Monday, August 31, 2009

Great Organizational Tool

I am a huge planner.  I know that if I don't plan, nothing will ever get done - especially in our homeschool.  I have purchased The Homeschoolers Journal, made my own Excel sheets, used Donna Young's printables to make my own notebook, etc., etc.  Each of these has been a blessing to me in different season's of my life.  I must say, I loved the Homeschooler's Journal, but I now have too many children to really make it work efficiently for me.  If you have just 2 or 3 children in school, you might want to look into that excellent resource.
However, I have recently discovered Homeschool Tracker Plus.  To date, this is the best method for me, by far.  I am into day10 of my $5 30-day trial and I think I'm going to spend the $45 more to purchase the program for keeps. 

Everything is in the computer, but I can print out assignment sheets made up directly from my lesson plans.  I type in the subjects with what I want to cover on certain days and...WHALAA!  
Well, with a 300-something page user's manual, maybe not quite so "whalaa!"  Getting to learn the program is probably the biggest draw-back.  I'm the type of person who learns by doing and it's taken me a few hours to really figure things out.  However, I can go to the site any time I want and watch how-to videos or look at a pdf file of the manual.  I would also recommend becoming a part of the discussion board.  I couldn't figure out how to edit the grading chart but after going back and forth with the creator of the program, we have it figured out.  What a HUGE help having someone there who knows the program and actually answers your questions almost immediately!

If you have several children or high school students, I would suggest you give this program a look-see.  Tell me what you think.  And, if you get a chance, tell them you heard about Homeschool Tracker Plus here at Teaching Mommy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Career

This week, I realized that I spend a total of 5 hours a day teaching my children. That's FIVE hours of SITTING with them, talking with them, directing & guiding them, and helping them learn.

That's FIVE hours of nothing else getting accomplished.

To some homeschool moms, this seems like a lot. This seems a bit daunting. I mean, there's dinner to cook, laundry to do, house to clean, gardens to harvest, canning to be done, dresses to be sewn, etc., etc. Trust me, I thought this was a lot of time, as well.

However, this year I have a bit of a different mindset. Something more important than a home-made quilt is being accomplished. I am spending time with my kids. I am not rushing school so that I can get the things I NEED to get done finished. What I NEED to accomplish is this: raise children who know that I love them and have an education they (& their parents) won't be ashamed of.

I look at it this way. Many of America's moms are working 40 hour weeks. That's 8 hours, five days a week. With drive-time, most of those moms are away from home 9 hours a day. That's 9 hours of no cleaning, no laundry, no baking, no gardening, etc., etc. So, if I spend 5 hours a day doing none of those things because I am TEACHING MY KIDS, why should I feel guilty? Why shouldn't I enjoy myself? After all...everyone is taught that they should strive to have a job they love.

I went to college to be a teacher. I love to teach. If I rush the teaching part of my day just so I can clean my house (a job I, well, DON'T love), I am only succeeding in creating a stressful environment and no one is having any fun.

I realize that some moms just do not have 5 hours to sit and teach. There are some exceptions (those with newborns being at the top of the list). However, the time you do HAVE to sit and teach, I challenge you to ENJOY. Don't look at it as time when chores are suffering. Look at it as time your child will treasure and benefit from for the rest of his life.

It's my career and I am loving it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Week - Done!

Ok - so it's been a couple of months since I've posted. But, after all, it's summer and this is a homeschool blog.

I had every intention of schooling through the summer to prevent boredom and to finish up what we didn't finish during the school year. However, by mid-July I surrendered. It was a losing battle. The kids are older which means we are a lot busier and going more places. This provides less opportunity for boredom (and less opportunity for me to get any real projects completed).

However, we just completed our first week of school today!! Most importantly, it was incredibly successful! I was able to accomplish most everything I had planned. We began last Friday so we all could get a taste of our new schedule without feeling overwhelmed. After a nice weekend, we did school on Monday, took Tuesday off to go to a friend's (planned months ahead of time) and then did school yesterday and today. As my niece and nephew are coming tomorrow, we doubled up on our work today.

The older kids are studying the Age of Exploration. We are reading through an antique textbook - Explorers and Founders of America (written 1907 - our copy was printed in 1929) - which has made Columbus, De Leon, De Soto, and Vespuci come alive. I love old history books as they tend to stay closer to the truth than modern-day books. Even some of the Christian books tend to slant history a bit more conservative than it actually was. We are also enjoying a mini-study on oceans for our science.

The younger ones are doing Five in a Row this year - Volume 1. Madeline was the book of the week. We also did a little fish project to kind of tie in with the older kids oceanography. Lots of fun. And, even though the craft was simple, it made me look like a fun mom - always a bonus! We are reading The Light and the Glory for children in history this year. I like the style of writing, but I've never been to keen on the slant. It may sound odd, but, as I mentioned earlier, it has a very Christian slant to the degree of changing facts, I believe. I am not sure if Christopher Columbus really came here to spread the gospel - any thoughts on that? Everyone in the book tends to either fight with pride and/or want to spread the gospel to the natives. The next chapter deals with the Jesuit priests who come to bring salvation to the Indians. Not to offend any of my readers, but this book uses this in a positive light and equates them with born again Christians. This makes my job a little more interesting. However, I'd rather have a book add more Christianity to history than to scorn it or take it completely out. Anyone know of an interesting book for kids that has the balanced truth?

Our schedule seems to be working wonderfully. I teach the younger children in the morning while the older kids do their independent work. Then, after lunch, I sit with the older kids doing our read-aloud, history, science, and English. This has only taken an hour, so far, each day, but there will be many days that it will take 2 hours. Our schedule looks like this:

8:30 - individual Bible reading time (I read w/ the younger children)
9:00 - 11:00 - I teach the younger ones - Five in a Row, history/science, spelling, math, penmanship, reading. The older children do their math, any english and spelling assignments, and practice their instruments. If they finish with extra time, they keep Zane occupied.

11:00 - 12:00 - finish up morning assignments, Bible memorization (yet to start), getting ready to make lunch

12:00 - 1:00 - lunch/free time

1:00 - 3:00 - younger children finish any independent work; little ones go down for naps; I do the "together-schoo" with the older children.

3:00 - 4:00 - my favorite addition to this schedule - QUIET TIME FOR MOMMY!!!!! The children go outside or play QUIETLY in the house while mommy goes upstairs to read or nap. This is a great refresher for the evening!

4:00 - 5:00 - dinner prep with dinner @ 5:00

Notice my schedule has become more flexible - it is no longer minute by minute. We often finish school for the younger ones after 11:00 and the older ones, like I mentioned, are done before 3:00. I love the flexibility our school is allowing us - so much less stress for us all!

Have any of you begun school, yet? I would love to hear how it's going or when you plan to begin. Comment away!:)