Friday, January 19, 2018

Our Current Homeschool Routine

This is our fourth year homeschooling, and I think we're finally figuring out what works for our family, because it's been our best year yet.

With Benjamin in 3rd grade, Joanna in 2nd, Ezra in 1st, and 3 preschoolers/toddlers, here's what our days look like right now:

Early morning:
The kids are up at 6:00, and they have a little over an hour to play before our clean up/chore alarm goes off between 7:15 and 7:30.  They clean up their toys, get dressed, and do their dishes or laundry jobs.  The older kids have taken over about 2/3 of the laundry jobs, which has been amazing!!
We have breakfast, then all the kids have "book time" (reading or looking at books of their choice), while I finish cleaning up the kitchen and getting ready for the day.
On a good day, I like to read a few picture books to the younger boys, then do "morning time" with the older kids.  Morning time includes "Bedtime Math", working through "Our 24 Family Ways" devotional book, and reading a poem.  If we're running behind, we'll skip this and go straight to the next part of our morning.

Next up is our table work.  The three older kids all have a few activities that they complete at the table, while I rotate working individually with them for 10-15 minutes.  I'm currently teaching Ezra to read, by working through Alphaphonics.  He practices writing letters, then is free to draw or look at a book for the rest of table time.  In our one on one time, both Benjamin and Joanna read aloud to me, just to work on comprehension, pronunciation, and reading slowly (paying attention and not skipping words!).

For the rest of his table work, Benjamin does a couple of pages in Abeka's Arithmetic 2, does a page of handwriting practice, either from a workbook, or by writing out a Bible verse.  He also completes a couple of pages of grammar from "Daily Guided Teaching and Review for 2nd & 3rd Grades", from the Easy Grammar curriculum.  This has been a great basic grammar book to start with, but I'm soon going to be switching him to "Learning Language Arts Through Literature", which is a bit more comprehensive and includes spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, penmanship and cursive writing, and thinking skills.  I'm planning on doing this with him during our one on one time instead of having him read to me.
Joanna's table work includes doing two pages of Arithmetic 1, a handwriting page (she just finished a cursive writing practice book, per her request), and a page from a basic grammar book.  Once she's finished with that book, she'll be moving on to the Easy Grammar book Ben has been doing.
It usually takes about an hour for us to complete these tasks.

I finish up our school time by reading aloud a chapter from a Life of Fred book, and a section from our history book.  We're doing American History this year, using "A Living History of Our World: America's Story", a Charlotte Mason style history book. I simply read a section, and if applicable, the kids will add an illustration to the timeline we're making.

Then, the kids clean up the table and spend a few minutes outside while I make lunch.  I usually read a chapter from our current read-aloud (Farmer Boy, right now) while the kids eat. Then, we spend about two hours at "rest time", which means everyone goes to a separate space and does quiet activities (usually reading, drawing, or Legos).  The rest of our afternoon is free time before the craziness of clean up/dinner/bedtime routines begin!

This is our "typical" school schedule, but it only actually happens 3-4 days per week.  We take most of Wednesdays off, since Seth is home, every other Friday we have a co-op with friends, and I have put Tuesdays aside as "fun" days.  Tuesday is our day to do extra things I can't get to on normal days; art, games, sometimes oral spelling or creative writing.  We do our normal school day on Saturday, since Seth is at work anyway.

Also, this is what happens on good days! ;) We have plenty of bad days too!  The younger boys typically play together or watch a movie during school, but if one of them is especially cranky, I might need to do more with them and skip some of our school stuff.  We also deal with our share of complaining and bad attitudes!  Just today, one kid got in trouble for having a bad attitude, and one of the kids write this note:

Everything is a work in progress!  But finding curriculum that I like and works for us, and having a dedicated school time where that is my sole focus has completely changed our days and what we are able to accomplish!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

The week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite of the year!  It's of course fun to have new things to use and enjoy, but I also love taking a whole week to reflect on the past year and make plans for the coming year.  Seth had several days off, so we spent plenty of time relaxing and resting, but we also did some decluttering and goal planning (two of my favorite things!). I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store for us in 2018!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


This adorable little boy recently turned one, and he is enjoying all the new freedoms he has found through walking!

He can now join the big kids in things like climbing up slides....

He LOVES playing outside (and getting filthy)!

And fruit is one of his favorite things!  He helped himself to this peach from my grocery bags!

He is discovering and trying new things every day and it is so fun to watch!  He just started getting teeth, waving, and giving kisses!  He is such a sweet little boy!  I love this age so much!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A few fun things...

1.  Ezra is 6!

We celebrated by having a fun Lego party with family, then he spent most of his actual birthday playing with all his presents!  We had orange chicken for dinner (a popular birthday request at our house!), and per our new tradition, he got to stay up late and and do something fun with Mom and Dad (he wanted to play Legos!).  It was a great weekend celebrating our special boy!

2. School is officially done for the summer!  Benjamin still has to do his testing, and we are going to be doing a few school-ish things over the summer, but the rest of our work is done and we're ready for some fun!

3. This vegan pancake recipe is my new favorite pancake recipe! I discovered it when I wasn't eating eggs (I can eat them again!), but I liked this recipe better than my old one.  Not only is it super frugal because there are no milk and eggs (especially when you have to use pricey alternative milks), but it's perfect for any time you have run out of either of those things.  But, they are really light and fluffy, even with whole wheat flour!  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

This and That

Here is what we have been up to lately, in no particular order:

The kids just finished up Awana for the year, and we took advantage of their annual photo booth to take our first whole family photo in, probably, years.  So sad!

Three years in, and I still feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants with homeschooling!  I'm constantly experimenting with our schedule and trying to figure how to make things work best for us.  We have our core daily activities down pretty well, but I was struggling with the other stuff; history, science, etc.; the subjects we don't do every day.  I tried doing these things once a week, but I would forget, or wouldn't be prepared, and we just weren't getting to them.  Then, I started experimenting with unit studies for these subjects, and it's working great!  We still do our daily work, but then we'll also do one of these subjects every day for a week or two as well.  Doing it this way allows me to just plan once, and it gives us a chance to really get into the subject.  I'm loving this!

Linus keeps growing and learning new things!  He has gotten really good at pulling himself up, can walk along furniture, and just learned how to crawl!  I kept him in his Moses basket as long as I could, but he finally figured out how to get out, so I had to move him into a play pen.  It took a bit of thinking to figure out how I was going to fit him in the bedroom with the kids, but we did it! 

We finally had several days of sunshine in a row, and I started working in the garden!  I am so behind!  Our poor yard always needs a fair amount of work in the spring!  The kids, though, took advantage of the sun by getting out the pool for the first time!  Seth also got the rope ladder up on the playset, so they've been enjoying that, too!

Benjamin and Joanna just finished up two months of swimming lessons, a first for them!  They started out really hesitant and nervous, but they ended up loving it and doing great!  We had to take a break due to schedule conflicts, but they're looking forward to going back!

Benjamin lost both of his front teeth, which makes him seem like such a big kid!  He also decided to try to earn and save up money to buy a dinosaur toy he wanted.  It took him a little while (at mostly 25 cents a job), but he did it!

Thanks to lots of good recommendations online, I almost always have a big stack of books from the library, and I try to sit and read for a while every day, usually during rest time or before bed.  I have read a ton the last couple of years, and while it is not always easy to fit it, it is so rewarding!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Snippets of Life

 Life is good, but full.  I can barely find time to read blogs right now, let alone post on one.  So the easiest way for me to do this is just to share a collection of random things we're doing, enjoying, etc.!

 - I just switched up our laundry/mud room.  We rarely use our front door, so our laundry room is our main entrance, and this is where we keep our coats and shoes.  Our shoe storage system (a box!) was outgrown long ago, and updating that has been on my to-do list for months.  We spotted this cool wire cubby shelf while we were out Christmas shopping the other day, and it seemed perfect so we brought it home and put it to work.  We have yet to go anywhere and really try it out, but I have high hopes!

 - I finally have a solution to Simon's diaper rash issues!  He gets diaper rash so badly that I attempted potty training a couple of months ago in an effort to help with that.  He didn't seem to be catching on, so I gave up for now (we'll try again in a few months). I recently purchased a couple of pocket diapers for him for nighttime, hoping I could stop using disposables at night.  They were working pretty well; they kept him dry enough that he didn't wake up, and his rash didn't get worse.  However, they didn't fit great and they frequently leaked.  Then a friend passed on a stash of Bum Genius pocket diapers that she was no longer using, enough for me to use them full-time with Simon.  They have been fantastic!  They fit him well and keep his skin dry, so his diaper rash is gone.  They do occasionally leak, but not often enough that it's a problem.  I still overall prefer my prefolds, especially for Linus, but these have really been a great solution for Simon!

- Linus started getting eczema a couple of months ago, so I'm now trying to figure what is causing it.  Poor Ezra had it really badly as a baby and he was miserable, but I didn't know what to do, and his doctor was not helpful.  I'm being a lot more proactive this time around and am doing my best to eliminate milk and eggs from diet to see if one of those things are bothering him.  Thankfully there are lots of substitutes around these days, so it's not too difficult.  I just stumbled upon a simple substitute for eggs in baked goods: the "juice" from a can of garbanzo beans!  It has a fancy name that I can't remember, but we tried it this morning in coffee cake and it worked great!  I'd like to try it in cookies next!  I'm also loving Trader Joe's chocolate peppermint almond milk.  I make almond milk hot cocoa for Ezra all the time, but I don't like it, so I don't know what is different, but this stuff is delicious!

- Drawing is really big around our house right now, especially with Joanna and Ezra.  They have been going through paper and tape and markers like they're going out of style!  I only bought one package of markers  back in August because I thought we already had plenty, but now I wish I had gotten more!  Ezra's fine motor and writing skills have really improved through all that drawing, which is awesome!

- Benjamin just turned 8 last month, which, of course, is unbelievable!  8 just sounds so old!  He is really into dinosaurs right now, so we did a dinosaur party for him (relatives only; we haven't started doing friend parties yet, though I have a feeling that might happen next year!).  He is really into independence right now - he keeps wanting to go places and do things on his own.

- Christmas time is in full swing around here; we've got our tree and lights up, we're doing daily advent/Jesse Tree readings, and today we celebrated St. Nicholas Day, which is a favorite around here!  My Christmas shopping is going well, too, which makes things much more relaxing!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A New Homeschooling Year

We're now a couple of weeks into homeschooling for the year, and I think we're well on our way to finding our groove.  We've made some changes this year, to keep up with our growing family, and I'm a little bittersweet about it.  While I still remain convinced that "unschooling" is the best fit for our family as a whole, I have added in a bit more formal school time for the older kids.  And I switched our school time to the morning, since it became very clear that doing it in the afternoons just wasn't working.  We started out doing our school time right after breakfast and chores, but I found that the kids were restless, since they just wanted to go play.  So now we are doing it right before lunch, after they have played and cleaned up.  This has helped them be able to focus a lot better, since they have already had a chance to play.  We're currently spending about 45 minutes on our school projects, and that has been a good compromise for us.  The one thing I'm still trying to figure out is our Morning Time.  We were doing this right before lunch, but now this is our school time, and anyway, it wasn't working for Simon, and therefore it wasn't working for any of us!  I've been experimenting with doing this during breakfast, and that works about half of the time, and I'm just going to keep going with that for now.  Maybe it would help to do a little more breakfast prep the night before?  I'll have to think about that.

Benjamin and Joanna were having some trouble writing a
letter correctly, so I brought out some pans of flour for them
to practice with their finger.  It worked great for them, but
everyone else had to get in on the action, and I'm not sure
I'll be doing that again in a hurry! =)

Here's what we're doing this year:

Since Benjamin is in 2nd grade this year, we decided it was probably a good time for him to start doing some more formal math, and learning how to read problems and write answers.  I really went back and forth on this for a while, because I'm not really a fan of workbooks in general, but he started asking me to make him math sheets to fill out, so I decided to take advantage of that interest.  After looking at several options, I went with ABeka Arithmetic 1.  Although he's in 2nd grade, I started with the first grade book because I knew there were probably some concepts he hadn't learned yet.  Most of it has been really easy for him so far, but he has learned a couple of new things, and I think the ease has helped make it a good transition.

I'm continuing to use Life of Fred for both Benjamin and Joanna, and Ezra often listens in, too.  We never finished the first book last year, so I started that over, and we will continue on to the second book once we're finished with that.

We're continuing to use Bedtime Math during our morning time, and I really can't recommend these books enough.  All of the kids love it, they constantly ask for more difficult problems, and their math skills have greatly improved.

Benjamin is really a great reader and can read most things.  He does a lot of reading on his own, so I don't make him do a formal reading time, though I should probably have him read to me occasionally to make sure he is sounding out the bigger words.  He prefers reading nonfiction, so I don't use any specific books with him, but instead make sure to regularly get books from the library that he is interested in.

Benjamin is such a great unschooler!  He loves to study on
his own.  I picked up a United States encyclopedia from the
library, and he decided to make his own map of the U.S.

I never finished Joanna's reading lessons last year, so we're continuing that this year, and we had to go back and do a little bit of a refresher.  We're still using Alphaphonics, and I'm still really happy with it.

Since Ezra is in Kindergarten this year, I've started working with him on learning the alphabet, but I haven't pushed it much, since he only just turned five.

We're spending a bit more time focusing on writing this year, especially on forming letters correctly, and using more lowercase letters.  We're not using any curriculum, but instead just practicing them in a spiral notebook.  All five of the kids have a spiral notebook to use during school time, and we use it for any sort of writing or drawing that we do.  Not only does it keep everything in one place, it serves as a good record for what we learned during the year.

Morning Time during breakfast

Our Morning Time Basket

Morning Time:
This remains pretty much the same as last year; we read a story or two, do our calendar, do Bedtime Math, read a poem, talk about something of interest, etc.  I have a science book that I've been reading through lately, which is often turns into a short discussion.  This is one of my favorite parts of our school day, so I'm hoping to find a good routine with this again.

And that's about it for our formal schooling!  I'm still trying to keep everything relaxed and simple, so I'm happy with making sure the three Rs are covered and learning everything else through living life. We still love watching Magic School Bus and What's in the Bible?, and we added in a Schoolhouse Rock DVD to our collection, and the kids have been learning a lot through that.  I love to read aloud, and we continue to read chapter books during lunch, and they still often listen to Story of the World while I'm preparing lunch.  We listened to the first book twice last year, so this year we're listening to the second book.  They have been really interested in American history as well, so we often have discussions about topics related to that, or pick up books from the library to read.  The four older kids are involved in AWANA this year, and we also are continuing our homeschool co-op that we started several months ago.  The homeschool group that we joined offers several family sports at different times of the year, so right now we all go play soccer on Monday nights.

That's all I can think of for now!  I've had mixed feelings about doing some of these more "formal" things, but overall I think we have a good mix of formal and relaxed schooling going on, so we're going to keep it up for now!