Category Archives: Homeschooling

A Phonics Program that Works

We’ve been homeschooling now since my oldest, who is now 8, was 4. In that time, we’ve used *ahem* a lot of different curriculum and resources, some we adored and some that are, thus far, a big fat waste of money.

One of my absolute FAVORITE resources is for phonics, and we actually just discovered these a few weeks ago: Explode the Code!

I absolutely adore these- not because they are flashy or make outrageous claims. (“Teach your child to read at a 3rd grade level in just 12 weeks.” … nothing but hogwash!)

I love these because they are methodical, require the child to actually read in order to complete the workbook pages, and are simple and straight-forward enough for them to do on their own. The child is not distracted by flashy pictures (especially important with my children) and can’t really fake their way through.

Of course, they don’t want to! These books have become the absolute favorite thing in my house… my reluctant readers even beg to do phonics in them every day!

My children are a little under half way finished with their respective books (right now they are on 1, 2, and 4, respectively) and each one’s reading has jumped by leaps and bounds!

Also, at about $6 a book, they are perfectly priced for consumables in my opinion. They are well, well worth more than that, though! 

A Visit to the Therapist

If you were a fly on the wall in my house right now, what would you see?

You’d see my living room being turned into a wrestling ring.

You’d see three kids piled up on the couch playing Go Fish with my ‘Gin’ cards.

And you’d see me sitting here laughing at all of them!

I’m sitting here because I’ve had a very long day today, even though I feel like I wasted a whole bunch of it sitting in this chair. Ninny and Bubby had appointments this morning at 8:30 and 9:30 with their therapist. The Nephew also took his evaluation and pretest for his GED at 9:00. (Which, I hear, he did very well at!)

I was very glad to be able to give their therapist some good news: about the children making such huge strides in their reading in the last two weeks, and about Bubby being so selfless whenever his twin had sunburn.

She worked with Ninny on ways to cope with her stress level, and keep from panicking and with Bubby on ways to concentrate.

We had a discussion about some strategies to use both during school time and then at the rest of the time.

Some of it is things that we already do, such as:

*Making expectations clear.

*Rewarding good behavior.

(We have family meetings twice a week: one where we plan and outline for our week, and one where we discuss our week with it’s successes and failures. That kind of covers both of those.)

*Letting small things go and focusing on things that matter.

This is always hard, especially after a long day, but it’s the goal everyday.

*Stopping an activity at the first sign of frustrations.

Some of the things we are going to work at over the next two weeks until their next appointment are:

*Getting their dad to lower his volume to help keep their stress level down.

I love him, but he’s LOUD! It stresses me out (I’m a very quiet person by nature) so I’m not surprised this was at the top of the list to work on!

*Implementing a timer for the children to work on self-regulating.

Making them responsible for their own time-table; getting chores and assignments done in a reasonable time-frame.

*Buying each child an agenda and teaching them to use it.

Another part of teaching them to self-regulate. Hopefully, this will help them be more responsible for their own school work so it’s no longer a potential battle whenever they have to do an assignment.

 

My overall school related goal for them in the next two weeks is to lessen the time it takes them to get through each of their subjects so we can have a more normal school day. We are very bare-bones right now: Language Arts, Phonics, Math, etc. and I want to get them back to doing the more ‘fun’ subjects (that are also very important!) of Science, History, Geography, etc.

I also want to continue to build their confidence about their reading skills. This is SUCH a huge issue to me that it will always be first and foremost until they are ‘natural’ readers.

 

Behavior-wise, my goal is to put in place an ‘escape’ for their anger. I hate to see them losing their temper over minor things, and although I don’t specifically know exactly what we’re going to do- I am going to research this heavily and see what we can work out.

 

I am also working up my courage to invite their therapist to do a visit here. (That’s one of the services that she offers.) I think that it would help her in designing a ‘plan of attack’ for the children, to be able to see the children in their natural environment and maybe help her understand what ‘homeschool’ means in our house. (She’s not very familiar with the entire concept of homeschooling.) I also think it would probably make it easier on me to explain what goes on, and how they interact, and what our day looks like, etc. I honestly see only good things from a visit but… 

The working up of the courage, however, comes from the fact that we do have six children here- it’s a little much for the average person who’s used to one child at a time! Also, I have to admit that I’m scared of being judged, that I’m terrified that she will come here and say that I’m doing everything wrong and am ruining my children! How can I not be?

I’m scared of not being good enough.

Anyway, it’s just a thought rumbling through my head. We shall see!

A Full Time Job… Wait! What?

Did you ever experience that awkward moment whenever someone you just met asks you where do you work?

“At home.”

The reactions always tickle me. People don’t know exactly how to respond… you can almost tell that they’re wondering if you actually work from home or if that’s your clever ‘Mom-speak’ for cleaning the house while watching a Supernanny marathon and sipping coffee.

*ahem*

For me, the response is usually something along the lines of, “I bet being mom to six children IS a full time job!”

*rolls my eyes*

I am actually starting a new job working from home as a customer service representative tomorrow. Not necessarily by choice, though because I have to tell you my schedule is jammed packed without it. But circumstances being what they are, it’s the best thing for our family right now.

That does not negate the fact that being a homeschooling mother is any less of a full-time job. Since my oldest started school, almost four years ago, I’ve worked full-time. Many times, it takes me several weeks of 8-10 hour days to prepare, layout, and record the children’s progress. That’s not including times spent being Mommy or Wife, or Daughter.

What’s more, I don’t have a school board outlining appropriate curriculum, setting working hours, or a paycheck from it. Teachers in the public school system are awesome, and what they do is simply amazing, but that doesn’t devalue the role of a Home Educator.

I thought of this because I had to give references for my job history over the past four years. I laughed when I received the email- I’d be glad to give the phone to my children and let them tell them what I spend my time doing. Or pass it off to my husband and let him tell them how crazy I make him as I figure out this world of homeschooling.

Luckily, I have been involved in several ‘actual’ work experiences and environments so I could give them references but the notion I’ve not worked full time in four years still amuses me!

What makes it worth it.

In the grand scheme of this thing I call life, I often find myself dwelling on the negative things. For instance, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my recliner (that I stole from my husband because the nephew broke the footrest on mine) surfing blogs, angrily, while out the window the weather reflects my mood. (There’s a thunderstorm going on right now.)

Why?

(And before you ask: Yes, yes, you can surf angrily. I can give you lessons if you’d like.. I tend to do this more often then I’d like to admit.)

Because my children have been fighting, arguing, bickering, crying, and screaming all day. It’s been a Waterloo around here and I’m Napoleon.

And.now.they.won’t.lay.down.and.take.a.nap.

(My husband snickered at me when he got home! “So nothing new, then?” he says!)

That’s why I was so thrilled when I read Angie’s challenge on The Homeschool Classroom. Well, ‘thrilled’ is probably too strong of a word- ‘challenged’ would probably be better.

So here it is:

My sweet Bubby is the funniest, most creative little monster boy you’d ever meet. He has a heart of gold, and even shows it sometimes. But schoolwork is a nightmare.

N.I.G.H.T.M.A.R.E.

I started him like I did my girls (one of whom is his twin) with basic phonics at 4 year old. He STILL fights and struggles with even simple things like remembering the alphabet, and putting the sounds together … it’s a constant minefield.

Whenever the new year started I had him help me pick out all the curriculum I purchased to give him a sense of ownership. We’ve slowly but surely worked our way through his phonics books, sound by painful, bone-wrenching sound. I try to be encouraging and push hard enough while not pushing too hard and frustrating him.

It’s a delicate balance that I often lose.

And he still doesn’t understand.

On Tuesday, it was time for his phonics and I was busy helping his twin sister work on a new set of blends for her phonics. It comes natural to her and I’ve always tried to separate the times they work on similar subjects to keep him from comparing himself to her. But it was just one of those days I was running behind. It felt like a disaster waiting to happen.

He brought his book to the table and set down with his little pencil. I looked over about ten minutes later and he had completed an entire page!

Shocked, I asked him, “Did you do that?”

“Yep.”

“Did you look back in the book for the answers?”

(They’re allowed to do that on practice pages)

Nope.”

“Sooooo…. you read it?”

“Yep”

“Can you read it to me, now?”

“Yep.”

And he read to me.

My heart fluttered.

My face flushed.

I picked him up and twirled him around the room, smothering him with kisses, while his sisters danced at our feet, cheering for him.

That’s one of the moments that make it all worth it.

And that’s my best recent moment.