…..NOT!!!  I am totally cheating this year!!

After a far-too-short summer, we began our 2012/2013 homeschool year.  We have generally made a rule to began in early August every year so far, for several reasons.  The biggest reason is that I tend to get cabin fever REALLY badly in the spring, so I like having the flexibility to take lots of breaks in the spring.  Secondly, I usually can’t take more than a couple months of the lack of routine and schedule with the kids during the summer, therefore I begin the new school year in order to maintain what’s left of my sanity.  This year, however, I also have the extra exciting reason that the kids and I will be moving to Red Gate some time next year.  I don’t yet know when, thus I want to get as much schooling done as possible before that time comes.  So, on August 1, our new year started off with a bang!

This year, we have a lot of changes!  First of all, I am schooling 4 children.  I feared going from 2 to 4 was going to be a big challenge by itself, but with 4-year-old A a bit behind, 3-year-old N a bit ahead, and both needing some additional structure to their day, we decided to start schooling them like twins.  Then I added in the fact that I also had 18-month-old R to handle during the day.

I work the boys’ schedule around R’s, doing what I can when she naps or sits at the table for her snack. Sometimes, though, I have no choice but to put her in the Pac’n’Play with a few toys. As you can see here, it isn’t exactly her favorite place to be!

Add all that to the fact that I had to somehow find a way to ensure JR and M got their fair share of schooling, plus running the farm, plus handling A’s therapy appointments and handling my normal responsibilities, I was starting to seriously fear this school year.  Then I found the solution (I hope)!

After much prayer, research, and discussion, S and I decided to spend a bit more this year, and start the older children on “Abeka Academy.”  We have been using a basic core curriculum of Abeka text books anyway, which I love.  With my additional distractions and responsibilities, I had already noted some gaps I was leaving in JR and M’s schooling.  Full detailed explanations, spelling and reading practice, and other areas of focus were severely lacking in my opinion, and I didn’t want them to get behind.  We discovered Abeka Academy and felt it may be the answer to my concerns.

JR at his desk, watching his DVD and completing his worksheet.

Abeka Academy offers several options, including full accreditation, though we aren’t currently using that option (which saves us a pretty penny).  What we do use, however, is the video lectures that coincide with their workbooks.  Each morning, JR goes to his bedroom, sits at his desk, and turns on a portable DVD player we purchased just for school, while M goes downstairs to the basement, sits at the computer, and plugs in her DVD of the day.  The DVD is divided into a menu of “classes” such as “Bible Class,” “Arithmetic Class,” Language Class,” “Art Class,” etc.,  and each child has an order I have established in which to watch their classes.  On the first day, I explained to them that they were going to now be part of a real class, and I expected them to pretend the teacher could actually see them and was really talking to them.  I expected them to obey her and participate as instructed.

M watching her DVD and working on her seatwork assignment with “her” class.

After 2 weeks, I have to say, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this system!!  Even better is that the kids seem to love it as well.  With very minimal preparation on my part, the children are absolutely learning, often coming upstairs singing new songs such as our National Anthem or Christian songs, or reciting their Bible verse of the day.  They are completing their worksheets with only occasional assistance needed from me (as in once or twice a week).  At the end of the week, I grade their worksheets, and it allows me to see how they are doing overall.  If need be, I just sit down with them and discuss any issues I notice, and sometimes have them make corrections.  At the same time, though, a HUGE burden has been lifted from me, as I feel like all their gaps are being filled in, and I can’t help but smile when I peek in and see them standing with the other children, competing to yell out the answer first, and JR even came in yesterday, talking about a couple of his “classmates” and how smart they were (even describing them by name).  They love “their” teachers, are enjoying feeling like they are part of a real class setting, and yet, we still have all the flexibility of being a homeschool and are able to avoid the negative peer influences.  As part of homeschool flexibility, there are certain portions of the video I don’t require them to watch, and certain portions I do, and we talk about what they learned that day, just so I stay in the loop.

JR, almost 8 and in 3rd grade.

M, 6-yrs. old and in 1st grade.

A and N are doing well, too.  The boys usually go sit in on either JR or M’s Bible class each morning, while I milk the goats and do my outside chores.  It keeps them out of trouble while also giving them some scriptural education.  After that, they go sit at the dining room table, where they have a class in “Readiness Skills,” which involves motor skill-type activities such as coloring, following instruction, cutting with scissors, or other crafty or artsy type activity.  This is followed by the ABC/123 class, in which they are introduced to numbers and letters.  These two classes are very simple and basic, and I think the bigger lesson my boys get out of these classes is on sitting still, being quiet, not playing or bothering others, and following instructions.  A is also being introduced to the concept that he can’t just quit because he “doesn’t feel like it”–a sometimes difficult lesson in reality for my easily-frustrated son.  Next is their reading lesson.

A, 4 yrs. old and in K-4

N, 3 yrs. old and in K-4.

Once again, we are using the book “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.”  If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you are familiar with the fact that A has neurological issues and learning delays.  I have really fretted over teaching him to read, as I have found it so difficult for him to learn ANYTHING.  His short term memory generally stinks, and he can be very frustrating.  2 weeks into school, though, I have high hopes.  I think it is a combination of his physical and occupational therapies, the chiropractor, the equine therapy rides that work on his balance, and the added structure of the school day, but whatever the case, he is actually learning!!  I can’t begin to describe how exciting that little fact is for me!  OK, so we are only  on reading lesson #8 and it is day #10.  Clearly, with the additional repetition required by A to help him remember his sounds, the lessons will take more than the usual 100 days, but still….  I keep N on the same schedule as A, although he is capable of moving much faster, it makes it easier on me to keep track, and I’m in no hurry for N to learn, seeing as how he is only 3 anyway.

In addition to all that, the boys also get to do other random activities as needed to fill time, such as playing phonics games on the computer (starfall is one of my favorites), playing with their montessori activities from last year, or just playing outside as we work on them learning to be responsible, resist temptations, and stay out of trouble.

A doing his Starfall phonics lesson. He uses earphones so he can listen, since M is watching her DVD on the other side of the room.

There is so much more that could be considered part of our school day, but I guess that’s where homeschooling is so unique….it is such an integral part of daily life, that sometimes an activity could be considered part of the school day, or it could just be part of every day opportunities.  For that reason, I will discuss some of those aspects in future posts.  Nonetheless, we are so far very much enjoying our homeschool year.  I hope the videos continue to be enjoyed by the kiddos.  My goal is that, once I commit to a schooling system, particularly one that requires a financial investment, I feel I have to stick it out for the entire school year.  Therefore, I will re-evaluate this whole system toward Christmas break (the half-way point), and then again at the end of the year to see if we want to continue it in the future.  Only time will tell.

My 4 school-age kiddos!