September 13, 2016

Sonlight and Multiple Students-------Take 2

So last year I wrote an extremely detailed post about how I planned to use Sonlight with my, then, Grades 4, 2, and 1 children.

I kept that pace for a few weeks.. and then reworked how it would actually go for 9
full months of school.

Life gave us a few bumps and adjustments that couldn't have been planned for. And as the homeschooling years tick by, I'm trying to remember that flexibility or adaptability is key! Somehow, us homeschool moms need to find a sweet balance between routine and schedule and keeping things real and flexible as life throws unexpected curve balls our way.

If we can capitalize on our slower days, really focus on how great it is, and not get flustered or discouraged on days where it feels like school just isn't working.. I think this can help us avoid burnout. Our family hasn't signed any contract or written in stone anywhere that we will graduate everyone from home, however if we do graduate my youngest from home, we're looking at another 12 years of homeschooling ahead of us.

Setting a healthy pace, and evaluating things constantly, has helped me a lot.

As for curriculum for 2016-2017, we are still using Sonlight. I really have nothing negative to say about Sonlight. Because we live abroad, with no access to an english public library, it is really nice to build our own family library at home. Sonlight gives us the tools to do this, without a lot of legwork. I trust Sonlight's picks to be high-quality. I also love their emphasis on reading aloud.

This year we have Grades 5, 3, 2, and K in our home.

We are going back to Core A this year (World Cultures), mainly to keep my Kindergartner engaged, but also as a good review for my Grade 3 and 2 students. I am supplementing them with some more detailed work related to the topics. My Grade 5 student is doing an online Social Studies course affiliated with the school we are enrolled with in Canada. Because we are Canadian, and Sonlight is American, it's difficult to fulfill Canadian learning outcomes when it comes to Canadian Socials.

Our year ahead looks like this:

History/Social Studies/Bible
Grade 5 daughter will work through Starting Strong for her personal Bible study, and do an online course through our Christian School for social studies.
Grade K, 2, 3 will work through Sonlight's Core A
All of us are working through Young Explorers, Human Anatomy and Physiology (Apologia)
We will also cover some student-led-interest-based projects.... (I'm scared about this)
Language Arts:
Brave Writer (Jot it Down, & Partnership Writing)
Phonics: Explode the Code, MCP Phonics
Vocabulary: Wordly Wise
Readers: Sonlight Picks for their grade level
Grade 5: Saxon 6/5
Grade 3: Singapore Primary 3
Grade 2: Singapore Primary 2
K: Singapore Primary Kb
Music: (I used to be a piano teacher)
Grade 5 daughter is continuing with private piano lessons with me
Grade 3, 2 students are practicing with me but also using a FREE online video series we found, and they really like it called Hoffman Music Academy.

How Do We Get it All Done?

For my older guys, (Gr. 5, 3, 2) I like to write out weekly checklists. It helps them know my expectations without me become more than my normal "naggy" self, and they also appreciate knowing their workload for the day. I am super laid back with my final kindergartener this year, as he is already ahead of schedule when it comes to phonics and math, as well-----I know he'll be fine as I don't see any glaring learning challenges at this point.  :) How's that for vague?

Daily, my goal is to be finished with schoolwork by lunch-time. I've had to recognize each of my children's own learning style. But I'm trying to instill the idea that work comes before play, and school is lumped into that "work" category. This means no video games or tv shows before schoolwork is finished. As well, I have my own things/hobbies I would like to do, so I don't like doing much school work after lunch. I find if things are left until then, they probably won't get done at all. By the afternoon, I'm thinking about shopping that needs doing, supper to prepare, maybe a date for tea with a friend or another project. Who knows.

I try hard to prioritize the items my children will definitely need me for in the mornings, and then they have to get the other things done after that.
So school has 3 basic categories,
1. Work-with-mom
2. Independent-work
And then there's this other strange category that I'm calling:
3. Spontaneous Natural Learning

This final category probably happens more often than I'm even aware. But this year I will purpose to be more observant of this category. So much learning is taking place in our home without me guiding it. Just getting my kids involved with the daily running of our home provides plenty of opportunity for it - - - conflict/resolution, health and nutrition, time management, moral discussions etc...... I think it's key for homeschool moms to recognize how much learning is happening naturally during play and while talking with our young children. What makes it strange or difficult type of learning for me is, there's no substantial proof, there aren't any checkboxes to mark "done"... I can't show it to a teacher necessarily. It's a lot like sowing seeds in the garden and seeing nothing but the soil on top for a long, long time, waiting for the fruit of those seeds to appear.

In any case, every year we tweak and change things as we see the need to.

September 4, 2016

Back to School

Everybody is getting back into the school routine! 

To commemorate "Back to School," we kept a bit of a video diary this week.

We have already been back to school for a few weeks, as we plan to take more time off throughout the year and also we will be finishing up in May.

I hope to journal a bit more about what our school likes for 2016-2017 in the coming weeks. I can't believe we are already into our 6th year of homeschooling. It so strange how time goes. Sometimes it feels like the days are dragging by, and then at others the weeks are flying! How does that work?

This year we are homeschooling Grades 5, 3, 2 and Kindergarten.

October 27, 2015

Sonlight & Multiple Students

This is a topic I have googled many times over the past couple of years. We are into our fifth year of homeschooling now, and just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how other moms might be juggling Cores for multiple age-ranges in their house-hold.

I was able to gather a few ideas, but, as with many other aspects of homeschooling, much must be invented by the mom, as one of our goals in homeschooling is to tailor education to suit our individual family culture, and the children's natural-born skills or needs.

This school year we have grades 4, 2, and 1, with a preschooler who is amazingly good at occupying himself, PTL!

We have chosen Sonlight because I love books, desire to raise a family of readers, and I trust many of the choices Sonlight brings to the table. Having a list of resources handed to me in a box is so helpful. On top of that, we are missionaries in Madagascar, so I cannot run over to a teacher supply store, or even go onto Amazon and buy additions to our curriculum on a whim. When I order from Sonlight, I know everything will be there and it will be fantastic!

For those of you who are familiar with Sonlight, the question of course is, how in the world do we work multiple levels into these rich cores? There's so much reading we could be doing if we try and complete everything. My answer to this question, "How do you school multiple grades using Sonlight?" is "We don't do it all."

The beauty of their history, geography, and science units are that they in and of themselves suit multiple grades within 3 or 4 years.

This year we are using the following resources:

  • Core A: World Cultures (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Core B+C: Condensed World History (Grade 2 & 4 children)
  • Science A (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Science C (Grade 2 & 4 children)
  • Language Arts 1 (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Language Arts 2 (Grade 2 son)
  • Language Arts 4-5 (Grade 4 daughter)
And of course we are doing math and music and physical education besides.

So the big question for sonlighters, how do we work multiple cores into our day. After all, it's a lot of reading!

We are doing our own Bible schedule. I have gathered some of the best resources from both Cores, and we are alternating between and everybody does this together. As well, my 4th grader is doing her own Bible reading.

We are doing our own Read Alouds schedule. And we are only reading one novel at a time to everybody. I have chosen books from multiple cores that I want to either hit again, or ones we haven't managed yet. We usually read our chosen novel during lunchtime or before bed, and we have a poetry or short story session in the afternoon which has fondly been named Tea Time.

This leaves History & Geography from Core A and Core B+C, and Science A & C to juggle. To start off with, we are not doing everything from each core. It's just too much for our family. For example, I have pared down my 1st grader's science to fulfill all of her science learning outcomes prescribed for grade 1 (which aren't very many), and then supplemented that with the weekly topics I would like to cover with her this year. Because Science C is written for Grade 2, 3, or 4, my 4th grader is able to guide my 2nd grader in it independently. This is the first year we have been able to do this. In the past I have read all of the science material to the kids. I still have to intervene at times, but mostly they are doing great on their own.

For History & Geography we are basically doing as written in the cores' schedules. I sit with my 1st grader and work through her history while the other 2 kids are busy, and then we switch. Again though, we aren't doing every single reading written into the schedule. If I feel the need to skip, or linger, we do. I think this is so key. Don't work for your curriculum! Make it work for your family.

I was mostly interested to see how some moms organize their curriculum and save their students' work. The Sonlight binders are huge! And I can't stand lugging them around, so I usually work on 4 weeks at a time in a smaller binder. I keep the Scope of Topics page in a plastic sleeve at the front of each section to make it easy for me to report on things we cover. (I am accountable to a teacher in Canada on a weekly basis.)

I have divided my smaller binder into sections:

  • Core B+C
  • Science C
  • LA 4-5
  • LA 2
  • Core A
  • Science A
  • LA 1
This way I am able to flip easily to each student's schedule and see what we want to work on for that day.

Each child has a weekly binder where they have all of their language arts work, history and geography notes, and science activity sheets. At the end of each week, I transfer their work into a yearly binder for each of the kids. This way when it comes time for writing portfolios or collecting proofs for each reporting period for my teacher in Canada, it's all handy in chronological order.

So finally, how do we actually do the work we want to accomplish? I have written out rough timetables in the past and they help give me a very vague plan with lots of wiggle room to get everything done in the day. I like to keep it vague so I don't feel strapped or overwhelmed. It also gives us flexibility for unforeseen things that are bound to come up.

Since writing the above outline, we have added children's French lessons with a tutor 3 times per week. So on these days things get juggled around, or we just take the day off, depending. :) As much as I thrive on structure, to help keep my mind clear and from becoming overwhelmed, I am learning that I must give ourselves plenty of room to bend the rules of the schedule. 

February 9, 2015

Sharing Memories in the Kitchen

Today we made donuts! This was a first. Mostly because I rarely deep-fry anything. Or I try to keep deep-fried foods to an absolute minimum.

I enlisted the help of my eldest, who is always willing to help me cook when I invite her. As I've mentioned before, I have troubles involving the children in the kitchen. I really like cooking/baking, and honestly, it's kind of like my alone time. So I don't often share it.

I need to more.

As we were cooking these, I shared some memories of my grandma. I remember a few times, going to her place and seeing freshly made donuts sitting on the counter, glistening with sugar. Yum. My daughter loves hearing these kinds of stories.

I'm so thankful I have wonderful memories of my grandparents (all of whom are still here, by the way) that I can share with my kids. They are looking forward to reconnecting with their great-grandparents in a few months when we visit Canada.

Recently, rather than making drop sheet cookies, I just made a huge cookie in a pan. This led to another fabulous tradition I remember as a child. My other grandmother (or nana) baking us a pizza sized chocolate chip cookie on our birthday. I remember that being so special, and really yummy too.

Thank you for the great memories Grandma and Nana. We look forward to seeing you in a few months!

My second daughter with my Grandmother in 2010

February 4, 2015

Grace to Take the Land

We are in some tough chapters of Exodus this week. Tough, because we are reading many laws and regulations that God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites, following the Ten Commandments. Here we read laws about, keeping servants, personal injuries, protection of property, social laws, justice and mercy, Sabbath laws, and festivities. 

What's really cool though, these laws are the framework for a great nation to begin building itself and conquering land with God's guidance and blessing. 

Exodus Chapter 23 wraps itself up with an Angel of God preparing the way. God promises His angel to go ahead of His people to guard them as they go to the place He has already prepared. He warns the people not to bow down to the idols of other nations' they will definitely encounter. He reminds them to worship the Lord their God and serve Him only, and if they do this, His blessing will be on them.

Another interesting thing is God explains that He isn't going to drive out the other nations all at the same time, or all within the year. And we're asking, "Why God?" "Can't you just obliterate all the enemies now?" But He has a plan for this. He says, that if He did, the land would become desolate, abandoned, or bleak. The wild animals would take over, and they would become too numerous for the children of God to deal with.

He says, "Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land." Ex. 23:30

And then the chapter ends with another command, or appeal, not to make covenants with the enemies, or to bow down to their gods. God also warns the people not to let the enemies remain, or else they may be influenced or ensnared by their sins.

So what does this have to do with us? 

God is still giving us grace to take possession of the land in our lives. This isn't physical land, or property or possessions. This is sin strongholds in our lives. Turning and saying "Yes" to Jesus' way, is really just the beginning of a big spiritual battle in which we must go in and possess the land God directs us to. This is the land He has already marked out for us. The holy life He calls us to live. A life that honors Him with heart, soul, and mind.

Strongholds that might still need "taking possession of" might be things like:
  • Fear, anxiety, worry
  • Addictions (of any kind)
  • Gossip, or controlling the tongue
  • Being ungrateful - discontentment
  • Impatience
  • Dishonesty ---- lying
  • Greed
  • Wanting what others have (material things, or lifestyles) ---- coveting
When we "take possession" of the land (or these sin areas), we are first recognizing them as sin, confessing them to God, and then beginning a journey of repentance. It's not going to be perfect. But this is such a huge shower of God's grace in our lives. Firstly, it's His Holy Spirit who reveals these areas to us! And then secondly, once we respond in obedience to go in and clean them out of our lives, it's God's grace empowering us to keep up the fight. 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom. 12:2

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
I Thess. 5:21

February 2, 2015

Swim and Spell

Due to warm weather we experienced in January (our summer) here in Madagascar, we have been visiting the pool more often. And why not take school there?

I wrote 5 Ways to Change Your Homeschool Up a Bit back in 2013, and this is a prime example of how it helps keep us motivated. Somehow a change in scenery can help how we approach an otherwise mundane subject... spelling.

January 26, 2015

Salvation and Testing in Exodus 15

Carrying on through Exodus, this week Chapter 15 really stood out to me. It is a great chapter of deliverance, happiness, and salvation (something we experience as God's children). But then it also reveals the weakness of unbelief and disappointment, the struggle we have even after knowing God's faithfulness to us already.

The people of God are finally let go from Pharaoh's harsh bondage of slavery over them. They are free. They can go and worship God and get on with their lives outside of the grips of the Egyptians. God has delivered them! And miraculously so! His deliverance included parting the Red Sea, making a clear path for them to follow, and destroying His peoples' enemies for them! They didn't have to fight this battle. Wow.

So after this, Miriam and Moses start singing. Brother and sister, get together and start praising and thanking God for the deliverance they just experienced. And then Miriam takes up a tambourine and all of the women follow her with their tambourines and start dancing while Miriam sings to them:

Sing to the Lord
for he is highly exalted
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea. Ex. 15:21

A beautiful picture of women in leadership, leading with a grateful heart, in a posture of worship, and by example.

Then things take a turn for the worst. Moses leads the people from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur. And after three long days of travel they are thirsty and tired. The only water to be found, is bitter water from a place called Marah. 

So what do the people start doing? Grumbling

Shortly after their miraculous deliverance and beautiful worship service to the Lord, they encounter a challenge...and their first response, is not prayerful petitioning to the Lord. Nope. They complain. They grumble. They have forgotten the provision they just experienced barely 72 hours prior. 

Does this sound like cranky kids at the end of a really fun day you've tried to provide. 

The park, a picnic, playing games, giving them your undivided attention. You get home, and it's non-stop complaining about any old thing, (or in the Israelites' defense, a legitimate thing... but still)? And you may feel like harshly reminding your kids about the fun day you just spent with them, and to smarten up!  :)

Surprisingly, this isn't God's reaction to the Israelites in this instance.

the Lord showed him (Moses) a piece of wood. 
He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Ex. 15:25

Not only did God provide a way out of this predicament, He gave them something good! Sweet water in a hot desert. A blessing to be sure. And after they grumbled, even!

Nevermind how ungrateful our kids can be after we love on them - how often do I carry on with my day, after having a fantastic time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word and the first crisis of the day catches me off guard and I'm grumbling! Already forgetting how God promises to provide a way. Yeah. Often.

But the Lord doesn't end this with provision of sweet water. He tests their sincerity and wants them to learn something important:

There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and he tested them. He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. Ex. 15:25b-27

What does God want His children to know?

---Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord (Read the Word; get advice from other Christians we trust)
---Do what is right (apply what we read in God's Word; consider/listen and do the sound advice we receive)
---Pay attention (keep alert; never stop learning; down let the world drown out God's voice)
---The Lord is the healer (God is our deliverer; God is our provider; God is the one keeping us alive today)