Howdy, Y’all! We Are Now Officially Texas Homeschoolers

So as you may or may not know we have been living in Tokyo for a few years. It was great, overall. We loved Tokyo – the people, the food, the city life, the weather, the gardens, just everything. However we did know that some things were missing. We were aware that homeschool itself could be better. The truth is were were unlimited as far as Japan was concerned … but we were really limited when it came to “Homeschool”.

We had so much to explore in Tokyo and throughout the Kanto Region that we really just soaked up our time there. We hit up our local English library and the librarians knew us by name. We finished shelves and shelves of books. We attended story times, engineering clubs, all the parties and events that the library had to offer. We dove into recreational soccer with other English speakers, and we explored all the nature, historic sites, cultural information that we could access in Tokyo. Oh, and did I mention we did a whole lot of theme parks? Yes, Japan does theme parks like none other. But I had to admit something was still missing.

We started homeschooling in Japan for various reasons. I never thought that I would be homeschooling. It was never some life long dream or calling that I had. It just simply happened because it was necessary, but that is for its own post.

After I had gotten into a routine of homeschool and I had watched hundreds of my favorite youtube homeschoolers sharing their advice with me I felt like I had it together.  I was getting through curriculum, and not just getting it “done”. I felt like we were really learning and even dare I say it – ENJOYING school now. Educational milestones were happening. I was also at a point where I started moving away from a total boxed curriculum set. Thats when I was feeling confident that I was able to handle it and it was something that we could succeed at. Sure, once in a while you have the occasional day where you wonder if you actually “taught” them anything, but everyone has those days. Even those teaching public or private school classes have days where they feel defeated or that they could have done better.  But at a certain point this just wasn’t enough.

I was feeling left out. I was feeling like my kids were left out. We had no co-op. No “group”, none of those expert homeschooling families that we could physically hang out with, get to know, or ask opinions on all things homeschooling. I kind of felt like we were the only people in the world homeschooling, even though I knew that we obviously weren’t.

I also felt like my kids didn’t really have a connection with anyone around us. That bothered me for sure. There was a birthday party here or there. But it was for kids we barely knew. Sure, there was a soccer team, but they kids were all friends at the local school in our neighborhood and they weren’t really what I would call friendly. And they had established friends already – at school. There just wasn’t anyone relatable for us.

Of course I do not think that the success of homeschool relies on making best friends. I also don’t think you have to go to the same school or play the same sport to be friends. But I do think that it helps a great deal when you are able to find at least a couple people that have a relatable experience to you. This is not only directed towards my children. It is directly towards me as a homeschooling mom. A homeschooling TEACHER. I also need someone that is relatable to speak with now and then. I like to ask others questions about what they use, how they are using it, get some tips, and actually see them face to face and see that hey “THE STRUGGLE IS REAL” from time to time.

So recently things changed. We arrived – deep in the heart of Texas! Thats right, we boarded a place from Tokyo and had our first stop in Seattle Washington. Boy was it cold there! And it was still summer. I did not pack for Seattle! Then we were onward to Texas. Of course we made a little pit-stop. Just a short few days in Ohio and then we drove down to south Texas.

I was so excited to try out Texas but I was also pretty bummed about leaving Japan. However I thought  that Texas could possibly make all my homeschooling dreams come true. I had contacted several homeschooling groups and co-ops in our area before we had even arrived. We checked out their facilities and met with some families and ladies that were coordinating the groups. I had known for a while which group I wanted to join. Actually I knew for like a year – but I couldn’t make it official until my husband had met with them and asked some questions.

So one rainy day we met one of the coordinators from a specific homeschool co-op and she was even better in person that I had thought that she would be. She was super friendly and welcoming. She answered all my questions and I signed us up.

Of course we are only a couple months into it but we are really enjoying homeschooling in Texas. The laws are straight forward and easy to follow. The co-op gives us an outlet and takes some stress of of me. It lets me have some ideas of what other families are doing and how they homeschool. It has allowed my kids to make some great connections and some new friends. I got to meet with a lot of great homeschooling moms, some are long time homeschoolers and some are new to it all.

I hope that anyone homeschooling has the opportunity to try our a co-op, or try out a different one if yours isn’t working out for you. I think that our current co-op is really making homeschool much more enjoyable for us. It is really a fun experience and allows us to try new things, like science with a group.

We are having fun here in Texas and for any homeschoolers out there struggling with a homeschool burnout or just feeling like something is missing… I would like to just encourage you to switch things up. Try a group, drive to a new locations for new schooling experiences, add in time at the museum, get to know your librarians, make a connection that aides your homeschooling life and do it now!

What We Are Reading In April

Here is a short list of what we are reading in April in our homeschool. For some reason I am super interested in seeing and reading posts about what others are currently reading in their homeschool. It is not only interesting to find new book titles that we might want to try but, I enjoy hearing about what other kids think about the books they are reading. Especially when we may be considering the same book as well.

This month has been a littler different. We do year round homeschool and do not take the traditional “American style” summer break. So, in March we generally have all of our materials for our next school year and we start our year off at the end of March/ Beginning of April. We switch our “grade level” and take off on to our next homeschool journey for another 30 something weeks! The past month or so our reading lists were a bit thrown together while we were waiting on new curriculum but this month things are starting to pull together!

My older child (beginning 3rd grade) is starting up with another year of my fathers world. We are using the Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum however we heavily supplement this with extra reading material and just for fun books that have not a single thing to do with the history core that we are currently working on!

Here is our main list of reading materials for this month:

  • Roll of thunder hear my cry (finishing this from last month)
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basel E. Frankweiler

What We Are Reading in April

One of my favorite things to read or watch from other homeschoolers (besides their awesome homeschool room tours, of course) is updates on what they are currently reading. This might sound completely boring but being a homeschooling family and using a “book basket” for a large portion of our education supplements everyday I really rely on finding new and great books to try. I have gotten tons of ideas from other homeschoolers about books I would have never come across without their suggestions.

I also want to point out that there are many more homeschoolers and families in general who can really utilize the book lists that are living over seas in non English speaking countries. We currently live in Tokyo. So of course the use of English is common here, but not in a level that would be appropriate for a child who’s native language is English and they are an advanced reader. If you are trying to grow your Childs English vocabulary and keep them interested in books there is little in most stores for an advanced English speaker. Most books here are English for preschool age kids learning the basics as a second language or ESL study books for high schoolers and adults tackling English to pass some sort of exam. Neither of these options in books and reading material is right for my 8 year old advanced reader who is a native English speaker.

We do have libraries here, and they do have small sections of English but not much. There are English libraries to be found as well but they are generally small and serve a specific population (like government employees or military and their access is restricted to those who live on location). Many of these smaller libraries will have a decent selection of children books but as the age of your children increases the reading material appropriate for them decreases. There just is not a high enough demand for things like historical fiction aimed at junior high / high schoolers and things like that to really homeschool with. Many expats that are not homeschooling would really like to supplement their children’s education as even many of the private international school have some questionable “advanced level” reading when most of the class is usually not “international students” but native students of the home country who can pay the pricey tuition. So the reading level and books available are not always on par with a native speakers level or interest.

One of the only things that we can really do is order online, have family ship to us, or order something from amazon or the like if shipping doesn’t completely kill it! Of course books on a tablet would save on this but some books, especially for younger children just are not the same when viewed on a tablet.

Basically my rambling is just to say this…. Thanks to every homeschooling parent who takes the time to post reading lists! It is so helpful and there are many of us overseas that could not locate these great resources without your reviews and information. We just simply wouldn’t not necessarily know that some of these great under the radar books are out there. I watch and read a lot of the lists and have built a lot of additional curriculum from the help of those of you who share your lists and it has really helped our homeschool experience.

With all of that being said here is our own May reading list:

Christian Hero’s Then and Now: Nate Saint

Friendle

Henry Huggins

The Giving Tree

Christian Hero’s Then and Now: Cameron Townsend

Biomes of the World: Desert

What About Deserts

The Importance of Michaelangelo

Michaelangelo

Famous Artists Michaelangelo

The Little Island

Cultures and People of Jamaica

Enchantment of the World The Dominican Republic

Enchantment of the World Cuba

The Secret Life of Trees

Eyewitness Books Tree

Crinkleroots Guide to Know the Trees

Arthur’s Chicken Pox

The Treasure

Fiesta Babies

Brown Bear, Brown Bear,  What Do You See?

Little Critter This is My Town

Mouse Soup

Just a Duck

Hedgie’s Surprise

 

The first few chapter books we will use a read alouds and just free reading. There nature books about trees we will be incorporating into our nature walks. The books about deserts will be used in our book basket time for the first week of May. The books about countries in North America will also be used in our book basket time during the first week of the month. The giving tree will be used on Fridays as we add in some poetry and different reading and writing times just for fun.

We have added a few books on Michaelangelo and we will use these as examples while we explore this artist. We will recreate his style and make one of our own creations for some art investigation time this week. We currently use My Fathers World for our spine but We do not use the art book that they provide. I prefer to have my older student learning about famous artists from history, different styles of art and trying them out rather than “crafting” for subject time. I  think a lot of kid crafts are really fun and a great way to learn but for art as a subject we want to move to something a little more formal this year since he is getting older.

Our Michaelangelo unit will be fairly short but hopefully packing a lot of information. I will post our schedule and what we use once we have finished.

Most of the young child readers listed at the end of the list are for my toddler. She is able to really get into stories right now. She especially loves stories with animals as characters. We will be focusing on reading stories, talking about them, acting them out and working with simple workbooks. (connect the matching items with a line type of workbooks)

She will begin formal “homeschool preschool” during July as we are in the middle of a move currently.

The science books, and easy readers will last for only a week. The chapter books may last 2 weeks, depending on our schedule. We will go to the library again next week and switch out our science, social studies, geography/culture, and easy readers with another set. This supplements our book basket time each day so trips to the library are necessary each week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool Tag

One of our favorite “Nature Walks” this is at Showa Park in Tachikawa Japan. This is during the cherry blossom season.

So recently I was checking out a lot of Homeschool Mom Tag You Tube videos. It is like a guilty pleasure of mine! I love to see what others are using in their own Homeschool, what new ideas that I can try out, and just see how they overcome some of the issues with homeschool life in general. So I was watching one of my favorites (Homeschool on the Hill <–look her up!) and she suggested that viewers write their own answers to the tag in the comments section.

I am not a YouTuber and I do not comment on youtube videos (not against it.. I just do not currently do that!) So I thought that I might just write a blog real quick and answer the questions for anyone out there who still reads these blog things! 🙂

**Disclaimer: Going to post some photos of some of the places we see here in Japan and in Korea. I think most of what I have mentioned for schooling is not anything new so it is probably more enjoyable to see some of these landscape photos than just our supplies!!**

Let’s get right into it:

Homeschool Mom Tag Questions:

Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! I say no, but I am feeling really guilty for that! I do not have a set budget yet! The first year I homeschooled I was not sure what to expect. I bought a FULL deluxe style curriculum from SonLight. I wanted everything included and totally put together for me. I was really worried about homeschooling and I thought I was going to possibly rot my oldest Child’s brain! I seriously was afraid that I might mess him up for life!  This was an expensive option but it worked really well, especially for the first year. However we finished many things before the year was over. I just added more and more books and courses as the year went on. I quickly learned how this can add up so now I buy used… mostly.  I am not afraid to spend on homeschool (unfortunately!). I think its worth it. I don’t buy fancy purses or lots of designer clothes but I do spend on books! It is my guilty pleasure.

Jeonju, South Korea. Visited this famous park during the annual Lotus Festival. It was amazing! Lotus picture to follow! This was during a summer trip to see the grandparents!

1. Were you homeschooled?

No, I was never homeschooled. I went to good ol’ public school in the suburbs.

I did have neighbors who homeschooled and I always noticed that they were finished with their school day really early! They also went to college early, they were great at playing musical instruments but I also thought that they had no friends, were too “churchy” to hang out with me, and I just felt like we didn’t fit as friends. I thought it was crazy that they weren’t allowed to wear pants and just in general did not understand why on earth they would all want to stay at home with their mom ALL DAY!

Now I know many of those things to be totally different than what their life was actually like, but that was my impression as a kid who had no idea what they were really doing all day! I had no idea that they were just regular girls!

I also was some hooligan public school kid who would have probably learned a whole lot more if I had been studying with them instead of spending money at the mall to keep up with the Joneses at school!

At the Jeonju South Korea Lotus Festival. This park was free of charge and so amazing! If only we could get to Korea more often! This would be a dream to visit for school work sessions!

2. Did you know always know you’d homeschool your children?

NO, I had no idea! My oldest went to a private school and then we moved to Japan. He then attended a public school in Japan (for foreign students) but there were a lot of issues. My husband and I were really disappointed at the lack of discipline and respect that the students had in the classroom toward each other and the staff, I was even more hurt by the lack of respect the staff had for the students. They treated each other so poorly I was in disbelief. And even more importantly the academics were far behind the level that my child was already used to. So he seemed to zone out in school as it was all a bore. So we just decided to try something else.

We looked into private schools and then I considered homeschooling. In just about a week or so after visiting a private school we started to homeschool instead and that was almost 3 school years ago.

If you would have told me I would be a homeschooling parent 5 years ago.. I would have thought you were insane! Now that I am informed about the value of education that you can gain… I am a total advocate for homeschooling.

For our first year I used a boxed curriculum from Sonlight and it really helped to jump into homeschooling with ease. If you are really nervous about homeschooling… buy a boxed curriculum until you get more familiar with it and make your life less stressful! 🙂

Hamura park, near Tokyo, Japan. This was our New Years Eve nature walk! We only saw snow this year on thanksgiving! We only needed light coats for our creekside walk!

3. What are your 3 favorite books in your homeschool library?

Well books in general .. I am not going to list “books for moms” but our favorite homeschool books are usually read alouds! We enjoy read aloud time together sooooo much! it is such a fun thing to do with kids and makes homeschooling so awesome!

For fun we have read the Alvin Ho series. If you have not heard of these or read them you MUST MUST MUST! They are a laugh a minute! Even for adults!

We also really enjoyed the little house on the prairie series. We read these when we first started to homeschool when my oldest was pretty young and we enjoyed them so much. We really expanded into a lot of great historical fiction books and my son grew such an appreciation for “pioneer” times and really fell in love with that era. We also enjoyed it because he got this great taste of America while living in Tokyo! It transported him from our event world to the wide open spaces of the prairie!

We also really enjoy apologia science books. We just recently finished the unit with sea creatures and I just feel like this since is right up our alley! It did not take us a school year to finish (I know that is why some homeschoolers shy away from Apologia) but it does not have to take you the entire year on one unit of study. However, we did hit shin hard to finish it in 1/2 of the year. We also added in youtube educational videos, books, magazine, and generally everything that had supported our science topi. We had so much fun. My son even likes to read ahead and do “extra” days of silence because he likes the flow of the Apologia books.  He is 8 but an read the section and do the notebook journal and “be the teacher” and teach me what he has learned if I need a moment to work with his sister. I know that he is really “getting it”. We will continue with the units from Apologia and have more fun with it!

 

View from one of our nearby bookstores that carries loads of education toys as well! Post on this to follow! Check for the post on our top 5 Tokyo book stores in the next post!

4. Are you the only “teacher”? Does your spouse help, outsource help, tutors, etc.

Well, I am the Primary teacher. My husband is a math genius though so he’s great at helping out in that department with extra tips and quizzes and such! We live in Japan so we also do some of our read alouds and share our work over Skype with grandparents just for fun!

In the future we will add a piano teacher as I can only teach that subject on a beginning level.!

We do participate in sports and have other coaches for that. I am sure we will use other teachers in the future but my kids are still pretty young so this just hasn’t occurred yet.
5. Where is your favorite place to buy homeschool curriculum?

Our favorite place is Amazon. We have a good deal on shipping to Japan with them. Also, this is really the only possibly was I have to get used books at a reasonable price shipped to us. Sonlight was great and shipped to us for a great rate and everything came really quickly, but for used things we have really been thankful to live in the age of Amazon!

I should mention we have used other options too but just Amazon has been the best for really cheap books by the truckload!

We have had relatives order things for us and they have used Christianbook.com. It arrived really quickly but I have never used the site myself. I hope to try some other resources as well in the near future.

For random supplies we love to find things at the “Daiso” which is a 100 yen store here in Japan. It is the Tokyo version of family dollar. They have lots of fun art supplies for crafts and school supplies.
6. Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! But I should! I try to buy used as much as I can. Of course we do use things that are new from time to time – like Singapore math as it can be hard to find a used workbook that is not filled in!  For the most part I do try and budget more since I am homeschooling 2 kids now. I also try and save the textbooks so that my younger child can use them later. I do not resell anything as we will try and use them in the future.

When I have something that we don’t love then sometimes I do give it to someone else to try as it might work for them depending on their Childs learning style.

I also prefer to give away rather than to sell because I allow my children to fold pages, hi light, and they are pretty hard on books. I would have a hard time feeling ok about selling what we have used in our homeschool! it would not be in pristine condition by any means!
7. What are 2 must have homeschool supplies?

We have some favorite colored pencils that are a brand sold here in Japan. They only cost $1.00 but we really really love them! I think they come in like 12 or 16 in a pack and the quality is great.

Our other school supply would be our “book basket” not really a supply I guess, but we couldn’t homeschool the same without it! We rely on used books under $1 for this or the library. The is a supply that we can not live without but it can be free of charge if you have the time to use your library. For us, we use a lot of Amazon used books because we do not have a lot of English books at our local libraries.
8. What’s your favorite/least favorite subject to teach?

Favorite – geography, history if we are using read alouds

least – piano! I hated piano as a child… with a passion. I am just not the best at teaching it either! I will teach the beginner levels and then my children will use a professional piano teacher. I am not skilled enough to teach a high level… not even close!
9. Are you involved in coops or homeschool groups? What has your experience been in these groups?

We have not been in a co-op before. As we are in Japan it is a little difficult to find. They do exist but the one in our area gives information only through Facebook. We do not use Facebook so I am a little out of the loop! Thats ok though! We do plan on using a group starting this summer. It will be our first homeschool group/co op in our 3rd year of homeschooling.
10. What is your approach? ( charlotte mason, eclectic, classical, etc)

I do not really follow one way! I guess that would make us eclectic. This year we are leaning more Charlotte mason as I am trying My Fathers World for our “spine”. How even we supplement this pretty heavily. My son really enjoys workbooks so we have a lot added! We have some living books mixed with traditional textbooks.

We school year round and follow a schedule pretty close to the national school year in Japan. Not on purpose just so we can be available when Appa is off from work as well!

Due to schooling year round I find that we generally go through a couple complete curriculums pre year. This is costly but we spend far less time on a lot of simple review at the beginning of each new year. It is working well so far and mixing our “type” of homeschooling has kept us interested!

April Homeschool Update

If you are interested in what’s happening in our homeschool… keep reading to check out our April Homeschooling update!

So as you may or may not know we homeschool year round. For us it is just easier and I will probably make another blog post on how we schedule our year round school calendar and how we plan for our days off. It is easy to accomplish and we actually feel that it is better for us to school year round while living in Japan as the summer in Tokyo is not actually the best season for spending your time outside. We have an extensive list as to why we start our “school year” in the spring but that is for another time!

First of all, we can not believe that it is April already! It seems like March just started and it is already finished! We enjoyed a lot of great activities, books, and science experiences in March and even finished our Apologia science curriculum that we had been working through since last October. We really enjoyed many of the curriculum choices and add ins that we used but to be honest it has been a bit of a challenge. We were ending our scheduled school year and preparing for the next season to start.

We have been gearing up to start our next curriculum which will be based around My Father’s World: Exploring Countries and Cultures (aka MFW:ECC). We did end up buying almost all of the supplies used and this saved me a decent amount. I started shopping for the products one by one on Amazon a few months prior to our April start date. We are actually still waiting on a couple of items that we need for the school year but we are going to get started even thought they are not here yet. A couple of the books will not be used until later in the year so we can get by without them for now.

We also had a special couple of boxes that arrived form family in the United States that were loaded down with books. There were many good books that will help fill our book baskets and followed along with our countries and cultures themes and we plan to add those in as we see fit with the plan. There were also a few books that kind of tied in with our previous curriculum and my son was really interested in reading them before we started our new school year.

Soooo we have been finishing up :

(these are our just for fun books this month, not what we have been using for curriculum / planned study)

Daniel Boone

Who is Issac Newton

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

The Magic Tree House: Dragon of the Red Dawn

Various Pokemon Books

The Secret Garden

My son really got into Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I think he learned so much about history and could relate it to certain subject that currently come up on the news today. He has a broader understand and why people from different generations have different feelings and ideas about things than our family currently does. It really gave a great glimpse into history and no matter your age or where you come from you could really get lost in the main characters feelings like you were standing there with her. I won’t ruin the book for anyone who has not read it… but I think it is a book that all children should read. I do suggest it as a read aloud with a parent – especially if your child is young so that you can explain some of the language used and why it is inappropriate and some history to go along with the book. If I would not have been reading this book aloud with my 8 year old he would have bene very confused about some of the scenes because he would not understand about the state of the country after slavery and the changes in the south at that time. I never read this book as a student but I wish that my public school would have read this. Skim through the book before purchasing and make sure your child is at an appropriate age to really “get it” though. Some context would be too much for young readers. (FYI there is references to graphic things but the book does not always describe them… you will have to interpret them on your Childs level. This would make some parents uncomfortable. I think it needs to be told though. But maybe for children a little older)

We have also been working with fractions. We have finished Singapore Math 4A&B. We are kind of disappointed with this book. We used the US version and I did not think that there were enough practice problems for how quickly the book moved through each concept of fractions. So instead of moving right into the next level we are spending a few days just prating and reviewing with fractions. We are using the Ikea chalkboard and roller paper and just doing a quick quiz with different types of review problems. It is a fun change of pace from the regular book. I mix in some easier review multiplication with different types of fraction problems. Then we also add in some multistep word problems and try to make it enjoyable. We will be trying out teaching textbooks for the start of our next school year.

We have never used teaching textbooks before and I am not sure how it will go. It does take up a bit more space than our Singapore workbook and text book so that is unfortunate when we are traveling but it is still portable when needed. Most days we do complete our work at home so, I think this will still work out just fine! I also like the idea of a “teacher” on the computer to explain the lessons. this way, if my son is feeling confidant and really catching on he can keep on moving without my help. Then later I can log in and see his lessons results. It auto grades the answers and I can look for any problem areas very quickly. Then we can spend more time on difficult areas rather than wasting time.

We have finished Apologia: swimming creatures. If you have a child that is into seas life they will really enjoy it. I know a lot of people shy away from this as they feel it is a year long program. It was not an entire year long for us. We went through the entire book, did some note booking, and projects and still finished in 5 months. I think the thing to remember is that we did this in 5 months with holiday breaks and other breaks off. We didn’t rush but I did make it a priority. Science and Math are a big priority. We do them bother EVERY school day. However Science does not have to take too long. We do not have to do an activity or a project along with it everyday but we will AT MINIMUM read  a couple sections from the science book.

It has been really fun when my son sees something here in Tokyo that we have learned about in our science book. He loves being our “tour guide” and telling us all about nay sea life that we are seeing!

He has been asking for Apologia: Flying creatures and we have ordered it but have not received it just yet. We bought it used from Amazon. An important note is that any Military families can get 40% off all Apologia curriculum. That is a great deal and I just wanted to pass that along to anyone who might come across this site. (which is not many people! ha!)

We are still making our way through the book shark and Sonlight book lists. We just add in the books that fit in with what we are currently studying. We love them. We love to read. We might be banned from our library soon since we always have about 30 books or more at a time!

We wil be posting updates throughout our time with My Fathers world. We will try to include info on any projects we make or extras we add in. We like the curriculum but we do have to increase it for challenge and I don’t think that is a big issue though. My son loves the activities and hands on projects. It really reinforces what he has learned and he likes to show off his art! If you kid is not into crafty things they would not like this program. As a mom I find it so helpful because the projects are simple, fun, and the materials do not cost much.

We Will be posting our first week asap! Happy Spring Break!

 

 

 

Homeschool – Why We Are Using My Father’s World

my fathers worldSo this Spring I have been preparing for our next year of homeschool. We typically homeschool all year round. Our schedule is always changing and my husbands work schedule is sometimes unpredictable so I found through trial and error that schooling year round is great for us. (I will add a separate post about how we form a schedule to school year round) We usually order our materials by March and then start fresh with the spring time on our next official homeschooling year. Japan starts their school year end of March beginning of April as well. So that helps us adjust while being in Tokyo.

This is our second year using My Fathers World. Previously we used My Fathers World: Adventures in American History and we have tried Sonlight. We are not exclusive with using only one curriculum but, for the second year in a row we will continue with My Father’s World as our main spine.  We will use it as a basis for Social studies/history, Language arts/Bible study, and some of our science. It will give us a list of read alouds and suggested readers, and scheduled activities with lists of the needed materials already planned out. It also will have a complete school year planned in a grid style planner with additional tips and information for the teacher ready to go. This saves so much time. There are open spaces in the weekly schedule for adding in extra subjects.

We are in the middle of an international move and being able to used a partially boxed curriculum with a schedule to follow is really going to help me. While I am busy preparing a major move I will have extra time for things like house hunting instead of spending hours making lessons plans and lists of materials we need.

The first year we used My Father’s World I thought maybe it was a bit too easy and I was not completely satisfied with the level for my 7 year old. But then I realized that both of my kids were enjoying school so much with the added activities that they were both probably getting more out of the curriculum than they would with a rigorous nothing but book work style unit. They would find it dull and tune out much of the information I was giving them. I also realized that we were previously spending so much time trying to increase our difficulty of course work we weren’t doing great at life tasks like learning to measure for cooking, saving time for learning about common sense things like how to prevent or put out fires, what to do in emergencies. So since I course work was not too long we spent a unit or two learning all these important life skills.

As we got comfortable with the program we began to bulk up the rigor which is really easy to do to match your Childs won needs. We just purchased a higher level of the math we were using, and added in some higher level English/ Language arts supplements and our own choice for science plus our usual foreign language, piano, typing and coding and we had a busy and entertained kid.

There are also extra spaces in the daily schedule that you can write in exactly what you would like to add and schedule it out for your week/ month. It is also easy to see the details as your teachers Manuel/schedule book is spiral. So no pages are constantly ripping and you can fold it over. The boxes are big enough that I can add dates, extra notes and extra subjects toward right on the page. this serves as double duty as I have a record right there of what we have done in school should I have to prove that to a district or state in the future. We are floating without homeschool laws due to where we live at this time but, that could change so I want to be ready to present anything needed , should things change.Overall the set up is really user friendly – Easy to get used to if you are new to homeschooling or if you are using the program for the first time. What homeschool mom doesn’t love a spiral bound book of any kind?!

My Father’s World does offer suggestions on individual course curriculums to try if you are feeling kind of lost about all the choices.. For example I believe that when we bought our Adventures unit, “Singapore Math” was suggested to purchase for the math subject. We were already using Singapore Math at the time, so we continued on with our next level and it worked out well. We also used some of the suggested Language arts materials and we enjoyed it. This was a plus as we were using Adventures with a “2nd grader” by public school definition, but we were using a higher level of math and English and this made no issues. We could also add in a higher reading level in the book basket for fun and some below his reader level just because he was interested in the particular book. We did not feel limited for restricted by My Fathers World. We just felt like we had a solid plan to lead us.

If you have no previous experience with My Fathers World one important thing to note is the aspect of the “book basket”. Everyday you child is to have time with the book basket. This is about 20 minutes of free reading. There are different ways to go about doing this and I think many families put their own twist on it. I think the main idea is just to use a designated place to store free reading books that are associated with the subjects you are covering that present week (or month depending on how many books you provide in the basket). The children are fee to browse through, read cover to cover, anything they like just so as long as they are actively engaging in free reading time for 20 mins. (depending on age and ability of course). We use a mix of appropriate reading level and lower reading level just so its a fun time.

The book basket is great. I have read many reviews where homeschoolers overlook My Fathers World simply because they have issues with going to the library so often for books on their weekly topics. I completely get this- but I do not think it is a reason that you should count it out! We live in Tokyo. Our family is completely limited with libraries that have a large selection of books in English. Trust me. There is a library I use regularly but it will never cover our needs. That is ok. There are ways around this.

Some weeks we do not have tons of supplemental books on our topic. I have to deal with it. I provide extra books that look interesting and educational. And sometimes after book basket I have to find some educational DVD or youtube thing to add in so that we are really understanding a concept. It happens. Reading still gets completed though. And we still complete book basket time – even if some of our books might be a little off topic. They are still getting use of independent reading time and my children still learns things….many things!  If we want another book on a subject we can order it used on Amazon.

This brings me to another point. Amazon is our best friend. If you do not have access to a close library or just do not have what you need try locating a reading list guide from your my fathers world teachers Manuel and order used books from amazon ahead of time. Our books ship all the way to Japan for only $4.00. and most of the books cost us less than $1. Then I will keep them for our younger child or swap them for more books. If your budget won’t allow this … resell some of your own used books or book swap online for this. There are many online sites that have the used books you would need for this program. It was not too difficult for me to find the titles. I spent less doing this than ordering other curriculums and ended up with much more material I could keep for later years.

I have bought ENTIRE reading lists on amazon in advance, and sometimes it takes me months to complete it. Is it annoying and time consuming? Yes. But does our book basket get accomplished. Yes. Do we also have all the books to use in the future and to share with others who want to learn about homeschool? yes. And this is why I do not mind doing it without access to a good library.

This year my two year old is really into being in the school mix. If you are homeschooling multi ages My Fathers World will help your sanity. Even though my children are far apart in age there is always something the toddler can help out with. While doing adventures she helped us make butter, light catchers in the window, color bible worksheets to put on our poster board, make bread, memorize verses, sing songs to learn the states and more.

We had previously done Sonlight and we loved it and loved all the read alouds….but my toddler would not be able to be part of very much of our school  time if we did that this year. Sonlight worked great when she was an infant taking naps during much of our school day,  but it is a completely different dynamic and she really wants to be part of our group. Even though she is too young for a formal program at this time, she is also getting a lot of coordination, life lessons, and together time with this multi age family program along with her 8 year old sibling. My older child also enjoys showing her what he is making/ doing and he actually LIKES to show her how to make projects too. She is learning so much related to pre-school skills just by mimicking what he is doing with projects and hands on work. We would not have this bonus if we did not switch to My Father’s World.

At this point, it is important to me to have a schedule made. I need the time saver for this year. We have many things coming up and I want the ease of a pre made schedule that I can simply alter if needed vs creating an entire years worth of lesson plans. I also like that I can pick which math, English and Science that we want to add. I can spend more time on household duties, playing with a toddler, and doing hands on activities rather than scheduling every part of our day.

We have added Singapore math but may switch to teaching textbooks. We also are using Wordly Wise 4, Grammar ACE, and Writing Strands for English. For a language we study Korean. He is also learning to play piano and read music. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten to list anything!

I gave my 8 year old the choice. I asked him if he wanted to go back to a different curriculum  or stick with My Fathers World. I asked him which he enjoyed more. He said he loved learning through literature and the living books books. He enjoyed them so much we still talk about them two years after we started… but he really loved the hands on experiences with My Fathers world. He is an artsy kid and he also loves to read. We can not say one is better than the other but his enjoyment of making projects allows him to explore what he is learning hands on and it helps him to engage in the curriculum further. So, we will be sticking with my fathers world. We get to keeps reading lots of good books and have the artsy stuff pre planned. That is the perfect combination of how he wants to learn. He could not do that in public school or with a different pre planned all in one curriculum.

We have ordered all the My Fahter’s World curriculum used this year separately and I will have a different post with those details. I just wanted to share how we make My Fathers World work for anyone who is on the fence about it. We will continue to post as we get into the new year and share how we use it week by week. I like to browse online and see what other families are doing that looks creative and fun also!

Review: Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success Edition

The great thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to change and adjust any part of your curriculum at any moment. For my older student who has been working on cursive for sometime…. IT WAS NOT HAPPENING! My Oldest student catches on to new lessons quickly is a very adaptable kid but it easily distracted. I mean the type who will see a bird fly past the window and then you have lost him! 🙂 I know his handwriting ability. He is very artistic and has good overall penmanship – WHEN HE TRIES! However, if he is not in the mood for handwriting lord help you! Our struggle with cursive has been especially frustrating as one of the perks of homeschool is that my child will get to spend time on cursive. Our previous public district was no longer going to teach or require students to write in cursive (or even learn it for that matter). I wanted my student to be able to read original historical documents, old letters, and original family history as it was written. I was worried that we were not going to be successful at this task in this year of schooling and was close to shelving this idea for another school year or two…luckily we didn’t!Read more…

We have previously been using a different work book throughout last summer and fall. I felt like he was still struggling to read others cursive when most of it should have been easily recognizable. In February we made a change to Handwriting Without Tears. We have had an immediate improvement. I think this book is completely a winner. Normally I wouldn’t want to write a review on a product that We haven’t used for a long amount of time but we also had success with another book of handwriting without tears during the kindergarten year of schooling. So even though this is our first year using the cursive edition, it will be our second year of using this program overall.

The cursive success edition is a better fit for students as it has smaller spaced lines than many cursive handwriting books. For an older student who is ready to complete cursive it seems more natural and less daunting to fill a smaller lined space in the work book. With out previous workbook my student was really struggling to form the letters correctly as the space between top and bottom lines to hit was just to large. Handwriting without tears decreases the space and this is a better fit for an older student. The overall amount of space to fill with letter formation is less as well. I noticed that my student felt an accomplishment at filling the requirements on the page instead of feeling that a failure for not filling an entire huge page of blank lines. The book is not set up to break their hand! It is an easy exercise that is definitely more enjoyable than we have experienced with other cursive workbooks.

This book gets students feeling motivated by immediately giving them entire words. They can start off the exercise by practicing the letter and tracing the formation. Then on the same page there are a few easy to write words. Previously we were doing many pages of a single letter and completing the entire alphabet before moving on to connecting some letters and writing entire words. This daunting process left my older student feeling like his lessons were “babyish” now he is able to show off his quickly – and neatly completed page.

As you move into the book farther there are short games to play as you write. There are also some history facts and even some pages that have your copy work relating to capital cities, famous quotes, and even some grammar thrown in. By the end of the book you child will be able to translate from cursive to print and read cursive with confidence. I am really happy that finally we have found a solution to our cursive dilemma!

If you have a student that is ready for cursive or just sick of their current handwriting program give it a try. We bought our copy off of Amazon for a good deal and the shipping to our overseas location was quick. You can also find the book at www.hwtears.com or click the Amazon link here. There is also a version with a teacher’s guide. I do not think that is totally necessary. Just save yourself some money and follow this prompt in the book. It will explain anything your child needs to do. Simple instructions throughout the text so no worries for the homeschool newbie! 😉

If you have experience with this book leave a comment on how it worked out for you below. Maybe it will help out others!

Independent 2 year olds

A lot of parents wonder what exactly should my child be doing at 2 and are they on target compared to their peers? First of all, I think it is important stop comparing everything! Who cares what that youtube family is doing currently, or what the neighbors kids can do ALREADY!

Instead,  measure their skills against new lessons.  Give them some coaching and let them practice over time. Look back and see how they quickly accomplished a new task! Every child learns things at their own pace. My oldest child had an extensive vocabulary and was very articulate at an extremely young age – but I would not say he was beyond his peers in physical abilities.He had to work at coordination for doing the monkey bars and other sports activities.  His sister is the opposite. I feel she was very strong in coordination, balance, and sports abilities far beyond his when he was the same age. However, she was unable to say her ABC’s and be completely potty trained before the age of 2. That’s ok.

They both have had different life experiences and different exposures. They picked up on different things at different times. However I have made some special attention to make a check list of sorts that I can work with to make sure that my youngest is hitting some important independent skills. Working on independent life skills are just as important as those preschool type of skills and once they are mastered it can really take some weight of mom and dad!

here is a short list of some independent life skills that I am working on with my 2-year-old currently:

  • Brushing teeth
  • brushing hair
  • washing hands
  • washing up while in the bath (this still requires some help especially for washing her own hair!)
  • Putting on socks
  • buttoning coat
  • putting away toys
  • only drinking from regular cups at meal times (no sippy)
  • Putting scraps of paper etc from art in the trash can
  • “help” her brother wash the dishes (she stands on the stool and just puts water on small plastic kids plates and cups)
  • entering and exiting escalators with the help of a parent *

*not being carried on or off. this task is actually very important for us and if we were currently in the U.S. I would probably skip this at this young age out of fear. However living in Tokyo means small areas with large crowds and many are not stroller friendly places.

She is getting to be too big for baby wearing in some crowded situations like trains and subways. In situations like this we may have to change trains or subways on different levels (underground to high floor or street level) and we will not have the option for an elevator.

So in this situation being able to hold a parents hand and approach an escalator is necessary, although I wish it wasn’t!

  • Transitioning to the big girl bed without fears or tears! 🙂

Many of these things seem like no brainers but maybe there are some other parents out there, who just like me, don’t always realize they were buttoning the six large buttons on their Childs coat about a million times a day! I realized doing everything for her allllll the time was not doing her or myself any favors! I am making a conscious effort to assist her in becoming more independent. She also is very proud when she assists and even sometimes completes these tasks on her own. That is probably a short list and I am missing many but those are some things that she is getting pretty successful at and it sure does help when we are going through the daily motions!
Another fun tidbit about toddlers being independent is getting the shoes on the correct feet. I should mention that in Japan many of the shoes sold here have a little animal face on the inside. This helps toddlers learn which shoe goes on which foot. She can just make the monkey face with her shoes and then they will be on correctly. if only all shoes had this great little idea!

Homeschool Reading List – February 2nd Grade

This is our homeschool reading list for 2nd grade this month. Our second grader is reading:

Book List:

  1. Matilda
  2. Tangerine
  3. Alvin Ho
  4. Tales of Famous Americans
  5. The Cat who went to Heaven
  6. The Complete Tales of Winnie The Pooh
  7. Hardy Boys Adventures – Secret of the red Arrow
  8. Kaya – Meet Kaya
  9. Kaya- Kaya’s Escape
  10. Kaya- Kaya’s Hero
  11. Whats So Great About Texas

Alvin Ho- Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

The favorite book out of this list has to be Alvin Ho by Lenore Look. We have read most of the Alvin Ho series and we really enjoy them. We crack up over the humor and reread every Alvin Ho book. My 2nd grader has read some of the Alvin Ho books about 3 times. Yes, they are that funny. They are hilarious for adults as well. Even my husband sometimes reads through the Alvin Ho books just too see what we have been reading about during the day. He thinks they are rather comical as well. I wish these books were more popular. They are just so cute and funny I am surprised that more children are not reading them. We have a relative we wanted to purchase another Alvin Ho book for my son and when she went to Barns and Noble they informed her that they do not carry it but they could order it and then she could pick it up once it comes in. I am surprised about this because I think this series would be a really popular read for middle grade readers if it was more readily available. Until then I will continue to tell everyone about author  Lenore Look and her hilarious Alvin Ho series.

What’s So Great About Texas

We are skimming through “What’s so great about Texas” as our 2nd grader will be working on a report about Texas/ Texas history in the next couple of weeks. We have many other Texas books to help with the report research, but we have been concentrating on this book for the last week or so.

Kaya- American Girl Series

I have to admit, I was not sure how the books about “Kaya” were going to go over. They have a big American girl logo on the cover. I was not so sure that my 8 year old son was going to be too into reading these. I told him before we started that they were more so historical fiction short reads and really had nothing to do with the dolls! Yes, the stories go along with the doll and her time period and all of that but there was nothing “girly” about a Native American girl being captured by another tribe who has raided her home in an effort to steal horses! He agreed by the third book that they were not so bad. However I would say they were not the most interesting of historical fiction stories that we have ever read! We did not mind them- but I think that our household has such a love for long detailed historical fiction chapter books (thanks Sonlight curriculum homeschooling year 1!!) that we just couldn’t give them a fair chance at first!

If you have an elementary schooler who likes shorter stories and needs to feel the accomplishment in finishing a book sooner this may be a helpful series to keep them plugging along this school year. There are also many lap books and free study guides online for the Kaya series. We did not use these to supplement our Kaya reading but I did check into them. Since we weren’t especially into the stories we just decided to finish them but not add in any projects and the like. We decided that we would spend more time on digging into our other longer chapter books for this month.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven

We are enjoying The Cat Who Went To Heaven. This is another quick read. It is on the Sonlight Curriculum reading list for the Eastern Hemisphere (not sure of the corresponding letter for this level) and I happened to find this at our local library here in Tokyo. I have been ordering all of the readers and read-clouds that are mentioned in the Sonlight eastern hemisphere list. We really enjoy the Sonlight readers and we do incorporate them into our “My Fathers World” spine. (this probably sounds more complicated than it is!)

Matilda

My mom actually read Matilda to me in first grade. It was a gift from my favorite teacher of all time (Shout out Ms. Steamen in Carroll, OH!) and I really loved this book. My 2nd graders also has been really enjoying Rohald Dahl books and I knew he would also really get into Matilda. The first Rohald Dahl book we read was The B.F.G. in Kindy and he really enjoyed it.  We plan to read the rest by this author and will do so as we purchased them used off of amazon. I know that we will also be reading them with my youngest child in a few years so we would like to add these to our home library.

Tales of Famous Americans

Tales of Famous Americans has been a pretty good into to much of the *important* figures of American History that you would be reading about in any social studies book! We have been enjoying this and the artwork keeps the kids interested. The stories and information are short and to the point hitting the main points about each historical figure. I think this book is an interesting supplement for fun and we using it in a “book basket” type of method. My 2nd grader just reads about a person or two every couple of days and there is no pressure on this title. No memorizing or quizzing on anything in the book… just learning about important Americans for enjoyment and a knowledge base for more intense history timelines and information to build upon in the future. We also will be venturing to the Alamo in the near future so we are really diving into some of the people who were there and Daniel Boone happens to be featured in the book. I really want him to have a basis of history involving the Alamo so that our visit makes more of an impact. I am trying to avoid a “this is really boring mom” type of field trip on this one!

Tangerine

Tangerine seems to be holding his interest but I haven’t gotten the feedback on this one yet. He is not quite finished with it yet. I will post an update on this book later if it is a winner!

The complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

And least but certainly not least, The Complete Tales Of Winnie The Pooh…. is a total hit! I thought my son would find this babyish but he totally gets the humor this year. I think 8 was a great age to read this with him. He gets the humor and is really laughing out loud at the silly antics and nonsense conversations between the animals. I would tell any homeschooling family to read together. It is cute and funny… it is just adorable but yet hilarious enough for even boys to enjoy it. I got my copy on Amazon used for only a penny! ($4 for shipping added in of course). totally worth it. If I can find some more I will buy other copies and gift them. Reading this can really brighten your day. Very Nostalgic!