Sunday, May 24, 2009

Homeschool During the Summer?

You may ask, “should we do homeschool during the summer?" I know this year both Riley and I were ready for a break! We were in much need of rest, there was the "honey-do" list on the refrigerator that needed to be tackled, and we were ready for a change in pace. However, we ended the year with the mindset that we were going to keep up certain subjects over the summer months and attempt to do some fun learning stuff as well.

That is one of the joys of homeschooling, flexibility! It is that time of year that questions like this one pop up, “Where are we going for summer vacation?” Families that homeschool may ask, “How long of a break from school will we take?” “Will we even take a break?” “Can we incorporate school into our vacation?” If you are homeschooling, those questions can be answered by the type of homeschool method(s) you choose.

Once a family chooses to homeschool, they quickly realize that learning becomes a family thing. No matter what method you choose to follow, If it is the “unschooling” method, the “eclectic” method or school at home where you may follow the school board calendar, you choose the method that works best for your family. What you choose could also be a little bit of one or two of the methods or a little bit of all three methods.

Families who unschool take advantage of learning opportunities as they arise all year long and summer is just a part of that year. Reading, writing and Artithmetic are a part of the school schedule as well as other learning opportunities that are a part of everyday life. Families who follow the eclectic method may choose to do a summer project or activity that may involve some book work, a fun activity or vacation time, or all of the above. The families that choose to follow the school at home method may choose to take all three (or two and a half) months off and do no school at all. Or if they have not met all the days required, they may work through the summer. The decision is really up to you and your family.

If you have had the revelation that you need to be homeschooling your precious children and are just getting started, you may wonder, "how do I know which method(s) is right for us?" There are good sources out there to help point you in the right direction. One in particular is "100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" by Cathy Duffy. In her book there is a section in Chapter 2 that is called "Which Approach to Education Should I Choose?" There is a chart that will help you identify which method(s) would fit best in your family. Notice that I said method or methods, you may find that you like certain aspects of more than one method. That is OK. Again another one of the joys of homeschooling, that flexibility. She will also help you identify which type of learning method best describes your child and in another section of her book she reviews a lot of different curriculum's. This book is a must have for moms that are new to homeschooling.

Now back to the issue of summer time. If you are thinking you need to continue some type of school activities to keep boredom to a minimum and to keep the brain working, here are some ideas to incorporate learning during the summer months (no matter which method you choose).

*Create a garden: science

*Camping: nature or bug study: Science

*Vacationing near historical sites: History

*Have your child help chart the course for your trip: Geography

*Have your child help plan the budget or a portion of the budget (i.e. food): Math and/or Finance

*Here is a great idea for the kids while traveling in the car! Rand McNally Kids Road Atlas

*Summer concerts: Music and/or culture or Social Studies

*Summer camps: Music, art, PE, science etc

If you have any other ideas for homeschooling in the summer and making it fun, let me know. I would love to hear them and see if we can incorporate some of them in our summer homeschool journey!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

God's Classroom: Baby Birds

About a week ago I hung my Spider plant on my front porch as I do every year. This past weekend I pulled it down to water it and lo and behold there was a perfectly round little nest inside. I was a little disappointed because of the possibility of mites killing my plant, but excitement overwhelmed that disappointment because I saw the potential for a lesson in 'God's Classroom'.

I had noticed some House Wrens flitting around the front porch and wondered if they had chosen someplace close for their nest. Sure enough, in my Spider plant. Oh well, hopefully it will survive the mites... We had begun studying birds this spring in Science so this would be a great lesson for Riley.

Little did I know the House Wren had neighbors in our little acorn bird house hanging next door to the Spider Plant. That little acorn house has been hanging there for about two years and finally some little bird has chosen it for her home! I was elated! It turns out it is a Black Capped Chickadee that moved into the acorn house.

It was funny, to me it seemed like a little country house for the House Wren and a fancy little suburban home for the Chickadee! What a cute idea for a story! Well.....I digress.

On Monday of this week the little acorn house became alive with the chatter of Momma Chickadee and her chicks. In and out and chattering all day and lasted until Tuesday! It was really quite cute. The whole time Momma Wren just sits quietly as if she is knitting booties for her baby, ignoring her chatty neighbor.

Today, the little acorn house was very quiet. I thought the babies had probably flown the coop but said a prayer that nothing bad had happened. Later this afternoon I went out through the garage to get something. Noticing a very large weed I stepped on it with intentions of pulling it up. As I did, this round, baby Chickadee hopped out and just set to chattering. "Hey! Watch what your doing you silly human!" she seemed to say. I just spoke softly to her and then went to get Riley. He came out and immediately started calling her "Little Girl" and trying to calm her down. "Come on 'Little Girl' it's OK." he said softly. He desperately wanted to touch her but I cautioned him that if we touched her I was afraid Momma Chickadee would neglect her. Riley did great and kept a safe distance still calling her 'Little Girl' and talking softly to her. Riley said, "Is this bird watching momma?" I said, "You bet! We are bird watching." He seemed to really enjoy it and will later make an entry in his bird journal we created earlier this spring.

What a great lesson! God's classroom offers so many wonderful lessons for our children if we take the time to find them. Of course this one seemed to find us but hopefully we can follow it for a day or two. If Riley has learned anything it is to identify a Black Capped Chickadee which is common here in Northern Alabama. He also learned what their habitat is and how they rear their young. While we were discussing the importance of leaving her alone and not touching her, we reviewed what instinct was. Her instinct was to hide someplace safe till Momma came back. She also flew a few times stretching her wings as she was learning.

God's creation is awesome and full great lessons like this one. If you are finishing up school for the year or continuing on through the summer look for lessons like this one in your own backyard. You never know what you will find. If you are looking for ideas on Nature studies or maybe not sure where or how to start, check out this E-book from The Old Schoolhouse Store. Just click the link below, it will take you there. It is full of wonderful ideas that will get the creative juices flowing!

E-Book: Creative Nature Study for Homeschoolers

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Lessons We Learn.....

Well for my first post to my blog I feel like the Lord laid this one in my lap today. Much of the time as I teach our son Riley, mine and my husband's prayer is that Riley is learning and developing his character in a Godly manner. As I'm sure many of you are praying the same thing for your children. There are times that I wonder if we are making progress or just headed no where fast. Today I had a glimpse of that progress and I was so thankful! His example of joy and giving today was such a blessing to me I just had to write about it.

I was mowing the front yard with our fairly new push mower this morning. In the meantime, Riley had been playing in the front yard or riding his bike. He had gone in the house and came back out with a package of Tiny Size Chiclets gum. He came running up to me and offered some to me, which at that time I had no interest in chewing gum. So I politely said, "No, thank you honey."

I was huffing and puffing and complaining because the engine kept cutting off and on as I was pushing it (probably because the grass was so tall since we've had so much rain lately!). As I worked my way over to the other side of the driveway, the mower finally died and shut off. As it did I let out a growl out of frustration. I stalked over to the mower to check the gas, which was a little low so I went into the garage to get the gas tank. As I did, Riley said, "Hey mom, I know what you need." I said, "What do I need son?" (trying not to voice my frustration over the mower towards him) He said, "You need a Tiny Size! It will make you feel good and it tastes good and you'll be happy!"

At first I thought, "A Tiny Size? What in the world is that?" As he came running towards me holding up a package of the Tiny Size Chiclets, I said to myself, "Now how could I refuse that?!" My only child, showing such a wonderful example of sharing, sharing joy and happiness and trying to ease my frustration in such a simple way! Of course I accepted the Tiny Size! I was so blessed by my son's generosity but also by his joy and desire to see his mom smile. Later as I was thinking about this little episode this verse came to mind "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)
I didn't necessarily have a broken spirit but I sure did lack in the joy area!

Sometimes the weight of the example we need to set for our children is so heavy! Sometimes I succeed in setting a Christ like example and sometimes I feel like I fail miserably. Or those times that I lose sight of 'who' my focus should be on and start to stress about what Riley is learning or what he isn't learning. But thank the Lord that He is there each time to remind me of where I need to be or what I need to be doing and set me on the right path. Even if it takes my 7 yr old son to show me!

It's times like these that I feel confident that we are on the right road of teaching our son. Even when we have those difficult days, days like this come along to show me we are doing the right thing.
I hope that your homeschooling journey is rewarding and full of teachable moments like this. Even when you are the one learning at that given moment. Till next time.