Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Reasons We’re Having an Amazing Homeschool Year

Is it Tuesday again already? Time for another linky-party!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

10 Reasons We're Having an Amazing Homeschool Year (Inspired by Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers)

1. Year round schooling
We finally took the plunge and are transitioning into year round school! Little Man really thrives in a structured setting, so taking three months off for summer just doesn't make sense to me. We started school on July 1st and although my bigs are not thrilled we are flying through our lessons. Since this is a big transition for all of us we are not doing a full work load just yet, but each week we are adding a little more in.

2. New Curriculum
I am so excited to be trying out some new curriculum choices this year. Although we have not started using them just yet, I  have spent many hours looking through our new books and I think we made some fabulous choices. (You can read about our curriculum choices here.)

3. Field Trips
This weekend the kiddos and I are meeting up with my sister for some Auntie/museum time. I am also looking into joining a local "Zoo Club" and planning a trip to the ocean to visit with some friends.

4. ABC Letter of the Week
Little Man and I are beginning a new LOTW journey and it has been a blast so far! Not only are we doing a lot of reading and writing, but we are trying new recipes and sensory play activities.

5. We Are Learning German (again)
We started using Rosetta Stone: German last year, but half way through the year the Air Force stopped offering this free program. After months of looking for the best deal I was able to snag all five levels for $191!

6. Playdates
Every Wednesday we have been hosting afternoon playdates. It is so nice having extra friend time. Some of our closest friends do not homeschool so during the school year it is hard to get together with them.

7. Outloud Reading
Each week I pick out a chapter book to read outloud to all the kiddos. Usually they are full of complaints, but the last two weeks they actually asked to read more. WIN! We are reading The Indian in the Cupboard and Buddy asked if it was a library book or if I bought it because he wants to read it again by himself after we are done.

8. Tutoring Jewla's Best Friend
Our neighbor asked me if we would mind tutoring Jewla's best friend three days a week. I told her I would be more than happy to and planned on doing it for free. They insisted that they pay me something. All of the pay is going towards things off of our wishlist. Having someone else around three days a week has been a huge motivator for my two bigs. They love doing their timed tests together to see who can finish the fastest.

9. Organized School Room
We recently purchased new living room furniture and moved our sectional into our school room. At first I thought it would take up too much space, but it is soooo nice that we can all curl up on the sofa together for our reading time. Since I had to move our cubbies to the opposite wall I decided to do a deep cleaning and reorganize all of our supplies.

10. Organized House
Ok.. I know this is steering off the path of "amazing homeschool year", but organizing the school room was like the kick in the butt I needed to purge our house again. We got rid of tons of things we didn't need and tidied everything up.

What's amazing about your school year so far?

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 Unexpected Benefits to Homeschooling

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

I have never done a link-party post before... I think this is a great way to kick off my new page so here goes nothing (even if I am a few days late).

10 Unexpected Benefits to Homeschooling

1. Unexpected Vacations.
I am loving our flexible schedule. In the past few months I have been blessed with a niece and a nephew. I was able to fly to California in December to meet my niece and in May the kiddos and I went to Michigan for 5.5 weeks to meet my nephew (and of course visit all of our "far away family").  
2. Mad math skills! 
Math has never been my strongest subject. I always got good grades, but it did not come naturally to me. With two of my kiddos working on their multiplication facts it has been a nice refresher course for me and I can rattle off the facts very quickly now.
3. Truly embracing our identities. 
It is one thing to say "be yourself" and another to actually do it. I think a lot of children hold back some of their true identity for fear of not fitting in... Heck, I do it sometimes!  I think all of us in the Raiche clan have come to accept ourselves for who we are and not let what others think matter so much. There will always be people who judge and we are going to let them!

4. Pajama days!
Enough said...

5. Remaining young.
I love that my almost 10 year old will still sit down and watch Sesame Street or other "baby" shows and feel no embarrassment. I love that, at least for now, I can protect them from being exposed to so many grown up things. 

6. True sibling love!
Since we started homeschooling my kiddos have grown so much closer. Although they fight and scream like any other siblings at the end of the day they are there for each other. They are always encouraging each other to be the best they can be.

7. A messy house.
Yes, I know this may have many of you thinking "What? She's happy about a messy house?"..... Before we started homeschooling I would freak out about every mess (I have a touch of OCD), but I have learned that there are more important things than our house always looking picture perfect. Like making homemade moon sand and learning about space...
8. No homework!
When my two bigs were in public school we spent an hour or two each night on homework. That is such a long day for kids. I felt like by time they got home, ate dinner, did homework, it was time to clean up and go to bed.
9. No yellow bus or carpool lines.
Don't get me wrong... Once in awhile when I hear that bus going by I think "geez, it sure would be nice to spend the day by myself" but I do NOT miss morning madness! There is no rush to get out the door in time for school.
10. Accepting others!
I think my children have grown more accepting of others since we started homeschooling. They accept that each family has their own way of doing things and that is perfectly ok!

What unexpected benefits have you found??

Our School Room

The wait is over.... After weeks of procrastinating I'm ready to share our 2013-2014 school room with all of you! I'm linking up to the "Not" Back-to-School Blog hop at iHomeschoolNetwork! I can't wait to check out everyone's school rooms (EEK!)

So here is goes... Prepare for photo overload!

We started our school room re-do back in January of 2012. It has been a long process to get things to where it is, but so worth it. Most of the work was simple like painting, but it took a lot of time to find the right furniture for our space and budget! When we started homeschooling a few years ago we were working at our dining room table. After a few months of that I decided that just wasn't working so we started dragging all of our books, craft supplies, and games up into our "bonus room".
This was just the beginning.... A few months later we started to prep the room for paint!
Little Man helping Daddy sand out some rough spots
Ahhh! All primed and no where to put that mass of "stuff" hehe
Finally painted and ready to be organized... 

Fast forward 18 months (bahahaha)

Our view from the doorway

View from back of room looking towards doorway

Computer area (This is to the left of the doorway when you are first walking in)

Chalkboard area right next to computer desk

We store all of our extra paper (computer and construction) and old crayons inside the white cabinet. 

 This area is to the right when you come in the door. I put plastic crates on their sides and stacked them for extra shelving. We store all of our curriculum and extra workbooks here. Usually both of our white boards are hanging on the wall, but two days ago the one decided to fall :( The top board is where I write down important things we are working on, so I guess I should be thankful it was the bottom board that fell. 

On the top row of crates inside of the pencil boxes I store all extra glue sticks, markers, color pencils, pencils, scissors, erasers and tape. Pencil boxes are super cheap to begin with, but I snagged all of these after the back to school sales and paid $0.25/box. I got our crates on sale as well for $2.50.  I was worried that our crates wouldn't hold up being used as shelving, but so far it is working great and you can't beat the price! I love that our binders with printables are able to fit here as well. On our white cubbies I had to lay them on their sides.

We found these little desks, the large table, and four metal chairs at a used furniture store here. We got an amazzzzing deal. If I remember correctly we paid $115 for everything. The table started out with the same type of top and wood as the desk in front of the little white door.... We are slowly working on refinishing everything to look like this:

Too stinking cute, right? It is so much work though. 
All the kiddos helping Daddy sand down one of our desks

For now hubby put the other desks back together until we have the time and patience to tackle the other two. The little metal chairs at the computer and art desk will all have white or black seats (one day) as well. Originally I wanted all three of the desks together, but we recently bought new furniture and our sectional was moved into our school room. Since Little Man needs extra help, I put his desk close to where I sit.... Also he can't bug the "bigs" when they are doing their work :D Win, win!

Speaking of the sectional ... This is our new seating area. Seriously the sectional is so beat up, but we have so much more room to cozy up together now. Although this is our school room, we also hang out in here all the time. Before we had a tiny sofa (that black one in the first picture) and only two of us could sit on it. This is so much better even if it takes up a huge chunk of our room.

Above the sectional we have an art line. This is probably one of my favorite items in our school room. I love seeing all of the artwork my kiddos make, but hate having it scattered everywhere (yes, I know.. Bad Mama!).... They are allowed to keep their art projects up as long as they want, but only if there is room on the line. Afterwards everything gets recycled.

On our tv stand we store not only the kids dvds (some on the shelf and the rest in the middle box on the bottom shelf), but extra games, puzzles, and board books. It really is a catch all area, but I'm thankful for the extra storage.

Our amazing school library area! 

I am absolutely in love with our cubbies. For months I begged the hubby to go to Ikea, but it is quite a drive from us. One day when we were in Lowes we noticed that these cubbies were on sale, plus we get 10% military discount! I can't remember what we paid exactly, but it was almost 50% off each unit. I ordered the fabric bins off of amazon (6/$30.. I think!). The black "mini crates" were another after "back to school sale" steal. I keep extra chapter books and leveled readers in them. I seriously don't know where we would keep all of our books if I didn't have these.

Here is another view of our cubbies. As you can see in the middle row we store games, puzzles, and activity boards and some of our bigger books. Inside of fabric bins we keep everything from craft supplies to music instruments and flash cards They are really a HOT MESS! I need to tackle them this week and sort out any of the junk. It is easy to forget whats in them when you don't have to see the mess though.

This is Little Man's calendar area. It is a work in progress. One of these days I want to make it super cute, but it just hasn't happened. I'm sure you noticed in the other photos that it is not centered above our cubbies. Originally the cubbies were on the other wall where the sectional is and I had a rocking chair and the white paper cabinet by our calender area... The sectional had to be on the other wall, so we have a "make it work" type of situation because I refuse to move the board and make more holes in our walls :D

So there you have it! Our school room. It is not perfect and we have some more work to do, but I am so thankful for this space. It has made our school days so much easier not having to move everything multiple times a day to eat. It has made this Mama happy not to have to dig out legos or other small toys from inside of toy boxes since they all have a place in our school area. And MOST OF ALL I love having everything in one area!!!

What does your school room/area look like?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

2013-2014 Curriculum

I'm linking up to "Not" Back-To-School Blog Hop at iHomeschoolNetwork!

It's that time of year again. I have spent the last couple of weeks with my nose in catalogs, online curriculum sites (Rainbow Resources, Christian Book, etc.) and scouring fellow homeschool blogs comparing SOOOOOO many different curriculums! The hubs even sucked it up and visited some local used book stores so we could look at things in person. I have to say going to our local store was the most useful thing. I thought I had my mind set on certain books, but after looking at them I realized that they wouldn't work for our family--at least not right now!

So here it is.......

Our 2013-2014 Curriculum
*Buddy (B) will be turning 10 years old in August and is going into the 5th Grade
*Jewla (J) will be turning 8 in a few weeks and is going into the 3rd Grade
*Little Man (LM) just turned 6. Little Man was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Autism Spectrum) and Dyspraxia. Due to some of his delays we are doing what I call "Kindergarten 2.0". Basically that means he will repeat some of his Kindergarten work and move onto 1st in other areas. 
Language Arts:

B-First Language Lessons (FLL) Level 4
J-FLL Level 3
LM-FLL Level 1
Buddy and Jewla used First Language Lessons this past school year. I personally love that we move through it quickly and I know that the kiddos are retaining the information. At times both of them get a little pouty about repeating the definitions so many times, but I think without the repetition they wouldn't remember half of what they do. This will be out first year using it with Little Man. I'm not sure how it will go because he is resistant to new things, but since I already have the level 1 book it is not costing any extra to try it out.
B&J-Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL)--Orange
This will be our first time using LLATL. I have heard so many amazing things about it and I can't wait to use it with my two "bigs". I chose the "Orange" books since it is the in-between level and I wanted to do this as a joint venture. *Crossing fingers that this is a hit*

LM-Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Little Man over the last few months has finally shown that he is ready and wanting to read. Up until now we have just done sight words and easy readers. I found this book at a used book store in the children's section. It costs $5 for a BOX (Yes, you read that right!) a book. When all was said and done, it only cost me $0.10 for it. I figured it is worth a shot!

B&J- Morning Journals. I don't feel the need to have a set curriculum for handwriting as this time. Jewla's is finally printing her letters correctly (All facing the right directions), so I will probably pull some cursive worksheets for her to work on.

-Handwriting Without Tears (Kindergarten)
This will be our first year using Handwriting Without Tears at home. Little Man uses it occasionally during his occupational therapy appointments and it seems to be great for him. I did not buy the whole kit. I ordered the teacher's manual, the workbook, and the wood letters. We have so many other supplies already at our house that I thought it was a waste of money to order special ones to go with this curriculum.

B- http://www.k12reader.com/fifth-grade-spelling-words/
I stumbled across this site while looking for some free reading comprehension worksheets. Buddy is an excellent speller and we always use free lists. Unfortunately the site we used the last two years now has a membership fee, so when I seen the FREE lists here I put the printer to work.
J-All About Spelling Level 1
Miss Jewla has used free lists up until now as well. I decided to purchase All About Spelling because things just don't seem to be clicking for her. I also think Little Man is going to need something more hands on when he gets to spelling work, so when that time comes I can reuse this with him!

B-Wordly Wise 3000 3rd Edition Grade 5
J-Wordly Wise 3000 3rd Edition Grade 3

B-Singapore Math (U.S. Primary) Finish 3B(Summer), then 4A/4B & Daily timed test
J-Singapore Math Finish 2A(summer), then 2B/3A & Daily timed test
LM-Singapore Math 1A
We started using Singapore Math this year. I started both Buddy and Jewla back a few levels to make sure they truly grasped everything before moving ahead. I think it was the right decision, especially for Jewla. She was not confident in her math skills at all, but she seems a lot more comfortable now. BONUS.... This program is so affordable! Since I am using it for all of the kiddos I only have to replace the workbooks each year (So about $22/kid for a year)

B-Real Science-4-Kids: Elementary Chemistry, Elementary Physics
J-Real Science-4-Kids: Elementary Chemistry, Elementary Biology
LM-Real Science-4-Kids: Elementary Chemistry (no workbook)

All -Beautiful Feet Early American History (Intermediate)
EEEEEK! I am soooo excited about this one! When we first started looking into homeschooling I stumbled across Beautiful Feet books, but the price tag held me back. The hubby and I didn't want to spend that much money on certain subjects until I got into the swing of things and the kiddos were a bit older. I was prepared to pay full price for this, but after TONS of Ebay stalking I snagged the whole set for $100!

Foreign Language-
All-Rosetta Stone German
Another amazing deal!!! We actually started this program this year through the military library, but due to budget cuts they stopped offering it. My kiddos were so upset when they couldn't continue. After a lot of discussing we decided we would just buy it. Rosetta Stone has a summer special running for $329. I was about to order it, but decided to check out my favorite coupon site first (retailmenot) and found this amazing deal:
any 5-level rosetta stone course (mandarin, spanish, french, italian, german, english and russian) is only $199 for all five levels. thats $300 off! limited-time offer, and expiration date is not specified.
Coupon Code:

Our total came to $191.08! WOOOOT!
This year we have definitely invested more money into our curriculum than before, but I think every penny was well spent! I absolutely cannot wait until the rest of our books come in. We actually started school back up on July 1st. We are doing modified school for now. We spent the last 5.5 weeks of our school year in Michigan visiting family. Although we still "did" school while there, we didn't get nearly as much done as we normally would. So we are taking a few hours each morning and finishing up some of our books. I have to say that I am enjoying our summer school so far. I think this might be a new trend for us... Year round school here we come!