Homeschooling with BookShark

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I have without a doubt spent more time researching homeschooling curriculum than I ever spent researching universities to attend. It’s been just that important to J and I to give our kids the right start at academics.

And finding curriculums that meet our needs has been quite the quest.

I prefer something that tells me exactly what to do day by day. With three little ones I just don’t have the time (or energy) to piece together and create daily curriculum plans.

I also needed something flexible enough to meet our busy, spontaneous lifestyle.

I needed something structured, but relaxed.

Something that would engage Mr. B and light that desire to learn. I wanted him challenged and intrigued, but not overwhelmed.

I also wanted something secular.

I was certain I’d never find the just right curriculum.

But I did: BookShark!

And I’m not sure who loves it more: Mr. B or me!

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We are currently doing the Reading with History K. Once I get my act together I think I will incorporate the science as well.

Mr. B loves it! He reminds me if he sees our day passing too quickly and he’s afraid we won’t get to it. He loves the read aloud chapter books. He’s completely engrossed with The Children’s Encyclopedia, and fascinated with the pictures in the Mother Goose book (which I had worried he’d declare he was too big for nursery rhymes, but he loves them too much too remember he insists he’s “big” now).

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BookShark has the weekly and daily schedule all laid out for me, complete in a binder separated by weeks. It doesn’t get more convenient than that!

Since it is a 4 day schedule, it gives us a ton of flexibility to pick which days works best for us, skip a few days, do 7 days in a row – you name it!

Mr. B is so engaged with the reading and learning, he never wants to stop when we are finished for the day. It’s interactive and engaging; and just the right length of time to hold his attention without crossing the threshold of being bored or overwhelmed.

I love all the great literature and books it includes. Many that I know and love, and several I’ve never read before. And escaping into book realms with my son is such a pleasurable experience, watching him become enthralled in storylines and deeply vested in characters. Another book lover, for sure!

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Plus, BookShark is completely secular so it’s a great choice for all families of any background!

I have a feeling we will be using BookShark throughout our entire homeschooling journey.

If you’re just now starting to research homeschooling and/or curriculums, or you’re looking for something new, be sure to check out BookShark!

A Letter to My Daughter Before She Starts First Grade

Before you were born and I envisioned your academic career. I foresaw academic and/or parochial private schools; swanky and rigid uniforms that you’d feel were akin to a straight jacket, unwavering academic succession where your only goal was to be better than everyone else (and you would be, girl, I know you would be), perform well on the test, do whatever you would have to do to go to the Ivy Leagues some day.

And then you were born, and without uttering a single word you changed my whole world view. On everything.

I knew you were too unique and spirited for a uniform at such a young age; you would not be easy to mold into the robot I thought you’d be. You were so much more than a test score or a letter grade. You were more than the very finest schools could possibly offer. And let’s face it, we’d never be able to afford Ivy League anyway (although we both know if it were your dream and you did get in, I’d sell my organs on the black market to make it happen).

And so I shirked those deep seeded notions of what I was supposed to want for you, and instead embraced the you I was given . And oh – what a gem I was given!

As I slowly morphed into the free range, mostly non-punitive, let-the-children-lead momma I am now. I lavished in the idea of having you home with me every day, until I could no longer keep you here as mine.

As a quiet, introverted kid I longed to spend my days at home, away from my peers, in the confines of my room, learning anything and everything my heart could desire through the written word. I wanted to be one of those homeschoolers that everyone always talked about as being weird. I was weird. I’d knew I’d be okay.

And so as my heart and brain changed to be the momma you needed, I began daydreaming about our own homeschooling ventures. How our years would play out.

But you know what? You weren’t the little girl of those fantasies either. You were even better. So much better than I could have ever imagined: vivacious, outgoing, charismatic, and tenacious. You craved more than I could give you, which often left me filling not quite up to par when it came to playing the role of your momma.

So again, I had to shift my views and my focus. I all ready knew what wasn’t going to work for you; as I said, your spirit is too bright and precocious for much of the traditional world. So thoughtful, creative, and innovative.

So when the call came that you’d been given a spot to a school that fitted all of your needs, I came up with 100 reasons why it wasn’t going to work. Too expensive. Too hot. Too much time away. Too, too, too…

But then there was you. Beautiful, perfect you. Smiling, talking, engaging. All those “toos” were moot points because this is where you belong right now. Today. In this season of your life.

I learned long ago not to make sweeping statements like “all” or “never.” So I don’t know if this is a long-term fit, or if some day you’ll gravitate elsewhere. Maybe that elsewhere would be back home. Or maybe it will be further away from me.

But I do know that right now you’re going to thrive here. You are going to grow and soar.

And so long as we keep working as a team, listening to one another, it’s all going to work out and be okay. Even if I have to constantly be changing my views, shifting my focus, to make sure I am meeting your needs, and not too caught up in my own wants.

This is your journey, sweet girl. This is your story. You deserve to be the author of it, not me.

 

All About Reading: The Only Reading Program You Need

IMG_9748 IMG_9753 IMG_9746 IMG_9742Look no further; I’ve found the reading program of your dreams.

When we first started considering the world of homeschooling, something I was originally sure I would never do because it was so foreign to me, my greatest fear of all was that of teaching my children to read.

I mean, that’s the foundation for everything. The rest of their lives.

That’s kind of monumental if I should screw it up.

I researched “how to teach your kid to read” until I’d left no link unclicked, no book unread, no person’s anecdotal story untold. I needed to know everything.

And after a few trial and errors, we finally stumbled into All About Reading.

All of my prayers were answered.

My kids love it. And I’m not just saying that! (And no, they’re not paying me to say that either!).

Yesterday when I had to take B to the doctor, H asked to bring a book. We only have 29384793849813 books, but she chose one of her All About Reading readers. Seriously. And she read it for nearly an hour to her little brothers.

After sleeping most of the day away with a fever over 102, B woke up at 6pm and begged me to please do his “schoolwork” with him.

Guys, they love it that much.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a few hiccups. When the content has been particularly challenging for H (aka, she hasn’t fully understood it within the first 5 seconds and it’s taken more like 5 minutes for her to get the gist of it), then H would get all mad and “I caaaaaan’t!” But that’s more tell-tale of her personality than of the program.

B has had zero interest in learning his letters, and it’s not been something I’ve pushed at all. I want my kids to learn as organically as possible. I definitely need resources to help with that, but I want it to be as true to their nature and developmental readiness as possible. But B asked me a few weeks ago if he could have his own reading program after watching H do hers; and of course, yes! Yes, you can, sweet boy.

I ordered him the pre-reading program when I ordered H’s next level up. And he loves it. He asks to do it each day. He’s eager to do it. The lessons are just short enough to keep his attention, but long enough to help him transition into what it will look like someday (waaaaay down the road most likely), when he’s ready to do a full actual reading lesson.

And the actual reading lessons are short, too. We very rarely spend more than 20 minutes on a lesson each day. And when we do, it’s often because we’ve done two lessons that day.

Truthfully, I’m learning things I didn’t know before. Reading rules that maybe I was once taught, maybe not. But the English language in all of its complexities is making more sense to me now, so I can only imagine it’s serving my children well, too.

My favorite part might be how laid out it is for me, the teacher. The teacher’s book literally tells me word for word what to say to my kids to explain the lessons and help them understand. I couldn’t mess it up if I tried!

So whether you’re homeschooling, or just need some additional resources to help your kiddo read, I cannot recommend All About Reading enough!

Year One Down

So we officially made it through our first year of homeschooling.

Let me tell you, saying you plan on homeschooling, and actually doing so, are two completely different things. I’m not sure I fully realized what I was getting myself into until it was too late, ha.

But trust me, I’d do it all over again. Obviously. Because this year I will have two being schooled.

Fortunately for me, I’m super unschooly, so it made things easy this year. J loathes the term “unschool” because he says people associate it to watching TV all day as opposed to a belief that children can lead their education into the directions of their interests.

We used a formal reading curriculum. It’s important to me that they learn to read properly, at an age appropriate time (not aged 5, unless they’re truly ready on their own, but somewhere between ages 6-8, when they’re naturally ready). We did a few lessons here and there from All About Reading, but didn’t get serious about it until the end of April. She plowed through it like nobody’s business and I cannot wait to start the next level with her, as well as All About Spelling.

Because H was technically kindergarten aged this year, and she had done half-day kindy the year before, I didn’t feel compelled to be too overly ambitious with her. Which turned out to be a good things, because the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy did me in, and about the first 12 weeks after sweet M was born we did nada in terms of actual school.

So what else did we do for the school year?

Well, the two absolute most important things was that she PLAY and that I READ to her. I pushed H and B out the back door nearly every day for some free range play in the yard . I think there is very little in life more important than kids being outside and being able to play unhindered from their parents. I definitely value this as an infinitely important part of their homeschooling.

And it should go without saying that there isn’t much more you can do to help your child’s education than to read to them. And then to read some more. And right when you think you might go absolutely hoarse, or possibly insane from reading the same book 20 times in one day, read a little more.

She helped me cook daily. She helped do the math to double recipes, to add up how many 1/3 cups we needed to get 2 cups of flour. We did science experiments like they were going out of style. Okay, okay, J mostly did the science experiments with the kids. The really cool ones anyway. They built things with hammers and nails, painted pictures, wrote her own stories. She got her groove on in dance class, gymnastics, and soccer. Practiced her piano every day. We read so, so much about Paris because she’s obsessed. And we read so much about dinosaurs because he’s obsessed. We counted snails and baby diapers.

We discussed the miracle of childbirth until I was nearly miracled out. We watched so many videos on YouTube about it. And then she got to put her hands on her baby brother’s body and help him enter the world. You can’t really top that.

So I’d say all in all, we had a super successful first year of homeschooling. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!