Year Round Schooling

It’s December, and most families are either currently on their winter break or about to start it. As we approach various holiday’s, I’ve discovered another wonderful perk of homeschool. We can take breaks whenever we want, or not at all.

Back in early November, I rented a house and enjoyed a socially distant vacation with my kids for a week. Since we really weren’t doing much other than hanging out in a different house, we brought tons of books to read and games to play. My kids work load was lighter during our vacation than their standard schedule. I think I made them both do one math lesson the entire week. But school wasn’t completely forgotten.

This week, my kids are actually spending the entire week with their dad. In the past, they’ve gone to their dad’s house for one week of winter break. Since we can now have winter break whenever we want, they’re spending a week with their dad in the middle of December instead of right during the center of all the holiday’s. They did bring some books with them, and I tossed their math books in the bag as well, but I’m not expecting them to do much school work this week.

After my kids get back from their dad’s we’ll have a week long winter break. Both of my kids have birthdays the same week as Christmas, so that week is going to be CRAZY! But once the holidays are over, it will be great to be able to get back into our standard routine. I’ve always hated the second week of winter break, because the excitement of birthdays and Christmas is over and my kids are just antsy. Lucky for us, we can jump right back into school on December 26th. Well, this year we’ll probably wait until December 28th.

Maybe we’ll decide we’re in desperate need of another “winter break” sometime in January or February. Or maybe we won’t even bother with spring break this year and push through until summer. If 2021 looks anything like 2020, we’ll probably do a lot of school over the summer too.

My kids have always thrived with routine. We have the homeschool thing down now, and too many breaks is just too much disturbance from our routine.

Books Make Great Gifts

It’s December, and this crazy year has made coming up with good gift ideas even harder than normal. I always give my kids books for their birthdays and Christmas, and will definitely be doing so again this year. If your looking for some gift ideas for the people on your list, here are some of my families favorite books.

The Inkheart Series – This is a really fun fantasy trilogy about a girl and her father who read so deeply they pull characters directly out of books. This middle grade series is great for readers ages 10 to adult. It also works as a wonderful read aloud for younger children, since it is literally a book about the power of reading out loud.

Artemis Fowl Series – The movie that came out on Disney+ early this year may have been a dud, but this book series is fabulous. Artemis is an Irish 12 year old turned villain who manages to kidnap a leprechaun and cause all sorts of mischief in the fairy world. Kids who love fantasy and adventure stories will love this middle grade series.

Turtle Island – This is a non-fiction picture book about Indigenous American history before the arrival of Europeans. We read this book in our homeschool earlier this fall and both of my children absolutely loved it. It’s one of the best history books I’ve ever seen. Great for children or adults who want to see a different perspective on US history. Note: even though this is a picture book, it’s long and dense. It reads more like a well written illustrated text book.

Ghost Boys – If you want a BLM themed book appropriate for kids, this book is great. It’s about a modern 12 year old boy, Jerome, shot by a police officer in Chicago who watches the officer’s trial as a ghost. The only living human able to see Jerome is the 12 year old daughter of the man who shot him. Jerome also meets several other ghost boys, including the ghost of Emmett Till.

Glitch – This is a time-traveling sci-fy story that my 13 year old recently read and LOVED. I haven’t actually read this book myself. But based upon the glowing review my son gave, I would recommend it to tweens or teens who enjoy science fiction and/or suspense novels.

Hazardous Tales – This is a graphic novel history series that my kids absolutely love. The graphic novel format makes it very readable for younger readers, but the humorous writing style still makes it entertaining for teens. This is a great way to make kids excited about reading history.

Olympians Graphic Novel Series – The Olympians is another great graphic novel series that my kids adored when they were younger. We listened to the audiobooks of the Percy Jackson series (hopefully you already know about this series, which is why I’m not recommending it) when my kids were 7-10. They both got super excited about all things Greek mythology. This comic book series about the Greek pantheon excited them just as much as the longer novels about Percy and Annabeth. I would definitely recommend this series to any kid who loves superhero’s and/or mythology.

Going Bovine – This is a young adult novel I’m planning to give my 14 year old son for Christmas this year. Because he hasn’t read it yet, I can’t tell you how much he enjoys it. I do remember thinking it was hilarious when I read it several years ago. It’s a book a humorous YA novel about a teenage boy who gets mad cow disease.

There are lots more wonderful books out there, but I’m going to stop my list here. I do want to say one thing about buying books though. I liked all of the titles on my list to Powell’s. If you’re buying books this year, you don’t have to buy them from Powell’s, but I implore you not to buy them from Amazon. Many wonderful independent book stores are really struggling this year. Please support your favorite local independent book store this holiday season. Even if you aren’t able to shop in person, these stores offer shipping and need your business way more than Jeff Bezos.

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

It’s holiday gift giving season. Shopping for young kids is usually pretty easy, but knowing what to buy teenagers can be a lot harder. And teenage boys can be especially challenging. On top of Christmas, both of my son’s have December birthday’s, which means I need to give A LOT of gifts this month. Here are my soon to be 12 and 14 year old boys wish lists. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas for gifts to get the teenage boys on your list.

Gaming, gaming, and more gaming

Most teens enjoy video games. My 12 year old son definitely fits that bill. Many teens have high ticket items like an Xbox, Play Station, or Nintendo Switch at the top of their wish list. I actually gave our Xbox to both of my boys as a joint gift two years ago. But they already have one, and I’m not buying another, so now what?

This year I am getting my gaming enthusiast a gaming chair for his 12th birthday. Ergonomics are important, and he’s been begging for a fancy new chair just like the pro-gamers use. This same son is also getting a new gaming headset for Christmas. A new controller is also high on my son’s wish list.

Then of course there is money. Buying new games in CD form isn’t really a thing anymore. Most consuls are online, and many kids also play games on laptops, tablets, and even phones. But all these platforms have some sort of online currency where you can buy new games, or make upgrades within the games you already have. If you’re gamer is into Roblox, they want Robucks. If you’re teen loves Fortnight, they definitely want some V-Bucks this Christmas. Since my son plays on an Xbox, he will be getting an Xbox gift card that he can use to buy new Xbox games in his stocking this year.

Clothes/Shoes

Little kids usually aren’t very excited about getting clothes for Christmas, but most teenagers love it. Both of my son’s are obsessed with Hoodies. I will definitely be buying them both Hoodies this year, but they are also asking all their relatives for Hoodies. Some kids are very into certain brands, but my sons are mainly into comfort.

New shoes are also high on both of my son’s wish lists this year. They haven’t grown out of their old shoes, but they still want a new pair. My 12 year old will be getting a new pair of Nike’s and my 14 year old will be getting a new pair of Convers. When it comes to teenagers and shoes, brand definitely matters, so you should ask the teens in your life what brand/color/style of shoes they want before buying them. A gift card to a shoe store could also make a good stocking stuffer if you aren’t sure what size you need.

Merch

Is the teen in your life obsessed with a specific Youtuber? They all have merch. I wouldn’t be suprized if there are TikTokers with merch. Often times this merch comes in the form of more hoddies, but it’s still a different category of gifts. I usually have my sons give each other merch for their birthdays or Christmas, since I never know what they want.

There is also merch associated with more mainstream media. My 14 year old is currently very into Harry Potter, and has requested lots of Harry Potter themed gifts for his birthday/Christmas. I found a lot of great stuff on Etsy, but there is also plenty of Harry Potter branded items available at big box stores.

Caffeinated Drinks

Personally, I don’t drink coffee. Because I’m a tea drinker, we have an electric tea kettle, but not a coffee pot. My 14 year old loves Starbucks. A Starbucks gift card could make a great stocking stuffer, but this year we’re going one step farther. My son is getting a coffee pot for his birthday this year. If you already have a drip coffee pot, but your teen loves expresso, you could give them an expresso maker for Christmas. And once you have the coffee maker or expresso machine of your dreams, coffee mugs can make a great gift. There are lots of mugs with funny sayings on them that teens like, and also branded coffee mugs that fall more into the merch category. Since my young coffee drinker is a big Harry Potter fan, I found him a coffee cup that says “Expresso Patronum”.

Comfort/Cozy Items

This year, I’m getting my 14 year old a burrito blanket. It’s a throw blanket that looks like a tortilla. They also make them that look like cookies, pizzas, and other foods teens love. I know he’ll love rolling himself up like a burrito on cold winter mornings. Snuggies, slippers, pajamas, and other cozy items could also make good gifts. If you’re teens pillows are flat, you could even get them a new pillow.

Books/Games/Puzzles

Both of my kids will be getting a book in their stocking. They will also get more books on their birthdays, and under the tree. We homeschool, and I make my kids read a lot. We do go to the library, but also have a lot of books around the house. So getting a few more on Christmas just makes sense.

A deck of cards could easily fit in a stocking. Board games and puzzles can also make great gifts for teens, assuming they like board games and puzzles. During 2020, we have been playing a lot of board games, we try to play a game as a family every night after dinner. We’re starting to get sick of some of our current games, so both of my sons will be getting a new board game this Christmas. Because these are family games, they could easily be given to the entire family. If you are looking for gifts to get for friends/relatives, giving a family game to another family could be a great gift option.

Art/Science Sets

If your kid LOVES art and/or science, some new supplies could make a great gift. Since we homeschool, I am getting my kids some school related items that are fun enough to bridge the gap between gift and homework. My 12 year old really enjoys hands on science activities, so I got him two different science experiment kits that both tie in nicely with what he’s learning this year. I also highly recommend Kiwi Co crate subscriptions if you want a STEM gift that lasts all year. My son’s had a Tinker Crate subscription for over a year now, but I’m still planning to wrap his December crate as a reminder that this subscription is an ongoing gift.

My older son isn’t as excited about doing extra science labs, but he does enjoy art. I got him a light board that he can use for tracing/drawing. I also got him some new paints and brushes. Earlier this year, I got my son a calligraphy set and he’s enjoyed learning calligraphy as a homeschool elective. a calligraphy set could make a great gift.

My boys also got a telescope earlier this year. This could make a great gift for a budding scientist. A high quality microscope would make an equally great gift.

Room Décor

One of the Harry Potter themed gifts my 14 year old is getting this year is a golden snitch lamp. My 12 year old is also getting a new light for his bedroom, but his is a color changing LED globe. Lava lamps and salt lamps are also popular with teens. Beyond lighting, posters, and beanbag chairs can also make great gifts. If your teen still has somewhat childish bedroom décor, getting an updated bedding set or even a can of paint in their favorite color to update the walls could be a hit.

Snacks

Putting candy in stockings is pretty standard. But both of my kids will also have a six pack of soda wrapped under the tree with their name on it this year. I’m planning to wrap large bags of their favorite chips. Teens love junk food. I think pretty much all humans love junk food.

Every time my 14 year old son has extra cash, he spends it on junk food. In the before times, he would go to the grocery store with his friends after school every single day and buy junk food. I’m sure I’ll put some cash in his stocking this year, but I’ll also save him a trip to the store and buy him some junk food for Christmas.

If you’re getting one big gift for your teen this year, and you want to fill out the tree and give them more to open on Christmas morning, don’t overlook the appeal of snacks. A party sized bag of Hot Cheetos might now be my idea of a perfect Christmas, but that doesn’t mean my teenage son won’t be excited to unwrap one.

What did I miss? What items are on your teenage sons wish lists this year?

Thankful for Togetherness

Happy Thanksgiving! 2020 has been a really weird year, and it’s sometimes hard to see the blessing amidst all the crazy, but I’m really thankful for all the time I’ve had at home with my boys this year.

I’m a single mom with two middle school aged boys. In the before times, I used to drop my kids off at school on my way to work every morning. Nine or ten hours later, I’d pick them up from daycare, sports practices, or friends houses on my may home from work. Our evenings were jam packed with homework, and extra curriculars.

The only time we had any semblance of family togetherness was on the weekends. Except, my kids went to their dad’s house every other weekend, so even that time was limited and hectic. I felt like I barely knew my kids.

Then the world slowed way down, and everything changed. Instead of going to their dad’s every other weekend, my kids now spend 24 hours with their dad each week. All the rest of the time, they are home with me. I’m now working from home, and also homeschooling. My kids do the majority of their homeschool work independently. The time I now spend activity teaching is often takes less time than we used to spend on nightly homework. We play board games as a family almost every night after dinner.

A year ago, I felt my teen and pre-teen boys slipping away from me. I loved them, felt like I no longer really knew them. Now I know EVERYTHING about them. We talk about everything, because there is nobody else to talk to. Nine months of quarentine has been tedious at times, but it has also been an amazing blessing for my family.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my two wonderful sons. And I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to spend so much time with them this year. I hope that after a vaccine is found, we’ll still be a close family. There are some things I miss about the before times, but this slow time of togetherness is something I want to hold on to as long as possible.

STEM Gift Idea

The winter gift giving season is rapidly approaching, and many parents and grandparents are looking for educational gift ideas for the children in their lives. Giving a Kiwi Co subscription is a great idea.

Kiwi Co is a subscription box for kids that includes all the instructions and supplies needed for a hands on STEAM activity each month. There are eight different crate subscription options based upon your child’s age. They have fun hands on activities for everyone from preschool to high school. I got my son a Tinker Crate subscription last year for his eleventh birthday. He absolutely loves the hands on science and engineering activities that come in each months crate.

The instructions are very easy to follow, and my son is able to work completely independently. Many parents of preschool aged children are equally happy with their children’s ability to use their koala crate’s independently.

Since this subscription service only provides one crate per month, it is definitely not a complete homeschool curriculum. These open and go hands on STEM activities can be incorporated into homeschool time when they arrive. They can also be used as a fun activity for kids to do on a rainy weekend. The cost of a Kiwi Co subscription is $20 for a single crate or $200 for a years subscription.

MEL Science

A chemistry subscription box for kids. Is it worth the price?

I signed up for MEL Science back in March, the same day as I canceled our spring break vacation plans. At the time, I was facing an unknown amount of time stuck at home with my two sons. I was desperate for entertainment ideas and excited by the prospect of something educational. A MEL Science add hit me at the perfect time, and I ordered a years subscription.

MEL Science is a monthly subscription box for kids ages 10+. They send everything you need from chemicals, to beakers, to safety glasses to complete two hands on chemistry experiments each month. All for the low price of $34.90 per month, or $314 for 12 months. Back in March, this sounded great. Now that it’s November, I’ll tell you how I really feel.

They really do send you everything you need. The instructions are easy to follow. And the experiments are fun to watch. They don’t take very long to do, and can be a fun hands on activity for your family. If you’re looking for a monthly subscription for your kids that will get them to set their screens aside every once in a while, MEL Science is great.

What MEL Science isn’t as good at doing is actually teaching your kids chemistry. The monthly kits include instructions on how to do the experiment and all the chemicals and equipment you’ll need, and nothing else. There is no booklet about what these chemicals are doing and how the reaction works. There is no mention of the periodic table or the structure of an atom anywhere in MEL Science.

I started homeschooling my kids about a month after I signed up for MEL Science. I now know that $314 is really expensive for a year long homeschool curriculum. I also know that MEL Science is not a comprehensive homeschool curriculum. I ended up spending even more money on books about the periodic table and the structure of a atom to try and pull together a workable chemistry program that would include not only fun hands on activities, but also actual learning. Even that was relatively unsuccessful, because the topics covered in these books have no correlation with the experiments.

When I decided to continue homeschooling for the 2020-2021 school year, I opted to get a different more comprehensive science curriculum, that included labs and was still significantly cheaper than MEL Science. We’re still getting MEL Science experiments delivered each month, and I’m still doing these experiments with my kids. They aren’t a part of their homeschool though, they’re just a fun hands on activity to do when we’re board at home.

Is MEL Science right for your family? That depends entire on what you’re looking for. If you want a homeschool science curriculum, I would not recommend this program. But if you simply want a fun hands on activity to do with your kids, and your budget can easily support a $34.90 expense, then give it a try.

Teaching Civics

Today is election day. Hopefully, you voted! Hopefully, you also talked to your kids about the process.

Let’s be real for a second. The United States election process is confusing. The electoral college may have seemed like a great idea to our countries founding fathers, but today it’s a bit of a head scratcher. It’s also really really important that people understand it by the time they turn 18 and are able to vote. So teach your kids about it, every four years, starting when they’re tiny.

Talk to your kids about the party system and the candidates. Take your kids with you when you vote. If you vote by mail, so them how it works. Show where you sign the envelope and then take your kids with you when you drop your ballot off at a collection site.

Hopefully, you’ve been having these important conversations with your kids for months now. If you haven’t, it’s never too late to start. Print off a map of the United States and have them color in the states red and blue as the election results come in. Was there a senator or congressman up for election in your state this cycle? You can talk to your kids about that too. There is way more to US Government than just president.

In our homeschool this year, we have been doing Civics one day a week. We’re using Painless Government as our text, and also pulling various activities from Teachers Pay Teachers. We’ve also looked at the voters pamphlet, watched/discussed political adds, and even watched footage from the DNC, RNC, and Presidential debates. Today is election day, but US Government is complicated. So I expect us to continue studying civics until the end of the calendar year.

What are you doing to teach civics to your kids?

Sixth Grade Homeschool Curriculum

I’ve made a lot of changes in curriculum choices for my sixth grader in the past two months. I’m still tweaking things, but this is a summary of everything I’m using right now.

Language Arts: My sixth grade son is a capable reader, but he definitely doesn’t enjoy it as much as his older brother. He does at least thirty minutes of independent reading from the book of his choice each day. He has a weekly “book club” discussion time with a family friend of ours over zoom each week, which helps to deepen his understanding and comprehension. He is also using Fix-It Grammar for grammar, Wordly Wise for vocabulary, and Reading Fundamentals for additional comprehension work. On top of this, we have been reading/writing poetry and also doing some seasonally inspired creative writing projects.

Handwriting: Handwriting is something my son really struggles with. He actually has anxiety about writing mainly caused by his poor handwriting skills. He’s used Handwriting Without Tears in the past, but is currently using Print Handwriting for Teens for extra handwriting practice each day. I have also found that allowing him to type all of his longer writing assignments greatly improves his willingness to express his thoughts in writing.

Math: We started the year using Spectrum Math. This is a comprehensive workbook that covers everything he should learn in sixth grade math, but without a textbook. I’m good enough at Math that I thought I could teach him without a textbook. I like my kids to do some of their work independently though. The lack of instruction/explanation in this workbook has made it something he can only use with a lot of my help/guidance. The chapter in Spectrum Math we should currently be working on involves fractions, so instead my son is currently working though Master Basic Fraction Skills. I already have a copy of Kumon Geometry and Measurement Grade 6, so he will likely work through that when he finishes his fractions workbook. After that, I’m not sure if he’ll go back to Spectrum Math or if I’ll find other topic specific workbooks to cover the other topics he should be learning in sixth grade math.

History: I started the year more excited about my sixth grade son’s history curriculum than any other curriculum I purchased. He has been doing Snapshots in Ancient History by Curiosity Chronicles. This curriculum is designed for elementary school students, and sixth grade is definitely the upper limit of elementary. It only takes him 20 minutes to complete an entire weeks lesson. Because of this, we are only a quarter of the way through the school year and he’s already more than half way through the book. I thought about having him continue to race through this curriculum with the goal of having him also complete Snapshots in Medieval History this year, but I’ve decided to instead have him join his older brother in our US History lessons most days and only use this history curriculum as filler.

I listed all the books my eighth grade son is reading as a part of his US History curriculum last week. My younger son isn’t as big of a reader, so I’m ordering more grade level appropriate books for him to read from the library and having him join in all the more hands on projects we are doing. Both of my sons are watching the Crash Course US History videos, and participating in interactive projects I’ve ordered from Teachers Pay Teachers. I also ordered the History Pockets packet from Evan Moor for both Colonial America and Westward Expansion. I may end up getting him the Civil War packet when we get to that period as well.

Science: My older son is using BookShark Science Level H for science this year. I started the year thinking that both of my sons would be able to use this curriculum. BookShark is a literature based program that is great for my older son, who loves to read. Science is my sixth grade sons favorite subject, so I thought he’d be able to handle the eighth grade work. Unfortunately, BookShark isn’t as good of a fit for my kinesthetic learner. My son has a Tinker Crate subscription that he absolutely loves, but sadly it only comes once a month. He also has a Mel Chemistry subscription. He enjoys the bi-weekly chemistry experiments, but I don’t think Mel Science doesn’t do a very good job of teaching chemistry. They only provide fun experiments.

I recently added Skill Sharpeners Science and Skill Sharpeners Critical Thinking to my sixth grader’s science rotation. Instead of doing the entire BookShark program, I’m only having him read the books that directly expand upon what he’s getting from these skill sharpeners workbooks. Because he loves hands on activities so much, he’s doing the lab activities suggested in the skill sharpeners science book and the lab activities suggested in BookShark. He is also doing Lego Robotics and coding once a week while at his dad’s house (using Scratch, Java, and One Great Hour of Code).

Social Studies: My parents come over and help teach homeschool once a week. For the past few months, they have been doing civics/government lessons with both of my sons on these days. They have been using Painless American Government as a text, and also using resources they’ve found on Teachers Pay Teachers. In addition to this, they have watch local and national news programs related to the upcoming election, and have been doing projects using the voters pamphlet. After the election, they are planning to shift to a new Social Studies unit on Economics. In addition to this once a week social studies lesson with his grandparents, my sixth grader is also doing Skill Sharpeners Geography. He is using this workbook somewhat sporadically mainly as an alternative to some of the more challenging history assignments my eighth grader is doing.

Health: Both of my sons are having lots of opportunities to cook as a part of our homeschool. We are reading through Food and Nutrition for Every Kid as we learn about healthy food choices. My son also just finished reading The Boys Body Book.

PE: This is the subject we are currently doing the worst with. Walks and/or bike rides around the neighborhood and jumping on the trampoline in the backyard are currently the only thing we are doing for PE. My son used to do Taekwondo, but stopped when we started social distancing last spring. Once it becomes safe to do group sports, I’d love to get him on a basketball team. My “little guy” is eleven years old and almost 5′ 7″, learning to play basketball seems like a must. In the mean time, we might need to start doing yoga at home.

Teaching a hands on learner is proving more challenging than teaching a voracious reader, but I think we are zeroing in on a curriculum that works for us. If you have any questions about any of the resources I listed above, I’d be happy to provide you with more information. Also, if you have any ideas for resources I should be using to further improve our homeschool curriculum let me know that too.

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

When I started this blog, I thought I was going to give lots of reviews of each specific curriculum I’m using. Now that I’ve completed the first quarter of our homeschool year, I’m realizing how much I’m pulling different resources from different places. Instead of making separate posts about each curriculum choice, I’m going to list everything I’m using for my 8th grader here. Next week, I’ll share what I’m using for my 6th grader.

Language Arts: This is my eighth graders strongest subject. He has always loved to read, and is doing a lot of independent reading. So far, I’ve let him choose for himself everything he’s read. I have him give me an oral narration of what he reads each day, and he does a writing assignment about each book he completes (typically once every other week). He is also using WriteShop I for writing and Wordly Wise for vocabulary. On top of this, we have been reading/writing poetry and also doing some seasonally inspired creative writing projects.

Math: While Language Arts is my son’s best subject, math is his worst. Despite being in eighth grade, he is at about a sixth grade level in math. We used Life of Fred Fractions last spring, and started going through Life of Fred Decimals and Percent’s this fall. When he became frustrated with Fred, we paused to do some extra practice in Kumon’s Pre-Algebra workbook. Using this workbook is currently going better than Fred, so we’re going to stick with this for a while, but we may pick back up Life of Fred later in the year.

History: We are focusing on US History, but aren’t using a set curriculum. Instead, I’m pulling together lots of different books and online resources to make my own curriculum. We started the year by using both Before Columbus by Charles C Mann and Turtle Island by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger as texts to learn about Pre-Columbian history. We are now using A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, A Different Mirror by Rebecca Stefoff, and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as our main texts. We’re also watching Crash Course US History videos on YouTube, doing various projects I find on Teachers Pay Teachers, reading Historical Fiction connected to the various times in history we are studying, and my son is doing writing assignments related to his various readings.

Science: My son is using BookShark Science Level H for science this year. This is a literature based science program that focuses on Conservation, Robotics, and Technology. My son is doing coding once a week while at his dad’s house (using Scratch, Java, and One Great Hour of Code). He’s also doing some Robotics work at his dad’s, so I gave his dad the Robotics text that came with this program. For the remaining seven books in the curriculum, I’ve been allowing my son to choose the order of what he wants to study. He is then using the BookShark student pages to answer questions about his reading, he’s just not going through the pages in the standard order.

Social Studies: My parents come over and help teach homeschool once a week. For the past few months, they have been doing civics/government lessons with both of my sons on these days. They have been using Painless American Government as a text, and also using resources they’ve found on Teachers Pay Teachers. In addition to this, they have watch local and national news programs related to the upcoming election, and have been doing projects using the voters pamphlet. After the election, they are planning to shift to a new Social Studies unit on Economics.

Health: Both of my sons are having lots of opportunities to cook as a part of our homeschool. We are also reading through Food and Nutrition for Every Kid as we learn about healthy food choices. My son also has a medical condition that effects his daily life. For the sake of his privacy, I’m not going to give any information about what condition this is. I did, however, find a wonderful medical resource that my son has been using to learn more about his condition and the various treatment options available to him as he gets older. Being able to tailor his health education so it directly relates to his own personal health has been very beneficial. I view this as one of the biggest perks of homeschooling.

PE: This is the subject we are currently doing the worst with. Walks and/or bike rides around the neighborhood is currently the only thing we are doing for PE. As weather get’s rainier, we will need to find some indoor exercise options we can do at home. I’d love to add yoga into our homeschool day, but it isn’t a part of our routine yet.

If you have any questions about any of the resources I listed above, I’d be happy to provide you with more information. Also, if you have any ideas for resources I should be using to further improve our homeschool curriculum let me know that too.

It’s Okay To Improvise

I originally planned to give reviews of the various homeschool curriculum I’m using on this blog. However, I’m not using a single curriculum exactly how its intended. Not a single one. So today, instead of telling you what products I’ve purchased, I’m going to tell you what I’m actually doing.

The biggest thing I’m doing is improvising. I started our homeschool year in the middle of August, so even though many of our local public schools are barely getting started, we’re almost two months into our homeschool year. I started off by talking about the various homeschooling styles. I thought I was selecting curriculum based upon the style that would best suit my students. But before they really started homeschool, none of us knew what styles actually work best for our family. So we’re changing our plans and re-configuring how we use our curriculum to make it better match our needs.

That is one of the biggest blessings of homeschool. When something isn’t working, you can change it. Chances are high we’ll change things again several more times before the year is over. This actually leads to my biggest piece of advise for other new homeschool families. Don’t spend lots of money on curriculum during your first few months of homeschool. Obviously, you need to have something to use with your students. But start with a few simple workbooks and a stack of library books. Or see if you can download a sample week of a curriculum your considering and then actually try it for a week before you purchase it.

Chances are high, you’ll abandon most of your workbooks long before you complete them, but at least you haven’t spent a small fortune on an expensive curriculum you’re quickly casting aside. The biggest thing you need to figure out in the first few months of homeschooling isn’t what curriculum you plan to use, but how your kids learn.

Do you love reading aloud to your children, and do your children also love listening to you read aloud?

Do your students enjoy reading to themselves, even when the books your giving them are non-fiction? Are they capable of doing narration or writing assignments about the books you have them read? Or would a guided worksheet to accompany their reading be better?

Are Documentaries and Educational Videos a valued addition to your homeschool experience, or something that puts everyone to sleep? If you do like videos, I highly recommend Crash Course. It’s a PBS series on YouTube that has year long series of videos on just about every subject you can think of (geared mainly for middle and high school students).

How much do you enjoy setting up complicated art projects and science experiments, and how much do your students enjoy doing them? If you’re spending an hour to prepare for a ten minute activity your kids don’t even like, you might want to cut back on the number of projects you’re preparing.

All of these questions can be answered with a bunch of library books, some online searches for documentaries, and project ideas. Websites like pintrest and teachers pay teachers are great places to get ideas for things to try as you figure out how best to teach your students.

Once you actually know the answer to all these questions, then you can think about buying curriculum. But even after you do buy curriculum, don’t be afraid to tweak it to better fit your families needs. Maybe that means shifting the order of the lessons, pulling in extra resources, or skipping some of the assignments. Maybe it means you do an entire weeks worth of a curriculum on a single day, or that you use the textbook but set aside the adjoining workbook completely.

I also recommend starting simple. Especially if you have older students, you will likely want to begin your school year with a homeschool experience that looks relatively similar to traditional school. As time goes on, you can modify either the curriculum you use or how you use it to more perfectly match your families teaching/learning styles. But to begin with, having something that looks familiar can make the transition to homeschool a lot less stressful for everyone.

I have found Teachers Pay Teachers to be a great resource when trying to replicate school at home. All the lessons I purchase through Teachers Pay Teachers look and feel like public school. When I only select fun and engaging activities, everyday of homeschool is like the best day of public school. And as an added bonus, Teachers Pay Teachers is very affordable and you can purchase anything from a month long unit curriculum to a single days activity. So its easy to start small and build larger once you actually know how your homeschool functions best.