Monday, January 29, 2018

Putting the Heart Back into our Homeschool

When I was just starting out with this homeschooling thing, I was initially drawn to Charlotte Mason because it revolved around living books, which thrilled this book nerd!  Suddenly though, I realized there were so many other aspects to a Charlotte Mason education, subjects that I hadn't even thought of including.  Some of these things intimidated me.  Nature Study?  Picture Study?  Classical music?  I wasn't an outdoorsy girl and I didn't have much fine arts education outside of band.  We were hit and miss over the years, to say the least.  Then something snapped and things started falling into place.  We found our way back to Charlotte Mason, and I put my heart into bringing these subjects to the forefront of our homeschool and making our world more accessible through enrichment subjects.

This is the final week of the Virtual Homeschool Fair, hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, and the topic is Enriching Our Homeschool. So now I want to talk about all those other subjects.  The ones that are considered fun "electives" but maybe not essential.  Except, they are essential to a Charlotte Mason philosophy!  It is essential that we give our kids more than "just the facts" for an education. It is essential we give them access and connections to the world at large, through music and art and languages and people, so they can broaden their outlook on life. It is essential that we teach them how to look for the good and the beautiful in a world that is often dark and scary. It is essential that we teach them that there is always more out there, that learning is a lifelong process, and the more we seek, the more we will find.  It is essential that we teach them to care.

“The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education -- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” - Charlotte Mason

One of the most straightforward ways to open up doors to the world is obviously through our curriculum, and since we have been doing a rich liberal arts education and adding in more of the riches this year, I have come to realize something.  I liked school, and did well.  I was a Straight A Student, and I was an avid reader.  What I "learned" pales in comparison to what my kids are gaining for their curriculum as whole, in large part because of their enrichment activities!

Picture Study - The idea (if following CM's methods) is to study about six pieces of art by an artist over a twelve week term, becoming intimately familiar with the artist.  My kids actually enjoy picture study far more than I expected, and I've found we cover all 8 prints in the Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolios, and go back and spend a second week on a few.  This year we're studying Monet, da Vinci, and Reubans.

Handicrafts - I have been completely and utterly inconsistent with Handicrafts after the preschool years.  I do think that many forms of Art fall under Handicrafts, so at least the kids get some exposure through art.  Simply Charlotte Mason lists Handicrafts and Life Skills together, so the boys and I looked over it together recently.  At least they're learning Life Skills!  Elliott is learning typing (Life/Business Skill) and asked to learn Robotics.  Emory picked Pottery.  Eleanor received a loom for Christmas, so I plan to help her with that, while she and the 3 year old will also "make jewelry" with bead kits.  We shall see how these plans survive the term.

Drawing/Art - We've dabbled in art on and off over the years.  Sometimes we do some basic drawing instruction; sometimes we work with different mediums.  Since both of my school-aged kiddos are taking a weekly Art class at co-op, I'm not stressing over "lessons" at home.  I do think, however, that I will add Drawing to afternoon occupations for them to choose from, when I implement a new afternoon routine.

Composers - Sometimes we use Classics for Kids to learn a little about the composer, but right now my intention is just to get into the habit of listening regularly and building tolerance and appreciation through continued exposure.  This year are Mozart, Beethoven, and Undecided for third term.

Folk Songs - We are following AO's Folk Song rotation for this, and the kids usually enjoy the songs.    
Eleanor, especially, enjoys the music!

Hymns - I choose a new hymn each month, except in December we worked on Christmas play music.  This has been working well for us.

Instruments - We haven't quite gotten there yet.  Elliott has a little bit of exposure to guitar, and Emory wants to learn piano, but we need to find the right instructors for them.

Junior Choir  - One of the young women in our church has just volunteered to start a Junior Choir, so my three older kids (5, 8, 11) have just started it.  My 8 year old was so excited to tell me when we were doing this month's Hymn, that they were going to be singing it in choir!

Nature Study
Nature Study gives us firsthand experience with God's creations.  Observational skills are developed.  Appreciation of the natural beauty in the world is brought about with regular interactions.  I'm not the best at formal nature study and journaling, though we do try to enjoy outdoor play and informal nature walks regularly, and the kids are always looking for things to examine and study.  I've found that it is perfectly acceptable to check the Nature Study box on things like the Solar Eclipse, playing outside after the first big snow storm, or taking a walk through a new park.  Sometimes we do something a bit more intentional, but I try not to force things upon them, because their best discoveries are when they are left to explore on their own.

This is my first year adding Shakespeare.  My 8 year old in particular really seems to enjoy it!  We started A Midsummer Night's Dream first semester, but only got through a retelling of the play.  We're trying The Tempest this semester, and hopefully make it through a full play!  From the language to the cultural literacy, Shakespeare really does have a lot to offer to the mind, and I believe it's worth the effort.

I don't consider learning the Bible and going to church "enrichment" so much as necessary for our faith and relationship with Christ, but I also believe we have opportunities to connect with others and experience different activities through the church, which is why I included the under enrichments too.  My kids do Sunday School, Junior Church, AWANA, Vacation Bible School, now Junior Choir, and the many activities organized by these different groups - programs, plays, holiday celebrations, and more.  They memorize lines and songs and verses, work in small groups and teams, they go to cookouts and all the fellowship activities planned for the kids and for the church as a whole.  Fellowship with others in this way helps build friendships and develop mentors, which I do consider essential enrichment for their personal and spiritual lives.

"Mary" in the Christmas Program

I know co-ops aren't for every family, but they are a good fit for ours.  We get to shake up our "academic" week with some fun classes, the kids get to socialize and learn in a group environment under different teaching styles, and I get some Mom Socialization too.

5th Grade:  Gym, Art, Science
3rd Grade:  Art, Literature, Science
Pre-K:  Pre-K and Gym
3 Year Old:  3's Class (informal preschool style)

Other subjects/classes we've had over the years include Spanish, International Dance and Music, Sign Language, Portuguese, Beginner Guitar, Latin, Music Appreciation, LEGO, and more.  Being part of a co-op with parents who have diverse talents, backgrounds and passions is such a blessing!

Co-op offers more than just classes, though.  Sometimes we go early just so they can play basketball or trade Pokemon cards with friends.  Sometimes we have Pajama Day or Backwards Day, or some other wacky day, just like the public schooled kids.  We have Picture Days and Holiday Meals and Christmas Parties.  Sometimes we have special guests come and do music lessons, or dance part of a ballet performance, or speak about their comic book career.  We have tables set up to make cards for first responders, and we collect donations as a group for people in need.  We learn together, we celebrate together, we learn compassion and we form relationships with people like us--who are also quite different, and thus, opening our world just a little more each day.

Field Trips
One more way we enrich our homeschool experience is through Field Trips.  Sometimes we go on field trips with our co-op or other homeschoolers, and sometimes we go as a family.  We look for activities locally, and we look for opportunities when traveling.  We look for museums, aquariums, fairs, festivals, parks, historical sites, science centers, animal rescue/conservation centers, or really - anything fun, cultural, or educational.

The Wilds Field Trip 

As you can see, it is so easy to add a little at a time to open their world.  Foreign Languages are on my "should" list, but we haven't really gotten that one down consistently yet, though we've dabbled with Spanish over the years.  We aren't active in sports right now, but that's another activity we've done on and off over the years that not only gets children active, but puts them into competitive and team environments.  The opportunities are endless, but I have noticed that as I add one new thing, it gets easier to add the next new thing.  I've also noticed, that the more they are exposed to, the more connections they make and the more they follow their own little rabbit trails to find out about something new.  I'm convinced that taking a few extra minutes each day to add in an enrichment subject, or to take a day and go to class or take a field trip is what makes homeschooling "come alive" now!

Week 1 - 5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling (The Reason We Love to Homeschool)
Week 2 - How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool (Our Method of Homeschooling)
Week 3 - Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie (Our Homeschool Curriculum)
Week 4 - Putting the Heart Back into our Homeschool (Enriching Our Learning)

This is the final week of the 7th Virtual Homeschool Fair. Our topic is: Enriching Our Learning.
Note: All posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 29th.

Celebrating 7 Years of Homeschool Support & Encouragement by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
All of the Extras by Christy Schaefer @ Unexpected Homeschool
Learning outside of the box by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Adding in the Fun by Michele @Family, Faith and Fridays
The Electives We Use in Our Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
The Fun Parts of Homeschooling by Annette @ A Net in Time
How we add in the fun stuff. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Running - for fitness & fun by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Adding in the Extras by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
What About the Fun Stuff? by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
And the Learning Goes On, And On, And On by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Let's See What's Out There! (Electives and Extras) by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie

Choosing "the right" curriculum can be a challenge for homeschoolers.  Does it match your homeschool philosophy/method?  Is it interesting and engaging?  Is it teacher-intensive?  Does it match, or can you balance it out with your family's religious views?  Will it challenge, without overwhelming, your kids?  There are so many aspects to consider that it can feel overwhelming.

This week during the Virtual Homeschool  Fair we're discussing Our Homeschool Curriculum, so I think now is as good as any to do a mid-year update, since we just had a major curriculum overhaul and finally made it through the first term of the new program.

I fully admit to being a curriculum junkie.  Thankfully I've had the Schoolhouse Review Crew to provide a steady flow of new curricula and supplements to satiate that desire to "change things up" all the time.  Despite this, I've still bounced around a little over the years.  Nothing drastic; I haven't gone from one extreme to the other; we've always been literature-based and relaxed homeschoolers, but this year we've circled right back around to where we started.

When I first discussed Transitioning to Ambleside Online, I mentioned that we had actually started there, but we got off to a rough start and I fell into into that "maybe there's something better out there" trap.  I'm not going to rehash all of the backstory, or how I circled back around to AO (you can read that post for the details), but I will say, I have learned a few things from changing curricula a few times since then.

I have learned that I need to learn to be content with what is working and not try to find something "better" just for fear of missing out.  I should want to find the best, but only when what we have is not working.  There's no need to be constantly hunting for the next best thing, because something shinier will always come along.  I have also learned that I can love something, but I have to know when it is time for my children to move on.  Even a beloved or rich curriculum may not always meet our needs.

So here we are with Ambleside Online, and we've finished the first term, so I thought now would be a good time to share some of our thoughts so far.  I love it!

The Content/Books
The books are fabulous.  They are truly living books.  They are literary and interesting, though definitely challenging.  My kids have been stretched and one son in particular was really pushed out of his comfort zone, but in a good way!

Out of all of the books that are assigned between Years 2 and 4 (we have only omitted a few, and even that is only temporary--I have plans to work them in eventually) the boys like almost all of them, they even seem to love several of them.  I find a couple of them tedious to read, but those are ones they enjoy, so I let it be.  I am just so impressed and thankful that a group of homeschool families, not being paid for their effort, have managed to put together something so engaging and thorough and have shared it for free - and that it is so effective!

My Year 2 son of course loves The Burgess Animal Book for Children, because science is now all animals all the time.  He also really seems to love Our Island Story and A Child's History of the World, I think because of all the connections he is now making.

My Year 4 said his favorite book is Robinson Crusoe, definitely for the story line.  Otherwise, he likes The Story Book of Science because it is science, and short chapters!  I wasn't doing the optional activity/experiment book for science, and he did ask for more activities, so I need to be more consistent about assigning hands-on science.  (He goes back to co-op this week, though, where he has a science class, so that might help too.)

I may try to get around to going more in-depth about the kids thoughts and progress with their individual years, should I find the time after this series is finished.

The Schedule
I really love how the schedule is designed.  It's laid out so that it says what to read each week, but I get to assign the days we read those passages.  They have a variety of formats too, so I took an editable schedule and tweaked it to meet our needs.  For instance, I deleted the Bible reading lines, and changed the name of the poets, because we already had something in place for these.  There were a few small tweaks otherwise, which I addressed in Transitioning to Ambleside Online Year 4, the transition and Ambelside Online Year 2 - The Transition.  Those tweaks were mostly based on already owning a suitable alternative book or keeping the boys together for a subject.

I typed up a quick grid that tells me which books we'll read each day.  I tried to spread out the subjects so we aren't reading two books from the same subject in a day.  I tried to keep Wednesdays slightly lighter, so I don't feel rushed in the afternoon into the evening before church.  Then Thursdays are off for co-op,  which is enrichment subjects.  Fridays are lighter, so that if we don't finish a passage, or if it's longer (like two chapters for Burgess Animals) we can just roll it over to Friday and finish then, or otherwise we just finish early!  I also read some stuff over lunch most days, usually poetry and a "free read" book that is for everyone.  I have to rearrange things for my oldest for second term, as a few books are added, but we'll see how things go.  We might slide a morning reading in on Thursdays if necessary.

I never follow my Enrichments schedule, so I intend to update it.

Then AO offers a blank grid for daily and weekly subjects (math, copywork, dictation, etc.) along with their term schedules, and I can add/delete rows before I print, to customize it for each child.  I just do a checkmark inside the box each time we complete those!

Daily subjects should have at least 3, preferably 4 subjects by the end of the week.  It's easier than creating my own daily/weekly schedule, and saves me time and energy!  I have a total of three papers per term for each of the big kids - The Reading Schedule, The Daily/Weekly tasks, and my weekly subject guide.

The Richness
When following a CM education, it is a broad and rich feast.  There is so much to offer, and I am using many elements of Ambleside Online's riches, and following our pre-AO schedule for others.  Next week we'll be discussing Enriching Our Homeschool, so without giving too much away, I just want to say that I considered myself a "good" student - I got straight A's and I liked learning, reading, and going to school, and I feel like I missed out on so much by not having the same depth and breadth that I am able to offer my kids.  There's just so much to discuss next week, though!

The Other Stuff
We are following AO for History, Geography, Literature, Science and some of the riches.  We're doing our own thing for a few other subjects.

Bible:  readings/AWANA for all
Math:  CTCMath & Xtra Math at their level
Lang Arts:  We're following AO/CM with narration, copywork, cursive practice (Y2) as well as dictation and weekly written narrations (Y4)  My oldest has done enough grammar for awhile, so we'll do a crash course down the road.
Typing:  Elliott is doing typing lessons so that he can type his written narrations
Co-Op:  All of the kids go to weekly co-op
Choir:  We have someone who has volunteered to start a junior church choir, and my 3 oldest children are participating in it!

(I"ll share more about the co-op and choir next week too.)

Final Thoughts
So overall, things are going well this year.  We obviously had some bumps in the road early on, but now that we have switched to AO and I have a schedule to keep me consistent and moving forward, we've made a lot of progress and our days are smoother.  I must admit though, that it isn't so much about finding "the perfect curriculum" as it is about knowing when and how to make the changes that are needed.  It's about having the mindset of making the curriculum serve us, not the other way around.  It's about finding a curriculum that is academically engaging, but also brings beauty and joy to the day.

Looking for more curriculum ideas? 
Visit my fellow homeschool bloggers! 

 Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 22nd.
Our Homeschool Plan for 3rd, 6th, 8th, & 12th Grades by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Our 10th Grade Plans by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Planning Out Our Unschooling Studies by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
The Details of Curriculum by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Freedom through nature journaling. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Our 2018 Homeschool Curriculum Choices by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Top Home Educating Resources by Sarah @ DeliveringGrace
Homeschooling Curriculum We Are Using This Year by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Use the Force and Complete the Course by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Our Curriculum Needs - grade seven by Annette @ A Net in Time
The Heart of Our School by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
How to Avoid Gaps in Education by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Tricky Subjects and Starting the Decision Making Process by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
High School Syllabus by TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy @ GoldenGrasses 

The Virtual Homeschool Fair is hosted annually by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, and here are my posts for this year.  

Week 1:  5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling (The Reason We Homeschool)
Week 2:  How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool (Our Homeschool Method)
Week 3:  Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie (Our Homeschool Curriculum)
Week 4:  (Enriching Our Learning)

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Charlotte Mason Transformed our Homeschool

When we first decided to homeschool, I researched for a long time, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with Charlotte Mason.

This post contains affiliate links.

This week's topic for the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Our Method of Homeschooling, and I am sharing why Charlotte Mason is important to our homeschool.

What is Charlotte Mason?  
If you're not familiar with the Charlotte Mason (CM) method, Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800's, and what we call the "Charlotte Mason method" is derived from her educational philosophy and the methods she used.  She believed that children are born persons, they're not blank slates to be filled, they have an innate curiosity and thus need living ideas to feed their mind and soul.  To facilitate this, Charlotte Mason used living books instead of textbooks, narration instead of rote memory or dull worksheets, nature study to learn about the world firsthand, handicrafts to develop skills and to make useful and beautiful items, a study of fine arts to feed the soul, and so much more in order to offer students a feast for the mind.

I could go on, but I'll share some links at the end of the post, if you're interested in reading more, because I can't describe the ideas as eloquently as others.  What I really want to do today is share how returning to Charlotte Mason saved our homeschool.

How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool
Our Charlotte Mason Preschool years went really well, but I slowly strayed and dabbled in some curriculum that, while lovely and full of fascinating living books, wasn't particularly Charlotte Mason.  I don't regret the years with our other literature-based programs, they were great for us at the time, and I would still recommend them to others under the right circumstances.  I just started to feel as if something was missing in our homeschool.

In hindsight, we should have just waited a year to start the curriculum we used, but eventually, we slowly made our way back.  I haven't finished reading Mason's books, but I did start slowly adding in elements, one at a time.  I added in fine arts (picture study, hymns, folk songs, composer studies, daily poetry), I added in copywork or dictation for the boys, we started dabbling in Shakespeare.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed and frustrated with the curriculum we were trying to use, and felt like we were at a complete standstill, with no quality progress.  It wasn't producing the same joy and interest as the "extra" Charlotte Mason elements.

The living books were great, but I was trying to force a curriculum and "work" around them, and it just wasn't working.  So I stopped.  I researched for a couple of days, and decided we were going back to true Charlotte Mason.  I changed curriculum the very next week, and I can already feel the progress and intangible benefits in just one term.

That sounds so dramatic, especially because I know things aren't actually perfect around here; we are all human, and we still have bad days.  Overall though, I can feel the dynamic of our homeschool and our daily attitudes slowly changing, and I think this is due to a number of little things that add up to a more pleasant experience.

Better Attitudes
One thing I noticed within just a couple of weeks is that the amount of complaining has reduced dramatically.  That's not to say that there isn't whining or procrastinating, but it doesn't happen as often.  There isn't pure dread in their eyes when I say "It's time for . . . " and I think it because of the short and varied lessons, the living ideas, and NO BUSY WORK!  Sometimes, they even look forward to a particular book, because it's just that good!

They are already making connections on their own.  When we were doing literature-based units (not quite unit studies, but certainly not CM either), I felt like I was just fluffing out their studies and they were just going along for the ride, rushing through and unfortunately not retaining as much as I thought.  When we did a streamlined, chronological history approach, they loved the history, but everything else still felt disjointed.  Now that we're using a full Charlotte Mason curriculum (Ambleside Online - more on that next week) that is so meticulously and carefully curated, and following the CM methods, it doesn't feel forced.  I also feel like there is just enough of a peg from one subject, for it to resonate when something comes around again in another book or subject, and they get the joy of making that connection on their own.  Like when my 8 year old recognizes that the  King in today's story is related to the Duke in his history biography, and was the "winning" King in one of the first battles we read when we started this curriculum.   It might be interesting when I tell them how things are related, but it's certainly not as meaningful as when they realize it on their own - as evidenced by the way their eyes light up during the discussion.

No Planning and No "Stuff" to Do
Ambleside Online is laid out pretty clearly, and I just have to buy the books (my preference over e-books or library) and print the schedule.  I sometimes print a map, but the most effort I have to put into planning/scheduling, is creating a reading schedule for the core books.  It's really that simple.  Charlotte Mason's methods mostly rely on reading and narrations, so there are no worksheets to print, busy work assignments, or unnecessary projects.  This means I'm not scrambling at the last minute to print something or gather supplies.  When I do scramble, our days fall apart.  If I stick to the basics and avoid busy work, our days run smoother and they don't feel forced into doing meaningless activities and projects.

If they want to explore something in greater depth, I am happy to help them, but then it is their choice, and that just means I know the method is working - living ideas are creating curiosity!

How Do I Know It's Working?
Maybe I don't.  We're only one term in.  I don't "have it all down" yet.  I certainly don't have any long-term results, only anecdotal results from other homeschoolers . . . but the attitude adjustment, the ease of the methods, the less stress I feel, and those "aha!" moments are enough for me to feel there is so much more fruit to bare!  Homeschooling, no matter what method, is trial-and-error, and ever-changing process.  We must learn to adapt and learn from our mistakes, make improvements, and grow along with our children.  That's what I'm doing.

For more reading about Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason's original books
An Introduction to Charlotte Mason
CM's 20 Principles
What is the Charlotte Mason Method?

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out! 

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 15th.

How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
A Method to Our Madness by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Finding Our Homeschool Method by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
How We Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Give Us.... by Annette @ A Net in Time
A day in our Home by Sarah@DeliveringGrace
Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Overhauling Our Homeschool - Adjusting our "How" to fit our "Why" by Sabrina Scheerer @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Expectation Vs. Reality by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Captain's Log, Supplemental - Our Homeschool Days by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we get it done. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
How to Organize Daily Curriculum with the School Cart by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Learning For Life by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Eclectic Homeschooling: When It All Comes Together by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
A Typical Day? by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
This is the Way We Do Our School, So Early in the Morning by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
A Little of This and a Little of That: Eclectic Homeschooling by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Still Classically Educating After All These Years by True North Homeschool Academy
So what exactly is Life Led Homeschooling? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our Homeschool Routine by Joelle @Homeschooling For His Glory
Homeschool Methods � 8 Tips for the Journey by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Week 1:  5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling (Why We Homeschool)
Week 2:  How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool (Our Method of Homeschooling)
Week 3:  Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie (Our Homeschool Curriculum)
Week 4:  Coming Soon:  (Enriching Our Learning)

The Virtual Homeschool Fair is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and we have two more subjects left to discuss, so be sure to come back next week!

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 review

Homeschool families are always looking for that elusive perfect curriculum.  It may be nearly impossible to find perfect, but what if I told you there was a website that offered you hundreds of courses for all grade levels, and one flat rate would get you access for an entire family - no matter how many children or how many courses you need? review
This post contains affiliate links. is a comprehensive homeschool curriculum website, and I'm happy to review the Yearly Membership so that you can get a glimpse of everything they have to offer!  SchoolhouseTeachers offers courses in all subjects for all grades, supplemental materials, parent resources and much more.  It can be used to enrich your homeschool, or it can effectively be an all-in-one stop for the entire family.

SchoolhouseTeachers can be used for so many different purposes and in so many ways, so there are different ways to navigate the website.  For brand new members, there is a New Members Hub that gives you information about what you will find and how to find it.  The two main ways I like to navigate are to Browse by Grade or Browse by Subject.  Browsing by Grade has the advantage of narrowing down courses that are targeted at a specific age range.  Browsing by Subject allows me to look for topical or interest based courses that supplement our homeschool. review

The vast number of courses offered is astounding.  I couldn't begin to list them all, but suffice it to say, you can find something for everyone in your family, from the preschooler to the high schooler, and everyone in between.  Plus you, the parent, will find courses and resources.

We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and primarily rely on living books, and yet I can still find quite a bit of amazing materials to use in our homeschool.  In fact, there is an entire section called the Charlotte Mason Learning Center, that lists all of the courses that include a Charlotte Mason component/method.  While not every course is directly influenced by the philosophy, the ones on the list are the most compatible.  It would obviously be up to the parent to decide what works best in their homeschool, but I've found a few courses that work well for us!

Each term we do picture study by studying several works of a famous artist.  To accompany our picture study, I can easily pull from a couple of the different art courses once or twice a term, just to enhance our learning and bring it to life!  The All About Artists unit study is for 1st-3rd grade, and gives a brief biography on a few different artists, along with pictures of some of their famous works.  I think it's a great course for jumping into your first few picture studies, because the author has chosen prominent artists that are interesting to children, but it is simple and effectively executed.

Elementary Art:  Twelve Great Artists is an elementary level course, that offers a brief overview of the artist, a project inspired by the artist (Leonardo da Vinci's project focuses on inventions), and some suggested books you might consider getting from the library.  Although my children enjoy traditional picture study for what it is, they also enjoy the occasional art project, so having some simple biographies to introduce the artist at the beginning of the term, and a project to end with, are a great way to add a little something special to our days.  I appreciate having it all collected into one document and readily accessible.  {This course actually has another section as well, called Advent Art, which is 10 lessons of scripture and projects/crafts, though we didn't use it this year.}

Here's the thing, though.  In addition to all of the great courses, there are other amazing features.  Many of the courses use video content from streaming providers like, Drive Thru History, RightNow Media, and more.  Some videos require a separate login, but access is free through  The other phenomenal feature is the access to World Book.  Some courses are created around this content, while we also have access to ten different World Book Libraries!  This is an excellent resource to have available for research or general browsing, because yes, I have a kid that just likes to sit and read encyclopedia type fact books.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, as I can't possible discuss the rest of the courses we want to try, like the animal science courses that interest my 8 year old animal lover, the Guitar course for my 11 year old, or the different music courses I want to do as a family.  There is even a Charlotte Mason course for parents!  Other resources available to parents are the Schoolhouse Planners, Applecore (record keeping and transcripts), printable course certificates, and Molly Green the magazine. really does have a little bit of everything.  The website is comprehensive and offers a variety of courses and resources to meet the needs of almost everyone.  They also have a variety of subscription options to best meet your needs, but whatever you choose, it is for all students; you do not pay extra for more children!  Right now, they are also offering a special New Years sale, where you can receive a significant discount.

Schoolhouse Teachers 2018 Fresh Start New Years Speical

The Homeschool Review Crew has over 40 reviewers sharing their thoughts and experiences with this vast website, so be sure to check out the rest of the reviews!

Homeschool Curriculum for Everybody - { Reviews}

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©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling

Every homeschooling family has a story.  The reason why they homeschool.  Or perhaps it is not one single reason, but many small things that make a big decision easier.  I suppose we fall into the latter.

This week during the Virtual Homeschool Fair, hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, families are sharing The Reasons We Homeschool.  Here are my top 5 reasons, in no particular order.

Homeschooling is Logistically Easier
Although the seed for homeschooling was planted when I was expecting our first child, because I knew I would never be ready to hand my children over to a system, I think the journey really started as it came time to enroll our oldest in Pre-K.  I was working full time, and the boys went to a private babysitter.  Neither my job, nor the babysitter's home, were in our local school district.  It wasn't long before we realized it wasn't going to work.  Husband had ruled out the school bus long before we ever had kids, and we live rural, so we would have been driving all over creation; plus the school hours and our work hours were in conflict.  If I was going to go part time or quit work to just shuttle the kids back and forth, why not homeschool?  It wasn't long before we realized that seed was now a firmly rooted desire to nurture and educate the children from home, and shortly after I resigned from my job to start this crazy, rewarding journey!

Our Schedule is Flexible
Homeschooling means we have the freedom to rearrange our schedule - for anything!  We can travel "out of season" when weather is milder, rates are cheaper and crowds are smaller, because it fits our family's preferences.  We did not have to change the way we did things when the kids hit school age, just to fit a public school calendar.   We can also change our schedule to accommodate my husband's job.  He sometimes works evenings or weekends when needed, and he occasionally travels for work.  I don't have to worry about the kids missing time with him, because our schedule and our routines are flexible. If we want to spend half a day playing board games, or reading about former presidents, or watching educational science videos on YouTube, it is of no real consequence to our schedule.  I can shift things around, and likely still complete a full week's worth of work on schedule.  A flexible, but fluid, schedule is not just a benefit, it's really a necessity.

Fernbank Field Trip
September 2017
No crowds, and less heat!

They ALL Receive an Individualized Education
One of the most challenging aspects of homeschooling is knowing if we are making the right choices along the way.  What history cycle should we follow?  Should we change math programs?  What homeschool method is best?  Honestly, even these answers change from time to time.  Flexibility is a necessity, after all.

I have found that in order to give my children the best education, I have to make it their education.  That means there is no "right" answer, because it is about what is best for them at that moment.  I do believe I have chosen an educational philosophy that is easy to follow and also easy to adapt (Charlotte Mason - more on that next week), because with her methods, I can help each child recognize their talents and strengths, and work on any weaknesses.  When it comes to more standard subjects like math and writing, I can still tailor their lessons to their needs.  They don't have to go as fast or slow as a class; they go at their own pace, in their own time.

I Know What They are Learning
As an extension of trying to create an individual education for each child, it means I know what they are learning.  My husband and I are the primary influence in our children's lives and education.  Despite the great teachers that do exist, they often admit their hands are tied.  As their parent and "teacher" I can guide them in a Biblical education.  I know the materials we use are clean and wholesome, and I can address religion, politics, stereotypes and world views accurately, fairly and from a Biblical standpoint.  I also know they won't be studying content that is beneath their comprehension or too mature for them, because I have researched to make sure their books are appropriate.  I get to see when that triumphant AHA moment happens!  I get to share in the stories of the books we read together, and we can discuss literary characters or people from history over lunch.  I am learning alongside them often, and they are intrigued because I am intrigued.  They enjoy learning with me, which makes the process that much more fun for me!

We are Breaking Down a Stereotype
With each new generation that homeschools, we are eroding that weird, unsocialized homeschool stereotype.  I try to attend special homeschool classes and events offered by businesses, or to use their educational discounts when offered.  I contact other businesses to discuss their homeschool policies.  I want them to know there is a homeschool presence, and there is a need for more businesses to have homeschool-friendly policies.  I contact the school board (when necessary) to let them know I am aware of my legal rights, so they know homeschoolers are informed.  I let my kids play outside during "school" hours (PE and nature study!) and we run errands during school hours, because homeschoolers before us fought for the legal protection to homeschool, and not hide in fear.  I firmly believe that we should make society aware that homeschooling isn't just legal, but it's growing, and it is a quality form of education.  Parents have the right to choose the educational path that is best for their children, and I am proud to be a part of that.  I love showing others that homeschooling isn't about the final destination; it's about a unique journey.

Now, let's see what my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about The Reasons We Homeschool.

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST.
5 Reasons to Homeschool High School by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Weird Homeschoolers by Kim R. @ Good Sweet Love
How We Make Homeschooling a Lifestyle by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Our Ever Evolving Homeschool Story by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
5 Reasons You Will Want to Homeschool by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays
How Our Homeschool Came To Be (and why we continue) by Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
Home Education - 10 Reasons we keep going...even when it's hard by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
So... Tell Me Again Why You Homeschool? by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 1 - Why do I Homeschool  by Joelle@Homeschooling For His Glory
Homeschool Reasons: Bullies, Faith and More by Annette @ A Net In Time
In Pursuit of Purpose by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
A Long Time Ago . . . Why We Decided To Homeschool by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Why Behind Hopkins Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Why We Homeschool - It's What We Do by Kristen H @ Sunrise to Sunset
Why we Home Educate and Extra Benefits by Sarah@Delivering Grace
Homeschooling: The Big WHY? by Lisa @ True North Homeschool Academy at Golden Grasses
Regaining Your Homeschool Focus by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
Why do we homeschool? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our "Homeschool" Why by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Because Life is Precious by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
1998 vs. 2018: Why We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Each week for the rest of the month, we'll be sharing a peek into our homeschool.

Week 1:  5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling (The Reason We Homeschool)
Week 2:  How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool (Our Method of Homeschooling)
Week 3:  Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie (Our Homeschool Curriculum)
Week 4:  (Enriching Our Learning)

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Upcoming: 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair

Over the last few years, I've participated in a Virtual Curriculum Fair, where we've shared the ins and outs of the different subjects we teach and the curriculum we use. Hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds, the fair has been titled Virtual Homeschool Fair this year, to more broadly encompass other aspects of our homeschool lives. Starting January 8th, and each Monday for the remainder of the month, participants will be discussing the following topics:

The Reasons We Homeschool
Why do we homeschool?

Our Method of Homeschooling
How do we homeschool?

Our Homeschool Curriculum
How do we cover it all?

Enriching Our Learning
What do we do for enrichment?

I often find that coming off a holiday high combined with the winter weather, can make January feel dreary and put us in a homeschool slump.  I'm looking forward to reading what the other participants are sharing, because I'm always encouraged and refreshed.  Below you'll find the current list of bloggers who are participating in the fair this month!

Visit the bloggers participating in the Virtual Homeschool Fair:

Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Jenn K. @ A Peace of Mind
Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Jen Duncan @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Annette @ A Net In Time
Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
Michele Pleasants @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Chelsea @ Pause.Reflect.Learn.Grow
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lisa @ True North Homeschool Academy at Golden Grasses
Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Hillary @ Walking Fruitfully
Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.