So you are thinking of homeschooling? Part 1.

So you are thinking of homeschooling?

There are plenty of questions that come about when you think about homeschooling. The biggest question tends to be: “Can I really do this?”

My answer, to everyone, is an unqualified yes.

For every family there is a way to homeschool. Notice I don’t say “kid,” or “parent.” That’s because homeschooling is a family event. It’s really not a single person endeavor. It’s a family decision. Homeschooling influences and effects everyone in the home – whether they are there for school or not. It can even effect people who are extended family (like grandparents and family members in different states).

There are way to many articles out there about homeschooling. If’ you’ve found this one I’ll count myself lucky.

So I’m going to point you to two articles to start your homeschooling discussion.

The first is about 13 basic questions to answer. These questions have not a lot to do with the “how we homeschool,” but more with the motivation behind it. It’s important to understand your motivation. Because, like with all jobs, homeschooling days have their good days and bad days. It helps to remember why you are homeschooling – especially on the bad days. That way you can keep going and work through it.

The second is about deschooling – the transition from a traditional “school” mindset into the mindset of a homeschooler. Homeschooling can be – and for a lot of families is – remarkably like traditional school, except it’s done at home. For others it is looser. This article talks about the transition that needs to take place in your mind.

These are the two places I’d start with. Once you are done answering the questions and deciding which type of homeschooling you are going to try, then I’d move on with more specific google searches. Don’t be afraid to go way deep into the search results. The first pages on homeschooling aren’t necissarily the best – they are simply ranked higher for various reasons. Some of the best pages I’ve found are deep within the search results.

But most of all – have fun!


It’s almost the end of the “school year.”

What are we going to do next year and over the summer?

What are we going to do next year and over the summer?

Many, many homeschooling families stick to a traditional school year. Each one has their own personal reason for this. I do not stick to a traditional school year. We do school all year round.

Summer and Spring are great seasons. A lot of our learning moves outdoors – hiking, camping, beaches, vacations with family, camping, hiking…….these are things we can do better now. The traditional learning becomes less.

However, there are a few non-negotiable items:

1. We do math all year round. It’s not a long math lesson. Normally 5-10 minutes. But it ensures that Nicholas keeps up his skills and even grows. Sometimes it’s math facts. Othertimes word problems. Math has to be done everyday.

2. Reading. We read 20- minutes a day. Everyday. Even if we cram in all 20 minutes before bedtime because we’ve had so much fun outside. But we read 20 minutes a day.

3. German. Foreign languages must be done on a continual basis or kids will lose their abilities. It helps that my husband speaks German fluently, so when we are out and about, we simply speak in German part of the time. It means they know random words and phrases  (both my kids can say, “Watch out for the rocks,” in German because we hike during the summer).  But we practice so their fluency doesn’t decrease.

4. Learning. We learn everywhere. Visitor’s Centers are great inventions. We go to them all the time. I used to hate going to them when I was younger. My mother would take us to every Visitor’s Center within a 30 minute drive of wherever we were. And if she saw a sign for one while we were driving, we’d pull off and visit. Now I get it. We go to them all the time too. Maps are also a great tool for learning. We do more geography during the summer than any other time. I invest in paper maps for where we are going, and the kids have to plot (with me and their dad) how we get there. Then they use a highlighter and trace our path as we go. We’ve been working on topographic maps while we hike too. It’s fun.

What does all this mean? It means learning doesn’t have to be done in the classroom – or the home. It can be done anywhere that you have the inspiration. That’s part of the fun of homeschooling.

The end of April also brings me to my next problem – what are we going to learn next year? I ask Nicholas is there’s anything he really wants to learn, and we brainstorm a little. Homeschool conventions, curriculum swaps, and online discounts are so plentiful between April and May that I really like to have a plan and get everything done by then – at least for the formal learning.

That’s what the end of the school year brings to our homeschool. What does it bring to yours?

Toddler Tuesday: The counting bears.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn't even get to it today.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn’t even get to it today.

I have a horrible fascination with Amazon. It’s not horrible for Amazon, just horrible for my bank account. I love looking at things. I really do. I could spend hours just browsing through all Amazon’s stuff. If you type in “homeschool items” you come up with so many things. You just have to narrow it a bit. I was searching for “sensory bins” because I really don’t like having to make up my own. I really like it when things are done for me already – especially when I’m overbooked with other things.

I found these amazing 50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups.

What? Counting bears? Hum….they come with color cups so we can practice sorting…..and the idea of same and different…..and there are 50 of them so we can practice counting….in German too………okay, I guess I can get them.

That’s exactly how the conversation went in my head. Part of the problem with Amazon is that stuff is cheaper than it would be in a traditional store. I’ve seen these at other “learning stores” for over $15.00. That makes it easy to say no. $7 and change is simply one fewer books for me this month. That’s an easy one to do.

So what did we do with them? I put the bears in a pile, put the cups in a stack, and said to Abby, “Want to play?”

Here’s what she did – all on her own:

1. She counted the bears. She simply separated them into groups of 10 – because that’s all she wanted to count to. Then she said, “I have lots of groups of 10.” At which point Nicholas stepped in and informed her that 5 groups of 10 isn’t a lot because 5 times 10 is only 50. Nicholas defines a lot as “more than 100.” Thus, he has a lot of pennies, but

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

he doesn’t have a lot of dollars.

2. She put the colors all together – into different colored cups. The purple bears went into the blue cup, the yellow bears into the red cup, and so forth. Okay – so that’s not matching so much as it is sorting. But I’ll take the sorting.

3. She then dumped them all out, mixed them up, and made her dolls jump over them because the dolls were having a jumping party.

4. She sorted the colors into the matching colored cup – but did it in German because English is “too easy.” (Those are her words not mine).

Wait – did I mention she did all this without me having to do it for her, or lay out the “rule” or “parameters” or an exercise? I did? Isn’t it great when this happens?

Did I also mention that it took up most of the morning, because she decided to repeat the sorting process more than once? She used these bears for almost 3 hours – the same amount of time it took me to get Nicholas to finish his math and spelling (he didn’t want to do it – he wanted to not do it, but he had not done it last week  – so it was time to finish).

That was our very fun, totally Abby-driven, Tuesday.

Science lesson for today: Signal from the beginning of time.

We love space at our house. Everything space related is awesome.

We love space at our house. Everything space related is awesome.

We love all things space related in our house. It’s not unusual to find us pouring over pictures off NASA’s website for a while in the afternoon. Sometimes we are just looking at random things, sometimes we are looking for specific things.

I’ve been taking a class about relativity and astrophysics through EdX – simply so I can learn more and teach it to Nicholas. I signed both of us up for an Introduction to Astronomy class on Coursera in the Fall.

You can tell we love space.

I’ve found this great website – It has a whole science section. I browse there daily so that I can find new and interesting things about science for short lessons during the day.

Today there was interesting news: Scientists have found a signal that comes from the beginning of time. The word “elusive” was used to describe this signal. The lesson serves a few purposes: Nicholas has to read the article to me – so he practices reading. He also stumbles over a lot of the words – so we practice vocabulary. “Elusive” is a word he didn’t really know until today. It has proven a lot of fun to use this morning.

Back to the lesson –

We read the article, then discuss what it means, and then see what Nicholas knows that relates to the article. He then has to write a sentence that summaries the article he just finished. Today he picked, “Elusive signal from space tells science about the start of the universe.” I only had to help him spell “elusive.” That’s a huge milestone for us, because normally he’s throwing a small fit about writing and complains all the time he needs help spelling. If you leave him to do it himself, you get weird words that he says are spelled correctly, but bear no resemblance to the actual word. Then there’s a meltdown when he has to do it again, properly.

Here’s the link to the article – it really is fascinating:

The newest books we love!

I’ve worked hard to find books for Nicholas. He sometimes likes books, and sometimes not. He preferes books with science and math themes. This includes his fiction. He doesn’t like the  Percy Jackson series. But he loves Encyclopedia Brown. The newest ones we are in love with are the Sir Cumference books.

I don’t really know why he loves them so much – except that they have a math theme in them. They are also shorter than some of the other options out there.

The problem with finding books is that there’s not a ton in between the little books that kids read at first and the later books, once kids are fluent readers. This is more true for boys than it is for girls. At least there’s not as much I like. I don’t like the Captain Underpants series. It’s not a good read for younger boys. It’s like the publishers have determined that kids who read chapter books are all 8 or older, so they can add different themes into them. For a 5 (almost 6) year old, some of those themes are too much for me.

He likes Hardy Boys, but since he reads those with his dad, he won’t read them on his own. So I searched and found the Sir Cumference ones. I found the first one at our used bookstore, so it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t like it. But now that he likes them, I got the rest from Amazon. I’ve included the link to them below.

If you know of any books that boys like, leave a note in the comments. I’m always happy for suggestions.

Links to the Sir Cumference books that we love:

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens: A Math Adventure

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map (Charlesbridge Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure)

Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert (Charlesbridge Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter (Math Adventures)

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

Compound words activity.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

We’ve been working on compound words in our house. Compound words are when two words are put together to make a new word. Nicholas sometimes thinks phrases, like “play ball”, are compound words. Then he writes them as if they were compound words. Which is a problem. So I decided we’d learn the difference between a saying and a compound word.

I made a list of compound words that we could use, and cut some of the pocket chart paper into half. I wrote half the compound word on one side, and half on the other. Then I gave Nicholas the set of papers and asked him to make words.

We put up the “definition” of the compound word on the pocket chart. Nicholas had to read it out loud – which he does with such lack of enthusiasm. But then came putting the words together.

He made words that I didn’t have on the list – but that were compound words. Then he realized he had words left over that didn’t fit together so he went back and changed them.

Here’s the list of words we used:

It was a bunch of fun watching him do it. We have another set of words to do later this week. We shall see if he, in his writing, starts using compound words properly.

Our family.

I don’t keep our family blog and our school blog together. Instead, I keep the family activities separate from the school blog. It forces me to be accountable for school and not just for the fun stuff we do.

However, we do some seriously fun things.

We went to the WOW Museum in Lodi (a fun science museum).

We competed in a Taekwondo tournament.

We got a dog!!!

To see more on our family visit our family blog:

Toddler Tuesdays: Number bin.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for was a fun activity.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for them……it was a fun activity.

We are back to working on numbers this week. I’ve decided to combine a bunch of her favorites: magnets, bins, number hunting. It’s all combined into one activity. Here’s how it went:

1. Empty tin casserole pan
2. Beans from the dollar store
3. Number magnets
4. Paper with the number magnets traced onto it

Set-up was really easy. I traced the numbers onto the paper (in fact, I made 3 different sheets with the numbers in different orders). Then I put the number magnets into the bin and dumped the beans over the magnets to hide them.

Abby was excited when she saw the bin come out again. She went to grab her tongs from the desk, but I let her do the first time with her hands. The second time she used a big horseshoe magnet we have to attract the magnets to her.

She had to find the numbers and put them in the correct spot on the paper. After she put it down, she had to say what number she had found.

We only worked with the numbers 0-9. Those were the number magnets I had, so those are the numbers we worked with.

There were problems she had. First, she got the 2 and 5 mixed up depending on which way she pulled it out from the beans. She also tried to make her 6 a nine all the time. Then she wondered why there were two 9’s and no 6’s. I had to explain to her that they might look the same, but one is upside down and one is right side up and that they are two different numbers. She said okay to that explanation, and proceeded to fix them the way she wanted. She also didn’t like that the three wouldn’t go “backwards.” She wanted it to turn the other way. It’s just one of those red-headed stubborn problems she has occasionally.

But here’s the result: She knows and can identify her numbers 0-9. It’s pretty awesome that she can do that. I’m excited. Now if only she had any interest in writing her numbers……but no. She’s content to know them and draw when she wants to draw.

Goal update from last week.

So how did we do on our goals from last week?

Well. We met two of them and didn’t meet one of them. We did math before lunch everyday. Normally Nicholas completed his math before breakfast (Yeah!). And we did something with grammar everyday. We didn’t do a science experiment every day. But we did spend all day Friday and Saturday working on different science experiments. So that was fun.

Nicholas tends to like to do different experiments with me than he does with his dad. With me, he’s all about getting messy. With his dad, he’s all about physics and matter and learning the more esoteric stuff. So it can be difficult for my brain to come up with different experiments for EVERY day of the week. We did some on static, and some on weather (since we’ve had wind, rain, thunder, and lightening this week). But nothing really dramatic.

Doing math before breakfast has been really helpful. It makes sure that he concentrates and does well on his math. It also makes sure it gets done. Which is helpful to me.

We do some other math – like graphing and calculating and measuring – throughout the day. But the “hard” math – the learning and doing of new operations, is done before breakfast while his mind is nice and fresh.

It was a better week with the goals.

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