What Memory Work Looks like in Our Homeschool

I mentioned previously some memory work we do for geography. I’ve also blogged about the scripture/poem/quote memory box we use every morning at breakfast.

In total, we spend ~15 minutes on the memory box each school day and ~30 minutes on our “Memory Work” that spans many different subjects. In addition to mapping, which we do one day a week, we memorize grammar, science (biology this year), history (ancient, this year) and math.

As I mentioned in the geography post, we pulled a lot of our memory work from the Foundations program for Classical Conversations. But I rearranged the order to match our studies for the year, and I wrote my own history sentences to highlight people and events we found most interesting.

After the initial effort of making all the cards, it took us a while to come up with a good system to track progress and make sure we were reviewing things regularly. I’m sharing here in case it helps someone else!

Here’s a look at one of our rings of cards:

I bought several packs of these pre-drilled colorful index cards, and mapped out all the memory work I wanted to do. I split it into 4 years (unlike the Classical Conversations timeline of 3 years) and assigned a color for each topic. Pink is grammar, yellow is math, blue is science, green is for maps.

For this year’s cards, I have a ring we’re actively memorizing, one for cards we’ve mastered, one for maps, and one for cards we haven’t started yet.

Using a sophisticated system that includes a post-it note and plenty of scotch tape, I put this up on our wall:

On Monday, I set a timer for 30 minutes (our upper limit in case we get sucked down the rabbit hole) and look at the charts on the wall. I ask Mackenzie to recite every item that has a pencil – mark next to it. If she has it mastered, I’ll change that mark to a +. We are generally working on a half dozen or so cards at a time.

When I’ve quizzed her on each one, she colors in the ones she mastered and we add new cards, moving them around to the appropriate rings. Then we get goofy playing memory games. I’ll often stop an explain context on the new cards as well. For example this week we pulled out an anatomy book so she could see the urinary tract and we talked about why the lungs and skin are part of the excretory system. She also took the time to compute all the cubes we were going to memorize herself using a whiteboard.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do memory games (if we have time) to practice our current cards. The current cards all on one ring so we can do this outside, in the car, or wherever we like.

On Wednesdays, I’ll often have Mackenzie roll a dice and I’ll just flip through our ring of cards we’ve mastered, stopping on the number she rolls.

On Fridays, we get out our mapping binder and our ring of green cards as I wrote about in my geography post.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I am a superstar homeschooler who does this daily, rain or shine, our consistency on memory work this school year has probably hovered around 50%. That’s due in large part to being sick for several months with this pregnancy, but also just a reflection of my laid back style. 4 days out of 5 in an average week is fine by me! The progress has still been encouraging and it’s rewarding to see our knowledge base grow together. It’s proof that memory work done imperfectly still rocks. :)

Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Life as we know it | Leave a comment

Making Memory Work Fun (with printables)

In my experience, kids love memorizing things. It’s fallen out of fashion in most schools, but learning rhymes, songs, lists, odd facts, etc. naturally appeals to all of my kids (so far). In addition, they have a far easier time committing things to memory than I do.

I often used songs, rhythms, or hand motions to help in memorization in the past, but I stumbled upon a blog with a brilliant idea. Here is where I’m wishing I could dig up a link to give credit… but alas, I can’t find it. Basically, this woman printed out cards with different fun memory techniques and let her kids pick those to keep things fresh. Because I’m fussy and I do things the hard way sometimes, I made my own set with different pictures and changes to the games.

We use them almost daily and the kids LOVE to pick cards. We memorize the parts of the excretory system with a southern twang, balance on one foot while we recite all the helping verbs we know at top speed, play “hot and cold” while reciting a poem… you get the idea.

I did add one thing that proved to be very helpful: After I printed out the cards on cardstock and cut them, I stuck a sticker on the back of each card that was “scripture appropriate” before I laminated all the cards. About half of the cards are perfectly fine to use in any context, but some are downright irreverent or too rowdy for the breakfast table. :) Now when I fan out the cards, I can tell the kids to pick a sticker card if we’re reciting scripture. Easy.

Though I wish I could cite the original source here, I’m still going to include printables for the cards we use:

Memory-Printable-5

Memory-Printable-4

Memory-Printable-3

Memory-Printable-2

(I’ll kill the suspense here and say there is no “Memory Printable 1″. Oops. :) )

Here is one more resource with 85 memory work ideas… that should help keep your memory work fresh!

Tomorrow I’ll write about what we memorize and how we keep track and review.

Posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

Homeschool Curriculum Update – What we have loved and what we haven’t

I’ve blogged in the past lots of our plans for homeschooling, and I thought it might be helpful to give an update on how things have shaken out with various resources we use now that we’re 2 1/2 years into this journey.

My general approach is to overresearch and overanalyze before jumping in, so I didn’t anticipate making lots of curriculum changes… but there have been some along the way!

I’ll keep things relatively brief here. I tend towards overexplaining so I’ll try to keep that in check. I’ll gladly answer any specific questions you have in the comments. Please keep in mind that these are just my thoughts about what works for our family. Your mileage should vary for your own kids. :)

Reading / Spelling / Grammar

Free reading – 1 hour every afternoon. I fiercely protect this time and check out a big stack of chapter books from the library regularly to feed my kids’ appetite for books. I’ve found dozens of excellent resources for finding good literature, but one of my favorites is Exodus Books. It’s a print and mortar store that sells used books online and has amazing reviews and lists built into their catalog. Check out the left-hand sidebar on this page. It’s mind-blowingly helpful to have those lists all compiled!  We also read aloud as a family and use the facebook group for the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast as an invaluable resource for finding good books for different ages and stages.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons – I‘ve successfully taught two 3 year olds to read this way with spectacular results. However, I was a much better teacher for the second one because I knew the 72 basic phonograms taught by the Logic of English. They’re available free online along with the spelling rules, several of which really help with reading as well. Instead of calling lots of words “funny words” like the 100 Easy Lessons book instructs, I gave my daughter the real story. Beautiful.

Logic of English – This is our third year using Essentials and we still adore it. I have bought most of the supplementary stuff as well by this point (game tiles, game book, spelling journal) and we use it every day. My 4 year old happily joins in for most of it. This year we’ve added the grammar from the book and started using the free advanced spelling lists available online. Initially I thought we didn’t need the workbook but we’ve started using it and it’s awesome (though strictly optional). I’ve been going through the teacher training videos online and they are incredibly helpful! I’m a much better teacher now than I was just opening the book and going… though that worked out ok, too.

Math

Singapore Mathematics – AKA Primary Mathematics – We still use this and love this. Mackenzie (7) is nearing the end of 3A.

Here’s how we’ve used it: We started 1A when she was 4 1/2 and followed her lead, trying to do some each day. We completed 1B, 2A,and 2B the same way. I then had her do Challenging Word Problems Level 1, and I had her re-work all the level 2A and 2B textbook problems before starting 3A. I wanted her to be really solid on the basics.

*We also continue doing 1-3 kumon packets each week. Any math facts would work fine, but these packets sure are handy.

**In the last few months, we’ve scaled down the kumon and had our girls work through Xtra Math. We love that it’s a no-frills way to drill math facts and hone in on the ones that are problematic. I was surprised to see that my 7 year old, who whizzes through three digit addition problems was weak on a few facts. She was proud to get the addition certificate and is close to getting subtraction.

***We are mixing things up right now by using a day of Saxon 4/5 math textbook on Fridays. I think 4 days of Singapore, 1 day of something else (e.g. Khan Academy, Saxon, math games), and 1 kumon packet on Saturdays is a balance for us that works really well. I bought a used Saxon textbook for $4 and have definitely found the “spiral” approach for teaching is NOT a good fit for our family, but I enjoy mixing it up a bit so my kids get used to answering problems phrased differently than they find in Singapore books.

****We’ve fallen in love with the Singapore Intensive Practice books for Mackenzie as well. They are the “music” of math, with cool and interesting problems to work through. They’ve challenged her and encouraged her to dive deeper into whatever topic she’s doing in the regular Singapore books. We simply start the section in Intensive Practice when she finishes the section in the regular books. We’re having her do them on binder paper though, so the books can be used again for siblings. :)  I think this will make it so I don’t feel the need to repeat the textbook problems at the end of the year.  She’ll be ready to move on!

Science

We are finishing our Biology year of Real-Science-4-Kids and I’m honestly a bit underwhelmed with it. I wrote back here how thrilled I was with the idea of this curriculum, but so far it’s fallen short of my hopes. I do love that it teaches real science at a child’s level, but I would love to see MORE for the price of the books. We could read the whole textbook cover to cover in a short afternoon, which Mackenzie does as soon as I get the new one out for the year. The experiments aren’t anything superior to what you’d find online with a quick search. We’ll use physics and astronomy since I’ve already bought them, but I’ve lowered my expectations a bit.

I’m glad I got these on a steal. I wouldn’t recommend them at full price, but if you can find the textbooks used, go for it.

I’m going to snag Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for next year and I’m optimistic it will be a better fit for us.

History

We are still really happy with our choice of using a history spine as the basis for our studies. We read the great story of history together, and then read extra books from the library, make a timeline, etc. as we go. It’s low-key and enjoyable. I use both books I mentioned in my previous post, and we also checked out The Story of the World audiobook from the library and enjoyed that as well. Even if you don’t homeschool, that or “A Little History of the World” as an audiobook would be a great listen for the family.

Logic

Mind Benders from the Critical Thinking Company – Mackenzie does these occasionally and is now finished with Book 2. I’m definitely underwhelmed with the series thus far. I already bought Book 3 before discovering I didn’t like them, and I keep them available in a binder for fun, but I don’t incorporate them into our school time.

Piano

The first book or two of Alfred was helpful for teaching sight reading, but now Mackenzie just uses the Alfred series for free play. I teach her the Suzuki repertoire during lesson and practice time.
(I’m not Suzuki-trained or anything, but I wanted her to work on mastering music that was worth learning so we switched to Suzuki books+CDs about 8 months ago and we both love it. I’m mid-way through Book 2 and she’s mid-way through Book 1.)

Spanish

Rosetta Stone was not a good choice for us for language learning. This deserves a post of its own, but I’m convinced that it can help with fluency ONLY for those who understand the basic grammar of the language. Mackenzie was able to guess the correct pictures but had no real understanding of anything that was going on after months of using this. I realized she was only learning what I taught her myself (pronunciation of each sound in Spanish, some fundamental grammar rules, etc.)

Art

We are still using and loving Artistic Pursuits. One book has lasted us this whole time because we just do art once a week and often find something related online we’d like to try or repeat previous lessons we’ve enjoyed. The book has really helped us learn and create together using mediums I never would have explored on my own. It was pricey but has been great for us. We’ll move on to Book 2 in the fall.

The Rest

– We also do scripture, quote, poem, and hymn mastery work every morning.

– We do memory work one other time during the day, using the information from Classical Conversations as our foundation. We memorize the 5 kingdoms of living things, the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the major groups of invertebrates, the squares up to 15×15, the 8 parts of speech, etc. Little kids love to memorize and their brains are like sponges! I can’t believe how much faster and longer they retain things than I do.

– We don’t do “scripture picture journalling” (mentioned back here) anymore, but I think it’s a great option and we may come back to it in the future.

– We do some great Geography and Character lessons around here as well.

– Mackenzie has been learning to type using Typing.com  and it’s a great no-frills way to teach proper typing.  She loves it.  There are typing games available on the site, but that’s usually an afterthought/optional thing for after the real work is done.

Posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 3 Comments

From Sick to Overseas… it was a big week

At 14 weeks pregnant, I was still feeling very sick. April 8th was looming on my calendar and I felt totally unprepared for it. That was the day we’d marked nearly 6 months before as the day we’d be embarking on an international adventure, meeting up with 7 friends and family members (but no kids!) to take the Paris marathon by storm.

Somewhere along the way, I had the brilliant idea to save money on airfare by flying IcelandAir, so naturally we planned a stopover in Iceland for a few days as well.

From the beginning, I was hoping to be pregnant at the time of the trip (though my plans had me safely out of the sick zone by then) so I opted out for the marathon. Scott was in for the run, the second largest marathon in the world. He wanted to follow up his first marathon 3 1/2 years earlier with a sub 3:30 time. He tightened up his diet and followed a schedule from Run Less, Run Faster (great book). As conscientiously as he prepped for the race, though, he put as much effort into prepping for Paris.

He learned French using Duolingo and resources from the library, practicing every single day for months and months. And if you know Scott, you won’t be surprised that he also spent many hours on the computer poring over food blogs and recommendations for the finest pastries in Europe. He stocked his gadgets with great apps to help navigate the metro and seek out open boulangeries. He bought us each a scarf and splurged on some new trim clothes to help him blend in. This guy was ready for the trip!

I, on the other hand, hadn’t packed a thing for myself as of the night before. The kids were all packed for the stay at their cousins’ but my suitcase remained completely empty. At one point Scott even suggested that since I was so sick, maybe I’d prefer to stay at home. I considered that for a fraction of a second before deciding that being sick at home with all the kids by myself didn’t sound quite as restorative as being sick alone in a quiet apartment in Paris with a constant influx of excellent pain au chocolat.

Shortly after this conversation, in what must have been a direct answer to prayer, I started feeling better! I actually smiled as I packed my awkward early-maternity wardrobe into the suitcase.

After work on April 8th, we made the long drive up to Scott’s sister’s house in Washington and were welcomed with open arms despite the very late hour.

Their cousins know my kids well: Their very own princess cardboard boxes awaited them to sleep in that night. Mackenzie thought she was in heaven, and Caitlyn was so tired she didn’t question it, she just curled right up in the box and fell asleep. :)

*Gratuitous Scott story: I was exhausted when we arrived and ready to climb into bed, but Scott got right to work unloading kids and luggage. I went to grab a bag myself and turned around to see Scott carrying a suitcase in each hand and wearing no shirt at all. Apparently he saw his teenage nephew wandering around without a shirt on and decided to follow suit to give him a hard time. Just the kind of random thing I love about my husband.

I’ll save the trip journaling for, well, my journal… but I’ll share some highlights here:

Top 13 Moments in Paris, not in order

1. My birthday concert.

On the spur of the moment while waiting in line to see Sainte Chapelle, Scott checked if there were tickets still available to the concert advertised for that evening. He scored primo seats and we were blown away. My dad, Scott, and I sat in the front row (alone) in this intimate setting with a wonderful string quartet and we all cried during the concert. It was so incredible to feel like that venue and that glorious, timeless music was just for us.

The picture makes the chapel look large, but it’s very small compared to any other European cathedral I’ve been in, so the acoustics were nice for the concert. The sun was just setting as the concert began and those gorgeous windows were the perfect backdrop.

Flashback 6 years to the first time we were in Sainte Chapelle, with 1 year old Mackenzie in tow:

2. Our walkabouts at night.

I have a thing for walking around at night with people I enjoy talking to… we can walk and talk for hours and see so much of a city in a unique way. Conveniently, my dad has a thing for searching out light at night and capturing it in photographs.

(We were both holding our breath for that picture. Paris is a little bit of a stinky city, particularly down by the Seine.)

The source of all Scott’s super powers. He gets recharged at the Louvre periodically.

3. Spectating the marathon

I’ve spectated many races in my life, and I’m pretty darn good at it. I realize running the race is probably somewhat more demanding, but quality spectating demands its own kind of discipline. Despite a totally overrun (ha!) city, I found Scott at miles 5 and 19 to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, and high fives. I even caught all 4 runners in our group amongst the tens of thousands of people finishing.

Scott had a much earlier start time and a faster race time so he ran alone (well, alone in a teaming mass of athletes speaking dozens of different languages and crowds of Parisians lining the course.)

My sister-in-law and her sister ran with my dad and their experience was beautifully captured in this video: Paris Marathon 2015. Scott gets a hilarious mention at the end as well as we’re swapping war stories from the race.

I was very proud of Scott’s effort during the race. We learned he prefers smaller races(!) and that we shouldn’t count on electrolytes being provided on the course. He had massive cramps starting at mile 15, which he’d never experienced during training. As a result, he had to alternate massaging, walking, and shuffling the rest of the race. His first half was done at his goal pace, and the second half was slow enough that his final time was just under 4 hours. He pushed through pain and discouragement and was there at the finish line to cheer the others.

I took this picture just after the finish and you can see the pain and the profound relief at being DONE!

4. The times Scott was mistaken as a Parisian

He was stopped on the metro and asked, in French, for directions. Woop!

(I think it was the scarf. Or the shoes.)

(There’s a great story behind that picture but it’ll have to keep.)

Another time, Scott ordered our meal in French and chatted with the waiter a bit and another couple nearby asked us if we live in Paris. Granted, they were from Hong Kong, but I still thought it was cool, considering Scott didn’t speak a drop of French when we started planning this trip.

I am way too unfashionable to be mistaken as Parisian on my own, but I do think the scarf was a step in the right direction. ;)

After all my worrying, that baby belly went with me on all our adventures and very rarely caused any trouble. I had all the energy and appetite I needed to enjoy the trip thoroughly.

5. Seeing Scott confidently converse in French.

He’s definitely not fluent yet, but everywhere we went he jumped in and was able to make himself understood. A surprising number of Parisians don’t speak much English at all, and all seem to prefer speaking in French with Scott. He learned a lot and I was just so tickled to see his discipline in learning a new language pay off.

6. Walkabouts in the mornings

Every one of our five days in Paris, Scott had a food agenda. We’d often head out early and walk around from boulangerie to patisserie, watching the city wake up.

All the best shops are known for certain things they make exceptionally well, and Scott introduced me to some spectacular foods.

In an unexpected turn of events, my very favorite food in Paris was a chocolate merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux. Heavenly.

7. Poo on the shoe

Life wouldn’t be as sweet without the silly, ridiculous, and embarrassing moments, right? So when we managed to score the last two seats at a super-small and renowned crepe cafe near closing time… a place with only 5 or 6 seats in it… and I sat down and smelled dog poop, I knew this was going to be a memorable experience. It was. The end.

(Scott swears he never smelled it and I very discreetly went outside to try and clean it off but… my pregnant sense of smell was on high alert and I was feeling super awkward the entire time while we carried on polite conversations with the other guests at the cafe.)

8. Reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” every chance we got

Scott and I were both engrossed in this book when we left on the trip after listening to the first quarter of it on audio CDs (narrated by the excellent John Lee). We hated to be separated from it so we snagged it for the kindle readers on our phones. In addition to being gripping and fascinating, the novel was originally written in French and set in large part in Paris.

Parfait.

We’d each whip out our phones on the metro or while waiting in line and instantly be transported to Paris several centuries earlier. We stayed out late nearly every night but the story of Edmond Dantes was too compelling to be put off until the morning, so we’d read together until the wee hours of the morning.

9. Versailles

Though I’d been to Paris before, Versailles was a first for me and I found it mind-blowingly extravagant. I was actually dazzled by a building right when we got off the metro at Versailles only to feel foolish when I discovered it was a humble hotel.

The palace was 1000x more grand.

Given the above picture, I’ll include here also that the group we travelled with was lots of fun. Scott and I split off and did our own thing a big chunk of the time in Paris but we really couldn’t have picked more easy-going, enjoyable people to travel with.

It’s amazing, really, given the hodgepodge way the group was formed… but we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with every one along. (From the left, it’s Scott, me, my mom, my dad, my brother’s wife’s sister, my brother’s wife’s sister’s husband, my brother’s wife, my cousin, and my cousin’s husband. Crazy. Fun.)

10. The Eiffel Tower

I can’t explain it. I just love it. We could see it from the great apartment we rented and we went and marveled at it at nighttime. Every single time I’d look out the window of the metro and see it, or catch a glimpse of it as we walked around the city, I’d have to pause and gape.

My sister-in-law even brought a specific dress just for my cousin to wear for a photo shoot in front of the tower:

Last time we were in Paris, it was blue (and so were my lips because it was at Christmastime!):

11. Honorable mention goes to the Musee d’Orsay

It’s my favorite museum in Paris and Scott and I had a great time critiquing the artwork this time around. We love guessing each other’s favorites and least favorites in a given room, assigning (sometimes ridiculous) captions to various pieces, and soaking up the ones that speak to us.

We were both amazed by how poorly people seemed to paint and sculpt children during the time periods showcased in the museum. One exception was this sculpture, which I loved:

It allowed for this beautiful contrast in age, rather than portraying babies as miniature adults.

12. Missing my kids – but only a little!

Scott’s fabulous sisters jumped at the chance to take care of our kids for us (angels, no?) and I had zero concerns about their well-being. That’s saying a lot for someone who rarely gets a babysitter and who is with her kids nearly 24/7!

This vacation was in no way an escape from the life I love surrounded by little people, but it was an adventure that simply couldn’t have been had with kids along. It would have been a very different kind of adventure! Still good, but I relished the time alone with Scott and the extra freedom we had to keep the hours we wanted and be more spontaneous.

One day we walked across a “lovers’ bridge” where couples had fastened locks on every available inch.

I knew my kids would get a kick out of that and right away a lock with “Caity and Dan” on it jumped out at me, so I snagged a pic to show Caitlyn and Daniel. I loved that I could be thinking about my kids and eager to share our adventure with them, but still be completely in the moment while they were on the other side of the world. I’m really grateful for that.

13. Cheese security.

When we flew to Iceland on the return trip, several of us inadvertently brought liquids through security without raising any red flags. But Scott was brusquely ushered off to one side. He had packed a bag full of fabulous french cheeses and breads for our lunch at the airport and apparently after passing the bag through the x-ray machine, it required further investigation. He waited patiently while several people in front of him had bags searched as well.

Finally, the security worker undid the tie and looked at Scott questioningly, “Baguette?”

Scott responded in French that it was bread and cheese for lunch for him and his family.

The man nodded approvingly. “C’est bon!” :)

And it was. Yum.

Posted in Life as we know it, Pregnancy, Trips | 4 Comments

Big News About a Little One

The blog has gone silent.

Homeschool has been pared down to just the essentials. (A good thing to do, periodically, right?)

I went a whole week eating mainly smoked apple & sage vegan sausage with mustard. It made sense at the time.

I went a whole month during which chocolate sounded unappealing.

Someone rang the doorbell unexpectedly last week (not a common occurrence because we live in a very private spot) and two of my kids weren’t wearing pants and the other was in a swimsuit for no reason in particular.

The laundry only gets done after the last pair of clean underwear has been called into duty. Come to think of it, that may have explained the swimsuit…

I’ve been calling my walk down the driveway to get the mail, “Exercise” because anything more lands me on the couch.

I’ve read more books in the last two months than I have in the whole year prior, because it’s one of the few things that doesn’t make me sicker.

I often fall asleep before my kids do at nighttime.

My kids have been patting my belly affectionately and telling me how big it is and I take it as a compliment.

Yep, the signs (and a good heartbeat) are all there. I’m pregnant!

Bean Baby #4 is due October 3rd and we’re all delighted about it. Actually, Daniel doesn’t know why we all get to pat my belly now but he enjoys it nonetheless.

I’m optimistic that the first trimester exhaustion and nausea are lifting a bit. My very favorite part of pregnancy should be right around the corner: feeling that magical, private nudging that reassures me all the changes to my body are for a glorious purpose.

Posted in Life as we know it, Pregnancy | 13 Comments

Portrait of Daniel

I grabbed my camera when I saw how cute Daniel was snuggling with his lovies after breakfast one morning.

I love the picture, but what happened next tells even more about my boy’s tender heart. He wanted to, “See picture?” and he climbed down off the chair he was on to look on the back of my camera.

Apparently he liked what he saw because he declared, “Snug!” and impulsively gave my camera a very sweet hug.

In a signature Daniel move, he was so overcome with love he headed to the kitchen to make his rounds hugging his dad and sisters as well.

(The stuffed animal in the picture is “Frogger,” a gift from his cousin for Christmas. Frogger was recently potty trained along with Daniel, and he gets lovingly tucked in with his own blanket at every naptime and nighttime.)

Posted in Life as we know it | 2 Comments

Bringing back the old school in our homeschool

I have found four relatively old-fashioned tools incredibly helpful in our homeschool.

The Watch

I now wear a watch on my wrist. It keeps me more aware of our schedule and how long I’m spending on a certain activity, but most importantly it detaches me from my phone.

I was using my phone to check the time, but it doesn’t follow me around the house as well as my watch (because I’m up and down and lifting kids all day and it doesn’t stay in my pocket for that). More significantly, my watch does just one thing: Tell me what time it is. It does not tempt me to check my email “really fast” or lure me into wasting time with any other distractions. I don’t have any games on my phone but I’m an information junkie so I’m always thinking of interesting things I’d like to look into. The more I stay in the moment with my children and stay away from my iPhone, the better. :)

(I keep a running list near my laptop where I jot down stuff I’d like to get to when I have computer time. That keeps those things off my mind most of the day.)

The Timer

This good old-fashioned battery-operated timer gets used more than anything else in our homeschool. I set it constantly for quick clean up jobs, for assignments and for my own personal reminders.

Here again, this beats out the phone because it’s single-purpose and my kids can all use it very capably and independently.

The Boombox

I often play beautiful music or audiobooks for my children while they’re having “room time” or creating art at the kitchen table. I fought getting a boombox for a long time because really, who buys a boombox these days? I thought if I was savvy enough, playlists on my phone, laptop, or ipad would get the job done.

But buying an inexpensive walmart boombox has been one of my best purchases in the last year. My four year old can handle her own audiobooks for the most part, starting and stopping when she needs to without coming to get me and trying to find her old spot. Again, there’s no temptation for my kids to cruise around and do anything else with a boombox. It’s single-purpose and thus super easy to supervise.

We’ve checked out many great books on cd from the library, and I play great music so much more often now. We learn our songs for the girls’ program at church and the songs for Mackenzie’s piano repertoire, all without any prep work from me (turning on my computer, syncing a gadget, updating software, etc.) I still do use my gadgets for great playlists for composer studies, or for audible books… but I use the boombox far more often for these things.

The Home Phone

During school time, I minimize outside distractions. One thing that has really helped is having a home phone, plugged into the wall, with exactly one receiver.

If someone needs to get a hold of me, they call that phone.

I’m generally responsive to email… during times of the day I check it. But I remain blissfully unaware of the outside world for hours at a time and I love it that way.

(I also love the times I spend chatting on the phone with old friends, responding to questions via email, or meeting face-to-face with friends for laughter and encouragement. But those things have their time and don’t need to derail my time for teaching my children. Actually, come to think of it, I need to make more time for phone chats. I found it easier to multi-task without a busy two year old, I think. Lately, if he’s not supervised, he is [adorable] Trouble!)

Posted in Homeschooling, Life as we know it | 2 Comments