Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lesson Planning for Homeschool

As a homeschool mom with very little support in my town or immediate area, I've had to come up with a lot of my lessons completely on my own. The bright side is, as an English teacher, lesson planning is something I am very familiar with. In my twenties I also taught ESL-English as a Second Language to teens and adults. While adults are very motivated to learn, after all, they are in the classroom of their own accord. Adults chose to be there, they paid for the lessons. So they have the most interest in getting all they can out of the classes. Teens, on the other hand, are there because their parents made them, and of course, paid for the classes. Teens are much less motivated to learn. So I had to be really creative when I taught kids and teens. It led me to come up with games and activities around lessons I was trying to get across. We even had competitions, races, anything that got the kids involved and out of their seats.

Now, many years later, I have taken this homeschooling journey with my own child. It's been incredible to far. I've learned as much as I've taught. I know that my daughter is a very active child and doesn't like to sit for long periods of time. I also know that she responds better when she thinks she's playing. She'll actually ask to do these activities over and over, thus retaining more than with traditional methods.

To that end, I've created games and activities to help with certain topics. I like to have an activity for every topic we do, so as we proceed with the school year, I will have more and more of these lessons and ideas to share with you.

I will include free printables to help you in your own lesson planning. I hope you and your homeschool children love and enjoy these activities as much as I did coming up with them. My daughter certainly loved these, especially because she responds much better to "fun learning". In other words, any activity that doesn't feel like work. I have found that she retains what she's learned much better as well.

Once the printables are up, feel free to print whatever you like. Please refer to my terms for using my printables.

-Printables may not be used on any website or blog (you may refer to them with a link to my website on your own blog or website)
-Printables are protected by copyright as they are my original materials
-Printables may be copied or printed for personal use, but may not be sold or distributed in any way
-They may not be altered in anyway

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cherry Blossoms!

Cherry Blossoms will be in full bloom in April. Nothing says spring like blooming flowers and few flowers bloom as beautifully as cherry blossoms. As a kid my parents would take me to see the cherry blossoms. Now as a parent myself, I want to continue the tradition of welcoming the spring with a visit to see the cherry blossoms with my own children.
In order to get excited about spring (we don't need much, warm days, picnics, flowers), I decided to have my 6 year old do a cherry blossom art project. I got this idea while I was on the internet. I came upon this site (I wish I could remember the name). You know I am big into giving credit for other people's ideas. I thought I had saved the url, but I have not been able to find it. Any way, I just loved the simplicity this project.

All we needed was a large piece of white paper, brown and pink paint, a 2 liter soda bottle. We don't drink soda, so we used a 1 liter water/seltzer bottle instead.
I made an outline of the tree trunk and branches with paint (to make it easier for my daughter to paint). Then she painted the trunk and branches brown. Then we poured pink paint onto a paper plate and my daughter dipped the bottom of the water bottle in the paint and touched it to the paper. We got a nice pink flower. My daughter then randomly place pink flowers around the branches. It was a lot of fun to make and her art work is now decorating our house and bringing spring inside!
Here are some pictures of our project.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

5 biggest challenges in homeschooling

Now that I've been at this homeschooling game for about 6 months, I can look back and assess where I am, what I've learned, where I excelled and where I fell short.

The number one thing that I have learned is that homeschooling is not easy! It takes so much commitment from the homeschool parent. Homeschooling also requires an inordinate amount of organization. I have always been very organized; a huge believer in "a place for everything, everything in its place". But homeschooling takes much more than that. I had no idea when I started out how much structure homeschooling requires. Without structure and serious organization skills, it is very easy to get lost in every day minutae and not get school work done.

Structure and organization aside, here are the 5 biggest challenges I face as a homeschool parent.

1- Finding a homeschool support group in my area.

I live in Central NJ and there are no homeschool support groups in this area. I have tirelessly searched the internet and while I have found a group here and there, they are usually very religious/Christian. Since I am looking for a group that focuses more on socialization and academics than religion, these groups are not a good fit. I have also come across 2 listings that sound like homeschool groups. The first one I contacted was actually someone's private home number and she told me her kids were now in college and she offered some advice which led to dead ends. The second listing must have been outdated. I never heard back and after 3 or 4 attempts I gave up.

As of now, my daughter and I are on our own and I do feel that socialization is an important aspect to consider, which bring me to number 2 on my list.

2- Availability of extracurricular activities.

Actually, the lack of extracurricular activities for homeschooled children. Of course, there are community programs that offer dance lessons, music, art classes and the list goes on. However, these classes cater to kids who go to public school and most classes, if not all, are offered after school. Also, the kids who attend these classes are public school kids so their experiences are different than homeschooled children. It's hard to connect and make friends.

3- The financial aspect.

As a homeschool parent, I am responsible for all of the material and activities for our homeschool. It can get expensive to buy books and arts supplies, enroll in a variety of extracurricular activities and do other things such as field trips. I want this experience to be exciting and fun for my daughter, so I have to be creative. I use the library a lot for books. I enrolled my daughter in our local YMCA for classes; the variety isn't great, but there are enough classes to keep her busy for now and the prices are good. As far as field trips, my husband and I plan ahead and set money aside for trips to museums, etc.

4- Keeping the lessons interesting.

Spending everyday together reading, studying, learning, can get boring. I want my daughter to love learning and to want to learn something new every day. I am always trying to think of fun things to do, interactive projects, hands on science experiments, computer based activities; teaching that goes beyond worksheets.

5- Finding "me" time.

This is actually a pretty big one. My friends told me before I embarked on this journey that I could not forget about me; that in order to keep my sanity, I would need to find time to do things that I enjoy. I was sure I would be able to do that, but reality has been quite different. The fact is that we can get caught up in planning, preparing, teaching, mentoring, that we forget who we are beyond that. There are days when I feel like being alone, even if it's something simple like taking an extra long shower. I allow myself to indulge in that. There are other times that I will just go out by myself. Even if I have nothing to do, I will get in the car and go to a store and just walk around by myself. The one thing I have missed out on is doing yoga. I rarely find the time to do it and it's so important to stay healthy physically and mentally.

I am working hard to turn these homeschool challenges into success stories! It's a matter of finding the resources and finding balance....