Friday, September 22, 2017

A Day In The Life Of A Homeschooling Family :: The Fife Family

:: Tell us a little about yourself and your family, as well as how long you have been homeschooling.

I'm a 32 yo SAHM and licensed therapist (LPC), I have a husband who works in the engineering/it field and 3 kids ages 9, 6 and 3.  I am homeschooling my 9 yo and have been since Nov 2014.  My 6 yo is in public school 1st grade and the 3 yo just started preschool at the public school as well.

:: Do you have any "Back To School" traditions?  Do you jump right in, or gradually introduce subjects?

With my homeschooled kid we don't have any schedules or traditions, we learn things as naturally and organically as we can, as questions arise.  There are times when I have to back off of schooling anything altogether bc he is too anxious to learn anything and needs some time to process.

:: What made you decide to homeschool your children?

My oldest has always had some behavioral issues but once he started 1st grade, within 3 months he became completely agoraphobic, refused to wear clothes bc of the sensory issues, could not be in a room alone bc he thought robots/monsters/a giant walking talking dog would eat him, and had horrifying nightmares every night.  he was 6.  he was completely dysfunctional and the school was blaming me... even though he was fine in my care up until that point and all the techniques they were using made him regress further and further.  it was completely insane.  So out of fear of losing him completely, I pulled him out and have been healing him since.  We have since learned he has VERY high functioning autism, so even though he LOOKS like he should be a normal kid he has some delays.

:: What does a typical day look like in your homeschool? Are you a schedule follower or a gentle rhythm type mama? Maybe somewhere in between...

I don't consider myself "gentle rhythm" but I do have to use my intuition to know when he can handle a bit more challenge and when I need to pull back and let him process everything (information, emotions, experiences, etc.).  Schedules actually raise his anxiety, he is afraid he can't meet the expectations, so we are very flexible.

:: Do you have a specific method or philosophy that you follow?

My philosophy is that he is incredibly intelligent (tests off the charts) and has great intuition to know what he can and cannot handle at any given moment.  I have to trust him completely and that helps him trust himself.  

:: We would love to hear what curriculum you are using this year.

For math we have been playing and dragonbox... other than that we mostly unschool.  We read A TON of books together and he is starting to pick up writing on his own after he made me promise to never ask him to write again, and I think the reading is helping with the writing/spelling right now.

Thank you, Miriam, for giving us a peak into your homeschool!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Visiting The Morton Arboretum

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
William Shakespeare 

I am not sure who loves going to the The Morton Arboretum  more... me or my children.  The place is just gorgeous.  Whether your strolling the grounds or spending time in the Children's Garden, you will be glad you came.

For our family of nine we purchased a family pass for the year, and it has been worth every penny. It will take us at least a year to visit all there is to see.  They have tons of paved walking trails, as well as hiking back into the forest.  Many people bring their bikes, or rent them there.

The flowers are so pretty.  They have done a wonderful job of combining refined and natural.  Manicured, yet unruly.  They offer tons of activities for adults and children.  They also offer the Acorn Express which is an hour ride through the Arboretum.  I put that on the calendar for September.

If you are in the Chicagoland area, it is worth the trip.  Bring a picnic or eat in the cafe.  Plan to spend all day and really take in what this lovely space has to offer.


Monday, August 21, 2017

A Day In The Life Of A Homeschooling Family, Summer Edition :: The Allgaier Family

:: Tell us a little about yourself and your family, as well as how long you have been homeschooling.

We are a family of 8.  My husband and I were married in 2003 and we have 6 children (13b, 11g, 9b, 7b, 5b, & 3g).  We lived in Houston, Texas for 6 years before moving here to Illinois for a change in my husband's job.  We decided to homeschool when my oldest finished 2nd grade, so we are going on year #5.  I am an organizer and planner extraordinaire.  Growing up I always wanted to be a mom and a teacher and now I'm both!  My husband loves to fix and build things.  My kids are into computer games, board and card games, building with legos and blocks, reading, and playing all day instead of doing "school."  We are so grateful that homeschooling has allowed us the opportunity to travel whenever we want to and not be tied to a public school schedule.  We love going on major homeschooling field trips.  Our favorites were our Washington, DC revolutionary war trip and our Westward Ho trip out West.  Super fun!  One of the best things about homeschooling has been to watch my children create relationships with each other that I'm not sure they would have if they were in public school all day.

:: Do you take the Summer off from homeschooling, or do you continue year round?  If you continue, do you do things any differently? 

We were originally going to be a 3 weeks on, 1 week off and continue year round.  That ended up not working for us because of summer camps, swim lessons, and cousins who are not homeschooled wanting to play.  The week off was great for me getting caught up on life in general (you should see my never ending piles of laundry!), so this year we will try something different and take every Friday off to play "catch-up."  I will say that during the Summer we do have a routine so that everything doesn't fall to pieces.  The kids read each day (we do the library summer reading program) and do one lesson in math as often as we can.  They also must do 10 minutes of on-line learning (no one complains about that part), and complete a summer zone job (any area of the house that could use some organizing and decluttering).

:: What are some of your favorite Summer activities to do with your children?

We actually don't do anything much during the Summer.  We actually prefer to do more of our exploring in the other seasons while all the public schools are in session.  There is nothing better than being in an empty museum!  We do hit our community pool a lot.  

:: Do you have a favorite Chicagoland spot for Summer fun?

Believe it or not even after 6 years we still haven't explored the Chicagoland area all that much.  Being a redhead with fair skin that burns easily I hate the Chicago heat!  We have explored some of the museums downtown and especially love the Museum of Science and Industry and the Brookfield Zoo.  We love when the Fall free days come out!

:: Do you have a special way of storing and organizing your homeschool at the end of the year? 

This is something that I'm still trying to figure out.  I have begun to put the children's work in a bin at the end of the year as a record, but I can see my organized self going down to the basement and tossing a bunch of it.  I am working to create a filing system for lessons I know I will come back around to once the younger ones reach that stage.

:: As you reflect on the past school year what is something that you felt was a success, and what was something that you would like to change for the coming year.

I feel like after 4 full years we have definitely gotten into a groove on what our school day looks like.  I let the kids choose how they want to complete their day and we generally were always finished by lunch time.  I love the curriculum I have chosen and that the kids like it (for the most part) as well.  One thing I would love to improve on is making sure I don't get so involved with getting the core curriculum of math, reading, and writing finished that I forget to put in the fun stuff.  It is hard to shake my public school upbringing and realize that there are other, more engaging ways of learning.

Thank you of sharing with us, Jennifer.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Day In The Life Of A Homeschooling Family, Summer Edition :: The Ruland Family

:: Tell us a little about yourself and your family, as well as how long you have been homeschooling.

I am married to my high school sweetheart and best friend.  We have been married for 15 years and best friends for over well, let’s just not go there because that makes me feel really old.  We have 4 children.  They are 14, 10, 8, and 5.  Our two oldest are boys, then a girl, and our youngest is a boy.  We started homeschooling after my oldest completed 3rd grade.  My degree is in Early Childhood, so I had always wanted to teach our children.  My husband is also in education, so it just seemed like a great fit.  We have homeschooled the others from the beginning.  Our oldest went back to public school last year as an 8th grader and thrived.  He will be continuing in high school at the public school.

:: Do you take the Summer off from homeschooling, or do you continue year round?  If you continue, do you do things any differently? 

I would classify us as year round schoolers, because we learn all the time.  We do more bookwork type learning during the school year, but anytime we are home we are learning.  We try to do a lot of road trips and always use those as education too.  We create maps, learn about the states we are traveling through, do any junior ranger programs available, and learn about what we see on our trips.  

During the summer, we focus mainly on reading, math, and writing when we are at home.  Our other subjects are integrated into our travel and excursions.

We also participate in the Wesley 4-H Hustlers which provides HUGE learning opportunities.  This particular club is the 2nd oldest in the state of Illinois.  During the spring and summer is when our kids are most active in their project areas.  The kids learn about veterinary science, woodworking, robotics, public speaking, journalism, poultry, and whatever other projects interest them.  That is the awesome thing about 4-H is that kids get to choose their interests.  4-H curriculum is AMAZING and very comprehensive.  It is a GREAT supplement to our homeschool.   

:: What are some of your favorite Summer activities to do with your children?

My favorite summer activities are mostly our family vacations and camping.  We love to explore together as a family.  When my oldest graduated 8th grade this year, we told him we were proud of him, but that we weren’t hosting a party.  We asked him what he would like to do, and he said he wanted to hike off trail in the Badlands National Park.  So we hooked up our 1975 airstream Memorial Day weekend and drove out there.  We spent two days exploring and hiking off trail.  All of the kids had a ball.  They also completed the Badlands Junior Ranger Program as well as Buffalo Gap National Grasslands Junior Ranger Program.  We learned about all the animals that we saw and had a very memorable time.  

:: Do you have a favorite Chicagoland spot for Summer fun?

We like to check out the zoo.  Otherwise, we enjoy hanging out with friends and hiking at Matthiessen State Park and Starved Rock State Park.  We are hoping to attend a Chicago Fire game this summer as all four of our children love soccer.  Our favorite is camping and traveling.  We are on the move learning and experiencing most of the summer.  

:: Do you have a special way of storing and organizing your homeschool at the end of the year? 

I keep tidbits of the kids projects from throughout the year.  I have a container for some of their projects that are labels for the year.   I keep their writing journals that are dated as well as each of their math notebooks.  We practice minimalism as much as possible, so I try to only keep what is necessary as well as keepsakes that the kids would enjoy.  

:: As you reflect on the past school year what is something that you felt was a success, and what was something that you would like to change for the coming year.

Upon reflection, I have realized that I like the way we homeschool.  Learning isn’t all worksheets and books, it is learning through doing.  It is participating in 4-H and learning about their project areas.  It is reading books about topics that interest them.  We definitely do our fair share of book learning, but we also use life experiences to focus our learning as well.  I definitely want to remember to live in the moment with our kids.  Life is flying by at an unbelievable pace and I love watching our kids grow and learn.  Each of them has their own strengths and unique talents.  I want to remember to open my eyes to all of that and not miss a thing.  

Thank you for visiting with us Amber!


Friday, July 28, 2017

52 Hike Challenge

For years now I have tried to get outside more and more.  It has become important for me physically, spiritually and mentally.  The cares of the world fade away as I focus on all that Mother Nature has to offer.

As spending time in nature has became an important part for me, it has also become important for my family.  Taking hikes isn't always at the top of their list, but once we are on the trail their smiles grow bigger and their adventurous spirit never fails to show itself.

As a homeschooling mom we have the advantage of experiencing nature more frequently because our days are not scheduled for us.  So, an impromptu trip to the Forest Preserve isn't a problem.

But, even with setting our priorities toward natural pursuits, the busyness of life sneaks in.  Our children play sports, sign up for art classes and youth groups.  Good and worthwhile pursuits fill our days.

But, I always want to make hiking and spending time in nature a priority.  Jon Young, creator of The Wilderness Awareness School says:

"The river of modern life is large and powerful.  The currents are pulling in the opposite direction, while you, a humble, common human being, seek to re-establish yourself with Mother Earth and your original instructions, or blueprint.  There are and will be one million reasons not to got to your place in the forest.  There will always be one billion responsibilities that take you from your path.  This you must know in advance if your are to succeed.  You must be committed.  You must be determined, even downright stubborn about guarding your time in nature."

When I came across 52 Hikes, thanks to my friend Robyn, I knew this was something I wanted to add to our schedule.  Accountability is a good thing.  Being able to track and see our progress can be fun.


There is no cost commitment.  No group you have to meet with.  This is just a chance for you to identify that getting in nature regularly is important, and that you are going to make it a priority.  The idea is simple. Take one hike every week for a year.

It doesn't have to be scaling a mountain, although that would be cool.  Start out on a mile hike and then work your way up to longer hikes.  Take the kids with you and this will become something you look forward to every week.

For all of the details, and to sign up click HERE.

When I signed up I ordered a patch to go on my hiking bag, as well as a few 52 Hike Challenge Stickers.  I would love to share those stickers with you!  I have four of them.  Head over to my INSTAGRAM PAGE and leave a comment that you will be joining me!  I will get one of those stickers in the mail to you.  Display it where it will be a reminder to you.

Are you with me?  See you on the trail.