Tag Archives: Homeschool

hammock tracks

Who Homeschools?

Ever wonder how other mothers (and fathers) come to the decision to homeschool? How does homeschooling look in other homes?

Well, my friend Savannah over at Hammock Tracks has started a project to answer just those types of questions, and I was honored when she asked me to participate in her weekly questionnaire, Who Homeschools?

So, follow me over there to find out our story – how we came to homeschooling, how we plan to continue, and what a typical day looks like.

While you’re there, don’t miss the other interviews – I don’t know about you, but I always like finding out how others are doing it. I just might get inspired to try something new – and, I always feel camaraderie because the great thing about homeschooling is that although every family culture looks different, there are also areas of overlap where we feel a sense of kinship with each other.

And, while you are there, definitely fill out her Who Homeschools? questionnaire – I know that I would love to find out what homeschooling looks like in your family!

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grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Surviving the Grocery Store

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is? Perhaps a better name for this series would be Real World or Real Life Skills.

As we start out on our unschooling journey, I’ve had my eyes {and mind} open to finding unschool opportunities for those basic skills that I feel are necessary. I would say that Consumer Math is probably one of the most important to learn before going out on their own, and going to the grocery store has to be the most natural real world math experience there can be!

grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

I know it’s easier to go to the grocery store without the kids. Oh, boy do I know it! But, if they don’t go, they are missing out on a valuable learning opportunity. Or, maybe you always take your kids, and you are looking for ways to occupy their attention so that you can get the real work done. I want to suggest that perhaps they can be a bigger help than you realize – especially if they are school-age.

First, a couple of warnings:

  1. Do not attempt this when your kids are hungry, tired, or sick. You will both leave frustrated.
  2. Do not attempt this when YOU are hungry, tired, or sick.

In Christian Unschooling by Teri J Brown (p32), she shares how she encouraged her children to practice consumer math. She handed them each $10, and they were to buy their lunches for a week – and that they should be healthy. {I kind of forgot that last part – oops!} This could even be used with younger children – perhaps giving them $5 to choose their snacks for the week.

I’ll be honest, the idea of my kids holding up a line at the grocery store makes me VERY uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I want to take the money right out of their hands and do it for them. But… they won’t learn anything that way. So, I decided that this might be worth a try. {Plus, knowing that they really would only have one or two bills to work with on this first try made it a little easier to let go.}

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself. Jean Piaget

This might seem like a simple exercise, but let’s break down all of the thinking skills necessary to make this a successful outing.

Price Comparisons

We had a few instances where they had to decide which package was a better price – which meant dividing it out and determining how much it was per ounce {or per item}. Then, even if it was cheaper for the larger one, you have to determine if it is enough cheaper to warrant getting it. For example, Monkey decided to get Pork & Beans. She could get the larger can for about a penny less per ounce, but that was not enough of a savings to warrant having to open a large can when she only needed a small one.

In the breakfast aisle, there was a particularly unusual case. Due to an extra savings that we were eligible for, the larger box of Pop-tarts was actually cheaper than the clearanced smaller package. Four extra pop-tarts? Score!

Kid learn which is the better buy

Clearance normally indicates a rock bottom price, but you should always check.

Making Tough Choices

Monkey also wanted to get some frozen pizzas. So, we looked at one brand {which is not her favorite} and determined that 5 pizzas {with coupons} would be $4ish, and she divided it out to be 81 cents per pizza. Then we looked at the french bread pizzas {which she prefers}, and she determined that it came out to $1.75 per pizza. So, I asked her – does eating 1 french bread pizza fill you up twice as much as the other kind? She decided that it was not worth the extra cost.

Rex’s hardest decision was a little more cut and dry – logically, albeit not emotionally. He desperately wanted some powdered sugar donuts.

learning about tough choices - consumer math

But, at $3 a bag, that put him over the $10 budget. He immediately saw that it was not a good option to put back his corn dogs, but he wanted me to allow him to pull $1 from his own money. Let me tell you – he was so angry at me when I told him no – that the exercise was in making decisions and making the purchases fit inside the $10.

Working Together

They both wanted to get Pop-tarts, and the best choice was definitely the 12 count box. But, they both wanted to have more than one kind, so we suggested that they might want to work together and swap some packages when we got home.

This thought had never even occurred to them! But, once suggested, they eagerly agreed that made sense. {Although I do not hold any allusions that will last for an extended length of time.}

Planning Ahead

What they purchased had to last a week – a whole week. Now, yes, they know that mom and dad have back-up food {ie PB & J and Rice}, but they needed to plan out how long what they were purchasing would last them.

Rex knew that he needed to plan on 2 corn dogs for a meal because 1 just does not fill him up. So that had to be accounted for when he was deciding how much to get.

I anticipate being able to help them learn the coupon process in the future as well – that way they will be able to stretch their money even further.

Estimating

They kept a running total as they went to make sure that they didn’t go over their $10. They knew that we would make them put something back instead of rushing in to the rescue. {And, I am happy to say that they both came in under with a little bit of change left over.}

Working with Money

Not only did they need to have an idea of how much everything should cost {so that they knew if it all rang up correctly, they also needed to have an idea of how much their change should be – and count it to make sure that they got back the right amount.

By practicing {and Mom not stepping in}, they will get faster and less trepidation when trying to give the money to the cashier. This was probably the most stressful part of the trip for me.

People Skills

Oh, could this be where those social skills come in? We chose to go through a real lane instead of the self-checkout lane so that they could get practice handing the money to a person {ie not balled up in a bunch but lying flat and straight} and receiving change from a real person. This way human error was a possibility – necessitating counting the change. :)

For this to work, Mom {and Dad}, you have to be willing to let them make a mistake. You have to be willing to let them experience the consequences of their actions. Definitely guide, but it has to be their decision. For example, had Rex chosen to get the donuts, we were going to let him – then he would have been missing his “real food” in about two days. And, on the flip side, it also makes any successes their own!

I know that some of you are probably very nervous about handing over $10 to your kids. And, let’s be honest, $10 for a week of lunches at home, really is quite a lot. For us, our grocery budget {for 4} is $70 a week for food, so forking over $20 of that was a little stressful. But, I do think that the skills they will learn from this process is definitely worth the sacrifice. And,  on the plus side, no more complaints about there being nothing “good” to eat – it’s all in their hands.

For some further ideas on how to incorporate math into your unschooling life, I highly recommend Joyce’s article Unschooling Math found, coincidentally enough, on An Unschooling Life.

How have you incorporated math into your everyday life? Or does it just happen naturally? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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Making clothes for Dino

Back to Unschool

When the kids were younger, we had a very laid back learning style. We read books together, checked out books from the library on a multitude of subjects, visited forts and parks, and pursuing self-created projects and experiments {in addition to the ones mom found}.

Monkey was making a dress for her Build-a-Dino.

Over the last few years, however, something very odd began happening. Even though we have been successful – indicated not only by their high test scores {required by the state} but also with their ability to delight others in conversation when we were out and about – I have started sliding into “school at home.” I was trying to schedule all of their subjects and direct what they were supposed to study – I began “teaching to the test” of college admission. And the result of my hard work? The kids gradually losing their innate desire to learn….there has to be a better way!

This was an amazing field trip, but they were pretty much ready to go when we got there.

I started thinking about what has worked in the past, and what caused my change. I realized that is was FEAR. I was afraid that the kids would not be able to succeed after high school, and although I would not have called us unschoolers, I began researching how unschoolers get to college.

I discovered a lot of articles and websites that helped to alleviate my fear and reaffirm that we can continue to pursue our path and have college success – not to mention, the possibility that college is not necessarily a requirement for adult success. Want some examples of what I found?

I also came to the realization that every amazing thing they have accomplished – from tasting all of the spices to committing large chunks of time to art – have been due to their own passions. They have been motivated to learn them – they are unmotivated to learn something just because some arbitrary person says that they need to. But, on the flip side, if it turns out that they do need to learn it in order to accomplish their own goals {ie college}, then I have no doubt that they will succeed.

Sitting and reading with their cousins.

Now I am embracing the Unschool philosophy, and we are in a period of deschooling right now to encourage them to reignite their love of learning for themselves, and it is going pretty well. I’m learning to say “Yes!” more often, and they are learning to be excited by the possibilities again.

But, I’m sure you’re asking, “But, Gidget – what about that beautiful planner you were just telling us about?” Well, I am happy to report that I have found a way to use it for my own record-keeping. Instead of using the squares to write out what I want to do – I am using it to record what they have done. I’m also continuing the lists of books and field trips. This will help me when I write my end of year review {required, once again, by the state} and when I help them create college portfolios….assuming that is the path where God takes them.

I believe that every family has to find the path of homeschooling that fits them best, and I am so happy to have found our way back to ours.

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Debra Bell Planner

Debra Bell’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review

It’s almost September – are you feeling the pressure? You know, that little voice in your head that is asking, “How are we going to get it all done?” or reminding you that you haven’t even begun to start planning for next year.

Well, my friends, I have found a tool that has the potential to make this process a million times easier! Not only did it make planning this year easier for me, but I can already see some results in training my children how to schedule their own time!

Debra Bell’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner, combined with the Student and Teen Planner, has all the features you need to get ready for the year – complete with detailed guidance to help you through the process.

But first, I have a confession to make – it took me a few weeks to actually bring myself to write in these beautiful books. {They are all made with good quality paper and a plasticized cover that feels like it will last all year.}

Debra Bell Planner

I would look at them and read the information, but I couldn’t bring myself to write in them. And, once I worked up to it, I still had to write in pencil for several weeks so that I had the opportunity to erase if need be. Now, I am happy to report that I have broken through and realized that this is a tool like any other to help me – I can’t be held back by my own perfectionism. {Something that helped me was using a favorite pen.}

Full Year Scheduling

Probably one of my favorite things about this planner is that there are 12 month and 50 week schedule pages. {I know it’s not quite a complete year, but who really needs 52 weeks for school, right?} Not only that, but you also have an entire One Year Planning Grid to help you get an overall sense of your year and to help you visually see any long-term projects/events so that you don’t over-schedule.

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Pre-Plan for Success

Once I did get started, I actually found it rather painless to step through Debra’s Yearly Retreat steps to decide on our Family Priorities as well as set some academic and character goals on the Student Goal Setter for both Monkey and Rex. The students are also asked to set goals in their personal planners. I prayed about it and talked to Monkey and Rex, as well as to Dad, before setting these goals.

As I compiled their Resource Lists, I was surprised at how setting our priorities and goals helped me focus on exactly where we should concentrate our studies. Priorities and goals made it so much easier to narrow down all of the options to what made sense for these kids. This year. Keeping the character and academic goals in mind, I was able to {with less stress} formulate a plan with their curriculum. For example, Monkey needs to work on her writing skills and fully developing her ideas so writing is being incorporated into all of her studies.

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The cool thing about the resource lists is that I can see at a glance the books and other resources I plan on using for each of them. So, half way through the year, I can be reminded that I had a reading book I wanted to pull out, or we had intended on watching a certain video. This takes a lot of the stress away for me because this way I don’t have to plan out the entire year at one time. I can refer back to this list as we go along.

Planning to Get it All Done

At the beginning of the month, I work through the Monthly Planing Session while referring to our family priority list and blocking out time for our priorities as well as any commitments for the month.

At the beginning of each week, during the Weekly Planning Break, I have the opportunity  to focus on our successes {no matter how small} and God’s provisions while filling out the Memorable Moments/Achievements and Evidences of Grace. These pages help to keep me focused each week on why we homeschool and who is ultimately in control regardless of how much planning I do.

The Weekly Planner pages are set up with 6 columns and 6 rows to give you maximum flexibility on whether you want to go by subject or day or child,etc… {It should be noted that the Teen Planner only has room for 5 subjects.} For us, we decided to list the subjects at the top and put names down the side. Because we only have 2 children, we were able to also put some of those other spaces to use. This is also the time when I make all the copies that we need for the week. They each have a folder with all of the papers for the week.

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Put it All in Motion

Each Sunday night, I meet with Monkey and Rex individually to go over their schedule for the next week for our Monday Morning Tutorial. {The actual recommendation is to do this part on Monday mornings, but we need to have our plan in place when we get up on Monday to keep us motivated.} And, this next part is why this planner is unique and different from anything I’ve ever seen out there. The kids write in their own planners to make their own plan. For Rex, I direct him as to what to put down for each day. Since handwriting is difficult for him, we use a lot of abbreviations.

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But for Monkey, I tell her what she needs to complete for the week, and then she is responsible for breaking it down into daily plans. {I am still guiding her in this process.} Debra is very focused on helping the children work towards being independent learners, and I can see how these sessions will help them get there.

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To wrap up the week, I meet with each of them for a Friday Review to go over their work and put the papers into their notebook. This only takes a short amount of time, but it gives them the feedback they need, and it makes sure that I am staying on top of their progress.

Record-keeping for Sanity

As if all that wasn’t awesome enough to help keep me on target, the back section of the book is for record keeping. I’ll probably only use the Grades portion for Monkey, and the only reason is because she is now in high school. {I’m not a big proponent of grades in homeschool.} But, I LOVE the Reading and Field Trips/Outside Activities Lists! These will help me remember all that we accomplished over the year. {Yes, I know the pages of weekly planners should do that as well, but nothing is quite so awesome as a list of all the books they read for the year or all the places that we went.}

Since we only have 2 children {the planner has enough spots to accommodate 6}, we are using 2 of the extra columns to record our read alouds as well as our audiobooks.

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There is also a High School Planning Guide which I used to work out Monkey’s next four years. Can you believe that? I have actually not only planned a year out, I have planned out four years?!? Well, actually that’s not that surprising, but what is surprising is that it is all written down. Neatly. In a place that I will be able to find it again.

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Both the Student Planner and the Teen Planner have multiple pages where they can record their favorite stuff. This way you have something for the scrapbook to represent this oh-so-brief year. {Yes, I know his is not filled out – he’s waiting on me to do his writing for him.}

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This year, I was blessed to win 2 of these planners, so I started thinking about the cost and whether or not this was something we could continue with each year – having to buy 3 planners. And, ultimately, I decided YES! The cost is not much more than what I used to do, and the convenience {not to mention the guidance and expertise!} is well worth the little bit extra. I really can’t say enough good things about this system.

And, now, the good people at Apologia have given me the opportunity to bless one of my readers with TWO planners of your own. The winner will receive the Ultimate Homeschool Planner as well as either the Student or Teen Planner {winner’s choice}.

To Enter: Simply use the Rafflecopter below! Ends at midnight on Thursday, August 23rd ET. See Full Terms and Conditions in the widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Full Disclosure: I won two planners during twitter parties, and Apologia provided me with a complimentary copy of the Teen Planner in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. There was no other compensation.