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Insightful Advice for Beginning Homeschooling with Young Ones

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, July 13, 2007

==========================================================
The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
==========================================================
Vol. 8 No 55    July 13, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
==========================================================
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net
==========================================================

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible. :-)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PLEASE VISIT OUR SPONSOR:


The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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"Homeschool Heart" refreshes your spirit by reaffirming where
your heart is--with your family. "Homeschool Freebies" and
"Schoolhouse Store Spotlight" show you what can help you in
your everyday homeschooling. "Mercy in the Morning" with
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invites you to experience the mercy of God. The Familyman,
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insights. Sign up today for your weekly dose of refreshment,
encouragement, and a reminder that you're not alone!
www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/E_News/


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

=================
IN THIS ISSUE:
=================

Notes from Heather
-- Reader Feedback
Helpful Tips
-- Setting Your Own Pace
Winning Website
-- Art and Nature
Reader Question
-- New to Homeschooling
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

=======================
Notes from Heather
=======================

Today's issue contains some particularly thorough and insightful answers
to last issue's reader question about beginning homeschooling, so be
sure not to miss it! Even if you are well on your way, you might glean
some great ideas to share with others. Every summer hundreds of
thousands more families make that *big* decision and I believe those of
us who have been at this for awhile, whatever our individual style, can
play a big part in easing their anxieties about getting started.
Consider your mission field! :-) -- Heather

---

Reader Feedback about Teens and Volunteering

"I have a quick addition to your list of teen experiences. Our teen
boys volunteer at the local library every summer. It's been an
excellent opportunity to learn independence, responsibility, and how
to politely interact with people. They also volunteer at the local
Natural History Museum as Junior Docents. This is a wonderful,
well-run program; its very educational for the kids, and gives them
an inside look at the museum. I believe both of these opportunities
should be available wherever there are libraries and Natural History
Museums. I've also heard that the city zoos run an excellent program
for kids ages 14 and older." -- Elyse Wilson

---

Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather @ familyclassroom.net


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================
Helpful Tip
================

Setting Your Own Family's Pace

"One of the main reasons we began homeschooling 18 years ago was that
we did not want to keep the pace the world was pushing through tradi-
tional school. We saw young children in traditional school 'married'
to sports, band, and even schoolwork at earlier and earlier ages. So
much time and commitment to these things was required and expected as
the normal course of things.

Also, the pace of children's growing up was so accelerated: having to
have the 'right' clothes, toys, etc., staying overnight at early ages,
going on lightly chaperoned trips at younger and younger ages. Leisure
(birthday parties, etc.) was even a 'ramped up' proposition. My hus-
band and I decided that we wanted a more sane pace for our family.

Now, with two sons married, one daughter graduated, and three more
daughters to go, (only 12 more years of homeschooling!) we are still
keeping to our own pace, and glad of it.

We have often been out of step with friends and neighbors as they
bemoan their terribly busy lives, but we have never been sorry. Mean-
while, society's pace seems to have sped up even more.

We are busy, but not pushed. We have time for leisure reading, family
entertaining (we had 90 people here for a Fourth of July bash), hobbies,
volunteering and service, and church. We try to make birthday, anniver-
sary, wedding, graduation and funeral attendance a priority. We are in
a quality homeschool co-op which takes up most of our 'outside the home'
time and energy once a week during the school year.

Each homeschool family chooses different activities they will want to
participate in, but I urge you to be deliberate about contolling the
pace of your family's life. Do not be sucked into the status quo.
More is not always better. Just because you can, doesn't always mean
you should.

Save time for your own family, your extended family, and others who
need your attention in this world. You will not be sorry."

-- Jannell in South Dakota

---

Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas @ familyclassroom.net


==================
Winning Website
==================

Art and Nature http://www.angelfire.com/ma/pondart/index.html


Those of us who enjoy nature study and sketching with our kids will
appreciate this delightful website featuring activities and encour-
agement from an artist and nature lover. I really like the sketching
lessons” scattered throughout the activities.

-- Cindy Prechtel - HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com


===============================
Last Issue's Reader Question
===============================

"I am a new homeschooling mom and we'll start my oldest in Kinder-
garten this fall. We're all excited but I am also a bit nervous!
I'd love to hear from some experienced moms about how to get started.
I have a curriculum that lists weekly lesson plans. Should I plan
out the day-to-day for several weeks so that I know what we're doing
each day? How many weeks should I plan in advance? What should the
first day be like? I think I'd like to make it 'special' but am not
sure what is appropriate. What are 'must-haves' or 'nice-to-haves'?
How do I handle the 3-year-old and 5-month-old while I'm trying to
get started with the Kindergartener? Do you have any organizing tips?

I realize that each homeschool is different and that there's probably
no 'right way' or 'wrong way' to do this, but suggestions from those
of you who have been there will be much appreciated!" -- Jill in FL


=========================
Our Readers' Responses
=========================

"Jill, I think it really depends on your style. You sound like a planner
(as I am). I can't function without being organized and having struc-
ture. So no amount of others telling me to 'relax and unschool', etc.
will help. Nevertheless, I have learned that it is very important to be
flexible. My children are 9 and 7 1/2 and we have homeschooled through-
out. I don't remember ever having a 'starting' day. We just naturally
went to it.

* How to handle your younger two... again, you need to be flexible.
Have special toys for them for "school time' only, etc. You'll get lots
of advice in this area, I'm sure.

* Pick a good readiness program. For us, this was a mixture of things.
For your children's age group, we have loved 'Five in a Row'. 'Before
Five in a Row' is for preschoolers and that's what we started with.
www.fiarhq.com - The books that they recommend were the most loved by
our children. Even if you don't go with the program, the books that
they recommend are excellent. FIAR has been one of the best home-
schooling decisions that we have made. It's a literature-based
program and can easily be done in 20 minutes or so a day. Again, even
if you only go with their book recommendations, you're doing great!
FIAR has an excellent Message Boards page and can give you excellent
advice on starting out, etc. -- not just with FIAR, but starting out
with homeschooling generally.

* Add some readiness goodies, such as puzzles, Lauri Lacing Activities,
art supplies. Our absolute favorite workbooks and activity sheets were
from TREND - www.trendenterprises.com - They have a great selection
of Wipe-Off Books and Cards. A great catalog that I couldn't
recommend more is Love to Learn - www.lovetolearn.net - They have won-
derful stuff in all areas that your children will delight and thrive
in. The owners of this company have homeschooled 7 children, and have
tried all the products. They don't sell anything that didn't work for
them. I have never been disappointed by their recommendations. On
their website, they have an excellent curriculum guide that has been
sooo helpful for me. It's geared for all grade levels.

* At this age, the child certainly does not need (nor can!) sit still
behind a desk for extended periods of time. Total lesson time should
be no more than 2 1/2 hours per day. And that's the absolute most!
Boys tend to be more wiggly and less able to sit down than girls.
Lesson time can be divided up with frequent breaks. And don't think
that lessons should *only* consist of 'classroom' things like work-
books. Arts, crafts, music, stories, and field trips are all educa-
tional also. One thing to remember is the child's normal attention
span. Unless activities change, the old 'age plus two minutes' is
very accurate, particularly for the more intensive stuff - such as
workbooks, etc. So at age 3, the normal attention span would be 5
minutes, and so forth.

* At this age, workbook time should be between 2-6 pages a day. Cer-
tainly no more than 6. Sometimes, my kids only do 1 page. It all
depends on the level of difficulty. Flexibility is key!

* Do lots of research about phonics programs first. What worked for
us: Explode the Code Primers (Get Ready for the Code, Get Set, and Go)
and later their workbooks (books 1-8) - available from most suppliers
- Love to Learn, Sonlight, Rainbow Resource, and Amazon. I am a big
believer in the success of these workbooks. They're fun and simple,
and they do a great job of reinforcing and reviewing. We try to do
1-2 pages of the workbooks daily.

* We add in some fun readers that are appropriate to the level that
the child is at. The Bob Books (most bookstores and libraries carry
them) and Modern Curriculum Press's Phonics Practice Readers from
Rainbow Resource catalog (expensive, but I like them because it's
systematic and organized) have worked well for us, as well as some
other readers. We try to read one practice reader daily after the
child has finished Book 1 in the Explode the Code (ETC) workbooks.

* We also got Happy Phonics - from the Love to Learn catalog -
excellent - www.lovetolearn.net - Happy Phonics is a game-based
phonics program that your child may like. Using games are not
mandatory, but they certainly do make learning fun! And I always
believe in making learning fun as much as possible.

I am rather wary of very expensive phonics programs with all the
bells and whistles. To me, reading is a question of timing and
readiness. I really don't think it's any particular, specific pro-
gram that's the secret. I truly believe that it is the timing.
The child needs to be ready.

For some children, reading takes longer than for others. Don't feel
pressured to keep up with someone else on this point. If your child
is not ready, don't rush just because you need to 'keep up' with the
rest of the world. I've rushed some things I shouldn't have because
of this pressure, at the expense of my child, more so the older one.

* Although we use Calvert Math, we also supplement and add Singapore
Math (available from many homeschool supply companies). Singapore is
great, interesting, does a good job of reviewing and reinforcing, and
is relatively inexpensive. Our kids love these books. It's nice to
make Math fun!

* History, science, geography, health -- all those can wait until
your children are a little older and you get more acclimated to home-
schooling. You can introduce these gradually and I'll let you know
more if you want.

* Some books that I have found to be very helpful are:

'A Charlotte Mason Companion' by Karen Andreola
www.charlotte-mason.com
'Your Child's Growing Mind' by Jane Healy - This is one of THE
most helpful books out there. Not about homeschooling per se, but
a must-read for all parents and educators.
Any of the books by Ruth Beechick
'The Big Book of Home Learning' by Mary Pride.
'The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home' by
Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer - www.welltrainedmind.com
Although I recommend that you don't feel that you HAVE to follow
EVERYTHING they suggest. Some of their expectations are not for
everyone and are simply not realistic for all.

* We LOVE listening to stories on CD. We are HUGE Jim Weiss fans.
My husband is VERY hard to please and is very impressed also. He
is a fabulous storyteller. You can visit his site and listen to a
sample - www.greathall.com
Having your children develop good listening skills is a wonderful
thing, plus introducing them to quality literature and vocabulary.

* Sonlight has a great literature selection. They also offer a
packaged curriculum. We don't go with their curriculum, but we get
most of their books. You could always get the books at your library,
although some books are absolutely precious and nice to keep.
www.sonlight.com - We have NEVER been disappointed by any of their
recommended books. They are very selective and only pick the best.
Sonlight also has an excellent forums page. You can get lots of good
advice on all sorts of topics there - starting homeschooling, etc.

* Another wonderful catalog - www.rainbowresource.com

* I think that it's important to get 'booster shots' of books that
encourage you on the homeschooling path from time to time. Home-
schooling is not easy. Reading some good books from time to time
will keep you strong, determined, motivated, and less likely to
give up. Certain books such as 'A Charlotte Mason Companion' and
'One Hundred and One Devotions for Homeschool Moms' by Jackie
Wellwood, as well as others, are great for this purpose.

Surround yourself with home school mentors. Whether it's an online
group, or a support group, or just a great mom you met, keep in touch
with these people! Ask questions; ask for helpful advice -- most
likely, they will be happy to help, because someone in their life
helped them. Don't do this alone. It really does help to have a
supportive husband. I don't think I could do it if mine wasn't
supportive. Even a good home education magazine will help you in
your quest. Read home education books when you are in need of a
little boost.

* Finally, remember this and don't feel discouraged when every
moment is not 'perfect'. I read this once somewhere: 'What year
of being a mom was the most difficult? What year of marriage was
the most difficult? What year of college was the most difficult?
If you're like most folks, it's the first. And homeschooling is
surely no exception, except now you and your child get to go
through it together.' " -- Negin in Grenada

---

"Hello, Jill! Welcome to the wonderful world of homeschooling!
We have been homeschooling from the beginning. My son is 9 and my
daughter is 8. My best advice is to do alot of fun stuff, grab any
'teachable moment', and study nature -- there is nothing better than
instilling a love of God's creation in your little ones. Don't
worry too much aabout curriculum with a baby in the house -- it
won't get done anyway. Read a lot -- a whole lot. Go over basics:
counting, shapes, colors, etc. Enjoy your little ones -- they will
be so big before you know it! They learn despite us!" -- Sandy

---

"I am a homeschooling mom of three -- a 6 year old, a 3 year old,
and a 15 month old. I use a binder with 6 folders in it. Each
weekend I spend 15-30 minutes and put each day's work in a differ-
ent folder, and the sixth folder is for finished work. That way
I can plan my days according to what we are doing. I don't follow
the plan for our curriculum; I just pace us based on the day. If
something doesn't get finished I simply move it to the next day.
For kindergarten I spent maybe a half-hour a day with my son for
'formal' schooling. It was all he could handle. My toddler likes
to color and sometimes he'll play by himself while I school, and
the baby just wanders. We kept it simple, so I could take breaks
if the others needed attention. We never officially started, we
eased into it, so it wasn't like a traditional school. I would
start with a fun field trip! I have been easing into each subject
and the load so it wouldn't be overwhelming and we would develop
good habits -- baby steps!"

---

"Reading this question takes me back in time about 3 years - when
we began homeschooling our oldest for kindergarten. At that time,
we also had a 3 year old and a newborn. I too, for the most part,
follow a traditional curriculum that provides detailed lesson plans.
As a person who loves organization, planning ahead always appeals
to me! However, I've found that planning no more than a week in
advance at a time seems to work best. With our oldest child, he
picked up phonics, etc. very quickly and was able to speed through
many lessons - often doubling or tripling up simply because he
needed to move on or risk becoming very bored with his schoolwork.
Periodically, I would plan an extra review day, just to help ensure
he had a good grasp of all he had learned so far. I tended to make
these fun days by using plenty of games and activities. However,
with our second son, he seemed to learn in spurts - struggling with
new concepts before they would suddenly 'click' and he would surge
ahead before getting stumped again. If I planned too far in advance,
I found it simply made more work for me because I was constantly
re-working to accomodate for his struggles and surges in learning.
I would highly recommend you look ahead in order to know where you
are headed, have materials needed on hand, etc., but flexibility is
key. Do not let your plans run your school day instead of *assist*
your school day! (I say this as a mom who has had to learn this
lesson the hard way!!!)

In regard to homeschooling with other younger children, again flex-
ibility seems to be the key. I tried to plan our school times to
coincide with the youngest one's nap times. Also, I included our
3 year old in as many things as possible with his older brother.
(I found he enjoyed the time and felt very important working with
his big brother. It also helped to keep him out of mischief!) I
often worked with his brother while my second son sat on my lap
looking at a book or 'writing' in a notebook. This year I will be
homeschooling our 8 year old, 6 year old, and also have an almost
3 year old and a 10 month old. I am going to try a suggestion I've
heard from others. This summer I have been putting together a
special activity box of books, games, toys, and activities that my
almost 3 year old can play with during the time I am working with
his older brothers. The activities in this box are for school
times only - which will hopefully make them extra special and extra
enjoyable for him, helping to keep him occupied. I will also
include him as much as possible in the other boys' lessons (like
completing art projects with them, playing review games - I ask him
a question for his age level for his 'turn', providing him paper
and pencil to practice his 'writing' while his brothers are doing
the same, etc.) Since each child is different, there is no easy,
cut and dry list to follow with younger children. If something
doesn't work for you or your child, don't give up! Try something
else. I would recommend getting to know other homeschoolers and
constantly 'picking their brains' for ideas and suggestions. Some-
times just listening to things they have tried (successfully and
unsuccessfully) is enough to get your own ideas flowing and you
stumble on to an idea that works for you and your child.

Above all, I would strongly recommend that you make a concerted
effort to not get too rigid with your plans, to remain flexible
to your children's needs, and most definitely to have fun! Watch-
ing your child learn and 'get it' is extremely rewarding! What a
privilege to be a part of that process!" -- Judy in PA

---

"I would recommend that you view your curriculum as a helpful tool,
but not your master. As you would any tool, pick it up and use it
when you need it, but put it away when you don't. If you plan way
ahead, and things don't go as you expect, you might get frustrated
and feel as if you're not keeping up. So I would suggest planning
a day at a time, at least at the beginning, until you get a better
idea of how much you can expect to accomplish each day. I'm still
planning one day at a time, and I've been homeschooling for 15 years!

For your first day, I would suggest a really good read-aloud book,
then a game, then bake some cookies, then take a walk, then do some
crafts. While you're together, ask your child what he would like
to learn about. Be ready to pursue the topic he chooses. Ease
into the academics very gradually. Maybe one or two days a week
for a half hour, then add a little at a time. You'll know when
the child is at the saturation point, and that's all you need to
expect of him until he's a little older.

At this level, most of the things you need to teach will be found
around your house or at the library. If you read to your child
every day -- good literature, not cutesy books -- you'll know when
he is ready to learn to read. For math, let him play with things
such as money, thermometer, tape measure/ruler, scales, calendar;
and play games that involve counting or money. Take nature walks
and let him draw what he sees and dictate a journal entry for you
to put with the picture. For some of your read-alouds, choose books
with history and science content, and that's all the history and
science you need for now. If he likes art and crafts, let him do
lots of that; you'll know when those little muscles are ready to
learn to write; until then, let him simply draw and color. Sing
with him and listen to good music. Involve him in your daily tasks.
Your little ones can sit in on the read-alouds, take the walks with
you, and maybe join in some of the crafts and other activities.
When you need to work with the older child alone, train the younger
ones to entertain themselves. You're educating them now, too.

I really got a kick out of your enthusiasm! You're going to be a
great homeschool mom -- I can feel it in your letter. Just don't
get too caught up in the traditional ways of doing things. In the
words of one of my favorite homeschool speakers, Rick Boyer, 'Don't
make a school of yourself!' -- Mary Beth

---

"My kids sound like they are the same spread as yours, except now
mine are 5, 7, and 9! And we're still homeschooling and they are
excelling! :-) For kindergarten, remember to... relax! Seriously,
if you do a total of 45-60 minutes of concentrated instruction
(even if it is broken up into 10-15 minute sections), you'll be
doing as much or more than they would get in public school. Kin-
dergarten in public school is gluing, pasting, standing in line,
listening, waiting to potty, etc. You will be giving your child
the very *best* instruction -- one on one and/or a small group of
three. Hold your baby in your lap while you read to them, or let
the oldest read simple books (like 'Bob Books'). We had a white
board and I would write some words (like if you are learning the
letter 'T'), write some words that begin with T or end with T and
have him circle them. Counting can be done easily with beads,
pennies, even skittles. The 3 year old will want to join in on
that! If you feel overwhelmed and feel you need a block of time
with just the older one, I don't see any problem with putting in
an educational video for the younger two for twenty minutes or so.
Go on nature walks, field trips, etc. It's amazing how much a five
year old can learn when they aren't distracted by 22 other five
year olds for eight hours a day! You'll do just fine! Have fun!"
-- Jill T.

---

"Beginning to homeschool is scary. It seems like such a big, daunting
task! We've been homeschooling for over 7 years. I have 3 sixth graders
and a fourth grader. Believe me, when I thought about beginning to
homeschool, it seemed huge! Anyway, my life is one of those examples of
how things could be 'harder' but still be done for God's glory. The
reason we have 3 sixth graders is not a blended family. My first
daughter was born and 10 1/2 months later we had identical twin
daughters. Then a few years later my son was born.

When thinking about school, don't picture yourself copying the way you
learned in school when you were young. Think, instead, of doing fun
learning activities with your child. When you do something with your
child is it hard to take a minute and meet the needs of your younger
children and then get back to what you were doing with your oldest? My
kids all learned to read, learned math, etc. as a part of life. When
they think of doing school they don't associate that with rows of desks
and early morning to afternoon. They think of learning things they need
to know and then they tackle whatever it takes to learn the skill. They
are learning from when they get up till when they go to bed. Basically
'school' never stops. I hope that thought doesn't stress you out! It
was actually a relief to me that I don't have to copy something that
costs millions in dollars and countless hours and my kids still learn!
Many people who know our family see our kids and comment on how great
they are. Some of them have even begun to homeschool their own kids
because they like the results they see. Concentrate primarily on doing
learning activities in a fun way anytime and all the time with your
child. It can be like a game to learn letters and numbers and learn to
write their name. We don't give letter grades. Their recognition and
sense of accomplishment comes in sharing their work with others and in
completing projects using their newly learned skills. Learning this way
includes other important people in their learning experiences too. They
can do a learning activity with dad while you make dinner, or with
grandparents while visiting with them. Everyone has a great time and
the learning just happens. I hope my '2 cents' is helpful." -- Alisha


=========================
Answer our NEW Question
=========================

"We're just starting to look into homeschooling for our family, and
though we only have a toddler, I've heard it's good to start looking
and thinking about what we want to do early. I'm already feeling
overwhelmed at all the different options out there. Where do I go
for information to get started and how do I figure out what is going
to work for our family? Thanks for your help." -- Rebecca in WI

---

Do you have suggestions for Rebecca?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers @ familyclassroom.net


=====================
Ask YOUR Question
=====================

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions @ familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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=======================
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=======================

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Check out our schedule of daily chats and jump right in! :-)

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All contributed articles are printed with the author's prior
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