Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gearing Up for Not-Back-to-School

This year, like every year, I am faced with the question of how do I get started homeschooling this year.  I kind of look at each school year as a separate adventure, although some of it may be similar from year to year.  I think I finally have a system down for figuring it out now though.
Homeschool central in my living room.  The top shelf pictured contains musical instruments and reference books such as dictionaries.  Next down are wooden puzzles for the younger kids (placed up high to discourage dumping, but it doesn't really work since the kids climb), math manipulatives, and other materials such as bean bags and crayons that can be useful for a variety of activities.  Next down is my son's shelf, which contains a variety of puzzle books, magazines, early readers, a binder for loose worksheets, and workbooks.  The bottom pictured is my daughter's shelf which contains a large box of paper for all the kids to use as they would like (reused paper.  The other side has printing on it already.), some high interest books to look at to stimulate her mind and imagination, her binder for loose worksheets (and coloring pages), and a stack of workbooks and coloring books.  Not pictured is the top of the shelf, which contains supplies such as construction paper, software, and "teacher" stuff and the bottom shelf, which is the toddler's and contains a variety of toys to stimulate his cute little brain.  Next to the shelf, you can see a loveseat, perfect for snuggling while studying or just reading together and an alphabet chart for reference by the kids.  This entire area is right next to the kitchen counter, where we usually do "school".
  • Step 1:  Clean and organize the house.  How do I know what I need if I don't know what I have?  I might think I have something and it turns out it is broken or crucial pieces are missing, if everything isn't in its place when figuring out my plan for the year.
  • Step 2:  Figure out what our objectives are.  My main objective for the school year for my 6 year old is to get him reading proficiently and writing comfortably, so most things for him will gear around this.  My main goal for my 4 year old is for her to master the alphabet, to write her name, and be able to count consistently at least to 10, so her materials and lessons will center around these.  For science, social studies, and other such subjects, I will largely be leaving it to their interests this year, so the specific objectives for those subjects will be developed in...
  • Step 3:  Find out what the kids want to do.  I have a ton of books with craft and activities for kids in them, mostly from, so I plan on sitting down with the older kid and figure out what looks fun.  I'll then use those things as a framework to figure out what we'll learn about.
  • Step 4:  Find out what is going on in the community.  We live near a very homeschool friendly city, so I'll be looking into activities at the museums and other places to see what will fit with what we want to do.  I may also use some of these things, like the homeschool science days as the children's museum to figure out more lesson themes.
  • Step 5:  Decide what we are actually going to do.  Being thrifty as I am, I'm not going to be buying a curriculum, so I'll be putting together a loose curriculum based on the things I mentioned before.
  • Step 6:  Figure out what we need to get.  Shortly before the beginning of each school year, I post a list of the things we want or need for supplies, whether it be normal things like construction paper or unusual things like toilet paper tubes or more toy-like things like puzzles on our local Freecycle group.  I also will let friends and relatives know so they can keep their eyes out for freebies or cheapies at yard sales or whatever.  I also watch for them at yard sales, which is part of why I start thinking no later than the end of July, rather than waiting until the beginning of September when schools start up around here.  As a last resort, I'll buy the things we absolutely need, but if I can hold out until after schools start up, I try to so I can cash in on back-to-school clearance sales, rather than paying full- or even regular sale prices for things!
To keep puzzles organized, I labeled each piece and the puzzle with a number and put the pieces in a plastic bag in a bin out of the reach of the toddler, so he can't just knock the puzzle holder with all its puzzle pieces on the floor for an instant mess.
So there you have it, my thrifty guide to not going back to school.  It is not the only way to do things and I don't claim it is "the best" but it works for my family.  That's one of the best things about homeschooling: we can always do what's best for our family.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


My son has decided that he'd rather take a more unschooling approach to his schooling for a while, so, unless/until he changes his mind, this blog is going on hiatus.  We're too busy living life to keep up with it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dinosaurs--week 3

A few of the books from previous weeks are still left, so we'll be working on reading those, as well as adding a few more shone below.  We will also be working on finishing the mural mentioned in last week's lesson and perhaps begin work on a papier mache dinosaur.  To bring the dinosaurs and the world they live in more alive, we will also be watching some videos about dinosaurs.  In addition to the nonfiction DVDs, we will also be watching Jurassic Park and discuss why it is fiction.

Books used this week:

Videos to be watched: 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dinosaurs--week 2

This week, we will continue the March of the Dinosaurs by continuing using the "funsheets" from on dinosaurs and reading the books we didn't get to yet last week.  We will also be adding a few more books (see below) and beginning to put together murals on the wall of this time period.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monsters vs. Dinosaurs

Today, we will be transitioning from the talk of monsters to dinosaurs.  We'll be discussing some things that are similar and different between monsters and dinosaurs.  We'll begin discussing the Mesozoic era using this page as a focus/coloring page.  We will also be doing some "funsheets" from the Learning Pages Theme Unit on dinosaurs.  We'll be reading (or looking at, in some cases) whatever books we have around here on dinosaurs as well.  This should take us the rest of the week and may take us into next week as well.

In no particular order, some of the books we have lying around here on or about dinosaurs:


Sunday, February 27, 2011


Lately, S has been saying he doesn't want to be alone anywhere in the house because he's "scared".  Today, we will be addressing that through stories, discussions, and activities.  We will be reading the book selections listed below, then discuss his fears.  We will discuss things we can do to help deal with the fears, perhaps by making a batch of "Monster Spray" or setting policies to do chores earlier in the evening when he's not so tired and imaginations aren't running so wild.  As part of this discussion, we will also make an art project as described here.  We will also complete a worksheet on fear to try to gain control of it.  We will also be doing this worksheet on telling time.  We may also use play-dough or another medium to give shape to the fears so they can be squashed, literally and metaphorically.


Friday, February 25, 2011


Today, we read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Magic Meatballs.  Then we made a large batch of meatballs for freezing.  While they were cooking, we watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and then discussed the ways the book and move were different.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raining Food

Today we continue our lessons centered around fun food stories with The Night It Rained Pancakes and Rain Makes Applesauce.  We'll then talk about the water cycle, using a coloring page for reference.  Then we'll do some weather worksheets from, along with some from the Learning Page website (1, 2, 3, and possibly a couple more from this site, if his interest holds long enough).  Then we are going to make some basic applesauce.


Today, we'll be going to a library storytime, where they always have stories and a related craft, then we'll be headed to a homeschool gathering so the kids can interact with other homeschool kids and I can talk to actual, read adults not in a computer.  Then, we'll be reading How Pizza Came to Queens and doing a pizza number order worksheet.  Then we'll make pizza using the dough we already made up in a prior lesson from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients.  While that's cooking, we'll be continuing a study of nutritious foods and work on food related worksheets from the member section of and some worksheets from

Materials used in today's lessons:


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Hungry Thing Rhyming

Today, we used The Hungry Thing and The Hungry Thing Returns as a focus to work on rhyming, since this is an important phonetic skill and learning to read is a primary focus right now.  He is very resistant to sitting down and trying to read, though, so I'm forced to use tricks and games to get him to try.  After we read the stories, we did some rhyming worksheets to reinforce the skill.  We also played with rhyming puzzle cards.  Then, the rest of the day was spent making up silly rhymes when we talked.

Materials used for today's lesson: