Saturday, August 1, 2015

School - A Peek into what we are doing this coming Year

Although many family and friends know that we take a more unschooling approach to our homeschooling we have a lot more structure and planning than people may think. We've gotten a lot of questions on how we do things and how things work so as I'm sitting the last few days getting organized for the upcoming year I thought I'd write down the things that we are looking at doing this year....
First, we don't pay much attention to grade level...but our son technically will be going in to 5th this year and our daughter in 10th. As our daughter has entered high school our schooling has looked a little different and I believe that's where the structure has come in as she has asked for it, wanted it and believes that what is needed to get her to where she wants to be (she wants to take the GED).

This is our 5th year homeschooling! I can hardly believe its been 5 years. What an amazing journey indeed. I have learned so much about myself, my children and we have all grown together. 

The nitty gritty...
We start the year when we want....I ask the children when they want to start. Usually its after the County Fair here, end of September. This year will be the same. Summers are a little more lax- this Summer we have done math only as our year was a bit nontraditional with two moves! We also end the year when they want. Usually ends up being May or June, but definitely before our daughters birthday on June 12th.

Everything including the day, what we study...I mean everything is a group discussion. The kids have a say in and decide when they want to learn, how they want to learn, what they want to learn. I am their support and guide but they are definitely the decision makers.

Our Day

This year our structured school time will be 'around' 10am-2pm with lunch in the middle...give or take of course. Structured school time is really for me...since I work from home, I want to make sure there is a large block of time during the day I keep free to be available to the kids...does that mean we only 'school' during that time...of course not. It just means I do not work during that time to devote time and attention to them.

Each year...before we get started: I like to print out what they 'should' be learning for that grade level. I like to have a guide especially in Math of new concepts to teach our son, since he is the younger one. Do I always go off of this or follow it to a 'T' - no.
We print out our states guidelines here but each state has their own:

I also have a printable calendar I write down what they are doing each day/each month. They also have their own weekly calendar kept in their binders- whatever they do that day they write it down. Our state does not require this but at the end of the year we bind all their years work together and store it. If we did ever need a record or info we have that to look back on.
We use a simple printable for their weekly calendar like this one:
Let's be clear that our schooling specifically derives from their interests. We use the Library, you tube, google and online resources and researching A LOT. I do buy books but I don't buy curriculum. We do buy things to supplement education like a microscope, board games, flash cards, stitchery sets, snap get my point.

We don't worry about getting all of our subjects in daily or even weekly. A lot of subjects are incorporated together depending on what we are studying or have interests in.

Our day begins with breakfast, dressing, animal chores, a prayer - then sitting down together-
We sit together at the table...and I ask them....
What do YOU want to do today!? What can I help you with? What are you interested in this week? 
It snow balls from there....
Daily things- Our daughter will always read, write and draw daily. Our son will always do math, science and some sort of computer game/or board game and play piano daily. These are just the things they love and enjoy the most. Our daughter recently has made the decision to do math daily- so I sit and help her with that. My choice? I always want to do family reading daily- so we do that before/or after lunch for how ever long they want...some days its 15 minutes other days we get caught up longer. I always have to suggest History at some point through the week because primarily they won't choose it. Once I've suggested it, and remind them how they enjoy the 'Crash Course' guys- they want to do it. I'm always researching fun history-craft related things to do also which engages them more and they enjoy.

Math -
Until recently we hadn't used anything for Math. We used life. We played games. Pinterest, google, youtube were my friends for finding fun educational math games. Bingo, sidewalk chalk name it. They also went through a period where they liked to play store- and then when we'd go to the real grocery store I'd have them keep track of the money and costs. They also enjoyed playing 'vet' office with their stuffed animals- and again calculating costs for services, writing checks, discounts and so forth.
That being said with our daughters goal for a GED she wanted a more traditional approach to continue her skills and be able to be prepared to take the test.
Last year, her 9th grade year we started with an online free program found here: We enjoy it because its simple, straight forward video lessons with practice and they are short- and they are free.
Our son, I again see what new concepts are for his age/grade and we review from the previous year then utilize worksheets, online games, other games to teach him. He loves math, so when asked what he wants to do that day- 9 times out of 10 its math and science! But again, no specific program for him. I pretty much ask him- do you want to do math today...and what do you want to do in it- review, learn a new concept...then how do you want to learn it- would you like a worksheet, a game, do we want to sit down together and find something new and fun to do? And we go from there...

Reading, Spelling, Writing -
We have never done these traditionally. Yup that's right.
Our daughter is an avid reader. She also is an avid writer. She reads for several hours every day without fail. She also writes daily- song writing, creative stories, you name it. Along with that comes spelling and grammar. She even belongs to a group online where she posts some of her creative writing stories, she has an editor who corrects her grammar and spelling and the public views, reads and comments on her stories. Recently she has become and editor for others as her own grammar and spelling has gotten better.
The site she writes on is here - she writes anime/manga stories:
As she starts taking the practice tests for her GED this year we will definitely see if their are area's she needs to brush up on then seek out resources for her.
Our son who is not an avid reader, speller or writer- we as parents just encourage and support. I read to him - we always do family reading where we pick a story we'd all like and I read from that daily. One of our recent ones was 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. We encourage him daily through our trips to the library, make suggestions on books he may enjoy. Lately he has been 'writing' a story with our daughter and she's been assisting him with spelling and grammar. He also is a game-guy- and so we've done some spelling games online. He also super enjoys Scrabble - so we play that frequently where he gets to use a dictionary and look up words and their meanings. I am patient in this area. We encourage journal writing. Right now he is putting together a bird journal with photographs and writing short paragraphs on the species. He is also putting together a minecraft how to website where he is not only doing video's but posting short paragraphs explaining directions.

For our daughter, again with the GED she looked up what she needed to know and has been pursuing those things instead of just what she would like to learn or is interested in. But along the way she is finding interests within those categories. This year her goal is Chemistry and Biology.
We will not be using curriculum but using again Library resources, online resources and be visiting this site to make some purchases:
We always do Science all together, even if they have different interests- because they never know, something one person likes may spark something in the other person- or they might find they enjoy it too.
Our son has made a point of telling us he would like to design and make his own small solar powered car this year- so we will be exploring that and building it with him. He'd also like a tadpole growing kit- to watch a tadpoles growth into a frog.

History -
Last year we entered the year having a discussion about History and we all came to the conclusion learning about our own History, US History from start to finish would be a great idea instead we had been picking and choosing thus far. So last year we began, took Summer off and this year we are going to start the year by finishing that up. That being said...we always stop along the way to explore in further detail anything that sparks the kids interests further. Stopping to dive deep into something is always encouraged. Or if anything outside what we are doing sparks them we never say when we're done with this we'll go on to we take a break from where we are at and again let them lead by their interests. Again - we study History also all together.
 This year we're going through a short series of US History videos on you tube, these guys are hilarious, the kids love them and they are just FUN - plus its only 15 minutes. We are also going to supplement with books from the Library, fun activities/craft projects and video documentaries:
Crash Course Videos

Everything else - 
What about the rest of it...foreign language, art, physical education, health....
They can study a foreign language if they'd like. They both went through a period of trying free lessons online...Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and a few others!
We do have Japanese on Rosetta Stone but our daughter actually prefers a free lesson site she found through her own research here:
They are very creative on their own accord- we don't do anything structured for art- they both have taken it upon themselves to self teach water coloring, drawing, playing the piano (amongst other instruments) through library books, online tutorials and youtube. Physical Ed- our daughter is getting back into Dance this year and our son Gymnastics....they also like working out with momma at home. And health...we teach through cooking together, gardening, 4H, watching documentaries...and life. And everything else....

Life IS learning. We travel, we explore, we learn...constantly.

The biggest thing I can tell you about to find your own path, your own way. You KNOW your children, who they are, how they learn...teach based on that. 

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