Ignoring the School System: How I got my 7 year old to read

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 I love reading and so did my mom. When I’m not being harassed by my monster toddler, which is everyday these days (thanks teething!) I am an avid reader. However, reading didn’t come easy for me. I tested into school at 4 with my late December birthday, making me the youngest in my class. I remember very vividly that 5 of us kids in the first grade had to stay after school with Sister Marie Helene for extra help with reading. By the time I was in second grade I was out reading everyone else.

I just knew Johanna would love reading like me. That she would totally be into literature and desire to go to far away lands all day everyday via the pages of books. However, before I homeschooled Johanna, I heard all of these stories from parents saying how they got their kids to read by age 3, and by kindergarten they were reading chapter books. To say the pressure was on was a MAJOR understatement. It felt scary and uncomfortable. Johanna had zero interest in letters let alone reading. What if she didn’t measure up? What if she wasn’t ready? Was that a thing? So, I was hard on her. As I think back on it and see my poor, sweet little 3 year olds face, I feel sick. I was so hard on her and I completely regret it.

When we decided to homeschool, I took a lot of time to read homeschool blogs and to speak with homeschoolers in various groups across facebook. The one thing that some of them that I really admire they drilled into me was that this was the benefit of homeschool. You can take your time, go your child’s pace. You don’t have to worry about forcing them to be ready for something that they just may not me. Don’t get me wrong, you still have your fair share of homeschoolers who believe in having their child read by age 6, ready or not, but I found that majority do not. So, I fell back and realized Johanna was indeed not ready, and that was ok. As the as the days and months went by I realized that she was more into science and math. I didn’t have to push her in those areas. She adored them both, so I worked with her much on those two subjects, but I didn’t push reading aside.

Late into Johanna’s 5th year I introduced Teach Your Child to read in 100 Easy Lessons to her. We very slowly went through it and she enjoyed it enough. I also read to her a ton throughout the day. She loved story books and I love books period, so it worked really well.

The summer of Johanna’s 6th year here on this Earth we became bored with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I knew that if we were bored it would no longer be effective, so I simply stopped. We made it to lesson 79. I still 100% recommend it when teaching your child to read, and I will use it with Isabella as well.

This past fall I tried my best to use All About Reading, but it was very clear even in the first week of us using it that it wasn’t going to work. We pushed through for a month, but it was terrible. We both just wanted it to stop, but goodness, I had already spent money on the curriculum and I didn’t have anything else in mind! That is when I found out that one of my favorite curriculum’s, The Good and the Beautiful, had a language arts curriculum. After researching it I decided to give it a go. Then I found out something amazing – it was free! That particular curriculum is free through 5th grade on their website. You download it and print it yourself (or you can feel free to buy the printed version). I was ecstatic! This gave me the opportunity to try it out with Johanna without feeling like I may once again waste money.

I also started reading awesome chapter books with Johanna. We would read, then watch the movie (we only picked those books with movies). We read books like Black Beauty, A Cricket in Times Square, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… it was fun, and effective!

I picked out level books for Johanna to read in down time. I know a lot of parents give their children above level books to challenge them, but Johanna can’t handle that. She is the kind of girl that cries when she doesn’t get an answer right. She likes to be perfect in everything she does. I did not want to frustrate her and turn her off of reading.

I am proud, very proud, tears rolling down my face proud, to say that today, at 7 years old, I gave Johanna an assessment test and she is reading on a low second grade level. Are you getting this??? Second grade! She went from barely being able to read anything beyond a, the, is, her name, and maybe two other words at 5/6 to reading slightly above grade level at 7. I’m so proud of my girl! She’s improving every day. And guess what? Yesterday she finished the first book she’s ever read on her own. Big News! Emma is on the Air. It’s a really cute book featuring an adorable Latina girl who wants to be FAMOUS! I definitely recommend it…Johanna does too.

The one lesson I have learned while teaching Johanna to read is that patience is key. It’s ok that she is not doing what every other kid I know is doing. It’s ok if she isn’t picking up some things as fast. She is learning, and she is thriving in her own areas. This is absolutely the beauty of being a homeschool family. Also, curriculum is not one size fits all. It may take test driving a few to see what works for you. Always check to see if the curriculum has test pages you can download to see if it’s something you really want to commit to.

So please, don’t give up on your child. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t throw the towel in. Don’t question whether or not you’re a good enough teacher. Don’t push them to the point of frustration. Breathe. Take a break. Research what else might work. Give them some grace. Give them time. It will happen. They will learn whatever it is you’re trying to teach them – in due time. But first, do something that I often forget to do first…Pray and ask the Lord to lead you. I don’t seem to ask him until I’m already flailing. I’m working on that.

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Not an Instagram Homeschool Mom

I’ve always wanted to be what Instagram showed me as the perfect homeschool mom. Waking up an hour or two earlier than the kids, drinking my cup of coffee or tea while reading my morning devotional, going into prayer, then planning and preparing for the day. I used to think man! Those moms really have their crap together. Definitely not a slacker like me. But tried as I may, I never could get myself together in the mornings. I peel my eyes open once Isabella begins hitting my face, or crying, whichever comes first. And then I just lay there, much like a sloth you would see at the zoo. Tap dancing on the line of dreaming of just one more hour of peaceful rest and thanking Jesus that I’m seeing another morning, promising to make good use of it…if only the bed and I could stop our love affair. Then Johanna right on que announces that she’s hungry, so we all get ourselves together and eventually make our way downstairs for breakfast and the start of another school day. And as that day comes to an end and the kids and husband are in bed having their own affair with the bed, I realize that I have found my sweet spot. It’s not Instagram picture perfect as the only light streaming in is that which is provided by the moon, the bathroom, and the computer. It’s not ideal for drinking anything but decaf coffee or tea as I would be ridiculously jittery from the real stuff, but it is perfection.

The moon and I have been great pals for years now and many a night we have fought the sun so that we could dance just a tad bit longer. It is when the moon is shining reflecting the light of the sun that I really become alive. Suddenly my thinking is clear and sharp, brainstorming ideas to execute my homeschool dreams and plans is as easy as breathing, and patience to learn and grow as a homeschool mom magnificently magnify. I’m able to purge much of what I hold in my head for only me, myself, and I to see, clearing much needed space to have a dialog with my Jesus that I tend to struggle to have during the day. It’s nothing short of brilliant, until my head starts to swim and my vision gets heavy reminding me that I’m no longer 20 something and this dance I have going with the moon must cease until yet another night as I have to spend much of my time with the sun these days because I’m 30 something with kids that need to be taught and molded and real world problems that can only be resolved between the hours of 9-5.

Somedays I still really admire those Instagram moms. Many in this society put so much value on those who are able to wake up with the sun. They accomplish much and they’re hard workers. They must be amazing and their kids must be geniuses! But I remind myself that I’m no less awesome. After all, I get to dance with the moon and that’s downright magical.

A Blessed Heritage- History Curriculum Giveaway!

When I was in Elementary school I hated Social Studies. It was unbelievably dry, boring, and full of facts I simply did not want to commit to memory. As I moved on to high school things didn’t get any better. Boring wars taught by boring teachers after lunch. Spare me! In fact, it wasn’t until college that I began to love history. I met a professor that made history come alive. I remember thinking to myself back then that if I ever had kids, I pray they get a teacher like Dr. Hancock who can make history jump off the pages!

As I was researching curriculum for the 2017-2018 homeschool year, I thought about why my college professor succeeded in making his students hungry for history. What did he have that others seem to be missing? because they all seemed to have the passion, but it didn’t translate well in their teachings. Then it hit me – he didn’t use textbooks; He used living books! And not only did he use living books, but he used diverse living books. I could see people that look like me in quite a few of them, something that was rarely possible for me in my high school history books.

So obviously I began searching for books just like that to share with Johanna. I wanted a curriculum filled with living books, but that I didn’t have to put together. I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. What I know for certain is that history textbooks seem to be very White washed. If you believe what you read in them, then African Americans were first barbarians, then slaves, then hey MLK Jr., Rosa Parks,  Malcolm X, and Barack Obama! That’s all we amount to in many books, and Native Americans were just happy to break bread with pilgrim folk.

If you’re a person of color, or just a parent wanting to make sure that history is presented to your child as authentically as possible, that’s pretty frustrating. So you know I was beyond excited when I came across a history curriculum written by an African American mother that was inclusive of people that look like me.

A Blessed Heritage is a curriculum put together by Belinda Bullard. Right on the front page of her website she explains that they offer “a more diverse portrayal of American history for a more diverse generation of students.

Once I read that and perused the website, I knew exactly which history curriculum we would be using for the upcoming school year, and I just had to speak with Mrs. Bullard. I was blessed to be able to interview her via email to give you all some insight into how this curriculum came about:

H+C Mama: How long have you been a homeschooler? What made you decide to homeschool?
BB: We are entering year 15 or 16 (it’s been long enough that I have forgotten how long it has been!) of our homeschooling journey. I wish I could say that I responded to the voice of the Lord via some burning bush or a calling that kept me up at night, but in truth, our story is far less awe-inspiring and much more practical! We were both the epitome of urban professionals, chasing the American dream and realizing the consequences thereof to our family dynamic as well as our time and energy. When our oldest was a baby, we met a couple that were homeschoolers, but otherwise, we had little exposure to what seemed like a great concept–just not for us. When we found out we were expecting our third child, we started thinking seriously about making changes that would allow us to spend less time traveling for our careers and more time being a family. Memories of that homeschooling family we met earlier became more and more a part of our discussion about what should change, and a month after our third child was born, we “officially” became a homeschooling family.

H+C Mama: Why did you create A Blessed Heritage? Did anyone inspire you to do so?
BB: A Blessed Heritage was the result of my own passions regarding how I wanted to educate our children. Specifically, my hope was to accomplish the following:

1) to help them understand who they are in the larger picture of life
2) to instill pride in them regarding their past, present, and future as African-Americans
3) to point them continuously back to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior

Having said that, if there was a primary inspiration, it would be our three children. As I began to put resources together, however, different people would come to me (as confirmation, I believe) that there was a larger need for these types of products. Most of us have to do the same leg work to create what I often refer to as inclusive history, and so I saw our history series as a one-stop shop. Additionally, I was a training manager for several years before I walked away from corporate America, and I continue to teach students locally and long-distance. All of that curriculum design training and experience served me well in putting together the curriculum that is now in place. Finally, I saw the opportunity to share multi-cultural history in light of what is God’s plan. I did not want to leave whole eras and people out based on comfort level, as traditional curriculum do; I did not want to present our history in a vacuum, or present it from a place of anger or hatred. I wanted to integrate the story we all know, featuring our presence and the presence of other races and ethnicities who go unmentioned in traditional history curriculum, and tell that same story from a Christian worldview.

H+C Mama: How should blessed heritage be used? As a spine, a supplement?
BB: Each volume of our products (we now have a 2-volume set for elementary, middle school, and  high schoolers) is created to be a stand-alone, 1-year history curriculum. At the elementary level, we do not use a spine, but instead tell the story via living books. The purpose at that level is to introduce American history and acquaint young students with people and faces that will become increasingly important as they uncover deeper truths. We do use a spine at the middle school level, where we delve deeper into American history and begin to think more critically about what happened and why. The reading list is more comprehensive and challenging, and the activities are geared more toward independent research and understanding. Finally, we refer to the same spine used in the middle school level, but the expectation is that children generally know the outline of American history when they reach high school. That curriculum is presented more so in survey format, highlighting key eras and events, and engaging students in more critical thinking and writing about this country, how we arrived in our current situation, and what role each of us plays in changing our future.

Again, all Blessed Heritage products can be used as stand-alone products, but I have a number of customers who love the curriculum they have and simply want to add our curriculum as a supplement. This is also easily done, as we have a reading list and activities that can be incorporated into another history study without too much manipulation.

H+C Mama: Can we expect more African-American focused curriculum from you?
BB: Absolutely! There are other history products in addition to our core curriculum, including our line of podcasts. The podcasts are what I call “history shorts,” geared to edu-tain those students and families who love auditory tools and might not prefer an extended session over books and notebooks. They “hook you in” with life lessons from some people you might not have heard of, like Bill Pickett, or A. Philip Randolph, or Madame C.J. Walker.

Beginning in 2017, we will also introduce a number of other supplemental products that will continue to broaden our knowledge of people of African descent. Plus, I will revise our elementary curriculum to include more skill sets and activities for little hands. I only wish my fingers kept up with my mind in getting all of the ideas out and published, but with the Lord’s help, I will get there! Keep watching for new products on our blog, and on our website.  Also, our newsletter subscribers get the earliest sneak previews and our subscriber discounts!
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I hope that interview left you as excited as I am because thanks to A Blessed Heritage, one of you will win volume 1 of Our History, HIS-Story ! Enter thru rafflecopter below and the winner will be announced on Friday, July 28 at noon! Good luck!

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A Little Bit of Patience, and a Whole Lot of Grace

3 years ago I was in a job that caused me great turmoil. My coworkers were amazing. The mission of the job was incredible. My boss was a nightmare! The company perpetrated itself to be something other than what it was. It was becoming increasingly hard to get up in the morning. When I left from that very weird environment in June, I did so with the intentions of finding another job in my field by the end of summer. However, summer was gone before I could even really feel the heat, and then I blinked and it was Turkey eating time. Johanna and I found ourselves at odds. School for her ended in June and by mid-July I was teaching her. I figured she had to do something during the day. I couldn’t have her just sitting there watching that God awful Caillou all day. That’s when I came across  easy peasy online homeschool and unbeknownst to me at the time, our homeschool life was born. By February I had long stopped actively trying to find a position, and my husband had given me the green light to homeschool seriously. For 2 years I homeschooled like a boss! And then…I had another baby.

Isabella changed everything.

I came home from the hospital when coop had already been in full swing. My MIL was taking Johanna for me every Friday since obviously I couldn’t. I didn’t even return to coop until sometime in October. My teaching was sketchy at best. Some days we got through our full curriculum. Other days I was just happy we were able to do math and reading. Isabella shifted our entire world.

Isabella is a light sleeper. She also has constantly been ailed. We’ve been to the emergency room far more times than I would like to recount. She’s had more issues than most babies I personally know. Is it because of her being a preemie or IUGR? We don’t know. Maybe. But it has been rough. It has been rough mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are many days when I am completely drained and just want to throw up my hands. It’s only by God’s grace that we finished out this school year. Unfortunately, it has left Johanna inbetween grades because mommy just could not parent or teach some days. One of the kids was sick every month, including a time between february and march when Johanna had the worse fever of her life and I was scared crapless.

I spent a lot of this school year scared crapless. It caused me to be paralyzed and unable to fulfill my duties as a homeschool mom this year.

This summer I have an almost 1 year old and a 6 year old. Johanna will still be between 2 grades by the end of august.  Currently she is kindergartner/1st grader in reading and a 1st grader in math. She will probably be in 2nd grade math by the time September rolls around, as well as art and health, and 1st grade reading.

We have somewhat found a rhythm again. Isabella has 2 scheduled naps, so we work around those for the day. Sometimes she still requires me to hold her, so it’s not all smooth just yet, but I’m prayerful that in the coming months the kinks will be worked out. Johanna has calmed down a bit. Having a sibling has brought her great joy, but it has also been a hurdle for her to jump. For awhile she started acting like a bratty 4 year old again, and that made my husband and I lose it! I tried to be understanding, but honestly, I just wanted everyone to shut up and get over whatever was ailing them. Did I mention that I was mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted?

Being a homeschooler of one child was already a little bit of a challenge. I was constantly praising those that homeschooled 3+ kids. Miracle workers you are. Homeschooling means that you have to figure when to switch mommy off and switch teacher on. We are still working out those kinks. It also means dealing with your childs rainbow of moods while trying to help teach them important stuff. It’s making the executive decision to homeschool via netflix for the day because both of you have sucky attitudes and nothing good could possibly come of it. It takes a level of patience and grace that I didn’t know existed until I stepped into this world.

But I still love it. I’m still so glad I chose it even though it means that when it comes to my wants, money is tight. That I have to be selfless 24/7. That in some ways even my very identity has changed. I still love it. Today I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but ask me again when Isabella enters the terrible 2’s. My tune may just change.

Whether you’re stepping into homeschooling for the first time, or doing it with a new baby, know that yes, it is hard! But it is also very rewarding and it does indeed get better. Take some time and remember that you are not on this journey alone.

Let Jesus guide you. He’s there, willing and waiting.

Find your community, whether in real life, through a coop, or in a facebook group. A tribe is waiting to welcome you, embrace you, and help guide you. You just have to look for them.

Remember why you homeschool. On days when you just want to give up and throw in the towel (I had at least 8 of those this year) remember why you do it and remember that God’s grace is sufficient.

Yeah, this was a super rocky year, but I still feel very blessed to be able to live the homeschool life.

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Free Magic School Bus Lesson Plans

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Johanna loves science. I mean LOVES science. She even loves watching science shows, particularly ones that involve surgery. I don’t exactly adore science. I don’t hate it, but meh. I was always more of a literature and math kind of girl. So when it came to finding a science curriculum that we both could enjoy I struggled. That is until I came across this free Magic School Bus curriculum.

This curriculum allows us to watch the show, then do simple, easy, yet fun experiments that don’t cost a ton of money in supplies. We just finished the Air episode and did the experiment that accompanies it. The best part is that if you are having a rough or busy day and don’t have time for an experiment that is going to take an hour, there are experiments that literally take 5 minutes tops. This is perfect for us considering we have a new addition to our family that takes up a lot of our time. The fact that I can broadcast the episodes onto the tv with my chromecast is awesome!

Recently I discovered that you can also buy The Magic School Bus experiments. They are available on amazon individually for a great price. You can also buy the complete set  on Educents! We have not gotten the set yet, but we are seriously considering it. I’m all about doing what’s easy, and is easier than having all the materials right at your fingertips?

Does your little one love science? What do you do to fulfill their science requirement that is mentally stimulating yet easy for mom?

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