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Archive for the ‘homeschooling’ Category

Two Weeks Down an Adventure to Go

We just finished up our second week of homeschooling yesterday.  Before I started I told myself I would give myself six months to adjust because I was a little worried that it would be a hard and difficult transition.  In other words, mentally I prepared for the worst: stressed out mom, miserable kids, and a dad who wanted his family out of the house.  I had told myself if this was the case I needed to give us a full 6 months to adjust before we made the decision to go back to school.  I’m thrilled to say that these last two weeks have been wonderful.  Much more wonderful than I ever imagined.  I feel peace and purpose like I’ve never experienced as a mom.  The boys are continuing to have fun and are enjoying each other unlike when they would come home from school tired and cranky.  Brent said, “It feels natural.  Like this is how our family is supposed to be.”  I can’t tell you how grateful I am that this hasn’t been the transition I had expected and that Brent is right it does feel natural.

Two weeks ago we went on a homeschooling camping trip and one of the wise moms there who had been doing it for a while gave me this advice: “Start slowly and add subjects in as you go.”  I had been planning to start with a full day’s worth of work because I wanted to dive right in but after some thought and consideration I decided to take her advice. Brent starts the day by doing devotions with the boys.  He has mentioned to me many times how much he is enjoying this part of his day.  As far as formal subjects, I decided that I would start with the toughest and sometimes most tedious subjects (for older brother) first which are math and grammar (phonics for little brother).  I figured if we could get through those we could get through anything.  So far so good.  Nathanael doesn’t really like math.  I’m trying to make it as pleasant as possible but I also feel like there is a certain amount of “it’s just something we got to do” and “not everything is fun”.  That said, he has shown great improvement the past two weeks in his work and in his attitude.  Noah’s math is going great.  I think he has complained once but so far first grade math is pretty simple.  While Nathanael finishes up his math Noah and I snuggle on the couch and do phonics and reading.  Then Noah takes a break whilel Nathanael and I do grammar.  After that we all cozy up together on the couch for history/literature.  Both boys LOVE this and so do I.  Next week we are adding in more literature, spelling, handwriting, and science.  After much debate and many hours of research, we are really excited about our new science book Apologia’s Exploring Creation Through Astronomy by Jeannie Fullbright.  It’s a beautiful easy to understand book celebrating the glory of God in the natural world with lots experiments.  I think we will have a lot of fun with it.   I emailed her from her website and she took the time to answer my questions which I appreciated.

The best part so far is that the stress level in our house has gone way down.  Waaaay down.  I knew running back and forth from school and fullfilling all those responsibilites that come with school (buying supplies, signing up as parent helper, ect) was wearing us down but I didn’t realize just how much until Nathanael and I were sitting in the living room one morning.  We were the only ones up chatting in the living room when he noticed kids walking by on their way to school.  With a big smile he said, “Look they are on their way to school.  I’m not.”  I asked what time it was and he went to the kitchen to look.  It was 7:45, ten minutes before we would have had to leave.  I thought back to last year.  Brent packing the lunches.  Nathanael yelling how he hates peanut butter and jelly.  Noah reminding us that he is not allowed to bring peanut butter and jelly to his class because of other children’s allergies. Nathanael complaining that everyone else gets chips and junk food why can’t he.  Packing the backpack and finding a crumpled permission slip that I was supposed to have signed two days ago along with an request to bring in “googly eyes” for a class project.  Ahhh…I’ll have to run to Michael’s this afternoon.  Then piling into the car when little brother suddenly remembers it’s “Share Day” and he has to rush in to the house to find “that one” Lego guy.

Instead this is how our days have been going.  I get up between 5 and 6: 30 to do devotions and write.  Brent gets up around 7:30 to make breakfast and do devotions with the boys.  Around 9 I take over and we start math.  Then onto grammar and phonics.  This week handwriting and spelling will be added to our morning routine.  Then we have our snacks and dive into history, literature, and this week science.  Lunch follows and then in the afternoon we either run errands, visit with our elderly friends, have a play date, go to the library, do a craft, practice taekwondo, or just play.  We’ve done all of those things these the last two weeks.  Three or four days a week we have taekwondo in the late afternoon.  In two weeks, choir will be starting on Mondays at 12:30.  It sounds like a lot but the nice thing about it is our schedule is for the most part totally flexible so it’s not stressful.

On Thursday we had a particularly good grammar lesson.  Our grammar book, Building with Diligence, had sandwiched this profound little lesson between lessons on finding the simple subjects and predicates.  It was about how good writers learn to use their ears and eyes more than their mouths.  It started with this little poem:

A wise old owl
Lived in an oak
The more he saw,
The less he spoke;
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Why can’t we all
Be like that bird?

We talked about how we have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth and how we should see and hear twice as much as we say.  This lesson sparked wonderful conversation between Nathanael and I.   He is interested in learning to write after reading Eragon by Christopher Paolini, a homeschooled boy who wrote the book at 15.  We talked about how observing/listening is where you find the ideas or inspiration to write.   The point of the lesson was a good writer must a good observer and listener.  The conversation also led to how good it feels to be listened to and we should try to listen to people to show respect and love.  Not always easy to do but important nonetheless.  These sort of conversations are the real reasons we’ve chosen to homeschool.  Knowing how to find a simple predicate is great but doesn’t compare to learning how to silence oneself to listen and learn from the world around them.  Not only do I love teaching my kids this sort of stuff but I need the reminder myself.

The boys also started sparring in taekwondo.  Just as I expected Noah loves it and Nathanael doesn’t.  Just like Nathanael enjoys learning the forms (a series of choreographed kicks, blocks, and punches) and Noah doesn’t.  They look really cute in their sparring gear.  I had to get them protective cups to wear and Noah exclaimed that wearing the cup is “Horror!  Pure Horror!”  He likes sparring so much though that he said he’s put up with the horror of the cup.  Brent and I will start sparring next week.

Here are some pictures from these last two weeks.

Reading about the early nomad's transition to farming.  Nathanael thinks shadufs are cool!

Reading about the early nomad's transition to farming. Nathanael thinks shadufs are cool!



Making "cave" paintings.

Making "cave" paintings.


At the nursing home with Lucille.

At the nursing home with our friend, Lucille.

Good friends.

Good friends.

Saturday morning breakfast after a late night sleepover!

Saturday morning breakfast after a late night sleepover!

Hanging out on the deck with nasty little Nico.

Hanging out on the deck with nasty little Nico.



  • Filed under: homeschooling
  • As most of you know we have decided to homeschool this coming year. We feel a deep sense of gratitude towards God for giving us not only the desire but the means to do so.  For years I have wanted to homeschool in my head but I never could find the desire in my heart.  Brent and I would always talk about how much fun it would be if we could homeschool but I always said maybe next year.  About six months ago I was sitting on the couch praying and suddenly I knew we were to try homeschooling in the upcoming year.  It was so clear to me much like the time I knew I would marry Brent.  Immediately, I told Brent about the prayer time and he was very excited that I was ready to move into this uncharted territory.

    We have many reasons why we have decied to homeschool.  Here are a few in no particular order.

    1. We feel like God has placed this desire in our hearts.  Sitting down with the boys to learn has by far been one of the greatest joys of parenting for me.  Some people have remarked that it sounds like such a chore.  A year ago I felt the same but I can say with honesty that I no longer see it as a “chore” but as a gift.  I can’t believe that God has given me two amazing children and has given me the desire and opportunity to homeschool them.
    2. The boys are getting big and we know Nathanael’s next 9 years are going to go by FAST.  We know if we never give homeschooling a try we will regret it later.  We don’t want them to grow up and say we wished we would have tried.
    3. We want to help preserve our boys unique personalities.  Although they have gone to a very warm and nuturing school we have noticed the effect of peers on their personalities and frankly it’s not been all that great.  Our boys are trying to discover who God has created them to be and we want to be the ones to guide them down that path.  Do we want to shelter them???  Yes, to some extent we do because we feel that is our job.  Forever?  Absolutely not.  But homeschooling will give us a bigger say in who they choose for friends.  Homeschoolers have a reputation for being “weird”.  This idea that all homeschoolers are “weird” is just plain ignorant.  A while back I spent some time visiting homeschooling groups.  Honestly, I was expecting to meet “weird” kids but what I found is that the kids actually seemed more grounded, thoughtful, confident, and kind than the kids on the school playground.  I observed kids appreciating the differences in others.  I even saw two juniour high girls discussing science and math with enthusiasm. One was encouraging the other who was not doing as well with those subjects.  This really opened my eyes to the types of kids who homeschool.  It was a far cry from what I saw happening between the girls at the school.  So if “weird” means being able to think for oneself, an interest in learning, and relating to others on a mature level then so be it…I want “weirdos”.  Of course, school kids are NOT all bad kids.  There will be a few that we hope to keep in touch with but these are some observations we have made that have influenced our decision.
    4. We want to know our kids as deeply as possible.  We just don’t feel like we are getting to know them as well when they are in school all day and then coming home tired and cranky with only a few rushed hours trying to squeeze in homework, taekwondo, and dinner before bed.
    5. Freedom and flexibility.  Brent has worked so hard to get to do what he does for a living but because the boys are in school we are unable to take full advantage of his flexibility and enjoy the fruits of his labor.  Now we will be able to go camping and visit family whenever and for as long as we want as long as it works with Brent’s schedule (and money and not wearing out our welcome!).  We have dreams of spending a year in a RV traveling the country really learning about American history.  Or spending a year in China teaching English.  Or who knows…..  We are all SO EXCITED about the opportunities that this will allow even if it’s just family trips to a museums during the week.
    6. Teach them not just to learn but more importantly teach them to love learning.  Learning is not about textbooks, quizzes, and tests.  It’s a way of looking at the world, asking questions, and seeking answers.  It’s exploring the history of humanity through art, literature, philosophy, and science so that we can respond the work of God throughout mankind.
    7. Reduce stress at home for us and for the boys.  As crazy as it may seem to some, we know that this is going to reduce the stress level in our home.  We are SO HAPPY to be done with the get up early and rushing around to get to school on time.  Not only that but stressing to get all the homework done after a busy day and having very little free time to just be kids and play.  Running back and forth between home and school had added unnecessary stress.  We are really looking forward to slowing down and being able to enjoy each other.  We also hope to reduce isocial stress.  We talked to one family who had home-schooled 2 or their 4 kids and said their home-schooled kids carried a lighter burden.  We hope to lighten our boys future loads.
    8. We feel they will get a better education, one that is tailored to suit their gifts instead of a one size fits all approach that’s necessary when teaching in a classroom.  For example, Nathanael has already expressed interest in taking Dave Ramsey’s financial peace course and learning Photoshop.  Things we would never have time for if he is in regular school.  Not to mention those are real-world skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives if they so choose. Much (not all) of traditional school work is boring and a waste of time.   Okay so a few people love filling out worksheet after worksheet and cramming for tests.  And a few actually remember it.   As Nathanael has gotten older his busy work has gotten longer and longer.  He has sat for hours filling out science reviews or history reviews searching through dull textbooks for the answers.  Understandably so, he gets frustrated and bored.  Brent and I talked about this and remembered feeling the same.  Not only that but we remember very little from our textbooks BUT we remember almost all of the stories we read. So we are going to use very few workbooks and textbooks.  Our homeschool is going to be based on high quality, much of it classical, literature. See History & Literature below.Not only is much of the work boring but they either have to wait for everyone to catch up OR they don’t understand concepts because the teacher doesn’t have the time to explain it to them in a way they understand, so they fall behind. Most of world’s greatest thinkers were not taught in a classroom.So how do homeschoolers compare  academically with the rest of the students.  Read Academic Statistics on Homeschooling to find out!
    9. Spiritual guidance.  So what if our kids do brilliantly academically but suffer spiritually.  If that is the case then we’ve missed the point of life.  This is why everyday will start out with Bible and we are going to approach every subject from Biblical/spiritual points of view.  When they are ready we will tackle the big questions of life and the implications of the different answers.   Far from wanting to shelter them we want to challenge them by asking these questions while they are still under our care because ultimately these are the things that REALLY matter.

    So how are we going to do all this????  Well here is a list by subject and I’m sure this will change as forge ahead.

    Bible – A Bible, The Awesome Book of Bible Facts,  A devotional Bible.

    History & Literature & Reading – This is going to be the core of our program.  We are going to learn history through high quality literature. For our first year we are going to give Sonlight a try.  Check out their website for more information.  History and literature aren’t grade dependent so we will be reading many of the same stories together out loud.  Nathanael will also read from the advanced readers list and Noah will read from the beginning reader list.  We are starting with an overview of world history as opposed to American history because…well…the world didn’t begin with America and it’s not all about America.  We feel like this will give us a better perspective and appreciation for our own country’s history.

    Writing – The boys writing assigments will be based off of the books we read for history and literature.  As far as a formal handwriting program, we are going to give the Writing without Tears program a try for Noah since he doens’t like handwriting at all.  I’ve researched and researched and this seems like it will be the best fit for him something that would not be able to happen if he was still in school.  Nathanael is going to use A Reason For Handwriting program since this is what he has used since Kindergarten.  As soon as he is consistently writing neatly we will stop a formal handwriting practice.

    Grammar – We are going to use the Rod and Staff grammar program.  From my research, it is one of the best and most thorough programs out there.  Noah will not start this until 3rd grade.

    Phonics – We are undecided on our phonics program.  So far I’m leaning towards Explode the Code, Rod and Staff or A Beka.  I’m still very open though and will be talking to other homeschooling moms for advice.

    Science –  This year we are going to be using Sonlight’s science curriculum.  For now our focus on science is to encourage their curiosity, appreciation, and wonder for God’s creation.

    Math – We are going to stick with Singapore Math for now.  Their school switched over to it last year and I was very impressed.  It’s a little different than the way most of us were taught math but I find the Singapore way of doing math to be way more intuitive and practical.  For those of you worried about me teaching Math I want to assure you I’m confident in my abilities for the next few years.  If or when I feel I need additional help we will either switch to a different program, take classes through the groups or co-ops and or get a tutor.  Just FYI I did very well in math.  I’m better at the language arts but I did get all the way through trigonometry in high school with an A.  I didn’t take any math in college so yes, it’s been a while but like I said if I need help, I’ll get help.

    Spelling – I think I’m going to start Noah with Spelling Workout A and I’m trying to decide wether to do Sequential Spelling or Spelling Workout D with Nathanael.  I really like all that I’ve read about Sequential Spelling but again I’m going to talk with some other homeschooling moms before I make a decision.

    Spanish – We are going to give the Rosetta Stone Homeschool Edition a try.  Of course, trips to Blancas (the little mexican market around the corner) will be great fun and practice.  I considered starting with Latin but since they’ve already had some Spanish and there are ample opportunities to practice we decided to wait on Latin.

    Music & Art – Until we can afford piano lessons we are going to try to learn the basics together.  We are also going to spend some time learning about the great artists and composers throughout history.  There is a really cool drawing book we are going to try to go through together as well.

    Socialization – This is possibly the most annoying question so don’t ask me about it.  People who ask this must have forgotten what it’s like to be on a playground or in the junior high cafeteria.  If this is a concern read Socialization: Homeschoolers Are in the Real World or this one and  you’ll see where Brent and I are coming from.  Don’t worry, we are not going to raise our kids in a bubble.  They will interact weekly with kids at taekwondo, church, playdates, our friend’s kids and our homeschool support groups CASA, ACHEVE, and we are on the waiting list for Group Solutions.  In additions we are considering joining the homeschool choir and/or Boy Scouts.  So they will have plenty of friends, in fact, we are going to have to be careful not to get too busy!!  We are already looking forward to a homeschool camping trip the last week of August.

    So there you have it a basic overview of what will be The Nims Academy of Excellence in Exploration.  Yes, we realize this is a bit ideal on paper but we agree with Michelangelo  “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  We hope in time Nathanael and Noah will be setting their sights as high as the heavens.

    With Love,
    Jenn & Brent

  • Filed under: homeschooling