Friday, August 15, 2014

More Learning Lies Ahead

My office where all of our planning takes place.  It is also
sacrificed space.  This used to be my living room.  I have
hopes of reclaiming it within the next year.  We'll see!
It's that time of year when most of us are preparing for the up and coming school year.  We all do it, but we have our own style about it.  It doesn't matter the form of your approach to education, everything requires some forethought and effort.  Over the years what our family's approach to education looks like has changed several times.  I think we've finally arrived.  (Maybe.  Ask me again in five years.)  We are Eclectic Homeschoolers.  Isn't that a fun label?  I'm cool with it.  It's actually quite freeing to actually know WHO we are and WHAT we stand for as a family.

Aside from knowing God and gaining a more thorough understanding of the Bible our greatest goal as parents of the three youngsters we are currently raising, remember seven have gone before them, it is our greatest charge to instill them with the ability to do for themselves.  I've always believed it my job to raise my children up to live their own lives.  Never before have I viewed that calling in the exact light of which I do now.  We are not young parents.  When our young children are our age they will find themselves with very aged, quite possibly deceased, parents and not a grandparent to be seen.  They will be the elders much younger than we.  Sure they'll have their older siblings and cousins around, but they will definitely NEED to be independent, self-driven individuals.  In addition, it is my prayer that they will be community minded with a heart for their fellow man and that they will carry the wisdom to know when helping IS helping and when the best way to help someone is to step back.

The above goals are always in the forefront of my mind when I am planning their education.  This year is exciting for me in that I have found my way back to my roots.  I am back in communication with my eclectic self, and it feels nice.  With our sudden plunge back into homeschooling I enlisted the help of a "canned" curriculum.  It was great, and I planned to use it for years to come.  It felt good to not have to think so much.  It was fun to just open the book and follow the preset plan for the day.  I could prepare way in advance if I desired, or I could wing it for a day, or week or two, as needed.  The curriculum we used was simple to follow, in line with our morals, and easily alterable to suit our needs.  This I loved!

Now that all of us are getting used to living together and settling in as a cohesive family (It's been nearly TWO years!  Can you believe it?) I am feeling a bit more capable of doing my own thing.  What does this mean for me?  A lot more work is required on my part, but the outcome is so much more fun and totally worth it.  It means late nights and a lot of planning.  It means we get a customized curriculum, and I am SO into that!

I don't know about you, but I love learning about how other people do things, what resources they use, and how they put everything together to meet the individual needs of their families.  So, I thought you might enjoy a little peek into what I've been working on for my family.  I have some favorite resources to share with you and some organizational pointers.  It is my hope that you are inspired to stay the course, or take your first step, with your mission in mind.  Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, but when we are supportive of each other the load can be lightened, and we can even have fun (a lot of fun) on the journey!

My favorite planner is by far The Well Planned Day by Home Educating Family Publishing.  Rebecca Scarlata Keliher has thought of nearly everything we need as home educating parents to plan and manage our year, and she bound it all neatly up into a convenient planner.  I've tried others in an attempt to save a dollar, but this is one area I have decided not to cut corners.  This planner functions VERY WELL as my external brain, and with perimenopause rearing it's ugly head this is a very beautiful thing!  If you're not there yet, trust me on this one.

A glimpse inside my planner clockwise from left: front cover,
month at a glance, week at a glance, and student planning page.

*There are TONS of useful bits inside this planner.  I just shared my most used pages. 

In reclaiming my status as an eclectic homeschooler I have pulled back out and put back into service my trusty three-ring binder.  Here is where I keep the materials that I am putting together for lessons and prepare the individual subjects for my individual children.  It is such a handy system and really works well for me.  I love the resources found inside the FREE Printable Planner by Britni at The Life in Bloom.  I used her planner before, and this year I pulled out some helpful pages to use in my planning binder.  I love her style, and her experience as a homeschool mom is evident with the content of her FREE planner.  It is fun to poke around her site.  There are lots of useful and fun, FREE printables to be found.

A glimpse inside my Homeschool Notebook clockwise from left:
inside front cover holds information requiring immediate attention,
I use the calendar page for a typical month-at-a-glance for each of us,
and   I use it for a typical week-at-a-glance, I use the yearly sheet to
 plan out the material covered for the year, and I use it for planning
out food preservation for the year, dividers allow me to store free
printables to be used with our subjects studied throughout the year,
and for organizing literary resources (also free) to complement books
 we read throughout the year, and the back pocket holds additional
useful resources for future planning.

The last thing in my planning arsenal is a planner for Harmony, the resident nine-year-old.  As members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew we are being given the opportunity to review a homeschool planner for kids.  What a perfect fit!  This will be her first year using a planner and taking a little more charge of her responsibilities, both on the domestic and the educational front.  Check back in late September to see how it goes.  We will start using this planner on Monday even though we don't start our new schedule until September 8th.  I figure it will be good for her to have some practice down before we pick things up a bit.

A new method has been shared with me in regard to the approach of educating my children that seems a perfect fit.  Up until a couple of years ago The Heart of Wisdom has not registered on my radar.  In this time I have been exposed to it repeatedly.  Finally, I took a look, and I love the concept.  It seems a great fit for us as we were already naturally functioning in a similar way.  However, with The Heart of Wisdom in hand we have a blueprint of sorts.  Just like my Well Planned Day planner it serves to lighten my load.  Robin Sampson has done all the leg work for me, and I get to benefit from the fruits of her labor as do my children.  We've joined in the rotation at year four in order to align with my good friend and her place in the rotation in a hope that we may join together on occasion and share in the learning with our families.  We've not decided as to what we will do at this point, but we could do an experiment, cook a meal, do a craft or art project; the possibilities are endless.  Joining together as like minded families just serves to enhance the learning experience of our children, and creates a sense of community unlike that which I have found in any other circumstance.  We love learning together with other families!

Since it has been so many years since we were active homeschoolers before this new journey began, I find my arsenal a tad lacking at the elementary level.  No, we are not one of those homeschool families learning high school level chemistry in third grade.  This has meant that I need to evaluate my current resources purging what we can't use, pulling together what we can use, and supplementing with new items to enhance our learning library.  I am making a conscious effort to add good quality, living books to our library.  We read seemingly constantly, and I want what is available to be enriching and educational and thought provoking, and fun.  We are making good progress in this area, but it is a lot of work.  Thanks to some good friends I have some new resources and the process is very enjoyable.  Books, books, books, and more books!

The three main bookshelves on our first floor have been "sacrificed" to our homeschool.
The first one is in my office.  It holds all the materials we are currently using; well, most of them.
The second shelf is in our family room.  It holds all the books that complement what we are learning.
They are available for reference, family reading time, or just diving into whenever we feel like it.
The third shelf is in our dining room.  It holds all of our creative play items; games, puzzles,
kitchen toys, musical instruments, building blocks, and things of the like.

*In the beginning NONE of these things resided in these places.  My cookbooks have been moved to the book closet, my fiction books are in a box somewhere up there as well, and all of my health and nutrition books are looking for a new corner as well.  It's what we do, right?  BTW - Sharing these pictures is a stretch for me.  They are not perfectly displayed.  Rather they are in their current state of use.  So, you can see that we actually do live and learn here, and it does get messy!  It only stays perfectly organized IF I get around to doing so while my children sleep.
As you can see I have been hard at work, and it's only just begun.  We all have a lot to learn this year.  Harmony will be studying the Bible, piano, character and virtues, homemaking, math, spelling, cursive, history, photography, science, Spanish, and art.  Avery has asked to learn to read, and he is well on his way.  In addition he will be learning about the Bible, piano, character and virtues, math, Spanish, and art.  Bella's path is similar to Avery's.  It's just a little pared back.  She's SO competitive that I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she learns to read right by his side.  The kids aren't the only ones with educational goals this year.  I will be taking a photography and a natural medicine course I purchased through Great Courses.  (Love them!)  I also plan to learn more about using social media with my blog and to promote our business, and I will be trying my hand at gluten free baking.  Not to mention my grand ambitions in homesteading; canning, freezing, gardening, raising chickens and sheep, and on and on.  Plus we have 4-H, and all that entails.  When you write it all out like that it sure sounds like a lot.  No wonder I need to write it all down and get it all organized!

I'm excited about this coming school year, and I'm glad to be figuring out our path.  I've learned to be flexible and go with the flow a lot more.  That being said, I also know myself well enough to know that I need to at least have goals and plans if I want to accomplish anything.  Planning is important in general, and it can be a tall order to put together an entire curriculum for your family, but it is SO worth it!

Here are some more of my favorite resources:

ABC Teach

Scripture Adventures

Simple Homeschool

Exploring Nature

Little Learning Lovies

123 Homeschool 4 Me


Homeschool Share

Our Little Friend

Teacher's Notebook

Khan Academy

Math 4 Children +

Christian Homeschool Hub

Free Homeschool Deals

Teachers Pay Teachers

Happy Planning!


annette @ A Net In Time said...

have to admit, enjoyed reading through your post. seeing your brain at work in the planning and thinking through.. to the sharing of resources. Thank you. :)

Lexi Henegar said...

Wow! You look very prepared! We start after Labor Day and I think I'm almost ready. I've never used the Well Planned Day planner but it looks so pretty. I've heard so many good things about it. Love how you've planned for your year!

Tina Smith said...

Thanks, Annette! My brain at work can be a scary thing. ;)

Lexi, I'm getting there. I have the first 20 weeks of history planned. I have a bunch of things to do this week. Then, the next week I have set aside 100% to wrap everything up. Praise God for good, supportive friends!

Leah Courtney said...

I do enjoy seeing what resources other like to use. I usually get some great ideas. :-)


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