A New Step

January 8, 2018

A New Step

Saturday afternoon we got Christina back from her week-long Civil Air Patrol encampment.

Today, Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Lucas are doing school at a stone table on the beautiful grounds of our state college waiting for Christina and Rebeccah to finish with their first class.

My younglings are growing up too quickly for me!

The sweet lady in the college bookstore was very helpful and encouraging.  She handed the girls a copy of the eleventh edition of their Biology… I have the seventh at home (from when I went here only a few years ago).  Honestly, I’m so excited for the girls in this next step.  (But I won’t say that to them; I try to make this as normal as possible.  We’ve treated every step in their educational journey as simply another textbook to study.)  I’m very thankful for the awesome opportunities available to students in our county.  (This is a big difference from growing up when home schooling was illegal!)

I’m remembering them at the preschool level (Lucas: counting pinecones and creating stickmen from oak leaves and pine sticks), kindergarten level (Jillian: reading and doing her math problems), and working through book steps like Jaquline and Kimberly. (I “stair-step” arithmetic and language arts in a progression they move through and they get to pick one, two, or three “study books” from history, science, and other subjects.) Then they get through independent learning in preparation for college or vocation. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, various social studies, upper level literature studies, etc.)  Now, Christina and Rebeccah are at the next step: dual enrollment (college credit classes!).

The nostalgic part of me wants time to slow down.

The logical part of me is thoroughly enjoying each new step each one of my children take.  I love the baby stage, but I get excited when the baby steps up to dress and feed themselves.  I love the learning-independence toddler stage, but I love it when they discover reading!  I love the everything-is-new discovery stage, (I try to keep that going as long as I can) but that is too quickly followed by the totally-independent-learning stage.  Yes, I get a little sad when they complete their lesson goals without my help, but I am proud and excited as they jump ahead of my goals by making and achieving their own personal goals.

I see the goal of my “teaching” job as helping my students learn how to teach themselves.  This means inspiring a lifelong love of learning, challenging them to reach higher and higher personal goals, and instilling core principles like academic integrity and determination.

I’m sure they will do well.  They love to learn and are thriving in their “adult” environment where their fellow students are all serious about their work.  I have to smile because I feel like I’ve accomplished my teaching goal – at least for these students – they are fully independent learners with their eyes on future careers and their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

Of course, I will never truly stop teaching.  I’ll be asking, “so, how was school?” even when they call me from their university in years to come.  That thought makes me smile again.

“Jaquline,” says Kimberly, “why aren’t you writing?”

Jaquline is sitting at the stone picnic table, her paperwork on a clipboard, smiling and staring at the sky.  She sighs and says dreamily, “I’m doing my school at college!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Home School Organization

November 2, 2017

Home School Organization

So I’m one of these crazy people who can’t stand anything to be out of order.  I use to freak out trying to keep the house looking like a picture in a magazine…

This was until God smashed me with the realization that while life is in my house, it will never be perfectly clean.  (Note to self: NEVER be PERFECT!)

We also homeschool.  This means in addition to the normal kid toys, clothes, and assorted paraphernalia, we also have a stupendous collection of schoolwork items.  This all has to stay organized.  (Organization has paid off repeatedly as the girls move into high school level courses and dual enrollment.)  So I looked for an easy way to keep organized.

My first step at this organization was the purchase of three letter envelope sized Boxes upon which I wrote “Christina’s Schoolbooks,” “Rebeccah’s Schoolbooks,” and “Kimberly’s Schoolbooks.”

These boxes hold all current textbooks, notebooks, and school “tools” (pencils, pens, crayons, etc.) for that student.  I only had one “student” at the time, but the littler girls felt big to have their crayons, art supplies, and activity books in a “school box” too.  They also aren’t too heavy for a 5-year-old to tote around.

The students are responsible for their box and keeping their books and supplies in good order.  (Mom “issues” normal supplies like notebooks, primary crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, mathematical instruments, and books.  Usually, they like to buy their own “extras” like markers, colored pencils, or work pens inscribed with their name.)  This helps with responsibility.

Bingo!  I scored a short, sturdy wooden bookshelf that held my boxes perfectly!  **One (Jaquline’s) is missing in the picture, but that’s because she was using it!**

This allowed me to add the next 2 boxes (they were only 1 and 3, but Jaquline kept asking about her school box) and a third set for notebooks, charts & flashcards, and shared coloring & art books.  (Granted, we have a full-size bookshelf with art supplies and games and three full-size bookshelves with the supplemental school books – mostly history, science, technology, readers, and encyclopedias.)

Later, Rebeccah decided we needed a “non-reader” system on our boxes so we added “pictures” to the labels.  She likes everything organized too.

I created a book I call the School Planner.  (Rebeccah calls it “The One Book” as in “The book to rule all school!”) **Deceptively plain, isn’t it?**

It has everything school related in a very easy, homeschool-mom-friendly format.  (This means I can quickly enter information and file papers within my 10 or 15 minute time crunch.  I love organization, but hate spending time on it.)  One file drawer turned into the workbook paper file with one file for each student’s work by school year.  They look like steps and Kimberly has called them “the steps to college.”

Our School Shelf still holds everything current for 6 students (okay, Lucas isn’t a student yet, but he does have a backpack, crayons, and two coloring books in his school box).  Our School Planner sits on top of the School Shelf, and two sturdy boxes (perfect size to keep the workbooks snug and dust-free) sit on the other side against the wall holding all of the “next-ups.” (Core curriculum workbooks to be used by the next student.)

Our School Planner is organized by student in 4-week snapshots on each page.

On these pages, I keep a running list of reading books completed, courses completed and their GPA & weight (for high school-level), extra-curricular projects completed, and educational extras like field trips, community service, or practical learning.  The first page in my planner is my “base grade level guide” (texts I expect each student to pass at said grade level).

At the end of each school year (for us, the last Friday before our annual evaluation), I spend about an hour or two and compile all this raw data into a concise one or two page “report” I call a school year summary.

I attach a reading book list (gathered from the same data!) and if any high school level courses were completed, I add them into the student’s high school transcript.

For portfolio evaluations, I just grab the School Planner (reports go in the front in age order) and the file folder for each student for that year.  It’s easy and keeps me mostly stress free.  After evaluations, I rubber-band the School Planner pages together and set them in the file drawer with the previous years, print out the new pages with the changed dates and continue… the story of each school year in less than 1.5 inches of paper. The copy of their evaluation report (the copy of the official report on file with St Johns’ County) goes in a file folder with their name on it.  This has all evaluations and communications from the school district.  (This was a life-saver when the county changed computer systems!) **Lucas’ folder doesn’t have his name on it yet because they get to pick their colors**

Everything important with our school is in one long file drawer and one shelf.  This makes school time fun and easy – and organized!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Birthday Day Off

October 26, 2017

Birthday Day Off

We are a homeschool family.   Sometimes this means we goof off and play games on birthdays instead of do bookwork.  But consider how much learning is crammed into everyday life!

Money skills: Today’s practicum included working and saving (racing around to do enough chores to raise the difference from their savings to whatever toy they wanted to buy for birthday sister), budgeting (oops, that pony figure is outside of my budget!),figuring tax, and checking change received.

Math and Science Lab: This included addition (1 cup milk + 1 cup milk = 2 cups milk), subtraction (Lucas dropped an egg!), fractions (1/2 cup sugar, please?), chemistry (solution versus compound, various states of matter, and a lengthy comical discussion of how the ingredients became a cake!), and even biology (answering our first-grader’s question of “does the sun help grow sugar?”).  Finally, our “home economics laboratory” produced a gluten-free chocolate cake with buttercream icing as requested.

They brought home the “best addition” to the cake – a miniature model of the Millennium Falcon, birthday girl’s favorite Star Wars ship.   (It’s her dream to have the Millennium Falcon Lego set – oddly enough, same one Mom wanted as a teen!)  We perched this on a good spot.

Language and Creative Writing: (each student wrote and colored a birthday card for Rebeccah).

Pyrotechnics and Fire Safety followed.  (This is otherwise known as lighting candles and hearing Mom’s 275th lecture on keeping hair away from flame!)

Music: (where everyone tries to get “…and many more” in the lowest baritone possible and the kazoos attempt to play some tune!)

Now for the guinea pigs to taste the experimental laboratory creation!  (A+ everyone lived!)  Creativity flowed during Art – the party hats turned into eye patches, unicorn horns, and noses.

Sometimes life takes over our classwork.  That’s okay.  We get a lot of practical work done on “days off!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Home School Doggies

June 19, 2017

Home School Doggies

Many dogs have lived with us for various amounts of time (we’ve fostered quite a few).  Each one leaves their unique pawprints on our hearts.  Since dogs tend to single out one person to bond with, each one “belongs” to one of the girls for their stay.  They sometimes refer to our dogs as “home school doggies” because they are part of our “home school family.”

Rebeccah had a cute Black Mouth Cur named Lady.  Lady loved the girls so much that when they were doing school, she would wiggle around their feet and periodically whine.  We’d say, “Lady, hush!  They’ll come play in a bit.”  She would wag her tail (which wagged her entire body in waves) and give us “the puppy look.”  Lady weighed about eighty pounds and was still less than a year old!  One of our neighbors said she looked like a deer! (She jumped like a deer too; dead stop with a 5-foot fence in front of her? Boing! She cleared it no problem.)  She was friendly and loved everyone – especially other puppies smaller than she. (Since she was bigger than most of the children, I’m sure she considered them puppies.)

Sheba thinks she is the queen (our family dog who was 7) so she just slept on the couch during school work time.

Lady would climb in Rebeccah’s chair.  She thought she was human.  Rebeccah would occasionally dress Lady up.  One day I hear “Mom!  Come look at your newest student!”

Around the corner from the kitchen I spy our big human-sized dog standing with her back feet on the floor, left paw on the table, and right paw in Rebeccah’s hand with a pencil between her toes.  (The DOG IS ON MY TABLE!  But I laugh instead, because that look is hilarious – and yes, we caught it on camera!)

“Mom, Lady is doing my schoolwork today.”  Rebeccah says. “I hope she’s good at fractions!”

I love the fact that happy interruptions (like an impromptu photography session, discussion of dog’s feet and toes and how different they are from human digits, or recess to rub their dog’s belly) can pop up and get included in their day.

By the way, we were doing “bookwork” after dark (about 7 in winter) because the day was just too pretty to stay inside. (We’re in Florida; winter = 60 degrees at noon) There is so much to be learned from events in our daily lives.  We watched different Florida birds that morning and the explorers stumbled upon the deer thicket in the wild deep brush behind our house.  So we looked up birds for identification and researched deer. (Surprisingly, the movie Bambi has a lot of truth about deer in it.)

One stretch we had bookwork “paused” while we spent extra time loving on a litter of puppies and their momma until each found their “fur-ever” home.  The girls named and loved every one of those pups.  They researched and learned a lot about life from those little sweeties.

Today, our two family dogs observe “bookwork” each in their own way (none as active a participant as Lady was):

Prim (one month shy of 3 years old) curls at Christina’s feet, yipping if her master’s bookwork takes too long.

Sheba still sits like a queen (she’s 10) on the couch, pretending she’s old and weak. (But open the gate and she’ll rejuvenate to 10-month-old-puppy and sprint outside so quickly that only Daddy or Kimberly can grab her!)

I’m so thankful for the “home school doggies” God puts with us to learn from and smother with love.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart