Roadschoolin’ 2017

I have loved to teach since I was a bossy little girl, and I love it even more now that I get to teach my own little guys at home (though I try not to be as bossy as I once was). It pushes me to learn constantly, challenges me to change my plans regularly, and constantly convinces me that I don’t know it all – that learning is so much more than books and paper. And every single year, no matter what I plan or how much I prepare, I’m always trying to improve, tweak, and seek resources to make our homeschool (and my teaching) better and better.

Back in August, I posted a “Back to Homeschool 2016” post. There I listed some of the things we were planning to do this year. Now, since we’re half-way through, here’s an update and a list of new things we’re using for those of you who gather strength and encouragement for your family, classroom, homeschool, unschool, and/or roadschool lives from details on what others are doing. (Questions and suggestions always welcome in the comments.)

Quotes I’m Loving This Month:

“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of the parents.” -Jane D Hull  (My translation: Even when we mess it all up, we’re there. We’re involved in a positive way, and that’s what it takes for them to become successful – not getting to page x in the book by a certain date.)

“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.” -Leonardo Da Vinci   (My translation: When my little boys get excited about learning something, we’re going to go after it and learn all we can, whether it’s the periodic table of elements or the biography of Stan Lee, or how aglets are made. And when we’re learning something they’re not excited about, I’m going to do my best to spark their desire so it’s not lost… or at least relate it back to Stan Lee or something.)

 

New Things on our Shelf:

  1. School Planner – A couple of months ago I realized that I could have as many planners as I want (I’ve always had just one and tried to cram everything in it, causing a mess of overflow papers and junk), and I bought a brand new planner just for school (nothing fancy, just a $10 one from Target, which I could quickly customize). Not only is it a great way for me to record what we’re doing during school days and months and track our progress, but it’s also serving as a fun brainstorming space too, and a really convenient way to get back to all of the ideas I’ve had across the year. Also, as an added benefit, although portfolios aren’t currently required for Georgia homeschoolers, if they are one day, I’ll have a really neat, organized one for this year, as opposed to the conglomerate of papers, notebooks, and wall calendars I’ve used in the past. (some photos below)
  2. How to Code – For time sake I’ll just say that our computer science plans for this first half of the year have been a bust. We’ve tried to incorporate typing and/or other activities, and we, of course, have loved the Hour of Code activities several times on several different venues. But overall, it was pretty unorganized and just a few times a month at best. So, we hit the reset button, and Elijah got a pretty cool How to Code book for Christmas. Our plan is to use it for 30 minutes or so 3+ times a week for both boys and see what happens. They definitely love learning about technology and may even have some dreams of Georgia Tech a few years down the road, so we are trying everything we can to open those doors now.
  3. Elements Flashcards – I was so disappointed in how the periodic table of elements was covered in our science textbook that we purchased this flashcard set, and it has been a really great resource. Both of my guys love learning about all the cool things God put inside the earth, so they’re fascinated by the photos and facts on each element. Sometimes I just let them read the cards aloud, and sometimes they call them out to each other. I’m not sure that we’ll memorize any of them, but we’re exploring with them this year at least.
  4. Spelling and Vocabulary Flashcards – My plan for spelling this year was to do a list each week with tests, studying, etc. But, none of the lists I found were a good fit for either of my boys. So, since our 3rd grader loves spelling and excels at it and our 6th grader is less than enthused, we bought the Sylvan 5th grade flashcard set for them to use together, and it has been a perfect fit. We study 15 words at a time, and they do all sorts of activities with the words to help them learn the definitions, spelling, part of speech, and context, and then when they’re ready, we test. The ones they both get correct go in the back of the pile as mastered, and the ones they miss go into the next set of 15 to learn again.
  5. Big Fat Notebook English Language Arts – Not a complete curriculum or anything, but definitely a great supplement written in a fun way. We are really enjoying going through it, and the content is really helping improve our writing skills.
  6. Big Fat Notebook Science – A great helper for our textbook that has some pretty big holes in the content. We love digging deeper on some concepts with this informal little book.

New Online Resources I’m Utilizing:

  1. Crazy Homeschool Life on Instagram – the source of those quotes above and so much more
  2. Not Consumed blog – some really amazing resources – great thoughts on portfolios and outstanding printables!
  3. iMom – not new to me, but there’s always something new and helpful here – couldn’t leave it off the list
  4. Khan Academy – another non-new thing for us, but always has something new (We’re especially loving their new Grammar and Hour of Code sections this year!!)
  5. Hopscotch – a really cool way for kids to start learning to code 😉

Questions Answered:

  1. How do I homeschool while working full-time and traveling full-time? Super early mornings, late nights and catch-up weekends, and also, a really superb husband…as well as some really fun independent learning exercises and field trips from time to time. Also, I sleep really well 🙂
  2. How did we know homeschool was right for our family? Several circumstances brought us to the decision to homeschool. Right around the time our first baby was born, I had the honor of being able to help homeschool 2 first graders a couple of days a week, and I taught school full-time for one year. Through these two experiences, I learned just how much I loved teaching. Also, around the same time, I became friends with a neighbor who homeschooled her 6 oldest children, and I saw the way they spent their days – it was inspiring. Then, 4 years later when it was time for our oldest to start Pre-K in Georgia, I talked to several school leaders and learned that because he had an August birthday, he would always be the youngest in his class and this could sometimes make learning difficult for boys. So, since he was ready to start school but not ready for a traditional classroom, we decided to homeschool for just one year. That year went so well and was so much fun that we never looked back.
  3. What do we plan to do about high school and college? We’ll let you know when we get there, but for now, the plan is yes, let’s do them both. 😉

Update on 2016 List:

  1. Notebooks – I am so glad we decided to go with 5-subject spiral notebooks this year! I am loving the way the boys are able to keep all of their work in one place, and it’s so easy for me to sit down with just one notebook for each of them to see where they are and what we need to improve on. These are nothing fancy – just regular old 5-subject spiral notebooks that I’ve set up for them. It’s kind of funny to me that something so simple can be such a positive change. I really didn’t realize how much time I was wasting by not having everything in one place. (In previous years we used 3-ring binders, workbooks, worksheets, and all sorts of other materials that weren’t spiral notebook friendly.)
  2. Bible – We’re still loving going through The Message version together. 🙂
  3. Literature – My book lists and plans for regular book chats worked really well at first. However, I quickly fell behind on being able to read everything both boys needed to read before they wanted to read it, so I let them move ahead, and our book chats have become something like, “Tell me what happened” with a few follow-up questions and some book reports and related writing assignments sprinkled here and there. Also, another hiccup in our plan is that traveling full-time means limited access to libraries (and limited funds to purchase the big list of books both boys want/need to read for school and for fun), so we’ve adjusted our lists based on what’s available second-hand or on Overdrive through our 2 public library systems in Georgia and Maine. We’re still thinking of a book rental program or Kindle Unlimited but not sure if there is one out there that will give us what we need. For now, the search continues week after week. Thankfully, though, we’ve never found ourselves with nothing to read, making us ever thankful for our public libraries and their services!
  4. Math – We are LOVING Saxon math! It is so organized and right on target for where my guys are. The lessons are easy to follow, and the problem sets are super on-track for us. We are just loving it!
  5. Writing/Language Arts – We started out this year with a plan to write fun things and learn Language Arts along the way with the book Don’t Forget to Write, and it has been a huge hit! We’ve also used Khan Grammar and the Big Fat Notebook for English Language Arts, and we are making progress. I love it when something the kids don’t love to learn about becomes something fun and engaging!
  6. Science – We’re sticking with the ABeka Science textbook and supplementing when needed. I like the Christian perspective, although there are some holes in the content. So, we check out other books, buy other resources, and use lots and lots of Google searches and YouTube as well as documentaries (and, of course, field trips galore!).
  7. Social Studies/History – We’re sticking with the ABeka Science textbook and supplementing when needed just like with Science.
  8. Spelling/Vocabulary/Dictionary – My plan for this was another fail for this year, but we are on a great track now thanks to the new Sylvan flashcards set we purchased.
  9. Art/Music/PE/Outside – These are easy peasy as this stuff seems to come naturally for us, and we are so thankful for that! New art supplies, Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions, and a hiking habit help out too.
  10. Field Trips – Yes! As many as possible please! Learning through experience is one of the reasons we love traveling and roadschooling as well as homeschooling, and thanks to the National Park Service’s National Parks and Historic Sites (as well as National Seashores, etc.) and so many great State Parks across the country, we are never without a place to learn.
  11. Other/Test Prep – Ugh! Do we really have to take standardized tests every so many years? Yes, yes, we do… So we do a Test Prep workbook…Praying it’s enough to get us ready for the test, knowing it’s not all about the test anyway.

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