Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Adventures in Homeschooling {Planning and Preparation}

Wow! We are busy these days in the Groombridge household! If you don't hear from me as often as before, there is a very good reason...This year we made the big decision to school our 2 little boys at home. It has been wonderful! Amazingly challenging, tiring and mentally exhausting, but wonderful! We were fortunate to find this amazing curriculum from A Beka Academy and it has been the perfect way for us to homeschool without the added stress of figuring it all out on our own. Of course, there are many other parents who choose to school their kids in other ways with other wonderful curriculum options and they are very successful. We may find other curriculum that work for us as well, but for now we are finding this one to be just what we needed.


Having grown up in Florida, I am still amazed at the extra space provided by our large basement! Our's has a nice-sized finished area that has been used as a playroom/guest room in which we added a full bathroom almost immediately upon moving in several years ago. We also have a nice spot for Kirk's home real estate office and loads of extra storage (which I probably appreciate TOO much!) as well as a wood-working area (a.k.a."Santa's worskshop...Shhhhh!). Last year we added a wall to separate off our guest room area a bit more. We had the opportunity to house a Korean exchange student for a couple months and he was able to have his own space which I think he greatly appreciated! We liked this new addition so much that we left the wall up and made the front area our classroom. The boys share a large old desk with a shelf for their books (both of which were gifted to us) and we recently purchased a great little desk for me so I can still complete my work while being close by to help with whatever they may need. 

We chose the accredited program that A Beka offers, which provides us with all the lesson plans and streaming videos of each class for both grade levels. Mine and Kirk's responsibilities involve laying everything out for the week and following through with administering quizzes, speed drills and tests and marking and recording these activities on the provided progress reports.
The streaming videos allow the boys to do their schoolwork while I continue with my other responsibilities including freelance graphic design, keeping up with this blog and YouTube Channel (which means continually thinking up recipes and tips!) and just generally taking care of the family (we all still do have to eat and keep a clean house! More on that below). This has been no small feat, but it really has been going well and the boys already, at a month in, are learning how to set goals, work ahead and are really enjoying doing school in their pyjamas!


The standards set by this curriculum are extremely high and Kirk and I are so pleased. The boys are really thriving with the one-on-one time and we are actually enjoying learning things we had mostly forgotten! We've also been amazed at how quickly they have improved with skills such as, math, language and penmanship. It really doesn't take very long for them to get it down and feel really good about themselves! A Beka gives the option of opting out of the first grading period for penmanship. I am still back and forth on this decision. What do you all think?
Please indulge me as I share a few pictures of their penmanship skills...

Reward stickers have been a big hit and a great motivator! Who knew??

With hard work, they master the cursive letters quickly!

I've been pretty tough on the older one! He has amazed me with his progress!

Being a Christian family, it is extremely important to us that our boys' education have a biblical basis and this curriculum gives us that as well. Each day begins with Bible class and they teach the stories with beautiful visuals that really help the stories stick in their memories. Their teachers on the videos are engaging and it's fun to try to beat the kids in the class to the answers! Also, due to the Academy being located in Pensacola, FL, the curriculum is very US-based which means any geography they study is centered around the US which confused our younger guy at first! But, it doesn't take much extra time to discuss it all from a Canadian perspective with the help of our wall maps!



In the midst of all this education I still have to run a household! And, as you all know, I run a fairly healthy, mostly clean-eating, gluten-free and mostly refined-sugar-free household. :-) So, I still have to have a good deal of planning and prep to make sure we all have decent breakfasts, lunches and dinners throughout each day. I must say, it is VERY nice not having to pack lunches each day for the boys...however, I still have to MAKE lunch...I'm not totally off the hook! With homeschooling we don't have to rise from bed as early as we used to. However, I do still try to get up about an hour before everyone else so I can prepare breakfast and anything else needed before things get rolling.


We are no longer a "cereal for breakfast" family like we were a few years ago, which means I am up preparing various options each day. Usually these options involve eggs of some sort, pancakes and smoothies. Recently we were alerted to a local Portuguese bakery that provides large loaves of gluten-free bread for a decent price which are available each Saturday. Since it can be SO difficult to produce a decent loaf of gluten-free bread at home this was a really nice find. You all know by now that I usually prefer to make my own foods because I like to know all my ingredients. However, when you are a busy family, it is really nice to be able to just purchase some things and know they are going to be good. This bread has become one of those things. I use the smaller slices that are too small for a decent sandwich as my bread for french toast which the boys are a bit obsessed with right now! Here's a reminder of the Lentil Pancakes that can be made with chocolate chips or left plain and topped with some fresh Ontario blueberries and pure maple syrup! Yum!!


This morning was one of those times when I got up and got a lot done before anyone else got up. I made my usual cheeseless spinach omelet in which I use my Homemade Almond Milk and then I made a batch of Oat Crepes/Pancakes for the boys with extra, of course, for later. I then mixed up a large batch of Tunnel BBQ coleslaw for use at lunch and dinner because it's always better if it sits in the fridge for a few hours before serving. If you live in the southwestern area of Ontario or eastern Michigan, I strongly suggest you make a point of visiting the Tunnel BBQ in Windsor right near the tunnel border between Canada and the US. Even if you don't care for coleslaw, give it a try...you might just change your mind!

Ok, enough about the food...it's easy to get sidetracked! Back to the homeschooling...

Oh, look...school in his jammies!
Another perk of the streaming videos is that the boys can come downstairs, eat their breakfast and get started on school even if the rest of us aren't quite ready to get going. They can do certain things on their own and then if there is a quiz or test to administer, they know to wait for Mommy to come supervise. It's also nice that I can have them do a class while I get lunch ready and feel like they are still getting much accomplished. They get so excited to try something new and even use our chalk board (gifted by our friends, Pat & Laird...thank you!!!) to practice! Also, it is very easy for them to work ahead on some days which leaves us free to get out and do things as a family when they might otherwise be in a classroom. Of course, one of those activities is more time in the pool with friends!



Exploring at Lake Erie

Morning time with the family!

Backyard Baseball

Enjoying the beach at Grand Bend with Grandma & Papa

Grand Bend at sunset - what a nice day away because they worked ahead!

And of course, there's the outdoor exploration...

A yellow jacket from inside our shed and an old nest - the detail is truly amazing!


We have some friends who gifted a microscope to the boys and it has already gotten a lot of use! 

Finding the information in the textbook helps our discoveries come alive!

We are also blessed to have a small group of friends who are doing the same curriculum as well as a larger Homeschooling Association with which there will be loads of activities throughout the year. There are also Facebook groups in which we can fee free to ask questions and get really helpful answers and encouragement. We are definitely not doing this alone!


I'm sure there will be loads more to share, but this has been a little taste of what homeschooling is like in our household. Be sure to follow on Instagram to keep up with us on our day to day adventures! I'm sure we will adjust as time goes on and we continue to figure out how best our boys learn. Right now, as I finish typing this post, they are basically having a contest to see who can work ahead the most! If one announces their plans to do 2 extra lessons, the other announces they will do do 3! This is great because in just a couple days we will have Grandma and Papa Gardner and Great Grandma Meier here visiting for a week and they will be able to have some free time with them without feeling like they are getting behind! Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Mom & Dad will be helping with a special early birthday celebration with the boys so continue to stay tuned for the next recipe video! 

We are most definitely in the early stages of this adventure, but couldn't imagine it any other way. Thanks for allowing me into your lives to not only share my recipes and Healthy Hints, but also other aspects of my life with you all! It continues to be a great outlet for my creativity and I hope it helps inspire you in some way as well. Ok, I'm off to heat up some dinner! See ya later!

Treat yourself well!


As I said, we have the choice of opting out of the first grading period for Penmanship. Judging from the above pictures, what do you think we should do?
I am seriously back and forth on this. I think they have caught on amazingly well! I might just go ahead and do it. 

Do you currently homeschool or have you ever?
This is our first go at it and we love it! It will be interesting to see how it evolves as time goes on.

If you have schooled at home, what is your curriculum preference?
We are loving the A Beka program. I am not a very organized person by nature so having all the lesson plans laid out has been fantastic. I also like that they are required to learn history and science along with the regular math, reading and writing.