Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting Your Homeschool Groove On?


I've been thinking lately about how long it takes to get into a new homeschool groove.  Even if you don't stop for a long summer break like we do, there will always be times when you start new curriculum or new activities which require a slightly, or more than slightly, different schedule. 

Our first couple weeks were spent trying out our new curriculum and adapting to having an additional full time schooler I needed to help every day.  It was interesting because we swung between much shorter than normal days due to only reading through instructions and much, MUCH longer due to trying to implement those unfamiliar instructions. 

I think we're starting to even out a little bit this week.  Of course, it'll take more than one week to be sure, but after having shorter days and longer days, things seems to be settling in the middle.  I'm finally seeing our groove, thank goodness.

If you're still struggling, or just starting out, my only tip is to keep moving.  I know, it's not profound.  It seems to take time, no matter how much planning I do, I have to put in the time to feel out and adjust to the new-ness.

So, how are things going for you?  Do you have any tips to help get into a groove faster?   

Happy Homeschooling!
Leah

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2015 LDS Primary Theme - I Know My Savior Lives


Wahoo!!  The church announced the new theme this week!  They don't have the new Sharing Time Outline up yet (as of today), but the theme is a great starting point.

Does anyone else get excited?  I mean jump of your chair excited?

Okay, for those of you that have been around the block a little bit, you may have noticed that we seem to be on a 5 year cycle and as a result, not be too surprised by next years theme, but I feel it's not official until it's announced.  They could always change their minds, right?

Just in case you were wondering, I got jump off my chair excited.  Well, I wasn't actually in my chair when I heard, but if I had been I would have jumped off. 

First things first, just in case you don't recognize the adorable graphic of the Savior surrounded by children above, it was done by the talented artist from the website Melonheadz.  She's got so many great graphics.  If you haven't, you should really check it out.

Now, on to second things (and maybe a few more after that).  I spent a while, maybe a few hours, online today checking out things here and there.  Seeing as it was the theme in 2010, I figured I could find a few things and I did.  I pinned a few to my pinterest board if you'd like to check it out.

I found enough fun ideas that I haven't stopped thinking about them all afternoon.  I can feel all the ideas jumbling around and I keep running to my primary binder to write my own ideas down.  I can already feel our birthday gift, spotlights, bulletin boards and an activity beginning to come together in my head.

I love planning.  A lot.

I would love to hear ideas you come across as you start to think about how we can use the theme to touch and teach our primary children!!

Good luck and have FUN!!

Leah

Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Days of School

I'm not sure if I said it before, mostly because I'm pretty sure my brain is really going, for real this time, but I was fairly terrified of the first day of school.  The first week of school.  And then, maybe, the whole month. 

While the month is still up for grabs in the terrified or not department, after finishing the first week, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Actually, amazed and astounded would be a much more accurate description.

Now, before you think we've already comfortably settled into our daily routine, we haven't.  Our first few days were shorter.  The schedule was lighter.  Which made a huge difference in the tone our of days, helping to make those first few days as great as they were.

That and my children were just fantastic. 

I can't help but compare these first few days with the end of our last school year.  They did not go great.  We were all ready to be done (that I remember mentioning before, maybe I haven't completely lost it yet) and smooth wasn't what it went. 

Agitated, clamorous, complicated, difficult, rough, turbulent, and unstable more closely define our last few weeks.  Just in case you were wondering, those are all antonyms for smooth.  As well as a pretty darn great definition of our last weeks last school year.

Not this week though.  We were smiley and working hard.



Okay, Ben wasn't smiling, but I did surprise him with the picture.  He smiled afterwards, does that count?

 

The first week taught me to have hope.  Even while changing our schedule, starting new curriculum and adding another child to my homeschool schedule, things can go smoothly.  We can even have a good time doing it.  I know so because it happened so.

Happy schooling,
Leah

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy New School Year

My oldest child was sad to discover that her plan to pretend school wasn't really starting this morning, alternated with yelling, "OH NO!!" over and over, did not in fact stop it coming.

While there are always things we love about school, none of us love trying to get back into the groove after a whole summer away. 

Today Makenna informed me that History is her new favorite curriculum.  Why?  It's one of the few that remained the same from last year.  I think it feels like a comfortable, old friend and the rest feel new and scarey. 

Fortunately, the solution to the new and scarey is to get going.  After a few weeks, we'll be back in the swing of things.  Yep, we will.  For sure.  Mostly sure.

What I am sure of is that my children like making funny face pictures a whole lot more than the smile and try to look good (please) pictures. 


Josh started Kindergarten today.  My baby.  He's also the only one that jumps up and down shouting things like, "Zip-ee-day-dazz!" whenever I mention school.



After expressly telling anyone who would listen that he was NOT looking foward to school, James excitedly told his grandmother that today was AWESOME! 

And I just have to say, his funny face picture is a little freaky.  It looks like his head is stretching out toward the left.  Not normal.  I haven't shown him yet, he's going to love it.



Do you think Ben looks a little bit like a little old man in that first picture?  Good, I'm glad it's not just me. 



Makenna is in 8th grade. 

Yes, I know you can read, I've been repeating it to myself at random intervals today and thought I'd share.  She's growing up.  I know, crazy right?

People can tell you and tell you, but until you actually experience it, I'm pretty sure you can't know what it's like to watch your children grow. It's exhilarating and terrifying at the very same time.


Our first day went pretty good, better than I was expecting.  Probably due to my awesome kids.

We have some wrinkles, but I'm sure they'll work their way out as we keep on keepin' on.



Happy first day of school, from our slightly strange and wonderful family to yours!


 Leah

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Plan Your Sharing Time in 5 Easy Steps

Thank you so much for the wonderful emails you've sent thanking me for the sharing time ideas I've shared with you over the past year!!  As many of those emails also mentioned that you'd be missing my ideas, I thought I'd tell you all my sharing time planning secrets to give you a little boost.

We split up sharing time by month, so if you do it by week instead, just substitute the word week for month and it'll work pretty much the same.

1. The Sharing Time Outline

Get out your Sharing Time Outline in whatever format you prefer: hard copy, online, pdf and open it to the month you'll be doing sharing time for.  Then read it.  The whole month. 

Now, the important thing to keep in mind is that you need to do this about a week BEFORE your first lesson. 

Yes, I do know how very much fun those late Saturday night planning sessions are and if you'll keep reading, you'll discover you can still use them. 


 
2. Study Materials
 
The purpose of the reading is to get a feel for what the month is all about.  It's more a quick read than an in depth study, that's what this next step is all about. 
 
Next, I get onto lds dot org and move on over to their General Conference section so I can search for the different topics I'll be teaching throughout the month.  From the link in the previous sentence, there is a search box in the middle of your screen that says "Search Conference." 
 
Make sure you don't click on the box in the upper right hand corner, that searches the whole website.
 
For example, in the month of August, I typed in things like: family prayer, family home evening and family scripture study.  If the talk looks like it goes along with my topic, I'll click on it and skim the first paragraph or two to see if it really does fit.  Those that do, I print.
 
While you can print it out from lds dot org, I prefer to copy and paste into my word processor so I can format it all the same and save some paper and ink.
 
 
I limit myself to two talks per topic (at the most), otherwise it's too much to keep up with.  Very overwhelming.
 
3. Read
 
Read the talks you've found.  Some months I have more time than others and I read through all the talks at once.  Other months I break it up and read them one week at a time. 
 
If you have a chance, I'd suggest reading them all at once.  The weeks often go together and I'll find ideas, quotes, and inspiration for week one in a talk I've printed for week three (just as an example).
 
4. Percolate
 
After I read through the Sharing Time Outline and the articles, I like to think about it for a few days.  I'll often have ideas occur to me while reading through one or both of them, but I still like to have time to think it over, to let inspiration have time to soak its way in.
 
5. Plan
 
After taking the time to think and pray, I read through the Sharing Time Outline again, just for the next Sunday, to plan
 
As you're reading through, as you're making plans, the most important thing to remember is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. 
 
You only need two things.  An activity to teach and involve the children and the Holy Ghost. 
 
Of course, we cannot make anyone feel the Holy Ghost no matter what we do, but I decided not long after I started working in the primary that my only job is to offer.  I try to invite the Spirit as I teach and pray that those I'm teaching will feel God's love for them.
 
I thought about and even started to write a few different paragraphs on where to find activity ideas and how to go about it...but I kept deleting them.  If you've done some research, read through the Sharing Time Outline and prayed, you will find what your primary needs.  That might mean it occurs to you while you're in the shower (I'm not sure why, but that seems to be my idea spot, I need some waterproof paper), you'll find that the Sharing Time Outline is perfect or maybe you'll "stumble" across it while perusing on the internet.  It will happen and you don't need my help.  Trust me.
 
Heavenly Father wants your sharing time to be a success.  He is there, giving us inspiration and trying to help us along the way.  The point of this whole process is to give Him the openings to penetrate our often very full lives. 
 
Happy Sharing Time!
Leah

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Brand New Year

Sometime in the last three years I read that the average homeschooler only lasts three years. 

Okay, what I read probably didn't state it like that, but that's what has been running through my head this past summer.  I'm not even sure how accurate it is as I can't remember where I read it, but that's not really the point.

Sort of like poking a bruise to see if it still hurts, I kept examining and re-examining myself to see if I was ready to send my kids out of my house and back to a brick and mortar school.

While there were times I thought, "YES!!"  I don't think I thought it any more often than any previous year.

Although, at the end of the school year, I did find myself looking forward to summer break with much greater impatience than normal and I remember wondering if I would be ready, mentally, for school in the fall.

Amazingly, miracle of miracles, I am.

Even as I worried a little about feeling ready on the inside, I was slogging through getting ready on the outside.


We keep all of our toys in a closet in our school room.  I had to take EVERYTHING out so I could sort through them.  All of them. 

For some reason, the toys manage to find their ways into the wrong bins until one day, each bin seems more like a mixture of every sort of toy found in the closet.  Those darn toys.  I'm sure it's just my toys.  Uh-huh. 

Once that was done, I then had to pull out our old curriculum and school work and sort through it.  I also knew I wanted to reorganize our shelves a little as last year didn't work how I intended (more on that in a minute).

Even though it really is a lot of work and makes I big enough mess that one day I walked out, closed the door and pretended the room wasn't actually part of my house, I love it when it all comes together in the end.  Walking into an organized room with everything in its place makes me smile. 


There are a few changes from last year

I got a new map of the United States.  A HUGE map, at least compared to the one I had last year.

Due to its size, I moved our coat of arms underneath the table glass (the kids smaller ones are on the wall to the left above the white board).  When the kids saw it they told me the coat of arms looked like it was actually part of the table!! 

I also ended up getting some wire from IKEA along with clips to hang our art work.  It's long enough for about four projects, so as we complete the fifth, I take down the first and we slowly rotate out the old for the new throughout the year.


I also added the cube shelves on each side of the white bookshelf.  At first I thought it might make things a little claustrophobic, but I love the extra storage.  When it comes to homeschool curriculum and supplies, I've yet to figure out exactly what too much storage is.  Does it exist?

I also busted out my labeler and put it through its paces.  Now my kids can put everything back in the bin it belongs in and I will always be able to find what I'm looking for...in theory, at least.


Last year each of my kids got their own shelf, but we ran into issues.  We first tried standing all the curriculum up next to the binders, but everything kept falling down.  So, we laid down the curriculum and left the binders standing up.  Except, the binders still had issues and we would "lose" books in between the binders (they're narrower at the back end allowing for books to be back there and not be visible from the front). 

While it's possible the "losing" wasn't always accidental, we still needed anther solution.  Especially when I realized I had another child beginning "real" homeschooling and not another shelf.  At least not one I wanted to empty for him.

So, this is my solution.  We put every one's binders on the top shelf.  Binders and only binders make their homes there which should stop all but the purposeful "losing" of other books and curriculum.

Then, I gave each child half a shelf divided by a smaller bin that houses some of their folders used for our lapbooks.  My only worry is that there may not be enough room for their flashcards on their individual shelves (there are some on there now, but I have new containers that are much bigger).

I thinking we'll figure it out as we go.  I'm flexible like that.

Okay, if you knew me you'd either be laughing hysterically or looking at me in shock at that last statement.  But, I am trying to do a little more rolling with the flow.  It's good for me. 

Right?

Okay, now onto curriculum.  I'm not going to go into too much detail.  You can read about what we chose last year here, we're still using A LOT of the same curriculum. 

Makenna


Makenna has the most new curriculum.  Like normal.  She's so lucky, she gets to be my experiment child.  Luckily, I'm also an oldest child so I do have some empathy for her. 

We're moving away from Latin (although she'll still be slowly reviewing her flashcards so she doesn't lose everything she learned the last two years) and on to Spanish.  We're trying out Breaking Through the Spanish Barrier having heard it really focuses on a grammar approach, which we already know we like. 

To be totally honest, I'm pretty terrified to teach/try and learn this with her.  I don't speak Spanish (even though I've been doing the Spanish app duolingo all summer to give me a little bit of an edge) and it looks likes a demanding curriculum.  Wish me luck.  Lots and lots of luck.

She's also doing a computer programming course through Homeschool Programming, Inc and I've finally purchased Artistic Pursuits after reading about it since before we began our homeschool adventure.

Ben

 
Ben is pretty much working his way through the next level of each curriculum he was using last year. 
 
The only exception is in writing.  I've discovered I'm not a huge fan of Writing with Ease for the later grades.  I love that it introduces my children to so many fun books, but Ben was done with dictation less than half way through last year.  The rest of the year was sort of torturous (or very, depending on the day).  So, we're trying out WriteShop this year.  I've read some good things about it and I already love the detailed lesson plans.
 
James
 

James is starting a few new to him curriculum, but ones I've used before and still like.  He'll do a few words from English from the Roots Up each week and he's transitioning from Horizons math to Teaching Textbooks.  Everything else is a continuation from last year.

Josh

Josh is ALL NEW.  Well, it's all new for him, but he'll be using the same curriculum James did two years ago.  I'm not sure if we'll start with all the workbooks at once, we might hold off on the Spelling Workout, for at least a little while, and see how he does. 

Science
 

Our last new curriculum is science.

I'm really excited to try out NOEO.  It looks like something I would design for myself if I had a lot more time on my hands.  They find amazing science books, great experiments, and put them all together with a syllabus. 

Makenna will be working through Physics 3, while Ben, James and Josh will work on Physics 2. 

Now, even though they're both physics, the material they cover throughout the year won't match up at a weekly level, but I've decided we're still going to do all our experiments together.  All my kids LOVE experiments and they love doing them together even more.

Then, we'll split up and do our own assigned reading and assignments.  I'm not sure exactly how it'll look just yet, but, you know, I'm going to go with the flow. 

We will be using our weekly checklists this year to help us stay on track.  I've made up the rough drafts and even have them printed out sitting on our schoolroom table already.  I've also grabbed a pen and made a few changes already, too.  That'll happen through most of the first month as our "flow" gets a little more normalized.

I think I'm ready.  Inside and out. 

How about you?

Leah

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Radio Silence

A little more than a month ago I was thinking about writing a post and I realized I wasn't looking forward to it. 

It was a strange realization because I'd spent most of June trying to write every day.  Not just writing, but enjoying the challenge of writing about a greater variety of topics. 

As I thought more about it, I also realized I'd been spending the majority of my free time either thinking about what I was going to post, getting things ready to post or actually writing a post. 

A few years ago, I was sitting with a friend I don't get the chance to see very often (we live in different states) and we were talking about all the things we want to do "someday."  She asked if I thought we'd be able to do all of our someday things and I said, "Nope."  I think she was a little shocked.  My reasoning was that every time we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do anything else.  I'm pretty sure my explanation didn't do a whole lot to soothe here, but I've though about it off and on ever since.

As I was sitting thinking, I wondered if I was spending my time as I really wanted or needed to and I wasn't sure. 

So, I chose not to post at all.  I decided to think about it, pray about it and post when I came to a decision. 

Except, it's been a month and I still haven't come to any big decision.  I sometimes wish I could just get a roadmap for my life delivered in the mail, instead of it taking so much hard work (and way too much patience) to find the direction I know is waiting.  Probably right in front of my face. 

What I do know is that I've loved having more freedom with my time these last few weeks before school starts.  Time to be go hang out at the park with my children, go on bike rides, and sit and read a book (or ten).

I also know that I love to write and if I go too long, I greatly miss it.

So, my conclusion for now is that I will still post, but not regularly.  The posts will revolve around how I choose to spend my time, so they'll still be about LDS Primary, homeschool, life with my family and any fun things I learn along the way. 

I do have more than a few posts about all of those things up already, if you click on the links above, you can read through them topically.  Or, you can search through my posts for a specific topic using the search box to the right.

Thank you to all of you who have sent emails checking on me, they've meant a lot!!

I hope you're all having a wonderful summer,
Leah
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