Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our 100th Day of School

Yesterday, we celebrated our 100th day of school.   Woohoo!

Our original schedule had us celebrating this special occasion during the month of February.  However, we were forced to deviate from that original schedule.  Of course, that is one of the major advantages of homeschooling.  We can, and are often times forced to, be flexible with our schedules.

Anyway, we were so excited when we put the number 100 on our school day number door.  We have been numbering our days since we started back in September.  Hitting the 100 day mark really makes you feel like you've accomplished something.

As we did last year on our 100th day of school, we ventured to Chuck E. Cheese.  On the way, we made a pitstop at Bojangles, where we enjoyed our biscuits while reading The Night Before The 100th Day of School, by Natasha Wing.  As the story unfolded, I found myself wishing I had read it sooner.  I'm assuming in the public schools, the teachers encourage the children to bring 100 of some item to school on that special day.  Why didn't I think of that?  Hmm...  we'll have to do that next year.

Now, for those of you who don't know me well, I'm kind of a freak when it comes to taking my kids to places like Chuck E. Cheese, or the circus, or the fair, or anywhere there might be a large crowd.  I get very overwhelmed and panicky.  Don't get me wrong.  I love people, and I love kids.  I just don't like to throw my kids into a huge pile of other kids.  They blend in too easily, and I'm afraid I'll lose one.  It just makes me nervous.  I much prefer to have a conspiring adult with me (i.e. my husband or my mom or my cousin) who I can assign to watch one kid, while I keep an eye on the other.  Yesterday, that conspiring adult was my husband, Keith.

We arrived at Chuck E. Cheese at 9:15am.  I just want to let y'all in on a little secret.  If you arrive at Chuck E. Cheese on a weekday morning, just after they open at 9:00am, you are more than likely going to have the entire place to yourselves!  We were the only ones there!  I love it!  What a relief! 

We purchased our 100 tokens, divvied them up (40 for each of the boys and 10 each for Keith and me),  threw our stuff down on a table and ran around playing games and collecting tickets!  Another secret.  They test the machines each morning, by playing them and fixing the ones that need to be fixed.  They leave all the tickets they win for whomever is luckiest to grab them.  We were the only ones there, so we grabbed all the tickets.  We came home with lots of prizes too.  Woohoo!!!

So as you can see, we've conquered the "having fun on our 100th day of school" thing.  Next year, we'll have to incorporate a little more education into it.  I'd be happy to hear your ideas. 

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Dinosaur Box

I told you last week how I much I enjoyed the two-story education store I came across.  The top story was all bargain-priced items.  I spent most of my time up there.  My cousin was with me.  Because he is such a good listener, he remembered me mentioning that we are starting a Dinosaur unit study this week.  He found "The Dinosaur Box", a box of fifty index cards with dinosaur information and activities.  I was hesitant to agree that it was worthy of my purchase, seeing that it was published in 1980.  He pointed out that it was a bargain price of two dollars, so I put it in the basket.

I spent a few hours this past Friday planning our Dinosaur education, and I am telling you, this Dinosaur Box is awesome!  I am using it as the basis for our unit study.  We're doing 50 Days of Dinosaurs.  Each card inspires our information and activity for the day.  It made my planning so much easier and purposeful.  Of course, I'm supplementing with other resources, but this $2 bargain has turned out to be a priceless commodity for me.

Today we are being introduced to the study with "Myths About Dinosaurs".  Tomorrow we'll talk about "How Fossils Are Made".  Wednesday we'll learn "How Fossils Are Found".  We'll even find a fossil of our own.  Thursday we'll discuss "The Early Finds", when the first dinosaur bones were discovered. 

If you haven't noticed, I am super-excited, not only about the incredible deal my cousin found for me in this Dinosaur Box.  I'm also excited because I have two boys, ages 7 and 9.  Let's face it, boys LOVE dinosaurs.  So they are going to LOVE school (and their teacher), at least for the next fifty days.  For our field trips, we're going to visit various museums and the dinosaur exhibit at the zoo as well. 

My husband questioned the fifty-day-unit-study, with dinosaurs being extinct and not quite as relevant to us today as math and reading.  I gave him the look that says, "I'm the teacher!  How dare you question my methods!"  I don't think that eased his concern, but he'll see.  There is much to be learned from dinosaurs.  A unit study on dinosaurs is not just about dinosaurs.  It's about fossils and reptiles, exploring and discovering, imagining and creating.  My boys are going to enjoy reading, drawing, and writing about dinosaurs, more than any other topic we've explored. 

I'm quite certain this will be the greatest 50 days of homeschool we've experienced thus far.  WooHoo!  Happy Homeschooling to me!

The Dinosaur Box
written by Nancy Hathaway
Illustrated by Eric Alley
Educational Insights, Compton, CA 90220
(c) 1980

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Education Store

Mondays are our "fun days" of homeschooling.  If you ask me, every day is fun (well, not EVERY day), but if you ask my boys, they'll say Mondays are our "fun days".

On Mondays, we do art, music, Spanish and critical thinking.  Doesn't that sound fun?!  While my boys thoroughly enjoy these subjects, I think they call it our "fun day" because we're usually done by 11am. 

Yesterday we finished at 10:30am.  So I decided to add a field trip to the theeater to see the new movie The Lorax.  However, the movie was not scheduled to start until 2:05.  So we had some time to kill...

We enjoyed lunch at Chic-Filet.  After we'd cleaned our plates, I read The Lorax to them.  But we still had a couple hours before the movie started.  So I drove down the main street, trying to decide what to do. 

I vaguely remembered someone mentioning that there is an education store closeby.  We kept our eyes peeled.  As soon as we spotted it, I got butterflies in my stomach.  I'm not normal.  I get so excited about homeschooling and finding homeschool stuff.  I practically jumped out of the minivan and ran into the store.  I opened the door, and I promise you it was like a chorus of angels welcomed me as my eyes feasted upon not one story of educational resources, but TWO stories!

The sales lady approached me, and all I could say was, "I am so amazed".  She could not hide her joy at my eagerness to shop.  She quickly showed me around and told me about their sales.  Then I was left to browse.  It was a good thing I had kidnapped my cousin for the day.  He kept an eye on my boys so I could revel in the awesomeness of this huge education store.  I spent the next 40 minutes walking around, "oohing" and "aahing" at all their products.  Even my boys enjoyed themselves (for the most part).  I'm not sure my cousin did though.

Amazingly, I left the store having spent only $58.  That may sound like a lot to some of you, but trust me, this is a good number for me.  I tend to get carried away when it comes to homeschooling.

I'm telling you all this to say, there are a LOT of resources available to us as homeschoolers.  Controlling one's spending on such things requires a LOT of self-discipline.  This is a work in progress for me.  I am sure I am not alone in that challenge.  Please feel free to share your spending struggles in the comments section below. 

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

As I said yesterday, I pretty much had an emotional breakdown soon after I decided to homeschool.  I was overloaded and overwhelmed, and despite the piles of information available to me, I still had no idea where to begin.  Every time I started a Google search, the panic button inside me started buzzing in my ears.  When I was at the point that I truly started to question my decision, and my sanity, I decided perhaps the worlwide web was not the best place to start. 

I set up a coffee date with my homeschooling friend.  As we bonded over morning beverages, she asked me, "So which approach will you use?"  With a blank expression, I responded, "I have no idea what that means." 

Until then, I had no idea there were different approaches to homeschooling.  There's Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling, unit studies, eclectic, and cyber - just to name a few.  My friend uses the Charlotte Mason approach.  But now that I knew there were other methods, I thought I should check them out. 

Still avoiding my computer, I took the old-fashioned route in my quest for more information.  I drove to the public library.  I checked out every book they had on homeschooling.  Of course, living in a very small town, (a population of just over 1,500), there were only two homeschool books on the shelf.  Still, I got them both.  When I didn't find those super helpful, I decided it was time to try a bigger library. 

I girded up my confidence and logged into my Amazon.com account.  Surely Amazon would not be as intimidating as Google.  While my "homeschool" search yielded over 5,000 results, I was brave enough to keep digging.  That is how I came across Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  This book was a blessing to me in my moment of desperation.  It set me on the right track. 

The author, Cathy Duffy, offers various questionnaires and surveys to help you determine your child's learning style, as well as your teaching style.  The results then help you to determine which approach to homeschooling might work best for you.  And that's not all!  Duffy goes on to tell you which curriculums coincide with the various approaches to homeschooling.  But wait!  There's more!  She also provides a review of each of those curriculums. 

Learn more about Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum at http://cathyduffyreviews.com/general-book-reviews/100-top-picks.htm

It has been determined that I prefer the eclectic approach.  This means I do not subscribe to any one curriculum in particular.  I use a wide variety of different resources to guide my childrens' education.  I'll tell you more about that in the days and weeks to come.

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If you plan to homeschool, please read this blog post

Did you know that if you go to Google, and type in the word "homeschool", you get about 4,220,000 results?  Wow!  That is a lot of information, which can be quite overwhelming to a mother who has recently decided to homeschool her kids.  I know because two years ago, I typed that exact word in, and was flabberghasted at the plethora of websites alluding to this topic.  You might think I'd be excited about the excess availability of homeschool resources.  In reality though, I was overwhelmed.  When you have that large of an amount of knowledge set before you, there is only one question that comes to mind...  Where do I begin?

I'm gonna tell you what I did.  I went to the upper right-hand corner of the page and clicked on the red box with the X in it.  And then I cried.  I hadn't even started homeschooling yet, and I was already questioning my decision.

A friend of mine had been homeschooling for about three years at that point.  She was actually the one who put the idea of homeschooling in my head.  She knew what I was feeling, because she had been there herself.  She offered so much to me from encouragement to curriculum suggestions to playdates.  She was my lifesaver.  (Thank you, Bethany!)  So that is my first advice to you.  Find someone who has some homeschooling experience, and cling to her for dear life. 

From the moment you decide, "I am going to homeschool my kids", and through at least the first year of doing it, you will question your reasoning, your ability, and your sanity.  You will often ask yourself, "What have I gotten myself into?"  "Am I qualified to do this?"  "What on earth was I thinking?"

Fully expect that many people around you will be asking themselves the same thing.  "What has she gotten herself into?"  "Is she qualified to do this?"  "What on earth was she thinking?"

That's okay.  This is all normal.  Trust me.  I've been there.  I beat myself up that entire first year.  But you know what?  I survived.  And so did my kids.  

Do yourself a favor.  Go ahead and tell yourself.  "This first year doesn't count.  It's a freebie."

I promise you, the second year, you will feel much more confident and much less anxious about it all.

Happy Homeschooling!