It's that time of the year: birds are singing, flowers blooming, pollen on the air...and homeschoolers fight homeschool with every fiber of their being. Yet, you as the homeschooling parent, want--need--them to finish something related to homeschool. Your house is a mess, your kids aren't listening to you, and you are overwhelmed.
Homeschool doesn't have to be overwhelming but it often can be. Distractions get in the way of both parent and child, and the academic part of homeschooling can quickly feel like a chore. Here are some ways to manage an overwhelming homeschool life:
Have a change of scenery
As I write this, my daughter is beside me on our deck. We're sitting on a bench together, papers and books and laptop before us on a table. Birds are chirping, our chickens are clucking, the duck is quacking, and I expect Carl, our rooster, to crow any moment. Carolina blue skies are overhead, dotted by big fluffy clouds. It's a glorious day--and we are homeschooling. She's working a word search for spelling.
The thing is, we just started--and it's already 12:03 in the afternoon. It's nearly impossible for us to start in the early morning hours, so we start when we can: after animals have been fed, breakfast eaten, and clothes changed. Sometimes, a change of scenery, like coming outside on a gorgeous day, can help a great deal. Take materials to the park with a big blanket, or go to the library. Sit at a library table and, quietly, do the lessons.
The biggest distraction for my daughter are screens. Her tablet, her borrowing my phone--they all have a tendency to suck time and motivation away from her. One thing we're going to do, starting tomorrow, is to institute a new family rule: no screens until academics are finished and chores are done. I say tomorrow because this is an ongoing issue and, frankly, one I just came up with. When you're overwhelmed, you have to come up with things as you go to see what works and what doesn't.
Here me out: you don't have to finish the curriculum. If academics are hurting your relationship with your child, stop the academics. Take a couple weeks off and do fun things: plant a garden, visit museums or parks, rearrange the child's room--do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. Go for long nature walks and talk about what you see. Then, come back to academics a little at a time.
Not even public schools finish entire math books. The purpose of homeschool is to cultivate a relationship with your child and institute a love of learning. If learning has become a form of torture for you both, it's time to give it a rest. Try something new, like just reading the history book aloud. Do science projects.
There's a caveat to this, though: if you have a high school-level student, it's important for the sake of the transcript that curriculums do get finished. Have a heart-to-heart with your student and just lay it out: you must push through the curriculum to graduate high school. A lot of life is simply pushing through. We need to make sure our children understand that.
Take time for yourself
It's one thing for the students to be overwhelmed; it's another when the homeschooling parent gets overwhelmed. Know that it's perfectly okay to reach out to another homeschooling family and ask if they want to trade time. You invite another group of homeschooling children to your home, with their academics they're working on, and all the kids work on their individual tasks at your table, while the visiting kids' mom gets a much-needed break. Maybe she'll get her hair done, or nails, or just have a couple hours for a mental health break. Then, she watches your kids while you get a little break.
Take a week off academic homeschool and make it a homeschooling project to organize parts of the house that are cluttered and overwhelming. If you use your dining room for homeschool, as I do, try to figure out a way to store homeschool materials when they're not being used so you can actually use the table to dine on. If you are blessed enough to have a dedicated homeschool space, take a day or two to organize and redecorate it--particularly before starting a new grade or homeschool year.
Biblical characters battled being overwhelmed, too
Christian homeschoolers often think that they're the only ones to get overwhelmed. Just because a biblical character was close to God doesn't mean they didn't battle being overwhelmed. David, Jeremiah, Elijah--even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were overwhelmed at some point in their lives. We can learn from them and how they handled being overwhelmed. Having an active and constant prayer life, being in the Word, and surrounding yourselves with praying friends can all help you in being overwhelmed.
Everyone faces a season of being overwhelmed. I feel like I am a chronic overwhelmer--to the point that I needed help, so I wrote a book about how biblical characters handled being overwhelmed and what we can learn from them. I learned so much during the writing of this book! Overwhelmed: Biblical and Practical Ways to Manage a Crazy-Busy Homeschool Life can be found in my online store (autographed) or non-autographed books are available on Amazon. Balancing homeschooling, parenting, discipleship, home management, and life can be extraordinarily tricky. In this mercifully brief book for overwhelmed homeschool parents, I give biblical and practical strategies on how to manage a crazy-busy homeschool life. Using Scripture and practical suggestions, I encourage parents who are caregivers and homeschooling, and parents who are homeschooling children with special needs. In addition, I show how biblical figures handled stress, and applies those lessons to real-world issues homeschoolers face.
Please know that you are not alone! Every homeschooling parent feels overwhelmed at times, and more in some seasons. It's important to recognize when you're reaching that point, and to do something about it.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The moment a child is born, parents start homeschooling. A child learns from the very moment of birth, and what the parents do impact the child on every level. "Formal" homeschooling, in which a parent makes the intentional decision to not send a child off to a public or private institute of learning, can begin at any time, and often parents consider homeschooling during the preschool age, or between two and five years old.
Homeschooling children ages two to five, or even six, can be wonderful in that you as the parent get to instill the love of learning in your child, and you are the one to see the first light-bulb moments of understanding. I know when I first saw my own child understand that C-A-T made the word that represented our kittens Henry and Rosie, that was a glorious moment.
But, homeschool at this stage (between two and five years old) shouldn't be formal, as in, workbooks and tests and heavy curriculum. Here are six tips you can do to homeschool your preschooler and kindergartener:
Read, read, read
The very best thing you can do as a parent is to read to your child. Starting as a baby, building those building-blocks of words, sounds, and language is crucial to a child's development. A preschooler and kindergartener finally begin to understand that the words on the page correlate to the sounds coming out of their parent's mouth. Ask questions about what you're reading; even though your child is not reading, they are listening, and you can work on comprehension through the active reading of passages. Not sure what books to read? For babies and toddlers (especially those who are apt to tear things), board books are just fine. As children age, move on to larger picture books (but skip the chapter books for now -- they need the visual stimulation of pictures). Don't have the money for books? Visit the public library, or ask for books for the child's birthday and Christmas presents. Visit thrift stores, public library book sales, or yard sales to find books. Even when the child ages through elementary and middle school, continue reading--it's a wonderful bond-building activity.
All those toys you have for your child? Get a few out and get on the floor with your child, and play with him. Make race cars zoom around the rug, or make animal sounds from figures, or play with dolls. Interact with your child, saying things like, "What sound does the elephant make?" or "What makes the car go?" Ask your child what dress the doll should wear today. Be imaginative with your child and ask questions--see what answers you'll get. Go outside and blow bubbles and play tag. At this age, children learn by playing. Get age-appropriate board games and play with your child. Children learn turns-taking, sharing, colors, counting, and many more important developmental steps through playing.
Now, one may ask, "How am I to get on the floor and play when I have a baby to take care of, too?" Put the baby on a blanket beside you, on the floor. Put a couple diapers and wipes nearby, for easy changing access, and play. The point is to be intentional about playing: ask questions, ask your child's thoughts on what a toy should do next, and point out things like the color of a truck or what sound a toy makes.
Introducing Letters and Numbers
For children who show an interest in letters and numbers, buy some alphabet and number magnets for the refrigerator. Don't just stick them on and expect your child to learn them by osmosis. Show them the letters, in order, and be intentional with it. Sing the ABC song--in fact, buy a kid's CD and keep it in the car, to put in and sing while you're driving down the road. I used several different types of books to read to my children growing up that were fun ways to introduce letters, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Chicka Chicka ABC, and Dr. Suess's ABC. These are classic books that are fun to read over and over, and use to interact with your children.
If your child is not interested in learning about letters and numbers, continue reading to him. Eventually, it will come. Children learn at their own rate and level, and a cookie-cutter approach will not work on children. All children learn at their own levels and rates, and forcing it only embitters them and makes them hate learning. Be patient!
Allow your child to explore his or her own world. As much as you play intentionally with your child, allow your child to have the freedom to play on his or her own. Put out paper and crayons on a kid-sized table and see what your child draws. If he draws a sun purple, don't correct him--there will be plenty of time for correction later. Allow your child to explore and learn, and this is often hard. Often, the lessons that stick the most are the ones learned the hard way: if a toy is dropped and broken, or if a finger is pinched in a cabinet door, or if the kitty scratches or hisses because his tail is pulled. Often, a child will learn through natural consequences.
Talk with your child. If you're changing a soiled pair of underwear for a child who is learning to use the potty, take the child by the hand and dump the poop off the underwear and into the toilet, telling her, "that's where the poop goes! Into the potty!"
Talk with your child. Explain that we wear rain jackets when it's raining, or we put up our toys at certain times of the day. Announce that it's snack or meal time. In effect, narrate your child's life for him or her. "It's morning! Sun is shining, time to wake up!" "Time to change our clothes! Your head goes through this hole, your arm in that sleeve," etc. Narrate what you're serving for breakfast.
If a child has a learning disorder, such as autism or sensory development disorder, although the child may have a difficult time responding back, continue to talk/narrate. Continue to read and play. It's important to do so, even -- especially -- if a child has a developmental delay or disorder.
As for writing, you want to wait until the child can feed him- or herself with a spoon or fork and demonstrate decent fine motor skills. Then, introduce a big pencil that is used for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and let the scribbling commence! Pour flour onto a cookie sheet, and show how to write letters in it. Buy a dry erase board, as little or as big as you want, and allow your child to write letters on it. Don't try to force the learning, as it will happen. The older the child becomes, increase the structure and discipline of writing appropriately. Use the alphabet books mentioned above and trace each letter as you read them, and have your child mimic you.
Remember, each child learns differently and on his or her own time schedule. No child exits the womb quoting Shakespeare or knowing her ABCs. Read to your child, allow play (both with you and on his own), and encourage listening skills by explaining everything that's happening. Most of all, pray -- over your child, with your child, and by your child.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
"Socialization" is one of the most common fears for any family contemplating homeschooling their child. This is the wrong word and concept, though. Dogs and cats are socialized. Humans are taught how to interact with others, ideally, their peers of the same age and socioeconomic background, and others who are not like them. Homeschooling can seem like isolating your child, but it really doesn’t have to end up like that. In fact, because of the nature of homeschool groups and activities, homeschoolers often successfully interact with a wide variety of people.
Children can still develop their "socialization" skills in many other ways if they don’t go to public or private schools. Kids tend to learn their best socialization skills from activities they do with their own families, not from following the in-crowd at school. In fact, when my daughter was in public school for 2-1/2 years, we constantly heard that she spent too much time socializing. When I'd visit her school at lunchtime, kids were often told where to sit, when to talk, and quite often, her class had lost the privilege of socializing.
When homeschooling, don't get caught up in the lie that your homeschooler won't be "socialized." If anything, that's a good thing. For my daughter, I want her to grow up to know how to interact with a wide variety of people. Here are five ways to do just that.
A good place to start is to plan a lot of activities that the whole family can do together. Playing board games as a family teaches teamwork, patience, taking turns, and how to be a sore loser (or a humble winner). Doing outside activities as a family encourages family dynamics and working together toward an end goal. Those are good things to teach; after all, you are rearing a man or woman, not raising a child. Your child won't be little forever and he or she needs to know how to work with people.
Field Trips and Parks
Field trips to sightseeing areas or just spending time at the local parks can allow them to interact with other kids for brief periods of time while you monitor their activities. When my daughter and I go to the park, she often organizes the other kids there in games of tag or hide-and-seek. Field trips are not just educational academically, but they also offer opportunities to interact with adults and children of all ages. Encourage your child to take the lead on talking with the ticket clerk or the gift shop attendant.
They can also develop their peer-to-peer social skills by mingling with other kids that live in your neighborhood. They can develop friendships with other kids even if they’re homeschooled and their peers are not. Don't dismiss making friends in your own neighborhood. If you don't want your child to go to other homes (I know I don't), you can set your yard up as "the" place to be. A trampoline, swingset, yard games, and other activities can be child magnets. Keep a supply of child-friendly snacks and drinks at the ready and you're set. Invite the parents over, too, for a cookout, and build community and friendships across the board.
Socialization doesn’t just occur within the walls of a traditional school. Allow your child to join local groups for kids their age. Trail Life for boys and American Heritage Girls are popular faith-based groups for children to join and develop lifelong friendships.
They learn new things and do activities together as a group. Some churches have youth groups children can join as well. Or, your child could participate in little league baseball, take swimming lessons, or participate in some sort of homeschool sports team. We recently signed our daughter up to take tennis lessons at a local recreational club operated by the city. Although we count this as PE, since she's interacting with other girls a little younger and older than she is, it helps her make friends and interact with people while doing something fun.
Teach your children to happily answer questions about homeschooling to other people they meet. Sometimes other kids can be so inquisitive that they want to ask many questions, and this helps break the ice for both of them - allowing a healthy friendship to develop. Our public library has a homeschool day once a month which is great because it enables other homeschoolers to get to know one another and talk. Encourage your child to ask for help from adults in stores who are wearing nametags.
You need to focus on enhancing your children’s socialization skills, but never force them to find friends. The only way this can successfully happen is if it happens naturally. The more forced it is, the more likely your child won’t be able to make close bonds with his or her peers.
To help develop your child’s socialization skills, just make sure they’re able to interact with peers their age from time to time. Even being around grown-ups can help foster a positive attitude and social skill that far exceeds that of kids their age.
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Gratitude is an essential value children need to learn at a young age, but how exactly do you teach it? Teaching gratitude does not have to be hard at all! Here are 16 super fun activities that will teach your child to be thankful for everything in their life.
There are so many amazing books that will teach your child about being thankful. Reading books brings so many great benefits, and your child will love the chance to snuggle up and read books with you!
Some of our favorites include:
Make a Gratitude Chain or Tree
Gratitude chains or trees are fun and easy crafts to help your child share what they are grateful for.
You can make a chain for every day in November with something they are grateful for to hang around their room. Or, create a tree and add a leaf every day with something they are thankful for. With these, you can go as long as you want.
Dinner Table Gratitude Tradition
Make it a tradition to go around the dinner table each night and share one thing you were thankful for about today. It can be big or small.
Not only will this help them find things to be grateful for, but it will also show them there is always something good about their day, which in turn teaches them to be optimistic. This gratitude tradition will also keep your family close as you talk and share about your days while eating dinner.
There are so many fun ways to have gratitude competitions. You can see who can write down the most things they are grateful for in one minute. Make it as short or as long as your child needs.
You can also see how many you can name throughout your day. Make these competitions fun and light, nothing too serious.
Write Thank You Notes
Teach your child to write thank you notes from an early age. They can paint and draw the cards themselves to build their creative side as well.
Writing thank you notes will teach gratitude and manners to your child as they learn they need to share their gratitude with others.
Rainbow Kind of Days
This is one that will hopefully stick with your child forever. Children need to know those bad days will happen, but it doesn't mean the entire day has to suck.
Have what is called a "rainbow kind of day." Use this phrase when you have a bad day. Talk about your day and the struggles you went through. Then, tell your child about your rainbow.
Just like all storms, during the storm, everything is nasty. But in the end, there is always a beautiful rainbow. This will help your child focus on the good and share their bad times with you.
If you want to make gratitude a habit for your child, include it in your bedtime routine. Every night before bed, have them share what they were grateful for that day. Make sure you share what you were grateful for that day -- and be sure to include your child!
Find an empty jar and have your child decorate it however they please. Then, put notes of things you were grateful for inside the jar every day. On December 31, as part of a New Year's celebration, empty it and read through everything you wrote!
A gratitude journal is a great way to teach your child about being thankful. Get them a journal, or have them make their own. Then try to make it a habit to write in their journals every single day. This will create a habit and help your child learn the importance of keeping a journal.
Thankful for Senses
Sensory play is always a great way to teach something! You can do this in so many different ways. You can create a sensory bin filled with things your child loves and have them explore and be thankful for each item.
Or you can ask your child something they love for each of their senses:
Gratitude Bingo is not a daily activity but rather a week or month-long event. Give your child a bingo card with gratitude prompts inside each square. You can make your own or get one online. Some square examples include:
Instead of carving your pumpkin, write out all the things your entire family is grateful for. Try to fill the pumpkin with your writing! I use a white pumpkin to do this in the fall and it's a cherished part of our fall decor.
Children love scavenger hunts! You can make this as easy or as hard as your child needs. Make hints about things you are grateful for to have them look for until they find the prize. Or, let them make their own scavenger hunt and give them prompts. For example, “Look for something you are grateful to wear.”
Grateful Photo Challenge
For those children who love to take pictures, have them go on a photo challenge! They can use your phone or a kid's camera. You can choose to give them a list of things to take pictures of or let them find 20 things they are grateful for to take a picture of.
Drawing or Painting
While it may seem so simple, children love a chance to draw or paint freely. Don’t lead this activity; let your child draw whatever comes to their mind. Process art is much more beneficial than having your child copy a cute turkey you saw on Pinterest. Be sure to hang up your child’s artwork and share how thankful you are for it!
Many children have a lot of energy that they love to use, so go on a gratitude walk! This can be a simple nature walk, but talk about things you see, hear, smell, and touch that you are grateful for during your walk.
These 16 gratitude activities will help your child learn this important skill in a fun way! Learning through play is more beneficial and lots more fun for kids of all ages! What other ways to you like to teach your child about gratitude?
Homeschooling your kids and taking control of their education is such a wonderful and rewarding feeling. It can also feel very overwhelming! There is a lot that comes with homeschooling from the curriculum, educational resources, and supplies that can make it difficult to keep everything together and organized. Not to worry though, here you will find some homeschool organization tips to help you.
Color coding can be done in a couple of different ways. If you are homeschooling more than one child, assigning each child a color can help you to know whose work you are looking at, and who forgot to put away their supplies. If you are only homeschooling one child you can color code by subject. Having your homeschool supplies color-coded can make finding what you need when you need it easier for you and your student. These color-coded labels can help you do that.
Clipboards are inexpensive, versatile, and they can be invaluable tools when it comes to organizing your homeschool. You can put your daily or weekly schedules on them and they can also be used as portable workstations for when you or your student don’t feel like being stuck at a table or desk.
Chances are that some of your homeschool curriculum and resources are digital so you will need a way to organize all of those resources too. Start by creating a folder for each subject on your computer, those folders can be further subdivided into topic and grade level so that you find exactly what you need when you want it.
You will want to keep a portfolio of each of your homeschool children’s work through the school year, but where are you supposed to keep it all? Grades and unit tests can be stored as computer files if you prefer, or you can print end-of-the-semester grades and put them in a binder for each child. Add this Annual Record Portfolio, and you'll have all your child's grades at your fingertips.
What about all of their completed projects you ask? You probably don’t have room to store them all, particularly if you have more than one student. You can, however, document their completed projects with pictures that you print and add to their portfolio, or simply keep them as a digital archive.
If you are a homeschooling family, and you aren’t using your local library you really should be. There are so many amazing resources that you can check out and use as part of your curriculum, or just for fun, and it’s all for free!
The trick is to make sure that the borrowed library items make it back to the library and don’t get lost in the books and resources that you already have at home. That’s where the library box comes in, all you need is a milk crate or storage box where all of the borrowed materials can stay when they are not in use to make sure they are returned. Hot tip: I use this collapsible trunk organizer for a library box. It keeps the books in one place in the house, and it's easy to transport in my van back to the library. It folds down so we can take it in the library to re-stock. Plus, when it's not holding books, it's great for groceries.
Bookshelves can be used to hold more than just your textbooks and workbooks, and they are relatively inexpensive. Adding a bookshelf to your living room or homeschool room is an easy way to help keep your homeschool organized.
Purchase totes, baskets, or canvas storage bins that will fit comfortably on your bookshelf. Make sure that each tote, basket, or bin is clearly labeled so that you know what belongs inside of it. If you have younger students who are just learning to read pictures on the outside of the boxes can be very helpful.
A Place For Everything
You know the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place," well, this is true for organizing your homeschool as well. Have a designated spot for your textbooks, workbooks, paper, art supplies, learning manipulatives, and anything else that you might be using as part of your curriculum.
Having a designated spot for each item makes it easier for you and your student to put things back when they are done, and that makes it easier to find them the next time they are needed. If you find that you have more things than you do space it might be time to purge some of your materials or put them in storage until you need them.
Over the door, shoe organizers can be used to store so much more than just your shoes, and it is a convenient way to keep some of your smaller items together. The organizers with clear pockets are great because you can see what’s in them quickly.
These pockets are a great place to store index cards, markers, crayons, glue, painting supplies, pencils, and flashcards. You can also use them to hold your office supplies and any cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, that you may use in your homeschool room.
Having your homeschool materials organized means that you can focus on the important parts like teaching and learning what works best for your learner. Everyone’s homeschool organization will look different based on the number and age of students they have, and the space that they have in their home. Do you have any amazing homeschool organization tips that you would like to share? Comment those ideas below!
If you’re planning on homeschooling your child, you’ll need to learn the many styles of homeschooling that’s available so that you can decide which would work best for your family.
Eclectic Homeschooling - This type of homeschooling works under the philosophy that you should enhance your child’s everyday activities and emotions, using them to insert appropriate lessons to teach them a subject.
Classical Homeschooling - This is a method of learning that goes all the way back to the middle ages. It works on the philosophy that the younger children begin with learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Once that’s mastered, they move on to the next stage, which consists of grammar. It involves compositions and collections.
Then they move to the dialect stage, where the serious study of reading and writing and arithmetic comes in. Instead of learning grade-appropriate materials that public schools use, the child learns in stages.
The Charlotte Mason Method - This is one of the most popular methods of homeschooling today. Charlotte Mason developed this style to enrich a child’s education through nature, literature and real life experiences.
Although a child must still be taught with a regular curriculum according to your state’s laws, they can learn to love learning with nature lessons, poetry understanding and much more. When learning is more enlightening for a child, they’re more apt to absorb the information then when they’re given a bunch of facts to memorize.
Montessori-at-Home - This type of homeschooling allows a child to learn their fundamentals through the use of their environment and by using all of their senses - not by memorizing facts from a textbook.
Montessori was a woman who studied children for many years and developed the philosophy that one should control the environment and not the child when teaching them skills.
The Moore Formula - This method is divided into three separate parts. It’s a way of teaching with studying for a determined amount of time each day based on the child’s needs.
It involves manual work and entrepreneurship, which teaches a child to accept responsibility. Lastly, it involves home or community service, which builds character within the child.
The Reggio Emilia Approach - This method teaches preschool-aged children to learn through exploration and not by having the fundamentals forced on them. It teaches that children have a built-in sense that allows them to learn what they need in this world at their own pace.
The Structured Homeschooling Approach - This is a method of homeschooling that is similar to the curriculum seen in public schools. This approach teaches lessons at a grade level depending on the student’s age and where they are at in their academics.
The Unit Study Approach - This approach to homeschooling allows a child to learn a subject as a whole instead of just reading chapters in a textbook. A child learns a subject through use of reading, science, math and other methods to learn that topic. Children can retain almost 50% more than the traditional study techniques applied in public schools.
Unschooling – This is a more laid back form of educating your child. Basically, your son or daughter will lead you in their educational needs. You’ll discover what to teach them based on their own interests and goals, not by abiding by a strict curriculum.
Waldorf Homeschooling - This method works on the philosophy of teaching through use of spirit, soul, and body. The method teaches that the child will best learn by exploring their environment.
By analyzing your child’s learning abilities and your comfort-level with each type of instruction, you’ll be able to find a method of homeschooling that fulfills both you and your child during the educational journey the two of you take together.
A portfolio is an excellent way to keep track of how well your child does throughout their homeschooling years. It shows their progress and alerts you to any issues that you may need to review at a future time.
A homeschool portfolio can also be the key to having your high school student accepted into a college. Most colleges ask for transcripts, but if you homeschool without using a distance education program with a proctor, you won’t have official state documents to share with them.
A portfolio of exam grades, projects (pictures are always a great accompaniment to this), and essays – as well as a record of daily grades taken in ninth through twelfth grades can help the administrator lean toward signing an acceptance letter.
Have a list of all of the training materials you’re using or have used to educate your child. For textbooks, include the publisher along with the title. Include a list of books that were assigned to your child for reports.
Write down some goals you and your child set for each year. This is a great evaluation tool you can use mid-year to see if your teaching skills and their level of absorption are meshing well.
If not, then you can switch gears and help them reach their goal before the semester is up. Your child can gain a tremendous amount of pride and self-confidence by seeing that they were able to reach those goals.
You may want to keep a record of your daily lesson plan. You can jot down page numbers from the book you were studying so that you know where you left off from the last time. It isn’t necessary to add how well your child did on each lesson unless you want to.
Keep samples of some of your child’s schoolwork. It isn’t necessary to put all of their daily papers into the portfolio. You only really need some of their best work to show what progress they’ve made throughout the year. The rest of the papers should be kept elsewhere for awhile - in case they need to be referenced at a later date.
Keep a list of field trips you took your son or daughter on. You can then attach reports they may have done for assignments explaining what they learned on that field trip. You can also include photographs taken while you were on the field trips and show some of the things you saw or did while you were there. This will make for a wonderful keepsake later in life.
Make sure you check with your state to see if they require anything special to be placed in your child’s portfolio. Your child can decorate the cover and get involved in the maintenance of their own school portfolio to showcase all that they’ve achieved.
The Annual Record Portfolio is a printable, downloadable form for purchase in the Homeschooling One Child's store, available here. This Annual Record Portfolio is designed to serve as a homeschool report card, documentation of the year, and to be included in a homeschooler's annual portfolio or saved work from the year. Designed by a homeschooler, it features places to document quarterly, semester, and final grades in a multitude of subjects, as well as standardized or advanced placement testing. This Annual Record Portfolio is appropriate for middle and high school grades.
Christmas is full of sights, sounds, smells, and gifts -- and it can be overwhelming. To connect your homeschooler with the true meaning of Christmas, and encourage learning at the same time, I've curated these 15 Christmas ideas for homeschoolers and their parents.
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Unto Us a Child is Born
In 2015, I wrote an Advent devotional with essays and questions that can be used as a small group study or personal devotional. Unto Us a Child is Born would also make a great stocking stuffer.
Building a Snowman
A fun activity if you have snow at Christmas or any time during the winter is to build a snowman. Go to thrift shops and find hats and scarves that would make any snow person proud, and keep in a tubbie for safekeeping until snow arrives. Just don't do what I did growing up: I was being chased by my snowball-wielding brother and ran right into our mega-eight-foot giant snowman, frozen solid the night before. That hurt!
Rabbit Trails through Christmas
Take your holiday studies down a rabbit trail with Rabbit Trails through Christmas! Learn about the Three Kings with the book Baboushka, incorporate copy work, get hands on, and read some amazing Christmas books this season! (books not included). This digital download lesson is meant to be used over one-two weeks -- perfect for Christmas!
With the lack of brick-and-mortar Christian bookstores, it's hard to browse and find great deals on Christian-themed holiday decor, supplies, greeting cards, and gifts. ChristianBook.com is my go-to source for all things faith-based and it offers incredible deals on Christmas items. Plus, shipping is often very quick--an important feature during this season. Check out all these stocking stuffers!
Hand Made Olive Wood Nativities and Manger Sets from Bethlehem
Several years ago, my in-laws traveled to Israel and returned with a gift for my husband: a nativity made out of olive wood from the Holy Land. It is a treasured piece of our Christmas decor. You too can have a handmade olive wood nativity from Bethlehem from The Jerusalem Export House. They also have many other faith-based items.
Answers in Genesis
Home of the Ark, the Answers in Genesis brings apologetics to a whole new level. Their book, The War on Christmas, answers these and other important questions: What is the truth about Christmas? Why does so much controversy cloud the true meaning and history of this sacred holiday? How can Christian families respond in a culture that seems to be declaring war on truth and rewriting reality? Find it at Answers in Genesis' store (you'll need to plug the title into the search bar).
Home Science Tools
Give the gift of science this year (including some awesome stocking stuffers) through Home Science Tools, the place where science comes alive and is extremely homeschool-friendly. Access their gift page here or just browse for next year's science curriculum -- or lab kits for upcoming science experiments.
Gingerbread House Building
Every year, my family enjoys a heated gingerbread house competition. I buy pre-made gingerbread houses and search on Pinterest for creative decor items (check out my board here for ideas and inspiration!), and share these with family. Buying pre-made houses (and I've also seen gingerbread barns, trains, ninjas, and chicken coops!) eliminates the hassle of construction and goes right to the fun part: decorating. Make sure you have plenty of decor items on hand with lots of royal icing. We actually have a gingerbread house competition each Christmas Eve after eating a dinner of heavy appetizers. For wee little ones, you can give them either their own little gingerbread cookies to decorate, gingerbread house stickers, or wee little gingerbread houses that come in a village set to decorate.
I'm sure you've read about this one before, but it bears repeating: since there are 24 days until Christmas Day, reading a chapter of The Gospel of Luke each day aloud to your family gets an entire book read, since Luke has 24 chapters. You start reading about the birth of Christ, and it goes through His life, death, and resurrection--the very reason He came to earth in the first place. What a great habit to start, to read a chapter every night of Scripture to your family--and what a great time to start that habit.
In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, we often forget to just rest: rest in Jesus and remember His birth, life, and death--and resurrection. This holiday season, make sure you take time to savor the time. Make some hot cocoa, turn off all the lights except for your Christmas tree, and just be quiet. Watch the lights seem to twinkle in the darkness, and meditate on Christ being the Light of the World. Build quiet time into your Christmas schedule for yourself and your family.
Baking is science, mathematics, art, and life skills all rolled into one. Take a few days and suspend book work for some serious baking. Ask informal (suspicious?) questions to your children about fractions as they measure flour and sugar; talk about what colors, combined with others, make other colors as they mix icing. Making Christmas cookies and other goodies is a terrific way to spend time together as a family doing homeschool when kids don't even realize they're doing school.
Driving around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights is a fun family activity. Some places even have drive-through mega light exhibitions that, for a per-car fee, you can drive through. Seeing Christmas lights always puts a twinkle in my eye (pun totally intended) and gets me into the holiday spirit. Bringing along a thermos of hot cocoa, cups, and playing Christmas songs on the CD player will further the experience.
Learning about Christmas songs
Especially for older homeschoolers, studying the origin and theology of well-known Christmas songs is a great way to gain a deeper appreciation for the songs we sing at Advent and for the story of Jesus' birth. These books, electronic and audio books, as well as CDs, will give your family lots to think about and discuss about beloved Christmas songs.
Happy Birthday Party
In the busyness of Christmas, sometimes we forget that it's Jesus' Birthday. Kids do love birthday parties, so allow them to make a special cake, complete with this amazing cake topper, and served on special birthday plates and decor to celebrate Jesus' birth. Talk about the gifts the Wise Men brought the Baby Jesus, and ask them what gifts could they give Him? It will open up some fantastic discussion and insight into their discipleship journey.
As homeschoolers, we often think that because we homeschool, we already spend quite a bit of time with our kids. I know I am guilty of thinking that. At Christmas, though, we really need to be intentional with our time and show our kids that Christmas is not about getting the latest gaming system, or a bunch of clothes, or decorating, though all that is fun and exciting. It's about celebrating, together as a family, Jesus' incredible, supernatural, and miraculous birth. Yes, we decorate - but don't we decorate or at least acknowledge our own birthdays? Yes, we give gifts - but didn't the Wise Men give gifts to the Baby Jesus? If we take the time and explain why we do what we do when it comes to the intentionality of the Advent season, our kids will learn it's not about some dude in a red suit or fruitcake or getting an annual package of socks and underwear. It's about so much more: it's all about Jesus.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
As I write this, my daughter has just arose from her bed, an hour past the time when I first told her to wake up and a good two hours since her alarm clock went off. She's 11, and the source of great joy and laughter--and the source of great aggravation and tear-filled days. She can make homeschool so fun and exciting--and she can also make it just plain hard. Harder than it needs to be.
Do you feel me?
I want to be able to take her on exciting and educational field trips, full of inspiration and fun, and I'd love to do interesting crafts and projects with her--but with her attitude, just doing textbook work is like pulling teeth without the numb shot. So we don't do many field trips or special days because, when we do them, they feel like I'm rewarding behavior that I'd rather not reward.
I have this vision of our homeschool is supposed to be: one of encouragement and discipleship, where my daughter wants to learn and enjoys learning, and I enjoy being her guide on this journey. But on difficult days in which she cops a pre-teen attitude or is intent on running me over while she drives the struggle bus, it's anything but enjoyable or encouraging.
How to handle a hard day
Honestly, the best way I've found to handle a hard day -- or a hard season -- is to get Laura's dad involved. Often, a call or, like this morning, a text, from him often can persuade her to turn her act around and do her work without sass. Parents must be on the same page with homeschooling (and parenting) or the ship is sunk.
Other ways I handle hard days are to take breaks, have conversations about expectations, and make sure my child understands that I am her mother, and she will treat me with respect. We allow the television shows our kids watch influence them too much, and they mimic what they see on television: kids who know more than their parents; weak and ineffective parents who allow their kids to run roughshod over them; or children who have too much say in the goings-on in a household. You are the parent; be the parent. It's one thing to ask for your child's opinion on things; it's quite another to allow the child, who developmentally is not ready, to make sweeping declarations about how the household will be run.
In the conversations I have with my daughter, I ask her what she wants from homeschool: more arts and crafts, more music, more fun. I explain to her those are all good things and they can be done--but math, spelling, language arts, and history are also important, as is science. Incorporate arts and crafts, music, and fun in homeschool -- there are labs you can do for science, and making dioramas in history is always a good way to learn. I also ask my daughter if there are any particular things she would like to study. Last year, it was astronomy, and this year, human anatomy. That way, if your child chooses the topic, you get at least some buy-in to what you're teaching.
Consider the curriculum
Sometimes, you need to consider the source of the frustration. Often, it's the very curriculum you're using that's at the root of the issues. Don't be afraid to change curriculum, or alter it in some way. I sometimes use a science or history curriculum as the text but find worksheets or projects on such websites as Education.com or Teacherspayteachers. I also use puzzles, games, and arts and crafts to supplement a curriculum.
Make it your own
When you've seen one homeschool, you've seen one homeschool. Stop comparing your homeschool or homeschool space with others, as comparison breeds the lack of contentment. You're not doing public school or school-at-home, you're homeschooling, and you can make it what you wish.
Hard days are bound to happen. We don't live in bubbles, and we're all humans. The beautiful thing is, every day comes with new mercies and graces, so extend new mercy and grace to yourself, and your child, every day. If something isn't working, fix it and don't dwell on it. But, if a pattern emerges, figure out what's behind the pattern and deal with it.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Oh the humanity! When you've made all these plans and you're expecting a joyous, Pinterest-perfect homeschool day...then your sour child comes to the table with an attitude and half...then a crayon breaks and it's the Third World War.
We've all had those days. I've been known to threaten to send my daughter to public school on a number of occasions. Over the years, though, I've found a few things that work to either prevent or turn around difficult homeschool days.
Some children thrive on a loose schedule; they enjoy the freedom this allows and the ability to study what they want, when they want. Other children require structure: a set lineup of the same subjects that doesn't change. If you confuse these two, often, a child will protest [loudly] -- a younger child won't know why he is arguing, and an older one will just refuse to work. Figure out what your child needs and do that -- even if it's antithetical to what you'd want.
Last year, my daughter had many, many bad days and honestly, homeschooling was a chore for both of us. She lacked incentive for doing much of anything. This year, though, I started the schoolyear out by telling her she was going to have "participation grades" every day. If she did her work like it was asked of her, without complaining or whining, she would get a 100 for the day. If she whined, complained, argued, or simply refused to work, her daily participation grade would reflect that. Granted, she's in middle school and can handle this, but still, I'm hopeful it will make a difference.
Plowing through subject after subject can hurt retention and cause a kid's eyes to glaze over. Have the child take a good 15-minute break at the end of every three subjects, or a five-minute break after each subject. You'll find that if a child has some down time, retention and attention improve. Today, between spelling and math, my daughter and I went out and shot some hoops at the basketball goal. There's nothing wrong with taking a recess break every now and then.
Sometimes, you have seasons in which everything goes wrong. Last year, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in mid-September and died October 1. After that was the memorial service, emptying her apartment, dealing with legal matters...and I had no energy whatsoever for homeschool, or writing, or anything. So we took an extended break. I told Laura, who was dealing with her own grief, to just read if she felt like it. By the time mid-November came, we hopped back on the homeschool horse and starting riding again. We picked back up where we left off and just dealt with it. And you know what? It was okay. We could not handle another thing, and that's the beauty of homeschool. Laura learned more about dealing with the stages of grief and life than anything...and that will carry her in real life more than diagramming sentences ever could.
Sure, you've invested a lot of money in curriculum. But if the child is struggling with it, or the structure of it, your investment has already tanked. Go ahead, get a different curriculum, or use a variety of curricula for subjects. There's no one saying you have to use the same publisher for all your subjects. I used a grammar curriculum once and my child hated it--and so did I. So we bought a simple workbook from a teacher's supply store and used that, and it was fine. But the attitude she had had while doing the original curriculum was horrible--and a good indicator something was wrong.
Run Around the House
On days in which my daughter is Little Miss Cranky Pants, I tell her to go run around our house five times. Usually, by the third time around, her attitude has changed and she's tired of running around the house.
Now, I realize that not everyone can do this, but certainly you can have a child sit in the corner staring at the wall, or something to clear heads. When in doubt, chores are a perfect way to clear heads. If bad attitudes continue, stop academics for three days and have everyone do chores and projects around the house until attitudes change. Count them as life skills.
Homeschooling is difficult enough without attitudes, but we as parents can do things to minimize difficult homeschool days.
(C) 2021 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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