The intent of the book is to show kids how to be confident in themselves and bolster their self-esteem by giving them a sense of self-worth.  Which is a great message.

I wish I could say that the book gives that message.  Instead, the boy comes off as sassy and disrespectful – speaking to his teacher in a way I would not want my son emulating and even embarrasses his teacher by calling her old because she forgot something.  (Yes, it says in the words of the book that the teacher was embarrassed and the illustration shows her with a red face.)  We discuss in great length at our house about the power of our words and how being embarrassed is not fun and things we don’t say to people that would cause them embarrassment intentionally.

The second book, I’m a Rapper and I Know It isn’t great either.  Trey is “rapping” about his family which in and of itself is not bad.  But the image is of him in baggy clothes, a sideways cap and gold chains.  It’s stereotypical of “rap culture”.  Something we do not promote in our home and frankly, I find quite tasteless.  It saddens me that a book about an African-American boy would play right into that stereotype.

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There are dozens of great books being reviewed for MCBD so please check out the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Website for more book reviews, as well as reading resources for parents and teachers and a downloadable Kindness Kit for kids.

And join us for the MCBD TWITTER PARTY: This fun Twitter Party happens on 1/27 from 9:00-10:00pmET. It’s a great chance to have diverse book discussions, chat with authors and publishers and WIN lots-o-books. We will be randomly giving away multicultural book bundles every 6 minutes! Register here and set aside an hour of a whole lot of fun.

Want more ways to win books? Pop over the to MCBD blog-there are many book giveaway happening until the end of the month as well.

I was sent both of these books by the author to review.  It pains me to have to be honest about them. 

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Email for Kids – 1 Year Subscription Giveaway

kidsemail2

Today’s technology-centric world is enough to make a parent a basket-case.  Bug is 8 and he knows less about the workings of the internet than most kids his age – thank goodness!    know of kids that aren’t much older than him that have email, Instagram and YouTube accounts.  That’s not happening in our house.  It’s nice to know that he has no idea what Instagram is so he doesn’t feel like he has to have one.  And to him, YouTube is just for listening to music and watching videos for school – all Mommy-approved and in her presence. But I know at some point he has to learn a little bit.   But how can you possibly do that with all the dangers lurking out there and all the junk on the internet?   There is no way I would give Bug a Gmail or Yahoo email address – I KNOW what kind of junk slips through their filters.    So how do you find email that is safe for kids?

Well the answer is, KidsEmail.org – they are providing a safe, secure option for email for kids. We’ve been having so much fun with Bug’s KidsEmail.org account!   Right now, only immediately family has his email address.

I love getting messages like this:

kidsemailWe still have a lot of work with punctuation and capitalization to do but I expect his writing skills to improve with time.  He enjoys “writing” letters by email much more than actually having to write things with pencil and paper.   So I see lots of language arts lessons in the future involving composing and email to someone with correct grammar, punctuation and capitalization!

So what are the benefits of KidsEmail.org? Well, first, I have a parent login where I can manage multiple accounts if I had multiple children. (There are even options for teen accounts!) Inside the parent login I can:

  • add address to my child’s contact list
  • set time restrictions
  • block senders
  • “ground” my child from email  – meaning turn off access to their account until a certain time
  • edit safety settings
  • view their activity log
  • and more!

Some of my favorite features are:

  • Having all messages sent to me first with the option to allow or block.  If I don’t want it in Bug’s inbox, it will never get there!  No spam getting thru!  There is also the option to automatically allow emails from contacts (which I’ve done since only family are in his contact list) but I can also still have a copy sent to me.  (Which is helpful so I know he has a message to check!)
  • Being able to have images, links and attachments removed from incoming mail.
  • That his Inbox page is free from ads!

I have a $59 gift card for KidsEmail.org so you can get a year of email service for kids!   With the $38.95 annual plan you can have up to 6 email address so all the kids can have one!

(And don’t forget you can sign up today for 30 days free!  If you win, you’ll be able to add your gift card to your account and continue your service!)

Enter now to win!

Click here for giveaway form >>> a Rafflecopter giveaway <<<

Giveaway ends 2/5/2017. US entries only. Must have a valid US mailing address to receive prize!

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Why Did I Choose Homeschool?

I see articles all the time called “Reasons Why You Should Homeschool”.  But I’m not here to tell you why YOU should homeschool.

Instead, I want to tell you why I homeschool.  Maybe some of these reasons will resonate with you.  But some of them might now.  Some people homeschool for one reason…whatever it may be, that one reason is enough for them.  Others, like myself, homeschool for MANY reasons.

A lot of homeschoolers site religious reasons as why they choose to homeschool.  And while that is important to us and our homeschool day centers around our faith, religious reasons are more of a “perk” of homeschooling and not one of the initial reasons why we chose to homeschool in the first place.

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Why Do I Homeschool?  My Reasons for Choosing Home Education

This article originally appeared on Saving Toward A Better Life – my non-homeschool blog – before I had a homeschool blog.  Some moderations have been made.

Number 1  – Common Core is scary.

Early on, naysayers of Common Core were considered nuts, paranoid, annoying, uneducated and probably some other words I can’t think of at the moment.

We were told “It’s just a set of standards.”

But I think truth is coming to light.  Please be aware of what’s going on.  From data mining our children, inappropriate sex education, “teaching to the test”, complicating math, endless hours of homework, to shorter recesses and eliminating arts and music.  I could link to hundreds or articles.  I could talk about it all day.  But none of it is good!  (I have many teacher friends and MOST of them very much dislike Common Core.)

Number 2 – Socialization

You’re probably thinking, “Wait…what?  Isn’t socialization one of the arguments against homeschooling?” 

That is the go-to response from people who have no idea what homeschooling really is.  “But what about socialization?”   Because if your child doesn’t go to public school he’s going to be a weirdo.

Honestly, the idea that grouping a bunch of emotionally-immature same-aged children together and insisting that they’re learning appropriate social skills from each other is about as antiquated as believing that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

That is to say, it’s been proven time again to not be so.  “Mean girls”, bullies, school shooters, hazing, children committing suicide, self esteem issues, teen pregnancy, peer pressure and drug use are the results of “public school socializing”.

If you think I’m only pointing to extreme examples, fine.  Just look at the day-to-day examples.  With rigorous class schedules and curriculum schedules and little time for recess, short lunches and rules against talking during class, in the halls and even at lunch, when do they get to “socialize”?

Instead my son is being socialized with peers, older children, adults and role models of my choosing, or at the very least my discretion.  This includes numerous church activities, our local homeschool co-op group, families with whom we share like-minded beliefs, play dates and field trips with other homeschoolers, as well as 6-10 hours of karate training each week.  Our social calendar is full.  We have time for more “socialization” opportunities than if he went to school for 30 hours a week with an additional 10 hours of homework.

Number 3 – More relaxed learning

Public school has become a 40+ hour work week for kids.  It shouldn’t be that way.  (At the time of originally writing these reasons) My son would be a little more than halfway through kindergarten if I had sent him on to public school.  At a rate of 40 hours a week all he would have to show for it is that he is halfway through kindergarten.

But because of choosing to homeschool and being to evaluate his level and tailor his learning to him and him alone, in half the time (roughly 20 hours of school a week – and that’s really pushing it, it’s really more like only 15 hours of school a week) he is almost halfway through 1st grade.  We are by no means looking to rush through school.  But why hold him back if he’s perfectly capable of doing the work?

Homeschooling is more school, more learning, in less time….but still at a relaxed pace.

Number 4 – The thought of going to school made my child anxious

At 5 years old, my child panicked if someone mentioned how excited he must be that he would get to go to school soon.   I don’t know why.  Even though homeschooling had been on our minds for a while, we never spoke of school around him.  And had been in daycare as an infant and toddler,  and went to half-day preschool as a 3 and 4 year old.

But he was terrified about going to school.  And I do not subscribe to the theory of “just send him and he’ll adjust.”  Why should I if I don’t have to?  Why would I WANT to cause him more agitation and anxiety.  (Since originally writing this, my son, now 8, has made improvements by leaps and bounds in his social anxiety issues.  But he did it in HIS TIME.  Not because I shoved him through the door of a school at 5 years old)

Number 5 – My boy is all boy

That is to say, he is active and wiggly.  He can’t sit in a chair to save his life (he stands at the kitchen table during 80% of his school work).  When he’s excited about something he can’t contain his enthusiasm.  And if he wants to “talk it out” he’ll pop if you don’t let him.

If you add that to reasons 3 and 4 above you’ll get reason #6:

Number 6 – I wanted my child’s first educational experiences to be positive.

I know there are some really wonderful teachers out there.  But then there are ones that aren’t.  And I hear stories from parents of public school kids of the years their child gets a teacher that just doesn’t mesh with their personality or their learning style.  With so many children in one classroom and no child exactly like the others, I know it’s hard to cater to each personality.

Bug loves to learn, always has.  I wanted him to be challenged academically at his level, to not be anxious, and to have the freedom to be him.  I feared him being labeled a problem child because he can’t sit in a desk, always refrain from blurting out, or has to bounce up and down because he’s so excited to answer a question.  After all, he’s barely 6.  Those skills will come with age.

For now, the most important thing is that he loves to learn.  And I didn’t want a bad first year at school experience to squash that.

And finally Number 7 – The most important reason we chose to homeschool

Homeschooling is right for our family.

I understand that homeschooling is not right for every family.  But I have a feeling it may be right for more families than actually do it.  Many families tend to dismiss the idea without giving it real thought because they feel they are unqualified, don’t have enough patience, or think it’s too hard.

Let me let you in on a little secret…

We all start out unqualified.  Seriously.  Homeschooling is one of those things you just have to jump in feet first and learn as you go along.  I don’t care if you have a college degree.  You are no more or no less qualified to homeschool as the mom with 2 semesters of junior college under her belt (that would be me by the way…)   It’s a learning process for everyone.

None of us have enough patience.  But we have the Grace of God.  And on those days when it feels like the patience is gone, we lean more on God to get us through…and he does.  And every day is new.  And once you learn your rhythm and what works for your family, you’ll find the patience testing times fewer and farther between.

And it is hard.  But it is twice as rewarding as it is hard.

I would love to hear your reasons for homeschooling, your thoughts or any of your comments below!

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Reading Journals for Kids: Yes or No?

I’ve never given any thought to reading journals until I happened across them on Amazon and found that reading journals for kids is a whole thing!

So, I have to know, who does it and who doesn’t?

Do you find that it enhances your book experience?

Or did you try it and discover that it takes the joy out of the books?  (That’s my fear.)

Amazon has a few cute reading journals for kids if you want to give it a try.  I still haven’t decided…

Reading Journal [ Softback (8″ x 10″) – Child-friendly Layout – 100 Spacious Record Pages – I like this one.  If you click the link you can see how it is on the inside.  With a Table of Contents to write down all the books with corresponding page numbers for the journal pages.  So you can go back and look up specific books later.

Books Make Me Happy: My First Reading Log – looks like a good beginners log.

So, let me know – reading logs, yay or nay?

And I’ll let you know what I decide.