Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, August 30, 2013

School Year Goals For 2013-2014

Goals For Samantha Mays 1st Grade Year 2013-2014

Samantha’s 1st grade year is mostly about fluency and building awareness about her community and world.


This year the goal for Samantha is to become more fluent in her reading. She can currently read any 2 or 3 letter words and some longer words with “special rules,” some with assistance and some without. She can read some intermediate sentences such as, “The cat likes to run around in the yard.” By the end of the year in-September 2014, Samantha will be able to read a normal children’s book or beginning chapter book by herself.

To achieve this goal Samantha is read to everyday, a variety of writing, from fairytales, poetry, and storybooks to chapter books and informational books. Samantha will continue to take bi-weekly trips to the library where she has learned to search for her own books. Samantha is beginning the school year off by reading Charlotte’s Web. And will continue chapter books by reading the “Little House Books” after completing Charlotte’s Web.

Samantha will also continue to practice reading rules using Starfall.com, applications on her iPod, and occasionally hands on activities and games.


This year the main goal for Samantha in Math is to become more fluent in her addition and subtraction, and also to build a better foundational knowledge about money as well as building a better sense of time. Currently she can add one digit sums and difference (6 through 10) with manipulatives and (1 through 5) without manipulatices. By the end of the year Samantha will be able to add and subtract all one digit sums and differences fluently without the use of manipulatives. She will be able to count out small amounts of money and begin to make change. She will also be able to tell time to the minute on a digital and analog clock, and know the months of the year and the days of the week.

Samantha will achieve these goals by playing games and through everyday living. Samantha will play with Math Mat, Smath, Math War, dice, and card games, as well as computer games and applications daily. She will also continue to learn basic concepts about money through monthly grocery shopping trips, weekly trips to the Share And Care Mission where she gets 50 cents to spend, and through doing chores and saving up her allowance to make purchases. Samantha practices time awareness by referencing her calendar every morning, where she reads the month, date, year, and day of the week. She practices telling time on her Judy clock and by using apps on her iPod. 


This year the goal for Samantha in Science is to learn about the World around her, as created by God, using topics of her choosing. To begin the year, Samantha is learning about The Human Body. By the end of the year, Samantha will have completed at least 4 unit studies, the rest of which have not been determined.

Samantha will use a variety of learning resources for her unit studies, with the primary focus on reading related books and doing experiments appropriate to the current topic. Samantha will learn more about how to conduct an experiment by herself and how to hypothesize what will happen.

Social Studies/Geography:

This year the goal for Samantha in Geography is to become more familiar with maps and the difference between states and countries. Starting out this year, she has minimal knowledge of Geography, with the exception of states that hold meaning for her, like Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. By the end of the year, Samantha will be able to tell her location by the continent, country, state, and city. She will know all or most of the states, as well as their location, the continents and their location, as well as large bodies of water, and many different land features.

Samantha will achieve these goals by looking at and studying maps daily. She will read books about different states and countries, do activities such as State Quarter Collecting, looking at and studying post cards, and play games such as “Stack The States,” “State to State,” and Where in the World/USA is Carmen Sandiego?”

Non-Core Related Activities:

Samantha will also participate in a number of non core related activities including, but not limited to:

-Physical: Gymnastics

-Household Activities: Cooking, Baking, Cleaning, Decorating

-Volunteer Work: Women’s Enrichment Center

-Religious: Church

Field Trips Planned: (September-January)

-Communities In Schools Fundraiser Kickoff September 2013 (Citizenship/Activism) -Pro Life Banquet and Dinner September 2013 (Citizenship/Activism) -Bodies Exhibit Atlanta, GA September 2013 (Science) –Veterinarian Office (Catoosa Animal Hospital) September 2013 (Science) –Apple Picking Elijay, GA October 2013 (Science)  –Pumpkin Patch Riceville, GA October 2013 (Science)–March For Life Atlanta, GA January 2013 (Citizenship/Activism)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Daddy's Part In Our Homeschool

Dad has a very special place in our Home school. Some people view Dads as the "Principle." Some see them as nothing at all. In our Homeschool, Dad is a teacher and a learner. Dad sparks interest and learns new things with us. 

He is also a support system for both Sam and me. For starters, he enables me to homeschool Sam by working and allowing us to stay home. He is our listener about the day. The one that we all run to when the door opens. (All, meaning the dog too.) And he is also one of the only people I know who understands exactly what it is like. He has experienced the people who lean their head to the side and make comments such as, "YOU KNOW, I knew these kids one time that were homeschooled, and they didn't know how to socialize and were dumb as a sack of rocks." But he also knows the good parts, like the reward of being there when Sam reads her very first word and being able to come home on lunch and take her out for a treat when he wants to.

When we began our "Homeschool Journey," back when the decision was made, and she was only 2, he was not super supportive, but he has always told me that if I think it is best for Samantha, it must be. Now he really stands firm in the belief that we are doing what is right for Sam. He has stood up for that more than once. And he says he can't imagine it any other way.

Anyway, back to my main point. Dad is a teacher. He has so many answers when Mommy can't answer them very well or we can't get to the Internet. How is paper made, Daddy? How do wasps make their nest, Daddy? Why does a dog bark and a car meow, Daddy? 

And every night he takes the time out to draw on Samantha's board. Some nights he takes an Eye Witness book related to Samantha's Unit Study and demonstrates a concept for her, in a fun manner. He sometimes writes a date or picture of something for us to look up the next day. (Last night was July 4, 1776. It is a great way to get Samantha excited and teach her little bits of History or Science.) Some nights he writes math problems or words. Other nights are just fun and games where he draws a picture of something going on that day or something for us to "hunt for" the next morning. 

He thinks differently than me and therefore can teach Sam in a different way if she doesn't get my way of approaching it. In fact, him and Sam have the same sort of mechanical mind in some aspects. They enjoy Legos or anything technology, while Sam and I enjoy reading and anything creative.

Daddy is also a learner. He joins us on many of our "field trips" and is astonished at how much he learns sometimes. Other times he knows more and can expand upon what the monument or tour guide says. One thing leads to another and sometimes he can get Samantha excited about going home to look up more! He has a wide interest and Loves documentary films, taking in the information for later. Having this "resource" of his knowledge is priceless!

When we began this journey, I took the responsibility. It was all on me, and I didn't mind, but it is nice to have Dad's support and amazing mind to back me up. I can't wait to see what ideas he comes up with next.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Big Plunge

This is it. Today is the day. Half way to the big plunge. Today is the day the day Sam would be starting school. (Pre  K. Because the way her birthday falls. That is why I say half way.) Today is a day Samantha would not be be home with me. She would be at school. 

If Sam were going to school, we would have spent the last few weeks buying school supplies and clothes, attending open house, and preparing ourselves for Sam to leave for school. This is the morning we would have woke up early after an early bedtime. I would have drove her to school and walked her into her classroom. I know I would have taken a ton of pictures, kissed her on the head, and walked away crying and planning to come back and eat lunch with her. 

But today that did not happen. Sam is here.
Today was a normal day for us. We didn't start out the day in school desks. We didn't say the Pledge. And we didn't pull out our workbooks or walk in a line to lunch. No. We went to bed late last night after spending time together reading Charlotte's Web, drawing on the board with Daddy, and talking. We woke up right as the school bells were ringing. Samantha cuddled an extra long time with Daddy and then we saw him off. (Usually he would be home on Mondays, but he went out with my Papaw today.) We began with Pilates. Then took our time getting ready and eating, feeding the animals and walking the dog. We cleaned and we played together. We continued our Body Study, and did some awesome Respiratory System Experiments, read some books on the body, and played on Samantha's new Math Mat Game! And my favorite part was when we took our Sketch Books outside for Nature Study. Nature Studies are an amazing quiet time when we cuddle up in a comfy spot outside and find something nature related to draw and talk about. We sometimes add scripture to our drawings, quotes, or nothing at all. (Of course Sam requires some assistance on this.) We study the flower or animal or type of weather we choose. And then we pray. So peaceful and a great time to wind down, talk about our feelings, or just sit.

We made lunch together today. Played pretend. And picked Brennon up from his first day of school, a little early, which cut our day a bit short. After Jessie got home, we took them to Sonic for Slushies and to the playground. Then went to my Mom's for dinner and games.

We look forward to gymnastics stating in mid September. (When we went to the College Campus to sign her up and saw thre gym, the pool, the people. We were both in awe.) And her Homeschool group starting at the end of September. (Boy is she excited for the Not Back To School Picnic!)

 I know. I so know this is right for us. I have known since the beginning, but now that the anxiety of, "The Day She SHOULD Be Going To School" has passed, I am even MORE assured this is for us. The whole experience. The wholesome education she will receive. Makes it all worth it. I know there will be some "Not So Good" days. Days where we are rushing around. Days where we are both moody. Or just plain bored. But those are few and far between. Days like this make days like that totally worth it.

Side Note: Today has not all been a dream though. We did have two issues arise that we need to work through, but fortunately we will have all the time in the world to sort through them.

Samantha is having self esteem issues lately. Instead of comparing herself to her peers, which I know is common around this age, she compares herself to me, and it is causing her a lot of mental stress. I want to help her, but I am not exactly sure how. I have received some advice from a few women with daughters who have done the same thing, and I am hoping we can take care of it as soon as possible.

The second issue is that Samantha's sugar is getting worse. She has been way nauseous more frequently the last few days and her vision started blurring today after she had sugar. She almost passed out, so we are taking her to the Doctor tomorrow to hopefully get some answers. She has been tested before, but it was negative. I know something is wrong, but we are not sure what. 

*I will add pictures at the end of the week when I write another update.* 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Weekend Before

It's the weekend before school starts for Catoosa County. Wow. Monday is going to be a day of mixed feelings for me. Happiness we will be home together. But nervousness that we aren't going with the norm. Of course, who an I kidding, we are far from a mainstream family unit.

We have so busily been preparing Sam this year in a different way.

Last week I submitted her Letter of Intent to the school board.

And a few days prior we went to Southern Adventist University to sign Sam up for gymnastics! I couldn't believe this opportunity, to go to a huge college with an AMAZING gym and talented coaches-I have seen their training in action-and it is all made available to her and so affordable! Not to mention they have a  pool that we can swim in before or after class. Sam will have the chance to hang out with her friends and just relax and get some more physical activity in. I am so happy I looked at my options. I think it'll be right for us.

We have also made several shopping trips for clothes and "supplies." (She did get stuff like markers and a fancy pencil case. We also ordered some items like Matb Mat and Math War. We joined a few groups. Went to the Homeschool Expo. And made lots of calls about things like local homeschool events and special pricing for homeschoolers. (We get a huge discount at the Bodies Exhibit we are going to in September. It is still kind if pricey, but it would be way worse without the discount.)

We have been working on a Body Unit Study this Summer and will continue it, soon moving into fetal development, her favorite. We have also steadily been reading Charlotte's Web and doing lots with it. Next we begin Little House on the Prairie. Her choice.

Speaking of all this and school starting Monday, tonight was my Little Brother's open house. I Love to attend his stuff and stay involved in his life, so we went and I got that same feeling I always get when I go to that stuff. "So this is what it would be like?" Doesn't necessarily mean anything bad. No. Actually, I think it'd be cool to be one of the PTO leaders. One if the Moms who is always volunteering at the school. Everybody knows their face. And the kids think they are cool. Plus being involved in your child's education, what's better than that? It'd be exciting to get Sam ramped up for the carnival and what not. I heard a lot of parents saying things like, "Wow! Your class looks like it will be interesting this year! Your teacher seems so nice!" And it is weird to think we *don't plan* to ever send Sam to school. (God may have other plans.) But, despite how exciting school might be, it just, it doesn't feel so wrong for her to not be going.

Our lives are so adjusted to the outside norm that I only ever realize it isn't considered "normal" until people feel the need to remind us we are "odd."

Recycling is never a trouble. It is as normal to me as taking the trash out now. Eating organic, it's cake. Our budget is adjusted. Our grocery list is adjusted. And our bodies are adjusted. And our educational choice has really been in place since Sam was 2. The only reason this year seems so different is because this is the year that WOULD be a big deal. It would be the year she would start school.

I will wrap up this post by saying, this weekend is where we cross the threshold from , "No. She doesn't go to daycare." To "No. She doesn't go to school."

Here are some pictures of what we have been doing:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Letter Of Intent/Lonliness

Well, I did it. I submitted Sam's Letter of Intent today. She is an official "legal" homeschooler and she can never "not" be in school again, well, until she is 16 that is.

I didn't have to submit it until 2015, when she turned 7, but to do some of the groups and get some of the homeschool discounts and events, you have to have proof of homeschooling, which is your Letter of Intent. It is simply her First/Last Name. Age. Parents' Names. Address. And what dates you intend to "have school" through. (At least 180 days. We do year round. She is always learning something.) That's it. I save it to my computer as proof. They don't even acknowledge they got it. I keep records of everything we do. But they don't see them unless DFACS takes it to court. No "attendance." No communication. Nothing. Easy. I do my thing. They do theirs.

Still though, it really made things more official. More real. Before it was just, "Well, she doesn't go to daycare and we plan to homeschool at "school age," so she is homeschooled." No. Now she is HOMESCHOOLED! Physically and Legally Homeschooled.

I shared with a couple people that I submitted it, but even Hubby didn't understand. He was like, "Cool. So you submitted a paper saying you are going to do the exact same thing you have been doing for years-teaching her." Which is true, but at the same time, it would be SOOO nice to have a friend, just one friend who, "Gets It." Who says, "That is so exciting! What unit study did Sam pick next? So and So picked _____ ." Or "That's a huge step! Are you nervous? I was nervous when I submitted mine this year." Or "Yah. I read that book by Charlotte Mason. Very inspiring. The part I liked the most was..." 

I just really pray Sam and I both make some new friends this year so we can have someone who understands. Someone who can hang out with Sam during the day. Someone who says, "Hey, Samantha, are you going to be at the Not Back To School Picnic?" We both need it so that we don't feel like we are the only ones. I just hope it happens sooner than later.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Nature Hallway

We got a great start on Sam's Nature Hallway-the hallways leading to our rooms, just in time for her first "Official Year of Homeschool." 

Frames: We framed several flat objects such as leaves, cocoons, and feathers. (There will be more to come, and we will continue to put them up in rows of 3, but this is just what we have found and kept so far.) 

Shelves: I arranged a lot of her findings in Mason jars, (Since I have an excess of those.) and placed them on shelves that I sanded down and spray painted. We have 2 up right now, but I have more. The bottom shelf has a jar with a nest, a jar of acorns, and a jar of sticks and leaves. We also put a small jar of hatched chicken eggs and other small things on there to decorate it..The top shelf has a jar full of sand and shells and a jar of rocks. 

Sam adores it. She really Loves that her stuff is more accessible-not stuffed in a basket anymore. And she has something to be proud of and show to people when they come over. 

The next step is to frame her maps and put them on the other wall!