Showing posts with label Homeschooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschooling. 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 our 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?

A Fall Scavenger Hunt (& Thoughts On Memory-Making)



"Mom, do you remember when we did that fall scavenger hunt?"

I have to be honest, when my son asked me this on our mountain drive yesterday, I was totally drawing a blank.

"Um, no?" I said, puzzled.

"Yeah, we had to find like a red leaf, and a spider's web, and stuff, and you gave us candy corn afterward."

I honestly have no memory of this event ever happening.

See what I mean when I say I have a bad memory?

My son insists we did this scavenger hunt though.  After searching in the far recesses of my brain, I may have a vague recollection, but I have no idea where I found scavenger hunt inspiration the first time.  In an effort to duplicate something that clearly made an impression on my kiddos, I decided to put together a scavenger hunt for them today.

I considered putting together my own list of items to find, but did some quick googling first, and boy, I'm glad I did.  There are not just fall scavenger hunts online, there are lists of fall scavenger hunts online.  I found these papers for us to try out on this website, but thought I'd share the ones that stood out to me!



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I don't think you could complete this scavenger hunt list in a day (or at least we couldn't, since it includes some items we would find in the city or plains), but it would be great to do over the course of a week or two!  I like the pictures of the items for younger kids who can't read yet, but the actual things to find are good for older kids too.

This fall scavenger hunt is great for older kids who can read, or to do together as a family! My oldest son (eight years old) is working on this one.

This is an ideal fall scavenger hunt for younger kids because it has really simple items accompanied by pictures!  I gave this one to my four year old today.

This nature scavenger hunt has pictures and words, so I think it would work well for a variety of ages!  My middle two (six and five) are doing this one as I type.

If you kids in early elementary who might be up for a nighttime scavenger hunt, this one looks fun!

This is not really a scavenger hunt, but I love these kind of identification guides.  This one is a leaf identification guide that would be handy!

And if you are in a pre-Thanksgiving mood (or just want to bookmark this for November), I liked this gratitude scavenger hunt, a Thanksgiving Day scavenger hunt, and this Thanksgiving Reading challenge!

If none of these are interesting, or if you just want to see way more options than the ones I picked out here, check out the post 18 Fall And Autumn Scavenger Hunts For Kids - they had a bunch to sort through, these were just a few that I ended up saving!

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What was interesting to me about this whole scavenger hunt conversation was how different things stick with us, and so many things just slip away.  I can barely recall (maybe?) doing a nature scavenger hunt with my kids.  I feel like it would have been when my son was in kindergarten.  But here we are a few years later, and he still remembers that we did that.

What does all this have to do with memory-keeping?  I guess this post is more about memory-making.  You can't have one without the other.  So often I think that I have to orchestrate elaborate plans or make an elaborate effort to make a memory for my kids.  But this was so simple.  It required so little effort from me that I hardly remember it the first time, but it was really fun to my son.



My kids are running around outside right now as I type this, searching for spider webs and deciduous trees and pinecones.  I found a couple printables to hand out and basically said "have at it".  I promised them "corn candy" (as they call it) if they found as many items they could.  They are laughing and exploring and shouting every time they spot something on the list.



So I guess the point I'm trying to make with memory-making is to encourage you to take heart.  You don't have to try very hard.  Do something out of the ordinary now and then.  Mix in some candy.  They most likely won't remember that it wasn't perfect. They'll just remember the fun.








Should You Visit Kennedy Space Center With Young Kids?



We almost didn't go to Kennedy Space Center on our trip to Florida.  This was a special (ie. expensive) trip for us, and we barely had enough budget to cover everything we wanted to do.  We considered skipping Cape Canaveral to save a little money, but I'm so glad we didn't!

I did not expect us all to enjoy Kennedy Space Center as much as we did, but my excitement spilled over onto Instagram, and I got a few questions about whether it is worth it to go with young kids.  My short answer is yes, depending on ages!  But I wanted to give a few more details on what we enjoyed about our visit there.

(Rockets in the rocket garden.)

1. I could tell they really want to inspire kids.

The first thing we did when we arrived was to get on the bus to visit the Saturn V rocket, which is the rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the moon.  They played a video on the bus, and I could see right there that one of the goals of the Center is to inspire kids to be interested in space.  They showed interviews with kids, the video was really friendly, and they talked about an "astronaut in training" program for kids to give them an idea about what it's like to be a part of the space program.  I was inspired myself!

When we arrived at the Center, my kids were genuinely interested in seeing the rocket and the moon capsule.  It's honestly hard not to be interested in the rocket, because it is so huge!  You can't help but be impressed.  We also got to look at the moon capsule, and I explained a little bit about the thickness of the walls.  It was cool for them to see it and have that tucked away in their memories for when we learn about space in school this year.

They also had a show about the history of the moon landing, and once again, my kids were way more fascinated than I thought they would be!  It was a gripping show (there was alot of drama with the moon landing!), and you could see the goal of it was to not only inspire adults but kids too.  Afterward we exited into a room that showed artifacts from that period of space exploration, and my kids loved seeing the space suit with moon dust still on it!


(Outside the Kennedy Space Center.)


(The Saturn V rocket.  These pictures do not do it justice!)

 (We couldn't even get the whole circumference of the bottom of the rocket, it was so huge!)
(My girls, looking at the moon capsule.)

2.  There are many activities specifically for kids.

Aside from all the history at the Center, they also have alot of activities that are specifically for kids. After we visited the Saturn V, we came back and checked out the Atlantis exhibit.  We watched a short movie about the development of the space shuttle, and it was incredibly well done.  We exited from the movie right into into the room that holds the Atlantis space shuttle!  The whole production was really well done and inspiring, and on top of that the sheer size of the shuttle is absolutely amazing!

I was also surprised at how many activities they had for kids in this area specifically, but at the Center in general:

-They have fun green-screen photo booths where kids can pretend to be astronauts in a photo. 

-At The Kennedy Space Center they had a kids' play area.  

-At the Atlantis exhibit they had a very fun slide that coincided with the angle/curve the space shuttle uses to land  (you can watch the video on my Instagram highlights!).

-At Atlantis, they have a faux International Space Station tunnel play area for kids.  My kids did not want to leave!

-They have a shuttle launch simulator.  My biggest three (5 years old and up) were all able to go on the shuttle launch experience with me, and it was really cool!  They had a fun educational video to explain what was happening, and the simulator experience itself was fun and wild!

-They have "astronaut training simulators" for moving a robotic arm, docking a space shuttle, etc.

Keep in mind that this was only at the areas of Kennedy Space Center that were able to visit.  There are two or three other areas that we missed, including a section called "Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted", the new Mars rover vehicle, and various shows and IMAX movies that I think my kids would have also enjoyed.

 (My kids by the rocket that launches the space shuttle into space.  I couldn't even get a picture of the whole thing, it was massive!  That orange bit is the very bottom of the fuel tank.)
 (Derek under the space shuttle rockets.)

 (The space shuttle.  I can't even explain to you how huge it actually was!)

(My kids playing inside the International Space Section playplace!)

(A slide that simulated the angle the space shuttle uses on re-entry!)

3. I can't think of a better place to spark an interest in space and STEM topics.

As I said in my first point, I think there is an active effort to inspire an interest in space in children at the center.  NASA and companies that have an interest in space extortion know that they need bright young people to continue the effort to explore space, and they do everything they can to interest over kids in the program through their "astronauts in training" camps, and just fun exhibits.  If you want your kids to learn a little more about space, or if you want to share a love for space science and engineering, this is the place you need to go.

As far as ages, I think my big three really enjoyed it, so I would say 5 and up is a good age to shoot for.  My 3 year old liked the slide and space station play areas, but I don't think she understood as much of what was going on.  And obviously my 1 year old didn't either.

As an adult, I wouldn't classify myself as a space nerd.  I have developed a little bit of interest in the history of the space race over this past summer, and that's been the extent of my interest in space during my life.  However, by the time we left Cape Canaveral, I was seriously regretting not buying myself a NASA t-shirt, and I immediately downloaded more space-related books to read on my phone.  You do not have to try very hard to be inspired at this place.



(The kids in the rocket garden on the way out, holding the astronaut teddy bears we got them for a souvenir.  Those bears have gotten some good playtime since then!)

If I were to go again, I would absolutely spend a whole day there, instead of just half a day.  I was regretting that we didn't get to check out the Mars exhibits or other areas.  Overall, the Kennedy Space Center was a fun and relaxing visit for us, and my only regret is that we didn't have more time!  Maybe we'll just have to go again one year!

Have you been to the Kennedy Space Center, ever or recently?

They have added so much, and we loved it!

Homeschool Bravely | A Book Review



I picked up this book in May, right before we finished school for the summer.  It has taken me this long to finish it because I basically took a break from even thinking about school as soon as I could.  But with starting up homeschooling again in the fall, it was time to finish this book.

What I Liked

Homeschool Bravely by Jamie Erickson is a book to encourage Christian homeschool moms who are doubting their homeschool choice or worried they aren't doing a good enough job.  I thought it completely lived up to that purpose.  Erickson has so much hard-won, practical encouragement for homeschool moms, and she tells it all from her own experience.

This book is solidly a Christian homeschool book.  Erickson weaves her faith through every aspect of homeschooling that she addresses, and I love that - it's as it should be!  Her encouragement is definitely geared toward Christian homeschoolers, and I appreciated alot of what she has to say, especially her encouragements to trust God for our homeschools, not on ourselves or crossing things off our to-do lists.  She encourages Christian moms to keep their eyes on the big picture of why we are homeschooling in the first place, and that is always valuable to me.

What I Didn't Love

My only complaints with this book have to do with some muddied Christian messages in it.  Though Erickson refers to the gospel, and based on different things she says she seems to understand that we are saved by faith in Christ alone and His atoning sacrifice for our sins, it's not really clearly explained.  If a book is going to focus on Christian encouragement and teaching, and refer to the "gospel" so much, I really appreciate when the gospel is clearly spelled out.  Not everyone who picks up a book like this may have a clear understanding of how to be saved.  This book didn't reach that bar for me of clearly explaining the salvation message.

The other thing I didn't love was the way Erickson took different Bible stories or isolated verses and applied them to a homeschooling point she was trying to make.  Sometimes I felt like she seemed to reduce everything Jesus did on earth as merely for our example.  He is our example, but that is not the primary reason He came.  Her use of Scripture felt forced sometimes, and also led to some theological interpretations I would question.

The best example of this is on page 141.  Erickson writes:

"God constrained Himself when He took on human flesh.  He gave Himself physical limitations.  If God recognized the need to do less for a time, then why shouldn't you?  Why shouldn't I?"

I think it's a big jump to use the fact that God became flesh in Jesus Christ to then state that God recognized a "need to do less".  I just cringe even typing that. I may be misunderstanding her, but I still need to point out that God is not like us, He has no need to rest or "do less".  He wasn't doing any less when He became flesh in order to live a sinless life and take the punishment for our sin upon Himself!  Sure, in His humanness, Christ rested in His physical body.  But as He was also fully God, He was also doing everything God normally does, upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), even while He had become fully man in order to become the sacrifice for our sins.  He certainly wasn't doing any less.

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Anyway, aside from all that, I did appreciate how Erickson wove the Christian faith into her encouragement for homeschool moms.  Alot of her homeschool advice was right on the money, and I appreciated reading it.  I'd recommend this book to Christian homeschool moms, while encouraging them to still read with discernment since I thought some of her use of Scripture and theological statements were questionable.  But there is certainly alot of encouragement to be had here.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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?

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!

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?


Stuff I Like | May 2019



May was rather a dry month - in terms of finding things I liked, not in terms of moisture.  If we are referring to actual precipitation, it snowed here in May, a couple times!  Maybe the snow put a damper on my enthusiasm for finding stuff I like, because this month's post is a bit sparse on actual recommendations and a bit heavy on chattiness.  I'll do better in June.

The Trees

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that our trees finally flowered in May!  For about two weeks.  Before the snow made all the flowers turn black.  But I was happy that we got to enjoy them for a little while at least, and I did get some flowery pictures, so all is not lost!  All our trees are just late this year.




By Dawn's Early Light, Adventures In Odyssey

One of my favorite moments from this school year was when we learned about the war of 1812 this month.  While I love Beautiful Feet Books for history, this particular book was a little dry, and was not holding my kids' attention, so I put the book down and told them in my own words the story of how The Star Spangled Banner was written.  They were fascinated.  I've always loved that story from American history, and it was such a joy to me to pass on that inspiration I've always found in our national anthem and it's history.  The look on my kids' faces was priceless to me.

Anyway, I will never forget the Adventures In Odyssey episode on The Star Spangled Banner, and I played it for my kids after we finished our lesson.  They spent the rest of the evening drawing pictures to illustrate, and Gwen got especially detailed with hers.

I didn't realize it before, but there are a lot of free Adventures In Odyssey episodes online!  But absolutely listen to By Dawn's Early Light with your kids, it's one of my favorites.

Lancome Skincare

After limping along on nearly-empty skincare bottles for months, Derek bought me my favorite Lancome moisturizer for Mother's Day!  I also squeezed the Creme Confort Cleanser and Tonique Radiance Toner back into my budget.  I've tried quite a few skincare lines in the past few years, and Lancome is still my favorite - I haven't found another line that gives my skin a "glowy" look even when I'm not pregnant.  My skin is happy going into summer!

This Potpurri Recipe

Who does potpourri these days?  Well, apparently I do.  I ran across this recipe on Pinterest and realized that I had every ingredient already in my kitchen, so I gave it a try.  Guys, it scented my whole house.  And it wasn't a stale, musty potpourri smell, it was fresh and clean and just as spring-like as promised.  I definitely recommend giving the ol' potpourri a try!

Sonic Ice

Okay, if I'm honest, I've liked Sonic ice every month this year.  In April, when I accidentally announced on Instagram that I was pregnant when I wasn't pregnant (that happens to everyone, right?), I was actually just trying to muse about why I am craving that soft, crunchy Sonic ice so much these days.

My theory is that my body hasn't caught up since I was pregnant last, and I'm still somewhat iron deficient - hence the ice obsession, because I nearly always crave it when I'm a little low in iron (which has usually been when I was pregnant in the past, hence the Instagram misunderstanding). Surely my iron stores will get back to normal eventually, right?  I'm not sure whether to indulge the ice cravings, or find an iron supplement and see if that changes anything.



The End Of The School Year

We finished up our homeschool year about a week ago!  I'll try to do a homeschool year in review post soon, but honestly, I've been loving not thinking about school at all.

I read so many fiction books last week.  So many, including three from my summer hold list.  I always thought it took me so long to read books, but look at me go when I have a week off from other obligations!  It's been a reading dream, I tell you.  I finally unpacked the last box from our move.  I organized the school cabinet and ironed out my plans for summer fun with the kids.  I vacuumed the floors and washed the sheets.  I accomplished so much. It's just been lovely.

Don't get me wrong, I love homeschooling and wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm looking forward to the homeschool conference next week, and I've got a "homeschool mom reading list" for the summer (another post possibly coming soon).  But I just don't know that I could do the year-round thing and not take a summer break.  Breaks give me life.


I hope you are having a beautiful start to your summer break!  (Also, tell me your favorite skincare products and give me all your suspected-iron-deficiency advice, please!)


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