Showing posts with label Homeschool Mom Thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschool Mom Thoughts. Show all posts

The Real Reason Why We Homeschool



"So, why did you decide to homeschool?"

I've been asked this question many times over the last several years, and sometimes it feels like a loaded question.  My standard answer has been that I was homeschooled myself and always knew that I wanted to homeschool too.  It's my non-confrontational, let's-not-get-too-far-into-this answer.  People can potentially get pretty fired up over educational choices, so I've fallen back to citing my own experience in an attempt to not rock too many boats.

But the truth is my standard reply is not really a real answer.  It's not a real "why".  "I always knew I would homeschool" is not a reason that gets you through the hard days when you wonder if it would have been easier to just put them on the big yellow bus.

If you know a homeschool mom, even one who grew up homeschooled like me, homeschooling is not the default choice.  You have to be a little bit of a rebel to homeschool, and you have to have a reason why you think it's better.  That might ruffle some feathers, but I do think it's a necessary ingredient to homeschool successfully.  As a homeschool parent, you have to have a solid reason why you think homeschooling is the better choice for your family in order to stick with it, because it's not easy.  That reason might vary from family to family, but you need one.

It occurred to me that maybe I’m not doing anyone any favors by not getting into the full reason why we homeschool.  So in this post I wanted to be little more up-front by sharing mine.



The main reason why we homeschool is because it is very important to us to protect my kids' childhood, and to train our children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  And we think homeschooling is the educational choice that is most conducive to those goals.

There are a lot of reasons we choose to homeschool and think it’s beneficial, but this is our most important one.

First, let's talk about protecting our kids' childhood.

Your mind probably jumps first to protecting their innocence, and that is part of what I mean here.  With things like comprehensive sex education and a rampant por.nog.raphy problem among younger and younger kids, if I can "shelter" my children from those things from a while, you bet I'm going to.  But there are other aspects of a childhood to protect as well.

To me, homeschooling is more conducive to protecting childhood in the matter of simple time.  I want my kids to have chunks of their day with time to play together, to read books for no other reason than interest, to explore God’s creation, to build something with their hands.  I want them to have time to connect meaningfully with the rest of the family each day, to be creative, to get bored, and time to just be.  To be a kid.  

I knew from my own homeschool student experience that homeschooling takes much less time (I found the estimates in this post to be pretty accurate), and there is obviously no homework.  That leaves my kids more time in their day to experience all the fun of childhood.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.



My second reason is that I want to train my kids up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

As a Christian parent, I believe it is my duty to train and instruct my children in the faith.  This is backed up by Scripture.

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

We will not hide them from their children, but will declare to the next generation the praises of the LORD and His might, and the wonders He has performed. Psalm 78:4

There is no shirking this duty to teach the next generation about the Lord, whether our kids are homeschooled or go to public or private school.  My greatest desire for my children is that they would repent of their sins and trust in Jesus as their Savior, and that they would want to serve Him with their whole lives.  My goal as a Christian parent is to do everything I can to bring my kids to Christ and encourage them in living their lives for Him.

In my experience, homeschooling is more conducive to training my children in the faith because I have the freedom as a homeschool parent to integrate this instruction into every aspect of their education.  Every subject they are learning is an opportunity to also point them to the Giver of all knowledge.  

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  Proverbs 9:10

It is a huge perk to me that homeschooling allows us to start with a biblical foundation for our kids' education and build their faith along with their studies, as long as I am faithful in teaching them this way.




A Few Things I Am Not Saying

You should know that I am NOT saying that if you send your kids to school, you are not doing a good job training your children up in the faith.  I don't believe that at all.  I know many godly, Christian parents who don't homeschool and are doing a great job with their kids.  But it also can't be denied that there is a more limited window of time in which to train them up in the faith when they are at school most of each weekday.  I don't believe education is neutral - all instruction is guided by a worldview, one which may or may not be biblical.  You can be successful in training up your kids in the faith with any educational road you may choose, but some roads are going to have more obstacles to work around than others.  Personally, I would rather go with the road with less obstacles.

I am not saying that if you don’t homeschool your kids won’t have a childhood.  I am saying that it might take more vigilance and intention and effort to protect innocence and time to be a kid when they are at school for much of the day.

I am not criticizing anyone for making a different educational choice, and I’m not criticizing teachers.  I'm fully aware that not everyone is able to homeschool, and I personally know many public and private school teachers who care about their students.  Parents I respect may come to a different conclusion about what they should do about their child's education, and that's ultimately up to you as a parent.  This post is not meant to be taken as a criticism.  I’m only hoping to share a few of my honest thoughts about an educational choice (homeschooling) that is certainly not the road of least resistance, though I may have given that impression with my standard answer in the past. 




When it comes down to it, I think people ask me this question because homeschooling is a novelty still.  Public or private school has been the default option for many people, and they wonder why someone would choose something different.  My hope in sharing my honest thoughts here is to bolster anyone who may be thinking about homeschooling, and to provide more meaningful insight as to why someone would choose to homeschool for those who have not thought about it seriously before.  You may disagree with my reasons, and that's fine, but this is why we have made the decision to homeschool our kids.



Maybe I should turn the tables next time and ask "Why did you decide to send your kids to school?"  That might make for an interesting conversation, ha!

If you are a homeschool parent, what is your main reason for homeschooling?

A Typical Homeschool Week




I've thought for a while now of sharing one of our typical homeschool days.

The only problem is we don't really have "typical" homeschool days.

We don't do the same subjects every day.  Some days we might run errands or go on a nature hike, and school looks a little different.  Some weeks are lighter, and some weeks we really accomplish a lot.

What we do have is a typical homeschool week, so I thought I'd share a sample week for you to see how we fit everything in.  This is an actual week of school that I pulled right out of my record book.  I tried to pick a fairly average week.  Some weeks we squeeze in more (especially with science or history), some weeks we accomplish less.  This is just to give you an idea.

You might also notice that we don't necessarily do a math or reading lesson every day - that's because we are actually ahead of where I had scheduled us to be at this point in the year, so some days we skip.  I shared a video about how I planned out our school year, and as long as we are staying close to my goal points, I'm fine with giving us a break on certain subjects some weeks.

Okay, here we go!  I had to guess on some of the surrounding details since I don't remember exactly how the day went several weeks ago, but in general these kinds of days are pretty typical for us.


Monday

The kids wake up around the same time that I do, but I tell them to stay in their rooms until at least 7:00 while I try to squeeze my devotions in.  Some days I can do morning devotions before starting the day, some days I can't.

I get the kids eating breakfast, and fix my makeup.  Then they play while I eat my breakfast and watch the news.  We enjoy having slow mornings.

Sometime around 10:00 or 11:00, I get Wyatt started on doing his math on the computer.  We are supplementing with an online curriculum this year, so some days he does math on the computer, and some day we do one-on-one instruction.  

He finishes math, so I have him practice his cursive while I do a reading lesson with Gwen.  The reading lesson goes quick so we move right on to Gwen's math.

After Gwen is finished I switch back to Wyatt, and we do a reading lesson.  Then I take a break to start lunch.

After we eat, as I'm getting Georgie down for a nap, I have Wyatt start outlining his writing assignment for the week and cut out his "mini books" for his science notebook.  I settle Clyde in with his kindergarten workbook too.  Gwen reads or plays quietly.  I help Wyatt with writing after Georgie is settled, and then we enjoy what's left of the afternoon.

Tuesday

I decide to try to get an early start today, so I start working on reading and math lessons with Wyatt right after breakfast.  As he finishes worksheets or math problems, I start working on spelling with Gwen.  When Wyatt is finished, he takes a break while I move on to Gwen's math.  I want to get her ahead, and she's already got a handle on the concepts in these lessons, so we do three in a row before we quit.  The little kids interrupt us a few times, but mostly play together upstairs, and Wyatt reads a book in the play room.

I make lunch and have Wyatt do an extra computer math lesson while I put Georgie down for a nap.  In the afternoon I work with him on adjectives and verbs, and we start writing his story for the week.  Then he practices his Spanish lessons for co-op before we quit for the day.

Wednesday

It's a rough morning, and we get a late start.  An hour before lunch I get Wyatt started on a math lesson, and Gwen started on writing practice.  We're going to focus on science and history lessons today, so I read a chapter of our Astronomy textbook to all the kids as we eat lunch.  We're learning about Venus, and they are fascinated.  After I get Georgie down, we do our Bible lesson and read a little bit of a book about Lottie Moon, since we are studying China in our history/geography curriculum right now.

We don't have time for anything more since I have to leave around 4:00 to take Wyatt to his soccer practice.  But after dinner, Derek and I pack up pajama-clad kids in the car and take them as far from civilization as we can so we can stargaze.  We see a few planets and identify several constellations.  We give the kids cookies on the way home, and they ask to go stargazing again soon.

Thursday

We have errands to run this morning, so I have the kids take some of their work on the go.  Gwen does math practice in the car and works on handwriting (this is probably tricky to accomplish while we are driving, now that I'm thinking about it).  Wyatt does some cursive practice, and reads his current chapter book, a kids' version of Swiss Family Robinson.  When we get home, I feed everyone lunch and Wyatt does a computer math lesson while I get the littlest ones down for a nap.  We are all wiped out, so I help Wyatt finish his story before co-op tomorrow, and we call it a day.

Friday

Co-op this morning!  We run around like crazy people trying to get out the door, but we manage to get there in a reasonable amount of time.  We are all scattered on co-op mornings.  The kids go into their classes and learn some subjects together with other homeschoolers their age.  Gwen and Clyde hear a history lesson, do a science experiment, and do literature (which involves picture books and possibly a craft).  Clarice and Georgie are in the "preschool" class, so it's mostly playing, snacking, and crafts.  Wyatt has a spanish lesson, science experiments, and writing (which I help to teach).

I always have good intentions of doing some extra "fun stuff" when we get home from co-op - like music or art practice.  But honestly, we usually come home and just crash.

Weekend

Typically we do nothing on weekends, but this particular weekend we squeezed in a field trip to a "Living History Days" event after Wyatt's soccer game!  The kids got to see how people lived and worked in colonial times, which is very appropriate since that's what we're studying in our co-op history this year.



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And that's it guys!  A typical week in our homeschool.  Here is a breakdown of what we accomplished.

Wyatt (3rd Grade):

6 math lessons
2 reading lessons
3 days of writing work
2 days of cursive practice
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free reading time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Gwen (1st Grade):

4 math lessons, and 1 day of practice pages
1 reading lesson (which is fine, because that's all I planned for the week since she is ahead of schedule)
1 spelling lesson (only one is planned per week)
2 days of writing work
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of free book and play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op

Clyde (Kindergarten): 

Kindergarten workbook pages
Weekly science, Bible, History lessons
Lots of play time
2 field trips
Everything we do at co-op


Clarice and Georgie (4 and almost-2 years old):

Lots of playing and books
Joining in on field trips, Bible lessons, etc.

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Looking at the breakdown, I am pretty happy with the amount of work we accomplished in one week, even though a couple of the days felt like light days.  It just goes to show how things tend to even out over time.  

I will say that after typing this out here, I'm reminded that I need to spend a little more time with Clyde doing more one-on-one lessons.  He is mostly getting workbooks and the whole-family lessons right now, since I'm still trying to figure out what kind of work he is ready for and how to work it into my daily schedule.  So maybe I'll make that a goal for the next couple weeks.

It honestly feels a little vulnerable for me to share this with all of you.  I know some people will look at this sample week and think we are totally slacking, while other moms might look at it and focus in on the things that make them feel like they are slacking in their homeschool.  

But keep in mind that this is just one week of our homeschool.  This is how things are working for us right now.  Like every homeschool mom, I am always adjusting our methods and figuring out our schedule a little better with each passing month and year.  As I said, things tend to even out over time.  By the end of the school year, I'll look back and be amazed at how much we learned and how much my kids grew in their skills and knowledge  - and if you are a homeschool mom, I'm sure you will be able to say the same when May arrives!  

How is the school year going for all of you?

How We Homeschool On The Go

(Picture from our nature hike the other day.)

Today I had a dental appointment, and it got me thinking about homeschool on the go. 

Ideally we could be home every day until we finished our school work, but that is not always how it works our. Sometimes we need to schedule appointments or errands in the morning. For our family, this particularly complicates our homeschool day, because we live in a rural area and it typically takes us 30-45 minutes to get to town. Factoring in drive time, whenever we have a morning appointment we end up being out of the house for at least half the day.

However, that doesn’t mean the day needs to be a wash as far as school goes. When I was a homeschool student (4th grade through high school), I would just grab all my homeschool books and do my school work in the car. While its best to work at home, a nice thing about homeschooling is that you can do your work anywhere! For the younger grades, when kids are less independent, school on the go is a little trickier, but still doable. Here is how we make those days work.

1. Make it a light day.

I’ve come to accept that appointment days are going to end up being lighter days for our homeschool - and that’s okay. Homeschool days do not all have to look identical. If I know we’re going to be out and about, I’ll try to plan for a lighter day, and save more difficult subjects for another day. It all evens out by the end of the year.

2. Bring worksheets.

Before we leave I’ll look through our lessons for the day and see if there are any worksheets we can bring. Worksheets are one thing my kids can do independently!

3. Audio resources.

Because we live in a rural area, we usually have to drive 30-40 minutes to get wherever we’re going. Sometimes (if I'm thinking ahead), I'll see if I can find any audio that goes along with whatever we are studying in history or science, and we can listen to that in the car.  This might be the audio version of one of our read-aloud, historical dramatizations or stories, or even podcasts!  There are some great Adventure In Odyssey history stories that are free online, and a lot of fun educational kid podcasts if I take a minute to look before we leave!

4. Games on iPad.

I try to limit my kids' screen time when we are home, but when we are on the go, it's a great time to let them play with some educational apps.  These apps don't replace curriculum, but they can be fun for review or light learning on the go!  A couple that we've used are Teach Your Monster To Read (one-time cost) or ABC Mouse (monthly subscription for which we occasionally splurge).


5. Educational stops.

Because of where we live, a quick appointment can turn into a half-day event, so I try to consolidate trips and think of any educational places to stop while we are out and about.  If I know we will be going somewhere, I almost always squeeze in a library trip, which absolutely is included in school time.  I might turn the day into a mini field trip by stopping at a museum or historic park, or doing a nature hike on the way home.  You could even get a little creative and use somewhere like the grocery store for math practice (I have my oldest add up the prices for me while we shop).  There are all kinds of ways to incorporate learning opportunities and real-life experiences if you keep your eye out, especially for younger kids!




(Just a few more pictures from our nature hike.)

Homeschool moms (especially with non-independent kids), how do you get school work done while you are on the go?  Any other tips you want to add to mine?

Any Other Day

(Me and my littlest girls.)

Today my kids woke up as I was finishing my quiet time, and I was greeted by a chorus of little voices calling my name (which is "Mommy", of course).  They grinned at me, and laughed with each other, and ran to make their beds and get dressed before breakfast.

Today is just like any other day to them.

For the first time, I realized this summer that while 9/11 will always be a vivid memory in my mind, from here on out all brand-new, 18-year-old adults are people who were not even born then.  There is a whole generation of kids who will only read about 9/11 in the history books, the way I read about Pearl Harbor.  My kids are in that group.

That is so bizarre to me.  Because my memory is crystal clear of my mom rushing into my room one morning to tell me to get upstairs quickly to watch the news.  A plane had crashed into a building.  I had no idea what she was talking about, I thought it must be a history program she wanted us to watch for school.  So I had another half hour of living in my own pre-9/11 world while I got ready for the day.

I remember being glued to the TV for the rest of the morning.  I remember seeing black specks falling from the building and realizing with horror that those were people.  I remember sitting in silence, watching the first tower fall. Then the second.  I remember seeing the clouds of debris taking over the streets, swallowing people on the streets.  First responders covered in gray dust.  I remember the black scar on the Pentagon building, the news that another plane had crashed in a field.  I remember when everyone realized that this wasn't just an accident.

That afternoon I needed a break, and I went outside for a walk.  Yellow aspen leaves rustling in the breeze.  A blue, blue sky, and autumn in the air.  I thought, and I prayed, and maybe I grew up a little right then.

I remember how the country pulled together afterward.  I remember how for a little while we weren't Democrats or Republicans, we were only Americans.  Maybe that was the one good thing to come out of the horrible tragedy of that day, that we all had the chance to know what being united feels like.

I don't know if schools even teach kids about that day as history yet, but they should.  I know I plan to educate my children about 9/11 and tell them my story.  But maybe not yet.  They are small still, and prone to nightmares.   Maybe I just want them to be little a while longer before they fully know what kind of place the world can be.

But some year soon I'll pull open the news footage on my computer or we'll watch a documentary, and I'll make sure they know.  About the towers that fell, planes that were used as weapons, heroes who ran toward the danger, and countrymen who were lost.  I want them to remember what happened that day, even if it feels like distant history to them.  I'll tell them my memory of 9/11, just as I hope others are doing with their children who are old enough.

I would hope this day is commemorated, some of the footage shown, those who died honored in memory forever.  So that even those who don't remember would never forget.


Homeschooling Wins And Fails (From Last School Year)




The summer is coming to an end, and in another week and a half, I will start my third (kind of fourth) year as a homeschool mom.  I've been wanting to write a wrap-up of our last school year all summer, but the words have been eluding me.  I know I grew a lot as a homeschool mom over the last year, but I've been finding it difficult to organize my feelings into easy-to-share points like I did after we finished first grade.

One thing I realized is that I probably won't ever feel like I've completely got this down.  Last year was leaps and bounds more organized and productive than the previous year, but I still look back on it now and can think of a ton of things I'd like to do better as I look ahead to 2019-2020.

I still want to write these posts though, so I can keep some perspective.  Every year that I've homeschooled so far, I've gotten a little better in small ways at staying organized, keeping motivated, and accomplishing the things I was hoping for at the start of the year.  I know this year will be better than last year, and probably next year will be better than this year.  That doesn't frustrate me, it actually encourages me.  If things don't go exactly perfectly this year, which I'm guessing they won't, I know next year I'll just know better how to improve.

Maybe someday I'll feel like I've figured it out.  Or maybe I'll almost get it figured out, and then have to add another school-age kid into the mix, and have to start all over again.  My money is on that latter possibility.

(Me and the kids with their silly faces.)

Anyway, this is a little recap of the successes, failures, and areas to improve from our experience homeschooling 2nd grade and Kindergarten.

Wins

Poetry Tea Time

Last year we started doing Poetry Tea Time, which from what I can tell was first named by Julie Bogart from Bravewriter.  It's basically the thing to do in homeschool circles these days (along with "Morning Time"), and after we added it into our routine last year, I could see why.

One day I just popped some popcorn, put a tablecloth down and lit a candle, and served the kids rooibos tea while we read picture books and poems.  Even if I wanted to never do it again, my kids wouldn't have let me.  They loved it.  It was a great way to add a little fun into our homeschool routine, and what's the good of homeschooling anyway if you can't make it fun?  We are definitely continuing Poetry Tea Time this year, and I'd like to up the frequency.

Memory Work

Last year I painstakingly planned out my Morning Time binder.  Morning Time is when we sit down at some point in the day and go over memory work and Bible study together.  It's a great time to make sure we are still learning the important things all together, and I love it for developing a family identity and culture within our homeschool.

Anyway, last year I selected several Bible passages I wanted the kids to memorize, organized catechism questions, and printed out hymns to sing, along with a schedule of what I wanted to work on each month.  We didn't make it all the way through the binder, but we made it farther than I thought we would, and I am thrilled at the amount of memory work we mastered!

The kids now know five hymns really well, we memorized three Bible passages (thirteen verses all together), they can answer six catechism questions, and we have a few funny poems in our arsenal now.  I am very pleased! This was all with not being the most consistent with Morning Time, so I'd definitely like to up my game this year and see what else we can memorize together.

Try Harder

Science And History Spacing

While I am overall pleased at what we accomplished with our science and history lessons last year, I have to admit that most of our learning came during designated weeks that I gave us to catch up.  I did not do great at keeping on top of weekly science and history lessons and spacing them through the year that way.  While it is 100% okay to do a more unit-based approach to history and science, or designate certain weeks or months to focus on those subjects (as we did last year), I'd really like to get more organized and disciplined in doing those lessons at regular intervals.

Morning Time Consistency

We did Morning Time an average of a couple times a week, and we accomplished so much even with that many days!  I'd really like to make a focused effort to make Morning Time happen every day that we are working at home.  We probably did morning time only about half the days that we could have, so I'd like to be more consistent this year.


Fails

Extra Skills

With my homeschool planning last year, I came up with a schedule to work on extra "fun" skills that I just want the kids to know.  I had plans laid out for teaching them how to make certain meals, teaching them certain card games or hand-clapping games, etc.

Yeah, we didn't use those plans at all.

In my defense, when I was planning out the year, I didn't originally anticipate that we'd be moving, and that derailed my good intentions.  So basically last year's plans are going to be pasted into this year's binder, and we're going to try again!  Wish me luck.

(Pretty sunrise this summer.)

I'm looking forward to the upcoming school year!  I've got it about half-planned right now, and as soon as we get back from vacation this week, I'm going to dive in and get the rest of our plans ironed out.

Stay tuned for a post about our homeschool curriculum choices, and one about my current planning system!

Or you can also check out last year's posts about homeschool planning and 2nd grade curriculum in the meantime!

Is Summer Over Yet?



This post is a week overdue.

Last week I shot my mouth off on Instagram and assured you all that a long, chatty post would be coming in the next couple days.  And here we are, a week later, and I'm finally sitting down on my private balcony with my iced coffee to write.  And private balcony sounds all fancy-shmancy, but it's not even quiet because the kids are literally playing right below me and shouting "Mom, are you out here?".  But I'm here now, and that's what counts, right?

Summer And Me Are Not Getting Along Anymore

I feel like this promised-blog-post scenario is pretty emblematic of how the last month has been going for me.  Great intentions that don't quite come together.  I had such big plans for this summer and I don't understand why nothing is working out!

I was literally in tears the other night over this very thing.  It was a few days before the month of August, and Derek and I realized in a panic that we still had not booked our vacation that we were, in theory, leaving for in a mere three weeks.  So I spent the better part of two days researching flights/hotels/activities for multiple vacation locations.  I finally got our Florida vacation booked!  (More on that in a minute.)  

Turns out, Derek was busy during those same days ordering the mattress that we have been meaning to order for an entire year.  I knew he was doing this, and I was okay with this.  

But then fast forward to 10 o'clock at night (never my best hour of the day), when Derek reminds me that the mattress is getting delivered tomorrow. And I have not ordered a bed frame for the mattress to actually sit on, or bedding to actually cover it; and they are taking away our old bed so we will be sleeping on the floor, and I realize my bedroom will be in shambles; and I have a paid article that I now need to finish before we leave on vacation, not to mention cleaning and packing and shopping for said vacation, and we're leaving in two weeks, and oh my goodness I have wasted the entire summer and haven't done anything fun with my kids since June!

Cue the tears.

But after a good night's sleep, I remembered that I usually perform best when things get down to the wire.  I got all the shopping for bedding and vacation necessities done, and the bed is pretty much put together (except for a headboard, which will wait).  The article is mostly written now (I just have to put it together).  I'm halfway done with packing.  And I somehow managed to take my kids to the park one day, which probably qualifies as some sort of summer fun.

So it's coming together.

And all this explains why I am weirdly ready for summer to be over.  I finally understand what moms mean when they say that they miss the structure of the school year.  I need some external checks to keep myself motivated to get things done, and the routine of the school year does fill that role.  I used to enjoy the freedom of having no routine in the summer, but I'm over it now.




(Photos of my anniversary date outfit, back when I was still feeling thrilled about the summer.  Shirt and purse from Target this year, shorts from H&M, shoes from JustFab.)

Now, About Florida

Speaking of vacation, after checking to see where we could fly for the cheapest price, we finally figured out Orlando flights and hotels are ridiculously cheap in August.  

I guess hurricane season and 100% humidity scare some people off.

But after a brief discussion, we decided that we could make this trip work, so to Florida we will go!  Pray with me that no hurricanes blow into Florida this year, because we are mountain people and we are a freaked out by the idea of hurricanes with no truly high ground to retreat to.  

We are going to drive down to Miami first, and check out the Everglades and anything else cool to see down there.  (Suggestions for things we should see?)  Wyatt is particularly excited about seeing wading birds, since he doesn't get to see them in the mountains very often (at all), and I have high hopes that we'll see some unusual things that he can add to his birding list. 

(He wrote a list of all the kinds of birds that he has seen in the wild.  I didn't even ask him to, I casually made the suggestion and he practically shouted, "That's a great idea, Mom!"  I can't tell you how delighted I am by everything about this.)

After Miami, we'll head up to Orlando.  Cape Canaveral and the beach were high on our list.  I wanted to do Seaworld because I knew the kids would love seeing the marine animals.  But I do have a confession (prepare yourselves).

We almost considered skipping Disney.

I can hear the gasps reverberating throughout space.

The Whole Disney Thing 

I know alot of people are really into Disney, and it's supposed to be the most magical place on earth and all.  But I haven't been there in sixteen years, and my memories of it are a little vague and hazy.  I think I was too interested in spying out cute boys for Disney World to make much of an impression that year (that's a little embarrassing to admit, but I'm being honest here).  Nowadays, I am much more interested in the Everglades and the ocean and the Kennedy Space Center, and not so interested in standing outside in the brutal heat and rain, waiting in line for rides that are probably not as good as our local Six Flags anyway.   Not to mention paying out our noses for the privilege of standing in said lines.

But Derek said he doesn't feel like we can really go to Orlando without visiting Disney, and I couldn't really deny this for some reason.  Are you even allowed to go to Orlando without visiting Disney?  This is our main chance to take the kids to Disney World, maybe the only time we will ever be so close to going there.  And I do know the kids (the ones who are old enough to appreciate it, anyway) will be happy to go.

So we are going to plunk down the ridiculous price for six tickets and make it happen, although every second of that transaction will pain me I'm sure.

I am weirdly looking forward to the parade and fireworks though.  That stands out in my memory from the time we went there when I was eight.  

Probably because the scary Ursula in the parade pointed out me and my six-year-old sister and said we were "tender, sweet things", and I felt like she was threatening to steal our voices and turn us into those weird ocean plant-people, like in the movie.  We were both slightly flattered, slightly traumatized.

Somebody please talk Disney up to me.  Tell me the magic will completely win me over.  I will cling to your words while we are plunking down the $750+ dollars.

And Oh Yeah, School

One of the perks of homeschooling is that we are able to go on discounted trips in August when all the kids are back to the first week of school!  One of the downsides is that I'm not sure if we should immediately start back to school the week after we return from vacation.  I think I've settled on just starting in September and squeezing in extra days throughout the year so we can still finish on time.  To finish up by mid-May we would usually start in August, but I think we will need that extra week to recover from our trip and hopefully squeeze the last little bit of juice out of the summer. 

Not to mention that I also need the week to finish actually planning the school year.

If you are new to my blog, I promise I'm not usually so disorganized and crabby.  

It's just the summer, stealing my brain.



Are you ready for summer to be over yet?




A Few Homeschool Finds



I am an admitted school supply nerd.  Even when I was a kid, I remember loving the feeling of holding a brand-new notebook.  Oh, the possibilities!  Usually it just ended up full of math problems or spelling words, but still.

So every late summer and fall, I get a little bit excited about shopping for school supplies, and I think being a homeschool mom makes it even a little bit more fun, because all of these supplies are things that I'll get to be using with my kids!  It's like childhood all over again.

Stores are weird now though, and the school supplies start showing up in July before the fireworks even start to fade from the sky.  I am a little bitter about constantly being rushed into the next season by retail, but at the same time, I have to snag the good stuff while it's still available, don't I?  So when I found out that Target was having a teacher discount earlier this month, I knew I better get over there and see what I could find before all the cute stuff is gone.



Here is what I bought!

Blank Books - Does anyone else remember writing and illustrating their own stories in a blank book at school?  I loved it any time I was presented with a blank book as a project.  I'm looking forward to using these to make writing a little more exciting for Wyatt this year.



Tassel Garland and Letterboard - I found a colorful tassel garland that I thought would be a cute decoration for a schoolroom, as well as a mini letter board for three bucks.  

Watercolor Pencils - We try to do a little bit of drawing instruction, and my kids also love whenever we breakout the paints, so we're going to give these a try.


Four and Three-Letter Word Spinners - These little wooden spinners will be a fun way to practice spelling and will be good for busy work when I am doing something else, like trying to get the little ones down for a nap.

Letter and Math Dice - I think these dice will be another more interesting way to practice spelling or review math facts!

I made a little video to show you guys what I found up close and share more about how I think we'll use them!





Have you found any other fun resources for the school year that I should keep an eye out for?

Doesn't have to be at Target. (I personally hate shopping at Target because I always spend more money there than I intend!  I thought I did pretty well getting out of there for only $30 this time.)

My Homeschool Mom Summer Reading List



Even thought this post is going to be about my summer reading list as a homeschool mom, this is actually the first summer since I started homeschooling my kids that I don't feel an urgency to read a bunch of books about homeschooling over the summer.  Maybe it's because I've started to settle into being a homeschool mom and have become more comfortable with my philosophy and what I'm doing - or maybe I'm just more in need of a break from homeschool stuff now that we are really in it!

Either way, I still think the summer is a great time for me to build up my internal encouragement stock, and homeschool books and talks do that for me.  These are the books that I'm looking at reading this summer.  I took June completely off from homeschool planning, and it was good for me, but I'm ready to tackle these in July and August.



The Underground History Of American Education Volume One by John Taylor Gatto - If you don't know who Gatto is, he won a big "teacher of the year" award, and then promptly quit teaching and spent the rest of his life pointing out some of the problems he saw with the public education system.  His story is always interesting because of what a sharp turnaround he appeared to make.  This particular book is about the history of our public education system in America, including a look at the methods that are used in public schools and where they came from.  I'm expecting to be fascinated.

Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erikson - I have the opportunity to review this book on the blog (coming soon.  It's about dealing with insecurities as a homeschool mom.  I've read the first couple chapters and already feel encouraged, so I'm really looking forward to the rest of it.  Keep an eye out here for the review when I'm finished with it!

Plan Your Year by Pam Barnhill - I found a planning method that I really liked and used last year, but I figure there is always room to tweak things, so I was interested to read this book about planning out the homeschool year.  I'm hoping to pick up a few tips, since I'm still fine-tuning my planning process!




Know And Tell by Karen Glass - Karen Glass has written several books that take a deep dive into different aspects of Charlotte Mason education.  This book goes into depth on narration - what it is, why it's important, and how to do it right.  I am actually not a hard-core Charlotte Mason person, but I do like several of her methods, and narration is one I try to incorporate into our homeschool.  Narration is just the practice of having your child tell you what they learned after reading aloud.  I credit our (rather pathetic) attempts at narration for improving my kids' listening skills during read alouds, so I'm hoping to finish this book and pick up a few more tips!

The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart - If you have ever heard of Brave Writer, Julie Bogart is the creator of that writing curriculum (if you can call it that?  I don't really get Brave Writer).  We don't currently use Brave Writer, but this book still looked interesting to me.  I'd say it looks like a book with general homeschool encouragement, and tips on how to make learning a joy.  I have listened to part of this already, and I'm looking forward to finishing it!



Of course if you want to know my thoughts on each of these books, follow me on Goodreads to keep up with all my reviews!  You can also check out one of my previous homeschool mom summer reading lists.

(Georgie is always following me around the house, and she plopped herself right in my picture and started shouting "cheese!" at me, ha!)

Fellow homeschool moms, what has been your favorite book about homeschooling?  Anything I should add to my "to-read" stack?

Homeschooling And Bad Attitudes (Homeschool Q&A)



Remember how a few months ago I was working on homeschool q&a posts?  Well, I dropped the ball, and the school year is over now, but I still want to go through and answer the questions I got on Instagram a few months back!  This was a really good one about handling bad attitudes.


How do you handle the frustrating days when they lack focus or don't want to work?

This year in particular I've had to deal with more attitudes about school than I've had to up to this point, and we have definitely experienced days where things just aren't clicking and nobody seems to be focused.  My kids are still fairly young, so I'm sure that I'll be learning alot more about how to handle this in the future (especially when my kids reach the dreaded middle school years).  But these are a few things that have helped me at this stage.

Take a break.  My kids sometimes lose focus because I am asking them to do too much schoolwork all in a row.  Young kids especially need time to let their brain rest in between lessons, so if I know I am trying to cram too much in, I'll give them time to play and rest before we come back to whatever we were doing.

Skip a subject.  Sometimes kids just have an unfocused, off day (kind of like we do, right?).  Maybe they didn't get enough sleep, or have alot on their minds.  Often my kids are even distracted by good things, like a project they want to work on outside.  On those days, I use my discretion and sometimes we call it a day early or do a review day instead of trying to struggle through learning a new concept.  We can always catch back up later, when everything is clicking and flowing smoothly (there are those days too!).

Give a little encouragement.  My kids will occasionally have a bad attitude because they think something is "too hard".  Sometimes a little encouragement is in order.  I point out the things they are doing well, and remind them that the more we do this type of work, the easier it will get.  Then I try to keep the lesson that day simple and short, to remind them it's not so difficult after all.



Realize that sometimes it's a discipline issue.  Many times my kids are not focusing for an innocent reason, but sometimes they are actually having a sinful attitude about their schoolwork.  To me, homeschooling is not just about doing school, it's about training my children.  Training them to be obedient when I tell them to do something is part of it, and if the attitude is an obedience issue, then I might have to do some discipline.

If I do have to discipline them for a poor attitude, I also try to take some time to explain the why of schoolwork.  As Christians, we are learning these things so we can glorify God with our minds, learn more about Him and His world, and serve Him better.  (This can be said of any subject, not just Bible studies, and if you haven't thought of things that way before, I'd encourage you to put some thought into how different subject areas glorify God so you can encourage your kids!)  They also need to obey when it comes to their schoolwork, not because it will be easier for me, but because they need to honor their father and mother (Eph. 6:1-3) and do everything to the glory of God (Col. 3:23).  It might seem like alot to explain to a 7 year old, but it's an important concept, and through consistency and repetition I'm hoping they will eventually accept these things as their own.

Finally, I might need to check my attitude.  I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's ME that's having the bad attitude about schoolwork!  I rush sometimes.  I get frustrated when a concept is harder to teach than I thought it would be.  I am distracted and have other things on my mind than the task at hand.  I don't always set a good example, and sometimes their bad attitude might be sprouting from my poor attitude!  This is something I'm trying to keep in mind and improve in myself.

That's all I've got!



Moms, how do you handle it when your child gives you a hard time about schoolwork/homework?


How We Connect With Other Homeschoolers


How often do you connect with other homeschoolers? Are there alot in your community?

There are actually a decent amount of homeschoolers in our community, and that helps a ton, but I think connecting with other homeschoolers probably requires some effort no matter where you live.  Over the last couple years, I made the decision to get involved in a few things for the purpose of helping us meet other homeschool families.  So now there are a few ways that we connect with other homeschoolers:

1) Play dates and field trips with homeschooled friends.  I am very blessed to have so many mom-friends that have also decided to homeschool their kids.  I always knew my sister would be in the homeschooling trenches with me, and so we will always have cousins to plan things with, which is a huge blessing.  Even having one other person in your life who is also homeschooling is a huge encouragement.  And then I was pleasantly surprised when my kids reached school-age and I realized that several of my close mom-friends were also planning on homeschooling their kids!  We plan field trips and playdates with our homeschooled friends about 1-2 times a month.

 (Pictures from a hike with our friends last fall!)

2) Co-op.  This year I joined a homeschool co-op (not Classical Conversations, someone always asks that - my thoughts on CC is another post altogether).  My kids are still so young, the co-op is not something I joined for academic reasons (thankfully it's a pretty laid-back co-op!).  I joined to make connections with some of the homeschoolers in my area, and to give us opportunities to do some things that we wouldn't do by ourselves (hello, frog dissections).  It's been nice for my kids to make other friends who are also homeschoolers, and I have found so many like-minded homeschooling mamas, many who are ahead of me in their schooling journeys.  I think it's a great advantage to get to know other homeschool moms who are just a little ahead of you - they have so many tips.

3) Community Bible Study.  We are actually taking a break from Bible study right now, for a few reasons.  But when we do participate in Bible study it's an opportunity to meet other homeschool families because our particular CBS has a homeschool program.  The homeschooled students study the same book of the Bible as us moms.  I think more CBS and Bible Study Fellowship groups have classes for the homeschooled students these days, so it's something to check into.  When I was growing up CBS is where I made many of my homeschool friends!

4) Online homeschool friends.  We live in an amazing time, when you can make good friends not just with people who live near you, but with people around the world.  In our family this is more useful for me than the kids; I do not let them use the internet or social media at this time.  However, for myself, I have made many homeschool mom friends through this very blog! We may not get to see each other or get our kids together, but we can text each other for encouragement, pick each others' brains about curriculum, etc.  Online friendships have been a huge blessing and encouragement to me.



My Tips On Finding Homeschool Friends

1) Connect with the homeschool families you do know about.  I'm assuming you probably know at least one other homeschool family in your area, and if you do, ask the mom if you can meet for coffee to chat about homeschooling.  You can get a lot of tips for groups and resources through other moms.  Don't be intimidated if it's an older mom, she probably can still help you connect with other moms in your stage, and she'd probably love to encourage you!

2) Connect with in-person groups by searching online.  I've also found that social media and online resources have been helpful for me to find different homeschool meetings, field trips, etc.  Check out organizations that have groups across the country, like Wild + Free.  Check with your state's major homeschool organizations and umbrella schools.  See if your town has a homeschool Facebook page.  You'll probably get some tips on where to connect with other families from one of these, so see what you can find and go from there.

3) Remember, friends who are not the exact same age as your kids still count.  It's great if you can connect with other families with kids the same age.  But friendships with kids a couple years older or younger are just as great, and I think it's actually good for kids to have friends from a wide range of ages.  To me, the most important aspect is finding families who are like-minded when it comes to worldview and have kids just somewhere in the vicinity of my kids in age.  It's a beautiful thing to see a group of kids of various ages playing together, taking care of the younger ones, and learning from the older kids.



4) Finally, pray for the Lord to send you some friends!  Pray that the Lord would send some homeschool friends for you and your kids that would be a source of mutual encouragement and support.  I've prayed this myself before!

Homeschool moms, how have you been able to meet and connect with other homeschoolers in your area?  Any tips?

Why We Keep A Traditional School Schedule




Do you take frequent breaks or stick to a fairly strict schedule?  Over the year, not daily.

Since being back in the homeschool world as a mom, I've noticed alot of homeschoolers doing "year round" homeschooling.  Instead of homeschooling during the fall and winter and taking the summer off, they take smaller breaks spread out over the whole year.  I totally understand why some homeschoolers choose to do this - you can get all the good vacation spots when they are cheaper, you are less likely to get tired and burned out because you are getting more frequent breaks throughout the year.  I think it's a really good option!

For our family though, we stick to a regular, traditional school schedule, with a mid-year break at Christmas.  Here is why.



1) It's how I grew up.  I was homeschooled from 4th grade through high school, and we always stuck to the traditional school schedule, so it's just what I'm used to.  Actually I'm used to the traditional school schedule with longer winter and summer breaks (no teacher in service days or snow days makes this possible).  Since it worked for me when I was growing up, and we don't have any particular reason o change it, I just haven't.

2)  We live in a fairly cold state.  Where we live, and at the altitude we live, summer is when it's nice and you want to be outside.  Winter lasts from about November to May, with a few weeks of muddy spring in between Winter and Summer.  I figure we might as well be doing school during the months when we are all stuck inside, and keep the summer months free for all the fun stuff.  If we lived in a more temperate climate, or somewhere where the summer months are unbearably hot, we'd probably rethink this.

3) I like having my kids off when public school kids are off.  This may or may not be an actual problem, but in my head, I'd hate for my kids to see other kids off for the summer when we are still plugging away at our schoolwork.  If we actually tried year-round schooling, we might feel like having breaks during quieter times would be worth the trade off, but back to point number two, summer is when it is nice around here. I don't want my kids to think that public school families have it better off when it comes to summer break, because around here, summer is when you want to be outside.



I usually try to work it out so we have a couple extra weeks at Christmas (our Christmas break is usually around four weeks), and we try to finish up by mid-May so we have a couple extra weeks of summer.  If we have a vacation in the middle of the school year, we usually try to make it up by planning to start school a week earlier in August, or by doing school on a few Saturdays, so that way we are still able to take trips whenever we'd like.

If you homeschool, do you homeschool year-round, or follow a traditional schedule? I think there are definitely advantages to both!







How Do You Balance Homeschooling With Toddlers?



I received so many good questions about our homeschooling journey on Instagram recently that I decided to turn it into a little series!  I'm going to answer one question once or twice a week until we are done.  If you have any to add, please comment below!

How do you balance teaching one kid and managing other kids that are too young for school?

I get asked this question quite a bit.  I was honestly a little nervous myself about how to balance older kids and babies before we started homeschooling, but I've found it to be not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.  I touched on this question when I wrote about our routine in my mid-year homeschool update, but these are some things that have been helping us quite a bit.



1) I include the younger kids where possible.  For things like our daily Morning Time, Bible, and History, we do those subjects all together. The little kids love to sing and memorize just as much as the big kids.  Our history curriculum is made of picture books, and the little ones enjoy hearing the stories as well (I only make the big kids narrate back to me).  And Bible time is something I always want to do all together.

2) We do all-together subjects during mealtimes.  The little kids are alot quieter when they have food to keep them occupied.  I've also considered implementing play-dough mats, coloring books, bead-stringing, and other hand-busying activities for the little ones while I read, but I actually haven't had to resort to that yet because mealtimes have worked so well.



3)  We do one-on-one instruction during the little kids' nap/quiet time.  I've tried doing reading lessons and math while the little ones play in a different room - while possible, I've found it's a little more distracting to my big kids when I do that.  They wonder what fun they are missing out on.  I've mostly done individual instruction while the little ones are napping in the afternoon.  It extends our school day longer than if we did all our work in the morning, but having a quiet house and a more focused child is a worthy trade-off to me.  I imagine this will shift as the kids all get bigger.



4)  I know we don't need a four-hour chunk of time to do school.  I think I might have a little bit of an advantage here as a homeschool graduate myself, because I knew ahead of time that one of the perks of homeschooling is that you can get the work done whenever it works best for you.  This isn't public/private school.  You aren't running a school at your home - school is just incorporated into your life.  We do history lessons during mealtimes, math lessons on the couch, reading lessons in the car.  We break subjects up into bite-size chunks, take lots of breaks in between for playing and cleaning up messes, and put subjects off to the next day if everything gets too crazy and falls apart.  You are allowed to do that!  I wrote a while back about why I do not make daily plans - I make weekly plans, and that takes a ton of pressure off.  Instead of only having this one day to finish this one thing, I know I have the whole week.  That helps alot when you are trying to homeschool with little ones underfoot.


(All five of my babies, listening to Wyatt read in the playroom.  My heart just melts.)

Homeschool moms with babies - what do YOU do about the little ones while homeschooling?

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