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
A new homeschool year is about to start: new crayons, new markers, new curriculum. It's an exciting time! To make the Back-to-Homeschool transition as smooth as possible, here are my top 10 tips for back-to-homeschool.
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Tip 1: Develop a mission statement
Yes, this one seems like it can be a bit dry. Sure, mission statements are usually associated with corporations or businesses, but they can serve a purpose within your homeschool. A good mission statement can remind you of why you homeschool and center all your homeschool activities and academics on one goal. For our homeschool, we've taken Deuteronomy 6:5 and reworded it to our mission statement:
The mission of Agape Farms Christian School is to teach our child to love the Lord our God, using all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, for the Glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Our homeschool is therefore focused on increasing our daughter's faith through her heart, mind, and body, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. This is the litmus test for everything we do in our homeschool. Use whatever mission statement you want to, just make sure the activities and academics in your homeschool dovetails what your mission statement declares about your school.
Tip 2: Create ID Badges
Many businesses offer discounts to teachers, even homeschool teachers, with an identification badge that has your photo, the name of your homeschool, and your homeschool ID number (usually you get this when you register as a homeschool with your state). Other times, it's just really nice and official to have a homeschool badge, like on field trips. To obtain a homeschool ID badge, you can order one through Homeschooling One Child's store here.
Tip 3: Make the First Day Special
Whether you homeschool part of the year or all year long, you can start off the year right by making the first day special. Usually, Laura and I go to a local doughnut shop and eat yummy, not-on-the-diet confectionary treats while doing our devotional together, praying over the homeschool year, and doing one subject in the doughnut shop (usually spelling). We then go home and get cracking on all the other subjects.
This year, Laura will be using the Student Record Planner from Not Consumed to keep track of her lessons, her grades, and as an academic journal. We are positive this will help her with some executive functioning issues we've noticed she has, and allow her to track in a grid format her grades. This will be in essence her academic bible, to go everywhere she goes: co-op, the library, everywhere. The first day will be spent going through the Student Record Planner, completing some housekeeping tasks associated with it, and making it her own.
This is also when I will introduce to her a new concept for this year: daily participation grades. With tween hormones comes tween drama, and whining about doing all the subjects starts early. I've decided I'm nipping that in the bud with giving her a daily grade on how she performs, without whining, every day.
Tip 4: Add Subjects in Gradually
This tip comes to us from Julie R., a homeschool mom from Maine, on Homeschooling One Child's Facebook page. She wrote, "...start off slow--gradually adding in school subjects over the course of a few weeks."
For example, our homeschool year starts September 1, which this year falls on a Wednesday. we'll do Bible, spelling, math, and reading September 1-3, then Monday September 6 we'll do all that, plus incorporate history and science. The next week, our co-op starts up, and the week after that, I'll add in grammar (which this year is diagramming sentences). We don't throw every single subject at Laura the first few days, even if the first day of homeschool (usually September 1) falls on a Monday. She needs time to get acclimated to all of it, especially since our expectations just increased.
Tip 5: Think outside of the box for breakfast devotionals
In our homeschool, we'll have breakfast while watching a video that is an online Bible study. I access RightNowMedia.com through my church's membership, which they allowed teachers to use. In addition to teaching with it, I use it for Laura's homeschool Bible study as they have a great deal of studies for children and tweens. Ask your church's leadership to get a subscription to Right Now Media and make it accessible for homeschooling families in your congregation.
Of course, nothing beats studying the Bible itself and by no means should any book or videoed study take the place of reading Scriptures. Make sure you take time before homeschool, during the day, and at night to read to your children the Holy Word of God -- no matter what age they are. And incorporate prayer in your day as well.
Tip 6: Crafts Make Studies Come Alive
For history and science especially, nothing makes lessons stick better than crafts. When Laura was younger and studying about different formations in the earth, she used clay and paint to make a diorama of a mountain, stream, ocean, plains, valleys....and after she painted it, she had to label everything. She worked so hard on that, looking at pictures in books, and replicating what she saw, that she learned it. To this day she can tell you what the different earth formations are.
This year, she will be studying Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology, and I cannot wait to work with her on using clay to make a skeleton laying on a board (as opposed to standing up), and have her label all the bones. We're also going to our local butcher shop and buy pig's feet (the animal that most closest approximates human skin and tissue) to dissect then suture closed. These crafts and activities incorporate all the senses and makes the lessons come alive for the child. What crafts or activities can you do to make your child's lessons come alive?
Tip 7: Don't Replicate Public School
In our homeschool, we don't do "school at home," or call it "school." "Homeschool" incorporates so much more than that. Unless your child just does so much better early in the morning, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to start school. You can ease into your day. Homeschool is so much more than a 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. regimen in which you're making your child miserable, and you too, by copying public schools.
Dr. Mary Hood first coined the phrase "relaxed homeschooling." Author of five books about homeschooling, including The Relaxed Homeschool: A Family Production, The Joyful Homeschooler, and The Enthusiastic Homeschooler, she said this phenomenal quote: "Relaxed homeschooling is a mindset that embraces these four tenets: you are a family, not a school; you are a dad and the head of a household, not a principal; you are a mom, not a teacher; and you have individual relationships with your children, not a classroom. Learning experiences are guided by parental goals and the goals, interests, and personalities of the children.”
You and your children get to decide what your homeschool will be like. No one else. There's a lot of freedom -- and responsibility -- in that. But oh, it's so worth it.
Tip 8: Incorporate Chores
When we homeschool, our houses tend to get messy. You have crafts going on in the living room, books strewn about the dining table, the kitchen is playing host to a chemistry convention, and the cat just chucked up a hairball that will soon be on slide for the microscope. There's no better way to teach Life Skills than to use them in life. If a child can operate a tablet, or a laptop, or a smart phone -- he or she can most definitely operate a washing machine, dryer, vacuum, dishwasher, and hand-wash dishes. Chores should most definitely be a part of any homeschool -- in addition to helping keep the house clean, they're learning for when they move out. When you're doing the bills for the family, show the kids the income and watch it go. Show them what it takes to pay bills.
One game we have is "Act Your Wage!" Boardgame by Dave Ramsey. This game is a fun way for anyone over 10 years old to learn the principles of saving and spending -- and it's a great addition to any homeschool.
Tip 9: Take Breaks
Incorporate breaks into the school day and year. If you want to take a month off in December to celebrate Christmas and travel or spend time with family, you most certainly can do that. There is no one making the academic calendar for you other than yourself.
It's really important, though, during the homeschool day, to take breaks. There's only so much of pouring in of information one can take before it's overwhelming. What we do, for an example, is BIble, spelling, and math -- then a thirty-minute break. Laura comes back, does grammar, then it's time for lunch. History and science are next, then a break. Reading afterwards and she's done. There's no raising of hands in our homeschool as we homeschool one child (that's why the blog is named the way it is), so if at any time she needs a bathroom break or a drink of water, she can get it, no questions asked -- as long as she comes back to the table promptly.
There are times when Little Miss has a bad attitude. At that time, I tell her she needs to take a break and run around the house three times. It's amazing what that does or bad attitudes or getting the Focus Button to engage.
Tip 10: Relax
This is probably the most important tip. Relax. Enjoy the time you have with your child. Teach them but have fun, too. Go on hikes. Talk. Play. If your child asks a question, answer it, but also ask what he or she thinks. Relax and just enjoy this time, because it goes by oh so fast.
Do you have any tips? Leave them down below in a comment! Don't miss anything -- subscribe to our email newsletter today!
(C) Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Read alouds are a great way to help your children fall in love with books. Getting them to sit still and listen to the book can be a challenge that leaves parents frustrated.
This common problem is easier to fix than you think. Sometimes it can be stressful watching our children fidget while we try to read to them but the truth is a little fidgeting can help them pay better attention to the story you are reading to them and sit still longer for the reading than they could if they tried to just sit still and listen.
Offer your child a sensory activity to help them focus. This is a great way to get more into your day. Sensory play helps kids gather themselves so they can focus better the rest of the day. Opt for simple activities like homemade slime, or playdough that can help calm and soothe while they listen allowing them to perform better on other lessons.
Keep hands busy without distracting minds. Activities like coloring is a great read-aloud project. Give them coloring pages that go along with the book you are reading to help connect the two. Coloring doesn't take much thought but keeps the hands busy allowing children to focus their attention on you reading to them.
If your child needs to be a bit more physical to focus give a peddler or exercise bike a try. This will give them something physical to burn off excess energy to help them all day long and give their body something to do so their mind can focus on your reading aloud to them.
If you have an extra copy of the book you are reading aloud, have them read along and take over reading out loud once in a while. No matter what method you use to help your child focus during reading aloud, you can take advantage of asking your child questions to see if they are truly focused. This also helps them work on reading comprehension and retention skills.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Most people think of a typical homeschooler as a mom. Truthfully, a homeschooling mom typically is the one who has direct, daily contact with her homeschooler. Also truthfully, a dad who is engaged with his family's homeschool adds so much.
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When my husband, Greg, says to people, "Yes, we homeschool our daughter," it makes my heart soar. He's taking ownership of our homeschool just as much as I am. He never says, "Yes, my wife homeschools our daughter." He has as much ownership in it as Laura and I do -- and with that comes responsibility.
Looking Over School Work
Though Greg works out of the home, I make sure I include him in our day by sending him texts about what we're doing, or pictures I take of completed tests, grades and all. He will also include himself in homeschool by asking Laura what she learned that day, or how she could have improved a test grade. He asks questions. He also looks over school work, projects, and is involved in looking at field trip opportunities that we make into family outings.
Teaching life skills or academics is something else that dads can do. Greg is paralyzed from the waist down, and a full-time wheelchair user, so a lot of what he teaches Laura stems from sheer persistence and determination. He often takes her to wheelchair basketball practices where she is exposed to people with physical disabilities who have amazing athletic talent and abilities. The lessons she learns during these trips are life-altering.
When there's a tire that needs replacing on her bicycle, or something needs adjusting on his basketball wheelchair, he'll often include Laura in those repairs and teach her about mechanics, tools, and maintenance. Teaching life skills -- even if it's folding laundry from a wheelchair -- is important in developing Laura into a responsible adult with a strong work ethic.
There are times he has taught academics, as well -- particularly geometry. He takes an active role in her education, by either supporting me when I'm teaching her or lending a hand with academics directly.
Dads can take an active role in homeschooling simply by reading. Turn the television off and read to your child, either the Bible or a book from the curriculum. We are studying Ancient History right now, and there's nothing like reading (or listening to the CD version in the car) of The Mystery of History. When Greg reads to her, it not only helps to get him involved in our homeschool, but also gives me a break.
Of course, Greg and other homeschool dads need as much encouragement as homeschooling moms do. They need the tools, resources, and information to become the spiritual leaders of their families, and to know the importance of homeschool. It also helps to encourage homeschooling dads about financial management, discipleship, and how to get involved in co-ops and enrichment clubs. To that end, I am so pleased to bring the Homeschooling Dads Online Conference to fruition. God laid this conference on my heart in late summer 2020, but with my mom's cancer diagnosis and death, life as I knew it just stopped.
But now, with the Lord's blessing, I'm happy to announce that homeschooling dads can be encouraged and inspired by speakers such as Davis Carman from Apologia, Israel Wayne from Family Renewal, Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and many others (including my own husband, Greg McKee). For just $11, participants receive lifetime access to all the online sessions and a Digital Toolbox (manly way of saying a swag bag!) full of coupons, printables, resources, and encouragement. This conference is brought to you by homeschooling dad and men who have a heart to encourage other men in their daily walk -- with God, their families, and their homeschools. For more information on the conference, click here. To register directly, click here.
Another way a dad can make a mark in homeschool is by leading his family spiritually. Facilitating daily devotions with the family, or just reading Scripture and praying together, is a powerful way to ensure that the husband is loving his wife -- and children -- as Christ loves the church. Children need to be lead by their dad and mom, a united front. So many times the dad is absent (either physically or emotionally) and that can wreck havoc on the biblical order of families.
Dates and Adventures
Finally, one thing I love that my husband does is take our daughter on dates. Sure, it may just be lunch on a Saturday as I'm cleaning house or on the way back from a basketball practice, but these little "dates" show her that her dad cares and wants to talk with her (read: not to her).
If you have a daughter, take her on a date. Open the door for her. Show her how she needs to be treated. If you have a son, take him on adventures: camping, hiking, fishing. Take your daughter on hikes, too, and your son to lunch. Mix it up.
The main thing is, dads have so much to give, and frankly, moms cannot do it all. The biblical order of things gets all messed up when we try to do things our way, or the way that we're told from Hollywood. Dads, you have so much to give and what you offer is so very important.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Buying homeschool curriculum can be an extremely expensive endeavor--complete, in-the-box, grade kits, or various textbooks for various children. Even if you're homeschooling one child, purchasing year-long curriculum can shrink the bank account.
My husband is the main provider of our family, so we're basically on one income while homeschooling our daughter. We have learned a number of ways to acquire homeschool curriculum on a budget, including shopping at thrift and consignment stores, online, and other ways.
This post may have affiliate links. These links direct you to products and publishers that have helped me in my homeschooling journey. When you click on and purchase something using these links, I receive a small commission at no charge to you. Thank you for your support.
Homeschool Coupon Book Spring Group Giveaway
Who doesn't need a bit of PayPal Cash and Homeschool Supplies?
A group of bloggers has come together to offer a $220 value giveaway. The winner will receive PayPal cash to spend on Homeschool Needs and Homeschool Supplies that anyone will enjoy in their homeschool. We are choosing the supplies we love best or wish we had!! It's going to be a surprise you don't want to miss out on!!
If you enter this giveaway, you will be added to the following email lists: Jus Classical, Peace Creek on the Prairie, Townsend House, BJs Homeschool, The Art Kit, Homeschool Coupon Book, Grapevine Studies, Jen Dodrill History, Brookdale House, and Homeschooling One Child.
Where I live, we have a number of thrift stores such as those that support ministries like the Salvation Army and Habitat ReStores, that support Habitat for Humanity. These thrift stores vary greatly depending upon store, management, and locale, however, if they sell books, you stand a very good chance of finding quality (albeit used) curriculum. They may not be the newest publications, but usually with things like grammar, mathematics, literature, and Bible, it's okay. With math, unless you want to go the Common Core route, it's best to have older textbooks.
Inventory is never predictable, and you almost have to go weekly to look at what they received in donations and put out to sell on the floor at any given time. At my local thrift stores, I have found LifePacs Bible curriculum, complete, for eighth grade (which I bought and put in my "future curriculum" tubby (that would be a suggestion, for you, too). I have also found a government / civics textbook that, although old (2008), the basic foundation of government is addressed in detail with questions to answer. That went into the future curriculum tubby for ninth grade.
I have found living books that covered our study of Ancient History this year, and other living books and resources for our study of Human Anatomy and Physiology for next year. I have found literature textbooks and literature reading books (we're going to study literature next year after three years of grammar). Now, at these thrift stores, no book was over $2. At one thrift store, they were having a Bag of Books for 5 Bucks sale, so I stuffed that bag full of textbooks, readers, resources, you name it.
If you live in an area, like I do, that is blessed with a homeschool consignment store, I'd use homeschool curriculum catalogs to decide what subjects I want from what homeschool publishers, and I'd head to my homeschool consignment store with a list in hand. Even if a curriculum is not the newest publication, it still has relevant information. You can always supplement with newer material you find on the Internet. I have saved hundreds of dollars by utilizing both my local homeschool consignment store and consignment sales that happen in the community that offer books and homeschool material. When I bought Laura's 5th grade curriculum (a hodge-podge of different publishers because we're a Charlotte Mason / eclectic / traditional homeschool), I bought over $900 worth of resources for $74. No kidding. And much of it we will reuse, with harder supplemental material for later grades.
If your local library has a Book Sale, absolutely attend that (bring a box or large bag for your acquisitions). Any non-fiction book that covers history or science (be mindful it aligns with your worldview) can be a textbook: read the chapter you want your child to read, and write out questions to be answered. Or, like I do with my daughter: she reads a section, and I ask her to write out what we call "Five Facts." These Five Facts are used for her to study and are written on the unit test. Again, inventory is wildly varied, but if you can find copies of well-known literature books, there are certainly worksheets to be found on the Internet for that book. Or, have your children write book reports on them.
While we're on the topic of libraries, you can teach all subjects with just your library card. From preschoolers and kindergartners where you're reading to them, introducing letters and numbers, and allowing them to learn via play, to elementary school and beyond -- if you have no budget for an actual, store-bought homeschool curriculum, use the library. From literature to grammar, science to history, and everything in between, you and your child can read a book together, then create or print worksheets off the Internet, or develop projects or written reports.
I have a confession: I refuse to teach my daughter Common Core math, so I purchase older (early 2000s, before Common Core came into fashion) actual math textbooks, in which she uses spiral notebooks to work the problems. I go over the lessons with her, we do some problems together, then she does a section of problems herself. It works, and it has saved me a ton of money on math curriculum. Last year I also bought her science book this way and it went well, too (this year she wanted to learn astronomy). I just purchased her math book for next year. Yes, it's older and a little beat up, but it was less than $6. For someone who will be buying a whole year's worth of curriculum on a tiny budget, I really love spending $6 for a math book. To explore homeschool curriculum on Ebay, or other textbooks, just click here.
An Internet search of "free online homeschool curriculum" can give you a list of many free online programs, and many families base their entire homeschool on those programs. If you have a Pinterest account, you can use that as a search engine for worksheets on many subjects, and therefore develop a curriculum that meets your budget. There are many homeschooling bloggers who create worksheet printables, curriculum, unit studies, and workbooks who are affordable -- and you're supporting a family, as opposed to a corporation. I've developed a list here for your perusal. I encourage you to check out this extensive list of curriculum, resources, conferences -- all to help you in your homeschooling journey.
There are a few websites I use often (but am not an affiliate) in my own homeschool that, truth be told, I'd be lost without. Teachers Pay Teachers,Education.com, and Help Teaching all offer quality worksheets, projects, and unit studies for a wide variety of grades. Help Teaching in particular has a databank of testing questions so you can create comprehension tests on a wide variety of subjects and materials.
The most important consideration, besides budget, of a curriculum is to make sure it works -- for your child, and you. We once tried a curriculum that frustrated both my daughter and myself, so we ditched it and found something else. Honestly, it's really difficult to do that when you've paid hundreds of dollars for something. Yes, I would love to be able to afford an entire, boxed curriculum but that's not for us in this season.
I encourage you to check out the resources in bold above and find what works best for your child and you. That is, ultimately, one of the best benefits of homeschooling -- the parents and children get to determine what they learn, how they learn it, and from where they learn it. And you get to set the budget.
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(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
$200 Value Homeschool GiveawayWho doesn't need a bit of PayPal Cash and Homeschool Supplies? A group of bloggers has come together to offer a $220 value giveaway. The winner will receive PayPal cash to spend on Homeschool Needs and Homeschool Supplies that anyone will enjoy in their homeschool. We are choosing the supplies we love best or wish we had!! It's going to be a surprise you don't want to miss out on!! If you enter this giveaway, you will be added to the following email lists: Jus Classical, Peace Creek on the Prairie, Townsend House, BJs Homeschool, The Art Kit, Homeschool Coupon Book, Grapevine Studies, Jen Dodrill History, Brookdale House, and Homeschooling One Child.
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You’re pulled in a thousand different directions. You have so many things that you’re trying to juggle, and you may often feel like you’re barely holding your head above water. Or maybe that’s just me.
This post may contain affiliate links, which provide a small stipend, at no charge to you, when you purchase from the links in the post. Thank you for your support!
Let’s bring it back to center for a second. When the guilt and the to-do lists want to overwhelm us, we must bring it back to center. Let me reaffirm in you that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING more important in the world right now than teaching and instilling the Word of God in our children! No matter what earthly sacrifices that may require. There is absolutely NOTHING more important! Laundry can wait. Dinner can be cereal. If necessary, take a pay cut. That sounds extreme, but if chasing after a bigger house or more vacations, home renovations etc. is our goal and that goal has deterred or will deter us from our most important God given task, we must step back and reevaluate. Whatever it is that wants to dictate your time. If it gets in the way of this – it must change, or it can go.
The enemy targets us heavy with distractions & insecurities making us feel like we are failing our children because they don’t have enough “this” or I need to give them more opportunities for “that” (you fill in those blanks.) Or wanting them to have “this” or experience “that.” But friend, if we are not growing personally in our relationship with the Lord, (and it requires determination and creativity in some seasons. Let me testify to that.) And if teaching them about Jesus & the Word of God is not our #1 Priority - we are failing them - Period!
You know the saying: “the squeaky wheel is the one that gets all of the attention?” When we’re focused on the loud squeaky wheel, we can overlook more important, pressing issues that go unnoticed until it’s too late?
This is hard and challenging. Believe me - I know. It’s a heavy calling, and I am far from a pro. But friend, if my son grows up and doesn’t become a professional baseball player he will be fine, but if he doesn’t know Jesus and the Word of God it will cause him so much unnecessary heartache.
This can feel intimidating or overwhelming. Don’t let it.
Here’s some of the things that we have used in my house.
Personal Bible Study and Development
The most important thing we can do as parents is to instill in our children a love of Jesus and His Word. Giving them a firm foundation on which to grow will reap a lifetime of benefits for them.
Melissa Bradley is married with four children. Follow her on Facebook and on her website. Thanks to Melissa for guest writing for Homeschooling One Child.
There are some days when homeschool is just clicking right along: everyone's doing their work, no one's fussing, you are glowing with tomorrow's expectation of making an Egyptian sphinx out of paper mache and a ping-pong ball...but then you wake up. You wake up to kids screaming about the insanity of having to write complete sentences for spelling and the lunacy of having to memorize the multiplication charts when calculators exist.
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And that's not a day but a season....weeks upon weeks of difficulty, and you're starting to threaten to send them to public school, or even residential military academy.
First off, breathe. Take a break. Take a week off -- yes, an entire week off -- and have your children do nothing but read for homeschool. Whatever they want, but they have to read at least an hour a day. Bake cookies. Go play outside. Then, talk to your kids about what they want out of their homeschool.
In this season when homeschool isn't working, try making these eleven changes to get your homeschool from being torture for all, to something everyone can enjoy.
Don't recreate public school
You are homeschooling -- you left public or private school, so don't try to recreate it. Have homeschool during the time of day that is best for the kids. For my daughter, that's in the morning, after her ADHD meds have kicked in. She takes her meds and eats breakfast while watching an educational video on YouTube or listens to me read to her.
While a desk is an important piece of furniture for homeschool, not all of homeschool needs to be done at a table or desk. Sometimes, doing spelling words or reading a history book on the couch is perfectly fine. If your teen gets her algebra work done on her favorite recliner, it's okay.
When we start out homeschool, sometimes we come with pre-determined ideas of what "school" should look like. Homeschool is what you create it to be. If your kids thrive on having a dedicated homeschool space with desks lined up in rows, okay. If your kids thrive on doing their work on the floor or couch, okay. But don't try to recreate something that you left.
Teach according to the learning style
Some kids can grasp concepts by reading about them; some kids learn by listening; some learn by doing. Still others cannot be still if their lives depended on it. All kids have different learning styles. If you have a wriggly kid, forcing him to sit and not move will not help his learning. This wriggle seat will help kids move while learning. If you're not teaching according to your child's learning style, that can cause a great deal of problems: stress, anxiety, and behavior issues. You can assess your child's learning style and learn how to teach accordingly through this book, Discover Your Child's Learning Style: Children Learn in Unique Ways - Here's the Key to Every Child's Learning Success, by Mariaemma WIllis and Victoria Kindle Hodson.
One thing we have to be careful about is being too rigid in homeschool. Harshness in teaching can result in losing the love of learning, and that is a lifelong sentence. Just like adults who need a break every now and then, children do, too. In our homeschool, my daughter can get up anytime for a glass of water or use the bathroom. She doesn't have to raise her hand. This is her home, for pity's sake. Her school is her home, and her home is her school.
Like I wrote above, homeschool during the time of day that makes the most sense for you and your child. If your teen is barely conscious during the morning, but ready to learn in the evening, save the lessons for the evening. If your child loves to get up at 7 a.m., start homeschool then. Fighting the natural rhythm only makes for kids who are fighting fatigue. On the other hand, if it's a matter of getting enough hours of sleep, reinforce a bedtime routine and time that will enable your child to succeed. Plus, you need a break -- send the kids to bed earlier, and you can have one.
Cut down the distractions
When I make doctor appointments, I try really hard to make them in the afternoons, after homeschool. I make it a point to tell my adult children that I'm homeschooling their sister during these hours, so don't interrupt. I don't answer the phone unless it's my husband or if I'm expecting a phone call. Recently, I moved our homeschool space from our dining room to a room that had been a guest room / office. The availability of a door that I can close to keep our cats out, and creating a space dedicated to learning, has made a huge difference.
This one goes to learning styles, too, to some degree. Some kids do better with online learning than others. Some kids cannot handle computer-based learning from a developmental standpoint. Kindergarten, first, and second grades should be done in-person, play-based, and focused on developing the love of learning, with steadily increased academic responsibility based on the grade. Third grade would be the first time I'd introduce online learning, and that is just for a little while: math games and such. My daughter is in the 5th grade, and I get her to input her spelling words when we make a word search that we download and print out. Conversely, if you want to introduce computer and technology courses to your homeschool, check out the amazing curriculum by SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
Using the wrong curriculum
Teachers in public schools are stuck with curriculum that has been purchased for the year, even if the kids aren't doing well with it. You are not bound by that! If a curriculum is just not working out, ditch it and find something else. Once I was using a language arts curriculum that my daughter and I just struggled with -- and I ditched it, bought a little grammar booklet from a teacher's supply store in town, and we were so much happier. But had I stayed with that one that didn't work, it would have meant tantrums, whining, and not wanting to do the work. Find something that works for you and your kids.
My single biggest issue with being a homeschool mom is being disorganized, and this is where I struggle the most. It's hard to maintain all the curriculum, the supplies, the endless line of crayons, etc. Take a couple of days, and you and your kids "homeschool" by organizing all the supplies, the books, notebooks, spaces, etc. Teaching organization is one of the best things you can impart to your kids. Being disorganized and spending precious time trying to locate a certain notebook, a pencil sharpener, or book is one of the fastest ways to lose that homeschool spark.
Get buy-in from kids
If you and your husband, and your kids, have made the decision together to homeschool, the kids need to understand that their buy-in to homeschooling is a daily activity. They need to realize (through conversations and living this daily with parents) that this is their education, and they need to make the most of it. Homeschoolers have the potential to do so much more than their public school counterparts, as homeschoolers are not limited by the number of credits they can or cannot have, or the types of classes they take. High schoolers, particularly juniors and seniors, can take college classes at their local community colleges that will also count on their high school transcripts -- and get some general ed collegiate classes out of the way. Elementary and middle school-aged kids can explore topics they are interested in, such as a year-long class in astronomy, for example, or take as much time studying the Middle Ages if that's their interest. Presented like this to your children, they will be more inclined to give total buy-in and want to do homeschool. School is so much better if you're studying something of interest.
Social: Too Little or Too Much
Ah, yes, The social question. Like it or not, this can be a deal-breaker for kids. If they're not getting enough social time with their friends (especially if you pulled them from a public or private school), they may resent homeschooling and buck it altogether. Listen: just because you pull your kids from institutional learning, doesn't mean you must eliminate the friendships they have made, unless those friendships were more bullying than not. If the friends come from homes that do not share your values, have the kids get together at your house. Make your house friend-friendly. If you have the room and funds to do it, invest in some games like a video game system, or a transformable pool/game table even, to encourage group activities at your house. Be the "cool mom" that supplies chips, cookies, and sodas. Don't hover, but do keep a listening ear. Show the love of Christ to your child's friends -- who knows, as it says in the book of Esther, you may be the one to share the Gospel to the future Billy Graham. For girls, especially, invite them over for a Cookie Day where you and the girls make tons of different cookies. They will all love that.
Conversely, homeschoolers tend to be so worried about getting a lot of social time in that academics suffer. Joining in every park day, homeschool group activity, or meet-up at the expense of academics isn't good, either. If you child is involved in a group sport such as gymnastics or soccer, plus a fun homeschool group activity (such as a group field trip, park day, or even getting together to make cookies or crafts), that should be plenty for a week. Kids need to have unstructured friend time, too, but having structured social time more than twice a week is a bit much. We tend to think that public school kids are socialized but in reality, the only socialization they have is during recess and lunch, and even that may be taken away based on group behaviors. In other words, I wouldn't worry about the social aspect; let your child have friends over, do a group activity once a week, and enjoy the time you have.
Not enough fun
One of the greatest things about homeschool is that you can have fun while learning. Studying Ancient Egypt? Make mummies out of dolls. Make papyrus paper. Write a play about some historical event and act it out as a family. Have a spelling bee. Allow your kids to create a historical place in Mindcraft as a project (pyramids, a Medieval village, the Alamo...). Have homeschool using board games for one entire day, or week. Watch documentaries on Amazon Prime or another streaming system for a whole day, with popcorn. If your kids are stuck doing workbooks, online learning, or other seat work day after day, their buy-in will be negative zero. The beauty of homeschool is the ability to instill in a love of learning and have fun doing it. Invest in a subscription box, like the one from this blog, that features fun and quirky things for you and your homeschooling kids, either one time or as an annual subscription. This fun box livens up the day and weeks afterward.
If something isn't working in your homeschool, change it. There are no hard-and-fast rules here. If you see something that needs fixing, do it. You are the administrator and teacher of your homeschool, and can make those decisions.
(c) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The year 2020 has wrecked havoc on the whole society, but none more so than public school kids and their parents. In the spring they found themselves thrust into doing school at home, away from everything they knew. This also gave parents who were considering homeschooling a test drive without the legalities of actually withdrawing their children.
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Now, it's the start of a new school year. Some public schools are going back in a mish-mash of at-school / virtual learning / hybrid concoctions that confuse even homeschoolers who don't have a child in the school. As someone who's in a couple of homeschooling groups for her state, I've seen the number of people in the group jump over the last six months as people who have kids in virtual public school think they're "homeschooling."
No. Virtual public school is not homeschooling. There are many differences between homeschool and virtual public school (done at home) -- and they are not alike.
Parents do not choose the curriculum for their kids in virtual public school. It's what is assigned by a teacher. With parents now aware of what is being taught in public schools, or told to not listen in, or buy their children earbuds so only they can hear what's being taught -- more and more parents are calling foul.
With true homeschool, parents choose what their children learn. Many parents, especially with middle and high school kids, talk with their children on subjects they want to learn. I asked my fifth grade daughter what she wanted to learn about in science this year, and she chose astronomy. She would not have had that choice in public school.
Public schools' curriculum is dictated by a standard course of study by each state's Department of Education. This curriculum is often heavily influenced by politics, social justice, and causes that are not necessarily good things. Often, these curricula have a great deal to do with sex education and come with the inability for parents to opt-out their children, if the curriculum goes against the parents' worldview.
In homeschool, parents set the standards of what their children learn. They choose the curriculum, based on their worldviews and what they want to teach their kids. Often, in homeschool, kids are exposed to a wide range of philosophies that they can compare and contrast. Many public school systems, especially in more liberal states, have teachers and curriculums that are taught to the kids that emphasize one philosophy or religion over another and downplays the largest religion in the world. For example, some school systems encourage kids to learn about Islam but not Christianity, eliminating teaching whole thought.
While browsing in a homeschooling group I'm in for my state, I saw a post by someone who made the comment they're homeschooling now until schools reopen like they were in the past, so their kids can go to normal school. While I get what this person was saying, it sound awfully disparaging. My daughter has learned more in the last three and a half years of homeschool than she did in the two and a half years she spent in public school, simply because the curriculum was taught in ways that she learns best. Our homeschool is best for her, but it is not inferior to an education she would receive if she were in public school. In fact, based on what she learns -- cursive writing, grammar, how to write paragraphs, Bible, math that makes sense -- her education, I believe, is superior to that of kids her own age and grade level.
For my daughter, getting up at seven o'clock and rushing to eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to school, then do all the school things was incredibly stressful. All that, plus the anxiety that came with being bullied due to having dyslexia, was just too much for her. She has chronic migraines, diagnosed at four years old, and she would have upwards of 15 migraines a month while she was in a public school setting.
Since she's been in homeschool, she gets up between eight and nine in the morning, has breakfast and takes her meds, then eases into the school day with Morning Basket time. During Morning Basket, we cuddle on the couch and I read pages from two books: Bible Stories for Courageous Girls and The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child. Easing into the day by reading these books that encourage her in her faith and tell a story about the period of history she's studying reinforces key concepts and starts the day off on the right foot.
Since we've been homeschooling and incorporating relaxed themes, she has had maybe five migraines in three years. Eliminating stressors have helped her anxiety a great deal.
Homeschooling on our schedule enables us to incorporate learning into family trips. My husband plays wheelchair basketball, and last year we had the opportunity to travel to Wichita, Kansas for the championship games. Along the way, we incorporated homeschool into the trip by spending time at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in Mansfield, Missouri; the Ulysses S. Grant Home and the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri; and walking along the Mississippi River. We listened to Little House series on audio books all the way there, and all the way back. Visiting the Wilder homestead and museum after listening to her books really made the artifacts in the museum come alive. We would not have had this amazing experience if we did not homeschool.
Kids in virtual public school spend about six to seven hours in front of the computer with instructional time. In the in-person school setting, they don't get that much instructional time on a good day. No wonder kids are fidgeting and their attention span is out the window! That much screen time isn't good for anyone.
For Laura, my daughter, 5th grade homeschool lasts about 3-4 hours at most. She does her book work, practices the ukulele, and we call it a day. A regular day in public school is filled with crowd control, walking to the library, art, cafeteria, recess, etc. There's so much time that's wasted on behavior modification that the teachers cannot possibly teach in the way that her students learn. When you homeschool, you can customize lessons for each child in the way he or she learns. You get the work done, learn it, and move on.
In the days before schools shut down, most students would only go on 3-4 field trips a year. We purposely plan our homeschool weeks to do academics Monday through Thursday, and leave Friday open for field trips. These field trips may entail going to a museum: I've planned such field trips to coincide on the curriculum. We visit exhibits that are curated to dovetail what Laura is learning in school.
These field trips may entail a trip to the library, or a park. They may be a visit to a national or state park that has some relevance to what we're studying. The point is, nearly every Friday we go on a field trip that supplements what she's learning in school. She could not possibly get that level of supplemental learning experiences in public school.
Don't Give Up
If you have chosen to homeschool instead of doing virtual public school, don't decide to send your kids into the same environment you removed them, just because it's hard. Homeschool is hard -- most things that are the most rewarding are difficult. Give it a couple years, make it your own, and watch your kids flourish. Homeschoolers can graduate high school, walk in graduation ceremonies, and go on to college -- and thrive doing so, often stand out with their abilities to reason and write. Don't give up! Don't say you're going to try this for six months and then put your kids back in public school, hoping "they won't be too far behind." Homeschool, done right, will put your kids further ahead than you could possibly dream -- if you, as the parents, are willing to do the work with your kids and stick to it.
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(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I like a clean house. I don't like cleaning house. There's the conundrum. And there's absolutely nothing like homeschool (and blogging / vlogging about homeschool) to make one acutely aware of just how messy and cluttered one's home really is.
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Listen, I've sat on this blog post for months now. Knowing that it's extremely hypocritical of me, and also knowing my adult children (and my husband) will read this post and go, "Do whatI?"
So this is my promise to myself that if I write it and publish it, I will actually do it. [insert laugh track here]
I firmly believe in teaching life skills in homeschool. While there is a day dedicated to paying taxes along with all the paperwork required to do so, there is not a Mesopotamian Day. Maybe there should be, but there isn't. We still need to learn history, including the Fertile Crescent, but knowing how to do taxes is important -- along with how to properly load a dishwasher, do laundry, operate (and clean out) a vacuum cleaner, etc. So here's the thing, the secret and joyful part about teaching life skills: you teach them so you can get your students to do them, so you don't have to do all of them.
Little kids can easily clean up after themselves. Teach the "clean up song," use a timer, whatever you need to do, to get them to help clean up the homeschool area before dinner -- especially if your homeschool area is, like mine, also the dining area.
Teach tweens to do their own laundry, load and unload the dishwasher as well as hand-washing dishes, clean the bathroom, and other necessary jobs. Teens need to learn about filing taxes, completing employment applications, voting, and heavier household tasks like moving. Ironing clothes, using a laundromat, repairing things, sewing, and car repair are all things that teens need to learn to prepare them for life as an adult.
It helps me when I manage the house by utilizing a schedule. Sticking to it on the long-term is something that I have an issue with. Check that: it's an opportunity for growth. Yes, that's it.
Some people have set days for laundry in which they do all their laundry on that one day. My adult sons, who live out of the house, bring over their laundry to work on as they do some outside chores for me that I just cannot do. It's a good system. Since I have a washer and dryer at my beck and call, I usually do a load a day, to stay on top of it. Do what you need to do -- but teach your little ones how to do laundry, too: sorting, washing (hot, cold, warm, etc), drying, folding, and putting away.
I have found that soaking dishes, then running them on express wash in the dishwasher, is a quicker method than on normal, particularly when I have to do a load before dinner so we'll have dishes to eat on, or if there are a lot of dirty dishes. I use the express wash a lot, and have become a fan of it, actually. If I soak and do an initial swipe with the scrubber brush beforehand, the express cycle does a great job of washing and sanitizing them. I've taught my daughter (the only child left at home) to do this, too, so now she loads and unloads the dishwasher.
In my homeschool, we schedule breaks in between two to three subjects. During these breaks, I ask my daughter to do a small chore, say, unload the dishwasher, then she can take her break. Usually she'll use the bathroom, grab a snack, go outside, and maybe play a game on her tablet. That's all fine to do, as long as she comes back without grumbling to get some more academics done. This is a system that works well for us.
We use the weekends for project days -- either deep cleaning or maintenance chores. Every other week, on Saturday night before bed, I'll put special cleaner in the washing machine and let it run at night. This way, it doesn't use up precious daylight hours when we could be doing washing clothes. The same goes for the dishwasher. I remove the filter, clean it and remove all the debris, then put it back. I like to use this cleaner to clean the dishwasher, as it removes limescale, grease, buildup, and rust (and it's all natural).
I have found by taking a couple of days and deep-cleaning the house (and, by the way, if the kids help do this, I think it counts as homeschool as it's teaching lifeskills), then maintaining the cleanliness through the week, neither the house or myself get overwhelmed with it all.
You may be homeschooling one while having a little one on your hip or at your ankles. Homeschooling a child while having a baby or toddler is tough, but not impossible. Teaching the toddler, especially, that this is the time for brother or sister's school will acclimate him or her about school. Try to include the toddler as much as possible -- they might want to do "school" too. Try these tips:
Homeschooling, homemaking, and your sanity can coexist, but it requires working smarter, not harder. Make the appliances and tools work for you, not against you. Unless they're paying rent in the form of cold hard cash, kids need to be doing chores, as they live there, too.
Finally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a mental health day during the week, putting on some kid-friendly DVDs or streaming services, and letting the kids watch a movie or two while you get things in order in the kitchen, or do a general clean-up. Sometimes, friend, we just have to do that to help our own sanity.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling is more than moving school into your home: it is your opportunity to create a deeper relationship between learning and your child. When done well, teaching and learning becomes a constant guest that fits into your life instead of rudely interrupting it.
Homeschooling will definitely transform your day, but you have much more power over your schedule than you realize. Being creative and flexible with your school hours, days, and weeks, means having more freedom to make choices you might not have thought possible.
A Life of a Homeschooler is a Life in Flux
When the kids were all very small, consistency was the key to keeping us on task. We chose to hold school year round because it fit our needs. As the kids grew older, baseball became a summer occupation for my husband as a coach. We opened a wider stretch of weeks in the summer for a break. Eventually, we followed closely with the public school schedule when our older children first began attending college, as we didn’t want to miss out on the time that they were home with us for the summer.
We flexed our calendar schedule, but our hourly schedule has seen plenty of change too. With multiple children, we schooled in rounds. The younger children get up earlier, so we would begin with the subjects that they needed my hands-on instruction for. When they were excused for a break, the older kids had instruction time. We wrapped up the day with online math and personal reading time.
Last year, I worked away from home two days a week. We again switched back to year round school AND to a four day week. Because of my work schedule we chose to have school on Saturday mornings instead of a traditional “school” day. With homeschooling, it is your school; you decide when and how you will fulfill your state’s required minimum days of school.
With this flexibility parents find that homeschooling might be a more feasible option where they once thought it was impossible. With co-ops, play groups and activities you can still schedule outside activities with another family or share rides to help cover work schedule overlaps.
Thinking Outside of the Norm
Many parents I speak to are intimidated by homeschooling because of the perceived time commitment. Eight hours a day teaching seems like a daunting requirement for anyone, but especially for the person who has to make the same kids dinner and tell them to do their chores.
Homeschooling takes less hours than you think. A school day is not eight hours long. A school teacher’s workday is eight hours, this is to make up the American standard, 40 hour workweek. If you discount time trading classes, settling in, correcting students and reviewing material covered in the previous class, instructional time is less than 30 minutes on average. If the average school day has seven periods, that is roughly three and a half hours of hands on instructional time.
The four hour school day is not as hard to schedule for. At our house we do school from 10am to 2pm; this works for my schedule as a freelance writer. I work best in the early mornings, while the house is still quiet, but in other homeschools, the kids rise early and do any work that takes parental involvement in the morning hours. A parent can work in the afternoon from home while the children move into their own studies, electives, hobbies and chores. Some parents alternate teaching days with their spouse to fit their work schedules, single parents have created similar approaches to shared teaching times if they live where the state allows parents to teach an unrelated students.
Room to Explore and Be Creative
My public, high school class had over six hundred students. I was able to take one art class, it was the only class I looked forward to and I knew I was not going to have the opportunity to have another one. Homeschool students have the opportunity to explore topics that interest them.
I encourage parents to find ways to discover their children’s interests and make them creditable. Do they play a sport? Homeschooling gives the flexibility for offseason training. Do they love games, tech, photography or art? Classes are available in abundance through homeschool curriculum providers or in the same places I learned how to build a website and improve my blog; classes online.
Education is rapidly changing and adults are taking the reins of their skills and turning to sources outside of the traditional college network. Course creators and creative entrepreneurs are taking notice and creating tools to give those with skills a platform to teach. Our students can receive high school credit while under our supervision for learning any number of skills in and outside of “school” hours.
Creating a schedule that fits your life and the needs of your student will give you a homeschool experience that feels natural and compliments your family’s rhythms. With less stress and conflict, student work gets done and learning can begin to be fun again.
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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