KnowledgeCornerstone » Ramblings from an educator and life-long learner

Homeschool Happenings- When to start

Last week was our first full week of doing most of our curriculum. We still have a few things that need to be thrown in, but the materials have not come in yet.

So the question begs…when do we “officially” start?  The family (well, mostly Wade and I) have talked about when we want to start and end the school year.  My vote is for year-around school.  There are a couple reasons for this:

#1- It is nice to stay in a routine…even during the summer months.

#2- Knowledge is not forgotten over the long summer break.

#3- It gives the girls SOMETHING to do other than say they are bored.

I think our official start day will be July 1 each year…though the summer months will have a much lighter curriculum and schedule.

Homeschool Happenings- Tools of the Trade

Ok not really tools of the trade, but things that I have invested in that I thought were must haves.

Guillotine paper cutter-  I spent way too much on this a couple years ago, but I love it and use it all the time.  It was about as cheap as you can get.  It does not cut straight and the grid is slightly off.  But with a few of my own modifications, I can make it do what I need to do.

How I use it: I use a lot for creating notepads and if I have a number of cards that I have made to cut.  Recently I have been using it to cut the bindings off of books (workbooks) that I have gotten for the girls.

Spiral binding machine- I have wanted a binding machine but am not a huge fan of comb binds (which most binding machines are).  I don’t like how the combs come out and you can’t fold the paper all the way around to lay it flat.  Spiral binding ones are a lot more expensive.  I found this one on ebay and was the only bid…so it actually cost less than the comb binding machine I had picked out!  I only wish they sold a combo pack of the spirals…I don’t need 100 of each size!

How I use it: Depending on the book/workbook I cut the glue off and spiral bind it so the girls can flip their books to the page they need and it will lay flat.  I also purchased a curriculum online (digital version) and some of the stuff I am printing and binding so I don’t have to keep going back to the computer.

Laminator- I have always wanted one.  I can think of a million and one uses for this thing!  I had no idea they sold such cheap ones and I am pretty impressed with the quality!

How I use it: I will need to laminate some of the stuff the girls are doing.  Right now I have only laminated some of the covers of books I have made (spiral bound of course).

Why I chose to do it

The more people I tell that we are homeschooling, the more questions are raised as to why.  I cannot begin to list all of the reasons, but I can attempt to share a little insight.

#1- I LOVE to teach!!!

period. that is it. I love to create lesson plans and every other part of the creativity of being a teacher.  And to teach my kids.  AWESOME!

Now onto the more “political” answers.

#2- The way we MUST teach today is not developmentally appropriate.

There are numerous studies out that suggest children reading at an early age has no benefit later on in school.  (As I say that, someone will find a study that says just the opposite.  I understand how research works.)  The consensus seems to be that “formal schooling” start at age 6-7.  I am going to stick with what feels right in my gut.  Stacey entered Kindergarten just turning 5 and reading and bored out of her mind.  Sydney struggled through Kindergarten reading barely keeping up with the level she was supposed to be on.  EVERY child is different!

I was reading Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer and an excerpt that really caught my eye was:

In years 1-4, it’s not necessary for the student to do original writing.  In fact, original writing (which not only requires mastery of both steps of the writing process [articulate ideas–>ideas in words and then ideas into words–>words on paper], but the ability to find something original to say) is beyond the developmental capability of many students.

Yet in 4th grade in the state of Texas we expect our students to be able to come up with a creative, original piece of written work filled with voice. Bah humbug to that!

During the first four years, it is essential that students be allowed instead to concentrate on mastering the process: getting ideas into words, and getting those words down on paper.

Sydney loves to write…and will never be discouraged from doing so.  Stacey hates to write and I see her needing this time to master the writing process.

#3- A few important things are being taken out of public school.

Handwriting.  Syd’s is atrocious to say the least.  Over the last 4 years in PS, she has spent little time mastering her letters and I just cringe when I read something she writes. It is not tested so why bother?  They only need to know how to appropriately fill in bubbles for the state test.

Letter writing.  How many children today know how to appropriately write a letter to someone, address it and put it in the mail?  A dying art I know, but still, I know my grandparents are not on email and love to receive handwritten letters.  (Again…the need for neat handwriting…)

There are so many more things that come to mind that I want my children to learn about…and we will…but those are for future posts.

#4- Unlimited electives.

I want my girls to be able to take Spanish or art everyday if it interests them.  In public school, you are only limited to what is being offered unless you want to pay for outside activities after school.  I now get to tailor a curriculum that I know they will enjoy and flourish with.

#5- Time.

As a teacher with 22 students, on a variety of different levels, with many activities to get done during the day, there is wasted time.  It is unavoidable.  I know, I have been there.  I expect that it will take a lot less time during the day to grasp the same content (if not more) working one-on-one with a teacher.  Not to mention, how precious is it that I get to spend the most formative years with my children?!?!

I used to joke with people that I spent more awake time with my students then they did with their own parents.  Now that I have children of my own…that thought makes me sad.

What about…?

Their social lives?  They have activities they are involved with now that will keep them with peers their own ages and those activities will only increase.

But how will they learn conflict and resolution?  We have lots of conflict and resolution in our house.  I am not worried.

Really…Would it do you any harm to remove the middle school years from your life?  🙂

The awesome school I pulled my girls out of | OctoberDawn - […] the awesome school that my girls went to.  I have explained why we chose to homeschool in a couple past posts…it had NOTHING to do with the school or the teachers.  This video starts and ends with the […]

Homeschool Happenings- Lesson Planning Software

Being a teacher (now and forever), I needed some sort of organizational tool for scheduling the girls lessons for the day.  There are a few things out there, but nothing like I am used to (you know…big publishing companies that have a great user interface because they can afford to spend the money).  After doing some research I found 2 programs that might just do the trick.

Homeschool Skedtrack

Overview- This one was the first program I looked at.  It is online and free.  You can’t beat that!  Once I created an account and logged in, I was able to navigate my way through pretty easily.  I was able to figure out how to add students and resources.  Then…I started trying to add the same assignment to both of my girls.  That is where I ran into some problems.  I am sure it can be done, but I could not figure it out.  I am also not a fan of the clutter on the sides.  I know the ads have to be there to support the free program, but it was too much for me to look at.



platform friendly

has a lot of options

fairly easy to navigate


Constantly switching between users

The ads on the side are a distraction

Did not care for the reporting features

If the website went under, so did all my work!

Homeschool Tracker

This was the next one I looked at.  The free version is not easy to find, but with some probing, I found it and downloaded it.  When I opened it up, I did not find it as user friendly as Skedtrack.  I had to browse through their help guide just to figure out how to add a student.  Once I got the hang of it, it moved pretty quickly.  I did a side by side comparison of uploading a resource (to Skedtrack) and an assignment.  Hands down, I preferred the Homeschool Tracker!

And off I was, putting info into the program.  I was able to print an agenda for the girls so they could check off what they were doing.  I was in heaven!  I do have to admit…I was wishing there were a few features that Skedtrack had…like being able to put the book’s ISBN number in case I needed it in the future.  Then it dawned on me…they have a PAID version of the program.  It was so worth the $50!!!  Right away I found features that I was wanting with the free version, but was not going to be too picky.

Both programs lack “pretty” user interfaces, but I am ok with that.


There is SO much you can do with the Pro version (but the free one is great too)

I like being able to slide assignments if the girls don’t finish something

Color code a variety of stuff in the program

Great reports

Can also include appointments and chores


Unless I am on my home network, I can’t share the file

The UI needs some work

Inputting info is not as user friendly as it could be

There is a calendar that I can schedule the girls chores and appointments on.  I can even repeat the events on regular intervals for the course of the school year.  Now I am just trying to find the right agenda for the girls to check things off.

I really like this one because it shades the directions, has a spot to mark things off as they are complete and a spot for a grade. For now, this is the one I am going to stick with, but I wish I could combine it with the 2 below.

This one is a visual of what the day looks like, but it does not include the checkbox or the directions.

This one has both, the visual of the day (linear) and the checkbox to mark things as they are completed, but the directions are hard to read. They are not shaded or set apart from what the name of the activity is.