Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last day to enter the give away

If you haven't already entered this give away you have one day left. Tapestry of Grace will be giving away ALL OF THE TEACHER MANUALS AND SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL to five families. This amounts to nearly everything that you would need for history, literature, and geography for K-12. That is one amazing give away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You mean that you were listening?

Do your kids ever surprise you? Are you ever fully convinced that they are ignoring you only to find out that they are listening to your every word?

We have nearly finished Year 2 Unit 3. That also means that we have nearly finished reading Colonial Living by Edwin Tunis. Though the book is fascinating, it has been a challenging read aloud. Several times I have allowed the girls to work on a craft project while I read to them. Today we only had a few pages to read, so I thought that we could just sit on the couch. They kept talking, getting up, and trying to play with their two year old brother. I assumed that I would need to re-read the passage later in the week.

Tonight at dinner my seven year old explained in reasonable detail how dogs were put on treadmills that were attached to the spit so that the meat would turn over the fire. (see what I mean about fascinating?) Well, who would have guessed that she was listening?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A drawing worth entering

As you know, I use Tapestry of Grace for most of my subjects. I have been so pleased with every aspect of the curriculum. Tonight I learned that they are holding an awesome drawing. Five lucky families will receive ALL FOUR YEARS of Tapestry of Grace and the supplementary products. Since all Tapestry year plans have K-12 teacher guides you would be set for quite a long time! Click here for the details on how to enter the drawing.

5 families will be given a gift worth more than $1,200. Make sure that you give yourself the chance to be among them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The learning is the reward

For several years now my mom and I have talked about the fact that rather than rewarding young children for academic work, parents and teachers should guide students to understand that the work is the reward. This conversation started when my oldest daughter entered kindergarten At the first parent/teacher conference my husband and I were politely chastised for not writing down each book that we read to our daughter at home. We assured the teacher that we read to McKenzie daily. At the time we had three children, ages 5, 3, and 6 months. My husband was recovering from meningitis. We didn't understand the desperate need to record what we had always thought to be a sweet way to finish out the day. Then the teacher explained, "But that is the only way for her to get the free pizza."


My husband and I both grew up under this system. I am sure that many of you can relate. Reading meant pizza, good grades meant movies, and good behavior was rewarded with popcorn. And really, what did this communicate to a school full of learners? My mom would argue that it communicated that reading is a chore. I agree with her.

"The learning is the reward" is a lovely catch phrase for a teacher to adopt. However, without concrete examples, the phrase is meaningless. Here are a few ideas from my bag of tricks. Please leave a comment sharing ways that you remind your student(s) that the learning process is the reward.
  • books are given as treats (vacation entertainment, Christmas presents, just because . . .)
  • a map reading geography adventure
  • handwriting practice becomes a letter exchange between friends
  • increasing freedom in the kitchen (my oldest is often allowed to assemble simple recipes; math and reading; I suppose that one could argue that there is still an edible reward at the end of the process. I assure you that she enjoys the actual work involved. Most children are quite proud to help with the family meal.)
  • casual dinner table discussions reviewing the week's history lessons (most recently my husband was explaining that in the 1600's many people came to America searching for religious freedom; "yes, that reminds me of reading about the Huguenots," was the reply. The "reward" for such detailed reading? A huge grin from dad.)
  • saying things like, "oh, I love these kinds of problems" or "wow, this is a thinking question! You will feel great when you figure it out." That may sound cheesy, but you are the gauge by which your student will set his attitude. You can coach him towards the mindset that challenges are to be relished or towards the mindset that challenges are to be avoided. You can validate a student's sense that this problem looks tricky without bemoaning hard work.

My mom recently published her fourth book. In one of the chapters she offers suggestions for classroom teachers to build "intrinsic motivation." While the book is written for a teacher facing a room full of students, I think that teachers with only a hand full of students will find it thought provoking and motivating. Hopefully intrinsically so. After all, for any teacher, and especially for a homeschooling mother, the work is the reward.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Suggestions for streching the homeschool budget

The writer of one of the blogs that I catch up on as I am able has posed this question: how do you spend your school money? In her post she asks for ideas to stretch the school budget. Here are a few of my thoughts. Feel free to share some of yours.

The harsh truth about stretching the school budget: IT IS TEACHER INTENSIVE. There you go. Can you home school on a dime? If you have access to a library, then the answer is yes. The world is full of free or nearly free resources. The difference between your inexpensive home school and your neighbor's costly home school is most likely preparation time. Having said that, here are a few things to get your brain turning about ways to save:

*use your state's Standard Course of Study for each subject to help guide you on topics to include for each grade level (you should be able to access this on-line) Take that information to create goals for your student.

*trade resources with another family - -Most of my friends aren't ready to part with their materials, but are willing to loan things out. This year I loaned my Saxon 2 materials to a friend who returned the favor by loaning me a grocery sack full of reading material for my oldest.

*for younger students buy one of the grade level Critical thinking books (Mathematical Reasoning). I have been using Saxon and Mathematical Reasoning. I have enjoyed the combination, but Mathematical Reasoning covers the same material. If you do this you will need to be sure that you include homemade flashcards, skip counting exercises, and additional work on calender information. Those are all things that you can do yourself for little to no money.

*nearly anything can be a math manipulative - - Don't be convinced that you have got to have the silly linking cubes. Surely you have 100 grains of rice. Ok, maybe something a bit larger, but you get my point.

*find out about your library's interlibrary loan policy. I live in a small town. Our library is nice, but small. That has not hindered my ability to borrow books. If the book I need is not available locally it can usually be borrowed from another library. I have to pay the return shipping. That amounts to significant financial savings. Again, the real issue here is time and effort.

*science - - (again, teacher intensive) plan the year based on your area; Plan one activity a week and select several library books to read, for each week create a supplies list and buy the supplies a week at a time. I bet that you can average $5 a week. Yes, you can buy a teacher notebook that has done this for you, but you are trying to save money. Use your state's Standard Course of Study as a guide line or better yet your student's interests.

Things that I would spend money on:
a reusable writing space (dry-erase board or chalkboard; I used lap boards until I was able to devote a wall to this; you will save money on paper by doing this)

a great map (in a perfect world: a world map, a U.S. map, and a map of your state)

resource books that would be used for many years (children's dictionary, student dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, children's Bible)

teacher training (podcasts, webinars, books, magizines, etc.)

a place to store things (even if you are not buying much you will need this; my students are little so I asked my husband to create a shelf about 16" from the ceiling. It is ugly. It is out of reach. We used a bunch of "L" brackets and two long unfinished boards. Hopefully you can come up with something better.)

an integrated Language Arts curriculum (this is just my opinion; History/Geography/Literature/Art/writing would be a huge thing for me to plan. At some point my time is worth something. I have chosen to use Tapestry of Grace. )

Crunching the numbers
In this scenario my expenses would look something like this:
Tapestry of Grace year plan $260
2 mathematical reasoning books $60
reusable writing space (including chalk/dry-erase markers) $30
maps $50
long-term resource books $50-100 (I was able to get mine used for much less)
teacher training free-$100 (I have found the library and the internet to be great sources for free materials)
storage items (shelving/plastic containers with lids/cabinet) $100

Grand total: $500- $700

The things that are glaringly missing are basic supplies (paper, crayons, pencils, etc.),science lab supplies, group fees (do you join a local homeschool group, HSLD, or a state group?), field trips, a specific class your child might take (My girls take a P.E. class at the local college. We spend $50 a year for both girls to participate in this.) Most of these things do not come up all at once, so I find it easier to budget for them. I would guess that I average $10-$20 a month on these kinds of things.

One closing thought, balance is key in determining your school budget. Every decision will impact how your home runs. For example, I bought the reccomended math manipulatives. With four small children my house never seems clean. I decided that I would rather eat rice and count linking cubes. I figured that I would use the vaccum cleaner less. The trade off for me was an atlas. I wasn't able to find a used one last fall, so we check one out from the Library every few weeks and use a globe that I bought at Target for $1 the rest of the time. Think through every aspect of your home as you consider purchasing school material. How will an item benifit you and your students? Will the lack of an item offer an opportunity for creative use of other items or will it create another mess? Enjoy the number crunching and take pride in the extra effort that you are putting into your child's education.