Jun 01 2013

What does it mean when I say “We homeschool year round”…practically speaking?

Last day of school 2012-13We just wrapped up our 2012-13 “official” homeschooling year yesterday.

We enjoyed our last day of the “school year” traditions…

We starting the day at our favorite breakfast restaurant where the boys enjoyed their favorite waffles topped with whipped cream smiling faces while I enjoyed my favorite omelet. (*Josh enjoying his waffles.)

After breakfast, we headed to the children’s building of our favorite public library where one of our favorite children’s librarians agreed to photograph us as I presented the boys with award certificates for reaching their learning goals and skill goals. (*The large photo in the collage above in front of the mural at the library after our little ceremony.)

We continued our special day at my favorite antique/flea market where the boys were enthralled with the vintage and antique toys they discovered along the way. (*The second picture down in the collage  stack.)  Josh even discovered some farm and home items Josh identified from his American history studies this year.

Michael reminded me that we used to take pictures of them in the fun character photo opp stop in front of the Antique Shops…LOL I thought the one of him in jail worked well… ;)

And before ending the day with pizza and a movie at home, they headed out to enjoy our third annual water play time…even though it was only 78 degrees out! And they had a blast.

But we aren’t “finished” homeschooling for the year!

Learning happens every day. It took me until this year to really “get” that homeschooling in our family can be just as unique as our family. After all, living is learning and living in a family is a natural way to disciple which is what God really calls us to do as parents…

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:7 NIV

Every day the Lord is helping me understand that homeschooling for us is learning and discipling through living as a family. It is through God’s leading and impressing His wisdom on my mind and heart that we are finally experiencing what learning as a family can look like for us.

You see, when we have a day “off” from our formal curricula the boys find other ways to learn.  Something clicked in them this Spring and they don’t wait for me to lead them to a lesson…they seek them out for themselves too!

This afternoon, Josh got out a science experiment book and started working on them on his own. Michael was watching the process in awe…they both ran to tell me all about it afterward with the light of discovery in their eyes. Then they figured out that Netflix has added “The Magic Schoolbus” to their summer line up and watched the digestive system in action and how the food chain works in the ocean. This was our day of rest…LOL.

One of the biggest goals Will and I had, and I continue to foster, is to instill the love of learning and the initiative to investigate and discover in our boys through homeschooling…and this Spring it happened!

So earlier this week when I told them we had finished the state required hours for this year, there were groans. They didn’t want to stop “schooling” they told me. There was too much to learn! LOL  They reminded me that we are a year round homeschooling family so why do we have to stop for the summer?

They were thrilled when I reminded them we weren’t! I helped them to see how they are learning new things every day with me and on their own. I had them list things they had learned on their own this year to help them begin to see how life learning is happening in our house, our car, in town…in our family every day. I had the blessing of watching the light bulb go on in their eyes!

But I also talked with them about preparing and planning so we can make sure we get to do the things that interest them and that they need to work on this summer. I told them about what I had planned for the summer and had them brainstorm to make sure I included some of the things they wanted to do too.

So how does homeschooling year round or “life learning” look for our family…practically speaking?

It means that three weeks a month we work on “formal curricula” four days a week starting the second week of August. The first week of each month, when I need to take care of home management tasks and as many doctor’s appointments as I can arrange that way. The boys love diving into their own learning projects around our house and we always take a small field trip that week too.

Around the holidays we take a little more time to focus on intentional discipleship using evening family Bible Study, music, service and evangelism/outreach activities, art projects focused on Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. We are also able to relax our schedule more in December and the week before Easter to do that.

In addition, we relax and have wonderful conversations at home, during meals, in the car or wherever they think of questions.  These conversations stem from questions they have about God, faith, science, geography, history, current events, weather, the alphabet and letter sounds (Michael), from wonderful books Josh enjoys reading aloud to us while we are in the car, or something I discover on the internet. And I encourage Josh to research to find the answers I don’t know or to find out more and bring it back to us so we can all learn more together…he learned to do this by watching me search for answers that I didn’t know to some of the questions they’ve asked me.

I am learning through experience that we tend to end our formal academic curricula at the end of May and let the rest continue through daily life experiences.

Our Heart of Dakota box arrived for 2013-14

But Josh and Michael were both ready to start right into the Fall curricula when our Heart of Dakota box with their books for next year arrived on Thursday.

Josh is ready!

I had to remind them about the special projects we have planned for the summer to get them from diving right in. LOL Yes, my dining room table is a mess in the background– we have been busy bees this week and didn’t get it cleared before pictures! ;)

This weekend was supposed to be a couple of days of rest before diving into our summer plans but the boys jumped right in today on their own with science. I told Josh he could choose what he wanted to do today and that is what he wanted to do…science experiments.

In addition to taking time to focus on special family learning projects around our faith holidays, “life learning” (homeschooling year round) allows us to focus on special topics or projects during the hot summer months (June/July) when boredom would normally settle in and they might forget key skills without regular opportunities to practice.

We will start our 2013-14 “schooling year” the second week of August.

This approach to homeschooling works for our family. We have no problem meeting the state requirements to track “subject hours” which total 1000 hours for the official school year– 600 min. “core subjects” including Reading, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies. We are allowed to use up to 400 hours for “other subjects of our choice” but these are just the minimums. I’ve finally realized that I need to stop making myself crazy trying to remember to track every single learning experience my guys have. Now I only track and journal/record the formal curricula hours and that takes us beyond the minimums by itself. We aren’t required to turn in our hour records, lesson plans/journal or portfolio but just have them on hand and it gives me a great way to keep track of our learning. Once they hit high school I’ll be creating transcripts so that we have easy documentation of their high school education for potential colleges or employers. However this isn’t a requirement in our state.

I hope this helps you better understand what homeschooling year round or “life learning” looks like for our family…remember every family is unique so it looks a little different for every family!

Be sure to join me on Monday to find out about the special summer (June/July) plan or curricula I’ve put together for our family called “Little Guys can do Big Things Too”.

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Leaning on the Lord,

Mary Joy


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About the author

Mary Joy

I am a broken daughter of God and a work in progress. I am passionate about encouraging women to embrace God's grace and faithfulness as I discover and share His faithfulness, grace and even joy in the messiness of my journey as a widowed (less than 2 yrs), homeschooling mom with a missionary's heart. I am in awe of how God fills me up and carries me through each day. My Heavenly Father leads me as I continue to parent and home school my two recovering and very active boys and encourage my beautiful teenage step-daughter (long distance) during her first year in of college. In every moment I see incredible evidence of God's healing love, grace and faithfulness. I am so blessed to be the creator, manager, and an author of Unwrapping His Grace as I lean on my Savior to lead us in this special web-ministry.

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