Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What does homeschool look like for us?

There are as many types of homeschooling families as there are shoes at Payless. I have met families who run their school day by a public school schedule complete with school bell, bathroom passes, and homework. And some others who let the kids learn as they may through play time, trips to the library, etc. Our little "Mcclary Academy", as I like to call it, falls somewhere in the middle.
For the last two years my oldest boys have been enrolled at Utah Virtual Academy which is an online public school. Some people would say that we are not a homeschool family because of this. Whatever. Being enrolled at UTVA has its advantages, the materials are free, we get free computers and I don't have to lesson plan every day :) But, it also has some bleh parts. It is super structured and I don't always agree with the content of our lessons or the planned activities. If you know me pretty well you know that I don't like authority. (Yep, Honey, I said it out loud.) I cannot handle being told what to do and, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I hate making lists. So I cheat. We study the topics laid out in our lessons but in our own way.

Today, for example,, choose your own adventure books, building a city with legos, drawing pictures about dragons and free videos from and, made our "schedule", and to me are just as valuable as the math flash cards, sight words practice, science worksheets and vocabulary test we have done so far also.

I love homeschooling and the freedom it provides for my kids to explore and learn things they are interested in in a way that appeals to them and encourages their creativity. The picture of Josh is from a couple of weeks ago. I had him read on his own to get ready for history...he fell asleep after the first couple pages. I love it.

Here are links to the sites and lessons we used today. Brain pop is an amazing and fun resource for kids in 3rd grade and up. They also have for those in lower elementary grades. There is a subscription fee however sometimes their free videos go along with what we are doing. is basically a homework reinforcer for high school students. The lesson Josh watched today was from the AP History class. I don't recommended it for lower elementary at all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keeping my head above water.

I have recently reconnected with an old friend on facebook and in the course of our online conversation I received the usual response I get from people when they hear I have four kids which I homeschool. "I don't think I could do that it just seems like so much work. You must never have time to yourself." My usual response to that is "Parents get time to themselves?"
Some days it seems like I am just drowning in things to do. Between four kids, soccer, homeschooling, cooking, my new little craft business, and keeping up with the mess that a family of our size makes, many things fall through the cracks every day. To make matters worse I am not a scheduled person. I don't like being tied down to a routine, and , I hate making lists. Its like setting myself up for failure before I even start something. I have seriously had days where it seems the only thing I accomplished was making a list of things that never got done. So I make mental lists instead. That way there is no little scrap of paper at the end of the day reminding me of all the things I should have done but didn't.
This time I decided to answer honestly instead of sarcastically. Homeschooling is a ton of work, I don't get time to myself until they are in bed so I stay up way too late and am rather sleep deprived as a result, and I often feel like I'm failing miserably at everything I do, but I wouldn't send my kids back to school for anything. Every time they get excited about something they read, create a masterpiece, their eyes light up with pride at a job well done and every time something surprisingly profound and beyond their years comes out of their mouth, I am there. I can have a clean house, a shiny clean car, a hard to maintain awesome hairstyle, clothes I can wear all day without getting boogers and food wiped on them, and time to do whatever I want to do when they are all grown up and on their own. I do not feel deprived at all today. I love my family and the crazy life they provide for me. Bring on the Chaos!

Speaking of Chaos....take a look at this. This is what happens when I let my two littles finish breakfast while I try to get laundry going. H decided that S needed more cereal and gave him the whole box. Ooops!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


OK. So I have been really excited to try some new things this year. One of the things I have really been wanting to do, and decided was a must during our first week of school, was to combine Z's and J's Science and History classes into unit studies. I wasn't really sure how to go about doing this because Z is in first grade and J is in fifth. I decided to go with the curriculum J is using for both History and Science (gearing it down a bit for Z) and use a method called lapbooking. If you haven't heard of it I highly suggest you Google it. Lapbooks are a great way to offer a variety of activities about a subject and keep it organized. It is highly customizable and kids love it!

These are the ones we created for our Unit on Christopher Columbus. The first one is Joshua's. We are using the book series A History of Us by Joy Hakim for History. I used some materials used in our workbooks but then had J and Z pick out other things that stuck out to them. Then I created some quick mini books or journaling pictures for the kids to fill out. Not all of them are done. There are completed pages I haven't added and some unfinished ones that go with chapters we haven't read yet.

Activities include:

Make a list of supplies you would take on a voyage?
How did a lunar eclipse save Columbus?
The Columbian Exchange. List supplies exchanged between the New and Old World
Map Columbus's first voyage
Flash cards of navigational instruments used by sailors of that time period
Evaluate Christopher Columbus's Performance in eight areas. Give him a rank from 1-5
What were some fears sailors of that time period had?
A New Land. 1. Describe the New Land discovered by Columbus. 2. What were the people like who lived there? 3. What happens to the Taino people because of the arrival of Columbus?

Z's lapbook is much simpler. So far it consists of a coloring page, a maze, a compass picture Z drew as well as an activity showing some goods exchanged between the Old and New world.

Don't they look like fun? I am so excited and can't wait to start on our next unit. Basically anything that makes my kids excited about learning is fun for me and totally worth the paper, glue and assembly time. On a personal note I have also been bitten by the felt bug. I ran across a site that advertised felt food and toys for kids and decided that I needed to give it a go. I am totally hooked! I love coming up with ideas and seeing them come to completion. Here are a few of my first attempts.

Little Dinosaur for baby.

Dragon Finger Puppet from my Castle Collection

Lovey Elephant toy for baby.

Monday, August 30, 2010

School Desks!

On Saturday, while he was driving between work appointments, my wonderful husband spotted an old school desk on the side of the road with a sign that said free on it. He immediately thought of me and stopped to load it up. The lady who lived there saw him and mentioned that she had more in her garage, so he loaded them up and brought them home to me. A few coats of spray paint on the metal body and I am now the proud new owner of three gently used school desks. I can remember some of the school desks I used growing up. I was one of those kids who would sit in math class and carve designs on them with the sharp point on my compass. Thankfully the wood tops on these are in great shape!
Today was our first day to use our new set up and we all loved it! The kids think its great to have a place to keep their stuff and have already made plans as to how they will decorate them. Hannah my three year old proudly put her pencil box in her desk this morning and told me, "I'm weady for school mom." And she was. Hannah sat at her desk all
morning practicing her pre-handwriting skills, playing with bendaroos, counting her crayons and cutting and pasting construction paper. I don't think I have ever seen her that involved.

I change around our school room every year to better fit our needs. This is how our room looks now. The two short bookshelves were $20 each from Target. This is where I keep all of the books sent by k12 for both boys as well as our math manipulatives, educational toys for the littles and my stickers and things for the kids. Ben bought a 10' piece of counter top from Lowes to make our computer desk for about $120, it holds our home computer as well as the school issued computer. The desks were free and the large bookshelf is from Ikea. I use it to separate the school room from the play room. It holds baskets of the kids toys. On the opposite side of the room I have a large marker board that I use for copy work, list our schedule or have the boys answer math or other questions. I am pretty happy with the room this year. I wish it had more natural lighting but its in our basement so no real hope for that. I think my next project will be to make an interactive calendar for the kids to teach the days of the week, months etc.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Soccer = PE

A few years ago we signed J up for a season of soccer. My husband coached the team and we found that it was a nice way to get J out of the house, and get some exercise. Well this year we decided to sign both of the boys up with AYSO. I'm not sure who likes it more, the boys, or myself. I love seeing them sweaty faced, running around with their friends, and the proud look on their faces when they make a good pass or score a goal, and having them fall asleep quickly at bed time is a nice bonus. Oh and we get to use soccer as credit for P.E.!

J is my very sweet natured, sensitive, cautious, artsy boy to whom sports do not come naturally. I am so proud of him for sticking with it and putting himself out there. Z is our crazy, adventurous, sensitive boy. I didn't know those traits could go together. He is one of the fastest runners on the team and is becoming rather fearless. A week ago one push to the ground would cause him tears, but he is learning to buck up and take it. He comes off the field just beaming with pride.

Although my husband is not coaching either team this year I find myself excited for my boys to have a chance to bond with another adult. Its so good for them to establish relationships with people outside the home and both coaches have thus far proven themselves to be good, kind men. Disappointedly I haven't met many other parents. The trend nowadays seems to be drop and run when it comes to practices. I am hoping that game times will provide an opportunity for me to socialize a bit. I'm surrounded by my kids so much I swear I fear accidentally using baby talk while ordering dinner at a restaurant.

I found out today that one of the boys on J's team is also enrolled at Utah Virtual Academy, the online school that J takes classes through. It would be nice to see them become friends and take field trips or do classes together occasionally. The kid has five other siblings also enrolled in the same program and i would love to pick his mothers brain a bit and see how she manages. I often times find homeschooling my two boys hard to deal with.

I pray this soccer season opens doors for my children to build relationships and helps provide them with confidence and stamina for their many adventures to come.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back on track

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling my brood is taking field trips. Anytime my husband has a day off we usually hop in the car and take what we lovingly call a "McClary family adventure." Sometimes we just end up in the car for hours driving around and exploring new parts of our beautiful state of Utah, but most of the time we plan ahead and find national parks, historical sites, or places to hike and let the littles run around. If we go too long without a field trip, I mean adventure, my husband and my kids get restless.

We kicked off this school year with a family adventure to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, and a side trip to the Spiral Jetty. The Golden Spike site itself was rather underwhelming. Other than looking at two fully operational train engine replicas, there were not many things for the children to do. The museum is really just one big room with a movie and a few displays, but we made the most of it. I think the most fun was found in a game of hide and seek in the picnic area, and in the six dollars my 6 year old found after taking a picture by the sign.

My husband was not satisfied with the less than exciting Golden Spike site so we went off in search of the mysterious Spiral Jetty. I had never heard of it but it sounded intriguing. It is a type of land art that was created in the 70's by the artist Robert Smithson. For any of you in the Salt Lake City area who would like to visit I suggest you borrow an SUV! It takes a long, bumpy ride to get there on dirt roads. The kids loved the ride of course, holding their hand up in the air the whole way like we were on a roller coaster. I on the other hand did not appreciate the jarring bumps and jiggles. Once there my husband and kiddos took a little hike across the beach to where, on a very wet year, the spiral jetty juts out into the Great Salt Lake.
I didn't make it out of the car to see the jetty myself. My littlest one had somehow fallen asleep despite the bumps and I needed to stay at the car with him. Here are some pics my hubby took, and a link to Robert Smithson's website.

I am so excited for this school year and for the many field trips to come!