Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Work It In Wednesday

What do you struggle to work into your day? Is it getting your kids to take their vitamins? Having more than one field trip a year? Maybe you're struggling to fit in art or music, because in your mind it needs to resemble what you did in school 20 years ago.

Today's Back to Homeschool Blog Hop topic is working things in. Even moms who send their kids to a school building five days a week struggle to find time for everything, so feel free to invite those friends to read along with you today!

We don't plan to fail, we fail to plan.

This maxim is usually used in business, or in relation to our finances, but maybe, we need to use this wisdom for our homeschools too. 

Having a plan, or a routine, does not mean you're not trusting God, or that you've succumbed to a rut. Having an overall plan for your homeschooling year is a great idea, even if you don't make a daily or weekly plan. Being flexible and able to work with your plan means being open to when God changes your plan for the day.

When our girls were little, I'd take time every summer to make a list of a few things I wanted to work on with each girl the following year. Often, I'd make these lists during 4-H judging, while waiting in the parents' corner. The started out rather vague: 
books about animals


As our girls got older, these would turn into lists of books or topics I wanted to either purchase or check out from our library. There were several older books we borrowed through Inter-Library Loan, and sometimes those would take a while to get here. I'd request them early (like a month before I thought we would want them) and if they arrived sooner, we would just skip ahead to that book and then return to whatever we had been working on beforehand. Sometimes the book would come from the University 2 miles away, and sometimes it was from two states away.

When the time approached for Emily to begin high school, I knew we would need more specific plans. Transcripts are not difficult to make, but many parents dread them because they feel inadequate to the task of teaching high school level courses. Personally, I never really felt like I could not teach her any of the high school courses, but sometimes, I did not want to. That's where having taught her how to learn became vital to her education. Some of Emily's courses were done online, some from traditional textbooks, some in group settings, and some were done from a compilation of resources I told her to read and then write me a paper about... and then there were all those credits she earned while working at Conner Prairie as a youth volunteer.

Here's my take: Emily worked a minimum of 120 hours each year in the youth volunteer program. Some parents never gave their homeschooled kids any credits for the work done there, but I knew it was real work and real learning, so I devised a plan to grant her the appropriate credits. 

homeschooling, planning, field trips

Our state's Department of Education has this gigantic PDF posted on their website that has course descriptions in it. I downloaded it and got to reading. The original idea (I think) was to have this listing so schools from the various parts of the state could be calling a similar education by a similar name: i.e., Indiana now grants credits for art based upon the type of expression or medium used. So, if you went to school in Vincennes, then a 2D art credit should cover roughly the same materials and topics that a 2D art course taught in South Bend covers. They used to be called Art 1,2,3,&4, but now your credits might be: photography, 2D art, sculpture, fiber arts, and choir. Make sense?

As I read through the various pages (I had it printed and three hole punched at the local sprint shop for about $25) I would put a post-it note by courses that I thought might line up with what Emily was already doing. At Conner Prairie she was in costume (acting) a lot, so I read though all the acting and theater course descriptions until I found the one closest to what she was already doing, and then counted some of her volunteer hours for the year towards that class. There were a few times when I added a few at-home activities to what she had been learning to round it out to what I believed to be an equivalent education to the courses listed. Sometimes she had already done more than the course listing. Some years she volunteered about 200 hours, so she accomplished more credits from hands-on learning those years.

As Arlene approached high school I continued along that same vein of thought. When there was something that she really wanted to do, and would do regardless of if she got credit for it, I went searching to find something similar in that big PDF. Sometimes the state didn't have anything similar, so I called it what I thought best and stuck it under "electives."

In our state, there is a plan for 40 key credits (one per class per semester) that you need to have accomplished to graduate with a diploma. It wasn't hard at all to see how to reference what my kids did for learning when I compared it to the state's description. It is suggested that students go beyond the 40 credits to become well-rounded individuals. No worries there, I think Em had about 53 when she graduated. :)

homeschooling, planning, field trips

But what if you're wondering how to work in something else. Vitamins, healthy food, outdoor time? Think about which battles are easiest and which are hardest, then think about which things are the most important overall. I would much rather my child be healthy and have a strong moral character than have the best handwriting or be the fastest at math, wouldn't you? So how do we get there?

First, think about health. We always take our vitamins first thing in the mornings. The first one out of bed takes their vitamins, and then they get the honor of the first hot shower. :) Our kids rarely did their schoolwork in their pj's - sorry, not all homeschool stereotypes are true.  As a 2 job family, Kurt and I felt it was important that they learn to get up and get themselves cleaned and dressed every morning, regardless of who was the parent at home that day. This really did help them transition into getting more done in the mornings.

Do you struggle to fit in PE or time spent outdoors? Pack your lunch into a basket and grab a blanket. Read outdoors, do your kids' math lessons outdoors, or practice math facts while jumping rope. Since our girls needed two semesters' worth of PE for high school, we made them keep track of their hours spent exercising. They had a paper on the wall of their room, and every time they went hiking with friends, we played tennis at the park, rode our bikes or went to the pool, it was their responsibility to write it down. Once they hit the benchmark of hours, I wrote down a credit for PE. 

You know, that high school biology class is going to be way, way easier to understand if your children have spent time outdoors, growing some sort of vegetables or flowers, and hiking through the woods. Make it a point to spend at minimum one afternoon a week outdoors. You will feel better, your kids will get back their natural love of exploring, and everyone can at least get exercise by running around in your yard or at the park. If you're looking for outdoor ideas, you can check out some of my past newspaper articles, my column focus on getting families outdoors year-round.

Beat the summertime blues

Great Outdoors month

Fall/Winter outdoor planning

Books to inspire an outdoor life

Outdoor industry

One more thing for Work it in Wednesday: field trips!

When did you last go on a field trip? For us, that was last week, unless you count today's stop at the gym to play in the pool. Do you think too much when planning a field trip? Does every field trip have to be educational? What if you just planned to have fun and let the learning happen naturally? We often look things up before we go on a field trip or vacation, but I don't think I've ever made the girls write a report about it later. That's just SO boring! 

I know there are state standards that public school teachers try to meet with every field trip, but relax, you're a homeschooler! Your kids will learn just as much about money at the laundromat when your washer breaks as they will by taking a trip to the local bank for a scheduled field trip. It may not be the same information they'll learn, but since they're both about money, why not make both fun? You can study art history for weeks before you visit the art museum, OR, you could just go and see what interests your children. If something really sticks in their mind, you can look up more about it after you get home again.

The fun of field trips is supposed to be because they're different. So be different! If your kid is interested in airplanes, ask your friends if anyone knows a pilot, or a baggage handler, or a stewardess  who lives locally that you could talk to. Maybe your child loves horses, call your local extension office and ask if there are any local 4-hers who would let you come visit their barn and ask questions about their horses. Field trips can be super inexpensive, just focus on fun, and learning will come alongside at your child's pace. Maybe I should have called this blog: the $5 field trip. When that's all you have, you learn to be creative!

homeschooling, planning, field trips

Check out all sort of other ideas for working in electives, finding a specific course for your child, or learning how to learn alongside you kids on the other posts in today's blog hop. Just click on any link below and have fun reading!

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  1. I love your idea for how to come up with the course names to give credit for her volunteer hours! I started doing that with a couple of the "invented" credits my kids have done, but I will need to go back to those sources for at least one of my daughter's courses this year.

  2. Our fields trips have no agenda behind them. At least that is what I tell the kids. When we get home and they talk about all the cool things they learned, I just smile at all the important things they remember. It is so much fun to let them get their hands on things and learn on their own!