And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Monday, February 27, 2017

How We Homeschool

This is curriculum buying time of year for me. Starting right after the beginning of this semester (last month), I began making my lists for each of the kids for fall. I have a little planning page for each one of them where I list the curriculum they will use for each subject as well as make notes on what I need to purchase. I began in January because I knew I'd need to purchase several items this year.

When I was on the Crew, I was able to make those lists with almost no purchases. Since I'm not on the 2017 Crew, I knew I'd need to use some of our tax refund money to make purchases for the 2017-2018 school year. I started by taking a look at what we already had on our shelf and in downloads. I've found several things over the years that I forgot we owned and had been planning to purchase. Our budget is tight so that's never a good thing! I filled in their lists with what we could use from our stash.

Once that was finished, I made a list of any workbooks I would need to go with items we already had. Then I started looking at choices for the subjects I needed to fill. Honestly we have so much curricula that I still didn't need as much as I thought! I needed most of the books I selected for Apple to read for literature next year. I also needed a writing curriculum for Speedy.

The kids also had some requests like CTCMath. For those items on my shopping list, I started pricing them and checking to see if they typically have sales. I purchased several of our must haves this week using current discounts or specials. I only have 2 things left to purchase, and I know those will be on sale sometime in the coming months so I will wait for a special.

Some folks buy a boxed curriculum set and skip all those steps I mentioned above. We love variety and enjoy picking and choosing our own books for each subject. We also like to incorporate a mixture of worksheets, literature, textbooks, online, and DVDs. As much fun as all that is, there is extra work involved. I do however keep our total purchases well below those boxed set prices. I also buy used when possible. My favorite place to shop used is

How do you select your homeschool choices each year? Do you do all free, online curriculum? Borrow it all from friends or a library? Purchase the boxed set?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Along the Path

This week I'm going to step away from the homeschool theme. Last week I got to enjoy a lovely night of women's ministry. This was my second month to attend. I got my mom to join me, and we sat with some friends (Thanks for making that reservation for us J!). No kids. No husbands. Food. A wonderful message from a well known Christian speaker. It was a wonderful evening.

While we were there a discussion began about people from our past. It was all in a humorous manner discussing how we probably wouldn't see many people from our "old" days in a place like that. You know how it is. Later as I reflected on the night, I had to laugh. I saw lots of ladies from my past! I spoke with a mom friend who I hadn't see in several years. We got to catch up on our kids, homeschool, and life in the few minutes we were able to speak. I also saw one of my "youth" who is now married and has a sweet little baby of her own. Her mom was there too. I saw an acquaintance from an old Zumba class. I even saw a new friend who ended up at the table next to me.

I began to think about the people God puts in our path. Each of those people came from a different time or circumstance in my life. As I pondered further, I realized even at our table there were ladies that God had on my path. One of my best friends. Her mother-in-law who hired me for a job almost 20 years ago. A younger family member who was a toddler when I met her and is now a lovely young woman.

I have an old friend who sometimes refers to her "dark days". I think most of us had a season like that along our path. Most of mine happened very early on and about 3 hours from where I live now. I don't have to confront those particular days or memories very often. In times of trouble though, I can beat myself up remembering the silly mistakes I made, the sin that I partook in, and my poor behavior. I shudder to think of what some of my current friends would think of that person I was. However, I know God has forgiven me and thus there is no reason I should not forgive myself.

God didn't just place some of my past in my path that night. Once I began to really think about it, the last few weeks have been full of chance encounters. All of them have been people who have been a part of my "Christian" path. People from various churches and ministries who've played a part along the way. At first I thought God was just reminding me of all the wonderful help I've received along the way. Maybe He was just helping me remember all those who have encouraged me, prayed for me, or studied the Bible with me. What if He was also reminding me of the people I've encouraged along the way? What if He was showing me how well those were doing that I've prayed for in the past? What if He's reminding me that I studied His Word with them too?

The message at that women's ministry meeting was about believing in the miracles God can still perform. It was about being bold with our prayers. It was also about remembering all the truths God has shared with us in the Bible. A big part of all those areas is faith. Along my path, I've needed the faith of all those people I've come across in the last few weeks. Their faith helped me in my journey. Maybe my faith helped them too.

One of my brightest, happiest, funniest, faithfulest (I declare that a word...) friends has started her own blog. She is amazing, and I know her words will bless you. Her newest post is on waiting which requires an ENORMOUS amount of faith. I hope you'll pop over and check out The Butterfly Chair!

2 Samuel 22 contains the familiar words of David,

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
\3 God of my strength, in whom I will trust"

Further down in verse 37 David says,

"You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip."

Who or what is God placing along your path for you to notice? Sometimes He has us look back in order to prepare for going forward.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How We Homeschool

This week I'd like to chat about grading. Grading is another one of those highly personal topics. Some homeschoolers grade and some don't. Just like school teachers and college professors, everyone has their own grading system. This is a topic that I seem to see very little information about online. I have researched grading several times as I've sought to find the best system for us.

In the beginning, I didn't grade anything. Early elementary grading when I was in school was an S or U (satisfactory or unsatisfactory). I submitted grades to our umbrella school each semester, but as long as the kids were progressing well in an area, grades didn't even really come to mind.

As the kids got older, I began to consider using real grades as a motivator. The first year I gave them grades on most papers so they could get an idea of what grading was really about. The next year I got a little tougher and graded all their papers. I talked with them at the end of each semester about what kind of averages they had based on their "paperwork" only. Again last year they were graded on everything and at the end of each semester we discussed their grades. This year I've been a little tougher with grading so that Apple can get a feel for real grading. She's taking outside classes and is also assigned grades by those teachers.

I know lots of homeschoolers like to stay away from traditional grading because they know the students abilities. I agree with this to an extent. We also practice mastery by having the kids correct their own mistakes until they are right. I also consider participation and any self-directed study they are doing. However, I think students that are preparing to go to college at some point need to understand grading methods. I also think it is important to keep grades as a scale of effort.

This is just another one of those areas that is super personal for each homeschool mom (or dad!) and their students. There is no right way or wrong way to grade. I will say after several years of grading, an online program is the way to go! The first few years I was keeping up with grades on a spreadsheet. It was messy, confusing, and difficult to calculate. Now I use (from a review I did earlier) and it makes grading so much easier. While the kids aren't always happy about their grades, they do enjoy the report cards that I print for them now.

Do you give grades in your homeschool?

Monday, February 6, 2017

How We Homeschool

For the second post in this series, I want to talk about our scheduling. I've written many posts about homeschool planning over the years (including this one last year) that fill you in on how I divide up our subjects and daily work. Today, I want to give you a little more insight into how our typical week looks.

Our state requires 180 days with 4 hours of instruction per day. Homeschooling parents divide this out many different ways. One of the best pieces of advice I received when we began our homeschool journey was to remember school time doesn't have to mean desk time. Honestly, I still struggle with that a little, but I think we have a good balance.

Our basic weekly outline looks like 4 hours of desk time or schoolroom time Monday- Thursday. We get started between 7:30 and 8 (7:30 is the goal) and the plan is to finish around or before 12. Typically we squeeze about "5 days of work" (based on lesson plans) into those 4 days. This year Apple has had a different set schedule on Wednesdays because she is taking outside classes. Those occur on Wednesdays and stand alone so she gets her other work finished on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (except math which she does before classes on Wednesdays). Speedy typically has a car school day on Wednesdays since we stay in town while she's in class. Some days they finish early. More often they finish sometime well past lunch.

Anyhow that covers 4 days per week of schooltime. Fridays are used for work that wasn't completed (rare), additional work assigned due to issues during the week (occasional), and extra outside time or "free" time. Now typically my kids use Fridays to play outside and read. They also use extra afternoon time to do those same things. They also get a fair share of home ec each day by doing chores and helping in the kitchen. They are at the grocery store with me each week learning about meal planning, pricing, and waiting patiently in line. They receive $5 each to budget every week for snacks or special foods or drinks they'd like from the grocery store. I feel like Fridays represent our "unschooling" or interest based learning days. That's as close as I can get.

The kids earn their screen time by completing their school work on time so screen time doesn't happen every day. When it does they typically use it to watch shows or communicate with friends. Many times they choose educational shows to watch. I've mentioned before that we typically have an audiobook going in the car. Basically, I don't stress over our 180 hours too much because we get much more than that every school year.

Afternoon co-ops, volunteer opportunities, field trips, free reading time, and many other activities keep homeschoolers living a learning lifestyle. So while I'm strict about our 4 days of seatwork, I try not to be too legalistic about our school scheduling. Some years we take off typical holidays and summer, some years we work through the summer, and some years we do a 5-6 weeks on and 1 week off type schedule. One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is that we can be flexible and adjust to what works for our family.