Carnival of Homeschooling

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling is up!

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Be sure to head on over and check out lots of great posts, including a recent post I wrote called
So What if We’re Socially Awkward?. There’s a plethora of homeschool information just waiting for you!

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Is Unschooling Just Lazy Homeschooling?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ever wondered just what those unschoolers do all day? Sleeping in late, watching TV, playing a computer game and then counting it as a school day? Apparently, this is the view many people take on this method of homeschooling. But is that all there is to it?

While all of these activities do take place at our house (okay, I don’t get to sleep in :(), this is not an accurate picture of what we do. Today I’m going to discuss exactly that.

Firstly, the role of an unschooling mom is different than that of a school-at-home mom. Neither one is more important or involved than the other. They are just different. Instead of acting as a teacher as a more traditional homeschool mom, my role is as a facilitator. I am there to answer questions, provide a stimulating environment, and introduce, but not force, new concepts.

Another misconception about unschooling is that the parent has absolutely no involvement in the child’s learning activities. I don’t know about other families, but in our home this couldn’t be further from the truth! Are there things that I think my children would benefit from learning? Absolutely. But I am not going to compromise my children’s love of learning by making them do anything.

Speaking from my own high school experience, I can tell you that I really don’t remember anything from the required subjects that I had no interest in. Was I a lousy student? Actually, I was quite the opposite. I was a gifted/advanced placement student who graduated in the top 10% of my class. So obviously, I did learn lots of things…but after exams were over, it was like I opened a valve in my brain and let out all the information that I deemed as unnecessary. I have, however, retained all of the useful information from the classes I chose to be in.

This is exactly why I’m approaching my children’s education differently. As I mentioned before, while there are things I’d like to introduce to my kids, I will not force anything on them. So how do I do it? There are two methods I use that seem to work nicely.

– Strewing. Everyday I set different books and activities around the house that I think may interest my children. Today, I pulled out Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Guinness Book of World Records books and laid them on the table. I also pulled out some paper and giant coloring books. Did everything get used today? No, but that’s okay. They have seen it and know that we have it. Oftentimes they will go looking for it at a future time.

Today was a great example of that. My kids kept themselves busy all day with items I had strewn last week even though they had no interest in them when I laid them out. Dillon spent two hours putting together a WoW lego set, Luke and Ireland played with clay for a long time, and Bailey spent quite a bit of time drawing, coloring, and then cutting out animals. Arianna painted for a while, and Caollin and London used some stuffed animals to play “crane machine.” (Their latest obsession since Daddy won them all animals out of a crane machine at Denny’s Diner last Saturday) Just because you introduce something to a child does not mean they’re going to be interested. Be patient. They’ll learn about it when they’re ready.

Another way I engage my children is…

– Family read-aloud time. I am very intentional about the books I choose to read to everyone. If there is a concept or a time period I think they would enjoy, I’ll look for a corresponding book. Over the summer we read Little House in the Big Woods. I can’t even begin to tell you about the flurry of activity that that started. I would find my kids outside everyday playing Little House. They dressed in pioneerish clothing, made their own “little house” with pieces of wood we had lying around the yard, and I could hear them discussing things like churning butter and making salt pork. They were interested, so they learned! We just finished Little House on the Prairie, which also brought some wonderful rabbit trails to our home. Today I started reading The Odyssey to them. I can’t wait to see what springs from this because we all love Greek mythology.

Hopefully, I’ve put to rest the idea that unschoolers, particularly unschooling parents, are lazy and uninvolved. We are just as involved and passionate about learning as other moms. We just do it in a different way.

How do you introduce new concepts to your children?

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Here’s Why Public Schools Should Be Grateful for Homeschooling

Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been noticing lately that many public school teachers have a thinly disguised disdain for homeschooling. One of the most popular reasons I’ve read is because they feel that since most homeschoolers come from affluent families (a myth), lower income students are at a disadvantage. Honestly, I’m not sure I see the correlation, but that’s okay because I’ve compiled a list of reasons why public school should be grateful for homeschooling.

– Homeschoolers contribute to a lower student to teacher ratio. One of the largest complaints of public schools these days is that they’re overcrowded. They don’t have enough room, and the amount of students per classroom is growing, which makes for an overwhelming situation for teacher. Let’s take a look at some homeschooling statistics. In 2007, there were approximately 1.5 million homeschooled students. Now that was seven years ago, and I’m sure it’s risen since then, but we’ll go with that figure anyway. If homeschooling were to suddenly become illegal, our school system would be deluged with over 1 million new students. Now that would be a disadvantage to students everywhere.

– While we still pay school taxes, none of that goes to our children. I’m not complaining about that. We’ve chosen to homeschool, and we’re fine with this scenario. But let’s put this into perspective. School districts everywhere are hurting because of the growing population and the fact that there are many low income residents. There just isn’t enough money to go around. It’s an appalling situation, and I get it. So this is why I don’t understand why some people hold such animosity towards homeschoolers. We are helping public school students. How?… I’m getting to that.

– There are less students to buy curriculum for. I realize that some homeschoolers do use the school district textbooks, but they are firmly in the minority. I happen to be in an inner-city school district. When my kids were in school, they didn’t even have enough books for the students who were there. They actually had to share with other kids. Imagine what would happen if 1 million new students enrolled in our school system. It wouldn’t be pretty. Think about it.

– Our school district provides free breakfast and lunch to everyone in the district, regardless of income. There are that many destitute students. I’m so very thankful for this program because these free meals may be the only meals that some of these children eat. I will never put down our school district for this program as so many people do. It is needed. Some of these children go “home” to sleep in cars. The district even employs a homeless liaison. So it’s quite plain that less students means more money per student for these lifeline programs. Homeschoolers are given meals at home (or at co-op, or at the park- you know what I mean). This means the precious little amount of money budgeted for these students can be stretched a little further.

My conclusion? Homeschoolers unknowingly put public school at an advantage. I agree that every child deserves an education. Our choice is not only good for our children, but it also benefits those in brick-and-mortar schools, as well.

What are your thoughts on this? This is a touchy subject for some, but it needs to be addressed. I’d love to hear from you.

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How to Homeschool Without Breaking the Bank

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is Part 2 of my Homeschooling on One Income series. Part 1 described how our family manages daily living on one income. Before homeschooling, it is essential to work out a budget plan for day to day living if you have a limited income.
One of the many arguments I see coming from opponents of homeschooling is the myth that only affluent children can be taught at home because of the costs involved. This is laughable to me. We homeschool an extremely large family on a welder’s income, so there goes that idea. To make matters worse, many prospective homeschoolers buy into this reasoning and begrudgingly enroll their children in public school because they feel they can’t afford it.
I’m here to tell you today that, no matter the homeschooling method, there are enough resources out there that, given the right amount of research, almost anyone can afford to homeschool.

Here are resources that we have used for homeschooling that have been very affordable, if not downright free!

– There is such an abundance of free homeschool printables covering pretty much every subject online that I really could just stop right here. There are also wonderful unit studies available- again, for free! Take time and look through homeschool blogs. There are so many writers who are excited to share their wonderful ideas with you at no cost.

– I have gotten my younger children workbooks at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. This store is actually where I get most of my school supplies throughout the year.

– More expensive does not always mean better. Do your homework. Our family used Konos unit studies for years. The initial price tag of $110 might sting a little (although this is considered inexpensive compared to other curricula), but you have to look at the big picture. There is enough material to cover 2 1/2 years of schoolwork, and there are activities included from K-8. So this is perfect to use with multiple children; you could even have the younger children go back through it again when they’re older because there’s that much material in there.

– Instead of buying Language Arts curriculum, use lapbooking to fulfill that area. And I don’t necessarily mean those lapbooking worksheets that you print out and just have them fill in. Let them decide what they will put in it. Encourage them and give them ideas, but let them have the final say. I promise you, they will enjoy it so much more, and they will remember more.

– Don’t forget the library! Even before we started unschooling, the library provided the abundance of our learning tools. It’s not just for books anymore! (although that’s my favorite part :))Our library has movies, music, free online foreign languages through Mango Languages, story times, and toys that you can borrow and take home. Devin and I always jokingly say that if the library starts selling food, we’re moving in!

– Buy used. Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon are but three of dozens of places where used curriculum can be bought and sold.

– Let life be your curriculum! That’s right…life…because every waking minute of your child’s life…of our lives…we are learning. Let them explore! Let them collect rocks and salamanders and leaves! Teach them to use search engines (also free!) to identify and classify their finds. Even watching the dreaded TV will provide learning. (I’m not one to let them watch unlimited TV, but I will allow it 1-2 hours a day if they wish to watch it. Sometimes they don’t.) Just the other day, I overheard Caollin correctly use a scientific term that I knew I didn’t teach her. Where did she learn it? Spongebob!

This is how we’ve afforded to homeschool in our household. We are so blessed to live in a society in which we can find an abundance of learning resources in as little as the click of a mouse. So before you nix the idea of homeschooling for financial reasons, I say stop. Take a step back, and rethink it. The world is at your feet.

What are some ways that you have cut costs in homeschooling? Leave a comment…you just might give the advice someone desperately needs!

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Every Week Should Be Break Week

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Looks familiar from last week’s post, right? And the week before…and the week before. I’m telling you, I am so sick of snow. I’m ready to pack up everything and move South. Maybe Louisiana…or Texas…or Australia. We’ve gotten so much snow that our city was completely unprepared. They ran out of salt for the streets, and all the stores ran out of rock salt. Of course we didn’t have any, so I told my husband to sprinkle some cat litter for traction. He did more than sprinkle. He poured so much out front and out back that it looked like we were living on a beach. What a mess. He’s got most of it cleaned up now, and he’s got a plan on how he’ll shovel up the rest. Oy vey.

Anyway…on with the week…

This was our first ever break week since we’ve started unschooling. If you’re questioning why we even needed a break, I wrote about it right here. This entire week has had me pleasantly surprised.
I honestly thought that since I would not be limiting screen time that I would have a bunch of Minecrafting zombies, especially considering the fact that we’ve gotten four new laptops this week. I myself have been spending quite a bit of time on mine. Hey, give me a break. I’ve been doing all my online activity, including writing my blog, on my Android! This is new to me, too!
Looking back on the week, though, I’ve noticed something that did not escape Arianna’s attention either…the kids have been doing more this week than since we started unschooling! This has completely validated my theory that children learn best without expectations.
I found it exceedingly funny that on our second day of break, several of the kids spent hours playing school. IMAG5139 (1) And not just your typical ABC’s stuff, either. I walked into the living room, and Caollin was using our solar system model to quiz the kids on the planets. Then, she had them all sit and listen while she played with the interactive tablet that goes with it. Shortly afterward, I heard music. I looked in on the kids and saw that Caollin had “Fifty Nifty United States” playing on her tablet while the kids sang, and she played guitar! I was so happy, I almost couldn’t contain myself, but I managed to play it cool because I didn’t want to ruin the moment.
If you’ve read my blog before, you probably remember that my kids love arts and crafts, so, of course, these activities played a huge role in our week.
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Yes, she's wearing a bathing suit top in the middle of winter. Choose your battles, right?
Yes, she’s wearing a bathing suit top in the middle of winter. Choose your battles, right?

Summer's always a mess, isn't she?
Summer’s always a mess, isn’t she?

It’s taken the older kids some time to get used to Minecraft on the PC since they’ve always played the pocket edition. They’ve really learned a lot, though, and Dillon has been as diligent as ever in researching mods. He was so excited today because he learned how to make a portal using obsidian and a snowman using a pumpkin. (I have no clue.) IMAG5158
Arianna made her own lipstick with Crayola Crayons (she learned it from a makeup tutorial). She said it worked well, but it was really hard to pour it into the little containers.
I was checking my emails today when I heard Caollin using my phone to learn French on Mango Languages. I’ll tell you, out of everyone, Caollin has surprised me the most this week because she’s the one who’s spent the most time doing nothing but petting the cats. As I alluded to earlier, even Arianna has noticed the difference this week. She mentioned to me last night that we should always have break because everyone’s been so much busier…and happier. A very wise observation, I would say.
I bought my first digital camera today (yes, my 14 year old has a DSLR, but I’ve only been using my Android to take pictures). It’s certainly not a DSLR, but, hopefully, today will be the last day I have to post blurry pictures. I’m really excited about it because when you have a lot of kids, you tend to forget to do things for yourself once in a while…so this is my present to me.
Tomorrow we’re planning on finding a pantry for our kitchen because we just don’t have enough cabinet space. Saturday we’ll be having our first family portrait taken in three years. I was so afraid that Brendan, my 20 year old, would have to work, but he’s coming, too! Afterwards, the 13 of us will be taking my mom to Denny’s for her birthday. (Kids eat free! Ahem. They’ll love us.) I’ve already reserved the entire back room. We only take the kids out to a restaurant about once a year, so they’re usually very well-behaved. We shall see…

What’s your week been like?

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Five Great Homeschool Resources and a Giveaway

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. See my disclosure policy.

I always get so excited when talking about homeschooling resources. They can come in so many different forms, but they all have one thing in common-inspiration. Today I’ve compiled a list of five amazing tools to add excitement and encouragement to your homeschool. The great thing about these is that they can all be applied to any homeschooling style with the proper tweaking. And here’s the good part: stick around until the end for a giveaway!! Now, on to the list!

1. Konos Character Curriculum– This is an excellent unit study that is made to last approximately two years. It covers grades K-8 and it’s cross-curricular- it covers everything. Before unschooling, this was our main curriculum, and even now we use it when we’re looking for great activities. Some activities we’ve done through Konos are:
-We had a Medieval Feast in which the kids prepared food from that era and served it to guests who
ate out of trenchers with their hands. They were each assigned two roles- one as a server and one
as an entertainer. Some examples are: carver, page, jester, etc.

-We made an ear tunnel. We used things from around the house to build a model of the ear canal and
inner ear. The kids got to crawl through it and name the parts of the ear as they went along.

-We dissected a cow eyeball. Okay, my husband took the lead on that because I was really
grossed out by it…but the kids loved it!

2.Five in a Row-This brings back so many memories. This is the curriculum we used our very first year of homeschooling. I actually borrowed it from a friend because when I decided to pull the kids out of school, I had absolutely nothing curriculum-wise. The very first book we covered was The Story About Ping. I still remember having them draw and count little ducks, since the story takes place in China;then, we made chicken fried rice for lunch. This was also the year we also fell in love with such books as The Story of Ferdinand and Cranberry Thanksgiving. Those are books we still check out from the library to this day.

3.Learning All the Time, by John Holt, isn’t a curriculum, but it is a great read on the process of how children learn things. This book was a major deciding factor in my decision to unschool, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve read it several times.

4.The Homeschooling Handbook is also not curriculum but is an excellent resource not only for prospective and new homeschoolers, but also for homeschooling veterans. There’s such a vast array of information in this book- from learning styles and homeschooling methods to record keeping and learning resources. This is another book in my house that’s quite dog-eared.

5.I am so excited for this last one. This Spring, an up-and-coming magazine, home/school/life, is being released. This is going to be a treasure trove of information. Unlike many other homeschool magazines, this will have something for everyone-and I mean everyone. It will be chock full of hands-on project ideas, unit studies,seasonal activities, field trip ideas and travel advice, and-my favorite part- a different homeschooling family will be featured in every issue. I don’t know about you, but I love to see how other homeschoolers do things. These little glimpses into other homes have actually ignited a lot of our homeschool philosophies we’ve implemented into our home. It will be available in digital format for all you techies and print format for all you traditionalists.

And now for the good part…home/school/life is offering a free one-year digital subscription to one of my readers. All you have to do is subscribe to my blog and leave a comment saying that you did so! The lucky winner will be randomly selected on March 19! The contest ends at 9pm EST the day the winner is chosen. Best wishes to you all!

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Welcome to Talkin’ With the Sun!

This is my son Brendan’s beautiful girlfriend. Check out her new blog!

Talkin' With The Sun

Hey wonderful! This is my first post on my blog, Talkin’ With the Sun! I just want to take this time to explain what this blog will be about.

It’s about everything.

Whoo, glad I got that out of the way! But no really, it really is going to be about pretty anything that pops into my head. I focus a lot on my hobbies and my studies, but I also talk about daily life, fashion, beauty, dreams, goals, inspirations, and a whole slew of other things. OH, and don’t forget food and DIY. We can’t live without those!

I’d like to introduce myself a little bit now. My name is Kimberly Ghorm and I am a college student (which would explain why I’m typing this at the library right now and pretending I’m doing schoolwork). I’m a nursing major with a soon-to-be minor in psychology. I go to Indiana…

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Let’s Talk Curriculum

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the products or businesses listed here. This is all my opinion, and I am not being compensated in any way.

It’s that time of year again- curriculum shopping time! Being the nerd that I am, there’s just nothing like receiving those boxes of new books at my doorstep. But I have to confess, I was a little worried that this year would be a bit of a disappointment. You see, unschooling means using life as your curriculum, and, to me, just a few weeks ago I was lamenting the fact that the only actual curriculum I would be buying were the books for Devin’s private investigation unit.
I needn’t have worried. This has, by far, been the best curriculum shopping year ever because I wasn’t confined to buying just books. Here I’m going to share our newest learning tools for the rest of this year and next year.

Our Books

-Life of Fred- In order to make math less monotonous and more enjoyable for everyone, we’ve all decided on Life of Fred for math.I actually ordered almost every single book available up through advanced algebra. The only one I did not get is beginning algebra because Dillon won’t be doing that until 10th grade. I also ordered the Life of Fred high school language arts curriculum as well.

Teaching Astronomy through Art Books 1 and 2

Astronomy- A Self-Teaching Guide

Understanding Psychology- Third Edition

Traditional Logic 1- Introduction to Formal Logic

The Definitive Book of Body Language, Body Language 101, and Liespotting

For those of you new to my blog, you can find our approach to unschooling high school here-https://redheadmom8.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/navigating-the-red-tape-part-3-our-path-to-an-accredited-diploma/

All the Other Good Stuff

– Minecraft Homeschool

– Five Below is a homeschooler’s dream. It has such a vast array of activities for kids at the lowest possible prices. We purchased tons of crafts, paints, sketchbooks, mini Lego sets, books-yes, more books-, and games.

– Toys R Us has also been an excellent resource for us. While it is a bit pricier, the quality and assortment of activities is phenomenal. Some examples of what we got there are:
– a model solar system with an interactive tablet
– a microscope, telescope, and binoculars
– Lincoln Logs and Legos
– a butterfly kit where you actually send away for real caterpillars
– soooo many games
– Monopoly
– Yahtzee
– Scattergories
– Duck Dynasty trivia
– Brain Quest States game
– a keyboard which is compatible with Apple devices
– a Pretend and Play school set- my personal favorite since my girls love to play school

– We did get a few items at Walmart as well, such as a kid’s guitar, which is really just a miniature version of a real guitar, a mini trampoline, and a sewing machine, since the girls and I really want to learn how to sew.

Our “school” shopping this year has far surpassed my expectations. Now onto watching the kids get inspired!!

What has been your favorite curriculum purchase?

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Break Week??? But You’re Unschoolers!

#unschooling

     Tomorrow marks the beginning of our first break week since Christmas break. Since we school year round, we follow a six weeks on, one week off schedule with longer breaks over Christmas, Easter, and the summer. Why do you need breaks if you’re unschooling? you might ask. I can only answer for our family, but here’s why.

– I don’t need to log in what my children do during this break. Think of it as more of a break for me than my kids. While this week may look similar to ”on” weeks, I can take a breather from the tedious record-keeping required by PA.

– My kids can get a respite from their math curriculum. To be sure, there will be plenty of math learned this week, but they won’t even realize it! Measuring for experiments and recipes, board games, divvying up meal portions, and geometry will continue as usual. These are activities that come naturally to my children. Unfortunately, required standardized testing has made me anxious enough that I do require my kids in third grade and up to complete a traditional math curriculum. I really do have trouble reconciling this. I see my kids doing math all the time without ever knowing it, but, somehow, I doubt that would be enough for the school district. I am switching to Life of Fred next year, though. (I actually just ordered almost all of these books since I have such a wide age range.) This erases the sting a little because literature based math will definitely be better for everyone to swallow.

I can just let my children be. Although I’m definitely getting better at this, I still feel sometimes like I’m hovering over them to see exactly what they’re doing so I can later write it down. I often wonder if the powers that be realize how much this hinders learning. If a child is left alone, he/she will naturally accomplish so much more than if they know they’re being watched. I know this. I’ve seen it happen with my own children. They’ll be happily pursuing any number of activities, but if I start questioning them too much, they’ll immediately freeze and just stop. Maybe it’s out of self-consciousness or thinking that what they were doing wasn’t what I expected of them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t show interest in what your children are doing…I’m saying that, in my case, I went a little overboard. And I’ll admit that even now I still unintentionally express irritation sometimes when I don’t see the value of their pursuits. This is not a fault of my children- it’s my own, and I’m working hard to rid myself of this ”school” mentality.

     So, this is why my family takes ”breaks.” They’re still learning all the time, but they’re learning in freedom this week. Freedom from an overregulated state and, as a result, a leech for a Mom. And, honestly, that’s enough for anyone to need to take a breather.

Do you school year round? If you’re unschooling (or not), do you feel the need for breaks as well? I’d love to read your thoughts on this!

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