Saturday, September 29, 2012

10 Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages

When we started this homeschooling journey, I was daunted by the task of educating my precious kindergartner all by myself. I spent hours researching, planning, scheduling. I recreated school at home, complete with desk and cubby. While this works for some, my intensity nearly gave me a heart attack. I'm not a super-structured person, by nature.
It took us quite awhile to find our groove, lighten up a little, discover each of the kids' learning styles (and my teaching style.)
Now, I'm teaching 7th, 5th, 2nd, and kindergarten!
It's still challenging, of course, but I've learned a few things along the way!
1. Pray.
A lot. All the time. And read His Word.
This isn't possible alone. Don't wait until the burden is too heavy to carry, and worry seeps out your ears. Just hand over the weight of it now, do your best, trust God to help you. Unfortunately, I often forget this basic and most-important rule until I'm on my knees with frustration...and then "well, duh, might as well pray while I'm in the right position!"
2. Grade papers daily.
Paperwork is my nemesis. It piles and piles, taunting me. I've learned to tackle it as soon as it comes. Besides, the kids want to know how well they've done on an assignment. It's not always possible for me to do it with them, or grade it immediately, but I do try to finish everything by the end of the day.

3. Do as many subjects together as possible.
We do all of our science and art together, and the boys all do history together, too. My kindergartner may not "get" a lot of it, but he participates, especially if there's a project or experiment that goes along with the lesson. My daughter (7th grade) is old enough to do most of her work independently. We use Teaching Textbooks for math, which grades and keeps records for me (YAY, TT!) She uses a completely different set of books than the boys, and comes to me when she's completed a unit and is ready for a test. Other than that, I grade her history, and just help where I'm needed. It's sort-of wonderful.
4. Create a Routine.
I'm not overly structured, as I've said. I get stressed when we've tried to stick by the 30-minute increment time schedule in the past. "Ahhh, we're not done with science, but the timer is about to BEEEEP!" Stress. Somehow the timer rules me.
But we DO have a routine that we follow. Wake up, Get Coffee, Read Bible (my time,) Computer Time, then we read the Bible together while they eat breakfast. Every morning the little ones and I go outside and watch the sun come up. They know what to expect, and when. We do this in other areas, too. For example, they know that at 5pm, they can turn on the TV and watch a show. They know that only Saturdays are for Nintendo. Knowing what to expect takes a lot of the Whine out of the equation!
5. Plan Independent Work.
We do a lot together, but they're also required to do some things alone. For training, if nothing else. By the time they're in 7th grade, I want them to be able to work as independently as their older sister. Which means they need more and more responsibility and discipline every year. Even my 5-year old can do his handwriting and addition without help sometimes.
6. Have a Meeting Place,
but don't make everyone work there. 
At one time, we had an actual designated schoolroom, which was wonderful in theory, but we just didn't use it like I thought we would. Now we have the kitchen table. There are lockers and bookcases in the playroom, for our books and supplies, but we usually do our work right at the dining room table. That is, the boys and I do work there. My daughter usually works in her room, at the counter, or anyplace that is far enough from her brothers to prevent distraction. Let's face it, boys are just noisy and active! At any rate, it's wonderful to have a central location to come back to, for group projects and art lessons!
7. Keep Each Child's Schoolwork Handy, and Separate.
If one child is going to work in a different room, it's convenient to just grab the tub of their stuff and move them along. If you decide to be a super fun (and maybe a little crazy) homeschool mama and do a School in the Park Day, each kid can grab their own tub and haul everything along. If you want to take it a step further, you can color-code. If a blue notebook is left out, I know who it belongs to! This "Tub-Method" has made my life infinitely easier!
8. Plan activities for the little ones.
When I'm grading, or working one-on-one with the older kids, the little ones need something to do. We keep a tub of toys ONLY for times when they need to play quietly in the afternoon. I rotate things out (when I remember.) For preschoolers and early elementary, you could include puzzles, lacing beads, pipe cleaners for crafts, toy cars, you get the idea.
9. Have the older ones help the younger ones.
It's been said, we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 80% of what we personally experience, 95% or what we teach. I believe there's truth to this. Have your older students teach their younger siblings something they're learning about. It's a two-for-one!  
10. Relax.
Have fun. Remember to include Art (get messy!),
Nature-Study (play outside! Enjoy the world!),
Music  (dance with it!)
These things are just as important as math and history!
School takes longer when you're teaching multiple grades, but the younger ones still won't be working all day. Provide crayons and a steady supply of paper.
Nurture creativity and imagination.
Encourage group art projects. Take walks!! Dance. Play. Enjoy!
Don't lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing, by getting bogged down in scheduling and paperwork. Create a vacation day, if you need it, just to go hiking.

 Enjoy this time, because it really does go by too fast!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The 12 Hours of Camping

In the first hour of camping,
the forest gave to me...
A falcon in a pine tree

In the second hour of camping, the forest gave to me
2 baby deer
and a falcon in a pine tree

In the third hour of camping, the forest gave to me
3 boys with ivy
2 baby deer
and a falcon in a pine tree

In the fourth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
4 goofy pictures...

In the fifth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
5 dropped hot dogs...

In the sixth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
6 chocolate s'mores...

In the seventh hour of camping, the forest gave to me
7 mushrooms growing...

In the eighth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
8 snakes a'slithering...

In the ninth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
9 turtles bathing...

In the tenth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
10 squirrels a'climbing...

In the eleventh hour of camping, the forest gave to me
11 flashes of lightening...

In the twelfth hour of camping, the forest gave to me
12 tiny ticks
11 flashes of lightening
10 squirrels a'climbing
9 turtles bathing
8 snakes a'slithering
7 mushrooms growing
6 chocolate s'mores
5 dropped hot dogs
4 goofy pictures
3 boys with ivy
2 baby deer
and a falcon in a pine tree!
It was an adventure, to say the least! The boys are finally getting over their poison ivy, from our weekend excursion.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paper sack art

This is my Middlest Boy, 7-year old Mr.T.
His artwork amazes me, continually. These are his superhero paper sack characters, done 100% by himself. On the top row, The Hulk and Thor. On the bottom, Iron Man and Captain America. He looked at a coloring book cover for inspiration.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Collaged mail

Who says collages can't be mailed? And as an envelope, no less.
I've been using GlueAll to adhere my images, with a very light layer of modge podge over the top, for smoothness.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stitched mail

It got a little bunched...a little messy and thready in spots.
But it's an envelope-- a stitched envelope-- so that just adds to the ART of it, right?
Yep, that's what I think, too.

I'm stuck on the  envelope art theme right now, and enjoying every moment that I've spent on it, in my "free time." :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Waffle Helpers

Aren't my helpers cute? I kinda like 'em!
I have another motive for posting these, though.
I repainted.
Again. Yes, AGAIN.
See those cupboards that were in the process of becoming teal and red? And the brownish kitchen (actually a very pretty color, that looked almost light purplish in the sun)?

Well, it's white now. ALL OF IT. The whole kitchen-- cupboards, walls, ....and the living room....the computer desk, window ledges, breakfast room, my room....the hutch, the closet door....yeah. It's all high-gloss bright white now.
Can you believe it? ?
My painting mood lasted several days. ;) I worked on it last weekend and made tremendous progress. I'm loving the bright lightness of it, and how the bold colors stand out against the clean "canvas." Pictures are a'comin soon! -- promise!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the mailbox

I've been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks. This is what came in MY mailbox! Yay!
Isn't it all beautiful?
An old book page, stitched into an envelope (happy sigh),
another envelope inside, with a real feather attached (happy sigh, again)
 the personalized stationary
and an Operation game card!
Just wow. I love it. In case you haven't guessed, I save stuff-- pictures, receipts, cards and envelopes from friends.
I'm an art journaler, and everything gets a special place.
(It's kinda like scrapbooking, y'all, but messier, and anything goes!)
Thank you, Miss Sam!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Surround yourself with art

More illustrated envelopes. One went out to my sweet friend Rochelle, for her birthday. :)

I like incorporating the stamp into the artwork.

Monday, September 10, 2012


For awhile now, I’ve been aching to visit my now-real-life sweet friend Suzanne, over at The Joyful Chaos. And, even though she’s, like, a week from her due date, she offered her home for a Little Rock mini vacation.

Love this lady. Love this family.

I told her over and over, “You make me feel normal.”
Your kids eat food that they’ve dropped on the floor? Mine, too.
Your van has extra pairs of shoes, clothes, empty cups, and spare change, all jumbled together?
Yep, mine too.

The Parker crew let us load up with them in their 12-seat “church van” and took us on the North Little Rock/Little Rock tour, complete with trolley ride, picnic, rock climbing, bridge-walkin', farmer marketing.

Back at their home, games and crazy running. They taught my kids how to play 21 boogie clean-up (is that right?) and we taught them how to play My Father Owns a Grocery Store (they'd never heard of the car game!! Really?? Thought everyone played this!)
The guys laughed their silly laughs playing their silly phone apps, watching football, telling jokes. Meanwhile, Suzanne and I talked kids and homeschooling, birth stories and ambitions.

I love her heart. I love watching her interact with her children.
(Would you believe, I forgot my camera!!!-- so Suzanne was kind enough to take plenty of pics for me, and gave me unlimited access to her camera. I took some with my phone, too, but it was still PAINFUL to have left my electronic child behind!!)

“Oh my word!” (as they say,) it was a blessed and memorable weekend! I’m hoping and praying for more upcoming trips! Love you, girl!