Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New year of home education

NOT Back to School for us is tomorrow. I refuse to start a new school year before September. It's just not right. Starting any sooner would be like celebrating Christmas in November.The kids are excited. Miriam kept telling me today, "I'm so nervous! I don't know if I can do it! Maybe it's too hard!" She is going into K-5, for crying out loud, and she has a very gentle and slow-paced curriculum. She has a tendency to agonize over little things. Thankfully, she is learning in the safety of our family. 

Today, the last day of summer break, I finally finished writing the lesson plans for this year. That usually takes all my spare time for a couple of weeks. Yesterday, I spent a solid two hours agonizing over just what new German books to order the kids from Amazon in Germany - does that count as planning? Oh, what would I do without access to books and materials from the Old Country???

Click on image to enlarge, click again to enlarge even more. 

I wrote out the first 18 weeks of this today. I saved the other 18 weeks to have something to ruin my Christmas break with. Oh, it was so much fun! Procrastination always pays off! Solomon is green, Isaac orange, John yellow, Miriam pink, and Becky orange. The white fields are shared between the children whose colors they overlap. Last year, we used the same type of planner (painfully made by yours truly using MS Word), and it worked well. Basically, I print off one sheet like this for each child and put it in a clear pocket in the front of their respective binders. The older ones can work independently if I am not immediately available, and everyone can keep track of where they are at by writing on the chart (in the pocket) with a dry-erase marker.

I could bore you with a detailed list of which child is using which book for which subject this year, but I will spare you. As in previous years, each child is on their own level for Math and English (which includes reading, spelling, handwriting grammar, and composition). All other subjects we learn about together at the same time, each on their own level, using "Cantering the Country" and about 50-70 library books for each state we cover. This approach has worked wonderfully for us, and put a lot of joy, peace, and shared learning into the learning process. 

Miriam and Becky are only 20 months apart in age. I was tempted to cover the same materials with both of them, but Becky is just not on the same level with her phonics as Miriam. But - she is totally ahead of her age in Math, and on par with her older sister, so I am actually going to go through the same Math program with both girls. Becky is turning 3 next month, Miriam is 4 and a half, and the book we will be using is for 5-year old kindergarten students.

We spent a good part of Saturday finalizing the school room, i.e. boxing up all books and art works from the past year for the attic, putting everyone's new books and supplies out, and generally straightening the room up. By the time we were done, it was late and there was no dinner waiting, so we decided to have pizza, sodas, and cake at Whole Foods instead in celebration of "NOT Back to School". Of course, we still had our customary BBQ today, too, so we really had two parties.

Last week, I spent a couple of afternoons planning weekly field trips for all the home educating families in our church. I think I got about 20 or more arranged. Lots of cool stuff planned. This Saturday, we are driving out to the ranch where we get our beef for a BBQ and apple picking. They said there would be baby pigs and baby calves roaming the orchard, which the kids will just love. Next Friday, we are going to a pizza place that lets kids make their own pizzas, teaches them how to toss the dough, gives the kids a tour of the kitchen, and best of all lets everyone eat their pizza - all for FREE! This is really good pizza, too. Well, too much fun to write about all of it in detail.

Last  but not least, a confession: I am addicted to school supplies. And: even though I bought about 40 glue sticks in the back to school sales last month, I could only find 5 of them when we were putting the supplies in the schoolroom on Saturday. Ugh! We have a lot of busy artists around here, but still - surely they must be hiding somewhere, or I am in serious trouble. 

 Watercolor sets for the older kids

 I ***think*** we got enough crayons, markers, and colored pencils. But like I said, lots of busy artists around here.

 Some higher quality special supplies for the art curriculum we are using this year. Thank you, Aaron Brothers, for carrying this wonderful German brand.

It's the nerd in me...

 ... but I love these!

 for keeping little fingers busy

 the meagerly glue stash

 one half of our school room

 bins of old school books strategically placed under my husband's boxing bag so he will have an incentive to take them to the attic, lots of learning games for the younger ones in the middle, school books on the right

 other half of our school room

This last picture is of the shelf that holds everyone's daily school books. Each child has a box with their materials, followed by their binder and books that are too large for the box. This system has been working well for us for several years now. 

5 kids in 4 and a half grades, plus a baby. What did I get myself into??


  1. What curriculum do you use for the 5 and unders specifically? I'm researching what's available atm. I've been looking at rod and staff but can't find too many alternatives other than newsagents pre-school 'textbooks'.

    Looks like you're all set! I used to love the first few weeks of school!

  2. Brilliant post! I love how organised your school room is!

  3. LOVE this article !
    I have always been impressed by homeschooling. Usual teachers have 20 (or more) students, but they teach the same to everyone. You just have 5 time the work ! Explaining things that must be very different following the level of each child. I'm so impressed ! It must be so fun, too, not only to spend the whole day with your own children, but to have so many activities in one day ! I even wonder how you can manage to do all those things on only one day :)

    I am also a huge fan of school supplies. I work in a mall every summer, and they put me in the school aisle, I'm like in a fancy park. I love it.
    I see you have Pelikan paint. It's amazing, we had exactly the same here in Belgium ! This brand must travel around a lot ^^ Very good brand, though, I love Pelikan for the ink (of course, this is their first product ever), fountain pens (is it silly to have a Pelikano Junior, which is normally for young children, when you are going to the university ? If so, I still have one and it works great !) and rubber erasers.

    Is Stabilo a German product? I didn't even know that ... It's very expensive, though. It's very common in here, I don't know about America. The fine liners are so common that people usually just call them "Stabilos" !
    Stabilo makes very good stuff for anything to write or colour with : pencils, pens, etc. Very expensive, like I said, but the quality is still very high. I have had my colour marker pens for maybe three or four years, still haven't dried out. Very nice stuff.

    Could we have a little bit more about that in the future? Maybe pictures from your little artists (I heard John was quite gifted with drawing), or even things about the school program ? I'm so interested in anything to do with school !

  4. Your school room looks very inviting. Very organized which I am sure helps alot with getting school work done. Looks like you all are ready for a great new year.

  5. Love all of your school stuff! We are having so much fun in school! I used to refuse to start school before september too, but then I was miserable going into June at the end of the year... So we start earlier and end in May...but we also live in a completely different weather atmosphere...we go through months and months of LONG winter (fun for some, miserable for me :)) so once April / May hit it's so hard to do school and concentrate because it's getting so nice out and we have so many things to do that we haven't done for soooo long!

    The other day I ordered on Walmart.com 60 composition notebooks for $4.80, but when I went to pick them up they said that it was a mistake online, but we went on and it was still advertised that way....anyway, they said they would honor it because it still says that and no one has changed it....plus I had already paid online and everything.

    Well, have fun starting school!
    Doesn't it get a little crazy, I am aso teaching 5 kids this year, but no newborn here :( Maybe someday again...


  6. Those field trips look great. We liked the Abeka Handbook for Reading and will recommend it for our granddaughters. We like the student color-coded clocks($2) at Christian Light Education. I used the planner at Christian Liberty Press(we like their kindergarten readers) and ordered it when we ordered Abeka books through CLP. We ordered Abeka art,music, health/PE,etc. through Abeka books(KJ). We will be celebrating Jesus' birthday in October this year. We agree with those that say He was born on the first day of The Feast of Tabernacles(this year it's sundown Oct. 12/13). We do not celebrate the Jewish holidays that start in September-the fall holidays will be fulfilled when Jesus returns. The spring holidays were fulfilled(death,burial,resurrection,and Pentecost) by Him. We do not celebrate the Roman Catholic holidays either. We won't have a tree, statues of Mary or Jesus,wreaths,etc. I like what the jeubfamily.com(16 children?) does at Christmas-one gift,one book and a little something.

  7. My second granddaughter,Hannah, turned 3 this weekend. I bought her(and her mom) Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons(rainbowresource). When she turns 4 I will buy her The Reading Lesson(I change their magic e rule to the silent e rule). Then when my granddaughters turn 5 I will buy the oldest in each family Christian Liberty Press's kindergarten readers and Abeka's textbooks. I'll let their parents get them workbooks. Our oldest grandchild is 4 and we already started with her. I tell them-"Reading(etc.) is easy!"-Philippians 4:13(KJ)

  8. I love that floor. My husband and I have been talking about redoing our kitchen floor-it really needs it. I think I'm going to copy yours. Did you do it yourself or did it come with the house?

  9. Those stabilo products look amazing. I still have a weakness for colored pencils and markers (I make hand stamped cards) and I would love to find those. My daughter is 17 and we still keep an "art closet" for her with all sorts of paint, markers, canvas,etc. because she loves to create.

    Off to look for Stabilo online now. I simply must have that roll-up pouch of pencils (or are they markers....?) Enjoy your Not back to school days...

  10. I recommend Christian Liberty Press's preschool workbook to my 3 daughters-in-law. Christian Light Education uses Rod and Staff's preschool for kindergarten so I tell them to get the Rod and Staff preschool/kindergarten workbooks after the Christian Liberty Press one. Christian Liberty Press has preschool readers as well but I'm not a fan of the cover illustrations.

  11. School room looks great!! Good luck this year! Sounds like you guys will be busy!

  12. You said:
    ...even though I bought about 40 glue sticks in the back to school sales last month, I could only find 5 of them...

    You have no idea how much I enjoyed this sentence. Sometimes it helps to know you're not the only one who does stuff like that. :-)

    We actually start school very, very early. It works better for our family, for our garden's harvest and for other reasons. This year we started July 5th. But, I have other friends who don't start until October. That's the beauty of it...doing what works for you.

  13. The Swann family home educated year round(5 days a week with holidays off). Joyce Swann's(mother of 10 children) articles are at home-school.com. Her oldest wrote the book-No Regrets. They used Calvert then American high school. All the children received their high school diplomas by age 12. They had their Bachelor's degrees at age 15. Kindergarten took them 5 months. They took 2 and a half months for first grade,6 months each for 2nd and 3rd then 8 months each for 4th-8th. They did 2 lessons a day. They finished American high school in 18 months. They started homeschooling when missionaries used Calvert(all books and supplies are mailed in a box). They did most of their homeschooling around the table from 8:30-11:30. They are Baptists and use the KJ Bible.

  14. I love the school room as well! Your schedule makes me think of how difficult it must have been for 'one-room schoolhouse' teachers of the past taught so many children at so many different levels!

    I'm impressed by Taryn's description of the Swann family, but I think it's more important, especially with homeschooling, to afford each child with personalization in their curriculum, for example, Zsuzsanna's description of Miriam and Becky, and that she was tempted to teach them from the same level, but decided Becky was not advanced enough in her reading, but advanced in her mathematics, and thus Miriam and Becky would be in the same level in that subject. Would this happen in a typical public school?
    In my opinion, that's one of the many wonderful things about homeschooling. Each child is given what they need--maybe extra encouragement at reading or music, or accelerated lessons in German--who knows a child better than their parents?


  15. How do you like Landmark Freedom's english? It is less expensive than Abeka's first grade phonics and spelling with teacher's manuals. Christian Liberty Press's phonics and spelling is about $25 with teacher's manuals. Some people don't buy the teacher's manuals except for math. We used Landmark for high school-Bible,algebra,geometry,and english. We didn't like their high school science,history or literature. My son did like using their American history(high school) with the Abeka text. If I could do it over I would have him finish high school in the 10th or 11th grade and use the last year(over 16) just for SAT prep as a woman in our church did. That's the first time I heard of that concept. New York requires certain subjects between ages 6-16.

  16. What a fun post! You are so organized.Where do you get the magazine files to hold your children's curricula? They tend to be pricey, so I haven't bought any yet. Blessings!

  17. Christine, I get the magazine files at Ikea. Five of them are $2, and they are sturdy enough to make it for at least one school year. I also use them for my cooking magazines, to sort mail and catalogs, etc. and they hold up great. I am going to the post office later this week and will try to mail you some - we bought plenty last time I went to Ikea to have them in stock. I say "try" because as of right now, I hid them so well from the kids that I can't find them myself...

  18. Are you still Cantering the Country? DC in New Mexico

  19. Hello Zsuzsanna, I would love to homeschool my children, I have a one year old and expecting my second one, the one thing that I am really concerned is the fact that English is my second language and therefore have a limit to how much I can teach my children, I know there are tons of resources out there and of course they will have their father but this is really bothering me... Any advice on that?

    God bless...


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