Seeing the Bigger Picture : Use Creative Summaries!

Oh, homeschooling can get so detailed. We can bogged down with the most minute thing. Rightly so, for Pete’s sake, we teach Spelling and Math Calculations and for those tasks, it is really all in the details.

However, we do need to periodically see the bigger picture in all this.  For those who are into homeschooling for the longer haul, a “bigger picture” mindset is easier to achieve on a daily basis. Oh, it’so ok if my student can’t get the lesson now, or isnt as motivated in a particular subject area, we can always try again next time.  But then, how do you remind yourself that this specific lesson needs to be revisited or presented again somehow?

Well, let me suggest, taking time to just jot down notes as you go along your day.  Let me share with you what I have done the past weeks.   You see, I love Arts and Crafts, and it has been some time now that I have been trying my hand ( haha literally that is) at the art of beautiful lettering ( brush, brush pen, pen, markers, calligraphy with Nib and pen holder). I really don’t have the time to attend workshops and do formal training so I just try to learn as time and opportunities allow.   Youtube overflows with lettering tutorials, it’s crazy!

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So, why not hit many birds with one stone. Summarize your lessons via a written ” brain map” of sorts and practice your lettering.  You may  also  allow your children/students to share in the doodling and jotting. Use this summary as a creative way to journal your learning homeschooling journey. Use it to get a bigger picture. Use it to encourage more ideas and application points as you tie up lessons and see amazing connections. Use it as well to filter out  and weave in ” activities, invitations, materials”  ! You may also review this before beginning the new homeschooling session the next day

Seeing the main points of your homeschooling day/ sessions help in being convinced ( if you continue to doubt) that a great amount of learning  is indeed happening!

Processed with MOLDIV
Processed with MOLDIV

 

So what goes into your CREATIVE SUMMARY?***  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Write down the main CHARACTER/SPIRITUAL/ TIMELESS truth  lesson of the day. It could be a verse , a quotation or simple just ONE word that may say it all.

2.  Write down vocabulary words in the main languages being learned ( English, Tagalog, Mother tongue or even foreign language).

3.  Jot down the main lessons (in phrases or simple sentences)  on various subjects and see connections across all subjects.

4.  Record any funny or memorable line/ event/ comment.

5. Drawings are allowed!

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Depending on the age of your students, try to do this as a joint activity:)  Children in Middle School or High School, can do this on their own !)

So go ahead, try it!  (and use unused pages of old notebooks!)

 

Luke 14: 27-29 And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. 28Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,…

 

My Favorite Homeschooling Moments

From four homeschooled children, we are down to one.  Let me show you our timeline:

2005: When Gino was born
2005: When Gino was born

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  • 2002: Homeschoooling a toddler with an infant
  • 2003: Homeschooling a preschooler and toddler, with a newborn
  • 2004: Homeschooling 2 preschoolers, with a toddler
  • 2005: Homeschooling 2 preschoolers, with a toddler and newborn
  • 2006-2012: Homeschooling 4 children.
  • 2012: Released eldest, homeschooling 3
  • 2014: Released 2nd, homeschooling 2
  • 2016:  Released 3rd, homeschooling our youngest Gino, level 5:)

***during the early years, The Bridge School, assisted me in allowing a 3 day program  for the younger kids as I got our act together. So thankful to Bridge for taking care of our babies in batches as I shifted to full time homeschooling. I also learned a whole lot about preschool teaching from this amazing school!

I just want to enjoy this post as I recall MY favorite moments.  And maybe one day, I can ask my students and share with you what their favorite memories are and we can compare notes.  But for now, hoping not to tear, let me share mine:

1. Bedtime stories and Read-A-Loud time:  I just love bonding with the kids with  great books in hand. Whether it be the all time, read again and again, Berenstain Bear’s collection or  other favorite bed time stories, or chapter books like Dr. Doolittle, Popper’s Penguins or recently, Hudson Taylor’s biography,  or chapters from our Mystery of History series, those are my most precious moments ever!  When a shared book/story experience is so rich and wonderful, the memory is like a glue of happiness and warmth!

This is our poster board in our classroom that summarizes all the stories shared in our History time:)
This is our poster board in our classroom that summarizes all the stories shared in our History time:)

 

2. Pretend/ Dramatic Play:  Have you ever found yourself laughing out loud (LOL!) with your children? This, for sure, will create those opportunities.  Create stories, assign roles, re-enact Bible stories!  Oh, how I wished I took a video of all of them!  These tools can also be golden opportunities to teach a lesson. Once, I thought of helping the children develop compassion (putting selves in the shoes of others) and we all pretended to have various disabilities. We drew lots and acted the part we got. All five of us during bedtime had to play the part for 30 minutes.  You can imagine how that turned out. But you have to try it yourself.  However, something that seemed fun turned serious when I challenged them to really think of those who  have these conditions for the rest of their lives.

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The little ones pretending to have wings after they raided Mama’s closet!
Play dress up, dress up
Play dress up, dress up

 

3. Our Art Classes  / Science Experiments – All my students know I do not draw well.  So when we need to draw, I am one with my students, learning again. It’s quite amusing  to see each others’ drawings!  Oh my, we did do  so many ART projects together and boy, did we have so much fun. One time, we were in the garage, painting of all things, a colorful giant GARAGE SALE sign and guess what my students did? Oh poor little creatures, they decided to use some left over paint to paint some millipedes!

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As early sat 2 years old, I expose the kids to Art Projects that are done in steps!

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Exciting Science experiments are always winners. Yes, and the mishaps too.  Once, in an activity for Digestion and the Gastrointestinal System, I did not secure the seal of the blender pitcher, oh were we all covered with samples of “digested food”!  Ewww.  Or during a lesson on the Skin /Integumentary system, we actually pretended to be surgeons, sewing lacerated pig’s skin!

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A study of Seeds: Boys were thrilled to see a really big avocado seed
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Trying to help each other blow up a SUN for our balloon solar system!
Seeing how fire needs oxygen!
Seeing how fire needs oxygen!

 

4. Magic Moments – these are the moments when you have front seats to witness something really special going on. It could be as simple as an older child assisting a younger sibling, a child asking , “Is God old? ” or children eventually embracing a spiritual truth about who God is and what is He like.  Magic Moments are also the times when you see good character in action and experience fruits of your homeschooling labor.  I also consider moments when a “emotional” or “character” concern of  a student is addressed really special. I also love it so much when they come and open up about their thoughts and feelings.

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Raya and Marco look at their piano books together and remember the pieces that they kept playing again and again.

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5.  Scenes Etched in Your Heart – There are many scenes in my mind when I think of the past 13 years of homeschooling.  I have a few favorites though.  My son Marco started piano classes at 5 years old and I remember bringing him to piano with him  on the back seat. The way to the teachers house required us to pass through a hilly road that allows him to feel like he is in a roller coaster. He would always open the windows and I could see from the side mirror, my Marco,  full of glee and enjoying the wind splashing on his chubby face !  I loved seeing him like that and always looked forward to the time when he would ALWAYS open the window to see this EVERY single time we went home from piano lessons.

I am so thankful though that I kept taking photos of our experiences together. I look with fondness and yes with some ache in my heart, as I remember and try to re-live those days. But more than being able to take photos, my gratitude flows in being given a chance to take this ride with our children. They were days that seemed slow and long, but honestly, time does fly… I guess, especially when one is  truly having fun ( and yes there were more fun days than slow and bad days!)

 

Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.

Dear First Time Homeschooler, There Will Be Bad Days!

Homeschooling parallels life in general, There are various seasons where general conditions occur in a some specific period of time  (newborn phase,  moving homes, living away, caring for elderly parents, illness in family etc) . There  are struggles and victories. There is laughing and yet, crying too.  And to our dearest first time homeschoolers, there will be bad days,  so bad you may end up wishing you could retract your decision to homeschool your children.  After 14 years of homeschooling,  let me encourage you by saying, yes bad days will come but as a whole, the amazing, “My heart and mind are full, thank you Lord for homeschooling” kind of days will far outweigh those terrible, horrible days.

Let me share some of my my experiences:

1.  I made my 6 year old son weep due to Math.  I don’t remember the details but I think the lesson was too difficult and he had to do “more pages”.   I was so moved and vowed never to make any of my students cry. Of course, I failed. He cried again  because the multiplication exercises were just too long and tedious.   I then decided if he knew the basics of multiplication, we could forego the added worksheets. Does any level headed adult multiply 2  4-5 digit numbers manually? We all have our calculators with a few clicks of our fingers , right?

2.  There are days when our lessons or homeschool experience is messed up because of misplacing homeschool materials! The whole mood is off.  Frustration brews and you just want to call it a day, organize and fix your “homeschool” and start fresh. You tell yourself, “That material was purchased for this very reason, this very moment and I can’t find it! Waaaahhhh!”

3.  When you let your phone or online experience and socialization time disturb  homeschooling time- I remember my  5 year old son told me once, “Teachers don’t text.”

4.  For Home Economics, we did major cleaning of appliances: laptops, keyboard, screens, electric fans, etc…   We over cleaned the keyboard of our I-Mac and it stopped working. Water seeped through the letter keys ( since I asked the boys to use cotton dabbed in water to clean each letter button in keyboard but they used  were and drippy cotton!)  We had to humbly report to the Principal, Daddy Gilbert and offered to pay part of the new keyboard.

5.  Character issues will definitely arise. The easier and less taxing way is to just simply shrug it off, and move on and get on with the lesson.  But that is the the right and proper way to deal with it as parents/teachers who have the responsibly of raising our children in the best way we can.  Sometimes, it can disrupt the entire morning addressing some issues but alway do so in a calm and nurturing disposition and always end in prayer.  When you have multiple kids, do it privately, one on one.  Never embrass your children in front  of his/her siblings, that will turn a bad day to a nightmare.

6. There are days when either the teacher or student is  just out of sync for no apparent reason.  You’re not in the mood to teach or  your students are not motivated and seem to be rushing their school work. The environment is far from nurturing and positive. Some may call it toxic!  Just tweak the day! Go for a walk, a swim or get out of the house.  Do something different and just take a break from the mundane stuff of homeschooling.

The sooner you accept that bad days will happen, the  better the chances of surviving them or even turning them around! You’ve got 365 days a year to homeschool, don’t fret and fuss!  Like a song based on verses in Lamentations (of the Old Testament ) beautifully puts it, ” Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, mercies and love.” Mommy, or Daddy dear, it may be dark now, but morning is sure to come. Take heart!

Lamentations 3:21-23  21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail. 2They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Credits to : www.akiit.com for the featured image on this

S.C.H.E.D.U.L.E !

Ok, let me admit that I have a TYPE A side who survives and thrives in routine, in step by step processes, and  always going by a plan. I love to know how things come about and what causes what. That’s probably why I earned a degree in Medicine. Being a nerd at heart, my closest friends joke me for having a book for every issue or concern in different seasons of life.

Homeschooling has challenged and changed all that.  Imagine four  children below eight years old, how can you even think of order, or of sticking to any plan ?

But, hey, it has been 14 years of homeschooling and from four, I am down to one student.  The older kids are well adjusted and doing well in their regular schools. So we must have done something that prepared them to adjust ,cope and yes, even bloom.  So .let me share a few tips on  creating, maintaining, ditching your SCHEDULE (yes there are days, I ditch the plan!)

For many years, usually at the beginning of the school year, I tried to create daily, weekly schedules. Oh wow,  I even downloaded or sometimes even purchased, “homeschool planners, multilevel planners, giant calendars,  personal planners for each child.”  I tried to write lessons (as joint (all kids)  and individual ) and plans for the day with specific time allotment.  I tried to spread out the lessons so as not to tire the children.   But when I realized that I kept adjusting, making changes in the set schedule, I  decided, it wasn’t worth it all and  I somehow wanted a more relaxed, free flowing, flexible schedule (which I believe woks better with multilevel children) .

Looking  back at these planners, none of them were ever  maximized and filled up.  I guess, instinctively, it didn’t match my own learning and teaching philosophy.  How could I end  a moment or shift to another lesson,  when the children are so engrossed in something.? How could I not continue, pursue and extend the moment for maximum learning and enjoyment?

So, we somehow ended up with a  “big picture” schedule such as this. Nothing too specific or rigid.

That is the ideal!
That is the ideal!

 

In my mind, this was our goal. But of course, it always gets mixed up,

It’s not easy to give hard and fast rules because each homeschooling family is unique. Many variables come into play in setting one’s schedule/pace of learning.   So, let me just share my most favorite GO TO tips in being able to  get things done and yes, learn and have fun.

Let’s use the word S-C-H-E-D-U L-E.

1. Set the  time  and material/lesson per day/per week.  Depending on the season of our children’s levels or ages, we more or less, averaged 3-5 hours of  schoolwork.  The younger children in their preschool or primary years had more free play, had more freedom and flexibility.    I would say they engaged and did their lessons for about 1-2 hours only.  As the kids, went into levels 3-6,   we somehow had a 930AM-230PM schedule.  There are days when I would need to nap, or our lunch break would extend, so we end a bit later.

It’s important to consider  the well being of the teacher and student/s. If I had a very stressful evening (let’s say one child was ill throughout the night), I adjust and do lighter lessons or watch videos instead.  Also be wary of other family events for rest of the day,  and make adjustments so as not to stress your homeschooling time or burn you out.

This is basically what we hope to cover for level 5 this school year.  Our homeschool provider, Homeschool Global, (former TMA Homeschool), breaks its school year into 4 quarters.  So I work with that.

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At the beginning of a school year, I photocopy the table of contents of the major textbooks and skim through the lessons.  I look for lessons that can go together.  For example, a lesson on Galileo for History can be supported by lessons in Astronomy.   For Grammar, synchronize your Filipino and Language lessons.

I also think of ideas for projects or connections to real life settings . When a child is older, you can try to elicit these ideas from them.   So find connections across subjects. This saves a whole lot time, solidifies learning. Blended or seamless lessons that encompass several concepts and ideas from various subjects are the in thing now among progressive schools. This method of learning has been proven to be more effective than the usual  one lecture per subject set up.

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2. C  ommunicate your plans to the kids.   Show the the children, the plan for the day.  Remind them that some adjustments may have to be made as you go along. Discuss with them the general plan for the week ( include the outsourced subjects or tutorials outside of the house, MAPE classes, planned field trips or even those days when you may have to leave and assign them some independent school work.)

3. H  eavier subjects first?   Being morning people, we prefer to do heavier subjects that require a whole lot of concentration and mental focus at the beginning of the day. I find our students more alert and more able to comprehend. You may opt to have it the other way around. What’s important is to maximize your lessons given your children’s and your level of concentration/mental and physical strength. After lunch, we try to do the livelier subjects that can wake us all up, a Science experiment, a video tutorial, games or project work that involves a whole lot of creating.

4.  E  ngage the older children in making their own schedules.  For as long as they know what the goals for the day are, they can decide what lessons to tackle first. Depending on your family set up, you may decide do heavier subjects last. This provides the children with some empowerment in making own decision and helps them with time management.  This becomes very helpful during project time where certain tasks are done in steps, week by week.

5.  D  itch it, if necessary .   If a planned lesson or activity isn’t working, be flexible or open, to stop and reassess.  There are many times when we had to ditch the planned lessons for several days. This usually happens during national events like the last Philippine Elections, the Mamasapano Tragedy, Ondoy Storm and Relief Efforts or when our family faces certain situations  making it impossible to  stick to lesson, oblivious to what our family was going through.

6.  U  nit Studies

The www.homeschoolinthewoods.com describes the Unit Study as :

Unit Studies approach a theme topic from several angles, encouraging activity and love of learning as well as discipline and responsibility. Units work best when the main topic is studied in the areas of Bible, History, Science, Health, Physical Education and the Arts, but Language and Math can often be applied as well.

While  www.thehomeschoolmom.com says :

Unit studies are a popular homeschooling method because they can be hands-on, literature-based, or even geared towards the Charlotte Mason method. Unit Studies typically encompass all of the scholastic subjects through the study of one topic (Weaver units or KONOS character units, for example), although they can be specific to a specific subject (like Evan-Moor science units or Teacher Created Materials units). Since it is easier to teach different ages the same topics with multi-level unit studies, they are popular among homeschoolers wanting to keep all of their children on similar topics at the same time.

Here are some examples of your own unit studies and projects done by multilevel Children:

A Unit Study on Roman History

A Unit Study on Shakespeare

Another Unit Study on Shakespeare

Book Reports that become Unit Studies

A Unit Study: Entrepreneurship 101

Unit Study on Wise Building

Unit Study on Maps

For more information about Unit Studies, click here.

7.  L  imit redundant activities –  Don’t be afraid to skip lessons that are “useless”, that have been taken up and  already mastered,  or that will be taken up in a future lesson in another subject.  If for instance, your child is reading a chapter book on a person known for his compassion and love for the children then you find a similar material in his Reading Exercise textbook, you may opt to skip that part.  I am using the Mathusee curriculum  for Math.  Each Lesson has about 3 practice sheets of the new lessons and another 4 practice sheets for the current lesson and past lessons combined.  When the student scores high in several practice sheets, I usually limit these so we could proceed to the next lesson or use the time to apply what we have learned to real life situations.

8.  E  liminate distractions –  For as long as family members know how to contact you via landline, shut the  mobile phone off ( I need to learn this again and again). Open it only during homeschool breaks.  Write down non-homeschool thoughts that you need to go back to later on during the day.   Keep your homeschool room neat and organized, a messy room is a giant distraction and can become stressful, in the long run.

So there, Set, Communicate, Heavier first, Engage, Ditch it, Unit Studies, Limit, Eliminate ! 

Hope these tried and tested tips help with scheduling your daily homeschooling experiences!

 

Ephesians 6: 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,