Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Field Trips: How Important Are They and How Many Should We Take Each Year?

Are field trips important?  I'd say "yes!"  Not just because they are fun for the kids, but they are fun for the moms or parents, in other words, they are fun for the whole family, AND they give you a day away from the books and the usual schedule.

How many field trips should we take each year?  Well, that's entirely up to you.  I know people who do a field trip every week or two, and then there are those who do one a month.  When we were part of a homeschool small (cell) group, we did a field trip once a month.  Then there are those who do one, two or three a year.  It's really a matter of personal preference, and whether or not you like them to tie into your studies, and whether or not they cost money and you can afford them.  We have been fortunate enough to find quite a few in our area that didn't cost us anything, some that cost a little bit, and then those ones that we save as extra special because we have to plan them into the budget.

Some of the free ones we have enjoyed have been trips to a local grocery store, a pet store with a touch tank (That Fish Place/That Pet Place), Cabela's, our local farm show, a nearby town that has enough historical buildings that you can get a little map that you can walk through the town on your own and read about the buildings and their chocolate factory is free to go into and watch the ladies making chocolate products, but of course, you'll want some money to spend in their store because who can resist chocolate?!
We've also had a free tour of our state capitol building.

Some of the field trips that cost a little bit of money have been museums, historical buildings like the homes of  past presidents or other famous historical figures and some small, local zoos, a local dairy.

Some of the more expensive ones that we have had to plan into the budget have been a trip to New York City to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and a couple of other things.

Then, of course, there are the family vacations, when we can afford to take them.  We always count places we visit on vacation as field trips as they usually have educational value.  We rarely just take a vacation to simply relax at the mountains, and never the beach.  We love the mountains, though.  We don't enjoy the beach.

So there are lots of great options for field trips, and they can be close to home or you can make it  a day trip, a weekend event, or a family vacation.  They are a part of the fun of learning!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Support Groups and Co-Ops: Are They Necessary

Homeschool Support Groups and Co-Ops, in my opinion, have value and can be valuable.  You may also come to a time and a place where they may not be as valuable.  It is a matter of personal preference and personality.

Our family has been members of a homeschool support group and a co-op ever since we began homeschooling.  In the beginnning I felt they were necessary, more for me than for the boys because I needed the input of other moms, moms who had been homeschooling longer than me, who could encourage and advise me and answer questions I had.

When I began homeschooling, like every other mom who begins homeschooling, I had my fears and doubts about doing things right and being sure that I was teaching enough to the boys so that someone wouldn't point their finger at me and tell me I wasn't doing a good enough job and have to put them back into a school.  By the way, yes, my first two boys did start out in a private Christian school, but when that didn't seem to be working as well as we had expected, we decided we needed to find out more about homeschooling.  I contacted an acquaintance whom I knew was homeschooling her two boys and she was more than happy to tell me all about it and lend me books to read on the subject as well.  She even took me to my first homeschool convention.  During the summer prior to the start of our homeschooling journey, I also met another homeschooling mom while sitting at the public pool waiting for our children to finish swimming lessons, and she told me about one of the local homeschool support groups and allowed me to borrow a copy of the homeschool newsletter that provides information on every homeschool support group and co-op in the county.

We decided to become a part of a local homeschool support group and co-op to help me as I was new to all of this, and to help the boys still be able to make and build some friendships, even though we were regularly attending and very active in our church as well.  We enjoyed the co-op and the fellowship, it provided for us, with other homeschool families.  I enjoyed teaching some classes and the boys enjoyed taking some classes.

Through the support group, we also participated in a cell group in those early years, which was a lot of fun, because that was a small group, and we met once or twice a month and did things together like:  field trips, art projects, play dates, picnics and a Couple's Valentine Dinner for the parents, and a couple of community service projects.

As the boys grew older, we did decide that the cell group wasn't as necessary.  We have remained with a co-op, mostly so that the boys could get their high science classes at co-op, so that I wouldn't have to teach them.  Science labs are too costly and in depth for me to want to do with just one child at our kitchen table.  Math is not my strong subject either, but there are lots of great curriculums to choose from that provide everything someone like me needs to teach math to my boys. I still also enjoy being able to teach some classes to more than two children at a time, and I now I like to be the one encouraging the new homeschool moms along their way.

We also remained a part of a homeschool support group because the one we belong to has some great sports programs.  Our oldest boy has played soccer ever since he was four years old, and our second boy has played basketball for quite some time now, and he has played soccer for a couple of years and the oldest played basketball a couple of years.  The youngest has tried both, but has no real interest in either at this point.  But, he loves anything related to art, and I can teach some of that at home, but there are some great co-op classes for that as well.

I have a friend who was part of a co-op for many years as well, but has recently decided they don't really need that anymore.

So, sometimes it is good for a season, sometimes it is good until graduation, and sometimes it doesn't fit at all.  I think the main reason that co-ops were started was because of everyone worrying about the socialization of homeschoolers, which is silly AND another post.  And I am sure that the homeschool support groups were started for the purpose that they are still so valuable for, and that is to help, encourage and support those just starting out and feeling insecure about their newly chosen homeschool path.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Beat the Winter Doldrums in Your Homeschool

It's that time of year.  The weather is cold, often cloudy and dreary and you don't want to or can't be outside.  You know the end of the year is approaching and you are feeling antsy and start yearning for your break.  You need something to break up the monotony and to get everyone motivated again.  What do you do?

Take a break -- not from schooling, but from the regular routine of it -- plan a fun day!  Take a day where you simply play educational games for the day or mix it up with some educational games and great pretend.
Here are some examples:  Preschool age children can play games like CandyLand to work on their colors, Chutes and Ladders or Hi-Ho Cherry-O! to work on counting, then break out the toy musical instruments, or better yet, make some (ideas and directions below) and have them march around the house playing the instruments, and, finally, read them a good book from history like Hornbooks and Inkwells by Verla Kay.  You've just completed a day of school, your child learning their colors, counting, playing music, physical education (marching around the house) and history, and you all had fun!

Elementary age children can play games like Parcheesi, Sorry or Yahtzee to work on counting/adding or for more of a challenge, have them roll two dice and then practice adding, subtracting, multiplying and/or dividing the two numbers that are rolled, and that's Math.  Play Scrabble, Boggle, Taboo or Scattegories to work on spelling and language skills, and that's English.  Read a Magic Schoolbus Book for Science and then read something like Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Children of the Covered Wagons by Mary Jane Carr, then you can pile things onto a single bed or the sofa and pretend that's your covered wagon and you can pretend with your children that you are traveling west in a wagon train.  You can pretend to face a pack of wolves, see a rattlesnake, meet Indians, just about anything your child or you can remember from the story or imagine.

Nothing like a little fun to get you motivated again.  It works for us every time.  Other ideas are to simply have an art day where you just do different art projects for a day and do some messy stuff that you wouldn't schedule into a day when you're trying to cover all of your subjects.  Or have a science day and do lots of fun and messy science experiments.  Just change the routine and make it fun!

Ideas and instructions for making some musical instruments:

Take an empty Quaker Oatmeal container and glue some construction paper, or for a longer lasting drum, card stock to cover the open end and your child can hit it with a spoon.

  • Take pie tins or thick paper plates.  You will need two plates for each child.  Punch holes through the rims of one pie plate every one inch or so.  Put the plates together and mark your holes on the second plate.  Punch holes at every mark on the second plate with a standard hole puncher.  You may choose to let your child (ren) decorate the bottom sides of the plates as they will become the outside parts of the tambourine.  Use dry beans to fill one pie plate.  Place the second plate on top and line up the punched holes with the first plate.  Thread yarn or ribbon through a hole and begin lacing the thread over and under each punched hole until finished. Leave some length of ribbon if you'd like, and tie into a knot or bow.  Now shake your tamborine and hear the music!
  • You can also use two pie tins as cymbals.

    Take a rectangular piece of cardboard and cut one end so that it is slanted.  Put some notches in the slanted end and in the opposite end of the piece of cardboard.  Stretch rubberbands in the notches and your child can strum or pluck their harp or guitar.