Thursday, September 16, 2010

lapbooks and lesson plans and unit studies...oh my!

So, being a "newbie" to this whole homeschooling scene, I didn't realize there would be a whole education language that I would need to identify myself with. Not ever having had a child in the school system, or having any education in teaching per se, there have been lots of things that I have had to familiarize myself with. Honestly, I didn't even know what "unit studies," "lapbooks," or "workboxes" were until fairly recently! What I have realized is how much all of these things can add to our homeschooling experience!
Recently, I decided to incorporate unit studies into our workbox system (whoa...I am getting REALLY complex here). I made a list of a ton of topics that I knew Isaac would enjoy studying (i.e. ancient Egypt, the continents, the rainforest, and on and on). Because these things are not part of our core curriculum, I decided to make them part of our workbox system. That way, we can feel free to spend as much or as little time as desired on each topic. I had Isaac pick what topic he wanted to study first, and he chose Ancient Egypt! What WONDERFUL resources are out there on the internet for this topic. It is almost overwhelming!
I happened to have a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Ancient Egypt activities for children, so I have mostly used that this week for our unit study. Isaac got to make a mummy using a doll (should have been a Barbie, but we don't have any of those around here! So, Bob the Builder had to take one for the team), toilet paper, tape, oil and salt.

He also got to practice writing his name in hieroglyphs, and did some drawing Egyptian-style.
Next week, we are planning to delve further into the Ancient Egyptian world, and we will be making a lapbook (our first) on Anciet Egypt.
My mom told me once that homeschooling would eventually become fun for me, that it would be akin to my scrapbooking hobby. I didn't really believe her, and until now, felt like it was pretty much just another thing on my long to-do list. This year, the light has come on for me, and I am truly enjoying this process!

Some musings on our school year so far...

This year for homeschooling, I set out to make it an easier and more productive (and relationship building!) year for us. Last year was my first year "formally" homeschooling, and it was pretty much awful! I was stretched too thin with my photography business, I didn't know what I was doing when it came to teaching my son, I didn't really love my curriculum, and I felt like we just survived most days. This year, I made several intentional changes. First, I have really, really tried not to over-extend myself in my business. I have found myself making a few exceptions here and there, but for the most part, I am trying to adhere to my boundaries of how much I know I can handle. Secondly, I have determined to make it my priority to focus on my relationship with my boys, and their relationship with their Heavenly Father first, and academics second. That REALLY helps the frustration level when I feel like Isaac isn't trying hard enough, or isn't understanding something.
Thirdly, I found a couple of choices for curriculum that are much better suited to the way my brain works (thus, allowing me to more effectively teach the material). I cannot say this is the end-all of curriculum choices, as I may enter different seasons of life that call for adaptation. But, for now, this is working for me.
Fourth, I have decided to try to stop comparing myself to other people. There are things I am good at, and things I struggle with (like everyone else!). Effective home-schooling is not based on my abilites (thank God!) but what Christ can do through me if I am willing.
Fifth, I am taking a K.I.S.S. approach to nearly everything this year (Keep It Simple Stupid!). For example, I deliberated about the lesson planning software and spreadsheets that are available for purchase. At one point, I was really close to investing in some pricey software to help me plan my academic year. Then I realized that it would be COMPLETELY unhelpful for me based on how my brain organizes itself. I came up with this handy dandy little system for myself:

I printed pages for each day of our school week with places to write what I wanted to do for each subject, followed by workbox number 1-6 listed on the bottom so I can quickly grab whatever I need for each workbox at the start of the school day. I laminated each sheet so that I can use a dry erase marker to fill it in on Sunday night at the start of each school week. At the end of the week, I just erase it and start over! Easy!
Another thing I decided to do (at least for now) is to go to a four day school week. This allows me to keep Fridays for a day Isaac can help me clean house or run errands, or for a "catch up" day if we lagged behind during the regular week. I can also schedule newborn sessions on Friday as I need to.
Last year, one of the most difficult things that I had to manage came in the form of a two year old! This year, I made the decision to send him to preschool two mornings per week for two hours. This does not seem like much at all, but believe me, it is just enough time to give Isaac and I some really quiet, concentrated time together, and it's also enough time for Graham to have a blast making some new friends and learning new things. I have finally gotten past the point of viewing this decision as "giving in" or one that makes me a lesser homeschooling mom. HOW RIDICULOUS and how self-absorbed! I need to do what is best for my family and myself!
I am also doing school with Graham on the days he does not go to preschool and will be detailing more about that in future posts.
Overall, I attribute my clarity to my Heavenly Father. I know that he blew away the fog that covered my brain last year and helped me to get my act together for this year.
I commit this year entirely and completely to Him!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our homeschooling room 2010-11

Double click the first image to see large. The carpet is coming out and being replaced with heavy-duty laminate sometime soon...can't wait!

my manipulatives storage...they make me happy to see them all organized on the shelf!

My homeschooling/scrapbooking closet (scrapbooking stuff is currently at my sister in law's house). This thing took me a week to organize. Take a look at my toy bin organizer thing that I scored at a garage sale for $5. It is empty now, but I have big plans for it.

Our workbox system:
To the left of Isaac is boxes 1-6. After our together teaching time, he must complete each box in order. Most boxes contains work he must do independently, but there may be a box or two he needs help with.

When he is done with each workbox, he takes the numbers off the box and puts them on these strips. It helps him feel like he has really accomplished something (like checking something off of a list).

Working hard on cursive this year:

Being crazy: