After 15+ years of homeschooling, we’ve probably had 30x of major decluttering of homeschool materials, books, supplies and yes, even toys. I’ve passed on many of our favorite story and reference books to younger cousins but I’ve kept my all time favorites because the children, though a bit older now, still love looking at many of these timeless pieces and I guess, I still use several of them with my last homeschooled son at level 5.
But there are indeed timeless pieces which I want to keep in a room with a rocking chair and a rug! Can you picture what I am envisioning? God willing, I will one day become more than just Tita Donna welcoming little and grown up nieces and nephews in my home with their favorite chocolate chip cookies. For the little ones, I sometimes read them a book, do some arts and crafts or homeschool a bit here and there. God willing, I will be, hopefully be a cool, endearing and warm grandmother with the best books and toys in her house!
Though not arranged in level of importance, here are my top favorite printed material: reference books, storybooks, and chapter books!
For the Study of God’s Word and Character Education:
2. Stories we just kept reading night after night for maybe close to a decade and our favorite Read-A-Louds!
All Time Favorite Read A louds:
My Father’s Dragon
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series
Five Dog Stories
Number the Stars
The Tale of Despereaux
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Christian Heroes Then and Now Series
Mystery of History and Apologia What We Believe Stories
and many others!
3. Nothing beats Apologia Science Resource Textbooks – These are written as Read-A-Loud material with easy to apply Science experiments doable at home!
4. To keep the Filipino culture, history and language alive in a practical and relevant way.
I supplement these Adarna History Story books above with my own Read A Loud Style ( or assign chapters for reading for the independent student) using the following and my student’s own Social Studies textbook. So I do read ahead sometimes so I can read the historical texts like a story!
Here are our well loved story books from Adarna/Hiyas Publishishers
Health, Science and Filipino Language (and culture) for the win, from Hiyas! Available in OMF Bookshops.
6. World History
a. The Mystery of History series
b. The Story of the World Series
7. How I became the kid’s first Art and Music Teacher
If you’d like to start an art series with your preschoolers, try this series on this blog. Just use the search bar and type Art, colors, lines and shapes and you’ll see a whole lot of Art Lessons you can do at home!
8. Various Reference Books!
Though online materials are truly award-winning, engaging and cost-efficient, we prefer to have a library of quality materials. With four children, nephews and nieces, even using them as guides in teaching others how to homeschool, and probably grandkids in the future, I truly believe that costs both in time and money (endless searching for good deals, discounts, sharing balikbayan boxes with others, purchasing some in installment), were all super worth it.I am sure some books in our library which were not mentioned for this first blog post of favorite materials feel bad! (“We were not featured yet we taught them so much!!!” said the unmentioned books.) I will add and edit along the way but these are the ones that came to mind instantly! For Math, we’ve been Mathusee users for more than a decade and supplement a bit here and there with other approaches like Singapore Math or Simpao Math (Hahaha! The practical way of applying Math I guess!).
I shared these materials to give you a picture of what to look for in reading materials to purchase! You may come up with a totally different set of titles and that’s surely OK! I guess the best gauge for good quality materials would be how often they are used, the memorable experiences they bring and the in depth learning they provide.
“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” -Ray Bradbury
We have been a homeschooling family for 15 years, and I am still homeschooling our youngest, Gino, level 5. I have been teaching non-stop for a total of 15 school years! Praise the Lord indeed. Come to think of it, that’s a third of my life!
So, I’d like to encourage all homeschoolers out there to press on and keep enjoying the ride. We are definitely doing something good. Something good not only for our children, but also for ourselves. Yes, you heard it right. This is truly good for us. We may have had to set aside a career, exchanged a high paying job to set “office” at home and lose a whole of benefits and add ons of work and “not homeschooling” our children.
We may feel that we are now so “tied” to our children, and “tied” to home but apart from the usual advantages we’ve already read and heard, let me share something very close to my heart. Yes, I’ve had days that I have felt “tied down”, limited and unable to say ,”Yes” to many other opportunities. However, as I see the bigger picture, what tied me down actually guarded and anchored me.
We teach many subjects. Our passions, biases, willingness to learn, patience and creativity all affect what and how we teach. We may decide to even outsource some subjects. I have to say though that being our children’s main teacher on Bible & Character ( some may call this area as Christian Living, Catechism, Values Education) poses the toughest challenge yet provides the most steady guide and anchor for our own spiritual walk of faith.
When we we teach Math, Science, Language or even History, we can truly read from a scripted text or find good youtube tutorials to explain a lesson. We may be the link to making the lessons more relevant, fun and experiential. If the material is unfamiliar to us, we can also learn like our own students. However, when we teach Bible lessons, character traits, timeless foundational truths and principles, we can’t simply read from the text or listen to others teach. To be effective teachers, there is a call to live what we teach. “Practice what we preach” as they say. Or the more often quoted saying nowadays, “Character is caught more than taught.”
Of course, we can be transparent and authentic in also declaring that like our children, we ourselves are “works in progress” and we are also learning and relearning with them. But that doesn’t remove the tough calling on parents of being the first examples and models of the character traits being taught . For our case, it is only by His Grace, His Enabling and His work through the Holy Spirit that can give me the courage and boldness to live and teach this daunting subject. For Christians, the goal is always to point them to Christ, not really to ourselves. But many experts say that young children need “Christ in the flesh” first to be able to appreciate, experience and believe in the spiritual Christ.
So, I guess what I want to to say is, the desire and commitment to teach our children about our “living and growing” faith, our God, our Savior and the work of the Holy Spirit (the Trinity), and ensuring that we impart to them the biblical principles that will give them a strong foundation in becoming loving, responsible, compassionate and kind people, are amazing forces that help me stay in course, stay in the right path in my own walk of faith. Teaching keeps me in check, and always on guard, on my toes and yes, as much as I can, on my knees (in prayer)! And so, thank you, homeschooling! Thank you to my hubby Gilbert whose hard work allows me to stay at home and homeschool, to our students: Vince, Marco, Gino and Raya, and above all , thank you LORD!
I was so awed by this truth today and as I pondered more, I became so grateful. I shared this today to encourage all you out there. We can be sidetracked and stressed by so many things in life and all the must dos as we care for families, raise our children and yes, even educate them. It really helps to take back step from time to time and see the bigger picture.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
It’s December 21 and I am done wrapping and sending out 95 % gifts that need to be delivered. So here I am, taking a break and writing. 9 days to go till we “wrap up 2016″… and it is not easy looking back. It is actually painful .
The year was just about to roll in when we lost my Daddy Dony. It is actually going to be the first Christmas without him. Actually, he celebrated his last Christmas here on earth in the ICU on his 10th week in the hospital. “Daddy Dony and Christmas” was always special because he loved special occasions to gather his loved ones. He thought of all ways to spice up the event and we’ve had the most “all out” gatherings because of his ideas.
Please remember to pray for my Mommy Emma. It was difficult for her to live without her boyfriend and husband of 64 years this year.
But sadly, so many other precious lives left us this year: a homeschooler friend who had 4 children, a dear sister of one my BFFs, my eldest brother in law, my neighbor’s father, several of our helper’s dearest relatives and several parents of other friends.
Our own family had one relationship problem after another, and so I think 2016 was my most “crying-ext” year. I love how the Psalms in the New Living Translation says it ever so clearly in Psalm 56:8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” I also soar in the assurance in Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” So when you really think about it, the Lord is near and so I must rest and rejoice in that. And truly this season is the best time to rejoice knowing, “Emmanuel, God is with us!” So, instead of wallowing and yes, staring at my tears in my own “memory” bottle and reliving the hurts again in my thoughts and heart, I have made a choice to rejoice. God is with us. He is near us. What an amazing , awesome, mind-blowing truth!!!!
So as I greet you all a truly MERRY “because God is indeed with us” Christmas, let me do this using some of the Christmas sights here at home.
Let me take the simple messages from our tree this year. (Set up by all our kids!)
Be Merry, God is with us. Take time to think of that. Close your eyes and say. “Thank You, Jesus.” “God with us” paved the way for the redemption of every believer in Christ. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
2. Life’s circumstances may cloud the way, dim our thoughts but as one follower encountered Jesus, he called out and said, “I do believe; Lord, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Even Mary had her own doubts, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ) So my dearest one, Merry Believing!
3. May you have Joy and Freedom. God, through Jesus, has already provided this with the greatest sacrifice at Calvary. With Jesus, we have eternal joy and freedom from the burden and weight of our sins and failures. Again, take time to think and ponder on these. Indeed, we can really sing, “Joy to the World!”
4. Amidst the troubles at home, in our families and in our society, and yes in our world, may you have inner peace in believing in faith, that God is sovereign. I weep as I think of children in Aleppo, as I think of those killed in this “all out drug” war. We know that the worsening “darkness” has been foretold but alongside that, there is the call to press on to be salt and light in this earth. I cannot let the darkness , whether in my own family life or in this word, make me cynical, cripple me or paralyze me. ” You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3. “For the peace of God that transcends all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
5. In faith, I have chosen to draw near to God and believe. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ” May then your faith in Him be strengthened as you look back at 2016 and look forward to 2017. God is faithful and He seeks those who will believe Him in faith.
So there. Simple truths but truly profound and wondrous. Let us, like Mary, take time to celebrate as we meditate on these thoughts. “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) As you do this,listen to traditional Bible based Christmas carols and be blessed with these 5 simple truths I drew out from our CHRISTmas tree this year.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
So, we’ve covered the basic cell and how these cells are viewed as part 1 of this Science series. Since our homeschool microscopes are not as versatile or powerful, we can either ask them to draw using a simple worksheet the various images (usually there are pre made slides in a microscope kit) of various samples of “tissue’. Or you can make your own simple slide of hair, a tiny speck of dust, water from pond, or even your own blood ( if you can prick yourself for some sample). We can opt to just google for “microscopic image of _____________” and let our students copy and color using the same worksheet and identify them. As they do this, you can read aloud more about the cells they are copying. We worked on copying a bacteria, fungi and a heart muscle cell (as part of our upcoming lesson). You may opt for other cells like an amoeba, a virus, skeletal muscle or skin cells. The options are limitless.
We also did to make play dough images of some cells we learned about.
At this point, it would be good to remind your students that a billion/trillion cells make up a organ/system in your body.
We then proceeded to discuss the Cardiovascular or Circulatory System. When kids encounter big words as such, be sure to train them to try to understand these words by trying to get into root word analysis. You may also introduce a bit of Latin as well and explain why anatomy terms mostly are based on Latin words. Cardio – heart, Vascular – Vessels or passageways for blood. Circulatory – circle, or circulate. It is a continuous cyclical process of pumping and receiving blood. So with the remaining play dough we had (oh these tubs were awesome finds, maybe 10 years ago from Toy Station in Rockwell) We had all colors! Now were down to the last tub (like an ice cream tub), pink and it suited us well. A doctor friend really thought it was closely resembling a hear which we dissected in anatomy class way back. We first read about the heart/circulatory system and watched some videos . You can ask your kids to take notes as you watch. You may opt to use these templates or worksheets to demonstrate basic parts of the heart. Here is another video. With a good model or diagram to follow, Gino then has a go!
Forgive me for my excitement but now that the students know the basics, we can spice it up a bit by giving some examples of abnormalities or illnesses of these organs. I punctured a hole in the wall of the heart that decided the left and right side and said, many babies are born with holes in these walls. Many naturally close at some point but others may need surgery to close the hole because you can’t have blood from different chambers mix!
Then you can even go further and demonstrate what happens with blocked arteries that may cause hypertension or even a coronary attack ( heart attack! Please remember attack involving the decreased or lack of oxygen to the heart is a heart attack while that which involves blood supply to the brain is a cerebral stroke. Can you google what is the medical term for a heart attack? Comment below for your answer. If you want to extend the lesson, you can even talk about Healthy Practices in keeping your arteries clog free!
If you have a stethoscope at home, have a go and listen to each other’s heart! Count the beats per minute. Use Math here. Multiply the number of beats per minute x number of minutes per hour, then hour many hours per day and viola, you can figure out how “awesome” our heart is! While you’re at this, do some 5-10 minutes exercise and listen to your heart again. Your kids will truly be amazed at the big difference in the beats per minute soon after you move around! Without a stethoscope, you can use your own pulse taken using your index finger on your inner side of wrist or on your carotids in your neck. Try to get your own pulse. Do not use your thumbs for they have their own pulse! For older children, you make them research about the common pulse points and let him/her demonstrate such as this! You can assign a pulse log so he can see variation within the day! How exciting? Sorry! am really a nerdy Science person!
As mentioned, I super love relating seemingly Academic Stuff to “deeper stuff”. I would probably use the verse below as we start the day and eventually relate it to our Science lesson on the heart. How does one spiritually and physically guard ones heart? Wow, that’s a valuable application exercise , right there!
Oops, there was just so many things to share about this system, we will have part 3 then for our genetic material/ DNA topic. Have a heartfelt, heart full session with your students!
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
I love Science. It is just so fascinating. I still remember devouring that TIME magazine issue in the late 1980s featuring the amazing discoveries about that immune system. That and all the World Book Encyclopedias on Health really propelled my quest to earn my degree in Medicine. Though Medical School was tough, the awe and fascination for the wonders of Science lingered.
I guess, that’s why I am a very enthusiastic Science teacher. I have this feeling that I will do the subject such injustice if our Science lessons become boring and tedious. I have to say that these materials have helped make our Science Come Alive:
So here is just a sample of what we went through in Science the past weeks. Our lessons were:
Cell and Cell Theory
Microscope/Use of Microscope
Parts of the Cell
DNA / Introduction to Genes
Plant/ Animal Cell
Introduction to the Hematologic System ( Blood)
When I think of how to teach a specific lesson, I always consider the following:
How to make it interesting and applicable
Integrating the various senses ( Sensory Activation/ Integration) through use of interesting videos, doing step by step projects, looking for stories that can also reach out to other aspects of the student’s life ( emotion/ character/beliefs)
What is available ( and of course, the 3 Rs of reuse, reduce, recycle) : Materials and Reference Materials/ Models
Relate it to current events
How to turn lessons into unit studies and find connections with other subjects (Sometimes, I can only find connections to one subject, but there are times, a whole unit study is born) .
If Art projects can be incorporated
As I keep all these in mind (sometimes I take notes , but many times, ideas comes in a spur of the moment fashion), I then mix, combine, balance and alternate. I try to intersperse lessons so as no to create information overload, note taking fatigue or boredom: a bit of lecture here, then a video there and then working on steps in a project later on. Is there a formula? No, just trust your instincts or better yet, a more “scientific”basis would be to observe your student’s non verbal ( or verbal, if they’re bold enough) cues if they need a break or need to spruce things up a bit.
So let me share with you our lessons through photos:
It’s good to start with the basics of Microscopy and Cell Theory. Simply because the students need to understand how “microscopic” cells and details have been discovered and visualized. We purchased a basic middle school level microscope with 1200x as highest magnification many years ago and with 4 children, it was a good investment. I think it was less than Php 2000.00 then.
You may use a simple worksheet template for this as well. You can also check some youtube tutorials on the use of a basic microscope.
In trying to explain cells or atoms, I used to use styrofoam as a learning to tool. However, we had this cloud foam product for the longest time in a cabinet of boxed toys/activity kits. Oh wow, what a treasure ! It looks like cells and they attach together like play dough! Eureka moment indeed.
And so we go deeper in the the study of cells : structure and parts. Many years ago with our older boys, we did the edible cell in our homeschool Monday Gang, The cell was made of rice, vegetables and macaroni uncooked noodles. (I’ll try to look for a photo!) The cytoplasm was made of rice glued as the floor on an illustration board and the organelles were from carrots, cabbage, onions, mongo seeds and other veggies that resembled the cell parts. The cell membrane was made up of elbow macaroni!
This school year, we decided to follow Apologia Creation Science Anatomy and Physiology Textbook’s activity using everyday pantry or kitchen stuff. We improvised on a few things. Look!
So we then proceeded to cells make up tissues and groups of tissues make up organs. Look at Gino’s heart, lungs and liver!
I’m getting too excited here but will have to take a break!!!! Watch out for Part 2 as we delve into a the Circulatory System and dissect the DNA!
1 Corinthians 12:12-20
“12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
Let me share with you how I have somehow reduced unnecessary stress with some very simple tips. Stress is Life’s middle name. It is inevitable.
One of the most important advice is to shut your phone off! If you have a landline, let your loved ones call you there for emergencies. Check your phone only during breaks. If this is the only thing you can safeguard and apply, you would have removed a whole of stress in trying to homeschool our children while being connected to all our contacts!
And yes, there are many ways to reduce the amount of stress we face as we homeschool. Let me share my tried and tested tips.
Homeschooling is a teacher mommy or daddy’s full time job. Just like any other occupation, homeschool teaching has its own set of challenges and so, we also need to find ways to learn how to reduce stress in our workplace , the homeschool classroom.
So here goes:
If you truly believe in the power of prayer and meditation, make it a number one priority for the day. We may differ in the manner / timing this is done. Most prefer to do it at the first hour of the day while the kids are still asleep, however there are those who would rather do this at the end of the day. Of course, the are days, we rush or miss out on this precious time, but don’t ever let that be the norm. The battle they say is won on our knees.
Dress up, and look good:) I don’t get motivated if I homeschool in home clothes. That’s just me. I feel better if I am dressed in ready to go clothes and yes, with fixed hair and some make up. I am also ready for surprise visits, or if I suddenly need to leave. Sometimes, when I have more time, I actually put more make-up. Lest all the make up (which most moms have too much off) expires, and become harmful, by all means, use them. I’d rather have a toxic day looking smart and well than having a toxic day and feel “ugly.”
3. Move! Find an activity that will make you move: running? a sport? a dance class? or simply be your child’s PE teacher! Learn badminton together, or aim to run 2 or 3 km and watch youtube tutorials on specific sports!
4. Keep your workplace in good condition (with an acceptable level of organization, reduce the stress points in your classroom <eye sores like clutter, excess amount of material, misplaced stuff, “i don’t what to deal with you” papers/ things>.
5. Do something new or different every week (or if it works for you, do such things more often). Fly a kite on a windy day, take a bath under heavy rain, or just take your books and work in a coffee shop, in a park or in bed!
6. Reconnect with friends from your childhood! I have found regular reunions with people you grew up as one of the most effective distressing times. There is just so much laughter as we look back! Ang says!
7. Be a blessing to others. Make it part of your agenda to encourage others. Be purposeful and deliberate. Remember it says in Proverbs, “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed!” That is so true!
8. Take time before homeschooling session to jot down your non-homeschooling “must dos” in a notebook or planner. Check the list out during breaks or while your children may be doing independent work ( which is a luxury ! ). Do not attempt to do a non homeschool task which you are sure will consume too much time during breaks.
9. Involve children in helping with chores or assisting you in organizing your working area ( Today, Gino assisted me in organizing receipts, wrapping a gift and putting plastic cover on a book.) Gino helped me deal with a box full of receipts!
10. Make it a habit to declutter your hand bag, to reduce its weight and try (I struggle here) to keep it organized and neat. And always put car keys and parking ticket in the same place all the time. Nothing pressures me more than having a abyss-like bag and endlessly digging to find what you need!
If this list is overwhelming, try to choose 3 to start implementing and see the difference in your stress levels! Hope these work for you! If you have more to add, please feel free to comment!
One more thing, attend a regular activity with other homeschoolers to destress and know you are not ALONE.
Why not join this year’s HAPI (Homeschoolers of the Philippine Islands) and Educating for Life’s Philippine Homeschooling Conference come October 22, 2016?
1 Peter 5:7 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
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!
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!
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!
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,…
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.
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.
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.
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:
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,
I could actually come up with 30 or even more! But for this post, less is more and the simpler the better. So, after releasing 3 students to mainstream schooling and homeschooling 4 children in a span of 14 years, I will now be sharing the MUST HAVEs for every homeschooler.
2. Connect to a Higher Source. Homeschoolers come from all walks of life, different backgrounds, beliefs and religion. And we have different ways of receiving encouragement, motivation and strength. This MUST HAVE is very personal for me and I have been vocal about it. In our home, we can “do all things in Christ who strengthens us.” Philippians 4:1. Apart from Christ and our faith, I firmly believe, we would not have been able to joyfully walk the homeschooling journey.
3. Connect with Like Minded Homeschoolers. Among homeschoolers, you will have may “personalities”. There will be the ones who prioritize academics, other who value character first, some who thrive with rigidity and routine, while others who are more free flowing and flexible. Find those you are comfortable to share the journey with and connect with them regularly. It is going to be a tough journey to do it alone.
4. Keep materials organized in a positive and nurturing classroom or homeschool area. Find the best physical set up that will enable you to reach your goals for homeschooling ( Mission/Vision/Values) and try to maintain it that way. Train yourself, your children and your helpers to keep it that way. Do not put off arranging a pile of books, a heap of photocopied homeschool material, do not allow misplaced homeschool materials to continue being misplaced. For further ideas on this, check this out. For out of this world furniture, check this too.
5. Aim to make homeschool lessons and daily experiences have the following components:
With clear and communicated objectives
With a lot of hands on experiences
Real life experiences connection
Flexibility to accommodate global or national current events
More unit studies/projects/blended activities
Maximizing wealth of good homeschool material (documentaries, youtube tutorials, lesson plans, images, etc) online with good internet connection (Invest on it.)
Exodus 18:17-23 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed.18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him.20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives.21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men ……22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home.”
So this is part 3 of a series I began on creating a strong foundation for every homeschooler. If you are just checking in for the first time, please take time to review this and then this, too. As a review, this is our family’s Mission in homeschooling and generally, in raising our children:
Mission: To create a fun-filled and loving environment at home, to help students discover their gifts, to encourage creativity, and to teach how to diligently study God’s Word.
It defines what we do on a daily basis. That is our MISSION. In a sense, it answers why the Simpao HomesCool exists. It answers why we have opted to home educate our children instead of letting them attend a regular school like the 99% of kids their age.
So ask yourself these questions:
What do we do in the__________( say your surname) homeschool?
Why does ______________(say your surname) homeschool exist?
As mentioned in previous posts, your vision is your preferred future. This is what you “envision” to happen as a result of your mission. In a sense for as long as our children “live” in our homes, they continue to be raised and homeschooled even if they have been released to regular schools. So, your mission and vision may actually go beyond the years of your homeschooling lessons.
Vision: To see the family love God, love others and love learning.
Take note that I have included the word “family” in our vision. This is because the homeschooling journey is not exclusively for the students but truly for the entire family. The main teacher ( usually the mother) is also molded by the homeschooling experience. So as a result of homeschooling, we desire as a family to see ourselves “loving God, loving others and to love learning.”
As we continue to set the foundation of our “homeschool”, we now move towards CORE VALUES.
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of your family/ homeschooling. These values are the guiding principles that will determine decisions, action and behavior. These values can help in assessing if our daily homeschooling experiences including chosen material and activities are aligned with our homeschooling_goals/mission.
These values are what you hold dear as family and they will be evident in your choices in your homeschooling journey.
Here are some values for our family :
Love for God and His Word
Love and Respect of others (this involves cooperation/being a team player)
Love for Country
Physical Health through Sports/Proper Nutrition ( we are still struggling in the nutrition part because I can’t seem to make the children love all kinds of fruits and vegetables, we keep trying though) .
Your choices for curriculum, readers, read-a-louds, projects, homeschool co-op or support group’s activities, outsourced lessons, extra-curricular programs, field trips, sports coaches, MAPE teachers or lessons, etc can be determined with always your core values in mind, as you strongly holding on to your mission and vision as you see the big picture.
For instance, in our schedule, we have decided to do BIBLE reading/ meditating/lessons daily. That’s because that holds a priority in our lives. In desiring to highlight Love for Country, we try to always be aware of current events and try to teach Philippine History and Filipino as a language passionately. Let me just give you examples on what we involved ourselves with to emphasize the importance of Philippine History and Culture and the Filipino language:
Regularly watch Filipino material ( Pepito Manaloto, Inang Yaya, Magnifico, Penguin Penguin Paano ka Ginawa?, Tagalog Plays like Prinsipeng Munti, Ang Hukuman ni Mariang Sinukuan, I Do Biddo Bidoo, Dolphy movie )
Read Filipino storybooks and chapter books
Discuss national current events thoroughly
Hired a Filipino Tutor when I could no longer handle all subjects for all 4 children
Regularly attend Exhibits and Trade Shows of Philippine artists and products
Adjust lessons during periods of great national concern ( elections, disasters, national holidays)
One of the things though I know I could have done differently (if I had the chance to do it all over again ) is to include Fluency in Tagalog as a Core Value or as a primary goal in our homeschooling. Doing so would have made us more deliberate and intentional in “realizing” this goal. (I am giving this as a reminder to those who have preschool or even younger homeschoolers) It is unfortunate, and I take the blame for it, that our younger children struggle in speaking fluent Tagalog because we opted to speak (and continue to do so) to them in English. Tagalog is not natural for them and I know I have gone way past the learner’s window of maximally being fluent with a 2nd language for our children. We can still adjust, try to find ways but the circumstances are no longer ideal. Sigh .
Instead of describing how these core values find their way into our daily lessons, let me just show you photos of experiences and maybe you can guess how these activities help us teach and encourage the core values I have listed above.
After you have created your own homeschooling family mission and vision , may I invite you again to come together with your spouse/ partner/ homeschoolers and determine your core values as a homeschooling family? You may have to take into account, character concerns for your child/children and try to find ways to deal with them through your homeschooling lessons. These values I believe stand the test of time, however, age and various seasons in our family lives may require you to make some adjustments to address various situations that arise.
From these values, you can decide the themes of your field trips, the subject matter of chapter books you’d like to expose your children to, the Bible verses to memorize and the content of the entertainment activities (plays, musicals, exhibits). You can also learn to say NO to a whole lot of other things as you weight them against your values .
When you have completed your homeschooling family’s Vision/Mission/Core Values, make sure you discuss these with your children. Don’t make the wording of your statements too complicated, the simple, the better. They should be easy to memorize. Let your kids memorize them too. As mentioned in previous posts, no one really taught me to do this Mission/Vision thing earlier on. I just had Bible verses in my head/heart that encouraged and reminded me of what we were doing. Looking back, it would have really helped us more if we were all aware of the foundational principles of our Simpao Homeschool.
For Art, you can create posters or reminders in your classroom for your own’s family’s Mission/Vision and Core Values! (And I’d love to see them! If you’d like to share them with me, please email to email@example.com!)
This August 2016 , I will only have one homeschooled student left (4-3=1!!!) and I will discuss our own Mission/Vision/Values with him for sure.
Ephesians 2:20-22 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 Weapostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.