Tag Archives: homeschooling essentials

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, #5: Our iPod

(This week several members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew have been giving everyone a glimpse into their daily lives by sharing “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.”)

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My last “essential” might seem odd to some people, but I use iPods a lot in our homeschool.  It’s a way to change things up a bit from traditional school methods, and it works well for all of us.  The boys like listening while they do other things (not realizing it’s actually “school”), and I like being able to multi-task and get school done while I’m driving, cooking dinner, etc.

Our “Listening Lessons” have been a regular part of our day since I first started doing preschool with Ian.  It started as just stories (see “Learning as we play…and drive…and live“), but then I realized I could do a lot more.  Now we spend lots of time each week listening to Bible passages, Scripture memory songs, catechism questions, poetry, songs about Bible stories, podcasts, radio dramas, classical music and any other audio resources I find that fit in with our current lessons.

To make it easy to find what I want during the week, I like to plan ahead.  I create playlists in iTunes with everything I want us to listen to related to our lessons.  Sometimes I’ll create multiple lists, like one for Bible and one for the composer we’re learning about.  For example, here is my Bible “Listening Lesson” from our week on “God Creates Man“:

At the same time we were studying Beethoven, so I had another playlist for when we wanted to do composer study:

I am amazed at how much my children have absorbed just from turning on the iPod as we drive or as they play.  I often hear Ian retelling a Bible story using the exact words from the ESV because he’s heard it several times.  I’ve gotten numerous comments on both the boys’ extensive vocabularies, which I think are a direct result of the hours they’ve spent listening to quality literature as they fall asleep each night.

It might seem overwhelming at first to know where to look for things to add to a playlist for your kids, so here are a few of my “go-to” resources.  (I’ve also shared many playlists on blog posts over the past few years so you could search this site for “listening lesson” and/or “playlist” to see other examples.)

Favorite Audio Resources:

Of course, don’t forget to check your local library.  Ours has a wonderful collection of audiobooks in the children’s section.  It’s also a great place to find classical music.

And that wraps up my top five!  How about you?  What would you consider top five essentials to your homeschool experience?

In case you missed them, here are links to my other posts in this series.

Essential #1: God’s Guidance

Essential #2: My Husband

Essential #3: Books, Books, and More Books

Essential #4: The Internet

Click on the picture below to see what the rest of Crew has blogged about this week! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Or if that list is too daunting, get started with these blogs:

Marcy @Ben and Me

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, #4: the Internet

(This week several members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew will be giving everyone a glimpse into their daily lives by sharing “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.”)

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Do you remember when you first discovered the Internet?  I do.  At first I didn’t realize how big it was.  I just used it for email and Instant Messaging.  Those two things alone were pretty amazing.  Eventually, however, someone taught me about search engines, and before I knew it, the whole world was opened to me without ever leaving my desk.  That was about 20 years ago.  Nowadays I honestly cannot imagine trying to homeschool without the Internet.  I know countless people have done it through the ages, but it has become such an integral part of what our family does that I have to include it in my top 5 homeschooling essentials.

Here are a few ways we utilize this fantastic resource:

Online School

I realized early on that Ian and I have very different learning styles, which often leads to frustration on both sides when he’s trying to learn a new concept.  We first encountered this when he was learning to read.  Some people told me 4 years old was just too young, but since my brother and I both read well at that age, I wasn’t going to give up so easily.  Thankfully we found Reading Eggs, a site with one of the best learn-to-read programs of any kind I’ve ever seen.  Ian had so much fun doing the lessons and learned so much.  Within days he was reading on his own, and enjoying the feeling of success.  Elijah also started going through the lessons, and it has been just as wonderful for him.  Right now we’re reviewing on online science program and it’s proving to me that online lessons are a great way for my kids to learn.  I imagine we’ll find classes online to be a regular part of our curriculum in the years to come.

Educational Games

There are so many wonderful sites out there with educational games.  If I need to keep the boys occupied so I can finish dinner or tend to another child’s needs for a while, I know they can easily entertain themselves on Starfall, ABCya, Kabongo, Teach Your Monster to Read, and lots of other sites we’ve preapproved and given them access to.  (All of those are free, though we have also paid for a subscription for “More Starfall” because it has some wonderful activities that both boys love.)

Curriculum

In addition to online lessons, we’ve found a lot of curriculum for traditional lessons available online for free.  Some people thrive on a boxed curriculum, but I am not one of them.  I tend to tweak everything to fit our needs, and I’m not willing to pay for something I’m just going to change.  I prefer to look online for a free curriculum to provide some structure, and then I adapt it as I see fit.  We did that in preschool with ABC Jesus Loves Me, and I plan to do something similar with Ambleside Online starting in 1st grade. (I’ve also gotten lots of good ideas from An Old Fashioned Education, another free online curriculum.)  For math, I have found nothing I like better than the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) from the Center for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching, which just happens to offer all the materials for free online.

Materials

We also use the Internet to find the materials we need for teaching, such as e-books and audiobooks (both of which I usually get from BooksShouldBeFree.com), regular paper books (I especially love buying used books on Amazon to save money), and school supplies.  Amazon Prime is awesome for getting what I need quickly.  For example, when we decided to “row” Owl Moon (post coming soon!) I thought it would be fun to dissect an owl pellet.  I was doing my lesson planning on Saturday so it was kind of late to start looking for science supplies, but I went on Amazon to see if they had owl pellets and they did!  I placed an order and they were here Monday, giving me plenty of freedom as to when I wanted to include them in our week.  (I love Amazon so much it almost got its own day this week.  It’s more of an essential when mothering lots of young children, however, rather than homeschooling, so I decided to just include it here.  I use it for ordering as many non-perishable groceries as I can, mostly through the Subscribe & Save program where I can save 20% when I have 5 or more items delivered that month.  It is so much easier to have things delivered to my door than to drag four young children to the store!)

Videos

The other part of Amazon Prime that I love is the streaming video.  There are many educational programs available to watch for no additional charge.  One of our favorites is Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  We watch an episode almost every day at lunch, and I’m amazed at what the kids have learned from it.  It’s like having a virtual fieldtrip every day.  We’ve also found videos on Netflix to complement our lessons.

While life might have been simpler before the Internet, I am so thankful for the ways it has made our life easier, particularly when it comes to homeschooling.  It is awesome having so much information readily available to us with just a few clicks on a mouse!

In case you missed them, here are links to my other posts in this series so far:

Essential #1: God’s Guidance

Essential #2: My Husband

Essential #3: Books, Books, and More Books

Click on the picture below to see what the rest of Crew is blogging about this week! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Not sure where to star?  Check out these blogs:

Marcy @Ben and Me

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, #3: Books, Books, and More Books

(This week several members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are giving everyone a glimpse into their daily lives by sharing “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.” )

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It seems so obvious, I know, but that’s why because it’s so essential.  After God and my husband, books are up there near the top of my list when it comes to the essentials of homeschooling.  The thing that makes books so important is that they are bridges to any information we might want to learn.  When seeking knowledge about something, we can almost always find a book that will help us learn more about it.  A love of reading means any gaps that might remain in our children’s education when they graduate (and there will be gaps!) can be filled in if ever the need arises because our children know where to go to find the answers.

One of the keys to successful homeschooling is nurturing a child’s natural love of learning, and I can think of no better way to do that than to introduce them to the wonder of books.  The best way to do that is to read to them, and to do it often.  My husband was rather amazed at first by how often I pulled out books for Ian when he was a baby.  He hadn’t grown up reading a lot or loving books the way most of my family did.  It didn’t take long, however, for him to see how much Ian loved them.  Eric quickly caught on to the fact that books were a great way to grab some quality time with our children.  And now not a day goes by that he doesn’t read to each and every one of them.  (Well, our 4-month old probably doesn’t get it every day, but the other three do, and I’ve seen Nicholas getting his share of book time with Daddy as well.)  P1020429Every night as the boys head to bed, they go browsing through our library looking for a story for Daddy to read to them and books to look at in bed until they fall asleep.  Consequently their beds regularly look like mini-libraries.  I don’t know how they manage to sleep like that but they do, and I’m so glad they share my love of books that I don’t make an issue of it.  All three of our older children love books, and if all we do for schoolwork some days is read aloud, I still consider it a successful day.

Many people rely on libraries to supply books for their homeschool, but, while I do utilize our local library at times, personally I love having books at close range to grab when my children ask a question.  The other night the house was all abuzz after I had seen a mouse scurry across our kitchen.  (A first for me.  Don’t get me started.)  As Eric and I were trying to figure out where it had gone and where to set traps, I heard Ian calling from the school room, “What do you call a mouse?”  At first I was completely baffled as to what he was getting at with that question, but then I saw that he searching the section of our bookshelves with animal books, particularly the About _____” series by Cathryn and John Sill .  “Oh!  They’re called rodents.  Do you see a book on that?”  He immediately found About Rodents and proceeded to curl up on the couch and read the entire thing out loud.  He was just disappointed it didn’t have more information in it.  It’s a great introductory series, but it’s not the place to go when you have lots of questions.  Still, I love that he remembered those books (we’ve pulled them out several times, including when we read The Salamander Room and The Grouchy Ladybug) and knew right where to go when he wanted to find out more about an animal.

He goes to our shelves frequently to satisfy his thirst for knowledge, and I love that we can structure our school day around his interests.  I often say that I homeschooled myself as a child in the hours when I wasn’t in a public school classroom.  I just always loved to learn, and I was continually picking a subject and devouring books on it to educate myself.  When I met several homeschool families as a teenager, I was so jealous that they got to do that same thing and call it their schoolwork, while I had to do both. What a blessing that my children can enjoy such freedom in their education!

I can’t imagine trying to homeschool without books.  Thank goodness for my husband, who accepts my walls of books without complaint!  And thank goodness for local libraries, for when I get a chance to plan ahead and want to supplement our studies without breaking our budget!

In case you missed them, here are links to my other posts in this series so far:

Essential #1: God’s Guidance

Essential #2: My Husband

Click on the picture below to see what the rest of Crew is blogging about this week! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Or if that list is too daunting, get started with these blogs:

Marcy @Ben and Me

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, #2: My Husband

(This week several members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew will be giving everyone a glimpse into their daily lives by sharing “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.”)

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After “#1: God’s Guidance,” the next most important thing I would consider essential to our homeschooling success is, without a doubt, my husband Eric.  He is my greatest source of support and encouragement, and it would be so hard to face the challenges of homeschooling without him by my side.

Eric is one of the most hard-working guys I know.  He puts in more than 10 hours a day Monday through Friday (and often Saturdays too) at a physically demanding job, then comes home and assumes the title of “Dad” with gusto.  Even on the days when he’s completely exhausted, he always seems able to muster up enough energy for a game of Candyland with Elijah, one more time through Arianna’s current favorite book, and a few minutes to admire Ian’s latest creative endeavor.

I honestly don’t know how he does it, but I’m so thankful for my husband’s diligence.  His long days at work make my days at home possible.   We may not have the fancy house, expensive gadgets, or other nice things we could afford if both of us worked, but he cares more about providing our children with the things that really matter and is willing to sacrifice such luxuries.

Eric’s contribution to our homeschool is not merely financial, however.  He never considered homeschooling before I mentioned it (he grew up in private Christian schools and figured we’d follow suit), but he trusts me and has seen how it has benefited our family even just in the preschool years.  Now he is my greatest cheerleader, wholeheartedly embracing the homeschool lifestyle and helping in every way he can.  He leads our family Bible time each evening, reads to the kids before bed every night, and teaches our boys about things I know nothing about like electricity, engines, and other modern mysteries.  Often when he works on Saturdays he takes the boys with him, providing them with a learning experience no classroom could offer.

There are many wonderful resources out there to help homeschool moms do their job well, but all those things pale in comparison to what a supportive husband brings to our homeschool experience.  Eric is, in one word, essential.

Come back every day this week to see what other things made my top 5 list, and click on the picture below to see what the rest of Crew is blogging about this week! 

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Or if that list is too daunting, here are some suggestions to get you started:

Marcy @ Ben and Me

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials, #1: God’s Guidance

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials This week several members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew will be giving everyone a glimpse into their daily lives by sharing “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials.”   I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone chooses to write about, as well as sharing my own “top 5” with you.

It didn’t take long to figure out my choice for the #1 position.  As I’ve been focusing on my “word for 2014” (Pray), I’ve realized how essential God’s guidance is to every part of my life, including (perhaps especially) homeschooling.  In fact, it’s making me marvel that I’ve survived this long without spending more time in prayer.

Psalm 127:1 says “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  I cannot imagine a more monumental building project than homeschooling one’s children.  With God’s help we are molding and shaping their lives, investing years in guiding them and helping to fashion them into the people He has called them to be.

All parents face countless decisions that will affect their children’s journey to adulthood, and homeschooling just multiplies that responsibility.  I’m learning that bringing those decisions before the Lord and listening for His direction brings such peace, even in the midst of situations that feel less than peaceful.

For example, a while back I was spending some time praying for Ian and seeking the Lord as to how to best meet his needs.  We seem to be going through a stage of continual testing, and he is constantly crashing into the boundaries we set for him.  It has been wearing me out, and I was starting to wonder if I needed to make some changes in what I expect of him and how I discipline him.  When I took it to the Lord, he reminded me that boundaries are a good thing.  It’s like driving a car on the “Autopia” attraction at Disneyland.  When you start to go off track, you get jerked back by the guiding rail.  It’s not a smooth ride, but the rail serves an important purpose.  The boundaries we set for our children help keep them on the right course.  It may not be a smooth ride, but it’s a really good thing they’re there.  Thank you, Lord, for this reminder.  It gave me great peace, which I would not have found if I hadn’t spent time seeking Him for wisdom about how to parent Ian.

We face those moments with all our children, wondering what is the best course of action.  Homeschooling brings a whole other set of questions.  What curriculum should we use?  Which books should we read? What subjects are important for this particular child?  At what age do we want to start doing _____?  Should we sign up for this class or activity?  The questions are endless.  I tend to be quick to make decisions, and usually my instincts serve me well.  There have been many times, however, when I’ve been quick to jump into something that sounds “good”according to my wisdom, but later I find myself wishing I’d taken more time to pray about whether it was really what was “best” for our family.  As I focus on prayer this year, I want to bring all these types of questions before God rather than just rushing into things based on my own thinking.  I find myself longing for the words of Isaiah 30:21:

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

It is far too easy for me to run ahead on my own, without pausing to listen for God’s guidance.  But I am learning that in homeschooling (as in the rest of my life), things always go better when I wait to hear that word behind me.

Check back throughout the week to see what other things made my top 5 list of homeschooling essentials!

To see what the rest of Crew is blogging about this week, click on the picture above or just get started with these blogs:

Marcy @ Ben and Me

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

Beth @ Ozark Ramblings

Rebecca @ Raventhreads

Coming Up Next Week…

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is how different it looks in every family, sometimes even with every child.  Everyone has their own perspective on what’s essential based on the age of their kids, their learning styles, and personal preference.  Next week some members of The Old School House Review Crew will be posting “5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials,” and while I’m sure many of us will have things in common, I’m anticipating a great deal of variety as well.  Our family has found a groove that works for us for the moment,  but I don’t want it to deepen into a rut that we can’t find our way out of, so I’m looking forward to reading what the others choose to write about.  I always enjoy gathering inspiration and learning from what others are doing.  (And I imagine you’re the same way, or you probably wouldn’t be visiting my blog!)

Come back every day next week to see the top 5 essentials at His Treasure Seekers, and then click on the picture below to find links to the rest of the Crew’s posts!

(Link will be live Monday, 1/20)

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials