Parent Review: Time 4 Learning

Today I am going to take a few moments to review for you the online curriculum known as Time 4 Learning.  I have been using Time 4 Learning for 2 years in my homeschool and I thought it would be helpful if I put down the reasons I love it, as well as the areas in which I feel some improvements could be made.

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First let me tell you why I sought out an online curriculum.  Basically, at the time it came down to one word: newborn.  I was pregnant with my third son and was expecting a mid-December birth and trying to imagine what teaching my 6th grader and a 3rd grader would be like with a newborn in my arms.

It sounded pretty daunting, so I thought to myself: “If there is a time for an online curriculum, it’s now.”

It didn’t disappoint.  T4L provided exactly what I needed – an educational back bone for my children to lean back on (instead of me) for their schoolwork during the months where I would be sleep-deprived and nursing.

Two years later, I would say this is still the greatest advantage.

I no longer have to plan every single lesson prior to teaching.  T4L offers a comprehensive scope and sequence for every academic year complete with books to read, print outs etc. I assist by staying on-hand to explain or further strengthen a lesson – but – they no longer need to ask me every day what they will be learning.

On a weekly basis I review the work I would like them to accomplish and I might go online to find videos, crafts, etc to enhance the subject.  I try to individualize the lesson to my son’s interests (especially when it comes to Science and Social Studies).

Through T4L, they have a very organized, cumulative Language Arts foundation complete with grammar, poetry, reading, etc.

I also really love their guides they provide for all the books which the children are to go through during the school year which further apply writing and other elements of Language Arts to the book in which they are studying.  For example, this year, my 7th grader read “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and my 4th grader is reading “The Toothpaste Millionaire.”

In addition, the kids can pick and choose from the subjects (Language Arts, Language Arts Express, Math, Social Studies and Science) as they please and the site is extremely easy for them to navigate.

Odyssey Writer is part of the T4L subscription which allows them to write within the lesson they are learning in and submit it to the teacher.

There are some areas which I believe need tweaking and improvement.

Math– while the subject matter and order of instructions are fine, I find that they teach the lessons too quickly and expect the student to easily grab the information.  If though, the terminology is brand new, I find that they do not have enough time to understand the material. I tend to supplement with videos from online such as Youtube and Khan Academy.

No pause button– it would be nice if all the lessons were able to be paused.  A frustrated child gets more frustrated when someone keeps talking and they do not understand.

A lot of printing out – The book guides and the math packets all need to be printed out in order for them to be utilized. And, I feel for complete instruction, they really need to be printed out.  This is costly and time consuming.  But, because it is a link in your account, it is optional – and therefore under your control.

I expect we will continue to use T4L at least through next year  – my son’s 8th grade year.

Jenny

 

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When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start

Let’s get the business out of the way first!  This will be a three-part series, so please type your email into the follow bar on the right hand column so you will receive notice of the next two blog posts on “When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start.”

Does this ever happen to you?  About 3/4 of the way through the school year you  have started to dread getting out of bed in the morning?  Not only do you not feel motivated to plan lessons for your kids, but you are even less interested in teaching them.  You are bored with their curriculum (and maybe they are too), you’re tired of the same routine day in and day out and you are beginning to question if you should keep doing this thing called: “Homeschooling” – she says in a snarky voice.  🙂

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Nicholas.  My youngest boy of three.

Let me continue to paint the picture for you.

You have dishes in the sink and laundry to do.  Your bed hasn’t been made all week and you have a two year old you would like to take to the library for story-time (am I neglecting him?)  You love to draw or write and haven’t touched a pencil in months.  Exercise? Ha!

But, you still have to get “school” in.

How nice it would be if that big yellow school bus would appear at your doorstep in the morning and whisk away 2/3 of your brood.

Have you ever been there?

I have. Several times.  And if you are there now, let’s talk about it.

I have had to talk myself though these times several times in my five years of homeschooling.  I have had to seek input and get some outside perspective.

There is not doubt, homeschooling is hard. Not only are you solely responsible for your children’s education, but, you are also responsible for your home as well – and if you work on top of it?  Lady, you’re BUSY!  Sometimes I begin to feel fragmented – like “Am I a working mom?” “Am I a stay at home mom?” “What am I??”

The honest truth is most of us are a little bit of both and it’s not easy to live in several different world and do a great job in all of them.

That’s why it is so important to re-evaluate your life every once in a while.  Re-evaluate the things you are currently committing your time to and say to yourself: “Is this making sense to be doing?”

Re-Evaluate.

The next two blog posts are going to be exactly about that. The process of re-evaluation.  In them, I will cover:

  • Identifying the problems and issues
  • Breaking them down into manageable chunks
  • Evaluating whether they are thing you can change or things you must accept
  • Moving forward with a new plan

I will use examples from my own life, as well as examples from other homeschoolers’ lives.

I will leave it with you for now, more to come, Jenny

 

 

 

 

You Don’t Stink at Being a Housewife

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The above photo came up on my Facebook newsfeed this week.

Two of my friends laughed at it and said “That’s me!”

But to be honest, the sign made me feel a little angry.

The original statement, which is crossed out, has been around for some time.  Basically it’s a joke and is supposed to make moms laugh because they feel like their houses are always a mess…but it’s okay because their children are “making memories.” It’s right up there with the other meme you may have seen that says, “Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating oreos.” I get that!

These memes are supposed to lighten our load as moms.  And make us think: “Ah, I am not alone.” And for the most part, they work!

But my reaction to the above picture was not one of laughter – it was one of annoyance.

Moms.

Moms roles are endless.

They are counselors, nutrition consultants, nurses and doctors, relationship coaches, teachers, chefs, chauffeurs, sports coaches, volunteers…the list goes on.

Long gone are the days when mom stayed home, kids went off to school mom ran to the butcher and cleaned house until the kids came home when she presented them with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies.

Most moms are working full, part time or from home while still managing all of this.

Guess what comes last?

The house.

Now don’t get me wrong. I clean every day. And I am not complaining, per say, but do we really “s*ck at being a housewife”?  I mean is that the message we really need to send to other moms?

Do you really want to put up a sign in your house that says you s*ck at doing anything?

Not really!

How about a sign that says: “Mom we know you’re busy and we thank you for all you do!”

or

“Moms are worth their weight in gold!”

I would MUCH prefer those signs! How about you?

 

 

 

How Many Clothes Do You Really Need?

Friends of mine were laughing at this post put up by Muddled Up Mommy.

Some reactions were astonishment, others were totally in agreement.  What do you think?

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In our house, laundry is on-going.  There is always a basket going into the washer and a basket that needs to be put away.  And we still end up with no clean pajamas in the evening!

I am beginning to think we have too many clothes actually.  Just TOO MANY OPTIONS.

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So what’s a mom to do? Research of course!

How much laundry do we really need?

Living on a Dime has taken the time to figure it all out: How Many Clothes Do I Need?

If you’re a stay at home mom, Laura at This Felicitous Life has come up with a list of her own.

Let’s talk about kids.  They grow so fast that it seems like you always have to have clothes in reserve just in case!

Keeper of the Home lays out (pardon the pun) her kids clothes and describes what they have and what they don’t really need: How Many Clothes Do Kids Really Need?

Actual Mom describes her large family’s wardrobe need in her piece: How Many Clothes Do my Kids Really Need?

The Purposeful Mom conducted a laundry experiment.  You will want to read all about it here.

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Let’s face it, in America, we have so much stuff, in general. Clothes are cheap and made cheaply and it’s therefore no surprise we are drowning in laundry which costs us money in water, soap and WASTED TIME (the most important thing!)

  • Jenny

 

 

Why Being a Homeschooler is Like Being a Rock Star

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I was listening to NPR this morning as a successful musician recalled his early days.  He talked about his beginnings within the context of having just released his fifth (?) successful album.  He has a following now of very supportive fans.

And it made me think about how it is when many of us start homeschooling for the first time.

If you have never been a rock band “groupie,” like I was in high school (Hey there Mighty Purple!) then you may not know exactly what I am talking about, so let me explain.  When a rock band (or any band) is just starting out, it is pretty bumpy.

If you are a fan, and you are friends with said musicians, you get to see the guts (working or not working) behind the scenes (the following are fictional, but pretty common examples).

You know all about the drummer they had to kick out because he was too much of a party-er, you know about the song that had so much potential, but never got beyond the first verse and you know about the prickly relationship they had with their first manager.  You know about how they are aching to perform live, but no one will give them the stage and you know about that one song that finally exploded on their local music scene. If you’re friends with them, you may even see their family (and perhaps other friends) criticize them and tell them to finish high school/college and “get a real job.”

Fast forward five, ten, fifteen years and the band has probably changed their configurations a few times, finally got a van to transport their equipment and has a good following as well as a list of successful songs.  People respect them for their “sound” and they have worked out most of the kinks.  Even the media wants to interview them and take copious photos of them.

Homeschooling is kind of like that.

How?

When you are in the process of considering homeschooling, you do your research and you start to gather people around you – some you will keep for the long haul and some you will dispense of at some point.  Some people, family and friends included, think you are CR-AZEE for wanting to bring your kids home and educate them yourself.  They say things like: “You’ll go nuts, you will get sick of one another, it’s child abuse!”

You will try one curriculum and find it’s not a match…like, AT ALL.  Several years later you will laugh at yourself as you recall how you thought you knew your kids as students and how very much you still had to learn.

You will try THREE curricula, and finally settle in on one, probably the one that give you the most bang for the buck (i.e. mileage).

You will have to eliminate homeschooling as a topic of conversation with some people – because you already KNOW what they think. (i.e. “go get a job”)

Eventually you will gather around you the RIGHT people.  The people who support you, who think the way you do and even if they don’t, are willing to support you through your family’s ups and downs as homeschoolers.  These people are your FANS.  They are your children’s FANS.  Keep them!

And ultimately, you will have a small band of believers that are behind you 100 percent, even family members who are so proud of you for staying home and taking this chance (i.e. your first successful album!)

Great job mom!  You’re a ROCK STAR!

 

 

Getting Started in Homeschooling: Writing a Mission Statement

This is for all you Mama’s who are just getting started.

Recently I conducted a workshop for parents new to homeschooling.  Trying to be thorough, we covered a lot of different subjects: the legalities of homeschooling, different curricula that is available, the option of using classes or co-op’s to enhance your teaching and the truth behind socialization (they get plenty by the way).

But, the more we talked, the more I saw the moms and dads’ eyes WIDEN.

So, I thought we would attempt to break it down a bit through a Getting Started in Homeschooling series.Hopefully it will help start you on your path to homeschooling without feeling too overwhelmed.

In order to reach any new destination you need a road map. When you walk out your door to go somewhere you have never been before, don’t you pull out your phone and type in the address so you can have directions easily accessible?

Why would we approach something as monumental as educating our children without some sort of map?

It’s the same with homeschooling.

Granted, not all of us are good at planning ahead.  Me too.

After four years of homeschooling though, and making the mistake of wasting my time on some classes and groups I should never have participated in, I see the mission statement’s resounding value.

Let’s jump in.

Using my mission statement worksheet, spend some time thinking about/writing down why you have chosen to homeschool. 

  • Is your child unhappy in school?
  • Are they falling behind?
  • Do they have problems with bullying?

I began to homeschool because I was concerned my older, extremely inquisitive child would be dulled and bored by the public school routine.  I wanted to offer him adventure, hence the name of our school: Adventure School!

Next, think about the things/write down the things that are important to your family.

  • Is it important to you that your children read a lot?
  • Do you want them to be able to explore their artistic interests?
  • Do you feel a spiritual component is essential to your family life?
  • Do you want to make sure that they spend an ample amount of time out in nature?

Now, spend some time thinking about/writing out the things you feel you will be happy to leave behind once you start homeschooling.

  • Does your child hate getting up early?
  • Does your child despise workbooks?
  • Does you child need the flexibility to do work at his/her own pace?

When I began, although I didn’t have a mission statement, I knew it was important to me that I had time in the Bible with my boys, that we got out in nature and that school would be varied and interesting. I wanted to keep them involved in peer-appropriate activities and to teach them important life skills.

My mission statement for this school year reads as follows:

“Our family will homeschool in order to make sure that our children have enough time to foster their relationship with God as well as their interests and passions. By homeschooling, we will not only pursue academics, we will have new and varied experiences and have balanced, memorable lives. By homeschooling, we will surround our children with positive influences, maintain the home as the central hub of of their lives and teach them practical life skills.”

Here is the MISSION STATEMENT template again.

Good luck writing your mission statement and let me know how it goes!

Next blog post in this series will be: “Getting Started in Homeschooling: Choosing a Curriculum.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goal Setting for the New School Year with free download

I like to keep my options open.  I hate to pin myself down to a certain plan, only to disappoint myself by not being able to maintain it or achieve it. I would rather have no plan, so I can’t disappoint myself! I know. It’s silly.

But, this year, with a 7th grader, I feel the need to plan ahead a little bit more and decide some areas academically, spiritually and personally I hope to see him grow in. These will be areas I pray about, and, as I am making scheduling decisions, I will use them to weed out potential distractions.

For example, my middle son will be focusing this year on composition writing and reading comprehension. I have written that under the “academic” heading.  For my other son, I would like to see him begin to read the Bible and pray on his own.  This I wrote under the “spiritual” category.

I have also included a “physical exercise” category as this is something, as a family, we are trying to do more. For us, it’s a matter of opting to go outside, rather than sit in the house.

If you feel this planning would help you in your school year, feel free to grab the Goals for 2016 template and personalize it for your own family’s needs!

Jenny

 

 

 

Prepping for Homeschool: toddler time

Not all my readers are homeschoolers, but, as some of you are, this one’s for you!

Being that it is the middle of August, it’s time to get ready for the homeschool year.  We are going on our fourth year homeschooling and this year I have a 4th grade and a 7th grader (woah!).  I also have – a 21 month old.

Last year, the baby would sleep while we taught in the morning.  I doubt that will be happening this year, so I need to be pretty organized and have a plan for the little squirt.

So, the first thing I am going to do is organize a BUSY BOX for him. The busy box has to be special to the homeschooling time, or it will lose its magic. So, ideally the items in the box cannot be used outside of homeschool time.

I have included some busy boxes from around the internet (with credits).

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This is a simple one. I like the shells!

You could go really crazy with this concept and create an entire CORNER for this purpose.  As we have 5 people in the house, I will be keeping it small. Keep in mind, some of these items are specific to our little boy’s interests, but you can adjust as preferred.

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This is from teachingmama.org.  Threading buttons – great fine motor practice.

In my busy box, I will put:

  • play doh
  • crayons
  • big pad of white paper
  • pom-poms
  • books
  • matchbox cars
  • dry erase board
  • dice
  • matching cards

I am also going to make some things, including:

This monster themed color sorter!

This Montessori-style color book!

These roads in shapes (tell me this isn’t genious!) !

I know you have have had toddlers already have a ton of ideas!  Would you share one in the comments below?  I sure could use some more ideas!

 

 

 

 

In the BB I will include things like: stickers, crayons, pom poms, matching cards, matchbox cars, and a big pad of white paper.  I am also going to create a FUN CORNER for him with a table and books and age-appropriate puzzles.

I know a lot of my homeschool friends have toddlers in their homes.

 

 

 

Zucchini Chocolate Bread

Zucchini!  I planted a lot of it.  A little more than I realized.

This is really a zucchini year and they are exploding!  I cannot keep up with it actually.   If I skip a couple of visits out to the garden, the zucchini that was 10 inches long exponentially grows to 25 inches long.

So, my son and I decided to put our favorite thing (chocolate) together with our over-abundance of this green squash and make CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD.

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This is a simple recipe from All Recipes.

The most labor intensive part is the grating, which my son was thrilled to do.

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And here is the final product! YUM!

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But if you’re not into chocolate, what is one to do with all that zucchini?

Here are some awesome ideas from all over the internet!

Recipes

Chicken Zucchini Poppers – with cilantro, onions and garlic.  Yum! This recipe coordinates with the Whole30 diet.

Zucchini Green Chili Corn Bread – this idea seems really interesting!  The post is very elaborate; very interes

Zucchini with Egg – this combination just sounds really yummy.

Happy cooking!