Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekly Wrap Up

image linked
I'm going to try to make a note at the end of each day, just ignore it if I change tenses. I'm working on accepting my imperfections and getting a blog post done hastily is better than not at all. Right?
Monday: Basement flooded - whole basement, which has never happened before. So school was educational computer games, reading and math while Hubs and I cleaned and he tried to prevent it happening again. We've had 15 inches of rain in the last 3 days.
Friday: It continued to rain on Monday, bringing a 24 hour total up to 12 inches. That includes some part of the 15 - or so was reported on TV. Checking the NWS report as issued by the AJC, the rain in our area was a little above 13 inches. No matter the official report, it's 3+ times more rain than average. September 2008 had .75 inches of rain. They're calling it a 500 year flood.
With a flooded basement (thankfully nothing severe) Hubs and I had our work cut out for us, so the kids went off to Grandma's and Papa's for the rest of the week. What ever schooling was done happened there and I'm not going to question aka look a gift horse in the mouth.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up

image linked
Monday was a banner day. We started out with a very short writing skills session - just 1 trace and 1 writing of the days of the week. Then I introduced Montessori large number cards. The supplier I bought them from makes them out of wood, I don't know if that is standard or not. Next, I showed her a material I made. When I was at the Southeastern Homeschool Expo, I didn't have a great experience, but I did get to listen to the sales pitch for Math-U-See, which a lot of MHSers use. During that pitch, the presenter talked about a neighborhood of place values, each place having it's own house and only 9 fit into each one. So we used a combination of the 2 to talk about 4 place values and to practice making them and writing the numerals. She spent 2 hours on this and was reluctant to stop when it was time to get her siblings. She told me that night that it was the best school day ever. The next day was the heart-stopper, but she went on to work in a Hello Kitty Time & Money workbook. That night when she couldn't sleep, I let her write in her journal. All on her own, she practiced making a fancy font with serifs and swirly ends and changed pages to start writing a story. The first line is "i thenk i nou a FLAWr" I think I know a flower. Considering this is her first solo sentence writing attempt, and she's 5, I think it's wonderful. And I think I know what her journal writing assignment will be now. Wednesday was a sick day so we read books, both of us, she added "at Grandma's" to her story, and worked on reading CVC words in cursive. Thursday was another math day. We worked on addition and subtraction facts. I downloaded some things from The School Bell but I'm not sure how I feel about using them. I think I need to tweak it just a bit. Friday was a geometry day. We examined and compared our eyes in a mirror, talked about the shapes that make up our eyes, and a small bit about the workings of the eye. She drew her eye in her journal and wrote a few words about it. I presented constructive triangles box 1 and 2 and we did some of the geometric solids - sphere, cylinder, rectangular prism, cube, cone triangular prism. It's not hard to see that the maths are her favorite right now. I had planned on doing an apple week next week, but at the moment she's not so keen on that - we'll just have to see!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How I got started on Homeschool

...and homeschool blogging.

When my first born was 15 months old we were at the pediatrician's office for her regular check-up. We had brought along her favorite picture book DK My First Word: Touch and Feel. She was sitting on the exam table looking through it as the Dr. reviewed her files. She rapped her little knuckles on the photo of a door said, "nowk, nowk", pretended to pick up the telephone receiver (from the photo) and said "ello" as she went on naming and "interacting" with the photos, the Dr. said something like, "That's cute. Did you teach her that?" "No," I replied, "she did it on her own" His eyes widened and so I knew, before he even proclaimed it, "That's a very big step in cognition for one so little". For my Dad's birthday, when she was 23 months, we made a card out of a scribbled on page and a traced hand. She took it from him and returned moments later. She had adorned it with the letters N, T and A. Pointing out each clearly formed letter as she told us what it was. Which were also things I had not "taught" her. (sometimes I think she wrote better then than she does now!) I didn't assume my child was a genius, but I could clearly see that she learned things just by observing. That hidden behind her quiet, but talkative, nature was a quickly turning mind. That is when I started to look into Montessori schools. That was when I discovered the least expensive schools, which were run out of church basements and doubled as Sunday school rooms so they weren't exactly set up right, still would cost $500 a month for 3hrs a day 3days a week. (I totally get regular preschools run out of church basements in the Sunday school rooms, sent my kids to one, it's just not appropriate for Montessori unless it's a Montessori room) Anyway, I didn't have $500 extra and I wasn't going to drive my child to school in a sketchy part of town and I didn't have $660 extra to keep her close by. So, I just worked with her at home, reading books, discussing things, drawing, attempting to get her to trace and write letters (she still dislikes all that stuff). We started math with things like "How many cheese cubes did I give you?" "Yes, one. Is that enough? Do you want me to ADD to it? I ADDED 2, now how many do you have?" Nothing monumental, started small and worked our way up. But the more I did those things and watched how she learned, the more determined I became to get her a Montessori style education. But it just wasn't going to happen people so I had to take matters into my own hands. I got some books, read some websites, joined some Yahoo groups. But I was still feeling lost. I hadn't found any one's tale of how EXACTLY they got started. What was their first purchase, why, etc. etc. I was too nervous, sometimes I still am, to be able to effectively use my own brain power (and sleep deprived, I had 2 more children during this time - not twins).
So, still not knowing anything about blogging, I started Montessori From Scratch about 13 months ago. I intended, and still do, to make it a place to learn how to, well, do what the title says. I'd hoped to find the materials, time and voice to make it a worthwhile place to visit. But, I've lost my voice somewhere. The poetry that used to flow in my head all day vanished years ago, the witty remarks that I formed in an instant became more and more rare. I'd found exhaustion, brain fog, depression and antipathy. I was too overwhelmed with the 3 kids and all the attention each one needed to make a cohesive lesson plan, to make the materials, do the projects, teach the lessons. I know many people do those things just fine, or even excellently, but not me, at least not the me I had become. It wasn't just the kids, you can read some of my cranky side and marriage tribulations if you're interested. But the plan wasn't working and neither was the blogging. I "gave up" for a while and went back to my natural form of teaching which I'd describe as "casual unschooling." I learned more about my children's learning styles and watched as my eldest grew beyond some of the early Montessori work. I realized that I was firmly on the eclectic side of schooling, which really was no surprise, I'm eclectic in many ways. And I started another blog. Another attempt to give guidance that I had not found - or not easily found anyway. But I'm still lacking time, clarity and voice. I'm not sure if I'll fulfill my vision for this blog but I like doing it anyway.
If any of you would like to guest post the whys and hows of starting your homeschool journey, I'd love to hear it and to share it. And, if I have reached anybody who is where I found myself 2 years ago, feel free to ask me a question. There is so much more to what I've done than what I've blogged about and I'd be happy to answer you / direct you to where I found my answers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John Stossel Report

OK, this is a bit old, as evidenced by the appearance of a certain Governor and his wife, but if you like John Stossel and you're thinking about homeschool, you'll like this!
Thanks to Eclectic Homeschooling for posting it.
John Stossel: Stupid in America

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why couldn't you have told me this in July?

I had a heart stopping moment - heart stopping for a homeschooler that is.
This morning when AT woke up, she said, "I really like having a teacher in ballet class. Maybe I'd like to go to regular school instead of being home"
Me: OK, what is it you like better about having a teacher?
A: I like that she only tells me once what to do.
Me: And what do you do when she tells you one time?
A: I just do what she tells me.
Me: How about you just do what I tell you the first time I give you an instruction?
A: Umm, I don't know about that.
Me, thinking that I've got it wrapped up in one comment: You know, you'll have to do a lot more writing on your own if you're at big kid school
A: That's OK, I like writing lots. Writing just a little is boring.
Me, perplexed because writing is clearly her least favorite thing: We can write what ever you want. Plus you have to get up much earlier to go to regular school which means you have to go to bed earlier.
A: How about you wake me up tomorrow at the time when I'd have to get up for regular school.
Me: OK


Me: I'm worried that if you go to school in the middle like this that you won't have learned some of the things that they have and then later you'll have to repeat things you already learned. Like math, I'm pretty sure that we're doing more math than the regular school is (our next door neighbors and dear friends have a daughter the same age who goes to regular school so I've been getting updates from them).
A: Oh, I really like math. Can we do the beads now? [a Montessori material]
Me: We can tomorrow right now it's almost time to get GR, but they don't have the beads or any of the other things on the big shelf downstairs at regular school.
A: Oh, then I want to stay here with you. I'll try to listen better.
Me: OK baby, that makes me happy


The main thing that set me into a spin was the possibility that she wouldn't know some of the things they've taught at school already and that she'd be labeled in a bad way. I couldn't stand the idea that she'd be thought of as less than she is - that broke my heart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Homeschool: Tutorial: Sandpaper Letters

Today I posted a tutorial for making sandpaper letters on Montessori From Scratch. In case you're not familiar with this montessori material here's a little about it.

Like most any other Montessori presentation, it is done in a 3 period lesson. Sandpaper letters, and numerals, serve several purposes. They are the tool used to introduce letters to the pupils. (In Montessori, children are taught the sound of the letter first.) While the children are being shown the letter, the presenter also demonstrates how to follow along the letter with the first 2 fingers - using the same movements as one does when writing the letter. This is an exercise in motor skills and it creates a muscle memory for when it comes time to write.
Tutorial Sandpaper Letters and Numerals

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekly Wrap-up

This is one of the things that I've got on my to-do list but haven't gotten to it yet. There's no time like the present since Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers makes a weekly round-up of wrap-ups.
The bulk of our concentrated homeschool lessons take place on Mon, Wed, Fri when both the younger kids are in preschool. Monday was out due to the holiday.
The other days we worked on (in order of how I happen to remember it): Copy work from How Many Teeth- which also served as one of our reading lesson books, continued to study the human body and 5 senses. Talked about family relations and terms. We solidified memorization of our address- verbal and written, drew a family tree graph, reading practice with an opposites puzzle, journal work, drawing and coloring, sticker activity workbook, review of cursive letters we've already worked on, discussion of neighborhoods & community workers such as police officers and firefighters, when and how to call 911, beading, sorting, patterning, rhyming, days of the week, baric tablets, lacing, 3 part classification cards - um I'm drawing a blank so perhaps that was all!

How to Homeschool: Our Lesson Plan Outline

(Just a note on the "How to Homeschool" part of my post titles, it is for search engine purposes and seems to be working, I will give my ideas for how to homeschool, but I know I've still got a long way to go, too!)

Given the many different theories on homeschool curriculum, and the fact that I consider our homeschool to be eclectic, I had a lot of choices for making our overall lesson plan. I decided I'd consult with an expert - AT. I figured she knows best which way of learning and planning gets her excited. Together we determined that we'd start with her as a subject and keep expanding from there. I would set the overall lessons for the day but she gets to pick her work when she wants to. And that's it; pretty simple. Today for instance, she did copy work (a Charlotte Mason idea) from a book about teeth, a favorite topic of hers that falls in with the "about my body" category, the she wanted to do color sequencing and patterning with beads, and right now she is doing a Priddy Books sticker activity book. The concepts within it are pretty easy for her, but she gets practice with concentrating, problem solving and fine motor skills - all of which she needs to work on. Throughout the day, we'll have discussions about the supporting roles neighbors, friends, neighborhoods and towns play in our everyday lives. Possibly also reasons for creating towns.

There is leeway in my lesson plan to account for her varying interests and frankly, for her moods. Here is the initial time-line outline I devised.

1. First Middle Last name
2. Birth date
3. Street address, Town name
4. Family
5. Neighbors / friends
6. Neighborhood / town
7. City (we live in a suburb of a large city so I'm using that opportunity to separate concepts)
8. State
9. Country
10. Continent
11. Earth
12. Solar system
13. Galaxy
14. Universe

If you'd like an expanded version of this outline, with some of the specifics under each heading, you can download our Homeschool Lesson Plan Outline

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Homeschool: Record Keeping

No matter what method you choose, or what your state requires, record keeping is an important part of homeschooling. No one wants to rely solely on memory to keep track of what concepts have been introduced, especially over a long period of time or for multiple kids. Well, no one I've met anyway.
Since the home base for our homeschool journey is the Montessori Method, I chose that as a starting point for our record keeping. I made a simple checklist based on David Gettman's book Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-fives. This list will take you farther than that though because he described more than that in his book.
You can download my Montessori Skills Checklist.
I use it by marking a "P" for presented, "L" for learning when I see the child working on it and finally a "M" for mastered when the child can do the skill with little to no error.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to Homeschool: Our typical day - so far

Our homeschool is on the kindergarten level. I do some things with my other kids too, but the primary focus is the kindergartener. Before we started, AT and I discussed the options. She chose to let me pick the topics and she wanted me to, mostly, tell her what to do each day. It should be no surprise to me that for her journal she dictated "I love my family because I like Mommy and Daddy to tell me what to do", however given the lack of listening skills when it's time to clean up, I'm dubious on this point HAHA! Anyway, in this regard it is both child led and parent led. She is the one who chose parent led education. I still give her choices but I've got an overall lesson plan, more of an outline, and I see what we can do to accomplish the goals as we come up on them. (Rather than see what she wants to study and fit in the goals or to leave out only certain choices for her or to use a strict curriculum)

They were all 3 at home last school year. This was mainly because I felt we couldn't afford pre-school after the company Hubs worked for closed their office in our city. After trying to homeschool last year, I felt that I couldn't afford to NOT send them to preschool, even though Hubs still doesn't have a regular full-time job. I know there are many people out there who successfully teach many children at different levels at the same time - I'm just not one of them. I'm neither organized enough nor focused enough to do it. At least I think that's why I was unsuccessful.
3 days a week (MWF), we have 3 concentrated hours of one-on-one school. AT is an observer. She watches, she listens, she absorbs - sometimes she absorbs things that we didn't know she was observing but that's another issue HAHA! She's not so much of a "doer" so this time is important for her to have me sitting close by giving her attention as she does her work. If I'm not paying attention to her then she won't pay attention to her work. On each day, but especially Tuesday and Thursday when her 2yo brother is present, a lot of her lessons are discussions; questions and answers from each side. It's important for me to ask her questions first because I often find that she knows things I didn't "teach" her. It is a waste of time and frustrating to her for me to give a lesson on something she already knows.

So we start at about 9AM with a quick review and then her writing lesson. This is her least favorite thing. We then segue into her journal, in which I write and she draws. Then we do more art based exploration of the day's topic. Montessori takes over after that and she chooses to work on a manipulative that she's already been presented or she picks one she wants me to present. At that point it is about time to pick up her sibling(s), then we have lunch, free time and unschooling. Montessori practical life activities take place in the evening as well as reading lessons at bedtime.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Taking a break: About me

Since this is Real Life and all, I got too busy to continue my series of thoughts on starting homeschool. I figured it didn't matter much as I hadn't really told anyone about this blog anyway! HAHA!
But, now I'm actually letting people know I exist so I thought I'd do a bit more personal piece.
I'm a SAHM of 3. My eldest, AT, is in Kindergarten. It was originally my intention to just homeschool her for pre-k. And I tried, I really did, but after a few months of struggling to accomplish school with a (then) 2yo and 1yo who demanded attention as soon as they saw AT getting any and then trying to get AT to keep her focus when the other 2 were doing something else just got to be too frustrating and not fun - for any of us.
I abandoned my grand plan - and all my works in progress - and just went about doing informal school and unschooling. When I look at what she is able to do, I think we did pretty well. We certainly covered pre-k and went a little beyond. Lessons happened in the dining room, kitchen, back yard, car - wherever we happened to be when I found a teachable moment. But I still craved the one-on-one time with her during this period of her life. This child of wonder phase. Because, seriously, every first-grade girl I've really known has an attack of bratitis so it was important to me to get this before that happened HAHA! We bit the budget bullet and picked a pre-school for the other 2 kids - the routine of which we're still settling into.
Now, I'm trying to catch up with all the projects, we found some money to buy some Montessori manipulative materials, and I hold class with just AT 3x's a week and continue as before on the other 4 days.
Since I'm new to this, still, I've got a lot of learning to do myself but I hope to share with you as I go. Just, ah, don't expect a ton of photos I'm terrible at getting photos uploaded HAHA!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Homeschool: Getting Started

So you've chosen your path. If you've picked the whole boxed curriculum, or taken pieces from various publishers to create your own whole curriculum, then a lot of the work is done. Ordering, organizing and scheduling are pretty much all that's left on your to-do list. Now I, ahem, am not an organizing or scheduling expert and even if I were, my anonymous advice to you wouldn't necessarily help much. You need to do what works for you. I could tell you to order your materials and schedule to go: Math, Science, Reading, Social Science. I might start you off at 8am and give you 15 - 30 minute intervals through the rest of the day. But that system may not work for you or for your child. You'll have to do the best with what space you have. Maybe you've got a whole basement or a dedicated room. Maybe you've got the dining room or kitchen table. Maybe your child gets into everything and isn't gentle or maybe they never mess with anything other than their toys. But I will give you some schedule guidelines that are general enough they can give you a starting point if you're still feeling lost. These are helpful for both rigid and flexible paths.

Start the morning with ease, such as: review what you taught yesterday, but not in a pop-quiz style; start off with a morning song or a learning song; give them a coloring sheet or journal assignment that would take 10-15 minutes at most. Now that their mind is awake, jump in with their least favorite or hardest subject, which are usually one in the same. Find a way to incorporate an activity they like at the end of that lesson. If they dislike math but like physical activity, call out a math problem and give them an activity to perform the number of times as the answer. "2 times 2 jumping jacks". If they dislike history but like art, use the end of the lesson to bring in a coloring worksheet or spend a few minutes working on a time-line collage. They've done something difficult and had a little "break" so the next subject should be their next least favorite. End that lesson in a similar manner as the first. By now it's likely time for lunch or at least a snack. Montessorians and Unschoolers take meal times as opportunity for further lessons. Montessori incorporates basic household duties into their daily work; which teach responsibility, foster independence and hone manual dexterity. Unschoolers and Montessorians will also incorporate a school lesson. Counting, measuring, dividing, geography, botany, biology, chemistry, and reading can all be part of making meals. Work on manners and social graces at meal times, too. After lunch is a good time for their favorite activity. They are full of energy and excited and not often all that focused after lunch. A favored work will engage them enough that they can use that energy to complete and enjoy their task. See if your day will allow you for 2 more lessons. It is quite possible, as homeschoolers rarely need as much time for a lesson as is allowed in a traditional school. For the next to last lesson pick something they like or are indifferent about. Preferably it holds some challenge for them though, as their minds should still be able to focus at this point. For their last lesson, pick a subject that tends to be easy for them. Their minds are winding down and ending this way also gives them an "up" rather than bringing them down and discouraged about school work. Let them run around a bit and clean up before dinner. Use your evening routine as gentle reinforcement of the days lessons for the younger kids. It's a bit harder to sneak in calculus in a casual manner.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Homeschool: How to Home School

Now that you've identified the primary reason you are homeschooling as well as any secondary reasons, it's time to start thinking about curriculum.

It is a difficult task to choose a curriculum for homeschool. What style teacher are you? What style learner is your child - or even harder, children? Do you want it all set out before you or do you want to have freedom? Do you like textbooks or life experiences or a little of both? And not least - How much money do you have to invest?

If you want to follow a traditional path a "boxed curriculum" or "complete curriculum" may prove very useful. There are many options out there from secular to religious. While this isn't exactly easy, it is probably the most simple of the options. There are still all the reviews and samples to check out. Remember, though that you aren't marrying this curriculum. If it's not the best fit, you can try a different program the following year and if it's just terrible, you can switch mid-stream.

I'm not going this route, so I have no "official" opinion on these but here's a short list:


K12 Virtual Academy (a good place to start as some states, like mine, provide it for free)

Curriculum Services

Oak Meadow

Christian (there are, I'm sure, curriculums for other religions, but they are a bit harder to find and many are piecemeal)


A Beka

Calvert School

Perhaps you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and the thought of having your child on a strict curriculum, or even having yourself on one, makes you bristle. More than just bristle, maybe you want to run away screaming. Perhaps "unschooling" is for you. Although, I think the "un" part is a misnomer. The unschooling child and unschooling family probably spend much more time overall on school than the ones on a strict curriculum. In that respect, it is probably the most difficult method for the parent-teacher. That being said – I would recommend this route to only the most involved parents. I don't mean micro-managing I mean you put a great deal of thought into all your child encounters. From the time they wake, to the time they go to bed, you've thought out their day. You know they can get color theory lessons while they dress, counting practice while they brush their teeth, measuring/weighing lessons at meals, life science lessons at the park, economics lessons at the market… The list goes on and grows on as they get older because you'll have to fit in complex concepts like calculus and abstract knowledge like world history (abstract in the sense that there's limited hands on material you can encounter for certain eras). I myself am not disciplined enough to go whole hog into this world, though I do take from it. Check out for some more information including a link to their yahoo group. E-how has a brief article to get you started, How to Unschool Your Child, be sure to check out the related articles link on the left of that page.

There are other methods that are in between these 2 extremes. Maria Montessori, Charlotte Mason and Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf School) come to mind. Each of their methods have some general structure but are child led. You'll find support in terms of teaching guides, outlines and lists, but there is no set plan for the day to day. Mother nature, good books, art, and hands on practice are the common threads of these methods.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why Homeschool: How to start school at home

First you need to assess the main reason(s) you are homeschooling. For some it is one big easy answer, for others there are also some smaller reasons and it may even be all the normal reasons.
The public school system cannot adequately handle its student load.
We're in a bad school district.
We cannot afford private school - of any variety.
Traditional schooling is too rigid.
I have a special needs student.
I have an advanced student.
I believe my religion should be a part of my children's education.
I believe my religion should be the basis of my children's education.
I enjoy spending time teaching my children.
I don't want to miss out on the "little child of wonder" phase.
I have developed my own philosophy for the best method to educate my children.

There are other reasons of course, but these are enough to get you started.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why Homeschool

That is a hard question that I'm sure you all are asking yourselves. Even if the answers seem easy to you, I'm sure you put a lot of heart and effort into making the decision to be sure it was the right one.
So now you know why you want to do it, but how are you going to do it? That is an equally tough question. There are so many choices out there from super rigid to so flexible it hardly exists. Both of these choices require lots of hard work; as do all the ones in between. But you know that, it's why you're looking around, searching for guidance, searching for an understanding soul because goodness knows a lot of judgement comes your way when people hear "We homeschool". It comes in the form of teachers, people who send their kids to public or private school, little old ladies who may have figured out their lives to a tee (unlikely) but don't know you for squat and even other homeschoolers.
That's why I'm here. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by support, but none of them is on this adventure with me (yet, I may have gotten the idea into a few peoples' heads). I'm starting out on my own with little in my pocket, too much in my head and 3 kids and a husband to juggle. Let's get started.