Friday, August 30, 2013

I'm Excited To Begin A New School Year!

Our summer is winding down. For the past month we've been getting ready for the new school year. Gathering supplies, books, curriculum etc. We've also been organizing our home and schoolroom so everything is tidy and in it's place to begin the new school year. This week we even dragged out two of our area rugs to the drive and hand-scrubbed them clean! The girl's thought that was kinda fun, getting to roll around in soapy suds while cleaning those huge rugs.

By this weekend everything will be clean, organized and fresh. I've purged items we rarely or never use or have outgrown over the last six months. Needless to say our home and schoolroom is looking better and is more organized than ever. My biggest hurdle to concur will be keeping it that way.  I have to keep it that way so we don't lose precious time hunting for things. This year I won't be able to do that and I must be prepared and organized because I will be co-teaching with my daughter-in-law.

Our first day of school will be on labor day! Yes, while the rest of America has a holiday we will be starting our new school year. A few weeks ago my daughter-in-law and I got together to plan our year and what we wanted to cover. Our first unit in order for the rest of the year to flow as we wanted is going to be on oceans. We will learn about all the oceans of the world, where they are located, ocean life and more. Our youngest will be delighted because she is in love with dolphins. One of our ideas is to create a paper mache dolphin. That idea may be a bit industrious for us, but with five girls helping we just may get it done.

The girls are so excited they have been begging for weeks to start school. I love their excitement and eagerness to begin a new school year. Some of the reasons I am excited and know this is going to be a year of promise are as follows. I love that my daughter-in-law and I are best friends and we are just as excited as the girls are to share this year of learning adventures. We will be an encouragement and support for each other. Sharing the planning and implementing of our studies will be a big help. We love spending time together and the girls love each other. As I finish gathering things and organizing I just know this is going to be one of the best years ever, because I am going to be sharing my days with those I love while teaching the next generation of our family! Oh yes, it's going to be a great year! Below are just a few of the things we did over the summer.
                                      We celebrated our granddaughter Breanna's 10th birthday.
                                                We went to the zoo and rode the swan boats.
                          I reorganized our schoolroom with new polkadot bins. Love these bins!
                We found a wild cottontail in our house behind the front door! SURPRISE, SURPRISE!
                                  The girl's made daddy a Father's Day cake and decorated it.
     McLarin drew a hippo with chalk and got second place in our county fair! She was tickled pink!
   I had a birthday. I'm sure that three is suppose to be in front! tee hee Just don't look at my gray hair!
 On our way home from Oklahoma City one day we came upon all these bee hives sitting beside the road. It was such a strange sight I had to turn around and snap a picture! These are just a few of the many things we did this summer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Encouragement For New Homeschoolers

I can still vividly recall when we finally made the decision to homeschool. Two years of thought and prayer had brought us to this decision. I had visions  of how wonderful our days were going to be. They were going to be perfect, school was going to go smoothly, my children were going to be obedient and studious. I bent everyone's ear I came into contact with over the merits of homeschooling. I wanted everyone to be as thrilled and excited about our choice as we were.

I planned and poured over books, looked at websites and went to our first homeschool convention. Oh the smell of all those books was intoxicating let me tell you! I felt I had joined the ranks of homeschoolers and having a nursing baby on my hip made it even more perfect. I visited vendor booth after vendor booth and even though a tad overwhelmed , okay a lot overwhelmed, I weighed our choices of curriculum and placed the orders. I ended up pretty much going with what we had decided on. I was sure I was ready to meet the challenge.

A few months later we left for vacation while local children began school that year. We enjoyed a two week vacation to California and then it was back home to start our new adventure. Monday morning dawned and I faced the day with expectation. It was all down hill with in the first few hours. I kept struggling to juggle time between the children. I heard over and over how they didn't have to do this or that in public school. I kept an eye on the clock thinking we would never finish the day much less the year! It was frustrating to say the least. I knew I couldn't do things this way. It was either do something else and change gears or throw in the towel and since I'm no quitter I changed gears.

I told the children school was going to be delayed for a few days then I placed an order for some unit studies. When they came in a few days we began again and things were much smoother. Not perfect, but smoother. At that point I still had to learn  we could homeschool, but trying to do school at home was a whole different ball of wax. Even with unit studies I still had to learn that. Seemed like there was always something new to learn that first year. Even into the second and third year I was learning and I've never stopped, but the  definite height of the learning curve was during those first years.

So for new homeschoolers let me encourage you if you feel like throwing in the towel after the first day or week, it does get better. Also the sooner you come to realize homeschooling is not the same as school at home you will probably find things begin to adjust. Public school methods don't always work  in the home setting, but they can be adapted and learning to adapt is a huge help. If you don't get everything done you have planned for the day remember tomorrow is another day. If you need to finish something you can work it in to your schedule over the rest of the week. Trying to cram it into the next days schedule will most likely cause overload and make you start to feel overwhelmed.

Plan breaks. I can't say enough about this. I failed to do this the first few years and boy did I feel burned out by January. When I failed to plan a few  breaks through out the year I feel our homeschool suffered. Don't be afraid to be spontaneous. If you have a chance for an outing or a field trip with your children that wasn't planned go for it. You'll never regret time spent with them.

If this is your first year to homeschool and things haven't been going like you thought they would give yourself some slack and time to learn what works best for your children in your homeschool. Make your first year fun and enjoyable. Do fun things, share time together then next year follow your schedule after you adjust to being a homeschool mom or dad. One reason I say this is because I read somewhere that for every year your child was in public school it takes a year for them to adjust to being homeschooled and learning this way. For us that was very true! One of our children began homeschooling in his freshman year of highschool! So imagine a whole year of adjustment! At first I felt it would be a year wasted, but it was so worth not pushing the adjustment and it turned out to be the best decision. If this is your first year to homeschool and your children have never been to public school then the adjustment period is way less for you. For our two daughters who have never been educated any other way than at home, learning has always been a way of life.

Hopefully this post will encourage those who are homeschooling for the first time and finding things a bit difficult. It does get better as you learn what works and what doesn't for your child or children. As you gain experience your confidence will increase and those experiences that make you feel like throwing in the towel now will fade. One day you'll look back and say, I am so glad we chose this journey.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wildlife Expo - Best Ever Field Trip

I thought I would share a few random things from our homeschool adventures over the years. School will be starting soon and this is usually the first outing of the year for us.  For the last several years we have attended the Wildlife Expo at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  The Expo is usually always held close to the last weekend of September. If you haven't been to this and live in the area it's worth the trip.

We always pack our lunch and spend the whole day. Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot! 

In this picture my daughter and granddaughter are paddling a canoe. The crew putting on the expo always make a huge pond in the middle of the area for the canoe paddling. Judging from the long lines of children waiting for a turn it's the most popular event of the expo!

McKenna had to have her face fainted at the face painting exhibit. Another booth the girls love.

The girls also take time out to look over all the information in each booth. Here my daughter McKenna and granddaughters, Breanna, Gracie and Raylee are standing in front of the Black Kettle National Grasslands booth. All the exhibitors are so informative and are willing to explain things.

McKenna taking a turn at crossing a rope bridge. An exhibit put on by the Boy Scouts. Believe it or not there was quite the line to try this too.
McLarin trying her hand at shooting an arrow

You can probalby tell these pictures are from several different years of our attending. Here McLarin is trying her hand at shooting an arrow. She loved the fact that she was able to do something the big girls were doing.

McKenna shooting an arrow

Here McKenna is trying out the bow and arrow for herself. Breanna, Gracie and Raylee wait patiently for their turn.

Below McKenna is standing in front of an elk skeleton. All of us thought this was pretty cool.

 McLarin and daddy viewing an exhibit.

McKenna trying out the fishing with a bow and arrow.
McLarin and daddy in front of the eagle spread. It wasn't intentional, but she stretched out her little arm as if she was trying to measure the eagles wing span too. We loved this picture so much and we laugh every time we look at it.

In addition to these activities there is always lots more. Also lots of native wildlife such as quail, pheasant, various snakes, birds and turtles. There is also an alligator that the kids can pet. Not to worry, it's small and it's mouth is taped shut. This is always one of our favorite filed trips of the year and we plan to go again this year.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Local Wildlife

 Earlier this year a local group of us homeschoolers went on a field trip to the game warden's house. He has a couple of bobcats that were orphaned as babies that he has raised.

From what we were told these two bobcats are a lot older than most since they have been raised in captivity. Mr. Hubert was very informative and gave a very interesting talk about animals, the tracks they make, where they live, what they eat etc.
 He brought along a huge assortment of animal pelts he has and let the group feel and touch them. The children all tried to guess what animal each pelt came from. Some guesses were right on the mark. Others were very surprising.

He also had a collection of animal skulls which was interesting. It was explained how each animals skull was shaped and their teeth grew in a particular way depending on what they fed on.

 McLarin is holding a mink or maybe it was a weasel pelt in this picture. She was so amazed and loved every minute of this field trip.

 The children are petting a beaver in this picture. At least I think it was a beaver. Mr. Hubert brought so many different pelts it was hard to keep them straight and many looked so similar.

 Demonstrating the claws on the bobcat pelt.

Here they are learning about the different animal skulls and which animals they came from.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A New Year A New Adventure

It's that time of year again. Time to begin a new school year. Every year it seems I begin a new year with anticipation and every year by January I'm feeling the burn. You know, the dreaded burnout, the homeschool doldrums, the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach time of year. What started with such promise and hopeful anticipation in September has faded by January.

Over the years I've gotten used to it and knew it was only temporary. I've also recognized that sometimes that burnout feeling can mean I have tried to do too much and haven't allowed enough breaks. That can lead to feeling overwhelmed and then burned out. This year I have a plan to circumvent that feeling and stop it before it starts.

This year I will be co-teaching with my wonderful daughter-in-law. She has three little girls and I still have two at home, so we decided to join forces. Our plan is to teach two week units at a time, alternating who teaches a unit. We will meet on Mondays and then be on our own for the rest of the week.

We are also going to go to a new schedule which we hope will alleviate the burnout feeling we usually have come every January. Our schedule will be six weeks of school, one week off, six weeks of school, one month off and will repeat until we have finished the year. Plenty of planning time and breaks planned for with this schedule.

The excitement we feel heading into the new school year is wonderful. The load off each of our shoulders is an even better feeling! The pressure to plan a whole year by ourselves isn't weighing us down and is freeing, yet we feel our responsibility to each other, the girls, and following through. We thought the planning faze would be a lot of work, but we were pleasantly surprised by how fast and easy it was to outline our year and decide what we wanted to include in each unit. We are leaving it up to the other to put together the whole units we are responsible for teaching.

As we finished our planning session the other day I laughed and wondered out loud why we hadn't thought of doing this years ago. One thing is for certain, this year is going to be a new year and a new adventure!