Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homeschooling 101 with Becca Underwood {Interview}

Today I'm excited to bring to you some very helpful info a knowledgeable source on the subject of homeschooling! Becca is going to share with us her tips and tricks and advice. Lets get to it!



Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Becca and my husband Nick and I have been married for eleven years. That seems crazy to type! Although I can't believe it has already been eleven year, those years have been simply incredible. During those years I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a Master's degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences, we moved twice, and we added five kids to our family! For the first two years of our marriage I was in grad school. I worked part-time as a deaf educator for the next eight years but I recently chose to stay home full-time. . Four of our kids (Bailey, Noah, Luke and Roman) were added to our family by birth and Kabaina came home from Ethiopia last April at age 8. Right now we are working as fast as can to collect all the necessary paperwork needed to bring home a seven-year old little boy from Ethiopia. Hopefully, sometime this year we will become a family of eight. Bailey and Kabaina are 9, Noah is 8, Luke is 4, and Roman is 3.
Things that make me smile are my family, homeschooling, my Bible Study girls (aka The James Girls), advocating for orphans and widows, and my Savior. When we traveled to Ethiopia last year I definitely left part of my heart in that country. I can't wait to go back to the home of the best coffee ever. We are always looking for ways our family can serve locally and around the globe but our hearts will forever be connected to Ethiopia.



Q: What made you decide to home school and did you start with your first child/from the beginning?
We had never considered homeschooling before we had kids but shortly after my first child was born we both knew that it was the best option for our family. God started guiding us in the direction of homeschooling before my oldest child was out of diapers. Nick and I chose to home school for several reasons. First of all, I just like being with my kids. They are funny and smart and I enjoy them. Secondly, I believe it is the easiest way to really know what my children are being taught and to know what is going on in their hearts and lives. For myself, I am not sure I can adequately train and instruct my children if I am not spending the majority of their best hours with them. We chose homeschooling because we want to know what our children are learning and we want them to have an education that fits each of them best. I know my kids, inside and out. As a homeschooling mom I get to help them pursue their God given passions through their school-work. I have control over the material we use and I can change it if something is not working for a particular child. I also love that my kids are able to work at their own pace. We are never waiting for someone to catch-up and we are not moving forward when we need a few more days to review a particular concept.

Q: How many years have you been home schooling?

I have been officially homeschooling our kids since our oldest child started kindergarten. This is my fifth with school-aged kids. Before that we also worked on preschool skills at home. I have to admit I began looking at curriculum years before it was needed.

Q: About how many hours a day do you home school?
We typically spend 4-5 hours a day on school. Usually, those hours take place in the morning but occasionally we do school on the weekend or in the evenings. I love the flexibility of homeschooling.

Q: Do you feel like your kids are getting a better education then they would in a public school? Maybe a custom education?
I do feel that my kids are getting a better education at home than they would at a public school. Having recently taught in public schools for 8 years I know there are many AMAZING teachers in our public schools. However, the best teacher will never know her students or love her students in the same way their parents can. I am thankful we have public schools, as they definitely fill a purpose and are needed by so many. At the same time I feel blessed to be able to teach my kids at home.

Q: How did you decide on the curriculum you are using? Did you try different curriculum before settling on the one you are currently using?
Ah, this is a complicated question! I think the answer changes slightly every year. I am not one to change everything every year but I will change what doesn't work. One thing that is important to me is to include lots and lots of living books in our school day and in our home. While I am not 100% a classical homeschooler, I do tend to lean that direction. We started homeschooling with Sonlight but as we added more kids to our family I felt that it was time to find to find a curriculum I could more easily use with multiple children. Two years ago I started researching again and ended up choosing My Father's World. Later, I realized MFW had been my second choice when I started homeschooling when Bailey was a baby.. It is working well and I still include many of Sonlight's readers and read-a-louds (we like to read!).

Q: Can you give us a run down of how your day goes on a normal day?

Typically, we are all awake, dressed, and fed by 8:00. I am not a morning person at all but somehow ended up with four kids who are up with the sun, literally. We head downstairs to start school between 8:00-8:30.
We begin our school day together with Bible. This year we are reading through Matthew and memorizing many verse in the same book. My kids also love taking turns choosing songs to sing during this time. Bailey and Noah start working on math and any other independent work for that day. Bailey uses Teaching Textbooks, a computer program, that includes instruction. Math just comes easily for Noah so I only have to answer a few questions or maybe give a quick introduction of a topic before he begins. While they are working independently, I am working with Luke and Kabaina using MFW's kindergarten curriculum. Luke and Kabaina usually work together for roughly an hour. When their work is completed Luke plays with Roman and Kabaina works on her math, phonics, and reading. She is 9-years old but is having to start from the beginning, as she just started learning English in April. Next, I work with Noah and Bailey using MFW's Exploring Countries and Cultures. They do most subjects together but work on spelling, language arts, and math separately. After we finish the combined subjects Bailey and Noah finish working on any independent subject and I am available to answer any questions.. Bailey also uses them time for Latin.
If we have time before lunch, I work with Luke and Kabaina separately on reading. We are using a more structured approach than what I used with Bailey and Noah. However, we often end up reading from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons in the afternoon. Throughout all of this Roman is playing and joining in whenever and wherever he wants. It is amazing what one and two-year olds can learn when you don't think they are paying attention. No matter where we are or what is going on, we stop for lunch at noon. After lunch we have a few hours of quiet time. My little boys nap during this time and my three older kids read, study spelling words, work on memory work, and play quietly. When the little boys wake-up it is time to do the other things that need to be done everyday: laundry, dishes, cleaning, starting dinner. My kids all pitch-in and help and then the big kids are usually playing outside until it is dark (come on summer!).. If we have school work to finish we work on it after dinner.

Q: You've recently adopted a little girl from Ethiopia, how does that affect your home school routine? Any tips for other parents that are homeschooling that might have recently adopted a non-English speaking child?
Wow! I am sure there are not words adequate to describe just how much adopting an older child, especially one who did not speak English, affected our normal routine in every area of our lives, including homeschooling. It is honestly the hardest thing we have ever done and yet something I would do again (we are!).
The first six months were just hard. Some days we finished school and some days we didn't. We schooled year around so it was okay to have an off day, or week. We really spent those first few months adjusting to being a family of seven. Kabaina needed time to learn the basics of being part of our family and we needed time to get to know her. English came surprisingly fast. I was probably most worried about how we would communicate and although, there were times when we obviously didn't completely understand each other, we just didn't have an issue conveying general ideas. Now, communication is not an issue. Kabaina is learning and using new vocabulary everyday and is beginning to understand the many nuances of the English language.
My advice for other adoptive homeschooling families, especially those of older kids is to go slow those first few months. When someone's world changes that drastically school really should not be your main focus. Attachment and bonding is much more important. A well-adjusted child who feels safe, loved, secure, and attached to their family will do much better in school now and in the future Take time to focus on those things.

Q: Do you have any advice for new home schooler's and those that might have been home schooling for a while? Anything that has made home schooling work better for you?
Relax. God gave your children and He is already equipped to handle anything you will face homeschooling. When you have a question, ask Him for advice. James tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously without finding fault. God and I have had many discussions about curriculum! Remember why you are homeschooling. My main goal is not to raise smart kids but rather to raise kids who love God and love others. (They do just happen to be smart!) When you keep your focus on teaching and modeling patience (oh, and let me tell you. there are plenty of opportunities to model patience during a typical homeschooling day!), love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, how to serve others, and how to extend mercy and grace the rest will fall in place. For me, it has been super helpful to have a schedule and a plan but I have to remind myself to write in pencil. If you need to move something, delete something, or add in something new...it is okay! I like starting the day off with a general game plan but I have learned that if our science experiment takes two hours instead of 30 minutes it is better to just roll with it than to stress over what you are missing.


Our homeschooling Space:
First of all, I know you absolutely do not have to have a home school room to home school. I know this because I home schooled from our kitchen table and living room couch until last fall. But I have to admit, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our home school room! One of the huge reasons I love the room is that we have the perfect set-up for our kids. I have a baby-proof playroom (as much as you can baby-proof for wild boys) connected to the home school room. I can be in either room and keep an eye on everyone. We added a few gates and, voila, the little boys are safely contained with their dinosaurs and trucks. One of my favorite resources is the Adam’s Chart of History. It is a 21-panel chronological time-line beginning with creation. You can literally spend hours looking at this chart. We have it hanging in the playroom.





Thank so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with us! I hope this encourages some to take that step or to continue taking those steps. You are your child's BEST teacher!

You can follow her family's journey at her blog found here.
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