Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Stepping Off The Beaten Path" - Week 3

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"I had a variety of education experiences, but mostly public school. We wanted to have something different for our children's education, to have them be doing things together instead of segregated into peer groups and thinking their siblings were just pesty strangers. I have enjoyed studying so many different things along with my kids over all these years.”
~Diane, homeschool mom

Last week I shared a list of my educational philosophies that the Lord laid on my heart as I began to set aside everything I knew education to be.  Today I want to share how I am learning to incorporate them into our day to day life!
  • I'm learning to surrender wholeheartedly to the Lord and trust Him on this journey of educating my children.  It's about trusting the Lord to direct my steps of raising & educating my kids.  He knows everything there is to know about their personalities, giftings, and the plans He has for their lives.  I don't want to follow a "system" but rather be spirit led in all my homeschool decisions.   
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  • I am learning to put relationships as top priority.  Life is all about relationship with God and relationship with people!!  I purposely leave a lot of free space in our day so that my girls can have time for creative play, interaction, and bonding.  I love all the time my girls have with one another, it blesses me so much!!  I plan play dates, mother/daughter dates (my husband does the same), and monthly "Mom" nights, so us moms can have deeper friendships.  We are also involved in an amazing co-op that provides an atmoshere for relationships to grow and be strengthened.  My girls are learning through a variety of situations how to interact with, play with, work out differences, share, compromise, forgive, put others first, and love others!  

  • I am learning to keep our sit down, structured time of learning short and sweet.  We do devotions most mornings during breakfast and science is read most days during lunch.  4 days a week we do the core subjects - math, reading, writing, & spelling.  It typically takes 1 1/2  hours (or 45 minutes per child) to get through everything (that's 10-15 minutes per subject).  We spend about 45 minutes on our world geography study (2-3x a week).  It's fun, hands-on, and interesting to them and doesn't feel like "school".  This gentle approach gives them the exposure they need at this age and helps to maintain a love for learning.  I don't ever want to experience "burn-out".  

  • I am learning to have flexibility - Flexibility is a huge bonus to homeschooling!  I'm not slave to a schedule (I do have a tentative one as a guide).   Most mornings are very slow going and relaxed.  I do have a morning routine my girls follow so they are ready for the day.  We are not a "wear your PJ's all day long" family....except of course when someone shows up unannounced and wouldn't you know it, I'm still in my PJ's.  There are days when sit down learning doesn't happen, other things take precedence, and that is OK! 

  • I am learning the importance of SLOWING down.  I spent an entire year running in so many different directions, all because I wanted to give my girls the very best in education!!    Nowadays, we have very few commitments and nothing gets scheduled during nap time (I learned my lesson).   The hustle and bustle isn't worth the stress and anxiety I was experiencing.  Sometimes it's worth saying "No" to things.  There will be times in the future when our schedule may be a little fuller, because there are different seasons in our life.  For now, you won't hear me complaining about this season of rest!
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  • I am learning, how to mesh my teaching style with their learning style.  It's definitely been trial and error in some instances, but that comes with the territory.  One of my greatest accomplishments was teaching "Lover Girl" how to read, and I believe it was a success because I tailored it to her learning style!  They are most eager to learn when the approach is fun, hands-on, interesting, and engaging.  I am most eager to teach when it's a simple, open-and-go, and doesn't require a "ginormous" teachers manual.  If you want to familiarize yourself with the different homeschool styles, click here, for more information. 

  • I am learning to relax and enjoy my kids!   It's all too easy to get caught up in the pressure to produce the smartest, most intelligent, academically advanced child.  If that occurs, it won't be my doing, it will be the Lords!  My priority with homeschooling, as mentioned already,  has less to do with academics and much more to do with relationship/discipleship!   I am passionate to teach my girls about their purpose in life, godly character, having a servants attitude, showing compassion, putting others first, and loving Jesus with all their hearts!  If I see a heart issue happening, I strive to stop everything, and focus on my child who needs my undivided attention.  I am learning to have a standard of grace, not perfection, in my parenting too!
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  • I am learning that I still have MUCH to learn!  The Lord often brings me back to a place of humility, especially when I think I have things figured out.  My mind is branded with so many ideas about education that I wish I could delete.   It's pretty hard to unlearn things that were repeated over and over and over in my own educational experience growing up.  I have new ideals I want to embrace as well, that are so opposite of what I grew up with.   It's a day to day journey sorting through stuff, building new habits, stretching myself, and letting go.  I find encouragement from other homeschool moms who have been at it much longer than I have and one of those special ladies is, Heidi St. John
Stay tuned next week for my final post in this series.  I am excited to share with you where so much of my inspiration for "Stepping Off the Beaten Path" stems fromRead week 4 here!
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Stepping Off the Beaten Path" - Week 2

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"I have learned not to call it schooling- I just call it life. Its hard to retrain your brain, but it can be done! You just have to persevere and not give up on yourself or on your children."  
~Minda, (homeschool mom who grew up in public education)

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Imagine being a hiker out for a walk one day.  You notice the signs pointing in a specific direction and telling you to stay on the path.  You can keep going along the familiar path and end up at the same destination as every other hiker, however, you decide to veer off the path into the unknown.  You have no idea what lays ahead, it's scary and exciting all rolled up in one.   As you forge ahead, there are moments of doubt about your decision and a few obstacles along the way (You know, the usual stuff like fallen tree trunks, grizzly bears, Big Foot, and a swarm of bees....nothing you couldn't handle!!)

After a while, you come out of a dense forest and into a clearing, and your eyes fall upon the most beautiful waterfall you've ever seen.  It takes your breath away!  You are now convinced stepping off the beaten path was the best decision you ever made!!!

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I had officially "stepped off the beaten path" of what I knew education to be, but wasn't sure which direction I was headed nor what the outcome was going to be.  I've encountered my share of obstacles too, mainly just trying to wrap my brain around an education style that is so foreign to what I am use to.    

It has taken time to figure out what homeschooling is suppose to look like for my family and I still don't have it all figured out (and it may not happen overnight for you either).  I've prayed for direction, researched, struggled along on this new path, and many days found myself veering back towards what is familiar.   

Yet every time I find myself questioning, wondering, asking, seeking....the Lord gently tugs on my heart and reminds me of the MOST important thing I need to hear....

God has called ME to homeschool!  He is with ME each and every day.  He loves ME and He loves my kids.  He has called ME, first and foremost, to an authentic relationship with my girls.  Academics would have its place in our day, but was not to take precedence. 

I want to share some of my philosophies of education & priorities that I have now embraced.  Please keep in mind that no two families are the same and your approach and ideals may be different and that is OK!

  • Putting the Lord first & seeking to Honor Him throughout our day! 
  • Healthy relationships take precedence over academics!
  • Being intentional to pray/do our devotions daily.
  • A focus on habits & character.
  • Exploring more in the outdoors/nature.
  • A flexible schedule vs being slave to a rigid schedule.
  • A short time of structured learning and a whole lot of creative play/exploration.
  • An education tailored to how my girls best learn vs a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Teaching everything from a biblical/creation standpoint.
  • Embracing fun/engaging "living books" vs busywork/textbooks.
  • Instilling in my girls a passion for learning vs it feeling like a dreaded chore.
  • Opportunities for extra-curricular activities but NOT where they dictate our lives.
  • Not falling into the comparison trap but being confident in what the Lord had called me too! 

Take some time now to write down why you decided to homeschool in the first place.  Write out your goals and priorities with homeschooling.   Compare this with your notes from last week.  Getting your thoughts out on paper can help create a unique educational philosophy for your family!

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Next week I will be sharing some specific ways I carry out the above list of philosophies in our day to day life!  Go to week 3 here!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Oi" from Brazil

Before I share the details of our week I wanted to let you know, for anyone interested, that there is also a United States Geography Curriculum called Road Trip USA!  This is geared for K-4th grade!

We just finished "travelling" to another country in our Expedition Earth studies. This time to Brazil!! 

For anyone who thinks, "That curriculum looks fun but it looks like way too much work"....let me tell you its NOT!  The only work for me was getting everything printed & organized at the start of the school year.   It is very open and go!  I also do not do everything every day.  In fact, the curriculum is based on a 5 day week.  We typically spend 2-3 days a week doing this curriculum and probably around 45 minutes each day.  Here is the file folder box I use, with each country in a separate file!

Ok so on to our week....

As usual we started off stamping the passports and finding the country on the map!

Notice "Sweet Pea" in the corner pointing to Australia!!

They colored a flag & map for their notebooks.

Practiced writing a few words in Portuguese.

Danced to the song of the week.

Made an Animal Mini-Book and added animal cards to wall classification chart.

And added the country label to continents wall chart

We also read about missionary Jim Elliott, missionary to South America!
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Other things we did this week:

Obrigado for stopping by, next stop is Panama!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Stepping Off The Beaten Path" - Week 1

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For some time, I have been questioning our methods and looking for something different. My heart tells me we need to change, my head tells me otherwise. I never realized how indoctrinated I was regarding schooling until I began questioning our methods and found that I was the one holding back change. ~Robin, Homeschool mom

Whether you were raised in public school, private school, homeschooled, or a combination of things....you most likely have formed opinions, ideals, philosophies, definitions and perceptions of education, based on your exposure and experiences.

I spent K-12th grade receiving a public school education (that's 2,340 days to be exact but whose counting!). So naturally, I took those principals of education, and applied them to how I homeschooled. If I had to summarize my definition of education and how I attempted to homeschool the first year, it would be "doing school".

My Kindergartner and I, would sit down at the table everyday, open up workbooks, and do page after page of worksheets. We stuck to a very tight schedule and nothing could be skipped. That "Type A" in me just had to check everything off the list! I felt this huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders and placed such high expectations on myself and my daughter.

Nothing about our days felt smooth and natural...it felt bumpy and forced. It was in February of that first year, when I finally said, "No More!" No more, to days filled with tears and frustration for both of us. No more, to school being torturous. No more, to a rigid schedule. No more, to following a formula. No more, to heavy demands and high expectations.

I had no idea what homeschooling was "suppose" to look like, but what I was doing wasn't it.

I gathered up all the workbooks and I placed them in a plastic bin under my bed. I didn't have a Plan B but Plan A wasn't an option any longer. Thankfully I got inspired with an idea that would at least help get me through the remainder of the school year (see even school being September -June is programmed in this head of mine).

The inspiration came from a single book, "How to Make an Apple Pie and see the world". I wrote my own 7 week curriculum from this one book, which did take some time and effort on my end, but was well worth it! Writing my own curriculum is not something I would want to do on a normal basis but desperate times call for desperate measures...and this mama was desperate. (I'm happy to email the PDF file to anyone interested!)

We started a notebook, using a 3 ring binder, to hold all of their work. We did fun, hands-on projects, read lots and lots of "living books", went on field trips, and did several science experiments. The girls were learning geography, science, Bible, math, reading, writing, and art all wrapped up in one! (If this educational approach interests you check out Five in a Row!)

This is when the spark for homeschooling got lit in me and in my girls! This is when I, "Stepped off the Beaten Path." It could be compared to only knowing vanilla ice cream in a bowl your whole life and suddenly discovering a double scoop of mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone. I began to see a vast assortment of options available to me!!

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If you have never done this, I encourage you to take a few moments and write out some of those key beliefs you have about education based on your upbringing/experiences.

More of my story coming next week:  Read Here!

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Friday, March 9, 2012

"Hola" from Mexico!

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This week in our Expedition Earth studies we "travelled" to Mexico.  They started out stamping their passports and finding the country on the map!

One of their favorite parts of the week, dancing!

They completed their mapping and flag pages.

Put together their animal mini books and added animal cards to wall classification chart.

Added the country label to the continents wall poster.

Colored their paper dolls for Mexico.

And since we were finishing up this continent, they did a continents review page.

Other things we did this week:
  • Prayed for the people in Mexico
  • Read about a child from Mexico
  • Read about the Chiapas in our "Bold Believers" download from Kids of courage.
  • Watched a YouTube video about persecuted Christians in Chiapas, Mexico
  • Watched  YouTube video about Chichen Itza
  • Watched a YouTube video about Tenochtitlan
  • Stamped passports with exit date
  • Went on a field trip to see the play "Narnia"
  • Went on a field trip to G6 airpark

Gracias for visiting this page!  Our next stop is Brazil, South America!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Introduction - My Next Blog Series:

Photo courtesy of Google Image

I grew up in the public school system, from kindergarten all the way through my senior year.  I took the bus to and from school everyday.  I ate hot lunches every day.  I played on the playground at recess everyday.  I sat at a desk in a classroom everyday.  I worked from a textbook/workbook everyday.  I was also a pro at cramming information into my head long enough to get an A on the test. 

When it came time to begin homeschooling my girls, the only model of education which I could reference was the very one I had experienced.  I quickly discovered this format with it's drive, expectations, and loads of worksheets was not suitable for my daughter at all.   The atmosphere in my home was one of daily tears and frustration.   There began to be a huge paradigm shift in my thinking regarding education and my mission and goals for homeschooling.  I took drastic measures to "Step Off The Beaten Path".  It was then, that I began to see a spark of hope to homeschooling!   

As I prepare for this series, I would love to hear your story!  What educational model did you have growing up?  What memories do you have of your childhood education?  What are ways you have veered away from the familiar and embraced an education for your kids that is far different from the one you had?