Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Homeschool?

People often ask us why we homeschool. Over time we have discovered that there are many reasons that we homeschool. Ultimately, we do it because it works for us. And because we love it.

I read an article that talks about homeschooling as an option for families considering alternative educational opportunities for their children. This quote struck home for me:

"What I have since discovered is that depending on the approach, home schooling can actually be quite stress-free, social and advantageous. It all comes down to why and how a family chooses to approach it."

This couldn't be more true.

When I think about the stress of juggling multiple schools, schedules, rules and the disadvantage of the ageist social structure of schools. I can only see advantages to our choice to learn together at home.

We have grown together as a family. We support each other through difficulties, cheer for each other in victories and share those quiet special times together that would be forever lost if we had chosen an institutional approach to schooling. And we are happy.

Monday, June 6, 2011


With all the rain we've been having it's hard to gaze up at the stars these days. But a trip to the Halifax Planetarium remedies that in a hurry!

We had a blast last Thursday night learning about the constellations and planets that can be seen in our night sky (when there's no cloud cover!)

This show is only $5 per person, and is good for anyone aged 8 and up. They have shows every fortnight, on Thursdays at 7:15. I bet it would be a great place to take a birthday party...I wonder if they let you bring guitars and s'mores...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting it Done

One of the most important aspects of home learning is time management. This is a lesson that students can learn very effectively once they are old enough to take responsibility for their workload.

I was surprised to learn what a motivator it was to give my boys control over the schedule of their curriculum.

In the past we tried to adhere to a set daily schedule which mandated the subjects to be
accomplished each day. This worked for the most part, but then we found ourselves "falling behind" when exciting field trips or other events came up. These other activities were inherently educational. But, they caused me, the teacher, stress since it meant that I wasn't getting all of the "required material" accomplished in the week we set out to do it.

Enter the Quarter Planner.

The quarter planner is the perfect solution to never being behind, or being able to work ahead.

It works in a very simple manner. At the start of the quarter the teacher uses a single grid sheet for each subject and plans out single lesson blocks. This grid then serves as the schedule for the progress of that particular subject. If you plan to do a subject 3 times a week and there are 9 weeks in your quarter, fill 27 blocks with lessons; if you do it daily fill 45 blocks. It's nice to allow a little wiggle room, by filling 2 or 3 less blocks than that.

Students begin in the top left corner with block A1 and progress through the grid left to right, top to bottom, recording in their progress in their log or checklist as they go.

In this way, if a day is missed due to illness or last minute change of plans there is no erasing the "day's" schedule for Tuesday. The student simply resumes the subject in the next assignment box on the next day of work.

In our house each week Elementary age students does 5 blocks of each of Math, writing, spelling and musical instrument practice; 4 blocks of Grammar and Geography; 3 blocks of Music Theory
and History and 2 blocks of Science. During school time, students can select which subject area they want to work on as long as they accomplish all of the blocks in a given week.

My kids have discovered that by doing one block of all 9 ares on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, that they can have only 6 blocks to do on Thursday and 4 on Friday. And if they are
ambitious and want to have Friday off, they can do 10 blocks on Thursday or do one extra block per day on the first 4 days of the week.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Easing into Writing

For the past couple of weeks we've been doing timed writing assignments.

The boys LOVE it. There's freedom in writing about anything you desire or nothing at all. Spelling doesn't count, it doesn't need to be cohesive, and there are no paragraph structures to worry about. It's just what is says it

Donna Young put us onto this, and I'm glad we gave it a try. All you need is blank paper, a sharp pencil and a time. Poof!

Despite the freedom of the assignment there is a continual improvement in the quality of the writing that is produced. It's like anything else, you have to do it more to get better at it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Classical Education

We use the classical approach to education and we've recently been studying 14th Century African History. The kids were mapping Mansa Musa's pilgrimage from Mali to Mecca.

We always like to take a look through google images to see what might inspire us to remember more about a topic, and in our search we stumbled upon this gem of a website! Edsitement!

All I can say is WOW!!!

If you're studying the humanities, you need to visit this website.
You can search by subject area, time period, grade level, or length of lesson.
there are 385 History Lessons, 179 Lessons in Literature and Language Arts, 157 Lessons in Art and Culture, 29 lessons on Foreign Languages, and many many lessons on American Culture and History.

Check it out! Let us know how you've used it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wow...did I really stop blogging?

It would appear that I did stop blogging. Almost 2 years ago. Life threw a few lemon pies at us and we had to do a lot of cleaning up, but it would seem that we've got things tidied up and we're back in business.

Our home schooling adventures have continued. And with Spring in the air we've got the urge to purge. Does that urge ever hit you?

It's so easy to collect things over time. Some things like toys just keep amassing until one day you have enough toys for triple the number of children in your home. Other things seem like they will serve a future purpose, so you just can't part with them. And then other things just find their way to the back of a drawer, cupboard, closet or basement (!) and hideout for months or years.

So, after cleaning up the lemon pie it seems we've got lots of drawers, cupboards, closets, a basement AND a garage full of previously useful things. It's been about 3 years since we've done a really good purge so we've got our work cut out for us.

Our mission is to yard-sale or give-away everything that still has life left in it and toss the trash. We're hoping to keep about 1/3 of our current "stuff." Our goal is to hold a yard sale either on the long weekend in May or the last weekend in May, whichever one seems to be the yard sale kick off weekend. Everything left from there will be loaded into the Diabetes Association's truck!

Being organized, I've made a list of areas that need purging (pretty much our entire home) and budgeted the time needed for each. We've got some large boxes to use for storing our previously loved goods temporarily while the yard sale date approaches.
For each area of the house it is our goal to keep only the essential items that we need and a very few special items that make us happy. So, we'll take a bag for garbage into each area and a yardsale box. And, we'll arm ourselves with soapy water in a bucket to do a good cleaning while we're there. Here's our task outline.

  • Drawer (we have 15 drawers in our house) each can be done in about 5 minutes: 15x5=1.25 hours total
  • Cupboard (11) can be done in about 20 minutes each. 3.5 hours
  • A closet takes an hour (for a coat closet(2)) or two (for a linen closet or bedroom closet.(4)) 10 hours
  • Kitchen Pantry (1) takes about 2 hours if you're going to move everything out and wipe down all the shelves and re-organize, but it's well worth it. We've stayed on top of this one, since we're in it everyday! phew 2 hours
  • A bookshelf (7) takes about 10 minutes and requires a box for books to giveaway. (It will be pretty much empty when you're done and nearly all the books will still be on the shelf!) Let's face it homeschoolers LOVE books! 1 hour
  • A basement...ah the basement. tackle the garage first.
  • The garage takes a full day after a long winter of neglect, and ends with a trip to the enviro-depot with cans and bottles that can be refunded, but once the garage is done, there's a place to store the items which need to find their way out of the basement. 6 hours
  • And then there's the basement. Why is it so easy to use the basement as a catch all for "off season" or don't have the heart to toss it items? The basement requires a whole weekend, or 2 full days, a lot of garbage bags and room in the garage for the yard sale goods. 12 hours
Having done the math, that means we've got a total of 37 hours of purging to do before the big day. With "2 man power" (2 of the 3 of us are children) means we need to budget about 18 hours for purging. 6 hours a week for 3 weeks. Totally do-able. :/

We'll report back.