Real Life Homeschool: Schooling on the Go

We are at day 4 of a our 5 Day Blog Hop, and today, I want to share how we do school on those busy, on-the-go days. You know, the days you have dentist appointments, have to run to the library, have homeschool co-op, have to hit the grocery store, or just run a bunch of general errands. One of the benefits of homeschooling is, of course, the flexibility. However, I have found that if you don’t have some kind of a plan for these kinds of days, then often, nothing gets done. So, this is how we school in the car!

My backseat is pretty comfy.

So, the first thing we do on a busy day is pack our backpack with everything portable. Our math book and notebook, the chapter book we are reading, grammar, and spelling. I used to try to cart around our history and science books too, but I quickly realized that the load was much heavier than was realistic and honestly, on a busy day like that, it probably won’t get done anyway, so I limit our carschooling days to our essential subjects.

While we are in the car, I try to provide instructional entertainment with an audio drama or book on tape. Heirloom Audio Productions offers some excellent ones, like Under Drake’s Flag and In Freedom’s Cause. These are nice because we can listen to them and then spend time discussing them using the study guides. We also like to pass the time listening to classical music CDs like the ones from Maestro Classics. I feel like this is a way to bring some value to the times we spend in the car.

If I know ahead of time we are going to be running around, I can plan around it, which is great. I limit our subjects, set up the backpack ahead of time, and the day goes relatively smoothly. For instance, once every two weeks we do a big grocery shopping trip. So, on those days, I plan for only a few subjects, and figure the life skills my kids are learning at the grocery store take care of the rest. On co-op days we also go light on school, usually only doing reading, spelling and math.

But what about those days when stuff just comes up out of the blue? Well, on those days I tell myself to pick and choose what is most important and postpone everything else. Believe it or not, I find my cell phone and computer to be handy tools on those days. There are actually a lot of educational games and applications that at least give my kids a chance to practice math and reading skills when we are out and about. I also try to make a stop at the library if we can. We might grab lunch and hit the playground too, so my boys can run around and burn off some energy. And dinner on these busy days (which I try to squeeze in in between guitar lessons and football practices)? Well, let’s just say the pizza man is quite familiar with my house! LOL

At any rate, carschooling is a reality for many homeschoolers. Unlike most parents who run errands and take care of things while their kids are at school, our kids are always with us, so it is inevitable that we have to make adjustments. How do you do school on those days when you have to run around? Let me know in the comments. To see what my fellow crew members had to share today, click here:

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

 

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Start with these 10 blogs:
Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama’s Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

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The Holidays Are Coming!!

I swear the holidays come earlier and earlier every year! I walked into the store the day after Halloween and they were filling the aisles with Christmas stuff! Did we just skip November altogether? Do we move straight from the candy to the presents without a pause for thankfulness? Ugh! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, and we put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but still, I feel like everything is just so rushed, and I think it contributes to my holiday stress.

Every year I look forward to this time of year. I love the cooler temperatures (well, cooler for Florida), the pumpkins, the flavors, and all the fun that comes with this season. Right now, I am planning our Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time in three years, my husband is NOT working, so we actually get to eat at home instead of the fire station. I am looking forward to a day of cooking and lounging around with my family. It will be nice to have my kitchen full of holiday smells.

Here’s the thing that bothers me. I want to take this month to focus on the gratitude that comes with Thanksgiving. Before my kids get carried away with the thoughts of the gifts and the candy canes and the lights, I want them to take a moment to focus on being thankful for what they already have. I want them to understand that even though our life may be different from that of their friends, they are blessed beyond belief.

Again, I love Christmas. And I really get into giving gifts. There is something about watching someone open a present that I have picked out for them and loving it that just warms my heart. I spend hours planning gifts for my family, and I love wrapping the presents and look forward to that moment when we all get up and open gifts together. I don’t think presents are bad, I just think that focusing on the gift giving and decorations for a full two months is a little much. As I hear about people completing their Christmas lists the second week of November, I start to panic and wonder if I am falling behind. As the weeks go on and more and more of my friends Facebook posts focus on checking items off their lists, I start to really stress out.

So, this year, I am going to work to enjoy the month of November with my focus on Thanksgiving without thinking about next month. I will focus on Christmas AFTER Thanksgiving. This month, I am just going to spend time being grateful for all that I have.

My Wiggly Boys

My silly boys.

Our topic for the blog cruise this week is “teaching the chatty, wiggly child”. Oh my, I definitely have two of those. My boys are, well, all boy in the sense that they are always moving-fidgeting-fiddling around kinds of kids. They can’t be still, they ALWAYS have something to say (and more often than not, it is off topic) and they seem to be in a constant state of movement. I have to be honest, to my orderly, organized “teacher-brain”, this is the kind of behavior we try to stop in the classroom. All that movement is distracting, and once one kid is off task, they all get off task! So, learning to deal with (and love) this chase-the-rabbit-trail kind of behavior has been a process for ME in our homeschooling. These are some of the things I do to try and accommodate my active boys while still making sure we get work done.

1. Allow frequent breaks.
Seriously, some days we take a short 5 minute break after each subject. This allows my boys to run outside for a minute, pet the dog, have a conversation, look up something online they just thought of, play guitar, or add a piece to their latest Lego creation. At first, this was really hard for me, because I am a “let’s dig in and get school done” kind of girl. However, I quickly realized that my sons did not have the same attitude, and the more I tried to push them to be like me, the more miserable school became for all of us. By working small breaks into our schedule, my boys know they will have a few minutes to move around and do what they want at the end of each subject. This helps them focus more on the work at hand when they are doing it. Yes, it extends our day a bit, and we finish school around two instead of at noon, but does that really matter? Not to me!

2. Stop and Listen
Although I hate to admit it, when I am “busy” doing something, and one of my kids tries to tell me something, I often only half-listen, giving a nod when they are done and sending them on their way. The thing is, my kids KNOW when I am not paying attention to them and usually, this only causes them to talk more. I have learned that when one of my kids is just bursting to say something (even if it doesn’t really relate to what we are doing at the moment) it is best to just stop what we are doing, let them talk, and pay attention to what they have to say. So if, in the middle of grammar, my youngest suddenly interrupts and asks me if I remember the story that we read last year, about the pirate who does all this cool stuff, instead of telling him to be quiet and get back to work, I answer his question. Oddly enough, just doing that seems to resolve the problem. After we have had our conversation, my son goes back to his assigned work and finishes up. In the past, when I have been more work-focused and would not make room for these interruptions, it often led to a LONG disruption that ended with tears, fighting, and declarations of “you never want to listen to me”.

3. Keep it in Perspective.
This is probably one of the biggest things I have learned about homeschooling and life in general. One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool is to spend time with my boys because I felt they were growing up too fast and I was missing most of it. I try to remind myself that childhood comes in seasons, and that these boys who drive me crazy with their constant movement and chatter won’t always be like this. There will come a time when their lives will be full of jobs and friends and I will miss these moments. When you’re in the middle of the craziness it is hard to see, but I know that these days (however hectic) won’t last forever. At some point I may even long for a random interruption to my day because it is far too quiet. So I strive to remember that when I am trying to teach a science lesson and my boy determines he just has to ask me about last week’s trip to the grocery store right at the minute. Or when a spontaneous light saber war erupts during reading time. Or when someone decides the dog needs to wear a blanket as a cape as I am trying to explain the difference between mixed numbers and improper fractions. God made these boys the way they are for a reason, and the joy they bring to my life is worth all the craziness!

Do you have a chatty, wiggly child at your house? To see what other members of the crew had to say on this topic, check out the blog cruise here:

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Field Trip Fun!

One of the things we love about homeschooling is the field trips. We belong to two homeschool groups, and we have been pretty active with field trips so far this year. Living on the coast of Florida, we have a lot of trips we can take that relate to the unique ecosystems we have here. One of our trips was to the Barrier Island Sanctuary near Sebastian Inlet. On this trip, we got to tour the sanctuary on both the ocean and river sides. We actually walked through five different zones on our trip.

A land crab in its hole.

The sanctuary is home to tons of wildlife, crabs, manatees, dolphins, spiders, and dozens of butterflies. During the tour the kids were given a sheet that included all the species of butterflies they might see, and were asked to keep track of how many there were. We saw about seven different kinds, and they were beautiful. We also got to take home a “souvenir”. One of the programs sponsored by the sanctuary is a mangrove growing project. Mangroves are very important to the river ecosystem where we live. Each child was given a mangrove to take home in a jar. The idea is to grow the mangrove until it begins to sprout roots. We then return it to the sanctuary and they will put in the river. Ours are sitting in the kitchen window, and the boys named them Steve and Dave!

Steve and Dave 🙂

We also took a trip to my hubby’s fire station. Unlike most fire station field trips, this one was focused more on students in 7th grade and up. Of course, we looked at the trucks. But we also talked about careers in firefighting and the kinds of training and education it takes to become a firefighter.

Many of the kids were interested in the medical side of things and learning about what paramedics do.

Our most recent field trip was to the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, located on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology, which is centered in Melbourne. The museum features rotating exhibits of international collections of textiles. Now, I was not sure how interested my boys were going to find this particular trip but, the museum docent had a cool scavenger hunt planned for the kids that they really enjoyed, and we saw some very cool stuff!

Working on the scavenger hunt paper.

Each item had information about the country it came from, (many of which I had never heard of) and we went home and looked them all up. I am thinking we are going to return to the museum when they update their exhibits and use them as a starting point for a geography lesson. FIT also has a botanical garden on the premises, and we took a walk through there after visiting the museum.

We have some other cool trips coming up in the next few months, a farm (where my youngest is begging me to let him get a fertilized chicken egg), ice skating, and maybe a theme park. What cool field trips have you done so far this year? Let me know in the comments!

Fun Fall!

Fall! Crisp cool mornings….beautiful colors on the trees, pumpkins, apple cider, fall festivals. All of these come to mind when I think of these seasons. Except…we live in Florida, where fall is pretty much just a cooler version of the summer. To us, fall means temperatures in the 80’s rather than the 90’s, the end of hurricane season, and the hope of window weather in the winter!! When I was little, my family would travel to the mountains of North Carolina every year to see the changing of the colors on the trees. We don’t get a lot of that here, but we still have some pretty awesome things to look at this time of year.

Each year in October my kids go to Jacksonville to spend a week with my husband’s parents. My oldest son is a budding photographer, and these are some pictures he took while on his latest trip.

Ah yes, bees and wasps. Florida is full of them. And if you don’t watch out, you can get stung. Still, they are God’s creatures, and they serve a purpose. Who doesn’t love honey? While up in Jacksonville, my boys stopped at a roadside stand and bought some honey with real honeycomb in it. They were so excited!

Yep! That is the outline of a frog on a big palmetto leaf! I welcome the frogs, because they kill bugs. Fall brings a welcome relief from the mosquitoes and other bugs that plague us in the summer. My fall/winter garden always does so much better than my summer garden because I don’t have so many issues with bugs eating my plants.

The frog up close

Now, while I won’t swim in the pool at this time of year because the water is too cold, that doesn’t stop my kids. And the beach is still good for walking and tanning for another month or so. While our “fall” may not bring the traditional reds, golds, and other colors that people think of when that season comes to mind, it is still one of my favorite times of year. It means the start of the holiday season, and nights spent by the fire pit roasting marshmallows with the ones I love. While I love to see the pictures of the beautiful trees in the northern parts of the country, I love what fall brings to my Florida home!

Fall sunset

To see how other members of the crew enjoy the outdoors in the fall where they live, click here:

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Getting it Together (Finally!)

Box day!! It’s a big day in the life of any homeschooler. You’ve ordered your materials, and now you have to (not so) patiently wait for them to arrive!! As you may know, we’ve had a series of struggles this year that have prevented us from getting all of our materials until now. We started the year with some borrowed curriculum and finishing up last year’s material. Well, we finally managed to save enough for me to get the rest of our stuff, and I am SO excited!!

I managed to find some really good deals too! I picked up my son’s high school core (MFW) on eBay for a good price. I had to replace about 5 books, but I still saved money overall. After that, I ordered from some of my favorite places, Amazon, Rainbow Resource, and Christian Book Distributors. With the free shipping deals I received, I was able to stretch my budget and even order a planner for each of my kids. In the past, I have printed out planner pages, but ink is expensive. I ordered planners for less than $10 each and I plan to just write their daily assignments in them. In a way, I think this will be easier for me, and the cost is much less than what I would spend on ink every year printing stuff out.

It’s funny, but with the arrival of our new books, I find my enthusiasm returning. I have to admit, I started the year off somewhat discouraged because we have just had such a hard time so far. But, God came through as He always does, and once again I find myself in awe of His awesome ability to provide. So, this week we officially get to move into our new stuff, and I think we are all excited. I caught my kids peeking at their new books when they got here!! I am still waiting for a box or two to arrive, so of course, whenever we see a UPS truck we all look out the window to see if the driver is coming to our house. 🙂

I hope all of you have had a great start to your school year.

Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

The topic of our blog cruise this week is “sneaking school into the busy days.” You know those days, we all have them. There may be two (or three) doctors appointments scheduled. Perhaps you need to visit a sick friend, drop something off to your husband at work, and go to the grocery store and the bank. You look at your planner and say “How are we going to get anything done?”

Well, the good thing about homeschooling is the flexibility. And this is how we squeeze in some school time on those days. First, I look at my plans and ask myself what absolutely needs to be done. For example, if we have a science experiment that day, I may move that to another day of the week. Completing an experiment in the car or on the go is difficult and will only stress me out, so its better to wait until I don’t have so much to do. If there are any time consuming hands on projects going on, I will also move those. Completing a lapbook in the doctor’s office waiting room isn’t going to happen.

Next, I decide what can be easily transported and pack that in a backpack. We have some textbook/workbook subjects like math (CLE) and grammar (ACE) which can be done pretty much anywhere. So we throw those in the backpack with some pencils and bring them with us. In general, my kids can bring their math, grammar, and science books with them. They then work on those while we sit in the waiting room.

The car is a great place for reading or discussion. Sometimes we will use the drive to review spelling words, discuss history projects, listen to a book on tape, or my kids will do their individual reading. They do have Nooks which they bring with them. These can also be used for reading and other school activities. If I know we are going to have a remarkably long wait, I will bring my laptop so my son can watch his math DVD.When in the grocery store, or running other errands, I try to use that time to review math facts and other things that can be done while walking and talking.

Now look, there are some days that are so crazy that all we actually get done is reading and some math, but that’s okay. The next day, when things calm down, we just pick up where we left off. I try not to stress too much on busy days. When I first started homeschooling it would really bother me if we didn’t get everything done, and it turned me into a crazy person. Life is messy, and I have learned to go with the flow. I know we will get done with what we need to by the end of the year. And I sometimes think that God allows interruptions to my schedule for a reason.

How do you school on busy days? Leave me a comment and let me know. To see what other crew members have to say on this topic, click here:

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