What About Community Service?

Like many home school families, we believe that community service and volunteer work is important.

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My husband and I want our boys see us volunteering for leadership roles as well as serving under others. (Hubby may have taken this a little too far, as he is on the board of at least 5 separate organizations.) We want them to know that a community works together, and if we just sit at home and take care of ourselves, our community suffers. God put us here to do his work, whether that is in church or somewhere else. We get to be a light by serving others.

I volunteer with the woman’s ministry at church. I occasionally volunteer with our local home school group when a need is presented. And, I volunteer to organize certain field trips for families in our home school group. Due to the roles I serve, the boys don’t often get to help me, but they do see that we value serving.

My husband frequently gets to recruit the boys to help him. When Hubby is running an event, he has the boys assist clients and help to run errands, fetch water bottles, etc. to help the event run smoothly. The boys do real work on those days. And they come home tired, but feeling so pleased with themselves because the work was good.

Quite a few years ago, a group of home school families got together to deliver one Meals on Wheels route a week. One mama organizes the group. She has it set up so that 6 to 8 families share a route. They all rotate weeks delivering meals on Friday mornings.

Our family was able to join up with this group about 5 years ago. This is a community service that the boys look forward to every time. They love feeling useful. The MOW clients, usually senior citizens, adore seeing them. I love that we get to serve a need in our community, and that we get to “be the face” of home schoolers to those who might think that home schoolers are unsocialized hermits. {smile}

Do you volunteer? Do your kids?
What does community service mean to your family?


Cheap Whiteboard?

Two years ago I posted about our inexpensive whiteboard.

Go read it. I’ll wait. 🙂

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So now you’ve seen how easy it is to get a huge whiteboard. I figured I’d share about how it looks today.

Since installing it, our whiteboard has held up quite well.  It still looks good. There is some slight wear and minor scratches. It doesn’t have the same durability as a high quality porcelain whiteboard, however, it still works well. When it starts looking dingy, I spray it with rubbing alcohol and rub it down with a towel. Then it looks good as new!

I have recently read that some families have had success with polishing the melamine board with car wax to help revitalize it. We will try that when the time comes. If all else fails, I figure that we can replace it when we have difficulty cleaning or using it. That would still be cheaper than buying a porcelain board that is a fraction of the size we would like.


School Must Haves

Through the years I have found a few items that truly have helped our school day move along more smoothly.

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Here are a few of my favorites.

Electric pencil sharpener. Not a battery operated one, but one that actually plugs into the wall. It saves time over a hand crank. It saves pencils. When we had a hand crank sharpener, it would eat up cheap pencils, you know the cute ones that are in the Dollar Spot at Target or the ones that kids seem to accumulate. While I still prefer the good old yellow Ticonderoga pencils, the electric sharpener makes almost all pencils easy to sharpen and use.

Ticonderoga pencils. (See previous paragraph.)

A large whiteboard. (More on this in tomorrow’s post.)

A computer for the boys. I know this is a complete luxury item, but it helps us SO much.

Maps. I love maps. We have world maps, US maps, Texas state maps, and Texas county maps in our school room. I have them hung with O-rings on the bottom of the whiteboard. If we need to look at a map we just flip it to the one we need.

Timeline. Having a visible time line on the wall has been very helpful for the boys to understand that things in the past didn’t necessarily take place at the same time. They now know that George Washington didn’t know Abraham Lincoln. Also, that Texas was annexed as a state at the same time the Irish Potato Famine hit Ireland.

A library card. This is like having Charlie Bucket’s Golden Ticket. Our regular trips there enlarge our world exponentially.

What items help your day go more smoothly?


So, Where Do You School?

Contrary to the name, home schooling, it really can be done anywhere.

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Here’s a short list of the places we have done school:

  • in the car
  • the food court at the mall
  • coffee shop
  • fast food restaurant
  • hotel lobby
  • my grandfather’s ranch
  • at the library
  • on the couch
  • in the breakfast room,
  • by the fireplace
  • on the driveway
  • in the yard
  • at the park
  • in our school room

It isn’t about the location, it’s about the learning. For the most part, we are at home in our school room. However, there are times we have places to go and people to see, but other times we just need a change of scenery. So we pick up the books and move our school when necessary.

When we are at home, this is what our room looks like:

IMG_20141008_195740_577 IMG_20141008_195921_171
(I apologize for the weird lighting and the slightly fuzzy photo. I took these tonight so you could see what our room looks like on normal day.)

There are two big changes from last year. First, we were blessed to be able to have another laptop. This has been helpful so the boys can both be doing computer work at the same time.

Secondly, you may notice a lack of chairs at the table. This has made a HUGE difference for the boys. They stand to do their work now. I found that getting rid of the chairs allowed them to burn off some of their excess energy while working. It has also been a great motivator. Last year, I think one of the reasons our school day went soooo long, was because they were comfortable just sitting in the chair poking along. This year, after standing for a couple of hours, they are ready to relax – which motivates them to get their work done in a timely manner.

I’ll admit they weren’t too thrilled about it the first day. However, when they realized how much faster they were finishing work, they thanked me for getting rid of the chairs.

This is what has worked for my family. The way your family works may be completely different, snuggled in on the couch, sprawled out on the floor – That’s okay! That is the beauty of homeschooling, we can each do what works best for OUR students.




What Does Your Day Look Like?

What does your day look like?

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The answer to this question has probably been the one that has changed the most over the years.

When the boys were younger, the day would start a little later, but be finished quickly because I am a firm believer that playtime is learning-time for young ones. We could finish chores, have breakfast, get school done in a couple of hours, then have lunch, take naps, and play! Woohoo!

Then it changed to where they would get up later, which made our day start later, which made our day run later, and then we’d find ourselves still working on school at 5 or 6 in the evenings! Ugh! I loathed those days!

I tweaked our schedule this year (along with another thing I’ll share tomorrow) because I just could not face another year of dragging school to be an all. day. long. affair. There was some grumbling at first, but it ended quickly when they realized how much faster our school day went. And, when they realized they had entire afternoons for free time, they were sold on the idea!

As always, we get up and do chores first. That is part of the work ethic of our family. As 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

I’ll admit that I resisted doing our mornings this way at first. I wanted to coddle them and let them enjoy the morning, but Hubby convinced me that the “chores before breakfast” way was no different than what the generations before us did. As a child, he had to take care of the chickens before breakfast. He said many a farmer, and the farmer’s children, had get up to take care of chores before they sat down to breakfast. When he asked what kind of work ethic I wanted my children to have, the answer was clear. Morning chores it is.

So, the boys are up at 6:30-6:45. They get themselves ready for the day, and do their chores. Breakfast is served around 7:15 to 7:30, and at 8:00 school starts.

Now that they are a bit older, they work somewhat independently. On Monday morning, I give them a checklist for the week. It has all of their assignments listed on it, so they know what needs to be done and when it is due.

They spend the mornings working through their lists. Some assignments can be done all on their own. Some they use their brother as a partner, and some they need me to help. But they are doing quite well at learning independence skills, which I know are necessary for the next levels of schooling.

For the most part, they can wrap up their work for the items that are due each day around noon. Then we have lunch and after wards, they have the afternoons to work on Scout projects, ride bikes, play in the yard, play video games, do yard work, help Hubby, etc.

After tweaking things for years and years, I think I’ve FINALLY got a hold on things. Ha! It only took 8 years! 😉


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