Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

I love reading “day in the life” posts from homeschooling families, and am excited to share my own!  One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives.  So, I want to share what we do, what works, and what doesn’t.  Plus, I’ll note what we plan to change moving forward.  A glimpse into a typical day at our homeschool might give you inspiration, and quite possibly an idea of what not to do!

 

One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives. So, I want to share what we do, what works and what doesn't. -- WordsbyErynn.com

Day in the Life of Our Homeschool Family

Lucas is my first grader, spunky and full of questions.  He is constantly creating machines and asking science related questions.  He is often thrilled to divulge that he is homeschooled, and follows up, “I’m in first grade,” with, “but I do second grade math.”  It was a delight to watch him soak up phonics and spelling rules early this year.  This soon blossomed into an ability to read my to-do lists and, unfortunately, the names of TV shows on our channel guide.

Elias is 2 (soon to be 3, sometimes I think 13), and hasn’t officially started “school.”  He’s been our little tag-along all school year.  He loves to draw circles, count objects (out of order), use rulers (see-through ones make sweet goggles), and build Lego men with two heads and five pairs of pants.  Elias might ask to “do school” one day, then scribble on my planner for ten minutes before disappearing into the playroom to wreak havoc.  He will also insist that I read The Princess in Black at least once a day, but fortunately after that, it will conveniently disappear under the couch or another inconspicuous place.

Typically, I work one-on-one with Lucas while Elias floats in and out of our work space.  Often I’ll read a book to him during the times that Lucas is working independently.  Other times we’ll bust out his clipboard and he’ll sit next to Lucas and doodle for a while.  We do incorporate many breaks throughout our “school” time, because Lucas isn’t a stationary learner.  Also, toddler messes need tending to in the playroom.

Our Homeschool Philosophy

Because we’re enrolled in a public charter, I’m bound by the Common Core standards for all subjects.  Frankly, I’m not sure what the fuss is about Common Core.  I have a complete printed list of the guidelines, and nothing screams “nope!” to me.  Mostly, Common Core seems to revolve around encouraging critical thinking, asking thoughtful questions, and offering multiple avenues toward problem solving.

However classical we seem on the surface, I do lean toward a child-led learning experience and theology.  Lucas’ love of science has inspired a lot of our learning materials- books on weather phenomenons, a microscope and biology specimens, Snap Circuits and magnet kits.  Because we started our homeschool program at first grade, this year was Lucas’ formal introduction to phonics and reading.  While I can’t exactly take credit for teaching him to read, I did facilitate it.  So there’s that.

I love reading, so I’ve always worked toward instilling that passion in my kids.  We’ve read daily with both boys since they were infants, and they each have a list of personal favorites.  So, our homeschool strategy is heavily reliant on literature and comprehension.  After all, so much of our learning is dependent upon reading to learn, after we’ve learned to read.

A Typical Day

The kids are usually up between 8 and 9 each morning.  We start our day with a leisurely breakfast while I stumble to the percolator and scramble for a cup of coffee.  Since I work from home, I’m usually up for hours after the kids go to bed, finishing client projects and writing blog posts (cough cough).  Our morning wake up call can vary, and has been known to stretch to 10 or 10:30.  I don’t wake the boys up, unless we have an appointment to keep or a special event planned.  Unless I have a tight deadline looming, I also don’t usually get up before they do either.

We don’t set specific time frames for each subject, and I usually fly by the seat of my pants as far as what we cover each day.  If I’m feeling particularly industrious, I might set out our intended materials the night before.  Generally, we’ll cover Language Arts, Math, and Art each day.  Then Social Studies and Science are formally explored once a week each.  Outside of school time, though, we’ll often do STEM activities and discuss them.

Language Arts

Typically we start our school time with reading.  Lucas just finished Frog and Toad Are Friends, and is looking forward to the next book from the set.  I will have him read a few pages or a chapter aloud, then switch to writing activities.  We started the year with Sing Spell Read Write, a packaged curriculum intended to start kids off with phonics.  It claims to establish independent reading ability by program completion.  It’s not specifically designed for homeschool use, and would be better suited to a group of kids rather than one on his own.  We made it to about step 20 before the exercises became redundant and boring to Lucas.  He would object to working in the workbook, and I can’t say I blame him.  Much of the book work is copying lists of 60 or more spelling words with related letter clusters.

Once I realized SSRW wasn’t working for Lucas, I looked for other options within our charter’s recommended resources.  I then ordered Winning With Writing to try out their line of books (Growing With Grammar and Soaring With Spelling- all titles from JacKris Publishing).  For some reason, he loves this book.  It might be the simplicity, or the fact that he can color in the pictures on nearly every page, but this has become Lucas’ favorite book work.  To fulfill state standards, we have to incorporate each subject area, so we’re still using parts of SSRW.  But, I’ve been inventing my own activities along the way too.

 

Books

 

For next year, we plan to use a more traditional literature based program or programs, which likely means more books to pick and choose from as far as daily teaching goes.

Math

I have already been exploring other options for math, since McGraw-Hill’s MyMath isn’t cutting it for my easily bored first grader.  Based on an assessment test, we picked second grade level math, and much of it is dull to Lucas.  For the first half of the school year, he worked through the book grudgingly, but soon after I switched up the plan.  Now I reference each chapter and lesson, and create our own activities echoing the themes.  For example, this week the unit was about measurement.  We got out the sketchbook and colored pencils, and made a chart featuring inches, feet, meters, etc.  We talked about how the measurements are related, and Lucas drew a picture of an object that could be measured using each unit.

I recently decided to move a lot of our lessons into both an artist’s sketchbook and double-lined workbooks with space for drawing.  Lucas will spend more time with concepts when he’s able to illustrate them.  While I don’t commit to any particular homeschooling style, I love the idea of minimalism in education.  If all we did was create artwork based on all subjects all day, that would be fine with me!  Alas, with the state standards looming, we do have to move beyond the paints and pastels.

Changing up math for 2nd grade

While I’m aiming for even more art incorporation in next year’s curriculum, I plan to switch math to Teaching Textbooks.  With Lucas’ teacher’s recommendation, we’ll likely move on to third grade math.  These courses are completely digital, with the option to use a workbook (which I think we’ll use occasionally), and I’m hoping the novelty of working on my computer will enthrall Lucas enough to focus on each video/interactive lesson.  Also, this tech time will likely allow Elias a window of time for “school” activities, like puzzles, play dough, or a sensory bin activity.  Those require supervision and subsequent cleanup, possibly including a quick vacuum or crawl under the couch in search of errant pieces.

Art

As mentioned, I encourage art in all subjects that we already cover.  Lucas loved arts and crafts as a toddler, and I designed many hands-on projects and sensory experiences for him.  But as he got older, he wasn’t interested in coloring or painting as much.  Then, we got new art supplies.  It’s like he’s a whole new kid- with access to oil pastels, chalk pastels, a 48-color pencil set, “artists” drawing pencils, and watercolor crayons, he’s now stoked about getting messy and displaying his creations.

Along with Lucas’ enthusiasm for arts and science comes a reluctance for handwriting and composition.  Any time I can have him create a piece of art and label it, my teaching heart is happy!  We did this last week after he devoured a science reader about shells and various sea creatures.  Lucas measured out a quahog on his sketch paper, colored it in according to the pictures in the book, and labeled it.  Success!

PE

By noon, we tend to head outside to meet my nephew coming home from kindergarten.  He’s my bonus kid for a few hours, so the boys all run and play outside before we reconvene for lunch.  I don’t usually offer much in the way of structured PE, unless we’re stuck indoors due to inclement weather.  Occasionally I’ll draw a hopscotch grid out front, or suggest a game of soccer.  Usually, though, I stay out of the way and let them run wild.

Tuesdays we attend gymnastics, which Lucas started this month and adores.  It’s tough for our schedule, since Elias has dropped his afternoon nap but falls asleep on the drive home.  I don’t blame him, since the climbing and jumping he does looks strenuous.  But, it’s a short-term issue for the rest of this school year, after which we’ll explore other sports.

For next school year, I’ve been looking into online resources, simply because I want to ensure we’re all getting active, whether it’s indoors or out.  Lucas is keen on starting karate in the fall, but I’ve had trouble finding an opportunity for both him and Elias to attend together.  I’d hate to spend another school year entertaining my preschooler in the hallway while Lucas is participating in classes.  This is one of the very few complaints I have about planning our boys four years apart!

Free play

After lunch, the boys play until it’s time for Zane to go home.  For a few weeks, we would complete a guided art project together each Friday.  The kids loved this, and it’s a habit I want to restart!  But, the perfectionist (let’s be honest, control freak) in me resists the occasional mess that is a result of oil pastels rubbed across every surface.

Around 3pm, when the crowd thins, we’ll finish up any work that was left incomplete earlier in the day.  We read more books, complete a few Snap Circuits projects, check out a miscellaneous object under the microscope, and prepare dinner.  On Fridays, I guide Lucas through a writing prompt, or let him create on his own, to complete a page in his journal.  This usually gets pushed off until later in the evening.  It’s not something he really enjoys unless he has a new experience or event to report on.  I encourage journaling not only to track his writing progress, but to have a reminder of his childhood once he’s grown.

After dinner tech time

I’m ashamed to admit this, but my kids often park in front of the TV while I prep dinner and/or do dishes in the evenings.  I hate it, but it seems a necessary evil when they’re getting cranky, hungry, and need a distraction.  Occasionally I’ll issue a tablet to each child, but that can result in bickering over which device has better games.  Once Papa gets home, the TV will usually be changed to soccer or news, after which bedtime rituals begin.

As the day winds down…

I try to have the boys in bed by 9 at the latest, because I’ve noticed any later than that invites meltdowns.  But, because our schedules and circumstances change so often, there’s always room to shake things up. The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn't working Click To Tweet The ultimate beauty of homeschool is the ability to change what isn’t working- which, as you can see, might be a lot when you’re first starting out.

However, I am super excited to finish out this first year of homeschool and move on to different strategies and resources next year.

One of the reasons we homeschool is for the flexibility in our days, and our lives. So, I want to share what we do, what works and what doesn't. -WordsbyErynn.com

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask

Nearly 3.5% of students nationwide are homeschooled.  Now, I’m as much of a lover of statistics as any educator.  But seriously, what does that figure tell us about how these parents are teaching their students?  There are a ton of options available, but no clear-cut guide to figuring out what will work best for your family.  Luckily for you, I’ve designed this guide to figuring out the how behind that 3.5%.  The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.

 

How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide

 

How to Homeschool: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide. The answers to these three questions will help you to decide how to implement your passion for home education in a way that works for your student.

First Question: What Options Do I Have For Homeschooling?

What’s great about California is the state is super flexible when it comes to our options.  There are three general categories of enrollment: private homeschooling, charter participation, and online programs.

 

Private Homeschooling

You can establish your own private school.  This is done through filing a private school affidavit each October.  A form on the California Department of Education website walks you through the process.  Establishing your own private school gives you ultimate educational freedom.  The curriculum, school calendar, grades, and field trips are all up to you.  The only oversight is a recommended portfolio.  This way, you have documentation of each child’s progress should it be asked for by the state.  Technically, the state can request to see your school records (including attendance).  However, I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to show the goods.

Private homeschooling is required to fulfill state standards.  What’s great is that as the administrator of the school, you can choose how it’s done. It’s also your responsibility to produce grades and transcripts.  This includes creating a high school diploma for graduating students.  But, in some cases, colleges might not accept homeschool diplomas as proof of graduation.  For example, the UC system has a more involved application process for homeschooled students that received a non-public school district diploma.  The simplest way around this technicality is to take the admissions test.  This can be simpler since it avoids in depth questioning and the burden of proof.

For the CSU system, admission requirements aren’t as clear cut, according to the Admission Handbook for 2016-2017.  The guide states that privately homeschooled students’ individual applications may be reviewed to ensure that they meet admission requirements.  This sounds a little scary!  But with consistent record keeping through the high school years, all subjects should be covered well enough to meet course requirements.

Homeschooling Through a Charter

The second option for homeschool in California is through enrollment in a charter program.  There are both private and public charter schools.  Each has its own requirements for admission.  Charters are unique in that they offer guidance and curriculum planning, but the parent educator is primarily responsible for record keeping and daily teaching.  We enrolled in a charter program that serves families throughout California.  There are endless options depending on your location and campus accessibility.

Many charters offer funding for curriculum and supplementary activities.  The availability of funds, as well as the specific amount, will vary with each program.  Charters also tend to offer on campus classes, for students who are interested.  A social aspect is built in, which is not guaranteed with private homeschooling.  That’s not to say that guided extracurricular activities are required for socialization, though.  Still, charters often provide a sense of community in addition to support in teaching core subjects.  In our area, Visions in Education is convenient, since they have a campus local to us.  Other local charters include the association of Pacific Charters, which has campuses throughout the Sacramento and Stockton areas.

Charters will supply guidelines for state standards and curriculum suggestions or requirements.  They mostly function on their own school calendar with attendance and grading required.  However, I know a number of families that homeschool with charters and practically unschool their kids, with their teacher’s approval.  I have yet to encounter this opportunity, although our certified teacher is fairly hands off as well.  Veteran homeschool parents will tell you, your satisfaction with any one program will depend heavily on the teacher that you’re assigned to.  For us, that hasn’t been an issue thus far.

Online Schooling

The final option in California is online schooling.  Both free and paid programs exist, though I haven’t encountered an option that offers any funding or extracurricular support.  Connections Academy is one prominently featured option in a basic search.  Be warned that if you request their free program guide, they will continue to proffer services until you unsubscribe or enroll.  K12 is another program I frequently see advertised on local cable.  It also claims to be fee-free, and offers community based events and field trips as well.  Time 4 Learning is yet another option commonly discussed in homeschooling forums.  It apparently runs at a standard monthly cost of $25, though discounts seem to be offered frequently.

 

Second Question: How Much Guidance Do I Want/Need?

 

New to Homeschooling versus Self Sufficient Student

Different programs over varying levels of oversight (and regulation).  Families new to homeschooling might consider a program with an abundance of support and oversight.  This can aid in the transition from public to home education.  You might be testing the waters with a kindergarten student, and are unsure what path to take.  Charter and online programs often have guidelines for how and what to study.  They can offer curriculum suggestions or require adherence to specific programs.  If you’re unsure what your student’s strengths are, it can be worth exploring various curriculum to figure out what speaks to him or her.  In our charter, curriculum samples are available at the school’s main campus.  I’m able to peruse resources before ordering any materials, which can be quite helpful in finding the right fit.

Considerations for Students With Special Needs

For students with special educational needs, it can be a hassle to find private services (and pay out of pocket) for diagnostics or therapy.  Charter programs that function within public school districts have those resources readily available.  Most charters will work closely with you to establish, or integrate, an IEP.  Homeschooling already caters to individual learning needs, so students with special needs have extensive opportunities for progress and adaptation.

Scheduling and Costs

If you like to keep a flexible schedule and teach outside typical school days and hours, you’d do well to avoid charters and online programs.  Privately schooling lets you dictate when, where, and how subjects are covered.  Charters and even online programs require specific attendance.  This can be pesky if you’d rather be on the road when everyone else is not!  Just note, registration is still required if you decide to privately homeschool (or unschool), since California maintains that education is a state matter.

Then there’s the issue of finances.  Curriculum, should you choose to go all in, can be horribly expensive.  Our charter program offers funding for specific educational purposes (textbooks, art supplies, designated field trips), for a total of $1800 per school year.  This allows us to take advantage of programs and services I didn’t even know about before!  Pacific Charters offers $2500 per school year with their Rio Valley campus, though other campuses don’t appear to list specific amounts.

That said, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.   I am, however, of the mindset that if public schools receive funds for my child’s enrollment, he should he receive a cut of the money too.  Obviously, the funds are only dispersed for specified educational supplies and events.

A Sense of Community (and Supervision)

If you’re like me, and are painfully antisocial when it comes to meeting other parents, a built-in social option could be beneficial.  Charters, as well as some online schooling options, frequently offer get-togethers and on-campus classes for students.  My son’s program, for example, offers classes in our area so kids can learn alongside one another.  They also host a kickoff park day each school year so families can socialize.  Plus, I have access to my son’s certified teacher throughout the school year.  Our program has monthly teacher meetings, where we do a progress check and she answers any questions I have.  I enjoy having a sense of connection to the school through our teacher.  Plus she gives great advice on learning strategies for my hands-on kiddo.

 

Third Question: How Do My Kids Learn Best?

 

I’ve always been a bookworm (thanks Mom & Dad!).  I much preferred solo desk work to joining groups and engaging physically.  As a homeschooling parent and lover of life learning, I recognize that not every student learns best by cracking open a textbook.  Particularly wiggly six year olds like mine.

My favorite thing about homeschooling is the level of customization for each student’s learning style.  For the bookworm (or tech oriented) kids, online programs can be a simple way to complete coursework quickly and move on to other interests.  There isn’t excess classroom time spent going over details that might be boring to these students. Working pace is set by each student, and he or she can take as much time, or as little, as necessary.

Kids that enjoy a hands-on experience will love manipulative tools, outdoor exploration, and messy science experiments.  Both private homeschooling and charter programs can be beneficial for these students. Sitting still isn’t a requirement unless attending a specific on campus class.  Throughout our homeschool day, we have the luxury of taking breaks and reworking subjects to suit our visual learner’s needs.  He definitely doesn’t have to sit at a desk all day, and my ability to teach isn’t affected by the location of our learning.

For kids like first grade me, working in groups could be a source of stress.  For other kids, working alone might by abysmally boring.  With private homeschool and charters, it’s up to the parent’s discretion how often kids work in groups (or not).

 

Now What?

Now that we’ve clearly covered how to homeschool, are you proud to be part of that 3.5% that do?

I know there’s a lot to consider about homeschool.  It can sometimes feel like a part time (or full time!) job.  What’s so awesome about homeschool in general, is the ability to switch it up.  If schooling through a charter doesn’t work out for us, there’s always the private option.  If my kids want to get all their work done online when they’re in high school, we’ll go that route.

I know a dad who has three homeschooled kids, and uses a different program and teaching format for each. The beauty of schooling at home is we get to make those choices based on our children's best interests. Click To Tweet

That might change next week, next year, or ten years from now.  What I love about the process is it involves learning alongside my kids.  We’re on this journey together, so I’m more than just their tour guide!

 

How to Homeschool in California: 3 Questions to Ask to Help You Decide

 

Just to be clear, I’m not affiliated with any of the above recommended resources or programs 🙂

Preschool: Outer Space Adventures

Themed activities for your older toddler or preschooler to explore outer space!

 

Themed activities for your older toddler to explore outer space!

 

The outer space adventure began when Lucas was three, and became fascinated with planets and rockets!  It seems like our space adventures never really ended, and we often revisit this theme with our new preschooler.

For our first foray into outer space, we enjoyed two books, “Roaring Rockets” and “Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars” (a click will take you to Amazon, where I bought both books. No kickbacks here, though). Both are rhyming and Lucas still enjoys them now (Elias too!), though the latter had some vocabulary that was a bit beyond him at age three.

Outer space themed activity roundup

Finger painted a giant sun, then used bingo stampers to create the planets (Pluto included, darn it!)

Painted a styrofoam model of the solar system, and read the corresponding poem in our book for each (the book does refer to Pluto’s demotion)

Made a rocket out of a paper towel tube (Lucas flew this around for days!)

Used stencils and glue to make outer space tracings with corn meal as our medium (messy but super fun!)

Flew around wearing our astronaut helmet (made by Papa out of aluminum foil)

Traced “constellations” (drew lines to connect star stickers)

Played a space themed recycling game on our tablet

Played with our “space rock” sensory bin (spray painted rock bits purchased at Wal-Mart)

 

A local outer space field trip

We adentured to the Sacramento area Science and Space Center and enjoyed some hands-on science activities.  We posed with a replica of the Mars rover, took a trip in a Space Shuttle, met a talking robot (employees pose as its voice), learned about animals, and made a take home project with space stamps. There is also a planetarium, which we will revisit once the boys are able to sit still and take it all in!

Back when Lucas first became interested in outer space, I couldn’t find a lot of activities online to garner ideas from, so I came up with a lot on my own. Hopefully our exploits have given you some ideas for your adventures in space!

DIY Magnet Board

Looking for an easy DIY to occupy the kids? I found this idea years ago and knew my then preschooler would love a magnet board for his collection of stolen fridge magnets (plus some that I made, too).

I originally wanted to make a felt board for Lucas, but when I presented it to him, he was not thrilled and I was, honestly, very disappointed. My hands-on kid wanted nothing to do with the biggest component of TV-free playtime I could think of, and I was lost! Plus I had a pile of felt that was pretty much useless.

Then, I noticed that things started falling off our fridge… Magnets were disappearing, and reappearing in the oddest places- stuck to hair clips, riding on metal cars, adhered to lamps. And thus I found something I could craft for Lucas- a magnet board!

I looked online, starting on Etsy, and came up short. I wanted something bigger than a TV tray size, but didn’t want to pay upwards of $30 for such an item. Then I did a few web searches, and found some DIY ideas for cheap and easy magnet boards. The most popular option seemed to be an oil pan, so off to Walmart we went. Twelve dollars later we had a suitable blank canvas for the magnet board.

A can of green spray paint (plus some elbow grease from Luis), and we’re all set up for magnet play. I ended up using that felt after all, to make some space themed magnets, and Lucas approves of those!

Mag board pic

This is probably the easiest DIY project we’ve done, and gotten the most mileage out of (kid number two now).

 

*The content in this post originated at a now-defunct WordPress blog of mine that’s been abandoned for years. I decided to pull the most viewed posts from there and re-share!

Our Trip to Folsom Zoo Sanctuary

Folsom Zoo ... WordsbyErynn

Yesterday, I took the day off from work to surprise the boys, and to go do something fun! We went to the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary and neighboring park, before having lunch and seeing a movie. Folsom Zoo Sanctuary is small compared to the other local zoo (Sacramento Zoo), but has unique offerings. Last time we were there, Lucas was probably two, so this was a novel experience for both him and Elias.

This zoo is atypical due to the fact that the animals are all rescued or endangered. Their policies regarding the animals are humane and focused around informing the public. You can read more about their specific policies on their website here. I didn’t mind the $17 total entrance fee at all, knowing that the goals of the business are altruistic.

A rundown of some of the animals housed at the zoo;

  • Two monkeys, one of whom has a seizure condition that requires monitoring
  • A tiger, rescued from an illicit breeding facility
  • Two owls, one who performed in shows for most of its life, one who had a wing removed after being malnourished as an owlet
  • Feral pigs (who knew pigs could escape from farms/homes and become wild?!)
  • Wolves, one from a “reserve” in Alaska that charged fees for people to pet wolves that were chained up
  • Deer (seems kind of silly but I’m sure they are safer in the zoo than near the highway! The boys loved them too)
  • Bears, none of which had mothers when they were rescued, and one that suffered gunshot wounds before being brought to the Sanctuary.

The last time we visited, chickens roamed at will, but it seems peacocks now run the place! Lucas and Elias loved them, and probably spent more time watching peacocks than the animals in the exhibits. Lucas was interested to learn that the bears at Folsom Zoo are product testers for prototypes of bear-proof storage lockers, while Elias just liked standing up against the glass and exclaiming “bear!”

It wasn’t terribly busy, even for a Sunday, and visiting all the animals only took about an hour. Afterwards, Lucas was itching to try out the neighboring park. There were two main playgrounds, one of which was completely wheelchair accessible and included modified swings. Last time we visited the zoo, I didn’t even notice the park, so I’m glad they had a chance to try it out!

We spent another hour at the park, before heading off to find some lunch. On a whim we decided to see a movie (Kung Fu Panda 3), during which I almost cried, but still recommend for the family-friendly laughs!

We will probably revisit the zoo in another year or so, or perhaps during one of their special events, but next time we’ll plan for a picnic at the park!

Folsom Zoo