File Folder Games are a great way to engage kids in learning. I know my reluctant learner, Taz, LOVES file folder games. He would rather play file folder games than do anything else. If it doesn’t involve him holding a pencil, to him it’s not work lol.

So check out FileFolderFun.com and see all the great FFGs they have. We have used the Even/Odd Pumpkins, The Five Senses, and an Addition one. They are great.

It’s almost the middle of OCTOBER! It doesn’t seem possible that it’s October already. The leaves are changing & falling faster than I’d like. We’ve already had our first (couple) frosts and I’m still holding steadfast on not turning on the furnace until November lol.

Schooling is going okay. I’m still struggling with finding creative, fun ways for them to learn stuff…Trying not to teach as much lead, you know? We’re working on volcano stuff. They really want to do the volcano kit that I bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m finding it hard to just say “Do it” without having them LEARN stuff about it first. Why do I do that? Why not let them do the volcano kit. Then maybe they will be interested enough to learn WHY it does what it does? Because that’s not the way I was told learning should be. First you read about it, learn about it, THEN you can have fun with it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to say…have fun with it, then if you’re interested in it we’ll learn more about it.  I need to trust them more and listen to my head less, I guess. I’m wondering if it would be a good method to just do science experiments for science and then learning about the whys & what fors after we’ve done the experiment. Is that a good way to go about it? At least for the younger ones. I haven’t found a science curriculum that Ladybug likes yet….

We’ve found a great homeschool group. We went on a field trip to the fire station. Just me & the boys. Ladybug felt too old to do the fire station thing again. Taz had a blast. Blue kind of enjoyed it, but didn’t want to show how much because he’s in that “I’m too cool for this” phase. He was one of the older ones there. I think their favorite part was going up in the ladder truck….

(excuse the quality, these were taken with my cell phone)

The ladder actually extends 95 feet in the air! Impressive!!

Blue finally finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He’s moved on to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I daresay he likes Ender better than Harry. He dug right in and read 3 chapters in one evening! It took him more than a month to get through the 16 chapters in HP.

We are really liking Ladybug’s new Language Arts curriculum. I ditched the Abeka stuff (all those books were overwhelming and too heavily dependant on Bible content for our liking) and switched to Learning Language Arts Through Literature – Gold (American Literature). I really like how it incorporates everything…literary concepts, reading comprehension, literary analysis, vocabulary, spelling, writing, etc. all in one book. I liked it so much that I bought sets for both boys. I got Purple for Blue and Red for Taz. After looking at the Red, I’m thinking I probably should have started Taz on the Blue. Even if we started in the middle of the book because he’s really not fully ready for 2nd grade reading/writing skills yet. I may try to snag just the Student Activity Book in blue and see how it works for him. He’s extremely frustrated with phonics so we are taking it very slowly. I haven’t started Blue’s LLATL yet because he’s so into Ender’s Game and I’m waiting for Farmer Boy. I decided to just buy it rather than try to get it from the library. We have two libraries that are close enough to frequent, but neither one is very good at having books in that we want to borrow. I ended up buying Ender’s Game because neither library had it available. I could have kicked myself too, because we had a copy & I got rid of it a few years ago when I was cleaning out bookshelves. That just solidifies my opinion that books should never be gotten rid of lol.

Math is still mostly review for Blue & Ladybug. They were both very behind after leaving PS. So for Blue, we’ve been reviewing the multiplication facts. He really didn’t have a good grasp on them at all, which made long division and anything else beyond that next to impossible for him. I’m happy to say, he’s pretty comfortable in his multiplication facts through the 4s table.

For Ladybug we are still using Danica McKellar’s Math Doesn’t Suck along with worksheets from EdHelper.com to review math concepts she never really got in 6th, 7th, & 8th grades. We’ve covered prime numbers, prime factorization, greatest common factor, and least common multiple. Next we are tackling fractions.

Taz is my Math lover. He’d much rather work with numbers than letters any time of the day. We’ve moved beyond single digit addition & subtraction and have moved on to place value. He’s got the tens & ones down pat. I just worry that it will become too abstract when we start adding two-digit numbers with carrying (aka regrouping). He always suprises me though, with how much abstract stuff he really understands.

He’s so interesting…when it comes to math, he can understand the abstract with very little explanation. But with reading/writing, he really doesn’t understand the abstract. Talking animals? Made up cartoon stories? Make up a sentence about what? It’s just interesting how different he is from the other kids. They would all rather write a story than do a math problem. Taz would rather do a whole workbook of math problems than write one sentence of his own making. Or even copy a sentence I give him. It’s just not his cup of tea.

We seem to be finding our niche. I’m not getting all excited about it yet. But we have had a few good days lately. Plus we have also found a great homeschool group. We met with them for the first time on Friday. Unsure of what kind of meeting it would be, I just had the older two bring their books they are reading (Harry Potter for Blue and 30 Days of Night for Ladybug) and Taz brought a couple of Star Wars figures. We got there and there were about 15 kids and 5 or 6 moms there already. The kids were all at little tables, most of them working on what looked to be school work. Oops. But it soon became evident that the kids were not expected to work on school work, it’s just what a couple of the new moms had brought lol. After about 5 minutes, the other kids were flocking around my boys and their SW figures. They turned out to be a great ice breaker. Everyone seems to love SW.

The moms were all at one big table. Turns out the meeting was to discuss the new upcoming year of activities, so it was a good time to join. Soon all the kids were outside playing with each other, playing tag, climbing trees, and finding salamanders (PE and Science! yay). It was a good meeting. The boys brought home phone numbers of friends. Even Ladybug, who started out just sitting at their table with her head down, got up & went outside to sit at the picnic tables to talk with the only other teen there. I was astonished. She’s usually very antisocial.

That same afternoon they were having a meeting to discuss forming a bookclub. Blue joined one for his age group. Taz is still very much a reluctant reader and his age group was doing the whole “classroom setting” ..sit in a circle, listen to the story picked out by an adult and answer the adult’s questions about the story. Not ask your own questions, not pick your own story, etc. He wasn’t interested. Ladybug’s group was only her and the one other teen who was at the morning meeting so they are going to wait & see if they can get any interest from the others who weren’t at the meeting today. Blue will be reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed it so much that I read the entire Ender series. I hope Blue likes it as well. Also on their “to read” list for later in the year is The House of the Scorpion, which I also read & enjoyed. First he has to get through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He’s almost finished. It’s because of him that I am also reading all the Harry Potter books for the first time. I’ve already finished book 1 and am halfway through the second one. I’m hooked. At least now I can read the entire series all at once. I hate having to wait for the next installment. I’m horrible at waiting for fall tv shows to start back up.

This past week we worked on learning about Alaska. I’m still rather disorganized and not in any sort of routine other than school starts around 9am. Everything else is up in the air lol. This coming week is going to be hectic because I have two doctor’s appointments, Ladybug has one appointment, I have at least two errands I can think of right at this moment, plus I have to get groceries at some point. It will be interesting to see how much we are able to fit in around all that.

The other excitement this week, besides finding a great homeschool group…Taz finally lost a front tooth!

Toothless Taz

Toothless Taz

That’s what this feels like. Trying this deschool/unschool thing is like diving into a black ocean where nothing is known and all is foreign. Right now it’s scary, but I’m hoping that once I get into the rhythm of the ocean it will become comfortable and we’ll find all kinds of new and exicting things under the surface.

I’ve decided that “school at home” is not working for my kids. (and if you read any of the beginnings of my blog, you will see that I knew that from the beginning and allowed myself to be seduced by all the ‘school at home’ that works for other people).

So today we are not doing anything structured. I’m not going to force Taz to write a single word. I’m not going to supply Blue with an endless pile of worksheets to fly through. I’m not going to prod Ladybug into “getting” math lesson. Starting today there are no “lessons” to do. I only have a few requirements:

  • The tv and video games (of all sizes) stays off. Only the radio for background noise if desired.
  • No computer time either (for now)
  • Read every day. Even if it’s just a Lego or Rock magazine or the instructions to a board game.
  • *Maybe* do a little math (this is the scaredy-cat coming out in me – what if they turn stupid? lol)

Right now, all electronics are off (except my computer HA!). Ladybug is drawing in her sketchpad and the boys are playing with Play-Dough and Star Wars figures. Later we are walking to the Farmer’s Market and the Library.

Today is also Taz’s 7th Birthday. Here he is with his favorite victim furry friend.

Lucky #7

Lucky #7

This has GOT to get better. There’s just no way it’s this hard all the time. Is it this hard for most people who take their kids out of public school to be homeschooled?

My kids have not been to public school since June of this year. We started doing just the tiniest bit of work the last couple weeks of August. Reading about the solar system, a couple of worksheets, a little bit of math. Never all in one day. We only did one subject per day the first few days. Then two subjects, etc. It was okay. Blue is always eager to get going, to do the work and get it done. Not that he enjoys the work, it’s more like he wants to just do it, all of it, and get it over with.

Fast forward to the first week of September. We planned on starting full steam once my oldest started back to ps, which was last Wednesday (9/3). The first day was okay, not great. The second day was pure hell. I gave up, we went to the library then took the next three days off (Friday, Saturday, & Sunday).

Ladybug and I decided out of all her books, the only ones that were “working” were the Spanish and the math. Both of which she likes because “they are easy” (her words). So I put all the others on eBay and am searching out other ways to teach her. The biggest problem is, she does NOT learn well by reading and regurgitating….but that is all she knows, that is what she was taught at school. I gave her textbooks and assignment sheets and had her have at it. She was MISERABLE. She hates all the reading…she’s always negotiating “Can I skim the page then go back & read every other paragraph?”. Jeesh, with all that effort to avoid reading all THREE pages, you could have read all three pages in the time it takes you to SKIM and then go back & read every other paragraph. But she doesn’t see it that way. She says she can’t read unless it’s COMPLETELY quiet then turns around and says she needs the tv on so she can do the work during the commercials. UGH! (there’s no tv on from 9am to 4pm btw)

Taz, who turns 7 later this week, is difficult to say the least. He literally does NOT stop moving. He’s mouthy, rude, out of control, constantly tells me no, and refuses to do his work most of the time. This is not new nor is it tolerated, but nothing makes him stop. Not spanking, not taking away privileges, not standing in the corner, or even making him do push-ups lol. I literally CANNOT find his “currency”. I cannot find anything to motivate him to behave/follow the rules. He doesn’t care about rewards, stickers, treats. If I offer up a reward system, he thinks he should have the rewards regardless of whether or not he’s earned them. And when told no, he goes back to the screaming, refusing to cooperate, doesn’t care about the reward system, little brat.

I am just tired. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with him or what anymore. I’m tired of telling him to stop jumping on or off the furniture, stop running through the house, stop chasing the dog, stop picking up the cat (he hates to be picked up, growls, bites, scratches), stop throwing things, stop bugging your brother/sister, etc. I’m tired of telling him do the worksheet, read the sentence, read the word, write the word, sit down, stop that, don’t do that. It’s INSANE!

Is this normal behavior?

I can’t decide who’s driving me more nuts…the teenager who doesn’t want to move an inch or the 7yo who moves so much he’s a blur most of the time.

While I really have no desire to replicate the public school at home, I find it’s easier to function when everything is in one place. The boys also wanted their own desks. They have desks in their rooms, but they are too big to bring down to the dining room, where we have our school stuff.

We also have a tendency to have school where ever we feel like it. The living room, the back yard, the dining room, in the van, etc. But here is where we keep our stuff. It’s  not all in the dining room. The bookcases are in the front foyer of our house.

Kids reading books

Kids' reading books

Textbooks, boys on the left, Ladybugs on the right

Textbooks, boys' on the left, Ladybug's on the right

Boys desks

Taz on the left, Blue on the right

These two desks and chairs we got at a school auction last night. We got a total of three student desks (third one is to be Ladybug’s and she wants it upstairs) and two Stickley chairs for $10. The chairs cost more than the desks!

The metal cart on the right has our flashcards, play money, extra folders (for possible lapbooking…), construction paper, and the Leappad.

On the wall you can see parts of our US and World maps, as well as the 7 Rules of Behavior, “bed” to remind Taz which way to make his b’s and d’s, and the analog clock. On their desks they each have their own little lined white board and a Math Bingo game. Hanging from the doorknob is a Turbo Twist Math and Turbo Twist Spelling (picked up in a yard sale last weekend for less than $1).

another view of the desks showing the chalkboard easel in the corner

another view of the desks showing the chalkboard easel in the corner

Some posters (and my thumb lol)

Life Cycle of a Frog (and table setting/clearing instructions)

Life Cycle of a Frog (and table setting/clearing instructions)

Steps to Multilply and Divide and Number Chart 1-100

Steps to Multilply and Divide and Number Chart 1-99

This is the tv armoir that holds all the kids’ video game stuff. I took a bit of space in there for the workbooks we have (some of them) and educational games. I didn’t get a good picture of what is on top, but it holds our globe, a tabletop display w/ Spanish words, and two bins full of art supplies (markers, crayons, paints, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, glue, etc) and two large pads of drawing paper. The boys’ Lowes Build & Grow projects are currently housed up there, but I think they going to have to go up on their dressers soon because there are getting to be too many.

Spanish words inside the tv armoir doors

Spanish words inside the tv armoir doors

Close up of the bottom of the armoir…workbooks galore, as well as several kinds of bingo games, pizza fractions, planets, maps, parts of a plant mats too.

Lots of workbooks, I know...

Lots of workbooks, I know...

This is “my” area. Kind of. This is where I keep my teacher guides (in the bins under the table) as well as my binder and any papers I’m needing right then. In the baskets are more supplies…sticky tack, stapler, paper clips, dry erase markers, etc. Also under the table is our Star Theater planetarium projector (yard sale purchase, $2) and our Frog Habitat, as well as my stash of 5c Walmart notebooks lol. There’s some extra art paper under there too. You can also see Ladybug’s art easel int he corner and her two most recent art pieces :)

It’s still very much a work in progress. I’d like a couple more posters. There are tons at the school supply store…I could go broke there. I’d also like to make my own calendar/weather board. I have an empty wall space waiting for me to get creative and JUST DO IT (swish).

Today was another good day. The boys (mostly) cooperated for a math lesson. Taz always has to test me at the beginning, to see if I’m really going to make him do this. But as soon as he sees it’s happening one way or another, he sits down and gets right to it. They were both very excited to have their desks today. They even ate their lunch there *rolls eyes*. Ladybug even did a *little* of her work. Researching Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I think I realized what the problem with yesterday was. I was reading to them from a textbook. It was NOT good or fun reading. I didn’t enjoy reading it and they didn’t enjoy listening to it.

Today I ditched the textbook and read a book about the solar system from our personal library. MUCH better. I got through the whole book, they made clay planets, AND I got them to do a little bit of math & writing to boot :)

Here are their planets in order from Right to Left: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth (note the moon), Mars, asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn (note the rings lol), Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (the dwarf planet).

clay & toothpicks

The Solar System, medium: clay & toothpicks


Here’s a close-up of the masterpieces that are Earth and Saturn:

Saturn w/ rings and Earth w/ its moon

Saturn w/ rings and Earth w/ its moon


We took a break for lunch. After lunch they were eager to do some writing and I managed to squeak in a tiny bit of math for Taz.

Taz preferred the table

Taz preferred the table

Blue preferred a less traditional setting

Blue preferred a less traditional setting

Now we are finished for the day. Blue is reading his Bionicles book and Taz is about to fall asleep on the couch. Notice I have made no mention of Ladybug starting? She is still in denial and I’m not pushing…yet.

I only got them to sit still for about 15-20 minutes. But we read a bit about the earth, sun, & moon. We talked about the earth’s rotation, day & night, and the earth’s orbit around the sun. We also talked a little bit about the phases of the moon. That was where I lost them a bit.

Blue drew a picture in between showing his brother with the flashlight and the globe how the sun shines on one side of the earth at a time.

Blues Solar System Drawing

Blue's Solar System Drawing

Taz was irritated that he couldn’t play video games RIGHT THEN so he really didn’t want to participate at first. But as I read and Blue was getting into it, he started creeping closer & closer. By the time we were talking about the phases of the moon, he was into it. So he grabbed the Interactive Planetarium (that we just picked up at a yard sale for 75c) and started playing with it.

Tazs first day

Taz's first day

That was the extent of our first day. Starting it out slow and still trying to keep it fun and informal.

Ok, this is our first year ever homeschooling. My kids have only ever been in public school so we have been taking the summer off to deschool a bit. My 6yo, Taz, has been really interested in all the stuff we’ve been accumulating for homeschool. Every workbook I’ve brought home, he immediately wanted to do a page.

My 10yo, Blue, has been a bit more standoffish. He’s been taught to dislike learning :( So I’ve been trying to sneak in little bits of learning here & there, fun learning so they don’t even realize they are doing it. Like reading pages in their books equals time on the computer or for Taz, one page equals one piece of candy corn (his fave lol). But if I suggested we start a little bit of homeschooling, I’d get from my older two that it’s “still summer vacation” and that public school kids don’t have to go to school yet, etc.

Well, tonight we were having a snack at the table & Taz asked to use the lap white board to write sentences (it’s lined). So I was writing sentences for him to copy and Blue wanted in on it.. Then Ladybug (13) wanted in on it . I was doing cursive for the older two. It was great.

The best part was when Blue turned to me and said “mom, we really should start our homeschooling”. So I guess we are going to start on Monday. Just a little bit of the fun stuff…reading, science, history. We’ll add the stuff they don’t like (math) in later. I want them to like it.

I’m so excited!!

Ladybug still isn’t excited/interested, but I expected that. She’s been in public school longer than the other two and she’s a bit more jaded. Hopefully that will change…

That is where my 10yo placed in the Saxon Math Placement Test. Third grade. Public school was ready to send him off to 5th grade and he hasn’t mastered 4th yet.

I’ve also done a little more investigation into what kind of math program they were using at the public school. They are using TERC Investigations in Numbers, Data, & Space. For more information on TERC, check out this YouTube Video

The math problems my then-4th grader brought home mentioned in my very first blog post….I taught him the Standard Algorithm for Multiplication and the teacher marked every single one WRONG even though the answers were right because he didn’t do them the TERC way.

I feel badly that  my son just completed a whole year of 4th grade and didn’t get anything out of it, at least in terms of math progress. It does make me feel good about my decision and ability to homeschool. I mean, I can’t do any worse than they did!

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