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Back to School 2016

So I kicked off this blog on July 13th of 2015 with our first day of school post.  As I wrote about in that post, our first day of school did not go as planned because we had been without air conditioning in our house since Saturday night.  The repairman was scheduled to come out “sometime on Monday” when he could “squeeze us in”.  So we actually had to pack our school books and head to the library and do school there until the repairman had a better idea of when he could come by.

Flash forward to the first day of school, July 11th, 2016 and we start our day headed to the mechanic to pick up our van that we had been without all weekend.

What IS it with things breaking the weekend before school starts???  (I don’t have a blog post to confirm the dates but the washing machine broke sometime in July of 2014 too….July is NOT our month….)

But we did start our day praising Jesus that there was nothing seriously wrong with the van and no additional repairs were needed beyond the battery that we replaced the previous Thursday.

So it was still early when we got back home so the first day of school DID happen (almost) just as I planned!

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The first thing he wanted to tackle was reading.

If you want to know why we start back to school in July, check out our “semi” year round homeschool plan here.

Here are the “must do” back to school pictures:

(The desk looks MUCH different than it did the night before – picture here)

The ballons on the desk made him so happy.  They’re his balloons.  I took them off the sticks so I could lay them on the desk.  But it still made him so happy.  He gets so excited about the little things.  It’s one of the things I love about him.

I get my back to school sign printables here.

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“Thanks for teaching me, Mom!”

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I shared with you back in the spring about what was hands down our absolute worst homeschool day in the history of ever.

That was a hard day.  There are lots of hard days.  I wish I could say it was sunshine and rainbows all the time.

But it’s not.

Homeschooling is a very beautiful thing when viewed in hindsight or from a distance.  But often, while you’re in the middle of it, it’s a very messy thing.

The hardest thing we’ve hit so far is that BigG has pretty much up to this point had such an easy time learning everything that he doesn’t know how to handle when something doesn’t click right away.  And it’s very frustrating and upsetting to him.  We’ve gone through a slew of emotional issues in the last few years. That’s another post of another day.  But just suffice it to say that handling frustration calmly is something we must work on.  Most of the time he KNOWS the answer or solution but he gets so frustrated that he has to think for a moment about it that he becomes totally incapable of thinking.  WHEW.  Just writing that exhausted me.

Flash forward to week 2 of basic multiplication and division (2s and 3s times tables). I decided today we will just talk through the problems over lunch (he can’t have too much of a meltdown if he’s eating, right?)

So I was giving example after example about how if 4×3=12 then 12 divided by 3 equals 4 and he says, “Wow, I get it. It’s starting to make sense.”   It was wonderful.  It was one of those beautiful moments that looking back will outshine the mess.

Then when we were done eating and discussing math he hugged me and said, “Thanks for teaching me!”

Oh my heart!  Don’t we all long for those words?  “Thanks for teaching me, Mom!”

Thanks, Mom!

Sometimes the thank yous are few and far between.

Even if we raise our children with good manners to say please and thank you, how many of us expect to hear “thanks for teaching me?”  Sure, “Thanks for taking me to the movies, Mom!”  “Thanks for washing my smelly soccer uniform.”  “Thanks for making my favorite dinner!”

Thanks for teaching me, Mom.

In that moment, it wasn’t that he was glad I was teaching him multiplication and division.  He was glad that I was there.  That I was his teacher.  That I was his safe place when he was frustrated and that I was there for the “light bulb” moment.

So let me tell you something, Moms out there.  Thank you for teaching your kids.

It may be a LONG time before they say those words.

They may never say the words.

They may thank you in deed or action one day.

But no matter if, when, or how long it takes for you to your “Thanks for teaching me, Mom!”  just know that you are appreciated.

YOU are teaching your children.

And you should be applauded.

 

 

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Educents Homeschool Sale

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EDUCENTS is having a Back to Homeschool sale where you can get FREE shipping on your orders fof $49 or more.  Just use code HOMESCHOOL16 by June 24th!

Listed below are some great products to look at before you place your order.  The were all given the stamp of approval by Cathy Duffy.  If you’ve been homeschooling long you’ve probably heard of her.  Cathy Duffy is the know-all when it comes to homeschool curriculum. She has reviewed hundreds of homeschool curricula to help educators like me make an educated decision when shopping for homeschool curriculum.  Her book, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum was a TREMENDOUS help when I was just starting you.

Here’s a handful of Cathy-approved educational picks available at Educents.com. I hope these double-recommended educational resources will relieve you from endless hours of shopping around for the best (and most cost-effective) homeschool resources.

Elementary Math & Science

Life of Fred Elementary Math

math books

If you haven’t heard of Life of Fred, you’re in for a real treat. Dr. Stanley F Schmitt is a math teacher who developed story-based math learning series that has taken homeschooling by storm! Forget rote learning that doesn’t resonate: learners follow the Fred and his pals through life and learn math concepts along the way. Kids sometimes don’t even know they’re learning math until they’re told!

Each book has a topic, like Apples, Butterflies, and Cats. I recommend supplementing math learning with science of social studies of the same topic!

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Homeschool Resources under $20

As a homeschooler, it’s important to get what you need to educate your kids while also saving money. So, we compiled a list of the best affordable homeschool resources – all available for $20 or less on Educents.

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Helpful Resources

Homeschool Planner – This planner includes dated journal pages, practical forms, motivational quotes, and teaching aides to make your homeschool planning effortless and enjoyable.

Do-a-Dot Mega Bundle – 17 different activities that cover fine motor skills, numbers, letters, sight words, word families, shapes, colors, patterns, and early addition. All of these items are designed for us with do-a-dot markers, but they also come with a variety of suggestions for alternative uses.

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Wrap-Up: The Week with the Worst Day Ever & the Beauty of Homeschooling

Do you school on Fridays?  We do.   But this particular day we are getting a late start.  We both slept in (it was fabulous!)

One thing I love about homeschooling is that I can say “yes” to staying up late the night before Hubs has to go back to work.  He works an “on 4, off 2” schedule.  With a 45-55 minute drive depending on traffic, even on his earliest shift days he’s not home until 7pm.  So G gets precious little time with him those 4 days he’s at work.  So I don’t mind saying “yes” to an extra hour.

Because we don’t have to be up early in the morning to catch the bus or make it to car line.

Sleep is a beautiful thing.

I’m convinced after my years in the Early Childhood Education field and just observing my own child these past 7 years, that children are sleep deprived.  G slept 12 hours last night.  And I actually woke him up this morning – he might have slept longer if I had let him.  Even on a normal night with a normal bedtime after a normal day he’ll sleep a solid 10, maybe 11 hours.  If I had to get him up for school every morning he would have to go to bed at 7:00 to get enough sleep!  As it stands, bedtime is 8. And it works for us.  He has karate and training times can vary from 5-6pm, 6-7pm or 7-8pm.  We rarely go to the latest class because we have a 20 minute drive to get back home and class usually runs a few minutes over so we’re not getting home until after 8:30.  But there are kids his age that do the 6-7pm classes and the 7-8pm classes!  And they have to go home, get ready for bed and be up early the next morning!  I know they have to be tired!

When I was teaching preschool I had a class where 4 of the boys in my class were on the same baseball team.  They were all 4-5 years old and there were days they looked like zombies!  If I mentioned how tired the seemed in class to the parent, I would hear, “Oh the ballgame before theirs ran late so they didn’t take the field until almost 8:00.”   WHAT?!?!  What business do 4 and 5 year olds have being on the ball field at 8pm???  I get that the game before them ran over – but even if the game had started on time it was still too late for 4 & 5 year olds to be on a baseball field!  They should’ve been at home in their jammies having a bedtime story read to them!

I feel like we (as a society in general) are programming our children to be sleep-deprived.  For the non-homeschooled child though, it seems that the only way to get adequate sleep is to be un-involved.  If you participate in a team sport or take some sort of lessons/training as a group (karate, dance) then you are subject to these later times if you want to participate.  Why?  Because they have to set times around parent work schedules.  You can’t have a 4 or 5pm practice because there is no parent to get the child there at that time.  So the only other option is to cut into the time the child should be resting.

Ok, I really chased a rabbit there.  I said all that to say that I’m glad G can get the sleep he needs.   I don’t think a 7 year old is going to sleep in just for the heck of it or out of laziness.  If he sleeps until 9am it’s because that’s what his growing little body needed to rest and recover and be ready for the day ahead.

But this week, I learned and even more important lesson than how great sleep is.

GRACE. 

I learned the lesson of grace in homeschooling.

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You see, we had our worst day of homeschool EVER this week.  And you can read all about it here.

But I learned this week that homeschooling is all about grace.

The Grace God gives us, the grace I allow myself and the grace I give my son.

I screwed up this week.  God’s Grace was there.

At 2:30 in the afternoon I threw my hands up and said “We’re done!”  Not in a bad way but in a “the world won’t end if these last two assignments don’t get done” way.  That’s the grace I allow myself.

And I extended that to my son – calling it a day took a burden off his shoulders.  He was done.  There was nothing else productive going to come out of him that day.  Forcing him to finish would have been purely a power play on my part and the lessons would not have stuck.  So I gave my son grace.

So that was our week and my take-away from it.  Thank God for Grace!

Thanks to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for having a weekly wrap-up every week!

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Our Worst Homeschool Day EVER and How We Got Through It

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Here I am, 48 hours on the other side of what was, hands down, bar none, the WORST day we’ve had in one and two-thirds year and 4 days of official homeschooling.  It was the WORST.

Bug is a smart kid and a sweet boy.  And homeschooling so far has been pretty great.  But I’m not going to lie, some of his coursework is getting harder.  He can DO it but it takes a little more effort that he’s used to.  Things until now have come so easily too him – I was afraid of what would happen when they don’t.

Math – he’s really good at.  I swear that boy sees the world in numbers.  He’s always figuring up this and that in his head.  Like the weather app on the phone says it’s 62 degrees right now and the low tonight will be 48.  He will figure up how much the temperature is going to go down and tell you.  He’s 7 and does this math in his head.  We have recently switched to Singapore math which I think is perfect for him.  But he’s having to think a little harder.  And he has a bad habit of shutting down if the answer doesn’t immediately come to him.  So now we’re working problems like 104+65+11 and he has to write it down and work it out and he hates that.  And word problems, heaven help us if he has to read a word problem.

Spelling – he’s a decent speller.  But again, if the answer doesn’t immediately come to him he shuts down.  And he’ll just start spitting out random letters.  And it makes me mad when he does this.

Writing/Language – Sweet baby Moses, this is his weak point.  He hates to write.  So I allow him to do a lot of diction.  But sometimes he doesn’t even want to think.  Make up a sentence about a cat using an adjective.  *crickets*    Now if we were driving down the road he’d be telling me fantastical stories he just made up in his head.  But if it’s for school…I can’t get a single sentence about a cat out of him.

Everything else he’s fine with.  He loves to read, to be read too, he loves history and he loves science.  But lately, he’s been throwing a little attitude in with his normal frustrations over the subjects he doesn’t like.  Which reallllllly gets under my skin.  I’ve been getting a lot of “I don’t LIKE school” and “I’m NOT going to do school today”.  In these moments I (try to) calmly go over the facts –

You have to do school – either here are home or in a “real” school.  It’s the law and Momma would get in trouble if you didn’t do school.

We are blessed that Momma can stay home and homeschool you.  We have a lot of fun and you get more free time.  Which he knows.  He knows that we get started waaay later than the kids in school and he always points out when the bus is rolling past the house and that he’s already finished with school and having fun with his toys.

He knows how good he has it.  But the ‘tude pops up more than I like it too.

So flashback to Tuesday.  It was 2:30 and we still had two more assignments to get through.   I was tired and things were piling up that needed to be done that I couldn’t get too because I was having to “hold his hand” through every lesson.  Things he SHOULD have been able to do on his own but wouldn’t.  And I wasn’t able to step away for a minute to make lunch, put clothes in the wash, go to the bathroom…

Everything that day had been a fight.  Math was a fight because I wanted HIM to copy the information from the word problems so I could make sure he could line them up correctly.  Spelling was fight because the new words were hard.  Even read aloud time (which is usually ok!) was a fight because he’s not fond of the book we’re currently reading.  Language was a fight because, well, I don’t know, because there were words I guess. I had painstakingly transferred all the assignments for language to dry erase lapboards so we could do our underlining, editing, and fill-in-the-blanks on dry erase boards with fun markers.  And he wasn’t having it.

And I had had it.  We both yelled, we both cried, we both took a timeout.  We tried again.  We yelled and cried some more.  And took another time out.

And here is how we got through it….

I did a lot of yelling.  I am not proud.  I yelled.  I was mad.  So he was sitting in his room where I had banished him too for his own good.  Because I was mad.

Did I mention I was mad?

I grabbed a book and asked him to meet me in my room.  Our favorite place to read during the school day is in the bed with extra pillows, blankets and stuffed animals.

So here he comes with his two favorite stuffed animals dragging his well loved blanket behind him.  And he climbs in the bed with me and falls against my chest, sobbing.

He was sorry.  “I am sorry for my bad attitude.”

Now I’m crying.  I apologize for yelling.

I ask him to take a deep breath for me.  And try to stop crying.  I want to read him a story and then we can talk when we’re both feeling better.

I can’t even remember what we read.  Seriously.  It was only two days ago and the book is probably still on my bedside table.  But I can’t remember it.

I do remember him cradled against my side studying each picture on every page as I read.

I do remember his deep, jagged breaths as he tried to calm himself so he can listen to the story.

I do remember breathing him in.  Oh, how many times we’ve snuggled and read a story in these past 7 years but this time I just wanted to soak him in.

I do remember squeezing him just a little tighter because I wanted him to know, to feel that Momma was sorry.

After the story, I asked him what we are supposed to do when we mess up, when we need help or when things are going badly.

“Pray.”

So I told him I was going to pray and if he wanted to add anything to our prayer I would let him.  I started by thanking God for loving us and blessing us.  I asked for peace in our hearts and to remove the ill feelings and bad attitudes.  I asked for forgiveness for our mistakes today.  And G chimed in with “I’m sorry for my bad attitude” before erupting in sobs again.  I closed the prayer and hugged him until he felt better.

And then I suggested that we end our school day and start fresh the next day.

I think that last bit made ALL the difference.  He knew we still had work today.  We had abandoned language in the midst of our bad moment.  Books still splayed open on the desk.  I can’t be sure, but I feel like he knew we were going to have to go back to that and it was upsetting him.  He wanted to be done.  He needed to be done.  And he was dreading not being done.

Oh, but grace.  I decided we needed grace.  I was in no mood to talk about nouns and adjectives.  And I knew there was no way he was going to absorb anything from the lesson in the state he was in.  No good was going to come from trying to do it.  Or even science which we hadn’t got to yet – even though he enjoys science – there are just times that you can’t even enjoy your most favorite thing.

So what do you do when you’re faced with the WORST homeschool day ever?

Or rather, what should you do to stop a really bad day from turning into the worst day ever?

1.  Take a time out.  Everyone.  

Send the kids to their rooms.  If you have tiny ones, secure them in a crib, bouncer or somewhere where you can step away for a moment and retreat to your quiet place.  Even if it’s the bathroom.  Cry.  Pray.  Breathe.  Take a few minutes to get it together.

2.  Come back together but not back to the situation.  

Bond over something.  Snuggle on the couch and read a book.  Or watch a cartoon.  Just be close for a few minutes.

DON’T go back to the school books.

3.  Pray together.

Now you might be saying, “Well, you should do this first!”  But I have to disagree.  Prior to the time out I was in no mood to pray.  And you say, “Well, that’s not how it works.”  Well, maybe it doesn’t.  But for the benefit of my 7 year old and using this moment to teach him about prayer I need to be in a better frame of mind.  I can angry pray by myself when I have my timeout.  Then I’ll be in the right frame of mind to lead prayer.

Also, allow your child to pray to if they feel comfortable with it.  Modeling prayer is something I’ve tried to do all along with G.  He says his bedtime prayers but in moments like this he prefers that I pray because he “doesn’t know what to say”.  I keep reminding him that he can say whatever he wants to God or whatever he feels like he needs to say. But I don’t push.  So his words he contributed to the prayer on this day were a welcome surprise.  It made my heart swell.

4. Call it a day.

Seriously, if it’s that bad, just let it go.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling.  There is so much grace in homeschooling.  Now, if you’re having a hard time on a regular basis, then I’m not advocating calling it quits after 2 subjects every day. At some point you’re going to have to do steps 1-3 and then go back to the books and power through it.

But if it’s occasional, sometimes you just need to reset.  We ended up having a wonderful afternoon together – just being together.   And later that evening while he was playing with LEGOs I grabbed our read aloud book, missionary stories and Bible story book and did the next days reading.  He was attentive and it was enjoyable and it got us ahead in those subjects,  which was helpful because I knew we had a little catching up to do the next day on the subjects we abandoned.

5.  Start Fresh the Next Day

We started our morning the next day with a prayer that our hearts and attitudes would be better and that our day would be blessed.

We had a better day.  :)

What do you do when your homeschool day has been bad?   I would love to hear how you reset!