SEP
07
2011

Ask Erica…Frequently Asked Questions Vol. 2

FAQ

I get a lot of the same questions over and over, so I thought I’d do another Frequently Asked Questions post. If you missed my first one, you can see it here.

 

1. How do you do it all?

The truth is I don’t! But you can click here to see how I do do what I do do.

 

2. How Do You Track Your Yearly Lesson Plans?

I currently use Homeschool Tracker. They offer a free basic version, and a paid ($50) version. I finally purchased the paid version this year and I’m very happy with it. They have video tutorials which I HIGHLY recommend watching before adding in your lessons. One nice thing about Homeschool Tracker is that you can go in as a Teacher and add Lesson Plans for a subject. Once you get those done, you can “Assign” those lessons to any of your students. Which for me, means that I can type in my plans once for Strawberry Shortcake, then assign them out to Turbo, Tinker Bell, and Teeny Tot once the time comes without having to retype their lessons each year!

It will keep track of attendance, hours, grades (you can even do weighted grading), assignments, etc. You can schedule holiday’s, vacation, as well. It does take a little work to get the assignments added in, but once you’re done it great as far as seeing your schedule, and printing reports. You can see all the features of the Plus Edition here.

My favorite feature is the reporting. It’s very easy to print out reports that show my students and what they’re assignments are for the week. I print it out using the Assignment Calendar, it shows a grid with Mon-Friday across the top, Subject down the left side, then the assignments across for the week. I use that to decide what to put in our workboxes for the week, and also have a copy printed out that we highlight off once an item is complete so I know that we’ve covered everything for the day. I keep the completed weeks in a binder woth divider tabs for each student’s name as record of what they did for the year.

At the end of the year, I print off their finished hours and attendance to send in to the state. (You’ll want to see what your reporting requirements are for your state, you can find this information at www.hslda.org .)

NOTE: Since all this information is stored on your computer, you’ll want to make sure to back up your data, there is a video on this as well.

  • There is also an online schedule tracking option called SkedTrack, but I find they don’t have all the reporting capabilities that Homeschool Tracker offers, so I don’t use that one, but I know friends who do and like it.

 

3. What’s your typical daily schedule like?

You can see a typical day here. Basically we start our day with breakfast and devotions around 8 or 8:30am. Then we move on to the main schoolwork at about 9am. We work until noon then break for lunch and a “recess” if you will. I put the baby down during that time, then we pick back up around 1:30pm for our Geography, Art, and Science depending on the day. We’re typically done around 3pm, some days earlier, some days later depending.

 

4. How do you schedule your school year?

I typically follow our public school schedule. We start in mid August, break for about 3 weeks in December through Christmas. We start back up at the beginning of January, take a Spring Break usually the 2nd or 3rd week of March, then finish up the year at the end of May. Then we do a summer break from June – July. You’ll want to check your own state laws to see how many days you’re required to do each year before organizing your schedule.

 

5. Do you do every subject every day?

No. I do core subjects daily such as bible, math, reading, writing, history/geography. Science, PE, art, typing, and Spanish will be done a few times a week. I think as a homeschool mom I’m always worried about fitting everything in, but even in public schools they do not do every subject every day.

 

6. What order do you teach the alphabet in when doing Letter of the Week?

I teach vowels first then start going through the rest consonants. This way once they learn vowel sounds you can start with the beginning reading blends. So like if they know a,e,i,o,u sounds then you teach them B, you can teach ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Once they get that beginning blends concept down, you can add on ending consonants to make easy CVC words: bat, bed, big, bop, bug.

 

7. How long do you spend on school with a preschooler?

I typically do about 1.5 to 2 hours of school with my preschooler. Last year she did a little bit extra in the afternoons with our Expedition Earth course, then this year it will be with Road Trip USA. But normally I wouldn’t be doing those subjects with a preschooler unless they had older siblings. One thing with preschool is that I really try to keep it light and fun. Since you’re just starting off with school I suggest letting them set the pace somewhat. If they’re getting burnt out or frustrated, then just stop for the day. There’s no reason to stress them out before they even get going in their school career. I also let them do their workboxes in whatever order they choose, just again to help them enjoy the learning process.

 8. What is the difference between the Letter of the Week and K4 Curriculum?

The LOTW is geared towards 3-4 yr olds and teaches letter sounds and recognition, then number recognition and counting 1-10. It also covers shapes, colors, logical thinking and motor skill activities such as cutting, lacing, and pre-writing.

The K4 Curriculum assumes your child knows all of those things and is ready to learn beginning reading. There is higher level counting and basic addition and subtraction as well, so you’ll want to make sure your students have a good knowledge of the LOTW activities before moving on to K4.

9. Where did you get the Palm Tree that you put your letters up on?

I found it at a local Lakeshore Learning store, it’s a bulletin display. If you don’t have a Lakeshore nearby you can get it here too:  Amazon Palm Tree.

 

10. Do you offer LOTW or K4 in printed form?

No, I’m sorry, I currently do not have a publisher, so they are not offered already printed. At this time none of my curriculum is offered in printed format, they are offered in downloadable or CD versions only.

 

11. Do you really cook everyday? (RE: my Monthly Meal Planning)

LOL! Ahahahaha! Oh my goodness no! And if I said yes, I’m sure my husband would comment. I do my best to follow my plan, and it definitely helps with grocery shopping, but no! I do not cook 3 meals plus snacks each day. Some days we substitute cereal for breakfast, some days we eat dinner or lunch out. It just depends on what’s going on. As long as I’ve made it to the store for the week, I do my best to keep to my schedule, but some days just don’t work out like we planned! And some days I just don’t feel like it. But I do feel better having a plan and choosing not to follow it, rather than not having a plan at all! Hope that makes sense?

 

12. How do you keep the Teeny Tot busy while teaching the older kids?

Here’s some of the things I kept my Teeny Tot busy with Teeny Tot School, I also love Carisa’s site, she has lots of tot tray ideas. I think the main thing with toddlers is to keep them involved, and feeling like they’re getting some of your attention too. Keeping them busy with their own school work is a great way to include them in your day!

 

13. Do you have any tips on printing your LOTW or K4?

As far as saving on ink, you may want to check some local printers to see what they cost. Also, most printers have a ‘fast print’ or ‘draft print’ option that you can select that uses less color. I’m not sure what printer you have so I can’t say exactly what your options are, but if you Google your printer name and print using less ink you should get some info!

Another option is to print only what you need. There are so many items to choose from in both of my curricula, you may want to only print what you think would benefit your child most. Or mix it up so they aren’t doing the exact same activities each week.

As far as laminating goes, I usually put 2 pages back to back, so the printed side is facing out. I run that together through my laminator then cut them apart. That leaves lamination on the front, but not on the back. This helps with lamination costs, also allows for a  better surface on the back when using velcro, and also makes the cards less slippery for the large floor letters.

Cheap Printing: www.bestvaluecopy.com has some great prices, you may want to check there!

 

14. What Laminator Do You Suggest?

I have a Xyron 900. I found it on sale awhile back, and I use it for making stickers, magnets, and laminating. It uses a sticky laminate, not a thermal one, which makes it good for cutting out objects. If you’re just going to be doing laminating, I’d suggest going with the Scotch Thermal Laminator instead. It cab be found for around $30 at places like Wal-m*rt and Amazon, maybe even Sam’s Club or Costco.

 

15. When Do You Sleep?

Um, I’m horrible in this area. I stay up way too late. Must go to bed earlier. It’s on my ‘to-do’ list.

 

If you have more questions that I haven’t covered, feel free to email me at erica {at} confessionsofahomeschooler {dot} com and I’ll do my best to get back with you!

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Comments

  1. I love you. And not in a weird way but in the “thanks for helping me feel normal way” :-) HA! You gave me my sanity back a few weeks ago when you said “If it’s your oldest, don’t push them (with preschool)” when you explained why your teeny tot is getting school work – because of the older kids. I felt like I had to have structure or I was a bad mom. My oldest is only 2 – he just needs to play and color about 1 time a week when he wants “peeper” :-) He loves letters and LOVES Chicka Chicka boom boom but he doesn’t love me standing in front of him teaching (trust me, I tried it) He wants to just color . . .sometimes with crayons, markers or a glue stick (what? It is purple until it dries! which brings the question “Where is it mom? Where is it?”) So, now, I’m ready for the first few weeks of preschool NEXT year – it’s all packed away HA I feel so much less stressed and know that I can just go with the flow. Geez – he won’t start K-5 for like 3 years. Let a kid be a kid, right? (Don’t worry, he does know his ABC’s, 123′s, colors and shapes so he’s good to go!) Thanks again – I loved this post very, very much!!!

  2. Erica, I loved you before, but I love you even more now. Thank you SO much for all of your advice. I’ve been working on my plan for the year (We are starting REALLY late on the 19th) and budget tonight and this could not have come at a better time. Especially #11. ;) God bless you!

  3. I so needed to read this this morning as I am feeling particularly overwhlemed with my schedule and house hold chores. SO very nice to hear you have a problem with LAUNDRY, it never seems to end, I do 1 or 2 loads a day and yet the pile seems to stay the same size and don’t get me started on actually folding it and putting it away!!! Although I have decided that this is the year the kids are going to learn to fold their own laundry (they already put it away)

  4. Your curriculum looks so wonderful, but I don’t have a color printer and I am afraid the cute pages just wouldn’t be as great in black and white.

  5. Hope you don’t mind but I gave a shout out to your blog the other day and all the wonderful things you have on here and the great free downloads for people with small kiddos. I have printed off a bunch and my little one had so much fun working on some of the Pre Writing Sheets the other day. Thanks for all the great ideas and for being so kind to share so many things with all of us on here.
    Love your blog!
    Hugs
    Jill

  6. “I usually put 2 pages back to back, so the printed side is facing out. I run that together through my laminator then cut them apart. ”

    Thank you! This is the best idea ever. NONE of the stuff I laminate sticks to anything. My morning board if falling apart. Genius!

  7. Hey Erica.

    You mentioned that you do not have a publisher but I just wanted to tell you that you can self-publish through Amazon. To check out more information on it you can go to https://www.createspace.com/ I am not an advertiser just one of your blog readers. You can upload your work on there and order copies and sell them or even offer them on amazon and they will print them when ordered (no overhead cost). Oh and its free to join and upload work ect. I use them and just wanted to offer you that recommendation.

    PS. I enjoy your blog very much! It has been extremely helpful as I embark on the homeschooling process with my children.

    Michelle

  8. I so love that you said you don’t get enough sleep!! I was actually wondering last week what time you go to bed. I get up at 4:15 to teach a 5 a.m. boot camp and I usually check my email on my phone to see if anyone is not going to make my class. Anyway, one day last week I glanced at facebook and saw that you posted something just a few hours before I got up. While I don’t get enough sleep, I have the opposite problem! I am dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn!!

  9. Sarah Maynard says:

    Thank you soo much for your honest and informative answers. Would it be possible for you to do a post/series on teaching children to read? My oldest is ready, but the task sure can be daunting for someone who has never taught it before.

  10. Dorothy Hinds says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I really am struggling lately feeling on this homeschool island….all my friends have their kids in some form of public schooling. I feel God has called me to do this but struggle with balance. Been reading your archive and then this post! it was like God spole through you! I am now in the middle of declutter; deciding to prioritze, then schedule and then be willing to LET GO. I feel like I am not overwhelmed already!
    But seriously do you have a lot of other homeschool families your friends with? how do you find time witha girlfriend? I always used to plan paydates but now that everyone is in school or preschool its different?

    • Hi Dorothy,
      I do have a group of friends that are homeschoolers. We also belong to a local homeschool co-op where the kids get to do fun activities and such. As for girl time, we get together as friends for our b-days, and we do a homeshcool mom’s night, but nothing else formal, just random. Also we do play-dates with our friends as well. But again. they’re mostly homeschooler’s so that helps.

      You might want to check out http://www.hslda.org to help find a local group in your area!

  11. My daughter is currently in daycare and they are learning their letters there in order (currently on c). I like your idea of doing the vowels first and then continuing on with consonants. Do you think that by doing work at home after daycare on other letters will confuse her?

    • I don’t really think that teaching her the vowels at night would hurt anything, once you get through them all you can mix them with the letters she does know then keep that up as her school goes through the alphabet! :o)

  12. I know I’ve seen in mentioned somewhere, but where are your fonts from? Is it Fonts4Teachers?

  13. I love the part about how you admit that you don’t always cook every meal, every night. I do Dave Ramsey’s emeals, which plan a meal a day too. Sometimes I feel guilty when I order out, but I guess I need to be reminded that it’s ok every now and then. :) Thank you for being real, Erica!! Lauren lholmes79.wordpress.com/

  14. Kathleen Calabrese says:

    Erica,
    I am sorry if I am not posting this in the correct place. I keep clicking on contact me and it does not take me to anything. I want to ask you a question about your Expedition Earth Curriculum. Could you please contact me.
    kcalabrese17@yahoo.com
    Blessings
    Kathleen

  15. Hey everyone!
    I just wanted Erica’s readers to know that I went ahead with her suggestion for printing the 1,262 pages for the Letter of the Week. I used http://www.bestvaluecopy.com and was EXTREMELY pleased! I highly recommend them. They have color copies on regular paper for $0.09. I opted to print on a heavier weight paper (#65) and it was $0.13 a page. They give you free shipping on an order this large which is a steal because it weighed 44 pounds. They also sent me a thank you letter with a $5 Amazon gift card. Who does that? My total for the entire LOTW was $160. Crazy good deal.

    The only bummer using an online printer is that you have to upload each individual letter separately. But, for the cost savings it is totally worth it. It saved me hundreds of dollars.

    • Mindy, did you contact them first? I am wanting to get everything printed and it says each additional file is $3.00…. that is a lot of files so wondering how you did it :) thanks!!

  16. LeeAnn Giles says:

    Hi Erica,

    I would like some more information regarding your K4 Curriculum. I tried the “email me” button, but since I use yahoo mail and not my servers email, I couldn’t email you through that link.
    Your K4 Curriculum looks fantastic and I am considering purchasing it. What I would like to know is whether that curriculum is designed to PREPARE a student for kindergarten or is that curriculum designed to BE the kindergarten curriculum?
    Thank you for this wonderful website….what an encouragement to a homeschooling mom who feels called to homeschool, yet who has no idea what she is doing.

    • Hi LeeAnn,
      The K4 Curriculum is great for kids age 4-5 who are ready for Kindergarten. The curriculum introduces beginning reading, math and handwriting skills that will give your student a huge advantage as they proceed through their elementary years.

      Upon completion of this program, students will have a basic understanding of simple addition and subtraction, place value, basic 1 and 2 vowel words, and beginning reading skills, logical thinking and much more! With this curriculum you also receive 34 weeks worth of daily lesson plans to help guide you through a full year kindergarten skilled activities.

  17. Katherine C says:

    What was your reply to LeeAnn Giles, dated 14 Nov 2013 regarding the K4 curriculum?
    Thank you so much for providing all of this information and products!!!! God has really blessed you!

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