Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Would you say you are "flourishing" as a homeschooling mom? Or would you say you are just barely getting by and struggling to put out one fire after the next? I recently had the opportunity to read "Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms" by Mary Jo Tate published by Apologia Educational Services.
I have to say that when I first approached this book, I wasn't sure Mary Jo would have anything to say that would apply to me. There are times when I feel like my level of things I MUST get done, compared to the hours in my day are just always going to be at odds. And I have read soo many articles about homeschool moms, or running your own home business (WAHMs), organization or even living frugally where I just end up saying at the end, "this author just doesn't get it".
But Mary Jo comes off as real and understanding from the beginning. She says right away that you can't get "it all" done, you need to redefine what "it all" is if you want to accomplish your goals.
One of the illustrations that she uses that really spoke to me is when you are trying to juggle too many things at once and always give your attention to the crisis. The "tyranny of the urgent" she calls it. But as Mary Jo says, this isn't a strategy for daily living, it's a recipe for burn-out, long term. Instead you need to work on balancing by making small adjustments to keep things running more smoothly. As Mary Jo explains, balance isn't about keeping every area of your life equal, with equal amount of time spent in each quadrant. Instead it's balancing by sometimes adding more time and energy to a specific area as it's needed. This is freeing to hear someone else say, because I often find in my own life that areas of my life seem to go more in "seasons" that in always equal balance. There are times when a lot of our time and attention as a family is on formal, traditional "sitting down and learning" homeschooling, and then at other times we are out in nature with our journals and pencils, and then at another time we are together again in the kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm. It's easy to feel guilty about how our time is spent as a homeschooling mom, that a certain style of learning or amount of "sit-down schooling" is more valuable than the more loose (and enjoyable!) learning out in the world. But the idea of balancing these areas, not by making sure each week hold and equal amount of each, but instead, by having season where each holds more of a center stage, is a very freeing concept.
Mary Jo gives lots of practical ways to manage your homeschool, business and home. She gives lots of encouragement to keep lists, plan your time management and write down your goals. As Mary Jo says, a goal that's written down helps keep you accountable. I know this is true in my own life, that when I have a written routine, it helps my day go smoother, even when I don't follow that routine exactly. As Mary Jo says, Perfectionism is the mother of Procrastination. Don't wait around to get it "just right".
Connect with Mary Jo Tate on Social media:
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Have you ever felt like there was an area of a certain subject that was missing from your current homeschool writing program? There was something missing from our elementary writing curriculum and WriteShop Primary filled in a very necessary gap for us!!
We were very thankful to have the opportunity to review a digital version of WriteShop Primary Book A recently. This series is ideal for grades K-6, Book A is meant for Kindergarten through First grade. I used it both with my Kindergartener and my Second grader, who is still struggling with his writing and reading skills. The digital PDF copy of the Teachers Guide is $24.50. The Primary Activity Pack( PDF version) for Book A is $4.95. There is also a print copy of both if you would prefer. We printed out the activity pack and loaded the teacher's guide onto an e-reader.
WriteShop is meant to give your children the tools to help them become better writers. It starts off with easy guided writing lessons so that your child can feel like a success write away. It expects you to provide your example, encouragement and daily guidance for your children to be successful.
The teachers guide asks you to have an inviting writing center for your children with things such as a variety of paper, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors, tape, rubber stamps, etc. One tool that they ask you to use is file folders to create themed "portable word banks" for your children to use during writing.
Here is a general idea of what you can expected for each lesson:
*Pre-Writing: Reading a book on the theme of the lesson (every lesson has a different theme)
*Brainstorming: Instructing your children about considering several ideas before narrowing down your focus to the one you want to write about. This part of the process can include charts, worksheets, discussion.
*The Writing Project: Writing a rough draft of the final story using the ideas from our brainstorming session.
*Editing and Revising: Looking back at your work and making any changes to what you wrote.
*Activity Set Worksheet: Using a consumable worksheet for the Activity set which coordinates with what is being learned during the lesson.
*Publishing the Project: Making a "final draft" of your work, usually by creating a craft project or other activity.
*Evaluating Student's Work: Using the provided checklist to note their degree of accomplishment with their weekly writing.
For my Kindergartener, Mom did most of the writing and he helped provide the creativity and ideas. He is not yet reading more than the simplest of books and he also is my most easily frustrated child with anything he considers "school work". However, he enjoys telling "stories" very much and is excellent at drawing and coloring (He's my left-handed, right-brained creative child). He very much enjoyed turning our writing into a creative project (like making a story kite or a paper plate face book (face book, get it? get it? HAHA).
For my older son, who also loves drawing and creating, but also loves to be read to and sit and learn. He enjoyed the whole process. Some of the activities were a little over simple for him as an almost 3rd grader, however because he also struggles with reading and spelling this was great practice to increase his confidence and model over and over correct story writing.
This curriculum takes some advance preparation activities that you will have to prepare in advance. In the teacher's guide look for the grey box labeled, “Advance Preparation” to see what you'll need to do. However, once the advance preparation is done, the lessons are open and go. It is also, not a curriculum that your children will be able to do on their own. But creating a strong writer in your children will certainly benefit both your children and you as a teacher as they grow older.
We really enjoyed this curriculum and will certainly return to it in the fall when we go back to full-time homeschooling. If you would like to check out some other reviews from the Review Crew, especially if you would like to know about some of the versions of WriteShop for older children that we didn't review then click the link below!
Friday, July 4, 2014
The problem was I couldn't afford it. My dh was a public school band teacher, we were single income, and there simply wasn't anything extra in the budget. When I voiced that concern, my friend said, "Oh, you should teach a workshop! That way, they pay you $50, give you some mileage to get up to the convention, and you get in FREE!!" Looking at her in amazement, I asked, "What on earth would I teach????"
She pulled out the previous year's convention schedule, with its varied workshops, and handed it to me. Quickly glancing down the list, I noted that the ONLY music workshop was using classical music in the home and that there were NO history workshops. At that moment, an idea was born.
Why not teach American history through its folk music?
That was the start of twenty-five years as a homeschool speaker (yes, the convention wanted my workshop) and as a homeschool writer/ curriculum producer.
Never saw this coming, but, oh, what a life we have shared!!"
These books (and previously cassette tapes) had been published by Diana in the past. Everyone who got a copy just loved them but unfortunately they were lost through some unfortunate events. Diana shares how they were restored (and now on CD) through a really moving post on her blog. And I couldn't say it better myself, so I'll just let her tell you the story.
My impression of the books