Homeschooling Basics

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.

Read More

Signs that the Curriculum Is Not Working

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Curriculum, Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics | 0 comments

We spend a good amount of money on curriculum each year, so naturally we want it to be a great fit for our homeschoolers. But what happens when it’s not? What are the signs the curriculum is not working?

curriculum is not working

1. Tears. When your child cries more tears of frustration than tears of joy, it might be a sign the curriculum is not working for them.

2. Anger. When your child is angry that they can not comprehend the material and start to withdraw or shut down, it might be a sign the curriculum is not working for them.

3. Confusion. When the lessons turn too long and produce more confusion than understanding, it might be a sign the curriculum is not working for them.

4. Miss. When the curriculum is not missed and everyone hopes it is forgotten for the day, it might be a sign the curriculum is not working for them.

5. Dust. When the cover accumulates more dust sitting unused, it might be a sign the curriculum is not working for them.

Keep in mind – one bad lesson does not ruin an entire curriculum. Press through the tough new things. My oldest son would say, “this is hard” and I would correct him, “no, this is new”. New naturally feels difficult.

However, if lesson after lesson you and your student are both miserable, why press through just to finish the book? You have the opportunity to try different things. Sell the curriculum and find something that fits their learning style! I always keep an eye out for Black Friday sales or random company sales if we are struggling with certain material.

Another thing mom, it’s not your fault. I would be so hard on myself thinking I was a bad homeschool mom because we tried 3 different math books in 2 years. Each subject, each book, each lesson is written by different people with different learning styles than your unique homeschooler. Do not take it personally. Find something that works and then enjoy the rest of the school year!

Keeping track of your child's homeschool work for you!

Keeping track of your child’s homeschool work for you!

Read More

Best Tools for a Homeschool Mom

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Homeschool, Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics, Parenting | 0 comments

If you are like my homeschooling friends I know you might have asked yourself, what are the best tools for a homeschool mom?

When my husband brought home the idea to homeschool I had no idea how to do it. Granted, I had a few elementary education internships in college, but I felt completely unprepared and unequipped for the road ahead.

After seven years of homeschooling I believe there are a few “tools” that have helped us along the way. If we all had a homeschool toolbox, what would you put in yours?

best tools for a homeschool mom

Best Tools for a Homeschool Mom:

1. Prayer Life. I believe the best thing we can do for our children is to pray for them. Often I focused on praying for myself – Lord get me through this.  {you might need that one through math} But really I should be praying for my children more than asking God to give me a “good school day”.

2. Flexibility. Homeschooling can be hard when we chain ourselves to curriculum that does not work, activities that do not benefit, and overstuffed schedules. Evaluation and change is healthy for a homeschool to thrive.

3. Listening Ear. Communication is vital to family dynamics. If we’re only willing to lecture lecture lecture we shut down the hearts in our homes. Be willing to listen.

4. Grace. Mistakes happen. Messes are created. We all get things wrong. Do not rule your homeschool with an iron unforgiving fist but rather a grace giving heart.

5. Creativity. Do more than “school at home”. Really dig into lessons, activities, and opportunities to learn as much as possible. There are numerous resources now for any one of us to be creative. Thank You Pinterest! {a note about Pinterest, spend time finding great ideas rather than comparing and feeling bad about yourself}

6. Intentionality. Trash busy work and focus on the things that will bring value and benefit to your home. Be intentional with your time and efforts. There are only so many games of Guess Who left!

7. Schedules. It’s been proven most children perform best with routines. We had less friction when we shared our schedules and expectations with our children. I was never an “on the second” type of drill Sergent, but we did do the same things about the same time.

8. Firm No. Be willing to say no to the extra’s that would require you to spend less time focused on your family. If it’s another activity outside of the house or even a late night television show stealing your sleep. Guard your time and your family with a firm no.

9. Easy Smile. Red x’s on spelling tests can feel like the end of the world to a first born perfectionist. Offer an easy smile. During math, chores, dinner, and bedtime routines – let your wrinkles be those of joy.

10. Rest. You are not a machine. Find time to rest and fill up your heart before you can fill up your children’s hearts. No one wants to diagram sentences when they are exhausted. Set a healthy example ~ do not allow weariness and busy be the habits your children pick up.

Keeping track of your child's homeschool work for you!

Keeping track of your child’s homeschool work for you!

Read More

10 Questions About Homeschool Co-ops

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics | 0 comments

Homeschool Co-opIf you are starting homeschool or just have a few questions about homeschool co-ops, we are hoping to answer them here.

When I started homeschooling I wondered, what is a homeschool co-op and more importantly, should I join one? Do I need one?

A homeschool co-op is generally a group of home educators joining together and cooperating on teaching different subjects.  For instance, one mom might handle science experiments while another mom handles history. A group of moms work together and join forces to help with the load of teaching.

10 Questions About Homeschool Co-Ops

1.What is the difference between a homeschool co-op and a homeschool group? The purpose of a homeschool co-op is to cover specific school subjects. Science, history, literature, art, drama, speech, debate, etc. Homeschool groups are a bunch of homeschool families who get together for the sole purpose of socialization and field trips. One mom might arrange the field trips but there is no real learning time, projects, or activities accomplished. It is a social group.

2. How often do Homeschool Co-Ops meet? Usually, weekly. Most co-ops have a designated day to meet each week with a planned assignment / goal.

Are Homeschool Co-Ops free? Typically, no. Most co-ops have a “joining fee” or charge for supplies, etc.

4. Do Homeschool Co-Op subjects count toward core education? YES! Whatever project or activity you work on keep it. Incorporate it into your portfolio or online grading reports. Keep in mind you are not “covered” by the co-op. {it is not an umbrella school, private school, etc.}

5. What is the benefit of a Homeschool Co-Op, really? Homeschool children have the opportunity to work with others, learn in a group setting, experience different teachers & teaching styles. Some moms have degrees in specific fields and overly love the opportunity to teach that subject again.

6. Do I “have to” join a homeschool co-op? Absolutely not. However, they are a great benefit if you need help teaching a specific subject {I know nothing about art} or if you have a desire to teach a subject to a group of children! Science experiments are always fun in a group – a homeschool co-op is perfect for that.

7. How do I find a homeschool co-op? You can check with the local church,, yahoo groups, or a google search: “your town name homeschool co-op”. Be sure to keep an eye out at your local homeschool curriculum fair or convention for co-ops. Always ask other homeschool moms. Do not be afraid to ask for a contact name and email.

8. Should I start a homeschool co-op? Maybe. First pray then see if there is a need – besides your own. Keep in mind a co-op is a cooperative. You can not do it alone. I believe a group of 3 homeschool moms (or dads) can do something great. Ecclesiastes 4:12, a thread of three strands is not easily broken. Consider a convenient location, supply costs, and who will help teach what.

9. Is there a downside to being in a homeschool co-op? Besides the obvious: leaving the house for a full day, preparing lessons / teaching other students, being close with other women who raise their children differently, etc. If you look for the negative you will find it in any situation. I believe the more involved you are the less time & desire you have to find wrongs.

10. What questions should I ask a director or leader of the local homeschool co-op? Always ask questions before joining!
* is this a religious co-op or secular? this might matter to you during a science lesson.
* how many subjects / what activities are taught each week? make sure you’re joining the right age range & grades before giving your first grader a debate class.
* how much does the co-op cost? surprise fees are no fun for anyone.
* how can I help? be prepared to offer your skills and talents. co-ops are not drop off dates. find a mommy’s day out instead of a co-op.

You might not want to start your own co-op, but would rather teach one class in your own home. Go for it! I had a blast teaching Apologia science in my kitchen one year. Five friends sat around the table every Tuesday morning ready for hands-on science fun. Again, consider the cost of supplies and do not be afraid to charge before the class starts!

Maybe you have a potter’s wheel, a love for history, or desire to start a running club.  I believe there are so many homeschool moms with talents and gifts being untapped. Help the homeschool community and start something or offer your time to a local co-op.

Read More

Planning Back to School

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Homeschool, Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics | 0 comments

While you are enjoying your summer break you might have seen some “back to school” banners creep into the grocery store. Maybe a few clothing stores are promoting their upcoming back to school sales. You might have already been asked a dozen times “when do you start back to school”.

planning back to school

back to school … back to school … back to school

The chant is starting low, can you hear it? It will become loud as each relaxing summer day ends. Are you ready to start planning back to school? You might want to prepare a bit better than I did one year.  Tired of lazy days and endless television shows, I grabbed books and declared it was the first day of school.

You would think I announced we were moving to China.  The boys did not respond well to the abrupt change in their summer.  We had no supplies, no schedule, and it all fizzled out before the week finished. Rather than spring the first day of school on any child and yourself, start planning back to school before it happens.

benjamin franklin quote

Planning Back to School:
1. Pick a date to start. If you go along with your county school schedule, plan around a family vacation, or just ready to get back to the books – pick a start date. If you have ever trained for a race you know the day of the race. You are well prepared and anticipating it. 5k or 26 miles – you know your start date.
2. Announce your start date. Let your students know when school is starting. Everyone should be prepared for the first day of a new start ~ you included! Every time I leave the dentist office they give me a “reminder card”, there are no surprises come cleaning day.
3. Be prepared. Gather the things you need to know before you start. It sounds funny but sure doesn’t feel funny when you have to end a science lab in the middle of the experiment because you have to run to Walgreens for materials. {now is the time to keep an eye on curriculum, crayola, paper products, and other sales}. 
4. Be a Show-Off. As each Amazon box arrived we excitedly opened them together checking out the new homeschool supplies.  The boys saw what the new school year would include. “Yes, you’ll be using this microscope this year.” Guess who wanted to start school before I was ready?
5. Celebrate. Plan to do something fun to kick off the new year. A change in breakfast {first day of school donuts are a hit here}, picnic with other homeschool friends, or a Redbox movie for the afternoon ~ plan some new school year fun. Rather than wear yourself down with hosting a presidential event; keep it small and meaningful (unless it’s your first year or last year homeschooling. Then make a big deal out of it).
6. Schedule a break. Pick out your rest stops before you start this journey. Everyone appreciates the highway sign “last rest stop for 32 miles”. Be flexible with your breaks, but plan on having them.

Enjoy your summer but be mindful to start planning for the new school year.  With all of that planning be sure to plan in some flexibility. We all need a bit of room to breathe and be prepared for the unexpected.

Keeping track of your child's homeschool work for you!

Keeping track of your child’s homeschool work for you!

Read More

Finding the Perfect Curriculum

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Curriculum, Homeschool Helps, Homeschooling Basics | 0 comments

Does the idea of picking out a year of homeschool curriculum feel as daunting as wrestling an alligator?  Do you feel like every purchase you make is going to be the wrong one and you will be shackled to something you hate? Wouldn’t we all love to wake up one morning to find the curriculum fairy dropped off the perfect books wrapped in smart ribbons?

How do we go about finding the perfect curriculum?

First we need to realize that our homeschool is different than our neighbor’s homeschool and it’s different that our best friend’s homeschool too. What might be the perfect fit for them does not mean it’s the perfect fit for you. One size curriculum does not fit all.  The reason is simple ~ our children are different.

finding the perfect curriculumfinding the perfect curriculum

My boy’s best friends like the same things they like. They get along because they all love Minecraft, being loud, running fast, and getting dirty. But not all boys learn the same. I can generalize that most young girls like princesses, books, cooking, and tutus.  Yet I know not all girls learn the same.

Tips to Finding the Perfect Curriculum
1. Know how your child learns best.
Be an observer of your child and understand how they process information.  Keeping their “learning style” in mind as a filter to sift through the endless amount of curriculum choices.

Questions to ask ….
If your child is visual: does this curriculum offer enough images, maps, graphs, etc.? Will I have to find, print, or buy additional visuals? If so, do I want to do that?

If your child is tactile: does this curriculum offer enough hands-on activities? Will I have to find, create, or buy manipulatives? If so, do I want to do that?

If your child is auditory: does this curriculum offer enough music, books on tape, read-alouds, etc.? Will I have to buy music, read-alouds, or other supplements? If so, do I want to do that?

If your child is kinesthetic (mover): does this curriculum offer enough opportunities to move, play, or act out lessons?  Will I have to search for creative play ideas to incorporate into lessons? If so, do I want to do that?

2. Know how you like to teach.
Do you like creating your own lessons? Do you want something complete? Do you need a strict schedule? Do you like piecing it all together?  These are important questions to ask because you are the teacher.

3. Read curriculum reviews.
Homeschool blogger reviews are a blessing to the homeschool community. These bloggers have taken the time to use the products and share their honest opinions.  After you narrow down your curriculum search be sure to read more than one review on that product.  Make sure the reviewer has shared how the curriculum worked for them and any ways it did not.

4. Know your budget.
I believe it is imperative to know how much you are willing to spend on curriculum before you purchase one book. When you find curriculum you love price it out. Is it cheaper online or at your local convention? Can you find it cheaper through a distributor {Amazon, Christian Bookstore, Educents, Rainbow Resources, etc}?  Contact the curriculum company and ask if they offer any sales throughout the year. Purchase curriculum during their sales.

Finding the perfect curriculum is not impossible when you observe how your child learns best, know how you like to teach, have read valuable reviews, and set your curriculum budget.

Read More