Tag: homeschool

Back to School Prep: Homeschool vs. Traditional School

Back To School Prep

When our oldest daughter was wrestling with some emotional struggles half way through third grade, my husband and I decided that homeschooling might be a better fit for her. We finished out the year at home and happily witnessed a jump in her self-confidence and enjoyment in learning. Yes! We knew we made the right choice for her.

But what about her little sister? Kids’ personalities and needs at different stages are so unique, and choices about their education have to be unique, too. We’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any family. As a social butterfly with a teacher she adores and a need to have some space from her overshadowing big sister, public school is where our middle kid is headed for first grade.

This untypical situation leaves us with a back-to-school prep season unlike any we’ve experienced before. Some things have stayed the same: the thrill of starting something new, an eagerness to get back to routine, wanting to pull my hair out from nonstop sibling bickering and “I’m bored” complaints. But the school year preparations – those are very different.

Where The Dough Goes

We’ve spent more money on books than clothes for our homeschooler. We’re just not as concerned about switching out her faded, well-loved summer grubs for a shiny new look. Instead, most of the back-to-school budget goes towards carefully chosen curriculum that fits our daughter’s interests, subject level and learning style. We’ll fill in the wardrobe gaps as needed with the changing seasons (and probably pay less doing it), but for now, her grass-stained knees are welcomed in class.  Our younger daughter, however, will look a little more polished come September.

Home school curriculum  sara hm school4

It should be noted that there’s a wide variety of teaching methods and philosophies when it comes to homeschooling. Many parents choose to piece together their own unit studies or lessons using mostly free resources (libraries and the internet are godsends), field trips, projects and more.  That has been my own approach in the past, but this year I’m hoping to scale back my lesson-planning time and embrace a little more structure. So while our family’s back-to-school budget needs to accommodate curriculum supplies, many homeschooling parents spend next to nothing this time of year.

Supply Checklists

Pencils and erasers can be found on both of our kids’ lists this year, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  Instead of traditional items like crayons, folders and tissues, our homeschooled fourth grader will get a re-stash of craft and science experiment supplies, along with copy paper for the printer.  No need for a new backpack and lunchbox, but a magnifying glass and some graduated cylinders? Yes, please!

Planning and Organizing

This is where the biggest difference lies. There’s not much to it with a traditional student: make sure their hair is neat, fill their backpacks and then get them to the bus stop on time (although that is admittedly a challenge in itself). But as part of the legal requirements of homeschooling, every student needs a plan of instruction for the year. That means that the bulk of my back to school prep isn’t revolved around spending, but planning. What does my kid need and want to learn this year? How will I teach each subject? Should we join local classes or meet-ups? What field trips should we plan? All of these questions and more run are on my mind while I piece together a yearly plan and a daily/weekly routine that works for everyone.

 sara hm school sara hm school1

I also look back on the past year to make note of what worked and what didn’t, and then make changes accordingly. For example, this year we’re setting up a dedicated workspace for those times when my daughter needs a retreat from her two-year-old, wanna-be-rockstar brother to give an assignment her full focus. We’re also going to try a four-day schedule, leaving a full weekday open for field trips, projects, cooking and other hands-on fun.

sarah hm school3 sara hm school2

Just like a teacher spends time setting up their classroom in the days before their students walk in, I’ll be working on getting everything organized to make the transition out of summer vacation as smooth as possible. A little effort now will make a big difference in our daily routines. As a work-at-home mom and teach-at-home mom, organization is essential.

Despite the work involved, I’m excited to get the ball rolling! Homeschooling is just one of those things in life that isn’t always a walk in the park, but ultimately worth every bit of time and effort it takes. I’m looking forward to a fun year of learning for all of my kids!

 

Sara HVM EditSarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.

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Eggless Easter Fun!

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Last year I discovered the simple beauty of plastic Easter eggs and fuzzy pom-poms. With Easter right around the corner I’m bringing these back! It usually buys me at least 30 uninterrupted minutes. I can almost hear my own thoughts while finishing the dishes!

First, I picked up some plastic eggs and pom-poms at the dollar store.

Pick up items at any dollar store.
Pick up items at any dollar store.

Next, I dumped them into a deviled egg tray for easy access and storage. That’s it! Done! The kids will take care of the rest! (If you don’t have pom-poms you can use cotton balls).

Eggs and pom-poms
Eggs and pom-poms

You can find an egg tray similar to this one at the dollar store. I just happened to have one on hand.  You can also recycle an egg carton to store the eggs in. Use whatever works for you.

The first things my girls do is sort and match the colors by placing the pom-poms into the matching colored egg.

Color sorting/matching
Color sorting/matching

Next they enjoy using kid sized plastic tweezers to count out the pom-poms and fill the eggs. (This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills).

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Then they just like to make up their own games through pretend play. They grab handfuls of pom-poms and pile them up and mix them up. Sometimes they pretend to go shopping for eggs and fill up an empty shopping bag.

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No matter which scenario they choose, we almost always end with – you guessed it- an Easter egg hunt. They like to take turns hiding the eggs and finding them.  Of course I have to help look for the eggs too.

Last year when I first introduced this to my girls they were 28 months old. I was worried they’d eat the pom-poms, so I sat nearby while they played with them. They also enjoyed taking them into the bath tub, dumping the pom-poms into a bowl to mix with a spoon, and just comparing the fuzzy feeling of the pom-poms with the smooth feeling of the eggs.

This year they found a new way to play- Pom-pom soccer!

Use a straw to blow pom-poms across the finish line.
Use a straw to blow pom-poms across the finish line.

The first one to blow a pom-pom into an egg using a straw wins. I love that there are so many different ways to play with these simple things many of us already have around the house.

Got a favorite simple (mess free) activity you’d like to share?

 

Thank you to everyone for following my blog! You can also find me at at http://hudsonvalleyparentblog.wordpress.com/

 

 

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How To Build A Busy Binder

Top view of binders.
Top view of binders.

How often do you find awesome projects on Pinterest and think, “who has time for that?” Or, “I would never think of that!” That’s what inspired me to create these super simple busy binders! I used items I found at dollar stores. No need to use up my ink to print off a ton of pages. No need to laminate. These are re-usable, inexpensive and require very little time to make.

Materials for busy binder
Materials for busy binder

I found activity books at the Dollar Tree. (Target  has similar books in their dollar section). I picked up some colorful 3 ring binders at Big Lots for .90 cents each along with matching zipper pouches for $1.00 each. I reused some plastic page protectors and dry erase markers I found at home. So, each binder cost around $2.90. (I made 4).

Zipper pouch to always have pens on hand.
Zipper pouch to always have pens on hand.

The zipper pouch in the front of each binder holds dry erase markers for easy storage. I especially like the dry erase markers with the felt tipped eraser caps. This way the girls can erase their marks on their own if necessary.

Be sure to use dry erase markers.
Be sure to use dry erase markers.
Use book cover as first page in binder.
Use book cover as first page in binder.

The first page of the binder holds the cover of the activity book. If you want to get fancy, buy a binder that includes a front and back clear view pocket. Place the front cover of the activity book in the front clear view pocket and the back cover of the activity book in the back clear view pocket. The clear view binders run about $3-$4 each. The plastic page protector is my cheater version.

Insert individual pages in pockets.

Insert individual pages in pockets.

The following pages include activity sheets I detached from the book. I inserted one page per plastic sleeve.

Pocket protectors make it easy to erase and use again.
Pocket protectors make it easy to erase and use again.

Now the girls can re-use the pages as many times as they’d like. I simply erase when they are finished, or encourage them to clean with a paper towel before putting the binder away.

Inside binder
Inside binder

I keep the binders on a shelf for easy toddler access.

Binders on shelf.
Binders on shelf.

I have an open shelf area at the end of our counter that I keep busy activities for the girls to grab and play with any time they like. This has saved me during phone calls, while chatting with other adults and that rat race called dinner hour.

Open access to activity shelf.
Open access to activity shelf.

I assembled all 4 binders in less than 20 minutes! The materials are easy to find, inexpensive and assemble quickly. No printing! No coloring! No laminating!

What are some busy projects you have to occupy little ones?

You might also like my Dinosaur Counting Folder Game.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy. 

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