Archive for Homeschool Hubbub
Books, books, the magical fruit. The more you read, the more you…
Oh wait. Wrong poem. Sometimes I get confused. Although I’m sure if I threw that poem starter out to my boys, they’d be sure to finish it with something creative. And by creative, I mean gross.
I am excited to share that all four of our boys are now all independent readers. It was a little slow in coming for our youngest, who is now a 3rd grader. But late this summer, it all clicked for him. He now loves reading! Last week he said, “I can’t believe math used to be my favorite. Now reading is so much fun!” Awesome - just what I love to hear. (Although you still have to do your math, Buddy.)
Here are some of the books currently at the top of our reading list for the year:
Boxcar Children Books
These books were some of my favorites when I was little. (You know I had my very own boxcar, right? Okay, it wasn’t my very own. I shared it with my cousins.) All of our boys have loved the Boxcar Children books, and now I am reading them to Malachi (age 8). Elias (age 11) has already read most of these books, but sits in to listen when he can, because who can resist?
We read through most of the books in this series (as a family) a year ago, and now I’m having my two older boys read the last few on their own. What I love most about these books is that they show how important it is to be a hard worker, how much fun it can be to work together as a family, and how if you put your mind to it – you can always find a way to provide. I am so inspired by these books, and my boys love the adventure aspect they include.
These are the first chapter books our boys have read. We have about eight of them on Malachi’s shelf this year – and he’s made his way through two of them already. I love that Clyde Robert Bulla keeps his vocabulary simple and easy to read – all while teaching history and making his books fun and intriguing. When I pulled these books out for Malachi, all three of his brothers said, “Oh, he gets to read those this year? Malachi, you will love them.” I love hearing the boys talk together about books they’ve all read.
Malachi pulled his first Ramona book off the shelf this year, too. So far he’s loving it, just like his brothers did. I read this series several times when I was younger. It’s so much fun re-reading these books with my kids.
I can’t say enough good about all of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge. We’ve actually decided to use about 15 of these books this year to go along with our History/Geography studies with Justus, Elias, and Malachi. What better way to study the culture and history of a country than to learn about missionaries who worked there? These books are so well written and inspiring!
I also have to share that as we reach the end of each book, Justus (age 13) likes to point out, “You know Mom, this is the chapter when the missionary dies and you cry.” Pshaw. Okay, fine. So I cry at the end of all of these (and the Ralph Moody Books, and just about every other book I read aloud to the boys). I can’t help it.
In addition to these sets of books, our three older boys are all reading lots of books from the Sonlight reading lists for their grade level. Asa (a junior in high school) is reading some Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place (you MUST read this!), and quite a few others Sonlight recommends.
What books are you and your kids reading these days? I know I’m not the only mom who cries at the end of a good book. Help me out here – do you get choked up when you’re reading books to your kids?
While I could just say, “We got a Discovery Kids Fabric Activity World Map. It is neat.” I figured I’d give you way too many unnecessary details instead:
One day I went to the toy section of the store, which I never do, but for some reason that day I did. I found a Discovery Kids Fabric Activity World Map on clearance, and was intrigued. But then I passed it up, deciding that it was likely one of those “oh we’ll use this so much!” items that would end up getting stuck in the back of a closet and forgotten. But back at home, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the ways we could use it if we had it.
(So Laura? You saw it, almost got it, didn’t get it, decided to get it, went back for it, got it, and we all lived happily ever after? Cool.)
Well yes, except for the went back for it got it happily ever after part. Not that I’m not happy with or without a map. Because my joy comes from Jesus. But anyway.
I went back a few days later, and there were no maps left. None. I cried a little. Not really. I simply wheeled my empty cart to the produce section to pick out some raspberries.
Then, I went back to the store another day, because if you can believe it, we needed more raspberries. Or toilet paper. Or something. I decided to check the toy section again - just in case more of the maps were there, even though I felt sure that there wouldn’t be because clearance means they had clear-anced them out of there.
But to my great excitement, they had not one, but four Discovery Kids Fabric Activity World Maps, still at a clearance price. And so I got one. And also some toilet paper.
The three younger boys have gotten great use out of this map so far. I’ve especially used it with Malachi. He has been labeling the continents, finding countries and learning what continents they are a part of, and learning about oceans. Soon, we’ll tackle rivers. Every day, we get out the map to practice and learn more. I have been thrilled with how much he’s learning.
And the best part? While we could hang the map on a wall, it has instead been very handy to simply lay out on the floor, then roll up and stow away when we’re finished.
So there’s my story. We’ve also made good use out of the toilet paper, but those are, again, more of those unnecessary details that you don’t need to know.
We took our traditional school shopping trip last Friday. I gave up on making them pose for a picture and just snapped one when I had the chance. Here’s a post with all of our past shopping trips through the years.
Today was our first day of school for the year. It’s easy to have grand ambitions about what all we’ll get done, about how we’ll be so much better about XYorZ this year, and most of all, about how we’ll stick to our schedule and it will work flawlessly.
Y’all, I didn’t even make a schedule this year. (And apparently, suddenly I’m southern.)
I came to the conclusion that thoroughly praying over our school year was more important than thoroughly organizing it. This year we have an 11th grader, an 8th grader, a 6th grader, and a 3rd grader. I knew that attempting to schedule our day on paper wouldn’t have worked, and in fact, this year, I didn’t even have time to get all the books organized on the shelves. We woke up anticipating our “perfect 1st day of school” with piles of books scattered in the living room, unfolded (but clean) baskets of laundry in the unvacuumed hallway, and plenty of unsharpened pencils. None of us had found the time to upload software to computers so that Math and Spanish lessons could be started right on schedule. Oh wait – there was no schedule. Well then.
This isn’t my ideal – or at least it didn’t used to be my ideal when I first started homeschooling twelve years ago. I had preferred to begin our school year with the house perfectly clean, the school books and lists perfectly organized, the meals in the fridge ready to cook themselves, and me – perfectly put together with children who were awake and grinning at the table at precisely when the schedule said they would/should be. And then when something when wrong, because it always did, I’d feel like I’d failed.
Y’all, I’m over it. (Figured since I said it once, I should say it twice.)
There is no perfect homeschool day – except for the perfectly imperfect ones like we experienced today. Today, we got a decent start, but took too long discussing the first chapter of the book of Acts – which was not on the schedule that I didn’t write but isn’t that grand because why put down the Bible for a Math lesson? We had trouble getting Spanish to work correctly on the computer, couldn’t find the Typing CD, and forgot to thaw meat for dinner.
Not to worry, Dad got Spanish working, Justus found the Typing CD, and I made tomorrow night’s Salmon Patties for dinner tonight.
At the end of the day, all of our boys are now engrossed in a great new book they started today, they are standing taller because they accomplished so much, and they feel good about tomorrow since we worked out so many kinks today. Everyone is relaxed, unexpected interruptions didn’t ruin the day, we all had some good laughs (you can’t help it in the Coppinger household), and you’d better believe, we will all sleep well tonight.
Today was my favorite kind of day. Here’s to a perfectly imperfect school year.
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For those of you who don’t homeschool, I realize that parts of this post won’t apply to you. Perhaps there’s something else in your life you need to smack down. If so, feel free to insert a different word where I’ve typed “curriculum.” Bathroom scales, perhaps? Daily planner, maybe? You fill in the blank. :)
It’s that time again. I’ve gone over and over your catalog. I’ve purchased many of the books you recommend. I’ve read through loads of your teacher’s manuals.
You are, without a doubt, wonderful, and I am so thankful for you. What would I do without you to guide me along as I teach my four children? Truly, you have been a God send.
What I need you to know, as I plan our upcoming school year, working to provide the best education possible for my children, is that as wonderful as you are, you aren’t perfect. Don’t sweat it. There’s no way you could keep up with knowing what will work best for each family.
Just so you know, what you ask me to do on week three doesn’t at all match what is on our calendar. (Perhaps you’ve heard that soccer season and fall school schedules don’t always get along?) It’s okay though. I’ve decided to slide some of your assignments around so that we can fit them in later, if possible. It’s really cool how you have never sent the Curriculum Schedule Police to my door to spank my hand for shuffling around assignments. You are constantly gracious.
I’m not sure who you think we are, and it could be that all the other families actually have 8th graders who are ready to study for their doctorate. But I felt you should know that while I appreciate all of your suggested literature, if we want our kids to have time to get themselves up out of a chair for any part of their 15 hour awake time each day, we won’t get around to reading every single one of your books or do even half of your writing assignments.
Some of what you assign my kids to do each week, we will only do once per month. That really is plenty for them at this stage. Occasionally, I will substitute one of your recommended books with another one that meets my boys’ needs. And when I look at you each weekend while planning for an upcoming school week, if at any time I feel like throwing you across the room, I’ll refrain, but I reserve the right to stuff your schedules, guidelines, suggestions, and outlines into a bottom drawer far away and pull you out when and if I feel like looking at you again. No worries. Learning will still be going on at our house. It just may not involve keeping up with your recommendations during those particularly hectic days.
Here’s something neat: After eleven years of homeschooling, I don’t look at your outlines and teachers guides and feel less than, guilty, or overwhelmed anymore. My kids are learning loads of information and becoming very well rounded because of and in spite of me (and you). So thank you again for your help, because I truly could not do this without you. I’ll continue to use you as a guide, because you are so very good at that.
But you don’t own me. I own you. Perhaps you remember the exciting day you arrived in a box on my doorstep?
See you in a few weeks. It’s going to be another great school year with our family!
Laura (an ordinary homeschool mom)
P.S. Have you ever wished Shakespeare had spoken a bit more understandably? Maybe I’ll write a letter to him next. In toddler speak. That’ll teach him.
If you didn’t already know about our family Lego obsession, let me remind you that not only do we have lots and lots of Legos, we have an entire room dedicated to Legos. (I am personally more obsessed with butter than Legos, but my boys love them, so I love them too.)
If only it was still this clean. At least it’s not as bad as it used to be though.
All of our boys have loved Legos through the years, but our youngest son Malachi, who is now eight, is our Lego King. Not only will he spend hours each day creating with Legos, he is actually saving his money to begin a Lego Business some day. Who knows but that it just might happen?
As I’ve been working to prepare our curriculum for when we begin school in a few weeks, I got super excited when I came across FREE Lego Learning downloads! Here is one for Lego Mini Figure Writing Prompts. Here is a Language Arts Lego Mini Figs Download. Both of these are perfect for Malachi (who will be a third grader). What a great and fun way for him to work through his English lessons this fall!
If those don’t work for you, or if you have younger kids, you’ll want to look at all of the Lego Learning options over at Homegrown Learners. I was so impressed with what she offers (for free!) that I had to share with you. :)
It was really all because of Matt. He’s the brilliant one.
After breakfast, Bible, history, and math on Wednesday, Matt picked up several boxes of our Oh, For Real books from the printer and got everyone started on putting them into envelopes as we filled orders. Thanks to my friend Jenny, we had many of the envelopes already addressed and ready to go. By the time I made it out into the living room to help, here is what I found:
If that isn’t the picture of a family business, I don’t know what is. I was thrilled and grateful. But Matt hadn’t just put the kids to work on preparing orders. He had a geography lesson going on at the same time. Impressive, huh?!
You see, one of the many fun parts of printing off invoices as your orders have come in has been seeing where they are coming from. So, Matt had the younger boys get out our big U.S. puzzle to fill in the states as they showed up on each package.
Here’s Malachi, looking to see if the state on his envelope has been put into place yet. In the meantime, I was burning lunch. Yep, I had hastily put a frozen casserole into the oven that morning while we worked, but had the oven turned up too high. Good grief. It seems as if I should get out my Oh, For Real book and read it! I’m pretty sure the instructions in the book tell me to heat the casserole slowly at a low temp. Duh. Be glad you can’t smell our burning noodles as you look at our book packaging process.
By the time we were almost finished with “round one” of book packaging – our map looked like this:
I believe by now, it is completely full. How fun!
I want to say thank you to all of you who have ordered so far. We continue to pray that you will be blessed by Oh, For Real: Real Food, Real Family, Real Easy. For those of you who live outside the U.S., if you are interested in a copy of this book, please email me for details! Then maybe we can get out our World Map Puzzle to see where our book is headed… :)
If you give an eight year old boy a math lesson, he will sit right down without hesitation, work diligently without interruptions, and accurately complete the lesson in record time.
Maybe that’s how it goes for your kids, but here’s how it occasionally goes at my house:
If you give an eight year old boy a math lesson, he will give you a confused look, then ask you where his math book is. You will tell him that it is (as always) in the basket with all of his other school books and that he needs to run get it quickly.
He will begin to run up the stairs to get the math book, but will see a Nerf bullet on one of the steps on his way up. He will stop, pick up the Nerf bullet, examine it, then fling it toward the glass doors at the top of the stairs. The bullet will miss the door, but will instead hit one of his brothers as he comes around the corner. The bullet will thus be flung back and forth between the brothers until you realize what is happening and remind the eight year old (and his brother) of the jobs they are supposed to be doing.
As the eight year old arrives back in the kitchen with his math book (yay!), you will ask him if he also got a pencil. He will reply by telling you that while he does have his new green pencil sharpener, he has no pencil and that he can not find a pencil anywhere and that we must not have any pencils anymore because they were all, obviously, eaten by aliens.
You will show him where there are (as always) forty two (give or take) pencils ready and waiting to be used. He will proceed to take way too long choosing a pencil and will finally, with much urging from you, find his spot in the kitchen and open his math book (by using “the force”).
He will complete two math problems right away because suddenly he is racing against the clock in true boy “everything is a competition” fashion. But then he will accidentally drop his pencil on the ground, where – look out! – the volcanic lava is about to bubble over. He will warn you to “step back” so that your legs are not engulfed by hot lava, and will then try to dangle from the kitchen stool without touching the floor to retrieve the pencil before anyone or anything is harmed.
Just as he almost rescues the pencil from danger, he will see that there is a bug crawling on the floor. Volcanic lava forgotten, he will grab his green pencil sharpener and work to capture the bug. After three to five attempts at this, he will manage to coax the bug into its new home where it will stay while the eight year old settles down, finds his groove, and finishes his math lesson (while giving his new pet an in-depth explanation of how to “carry the one” while adding double digits).
Did I ever tell you about the time I came home from a well baby check up with one of our boys when he was an infant? He was off the charts when it came to weight and height! I was so proud. However, his head circumference was “only in the 50th percentile”. I worried and worried about that - until I finally had a chance to share what I’d learned with Matt. His response? “Oh, okay. So his head is average. Why exactly does that worry you?”
Huh, good question. Good grief. As if being in the top 95% of his weight class somehow proved that my four month old was outstanding? And since his head was “only at 50″, that somehow meant I had failed him? What in the world do those numbers mean anyway?
After much consideration, and a few more years of mothering experience, I have concluded that chart, schmart – God makes beautiful babies in all shapes and sizes – glory, glory, hallelujah, the end.
And well, isn’t the same true when we talk about all of our capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses?
Whether you home school, public school, or private school your kids, I think it’s easy to let educational pressures and “the norms” get the best of us. Shoot, apparently the pressures to have an over-achiever can begin long before our kids are in school – as is proven by my insecurity that my child’s head was perfectly normal in size. ;)
The books say a child should be doing such and such by a certain age. There are specific standards that judge what is “average”, what is “below average”, and what is “above average”. I appreciate these standards in some ways because they do give us all some great guidelines to reference.
But after having taught in the public school for a few years, and now having taught our four boys at home for over 11 years (well, really 15 years, since technically we started teaching them from birth) - I have come to the conclusion that while a standard is a nice generalized overview, it certainly isn’t something I need to stress out about, lose sleep over, or laminate and put on my refrigerator.
Everyone is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses. (Fore the reccord, I am a teribble speller.) (Obviously.)
These particular “let’s all stop worrying about standards and simply enjoy teaching and learning with our kids” thoughts came to me once again as I was watching our fourth son, now a second grader, do his handwriting lesson last week. I have tried and tried to teach that kid the correct way to form his letters. No matter what I try, he just won’t form his letters following the little arrows as his book directs. He’s not being disobedient, he simply has his own way of doing it. And guess what? His B still looks like a B. Can you even believe it?
Come to think of it, I was also taught a certain style of handwriting, and I also form my letters in a completely different way now. But my handwriting is legible and even kind of pretty if I take my time. (Just don’t look at the shopping lists I typically scrawl onto the back of whatever junk mail envelope that is the closest to me when I remember that we need toilet paper.)
And while I’m on the subject, do you know anyone in the world who makes their cursive Q’s the way they teach in most textbooks? Freakiest letter formation I have ever seen. My apologies to Mr. Zaner-Bloser for bluntly sharing my opinion, which, in my opinion, is correct.
So all of this to say: Lovingly push your kids, enlighten your kids, and challenge your kids. Give them the very best education you can possibly give them.
But if they still make their letter B’s kinda funny, or if they don’t add their math facts the way the book tells them to and they still somehow get the correct answer, or if they aren’t quite meeting the official standards for their grade level in all subjects… Or if your third grader is working really hard but still isn’t reading chapter books, even though your neighbor’s four year old just finished reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia series… Or if your child couldn’t spell the word kat if her life depended on it…
Or, shock upon shock - if you have a child whose head circumference measures perfectly average…
I give us all permission to relax and appreciate that our kids are working hard and learning at the level they are each capable of.
It is a fact that I know a lot of doctors who are really, really brilliant and clearly have fantastic educations…and their handwriting is terrible.
Or maybe it’s just that they are all actually writing their cursive capital Q’s in the funky way I despise and I am really the one with the problem.
What are your thoughts on educational standards? Know or have any kids who are spot on with those guidelines? And what do you think about funky cursive capital Q’s?
You would think that “Writing” would be on the top of my list of subjects to teach my kids each year, since I absolutely love to write. It seems though, that except for some journaling and small projects here and there, Writing seems to always get pushed to the bottom of our list, trumped by Reading, Math, History, Science, and the like.
This year though: I have a writing plan for the boys, and we will be sticking to it!
First, let me share the boys’ Reading Lists with you, such as they are right now. I plan to adapt these through the year and hopefully add to them in January. Seeing their Reading Lists will help make their Writing Assignment List make more sense. I think. At least it makes sense in my head.
Here is our partially filled book shelf. Not all of the books have been filed yet.
I’m still working on it. But doesn’t it look clean and organized? :)
I typically go off of Sonlight Curriculum’s book list for our Reading, History, and Science. Their lists are wonderful, huge, and thorough, so I have found that I need to pare each list down to make Reading/History more attainable for my family. In addition, for Asa, Matt and I hand selected some books we’ve been wanting him to read that will help shape his character and give us an opportunity to discuss topics with him that we feel are important. With each list, some of the books will be read with a parent, and some will be read independently. I didn’t type out our family “Read Aloud” book list because I’m still working on it.
Asa (Grade 10) – Studying 20th Century World History
- I Kissed Dating Goodbye
- Choosing God’s Best
- Do Hard Things
- Crazy Love
- Our Century in Pictures
- Winston Churchhill: Soldier, Statesman, Artist
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- After the War
- When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
- China’s Long March
- Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity
- The Hiding Place (most incredible, inspiring book ever!)
- Exploring Creating with Physical Science
Justus (Grade 7) and Elias (Grade 5)
- D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths
- By the Great Horn Spoon
- Old Yeller
- The Call of the Wild
- Henry Reed, Inc.
- Archimedes and the Door of Science
- Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights
- Homer Price
- A Gathering of Days
- Adam of the Road
- Star of Light
- Mystery of the Roman Ransom
Malachi (Grade 2)
Malachi is not yet a fluent reader, but is making great strides! We have not pushed him, and at his own pace, reading is finally start to click. He has loved the Frog and Toad Books we started having him read this summer, so I feel that he will soon take off and plow through that list. Not to worry, I have many more books ready to add to his list once this happens. :)
I plan to read The Story of the World (Ancient Times, The Middle Ages, and Early Modern Times) to Justus, Elias, and Malachi as we study World History this year. Even though the boys are all at different grade levels, I have found that it works very well for me to study the same History subject matter with them altogether. Each of them catches and learns what they are capable of for their age. It works beautifully.
In addition, the three younger boys will be studying science together, focusing at least first semester on a Human Body unit – all books from Sonlight.
Of course, our entire family will be reading the Bible and some devotional/study books together at breakfast time each day. Asa and Justus will continue to learn Spanish from the incredible Rosetta Stone CDs. Malachi will use Miquon math books, while the other three use Teaching Textbooks at their grade level (5th, 7th, and Algebra 2). We’ll go through grammar books, phonics books, spelling, handwriting, and vocabulary books as is needed and grade level appropriate. And I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but that’s okay. As long as they are learning how to learn, we’re good to go, right?
Now…for writing. Here are the plans I’ve made for each boy. I will assign deadlines for each project.
- Write one 3-5 page paper about what you loved about your summer, what you feel God taught you, and how you feel you grew.
- Write one 3-5 page research paper about a subject chosen from something you’re studying in Science.
- Write one 3-5 page research paper about a major event you’re studying in History.
- Write one 3-5 page research paper about a person you’re studying in History.
- Write one fiction story, following the guidelines for LTC.
- Write one poem, following the guidelines for LTC.
- Write one (or more) devotional, which you will present at church when the opportunity arises.
- Write two book reviews, choosing from the first four books on your reading list. Agree? Disagree? Personal thoughts and goals?
- Write letters and emails of encouragement as the need arises.
Justus and Elias:
- Write a one page research paper about something you’re studying in History.
- Write a one page research paper about something you’re studying in Science.
- Write one poem, following the guidelines for LTC.
- Write one fiction story, following the guidelines for LTC.
- Write one song, following the guidelines for LTC.
- Write dictation sentences on Mondays and Wednesdays to practice and learn good sentence structure.
- Journal each Monday, one full page, highlighting events from the previous week.
- Write and send cards of encouragement as the need arises, about one each week.
- Journal twice each week, and illustrate.
- Write dictation sentences on Mondays and Wednesdays to practice and learn good sentence structure.
- Create and write fun/silly sentences with Mom, then illustrate.
- Make cards and write notes of encouragement, at least one each week.
This is a very long post, so if you’ve stuck with me this long, you now get to see the pink I was referring to in my post title. When we purchased school supplies for the boys earlier this week, on Malachi’s list was “card making supplies” to go with his writing assignment of making and writing notes to people. (Justus and Elias got to pick out ready made notecards instead.) I already had card-stock, and I let Malachi pick which colors he would like in his “card making kit box”. He chose green and blue, of course. But then he also chose pink “for the grandmas and aunts and ladies at church”. How sweet is he? He also chose some cupcake stickers, deciding that he may need to make treats to take people that he made cards for. I love this idea, and think it is a perfect service idea to follow up on our Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve Curriculum that we’ve done the past few years.
Phew, so there you go. Hope you survived this post which was about twice as many words as I typically write in one post. I’ll try to make up for it on the next one by writing very little. No promises. Apparently I have lots to share as we prepare for school next week! ;)
Whether you home school or not, I’d love to hear: Are you starting school soon? Are you ready?! :)