Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Works For Us...

We've been homeschooling for a year now, and I am by no means an expert.  I am always trying to learn from more experienced moms.  But, I thought that today I'd share some of the novice ideas I came up with over the course of our first year.  Every day is different, and I know every year will be different, too.  Some of these things may not work for us next year, but this year they helped! They are the things that made the days run more smoothly and allowed us to have some fun, too!
All of these things really worked for us...  

1.)  Breakfast with Dad ~ Erik eats breakfast with the three older boys before heading off to work.  He even has a theme song he sings while he makes eggs, toast, bagels, cereal, or whatever he decides to make each morning.  He sits with them, reads to them,  prays, and then leaves for work.  I love that the boys start their day with Dad.  (They get enough of me all day long! :-) And, it frees me up to start laundry, look at my calendar, set up the school room, and get ready to start the day!! :-)  

2.)  Prayer List & Scripture Memory ~ After Daddy leaves the boys and I sit together and go over our prayer list. . .

Each of the boys chooses two or three people from the list and prays for them, then I close.  I love the prayer list because it reminds me to pray for those around us who have needs.  It is great accountability!! After we pray I review the boys on our scripture memory.  This year the boys memorized Ephesians 6:10-18.  I thought these were great verses for little boys to memorize!

3.)  Journals ~ I decided to do the journals for several reasons.  The main reason being that I have had a journal since I was old enough to write down thoughts, and I love journals!!!!

For Elijah the journal is simply a place to practice writing letters and to draw.

For JCT the journal is a place to learn to write dates correctly, to learn our address, phone number, and cell phone numbers, to practice writing sentences correctly, and to draw.

I began the year writing sentences for him to copy.  This was fun!!  Many times I surprised them with fun information in their journals.  For example, he might open his journal and find these sentences to copy: "Nana is coming today!  She will be here after lunch.  Today is her birthday.  We will sing to her!"

By the end of the year, I began to give him the freedom to write as he pleased.

I loved watching him grow as a writer this year.  One of the moms at our homeschool co-op has written several books, and now she edits books for a living.  She is my go-to girl for writing advice for the boys.  She suggested the boys have a place to write freely ~ where I did not get out the red pen.  Their journal is this place.

For Joshua the journal is a place to write and draw freely.  I don't give him a topic.  I just let him write freely, and nothing is more fun to me than reading what he writes.

I loved beginning our school day this way every morning! It sort of eased the boys into their work.  They enjoyed the writing and the drawing, and it left me with a book of treasures to keep forever!! :-)

4.)  Mommy's helper ~ Monday is Joshua's day. Tuesday is JCT's day.  Wednesday is Elijah's day, and Thursday is Erik Daniel's day.  They get to wear this around their neck....

My helper helps me make lunch, pass out paper, sort laundry, etc.  The boys all love to be the helper of the day!

5.)  Happy Tokens ~

I came up with this because I wanted a reward system that didn't involve money or candy!  I cut out circles and let the boys draw happy faces on each circle.  This took a while!  We have tons of happy tokens ~ more than we could ever use.  Sharing with a brother or any selfless act is rewarded with a happy token in your cup!  But, happy tokens can be taken away for selfish acts or unkind behavior.  When you have lots of boys, any competition becomes central.  At the end of the week, we would count and see who won!  I haven't kept it up this summer, and I kind of miss it!

6.)  My lesson plan ~ I found this last summer at Donna Young's website.  I used the same plan all year, and I loved it!  I plan each week a week in advance over a cup of coffee.  It is one of my absolute favorite things to do!!  I love sitting down and making our plans.  I had one sheet for Joshua and one for JCT.  This is one of Joshua's plans...

I love checking the box when we have completed our work!!  Ahhh... the feeling of accomplishment.  Also, if we didn't get to something on Tuesday, it reminds me to pick it up and finish it on Wednesday!  I love checklists!!

7.) Check-lists for my boys ~ I love the feeling of checking things off so much that I made checklists for the boys.  I laminated them, and they used dry erase markers to check off the subjects throughout the day each day!  They really, really, really enjoyed this!  If we weren't going to do, for example, art/music and geography, that day, I'd cross it off first thing in the morning.  This way, at the end of the day, their entire list is crossed off!!  Accomplishment!!

Joshua crossed off the title with 2nd grade in it on the last day of school!! Ha! :-)  He thought that it was soooo clever!! :-)

8.)  Thinking cap ~ When this idea came to me, I had no idea if they even made one.  So, I did a google search, and there are tons of "thinking caps"out there!!  This was my favorite!

I used it for the first time last fall when I introduced Joshua to multiplication!  I only pull it out, and pop it on their cute little head when I feel that the lesson is monumental or if they are struggling to grasp a new concept and on the verge of giving up!  It is simply for fun, and I think they enjoy it!!

9.)  Using the big to teach the little ~ I love this!  It makes mama's heart smile when big brother sits patiently and listens to little brother read or does flash cards of phonograms with little brother.  It teaches Joshua to be patient and to teach, and it is also great review for him!  It also helps me so much!  Many times I leave Joshua to read or do flash cards with JCT while I put Eriky to bed.  It is a win-win plan!  JCT, also, helps go over letters and sounds with Elijah!  It trickles down...  God is so sweet!

10.)  Special days ~

Any ordinary day can be a holiday!  Sometimes the special days have to do with what the boys are learning or what is going on around us ~ wild west day when they studied western expansion or jersey day during March Madness. Other times it is whatever strikes us ~ pj day, superhero day, dress up day, crazy hair day, etc.  Joshua loves this, and he has a plethera of ideas.  I think he could fill the calendar with a different special day for every day!! Ha!  I love having children who are all still young enough for this to be fun!!  It just spices things up and makes things a little more interesting!

Also, it is fun to bake them treats to celebrate things like...

And, this day they decorated cupcakes to look like themselves!  Ha!  Can you guess who this is??

Erik Daniel, of course!  He is my only brown eyed baby!! Celebrating simple things can be so much fun!!

11.)  Getting Outdoors ~ We have boys, so this is very important to me.  I want my boys to have memories upon memories of outdoor play.  I want them to remember romping through the woods ~ sometimes they pretend to be nature explorers looking for wild animals and sometimes they play that they are soldiers hiding in the wilderness and fighting the enemy.  I want them to remember hours of bike riding, swimming, and playing sports.  So, we take a nice long recess midday and finish everything in time for them to play for an hour or two before evening activities begin.  I, also, like to take school outside on pretty days (without wind :-)).  Doing school work in the sunshine just makes everybody feel happier.  Plus, this helps occupy the little ones.  They ride on their riding toys, play in the sandbox, or write with sidewalk chalk while the big boys work and that is nice for everyone!

12.)  Fun Lunches ~ About once a month, I enjoyed surprising the boys with lunch from a restaurant!  We'd either bring food in, have a pizza delivered, or drive thru some place quick.  I usually chose to do this on the spur of the moment when we were having a hard day.  Some days are just yucky!! :-( Sometimes the work seems too much or too hard or maybe the little boys are being too loud and distracting and frustrating the big boys...  Whatever the problem, sometimes getting out of the house, driving with windows rolled down, music playing loud, singing at the top of our lungs, and getting Mexican food midday just seems to help everyone ~ especially Mom!!!! :-)  Other days, we try to make lunch fun by taking it outside.  During the spring and fall we eat outside almost every day.  Sometimes we picnic in the grass.  Sometimes we sit at the table on the back porch or our picnic table.  We've eaten lunch in the house part of our swing set, and we've eaten in our tee pee.  As long as we are outside, that is all that matters!

10.)  Afternoon Snack Time ~

The boys and I fell into a routine of quizzing over afternoon snacks.  The little boys napped during this time.  And, I would make my big boys a special treat ~ cookies, popcorn, etc.  I'd pull out my little box of cards and quiz them while they ate.  Somedays I would ask questions and let the boys compete to answer them, and somedays I just bounced from Joshua to JCT ~ asking them questions individually.  The boys seemed to enjoy this time of day, and I really did, too.  It was usually a very relaxed, enjoyable review time!  I used this time to make their learning cumulative.  I didn't want them to forget the first semester definitions, etc. during second semester, so we would keep reviewing them.

Okay, so those are a few of the things we did this year to make the days a little more fun!  If anyone out there has any wonderful ideas to share, I would love, love, love to hear them!!!  Leave a comment or email me!  I'd love to know what you do to make your days work best!!


Amy said...

Way to go! Looks like you had a great first year! I've seen that you posted about it over the years and was delighted when I found that your family had decided to do so! Many great years lay ahead for you!

Sunshine said...

We have been homeschooling for a while and I LOVE new ideas because it keeps it fresh and exciting and you are SO right when you say what worked last year may not work this year :). One thing we added this year that has made the biggest differece is DEAR - drop everything and read - it has improved our girls reading more than any other thing we have done. We do it right after lunch as a quiet time and it gives me time to read a bit and re-group right before starting our afternoon session. I LOVE your ideas - we may try some of these out too. Another thing (this could be a girl thing) but we make "snack time" a big deal too - we do "tea" and poetry - because I forget to do poetry if I do not do attach it to something else. OH something else we like to do is read alouds - sometimes the girls draw, paint, sculpt (with playdough) etc; their take on what I read instead of verbally narrating the passage back to me. They have also make newspaper/news casting announcements and read it/present it to Daddy when he gets home to re-cap our day - a good way to review some of the information they took in through out the day that I am hoping will stick. I also LOVE Ann Voskamp's idea of the ladder they seek to climb each day - I made a visual reminder of it because I am always afraid of letting something slip through the cracks. You sound like an amazing homeschool Momma! Sunshine

Bree said...

Thank you for sharing the great ideas! Such a blessing a privilege to teach our little ones! Some days are hard to say the least but as I heard a speaker say at a recent homeschool conference, we're working for a greater purpose than just academics. So glad to read you are getting some rest :)
Have a blessed week!

Sarah said...

Erin, I'm printing this post out--so many great ideas! We're doing school all summer because it's too hot to go outside and play (Our "summer" break was April through mid-June), so I can use these now!

And your most recent post about planning--you've described me to a T. No wonder we found each other in college, kindred spirits :)

Love to you today, and I pray for you every time I think of you--often!

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Hi! I live in a sweet country home overflowing with love, laughter, and little ones. I have been blessed to journey these days beside a man that I love, respect, and admire. He is my soul-mate and best friend. Together we are seeking to raise our seven children to be lovers of God, to be wise and discerning, and to be all that our sweet God created them to be. I am in the goldfish and cheerio stage of life, but I am keenly aware that these days are slipping right through my hands. This blog is my attempt to keep our memories safe for years to come.


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