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Ocotober 2016 Mentoring Moms Minutes To Publications / Articles - Ocotober 2016 Mentoring Moms Minutes

Posted 10/1/16

We started with prayer again, and then did introductions again. There were three mentors present and about eight mentees.


L (6 children ages 13 to infant)

Our schedule has varied, depending on the ages of the kids. We keep things simple, reading together on the couch, doing things like counting toys for early math. Reading aloud has been part of our day since the beginning. As the kids get older, we look at next year and what age groups we have. We added more length to the school day as the kids got older. We do about 45 minutes to an hour of school per day until about 2nd grade. School/learning isn’t just book work. It is doing things together, getting out and discussing things. We have four boys in a row, and didn’t think they would benefit from 8 hours in a chair. We’ve spent lots of time outside. We all teach each other. Learning to read is key to them doing independent work (other mentors agreed)]. Adding in handwriting - proper handwriting where letters start at top - is important. We didn’t do that in the beginning and had to correct old habits. This year was the first time we did school after lunch. I work with my 1st grader while older children work on their own. I need to “hover” and watch to make sure handwriting is done properly (other mentors agreed). We do reading, memory work, handwriting, read from the Children’s Bible, do Starfall and Khan Academy (free online reading and math). Little ones play, and then I do group work with the older ones. I do group work as much as possible to maintain my sanity. We combine history, science, and Spanish. Older kids need more one on one in the afternoon. My 1st grader is done by the afternoon.


What to do if kids are in the 5 and under range? Be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect too much. Be flexible. Keep lessons short and goals reasonable.


If I get to the end of the day and feel stretched/stressed, I remind myself that this isn’t why we decided to homeschool. We homeschool to enjoy learning.


What’s helped me keep my 3-year-old engaged is the dollar store! I make busy bags, and assign an older child to play with younger ones. This is part of being a family. Kids with no little ones miss out. We love being together. Even when it’s crazy or chaotic, this is the way it is. I’m a type A personality but just can’t impose a strict schedule. Also, we have a four-day school week.


Sometimes we do minimum maintenance days (MM) for when something else is happening (new baby, crazy schedule, someone/mom sick, etc), and it is just our individual work: reading, handwriting, and math. If we add anything on to that, it is probably a saint story, read aloud, or history.


B (5 children, ages 1 to 11)

I plan out my whole year the summer before. Even print out worksheets then. We found that the workbox system works wonderfully for us. Each child has a cart with drawers. The drawers are labeled from 1 to whatever number of subjects they are doing. They pull out drawer 1 and do that, then move down to drawer 2, etc. The oldest 3 children are in school. The oldest have individual work, and are also assigned to play with the toddler. They all know what is coming next and what to expect. They make a competition out of who gets done with the drawers first. We decided on this system and customized it to our needs through a lot of trial and error. Since implementing it, our days have been much more relaxed. Our schedule goes like this: wake up, eat, chores, free time, individual school, lunch, quiet time, group work on history, science, and memory work. I try to keep little ones' naps in the morning. I do the busy bag exchange. It’s awesome for 3-year-olds. Mine loves Melissa and Doug puzzles and does the same one over and over every day. I have lots of busy work for my preschool kids.


S (8 children, ages 1 to 15)

We’ve had a chaotic life as a family (no family nearby, husband’s job is demanding, I’m a convert, health problems - 4 children with reactive airway, one with chest wall deformity, one with speech problems, I experienced West Nile and a superbug, lived abroad one year, been pregnant or breastfeeding constantly for 16 years, raised in smaller families and didn’t know what to expect). So, our schedule and curriculum has varied greatly over the years and is “as able” - using packaged curriculum and computers when I’m stretched. We rely on prayer, sacraments, and weekly hours of adoration which husband and I both do separately and to which I sometimes bring our children. We’ve also befriended some large homeschooling families and learned a lot from them about how to survive this calling..


I second what L and B said about the importance of sitting with children and reading aloud. This has always been a staple for us. We have 5 readers now. Two of them were late readers, but once they got it, they were excellent readers, and this is because we read aloud. Since most of you have younger children, I’ll address that stage tonight, For younger families, in addition to reading and prayer, I recommend teaching math facts and teaching correct handwriting-- hovering, as L said, to make sure they’re starting letters at the top or otherwise printing properly. I also recommend drilling math facts. My mom taught elementary school for over 35 years in Minnesota. In terms of teaching my kids, she emphasized to me the importance of the basics: reading, writing, and math. She said basically if you need to focus on anything, do those because if kids are good at those, they will do well.


Questions from mentees:


I have dyslexia and am worried about teaching my kids. Is there a program you recommend? Any other programs you recommend in general for teaching reading and grammar?

Read as much as possible. Use audiobooks. Use videos that follow stories. Several moms agreed that just by listening to Mom or Dad read, children pick up correct grammar patterns. Fix-It Grammar by the Institute for Excellence in Writing (promoted by Catholic father of 7 and past keynote speaker at both the North Dakota Homeschool Association conference and at Catholic Homeschool conferences) is recommended by three moms. Primary Language Lessons was recommended but not as user-friendly.


Do you look online for book lists or are there ones you’d recommend?

Suggestions: Look for books on list by Charlotte Mason. Books with first person account. Books written 30+ years ago. Five In A Row book list recommended. Honey for a Child’s Heart has a good book list. Request good books at the library.


When to start handwriting?

About age 5. Watch carefully that they are forming letters correctly, or you’ll regret it later! Letters start from the top, etc…


Tip for teaching reading for reluctant readers = find out what they’re interested in.


Do you look at the state/national standards for learning?

Yes, some moms have. Most curriculums fit in with them. We’ve been reassured that when we look at the standards, even if we weren’t specifically trying to address them, that our kids’ learning seems to fit with them. IF YOU’RE EVER CONCERNED- you can always just sit down with your child and read through an entire year of “What Your __ Grader Needs to Know” (written for all grades). The books are available at the library. One mom commented that the goal is to love to learn. That you can fill in the gaps later if needed.


Do you have time set aside for lesson planning?

One mom seemed to have plenty of time. Others said not enough. The mom who had plenty takes time in the summer to schedule out the whole year.


B’s Workbox System:

B said that a “workbox system” (google it) has changed their lives immensely for the better!

(Basically each child has a set of drawers - one per subject. They progress through from the top to the bottom.)

What’s in your drawers? --Bottom drawers for own stuff   1(Top) =Fix It grammar program, then math, then From Sea to Shining Sea social studies, IEW writing. Preschool = dry-erase books, plastic sheets and dry erase markers, coloring book dry erase, one book or puzzle  in each drawer. Handwriting, reading, math, religion, Maps book once a week.

What is prep for each drawer? (rolls from day to day--- need to print out Fix It grammar (I print off all at beginning of school year) We have velcroed numbers on the drawers. When drawer is finished, we wake velcroed numbers off and put it on the top. Gives a visual! They’re competitive and want to be the first one done with school. We don’t fill all ten drawers for each child. Just as many as needed.

Where do you get the drawers?

Craft carts- kind of expensive, but can find on sale or at Sam’s.


Back to general questions:

To do lesson planning- is there time set aside? L-- six week sessions. Does one focus subject for six weeks at a time. I could use more planning time and don’t get it. Recharge time is before planning time, so I use my extra time to recharge more than to plan at this point.


M’s questions (M couldn’t make it to the meeting, but was basically feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to get it all done, and what we do each day): L-- Science and history are two of our pillars. If we only did history, that would be a great day! We have such great conversations. We read and talk a lot. We’re extraverted. I can identify with feeling that you’re trying to put too much in the day. If you have too much, it can be really stressful. If I feel like I’m just checking it off and not having them want to learn, then I need to re-evaluate. For us it’s history. We incorporate our faith. We use Story of the World program. Keeps looping back. Also do American history for a full year. RC History, and EH Gombrich history book. We also use Classically Catholic. RC has book lists and Catholic resources. Has syllabus. Recommends a lot of the same books. Neighbors kids asking about school. Wanting to join the homeschool. Families have come around. The whole world can think you’re crazy but in your bubble, there’s a kindred spirit. Story about aunt-- was really supportive. She has seen educational philosophy after educational philosophy. Every year they’re changing philosophy. Can hardly tell kids right from wrong. Story about Shakespeare study. Find your group of support and it might not be your family. B- parents supportive. Others not as supportive. Neighbors tried to convince her why to send kids to school. Older neighbors were supportive. Recommendation about book that could help: Teaching from rest. Read aloud revival podcast may also help. Inlaws-- were against it. TIme helped. We’re choosing this to homeschool this year. We keep discerning each year. This kid this year is my reason for homeschooling. “Real school”/outside school. B- science and history are the things we don’t do if we’re having a busy day. So not as important for us. If we do our formal books, I don’t worry as much. We discuss a lot of history and science, but not really book work for them as opposed to math and English.

Two library books per child for quiet time idea.


How much free time do you give? Depends on how tired! Give at least an hour for afternoon play. Free time is after 3.


Have any of you used CHC? L used and likes their handwriting and devotional stories for Little Folks. Lessons are gentle/short. Doesn’t use full curriculum. B has their younger science/nature-oriented science. All L’s kids learned to read with their phonics program (paper books). Great Catholic faith intertwined (Ex., “Cat sad can’t go to mass”).


Anyone have advice for early reading? D - making letters into animals. Have every child do it and laminate it!

Uses construction paper and gets ideas online. A-- 26 letters to heaven (gives a letter and six different things to do), also ordered Five in a Row season curriculum.


Overall advice: Prayer most important- reading, math (math facts when young), handwriting (start at top), routines for living (for example-- waking up on time prepares child for waking up for job, chores, breakfast, helping out, school, lunch, quiet time, etc., etc.).