Homeschool Helps

Just Keep Swimming

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Homeschool Helps | 0 comments

It seems February kicks off the homeschool blues. Now that the holidays are over we realize we’re not finished with that curriculum and we have a long way to keep going. Our attitudes drag as we accept the fact that we have been living Ground Hog’s Day over and over.

We notice we forgot about scheduling that great field trip.
We’re running low on art supplies.
Math still is a four letter word every morning.
The library fines have added up to a date night dinner.
Rather than look forward to another failed science experience you’re wondering, are we there yet?!
just keep swimming

Do not fret, you can take some advice from Nemo, “just keep swimming”.

Most times my children adopt my attitude towards things. Even homeschooling. If you are dragging to the table uninterested in reading one more chapter from that long history book chances are your children will drag too!

Instead of dragging and complaining why not incorporate a new read. Check out our list of great books.

Set the tone of your mornings. Put a smile on your face. Bundle up and take a picnic break outside. Or plan that field trip and get out of the house.

Simple touches go a long way. Add cheerful flowers to your table and play worship music. Or start the morning with some yoga stretches.

We recently incorporated a “quick draw” contest. Each morning the boys grab their dry erase boards and I give them a challenge to draw an object within minutes. From superheroes to the last geography lesson, the boys enjoy the challenge and laughter as they explain their quick draws. It has become a nice start before our homeschool lessons {and it’s a convenient review opportunity too}.

You do not have to put on the homeschool winter blues! Just keep swimming through these February days before the joy and excitement of spring arrives.

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Navigating “Do I have to?” Homeschool Days

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Navigating “Do I have to?” Homeschool Days

Our first few years of homeschooling were sweet days of learning and creativity. Fun days. But once we hit the later elementary years I kept hearing the same phrase, “Do I have to?”

homeschool days
It definitely was subtle, but eventually it started to ruin my mornings.

Do I have to …
finish these multiplication times tables
write all these spelling words
diagram the rest of these sentences
read this book
do long division today

Do I have to started with just one lesson and finally crept into each homeschool day. And one day he asked,  “Do we have to homeschool today?” He asked most likely because I said “no” the first time to something so trivial he was brave enough to ask me to wash the whole day’s schedule.

So I did. No, you don’t have to – let’s do something else … something more fun that we’ll both enjoy. That’s really why I said no. I said no because I didn’t want to do it either. I didn’t want to hear the mumbling and complaining. I didn’t want to arm wrestle over one more thing. I certainly was tired of being the bad guy!

Yet the truth is ~ when we save our children from the “have to” monster we’re really not saving them from character building. We can help them indulge in their laziness.

At forty I do not ask, do I have to pay taxes? Do I have to cook everyone dinner again – we just ate 6 hours ago! Do I have to get my annual exam done? Am I being extreme, maybe. But we still have to clean our rooms, brush our teeth, and change our underwear! Why do we start weighing if they have to do school work? I have learned … it’s much harder to climb out of the pit of laziness if you do not fall into it at all.

There is a beautiful compromise I have found with my second homeschool son.
Do I have to write my spelling words ten times? No, but why don’t you write them three times each?
Do I have to do this timed multiplication quiz? No, why don’t we leave out the timer and you finish at your own pace.

Some days there is no good reason to push through practice problems or the same reading comprehension questions a child has clearly mastered. Let them know that. “Because you already know this … let’s move on.” If they do not know the material forward and back do not skip it. On those days teach the art of compromise. If you toss something small today it might mean having to battle through an entire Algebra class later.

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Simply Ways to Make Geography Fun

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Homeschool Helps | 0 comments

Simply Ways to Make Geography Fun

Geography has always been an interesting subject to me, but for some younger students it can be overwhelming. 7 Continents, 4 sometimes 5 oceans, imaginary lines, 4 hemispheres, and over 190 confirmed countries. Add the  different landforms, temperatures, and languages … the Earth can make students feel like it’s just a spinning sphere of confusion.

Simple Ways to Make Geography Fun

1. Invest in an inflatable globe. Globes are easy to spin, point, and even toss around for review. They make it easier to locate different lands because of reference points. I can easily see where Africa is compared to Asia – but if I print a map of Africa … I just see Africa.
You can also use a dry erase marker on inflatable globes to draw navigation or trade routes, regions, etc. It is much easier than printing out a new map each week.

2. Explore one country every few days. Do not be afraid to stick to one country and really learn about it. Discover landforms, major cities or rivers, borders, imports and exports, regional food, plus famous landmarks or famous people. Sure a child can sing a song and memorize words, but when asked to point to those countries on a map they look lost. Ask them one unique thing about that country and they can only chant the next country in their cute song. The library will be your best friend to check out books, movies, and reference materials.

3. Purchase Country Notebooking Pages. Let’s be honest. We all want to create the perfect curriculum, but just don’t have the time to make our way through Pinterest to piece it together. You can easily grab a beautifully compiled pack of almost 200 countries and study the world at your own pace! No mean teacher’s planner to bark deadlines and remind you how much you’re “behind” this year. Print a country and enjoy learning about it.

We might sing, It’s a Small World, but I disagree. It’s a big beautiful world full of interesting places – enjoy learning about them with your children.

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Curriculum Wars

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Curriculum, Homeschool Helps | 0 comments

Curriculum Wars

If you are new to homeschooling or a ten year veteran … the questions and opinions about The Perfect Curriculum are endless! But be careful not to fall into the Curriculum Wars.  You’ve heard the conversations. Which curriculum is the best?

curriculum wars

Choosing the curriculum that is right for YOUR child is important. Being bullied into trying something just because someone else loves it does not mean it will be the right pick for you. Nor does it mean your choices are null and void!

A few years ago two friends were victims of the Curriculum Wars.  Homeschool Friend A couldn’t understand why Homeschool Friend B wouldn’t use Homeschool Curriculum C. So they stopped speaking to each other. One friend told me, “Well, you wouldn’t understand you pick all that “hands-on stuff”, but I know her daughter loves to write just like my daughter does. If she’d just use it I bet she’d have a better day.”

A word of veteran homeschool wisdom – do not push a curriculum war agenda! Sadly we do this about our diets, exercise programs, discipline style, bedtimes, sports teams, political candidates, and on and on. It’s word of mouth marketing – but we can become bullies. I have this soccer mom acquaintance who seems to think her opinion on every topic is right. Having a conversation with her is impossible.

Once you pick your curriculum – be faithful and use it for you. I promise it did not turn into trash overnight. And it sure didn’t become garbage because a friend does not use it.

It might not have worked for someone else, it might look intimidating, or it might have a bad reputation for not being difficult enough. That’s right, I still love Teaching TextbooksIf the stuff is a complete disaster, doesn’t work well with your children or your time … then chunk it. But you have to try it first to know.

Curriculum Wars

As homeschool moms we have influence. We’ve been doing this thing for awhile. Be careful what you do and do not recommend and how you recommend it. Not every family is like your family. Not every learning style is like your child’s learning style. Be gentle. Do not play the Curriculum Wars game.


Just this summer a new-to-homeschool friend asked for my opinion. I shared what I thought would be a good fit. She picked something completely different. I was not offended, nor did I tell her she made a mistake. I am still excited for her homeschool journey!

We should all be excited for each other rather than alienate the only people who actually get how hard it is to homeschool.

As new homeschool moms be willing to listen, but decide for yourself what will and will not work for you. You know your children. You are around them most. An opinion is nice, but it never should make you feel bad!

Do not feel pressured to try something just because “so and so” did it. When I first started homeschooling I copied the woman who introduced me to homeschooling. Her schedule, curriculum, and chore charts. I wanted to stamp out homeschoolers. It did not work – oh it so did not work for us!

You will find your groove and it will be great. Give your curriculum choice a chance and do not feel bullied into doing something different.  Then when you look back to help the next generation of homeschoolers be kind with your knowledge and we can all stop the Curriculum Wars!

Looking for more posts on curriculum?  Read: Finding The Perfect Curriculum, Signs that the Curriculum Is Not Working, and Free Lesson Plans

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Back to School Ready?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Homeschool Helps | 0 comments

Back to School Ready?

It’s back-to-school time! If you’re starting this week, next, or even next month here are a few tips to be back to school ready!
back to school ready


Clean Space. Do yourself a huge favor and clean up your work space before you start work! If that’s a desk, table, bookshelf, or something else … get organized. Signed up for sports? Put a plastic bin in your trunk and throw all the equipment in there. Don’t start day one behind the clean up eight ball.

Calendars. If you set alarms on your phone, google calendar, or print one – get your calendars ready. If it’s for the day, week, or month have them out and ready to roll! Print your lesson plans too! Looking for free ones? Check out our post: Free Lesson Plans.

Fill the Pantry. Hungry children are a bummer, but an empty pantry is a complete kill joy. I even pull out snacks in the morning and put them in our EasyLunchBox coolers. My boys know when it’s “snack time”, so they just go to their color cooler and pull out one of the snacks.  Some days I put out a fruit tray early and they can snack without stopping lessons to ask for food.

Get Rest. If I sound like a broken record, good! Rest is so very important for a happy home. For moms, growing students, and every one involved – get a good night’s sleep. Do not start bedtimes the day before school starts. Get in the habit a few days before so there are no dragging unhappy faces the first day. Wondering about bedtimes? Read our post: Homeschool Bedtimes.

Set Goals. In the beginning I was just happy to finish a homeschool year. But as we creep up on high school I realize we have so much more potential than to just army crawl our way across the finish line. Sit down with your children and ask what they hope to accomplish. What do they want to learn. Where do they want to field trip, etc. Within reason of course – try to incorporate some of their ideas into your homeschool. It will definitely give them something to look forward to this year. It will also help you to say NO to all those other things that pop up and steal your time.

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Embrace Art

Posted by on Jul 10, 2016 in Homeschool Helps | 0 comments

Embrace Art

Aside from PE, art is probably the most neglected homeschool subject. It’s easy to ignore “art”.

Art is messy. Art requires time. Art can be intimidating if you are not an artist. You might be able to fake a science experiment, but bad art is a dead giveaway of something gone wrong.

embrace art

5 ideas that might just help you embrace art

1. Your children know you are not related to Michelangelo, and they do not expect you to decorate the next great ceiling. Let’s be honest, their art lesson isn’t about your ability (or lack of). Allow your children the opportunity to feel free to create. When I stopped feeling pressure to create something amazing to be “the example” and just let my boys enjoy art time – we all felt a million times better about art. I became a student with them.

2. Try different art media. One of my boys hates chalk pastels. The other hates watercolors. You might not like paper mache. Don’t do it! Give your children a chance to try out different paints, materials, projects, and then see which is liked best. You do not have to force them to use something they do not enjoy.

3. Open your mind about “art”. For the longest time “art” meant painting. When I realized art actually means: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings. Do not pigeon-hole art to mean painting. Whatever your children create with their imagination and skill that is beautiful or expresses an idea — that’s art.

4. Raise up a generation of cleaners. I do not mind doing anything creative as long as we all work together to clean up! Many hands make a big job small. No one leaves the table before all the supplies are washed and put away. Art time is far less of a monster burden when I am not the only one scrubbing glitter off the table.

5. If creativity does not come naturally, grab a craft book and get inspired. Once a month I take my son to the library and check out a book on crafts. We flip through the book and write down the projects he wants to complete. We write out our supply list, set a budget, and hit the craft store together. This way we are definitely working on life skills and not just something gaudy to send to Grandma.

Hopefully we all can start embracing art and give our children the opportunity to create beauty. It might not be beautiful to us, but that is the greatest thing about art! It’s is so unique and different to everyone. If only math were that forgiving.

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