home education | the plan

I wrote here about our home education WHY. And here about our home education PROCESS. Today, we will move into our planning.

Since we had Jocelyn last summer, then packed the house and moved across country 3 months later, we didn’t accomplish much school from July- December. I just wasn’t being consistent with a baby who didn’t sleep and trying to unpack and settle into a new house and life. And that was ok, that’s the beauty of home education, they learn through life and not just “formal school time.”IMG_20160807_170411

Jocelyn wasn’t a consistent napper, the twins stopped needing to sleep at nap time (SO SAD), and I found myself unwilling to use the hour and a half of “rest time” to do school time. I needed that time to regroup myself and accomplish chores around the house. The time had come that school would need to move to a time when ALL THE KIDS WERE AWAKE. To be honest, this terrified me. I continued to try and get through all the read-alouds and subjects I wanted to cover with Jarvis and we were more consistent in the Spring, but often we were only getting to his core subjects. While we both enjoyed the content, he had trouble focusing with the noise of his siblings and I was constantly needed and interrupted. I began to wonder how all those large homeschooling families managed to get any work done at all! school-2

Then early this summer, I had several resources and authors that just kept popping up in conversations, facebook articles, and books I was reading. I couldn’t ignore that God was clearly pushing me towards a new pace and style of home education.

First, a new friend invited me to join a book club on Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. We were out of town during the book club, but I started in on the book by myself, and over the course of the next month, her book came up in many conversations and home education groups. I’ll share more about her book in another post but for now looping in particular has impacted our schedule, more on that in a bit.

 

The next resource I came across was mentioned in a home education article a friend shared on Facebook. The writer was a Charlotte Mason/classical methodology home educator and had been implementing and sharing about a method called Your Morning Basket. While originally Pam Barnhill learned about Morning Basket from a mentor of hers, after many years of home education utilizing Morning Basket, she has created a book, videos, and many resource sheets to help other moms implement it.

PLAN YOUR YEAR:
I’ll get to Morning Basket details in just a moment, but when looking through Pam Barnhill’s site, I also discovered her Plan Your Year Resource. It was fabulous and well worth the small investment. Although I already knew what method and resources we would be using, I utilized her plan to give me the big picture goals and organization for our year. In particular, I love the Vision and Inspiration Sheet, the individual Goals Worksheet for each child, and the Course of Study plan. I also utilized her Weekly Plan to evaluate our weekly schedule and the Daily Plan to block out our time. (She does have a free planning resource as well if you visit her site, but the book and samples walking you through is worth purchasing her basic package!) This package helped me develop and write my Vision for home education that I share on the Process post.

Here are our daily blocks. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday:

Morning Circle Time (about 30 mins.)
Jarvis Core (Jarvis’ math and reading, about 30 mins)
Twins loop (more on looping below, about 15 mins)
Jarvis loop (History, Bible, Geography and Logic, during rest time, about 20 mins)

(You may notice that Wednesday isn’t listed- we don’t do any ‘formal’ education on Wednesdays because 3 weeks a month I have MOPS activities on Wednesday mornings. Instead, the kids get to practicing sharing and listening to other adults! ha!) 

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MORNING TIME:
In a nutshell, Morning Basket (or Morning Time as we call it), is a time that all of the kids and I get together and go over all those little “bonuses” in our curriculum goals that are easily left out or pushed behind. It’s a time to come together, talk, discuss, and begin our day. Pam’s book offers lots of practical tips and tricks on implementing this with all ages and curriculum goals, but I have found it works very well for us. It’s a slow start to the morning, we all get warmed up and ease into education time, we get to laugh together, learn, and everyone, even my littlest ones, feel like they get to “do school” without the unnecessary early pressure of school. This is my favorite part of the day.

Pam Barnhill shares, “Quite simply, Morning Time is subjects that the family can do together that emphasize truth, goodness, and beauty in their homeschool. Morning Time is a liturgy — one part of Charlotte Mason’s “atmosphere” of education. These small practices done daily over time are not only a means to an education (and a good one at that), but a means to shaping virtue in ourselves and in our children. While Morning Time will look slightly different in every family, there are some characteristics that are common across every Morning Time. Let’s talk a look at these common characteristics — the 3Rs, if you will, of Morning Time: Ritual, Reading, and Recitation,” plus any other subjects that you wish to do as a family.

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Here are the subjects we cover during morning time with the resources listed next to them:

Everyday:
Prayer- we utilize the Five Finger Prayer or the ACTS prayer- (google those)
Hymn– Right now we are working on memorizing Holy, Holy, Holy and next we will memorize Joy to the World. (This is probably my kiddos favorite part of Morning Time! they now belt out Holy, Holy, Holy while we walk through Target, ha!)
Verse memorization– we have memorized Romans 12:21, John 14:15, and Matthew 7:12, up  next is Psalms 34:13

Monday/Thursday:
Poetry- we read Tennyson one day and Shell Silverstein the next.
Math– we are reading through Life of Fred– Apples (this is a fun introduction to math concepts using a living story, the book series grow in complexity with age, the kiddos love Fred!)
Themed Read-Aloud– we either read The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh or another read aloud they are interested in at the moment (right now we are reading Frindle because they are loving “making up words” in their pretend play.)

Tuesday/Friday:
Art– we alternate between a Picture Study on Rembrandt  (we’ve also completed Constable, Velasquez and Monet), and learning Chalk Pastels with HodgePodge.
Science– we are using the free living book Pond and Streams and it’s Companion to study wetlands, this includes nature journaling and many library book resources.
Devotions– we are working our way through The 24 Family Ways by Sally Clarkson- one of my all time favorite authors.

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LOOP SCHEDULING:

So  I found Pam Barnhill completely independently from an article on Facebook, and I was already planning my year and learning about Morning Time when I discovered that Pam and Sarah mackenzie who wrote Teaching From Rest were good friends and had a joint webinar episode on looping (go watch it, it’s fabulous!), which was mentioned in Your Morning Basket, Plan Your Year AND Teaching From Rest.

I’m telling you, I felt like I had just found my WAY of home education and was just as excited as when I found my CONTENT of home education in Charlotte Mason!

I feel like most people who home educate know all to well that feeling of “getting behind.” You carefully plan and lay out the year, but then life happens and everyone gets sick, or a chance for a field trip pops up, or you get pregnant, or have a baby, or get orders to move, or just LIFE. And then you fall behind your plans. And all of the sudden, education time becomes rushed and harried and you NEED to check off that to do list and no one is having fun, much less learning anything. Loop scheduling is basically writing down everything you want to cover, writing a frequency priority (for example we do 2 bible lessons for every 1 history and 1 geography), and then “scheduling it in a loop.” These are subjects that you don’t need to cover daily, but you do want to make progress in.

For example, since the twins are young (4) and don’t have any need to do any formal education right now, but they do have the desire, I loop all their subjects. They participate in Morning Time, and then they have about 10-15 minutes of their loop subject together. Every day that they choose to do school, they just move onto the next subject in their loop. If they work diligently for 10 minutes and don’t want to complete anymore, we save it for the next day (teaching the Charlotte Mason habits of focus and perfect execution).

Here is their loop:
Reading (All About Reading: Pre-Reading for Joelle and Level 1 for Jonah)
Math (Math U See Primer for both)
Writing ( Delightful Handwriting for both- they love this!)
Reading
Logic Games (Our favorite are the Mini Luk seriesLogik Street, Color Code, Camelot Jr. and Day and Night)

We also loop Jarvis’ Bible, History, Geography, and Logic Games utilizing the study series Genesis-Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt from Simply Charlotte Mason and the same logic games listed above.

Jarvis’ Core Block is All About Reading Level 1 (he’s nearly finished and will move onto Level 2), and Math U See Alpha. He also does Delightful Handwriting once a week.

The big three each have their own checklist that they are responsible for keeping track of their loops and education. Instilling that self-responsibility early! Plus, if I say it’s time for a certain subject that may not be their favorite, they whine or argue, but if I tell them to check their list and tell me what is next, there isn’t any fussing! Make the (loop) schedule your friend!

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Last little tidbit- everyone always asks what I do with Jean (3) and Jocelyn (1) during school time. I’m going to discuss this further with my review of Teaching From Rest, but basically, they participate in Morning Time with us. We always start at 900 or 930 and they all get a snack, which helps them stay put and listen. However, neither of the littles are required to stay at the table, and I usually set up little workbox activities for both of them during school time. Jocelyn inevitably needs to nap in the middle of school time and we take a break for me to put her down, or she screams to be held half the time, ha! Teaching From Rest has helped me learn to let go of that stress of needing to teach it all and have it look just right. Stay tuned for more on that!

So that probably seems crazy confusing with the way that I wrote it out. But in reality, it’s SO simple to follow. We have 4 major blocks, Morning Time, Jarvis Core, Twin Loop, and Jarvis Loop. I write down on notebook paper what we complete each day behind the corresponding tab at the end of the day, and then I know where to pick up when we sit down to begin again. I’ve included the complete Resource Planning List as well for an overall view of what we use.

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SO- ANY QUESTIONS?

What do you use to plan? What do you use to handle lots of different ages and abilities in your home education? Do you learn independently or all together or a mix of both?

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home education | the process

Two years ago, I wrote a big post on why were choosing to homeschool. It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since we started out on this discovery journey. We have learned a lot about ourselves and our goals. I haven’t posted much about it on the blog, but I have posted quite a bit over on instagram. Most of the pictures throughout this post are from my hashtag #mccownhomeschool and #mccownhomeeducation. I’m going to use this post to walk you through what we planned, tried, failed, re-planned, re-learned, and tried again. For me, that’s a huge part of the beauty of educating at home, we have the space and grace to learn, without fear of “getting behind” or looming standardized tests.

Initially, as you can read here, we started out with a “school at home” approach. As a former teacher, I had preconceptions about how learning occured and the “best” ways to achieve learning. I had the privilege of attending one of the best College for Education, and I am very thankful for the wide gamut of experinces and knowledge I gained while there. It was made very clear that learning occurs in many different ways, and we were always encouraged to challenge the status quo and break out of the “public school box.” But to be honest, in reality, that is extremely hard to do with the current set up of public schools. I know there are MANY teachers who go above and beyond and create a learning environment that stimulates children in many ways. However, when it gets down to it, you have to have a certain number of “graded assignments and grades.” This ultimately results in many worksheets. Some kids thrive on these. Others not so much. I know many teachers that worked hard to provide many of the things I will list below, but in my first attempts to homeschool, I tried a bit too hard to recreate school, but at home.

Overall, this didn’t work very well for Jarvis and me. While he loved Bede’s History and his Geography book, and he LOVED any kind of read alouds, he didn’t love the 7 pages of math and reading that we “needed to complete every day to finish the book by the end of the year.” I found that both he and I were getting easily discouraged and didn’t look forward to school time. We discovered many things that didn’t work for us during that time, but some that did. One afternoon, I recall telling my husband (and posting on Instagram!), that I wished we could just sit and read books for school. We learned so much from them and we all loved it. Soon after, I decided to make this our goal. In my effort to redefine our homeschool experience, I did some research. I wanted a curriculum or theory that was based on quality literature.

And I found it. About 6 months after our initial forray into homeschooling (when Jarvis had just turned 5 and was still technically a pre-ker), I discovered Charlotte Mason methodology. I’ll share (in a nutshell) the premise behind her methodology. Jamie over at Simple Homeschool has an awesome list and explanation, hop over there for more in depth discussion of each section.

The 7 Characteristics that define a Charlotte Mason education.

  1. Instilling good habits.
  2. Short, quality lessons.
  3. Living Books (vs textbooks or purely informational books)
  4. Oral narration of read alouds
  5. Dictation for spelling and grammar
  6. Art and Music Study
  7. Nature Study

This is also a great little chart about the ways she suggests to study various subjects, created by Simply Charlotte Mason (which is where I purchase many of my resources). I utilize this website as a jumping point for most of my curriculum choices, except for reading and math.

Subjects Methods
Basic Principles for All Subjects Short lessons; Habits of attention and perfect execution; Varied order of subjects
History Living Books; Narration; Book of Centuries
Geography Living Books; Narration; Map work
Bible Read aloud; Narration (discussion for older students); Memorize and recite regularly
Math Manipulatives; A firm understanding of why
Science Nature Study; Living Books; Narration
Foreign Languages Hear and speak, then read and write
Writing Copywork for handwriting; Oral and written narration for composition
Spelling Building words; Copywork; Prepared Dictation
Grammar Not formally studied until older than ten
Art Picture Study for art appreciation; Art instruction; Handicrafts
Music Music Study for music appreciation; Instrumental instruction; Singing
Literature Living Books; Narration
Poetry Read aloud and enjoy frequently; Memorize and recite occasionally (include Shakespeare)

I think I will share more about our exact curriculum selections and how we are organizing our days in another post, as I found a fabulous resource on “Morning Baskets” and schedule looping. It has been working wonderfully for us. In reality, they are all still so little. So we spend very little time on “formal” schooling and far more time playing and learning organically. For me, that is one of the biggest benefits of educating at home. It isn’t just a set schedule and workbooks, it’s a lifestyle, where we take time and space to grow in all sorts of ways!

To wrap up this long and picture-heavy post, I just want to share what Jace and I believe are the goals of education and a vision for what we want to develop in our children during the time they are in our home. It’s not necessarily complete, and will likely change and evolve and grow as we learn more about exactly WHO God created our little people to become and what we want to create as their legacy.

We believe:

  • education is a life-long process
  • the love of learning in innate and it is simply our job to help our children cultivate it.
  • in the need to teach a lifestyle of independent learning, so that they will have the skills to seek out knowledge for need or love.
  • in empowering our children in a pursuit of their God-given passion and focus for their lives.

Our vision is to help all our children:

  • learn to comfortably and effectively communicate through written and spoken words; to be able to argue and debate respectfully and effectively.
  • learn an inner discipline that calls them to personal responsibility and social responsibility for others in need.
  • have the opportunity to express creativity and exercise critical thinking skills.
  • be exposed to the not just the practicality, but most of all the beauty in logic, music, art, math, science, and literature.
  • have an understanding of the forces and people that have shaped history and the ability to critically apply that knowledge to our current world.
  • understanding of how our bodies are meant to function and how proper diet and exercise can affect their ability to perform at their best, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
  • develop life skills such as cooking, housekeeping, homemaking, and finances.
  • create a entrepreneurial spirit and critical thinking and wisdom for follow-through.
  • cultivate a value of character traits such as compassion, self reliance, generosity, patience, humility, responsibility, empathy, and self worth.
  • be exposed to the depth of Christ’s love for them and an understanding of his life, salvation, and call for Christians.

So there you have it. Home education, McCown-style. One last question: Why home education vs homeschooling? Because we are not doing “school” at home. In fact, there isn’t anything we are really taking from government schools (as my libertarian husband likes to call them). Instead, we are educating ourselves. All together. In a fluid, real, life-giving manner.

In the end, we are not responsible for what they learn. We are not responsible for creating good little Christians or citizens. It’s not my job to make sure they can read fluently or be able to do Calculus. What they actually learn or do not learn is NOT important. 

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What is important, is that we spend time, diligently and faithfully exposing them to the great wonders and truth of the world. That I lay a feast of knowledge before them and allow them the opportunity to learn. I simply can not make them learn anything. But if knowledge is presented with the love and wonder and fascination that it is due, they won’t be able to help but learn.

 

10 on 10 | readers

This is late. But oh well. 10 on 10 for September.

I have lots of goals for my kids. Lots of things I want to pass on, that I want to teach them.

But raising kids that have a love of learning, a love of reading, that’s a big one for me. And they each have shown the capability and desire for story time and independent time exploring new and old books.  Man, I love that. We spend a while everyday just reading. Looking at pictures, asking questions, learning.

So here’s hoping to raise a pack of little readers 🙂

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homeschool | the why

Well, we are really excited to share that we will be starting homeschool kindergarten with Jarvis this year! I wanted to share our plan, our reasons, and our experiences as we go. We aren’t sure where this will lead us exactly, but we have decided it is what we are being called to do for our kiddos and our family.
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So let’s start out with the big question. Why? Why are we choosing to homeschool? Especially as a former teacher, who spent years learning how to impart curriculum knowledge in a large group setting, why are we choosing to disengage from the mainstream way of educating?

I believe the majority of educators do the best they can. I believe that teachers truly want to inspire a love of learning and a passion for knowledge in their students. I believe that many kids can learn and come out just fine from the public school system (obviously, we did!).  However, we also believe that one on one learning and curriculum application can serve a student even better. We believe that the majority of children are unable to meet their full potential in the current set up of the public school system.

The current school design was established in the Industrial Revolution, with the main goal to produce a literate, rule-following workforce who would contribute positively to the economy and culture. Students are exposed to a huge variety of topics at a very shallow depth. This isn’t all bad thing. There are lots of positives in these goals. However, we believe there are some important elements missing, ones that we feel we can best offer at home.

Our goals are:

1. To provide our children with a life-long love of learning. And the skills necessary to seek out knowledge as they desire or as needed. This means that we will work on developing the ability to learn, process, and apply information; not just the ability to regurgitate facts from many areas.

2. To facilitate their ability to view the world through the eyes of God, to acknowledge Him as their Creator, and to process information and decisions through that lens. With the ultimate goal that they seek out a personal relationship with Him in their own lives.

That’s what it boils down to. We do think that parents can help their children to become Christians themselves even if they attend public school. However we believe these purposes can be fulfilled more easily and effectively at home, with significantly less time wasted. With the added benefit of more time as a family and more time to learn through self-driven play and experiences which is the stuff of childhood.

One of the big questions I get a lot is about “socialization” and if my kids will be able to cope as adults. Quite honestly, this is not something I am concerned about. We spend plenty of time interacting with other people. Plus, as quoted in this Washington Times article, homeschoolers apparently end up more “socialized” than their peers!

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So, now that we have given you a very brief reasoning behind our choice (believe me, we could go on and on!)- now onto the facts of what we are doing!

We consider this a family effort. Although I, Chelsea, will be doing a larger portion of the more structured learning because I am home with the kids, Jace is just as much a part of this endeavor. He will be taking the lead in some areas that are his strengths and passions, and I will be taking the lead in others. We also intend for each child to have their own responsibility for their own education and we view this as an opportunity to all learn and grow together.

We have filed with the state; Maryland is noted as a requiring “moderate regulation.” However in reality, they are bordering on the high regulation threshold, at least in our county. We must notify yearly and we meet to evaluate progress and workload twice a year. Initially, this means bringing all workbooks and keeping really careful and thorough documentation of activities and evidence of regular instruction. For elementary we are required to show thorough and regular instruction in English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, Health, and Physical Education. We are permitted to choose our own curriculum, specific areas of studies, and scope and sequence for the school year.

We did a bunch of research when it comes to curriculum. As a former teacher, I think curriculum selection is a blast! There are so many awesome programs and workbooks and studies; the homeschooling curriculum world has really exploded in the last decade. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to pick individual curriculum pieces for each subject that would allow me to tailor them to  his needs, learning styles, current knowledge level, and goals. There are a lot of really good comprehensive programs that lay out the entire scope and sequence for the year and have set daily goals and that require only a single bulk purchase. But, as I mentioned before, we want the ability to tailor and pace curriculum based upon his needs.  A good friend pointed me towards the website Timberdoodle, which is an independent (non-publishing) company that gathers and reviews homeschooling curriculum from many different publishers. Ultimately, I was able to use their recommendations and selections to hand-pick what curriculum we were going to use. Here’s the “short list” of the curriculum’s we are focusing on; my scope (content breakdown for each subject) for the year is 4 pages long, I’ll save you from that! The titles listed are a mix of workbooks and resource books.

English: The Reading Lesson, Bob phonics books, and a lot of read alouds.

Math: Mathematical Reasoning

Social Studies: Bede’s History of Me, Beginning Geography, and selections from What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know.

Science & Health: Big Bag of Science in conjunction with the Messy Science e-book (this is a experiment based curriculum), First Illustrated Science Dictionary

Art: Big Book of Drawing, self-initiated art projects, and selections from What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know.

Music: self-initiated experiences, and selections from What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know.

Physical Education: no formal curriculum, but weekly “grab-bag” of activities teaching various skills. Plus, tons of free-time in the backyard! image

In addition to the more structured items in each area, we also plan to explore things through play, through more in-depth books at the library as interest develops, to utilize field trips and hands-on learning for real-life learning, and to be open to needing to slow down for certain concepts or speed up as necessary. This is one of the joys of home instruction. We are free to tailor our curriculum and plans as necessary for each student, or for the family as a whole!

As of now, I plan for part of my documentation process to happen on the blog: perhaps with a post twice a month with pictures and anecdotes from what we have been learning and experiencing. Perhaps something more, or maybe we will decide to post less frequently. We aren’t sure what their journey will look like, but we hope you will pray for our entire family as we start out (more formally) in this journey of learning and discovering that started the day our children were born!