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Aug 17, 2017

Day 4 Outside the Home ~ Back to Homeschool 2017


Do you school all by your onesies?  Did you know you don't have to?  Certainly, you *can* but if you'd rather not, there are so many options "out there."  Right now, on a local homeschooling facebook group there are applications for new co-ops, listings for art, open gym, nature, just about anything you could want.  It's pretty amazing and I'm so glad we're schooling in the here and now and not back in the "olden days" of homeschooling.

Today, I'm sharing some of the things we like to do outside of our homeschool.  This is not an exhaustive list of possibilities, just what we manage to fit in.

  1. Co-op.  This is our ninth year in our co-op, we started when Mal was four and Xav was two.  Our little group has been around for over 25 years, so it's pretty established and there is a waiting list.  We keep it between 20-25 families or so.  Parents teach the classes that last the full year (16-18 meeting days).  The off weeks, we usually have a field trip, ski lessons, or skating.  Classes range from academic to fun (although, they can be both!).  I guess what I really mean is core or electives.  The students are aged three to seniors in high school.  Babies and toddlers stay in the nursery or with Mom.  I've taught such courses as Stop-Motion animation, Walk Like the Animals (where the kiddos did, literally, learn how to walk like a different animal every week, as well as lots of other fun things about the animal), and Magic School Bus classes.  This year, I'll be teaching classes about native Americans, spies, and helping in a train class.
  2. Sports.  Some schools (depending on your state or district) allow homeschoolers to participate in sports.  Recreation departments, the Y, and private instructors are all options, too.  Xav has attended PE classes at the local elementary school.  Mal receives private instruction in Tae Kwon Do at another nearby school.  They've had swimming instruction through a rec department and a private instructor.  Xav and Merrick have also attended gymnastics camps.  We've even gotten archery and ski lessons through our co-op.
  3. Libraries.  We have no fewer than four library cards.  I see at least one more in our near future.  Libraries off so many fun opportunities and neat programs.  We often attend a nature class.  They have reading clubs, crafts, and story hours.  
  4. Field trips!  I love field trips.  (And I'm laughing now, because I typed fiend trips.)   We've been to zoos, corn mazes, cider mills, water parks, historical sites, state parks, fire departments, police departments, a castle, the Moving Wall (Vietnam Memorial), a granite quarry, a goat dairy, museums, planetariums, aquariums, science centers...  Are you getting some good ideas?
There are so many other places to school "outside the home" (including nature!), but that's the bulk of the not-at-home education my punks receive.  I hope you're feeling inspired and find something fun to do outside *your* home next time a funky school day gets you all down.

ETA:  We haven't done *all* of these things at once, or even on any given year!  Do what fits your lifestyle and personalities.  Happy Homeschooling!



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Aug 16, 2017

Day 3 Planning/Record Keeping ~ Back to Homeschool 2017


I used to plan everything.  I like knowing *exactly* what to expect.  While I still like knowing ahead of time {When are we going?  What are we doing?  Who will be there?}, I often am more of a "wing it" kind of person.  If someone else wants to involve me in something, I still like to know all about it, but when it's my deal, I'm more willing to wing it.  I have at least one kiddo who is just like me, though.  He needs to know all the details ahead of time if I want him to do something or go somewhere.

I guess I'm somewhere in between when it comes to homeschool planning.  Things change around here pretty regularly because of The Crew.  My commitments to that keep me planning and help me stay on track on everything else, too.  I mentioned yesterday that one of my must haves is my planner.  I won a Well-Planned Day planner one winter.  I spent the next few months with it and realized how very much I liked it.  Ever since then, I've purchased one during the pre-sale in the spring.  Well, except this year because the only shipping option was $10 priority for an item which wouldn't even be ready for weeks, *ahem*  but I did get it again this year.  And I'm pretty sure I will next year.

While I make sure to add my Crew commitments ahead of time, I'm a little more loosey-goosey with other plans.  Usually, I'll write things down for up to two weeks out, but end up drawing a red line through one or two things each day.  As in, I just didn't get to it.  Usually, that's because I added in other things.  Sometimes, we meet friends for a walk, go to the pool or an event at a nearby resort.  Those things get added in place of all those redlined lessons.  We're much less likely to abandon school during the traditional year than during the summer.  It such a short season here, we have to jump at any chance we get to go play!

I'll tell you a secret.  I don't keep many grades.  We use so many types of curriculum that don't really lend themselves to grading.  The online math we use (CTCMath) keeps track of math grades for me, but do they really need that many grades in elementary school?  I'm fully aware of what they do and don't know yet, are struggling with, or have completely mastered.  We do lots of units and lapbooking, but not many worksheets.  I do correct those that they do, but I'm not recording grades.  I have a small bin for each boy that I save some papers or projects that show we have fulfilled our requirements for the state, so pulling things together at the end of the year isn't *too* nervewracking.

I admit to being envious of all those mamas who plan out a whole year and keep it all in some sort of folder file system.  There are so few things we actually use that would fit into a system like that, it wouldn't be worth it to set it up.  How do you handle planning and record keeping?  Check out the links below to see what some of my fellow Crew Mates are writing about today.


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Aug 15, 2017

Day 2 School Supplies ~ Back to Homeschool 2017


The longer I homeschool, the pickier I get about some things.  Don't get me wrong, the opposite is also true.  I'm an enigma.

I do have a few favorite products that I use often.  I'd like to share my list of musts with you, but please know that you might not even need these things.

Arts and Crafts -
I've learned that I'm a crayon snob.  I might like Crayola a little too much.  However, I've also learned that I don't need *everything* just because it comes from Crayola.  The things I absolutely must get from Crayola, though, are regular crayons, colored pencils, and *erasable* colored pencils.  Generally, the erasable pencils are for writing rather than art projects.  But I *bigfatpuffyheart* having erasable pencils in fun colors.  I also like their glass markers and crayons.  The crayon colors are more vibrant than the glass markers, but there are times when each serves a purpose, just like the different colored pencils.

Speaking of pencils, I buy Ticonderoga.  They aren't "cute," but they do the job nicely and sharpen easily.  The punks sometimes get other pencils as gifts or prizes and they love to look at them, but sharpening? forget it.  Recently, I bought some of the black Ticonderoga pencils.  I've heard they are the *best* of all pencils.  They came pre-sharpened, though, so I haven't tested them out.

Mom's Supplies -
I have got to have my paper planner.  I've used a few online, but I haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm ready to give up my planner.  Every year, I buy the Well-Planned Day.  I'll tell you more about planning tomorrow.

I also own a laminator.  I love it.  It's fairly inexpensive anyway, but I bought a Scotch Thermal Laminator for super cheap on Amazon.  It was on sale for under $20.  I've been using it for several years and it has held up nicely.  Now, looking back, I may not have *needed* a laminator (or the spiral binder), but it's a good tool and I've found it worth it to me to have.  it has been great for all those downloadable PDF games and lots of cards.

Funny.  I don't really have a lot of must-haves.  Maybe I'm "low maintenance."  Whether you're low or high maintenance, I advise choosing high quality items for your homeschool.



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Aug 14, 2017

Day 1 Curriculum ~ Back to Homeschool 2017


The other night in the grocery store, I had an interesting conversation.  See, I was wearing one of my homeschooler T-shirts.  It's funny because I usually don't get any comments, *except from other homeschoolers*!  Kind of a "you too?" kind of reaction.  Although, the kids shirts are pretty funny and they get lots of attention, it's rare for me.  Anyway, I was asked if "they" send me books and tell me how to teach.  I would love to know who "they" are, because I think they owe me a lot of books after all this time.  Maybe "they" is the Homeschool Review Crew.  I do get some books from them...

Anyway, the real scoop is The Dad and I get to choose what and how to teach our punks.  I always thought that would be super easy, but the more *stuff* I know about, the harder the choices become.  I always loved school.  I was a walker and the girl who stayed behind at school to clap erasers and help the teacher clean her room at the end of the year.  One of the perks of these habits was that I often would come home after the cleaning was done (I'm sure it wasn't really done, she was just shipping me home so she could get to the real work!) with a huge stack of her leftover worksheet handouts.  Even weirder was that I would actually do most of them over the summer.

Some of the curriculum that *I* would have loved as a child just does not work for my very active boys.  Desk and workbook school is not for them.  Not that they don't have that, but it can't be the main thing we use or we might all go off our rockers.

There are so many things to think about when determining curriculum picks for the year.
  • What kind of learner(s) do I have? ~ Yes, learners.  Because, of course, you will find the perfect curriculum for darling punk #1 only to have darling punk #2 learn completely differently.  I am the lucky mom of three distinctly different learners.  Thankfully, they do share some qualities, which means they can use some of the same products very well, as long as we get in a little reinforcement in each of their languages.
  • What kind of teacher am I? ~ Do you need a boxed set and a scripted teacher manual?  That sounds dreamy to me.  (Un)Forunately(?), my punks are all over the place.  A year behind in math? *check*  A year ahead in science?  *check*  Still can't tie a shoe?  *check*  So, no boxed sets here.  Maybe you love living books.  I do, too.  My kids like being read to far more than the reading part, so when I choose readers for the year, I have to be really OK with reading the books aloud.  Certainly, they read (to their ability) on their own also.  Computer learning is a possibility.  In fact, this is one we can agree on for certain topics.  I kind of enjoy using it for the bulk of their math.  There are fewer "emotions" when mom doesn't teach math.
  • What can I afford to spend? ~ Determine a realistic budget. Now stick to it.  It's harder than it sounds.  You found the most amazing science course at XYZ.  Then you realize it's 3x more than you allotted for science.  How much do you need it?  What else on your list can you do without to make up for the difference.  Curriculum can be surprisingly expensive when you start shopping for the first time, or the 10th.  
  • Does this curriculum fill a need? ~ You'd be surprised how quickly a need becomes a want when you're trying to find a way to buy that science from XYZ!  Sometimes, that science is no longer quite so necessary and sometimes other subjects become lower priorities so you can purchase that science.

So, with lots of consideration and sorting of piles and thinking, thinking, thinking, I've narrowed down *some* of our curriculum choices for the fall.

Math - CTC Math.  I've been using this for a while now and bigfatpuffyheart it.  No matter how much a certain punk whines about it, the teacher never flips out on them.  It's completely worth it to me.  Plus they offer a big discount to homeschoolers and sometimes have sales, buy a year, get X months free.

Language Arts - Merrick is going to be continuing the Learn to R.E.A.D. program and the bigger punks will work some more in The Logic of English.

Science - Punk #1 and Punk #2 are using Science in the Industrial Age.  It's new to us, but I really like it so far.

Social Studies - I do not actually know exactly what we're doing this year, but part of our studies will be about Native Americans and the bulk of that will use a Once-A-Week unit study.  We'll also learn about interesting Vermonters and that will include the Abenaki peoples and Phineas Gage.  I picked up a book about Phineas from Amazon.

Bible - The Bible, of course, and probably Cold Case Christianity for Kids.

Health, PE, and Art - This is the last year Malachi needs to report these three topics to the homestudy office.  Not that we still won't be doing these things, but I don't have to report it anymore for him.  We don't really use curriculum for them in general, though, so I don't have much to list here.

One last thought.  If it doesn't work, try to let it go.  Sometimes, I have pushed us through to the end of a curriculum we *all* hated, just to check it off.  Done!  Other times, I have just let things go.  It doesn't always work out and you might need to decide to cut. it. out. of your homeschool day.  Life is too short for stinky curriculum.

Well, that's where I'm at for now.  I still have more decisions to make.  And then the planning begins.  Prayers, research, and planning make a great foundation when choosing your curriculum.

Come back tomorrow and we'll talk school supplies!




Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Aug 12, 2017

Back to Homeschool 2017


I'm excited to be taking part in another 5 Days of Homeschooling link up with The Homeschool Review Crew.  One thing I *bigfatpuffyheart* about The Crew, is that we are all so supportive of one another.  Behind the Super Secret Crew door, there is a wonderful forum where we can pray together, hash out our home and homeschool ideas and concerns, and compare notes on so many aspects of our lives.

Another thing I love about The Crew is the genuine desire to help *you* make your homeschool decisions, by sharing our real life experiences.  While we do a lot of that with curriculum, after all that's what we do, many of my Crew mates are fantastic bloggers about many different things that affect our school and home lives.  If you read some non-review posts, I bet there is someone on The Crew roll who is exactly the kind of person you *want* to be reading and never before found.  We have some really amusing ladies, some very academic ladies, some road schoolers, some Charlotte Mason moms, homeschoolers in other countries, all kinds of folks (even a dad!  *gasp*).

Check out some posts next week and find your favorite new blogger.  <3 p="">
Day 1 ~ Curriculum
Day 2 ~ School Supplies
Day 3 ~ Planning/Record Keeping
Day 4 ~ Outside the Home
Day 5 ~ Dear Homeschool Mom




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Aug 8, 2017

Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek ~ A Homeschool Crew Review


Through the Homeschool Review Crew, we get to try out so many different Christian curricula that I never thought would be possible.  (Maybe I should say "curriculums" because the internet tells me that is the American plural of curriculum, while "curricula" is Latin and, today, I'm here to talk Greek.)  Greek 'n' Stuff's Greek courses have been on my radar for many years.  When Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! - Level 3 Set became available to The Crew, I thought it would be so fun to try.


What did I receive?  Well, I'm glad you asked.
  • Level 3 Worktext - A spiral bound, soft cover, with 170 pages of lessons, plus an appendix which lists things like Greek to English and English to Greek translations of the level three vocabulary, alphabet, breathing marks, tense, and gender.  Instructions for Bible copywork are also included here.  (I've ordered a Greek interlinear New Testament, and I'm pretty excited about that.)  This is followed by the index, a feedback form, and then the all important flash cards (more about those in a minute).
  • Level 3 Answer Key - Also a spiral bound, soft cover, this answer key boasts full size duplicates of the lesson pages (with answers) and the appendix from the worktext.  The suggested (and easy to follow) schedule is to complete one page per day and review the flashcards.  Author Karen Mohs clearly explains how to use the books and CD.  Each lesson is listed with the topic, pages, and teacher tip, and often a "big picture" chart showing the progress being made through the topics in the appendix.
  • and the pronunciation CD - this covers vocabulary for Level 3 and Level 4, includes the alphabet song, and speaks through the charts in the appendix.  The included chart lists exactly what page's vocabulary is on each track.
Hey, Andrew!Teach Me Some Greek!

Several resources are suggested and some are also available from Greek 'n' Stuff.  The Bible is the only extra purchase I've made.  You certainly don't *need* anything more than what is included in the set.

How did we choose a level?  Why, another excellent question.

While there are tests available under each Greek level and Greek 'n' Stuff has this nifty chart which shows all of the levels and options available for the Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek curriculum, I just went by their suggestions.  Children as young as preschool can begin to learn Greek with the reader.  As soon as children can control the pencil, they can start learning the Greek language using Level One.  You'll probably find Level Two just right for 2nd graders.  For older students, say 4th grade to adult, Level Three is the recommended starting point for beginners.  Since we know zero Latin (well, Dad knows a smidge from college), that seemed exactly right.  I think it has been a really good fit for Xavier.  Level Three contains a quick review of the information taught in Levels One and Two, so you're quickly up to speed.

What's it like?  You are full of great questions today!

I was definitely a little intimidated by the whole "learn a whole new alphabet and all the sounds each cute, but funny looking letter make."  Xav has kind of enjoyed it, though he is never keen on any writing.  "Zeta is hard to write.  I can tell you that from experience," Xav tells me.  This photo shows the beginning section where he started writing the letters of the Greek alphabet.  Rather than write three rows of three letters each day, I got this idea to write one row of each letter every day for three days.  For example, the first day he wrote one row each of alpha, beta, gamma.  On day two, he wrote one row of each of those plus one row of delta, epsilon, zeta (Ah, zeta.  yes, he did have trouble with that!).  Day three was the last day of alpha, beta, gamma plus the second row of delta, epsilon, zeta, and the first row of eta, theta, iota.  We rotated our way through the alphabet that way to omega.  It took about the same amount of time, but simultaneously broke things up and kept the letters in his head for more days.  While writing, he practiced saying the letter's name and sound.

Once the alphabet writing was done, the work pages began.  These pages were mostly pretty enjoyable.  Some pages are writing intensive, but many of them are matching, circling, drawing, and even completing crossword puzzles.  This photo show some pages as he completed them and the following photo shows a few examples of the worktext yet to come.  You can see there is a wide variety of activities.



You are encouraged to use the flashcards every day.  (You get to check off a box on each page - see the pics above.  I love marking things done!)  These cards are in the back of the Worktext, six cards to each page.  The front and back are in two columns.  We just cut each pair out, folded in the center and covered with tape.  I think the rest of the pages will be laminated though.  They'll be so much sturdier.  Greek 'n' Stuff does carry a cardstock set that is already cut and hole punched, so that is an option.  Anyway, Xav happily helped me cut out, tape and trim his first cards.  They also sell quizzes for the testing inclined.


The music CD is 68 tracks total.  The first one is an alphabet song and is kind of catchy.  The Level Three vocabulary follows on tracks 2-21.  Each track says, "(Vocabulary word) means (translation).  (Vocabulary word)"  I'll use track 2 as an example.  "An- thro-pos means a man.  An-thro-pos."  Short and clear.  Level Four vocabulary continues to track 59, then tracks 60-68 (thankfully) cover the information on the charts from the appendix.


If you're looking for a Greek program, I think this one is very good.  The variety of activities and the review seem to help it stick, despite the learning of a completely new alphabet.

Greek 'n' Stuff also carries Bible studies and Latin curriculum.

Find Greek 'n' Stuff on social media.

Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}


Crew Disclaimer

Aug 5, 2017

Looking Ahead


Since we have been vacationing off and on in July, I've got a few field trips to share with you.  I can't wait to tell you about Steam Town, Wings Over Eagles Discovery Center, and the Lamplighter Ministries book bindery!

The Homeschool Review Crew is also are planning another "5 Days of..." series the week of August 14-18.  Stay tuned!