No, We Don’t Know What Grade We’re In

It’s a common question: “What grade are you in?” My boys usually look at me with a confused look on their face and I do my best to answer.  It’s one of those things that isn’t really a homeschool myth for us. We really have no idea about grade levels here and I’m okay with that. In fact I did it on purpose.

My children don't know what grade they are in. Neither do I. For my homeschool I have chosen not to focus on grade levels. Come find out why and how I know if my children are learning what they need to.

©olly | Dollar Photo Club

Why I Don’t Focus on Grade Level

Schools have to have a system of organizing students so they have grade levels. It helps them to create a system of moving your children from the start of school until graduation.  Even within that system you will find children functioning at, below and above grade level.  Homeschooling is no different. My boys are all over the map skill wise. They are at or above where their peers are for certains and they each have their struggles.

I tried the whole grade level thing for a while and found that it had some really negative consequences for my boys. They would feel less smart than other kids because they struggled with something. No matter how often I explained to them that we all have our strengths and weaknesses nothing helped.

So last year I just decided I wasn’t going to deal with grade levels anymore.

What I Focus on Instead

If you noticed our homeschool curriculum choices for this year one thing may have jumped out at you. None of the things I’m using have grades on them. I love that!  For my boys I prefer to focus on forward progress instead of completion of grade levels or perfection. They are still expected to work hard and do their best work. But they are allowed to work at their own pace.

For a while my oldest really struggled with math.  No matter what I tried to use and how hard he worked things just wouldn’t click for him.  I knew that he would get it eventually and because we homeschool he has been able to work as slowly as he need in math and continue forward in his other subjects.  There was no reason for me to hold him back in reading or spelling or history simply because he hadn’t memorized all his math facts yet.

At the end of each quarter and the end of the year I sit down with my boys and look at the progress that they made.  When it came to math instead of focusing on all the things that my son hadn’t mastered yet I would point to him all the things that he could do now that he couldn’t do at the beginning of the year. I watched this past year as my son dropped the burden he’d been carrying over math.

When I sat down with him to go over the math plans for this year he was excited to get to work.  He smiled and said “I’m just going to keep working hard mommy. I’ll get it.”   This is what it is all about progress not perfection.

Homeschooling without a Dedicated School Room

When I first started homeschooling my boys I really wanted a dedicated homeschool room. I would see bloggers posting pictures of their Ikea style rooms with desks and shelves and I would drool over the screen.  For some reason I had it in my head that I needed a room like that in order to be succesful at homeschooling.

Flash forward a few years and I have learned to be content with what we have. After years of homeschooling in an apartment I find that I love homeschool without a school room.  I love learning and living life side by side with my boys and really couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

We don't have a dedicated homeschool room. We do must of our work at the dinning room table or on the floor somewhere. I used to wish for a school room but now I wouldn't have it any other way! Come see my reasons why.

©Igor Mojzes | Dollar Photo Club

Why I Love Homeschooling without a School Room

Please don’t think that I’m frowning upon people that have dedicated school rooms. If you find something that works for you then ignore me and go for it!   That said, here are some reasons that I love doing most of our school work at the dinning room table:

  1. Encourages family learning and co-operation:  I’m a huge fan of multi-age learning and being at our dinning room table (or spreading out in the living room) really encourages this. I can spread out the books or supplies for a project and we can all have the space we need to work together.
  2. Multi-tasking mama: I really need to be able to move around at times while my boys are working on assignments. I love that I can set my boys up at the table with work and go in the kitchen to prep a meal or fold a load of laundry and still be within ear and eye shot.
  3. Creating an environment of learning:  I really want my children to understand that learning isn’t just about academics and books. I love that we can pack up and take our lessons to the park on nice days or run outside to birdwatch and leave our books on the table.

Staying Organized without a School Room

One thing that has really helped me is staying organized.  Not having a school room has forced me to declutter and be very intentional about what supplies we have on hand and how I use the limited amount of space that we have:

  1. Tables: This is command central for our school day. It’s where we start off with devotions and end the day with a read aloud over lunch. It’s important to have a good sized table to work at.  If you have room for more than one that would give a child a space to work independently when needed.
  2. Shelves:  We have one of these units in the dinning room where I store most of our books and othe supplies. If it doesn’t fit on this shelf then I probably won’t keep it in the house.  Having bins like these also help with the clutter and keeping thing neat and tidy.
  3. Storgae System:  I tried really hard to be a workbox person but it didn’t work. So I use these plastic drawers as unoffical school desks for my boys. They store their pencils, nature notebooks and other individual items here. Even mama has a draw for some of my things.

These days instead of drooling over the pinterest perfect school rooms I’m daydreaming about a bigger dinning room table!  And of course a few nice shelving units from Ikea.  Plus I think I’d rather have a dedicated playroom for my boys instead.

Where do you do school?

"Not" Back to School Blog Hop 2015

My Must Have Homeschool Supplies

I have always loved back to school shopping. I remember as a girl being excited every summer to head to Kmart to stock up on Lisa Frank folders and notebooks and get my brand new Jansport backpack. Yep I was a true child of the 80s and proud of it!

As a homeschool mom I still get excited about back to school shopping. When I first started homeschooling I was overwhelmed by all the choices and decisions that I had to make. Trying to pick out homeschool supplies left me in a panic!  Thankfully I’ve calmed down quite a bit over the years and now I have a pretty good idea about what I need to buy each year.

Are you doing some back to school shopping for your homeschool? Not sure what you need? I'm sharing  the 10 things that I consider must haves for my homeschool. Maybe there's something here you can add to your list!

© Kenishirotie | Dollar Photo Club

10 Homeschool Supplies I Cannot Live Without

1. Printer:  I have gone through my fair share of printers over the years. As a homeschooling mom I find myself printing all kinds of things: bible studies, copywork pages, shopping lists, coupons, things for work and more!  Because of all the printing that goes on around here I finally decided this past year to step up my game and purchase a laser printer. We have this one for black and white printing.  I love that I can print thousands of pages on just one ink cartridge (it typically lasts about a year). For those times when we must print something in color or make copies/scan this printer is what we use.

2. Laminator: I think this laminator was my first big homeschool supple purchase.  I bought it when my oldest was a preschooler and I think I lamintaed everything I could get my hands on.  Even though my boys are older now I still find that there are charts and things that  I need to laminate so they survive a school year with boys.

3. Binding Machine: I print lots of stuff for my boys. We have a lot of ebooks and digital products that we use on a regular basis. Usually I would just pay to have it printed and bound at Staples or Kinkos. After I bought our new laser printer I started printing at home and just taking it to Staple to get bound. Finally I realized that I could save some money (and driving time) by binding things myself.

4. White boards and dry erase markers: I have a new thing for white boards this year.  We have used a big one for our spelling and reading lessons and my boys were always trying to make the board work for other things as well. I decided to get a few to have for math lessons, copywork, bible study anything else we can think of.

5. Notebooks: I may not be into Lisa Frank anymore but I still have a thing for notebooks. I use 3 ring binders to keep all our papers organized. Each boy has a notebook that I use to create a yearly portfolio.  And I recently gave them each notebooks to k

6. Notebooking Pages Membership:  I love using notebooking pages in our homeschool. It as been a fantastic investment. They have pages for nature studies, history, geograpy, science and more! I also love being about to customize our pages based on what we are working on.

Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Memberships

7. Pencil sharpner: I can’t tell you how long it took me to find a pencil sharpner that actually worked. I never thought it would be so difficult but 5 years and many broken sharpeners laters I finally settled on either this one or this one. Both come highly recommended by veteran homeschool moms. I’ll have to let you know which one I settle on.

8. Plastic Containers: I love all things organization! These plastic containers are sanity savers.  They are the perfect size for art supplies, math manipulatives and more. This year I’m going to use some to store the cards and supplies that we aren’t using for spelling and reading.

9. Sharpies: I have tried to avoid buying these for a long time.  I keep having visions in my head of scribbles all over the wall. After a year of begging I finally settled on this pack for my boys.  They love to draw different things from Art for Kids and they use sharpies. Also they are going to use the different colors for map tracing.

10. Planner: After using the  Weekly Homeschool Planner  for the last 3 years I decided to try something new this year. I love the Plan Your Year Kit!  It’s so much more than a planner too. Pam helps you create a vision for your homeschool as well as create the best plan for your family.

Plan Your Year Banner

What are your must have homeschool supplies?