Homeschooling Busy Boys

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My boys, ages 1, 3, and 5 have been eyeing the new books, supplies, and schoolroom with excitement and finally break down my desire to begin in Fall. We start. Running out of the gate, full steam ahead! They love it! I love it. This is great. Day two, day three....and then the new wears off a bit and a hesitation starts in my eldest when I suggest we head to the school room. I watch his exterior change. No more shiny eyes, shoulders hunch, and he wants to keep playing. My heart tunes in to his. Why? Why is my son suddenly choosing to avoid our newfound adventure? I watch his shiny blonde head in the playroom, imagining, singing, and his body twirling and stretching. I had tried to make our homeschool fun, but I had not kept the wonder! 

That’s it, mamas. Nothing too wild or difficult. The best advice I can offer a mama homeschooling littles (children under 7) is maintain the wide eyed wonder. When you pull out the read aloud, pull out the peg dolls, the silk scarves, the tinker toys, the blocks, the fort making supplies....something, anything, to invite them to jump into the story and live with the characters. Make the food the book describes, do a craft like the main character, visit somewhere like the setting, anything you can to keep their minds alive with wonder about the lives and experiences of those in the stories you read. 

When they show interest in letters and reading, please don’t buy a full phonics or reading curriculum and expect them to spend 30 minutes a day sitting with you learning to read. Choose something light and natural, with play and whimsy built in. The Peaceful Preschool does this so innately and beautifully. If you do use a phonics curriculum try something brief. I found a wonderful little phonics set called “Dash into Readingthat takes all of 5-8 minutes a day and incorporates horses, pirates, dogs, rats, young children, games, and beautiful watercolor pictures all in its simple lessons. 

When your child begins to count their toys and recognize numbers as you wander through the grocery store aisles, don’t hurry to find the best math curriculum out there. Instead, encourage them to sort their toys, count beans, the wings on bugs, the legs on a butterfly, have them paint what they see and count too! Let them enjoy the wonder and discovery they are naturally prone to. 

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Don’t be afraid to spend days outside with your littles, mama! Whether you call yourself Charlotte Mason, Classical, Montessori, it doesn’t matter. Get those littles outside. The sunshine, the trees, the bugs, the natural world - it saturates, invigorates, and soothes their little souls. I have a very active and excited little tribe of boys that comes alive and even focused in the woods. Find a small group to spend hours with at a stream or field. Explore, play, investigate, bring lunch, read! You will be rewarded with great naps and lots of smiles all around. 

If you are still reading, thank you and welcome to the journey with me. Let’s explore a week at Arrow Hill Academy.

On Mondays and Tuesdays we begin our day with about 3-5 minutes of reading from a great book (The Ology). Then we sing a hymn together and go over the alphabet/letter sounds and our scripture. We do this at breakfast and the boys have come to expect it. Then we are off! Lunch is packed, swim suits or play clothing is on, and we bustle to the car! Out to the woods for 4-5 hours. We explore and play and read and eat with friends at the same location for 8-12 weeks at a time! It is a wonderful little program I help direct called Free Forest School.

When we arrive home, we rest. My boys often sleep 2-3 hours on these days! Later, we may read or do a craft or poetry together. I typically allow my eldest two to choose the rhythm for our afternoons on these days.

The rest of the week, we start out with our bible and hymn (morning basket) routine at breakfast and then head to our schoolroom for a read aloud from The Playful Pioneers. My boys love Almanzo and talk about him and play “with” him unprompted throughout our days. While I read, they draw or play with blocks or get out our vintage Playmobil log cabin, Native American figurines, and toy animals.

After our reading, we talk about the book, draw together, cook, or enjoy a craft. I have a gentle math and language arts curriculum if and when my eldest wants to do it, and I offer it daily. When he chooses it, we love the game based learning it incorporates and my 3 year old often joins in! We use Dash into Reading for phonics on these days and sometimes play the games it has too.

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On the days we don’t stay in the woods, we enjoy outside time in the afternoons and my boys collect bugs in the yard, write in the mud with sticks, or kick balls, and watch birds and squirrels. Our academic pursuits in the schoolroom might last an hour, or they might be 30 minutes. Then, we play and cook and enjoy time exploring and having fun!

If I can leave you with any great nugget, any strong encouragement, it would be that you watch that little one and keep their wide-eye wonder! If it begins to lack it's luster, watch them, assess, take inventory, and make adjustments.

Our littles need us to be the great protectors of their childhood. The ones that guard their inquisitive souls from the dull and the sedentary.

So, mother of littles, go and set up a homeschool adventure around that wide eyed wonder, create an atmosphere for it to thrive and roam and indulge because all too soon it will naturally settle and they will leave Never Never Land and alight in our beautiful school rooms with logical minds ready for academia. 

Sarah Ruth Owens

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Math As They Grow

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As I mentioned in this post, my own math instruction as a child was concentrated on workbooks and left me ill-prepared to understand more advanced math. In the last few years, I have come to the realization that our own attitude about math affects how we teach it, and I've taken pains to project a more positive attitude towards math instruction.

I love the way many Montessori schools present math, and when my children were preschool age, I would make sure and present all math concepts using these hands on methods. 

Check out The Peaceful Preschool for hands on math ideas for young children.

With my older children, I transitioned them into more traditional math programs, but was happy to start Right Start Math with my youngest son. I've loved the concrete way that they present math concepts, and have found my own mental math skills strengthened as I've been using it with my son.

Right Start also uses playful activities, such as games, to reinforce skills instead of tedious drills and flashcards. Playful forms of learning are much more attractive than drills and flashcard to many of us as adults, as well as to our children. They help us retain the information that we have learned.

Finding the right math program for your early elementary student might require a little research. Each parent and child has a different learning style, and learning styles have a lot of bearing on your child's success with a program. As well, many children are not developmentally ready for abstract learning, so programs that rush this with too many worksheets can ultimately make math more difficult later on.

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For your preschool learners, keep using the counting and fine motor skills included in The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, as well as playing math games and counting throughout your day.

For kindergarten students, keep on counting and playing math games. If they are ready for more math, start with Right Start Math or Math U See. 

For later elementary students, if they have a strong command of underlying math principals through Right Start or Math U See, Teaching Textbooks is a great resource. I added it last year with my third grade student and appreciated the extra accountability and motivation. My children enjoyed hopping on to get a lesson done, and it reinforced what we were learning with Right Start. If you do switch your children to computer based math, make sure they have learned good study skills, including concepts such as writing math problems clearly, labeling papers, and watching the full lecture, before you set them up with a more independent math program. I've learned from experience that my older children started to struggle with computer based math when they didn't follow these steps. My bad for not holding them accountable.

If they need additional help, and homeschooling is your educational choice, look for a math tutor or group class that they can join. Even Khan Academy can be a valuable resource in making math meaningful for your children. We've also found some math apps, such as Smartick can be a valuable resource in developing strong math learners.

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Finally, no matter what math program you choose, try to use positive words to describe math, and help them to see that math skills are an important part of our daily life.

Check out our other curriculum for elementary students.

The Playful Pioneers

The Precious People

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Gentle Learning With Littles- A Guest Post

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We are in the depths of early childhood. Just past the sleepless nights and constant nursing, but still in the expanse of that sweet age of boundless energy and curiosity that is so fleeting. There was no doubt when we implemented The Peaceful Preschool last year that it would be a perfect fit for our family.

My eldest daughter has always loved books and this gentle, literature based approach was just what our family needed. It brought such a peaceful rhythm to our learning and I am thankful to have been able to begin our homeschooling journey in a peaceful way from the start. Much of homeschooling last year would find us snuggling on the couch or under a tree reading books and then re-enacting the stories, painting with watercolors, and hanging letters on our school room wall with pride and accomplishment. Then outside we went! 

Click For The Peaceful Preschool Book List

Much of our day you can find us outdoors, weather permitting. Exploring the woods next door, walking to a favorite local spring fed stream with friends, and hiking a new trail. So much growth and knowledge can occur when in nature, especially in the early years.  Respect is learned for creatures, gentleness when one finds a butterfly, attention is stretched when observing more and more details of a little lady bug who decides to visit a while. Perseverance and determination are developed when hiking and littles learn that one step taken is one step closer to the goal.  

Need More Ideas For Nature Based Learning? Our Ocean Guide Can Help

We also started tea time, which has been such a blessing! When we are having a hard day, whether it be difficult feelings or just bad attitudes, putting everything aside to sit and have tea has proven countless times to reset our day. We read poems, enjoy tea (in our case apple juice), talk, and giggles are sprinkled throughout. By the time we are done with tea we leave the table with a deeper understanding and love for one another.

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Homeschooling with littles is a bit different this year than it was last year. We are three weeks in with The Playful Pioneers and my youngest, who is two, is showing more and more interest in what we are doing. While at times it can be so tempting to distract and give her something else to do, I have found it more helpful to include her. Toddlers are so curious and what better way to hone in on their desire to learn than to welcome them in with arms wide open. While I’m reading from Farmer Boy my youngest plays with her little wooden barn while my five year old does copy work or works on weaving. The activities in The Playful Pioneers are so easily adaptable between ages, which I love. My toddler is always right in the midst of it and along the way we are learning patience, helpfulness, and forgiveness. And grace, oh so much grace. Easier said than done, but from what I’ve gleaned from seasoned mamas who have been there and have seen the fruits of their labor… it is hard work, but it is so worth it.

Melina Boswell

Click Here For The Playful Pioneers Book List

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Are you in need or reading resources for your young learners? This post contains a few of our favorites.

Math can be fun. This post shares a few resources that can help shape a positive view.

Ocean Themed Learning

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The beach is our favorite place to relax and rest, but it's also a wonderful place to learn and a wonderful place to learn about. The sensory input of waves, sand, and seashells awaken learning in young children and engage their imagination. 

There are so many ways to bring ocean themed learning into our homes, and our new The Peaceful Preschool: Ocean Unit has been created to make the transition from summer fun into fall learning, a playful one. The unit includes developmentally appropriate learning activities to refine large and fine motor skills, phonics and counting skills, and listening skills as your children grow.

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The Ocean Guide includes the same components as our well loved, The Peaceful Preschool, with whimsical, ocean-themed counting, phonics, practical life, and motor skills activities to make learning feel like play.

A Few Favorite Activities From The Guide:

1. Count and sort seashells.

2. Hide cotton ball "sea turtle eggs", in sand. Use tongs to collect and count the eggs.

3. Read ocean themed poetry (included in the guide).

4. Do a crab walk.

5. Make a seashell mobile.

6. Make an octopus craft.

7. Measure and stir salt into water.

8. Fish counting game.

As you do these simple activities with your children, you are building memories, while simultaneously building pathways in the brain that will enable your child to excel in school, and give them the imagination and confidence to help them excel in life.

Do you need help choosing a writing or math curriculum? We share our favorites here and here.


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A Peaceful Preschool

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We sat down at the kitchen table this past summer, my husband and I, asking, “What do we want down deep for our family?” Our oldest daughter was 3, we had welcomed our son into the world in January, we were exhausted, but grateful, and wanting more. We’d been prayerfully considering the possibilities of homeschooling for quite some time, but also looking into local preschools as we tried to figure out what would be best for us. Maybe it was God’s sovereignty, maybe it was due to the fact that we had just moved to the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t bear to think of driving 25 minutes into town and back and back again three days a week, maybe it was feeling pressed financially and wanting to be wise with our investments, but whatever it was, we decided to keep her home and to dive in to this new, unexplored, beautiful world that is homeschooling.

Upon receiving The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, I devoured those first 26 pages like a hungry child. Oh, the weekly materials are beyond beautiful and I’ll touch on that in a minute, but the heart behind it all… it’s everything. That’s where it clicks and we come back to that overarching question, “What do we want down deep for our family?” and we were met with the resounding answer that, most of all, our deepest desire as parents is to be purposeful and present with one another and with the things that fill our days. Jen’s wisdom and guidance, her experience and practical advice, have helped us solidify a clear vision for why we are doing what we are doing, why it’s worth it, and how we can take tangible action steps toward achieving our heart’s cry for our family. 

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You can tell that every word and activity in the weekly lessons have been carefully chosen and created, born from both rich experience and simple, devoted parenting. Though it requires intentionality, most of the learning that occurs is natural and easy to incorporate into our daily lives. I love having the confidence that we are covering phonics and counting skills, while also focusing on life skills like cooking and cleaning and sharing with others. The framework is there, but there’s also a freedom to take it and run with it… compelling us to more. 

It’s been far from perfect. But it’s been us. I know we’ve got plenty of time to continue learning and growing and patiently discovering our longings, our strengths, our weaknesses, our groove. But, it’s been beautiful, needed and deep. It’s crazy how these simple little lessons have helped meet some of those big, down deep desires in our hearts. And as the new year awaits us, I have such hope that more will continue to unfold as we dive into the rest of the letters… into learning… into living…into loving... purposeful and present, together. 

Humbly,

Kelly-This Humble Hive

You can check out Kelly's beautiful resources for learning with toddlers here.

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Our Year With The Peaceful Preschool-A Guest Post

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As I write this post we just finished up with Letter V and are on the home stretch to finish up our first year with The Peaceful Preschool curriculum. I knew when we started this curriculum that I would be repeating it again, and my kids and I are already getting excited to start again with Letter A! 

At the beginning of last year when I was considering whether or not I could homeschool my children, a good friend of mine suggested The Peaceful Preschool curriculum. I decided to purchase it, not sure if we would use it or to what degree. The introductory pages to this curriculum, which provide a family vision sheet and suggestions for daily rhythms, were so inspiring to me. I felt excited and had so much peace and comfort from having everything clearly defined and laid out for me. After purchasing the curriculum I then began reading several Charlotte Mason and Montessori inspired books, websites, and blogs. After having a clearer grasp on our family's goals for homeschooling I felt even more certain that The Peaceful Preschool was the best guide for us in the early years, which Charlotte Mason describes as "a quiet growing time." 

The Peaceful Preschool lessons are engaging, gentle, and fit fluidly into our regular daily rhythm (which I recently blogged about here). The preparation is minimal; most supplies can be found around your home or you can easily find a suitable alternative. You only need to find 2-3 books at your library for each week's lessons, but if your library isn't great, you will not regret purchasing any of the books on the booklist! The curriculum also will not break your budget: I had to spend money up-front to gather basic supplies (I really did not have much before starting preschool at home), but on a week-by-week basis there is very little to no requirement for spending money on additional materials, or even burdening you with extra cost of printer ink. What a blessing!

For this past year, I structured our weeks so that we could spend two weeks on each Letter Unit, enjoying two days from The Peaceful Preschool each week. The other days of the week I would add some  based on my children's interests (for example, B is for Birds or C is for Camping). 

My memories of our time spent with The Peaceful Preschool are rooted in reading and re-reading the books that come from the weekly booklist. The books are, in my mind, the heart of the curriculum. The stories are rich, most have stood the test of time, and are what Charlotte Mason would describe as twaddle-free. My kids have latched on to so many of these stories in lasting ways. 

Okay, so the books are wonderful, the prep is manageable, the activities are simple and engaging, but really the core reason why I plan to do this curriculum all over again is that it fosters connection with my children. The activities are not simply tasks to check off on some academic-attainment list; they are invitations to take a break from the adult world, be present, connect with your children, and come alongside them in a slow and purposeful way. When we engage in these preschool activities, my children receive the message that they are valued and who they are matters. Plus, it's fun!! What could be more fun than gathering every hat in your house and stacking them all on your head like the "Caps For Sale" peddler? Or, playing Follow the Leader, acting out animals from stories, and building a fort? Preschool is the best!

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I do also add on a few things to the curriculum over the two-week-per-letter period, like 3-Part Cards for our letter learning, other Montessori-based resources, or just fun ideas I find on Pinterest or Instagram. 

I also consider our weekly Bible lessons and daily outdoor time as essential elements to our Preschool at Home. For each Letter Unit, I chose to add on a Bible lesson using The Jesus Storybook Bible -- you can view these lessons on my blog here. These are based on Letter Unit themes and sometimes nicely pair with the memory verses from The Peaceful Preschool. 

For our daily outdoor time we have lots of unstructured outdoor play in our yard, and we also walk and explore each day. My family lives on a camp property in Indiana where my husband works -- it is situated on 2,500 acres of woods with lots of trails and a lake. We feel incredibly grateful to give our children a childhood like this where they can explore the woods so easily each day and already know so many trees, birds, and plants with not much effort on our part. With that in mind, it always brings me joy to see how many activities in The Peaceful Preschool coincide with our desire to be outdoors. Many activities in the weekly plan are intended to be done outdoors, and even some of the counting skills and fine motor skills can be completed using natural materials. Build a fairy garden, collect wildflowers and make an arrangement, gather leaves and make leaf rubbings, etc.

Again, I am so grateful to have a curriculum that fosters connection with my children, and am excited to repeat it again next year! For the first 3 years of my oldest child's life, I would have never considered homeschooling. This last year has been such a confidence-builder for me in all the right ways, giving me the encouragement and inspiration to view home education as "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" (in the words of Charlotte Mason) and not just public-school-done-at-home. Lastly, I am grateful for the community of homeschooling moms I have as support through The Peaceful Press Facebook group and the Instagram community as well. It is a true gift to know I am not alone.

Written by Sarah Street

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Summer Reading and Projects

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Summer is nearly upon us, and we are excited about all the memories we will make. Each year I grow more aware of how fast the precious years of childhood are flying by, and I am doing my best to make the most of them. 

Although every summer is a little different; sometimes we school through the summer, and other years we take the whole season off, this year we will continue working on literacy and math, while staying close to home. We will be starting The Precious People curriculum in September, so I'm excited for the opportunity to plan for our fall celebrations and learning.

We found some great summer themed books we wanted to share so you can make the most of this season with your children as well. We have even paired the books with easy activities to build sweet memories in your own family.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Activity: Find a body of water and look for minnows, or head to the ocean and see if you can spot a Swimmy in the tide pools.

The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeiffer

Activity: Find a map of the world and show your littles the different time zones. What time is the sun setting in Iceland? In India? Is there any sun in Antarctica in July?

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Activity: Go on a scavenger hunt, make it a competition or an expedition.

The Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing

Activity: Find a trampoline or spread out some blankets, can you find the first star in the summer sky, the big dipper, or make your own constellations with dot paint on black construction paper.

S is for S’Mores: A Camping Alphabet by Helen Foster James

Activity: Make s'mores. How many different types of chocolate and biscuit combinations can you use to make a s’more?

Summertime in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Activity: Find a local farm to pick some stone fruit or a field with blackberries or raspberries.

For more fun with The Little House on the Prairie, check out our The Playful Pioneers curriculum.

Join the conversation and share your favorite books and ideas for summer fun! 

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Click here for helpful hints on teaching your child to read.

For a full year learning plan that incorporates books and projects, check out our open and go parent guides.

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