"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Friday, August 7, 2015

Back to school, back to school...

Monday will begin our 5th year of homeschooling! I can't believe I've stuck with it this long...let me backup. I was NEVER going to homeschool. I thought it was weird. I thought it would turn my kids in to socially awkward recluses. I thought it required a whole lot of skills that God just didn't hand me when He created me (like patience...). So what made me about face on this whole education at home thing?

It really started from a place of fear. My oldest was approaching kindergarten and I just couldn't imagine releasing her in to the big, bad world quite yet. Go be a light kid in a whole lot of darkness. So we gave it a test run for pre-k because what's the big deal if you mess up pre-k, right?

Good news was I didn't mess up pre-k too bad and I realized I kinda loved this whole homeschooling thing. But I also realized it was really, really, really hard. I spent every.single.day. with my little "angel" of a 4 year old. Every vice and character flaw was flagrantly displayed. Mine and hers. I realized I'm extremely selfish (all day long my goal is just five minutes...), lazy (seriously, why do I keep checking Facebook instead of doing dishes?), and impatient. Oh, and my kids...they are little sinning versions of me too. Awesome.

God began to really work on me through this homeschooling stuff. Not only did He start to use it as a vehicle to sanctify me, but He also changed my reasons as to why I was doing it in the first place.

I don't have a complicated answer really. I don't believe the public school system is evil or common core is the death of American free thinking. I don't believe that homeschooling will ensure my kids love and follow Jesus. I don't believe homeschooling can protect them from pain, suffering, or bad influences. I don't believe our choice to homeschool makes us any holier than my neighbors down the street who send their kids off to public school. My sole reason I homeschool is one word: TIME.

Two years is what I calculated kids will spend in a school based on an 8 hour school day at 180 days a year. So instead of 18 years, I'd only be getting 16. It didn't sit well with me. I wanted more time and I felt God was offering me that opportunity. Time to teach them about becoming a disciple of Christ. Time to teach them about the greats of literature, the arts, and sciences. Time to get to know them so intimately that I know how best to present a topic and what excites them and what they are gifted in. Time to navigate all their sin and help them grow and change.

Homeschool is just a vehicle for more time to me. Nothing more. Nothing less. It doesn't make me more patient than you if your kids ride the bus everyday. It doesn't make me a better parent because I taught my kid to read. Secretly, all homeschool moms harbor a tinge of jealously towards their traditional school friends who get a couple kidless hours a day to get things done around the house. More time comes with more messes and more life happening in our home than most families. More time means less time for cleaning, working out and reading books I want to read. Time always costs something, whether we are talking about homeschool or work or passions or dreams.

I say all this because I thought I'd share our curriculum picks for the 2015-2016 school year. I always want to preface any discussions on our freedoms as believers with a deep, unmistakable undertone of grace. How we choose to educate our children is not dictated in Scripture outside of a few verses like Deuteronomy 6:5-9:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
You can without a doubt love the Lord your God with all your heart and impress that love on your children as you drive them to school or wake them up for math at the kitchen table. You can do it no matter what way you've chosen to educate them. But if you do decide that God is calling you to homeschool, here are some of our picks for the year. I always give this piece of advice to those considering homeschool. First, buy two books: Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay Clarkson and 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. These will help you determine what curriculums/philosophies fit best for you, your child and your situation. There is no one size fits all for homeschooling. Besides, that is probably part of the reason why you chose it in the first place. Second, take everyone's opinions with a grain of salt. People get very opinionated in homeschooling circles. There is SO much out there that will produce similar outcomes (knowing stuff) so don't feel like you HAVE to do what people say, even if they are veterans. As with all things, listen to the advice and then you and God have a pow wow on where He wants you to land:
Preschool for the dude:
My oldest got to experience a traditional preschool environment. I decided to give homeschool preschooling a try this year because the dude is chomping at the bit (he wants to learn to read). I didn't want to jip him out of all the fun crafts and art projects, but with a toddling-tot, a threenager, and planning school for a Flower Child of a 3rd grader, there was no way I could waste precious time hunting for all things cute on pinterest. Enter Mother Goose Time . You can order a box a month and they send you EVERYTHING you need: books, manipulatives, craft items (minus a few common household ones). Boom. Sold. It's our first time trying it so I'll let you know if we order next months as well...
We are also doing Teach your child to read in 100 Lessons. I didn't use it with my first, but it looks simple enough and since he is rearing to go, we are going to give it a try!
Third Grade for the Flower Child:
Third Grade sort of had me a little scared. It seems like such a foundational year in one's education. I still remember learning about the various types of writing (expository, persuasive, etc.) and cursive at this point in my educational history. Memorizing those pesky multiplication facts (which I never quite did). It's like it's starting to get real. I tend to deal with this fear by over ordering curriculum. I'm a bit of a junky. I research. I make lists. Then, I make lists of my lists. But, I think I've got a good selection this year:
This is our second year using Christian Light Education. Math is not my strength nor does the artsy, creative flower child dig it. I love this program for many reasons like it is CHEAP! Under $35 for a whole year. We have tried Horizons and Saxon in the past and I didn't care for either particularly, but this one was pretty straight forward and to the point. There is a focus on knowing basic facts through time tests and flashcards. Best part, it teaches kids to work independently and I can just come and check over her work. It is not manipulative based, which can be a negative to some. But for my kiddo, manipulatives tended to distract more than help her so we just needed to learn some stinking math. I decided at one point my kids don't have to be math geniuses, unless that's what God wants. In which case, He will provide a much better math teacher than me! 
 Language Arts:
This is where I get complicated. Language arts is my jam. I'm a writer. I'm a reader. I love words. So, this is where we camp out most days. This year I'm using a smorgasbord of things:
- First Language Lessons 3 for grammar
- Writing with Ease for writing/grammar
-A Reason for Handwriting for Handwriting
-Write Shop for creative writing
- Sonlight Readers for reading
- Word a day for vocabulary
-Sequential Spelling 2 for spelling 
-Christian Light Education Language Arts 3 as independent work that will be used to supplement
I know, I know...it's way too much, but we will figure out a rhythm that works with it all, I promise.
Bible/Character Training:

This is the first year I'm not using Positive Action for Christ and I'm sad. It is a great curriculum that Flower Child and I loved, but it was getting too time intensive with the Dude and Toddley-Tot. So, I decided to use what came with what I already ordered so I'll be using some Sonlight and some Mother Goose Time (you have to add on the Bible stuff) as well as doing some of my own stuff. We are also going to do some character training using Laying Down the Rails from Simply Charlotte Mason. We are focusing on a trait a month and they have several lessons within the Children book that can go along with the traits. Fridays will be our character trait time.
Social Studies/Read Alouds:
 Oh Sonlight, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... I love words, remember? So, Sonlight is my jam when it comes to Social Studies, read alouds, and readers. They pick excellent literature and since I lean towards Charlotte Mason, they work for us. It involves a lot of reading time with your kids and if you are a compulsive box checker, it can sometimes overwhelm you if you get behind. BUT, if you can learn (like say this reforming OCD, type A planner type) to not let their plan drive you and just slow down and enjoy the books, you'll love it too I'm sure. This year is all about American History. I. Cannot. Wait.
Oh and I got some random Geography worksheet book. We'll do it if/when we can. I'm going to keep using the Geography Songs CD I got last year with Sonlight. Seriously, I've learned more about geography through those catchy tunes than my whole 32 years before it.
This year, I'm not using a formal curriculum. Having been trained as a K-6 teacher, I was getting kind of bummed that I didn't get to exercise my creativity when it came to lesson planning. So, I threw all caution in the wind and decided we'd do some child-interest led units for science. First up, SHARKS!! Really excited about it and so are the kids!
Ok, here is the icing on the cake. First year homeschoolers, ignore all of this. These are the add ons we do when/if we have time. It isn't much but this year we are doing:
-Artistic Pursuits Book 2 because Flower Child and the Dude are budding artists
- The Care and Keeping of You: I realized I'm about to have a pre-teen on my hands so we are starting some of the hard conversations about a girl's body and all the changes. We won't focus too much on anything past hygiene but we will start heading towards all those things that I just don't even know where to begin.
-Nutrition: I really want my kids to understand the importance of good habits when it comes to food, health and exercise. I never learned them as a kid and I am paying for it as a 33 year old sugar, carb addict who struggles with consistently working out and going to sleep at a reasonable hour. We will be using some real books and a How to Teach Nutrition to Kids book with ideas.
- Song School Spanish is from last year. We didn't finish it so just going to finish out the year with it. The songs are oh so catchy but I am afraid of what happens after we finish it. I spoke with the company at a recent homeschool conference and they said there really isn't anything for the in between stage. I'll be starting mucho research on a good Spanish program.
-Typing Instructor for Kids: I got it last year and we never used it. We'll try it again...
We are doing a homeschool group for the first time ever. Our lives are not very consistent when it comes to a schedule so we've never really been able to commit. But, this year we thought we'd give Classical Conversations a shot and the Flower Child is excited to be with one of her BFF's.
We also are doing weekly serving at a local food pantry and will continue various projects for a local refugee ministry. THESE are the things that I say make up my kid's education. I hope they know stuff, but more importantly, I hope they DO stuff for the kingdom because that's what we were created to do. The Flower Child is like her mama and is FULL of ideas and projects to help others so when they pop up, we run with them. It's a great way to give your kid's ownership in something AND they can do really big stuff. Don't look down on them because they are young...In the past 3 years, she has raised over $2,500 for charities and donated 75 BIG bags of rice to local refugees. She has plans to do something for the food pantry this year and wants to do a lemonade stand for friends trying to adopt. Those ideas can make for GREAT homeschool lessons on event planning, business, finance, and more. Real life skills that will perhaps turn out some entrepreneurs, activists, or just flat out world changers. #goals 
Because we like to live life to the max, Flower Child is also going to do some courses at our local children's play place that offers really cool "learning labs." Don't worry, they are short commitments so we can squeeze it all in.
I cannot believe the time has come for the 2015/2016 school year, can you? If you homeschool, what are some picks you are super excited about this year? If you don't, what are your kids (and you) looking forward to the most with the whole back to school routine?
Next time, I might do a little homeschool room tour because it is so cliché and necessary for a mommy blogger who homeschools and I relish in living out clichés.
Here's to educating our kids...



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