Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why I Keep Homeschooling.....

benefits of homeschooling

When I first withdrew my eldest from mainstream school (in year 1) I told everyone that we would just 'see how we go' and trial it for one term. 

It has now been over 2 years since we began our homeschooling journey!  

It has quite honestly been the best decision I have ever made for my children and I believe that wholeheartedly. 

This is why I can't go back.

I don't want to say that I will 'never' send my children back to mainstream school because no one know what the future holds. But the longer I homeschool, the more convicted I become of its importance and value for both our family and the wider community. The benefits of homeschooling are not only academic but emotional, spiritual and social. 

  •  I LOVE having my kids at home. 

Christian homeschooling Australia

I didn't have children to delegate that responsibility to a complete stranger once they turned 5. I believe God has entrusted my children to me and it is my responsibility to ensure they are nurtured, prepared and equipped for the life he has planned for them. 

But, how will they learn to cope in the real world you ask? Because they are actually living! In the absence of formal schooling my children are actually living the in the real world now. They go to the shops, to appointments, to friends and families homes, they clean, they cook and they work and play. The transition to tertiary study and work will be a smooth transition compared to the transition one makes from 13 years of institutionalised learning into the real world. 

2. My children are thriving

Happy, confident kids are what all parents hope for. 

Home is a place of safety and security and an ideal foundation for building self-esteem and confidence in who you are. There is plenty of time to be in uncomfortable, confronting environments when kids get older. When they are older they will have already established a strong sense of who they are and their value system as well as the resilience to confidently tackle life's challenges. 

I take great joy in seeing my children happy and seeing them secure in who they are. I love seeing my older ones care for the younger ones, learning that family comes first and sticking up for their brother or sister in playground disputes! 

3. My children are excelling academically

Christian homeschooling Australia

In our competitive, success-oriented culture where we push our children to breaking point (have you seen the mental health statistics for children lately?) this seems to be the most asked question. How do we make sure our homeschooled children are on parr with their school age peers? 

Initially, this was my number one concern with homeschooling too. Now, what is more important to me is building my kids character and ensuring they are equipped with the right attitude and value system to live a life that contributes meaningfully to the world. I'm not raising them to impress others with their test scores but to be people of character and integrity that understand they are here on earth to use their gifts and abilities to give to the world and those around them.

Like most homeschoolers, my kids are way ahead (in years) compared to their same aged peers. But this isn't a competition and I take little joy in this. I'm proud of what my children have achieved academically but I know that they are not defined by academic success the way they would be in the school system. In our home, what's most important is that they work as part of a team, treat each other with love and respect and have plenty of opportunities for character development (cough, discipline). 

4. My kids are WEIRD

My 4yo holds the door open for people ALL the time. He will wait if he sees you coming to ensure that he can do that for you even if he doesn't know you. People either comment and think that's awesome or they simply walk through the open door with eyebrows raised. It's certainly not normal 4 year old behavior.

My children know that manners are important and they say please and thank you to adults. They are aware of others and will often say 'sorry' if they bump into you accidentally. If you drop something and they see, they will pick it up for you. If they see a child who is hurt at the playground then they will go over to see if that child is okay and they don't push in on lines! I know this isn't unusual for many of you but I know that for these reasons, my kids do stand out from other kids.

Yep, they are 'weird' and I couldn't be prouder!

And so, our homeschooling journey continues..........

Thursday, February 6, 2014

When Your 8 Year Old Wants To Be An Entrepreneur.....

I first heard about Camp Kidpreneur from a fellow homeschooler. It sounded like the perfect experience for my 8yo who has always been interested in shops and sales and has been running a store out of his bedroom for the past 6 months. Admittedly, running a business is in his genes, but certainly not from me!

2 years ago we held a garage sale so the kids could earn some money toward our Gold Coast holiday. DS8 organised can's of cool drinks and chocolates for the people browsing our stuff. Clearly, they couldn't resist his charm and he made more money from selling the drinks and chocolates than from his toys! It was the first time I'd observed a keen interest in the 'idea' of business. He took great joy in adding up his earnings and subtracting his expenses. I began to see that his interest came from within and since we had recently taken the plunge into homeschooling we were now blessed with the time and freedom to support this developing passion and watch it grow.

Club Kidpreneur is a not-for-profit social enterprise seeking to encourage entrepreneurial thinking in children on a national level.

Creativity and innovation are two of the benefits of homeschooling and the philosophy of Club Kidpreneur is exactly that - to inspire creativity and innovation in the next generation.

DS8 absolutely loved his experience attending the 4 day camp held in the school holidays and selling his merchandise at the market day (above). He even won an award for his innovative idea to sell gaming characters made from Lego that he had designed himself. He made a whopping $120 profit from his market stall and it really instilled in him the confidence to continue. It also made me realise that it is my responsibility as a homeschooling mum to continue to grow and nurture his interest in being an entrepreneur as best I can.

If you child has any interest in running a business I highly recommend checking out their website and resources or attending the camps they run in school holidays.

For DS8, this is only the beginning and I'm excited about where this interest will take him!

business for kids

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Morning Boards and Routine

When we have homeschool days we use a flexible routine. So, here is an example of what mornings look like in our family.

Our morning routine

My children are early risers, often before 6am, so I do allow an hour or so of TV in the morning. I am not a morning person and find that without the TV I wake up to fighting, destruction and mess which sets a terrible tone for the rest of the day.

Once I am up the TV goes off and my children eat breakfast and I make myself a coffee. My children know that NOTHING happens before mummy has had her morning coffee and some quiet time.

If the kids are playing something that looks productive then I allow them to continue respecting that children of all ages learn through play and I don't want to interrupt this process! This means that although we aim to start homeschool at 8:00am we are flexible and often won't begin until 9:00am (but generally no later).

I give my kids the 'warning' that it is 10 minutes until homeschool time and they are to begin their morning chores. These chores are simple and involve getting dressed, making their bed and doing a quick tidy of their bedrooms.

It is then time for their morning charts.

morning routine homeschool

This is the morning chart for my 4 year old.

When I do his morning chart we being with some songs.

Days of the week song 
(tune of the Addams family theme song)

Day's of the week (click click) Day's of the week (click click)
There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,
There's Thursday and there's Friday
and then there's Saturday...
Days of the week (click click)

 Months of the year song
(tune of 10 little Indian boys)

January, February, March and April
May, June, July and August
September, October, November and December
12 months makes one year

I then tell him what the day of the week is and ask him to find the day that begins with "F" etc.

homeschool routine

This is the morning board for my 6yo. All he has to do is write the number / day on the calendar and write the day of the week and the date. I also put a memory verse or challenging words for him to recite each morning.

Every now and then I will get him to recite the "months of the year" poem.

30 days has September, April, June and November
All the rest have 31 except for February alone
Which has 4 and 24 'til leap year gives it one day more

For my 8yo we have moved away from the morning board to the calendar notebook.

homeschool morning routine

This takes a little longer to do each morning but crosses over lots of curriculum areas. So far, DS8 is enjoying it!

Once these are completed which usually takes less than 10 minutes we are ready to begin our homeschooling day!

See more homeschool morning boards and routines.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Day Of Homeschool 2014

It's a new year!

If you're thinking, wow it's only January 8th - are you crazy? let me fill you in. We homeschool all year round. This doesn't mean we homeschool every day of the year. It simply means we don't take long breaks so we can afford to take little breaks during the year for holidays, special occasions, my work commitments or even just a mental health day (week). I have a full on work schedule for term 1 so the next few weeks are a homeschooling intensive to account for the fact life will be a little hectic for 11 weeks or so. The good news however, is that I have made a big decision about my work / homeschool / life balance or lack thereof and will be working MUCH less from term 2 onwards. It is such a relief just writing that!

So here are my little cherubs (?).

I can't believe he's in year 3 this year!

This boy is an absolute JOY to homeschool!

DS4 will actually be going to 2 days of sessional kindergarten this year. The older boys went and the particular kindergarten he will attend is beautiful with amazingly dedicated and talented staff.  DS4 begged to go and after wrestling with the idea we decided he would enjoy it and it would mean that for those days I could focus on the big boys.

For anyone who is interested here is our list of curriculum for 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writing With Ease - Review

writing with ease Australia

My 7 year old is a reluctant writer. When I say reluctant, I mean that he is more than happy to spend time writing stories but resists any of the rules of writing e.g correct punctuation. It is often messy, rushed and unreadable to anyone but him. When he was 5 I was happy with this as I wanted him to simply enjoy the experience of expressing his thoughts. I felt that perhaps as time went on that he would seek to be understood in his writing and learn to write so that others could enjoy his beautifully creative stories. This didn't happen. He continued to resist any guidance in even just the simple idea of capital letters and fullstops. Why? I think he just honestly didn't see any point! Hence why I named him a 'reluctant writer'.

In my search for writing program that would work for him I turned to Writing with Ease. 

wrtiting curriculum homeschool Australia

It is written by Susan Wise Bauer who is well known for her classical approach to homeschooling and curriculum. I consider my homeschooling style to be eclectic but a lot of what we do is fairly classical. We use many of the Susan Wise Bauer's resources including first language lessons for the well trained mind which can be used with this writing resource. 

Writing with Ease is a program that begins in the early years of years 1 - 4 and has subsequent programs that move through to the proficient writing of year 12. The idea is that at around certain ages children have a readiness to learn particular skills in relation to writing and these skills build as the child grows. For the early years the focus is on copywork, narration and dictation. These provide a solid foundation for building the skills of writing and set children up for success in written communication.

Writing with Skill (Years 5–8) 
In the middle grades the student learns to organize sentences into short compositions.
By now, he can put ideas he’s already read into his own words and get those words down on paper without difficulty. The technical difficulty of learning the act of writing has been conquered. But until the student can begin to think about the order in which ideas should be set down, he’ll continue to struggle with written composition. So during the middle-grade years, you’ll help the student develop a
toolbox of strategies for putting ideas into order.
writing with ease Australia
The lessons are short and simple and easy to follow and for this reason would be suitable for children younger than my son. However, it also engages older children through the use of classical literature. 

One thing I love about using narration as a technique is that it forces my son to THINK. What have I just read or heard? What happened first? Who are the characters? What happened when the princess kissed the frog? This technique, that I'd never heard of prior to homeschooling, is fantastic at encouraging higher order thinking and building skills in verbal expression and reasoning. 

We have been really happy with writing with ease and I plan on using this resource with my 6 year old next year too!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Writing with Ease: Strong fundamentals and workbook 1 for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Finishing The Homeschool Year Strong!

boys christmas pageant

I can hardly believe it's December - the year has flown!

Here we are thinking about Christmas crafts and trips to the city to see Christmas displays when I feel like the year has just begun. Where did the time go?

Despite the fact this year has had the usual ebb and flow of beautiful homeschooling moments combined with tear your hair out and "That's're going back to school" moments, I want to make sure we finish the year strong. Last year, we fizzled out as lessons got less and less frequent with the busyness of Christmas concerts and family events so that everyone, including me, lost their motivation and getting back into it at the beginning of the new year was a struggle.

How can we finish the year strong?

  • Looking back at what we've achieved
modern homeschool Australia

This is great for the kids to look back and see what they've achieved. This year we finished 2A and (almost) 2B of Singapore maths with both boys. DS5 completed his 100 book reading challenge and DS7 has tackled the series of "Diary of a wimpy kid.." and shhhhhh, he 'might' be getting the latest one for Christmas. We read aloud "Charlie and the chocolate factory" and completed our first lapbook. We went on holidays to the Gold Coast and soaked in all the fun and learning of the theme parks...some slightly more 'educational' than others.e.g I'm not sure what we learnt at 'wet and wild' except that waterslides are fun!

We started looking at creation science which began with me actually learning about creation science. Although I never questioned that God made the world with purpose and intent, I'd actually been taught evolution at my Christian school so had never looked at the scientific evidence surrounding creationism. I am finding it fascinating and exciting and have been sharing my own discoveries with the kids...and more.

Mmm...perhaps I don't need to question whether we are doing enough?

  • Planning more trips to fun places
Adelaide museum
As the year becomes more frantic, this is a great time to plan those excursions that have taken a back seat during the year.

I juggle work and homeschool during school terms so the holidays are a great time for some intensive homeschooling and excursions that sadly, do get missed due to my work commitments at times. 

  • Looking ahead to a new year
Even though we homeschool all year round, we still say that our official first day of homeschooling for the year is the first day of term 1. This is the day we take the obligatory photo and introduce new morning charts and routines. This keeps it fresh and helps the kids look forward to a new homeschooling year!

How do you guys finish the year strong? 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Using Lego In Home Education - The Middle Years

lego homeschool
Lego is a huge part of my boy's lives and their love for it continues to change and grow in complexity as they get older. My kids loves the free play of the normal Lego blocks but are also developing an interest in the assemble kits. "Mum, Can I please get the Lego star wars deathstar? It's only $400...."
I've always known that Lego is 'good' for kids, for their developing creativity, problem solving and more. These reasons are more than enough motivation to encourage the use of Lego in our homeschool.
Why Use Lego In Home Education?
1. Kids love Lego, it's fun and motivating!
As delight-directed homeschoolers, I love using my children's interests and passions to impart different skills and knowledge. Lego is something I have used many a time to teach mathematical concepts, physics, engineering and even literacy. When a child is interested in a topic they have a motivation, a desire to learn and will readily accept and absorb what is being taught. Sometimes it's just me who needs to get creative and think of new ways we can use Lego in our homeschool!

 2. Lego Develops Creativity

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that children have more time and freedom to develop their creativity and imagination through play and free time.

3. Lego can be used across all academic areas

I'm slowly learnt to relax and trust my kids are learning through play even as they get older but we do often use Lego as part of our structured learning.

- Lego in maths
- Lego in literacy
- Lego to teach and explain physics
- Lego in engineering

Just this week I was told my 16 year old nephew who has always been a huge Lego guy is scoring top marks at school and wanting to pursue a career in engineering. He kindly donated all of his 'old' Lego to his young cousins (my boys) who's heads nearly exploded with joy when they saw the box full of assembled police cars, castles and people. It was like Christmas had come early! He is a great example of a child who clearly was not only learning through his Lego play but developing skills that are helping him academically and leading him to a hopefully, fulfilling career.

lego homeschooling
Ideas For Using Lego In The Middle Years......
Obviously the Lego kits are great for teaching kids to follow instructions and order....but there are plenty of other ideas that we have used.
1. Lego Ideas Books
lego homeschool
My boys LOVE these. There are 2 available. We borrow ours from the library but you can buy them at Target - they would make a great Christmas present!
You need a pretty big Lego collection to attempt some of the ideas in the book. We found a Lego specialist store in our state - the toy corner where you can buy individual pieces such as doors, windows, people etc as well as the bigger, more advanced kits if you are looking to expand your Lego collection.
2. Lego Documentary
I discovered this documentary about the Lego mega factory by accident on the national geographic channel - it was really interesting. Some of it is a little advanced for the middle year but the frequent images of Lego products being churned out of machinery held my boys attention for the most part!

3. Lego Social Events
Lots of homeschoolers love Lego and it's a great opportunity to help kids connect with others with similar interests.
- Lego playdates
- Show and tell Lego gatherings
- Lego technic groups (where kids can work together to build things..)
- Lego expos and shows - keep an eye out for Lego events in your state!
This is only the tip of the iceberg - there are so many great ideas out there for homeschoolers to use their child's natural love for Lego's to their learning advantage!