Homeschool Open House 2007
Welcome to our home. My name is Belinda Letchford. Peter and I have four children whom we homeschool. Over the years we have come to a clearer understanding of what it means to have our children at home, living and learning together. So welcome as you have a glimpse into our daily lives.
Meet my family:
Joshua is 14, Jessica is nearly 13, Nomi is 10 and Daniel is 8. Each one of them is different with unique personalities, likes and dislikes, habits and preferences. It makes life interesting.
Joshua is characterized by being a caring boy, with a heart to do the right thing. He is a scholarly student with a passion for history – especially war history. He also is passionate about issues of creation vs. evolution. His current recreational pursuit is researching into modeling figurines for various historical battles.
Jessica is our little lady. Jess has a beautiful loving and serving spirit. She enjoys studying history and science through the lives of people rather than events – she is very much a people person. She is learning the piano and takes full responsibility for her practice and lessons. Jessica’s real love is domesticity – to keep the home in order, and learning all sorts of homemaking skills.
Naomi is our arty performer. She makes us all laugh – and she loves it! Nomi also loves reading and is churning through the books at the moment. She hasn’t settled with a passion for a particular field of study just yet though in the past she has spent years focused on dogs! She is very creative and will sit for hours working on a creative project.
Daniel is our all boy –he moves and he makes noise! He loves to build and always has some project on the go – currently it is a space ship constructed from a chair, boxes and lots of masking tape! Daniel has some speech and learning difficulties though the thing that characterizes him is his persistence and patience when he is trying to communicate or do something. Daniel is just learning to read – he can’t wait to be a bookworm like the rest of the family (his words!)
Peter is a vet and he flies to different cattle stations working on cattle and horses.
Me, Belinda, I’m a mum. This means I cook, I clean, I cuddle, I teach, I train, I talk on the phone to my friends, I read, I scrapbook, I blog, I wish I could get back to sewing more!
My tip for homeschoolers is live your life first as a family, and then as homeschoolers
Over the years I have found myself moving more and more away from a structured system that looks like school as we tend to know it. We have found ourselves defining our family, the things we are passionate about, our goals for our family, and have tried to model our homeschool choices around those things. This has allowed me to see a lot of learning opportunity that is in our life without the need for curriculum or even without the need for sitting at a desk.
Life offers so much to our children – there are opportunities to serve people both in the family and in the community, there are business skills to learn, there is our home to take care of, there is the veggie garden to maintain, there are holidays to different places, and camping trips in the bush. Over the course of the year we are exposed to a myriad of experiences and yet when I followed a school-like system these opportunities were wasted because I had a to-do list based on a course of study!
At the same time we are very intentional about what we want our children to know – we want them to love the Lord and live a life serving Him, we want them to be of practical help to people around them, we want them to be fulfilled with the talents they have been given and we want them to have a broad general knowledge of the world around them in order to converse with people. In order for these things to happen I have to have a plan. So I do plan; I plan lessons, I purchase homeschool curriculum if that is what is going to help me achieve my goal and yet I draw from our life and the things that happen as well.
We spend our lesson time around a big table in the center of our family room. This room is also where the children play in their free time, they create their projects and artwork, they listen to audio presentations, they visit with their friends. I also have my scrapbooking table in this room which means we are often together during our recreational time.Our Family Room in Action In the spirit of you just visiting my home I have taken a photo of what you would find in our family room - lots of activity.
Our days are very different, one day to the next. I have a plan of what our days should look like but they rarely do. Life always gives you something else to work with.
Let me share what our focus lesson days look like - please note times are like handles to help us get through our day - not specific times we always achieve!:
When the kids wake up they have their Quiet Times/Personal Devotional, breakfast, chores and sometimes exercise to do before 8.00am.
8.00am We then get together for family devotions and at the end of this time we have a quick family meeting where we discuss assignments and activities for the day. Then the kids go outside and play or get some exercise.
9.00amis our Bible/Character time, we often call it our Discipleship Studies. We spend ½ the month doing Character and ½ the month doing a Bible Study. At the moment we are doing a New Testament Survey for our Bible studies, and next week we start Gratefulness as our Character focus. During our Bible study time we spend about 5 minutes a day reviewing the current Character.
We involve writing and study skills in these subjects, which removes the need to have them as a particular subject/time slot at some other time in the day.
We continue our homeschool lessons with the next block of time called our Discipline studies. Josh, Jess and Nomi are basically independent at this time and I spend my focus with Daniel.
The three oldest work on their math and then any other study that is relevant to them (they are all different) such as, Latin, handwriting, typing, piano, - anything that needs daily practice.
Once these subjects are complete they work on their independent Discussion studies (General Knowledge) Once again, each child has a different focus and uses different material though we use living books and notebooking mostly. Daniel works with FIAR or other literature units with me.
Lunch time / Chores
Early afternoon we continue to work on Discussion studies though the focus is more often than not reading time or read aloud time.
The afternoons are where things get a bit hectic. Each child has their own routines depending on their development and needs – some need more structure to their free time others are able to keep themselves productive. Most of their later afternoons are spent either in the Family room together, or outside playing and exploring, or we have commitments out of the house.
5.00pm has always been a regroup time in our house. It is time to get the house in order, have baths and get ready for the evening meal together. We eat around 6.00ish and try and have a read aloud time during dessert (this way I read and don’t eat dessert!)
The kids’ favourite thing is to be allowed Table Time after dinner – to be honest this is when they often do their best work! They work on Notebook pages, or art, puzzles, embroidery, writing, etc. They love to listen to audio tapes at this time as well. Table time after dinner is a treat though as it delays bedtime. Since the kids wake up at 6.00 and we start our day all over again they need to go to bed at a decent time!
What really happens!
We really do have a routine to our days – we wake up and fulfill our personal responsibilities (Devotional time, Breakfast, Chores, Exercise) and then have Family Devotions.
What ever is on my to-do list then dictates our day. Do we have a stay at home day, with minimal outside interruptions – then we will follow our Lesson day (as outlined above). But there are seasons of our life where that just doesn’t happen.
- The farm may need some attention
- We may have a big family project to work on
- A friend may be in need
- We may have doctor or specialists appointments
- I may have errands to run in town
My tip for balancing the interruptions life brings:
Ask yourself who can most benefit from this life opportunity and the others continue with the planned, regular activity.
Even on the most busiest of days there is opportunity to spend time with God and learn more of His ways as we make this a priority. We also generally take an hour after lunch for a "reading rest". The wording comes from younger days when the kids really did need a rest, these days it is spent on their required reading (though it is a rest from discussion, chatter and noise!).
Five o'clock (5.00pm) is a constant in our life. Stopping our activities at 5.00 means we have family time in the evening generally over the evening meal.
Homeschool Curriculum Choices
I am very much an eclectic homeschooler – we don’t use a whole curriculum or even a whole method of homeschooling really. I choose what is needed for each child, depending on what I am seeing in them at the time. This is what we are currently using:
Family Devotions - Our 24 Family Ways, by Clarksons
Grapevine New Testament studies
We include Study Skills and Writing (language arts) in this time slot so we rarely have a stand alone Language Arts lesson.
Latin - Rosetta Stone (Josh has chosen to do this for his own reasons!)
Typing - the children are not allowed to use the keyboard for typing until they can touchtype
Handwriting - copywork (I print worksheets from Startwrite
Math - Math-U-See
Writing - Excellence in Writing (I like this programme because we can integrate writing skills into every subject and not do "writing" as a stand alone subject.)
Learning to read - The Sound Way (I chose this programme due to Daniel’s learning difficulties though used other programmes for the other children)
(Josh) Diana Waring: History Alive, and her audio presentations "What in the world…"
(Jess and Nomi) Learning Through History
The Story of Australia
Australian Nation Builders
Both of these are based on audio presentations. We notebook afterwards often following suggestions included with the audios.
Answers in Genesis Creation magazine (everyone of varying degrees)
Magic School Bus DVD’s and books (Daniel and Nomi)
Once again we notebook after reading an article or watching a dvd.
We also use Life Science with Real Books as our guide to reading living books with a science focus. (Jessica and Nomi)
Apologia (Josh only)
LOTE - We have studied AUSLAN – Australian sign language for the deaf – in the past and are thinking of picking that up again.
Daniel - Five in a Row
Living books – our children are reading constantly – there are many books that they read that I haven’t planned for and yet, by keeping our standard high in selecting a book they are gaining a broad education on many topics. More importantly as they read living books, about people in real situations they are faced with moral dilemmas and character flaws that generates a lot of discussion which enables them to decide how they want to live their life.
Lifeskills - Though life in itself presents learning opportunities without the need for a guide we use Keepers of the Home / Contenders of the Faith as a resource to help us always extend what the children are learning in these areas.
Notebooking Is a constant term used in our home - we see this as any written or creative record of what you have learnt filed away in a Binder. The children use all sorts of medium for their notebooking - clipart, MS Word, MS Publisher, MS Powerpoint, photography, photocopies from books, handwriting, drawings, even photos of 3d projects. Anything can be turned into a notebook page - it is a record of learning.
Thankyou for visiting our home - we have shown you a glimpse of how our homeschool works - I look forward to seeing you again - stay in touch!
Live life with your kids!
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