Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Homeschool!!

After two full weeks of officially beginning our homeschooling journey, I can honestly say that I am blessed beyond measure.  There have actually been moments where I have stopped and my heart swells with joy because I have the opportunity to teach my children. Yes, it is exhausting and things don't always go as planned. Yes, there have been a few tears and I have lost my temper a time or two but overall it truly has gone even better than I expected. There are so many things that I want to expound upon but with this post I am going to address the question I get the most ( and one I have asked others myself before we started) HOW DO YOU TEACH ALL 3 AT THE SAME TIME? The key is God's grace, prayer and planning! I have also spent a great deal of time researching how others homeschool with a toddler in tow. It's not so much that I am teaching different grade levels, which I am sure will be a challenge as well. It's that they are all so young. My kids are ages 6, 3 and 1. Being our first year and having a baby in the mix,  I have already decided that this will be my most difficult year and that no matter what I am committed. I have read that you need to do what works best for your family and I completely agree, but it was hard to know what works best before we ever started. For me, I know that I need a schedule. I have been a teacher for the past 8 years and I am used to staying on schedule. I need to know what's coming next and I need to have a plan. That is why for the first few weeks, I want to stick to our routine the best I can and try not to schedule anything else during school hours. I turn my phone to silent and stay off the internet unless it is for a lesson plan. 

The set up...

I spent the week before we started the same as  I spent every other year I have taught...setting up the room, organizing and lesson planning.    

Some people need to write things on paper for lesson plans but I prefer to do everything online. I have searched many online programs but  the simplest thing I have found is It was exactly what I was looking for and it's free! You can upgrade and do a bunch of fancy things like post links to educational websites and PowerPoints (which is totally cool) but I just stick with what's free.

 I organized most of my materials in a cabinet that the children are not allowed to get into. So far, so good!                                            .

I labeled the days of the week in my filing cabinet and put everything I need for each day in daily folders. I plan on refilling them each week when I do my lesson plans. I have a file for each boy's finished work that I fill after each assignment or project is completed. I empty that folder each week and put their completed work in a portfolio. There is also a file for future work.


I empty the daily folder the night before and put it in my version of "work boxes" . L's work is on the bottom right. The first drawer is for  Language Arts. He has a folder for Phonics, Writing, Spelling and Reading. He does this box first but can do the assignments in this drawer in any order except Reading because we do that together. The second drawer is for Math and the last drawer is Science/History and Art. J  has the Math and Reading bins on middle shelf. I put his independent work in there but we are still working on that. I was filling these bins with whatever supplies he needs but I actually end up keeping them higher because I am also trying to figure out how to keep E from the very tempting goodies in there. On the bottom left are our library books. They can choose a book when they are finished with their work. I planned on using the top bins for snacks and any supplies that we might need but E had too much fun emptying those too. Sometime's I'll put a surprise in there as her "workbox" 

Our Typical Day...                                                                   
This will pretty much answer the question of how we do things and how I am able to effectively teach L first grade without being interrupted by his little brother and sister. 

Here is our family schedule 

This is what it looks like in a nutshell..

7:00- I wake up, work-out, take a shower, throw a load of laundry in and make breakfast.
8:00- Kids are up, fed and dressed. No TV in the morning! They can look at books but they usually end up playing, chasing each-other and jumping on my bed. 
9:00- School starts!! I ring my cute little bell ( yes, I have a bell and they love it!) and they come running and find a spot on our circle time blanket in front of our calendar. We pray, pledge, go over the calendar, weather and whatever else we are working on like skip counting and ABC's. We also go over Classical Conversations memory work at this time and have a dance party to the CC History time line song. They LOVE it! 

I know it doesn't look like they love it here but it's because I am so busy that I keep forgetting to take pictures and made them sit back down after our dance party. hehe

9:30- Bible. I will have to write a post on this later but we are studying famous missionaries, learning a character trait and memory verse with each one. This week we are starting with Amy Carmichael,  learning about kindness and memorizing Ephesians 4:32. I am really excited about this but I'll expand more later!
10:00- "Be still" time. I know this might sound crazy but I set the timer, put on and we sit on the couch and practice being still. I do this because we need the practice, especially because the kids sit with us during church services many times and need to learn how to sit still. Even E does this with us. She does not like it very much but she does it. 
10:05- LOL..yes, so far "Be Still" time is only 5 minutes long but it's a very long 5 minutes and we are working our way up. Next, we have Silent Reading time. This is where I set the timer for 10-15 minutes and they each have a special blanket, find a special place to read and look at books. They can get up to exchange a book but they need to stay in the place they started. They really love this and have gone to their same special place almost every day. I'm actually really surprised at how well they do and how much they love it. I also sit and read my Bible. It gives me a few minutes to read God's Word and I think it's important for them to see Mommy read as well.  


 J chose our toy corner but actually looks at his far, anyway! 

 10:15ish- I read on a few blogs that when you have little ones  you should spend time with the youngest and then work your way up in age order. This has worked out well for us.  I spend the first 10 minutes with E, reading or coloring while both boys work on their own. They both have Daily Learning Notebooks and then J usually has a puzzle or game and L does his  Language Arts seatwork. When the timer goes off, I give E a box of toys and she plays. I then go to J and spend 10 minutes with him going over his Daily Learning Notebook. When the timer goes off, he is free to play. He has chosen to keep "working" almost everyday. That means he has had 10 minutes of independent work and 10 minutes with Mommy. Then I work with L and go over his  notebook with him and offer any help he needs with his phonics papers. He works 20 minutes independently and 10 minutes with Mommy at this time. The first few days of school, I gave the boys something fun to work on independently and then  taught them how to use their Daily Learning Notebooks when we had our "one on one" time. It's only been two weeks and both boys now know how to use their DLN's independently before starting their work-boxes.

Here is part of J's DLN. I was so proud of his tracing! 

Here is J working on a puzzle. This was hard for him. 
He preferred E's puzzles. 

Here is Luke working on a puzzle during his independent time before he learned how to do his DLN. I didn't introduce his seatwork until the second week of school. 

11:00- This is the time we work on any special projects. I also might read L's History or Science at this time but for the most part it's something hands on and fun. It usually has to do with the Letter of the Week. I'll explain that more on a later post but J's curriculum consists of learning a new letter each week. I am so excited about this coming week. I've got some fun things planned for the letter "I" that also incorporates the special sounds that L is practicing. For instance,  we will be doing an Inchworm craft and "ch" is a special sound that L is working on. 

Here are some pics of things we've worked on so far. Although we have done a bunch of cute things, I was so into what we were doing, I kept forgetting to take pictures but here is one thing we did. 

11:30- Play time! This is when I switch the laundry, do the morning dishes and make lunch. The kids play on the porch, with their toys or play a game on


12:30-E goes down for a nap and usually sleeps until about 3:00. I put J on the computer with headphones and he does his letter of the week activities from either Starfall or EasyPeasy. Our computer is set to "family" which means he can only use a kid browser. He is 3 but he knows how to find PBSkids and play Elmo or Curious George when he is finished with his "work". While J is on the computer, L and I do Math. This has worked out perfectly. It usually takes us about 30 minutes to do a Math lesson and then the boys switch places. This is a great motivator for L because he cannot use the computer  until he completes his Saxon math sheet. I have a math game set for him ( usually from EP) and them he can  use the kid browser and play a game. Then I  work with J on his letter of the week activities. I am using Ordinary Parents Guide and many other activities I find from different blogs that I love like confessionsofahomeschooler. 

J loves doing his work. Here he is sorting apples by size for the letter A

He LOVES using dot markers! 
 L is exploring with pattern blocks and got a 100% on his first assessment!

1:30-I lay J down for a nap and usually read him a book and snuggle for a few minutes while L is still on the computer. I cherish this special time with him. We usually sing a few songs and tell stories. He usually sleeps until 3. Then I  work on Reading and Phonics  with L. He does not love to read yet, but we're getting there. He loves the alone time with Mommy while the little ones are sleeping and I have seen a great improvement in his attitude. 

2:15ish- School is done! L has 30 minutes of rest time while I check email and relax! I set a timer for him and if he is still awake ( which he always is) I put a DVD from the library on for him and get him a snack. J and E usually wake up while a show is on and I get them a snack too. 

3:30ish- We usually go outside for a walk, to the playground, swimming or we might run errands. 

4:00-Chores ( mostly for me) 

5:00- I start dinner and usually put a DVD on for the kids

6:00ish- Joey gets home around this time and we eat dinner

7:00- Playtime with Daddy, family worship/Bible time, baths 

8:30- Bedtime for kids. 

Here are some pics of our first day of school! We celebrated by going to Chick-Fil-A with Grandma and Grandpa. 

We have a weekly library time,  meet with other home-school families on Tuesdays for Classical Conversations, play sports and will go on many field trips with our co-op, HEAT. 

I am so beyond thankful to home-school my children! 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Our homeschooling journey is about to begin..

As I am preparing to begin my homeschooling journey on Monday, I started thinking of how I got here. When L was only 4 months old, I returned to teaching full time at a public school and it tore me to shreds. I cried most days on the way to work. Shortly after being there, I knew that I would do everything in my power to keep my children from public school. I saw the lack of values and lack of education first hand and it broke my heart. I figured that I would teach at a good Christian school when L entered kindergarten. God then brought Tampa Christian Community School into my life and I began teaching there after J was born. It was a dream job. I loved my administrator, the environment, and the people but what impressed me more than anything were the families. These were homeschooling families that did life together. They met two days a week for school and home-schooled the other days. Parents were the main influence on the children and for the most part, God was the main influence on the parents. My students weren't "smarter" than my public school students. They were invested in. There was a huge difference. My second graders were reading higher level chapter books like Charlotte's Web, diagramming sentences and mastering square roots. But they were also children that were taught the love of God and the importance of character. They were respectful, innocent and honestly, a pleasure to be around. Being at TCCS is what opened my eyes and heart to homeschooling. When I had E, God,  allowed me to be able to stay home full time and the door to TCCS seemed to close for us. L attended Seffner Christian because after losing my dad, there was no way I could give him what he needed for Kindergarten. I am also thankful for this experience because even though SCA was a great school and he had a great experience, it confirmed in my heart only further that I want to home-school my children. I want to be the main influence on them. I want to go at their pace and give them the individual attention they need. I want us to experience life together. L loves running, with home-school, he can join a running club with an amazing co-op I found called HEAT and it doesn't take over our lives. There are so many benefits.  We also joined Classical Conversations and I am blown away by this program. I'm sure I will have a blog about it later but you can click here for more information. Earlier this week, we had a dance party to the history timeline song. I never thought I'd say that. We are only beginning and I know I have a lot to learn.  By American standards I should be "working" full time...but I have a wonderful, godly, husband, 3 healthy children, food on the table and a roof over my head. I am beyond thankful.

I get to spend each and every day with these 3 cuties!!