Tough times? Don’t Despair!

The beauty of fall is here! I’m loving it, how about you? Cooler days, beautiful sunshine, and lovely leaves all make for one of the best seasons…  if it wasn’t for the frustration with some of our homeschool curricula.  How about you? Does the fall often bring with it a little disenchantment with the new homeschool curricula you thought was going to solve all your problems? Yeah, that happens here too!

It’s easy to get desperate when things seem to be an uphill battle every day, but don’t despair. There are solutions out there that will help you get out of the rut you’re in and on the road to enjoying this amazing fall!

  1. Take inventory. Don’t let another day pass you by without checking into “Why” you are frustrated. Take a few minutes to write everything down. Then take another few minutes to write down the things that would make you happy right now.
  2. Look at that list – is there anything on it that you can change now? Is there anything that you don’t have to live with? Is there any way to incorporate the things on your “happy” list? There are times when it’s the curricula that is the source of frustration.  Don’t hesitate to make an adjustment. So often we believe the lie that we have to live with a bad choice simply because it cost a lot of money. If this is the source of your despair – ditch that bad choice and move on to greener pastures. Are you worried about the cost? Ah, dear friend  -please don’t! Enduring every day with stress and frustration is much more costly in the long run.
  3. Look at other options. There are so many great resources out there for homeschoolers, it’s often surreal. If you’ve spent all your budget on a curriculum that just didn’t work – explore free or low-cost homeschool alternatives. Downside: free often involves a lot of planning and organizing.
  4. Lighten your load. If you’ve been stressed and are about to give up homeschooling completely, it may be time to find a way to lighten your load. Each homeschool curricula require some level of parental time investment. That time requirement can range from a few minutes a week to hours each day. If you’ve been stressed, it may be best to consider options that are less of a time investment. Don’t worry, you’re children will not suffer. That’s another misconception we parents tend to believe… if we aren’t loaded down teaching our children every aspect of their schooling something will suffer. Not true! There are good online homeschool curriculum options that take a load of grading and record keeping off of your shoulders so you can enjoy discovery, learning, and all of the joyful things that come from being a homeschool parent.
  5. Find joy.  Find something every day that causes you joy and relish in that moment. Remember, it’s the little things that mean so much. Savor the goodness of that thing and take it one step further  – say it out loud. “This is such a beautiful day!” “Chloe you’ve done so well today on your spelling – let’s go take a walk together and enjoy the sunshine.” Relish those moments, and you’ll feel the despair begin to lift.
Practical Tips for Back to School

Practical Tips for a Great Back to School

School is pretty much underway across the United States and with all of us trying to get into the new routine there’s alot to be said for getting things to run smooth. I know, some days you just need a “do over”, but most of the time there are things you can put into practice that will help the day work better.

I’ve learned over the years with my six children that if I want things to go smoothly, then I need to be proactive. Easy – smooth flowing days don’t just happen. But, if I’ve put a few things into practice before the day starts then most often (notice – I didn’t say always!) our day ends up great!

Make a Check List for both you and the kids. We love the curriculum that we use currently. It offers a weekly planner that I can create for the entire year that pulls vacations and weekly breaks. It brings together everything they need to do for the day to complete their assignments, and then I add a check sheet for additional items such as timed reading, online geography, and even their online spelling assignments.Practical Tips for Back to School

Plan Ahead the night before. I know sometimes you don’t feel like it. But, take a minute before you head to bed and make sure everything is ready to roll for the next day!

Get into the routine of each day. Your check sheets that you’ve made will help with this. Instead of answering the “what do I do now?” question a hundred times a day, your kids will follow the check sheet and soon it will become habit. Make yourself a check list too – be sure to include work, home, and homeschool tasks.

Get enough rest. I know everyone says “get your 8.” Well, listen to them. Your kids need at least 8 hours, maybe more if they are growing fast. I know I need 8 or I get a headache. So, listen to your body, get the rest you need. You’ll find it gives you a bit more patience when you hit that terrible math lesson! BUT, the hard part is going to bed. I find that I love the quiet after the kids are in bed… but I can stay up half the night enjoying that quiet. So, for me it takes extra work to shut everything off and head to bed in time to get my 8 hours.

Question your time. Sometimes we lose time on silly things, often it’s social media, email, or even TV.  Cut back on all those time wasters, and limit yourself especially during the school day. Limit your email inbox checking to about 5-10 minutes each day. I try to avoid social media  – even though my work requires some time on social media channels I try to remind myself frequently to stay on task and FOCUS!

Some of these may seem so simple, but they can be life changing! Take one at a time and add them to your day. If you need help with a daily check sheet. Here’s a copy of our check sheet.

 

 

 

Back to School?

Is it really time for school… again?

Back to School?Okay – I have to admit that I look forward to vacation breaks from school just as much as the children do.  I have always looked forward to the breaks – even when I was a teacher.  I can remember feeling almost giddy after sending home all those wild first graders on the last day of school.  I have relished every moment of this summer vacation. Well, today it hit me – –  time is almost up.  I know, I really don’t want to remind myself.  Yet, in the back of my mind I have purposed that in this new year we will get a new start and hopefully a better go at things.

I am proud of the distance that the children have come in the last year, but know that we have gotten slack in some areas.  I guess my new  resolution would be to improve the “slack” areas, make sure Chloe really “gets” her multiplication tables, help Jordan get over the hump in Algebra I, show Slater how to write a research paper for the first time, and go on MORE field trips. I don’t know – maybe I shouldn’t make it such a tall order, but I have always been one for making big goals.

The new year is always a great time for a fresh start, especially when things seem to be too difficult to manage.  Homeschooling is no different. So often, by the end of summer, we feel like we are being dragged in to work.  I am sure that many of you feel the same way. Well, take heart! Look at the new year as an opportunity – a new book with no writing – – yet!  Start over – do whatever it takes to renew your outlook and encourage yourself and the children.  In other years I have been so discouraged with how the curriculum went that I completely changed what we were doing.  If you are feeling desperate – do something drastic.  I have found that a drastic change really perks the kids up too!

Personally, this past year went pretty well so for us so we will just tweak our program a bit and perhaps change our schedule.  Just a little “new” makes it more exciting to the children as well. I look forward to the fresh start – and new outlook.  Wherever you are on your homeschooling  journey – take advantage of the new beginning. It may make all the difference in the world, and by the way Monday morning will be here before we know it!

February Freebies

Freebie February Top 5One of my favorite months is February… and not just because of Valentine’s Day. I love the Freebies that are floating around everywhere. So, to join the amazing efforts of Freebie February, we’re sharing our all time faves!

  1. Ultimate Classical Literature Unit Study Resource

This is an awesome resource for studying the classics. It has the free ebook, study notes, writing prompts, etc.

2. Free Printables on Earth and Space

These free printables are great! They would be perfect paired with a few books on earth and space making a nice little unit study!

3. Free Printables for High School Homeschool

These printables and downloads are pretty much everything that you would need to keep up with homeschooling high school.

4. Free Games for Drill and Practice

These are games are a great resource for practicing what your kiddos have been learning. With videos and games for almost every subject it’s one of our go-to resources.

5. Get a Free Spelling Resource 

This is my all time favorite resource. I used to teach 5 different levels of spelling to my kiddos. Now, I use this and spelling is a breeze.

Writing – Our Biggest Challenge – What’s Yours?

OEFK writingIt’s back to school time again! Have you gotten all of your ducks in a row? I think we are about there… but I’m still working through a few details. One of which includes correlating a creative writing study with our other curriculum. Creative writing, essays, and research paper writing are sadly the bane of our home school existence. Though I would love for my children to be great writer’s, giving them the individual attention that they need to accomplish this is another story. It’s always so difficult when we have multiple children that we are homeschooling, isn’t it?

My typical go to is technology… thus the theme of this blog. Online education helps a homeschooling parent of multiple children and when writing is concerned things are no different. Making great writers requires time, instruction, practice, and feedback…labor intensive for the parent for sure. However, using online resources is a super way to activate this learning without stressing out the parent. Some of my favorite resources include:
1) using online grammar games, parts of speech games, and even analogy games. This helps the creative thought process and ultimately the ability to write creatively.
2) Online writing courses (with individual attention and feedback at an affordable price)
3) Online FREE vocabulary instruction. This is a whole separate post in itself, but vocabulary instruction is fundamental to reading comprehension and ultimately successful writing.

4 Truths about Homeschooling

You know years ago – homeschoolers were the weirdos. The fringe crazy religious that wanted to brainwash their kids – Well, at least that’s what those who hated the idea thought. Fast forward about 20 years, and we see that the homeschooling is more main stream normal… and might I add  – a little trendy? Of course, there are still the haters… but we all know about them… haters just gonna hate.  But – back to homeschooling – there are some little known, maybe even shocking “behind the scenes” facts about homeschooling you need to know.

  1. Homeschoolers are not geniuses (well there are probably some – but not around here!) Homeschoolers are just normal, average kids that study and learn at home. I think they are pretty awesome… because even though they aren’t geniuses, it takes a special kind of kid to learn independently.
  2. Homeschooling is hard. Yes, I know we are supposed to be encouraging one another here… but the post title does say “truths” about homeschooling. It is true that homeschooling can be tough, and some days I stay in the bathroom brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, cleaning the toilet, etc… just so I don’t have to face the five kids in the schoolroom. With that said, there is a DEEP conviction in me that DETERMINED to homeschool our children when I saw the wonderful effects it had on them. So, the bad days can be… well just stinking bad. But there’s a diligence that allows the homeschool mom to wake up the next day and realize… “it’s a new day… it can be great! Let’s give it another go!”
  3. Homeschooling can bring huge rewards. As mentioned previously… uh hum… it isn’t easy. However, homeschool parents see the progress and achievement that their children make on a daily basis. They see the light bulb turn on when they finally get division or can read a whole sentence. Those moments are priceless and are what give homeschool parents the motivation to teach on – day after day.
  4. Homeschoolers are flexible, fun loving, and fearless! Yep, what a combination! But each is true. Homeschoolers are flexible and learn at all differen times, in different ways, sitting up, laying down, online, from a text, at home, or even at the park. Homeschooling is totally out of the box!

If you are interested in homeschooling and don’t know how to GET STARTED… try this free guide – it’s quite helpful!

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.

For Homeschoolers on the Verge of Calling it Quits

Image result for quittingPiles of books, completed tests waiting to be graded, notebooks full of to do lists, scraps of paper, and pencils… all the miscellaneous daily products of homeschooling. As a “neat” lover, these bits of disorganization and mess just really push me over the edge at times. This is not to mention the daily stress of making sure that work is completed, books are read, and multiplication tables practiced. Sometimes, it just puts me in a… bad mood. It’s overwhelming, and seriously intimidating.   I have to admit, there are many times that I want to act like our youngest and sit on the floor and cry in a heap of pity party. Or. Maybe. just maybe… quit.

Then, as I sit and look at the mess surrounding me, I see the note placed on my desk earlier by my next youngest daughter. A note that expresses her love for me and thankfulness that I love her and take such good care of her. She’s thankful that we spend all day every day together, and she loves me even when I’m frustrated and grumpy. Wow. It’s clear she doesn’t see things the way I do… she sees it from the eyes of a child. The important things aren’t necessarily the cleanliness of our school room, or that her tests from 3 weeks ago aren’t graded. She sees the important things counted in minutes and days… time spent together. That’s exactly what homeschool is, and investment of time.

Forget the minor details, choose the things that will last and provide joy and amazing memories in days to come. Choose laughter, and take the time to purposely invest in your children. The tests that need graded will wait… in fact, they can wait awhile!

Isn’t it amazing how one little note of love and gratitude from an 11 year old can change your whole perspective?

Why in the world would you homeschool?

I started homeschooling a long time ago… over 11 years to be exact. When we started things were very different, and homeschooling was definitely not as easy or as accepted as it is today. But things have changed… what a relief!

What do you think has caused the change?

1) Socialization used to be the BIG topic. For good reason, when homeschooling started there weren’t many people to hang with. Which caused some families to be “loners.” Though I have to admit, even those that didn’t have loads of homeschool friends still turned out great… so in reality was there ever really a “socialization” issue?

2) The cost of homeschooling has definitely changed for the better. Homeschooling can now be done for very cheap or even free using the internet or the public library and some creativity.

3) The public schools are not what they used to be. In today’s world the public schools have all kinds of issues – we’ll save that for a later post. But let’s just say, I don’t let my children spend the night or go off with people that I don’t know. I definitely don’t know the school teachers, and my children would be spending more time each day with them than with their family. Somehow, I think that’s just backwards.

4) Homeschooling is actually a bit more convenient (at least for a big family) than sending children off to school. I can’t even begin to imaging what it would cost to buy school clothes and lunch foods and then preparing the afore mentioned each day. Not to mention getting them to school, to any extracurricular activities, and music lessons. It’s actually giving me a headache. Though there is more involved in preparing and determining what my children will learn each day, it is truly MUCH LESS STRESS.

What’s your view of homeschooling today?

 

What is the Common Core about anyway?

The Common Core State Standards is definitely the education buzzword these days, and with good reason. Even homeschoolers, of which I am proud to be, are concerned about the long term affects it will have on our freedoms to educate. Though many people look at common core as a way to get everyone on the same page with learning… others ( mostly our government) look at it as another way to control what happens across our country. A perfect example of good intentions gone awry – or maybe it is simply a bad intention cloaked in a “good” cover.

As a classroom teacher, I realize that fundamentally the common core just can’t work. There is no way that someone in Washington can determine what Susie needs in my 1st grade classroom even if it is 1st grade online curriculum. The power to decide how a child is educated must remain with the parent and those that are local. Whose child is it? Definitely not the US government’s child. It is my child and I should always have the right to decide just how he/she is educated.

How did the Common Core get started?

The idea began in 2008 with the National Governor’s Association. Soon after NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officials began accepting grants to develop the CCSS. In 2009 and 2010 Race to the Top funding is set aside for schools that adopt the Common Core State Standards. (HMMM… this looks like a bribe to me???)

Is the Common Core already in effect?

Each state is different but initially there were 45 states that adopted the CCSS. However, once these standards went into implementation states began to see the major flaws and issues surround the standards. Many of these states have now backed up and decided not to adopt the standards.

The Federal Government’s Involvement?

Technically there are three sets of laws that prohibit our Federal Government from delineating state education requirements. Yet, our government went out of its way to promote the standards by: setting conditions on grants that make them contingent on implementation of the CCSS, offering waivers for the most difficult parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if states began implementing CCSS, and awarded millions of dollars to the state consortia to craft assessments for CCSS.

Does centralized education work?

The US has spent billions of dollars over the past decades to improve our educational system. However, with all the money involved, we still have only seen a marginal increase. Financially, a very poor investment. However, in Finland the educational system ranks nearly the highest on earth and their government has increasingly DEcentralized education. Taking Finland’s example would not only save us money – but make education better for everyone in the long run!

How will CCSS affect homeschoolers?

As the federal government gains increasing power of the educational decisions of our nation, I believe that this will carry over into homeschooling as well. There is supposed to be a nationwide educational database that will be formed as the states implement CCSS. This database would give information regarding every child that is educated. The other aspect that will affect homeschoolers is the alteration of the assessment instruments. Homeschoolers still take the same standardized assessments that their public school peers take to enter college. These tests are actually changing this year, so we will see soon enough.

So, what’s your opinion of the CCSS? Do you think it will impact your homeschooling efforts?