A few weeks ago we finished up all of our homeschool groups for the year so I decided that during the month of April (and maybe part of May) we’ll be taking as many field trips as possibly. My hope is to take at least 1 a week (depending on weather and other commitments).
We started off at the Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, NC. Since we have a membership to the NC Zoo we got free admission to Sylvan Heights. It’s a little over an hour drive from our home and a nice drive through the NC countryside.
Since we got in free we decided to spend a little on some of the extras they offered. We purchased some duck food ($1 per bag), an endangered species passport ($3), scavenger hunt($2), parakeet food sticks ($1 per stick) and ice cream ($3 each). Here are some of my thoughts on our extra expenses. Next time I would only buy 1 bag of duck food if any. The ducks were well fed and not that interested in the food we gave them although the kids did enjoy trying to give them food. Jude love the endangered species passport, it’s gear toward kids that can read well and has questions they must answer after finding the different birds. We probably won’t buy it next time since we already did it but I would recommended it. The scavenger hunt ended up just being me marking things off the sheet. It’s designed for younger kids that can’t read by my younger kids weren’t really into it. I would suggest to pass on this unless you have a very attentive young child. The parakeet food sticks were a lot of fun although there were a lot of birds trying to eat the food you had. It can be a little overwhelming for young kids. But I would totally do it again, it was a lot of fun to see my kids covered in birds! And of course, Ice cream is always worth it.
My kids favorites from our trip were the ice cream, playground, flamingos, peacock, all the ducks (including 1-day old ducklings) and owls. I liked the macaws, scarlet ibis, great argus, emu and black neck swans.
Overall, we had a great time at the Sylvan Heights Bird Park and I highly recommend taking a trip out that way if you get the opportunity.
Everyday has become a challenge. Homeschool is not what I hoped or expected it to be this year. I feel like I’m constantly wrangling cats when it’s time to get the boys to sit down and do their school work. I also feel a bit like a hostage negotiator, as I’m always trying to get the boys to participate in any activity we have lined up. It’s exhausting. There are days where we have a lot of fun and I really enjoy the opportunity I have to homeschool the boys but those are becoming fewer and fewer.
When we started on this homeschool journey I told Joe that we would take it one year at a time and one kid and a time. We are in a position where we have the luxury of choosing to homeschool or not and I want to do want is best for out whole family, that includes myself. I’ve found that this school year I have been greatly neglecting myself. From the time I get out of bed (7am) until the kids are in bed (9pm) I’m non-stop go. I’m not in a healthy place physically, emotionally or physically because I can barely catch my breath on a daily basis. (It’s also why I haven blogged much lately. Blogging is an outlet for me and something I typically make time for because it helps me organize my thoughts but I haven’t been able to make time for it lately.) I realize I can’t sustain a lifestyle like this and I also realize that some of my stress is only temporary, like having a busy toddler around the house. But instead of killing myself to do it all I’m looking into what changes I can make. We will most likely be adjusting what we do with the boys for school next year, although I’m not 100% sure what those changes are yet. But until then I’m trying to get through the end of this school year without loosing my mind. I’m extremely thankful that Joe works from home, although we probably see him less because he’s always on conference calls in his office, it still frees me up to get stuff done during Abel’s nap time. I’m also focusing on the parts of school that really work for us like field trips and outdoor learning.
I know that whatever we decide to do for school next year the boys will be fine. Kid are great at adapting and as their mom I planned to be heavily involved in whatever form of education we utilize.
When we think about school we typically think of the core subjects of reading and math but we often over look the arts. The arts are deemed a luxury education yet art is an essential building block of childhood development. There are numerous benefits to arts being an essential part of a child’s education, everything from motor skills, problem solving, language development and cultural awareness.
I’m not a particularly gifted artist but I do have an appreciate for all of the arts and I hope my boys learn to appreciate the beauty this world has to offer. In the same way that I’m teaching my boys to observe and study nature (God’s art) I am also encouraging them to study man-made art. Painting, sculptures, music, plays, dance, literature, etc… there are so ways to expose children to the wonderfully creative world that we are a part of. I also want to encourage my children to participate and explore their creativity. Art has a way of allowing us to explore and express our emotions in ways that word can’t.
A few weeks ago we took our first official field trip of the school year. Yes, we do occasional nature walks or trips to the local museums but they are all free and we don’t usually get a guided tour. So our trip to Vollmer Farm was our first official field trip of the school year. We went with a small group of homeschool families and got a small presentation about the farm, animals, butter and bees.
The kids had a great time meeting some new friends, learning and playing. Vollmer Farm has a “back 40” that is filled with fun places for the kids to play. It was rather hot the day we went and the kids were getting thirsty and hungry so we didn’t stay as long but they didn’t seem to mind.
This past weekend Joe took the oldest boys (Jude and Noah) camping with their Cub Scout Pack. I had 3 days with just 2 littles and I’m not going to lie, it was kind of awesome. The house was quiet and I was able to accomplish so many things during nap time/quiet time. I did miss my big boys but I also enjoyed the relaxed environment.
As I was making myself lunch during quiet time I had a realization that this is what my life might look like if I sent the 2 older boys to school instead of homeschooling. It was pretty nice to think of all the things fun things I could do with the little boys and all the stuff I could accomplish on a personal level. The idea of public school didn’t seem so bad.
In all honesty, I never even considered homeschooling my children. We sort of just fell into it out of a place of despair. And I’ve always told Joe that we will just take it one year and one child at a time. I don’t see public school as a bad place and I would be fine sending the boys to public school. But at this point I still feel like homeschool is the best choice for our family. There are definitely days where I want to quit, it’s hard work. But I also really love the benefits of leading my boys each day through their learning and life. We have so many unique opportunities afforded to us because of our flexible schedule.
I like that with homeschool we can explore and study topics that are of interest to each child along with our base curriculum. We can adjust the intensity of our workload each day and can push the reset button on the day if needed. There are days when Abel is ripping all the books of the shelves while I help Jude with his math or Noah refuses to do his reading lesson or Simon gets frustrated that he can do all the stuff the big boys do yet. These hard days when I’d love to quit I have to remember, I want to teach my boys about perseverance and hard work and they learn through my example. My boys are thriving and most days our homeschool journey is wonderful. So on the tough days, the days I want to quit, I look back through my Instagram pictures, Facebook posts and blog posts and realize how blessed I am to have the opportunity to spend all day with my kid. It’s totally worth it and I actually kind of love it.
About once a week we will be doing drawings/paintings for our nature journals. I’m really excited about our new nature journals as it’s a great way for the kids to take the lead on what they are learning. Over the summer the boys and I have practiced painting with watercolors and copying illustrations from books or drawing bits of nature we found while outside. So I thought nature journals were a natural transition for us.
We frequently go on nature hikes and play outside where the boys are always finding fun little treasures that they want to explore. I recently purchased some research books to help us study the nature we find.
Yesterday, we discovered some cicada exoskeletons at the playground and brought them home. We looked up cicadas in our books and online to learn about their life and why they shed their exoskeletons. We examined the exoskeletons and used color pencils to draw our cicadas.
The boys really took the lead on this project once I set it up for them. We used our National Audubon Society Field Guide to look up an image and a few facts about the cicadas. We also searched YouTube for a timelapse video of a cicada emerging from it’s exoskeleton. After they complete their drawings I will 3-hole punch the card stock and place it in a 3-ring binder so we can look back at all of our nature experiences throughout the year.
What we use to create out nature journals:
Some of our research books include:
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World
National Audubon Society Field Guide
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
During the back-to-school season I hear a lot of parents talking about how much money they will spend on their child’s education. From public school parents discussing supply lists, private school parents talking about tuition fees and homeschool parents talking about curriculum cost… educating children can be pricey.
We’ve done private school and homeschooling and for us homeschool is a less expensive option. Even though we are a part of a Classical Conversations group which has a tuition and we purchase all of our own curriculum it’s still less expensive than most private school tuition + supplies. I’m assuming public school expenses would be less than both private and homeschool but we have no personal experience with public school. (I’ve seen some of the public school supply lists and it can get a bit pricey.)
One of the benefits of homeschool is you can choose how much money to invest and where to invest it. We choose to spend the bulk of our education funds on Classical Conversations. We pay an annual tuition and fees to be a part of a community and we feel it’s of the greatest benefit to our kids. As for the rest of our curriculum we try to make wise financial investments. This year specifically I’ve tried to invest in reusable curriculum… fewer workbooks. With the prospect of homeschooling 4 children I’m thinking long term and trying to make investments in curriculum that we can use for multiple children. However, I don’t want to compromise on the quality of their education so a lot of research has gone into my selections. I selected books that were affordable yet comprehensive. (Check out our curriculum choices for this year.)
I also have to remind myself to keep it simple. There are so many wonderful homeschool curriculum options it’s easy to get distracted by all the shiny new things. Not only does it get expensive to buy all of the latest and greatest things I truly believe that kids don’t need much to learn. My goal in homeschooling is to teach my children how to learn and to love to learn, after that they can pretty much learn anything. Plus, the less I spend on curriculum the more money I’ll have available for field trips and fun educational activities.
For the 2016-2017 school year I’ll spend probably less than $1500 to homeschool 2 children. (That includes CC tuition, CC fees, supplies, curriculum, field trips, etc.) If we weren’t a part of a Classical Conversations group it would be less than half of that. If we just did CC at home by ourselves and didn’t spend any money on field trips I could homeschool both boys for about $200/year (including all supplies). On the flip side, I know some families that could easily spend 2-3X’s as much on homeschooling 2 children. And you know what, that’s totally fine. The beauty of homeschool is you pick what is best for your family.
Ultimately you can spend as much or as little as you prefer on homeschool it just depends on what type of schooling you want to do. Some people prefer complete curriculum sets, some prefer an eclectic style while others just use whatever they can find used or free. Do what works for your family and your budget.
Whenever I’m anxious about the amount of money I spend on homeschool supplies I remember…
An investment in a child’s education is not wasted money.