Chlorine, sunscreen, laughter, and smiles. The sights and sounds of summer.

During the school year, all too often I am "homeschool" mom. Focused on math and reading, history and science. I tend to be task oriented in nature and work hard to overcome that for my kids. I can often overcome by making relationship a task. I know that sounds crazy for those of  you who are relationship oriented, but I have to schedule things like forts and baking . . . I know it is important to my kids, so I make it important to me. It doesn't happen naturally. I have to be intentional. And it is easy to be distracted from that which is important...

We are in our first full week of summer. The older two have swimming lessons every morning for a few weeks. How we spend the beginning of every summer . . . swimming and playing with friends. Movie nights, read alouds, those projects we didn't get to this year (that crazy model castle I am wishing we still hadn't gotten to!), staying up late,  lazy mornings, free bowling, $1 movies. I love summer time. Not just because my to do list isn't full of "school," but because the first and foremost priority on my summer to do list is "enjoy my kids."

Yes, that is always my priority. But summer tends to put everything in perspective. It's time to breathe. Less distractions. Time to smile at those precious little people that are mine. 

I am ignoring the messy house today. It can wait. This summer I will paint with them, I will get in the pool and not sit on the side. I will bowl with them, laugh with them, read to them, get messy and sweaty with them, put the iPhone and iPad down, and take advantage of the relationships of summer.

The Relationships of Summer

by on 10:43 AM
Chlorine, sunscreen, laughter, and smiles. The sights and sounds of summer. During the school year, all too often I am "homeschoo...
This week the Homeschool Help Series is talking about Science: How do we do it? 

Well, full disclosure time. We all have strengths and weaknesses in our homeschools. I know there are things I do well...and things I don't. Science is one of those not so well done things in our homeschool.

For the last two years we have used Elemental Science. We did ES biology for first and ES Earth, Space, and Astronomy for second--following the Well Trained Mind science cycle.

Honestly, we like ES. It is easy to get done, and that is a great thing! Except this last year....we had a hard getting it done! We did have a rather chaotic spring semester and I know that was a big part, as well as this being our first official year schooling two. But, I was just not thrilled with my reflections of our science year.

When something had to get was science. Our science curriculum goal: science two days a week, reading from science encyclopedias, ongoing projects, and weekly experiments. We didn't "do" science like I had thought and I was feeling guilty. We didn't do most of the experiments...or projects. All too often we did a week or two of reading and notebooking at a time, and were constantly "behind."

I felt guilt all year.

What we didn't do well:

Scheduled Projects and experiments. Sigh. I feel so very guilty about this. On one hand I think it is ridiculous to feel guilty about it, and then on the other I want to fix it! ES schedules an experiment a week. We did a few experiments. (We actually did more than I originally thought...thanks for pictures to prove we DID do some!) ;) We simulated am earthquake, experimented with temperatures and the earths atmosphere, made a crystal, made and erupted a volcano...see? We did some! ;) For ongoing projects we made a model of the earth (well, we started this...we made the earth and left it outside and it molded before we could paint it...oops) and solar system (ok, this one wasn't very ongoing as it was intended to be...we did it all in one day when we finished the planets unit.) But hey, we DID it!

When I sat down to write this post which was originally entitled "Science-- A Tale of Epic Failure," I was only thinking about what we DIDN'T do well this year. Then I began to look at pictures of our year and the things we DID get done.

The things we did well:
Elemental Science follows the four year rotation and does science a la Well Trained Mind. You read from a science encyclopedia and do narrations and notebooking. While we were not great about doing this twice a week every week, we did mostly get this part done.

This year, the books we used were:

  • The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Our World
  • Discover Science: Rocks & Fossils
  • Janice Van Cleave's Earth Science for Every Kid
  • The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Space
  • Discover Science: Solar System
  • Janice Van Cleave's Astronomy for Every Kid
  • The Night Sky
  • Who Was Neil Armstrong?

The kids enjoy using the scheduled books as they are colorful and engaging. My kids also love any kind of cut and paste activity so they love the ES notebooking. I like how they use the content subject to practice an important skill like narration.

But WAY beyond that. Some pics of our year tell a different story than the experiments we didn't get to...

Lots of fishing... Camping, hiking, and exploring....

Gardening, kayaking and exploring the water....

Exploring caverns, waterfalls, and different habitats...

Recycling facility...

Nature Center...

Lego Engineering...

And there was that Creationism conference and the DVD's and books my kids poured over for months after...

So, we didn't get to those projects and experiments . . . but maybe our year wasn't the epic failure I first thought...

My children LOVE science. Whenever you talk to a science person they will tell you the best way to learn science is hands on, inquiry based learning.

I believe them. I really do. I out of time. And I felt GUILTY....

Deep breathe. Time to get rid of the guilt. Science is more than a curriculum. It is about engaging our children's minds to think about the world around them.

Next year, I am reevaluating how we do science. While I know a curriculum is not necessary, I found a fun way to ease my guilt and engage my kids! Win win!!! I discovered Exploration Education, and I am thrilled! This will give my kids an independent computer based lesson that is project and experiment based. The key of success for me here is if I don't have to be involved in the lesson, it will free me up to do the hands on part. Also, it comes with a kit! Magic words for this homeschool mom! For real, everything included. I hate when kits say everything but household items included and you realize you must not be a regular household...I looked at the list of what you need-- things like tin foil, tape, scissors, and a credit card. That I can handle!

I really feel that way more important than a science curriculum, especially at my kids ages, is the constant exposure to great books, hands on activities, science related field trips, the great outdoors, and even DVD's and books like the Magic School Bus.

I have thankfully been reminded that we ARE doing science. It may not be the curriculum I had planned, but we are engaged in the world around us and they are learning about God's wonderful creation! We may not always cover things as thoroughly as I would like, but my kids say they love science! I will take that as a firm foundation to build on!

Don't forget to check out the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers!!!

Chareen-- Science in the Junior Years: It’s about exploring the world around you.

Hwee-- Science in Our HomeHow we learn science has evolved.

Erin-- Kindling & Fanning Scientific Minds: Erin shares how her family kindles an interest in scientific matters and how they keep that interest alive

Bernadette-- Scientifically Speaking: Shoes off and Hands On

Savannah-- Science with My Scalliwags:  Science Without a Formal Curriculum

Lucinda-- imperfect-scienceHow to make sure science gets done when you're not using a curriculum

This weeks topic with the homeschool help series is "homeschool groups."

This is a topic I get really excited about, because honestly we belong to the greatest homeschool group ever! Ok, maybe I am biased...;)

Homeschool groups come in so many flavors. Some have more of a co-op feel, and some are more of the monthly park day variety....and then everything in between. There are religious and secular groups, and most areas have them. (At least all the places we have lived!)

Our homeschool group is a ministry of our local church and up until this past year was only open to church members. While it has opened up, it's goal is still a group of like minded homeschool families providing an environment for our children to be safe and experience many opportunities together.

We have regular field trips (at least two a month) that are anything from educational to park days. This year we went ice skating, toured a fire station, Legoland, toured a recycling facility, strawberry picking, made blankets for project Linus, had a blessing bag party, and many more opportunities!

We participated in a Spanish Co-op, a Lego Engneering class, and an art class all with our homeschool group as well.

We have monthly mom's meetings. Every other month we have either a speaker or a topic of discussion related to homeschooling, and the alternate months we do a "moms night out."
Homeschooling can seem isolating, but being part of a group creates an amazing sense of community. When I have a question or concern, or just want a friend to chat with at the park....these are the ladies I go to. There are such valuable resources found in these woman who have varying experiences and backgrounds.

Since many of these families go to our church, our kids never feel like the "odd man out" for being homeschoolers. Homeschooling is a very common factor among many of their friends. They don't know it's "different"! ;)

Our homeschool group gives my kids somewhere to belong. They experience all the benefits of school-- field trips, holiday parties, and deep friendships, while also providing me a great support group of like minded moms to do life with. Our homeschool group experience has been amazing, and I honestly cannot imagine homeschooling without this great resource we have been blessed with!

Don't forget to check out the other awesome posters from the Homeschool Help Series to get their unique perspective! 

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses-- Homeschool SupportWhere do you get your homeschool support ?

Hwee @ The Tiger Chronicle-- Groups - Home Ed and OtherwiseOur successes with different groups.
Erin @ Seven Little Australians-- It Takes a CommunityErin has been involved in home edcuation support groups for three decades.  She shares an overview of that journey and the importance the groups have played for her family.
Bernadette @ Barefoot Hippie Girl-- Unable to Commit: A sad story of how the inability to commit sunk a home school group.
Julie @ Highhill Homeschool-- Local Homeschool GroupI will always be a member of a homeschool group.
Savannah @ HammockTracks-- Local Homeschool Support Group - A Breath of Fresh Air blog, forum or online group recharges or equips me to be a better home educating mother, like my local support group.
Lucinda @ Navigating By Joy-- Why I'm Glad We Joined Our Local Homeschool Group (Even Though We No Longer Go)The benefits of growing a local homeschool network
This week on the Homeschool Help Series, we are discussing the Co-op question --
Yeah or Nay? And Why?

Co-ops! Most either love them or hate them! What should you consider when deciding if a co-op is right for you?

Truth is, a co-op really can take on many different forms.

There are the co-ops that take place one or more days a week.

There are co-ops where multiple subject areas are taught, or others where there is one subject at a time.
There are year long, semester, or shorter time commitments.

By definition, a co-op is when homeschoolers combine and share resources with other homeschoolers. Many find that they enjoy co-ops for "extras" like drama, art, music, or PE, but prefer to teach core subjects at home. Others seek out co-ops for those core subjects, especially those subjects they would rather not have to teach themselves! Depending on the nature of the co-op, it can replace the homeschool subject area or supplement it.

We have had friends participate in co-ops such as Classical Conversations, or weekly writing or science co-ops, or shorter co-ops like art or speech. Co-ops really come in all shapes and sizes.

Some have had wonderful experiences in one co-op only to try another and have it fail miserably.

There are benefits and drawbacks to co-ops and it will not only be an individual family decision, but probably one which will have to be revisited often. Some families thrive in belonging to a co-op, whereas others flounder or feel overwhelmed.

When deciding if a homeschooling co-op is right for you, here are a few things to consider:

Benefits of Co-ops:
  • Teach a subject(s) mom does not feel comfortable teaching

  • Allow your child to be taught/receive instruction by someone other than mom
  • Allows children to be taught by someone that may have more passion or experience than mom does in that particular subject.
  • Allow homeschoolers a classroom experience
  • Homeschoolers can learn alongside non sibling peers
  • Moms have opportunities to share their gifts and ideas with others in the homeschool community, and all the kids benefit
  • Shared mess or expense (especially with something like science or art)

  • Drawbacks of Co-ops:
    • Cost of the co-op itself

  • Time away from other academic pursuits
  • Cost of travel
  • Travel time
  • What to do with other siblings not involved in the co-op during that time
  • Subjects taught are not applicable to your family at this time (perhaps you are on a science or history cycle, and don't want to deviate for a co-op)
  • How long is your list of other outside activities?

  • I think it is important to evaluate why you might do a co-op and continually evaluate your participation to ensure it is benefiting your family more than it is costing.

    Evaluating questions to ask yourself?
    • How will we benefit from this opportunity?

  • What will it cost us? (time away from home, travel time, cost [both in the co-op and travel], other opportunities)
  • Do the benefits outweigh the cost?
  • Does this co-op line up with our academic and family goals at this time?

  • Our Experience:

    Our family does not participate in an official "co-op", but our homeschool group has had several co-op like classes that we have participated in. When it comes to "extras" we love to participate! I love doing art with our friends, or putting on a play or other performance. We did a Spanish class the last two years where our friends gathered twice a month for a Spanish Immersion Experience. We played games and interacted in Spanish. It was a great time, my kids learned so much, and I think our friends did as well! We have also done some group art classes, and my kids loved the two semesters of Lego Engineering classes they participated in this year!

    Since we are mostly classical homeschoolers, (and I have control issues), we prefer to teach core subjects at home. Though if I am honest, I would be first in line to an awesome inexpensive science co-op if I could find one! We teach science and history on a cycle, and in general have very specific expectations and ways of doing things.

    We also have to keep in balance how much time we already spend outside of the home. My 6 year old plays Upward basketball, and my 7 yo spends about 8 hours a week in gymnastics. Add piano lessons, music and gymnastics for my little one, and church and there really isn't a whole lot of room for extras. (Unless I can find that science class!) ;)

    At this time, a regular weekly co-op that would take away a day or even a morning is not for us...but we will continue evaluating and seeking what is best for our family at all times. Since our goal is the best we can for our children, constant evaluation is necessary as children and family needs change.

    Don't forget to check out the other homeschool help series bloggers to get their unique perspective!
    Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses-- Together Everyone Achieves More: When we share the load we move forward in strength.

    Hwee @ The Tiger Chronicle-- Our Co-op Experience: Sharing our afterthoughts about joining a co-op.
    Erin @ Seven Little Australians-- Co-ops are not common in Australia, Erin shares how she fosters synergy.
    Bernadette Barefoot Hippie Girl-- Beneficial Co-op(eration)-- Why I look forward to organizing or joining a co-op in the next few years.
    Julie Highhill Homeschool-- How does homeschool co-op work? Three different ways to run a co-op.
    Savannah @ HammockTracks-- The Ins and Outs of Co-Ops: Why are you participating?
    Lucinda @ Navigating By Joy

    Title: The Pros and Cons of Joining a Homeschool Co-op
    How to get the benefits of being in a co-op even if joining one isn't right for your family

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