Creative Electives

Most of my children have done what seems typical for what we call elective classes, extra classes based on their interests, that until now have gotten my children out into the community, learning, socializing. But last year I had two students who outright refused to go to the classes we put them in, and each in their own way, would not behave in class.

This year, they will be doing their own elective courses at home. Things we will purposely work on with them.

It all started after realizing they still weren’t doing anything out of the home, and then my 5th grader saw quilting materials at our local Walmart and asked to learn, so the goal for him will just be to make a couple, hopefully getting trickier as he goes.

As we were starting his first quilt on the first morning, before any of his siblings were awake, we started laying everything out on the floor of our living room so he could see it and imagine it. Then his sister came out. She used to take ballet and Irish dance, but tends to get too nervous and shy in larger groups so that wasn’t working well for her.

She asked if she could learn how to quilt too.

I told her she would need to start smaller, like her brother did, with making a pocket and sewing on a button. Her first project was born. She will eventually make a little handbag….hopefully.

As things progress, we shall see how this goes. 

What do your children do for electives? What if they’re unwilling?

Review of TinkerCrate 

I purchased TinkerCrate for my oldest this year. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll see that each of my children have gotten box subscriptions based on either where I felt their interests lied (such as with this choice) or that lined up well with what they are learning this year. The other subscriptions we have done are to Raddish and to Little Passports (World and USA). This is the final one I will be reviewing, though all will be updated as we go since most were introductory kits.

He received his box in the mail and was very excited as his was one of the last to be received so he was waiting to see what he was getting this month. I had originally thought that TinkerCrate did a trebuchet kit for their starter kit, but apparently it’s totally random: we received a kit to make a rubber band car while a friend who also just started received kits for 3d view finders for her children. 

So if you get this subscription, it is a total surprise as to what is coming, but it gets kids building and thinking. For example, in this kit, he had multiple sets of wheels and it encouraged him to try different wheels to see what would happen.

This box subscription not only comes with everything needed to make the item inside, but also with an accompanying magazine on the topic of the kit, called TinkerZine. One thing we learned is it is helpful to read through the magazine before making the item in the kit as it gives helpful advice and he had to redo at least one part of his car after reading it.

All in all, he was excited to receive it, and was able to complete the kit without parental assistance (he’s 11) though I still kept asking him questions to keep him thinking as he built it. More reviews coming as we get more kits.

How I Am Teaching My Homeschooler To Read…

I started out this year with big plans. I bought a fancy curriculum with a shocking price tag that talked about teaching reading, promoting literacy, etc. I thought it would be the perfect thing for my 5 year old who was otherwise doing 1st grade work, but didn’t seem to grasp reading with traditional workbooks. It showed tracing pages, readers and cute little crafts, every moms dream, right?

Apparently, not mine at least. The first week, I struggled through the book not sure what it was wanting. Some instructions were confusing even to me, some things seemed way below her ability, like tracing shapes or making patterns. I just didn’t get it. She didn’t get it. It kind of got pushed to the side and was only getting pulled out at the end of the week when I felt like we still needed to check off that subject.

It just wasn’t working for us.

I had kind of an epiphany moment in thinking back to her older sister who had also homeschooled from day one, but had started reading at age 4. That’s when it clicked for me. If I could teach her sister to read without a set curriculum, I could teach her as well. I don’t even know why I had wasted my money on the curriculum in the first place.

Here’s the big secret: I taught her older sister how to read with being consistent, working with her on what she knew, adding a little bit more until it was mastered, and then building confidence. All of this translated into a lot of reading with mom though.


Let me explain my method a little better. I started her out with homemade flashcards of 3-5 sight words for kindergarteners. We would go through these every chance we got, waiting during errands, appointments, spare time at home, you name it. If she could make it through the stack of cards perfectly, I’d add about 2-3 more, depending on her familiarity with the words and how big the stack was already.

This is the main thing I talked about above except for what I feel is the key: building confidence. With my 5-year-old, her siblings would occasionally point out to her that she couldn’t read yet, and I always made them rephrase it with a yet. She isn’t able to yet, but she will. I firmly believe in 1) building confidence and 2) not allowing others to bash it. 

How I build confidence for children while they are learning to read is starting with words that go together, no matter how awkwardly, in a sentence. I want to be able to end a lesson with, “good job, look at you, you’re reading!” Even if all a child can read is “I go,” they’re beginning to read and no matter how small, it is reading.

I worked with my daughter during her most recent lesson and we were able to put together some pretty big sentences like, “I can see the cat go up and down.” They’re little words, but they’re reading, and I watched my daughter on some of the words trying to sound them out or remember from the last time we had done them and it reminded me of a quote (pictured below) as to how fortunate homeschool moms are to be able to have these moments with their children, to teach their children these things instead of expecting someone else to. It allows you to know your child so much better.


Once my daughter gets better at more sentences and a few more words, I will end up putting together a book for her using the words she has been working on, only I like to throw in new words, but using pictures, like maybe your child knows, “I see dad go in the” you could draw a house to introduce the word house, or colors can be introduced if they know car, draw a yellow car for example. Then they get to practice with their book. They can even practice with friends and family who come over.

This builds their confidence with reading.

What have you done to teach your child to read?

To Co-op or Not

Let’s face it, many homeschool families at one point or another hear the inevitable question: “but what about socialization?” For some homeschool families, the easy answer to this question can lie in joining a co-op, usually a group of parents who take turns teaching the children and alternating breaks, but getting the kids around other kids.

Socialization can also come in many other forms, such as joining scouts, taking classes outside the home, joining team sports, but co-op is the topic today and seems to be the most school-like of the options above, so I know whenever I would mention to people who asked about socialization that we were in a co-op, somehow that seemed to allay their worries.

There are pros and cons to joining a co-op, some of those I have experienced or heard about are mentioned below:

Pros:

Socialization: your kids get to be around other people, both the grown up type and child type, and this seems to help with questions when inquiring friends, family, strangers, butt their noses in, all under the guise of concern for the children.

Friends: I know this could go under socialization, but since you can hang out with people and still not make friends, I felt this was an important part as well. When we were in co-op, not only did my children make friends, but so did I. 

A break: This goes for both the moms and kids. For the moms, at least in the group I was in, we taught for one class, and then got to relax with other moms for another class while our children were still in their classes. For one whole hour we got to not have little children demanding our attention and to talk to individuals (at least in my case, older than in sixth grade). That was a break, though it always seemed so fleeting. And for the children as well, I am sure they see attending co-op as a break from the routine at home.

Cons:

Time: Even though I would only need to teach for an hour, it always seemed to take so much time and effort both the day of and the day before getting my lessons ready. Even when I stepped down from teaching, it still involved making sure everyone knew where everything was, (somehow I think my children have mastered the not loosing your insert item here until it is time to go trait) and making sure everyone had a lunch packed.

Homeschool: While my kids thoroughly enjoyed getting to go to co-op, the problem was, they stopped cooperating at home and work stopped getting done here. Looking back at all of their years of homeschooling, their year in co-op they learned a ton in their classes, but they barely did anything in their books at home. We have just started a new year and they’re already slipping behind, so they definitely don’t have time for anything on the side, and I feel like I am having to break the bad habits learned last year.

However; my local homeschool co-op is a part of a larger homeschool ministry which we can still be a part of without having to do co-op thankfully, and that is the choice I have made for my family this year. This will allow us more time as a family to focus on what we need to focus on, while still maintaining the friendships we have already made through monthly outings.

What about you? Do you or have you done co-op? How does it work for your family?

Traveling The USA With Little Passports 

So my older girl is working through a geography workbook that specifically covers regions of the United States, so for her box subscription this year, I felt it would make the most sense to get her Little Passport’s USA Edition. I showed her the box when it came in the mail and explained that to her, made sense to her, she just wanted to dig into the box!

The items above are all of the items she found when she opened the box. She opened it and found a neat little folder, pictured below as well, in addition to a scratch book, a USA field journal, a disposable camera, a map of the USA and a letter from Sofia. 

Pictured above is the file folder that came with her box. I must say, she wasn’t very thrilled about this, but that also hinged on the fact she had just seen her sister open hers and get a suitcase which seemed to be what she was wanting. If you’re only ordering one subscription, this shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I thought it was a cute folder and a neat way for older kids to keep all their Little Passports items in one place.


I got to say she probably spent the most time working on the scratch book that was included with her box. I’m not even sure if we entirely figured it out. Some pages seemed to make stickers while others did not, but there was a lot of scratching and oohing and ahhing going on, plus it occupied her for quite awhile. She didn’t seem to pay attention to the importance of the shapes in the book, but that could deepen the lessen – she did however find some on her map.

All in all, very worthwhile and we are looking forward to see where we are going to learn about next month.

Traveling The World With Little Passports 

My daughters box subscription to Little Passport: World came today. Because her geography book covers different regions of the world and continents.

She opened her box and was absolutely in love with everything that came with it: suitcase, passport, hangtag, stickers, letter, activity sheet, map, photo, and since we also ordered her the world coin package, she got coins from around the world. That even her dad thought was awesome (he’s usually my toughest critic).


I felt this would be a great way to supplement her geography curriculum, taking a break from the workbook learning and giving her a chance to get something fun in the mail (all my kids seem to love that).

As this is the starter box, I will continue to review this subscription as the boxes keep arriving.

Have you used Little Passports? What did you think?

Why Do Families Choose To Homeschool?

Obviously I am only one family and my story is only one story out of probably hundreds of thousands but there are numerous reasons why families choose to either start or to continue to homeschool their children.


Images like the one float around the Internet and people think that the majority of families probably homeschool their children for religious reasons. While my family is Christian, we did not choose to homeschool because of religion. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics only 17% of homeschooling familes choose to do so for religious reasons. Only 17%!


My family personally, I think, best falls in with the green slice above. We had numerous safety concerns with our local school. Our oldest boy was getting bullied on the school bus, when the school did nothing to stop it, I just started driving him to school.

Then he started getting bullied at recess by older students, but there were never any repercussions for those students. He also had concerns about his teacher yelling in the classroom at the students and smacking things in the room. When we brought it to the attention of the principal, the teacher didn’t deny it all, just said it was how she was.

The final straw was when the kids reported something to us about what sounded abusive from another teacher, not their home room. They were pulled that day. And the school still tried to dismiss everything.

Now, we do like to use curriculum that is Christian-based because we are Christian and so because of that people might get the opinion that we homeschool for religious reasons, we don’t but it is certainly a reason we have continued for. 

How about you all? Why did you decide to homeschool? Did anything change while you have been homeschooling?