Fun Activities For You & Your Kids

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There are going to be periods when you and your kids are together and you’ll want to spend time as a family. It’s not always easy to think of activities on the spot. That’s why you should have a few ideas handy that you can turn to when the opportunity to be with your kids arises.

Boy and girl playing in the snow

My kids playing in the snow

Have a few options in mind in case you get bored of one, or your kids aren’t enjoying themselves. Use your time together to talk, laugh and have fun as a group. Appreciate the chance to all be together and let yourselves be creative and free. Continue reading »

Play Outside
On days where the weather cooperates, head outside and get some fresh air. Soak up the sunshine and run around to let off steam. Find a local playground, go through the sprinkler in your backyard or write with chalk on the sidewalk. Get out all the toys and see where the day takes you all. Participate with your kids and show them that you’re engaged in what they’re doing.

Create Photo Collages
From mood boards and look books to greetings and scrapbook keepsakes, photo collages are a great way to arrange your best shots in an artful way. The best part is that you don’t need to be a professional designer to make your picture collage look great. Simply remix the Adobe Spark templates by adding your own text and images. Ready-made photo templates make it easy to create expressive and meaningful collages. Adobe Spark is free to use, and it can be mastered in the comfort of your own home in a matter of minutes.

Color, Draw & Paint
Get crafty by setting out all the different art supplies. Color, draw and paint the afternoon away. Put all the options out on the table and let everyone choose what they want to tackle. Turn on the music, make your favorite snack and enjoy time spent creating and crafting. If any of the projects turn out well, you can hang them on the fridge or wall as artwork. This will keep you busy all day if you want it to. Make sure you always have coloring books and utensils available in the house to use whenever necessary.

Puzzle or Board Games
If you want more social activities, then pull out a puzzle or a few board games for entertainment. This will get everyone involved. Challenge yourselves to a bigger puzzle this time or a new game if you want to mix it up. This is a great opportunity to connect with each other and talk about whatever’s on your mind. If a particular puzzle or game isn’t doing it for you then simply choose another and try again.

Conclusion
All you have to do is put your thinking cap on if you want ideas for what to do with your kids. Use these suggestions to get you started, and you’ll likely come up with even more as time passes. No matter what you’re doing, remember to have fun and be grateful for this quality time together.


Skype Violin Lessons

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A few years ago, I was complaining to somebody about the fact that there are no violin teachers in Sevier County and I have to drive to Knoxville, which is one hour away, so my children can get lessons. He said, “Try Skype lessons!” My reaction was, “No!”

Girl taking Skype vioiin lesson

My daughter’s violin lesson via Skype

Fast forward a year and I was burned out of driving for violin lessons. The kids were not happy with their instrument, either. They enjoyed piano more and violin practice became this big stressful moment of the day. Continue reading »

Quitting was not an option, so I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I Googled “Skype violin lessons.” I found several names and websites of great violin performers and teachers. Two stood out, so I contacted them.

We set up a free lesson with each. We went through the lesson with each of the kids. At the end, I asked the kids which one they liked more. It happened to be the same one that I liked the best. I let the other one know we were going with somebody else and I thanked her for her time. She replied very kindly, wishing me good luck etc.

Then, I turned around and let Mary-Elizabeth Brown know that we would be delighted to join her violin studio via Skype. That, my friends, was in April 2016. As I said, my kids were in bad shape mentally about the violin. My oldest actually cried during one of the lessons, telling the teacher that he enjoyed piano more. She took the time to listen to him and worked with his frustration.

Boy talking to violin teacher via Skype

Conversations are an important part of a violin lesson

My youngest was six at the time and bouncing off the walls during the lessons. She was playing on a 1/8 violin which was impossible for me to tune at times. The teacher, again, encouraged me that it will be just a few more months on that violin. Kids grow, you know? And the next size up would be much easier to tune.

Ms. Brown also worked with my rambunctious kid and employed some cool methods to get her to be more accountable, focused, and responsible. This teacher produced all sorts of coloring incentives for practice. She had playful ways of presenting the information, to get my child to make it through the lesson.

My son during his Skype violin lesson

My son during his Skype violin lesson

She helped me become a better parent by suggesting several books Suzuki parents read, which empowered me to be more patient and relaxed.

Long story short, by August, my children auditioned for the Knoxville Youth Symphony and got in. In four months, Mary-Elizabeth Brown had calmed me down and prepared the kids enough to where they got into ensembles for their levels.

After 10 more months of hard work, the kids were making progress and Ms. Brown suggested we enroll them in the Royal Music Conservatory assessment program. On June 1, 2017, we drove two hours to Elizabethton to have them assessed on level 1 and 3 respectively.

Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? They received the highest scores for their levels in the examination center AND in the whole state of Tennessee. Now, my children are not concert masters in their orchestras. There are children in Tennessee who play better than my children, obviously. But those children did not show up to this exam.

My kids received high scores, got a boost of confidence and self-esteem, and another summer rolled by. When they auditioned again for the youth symphony, our son moved up in the next level orchestra.

But the best thing was when, in November 2017, my son said to me, “Mom, thank you for making me practice. I really like the violin now. And I really like how good I have gotten with it. Thanks for not letting us quit.”

All this to say, Mary-Elizabeth Brown is one amazing teacher who can take a bad situation and turn it into a good one. And by situation I mean bowing, posture, attitude, everything that has to do with the violin.

She happens to have some openings in her studio, so feel free to contact her on her website, maryelizabethbrown.com, to set up your own trial lesson with her.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 23

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The New Country dealt with the American Constitution and the first American president. A rather long and involved chapter, but oh so important for us. Their standardized test is looming in the not-so-distant future and Social Studies will be an important part of the scoring. The questions tend to be about American history.

Foam craft about the three branches of the American government

Foam craft about the three branches of the American government

I printed out the stencils for the craft on the three branches of government, the presidential timeline, and the map work. I did not think they would want to color Benjamin Franklin’s snake design. Well, they wanted it. It shows how much I know. Continue reading »

So I made two copies of it, as I usually do. My daughter, ever the artist, finished hers and requested a second one. This is the first time any of them has ever colored the same page twice. Children change from day to day and we had better keep up, I suppose.

I read to them while they color. It keeps them busy and focused. I can also consider the coloring a bit of artwork. It’s nice to see the color choices they make and yes, they have explanations for them. The theory of color by a seven-year-old – you have not lived until you have heard this one.

Coloring page with Ben Franklin flag design

Coloring page with Ben Franklin flag design

The craft was a bit stressful for me because I do not like the mess created by crafts. A friend of mine, homeschooling mother of five, has declared herself “craft-challenged” and refuses to do crafts with her kids. I would not go quite that far about myself, but crafts stress me out. I kept picking up the bits of paper and foam they made as they cut according to the stencils.

My daughter wanted to make two crafts. I indulged her. We have to use up all this foam we have around the house somehow.

We read the Preamble to the Constitution three times aloud and we added it to our memory work basket for the mornings that follow. I cannot get them to chant something five times in a row, as Susan Wise Bauer recommends. But three is not bad either, I think. It will just take 10 days instead of five to memorize something.

The presidential timeline was a bit tedious, but we made it through. One of them ran out of concentration and started goofing off toward the end. I knew we could not fill out index cards on all the presidents from Washington to Lincoln. With all due respect, this will be an activity better left for the Logic Stage.


Middle School Curriculum Choices

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Recently, I shared how to plan for middle school. Some of you have asked to see our curriculum choices and so here they are:

5th grade

Bible – My Place With Jesus Bible Guide Set for Kids  + The Bible Story by Arthur Maxwell, 10 volumes (Can you believe we have owned this set for 10 years and have not read it? Shame!)

Writing – Writing with Ease, Level 3 + begin Writing with Skill, Level 1

Rod and Staff 5th grade Grammar

Rod and Staff 5th grade Grammar

Math – Math Mammoth, 5th grade – I have the PDFs to print out and put in a binder

Social Studies – Story of the World, Vol. 1 (plus recommendations for the Logic Stage from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer) – this marks our second time through the cycle of SOTW, so we will skip the coloring and crafts. We will read more of the extra books recommended by Ms. Bauer and continue work on a timeline. I will have to add the geography recommendations as well. My 3rd grader will join us. My 5th grader will read extra books on topics that interest him.

Science, 5th grade, by Christian Schools International (The textbook, for $42. The rest of the offerings are overkill.)

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise 3000, Book 5

Spelling – Logic of English Essentials, Level C, Vol. 2 + 3

Grammar – Rod and Staff Grammar, called “Following the Plan” – I bought the entire set from Milestone Books, but Rainbow Resource has it slightly cheaper. I will know for next time.

French – Rosetta Stone Continue reading »

Romanian – immersion plus Romanian books to read and poems to memorize

Music – Violin and piano lessons, orchestra, KYSO concerts, KSO concerts

P.E. – Tae kwon do, swimming, and hiking

Art – Artistic pursuits – I bought this two years ago and still have not touched it.

 

6th grade

Bible – My Bible First for Junior/Teen, first year of a 3-year cycle

Writing – Writing with Skill, Level 1

Math – Math Mammoth, 6th grade – I have the PDFs to print out and put in a binder

Social Studies – Story of the World, Vol. 2 (plus recommendations for the Logic Stage from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer) – this marks our second time through the cycle of SOTW, so we will skip the coloring and crafts. We will read more of the extra books recommended by Ms. Bauer and continue work on a timeline. I will have to add the geography recommendations as well.

Science, 6th grade, by Christian Schools International (The textbook, for $42. The rest of the offerings are overkill.)

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise 3000, Book 6

Spelling – National Spelling Bee School Level words (sent to me by the coordinator of our homeschool spelling bee) + Spell It! word lists.

Grammar – Rod and Staff Grammar for 6th grade, if we liked it in 5th grade

French – Rosetta Stone

Romanian – immersion plus Romanian books to read and poems to memorize

Music – Violin and piano lessons, orchestra, KYSO concerts, KSO concerts

P.E. – Tae kwon do, swimming, and hiking

Art – TBD

 

7th grade

Bible – My Bible First for Junior/Teen, second year of a 3-year cycle

Writing – Writing with Skill, Level 2

Math – Math Mammoth, 7th grade

Social Studies – Story of the World, Vol. 3 (plus recommendations for the Logic Stage from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer) – this marks our second time through the cycle of SOTW, so we will skip the coloring and crafts. We will read more of the extra books recommended by Ms. Bauer and continue work on a timeline. I will have to add the geography recommendations as well.

Science, 7th grade, by Christian Schools International (The textbook, for $42. The rest of the offerings are overkill.)

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise 3000, Book 7

Spelling – National Spelling Bee School Level words (sent to me every year by the coordinator of our homeschool spelling bee) + Spell It!

Grammar – Rod and Staff Grammar for 7th grade, if we liked it in 6th grade

French – Rosetta Stone

Romanian – immersion plus Romanian books to read and poems to memorize

Music – Violin and piano lessons, orchestra, KYSO concerts, KSO concerts

P.E. – Tae kwon do, swimming, and hiking

Art – TBD

 

8th grade

Bible – My Bible First for Junior/Teen, third year of a 3-year cycle

Writing – Writing with Skill, Level 3

Math – Algebra, TBD

Social Studies – Story of the World, Vol. 4 (plus recommendations for the Logic Stage from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer) – this marks our second time through the cycle of SOTW, so we will skip the coloring and crafts. We will read more of the extra books recommended by Ms. Bauer and continue work on a timeline. I will have to add the geography recommendations as well.

Science, 8th grade, by Christian Schools International (The textbook, for $42. The rest of the offerings are overkill.)

Vocabulary – Wordly Wise 3000, Book 8

Spelling – National Spelling Bee School Level words (sent to me by the coordinator of our homeschool spelling bee) + Spell It!

Grammar – Rod and Staff Grammar for 8th grade, if we liked it in 7th grade

French – Rosetta Stone

Romanian – immersion plus Romanian books to read and poems to memorize

Music – Violin and piano lessons, orchestra, KYSO concerts, KSO concerts

P.E. – Tae kwon do, swimming and hiking

Art – TBD


Ski Lessons at Ober Gatlinburg

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January is learn-to-ski month and we have taken ski lessons in January since 2015. We did not take lessons last year because, frankly, I was not ready to drive up Ski Mountain road six weeks after the devastating wildfires of November 2016.

Family skiing at Ober Gatlinburg

Our family skiing at Ober

But this year is a different story. We have gotten over the shock of the fire and we were ready to resume our skiing careers. Plus, our daughter is seven, which is the recommended age to start.  Continue reading »

For your information, they will take younger children, like five and six, but they prefer them to be seven and older. Our son got started at seven and he is 10 now. He loves it and is in the intermediate class. Our daughter is in the beginners.

The classes happen on Sunday mornings. Beginners is at 9:30 and Intermediate at 11:00. The class lasts an hour. The instructors are patient and courteous. Adults are encouraged to join the adult classes for their respective level, which happen at the same time as the children’s.

Mom and son skiing

As you can see, my son is almost as tall as I am and he is only 10.

If you can ski already, you just drop off your child with her class and go have fun on the slopes. There is a designated area where you have to pick up your child at the end of the class.

Our daughter made tremendous progress in just one lesson. She had had one lesson two years ago, so it was not much to build on, but she got over the initial apprehension of the entire routine.

These lessons are a bargain: $160 for four classes and this price includes rental of helmets, skis and poles. It also includes riding the aerial tram if you like that kind of thing. The only other expense is the parking fee, $5, either at the aerial tram or at the resort.

We do not ride the tram. I do not enjoy heights or being in tight spaces with lots of people. We park at the resort and because we get there early we find great places to park. By noon, the parking lot is full at the resort and they put signs at the bottom of the mountain for people not to bother to drive up. Instead, they ask them to park at the aerial tram station and ride the tram instead.

The following year, you receive five vouchers, for an extra visit to the resort, which you can redeem any day you prefer. By the way, you do not even have to sign up for classes for the fee of $160. If you are comfortable skiing, you just pay that fee and it covers your rental and all day fun on the slopes, skiing or snowboarding, but you cannot change the activity in the same day.


How to Plan for Middle School

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It seems hard to believe, but my son will be in middle school come Fall 2018. Taking advantage of our Christmas break, I started planning for next year. Here are the steps I took to plan for middle school:

Well-Trained Mind planning

My heavily underlined copy of TWTM with my planning binder underneath

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Thus said Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We don’t hear much about that book anymore, but people are still reading it. It’s #11 Most Read on Amazon. If you were to re-read it today, you would find it just as relevant today as before the internet, which is when the book was first published. So what is your “end” or purpose in homeschooling through middle school? Getting the child ready for high school, right? That’s my goal. For that, I need to follow some kind of bigger outline for the next four years, not just 5th grade.
  2. Settle on a philosophy of education. In K-4th grade, one can get away without a philosophy of education. The first years are all about reading, writing and arithmetic. If you can do some science experiments and throw in some history or geography, more power to you. But nobody needs a philosophy of education for that endeavor. Most textbooks are open-and-teach. Most home educators have no problem teaching the early grades because it’s elementary stuff. By the time your child is 10, though, things get serious. You have to come up with your overarching approach, your philosophy of education. Are you a conservative Christian who does not believe children should read fantasy books? Are you a secular parent who shuns science books written from a creationist perspective? Are you completely devoted to the Charlotte Mason method? These are questions you must answer. As for me, I still have a classical approach, with a slight nod to Charlotte Mason and the Moore Formula.
  3. Read up on the middle school years. For me, this meant reading the chapters under The Logic Years in The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. Prior to 2017, I had not read this section of the book. I could not go there in my mind, being knee-deep in the Grammar Stage with two very different learners. The section on middle school or the Logic Stage took me two afternoons to read, underline, and research. This was time well-spent. When I finished, I felt so energized because knowledge is power. I started writing things down at some point. Nothing big, just enough to know which curriculum to use for which year, how that will work with the other child (who is not in middle school yet), and how many subjects we can still do together. If you don’t know what to read, a little internet research will give you at least 20 blogs about middle school homeschooling. Let us be thankful to the homeschool moms who have gone before us and have given us pointers in these blogs. Let us learn from their mistakes, which they so generously share with us, out of the goodness of their hearts.
  4. Surprise consequence of getting a clear picture. Now that my middle school years were somewhat organized and on paper, I felt bad about the rest of this school year, when my oldest is still in 4th grade. So I went ahead and planned out the rest of the curricula for the upcoming semester. Oh, I had all the curriculum lined up and knew how to proceed, but did not take the time to write out what to do every day. Too much work, I thought. And then, I get frustrated because it will not work out in real life the way it is on paper. Never mind that, is what you should tell yourself. We make plans on paper so that we have a quick-reference tool in the middle of the semester, to know if we are behind or ahead. This kind of planning helps to know if we can relax on the day when the children seem out of sorts and beg for a small break, or a family emergency stops homeschooling in mid-sentence. It might even help if you had a homeschooling mom asking for advice on planning and then you can share some insights from your experience. Bottom line – write it all out!
  5. Buy some curriculum, if needed. Many times, we have accumulated curricula for when children are older. Go through those boxes and decide what you should keep and what you should give away or sell. Then, buy curriculum for next year or, better yet, see if you can attend a homeschool convention where they run special prices or if your particular publisher runs specials in April or July, for instance. I think I have all the curriculum I need for 5th grade except for grammar. I chose to go with Ms. Bauer’s top recommendation, Rod and Staff, in that area. Since they do not have their own website, I had to get it from Milestone Books. All that legwork needs to happen now, so that I can cast a glance at these books before we start 5th grade in August. It will be here before I know it.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 22

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Chapter 22 is titled “Revolution!” and it presents two stories about the American Revolution. The first, Discontent in the British Colonies, shows the reasons why Americans became more and more dissatisfied with England. The second, The American Revolution, presents the beginning of the War of Independence, highlights of it, and its outcome.

American flag craft

American flag craft made by my daughter

This is a rich chapter and we dwelt on the Review Questions to make sure most facts stuck. I read to them Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” but decided against memorizing it. Not only is it too long, it is historically inaccurate. Longfellow took a lot of poetic licenses (artistic liberties) and only mentioned Revere, completely leaving out his worthy fellow rider, William Dawes. Also, he makes Revere into the recipient of the message by lanterns instead of being the one who actually gave the signal. And so on. Continue reading »

However, I believe we should memorize the introduction to the American Declaration of Independence, so I have made a copy and added it to our morning basket of memory work. Susan Wise Bauer has a very simple formula for memorization: have the child read the passage five times in the morning and five times in the evening. In a few days, the child should know it by heart.

American flag craft

My son putting together his American flag

I have not found success in having my children repeat something five times in a row. We do three times in the morning. No evening memory work – sorry, it just does not work for our family’s schedule. But I still find that they can memorize a poem in about five days of repeating it three times in the morning. It’s quite neat!

For a craft, we made the original flag of the American colonies. Who has talent to draw a star stencil? Not me. Who has the patience to cut out 13 stars for the original 13 colonies? Not me, nor my children.

Star Stickers for American flag

My daughter using star stickers on her flag craft

Instead, I gave them some of my sticker stars, which I use to reward their good paperwork. My daughter chose pink and purple stars, while my son worked with gold stars. Not exactly historically accurate, but they had fun and got a bit of artistic endeavor in for the day. Plus, they were proud of their flags.


How to Build a History Timeline

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My children are growing and it is time to start building a history timeline. After doing a bit of research, I decided I would like the notebooks from Homeschool in the Woods. We do not have a lot of wall space. Instead, we have lots and lots of windows. We already have paintings and pictures sitting in closets, for lack of space to hang them. So a keepsake notebook kind of timeline is what fits our family best.

Timeline notebooks

Beautiful timeline notebooks from Homeschool in the Woods

I bought each child a binder, the CD with all the figures, and the guide on how to place the figures. Looking back on it, I could have done without the guide, but when you don’t know how to even begin this project, you want to get all the help possible.

History Timeline Placement Guide

The placement guide helps you arrange the stickers on the page.

We are in the middle of volume 3, Story of the World, which means we started sticking our figures from 1700s on. We will continue through modern and contemporary history in volume 4 and then we will start with the Ancients all over again.

The best way for me to arrange these figures on the timeline was to buy Avery label sheets – a pack in which the entire 8.5×11 page is one big sticker. It feels like a waste, but it’s not. When you consider that we will be building this notebook for the next three years, the wear and tear on it becomes evident.

Timeline CD

The 2-volume CD contains PDF pages with figure for your timeline.

I have spoken with other homeschoolers who tried to glue pieces of paper and it either did not look right or they peeled off. Who wants to work twice when you could work once?

We have already started and I can see there will be some important places, people, and events that will be missing from the pack, but I can always research them separately. There are plenty for us to be busy for now and we can always add others later.


Well-Trained Mind Binder System

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We have been using the Well-Trained Mind binder system recommended by Susan Wise Bauer in her seminal book for several years now. It occurred to me that there might be homeschoolers out there who would like to see it in action. In fact, I have seen this question over and over in support groups for classical homeschoolers.

Well-Trained Mind binder system

My daughter’s binders

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So let’s start with a few pictures. Their binders sit on separate shelves in our school room. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to appearance. I don’t go all out when it comes to layout and design. A simple label on the outside of the binder helps us identify the name of the child and the subject matter. Continue reading »

If you want to beautify the binders, by all means, make them as pretty as you want. I grew up under Communism (think austerity measures) and don’t need things around me to be super-glitzy. As long as it works, I run with it.

We have four binders for each child: Science, History, Language, and Math. They also have an Art binder and a Travel binder. My son has two additional binders which are empty. He meant to do something with them and then forgot all about it. See? We are not perfect.

The Math is simple: we use Math Mammoth and every year I print out their curriculum, which I have in PDF format. Their math binders don’t even have a label. His is black and hers is purple.

Well-Trained Mind school binder system

My son’s school binders

Science is easy, as well. We take nature walks and if we find anything interesting to study, we use notebooking pages to draw or write about our findings. Sometimes I follow Handbook of Nature Study weekly challenges, and most of them come with their own notebooking pages. Other times we just study something out of an animal encyclopedia and we simply draw or narrate two sentences about a particular animal.

If we do science experiments, I have a simple page which details the scientific method used, as Ms. Bauer suggests. Those pages also go in the Science binder. I think I should also record the science books they read, but that’s a little too much for me. If you feel like it, that’s another thing you could put in their binder.

Well-Trained mind binders

Their binders sit on different shelves. He is taller.

The History binder used to have four tabs corresponding to the four volumes of Story of the World, which is our curriculum. What I have found over the years is that the binder gets really full by the end of the school year. There are maps and coloring pages, plus paper dolls and other paper crafts. At the end of the year, I simply get a new binder and take my tab page (which I created four years ago when we got started with this curriculum) to the front of this new binder, so I know which period we are in.

The Language binder is divided by tabs as recommended by Ms. Bauer. Our spelling curriculum comes with its own workbook, but we still find we created separate pages of spelling lists, so it all goes into the Spelling tab of the Language binder. When they memorize a poem, I have them write it out and it goes into their Memory Work tab.

It’s simple, really, and it’s meant to be simple, because you have to keep track of all this work. Ms. Bauer has a box – a simple, unassuming box for her children’s work, where all their work goes. Check out her YouTube videos about it. I do not think she has binders for her children. I might be wrong on this, but I have not seen anything about it.

I find binders easier to handle than a box if I should need to retrieve any of their work at a later date. It does not happen often, but it has happened enough where I know I could not function with boxes.

I hope this helps you visualize the binder system described in Well-Trained Mind. It works for us and it can work for anybody who is organized enough to put pages away once the student has finished with them.

For now, I am keeping the discarded binders and their contents in plastic bins, on shelves in our garage. My children are in second and fourth grade. Who knows if I will have enough room to keep all their work by high school? I think not. When I start culling, I will blog about it.

An important detail, or tip, shared at the end of the post, to reward those who have had the patience to read the entire post (or did you just skip to the end?): file the pages yourself.

Do not trust your child will put their work away if they are in grades K-6. They will learn to do it themselves after age 12, trust me. For now, for your own sanity, just file it yourself. It will keep things organized and give you a sense of accomplishment, too. One other thing done and filed away. Check. What’s next?


Homeschooling Through Holiday Cheer

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So, it’s the holidays. How’s homeschooling working out for your? Is the holiday cheer making it stressful beyond belief? I hope not. I sincerely hope you have found the breaks to the holiday madness and imposed some strict boundaries on your time.

Enjoying the Aquarium gift shop

Enjoying the Aquarium gift shop

A friend of mine who grew up in Western Europe lives in the States right now as a musician. She was shocked by how crazy it gets in December, with all the concerts in which she was asked to perform and all the other engagements she was required to attend. She is right. Continue reading »

This year, as usual, I slowed down homeschooling slowly but surely by the third week of December. We will take a break for sure, as Christmas comes, but we still need to cover a few items here and there. It helps to keep everybody fresh and I get time off to attend to extra duties in the kitchen.

Elves at the Aquarium

Elves everywhere

So what does this look like in practice? Well, one day, we went to the Aquarium just for fun. We took a bunch of pictures and spent some time reading the exhibit signs. We usually do not take the time to do that, as we rush in to our science classes there.

Even my son, who is older and not easily impressed anymore by cute decor, appreciated the Christmas decorations and agreed to pose for me in front of different exhibits. It was lovely to see he is still a kid after all.

Teddy bears at the Aquarium

Teddy bears at the Aquarium

By the way, the Aquarium is decorated very nicely. Maybe they do this every year, but apparently I just now became aware of it. The Christmas decorations at the Aquarium are lovely.

Another day, we just did our regular devotional and then science. Nothing else. Yet another day, we replaced our regular devotional with a time of playing our violins and singing Christmas songs. We have a book with Christmas duets. My daughter sang and my son and I played our violins.

With Santa at the Aquarium

With Santa

This is the first year we can do this, by the way. He was not that interested in playing the violin last year. He has had a breakthrough year in his appreciation of this instrument (as opposed to piano, which he loved from the start).

Santa's Workshop

Santa’s Workshop

As he sat down at the piano to try to read the same music he had just flown through on the violin, he realized it was harder on the piano. He was amazed. We also discovered he can transpose easily on the violin. He was proud to show me how, as I did not know. It feels so good when my children teach me things. It really does.

Children at the Aquarium

Children make the best presents.

My daughter will probably join us on the violin next year around this time. Right now, sight reading does not come easily for her. She is happy to sing though and she tells us exactly how many stanzas to play.

So take it easy and enjoy the holiday cheer, don’t be stressed by it!