A Fun and Free Approach to Teaching Geography

wp-1475509997625.pngWe are approaching Geography a little different this year.  Because it seems that my kids have been enjoying it much more this year, I would like to share what we are doing.

I read an article a while back on how one homeschool mom alternates Science, History, and Geography throughout the year.  I really liked the thought of this approach, and so, we decided to try it this year.

We chose to study one subject and alternate weekly.  Our first week we chose Geography.  I gave a lot of thought about what I wanted to teach: geographical terms, how to study a map, Longitude and Latitude lines, or a specific country, continent, state, or city.   After racking my brain for several minutes and looking into some online resources, I came up with an idea.

I sat my kids down and began to lay out the plan, mainly to see what kind of reaction I would get.  In my dreams, I would have received huge smiles, great big hugs, along with unending praise of what an awesome mom I am and how fun this was going to be. There would also be balloons, streamers, and a huge slice of cheesecake. It’s my dream, okay!  Instead, I got what I usually get, which was a couple of, “okays”, and shoulder shrugs.  In my house, unless we  just announced that we were going to Disney World, this is a typical acceptance of things to come.

My plan was to have them close their eyes, spin the globe and wherever their finger landed on the globe, stopping it, they would do research on that area.  I decided to make it four days of research, and on Friday they would present their project.

Some of the things I wanted them to learn about was what continent and country they had landed on.  They had to give me the Longitude and Latitude lines, what bordered their country, whether it be other countries or water.  They were encouraged to list some geographical features, climate, and what animals lived in that area as well.  My son went as far as telling me if his country was a democracy or not.  They had to give references of where they obtained their information as well.  They were to work on their project each day for 15-30 minutes.

I can not tell you how many times they came up to me throughout the week showing me something interesting they had found and telling me all about it.

On Friday, they took turns standing in front of their sibling and myself, reading off all the cool facts and information they had found.  Not only did they learn about their own country.  They also got to listen to each other, learning about another country as well.

The following Monday, my daughter asked when were we going to start Geography for the day, and I reminded her that this week was science.  To my amazement, she was very disappointed that she had to wait to do Geography for a couple of weeks.

I can safely say, this one is a keeper.

Learning to Milk a Cow

First fieldtrip of the year, we learned all about pasteurization and even got to milk a cow.  We also got to bring home 3/4 of a gallon of raw milk that we milked that day.

Meet Anna Bell.  She is a full blooded Jersey cow.0915161319.jpg

Anna Bell was very patient with my kids as they struggled to learn the technique of milking.  Our friend, who was kind enough to let us come out to experience this first hand, was a fantastic teacher, and it wasn’t long before my daughter had a good grasp on the situation.  No pun intended, haha.0915161327a.jpg

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My son, even at a small disadvantage, managed to help fill the bucket.

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All in all it was a fantastic day and very educational.  Homeschooling at its finest, in my opinion.

Don’t Interrupt Me!

I am trying desperately to have a civilized, adult conversation with my friend.  We are right in the middle of trying to convince the other who is more worn out.  I did say “civilized”, we weren’t fighting, and “adult”, two adults conversing.  Don’t judge!  Suddenly, to my right, I feel a tap.

All of my nerves are in complete working order.  I felt the tap, I just chose to ignore it and hope that it would go back from whence it came.  Unfortunately, I am not that lucky.  Another tap, a little more aggressive this time.  Yes, I felt that one too.  I guess I am a glutton for punishment, because I chose to shrug that one off and continue in my conversation.

Then the, “Mom”, starts.  I turn my head to the direction of the interrupter, with such force I almost give myself whiplash.  Then I shoot that horrific glare that promises pain and agony if they continue down the path they are on.  They take the hint and decide to stand and wait patiently for an opening.  Obviously, this opening didn’t come quick enough so, the tapping starts again.

That is IT!  I can’t take it anymore, I spin around and let ’em have it.  “Do not EVER interrupt two adults when they are speaking.  That is so rude!  You know better!”  Then, “But mom!”  “Don’t ‘but mom’ me!”  Said child, then slinks off rather defeated and embarrassed from the lashing I just gave him in front of my friend, who is grinning the whole time, because she too has been there and is just grateful that at that moment in time her child is off playing and not causing the problem.

The rest of my adult conversation consisted of head shakes, eye rolls, and when will they learn, all from my end, of course.

We have all been there.  I remember on numerous occasions growing up, trying to wait patiently while my mom talked.  It was so agonizing to have to wait for a break in the conversation, that you were not sure would ever even come.  I even catch myself doing the same thing to my husband when I am needing his attention.  I am sure we have all done it or at least experienced the frustrations of being interrupted.

The reason I am sharing all this is because, while I was working with my son on his math lesson today, he said something that will change the way I interact with him from now on.  He said, “This is so easy.”  I rolled my eyes and said, “This is exactly what we did yesterday that took you two hours to get through.” “But since you sat with me and helped me through each problem, I am able to do it by myself today, without your help,” he continued, “you didn’t let me tell you that yesterday.”

See, yesterday was one of those days where I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.  He was just doing basic division, for crying out loud.  He knows this, he has done it a million times, without my help.  He shouldn’t need it now.

Everytime  he would start to say something or ask for help, I would INTERRUPT him.  Everytime he looked distracted, when actually he just needed help, I wouldn’t listen to him. I would tell him that he knows this and should be able to do it on his own.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I ended up sitting next to him and walking him through each problem, but my attitude about having to do that made him feel “stupid”.   Instead of telling him it was okay and we all need a good refresher, I reiterated the fact that he had done this before and shouldn’t need help.

My point is, if I had just let him speak, without interrupting him and really listened to what he was trying to tell me, maybe yesterday would have gone a whole lot smoother for both of us.  I would have realized that he wasn’t just makin excuses and trying to get out of doing his math.  He just needed some refreshing and a little bit of patience on my part.  That is a work in progress, by the way.

If I am expecting him to be respectful and not interrupt me when I am speaking, then I should at least give him the same respect.  I find myself cutting him off a lot.  I don’t allow him the opportunity to explain his point of view without jumping in and letting him know how my view is better.  He is a smart kid and I need to learn to be a better listener and to stop interrupting.

10 Ways to Keep Your Sanity as a Homeschool Mom

Being a mom is a huge responsibility and at times can be very stressful and even overwhelming, but then, add homeschool to the title of “mom” and you have added whole new level of anxiety and stress.  Because of this, I have compiled a short list to help keep you sane during your homeschooling journey.wp-1470419943881.png

  1. READ A BOOK
    No, I am not talking about a textbook or a book about homeschooling.  Get a book from your favorite author and READ!
  2. TAKE FIELD TRIPS
    Field trips are awesome.  They get you out of the house, and your kids are still learning.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have.  Find a homeschool group in your area and get active.
  3. EXERCISE
    I have found that if I stay active and exercise, my overall energy level and mood are better.
  4. TAKE A DAY OFF
    There are some weeks that just need to be four days instead of five.  Take advantage of the fact that you can do this now that you homeschool.  In fact, our typical homeschool week is four days.  It works better for us and we use that fifth day to go visiting, hang out with our friends, or just chill out at the house.
  5. LET YOUR CHILDREN HELP
    Let your children help around the house.  Depending on the age of your children, there are plenty of things they can do to help you around the house, allowing you extra time to do things that only you can do.  Teaching your children to cook and clean won’t just benefit you, but it will be something they will use for the rest of their lives.
  6. HAVE A DATE NIGHT
    It is so important that you don’t put your relationship with your husband on the back burner.  That relationship comes before your children.  It isn’t going to do your kids any good if their parents are having marital issues due to a lack of intimate time together.  You need that time with one another to reconnect and just have fun.
  7. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER TIME
    Obviously these aren’t in any particular order, or this would be #1.  I can not tell you how many times I have had to just stop what I was doing (teaching) and put my head in my hands and pray.  Nothing long and extensive, just a couple of seconds of, “please help me through this and not lose my cool.”  It is unreal how much that can relax me, just acknowledging that I need help. This also gives you the opportunity to just take a couple of deep breaths and regroup.  Prayer has been huge for me during this whole process.  Don’t put God on the back burner either.  Earlier I said your relationship with your husband comes first, well, that is right after your relationship with God!
  8. CONNECT WITH OTHER HOMESCHOOL MOMS
    Being able to discuss your issues and concerns about homeschooling with other people who are also going through the same things, is such a blessing.  You will find out really quick that you are not alone, and having this support is truly a must.  It is also nice to just be able to vent sometimes, release that tension.
  9. TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
    This is so important, at least for me. I need my alone time to recharge my battery so I am at least a halfway, normal functioning, human being.  I am never a fully normal, normal is overrated.
  10. ENJOY WHAT YOU ARE TEACHING
    If you aren’t liking the curriculum you are using, find something else.  If your kids are dreading their work, every, single day, then maybe it is time to try something different.  Mix it up, and have fun with it.  I am fully aware that there are always going to be things that we have to teach our kids, that are just not as fun or interesting as other subjects, but it shouldn’t always be a drag and a constant dread.

Learning should be fun and if you aren’t taking care of yourself then it is going to become just another chore that you are just trying to get through, each day.

May God bless you, as you find joy within your journey.

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Homeschooling

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August of this year will kick off our third year of homeschooling.  While I am still making mistakes, learning, and growing, I would like to share some things that I wish I had known before I began this journey.  0105160915.jpg

  1. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
    I can not begin to express how true this statement is.  From what curriculum is right for your child, to how your children learn, one size does not fit all.  I was suggested a certain curriculum by a homeschooling friend of mine when I first started considering homeschooling.  She had used this particular curriculum for a year and had loved it.  Her kids seemed to enjoy it as well.  So, what worked for them, surely would work for us, right?  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  Although I did like some of the aspects of this curriculum, I felt like I was having to supplement quite a bit, and if I am going to purchase a full curriculum then I don’t really want to have to supplement. I stuck with it for 2 years, unhappy and unsatisfied, afraid to change.
  2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING NEW
    Although I know my kids learned a lot during those two years, and I don’t feel like they were wasted, I still regret not trying something new sooner.  I have heard others say, “If you aren’t happy with something, change it, even if it is in the middle of your school year.”  There are so many resources and curriculums to choose from, there is no reason why you should stay with something you don’t like.  TRY SOMETHING NEW!!!
  3. BE FLEXIBLE
    This is one that didn’t take me too long to figure out.  You are homeschooling now, you are not confined to the regular public school schedule.  If your children learn better with a schedule then that is fantastic.  If your children do better setting there own pace and taking multiple breaks during the day, then let them.  Every child learns differently.  My daughter tends to be done with her work so much faster than my son.  She is self motivated and doesn’t procrastinate.  My son, on the other hand, needs more guidance and encouragement to keep going.  He needs the downtime that breaks provide for him.
  4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH ENCOURAGING PEOPLE
    This one is pretty self explanatory.  You need encouragement and people that believe in you and what you are doing to keep you motivated.  Homeschooling is not an easy thing to do, by any means, and if you are constantly having to endure negativity from the people around you, then you aren’t going to last long.  Everyone seems to give their opinion whether you want it or not.  I had one lady tell me, “I feel sorry for your kids.”  Apparently she feels that since they are schooled at home, they can’t have any friends or any extra curricular activities outside our home, which is far from reality.  One more thing, take advantage of any homeschool groups that are in your community, they are the most encouraging and helpful people you will meet.
  5. SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A BREAK!
    Homeschooling, at times, can be stressful, intimidating, overwhelming, and just down right hard.  Don’t let those moments define your perception of the whole.  We all have bad days no matter what our lives look like.  If you find yourself having one of these days, take a break.  Let your kids go outside and play.  Give yourself a break.  We tend to go to the beach with some of our homeschool friends about once a week.  It is better to take a day off then be stressed throughout your learning time.

 

 

 

 

Why We Chose to Homeschool

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I considered homeschooling my children even before I had children.  When I was growing up, school was very hard for me.  I was such a shy and timid little girl that I only wanted to be home with my mom, so it was a daily struggle for her to get me up, dressed, and out the door.  I literally don’t remember one day that I didn’t cry for my mom during my kindergarten year.  This was pretty much the norm for me up until about the 7th grade.

I know that my parents considered homeschooling me, but at the time, homeschooling wasn’t what it is today.  It was not a popular option back then and the resources were not near as prevalent as they are today.

By the time that I had children of my own, I had pretty much decided that I was incapable of homeschooling and the idea of me taking on that responsibility terrified me.  I mean really, the thought of being the sole person responsible for my kids’ education and whether or not they succeeded in life was not something that I leapt for joy over.  The fear was REAL!

So when my son, Justin, got to preschool age, I enrolled him in pre-k.  It was one of the hardest times on my life.  Having to put this little dude on the bus, most of the time crying, broke my heart, but that is life, right?  We made it through.  My daughter, Jaylee, who was two years younger than Justin, was the complete opposite.  She was outgoing, made friends with everyone and wasn’t quite stuck to me like Justin was.  She loved school, as much as you can love school.  I mean really, who loves school?  Anyways, she was my easier child, as far as that goes.

It wasn’t until halfway through Justin’s second grade year that he started falling behind with his reading.  He had a fantastic second grade teacher but halfway through that year, she went on maternity leave, how dare her, I know, right?  This change in the middle of the school year really threw Justin for a loop.  Despite all of this, he managed to go on to the third grade. He was put in extra reading classes and was missing out on Drama class, Library day, P.E., and Music in order for him to get this extra reading help.

He was passing each grade by the skin of his nose and then was still needing the extra classes so when this was still going to continue in the 5th grade I decided then that it was time to try something different.  He was frustrated and still hated school.  He wasn’t getting any down time during school, and when he got home he had so much homework and reading he needed to do that by the time he was done with all of it, it was bedtime.  It was a vicious, never ending cycle that had to stop.

By that time my daughter was having enough issues of her own with other children that she was all for homeschooling as well.  Everyone was on board.

The fear never went away really.  The anxieties of making the life changing commitment was overwhelming but it was worth the risk to help my kids.  So we dove in, head first, after many, many nights of prayer and discussion between my husband and I.  I was fortunate enough to already know a couple of people who homeschooled.  I don’t know what I would’ve done without their support and guidance.  I also had  a family that was very supportive, which was huge!  If you don’t get anything else from this article, get this… surround yourself with supportive, positive people.  Don’t get me wrong, I had people who didn’t agree with our decision and they made a point to let me know it, but if you only focus on the negative, you will miss out on so many amazing opportunities that this life has to offer.

My only regret with this whole experience is that I didn’t do it sooner.  I hate that I doubted myself so much that it kept me in my little safe box and kept me from growing and taking on new and exciting challenges.  I know I have grown so much these past two years and my kids have as well.  We just finished up year two of homeschooling and I am excited to get started on year 3.

I still get anxious.  I still have days that I wonder what I was thinking and if this really is the right path for us, but then I remember why I started in the first place.  I remind myself of the awesome moments when my child finally grasped a new concept and we got to celebrate it together.  With God’s guidance and grace I know that there will be many more moments of joy to share with my children and husband as we continue this journey together.  May God bless your journey as well.