Homeschooling with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Since I have been homeschooling for 15 years, I get lots of questions from people about homeschooling. One question I get often has to do with homeschooling older children while having preschoolers and/or toddlers in the house. I thought it would help if I put together some things I have done over the years that helped me juggle the needs of school-age children and my little ones.

When I am planning lessons for my older children, I try to find simple ways to include my younger ones. For instance, when my older children learned about flight and the physics behind flying, I read picture books about flight to my little ones. We made paper airplanes. I would provide simple craft supplies for preschoolers to make picture while talking to the older children about flight. I also found that it helped if I had “stations” for the baby to play safely in different parts of the house. Fortunately, there is not a rule that you have to do school in one place in the house. We move around the house doing school, and the baby is more entertained by a change of scenery from room-to-room. Here’s a picture that is several years old, but it shows examples of how I included my babies and toddlers in our homeschool day.

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As you see from the picture above, I had several little ones participating in the read aloud time. Not pictured are my two elementary-aged children who were reading books on their level about flight. By using the hands-on method of learning, I can plan activities for a very large age range.

When the older children studied the Boston Tea Party, we included the younger ones in the craft part of making the “tea” boxes. The baby was also included in our “tea party.” I found so many easy to read picture books for the American Revolution time period. Of course, we read and acted out Paul Revere’s Ride by Longfellow.

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Reading to babies and toddlers is foundational to their communication skills. It is so easy to include them during the homeschool day with easy-to-read books. If you have children who still read out loud to you each day, the babies and toddlers can be a part of that time of your day, too. There is no such thing as too much reading to babies and toddlers.

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Other ways to engage learning in young children while older ones are working on school is dependent on the age and skill level of the toddler or preschooler. As soon as my children are past the stage of putting everything in their mouths, I provide tactile activities for them. A little one can sit in his/her high chair beside of you and work on fine motor skills by eating or playing with toys.

I kept a pack-n-play near our school area for the little one to have a place to move about and play while we work on school work. I didn’t want to always contain them in a high chair or by holding them because I wanted them to be able to move around and learn skills.

As my toddlers grew into preschoolers, I would provide matching games, sorting blocks, salt dough, chunky crayons, and other age-appropriate craft materials. If I didn’t mind a mess, I would give them non-toxic paints or paint-with-water books.

Toddlers and preschoolers also need large muscle play time. Often, the older children would take short breaks from school work to play with the little ones. This is such a beneficial time to build relationships with siblings. Babies and toddlers should never be made to feel like they are in the way of your school day.

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Don’t be afraid to let your little ones experience arts and crafts. You need to provide lots of opportunities for them to be creative and learn how things work.

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Field trips are another great way to involve little ones in what the older children are studying. Some of our favorite homeschool memories have come from field trips. It amazes me what my children remember from these trips.

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I realize that you also need one-on-one teaching times with older students. One year I had from preschool through 12th grade, so I know this fact very well. What I can tell you that I learned is that you can be creative in where you fit in the one-on-one time for each student. A a homeschooler, you are not constrained to doing school work between the hours of 8:00 am and 3:00 pm. If your high school student needs you to help with algebra or writing, then work that time in during nap time for the little ones. You might have to work with your older students on difficult subjects when your husband is home and can help. One year, we had some “night school” times when I focused on teaching the older children difficult concepts while my husband played with the baby. It is not ideal to do it that way because I think Moms need a break in the evenings from school work when possible, but you have to find a way to works for your family.

Schedules and routines are very important for children, especially young children. I tried to keep our outside of the house activities to a minimum when I had a lot of little ones in the house. We had certain times of the day where everyone knew what was supposed to be going on. We were not slaves to the clock. But we had regular times to get up, eat, do household tasks, do school work, rest, and play. It helped everyone to know what was coming up next. Of course, there were days when we really needed a change of scenery, and we would pack up and go to the park, library, or science center. Sometimes we just needed an outing.

There are lots of other ways that people have successfully balanced homeschooling older children while also having little ones in the house. I welcome comments and questions.

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Recap of our School Year 2014-15

Since we are well into our second semester of this school year, it is high time I talk about the resources we are using this year. I know many of you are starting to think about the new school year and making book lists. We’ll start with my high schooler and work our way down through the other grades I am teaching this year.

Grade 10:

Notgrass World History – This is my second child to use this program, and it is one of my favorite history programs for high school. It combines history, Bible, and language arts in one curriculum. His reading, writing, and research topics are all related to his history reading. It also contains lesson and unit quizzes. There are also recommended readers that go along with the program to add literature to the language arts. One program. Three credits.

Apologia Biology – This is my third child to use this book. I love how it is written for them to understand biology concepts. The experiments are usually easy to do with items from around the house. The main difference in some experiments is that you need to purchase dissection specimens that you usually do not have around the house. Having access to a microscope is handy, but I have also used the Internet to look up pictures for the microscope experiments. Each module takes two weeks to complete. There is an integrated study guide and test for each module. They can keep a lab notebook for questions within the module and for experiments completed. This is a one-credit course with a lab component.

Saxon Algebra II – I have the older version of Saxon Algebra I and II, and it contains Geometry as well. When he completes Algebra II, he will have three credits from both textbooks. The newer version of Saxon Algebra I and II has a separate Geometry book. We have used Saxon math from the beginning, and it works for our family. Credit for this book is 1.5 credits.

 

Grade 8:

History and Geography were done in the fall semester. We studied the 50 states and created state notebooks. We also cooked a meal from each of the 50 states. Some reading and writing were assigned to go along with this.

Language arts is pulled together from various resources with heavy emphasis on our topic of study.

Saxon Algebra 1/2 – As I mentioned previously, we have used Saxon math from the beginning. This is my 4th child to use Algebra 1/2. It works for us.

Science is being done second semester using Apologia’s Human Anatomy book and journal along with hands-on activities.

 

Grade 6:

History and Geography were done in the fall semester. We studied the 50 states and created state notebooks. We also cooked a meal from each of the 50 states. Some reading and writing were assigned to go along with this.

Language arts is pulled together from various resources with heavy emphasis on our topic of study.

Saxon Math 7/6 – As I mentioned previously, we have used Saxon math from the beginning. This is my 5th child to use the 7/6 book, but I do supplement this with the Saxon DVDs. It works for us.

Science is being done second semester using Apologia’s Human Anatomy book and journal along with hands-on activities.

 

Grade 3:

History and Geography were done in the fall semester. We studied the 50 states and created state notebooks. We also cooked a meal from each of the 50 states. Some reading and writing were assigned to go along with this.

Language arts is pulled together from various resources with heavy emphasis on our topic of study.

Saxon Math 3 – As I mentioned previously, we have used Saxon math from the beginning. This is my 6th child to use this. It is the last year that Saxon has a consumable student workbook. There is actually a set of two workbooks for this grade level.

Science is being done second semester using Apologia’s Human Anatomy book and journal along with hands-on activities.

 

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Siggie - Tami Fox

Running a Marathon and Other Running Things

We’ve all heard little sayings throughout life that living life is a marathon and not a sprint. Well, I can say that I don’t have anything to compare to actually running a marathon. I ran my first marathon on January 17, 2015, in Charleston, SC. This was a long-awaited race for me. I have been running for two years, and I love running. I love running in races. I love how the running community treats one another. I have seen runners stop to help another runner. I have heard runners encourage one another on difficult runs. I have had friends come alongside me and encourage me and run with me on long runs. There is something special about the running community that I have not seen in a lot of other sports.

My husband is not a runner, but he has been supportive of my running lifestyle. When I started looking at dates and locations for my first marathon, I wanted a race that was fairly flat. I have completed 3 half-marathons, and all of them were hilly. I wanted something a little less hilly for a 26.2 mile race. I finally decided that Charleston, SC would be a great place to run a marathon, so I signed up. I had already been training and running every day. So I was prepared to up my weekly mileage and increase the distance in my long runs on the week-ends. I also had to stop running shorter distance races to keep my focus on the long run each Saturday. I missed my week-end running buddies at the races. But I had a plan, and I stuck to it.

Leading up to the race I had been doing a running streak, which meant I ran at least one mile per day. By race day, I was close to 400 days of my run streak. Most of these miles were outside in all kinds of weather. I ran in heat, cold, rain, sleet, snow, hurricanes, and everything in between. The hardest training run in preparing for the marathon was my 20 mile run in late December. That was a hard run mentally and physically. I knew that I could finish the marathon, and I had set a goal for my finish time. I worked diligently on my pace and endurance.

The morning of the race I was up early and ready to go to the start line. I had a quick breakfast in the hotel and chatted with a few other runners. I got my gear together and my bag to check at the start line. Who knew running marathon would take so much thought and preparation for physical needs along the way? I had a bag packed with a change of clothes because the race started on one end of Charleston and ended at another. I also had my runner’s pouch packed with chapstick, extra water, and several Huma gels for energy to get me through the race. The race course had water / gatoraide stops every two miles, and they had a few stations with snacks and gels. I enjoyed the experience of walking around the check in area and start line. I took pictures. I checked my bag. I realized I left my iPod in my checked bag. OOPS!

As the race time got closer, I was excited. I had decided that it would be ok to run 26.2 miles without music on my iPod, and I would enjoy the sites and sounds of Charleston and of the runners around me. The start line had around 4300 people lined up according to running pace time. We were a mix of people from young to old. Tall to short. All sizes. Some were running the full marathon and some were running the half-marathon. After the starting gun, it took a little time to get the mass of people moving. Being around the middle of the pack, we moved along at a quick walk until we got through the start gate. Even then, it took a little time to get enough space to really start running. But by the end of mile 1, we were running along nicely. My pace felt great. I felt great.

I ran like this for the first 11 miles. I only walked through the aide stations to hydrate. I stayed at the pace I had planned. I didn’t let the excitement of the race push me faster than I was comfortable with. But somewhere around mile 11 my stomach started hurting badly. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe excitement. Maybe the gels upset my stomach. Who knows. But I was dealing with some serious pain. I switched to the run/walk method, and eventually by mile 15, I was mostly walking. It hurt my legs more to walk than run, but my stomach would not tolerate the running. I continued walking, and I talked to the runners around me. I enjoyed the people along the course. I was sad when pace groups passed me, especially the one I wanted to be in to finish at the time I wanted to finish. I was toward the back of the pack at this point. One of the aide stations was out of water by this point, but I had water with me. I was fine, but some of the runners around me really needed the water at the aide station. We powered on, and we did get water and gatoraide at the next aide station.

When I hit 20 miles, I knew I would finish the race. I also knew that I would finish well after my goal time. I called my husband a few times along the way to let him know about my progress. I told him that I would finish. Mile 21 was a hard mile. But when I hit mile 22, something changed. My stomach quit hurting. And I was able to alternate some running with the walking. My pace got better, and I knew I had to beat the clock to get my finisher’s medal. The last finish time to get the medal was 6 hours and 30 mins. I knew I could do it. I just had to stay on pace and keep going. Once I was within 5 miles of the finish line, I knew there were a lot of loops through neighborhoods close to the finish line. I could hear music and cheering. That helped keep me motivated. I just put one foot in front of the other. I cheered on those around me. Those of us at the back of the pack really work on encouraging one another.

I saw the sign for mile 26, and I knew I only had .2 miles left to go to the finish line. At that point, I could not see the finish line. I had to turn a corner before I would see it. But I could hear the music and the people. I knew I was almost there. As I approached the finish line, I ran with my heart. My poor beat up body was trying to keep up with my heart at that point. I could see my husband waiting for me on the other side of the finish line. I crossed that finish line as fast as I could go, and I got my finisher’s medal! My husband took pictures, and he was ready to give me a big hug. I was elated that I did it. It took me 6 hours and 15 minutes to finish, but I did. I wanted a faster time, but I knew I did the best I could do that day.

After the race, I found out that there was a little problem with the lead car at the beginning of the race, and that I ran a little more than 26.2 miles that day. My app on my phone says that I did 26.95 miles. But that includes the space before I crossed the start line, and the space where I crossed the finish line. I loved the race itself. I enjoyed meeting runners from around the world. I met runners who were celebrating birthdays like me, and I met runners from cities not far from where I live. I also saw a local running friend that I did not even know was going to be there. It was an amazing experience, and I will do it again. I actually have my sights set on a race that is longer than a marathon sometime this year.

In the days after the marathon, I still continued my running streak. I watched my intensity, and I just ran for fun. I ran consecutively for 406 days, and then I fell while walking and injured my shin. For the past three weeks, I have done a lot more walking with less running. I have worked on strength conditioning for runners, and I am building myself up slowly after this injury. The initial x-ray did not show a fracture, but I have a follow-up appointment this week to see how I am recovering. At some point, I might do another run streak. For now, I am enjoying a rest day here and there.

What I have found out about myself is that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I have learned that running is as much a mental process as it is a physical process. I have met a lot of great people who are much better runners than I am, but they encourage me daily.

Here are a few pics from my marathon:

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Mosaic at the Expo the night before the race

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Loved this artwork at the Expo

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My Flat Runner the night before the race

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Early morning selfie

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Biggest incline of the whole race up to cross a bridge

 

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I love waterways

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A little sightseeing trip out to the marina

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Halfway!

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FINISH!

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My Finisher’s Medal — hard earned and worth it!

Siggie - Tami Fox

Enjoy the gift of today

SAMSUNG

Early Mornings

I love early mornings. I have not always loved them, but over the past few years I have learned to appreciate the early morning. In the early morning, my children are usually still asleep. This give me time to eat breakfast and have my morning quiet time with the Lord without interruptions. Early morning is also my time to run and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I am reminded of my many blessings during the early mornings. One of them is the blessing of the new day. Every morning I remind myself to enjoy the gift of the day. We are not promised tomorrow.

Each day is another gift from God.

Take time to enjoy it.

Stop and count your blessings.

Be thankful.

Share your blessings and thankfulness with others.

Can you imagine what an impact it would make if each of us shared one blessing with just one person each day?

Today I am thankful for my health and my family. I have shown my family my thankfulness today through the little things that I know bless them. If I described my day to you in four words it would be these four words:

 

Crazy. Busy. Messy. Blessed.

 

And now it is late evening, and the children are in bed. It is quiet. It is less busy. It is less crazy. It is less messy thanks to our evening routines. It is still very, very BLESSED.

Enjoy the little things today. Practice thankfulness.

Siggie - Tami Fox

 

My word for 2015: Endurance

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At the beginning of each year, I pick a word for the year. Last year, my word was FEARLESS. I tackled a lot of things I never thought I would do. I completed running races up to a half-marathon in 2014. I completed two obstacle course races. I completed a triathlon, and in doing that, I really faced a fear of swimming. I never knew I was afraid of swimming, but I faced it. I did the complete triathlon. I probably won’t ever do another one, but I know I can do it if I have to do it.

For 2015, I have picked the word ENDURANCE. I picked it for many reasons. Life is not easy. There are tough times, and some days you just have to ENDURE and take the next step. I am also running every single day. Most of the time, I run outside, so I have to ENDURE the weather at times. As of today, I have not missed a day of running in 406 days. I have run outside in wind, rain, sleet, snow, heat & humidity, hurricane, and lots of beautiful days. To commit to running outside that much, I need a lot of ENDURANCE. One of my running goals for 2015 was to run a marathon. To run 26.2 miles, ENDURANCE is needed. On January 17, 2015, I ENDURED and completed my first marathon.

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There are many reasons why ENDURANCE is my word for the year, and each day, I discover more reasons.

Siggie - Tami Fox

Making the outside look good. . .

We are really good at making the outside of our lives look good to others. We use social media to give pretty pictures of our lives. Our status updates are cheery and happy. We don’t talk about the dark days and the deep feelings. You know those feelings you have deep down inside that you like to keep hidden. I learned as a child how to make the outside of my life conform to the expectations of others. But, you know what? My inside did not match my outside. I might have looked obedient on the outside, but on the inside I was rebelling. My heart and mind were miles away from what the outside conformity looked like.

I have had some hard times. Times when I could not put words to my thoughts on the inside. There were times when I worried about what others thought about me, so I kept things stuffed down, deep inside. I am in a place in my life where my inside matches my outside. I am happy on the inside and on the outside.

I have been through deep grief and disappointments. My faith in God has seen me through those times. I cannot imagine going through the things I have been through without God there with me every step of the way.

I have never dealt with depression or dark thoughts, but I pray for those who do. I am very saddened about the news that a well-known actor died today and possibly at his own hand. To the outside, he looked like he had it all. Probably, none of his fans thought he suffered from depression. Sometimes those who you least suspect to have depression, are the very ones who suffer with it.

Reach out to your friends and family. Be there for them. Be present. Love life. Love those around you. Be a friend to someone.

Be encouraged.

Tami

Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?

Have you thought about homeschooling and wondered if you could do it? 

Most parents are qualified to homeschool. It depends on the laws in your state or province, if you are qualified in the eyes of the law to teach your children at home. In my state, I am qualified to homeschool based on the fact that I have my high school diploma. I do have a bachelor’s degree, but most of my teaching comes directly from my reliance on God to direct me.

Do you know where to look for your state’s requirements to homeschool?

The best reference I have found for state requirements is on the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website. You can find more information on this page: http://www.hslda.org/hs/default.asp.

Don’t let your perfectionism get in the way of starting to homeschool. Think back on your education. You likely have gaps in your education, and you will not be able to cover every single topic in the world with your children. What you can do is rely on God and teach them HOW to find out the answers to their questions. Don’t let little details trip you up and stall your plans.

Read and research about homeschool methods and curriculum. It will be easy to be overwhelmed by the choices. Select curriculum carefully and know that as you begin teaching your children, you will discover how they learn best.

I have always naturally been a teacher and leader, so it was not a big stretch to teach my children. And I have learned so much alongside my children. It has been an education for me!

Enjoy this pic of my son learning about the inner workings of a frog for our science lesson.

Be encouraged,

Tami

When do you start back to school when you homeschool?

There are lots of opinions on when to start back to school as a homeschool family. Many of my friends school year round and take breaks every 6 to 8 weeks. I typically have a school calendar that is similar to the school system near me. This allows me to really enjoy the summer with my boys. We play, swim, fish, and relax. It’s really not that difficult to get in 180 school days from late August until the first of June. In my state, I have to log attendance for each student and keep a copy of that record in my school file. It is not a big deal compared to other states, but that is where I ascribe to the 180 school days philosophy. Truly, my children are learning every day, but I am referring to our structured school days for the purpose of this blog post.

With that said, we have started back on our math and reading lessons. We will be adding in language arts, history, and science throughout the month. This gives us time to adjust to new grade levels and makes things a little less crazy starting out a year with 4 students in 4 different grades.

I have planned a park day at the end of the month to meet with our local homeschool friends. This will give us time to catch up and start making some plans for field trips for the new school year. This time is also really important for the boys to see friends and just enjoy socializing with other homeschoolers. My local homeschool group meets monthly, in the evening, to encourage one another, ask questions, and plan events to do as a group. I have been a part of this group for more than 10 years.

I am really bad at doing a first day of school picture of the boys. I am reminded of this every year when my Facebook feed is filled with pics of kids going back to school. Maybe this year I will turn over a new leaf and take a pic. But even if I don’t, it is ok. I take plenty of pics throughout the year. What really matters is that I am there with them on a day-to-day basis. I love being with my children and being their teacher. I love taking them places and learning new things with them.

If you have any homeschool questions, you can email me or drop a comment below.

Be encouraged,

Tami

Sweet Summer Time Memories

Why homeschool?

Why did our family decide to homeschool?

In 1998, we had two children. I started reading about homeschooling, and it was something I felt we should do as a family. Our daughter was already in public school at the time because that is what everyone around us did. Our son was 3 years old, and he was in a private preschool. So I pushed the thought of homeschooling to the back of my mind. Fast forward two years, and it was time to send our son to kindergarten. I was also pregnant with our fourth child. So homeschooling that year was not exactly something I wanted to start with a toddler and new baby coming.

Our son went to kindergarten, and it was just not a good situation for him. He was all-boy, and the school system just does not allow for the wiggling and rough playing that boys do at that age. Within two weeks, we decided to pull him out of school and homeschool him. Our daughter was struggling in 4th grade with math and too much homework. Within 6 weeks, we decided to homeschool her as well. I had to do some quick research and ordered her some basic books. We started our homeschool journey with a 4th grader, kindergartner, a toddler, and a baby due in January.

I balanced book work with field trips and hands-on activities. I worked on setting some routines for us for school work, house projects, and play time. I found an email group and subscribed to The FlyLady emails. I was a classic Side-Tracked Home Executive (SHE). I needed help setting up my routines, and with three children at home all the time, I also had many things demanding my attention. I needed some focus on how to maintain my household while juggling teaching, caring for a toddler, and taking care of myself.

Following The FlyLady’s routines was a freeing experience for me. The routines kept me from being overwhelmed all the time. Working on small-scale projects 15 minutes at a time was much more manageable with everything else I had going on daily. I was also able to incorporate training my children to help with daily routines. They were young, but they could help with small tasks. I had to let go of my perfectionism. My Type A personality had to learn to take a backseat.

Our first year of homeschooling was a learning experience. I learned how my children learned the best. I learned a lot of patience with them and with myself. I learned with my children. I felt like I had my children back. I always wanted to be a mom and a teacher, and I was both things, even though I had been teaching them all along when they were with me.

If you are thinking about homeschooling, pray about it. Talk to your spouse about it. You both have to want to homeschool. It is a big commitment. It is a full-time job that pays benefits in deeper family relationships. If you are overwhelmed with life and your home and needing routines, then I encourage you to sign up for The FlyLady’s emails. They will change your life and your outlook.

Here’s a picture of our school cabinet where I store most of our daily books, and here is a picture of two of the boys working on math this week.

Be blessed in your journey,

Tami