19 July 2014

The Joy of Choosing

It is that time of year again, when, as a homeschooling family, we need to evaluate the past school year and prepare for the new one. That also means, looking at what worked and what did not.

All year long, I was reading this wonderful blog called The Curriculum Choice. They are  (taken from their webpage:)  "a veteran group of home educators from around the blogosphere joined together ... to spread the word about ... favorite curricula in order to help YOU make informed decisions for your homeschool." What a mission statement. I love it.

I love reading what others do in their home school. It is interesting to hear about all the different curricula that exist, that work for others or those that didn't. It broadens my own horizon and makes it easy to sift through the jungle of curricula.

So why are we using so many different ones?

There are  many reasons for it. First, when we started our journey, we used no curriculum at all. I made my own pulling from workbooks and the internet with its many free resources. After two years, I felt we needed a more structured curriculum, so we went with an all-in-one curriculum. A Beka worked great for us, me as the teacher and my son. But after that first year, I had a better idea of what I liked and what suited my son's learning style. So we chose stuff from all over - you can read about it here. It took me a long time to get to this list.

After almost a full year with this curriculum, once again, we have to evaluate what worked and what did not. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can choose what works for the entire family, with our family's believes, and with each individual's learning style. Thankfully, we don't have a system dictating us what to do - we can and want to do what is best for all of us.

Also, we grow constantly, together as a family and each single person. So using the same curriculum over and over for the sake of comfort, doesn't seem right to us. I am constantly learning how to teach better, how to plan out our weeks and months, and how to adjust to our circumstances. We are going through different phases, and as a homeschooling family, we can easily adjust to our needs, like travel, sickness, babies,...etc. 

I also like to bring variety into our school, I want to expose my children to as many different things as possible. The more they know, the better equipped they are for decision making later in life. Changing curriculum from one year to the next helps broaden their horizon.
For example, Coqui is a great speller. We have done 'list learning' for two years now, and we have reached a point where it is simply boring to him, and to me. We need a fresh look at things. One way we do this already is by learning Latin and Greek root words ("English from the Roots Up", as seen in my curriculum list from last year). Now, I think I have found what I was looking for by talking to a friend. She lend us her curriculum and I am just done reading through those instructions. I am very excited.

Additionally, I have two children with complete  different learning styles so far. Coqui learns more like me which made things easy for both of us. He is visual, logical, solitary, and physical. Peanut, on the other hand, leans more towards artistic learning, like aural, verbal, and physical. She makes up her own songs to pretty much everything - I wish I could teach her that way - and she makes up her own dances.
Look at the worksheet below. She had to simply match the letters with the picture's beginning sound. I don't get it, but this is the result of fifteen minutes of doodling around.

So with that, I feel like I need to adjust how I teach her the same stuff that Coqui had to learn. What inspired him will not necessarily interest her. Workbooks still work great for him - he prefers having a list and works through it until he is done. My little girl rather cuts and glues all day while singing. Workbooks are a pain for her and she gets 'tired' very quickly. She will need alot more hands-on stuff....

After much consideration, we have our list done, so stay tuned - I have bought some already, some stuff is on its way, and I have to put in one more order. Then, I will share. 

06 April 2014

Mine, Yours, Ours

When I grew up, things were always organized into 'my things' and 'my brother's things'. Still today, I can refer to things as mine (or other's). One day, the Hubby pointed that out and I felt convicted!

That little remark changed my entire thinking of ownership!

I needed the rethink what I was teaching the kids and how I wanted my marriage to work. After all, when two people come together to be one, that also means to share everything that was brought into the marriage and obviously, all the things that have been added since. It's ours!

So I had to teach myself to think as 'WE' - and then I had to reteach our kids, that we are one family and that all things belong to the family. To think again, we are just using it as a family, because all things come from God and so belong to God - really, we are just borrowing it from Him.

To take it a step farther, all the possessions of this earth are on temporary loan anyways. The bible teaches in Matthew 6:19-21 to "not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So when we are 'renting' all those possessions from God, we need to share them with the people around us (Hebrews 13: 16), because "those sacrifices are pleasing to God".

Today, we are a sharing family.

I am so glad for that little comment and that I took the challenge to change.
The kids don't fight that much anymore. And I don't have to be a constant referee! They enjoy playing with each other, with their toys, and sharing with friends. And when they do start fighting, I just have to remind them that all things belong to God, hence we need to share them.

As a teaching tool, I used the story of Job. The story is about suffering but what I wanted my kids to hear was the verse where it says that God gives and that He takes away (Job 1:21) - we are blessed no matter what. We need to praise Him under any circumstance.
 The other point that I want them to understand is that God doesn't like fighting. We are to share His love with one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). When we share love, we practice the fruits of the spirit, too. Love is not just a word, it's an action. Fighting and arguing is the opposite of love, so I want to teach them how to resolve arguments in a loving way that pleases God (yes, and us as parents!).

11 March 2014

How History cames to Life in our House

When I wrote my post about what we are learning this year, I hadn't started our history curriculum yet.

The Story of the World is a Christian approach to history, starting with the Ancient Times in volume One. As I told you in my previous post, I was not too thrilled about this part of history - I remember it as very boring. So reluctantly, I picked it up one day and started to teach it. From day one, I loved the story-telling way of bringing the histories to life. And so did Coqui. It quickly became his favorite subject.... and now I can't get him away from it!

So what do I like about it:
Each chapter's story are intended to be read aloud. So I like that we are spending quality time together. He learns, and I do too. After the reading, he has to summarize it for me and answer a few questions, which usually lead to more questions by him and a good discussion.

After the oral fun, there is some map work which is great Geography training. Many times, we have pulled out the globe or an atlas to dig a little deeper. Often, there is also a coloring page that goes with the chapter and hands-on activities. We have made cave paintings on brown paper bags, wrote cuneiform on homemade clay and hieroglyphs on parchment paper (to make a scroll), crafted a doll that became a mummy, build a pyramid out of Lego, painted a colorful coat (Joseph), wrote our own Hammurabi laws, and are now building a ziggurat out of cereal boxes, clay, and sand. It is so much fun for young (and old alike).

For each unit, the SOW book provides a list of book recommendations for additional reading. So I bought the Usborne Book of World History and the Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World. I never find my son reading 'school' books, but these are a constant go-to when he has free time. He loves that it has alot of pictures and each picture tells a short story or fact. It makes learning fun, interesting, and enjoyable.

We did this for about a month, when I remembered that I had a bunch of church ministry stuff in my garage. So I decided to pull that out and go through that as well. After all, our bible is a history book. I found more books and hand-outs and coloring pages, which we are using now - especially the girls are liking those. 

Then I came across this review about the Veritas Press flashcards. I remembered that someone had given them to me, and I pulled those out. They are put together in the same chronological order as the Story of the World books. So I love how it all came together for us. We pick up the bible and read the relevant chapters, too. Unfortunately, I only had the first set, so I decided to buy the next set, when I came across the teacher's manual. I had to get it and loved using it right away. It offers additional worksheets that go with the piece of art and the bible story.

It felt like everything was flowing together and I got more excited each time we opened the SOW book. On top of that, I found a children's bible that I had purchased years ago and that explains biblical times in an easy and understanding way. Coqui really enjoys how the Bible and History come to life. He soaks it all up and actually remembers it well.

We are so blessed to be able to home educate our children. It really is a blessing for all involved.

05 March 2014

Lent - A Time of Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal

The time flies, but I am sure that I am not telling you anything new. I can't belive that Easter is only 40 days away - can you? Spring has not sprung over here, so it is hard to believe that it is suppose to be around the corner.

That being said, today is the day that lent started. I have never done this time of reflection and repentance before, but I thought this would be a good year to start this tradition. And I wanted to include the kids in this, at least my two oldest.

What I read about this special time is that it is a reflective time of repentance and renewal. A time of examining ourselves and to make that conscious decision to turn away from things that are not glorifying God in any way. The suggestions go from adding something that pleases God, to removing something that distracts from God, or even takes His place. This is a time to grow in our relationship with Jesus.

For myself, I decided to add a daily devotional time and a prayer for a person that I felt I needed to pray for. I have not been very consistent with my devotionals over the past year and a half, and I feel the need to bring that good habit back into my life. After all, when I do spend special time with God and in His word, I feel so much better. So I recommit my life to more prayer.

The idea of removing something distracting was a bit harder. Finally, I decided to stay away from cheating. I am sure you are shocked now, but yes, I cheat. I dislike to claim that I am Vegan when fish is part of my diet, but unfortunately, lately, I have also had alot of dairy intake. And I felt convicted to change that. So no more cheese or ice cream for the next 40 days. Of course, I am doing that with the hope to slip back into the habit of being a full Vegan once again. 

My kids decided to stay away from candy and snacks - which I think at their age, is very appropriate, AND it was alone their choice. Coqui will do a 40 day devotional on his own. I hope that will lead to some great discussions between the two of us. Of course, we will include some of the bible stories involving Easter and the time before and after, in our school schedule.

What I want for them to take away from this experience is the feeling of grace and forgiveness. I want them to understand that we are all sinners and that we all need our loving God to forgive us, to show us mercy and grace. Eventually, I want to introduce them to the idea of salvation. (Romans 5:19 "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.")

I am looking forward to the special time with God and with my children. I am praying for many blessings for us and for others that we are praying for. I am praying for further healing for myself and for a life that is filled with love rather than war. I want to commit my life to loving others, spreading the good news, and to being a light in this world. 

How about you, are you following the tradition of lent? What are you doing? 

Finally, here is a Prayer for the time of Lent:
Psalm 51:3-17 (NIV)
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

27 February 2014

Community at its Best

Bike Ride
The weather was beautiful, so the kids and I decided to ride the bikes to the playground and play on the play scape for a little while. I am so glad that I have an active, yet cautious toddler who knows her boundaries very well. It made for a relaxed time for Mami.

From the distance, I saw a Dad approaching with three children. They were, what I learned later, all under the age of five. I thought he was pretty brave for such an outing. He happened to be on the phone, and while he finished his conversation, his kids never left his side. I thought they were very well behaved to yield to the temptation of a playground so near by.

Once off the phone, the Dad immediately started the characteristic small talk that happens between parents on the playground. He apologized for his kids not playing with mine - they were too shy apparently. And then came the remark that prompted today's post.

"It's time that my kids start going to school to learn how to socialize better."


Of course, I had to answer in the only way possible for a homeschooling mom:
"My kids are home-schooled and have no problems socializing."

I am so tired of hearing people say that.
Our co-op making empenadas

First of all, we homeschooling parents are as much worried about socializing as parents with kids attending public or private schools - if 'worrying' is the right choice of word. Secondly, I think we don't realize that socializing doesn't only start with the school age, it happens since birth. Children have to learn to interact (well) with their parents, with grandparents, and siblings. When they are old enough, we introduce play dates, sports, and all sorts of things. The list goes on..... When my oldest was a single child, I was eager to have as many play dates as possible.

Since having three kids, two in active school, and one busy schedule, our play dates have become less frequent. That doesn't mean, we are not interacting with others. As a matter of fact, I feel we have become busier. Recently, I was asked how many activities we go to every week on a regular basis. Seven was the answer that caused a mouth dropped open. Yes, my kids go to seven different socialization opportunities during one week alone, every week. I do not think they are missing out on anything.

I love that my kids have a bunch of friends, all different ages. Some are older and great role models for my kids, some are younger and my kids get to be the role model. That teaches them to be respectful and caring at the same time. My children don't know what peer pressure is, and I prefer it that way. I also think that my children know well how to interact with adults. They are surrounded by them all day - although not as authority figures but as friends. They are not afraid to ask questions, to learn from them, or even to play with them.
Impromptu 'snowball fight' with tissues - it started as a minute-to-win-it game
Homeschooling is a personal decision, and when you homeschool, you have to get a bit more creative in finding ways to have your children interact with others. I don't think it's that hard but I do live in a very homeschooling-friendly state. We have tons of one-day-schools, co-ops, support groups, and other activities to choose from. In  general, kids are great at making friends easily, no matter if they go to school or stay at home.

So no matter in which situation you find yourself in, socialization is all around us. Every human being has to learn to interact well with others, may it be in our own family, with friends, and/or with authority figures. Homeschooling is not a hindrance but an opportunity to open our children's eyes to the world around us - just as any other more formal school setting is doing. Let's work together to make a better world. A world with great communication with each other.

Do you homeschool? Are you worried that your kids are not socializing enough?
Are your children attending public school? Do you have any issues with socialization there?
I would love to here from you.