Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homeschool "curriculum" that didn't break the bank

Yesterday, the Donut was having a really tough time (sorta like she is right now as I type this) so I left her at home to presumably sleep (but instead scream bloody murder for a really long time.... poor daddy) while He-Man and I went out and did some much needed shopping. While I only had a few things on my list, I knew that this weekend might be one of my last chances to find two of them: cute maternity shorts on clearance and a marked down backpack for the Donut. To Kohl's we went. Most of you already know that I hate shopping. I especially hate shopping for brand new items because it feels wasteful. But I'd already scoped out the thrift stores for maternity shorts (no such luck) and used backpacks typically mean a festering pile of filth and yuck. The need for both of these items was theoretically inspired by our imminent trip to Walt Disney World. But a nice pair of shorts is always good to have, even if they are a size too big and I expect to "expand" into them. He-Man has several bags in which he can carry his junk but the Donut's things usually end up in a plastic sack. I kinda felt bad about this. So, at Kohl's we got a small Dora backpack on rollers that had been marked down 60%. We also found"Cars" and "Wall-E" tank tops for He-Man to stick into the closet and wrap up for Christmas (he actually volunteered to wrap them).
Next we headed to Ross where I always tend to get into trouble.

I found exactly for what I was looking. A non-plastic, non breakable tea set (or Picnic set... whatever they want to call it!) for the Donut's birthday. It's a few months away but the "maternity clothing money fairy" dropped a load of cash into my lap so I actually had some extra money to spend. I like to shop early. It lessens my anxiety. At any rate, I was thrilled to no end with what I found in the "tea set" category. And she will be too. I'm thinking a couple of costumes off of the Halloween clearance racks and a 3 year old's birthday gifts will be complete. Especially now that I've decided on the type of cake that we'll all be having for our birthdays from here until eternity. (But that is another post).

What I ended up buying that I didn't have on the agenda were three homeschool "curriculum" sets for He-Man. "I thought you were unschooling?" you ask? Let me explain. Two days ago I was taking a shower and we were getting ready for our weekly Kindergarten date with our homeschool group. He-Man comes into the bathroom carrying his Cars folder filled with coloring sheets and other papers. He asked me if he could take it with him to the Discovery Center. I asked why and he said, "Well, I know that I am going to homeschool but I really think I should have some homework". So I said, "You would like to sit down and do lessons and work sheets?" and he excitedly said, "YES!" I guess that means he led me to look for some "curriculum".

I had already scoped out the toy section at Ross pretty thoroughly when something on the very bottom shelf caught my eye. I plopped down to get a closer look and next to it were these "Total Learning Kits". One for reading and one for math. And behind it, a bigger version of the Hooked on Phonics Bible Kit that I bought at Tuesday Morning just earlier this week. But here is the cool thing... the reading and math kits were $11.99 a piece. Just the big workbook inside of each of them sells for $14.95 online! The Bible kit was a little more, $19.99, but it was still a great deal, I think.

We brought them home and examined them. There are workbooks for now, Kindergarten, and First grade (not that I intend to really ever know what "grade level" he is in at any given time.) But my point is that we'll be able to use these kits for at least a year and a half. I got out all of the ones that he's ready to start with. It's like five books. He's so excited and he can't wait to get started tomorrow. I have to admit, I'm excited too. My favorite part of school was always the brand new school supplies. It's so much fun to stack and restack those clean, crisp notebooks. To sharpen the new pencils and to smell the perfectly shaped crayons. Certainly one of those simple moments of bliss. Not complicated. Just fun.

I feel that I'm the one who needs some structure around here. In a few short months, we'll be having a baby and possibly taking time off from outside activities with our group, trips to the Discovery Center, etc. for a while. So, I've decided to map out a very loose schedule (as in "it's Monday, be sure and take that weekly trip to the library you promised" or "today is Wednesday, weren't you going to do art and music weekly?") He-Man loves charts and check lists so I may make him a notebook with check lists for all of his "subjects" where we can check them off and see that they are being covered in one way or another. I am also considering beginning a music, science, geography, social studies and art curriculum notebook.... with ideas, songs, finger plays, and games that can be at my disposal any time the kids are in need of some structured activities. The internet is filled with all sorts of resources but it's simply not convenient to drop what you are doing and check out your bookmarks in the middle of the day. Paper always works better for me. This week I also have a goal of finding another small cd notebook in which I can put all of the kids' music and story cds. They are scattered all over the place and not exactly in the safest places. It's time to start utilizing the audio books and music that we have!

So, all of you homeschool/unschool moms, what do you do to keep yourselves engaged with the kids, especially if yours are small like mine? I'd love to hear your stories!

Update: cd notebooks have been purchased and filled. I never realized just HOW MANY children's story and song cds that I had on hand! Weeee!!!


  1. I think it's fine for unschooling families to have some curriculum. Sometimes it's the kids who need it and sometimes it's the mom!

    For us, it was me!!

    Jack has quit and lost interest in going to any outside classes. And he's been playing way too many video games. It was bothering me. I know we're supposed to be all unschooled and relaxed about such things. But I find it too hard to be relaxed. I start to feel like a failure.

    I think it's hard to have perfect faith in the unschooling ideal. So, I see no harm in doing a few curriculum things here and there.

    Jack was very resistant at first, but now he seems to be liking the worksheets.

    Anyway, besides the 5-15 minutes of worksheet stuff, I think our best education moments are at the table. We have great discussions while eating.

  2. Thanks so much for the reassurance, Dina! It helps that H is so excited about doing his "work". We'll see how long that lasts though!! I like the dinner table for learning and talking too. My son has excellent conversational skills and I'm certain it's because, at times like dinner, we talk to him as if he is a person.

  3. If he is asking for it then do it. Sicne we dropped the traditional learning and I let the kids choose if they want to do something they bring me traditional stuff all the time. In fact, my son stayed up late doing phonics the other day (5 pages) , the girls got several math books out of the library and stayed up into the night doing them, both girls are teaching themselves Polish--because they want to. The point is tha if you don't force it they will take it on themselves--even the math. The problems (and fighting) come when the parent starts scheduling saying "Now it is time to do this..." and the kids start rebelling. Rach (age 10) picked up a whole slew of "school" books and curriculum (my parents both teach and give us books all the time) and took them to her room--including 8th through high school maths. She turned her nose up at ANYTHING that I have ever insisted on doing together. And conversation is when most of the actual learning is going on--let them tell you about their projects or what they are reading (once they do)--it is amazing how much they are learning because they actually want to. (And my son LOVES Hooked on Phonics while my girls won't touch it.)

  4. That's wonderful. I'm a homeschooling Mom as well. Even though my kids are alot older than yours, I have always taken the relaxed approached to homeschooling. I don't do anything traditional except maybe Christmas.


  5. I think some kids just like the stuff that "looks like school" more than others. My middle would be more like that than my oldest, except that my oldest (who has an aversion to writing utensils) keeps him too busy playing to sit down very long. :)

    Sometimes, when I feel like I'm not engaged enough (usually because I've been preoccupied with my own agenda, or on the computer too much), I just tell myself I'm going to make sure the boys and I do at least ONE FUN THING together every day. That's pretty easy. When they were very little, I'd make a new batch of playdough, or put out the paints, or fill up the kiddie pool, or offer to read as many books as they wanted, or bake cookies and let them help, or play a game. Playing a board game is still one of their favorites.

    They also have learned math mostly by my husband making up verbal math games to do together. They love it, and there's no pressure to complete an assignment.

    I'm really still learning how to play more. I was the curriculum kid. :)


Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting! Please make sure to leave your name and an email address so that I can respond to your comments! I hope you have a blessed day!