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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Encouraging your kids to explore the hobby of gardening can help them develop a basic understanding of botany and positive personal characteristics of self-confidence and a sense of achievement. Children have long been interested in the beauty of nature, and gardening offers a character-building opportunity for them to develop a better understanding of the world around them and explore virtues such as patience and responsibility.
All of these wonderful benefits await your child as he or she expresses a desire to learn more about gardening. And as parents, we have the responsibility to assist our children in the learning process. As you help your child plant his or her garden, you want to make sure that they learn how to do so correctly so that their plants grow, flower, and even produce fruit.
But you also want your child to learn about the consequences that are a result of negligence. So below are some suggestions for steps you can take to make the process of establishing a garden as successful as possible for your child.
The first step in starting a garden for kids is to talk with your kids about the plants that they are interested in growing in their garden. Ask them about their favorite vegetables. Perhaps they would rather grow a flower garden. Growing some flowering plants and some vegetable plants is a good idea because they attract bees that pollinate the vegetable plants.
There are also certain types of plants that attract butterflies. Decide on a combination of a few plants. Do not go overboard. Start with just a few plants that your child can devote his attention to caring for.
Another factor to consider when deciding on what plants to include when you are gardening for kids is the plant's resiliency. You do not want to start your child off with a high-maintenance plant. Some kid-friendly plants include the Sunflower, the Balloon flower, Lambs Ear, and Grape Hyacinth.
The Sunflower and Balloon flower both have beautiful big blossoms and can grow to impressive heights (a fun thing for your child to see that they have been responsible for). The Lamb's Ear grows very soft leaves, and the Grape Hyacinth is a pretty yet very strong plant that doesn't need much more than the occasional watering to grow well.
Once you and your kids have chosen the plants for your garden, purchase the plants and any appropriate mulch or fertilizer and get to work. Help your kids with the initial planting process. Teach them that plants need good healthy soil if they are to grow. Let the kids do a lot of digging to learn the value of hard work and later see the results of their hard work.
Once the planting is done, the kids will need to water their plants regularly and ensure that their plant bed remains free of weeds and pests. It is a good idea to plan your kid's garden by your full-size garden so that they can see what it takes to make the garden grow. Encourage them to go outside with you to water and weed their plants as you do the same for yours.
If you do not have land on which you can garden, grow a container garden. Some plants do very well in container gardens, and your child will have a very similar gardening experience even if their garden is potted.
After much hard work, it is time for harvesting. Any vegetable plants can be picked, brought inside, and prepared for consumption. Parents, make a big fuss over the fact that your child is responsible for the great vegetables that are to be eaten. Make a meal that your child is especially fond of so that their vegetables taste even better.
Here are some resources to help you explore gardening with your children (these may be affiliate links; when you click on these links and purchase something, we receive a small commission at no charge to you, that helps keep this website up and running. We appreciate your support).
Homeschool Homesteading Course
This homeschool homesteading course is designed for anyone who has a desire to live more independently and prepare much of what is needed each day using their own hands. In this elective course, the student can learn how to work for what they want by making it themselves, instead of participating in an “on demand” society. Homeschool students of all ages learn patience, along with the skills needed to make their own cleaners for the home, sunscreen, homemade ketchup and dry mixes, as well as how to choose animals and prepare for emergencies, and much more. Learning the patience and usefulness of “doing it yourself” can be immensely helpful not only in the sense of living a healthier life, but also for the budget! Homeschool families can live more simply by learning what many generations of people have known, but the current generation seems to have forgotten —live simply, make do with the basics, and take an active part in gaining the benefits for yourself, your family, and the world God has given us by having fewer chemicals in the home. Sign up HERE.
Gardening Books and Planners
These books from ChristianBook.com cover garden planning, various fruits and vegetables, herbs, and a host of other garden-related resources. Dive into gardening HERE.
'For Such a Time as This' Online Summit
Gardening is a huge part of preparedness, as you can grow food to feed your family in times of uncertainty. John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The urgency is great. With all we have seen in 2020 and 2021 we know it does not hurt to be prepared! Friend, God's Word is and needs to remain our go-to source of information and encouragement. It gives us direction and brings us peace and He called us to be watchful and be prepared. But what does that look like? If you need to learn more about staying prepared join us for the For Such a Time as This Summit! Join the summit today for 60+ LIVE and pre-recorded sessions, discussion groups, giveaways, and a digital swag bag of resources! Sessions will be live on Zoom followed by breakout room discussions. Included in this amazing conferences are sessions on HOMESCHOOLING, Faith, Family, Discipleship, Apologetics, and of course, Preparedness! Get your ticket and lifetime access to all sessions for just $25. Don’t delay! SIGN UP HERE.
Gardening can be incredible fun with your kids, but it can also be highly educational. It blends science, math, nutrition, with physical exercise, and great food, too.
See you in the garden!
(C) 2021 Homeschooling One Child
April is coming and with that month the celebration of spring, new life, and the rise of Jesus Christ are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. As with every holiday, there are mainstream themes and there are Christian themes. Balancing how your family handles the two can be a challenge. However, Easter can be celebrated without the Easter bunny, and still include fun along with the important teaching of what Christ’s death and resurrection mean for us.
The Easter season is a vital part of Christian beliefs. This holiday is preceded by Palm Sunday where church go-ers recognize Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem (Mark Chapter 11). The Holy Week that follows is time spent in remembrance of the last supper Jesus spent with his disciples, his betrayal, trial, and his crucifixion on Good Friday (Mark Chapters 14-15). Ultimately, Jesus rose from the grave and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy by taking on the sins of mankind to provide a way for mankind to have a relationship and eternity with God in Heaven.
Brief History of Easter
The name “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre. She is the goddess of spring and fertility. The tradition of the Easter bunny is thought to come from the large litters bunnies would birth in the Spring as a sign of new life. Eggs were banned from being eaten during the Holy Week and instead would be decorated and gifted as a representation of new life, as well. As the years have gone by the two have merged into the tales of a bunny that lays special eggs and gifts for children resulting in today’s Easter basket tradition.
Activities for the Family
As Christians, it’s easy to get caught up in the traditions that aren’t rooted in the truth of scripture, but this Resurrection Sunday you can celebrate and teach your children about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ve compiled a few fun and inexpensive activities broken down by age group. Each activity can be done at home.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Play-doh Empty Tomb Play-doh tends to be readily available in any toddler’s home and is a great sensory activity to teach them the story of Resurrection Sunday. You and your child can craft a cross and a tomb and tell the story of Jesus’ death and burial.
Popsicle Stick Puppets If you prefer to have a printable option your child can color, this free printable provides all the characters to play out the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. You could even cut out the character and glue them onto popsicle sticks for more interactive play.
Tissue Paper Hanger You can create a simple window hanger with your toddler to symbolize the love and sacrifice of Jesus. This blog has a simple tutorial available using glue, black and white construction paper, and tissue paper.
“Stain Glass” Door This activity grew in popularity last year as families found themselves isolated in their homes as Covid-19 restrictions were in place. Using chalk markers and some painter’s tape, your children can create a beautiful stain glass look on a window or storm door. This homeschooling family shows how their doors turned out last spring.
Resurrection Egg Hunt This set is available online and in storefronts such as Hobby Looby or various Christian bookstores. It combines the egg hunts with the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection with each egg filled with some pieces to represent different parts of the story. It also includes a booklet with corresponding scripture verses your family can read when opening the eggs. If you don’t wish to ship a physical set, you can also take advantage of this printable version.
Build a Resurrection Garden If your family enjoys hiking, gardening, or simply being outdoors this activity could create a beautiful addition to your garden with resources gathered on your outdoor adventures. Some families opt to use a small pot, cup, or mug for the tomb, while some families used a large hollowed-out potato instead of a small pot.
Resurrection Rolls Baking and preparing meals can lend themselves to quality family time, while also teaching important skills to your children. This Sunday, baking Resurrection Rolls combines a love of working in the kitchen with an opportunity to share the miracle of Christ’s death and rise. This recipe is simple and easy to adapt for family members of all ages.
Tie-Dye Hangers Coffee filters provide a classic simple science activity when combined with markers and water. Your children can decorate the coffee filters with scenes or scriptures from the Holy Week. After using a spray bottle to create a tie-dye appearance, the filters can be cut and attached to a string to decorate a window or room. Here is an easy tutorial for tie-dyed coffee filter art.
Bible Trivia Jeopardy This final activity can create fun for the whole family. Whether you simply want to use questions from the Holy Week or expand to more Biblical knowledge, the possibilities are endless. Create teams or play individually and enjoy sharing your knowledge about the importance of the resurrection with your family and friends. Prep can be easy such as this family’s or you can dedicate a large wall for a more game show feel. Here is a set of Easter-related questions for a Jeopardy game, if you don’t want to write your own.
I hope that your family’s celebration of Resurrection Sunday is blessed and focused on the most important reasons we celebrate as Christians. I also pray that these activities will help your children understand the Holy Week and look forward to learning more about the Bible and Jesus.
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.
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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
When I was a little girl at Dilworth Elementary in Charlotte, North Carolina, November meant one thing: Thanksgiving break. It seemed like every classroom in every grade took a hiatus from the normal curriculum and focused on Native Americans, Pilgrims, cornucopias, pumpkins....the things of fall.
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There are some good things about public school, and the fun activities around holidays are right up there at the top. Homeschoolers, though, can have a lot of fun -- and educational time -- around holidays, too. In fact, we can take a lot of time and focus more on the meanings behind holidays.
When Laura was in the third grade, somehow, by the grace of God, our natural progression in history landed us squarely at the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth. Most of the time, I can guarantee that history class won't be so accommodating. I doubt this year's lessons of Ancient Egypt will have us feasting with Native Americans and Pilgrims on corn, pumpkins, and venison.
Homeschooling at Thanksgiving offers a cornucopia (sorry, couldn't resist) of lesson ideas that can supplement what you're doing in homeschool, even if it has nothing to do with Pilgrims. Gratitude is always a good lesson to reiterate, as is why Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Escaping religious persecution and placing faith in God first are always good things to discuss. Provide pens and copies of this "Three Things I'm Thankful For" activity for guests and family to complete. Then, share what you have written. You can also trade papers and have people try to guess the authors.
In our home, Thanksgiving is an all-hands-on-deck affair. We start on Tuesday, giving the kitchen a good cleaning and washing any special serving dishes we may need. We make a list of all the food to be purchased -- use this handy worksheet! -- and make a plan to cook dishes so that everything is done at the same time. It's also on Tuesday I make my Cranberry Relish, as it's so much better when it's had a couple of days in the refrigerator, although this year, my daughter will learn how to make it. For busy Thanksgiving Day mornings, I like to have breakfast already made so people can help themselves. A cherished family delight,Pumpkin Chip Muffins is always a hit on Thanksgiving Day morning -- or really, any time during fall and winter months.
My kids have always enjoyed helping me decorate for Thanksgiving. It helps when you have some cute decorations, like this"thankful" banner or this adorably cute Thanksgiving tablecloth. Of course, homeschooling at Thanksgiving would not be complete without some Pilgrim attire...
Kids love books about Thanksgiving, and one of my most favorite books is one I've had since I was a girl. Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin disappeared for a long time, but now it's back with a simple, heartwarming message and a delightful bread recipe to bake.
Several bloggers have put together activities, unit studies, and curriculum to go along with the Thanksgiving holiday. Here they are:
Rabbit Trails Through Thanksgiving by This Bit of Life
Intentional Activities for Kids -- Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt by Intentional in Life
Free Fall Thankfulness Journal for Kids by Kingdom First Motherhood
The Thanksgiving Jar -- A 30 Days of Gratitude Printable by They Call Me Blessed
Thanksgiving Book List Free Printable and a Thanksgiving Morning Time Resource Pack by Humility & Doxology
Year Round Homeschooling has a veritable cornucopia of Thanksgiving resources
I Choose Joy has these Fun Activities for Kids to do on Thanksgiving Day
Music in Our Homeschool features this Free 15-Minute Music Lesson for Thanksgiving
You can discover the history behind Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it with the e-book What Was the First Thanksgiving?. Filled with historical background on the Pilgrims and the reasons behind their voyage to the New World, the native Wampanoag tribe, the difficulties both groups encountered, plus the reason that Thanksgiving was made into a national holiday and more! Includes maps, paintings, and illustrations.
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, giving thanks for all of God's provision. This year, my mother died on October 1 after a very brief battle with metastatic lung cancer. So this will be a very different holiday season. Yet, because of Jesus, I am filled with the hope of heaven and that one day, I will see her again, all because Christ was her Savior.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)
I thank God for each of you who read my posts and follow me on social media. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your support.
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
Last night as I lay in bed, surfing Pinterest for the latest pins on Mesopotamia and astronomy (my daughter's current homeschool topics for history and science), I found a couple, then sent them to my wireless printer to print. It's handy, I admit. But for a lot of printing, using up my toner just doesn't float my boat.
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I know many homeschoolers who are in a similar situation. They buy one curriculum that they intend on using for children in different grades, or download a curriculum they have to print themselves. Spending over $600 on printing costs isn't what they intended when they filled out their Notice of Intent to Homeschool.
As a homeschooler with 15 years' experience in the printing industry, I understand. I also have the knowledge and experience to bargain printing costs down and look for the best sources. It is my desire to help homeschooling families not break the bank when it comes to their printing needs.
With this in mind, I've taken the years of experience in the printing industry, plus my degree in graphic arts / printing management, and years of being a blogger, and morphed all that into this exciting news: Bentley Homeschool Printing.
Bentley Homeschool Printing serves homeschoolers and homeschooling bloggers with their printing needs, from copies to bookmarks, and most everything in between. More products are being added each day, including booklets, manuals, and even shirts with your homeschool name on them, to help you showcase pride in your homeschool! I'm so proud of this endeavor that I put my name on it: "Bentley" is my maiden name, and it's to memorialize my dad, John Bentley, who died in 2005, as well as my uncle, Fred Bentley, who died very recently.
Plus, Bentley Homeschool Printing is proud to debut Quiver & Arrows Homeschool Literary Magazine. This print - and online - literary magazine is for homeschoolers in 11th and 12th grades. Fundamentally a Christian magazine, it features nine total categories: short and long fiction, nonfiction essays, and six categories of poetry: free verse, blank verse (poetry written with a precise meter—almost always iambic pentameter, non-rhyming), rhymed verse, narrative poetry, Haiku, and sonnet. The submission window for the inaugural edition of Quiver & Arrows is December 20-31, 2020. For more information, visit this website.
Searching for printing solutions that understand your needs as a homeschooling family just got a whole lot easier. I hope you will give Bentley Homeschool Printing an opportunity to serve you.
Thank you for your support!
(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
When I was a young girl, I loved back-to-school time: the new Trapper Keeper, the new pencils, the new, four-colors-in-one ink pen, the new glue sticks. I loved taking my time to decorate and sort through my new school supplies and preparing my new clothes for the first day of school.
While homeschoolers don't have the typical first day back to school, making the first day of a new grade in homeschool special is a celebration worthy of the name. The following are some things I do to make the first day of homeschool special.
After I purchase the curriculum, I go through it and make a lesson plan that covers the first month. There are some homeschoolers that can plan the entire year out, but, alas, I am not one of those. This year, my daughter is going into the 5th grade, so her list of subjects looks like this:
Tuesday & Thursday: Art/Music & Reading
On our dry erase board, I've written that Laura needs spiral notebooks for Bible, spelling, English, and math. She needs a spiral notebook and a folder each for Spanish, science, civics, reading, and art/music, and a three-ring binder for history. She decorates each of them based on the subject they will contain. This helps her prepare mentally (and have some fun) as she takes ownership of her school supplies.
We also prepare the dining room, which is also our homeschool space, to start the new year. We hung a new wall calendar on the wall, refreshed our stash of dry erase markers, and will give the dining table and chairs a good cleaning. The floor will get swept and mopped as well.
The night before homeschool, once she has showered and gone to bed at a reasonable hour, I lay out the books and supplies on the table.
It's our tradition to go out for doughnuts for the first day of homeschool, and have our morning basket reading while enjoying breakfast. It's a tradition that we both really enjoy and it's a sweet (pun intended) celebration to start our year.
The First Day
The first day is always exciting, because books are new, pencils are well-sharpened, and we're back into a schedule. Taking regular breaks, though, can help with restless legs and learning fatigue. Make sure your child can get water and go to the bathroom when they need to -- when we first started homeschooling, Laura would raise her hand to go to the bathroom, but I told her: just get up and go, and come right back. We're homeschooling! We don't have to raise our hands to go to the bathroom.
At the end of the first day, make sure that the child helps pick up. Have a shelf, basket, or bin that the materials can go in to, if you don't have a dedicated homeschool space. If you do have a dedicated space, pick it up and get it ready for the next day. Be sure kids can run and play and burn off energy.
Remember, homeschool is more of a learning lifestyle than an education. It's geared to give the whole child opportunities to learn, grow, and become who they are meant to be. Celebrate this time together! And please don't say, "We have to homeschool," like it's the worst thing ever. There's a world of difference between "We have to homeschool," and "We get to homeschool!" Celebrate it!
(C) 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Terrie Bentley McKee
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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