Study time

School is out or almost out for summer break in many places. That means parents are planning for the upcoming school year. Some families will decide to homeschool. One question that new homeschool families have is how long should they spend studying. Well, that depends upon state law as well as what curriculum or program you will be using.

Flexibility is one of the great things about homeschooling. That includes being flexible in study time. Unless required by law, there is no minimum time. Nor are there any requirements for when in the day you must do school. My kids have done school at almost all hours of the day, including delaying bedtime because they were still awake and interested enough to keep going. However, there are a few tricks to keep you from falling behind or feeling overwhelmed.

If you are doing a program like online, create a schedule by dividing your work out and making due dates so you don’t get behind. Too many online students get behind then panic at the end because they still have so much work to do.

Otherwise, you need to study for however long it takes to understand your work. Some days will be longer than others. Rather than a time schedule, create a goal/assignment list. As long as you get everything on the list done, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. Some days my kids are done in 2 hours. Some days they work all day. However, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can study some in the morning then again later in the day if that is what works for your other activities.

It is a good idea to do school at least 4 days/week. I’ve found fewer days than that makes too much work at once so you tend to get overloaded. The more often you do school, the shorter you can make your study sessions. Your schedule should not be super rigid. After all, it’s homeschool and life sometimes interferes. If you miss a day or two every so often, that’s no big deal. It’s only when those missed days turn into missed weeks or *gasp* months, that you should worry.

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How to start homeschooling

The start of the new school year is just ahead for most of us here in the US. I’ve been on Yahoo!Answers this week about homeschooling. Several people have asked how to homeschool, or how to get started homeschooling, so I thought I’d post this brief explanation about different homeschooling options and resources for getting started.

First research the homeschoolilng laws for your state and be sure you comply with them. Each state is different. A great resource is HSLDA http://www.hslda.org/ There may be requirements about record keeping, reporting, the minimum amount of time spent on schooling (either annual or daily which I think is ridiculous), and the type of things taught in each grade for core subjects.

There are many different varieties of homeschool and homeschooling programs, so you need to decide what will work for you. They can range from online, public school correspondence program, umbrella program, or totally independent. Prices range from free to thousands of dollars, but most spend a few hundred per child.

Some curriculum providers offer full programs with all subjects in a kit. A lot of these companies also offer record keeping service for an additional fee. (this may be referred to as an umbrella program or correspondence study instead of homeschool by some purists, but don’t worry about that) Examples of these companies include Christian Light Education, Sonlight, Abeka, Bob Jones, and Calvert. A lot of new homeschoolers will use one of these programs their first year as they get used to homeschooling and figure out their teaching and learning styles.

My friend has had good luck with Sonlight and continues to use the full program. Abeka and Calvert are closest to traditional school curriculum so don’t always work well for homeschool. I didn’t like Abeka because it was too scripted and bored my kids literally to tears.

There are also companies that specialize in just a single subject such as math, reading, or science. Most of the companies mentioned above also allow you to order just individual subjects rather than the full package, but you can’t be part of their record keeping program if you do. (Calvert is an exception. You must do the full package only with them.) This allows you to pick and choose among companies to custom design a program to fit your needs, interests, and budget. That is what I do. Rainbow Resource is a terrific homeschool supply store for getting books, workbooks, kits, and other materials.

Then there are unit studies you design yourself. This can be a lot of work and is more likely to lead to gaps in your child’s education. However, it has been successful for families too.

Websites:

Making grammer fun: Words are CATegorical

Do you need a way to supplement your grammar or math program? Are your kids getting tired of workbooks and worksheets? Is your child having trouble remembering the difference between an adverb and an adjective or a noun and pronoun? Can you have fun and learn at the same time? If you said yes to any of these, I have a great thing for you, the Words are CATegorical series of books by Brian P. Cleary.

These books are great fun! My son loves them and I will be introducing them to my daughter for 2nd grade this year. They are available in hard or soft cover. Through silly rhymes and crazy illustrations, kids learn the basics of grammar. There are also available for math and language arts. He just read the title list and is begging for me to get more. The great thing is that since they are sooo silly, they stick with the kids better than a dull explanation would.

The Words are CATegorical series includes:

Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What is an Adverb?

Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective?

How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What are Homonyms and Homophones?

I and You and Don’t Forget Who: What is a Pronoun?

A Lime, A Mime, and a Pool of Slime: More about Nouns

A Mink, A Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun?

Pitch and Throw, Grasp and Know: What is a Synonym?

Quirky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More about Adjectives

Slide and Slurp, Scratch and Burp: More about Verbs

Stop and Go, Yes and No: What is an Antonym?

To Root, to Toot, to Parachute: What is a Verb?

Under, Over, By the Clover: What is a Preposition?

The Math is CATegorical series:

The Action of Subtraction

How Long or How Wide?: A Measuring Guide

The Mission of Addition

On the Scale, a Weighty Tale

Windows, Rings, and Grapes- A Look at Different Shapes

Other Language Arts related books:

Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book

Rainbow Soup: Adventures in Poetry

Rhyme & PUNishment: Adventures in Wordplay

Diet and exercise

You’ve heard it time and again. Diet and exercise together to lose weight. But what does that mean?

You need to change your habits to get rid of those that led to gaining the weight back. Do not use pills, starvation diets, clenses, or any other gimiks. They may work short term, but unless you change your habits, as soon as you stop using it, you will gain the weight back. 1-2 pounds/week is considered a healthy reasonable weight loss and is not very hard to achieve with a little self discipline.

The key to healthy weight loss is healthy nutrition including portion control along with exercise. You need to do cardio 3-4 times/week and strength training 1-2 times. Start with just a few minutes then gradually add time and intensity until you are doing 45-60 minutes at once.

The Couch to 5K program is good. It takes you from no exercise to running 3 miles (5K) after 2 months.

If running isn’t your thing, consider home exercise videos. I love TurboJam from Beach Body and have gotten some great results. If you like more traditional aerobics and weight training consider Slim in 6. If you are ready for a challenge try P90X or Chaleane Extreme. These are a bit expensive, but guarantee results. You may be able to find them cheaper on E-Bay. If you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort, no program will work by itself.

It doesn’t matter too much what you do. The best exercise is the one you will stick to. Everyone has something different they claim is the best. Just move with moderate intensity for at least half an hour several times a week.

An easy way to help eat better is the No S Diet. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s more of a sensible eating plan than traditional deprivation diet. No counting point, calories, carbs, etc. Just 3 simple rules.

1. No seconds.
2. No sweets (this includes sodas and other sweet drinks)
3. Not on S days (weekends and special holidays you can cheat)

If you want to have pizza, fine. Two regular or one large slice will fit on a plate. Chicken with rice? Just one serving. Pie ala-mode? Better make it on the weekend. The best thing about this is that unlike most traditional diets, it can be followed for you entire life without putting yourself in danger of malnutrition because it doesn’t limit the type of foods you can eat except sweets.

You can still have your favorite foods, just in moderation. You aren’t feeling deprived or guilty because you can eat what you want on the weekend. Just be sure you don’t overdo it and wreck all the good progress you made during the week. This also gives you something to look forward to the rest of the week. You don’t need special foods or to make a big deal around your friends and family.

Some people have #2 as no snacks. I find I get headaches if I don’t eat more frequently. I’ll allow myself a healthy snack of a small piece of fruit or veggies. Just be sure no dressing or peanut butter with it. Studies have shown that it is better to have 3 medium size meals and 2 small snacks rather than just 3 large meals. This helps keep blood sugar more steady. Plus you won’t feel so hungry at meal times.

Following this, you should start to see results in a week from the healthier diet (but you probably will be hungry this week as you get used to lower portions and lower calories) and bigger results in 2-3 weeks when the exercise starts showing. Plus, this is a healthy eating plan you can follow the rest of your life without any negative problems because other than sweets and unhealthy stuff which you shouldn’t be eating anyway, you aren’t limiting what types of foods you eat.

What do you use water for?

My husband and I own many apartment buildings. All the units have modern low flow toilets and shower heads which cut our bills in half when we installed them. On average, they currently use about 50 gallons of water/person every day. Not 50 gallons per apartment, but 50 per person! That seems incredibly high to me but it is the average in all the buildings so it’s not like one building is using more than others unless there is a leak.  Nor do we water lawns.  So this is all domestic use by the tenants.

I have 4 people in my family. Even when doing laundry and we all have a bath, we won’t use 200 gallons in a day. We have a 1000 tank which lasts us about 3 weeks. So I’d like to know a few things about your water use. For you homeschoolers, this may make a good conservation project or discussion starter.

1. How much water does your family use averaged per person each day?
2. What do you do to use all the water?
3. Are you trying to cut back on your water usage and if so how?

Please leave me a comment letting me know. Thanks!

Hands-on learners (revised)

First, what is a hands-on learner? A hands-on learner is someone who learns best by touching and doing things. They like manipulatives and projects where they can do things rather than just reading textbooks and writing. Often they doodle, fidget and have trouble sitting still. For this reason, many hands-on learners are mislabeled as ADD or ADHD by schools, especially boys.

2 years ago, I wrote a post about hands-on (kinesthetic) learners. Since then, I’ve found more ideas and curriculum suggestions, so I thought I’d revisit the subject. Most of this is geared toward elementary students, but parts of it can be used for all levels. Some of this is copied from my earlier post. I’ve arranged my comments by category to make it easy to find suggestions. If you have an area of concern that I don’t cover or you have something else which you find useful for hands-on learners, please feel free to let me know.

GENERAL TIPS:

I’m finding the biggest thing is to have a variety of activities and allow lots of wiggle time instead of insisting he sit doing writing based activities all day, although we will still do those too. He also needs consistency in routines. For instance, we do reading every day. He will have to do the workbook lesson, but the lessons themselves may contain different activities. Part of learning for kinesthetic kids is learning when you really need to just sit still and get the work done. That’s hard, especially for younger students. We try to limit sitting time and have movement breaks or hands-on activities between them.

One thing that has helped greatly in all subjects is using a kitchen timer. I give him a set amount of time to do the work. If it is done before the timer goes off he may get a reward. If not then he has some sort of punishment unless he has tried but truly doesn’t understand the work. Rewards can be extra time the next day, going to the park, extra free time, or occasionally a small treat. Often I’ll let him use any time remaining as a break. Punishment is usually loss of a privilege or time-out and depends upon how much extra time he takes to complete the work. This helps keep him on task.

I used to insist he do his workbook lessons at a desk. This year, I bought him a clip board so he can do his lessons elsewhere as long as he is working. Often I’ll do this as a reward for getting work done on time the day before. Sometimes though, there are days he just can’t get comfortable at a desk and having the clipboard to choose his work area helps get him on task.

MATH:

There are a few companies now that use manipulatives beyond just the first few grades.

We love Math-u-See for math so he can fiddle with the blocks to find the answers after watching a brief video introduction to the lesson. As Mr. Demme always says, “Build it, Write it, Say it.” Using multiple senses makes memorizing anything easier. I’ve tried to apply this to other areas of his learning. I like this company because they use the same blocks all the way from kindergarten through calculus. So once they learn and get used to the blocks, students aren’t constantly switching manipulatives like some programs. Since the blocks compliment the lessons and workbook, instead of being the main focus, students don’t become dependent upon the manipulatives. Nor do parents have to purchase and keep track of many separate manipulative systems.

There is a math program called Right Start Math which uses a lot of manipulatives including an abacus, shapes, number balance scale, blocks, and more to teach basic math. I’ve seen this program and it seems good if you don’t mind keeping track of many separate manipulatives. I know a few homeschool families who have had good outcomes with this program.

LANGUAGE ARTS and READING SKILLS:

I switched from Abeka to Christian Light Education after first grade. While Abeka was thorough, it wasn’t very engaging. The work in Abeka was very repetitive and he was getting burned out by the end of the year. While still a workbook based curriculum, CLE is more engaging because they have more variety of activities in their workbooks even though they are plainer (less color and illustrations). This helped him focus on the work instead of the illustrations.

There are a few other reasons CLE is better than Abeka for hands-on learners. Abeka reading only had very basic comprehension questions whereas CLE has a full range of reading and comprehension skills. CLE also has study skills lessons which Abeka didn’t. I think these are important to learn (especially for kinesthetic learners) and not all parents know them or how to teach them. Having them built into the curriculum is great.

The goal of any reading program is ultimately to get students reading real books. The best was to do this is to expose them to quality literature as soon as possible. Readers and levelized stories have their place, but quality literature for children should not be left out.

HISTORY:

For history we use literature and activities based programs from WinterPromise instead of a history text. This is more of a Charlotte Mason approach. He’s doing well and really enjoying the reading selections. Most are historical fiction or single topic books. There are a variety of hands-on activities to reinforce the topics each week, instead of the usual narrative or fill-in-the-blank style worksheet.

SCIENCE:

My son is gifted in science besides being a hands-on learner, so finding a science program has always been a challenge. He enjoys reading about science, but finds traditional elementary texts too dull and easy. However, he’s enjoyed many of the books in the God’s Design series. There are activities that go along with many of the lessons, but often there is a lot of parent prep and help needed for them.

He’s also done the Real Science 4 Kids series the last 2 years. These have a separate lab book for write-ups of the activities. While he really enjoyed the readings, we both found the labs, and especially the lab book, tedious. The instructor guide didn’t help much either. As a result, my son was understanding the science theory from the books this year, but I didn’t do many activities to reinforce and apply the concepts.

There is a company called Exploration Education that is a project-based curriculum for physical science. I want to use them next year.  I had a hard time keeping my kids away from their booth at the homeschool curriculum fair. Every time they wandered off, I found them at their booth playing with, and asking questions about, the projects on display.

Their lessons are multi-sensory. First, they each watch a cd video-text about the lesson. There are graphics and animation to help show the concepts. Then, they do the project or experiment. Finally, they do an activity/write up about the project. The second and third levels also have assessments. The first level has narration of the reading (which can be turned off for older kids using the level) so I don’t have to read everything to her. She can be listening while I’m helping her brother with his project.

The curriculum has 3 levels. Actually the third level includes all of the second and just adds on extra lessons for each unit. Anyway, the levels cover the same topics so both my kids could learn about similar concepts at the same time. There are 4 units. The first activity in each unit is a project. This project will then be used for all the other activities in that unit. They are pretty basic but seem to show very well the concepts.

Both kids would be doing separate activities, but about similar topics at the same time. I really liked this aspect of their programs. I wouldn’t need to keep up with totally separate science topics and figure out activities to go along with both of them. Also, it didn’t look like a lot of parent prep for the lessons.

Next year’s science

Today and tomorrow are the homeschool convention and vendor fair. I was in the market for science, Spanish, and writing. While my son was understanding the science theory from the books we have this year, I didn’t do many activities to reinforce and apply the concepts. Also, my daughter wasn’t getting much out of it. I wanted something they could both do.

Well, I think I already solved the science. I found Exploration Education (EE). I had a hard time keeping him away from their booth. He kept wandering over there while I was talking to other vendors.

It has 3 levels. Actually the third level includes all of the second and just adds on extra lessons for each unit. Anyway, the levels cover the same topics so both my kids could learn about similar concepts at the same time. There are 4 units. The first activity in each unit is a project. This project will then be used for all the other activities in that unit. They are pretty basic but seem to show very well the concepts.

First they each watch a cd about the lesson. There is graphics and animation to help show the concepts. Then they do the project or experiment. Finally they do an activity/write up about the project. The second and third levels also have assessments. The first level has narration of the reading (which can be turned off for older kids in the level) so I don’t have to read everything to her. She can be listening while I’m helping her brother with his project.

Both kids would be doing separate activities, but about similar topics at the same time. I really liked this aspect of their programs. I wouldn’t need to keep up with totally separate science topics. Also, it didn’t look like a lot of parent prep for the lessons.

It’s not very expensive. The advanced level is $140. The beginner level is $60. This includes the CD, project kit, workbook, plus teacher manual. For $200, I can have science for both my kids next year. I talked to my husband and showed him the brochure. He thinks it’s a good idea too.

They are a new vendor so aren’t approved by my district yet. It is one of the companies they hope to be adding. I told my supervising teacher that we would be very interested in using this company. She will mention that to the school board when they consider this company. I should know by June if they are approved, but I didn’t see any reason they wouldn’t be.

I also found a good geology program we may use the following year.