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!

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!