Getting Ready for College?

I’m sure one of you is in the same situation I am…about to graduate one of my children while trying to help guide her in making decisions about college and her future. Shew. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

One of our major concerns – right behind the graduation and party – is to find a way for her to attend college without costing a fortune or piling up huge student loan debt. When our oldest graduated, she determined that she was going to work and attend college. She also wanted to make sure that she didn’t acquire a bunch of student loans. The same goals apply for our second daughter. We’ve found a few a simple practices help to enable new students to keep these goals.

  1. Do test prep. You don’t have to pay someone to help you with this. A little effort and you’ll be able to find a lot of free online resources that can give you the test prep you need.
  2. Take your ACT/SAT as many times as needed until you score the same score twice. You’ll know you’ve reached a plateau then. However, the more you take the test, the more relaxed you get. This enables you to test more accurately. Make sure that you’ve researched and found out the minimum score needed to qualify for the state scholarship. This is one of the easiest scholarships to get  – so take advantage of it.
  3. Depending on the level of scholarship you were able to reach with your ACT/SAT testing, you  might have to find a few scholarships to top it all off. Let’s Homeschool High School has a great quarterly post that reveals TONS of great scholarships perfect for the homeschooler.
  4. Work. I know it’s popular belief that college students need loads of time to study. Rubbish. I worked a full time job (para pro teacher) and went to school 16+ hours each semester. My daughter worked a full time job and went to school 15 hours a semester. Not only can it be done, but it also requires you to budget not just your money, but your time! I’ve also noticed that it causes the student to be much more appreciative about their courses, their grades, and even the free time that they do get. Try to pay for your classes as you go. For example, make sure that semester 1 is paid for before you move on to semester 2. I know just this year, my daughter’s college opened up a payment plan so that students didn’t have to apply for a loan.
  5. Bottom line – work hard. If you make a little extra effort and try – with your college classes, assignments, tests, and with a job – you’ll be on your way to getting a great education without a lifetime of debt.

How to Begin Homeschooling Online

Did you know that statistics relate that 5% of all school aged children in America homeschool? With the numbers of homeschoolers growing rapidly, many of them are choosing the online option. While there are many incredibly different yet viable methods of homeschooling, the online option is definitely one that is attracting more and more attention. What makes homeschooling online such a viable option? For each family, that would be different but here are just a few reasons…

  • Ease of Use
  • Burden of Teaching isn’t on one person
  • Reaches varying learning styles
  • Keeps students engaged
  • 24/7 access to courses
  • Immediate feedback/grading
  • Records are usually kept
  • Organization/Lesson plans are pre-made

Before you begin homeschooling or before you choose a specific curriculum, check with your state’s requirements for homeschooling. Make sure that you have fulfilled or can fulfill those requirements with the curriculum that you choose. As online homeschooling has grown so have the resources that help you accomplish it. In just the past few years, this area of homeschooling has grown exponentially. There are a myriad of varying resources that you find in one google search. Yet, in your decision making process just take a minute to write down the characteristics of the curriculum that you think would fit your family. There are so many different “kinds” of online homeschool options, I really could write a book! But to make this post short and sweet (and hopefully helpful) I’ll limit it to a few bullet points.

  • Video streaming
  • Animated teaching, songs, games
  • Complete curriculum
  • A la carte curriculum (choose what you want or need)
  • Text and Online curriculum combination
  • Online testing (provides immediate feedback)
  • Virtual school (connected with the public school – accountability to them)
  • Interactive games

It’s pretty easy to implement an online homeschool curriculum. You typically will have to sign up or register and pay a fee. Once you’ve got “log in ” information, it’s simply a matter of learning. Some parents will still want to set up some type of schedule and accountability measures to make sure that a progression of learning is made. However, some of the online programs will have a complete set of lesson plans that are premade. This allows the parent to simply schedule the particular lesson on a certain day. While every homeschool family has different tastes, homeschooling online is very flexible. Many curricula have created apps that allow the student to continue working while traveling. This makes doctor’s appointments a breeze! Since we have highschool as well as fourth grade online curriculum we’ve got alot to keep track of. At our house we do maintain a semblence of a schedule which keeps us moving forward.  Here’s what I typically do when I begin a new year:

  • Check with my state – to make sure that we are still in compliance
  • Review what my children have already learned and then research and discover what they need to learn next and set goals
  • Research curriculum that will help me accomplish their goals
  • Purchase curriculum
  • Review scope and sequence
  • Align our calendar schedule to cover the scope and sequence for the year
  • Set assignments for the kids and set up any type of record keeping or grading that I plan on using (some online curriculum will do this for you)

Tips for Working at Home WHILE Homeschooling

Ever since we started homeschooling about 10 years ago, I’ve worked at home. When we made the decision to homeschool, I was a principal at a local private school. I love working in schools, and I love making a difference in children’s lives. However, seeing my own children sacrifice things to attend school, made me realize that they are my number one priority and that I needed to make a difference in their lives first!

However, working at home and homeschooling is never a breeze. There is always some type of major incident, someone who needs help with math, a dog that thr   ows up in the floor, or a drink that has been spilled on a math paper… there is always something. Yet, that’s part of the “wonder” of raising children. I know that one day I will miss all the little catastrophes that each day brings in the life of a child. In the meantime, I’ve learned some survival skills that really do help to make working at home a little less crazy.

1) Review your responsibilities – eliminate the things that are not NECESSARY. Which means – prioritize your life!

2) Establish a schedule, and use planning resources. I often print out about 6 months of calendars and post them on the fridge. We write all over them. With six kids, there is always a scheduling issue, and this common calendar does help. I also use Google Calendars and thanks to my friend Kerry – I have set up text alert notifications as well as email notifications of each event on my calendar. This is definitely a huge help – it reminds me every day of the upcoming tasks that I need to complete.

3)Anticipate change, life happens! Of course, right after I tell you to establish a schedule – I tell you to break it. LOL!! Really, the schedule is there more “as a guideline.” If have a basis, and your children get used to it, it really is easier to go about your day. Especially if you are distracted by something regarding work – the kids are in the habit of following their schedule.

4)Use a homeschool curriculum that enables you to work while they are learning. An intensive curriculum that requires a lot of teaching might not be a good choice for someone who has to work everyday. There are tons of great resources out there that really help make it easy to work and homeschool, from online spelling program s, video courses, and high quality online curriculum. We tend to use an eclectic mix of them all!

5) Use downtime like breakfast and lunch to catch up on work tasks, and make phone calls while the kids are busy and engaged with something. I find it is useful to have a “talk” with them before I actually make the call. They understand why they have to be quiet for a few minutes.

6) Use your kiddos to help you work. I love to include my family in as much as I can. So, if the opportunity ever arises I try to get them involved in what I do.

7) Organize your homeschool and work area to facilitate efficiency. I have found that keeping my kiddos stuff in “workboxes” or those craft drawers. This help s them keep all of their school stuff in one place, and in order. I don’t have to look for missing school books everyday. Keeping it in one localized area helps alot! (See #10)

8) Use automated record keeping or keep school records on the computer. I know the online curriculum that we use has an automated record keeping system that really makes this easy!

9) Schedule fun things into the day. I have found that my kids love art and music. However, I have realized that it is one of those things we will always skip if we run out of time. Make it part of your weekly schedule and it will happen!

10) Have a dedicated area for homeschool. I find that this is one of the most important things for me. Homeschooling and working is stressful, but wonderful. If I can close the door and leave that area, it makes me feel as if I have “gone home” from work and can relax.



Middle School Homeschooling Tips

This is my month to focus on Middle Schoolers. Yes, I have TWO this year that are in seventh grade. I am blown away by how fast this is going. Seems like I was just starting to homeschool them just the other day! I’m not old enough to have all these college, high school, and middle schoolers….

1) The first place that I always start when planning my homeschooler’s year is their “passions.” What are they really interested in? I want to make sure that I include this in the classes and plans that I make for them each year. Yes, even if they LOVE science… they still have to do English too! I just don’t want to expect perfection from them if they aren’t gifted in that area.

2) Plan to include fun things. My kids really love art. Yet, if I get busy I’ll put this on the back burner. Yet, when I do – I notice that all of us get worn down and begin to just function in the rut. Remember… all work and no play? That’s exactly where this is going. They need to do fun things to learn. That’s another reason why I love using make a word search to use words that we are studying in both  homeschool science, history, math and LA.

3) Try to teach them to be more independent. For some of my children this has been an easy task, for others…..insane! Remember your goal…they need to eventually be able to work and go on to college WITHOUT you. Independence is difficult for the mom… sometimes… 🙂 It means your child can work alone, figure out problems, and continue on with their homeschool day even if you aren’t there. This also means that you aren’t needed as much as you were when they were little. I know, it’s hard but it’s a good thing.

4) Number 3 really hinges on this… teach them organizational/study skills. This is the key to getting them to be independent. If they can self organize and study on their own… they obviously will be become more and more independent.

5)Find a curriculum that meets their particular learning styles. My twins are very different from my other children. My older kids liked workbooks and writing, while the twins prefer something more engaging. Listening skills aren’t exactly their forte either, so finding something that keeps their attention and keeps them busy is a challenge for me.

Top 6 Ways to Organize your Homeschool

Making a plan, organizing it and putting it into practice is the key to successful homeschooling. So many of my homeschooling friends have suffered through burn out, stress, and myriads of other issues simply because they failed to make an organized plan for their homeschool. I love how the summer time affords me the opportunity to rest, recuperate, and revamp my homeschool. From kindergarten online homeschool to printable worksheets whatever type of schooling you use… you still need to plan. As I take the time to make my homeschooling plan I typically follow these six steps…

1) Set goals. This is by far one of the most important things you can do to keep your homeschooling running efficiently. As with any endeavor if we know where we are headed… we are bound to get there. Review your curriculum’s scope and sequence or determine what major areas of study you want to cover. Then write a simple goal for the whole year. I like to break this LARGE goal down into a monthly smaller goal. If you school for 9 months, you can break up that large goal into 9 smaller goals that you will cover each month.

2) Review the past. Hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it? So, looking back and determining what things worked well and which were… uhmmm… not so great is a super way to make sure the future is better. I like to make notes at the end of the year while things are still fresh – to help me remember what subjects/methods the kids really did well with and which seemed to be a struggle. This helps me plan better when ordering and making curriculum.

3) Make a schedule. Everyone is different in this area, but having a routine of some sort will help maximize your children’s learning. Whether you have a very detailed schedule or just a general outline of what happens each day… your homeschool will benefit!

4) Put meat on the bones… now that you have a basic schedule it’s time to determine the course of study. Once you have your curriculum, review it and determine how many lessons it will take to complete it. Then divide that into how many months/days of school you have. This will help you see how frequently you need to include the course in your schedule. There have been some classes that we do twice a week while others we do every day. Make sure that your lessons support your monthly goals…

5) Put it together, with a planner. Yes, I know that sounds redundant… but truly some sort of organizational tool can be a life saver. I started with printed planners, but since I do most of my work online I have switched to spreadsheets in the past year. This year I developed a schedule for each of my kiddos and then put in weekly/monthly assignments in a Google Doc which I shared with them. I left blank boxes between each assignment so that my children could X each assignment as they completed it.

6) Organize your school area and stock up! Yep, the final activity before school begins. I love going through the whole school room and reorganizing it to be the most conducive to learning. Each year I try to improve how we store our curriculum, how I keep grades, and how we conduct each day. I also take inventory of what supplies I have, and then estimate how much I will need to last me till May. Then I head off to the store and take advantage of the “back-to-school” sales!

Searching for Homeschool Friendly Colleges

I can’t believe I’m really wrapping up my homeschool journey with my oldest daughter. Time has really flown by. It seems like yesterday when we first brought her home and started homeschooling.

We’ve had some ups and downs but for the most part its been a wonderful eight years. She’s grown into a beautiful, respectful, hard working young woman and I am so happy to be her mother.

The only down side we face right now is the challenge of finding a good college and adequate financial aid to enable her ato attend. There is a myriad of options and financial labyrinth to navigate. I must admit these final months have been fobbed of their sweetness due to these massive decisions.

I am using a few websites for guidance as we make these life change decisions. These have been indispensible in the process…

1)Let’s Homeschool High School – in particular their article on homeschool-friendly colleges.

2) Homeschool Help from HSLDA

3) SAT writing resources – and Test help

4) The Federal Financial Aid Resource page

5) Homeschool Transcripts Help

Home School Record Keeping… Making it work!

Some people just have that gift to organize, schedule, and record…while others were just born without that gene. If you’re a homeschooling family, whether or not you have the “gene” doesn’t matter… record keeping is a must. So, for those who just aren’t organized and who hate to keep records… there are some simple ways to keep you “official” without driving you crazy. Here are a few tips…

1) Pick a record keeping method that suits you… some like technology – others hate it – here are some ideas

  • Use a daily planner to record what you do in your homeschool that day.
  • Use a journal and just let your words freely describe what homeschool was for your family that day.
  • Use an online media such as blogging to record what you’ve done
  • Use a record keeping system such as a teacher planner/grade book
  • Use an online form or software to record grades and assignments

2) Hang on to important pieces of work that your children do.

  • Use a rubbermaid container to store things until you feel up to organizing it…
  • Use a pendeflex file folder. Has tons of pockets and is usually big enough for one child per year,
  • you can put the words in ABC order – so that you can find everything easily later.
  • Use the notebooking or portfolio method and then keep their notebooks on a bookshelf
  • Make a photo library of what your kids do… and then post it on a blog!

3) As my children get older and into high school, I have them keep a single notebook for each subject. Then we keep everything that we did for that subject in that notebook, I keep them until I know they are safely through college.

4) It is also very important to begin establishing a transcript for your older child. You can do this simply by finding a copy of one and making a Word document like it, by purchasing on online version, or using software to develop a transcript.