Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No Need for Preschool

Bubby would be classified as a preschooler by most people. If he were going through the public school system, he would not be considered old enough for Kindergarten, so I usually tell people he is a preschooler. I could use the term "Pre-K," since our local school district has a little two-hour Pre-K program. However, though we homeschool the older children, we have no formal preschool program at our house. No preschool workbooks, no preschool writing lessons, no preschool reading lessons. I do not drill him on his shapes, colors, or letters. I don't coach him daily on his letter sounds, or sit him down to talk about opposites, animals, or community helpers.

So what do we do? How is he going to learn all the things he needs to know for school? Isn't he going to be behind other kids his age? What will he do without the specialized knowledge he would gain from a two-hour-a-day or longer preschool program?

I'm going to share something that might cause some raised eyebrows. A normal child, living in a decent home, supervised and exposed to daily life and not deprived of adult interaction, does not need preschool. Yes, that's the truth. There is nothing that he can learn at preschool that he cannot learn in the safe and more natural home environment.

I do understand that preschool is a good option for child care. If you are not able to be at home with your child during the years from age three to age five, feel free to take them to preschool. But if you can be home with them, they do not need any professional intervention. You can give them a better real-life preschool education and have them completely ready for school by keeping them home and letting them experience life in a more natural, realistic setting. It need not cost money, and you shouldn't need to carve out a lot of additional time for planning and implementing your child's education. If you have time to prepare meals, do household chores, and make trips to the library, you have the time to educate your preschooler.

It is not wrong to send your child to preschool. If you feel like you need to or just want to, that is a decision you must make. You do need to do your research, however.

In the next few posts, I plan to give some ideas for a good preschool education at home, along with some important reasons for skipping the handwriting altogether. Here is a website for some great information on how people are doing without formal preschool, along with some interesting research: Universal

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Books we have loved...

I haven't updated this blog as far as our homeschooling goes in quite a while. I don't plan to remedy that right now, but some of our favorite books have been on my mind, and I thought I would go ahead and post about some that we have enjoyed.

Homer Price: This book is about a boy who has many different adventures. Each chapter is almost a separate little story to itself, although the characters are consistent through them. Homer is a boy who lives in a small town of yesteryear. It is a funny book, and my 10-year-old son is really enjoying it. As you probably know, written narrations are a part of Charlotte Mason's recommendations, and my son was not doing too great at this. Lately, he writes a summary of each chapter in this book each week, and actually writes a nice, long paragraph. I think there is a sequel to it, and I need to find that book.

The Brendan Voyage: My daughter and I are just finishing this one. I have really enjoyed it, and she hasn't. Still, I would recommend it, but maybe more for boys or adults. This is the true story of building and sailing a medieval boat to see if St. Brendan really could have sailed a similar boat to North America in the 6th century, before the Vikings. We used it as a geography spine, but there is so much more to the book than that. It was really intriguing.

Life of Fred: Fractions: My daughter has mostly liked this approach to math. You can see more about it here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Last Sunday, our pastor's message was on Encouragement. He shared several scriptures about encouragement, and mentioned that old song, "Home on the Range," which talks about living in a place "...where never is heard a discouraging word..." How lovely would that be? Think of how many times we hear discouraging words! I was the recipient of some discouraging words the other day from another mom. Now, knowing her, she most likely didn't mean what she said, and I tried to keep that in mind. But still, all day long, her words rang out in my head, bringing dimness to my outlook.

I pray that I can be an encouragement to my fellow sisters in Christ. I pray that I can be an encouragement to my family and friends. We all hear enough discouraging words, I want my words to have the right spirit and build others up.

In the past few months, I have felt God might be asking me to encourage some other moms. I need to be doing that, and I feel like I've taken some of the right steps. I don't feel that I have the gift of encouragement, but Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us all to be in the encouraging business.

Joni Eareckson Tada should be role model for all of us that are seeking to be an encouragement. I stumbled across this video this morning, and it was truly a blessing to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Weeks four through eight

I have been so lax in posting; this will be a quick summary of what we have done the past five weeks.

Geography: both kids are now into their mapwork. Here is what we do: First, we read the section of the book that is assigned. On a different day, they get two outline maps. One is a map with the places marked and the names written neatly on the map. (I usually choose the places that will be marked, and I try to use something that has some significance in the story, or if I know it will be important later on.) They also have a blank map, and their job is to copy those marks and names neatly onto the blank map. Then the third day (not always three consectutive days) they are given the original map to study. They have to pay attention to location and spelling, and when they feel like they are ready, we put away the marked map, and they have to fill in a blank map. Afterward, they can get the original map back out and correct their work. The next week, we will add one or two places on the map.

Composer/Music Study: We have changed this up. We used to do it near the beginning of the school day, but the other day our musical selection was over 30 minutes long! This caused a lot of grief, because the kids were anxious to get their day started. I don't allow multi-tasking (reading, drawing, chores, etc.) during our weekly "music study" time. I don't mind repeating the music in the background, but the music deserves to be really listened to a couple of times. After all, that is what the composer had in mind. It was not written to be background music.

So I was trying to figure out a way to make this fun for the kids, but still encourage active listening. I came up with the "Drink Party." The kids can order special drinks that we would not get to have on a daily basis. I made up some recipes and gave them fancy names. For instance, "Cowboy Roy" is root beer served in a frosty mug. (Apparently there is an alcoholic drink by this same name, but I wasn't aware of that at the time. oops!) I also have a couple of fruit juice drinks that are made with frozen concentrate and lemon-lime soda. I have a little electric ice crusher that I hardly ever use because it is so loud, but I do use this to crush ice for our party, to make it a more special occasion. :) The rules are that you remain seated until the music is over and no refills. I don't want it to be me in the kitchen making more drinks the whole time! I do allow a bit of talking at the table, but I do encourage them to mostly be quiet and listen.

The drink party has been very popular and the kids really love it.They even requested that we do this on a different day of the week while we listen to Shakespeare, so we are doing it then also.

Shakespeare: We are listening to a dramatized version that we bought on At first, I didn't want to do this because I thought it was a cop-out and my kids should read it themselves. But I did think of this: Shakespeare wrote those plays to be performed, and most people in Shakespeare's day only experienced them in that way. So while we are not watching a performance, we are hearing it acted out by excellent performers. After we are finished, we will watch a video performance.

Outdoor Hour: We have enjoyed some park days, but the past two weeks two kids have been ill. They seem to be on the mend now, so we will get back into our weekly nature study this week.

Fall Break: We are taking our Fall Break a week earlier than the school kids. We are going back to good old Branson, Mo. for some family fun. We leave tomorrow. Everyone is so excited!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Taking care of our workboxes (envelopes)

Previously, I have posted about the workbox system that we use, and that we actually use clear poly envelopes instead of boxes. The envelopes are expensive, and I feel like they need to last us over a year, or else the system would be too costly.

Here are some rules we try to follow to keep our envelopes in good shape so they can be reused longer:

1. If possible, we keep the book in the envelope on days when it is not used. We have more books and notebooks than envelopes, so this doesn't always work. With bigger books, I've found it is better to not take them out and put them back in the envelope extra times.

2. When replacing the books in the box, we return them to the envelope first. We tried just putting the book back in the box separately from the envelope, but soon found that the envelopes always ended up being folded or awkwardly crushed.

3. We only wrap the string around the button one time. Sometimes the envelope doesn't even need the string to remain closed, but when it does, it doesn't help to wind the string around several times. This seems to save the string, and also helps mom. I might have 12-14 envelopes to prepare for school the next day. It's time-consuming to have to unwind all the strings.

4. Mom is the only one who takes the Velcro numbers off the envelopes. This keeps them from getting lost, and Mom seems to be able to best handle that Velcro. Even though I used sandpaper to prep the area for the sticky dots, they still have trouble staying on, and you can't just rip the number off. You have to hold both pieces of the Velcro and pull them apart gently. This is another reason we chose not to use the number strips called for in the workbox book.

5. The biggest books are the hardest for the envelopes to handle. If a book completely fills your envelope, you can bet that the envelope won't last the year out. You just have to decide if it's worth it to continue sticking it in an envelope, or figure out another method.

Week Three Recap

I had enough "demo-skipping" when I was in school.

We are using AmblesideOnline curriculum, Years 4 and 6.

Dad brought home a super-fancy little scale home from work that would measure in grams so that Peanut could do one of her science demonstrations. The demonstration did not work out as planned, I think maybe the scale was too sensitive. She actually has had a few demonstrations this year. We try to always do anything mentioned in our book. I had enough "demonstration skipping" when I was in school. I am sure we did less than 10 hands-on projects in science, and that counts watching something the teacher did, at least up until high school.

We got an audiobook of Robinson Crusoe. It is better that way, I don't have to stumble over words, etc.

We did some nature study at the local park. Each kid picked a tree. We took samples of the leaves home for identification, then by the time we all got time to look ours up, the samples had deteriorated quite a bit. Ooops. Guess we'll repeat next week. We did see a ground squirrel sticking his head up out of his little hole, so that was fun. I am not a fan of ground squirrels and moles, but this one was at the park, so I can live with that.

This is not the one we saw, it's just a picture off the ol' Internets. We couldn't get to our camera quickly.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First two weeks of school

The first two weeks are behind us! It happened so quickly, I didn't even get a chance to post the first week recap. Here are some highlights and things I learned:

1. Robinson Crusoe is going to be a hard read. Not that it is not a good book. It is so interesting, and we are going to like it. But it is just hard to read. I am reading aloud, because that is what Ambleside recommends with this book. It is difficult reading. The spelling, grammar, and capitalizations are crazy. At least, not what we are used to in this century, and you are supposed to use the unabridged version. However, I wish I had searched longer for a more corrected copy. I find myself stopping and stumbling over the words. I've already printed out this copy, so it will have to do, and maybe it will end up being good for me.

2. I am already tweaking the schedule to allow for shorter readings on almost all of our books. I felt like I had split things up adequately, but it helps morale around here if the reading from one book is less than four pages. That seems to be the magic number, no matter the size of the book and type. So I'm happy to oblige. They get a few more assignments per day, but no one has complained about that.

3. Junior is reading from It Couldn't Just Happen. He has specifically requested that this book be assigned every day, no matter what. Wow! So that is a good endorsement for that book, from the boy who wants to cut every extraneous second from the schoolday.

4. Peanut is reading The Hobbit. She didn't want to like it, it is a long book and she is not a fast reader yet. However, she really loves it now. I wish I had been "forced" to read it as a child! :)
5. We had a zoo picnic with our homeschool group. This is a fun way to see our friends, but not the greatest way to see the zoo. We did not see a great deal, but we had a great time, and there were a lot of animals out early in the day because of the cool morning weather.

6. Our other Outdoor Hour was spent visiting our local nature park. Much of the water has dried up, but little Bubby was still able to feed some catfish and carp, so he was very happy about this. We met friends for this excursion too, but it was a smaller crowd. :) We did a color scavenger hunt, looking for various colors in nature.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More about our workbox system

My kids end up having about 8 envelopes each day. These are for things they do individually; we have other things we work on as a group.

I mentioned yesterday that we do not use a Schedule Strip which is recommended in the eBook. We found we didn't really need this as all our school books can be contained in the envelopes, and there is no need to go to centers, etc. A note on the book will tell them if it is something they need to do with me.

I did like the idea of putting each box, when finished, in another container. In practice, this was a bit confusing, and I felt like it also took up too much space. We have found that for both children, just the knowledge that they have completed one workbox and are moving up to the next number has been enough. My son in particular likes to see how many envelopes he has at the beginning of the day.

The kids do their work at our dining room table, if it is desk work such as handwriting. I make an effort to schedule so that they are not having to share the table. If it so happens that they are sharing the table, we have a handy solution. We purchased some cardboard display folders (like you would use at a science fair) and cut them down to make little dividers. Each child has their own, and we can affix things like a handwriting chart or math chart to our folders. This blocks out a lot of distractions, as well as helping them with some reminders they might need. Much of our work is reading, and they can choose where they want to do that, whether in their own room, the living room, Mom's room, just anywhere that is comfortable and quiet.

The last thing: once in a while I put a small treat in one of the envelopes. Not often enough that they expect it, but it is fun to get a Hershey's Miniature or a Starburst at the bottom of the envelope!

Monday, August 23, 2010

How I use the workbox method with Charlotte Mason

Last year I read about Sue Patrick's Workbox System and was eager to try it. I could understand how it would help my children to become more independent with their school day, but when I investigated the Internet for people who used the method, much of what I read was speaking of children that were a little younger than mine (3rd and 5th grades last year.)

This post will tell how we adapted the system to work for us, and to work with the Charlotte Mason approach that we try to follow.

First, let me just recommend that you not look at my instructions as a basis of the system. I do several things differently. If you are really interested in this approach, please purchase the eBook and read it. (It's not too long.) It is available instantly through a download, so you can get started quickly. Then you can adapt to your own needs. Sometimes I will mention items that are in the book without explaining, but if you search for other bloggers who are doing workboxes, you will probably see pictures of what I'm talking about.

After reading the eBook, I began to realize that some of the concepts, such as repetition, would not exactly mesh with Miss Mason's philosophy. I also do not put "fun" things in my workboxes, as I want to allow my children the pleasure of getting their work done so that they can choose afterward what will be done for fun. I don't think Ms. Patrick's way is wrong, but I just want to do things differently than that.

Our workboxes are really not boxes at all. We use clear poly envelopes which are found at office supply stores. They take up less space and are more suited for our books than a plastic shoebox. They are more than $1.00 a piece, but that was the most expensive part of our system. The envelopes are durable, and though once in a while one will be destroyed, most of ours lasted through last year and are being used again. They can be repaired fairly well with clear packing tape. This year, we have rules for taking better care of our envelopes!

Each child has a milkcrate-like container. I already had a couple of these that I have used for years for other purposes, so those were free for me.

I use calendar numbers (use link or Google it) to number the envelopes. These are attached with Velcro dots so they can be removed. I laminated mine to make them more durable. Each envelope has a loopy dot of Velcro and the numbers have the hook side. I used self-adhesive dots and scratched the plastic a bit with sandpaper in one spot to try to get the adhesive to stick better. I will call them box numbers after this, but use the term "calendar numbers" when you search.

Each day, I slip the books for the day into the envelopes. If we are using the same book two days in a row, I leave it in the folder, and change the number if needed. I add anything needed to complete the assignment, such as pencil and paper, or math items. Usually science equipment doesn't fit, so that will be laid out where the demonstration will be performed (i.e. kitchen or bathroom.)

I use small Post-its attached to the book to write the specific assignment for the day. Usually it will be page numbers to read. If needed, I will add notes such as, "Read this with Mom," and so on. I put this either on the cover of the book or use it for a bookmark.

I arrange both boxes at the same time, hoping to prevent a bottleneck situation where both kids need my help at the same time. I also space assignments out so that items that require handwriting are not back-to-back. Once they are in the box the way they need to be, I use the box numbers to label them. The kids pick each envelope up in order and return it to the back of the box when they are finished. (The workbox book suggests that the child have a separate box in which to place the completed work, but my kids found it confusing and it cluttered up our space. That may be because they are older, and they find it motivating just to see the numbers climb higher and higher towards the end.)

Our family does not do a number strip on which to place the box numbers. I will add more on that later.

We do have a bit of time at the beginning of the school day to do any of our work that is done together, such as reading the Bible, composer and art study, Spanish, and Shakespeare . The workboxes are for individual work, and they come after our group work. Handicrafts, music practice, free reading, playing, and nature study happen mostly in the afternoon, and are not scheduled in workboxes.

This post is getting a bit long, so I will close it and add more tomorrow about how we take better care of our envelopes, and more detail about how we use these.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School Day

Today was our first day of scheduled school for the year. It went pretty well. Mostly because I scheduled a very light day for getting started. We started at 8:30 and everything was done by 11:00!

We are following again this year. Junior is doing Year 4 and Peanut is doing Year 6. Bible, Spanish, Latin, Art, Music, Nature Study and Shakespeare/Plutarch are all done together, then we split up for History, Geography, Science, Math, Writing/Grammar, and Literature.

The big kids did really well getting back into the swing of things, but little Bubby didn't like it much. He did enjoy watching the DVD that we watched for Spanish. He will probably pick up some of that, since it is repetitive.

This year I did something a bit different. I took pictures of the books each kid is using for the first term (12 weeks) of the year.

Here is Peanut's:

and Junior's:

Another tradition we do is to fill out an info sheet on what everyone is interested it, how tall, how old, favorite subject, and we add a picture to that.

Well, that's it for the first 12 weeks. I left out Plutarch's Lives, because I haven't gotten it printed out yet. Julius Caesar is our first guy to study. Also, I haven't figured out what Peanut will do for Latin. The Prima Latina is a little too young for her, and she has already done the first six lessons or so, but it will be good to review that, and if she hates it too much, I will find something else.