December 9, 2013
The Gifts of Homeschooling
Written by Jessica Bowers
From Homeschool.com’s virtual magazine, November 2013 edition
Sometime between a frustrating lesson on improper fractions and an oft interrupted chapter of Where the Red Fern Grows with my three older students, I noticed that it was quiet. Too quiet. I began the unsettling search to find the silent preschooler, and quickly found the tell-tale sign of trouble strewn through the living room and trickling out my bedroom door. The mess looked like the aftermath of a ticker tape parade, with bits of paper and colorful curling ribbon littering every surface. Following the trail led to a reality that grew worse with every step, and at the end, I found my little troublemaker surrounded by the wrapping paper carnage and sporting a proud grin.
I immediately began an internal lament, as I thought of the time that would be wasted in the clean up and the way that it would throw my entire day off schedule. Half-heartedly and discouraged, I wound a roll of ribbon back around the spool and sighed. I could feel a rant rising up in my chest, but as if on cue my four year old lifted his hands up and offered me the fruits of his mischief laden labor. It was wrapped in the expensive paper and four entire rolls of tape, and my heart sank even further when I thought of the waste. “It’s for you, Mama,” he said in an angelic voice, and his sweetness pricked my angry, frustrated spirit. I took the mishmash of sparkly gold paper and cellophane in my hands and sank down among the bits of paper and scraps of ribbon determined that I would see this moment as the gift that my son had intended.
As I slowly began to unwind the yards of tape, I wondered how often I viewed things that were meant to be treasured as hardships and hindrances. My role as homeschool teacher was certainly a victim of my tendency to see the negative, so while I knew that I would be knee deep in paper clean-up for a while, I turned my thoughts towards how I could see homeschooling as a gift.
What’s in it for Me?
It’s easy to see the benefits of homeschooling for the student. We all know the statistics and the research that supports this lifestyle. Almost daily, I witness the fruits of this worthwhile labor in my children, but there is a slightly selfish voice that wonders “what’s in it for me?” It turns out; there are many personal benefits for the parent-teacher, although they are often disguised behind the busyness, or hidden behind the exhaustion.
The Gift of Time
Time waits for no one, and while the days of child rearing can feel like they are dragging on forever, there is really a very short time where parents have an influence over their children. From the moment our children are placed in our arms, the unforgiving march of time begins. I have always been aware that my time with my children was limited, but it is becoming so much more apparent as they grow. Looking at my man-child, who has just recently achieved his life-long goal of being taller than his mom, reminds me that I only have a few more Christmases and a few more summers before he is grown and gone. I am jealously guarding those years and so grateful for the time that I have been gifted with all of my children while they have been homeschooled.
The gift of time afforded by homeschooling is not just the quantity, but it is also the quality. Instead of rushing out the door early in the morning, we are snuggling on the couch, still in our pajamas and lingering over a precious conversation. Instead of hurrying from subject to subject on an arbitrary schedule, we have the luxury of digging into a subject fueled by our interests. Our days are less hurried and less structured, and that lends towards time to explore deeply and think freely. There is time to relish a freshly falling snow or watch a spider building a web or answer the really tough life questions. This precious, unhurried time is a gift that I might not ever know I was missing if it were not for homeschooling.
The Gift of Responsibility
There is no question that homeschooling is a substantial responsibility that often weighs heavily on the mind of the parent, but that responsibility can actually be a gift in disguise. Homeschooling has benefited me as a mother because it allows me to be constantly in tune with the needs of my kids, and find creative ways to meet those needs. Every part of their development sits on my shoulders — I can’t blame the schools or the teachers if they are failing in some academic area. That is an awesome responsibility that keeps me on my toes as a parent, encourages me to be at my best, and keeps me accountable to the task.
The Gift of Learning
Do you know why the sky is blue or what causes lightning? They are simple questions that we are supposed to learn in elementary school, but many of us only really understand these concepts on the surface. When suddenly charged with teaching these concepts to our children, that’s when deep, meaningful comprehension takes place, sometimes for the first time. Even as a college graduate, I am constantly learning things along with my children. Their curiosity encourages me to dig deeper, and my curiosity teaches them that learning is a life-long pursuit.
The Gift of Alternative Thinking
Alternative thinking- the choice to do things contrary to the “norm”- is a muscle that grows stronger as it is used. Homeschooling is certainly more popular than ever before, but it is still an out of the box lifestyle choice, and for our family homeschooling was actually the gateway to making all kinds of choices that didn’t quite follow the beaten path. Once we discovered that taking the road less traveled could produce extraordinary results, it trickled over into all our decision making. Everything from health choices to career paths have been colored by our positive experience with trusting the unconventional course.
The Gift of Memories
Experiencing a child’s first words, first steps, and all the other firsts are memories that every parent relishes. I wanted to keep experiencing the magic of the first time with my kids even after they were school-aged. Homeschooling has allowed me the privileged position of being there when they first learned to read and all the other big moments as they have grown. As precious as the monumental times are, I treasure the daily, mundane tasks we have shared even more. The simple rhythm that homeschooling has created for us has gifted our family with unhurried meals, group learning opportunities, and time to share meaningful conversations. These are the threads that bind our family together and create a treasure trove of happy memories that will be with me long after my kids are grown.
Back in my living room, still surrounded by yards of crumpled paper, I was no closer to undoing the disarray, but I was seeing it with new eyes. I pulled my little mischief maker close and together we dug into the package with unbridled excitement. Yes, I had to choose to look past the mess and ignore the work that would be needed, but in my lap, I had a precious, unique gift and I could not let it go to waste.
Jessica Bowers and her homeschooling family of four boys can be described in one word — average. They are a middle class family living in Middle America right smack in the middle of the suburbs with 3 bedroom 2 1/2 baths and a minivan. Together, they leave ordinary behind to set off on extraordinary adventures around the world. Stories of their travels can be found in Family Fun, Dallas Child, and at the family’s travel blog Suitcases and Sippy Cups.
December 6, 2013
I Quit Teaching to be a Homeschool Mom
Written b Erin Woiteshek
Highlighted in the most recent edition of Homeschool.com’s virtual magazine
That’s right. I quit. I quit my job. To homeschool. The kicker……I quit my job teaching. Educating other people’s children so that I can teach my own. I know. It seems so crazy. INSANE! It’s something I have been toying around with for a long time. I really love teaching (hint…that’s why I became a teacher). But, recently teaching has seemed a little less like teaching and more like….something else. I desire to instill a lifelong love of learning in my kids. So, I decided to just do it. And here we are. Homeschoolers.
I mean….of course good old Deuteronomy 6 is another one of the reasons we decided to just go for it and try out this whole homeschooling thing. “You shall diligently teach your children My words as you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” It’s kind of hard when the kids are away from home more than half of their waking hours.
I also want my kids to be flexible and adaptable. I want them to learn ‘how to learn’ and to L.O.V.E it. I don’t think it’s the best use of limited resources to prepare kids for taking tests when we could encourage them to be lifelong learners. I want them to learn useful skills not just data and information because it will be on the test or because it’s part of a core curriculum.
So, I did it. I quit my job of 15 years and now I’m a brand. new. newbie. homeschooling. mom. Why does teaching my own kids seems like such a daunting task? I have a Masters in teaching for crying out loud. But my own kids. Ummmm. Well, I don’t know about that? They are scary.
So, I spent the summer researching. Oh so much research. Every single night I was reading books and reviews and pouring over curriculum catalogues. On vacation. No magazines on the beach for me. It was 20+ curriculum catalogues and library books about homeschooling! I was on the search for the perfect curriculum (spoiler alert….it might not exist). After several months of this my mind was swimming. Obviously. CM, AO, BJU, CLE, CLP, MFW, ETC, HOP, HWT, RFH, MUS, R&S, SL, SM, TWTM, TUAC. I am drowning in a sea of acronyms.
And picking a curriculum might just be the easy part. What is my teaching philosophy? Am I an unschooler? Am I classical or eclectic or Charlotte Mason? Montessori or Waldorf? Should I make a school room? Do I join a co-op or not? If I do join a co-op…which co-op? Piano lessons? Gymnastics? Art classes? Second language?
And what about socialization?
Ahhh. Now that’s a big one. I was actually shocked at how many family members, friends, cashiers, grandmas, single people, neighbors and other random citizens are concerned about this. I thought for sure we had moved past this one. People are really concerned about my kids and their social life. Of all of the questions and doubts about this choice swimming about in my head, I think I am the most comfortable with this one. I mean, socializing with only your peers based on the year and month you were born doesn’t seem like the only way to go. It seems much more organic to learn how to speak with and socialize with people of all ages. Sure there are weird homeschooled kids. But I can assure you there are plenty of weirdos in the public schools, too. PLENTY!
This whole socialization thing, yeah, I’m not worried about. What does keep me up at night is the dumb stuff. Like what about a Valentine’s Day party. And ‘eraser tag’. And “Heads Up 7-up”. And parachutes in gym class. And field trips on buses. And having a locker. And Thanksgiving Day turkey school lunch. And fundraisers with prizes. And boring assemblies that get you out of class. And class pizza parties. And bringing a treat to the class on your birthday. And school dances.
These are the things that I loved about school. YES, I realize that ALL of them have to do with food, or parties or games. hahaha. What can I say, I’m a party animal. And I also do realize that most of them don’t happen at school anymore anyway, but I just pray that I’m not robbing my kids of these memories. I do know that what I am replacing them with is far more valuable than a hot piece of lunch meat covered in gravy or winning a bouncy ball for selling the most chocolate bars.
I finally chose a curriculum. I actually chose many. I bought no less than 3 full curriculums. I think I may have over done it. Thank goodness for ebay! And I did decide to make a homeschool room. Mainly because I already owned all the stuff to fully stock several homeschool rooms.
And here we are. We’re several months into it. So far we love it. I mean, it’s been hard to get in a groove. I think the groove will come.
The kids insist on starting the day outside on the porch. They knock and wait for me to open the door and welcome them to our school. They think this is HILARIOUS. I wonder how they’re going to feel about this in January. I am sure the neighbors already think we are crazy and need some serious socialization.
So far I’ve heard some doozies. I calmly requested that my daughter do one more Math problem and there was wailing. Actual tears. I told her to stop crying, because I know she never cried last year in school for her teacher. And she told me, through snot and tears, “But you aren’t like a real teacher.” (I knew I should have framed my degrees and hung them on the wall of the homeschool room!) And the very next day she cried AGAIN this time with,“We never do anything fun in homeschool, all we do is work.” NICE! I wanted to scream, “That’s because everything you did last year that you thought was fun was actually mindless busy work meant to fill your day.”
But, instead we grabbed the magnifying glass and went on a nature walk!
Erin Woiteshek writes a blog entitled A Bird And A Bean (her kids nicknames) at www.abirdandabean.com.
December 5, 2013
Geocaching—Fun and Educational
Written by Kathy Balman
Highlighted in Homeschool.com’s most recent virtual magazine
Most of the country is having cooler weather. Take advantage of this season and get your family outdoors for some fun and educational learning. It’s time to take your family on an adventure. It’s time to go geocaching.
So what’s geocaching?
Geocaching is treasure hunting using a GPS unit. Caches (the “treasure”) can be found all over the world. They can be at your local park, along a hidden trail, underwater or on the side of a city street.
How do you get started?
To get started locate caches near you by creating a free account on the geocache website. Make sure you also read the Geocaching 101 page too. The geocache website helps you locate the 6+ million caches worldwide. You can search by city, state, address, longitude, latitude, name etc. Once you do a search you can see a list of all the caches near your location in both a list and map format. You can also view further details about the caches including: cache names, difficulty, cache size, cache type, date last found, date placed, etc. Click on the cache you want to go hunting for to view further details, clues, logged visits and more.
Feel free to add us as a friend — we call ourselves the balman4! One of our geocaching goals is to complete all the GA state park caches. There are 50 state parks and 14 historic sites that participate. Your state parks may also participate; just visit your state parks website or contact them to find out.
Next get a GPS unit. We use one on my cellphone that I downloaded for free. I have an Android phone and really like C:Geo App. There are also several apps you can purchase like the official Geocaching.com App which is $9.99 (available for iPhone, Android, Windows 7). Other options are purchasing a handheld GPS for around $100 on Amazon. Or using your portable car GPS. We used our TomTom before, and it worked fine. Just make sure the battery is fully charged and that you change the settings to walking instead of driving. Sometimes I print out the geocaches information from the website to have as a back-up just in case something happens to our GPS unit. And we also always have an old fashioned compass just in case.
Next download or manually enter the coordinates into your device. You are now ready to set out on an amazing adventure to find a hidden treasure. Your GPS should guide you right to the cache or at least get you in close proximity to it. If you’re stumped you can look at the clues and photos from the previous logged visits on the geocache’s detail page to help you (I still have to do this sometimes). You will need to think outside of the box. Remember these are hidden treasures. The people who hide them do not want them to be easily found by Muggles (term used to describe non-geocachers). Many times you will need to think creatively. When you are in the area where the cache is hidden start looking for spots that look like good hiding spots like under rocks, inside tree cavities etc. Also look for off beaten paths that may have been created by previous geocache seekers.
And finally, make sure you log your find on the geocaching website. The people who created the cache love to read about people who have found it.
So what’s in the cache?
All kinds of really neat things!!! What treasures you will find inside really depends on the container type and size. My kids have found stickers, small toys, pens, pins, etc. The GA state parks require the use of a green ammo box, and this is what most cache creators use because it is camouflaged and waterproof. Inside each cache is generally a log book (which you will want to sign) and sometimes various trinkets that others have left behind. If you wish to take a trinket (which my kids always do) you will need to replace it with a trinket of greater or equal value. There may also be trackables like our Homeschool Pinocchio, who is traveling the globe right now!
Earlier this year we found our first micro cache. These caches are about 2 inches in length and can be very hard to find (like a 35mm film canister). There are also Earth Caches, Mystery/Puzzle Caches and Geocaching Challenges (we have completed 10 of these). You can read more about the types of geocaches here.
Depending on the cache adventure you’re choosing make sure you’re prepared and take plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, water, snacks, a first aid kit, and definitely a camera. Oh, and of course your GPS!
How can you make it educational?
Geocaching is the perfect opportunity to get your children outside for an adventurous field trip. It covers so many subjects (including PE) and can be an excellent learning experience. Each time we go on a geocache we discover new exciting things. We have learned about insects, waterfalls, birds, rocks, Indians, compasses, rivers, mountains, flowers — the list goes on! Both of my children draw pictures and write in their journals about the many fabulous things we experience during our trips. After a geocache adventure you can go home and continue the learning with some fun unit studies or lapbooks that go along with the various things you explored on your journey.
And that’s it! You are now ready to experience an awesome adventure with your family and friends. To find out more about geocaching make sure you also follow Geocaching.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Kathy Balman quit her full time job in July 2011 to become a stay at home/homeschool mom to her two children. Besides being a full time mother she is also a devoted wife, blogger and social media manager. Read more about her homeschool journey on her blog, http://www.kathysclutteredmind.com.
December 4, 2013
Christmas Fun with FreePrintableOnline!
Christmas carols, decorations, and good cheer are making their appearances. Christmastime is definitely here. Getting together with family and friends is one of the things we cherish most about this holiday season. We bring our children along to enjoy the festivities, but sometimes there aren’t other kids to play with. With nothing but the television to hold their attention, they become restless and that, as we all know, changes the dynamic of the outing quick. Instead of hoping they don’t get antsy, give them fun activities to occupy their time.
FreePrintableOnline.com has lots of Christmas activities that will provide hours of fun. Their pintables are educational too! Kids can choose from games, coloring pages, crafts, and many other fun activities.
If your kids like to color, they’ll enjoy the Christmas coloring pages. With fun Santa designs for them to practice coloring inside the lines skills, kids can make pictures to decorate your house for the holiday season. They can also make a present for the hostess!
If word search is more their speed, have them settle into this new holiday puzzle. Fun for all ages, word searches awaken the investigator in all of us and engross children in positive tasks. They’ll be excited once they finish and ready to start the next activity.
If your kids enjoy working with their hands, this free printable is sure to interest them. They can make a Santa ornament with this Santa origami. Using the principles of origami, this Santa ornament can adorn your tree or be showcased in an ornament holder on your table. They can fold construction paper, wrapping paper, or color in the shapes on the paper, cut them out, and assemble them to create the ornament.
Browse through the selection of printable worksheets for Christmas-themed fun.
It’s easy to keep your kids occupied and happy with activities from FreePrintableOnline.com!
December 3, 2013
Coupon Codes for Use at 4Knowledge-4Fun.com!
Use coupon code cfs40 to save up to 40% off CLEARANCE – Final Sale items. It’s valid through 12/24.
OR, use coupon code holiday20 to enjoy 20% savings on items in these categories:
Building – Cars & Vehicles – Games
Stocking Stuffers – Plush – Arts & Crafts
Baby & Toddler – Science – Active & Outdoor
It is also valid through 12/24/2013. It does not apply to CLEARANCE – Final Sale items.
And GREAT news–the coupons are stackable! This just in from the company–
I wanted to let you know that the Coupon Codes are stackable. We have had a few customers use both Coupon Codes in one order and we set the promotion up to allow that.
4Knowledge-4Fun has quite a few items in our recently published Gift Guide. Did you see them?
December 2, 2013
Colonial Williamsburg has many educational resources perfect for homeschoolers! Just some of them include–
Lesson plans familiarize students with the people and issues of 18th-century Williamsburg. The interdisciplinary plans provide a thought-provoking introduction to the lives and interests of the people that lived in Colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg provides extensive resources for teachers (including homeschool teachers) and students, sharing early American history resources and methods. Many of their services are free.
Tour the Town
Take a virtual tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and learn about the major exhibition buildings.
American History Quiz
Examine your knowledge of American History. Take this quiz and you may surprise yourself.
Colonial Williamsburg Multimedia Pages
Explore the rich imagery, audio, video, and interactive media available on the website.
Students enjoy interactive games and activities in the Kids Zone, a section of the website devoted to children.
Fun–and fun learning is forever learning!
November 29, 2013
How long does Thanksgiving pie last?
Here is the answer from eatbydate.com — That depends. How long do eggs last? In general, pie lasts only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient in the dish.
Lots of good info can be found on this page–http://www.eatbydate.com/grains/baked-goods/pie-shelf-life-expiration-date/, and on the site in general.
Just thought you’d like to know!
November 28, 2013
We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
November 27, 2013
A Cornucopia What If Question
When my kids were little, they used to ask me “what if” questions. I don’t know about you, but there are only so many “what if” questions I can handle in a day….so I started turning the question back on them (which I think was educational). I’d respond with, “I don’t know–what if?” Then they’d have to come up with the answer!
So, it’s a little ironic that today, I’m asking the “what if” question. But, here it goes.
“What if the cornucopia (above) was not filled with fruit and vegetables…but with blessings and good things…
What blessings and good things would YOUR cornucopia contain?
Maybe you can answer the question on our Facebook page–we’ll pose it there too. :)
November 26, 2013
Older Posts »
Thanksgiving Breakfast – and Google Images
So, I mentioned in previous posts, how much I really like Google Images. I use it as others use Pinterest. I decided to Google-image Thanksgiving breakfast ideas–and so many lovely pictures came up!
The picture above is from littlenummies.net–Banana Gobble Pancakes–very simple, and the pic below, is a more extravagant affair, from keanxchange.com. Whatever you do, make the entire day fun.
It’s a holiday, so enjoy! Even delegate! There’s still time!