Monday, January 5, 2009

For Stephanie

This post is for Stephanie, and anyone else who might be interested in our homeschooling routine and record keeping.

First of all, I try to choose curriculum that can be taught to multiple levels for two reasons: 1. It simplifies my work load to teach everyone the same thing at the same time 2. More family bonding occurs, in my opinion, when we are learning together.

Obviously, however, there are certain subjects that have to be taught individually, so I have the kids' work divided into two categories, "independent work" and "group work". Each child has a small bin, with their weekly scheduled taped to the top of it, containing all their independent work (Science and Math for all 3 kids, Phonics and English for Jude, English/Grammar and Writing for Liesel and Simeon). Occasionally they need help on their independent work, especially in math, but for the most part everyone knows what is expected of them daily. They are expected to be dressed, teeth brushed, have all their school work done, and have eaten breakfast and lunch before they can play. I don't really care what order these things are done in, I just expect them to be done before they can be going outside to play.

This is a picture of the schedule/record of the week before Christmas. Notice there are 4 sections, one for each kid, and one for our group work (we do together). These are the things we actually did as opposed to the things I planned (the plan is written out in their bins). Notice on the left I have a running list of books to order at the library, characters and events to put on the timeline, and occasionally I'll have vocabulary words to be written out and defined. I put the dates at the top, and at the bottom I write the number of days we have completed (We are a little behind as we took 2 weeks off from the move). I print these pages off from

Our group work consists of Bible, History, Art, Poetry/Shakespeare, and Geography. I read out loud and then we discuss as we read. I usually ask questions afterwards, but sometimes I just let them take turns telling me what they remember or found interesting. We also memorize scriptures and sometimes poetry together. Usually at the dinner table, John asks the kids what they learned and they take turns telling him. It surprises me that when they were in public school I never got much of a response out of them, but they are always eager to tell Dad what we are studying about, and it makes me feel like we are on the right track.

These are a couple of the books we read aloud from. If the chapters are short, I'll let Liesel and Simeon do the reading out loud. This helps me hear how they are doing, and they really love it because they get to ask the questions afterward. I guess it makes them feel smart or something!

I really love this particular book! It is old...copyrighted in 1929, there is an inscription on the inside dated 1930 indicating it was given as a gift to a child. I love to imagine who owned the book before and whether they loved it as much as we do! I'm sure most people would find it crazy that I am teaching geography out of a book that is so outdated, but it is so cleverly written, and we like to learn history as it was happening through it. It was fun to read the author speculating that "someday man might even go to the moon." We got a kick out of that. (I know you didn't ask for that but I just wanted to throw that in for free!)

We start around 8:30 or 9:00am and are usually done by 12:30 or so every day, unless we are doing some drawn out art project or something like that but I try to reserve the long days for fun things like science experiments, nature walks or art projects.

We have had many moments of frustration where new concepts seemed too hard (usually math!). It finally dawned on me to have more realistic expectations. I tell my kids I only require two things when learning a new concept: 1. they have to understand it, 2. they have to have a good attitude. Those two 'things' have brought so much peace and I wish I had learned it years ago. As long as they understand the concept they are only required to do a few problems on the page, just to keep up their skills. I usually say something like, "If you can get these 3 problems right, you can be done." This way we are not spending hours doing pages and pages of math problems they already know, but I expect them to all be right, or they have to do more. Make sense? (By the way, I don't "grade", they just get them all right because I make them!)

In case you haven't noticed, math is not really our "thing". For this reason I have decided to spend the next semester concentrating on making math more relevant and fun. Today we learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube using algorhythms (Thanks YouTube).....I should say, we tried to learn to solve the Rubik's Cube. Tomorrow we'll play Monopoly, and I ordered a bunch of books from the library that I found on this website.

Oh, yeah. One more thing. Each kid has their own timeline notebook. Practically everything we learn in history gets put into our timeline notebook. I just search images and print them out, and every Friday we put the pictures on our maps and timelines. For example, The Statue of Liberty came up in our geography book, so we put it on the map and timeline. We studied the Vikings, Christopher Columbus, and the Pilgrims, and they each went on the map and timeline. I love the timeline because it is knowledge that accumulates over the years, and it's fun to look back and remember who/what we studied and how they all fit together in the puzzle.

It's late and I can't think of anything else, but if you have any other questions I'm happy to help. Just remember not to get caught up comparing and thinking you have to do what other people are doing. You know your kids and yourself and what to use and what to toss out. So there you go, Stephanie....(and anyone else who might have actually made it through the end of this long post!)


Maia said...

Thanks for sharing - that's really interesting. What do Ava & Hope do while you are teaching?

Tim Rovenstine said...

Rich experience, a wealth of heritage.

Mandy said...

Wow - you seriously blow me away girl! FIVE kids and homeschool - if that were me, I'd be getting out the ABC chart when they turned 17! LOL
You are absolutely amazing and organized!

Oma Roberta said...

Your mom is so impressed. I wish I had known all the things you have put into practice when I homeschooled especially the part about learn the concept and have a good attitude! That would have saved us all a bunch of headaches! Keep up the good work, Charissa Hope people remember that homeschooling is not for everyone, and you can be a good parent and send your kids to public school too!

Christina L said...

Thanks for that information. For the past few months I have been praying for answers in what to do with my kiddos school next year. One will be heading off to 6th grade and the other one doesn't like school. I have been very frustrated. I have also been very inquisitive about homeschooling. I would love to sit down with you sometime and talk about the thousands of questions I have.

Meghan Dickinson said...

WOW! I'm impressed! We too are a home schooling family. I have to say this year has been the most challenging for us. We have recently had a kitchen fire and have been displaced from our home for 7 weeks with 4 more to go also we are in the process of an international adoption. With those two occurences home schooling has allowed our schedules to be flexible and doable. This has been a learning experience all in its self. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Thank You for showing others how home schooling works for you!

Ashley said...

Thanks for posting this! We are looking into homeschooling next year, but just making the step to start seems overwhelming when you don't have any friends to draw experiences from. You might run if you see me at church...I just might corner you sometime for some help on how to even begin!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. I too start 'for real' homeschooling my son next fall. I'm always eager to learn from others who've gone before. The timeline notebook is awesome. I'll definitely use that as I was just telling Judson last night we needed a timeline.


Stephanie said...

Thanks Charissa!!! That is exactly the info I wanted to know! I'm pretty sure Im going to start homeschooling my kids. Im thinking of buying the curriculum ( or what ever i'm gonna use) and start practicing it over summer break.. like just doing school 2 mornings a week and see how we like it nd if its going good we will be home in the fall. I am 100% sure that when we get our adopted kids ( which should be in the fall too!!) that I will homeschool them. Right now I'm just trying to figure out if my ex will put up a fight.

mom2four said...

ok, this may be a silly question, but WHICH forms are those? I can't seem to find them?!? Is it under calendars or homeschool stuff or what?

kirsten said...

Wow! I'm so impressed!!! Charissa, you're your organization.

Kerry Shealy said...

I have learned one BIG thing since reading your blog...Be more flexible and when they "get it"... let it go! Instead of doing tons of worksheets we stop when I know they get it! This has been wonderful! I also look for more real-life experiences to use when teaching them. School can be so much fun!!!

Melissa said...

And, you pretend to not have it altogether. I'll never believe you again, when you tell me that you feel you aren't doing enough :) Looks like you are doing a great job!