In my years of homeschooling my growing family, I've discovered one truth: Our needs change constantly! What draws the family together one semester drives us apart the next. What lights up the eyes of one child sends the next sobbing to her bedroom. What works for one season is impossible to maintain the next. I find that every 3-4 months (not quite a full semester, by the way) we need to assess what's still working, what has stopped working, and make some changes.
Interestingly, 3 1/2 months into our school year--just as the babies' nap schedule started to change, Rose Red's Spanish class ended, and our energy started to flag in general--I received a Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
That very Monday, the first one in December, Nature Angel looked at me with slumped shoulders and asked, "Do I have to do my [language arts] today?"
She is regularly a faithful, obedient student.
And it is important to me that school is joyful to my children.
I believe in doing hard things. And I believe in doing work we don't necessarily like doing (I don't love laundry, but I do it anyway). But when I looked into her tired eyes and thought about all of the work she's diligently accomplished so far this year, I couldn't bring myself to say yes to doing language arts.
And I had a new Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
"Come with me!" I invited with eyes wide and a big smile on my face.
She sat down next to me at the computer and we started exploring.
My Nature Angel is an artist, so once we were logged in we clicked the "Browse by Subject" tab.
"Art" was the first subject listed, so we clicked it and began browsing.
We read the summary for All about Art, the first course in line, and found out it was geared for 1st-3rd graders, and further reading of the course description let us know that though it looked fun, it would be too basic for my 4th grader.
So we browsed on.
We found Art Appreciation: South African Art. Nature Angel lit up, "South Africa!?! I want to do this!" We studied the course description, reviewed the recommended lesson plans, and she was utterly hooked.
So was I.
We downloaded the entire course, and Nature Angel started studying.
|The course is relatively self-contained--the biographical information, art concepts, and photos of the art are all part of the downloadable text. We provide the art supplies ourselves. Sometimes she does some online research about an artist.|
|Her version of "10 People in a Mopipi Tree" by Walter Battiss|
I turned to my phone.
I had to spend significant time conversing with customer service to be able to get the site to work on my phone. I think it is because I have a Windows phone, and a lot of sites are wonky when it comes to Windows phones.
The customer service folks were available, knowledgeable, and dedicated. At one point I had to cut off an online chat to take care of my kids, and I never picked the chat back up. Within hours I found an email from customer service following up on our interrupted consult. I used email to continue communicating with customer service until I was able to get the site to work.
Once we had access via my phone, I downloaded the lessons, and Nature Angel used my phone screen to study the art. She loves how portable my phone is, taking it from dining room table to kitchen table to basement floor--wherever her art supplies and a bit of privacy happen to be.
|Her assignment was to create a Thanksgiving themed painting.|
So, for my 4th grade daughter and for me, finding Art Appreciation: South Africa at SchoolhouseTeachers.com was a win-win. She got a break from her regular school subjects, and I got a girl happily reading, studying, researching, writing, and drawing.
|Nature Angels' copy of tradition Bushman art|
"What would you like to study?" I asked.
"I don't know," she replied morosely.
"Come with me," I invited, and we turned to SchoolhouseTeachers.com to see what we could find.
This time I pressed the "Browse by Grade" button and clicked on 8th grade.
The "Foreign Language" tab caught her attention, so we clicked it to see what we could see.
Her eyes lit up when we got to French. We clicked the "about" button to get a general sense of the course,
then we clicked the "lessons" button to see what they were actually like.
It took us about 5 minutes to decide this class would be awesome!
Thinking ahead to the fact that Super Star will be in high school in just a matter of months, I quickly checked to see if the high school level French class was the same or different--might as well challenge her with a 9th grade course at this point.
It was the same.
So we downloaded the first unit.
And ran into a snag; none of the audio would work.
Ta-da! Customer support was online.
Within 15 minutes, we had the problem solved, and Super Star was studying her first French lesson.
|Listening to the alphabet in French and following along on the page|
I'm going to count it as her first high school credit when she finishes the whole first year's work.
I've spent additional time browsing the SchoolhouseTeachers.com site, and there is so much to explore!
*I've found a computer/business class that I'd like Rose Red to take.
|I really like these printable pages that I can lay out across my counter to scribble on and compare lists|
*The preschool/preK classes aren't online games at all! (That's a plus in my book!) They're a variety of lesson plans for delightful hands on, literature rich, science rich, creative activities.
*There's a book list that is organized topically and sorted by approximate age/grade level interest that has me salivating and spending joyfully large amounts of time at our library website making book requests.
*I've begun using the complimentary Silver Membership to Applecore Recordkeeping System included with membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com to track my highschoolers' work.
*There's an included custom schedule builder that allows you to create and save all kinds of schedules and record keeping documents to your own computer.
There's a whole lot more.
Too much to even describe.
At first, I was utterly overwhelmed.
But as I spent time exploring I got excited to have such a rich treasure trove of curriculum options available right at my fingertips . . . right when we need them . . . without having to order new products, spend more money, or worry about whether I'm "getting it right."
Our needs change a lot in our busy household.
These changes mean we need to shake up our school routine a bit. I'm tickled that the changes we need to make are easy to take care of with the myriad resources in available through the Yearly Membership at SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
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