Boondock Ramblings

Ten pieces of advice to make your homeschooling experience easier

If you’re a new homeschooler, or even a veteran one, it can help to have homeschooling families offer you tips they’ve learned over the years.

I don’t know if I am exactly a “veteran” homeschooler, but since we are in our fourth year of being a homeschooling family, I guess I do have more experience than some. That’s why I consider myself semi-qualified to share the following twelve tips on how to homeschool your children without losing your mind.

 I also offered a few tips in a post I shared yesterday, which reminded parents that you don’t have to have a teaching degree to homeschool your child.

  1.  Don’t treat homeschool like regular school/Be willing to be flexible

I feel this is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give a new homeschooler. It is advice I needed to hear early on in our journey because I was treating our homeschool as if it was a public school in a home setting.

The whole point of homeschooling your child is to offer them a flexible style of learning which works for their personality and learning style. You shouldn’t expect that your child will be “in school” for six to eight hours a day like they are in public school. I always remind new homeschooling parents that their child isn’t actually at a desk learning for all six hours they are in a brick-and-mortar school. Most children probably only receive about 3.5 hours of actual instructional time. The rest of the school day is spent sitting in homeroom, eating lunch, recess if the child is younger, study halls if they are older, extracurricular activities, and then riding the bus to and from school.

When my dad and son built a shed as part of my son’s “life skills” class. My dad didn’t even need the shed in the end. *wink*

In other words, your child does not need to sit at a desk and do six straight hours of work. Not only is that unrealistic but it would also kill their love of learning at rapid speed, making school feel more like a prison. Most homeschool children complete their work in less than four hours, but there is no magic number of hours suggested to ensure your child is receiving a quality education. In education, like in many aspects of life, quantity does not always equal quality. You shouldn’t, in my opinion, force your child to study science for two hours, believing that amount of time will ensure they are receiving a quality education in science. In fact, making your child sit that long to learn a subject could have the opposite effect, as they will be so burnt out and overwhelmed from trying to comprehend so much at one time they will most likely forget what they read or studied at the end of their session.

Many younger children can finish their subjects in even less time, such as 1 to 2 hours, depending on what assignments they have that day. Teaching a younger child can sometimes take longer because they won’t be able to work independently. Not only will you have to teach the lesson, but you’ll also have to do the work with the child. How long this takes all depends on the child and should never be rushed or stretched out. I “play it by ear” with my children. Some subjects take longer than others on different days.

 I am starting to learn that I need to be flexible when it comes to how my children learn. If I don’t like the idea of my child sitting at a desk for six hours, then there is no reason I should do that when they are homeschooled.

Earlier this week I became frustrated because my youngest would not sit and listen to the history lesson I was reading to her. She was flipping the handle on the recliner repeatedly, standing up, and even started to put on her new roller skates. After a crying session from both of us, I finally convinced her to take off her skates for her reading lesson, but then allowed her to skate around our dining room while I read science to her and she watched three videos about whales.

Let’s be clear: I am very bad at following my own advice. I am not as flexible as I would like to be with our homeschool. I need to learn to “let it be” and “go with the flow” more when it comes to how I teach my children. If what they are doing is too distracting and won’t allow them to learn, then I shouldn’t allow it. But if my daughter can listen to our literature while creating with her clay, painting, or roller skating laps around the dining room table then why not? Learning doesn’t only happen at a desk, as I have mentioned before (link)

2. Don’t expect to fit in every subject every day.  

Along the same lines of not treating your homeschool like a public school, I remind myself and other parents that you do not need to complete every subject every day. There will be some days your child will be able to complete a lesson in every subject, but many days one subject will take longer, pushing other subjects to the following day.

 “Are you suggesting my homeschooling student might run out of time?” A new homeschooling parent might ask. “This isn’t regular school with set times. Why would there be a specific time limit for them to do their work in?”

A homeschooling student can indeed complete their work whenever they want to, as long as it is done that day, but for me, I was attracted to homeschooling because it allows them a life outside of schoolwork. When I was in high school, I did work in class, and then I took work home with me to do there as well. I have a feeling that students bring even more work home now than they used to and that doesn’t leave much time for kids to be kids.

What I like about homeschooling is my children have time for education but then they also have time where they don’t have to worry about the tests or the worksheets or the assigned reading. If they want to push a subject off to the next day because they spent a long time on another subject on one specific day, I’m totally fine with that, as long as the assigned work for that subject is completed by the end of the week.

If you start homeschooling and you want to fit every subject in every day, then that is totally fine too. I have just found that cramming every subject into one school day overwhelms me and my children. It leaves them dreading their day because they know it will be filled to the brim with work and leave them little time to expand or explore a topic they discover they are interested in.

Remember, homeschooling is you and your child’s opportunity to take as little or as long as he or she needs on a subject. Math may take longer one day while English is short and on another day, it might be switched. One day your child may be fascinated with the science lesson so they will want to spend longer on it and explore it more. Another day, math may be what fascinates them (writing that caused me to physically shudder. Who would want to spend more time on math?! Ha!) If you have the day so regimented that you aren’t allowing for time to further explore a subject, you may suffocate not only their opportunity to further explore not only that one topic but their overall love of learning.

3, Don’t be afraid to supplement your curriculum 

I rarely only use the curriculum I have chosen for the school year for each lesson. I often supplement the lessons in the text with either a video, a field trip, or a book to bring the lesson home even more.

For my son, I add videos to the lessons to bring the message home more and give us more of a well-rounded lesson. Last year we also add fiction books and this year his social studies curriculum comes with a set of literature books both fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of topics.

For my youngest, I also plan to start supplementing with crafts related to the subjects we are studying. Supplementing your student’s curriculum can assist them in delving into the topic even more.

For example, for the past couple of weeks, my daughter and I have been studying early American history. There was a cartoon in the early 90s called Liberty Kids that focused on this time in history, and I found it on YouTube last year. It may be streaming somewhere as well, and I know it is out on DVD. I have been able to match up many of the episodes with the topics we are discussing in history, which works out well. Watching the cartoon gives Little Miss a visual of what was happening at that time, in addition to what I am reading to her in the textbook. Of course, there are extra, fictional characters in the stories on Liberty Kids, so I do explain that those characters aren’t historical, but the characters they interact with are.

4. Don’t be afraid of taking mental health days 

This one is very hard for me to follow. I often feel that if I don’t do schoolwork on a school day, I am somehow failing my children. This is an example of where outside influences have tried to shape how I run my homeschool and my household.

My parents are well-meaning, caring, and lovely people but their view of education is still stuck on the traditional, public school mindset. When my mom calls me during the day she says ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I hope I’m not interrupting your school day,’ and if I mention we haven’t started yet or the kids are doing something else at the moment, I feel the judgment, even though she probably isn’t even throwing any out my way. In my mind, though, she is thinking, “They need an education. Is she shirking her duties as a mother and not making them do their lessons?!” I feel this way because when we started homeschooling our son my parents were very leery.

“What do you mean he’s done with his lessons already? That doesn’t seem long enough to learn anything.”

“He’s done with work already? But it’s only 1. Shouldn’t he be working until 3?”

“But he can’t be in sports if he’s in homeschool. I was in wrestling when I was in school and it was good for my confidence and self-esteem.”

“Is he getting enough socialization?”

You will get all of these questions and more and sometimes they will keep coming, but sometimes, like in my case with my parents, they will eventually stop. Your family and friends will begin to accept that you are homeschooling your children and you are doing it the way that works for you.

Whether that acceptance comes or not, though, you need to tell the little voice in your head that says you can’t take a day off to recharge or relax, to shut it. There will be days where everything falls apart. There will be days your kids get sick, or you get sick, or a neighbor stops by to visit and throws it all off the rails. Don’t be afraid to put the books away for a day and take a breather. In our state, you need a certain number of hours or days (depending on how you want to track it) of instructional time to meet the requirement for the homeschool law, but you keep track of those days and hours. That means you can make those days and hours up at any time when your schedule allows. Your children can even finish some work on a Saturday if you so desire.

You are in charge of your homeschool, which means you can take a mental health day if you need it and not feel a bit guilty, Lisa. Er…I mean — you, whoever you are, shouldn’t feel guilty.

5. Double up on work on some days so you can have plenty of time for play

Bouncing off the above reminder that you can set the days and times for your children’s instruction, it is very easy in homeschooling to double up on work one or two days out of the week so you can take a day off for play guilt-free. You can do two math lessons one day or two reading lessons, or whatever you need to do to make sure you can take a day off and not feel “behind.”

There is no “behind” in homeschooling since you are working at your child’s individual pace, but I still feel like I have to be at a certain point in their instruction at certain points of the year. This is leftover from traditional school and their strict lesson plans, which they need to have for how a traditional school operates. It is not a bad thing to have strict lesson plans or goals you want to reach by a certain point in your school year, so if you do have a strict plan of where you want to be with your instructional material at certain points in the year, please do not think I am criticizing. Not at all.

I’m just encouraging you to also find days for play. The importance of play for the development of children and adults has been well-documented over the years. I won’t link any of those articles here, but there are plenty of them out there on the interwebs.

6. Take field trips

Perhaps you still don’t like the idea of taking a day off of learning. In that case, take a field trip. Field trips combine fun and play with learning. Many people live in larger cities where there are tons of opportunities for field trips. Ideas for field trips include museums, parks, or even stores and factories where your children can see how something is made, libraries, historical landmarks, etc.

When you live in a rural area as my family does, your field trips will require a bit of a drive, but even that can be fun because you can shout “road trip!” and the children perk up at the idea of getting out of the house instead of sitting and reading their textbooks.

We have even combined family outings with field trips. If our weekend family outing is going to take us somewhere that is also educational then I count that as a field trip and even a school day. I ask my son to write a couple of paragraphs about what he learned on our visit and make it part of his English/Writing curriculum.

Field trips are not only great opportunities to learn, but they are also great opportunities to bond as a family.

7. Don’t forget you’re a family first and a homeschool family second 

Bouncing off the idea of bonding as a family, I think it is important for us homeschooling parents to remember that our children are more important than reaching a certain point in your curriculum by a certain time of the school year.

Helping our children grow as well-rounded human beings, Christians, and kind members of society will always be more important than drilling math facts into their brains. I know this thought may bother some who see education as the number one priority of their homeschool and I don’t mean to dismiss the need for consistent and high-quality instruction, but at the end of the day, the relationship we have with our children will determine the outcome of them as human beings, not whatever math lesson they learned that day

8. Connect with other homeschool families 

Homeschooling can be very lonely. Because you are schooling at home, your children will not have the same socialization at traditional school, but that’s not always a bad thing. In homeschooling children can socialize with a variety of ages, not only their peers, as long as you introduce your children into situations where they can do that socializing. Taking your children with you on errands can help them interact with adults, which will help them with their communication skills, but you will also want to find a way for them to interact with children around their own age.

To do this, you will want to find a group of homeschooling families around you and hopefully, that group will be an organized group like a co-op.

This one has been a huge challenge for me since we live in a rural area, but if you live in a more urban area, this might be easier for you. In my area, many homeschooling families travel 45 minutes one way or another to connect with other homeschooling families. I have reached out to these groups in the past but have always felt like an outsider.

I have not felt welcome in any of the groups, which seem to be formed among friends and family. Many are not friendly to those who don’t fit that category.

I’m hoping to try to find a group again this year, but until then I am working on finding other ways for my children to socialize, whether through a church program, a community organization, or classes being offered locally. The benefit of finding a homeschool co-op or support group locally is being able to connect with other parents who can relate to your journey and experience. So, even though I haven’t been able to zero in on a local co-op or support group, I still believe this is an important part of the homeschooling journey.

9. Ask your children what subjects they want to study

Don’t be afraid to ask your child what they want to study. I realize that sounds dangerous. What if your child says, “I want to study creative writing all year and nothing else!” Or “I want to study only Minecraft! That’s learning, right?!”

When I suggest asking your child what they want to study, I mean asking them what aspect of science are they interested in right now, or what time in history interests them. This doesn’t mean you will study that specific aspect of science or history the entire school year, but you can carve out a unit that will allow you to focus exclusively on the topic your student is interested in. Being interested in a topic makes a student much more willing to learn about it. 

 You won’t always be able to do this, obviously. Your son or daughter might hate math, but they still have to learn it. They may dread grammar, but it still needs to be tackled. They will have to push through subjects that bore them practically into a coma each time they open the textbook, but that will make the opportunities they have to delve deeper into a topic of interest for them even more special.

Teaching your children that we often have to push through what we don’t want to do to get to what we do want to do is an important life lesson.

10 Don’t be afraid to change direction or even curriculum if it is not working.

I know some parents purchase curriculum, dive in, and discover partway through the school year that the curriculum isn’t working for them but are then afraid to change curriculum. This is a fear that new homeschooling parents should learn to dismiss as soon as possible. The point of homeschooling is educating your child in a way that benefits them the most so if they are using a curriculum that is impeding their learning then it needs to go.

Much like you should never waste your life doing things that make you unhappy, you should never waste the precious time you have to homeschool your child with curriculum that isn’t serving their educational needs.

Use one set curriculum, combine a couple, or change to a new one, but never keep pushing through curriculum that is making you or your child dread learning.

Bonus Tip: Listen to your children not everyone else about how homeschool is working for you.

This bonus tip might be one of the most important of all. Is your child flourishing, showing progress in their education, and seem well-adjusted and happy overall? Then what does it matter if grandma or grandpa or your best friend or a neighbor says homeschooling isn’t good for your child? It doesn’t matter what others say about your homeschooling journey. All that matters is what your child is saying, or more importantly, how they are acting.

Is every day going to be rainbows and flowers? Um…no. It’s school. Children are going to complain, whine, flounce, flop, and even have tantrums at times when you tell them it is time for their lessons, but if you have more good days than bad and your child shows that they are learning despite “hating school” then you are on the right track.

Will you need to rethink homeschool and consider sending your child back to a brick-and-mortar school or sign them up for an online school? You may and if you feel that will benefit your child’s emotional wellbeing then do it. Just as you should push aside the opinions of others about how you homeschool your child, you should also politely push aside the opinions of other homeschoolers who try to talk you out of sending your child back to a “regular” school. How you educate your child is your decision and you need to do what is best for your child. It isn’t that you shouldn’t ever listen to opinions, especially from the well-meaning in your life, but you also don’t have to accept every opinion as fact when it relates to the personal decisions you make for your child’s education.

The bottom line of all these tips?

Do what works best for you and your family when it comes to your homeschool journey. Pick a direction and take it, only letting outside influence affect you if you feel that outside opinion is going to enhance your experience, not harm it.

 Have more questions about homeschooling?

 Feel free to use the search bar to the right and type in “homeschool” or “homeschooling” to find past blog posts I’ve written about the subject. Also find more information at the following websites:

Homeschool Association

Notgrass History/Daily Encouragement

My top 16 tips for beginning homeschoolers (The Survival Mom)

The Beginner’s Quick-Start Guide to Homeschooling (The Survival Mom)

Choosing Curriculum: The Confident Homeschooler

Yes, you can homeschool your children. No, you don’t need a teaching degree. Links for parents ready to step into the world of Homeschooling

From what I am seeing online, there are even more new homeschooling parents this year than last year. Also again this year I am seeing parents doubt their ability to homeschool, questioning if they can do so if they don’t have a teaching degree. As a parent who just started her fourth year of homeschooling, I can tell you that one, you don’t need a teaching degree, and two, yes you can do it. It might have challenges, but, yes, you can do it. I am saying this even after having a mini breakdown this morning as I worried I am not doing enough or doing it right.

Last year I wrote a couple of blog posts aimed at helping new homeschooling parents connect with some resources to help them. My posts were aimed more at “traditional” homeschooling parents — those who choose their curriculum and teach their children themselves — versus those who sign their children up to a cyber charter school or online school.

With cyber/online schools, your children are given their assignments and lessons exclusively online. In traditional homeschooling, which is what I am doing with my children, the schedule is a little more flexible and what you teach can be changed, adjusted, or updated, even if you are using a set curriculum.

Neither way is superior to the other, but one way or the other can be superior to a family based on their personal situation.

For us, our option for schooling had to move away from the stricter educational process due to the fact my son had lost all love for learning at his past school. He needed a more relaxed, flexible approach to help encourage an interest in learning again. It hasn’t totally worked because school is still school and kids don’t always love school, but he can explore topics further at his own pace if he wants to, versus waiting for his class members to catch up.

Because my experience comes from a place of “traditional” homeschooling, my post today will mainly offer advice to parents who have chosen to educate their children this way.

As an aside, related to online school, my neighbors’ daughter is currently doing her classes at home through the local school district and she is able to have a flexible schedule similar to ours. Not all online schools keep a child or parent from being flexible, though some do.

The flexibility for my neighbor’s daughter has benefited her because she can work at her own pace, work a job, and also have a schedule where she can visit more with family. It benefits her parents because all of her assignments are on the computer for her and she does them on her own and at her own pace, as long as all assignments are handed in by the end of the week.

For our family, I like the flexibility of being able to give my children assignments and even changing them if need be so we can study an aspect of a subject less or longer or take field trips, outings, etc. I like being able to use different curriculum and maybe even changing it in the future or in the middle of the school year if it isn’t suiting my child’s learning style.

Most parents I see jumping into homeschooling this year are completely lost, just like I was three years ago. I see them in groups asking, “Where do I even start?”

That’s a good, scary question, but it doesn’t have to be scary at all. Online searching is your friend. You will find that homeschooling parents love to help other homeschooling parents by sharing resources on their blogs, sites, or social media. Here are a few I pulled offline after a quick search.

This list will also not be the most definitive list. There are so many options out there for homeschooling and so much information that it literally makes my head spin. Looking it all up gives me hot flashes and makes me dizzy so I search only so much.

https://hslda.org/legal

https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/thinking-about-homeschooling-heres-what-you-dont-have-to-do

https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/8-homeschool-tips-and-tricks

https://thesurvivalmom.com/my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers/

https://www.horizoncharterschools.org/5-tips-for-homeschoolers/

https://simplehomeschool.net/advice/

https://www.thesimplehomeschooler.com/8-homeschool-moms-share-their-best-advice/

One of the main aspects of homeschooling that a new homeschooling parent is worried about is, of course, curriculum. It was my first concern as well.

There are literally hundreds of curriculum options available for the homeschooling parent. Some are online, some are in textbook form, and some are a mix. I found a couple of sites/blogs with curriculum ideas and a couple with actual reviews. One of the most popular sites for curriculum reviews is Cathy Duffy’s Homeschooling Reviews https://cathyduffyreviews.com/. She reviews a variety of curriculum, much of it, but not all, faith-based.

A quick internet search also brought up a couple of other blogs with curriculum suggestions:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/best-online-homeschool-programs-4842632

https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-101/choose-best-homeschool-curriculum/

https://www.howtohomeschool.net/homeschool-curriculum/the-best-homeschool-curriculum-list

https://nyhen.org/homeschool-curriculum-reviews/

https://hslda.org/post/selecting-my-curriculum

For us, we are currently using the following curriculum (but this could change in the future, which is a tip I give to new homeschooling parents: don’t be afraid to switch up the curriculum when it isn’t serving your child.):

For the first grader

Math: CTC Math (online program) and The Good and the Beautiful (finishing the K-level and will start the level one later in the year.)

History/Literature: Notgrass Our Star-Spangled Story

Science: Right now we are using School Zone Big Science 2-3, but I am searching for a set curriculum and hope to purchase one later this month.

Reading/Grammar: The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts for Kindergarten (will be moving to the next level by end of October or beginning of November. We are just finishing up last years.)

Art: various lessons

Music: None yet. Searching.

For the Ninth Grader:

Math: CTC Math (online)

History/Literature/English: Notgrass World Geography (comes with a set of books for the literature/writing/English component so it can be used for social studies and English credit), Apologia Literature.

Social Studies: Notgrass World Geography

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd edition (there is now a third edition, which we chose not to use after the author of the second edition pointed out some major areas in the textbook).

Economics: Notgrass Exploring Economics (also can be used for a half an English credit)

Grammar: Fix-It Grammar (our first year using this. May be a little too simple for a ninth grader. We will see how it goes.)

Art: various lessons

Music: none yet. Searching.

Books on our lists to read this year (or try to) through the Notgrass curriculum include:

First grader (I am reading them to her):

  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
  • Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady
  • Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates
  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass

Ninth grader:

  • Know Why You Believe by Paul Little
  • Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour with David Hazard
  • Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story by Patricia St. John
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park  
  • The Day the World Stopped Turning by Michael Morpurgo
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat
  • Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
  • Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
  • Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma by Sharon James
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger

We may not get through all these books, but they are part of the curriculum so we will see how we do.

Tomorrow I’ll offer some additional homeschooling tips, especially if you are homeschooling outside of an online school setting.

Until then, here is a link to a few other posts I wrote about homeschool in 2020 and a couple I shared about how own homeschooling journey recently. Some of these post may have links that have since expired.

Homeschooling Notes: Learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk

More links for parents suddenly homeschooling

Suddenly homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry, I can’t send wine.

How homeschooling has made life easier and less stressful. Well, sometimes anyhow.

Homeschooling Notes: Learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk

 We started homeschooling this week, a day earlier than we planned because we thought we were going to visit my aunt and would need our originally planned first day for traveling. When that trip was postponed, we decided to stick to the new first day, which surprisingly didn’t bother either child.

I was way more prepared than I ever have been since starting this homeschooling journey in April of 2018. Yes, you read that right. I was prepared. Crazy. I know.

I not only had the curriculum purchased, but I started drawing up lesson plans at the end of last week.

What in the world has happened to me? I have no idea.

I was excited for this school year to start, partially because I was actually organized.

We have some great curriculum this year and some exciting opportunities to utilize them to their full potential.

I have started us off light this week, with only three subjects a day for the oldest and two or three for the youngest.

I couldn’t wait to break open the curriculum I had bought for Little Miss. She, however, thought we should deviate from that curriculum and reminded me that learning isn’t only found sitting at a desk (or in our case, the dining room table or couch or sometimes the coffee table in the living room).

I left science for last because I had a feeling it might get out of hand once we started it. Little Miss likes hands-on learning and she loves coming up with ideas on how to make the most of those learning moments, usually not by using a book but by doing something.

On our first day, I started a unit on insects and Little Miss became excited when she saw a section on the worksheet about how to make a jar to collect bugs. Little Miss was collecting bugs all summer, especially grasshopper and katydids, so, of course, this was right up her alley. We cut the top off a water bottle, closed it with a rubber band wrapped around a paper towel stretched over the top, and headed outside. The next half hour was spent with me trying to read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry, which is part of our social studies/language arts curriculum, to her, while she hunted down bugs.

It was all going fairly well until she called out, “One just hopped toward you!” and when I looked up something black was flying straight at me and bounced down the front of my shirt. I screamed so loud I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the cops, thinking I was being murdered.

We didn’t have much luck in the yard so Little Miss wanted to go to the garden. While there I picked some tomatoes, and she found an absolutely huge grasshopper which she caught and we put in a larger container for her to study for a bit.

I tried to keep an open mind the next day, but I had a list I thought we should complete that day. This is the first year that I legally had to file an intent to homeschool for Little Miss, so I want to make sure I can show we did actual schoolwork at the end of the year. While I was trying to tick off my list, Little Miss had other ideas.

“Hey, can we go splash in the puddles?” she asked.

We were getting rain from the remanents from Hurricane Ida.

I told her, ‘no,’ because I had my plan, but then I decided we could do it if we tied it into her science lesson about insects. So there were, standing in a steady rain while she splashed in puddles, then lifted rocks and searched for bugs and worms, telling me all about the bugs as we looked as if she was the teacher.

“Oh, I found an isopod!” she cried lifting a rock in our front yard, with no fear of what she would find.

“And what’s an isopod?” I asked.

“They are the ones that roll up when you touch them,” she said and then proceeded to ramble off some more information.

Later, I looked them up so we could learn more about them and learned they have seven pairs of legs, flat backs, and aren’t actually insects, which have six legs.

Little Miss’s favorite isopods to look at and collect are roly pollies, which are also called pill bugs.

The Boy and I are easing our way into his lessons. This week, in addition to reading from his World Geography and Economics books, he is reading a book called Know Why You Believe by Paul Little, which is written for Christians to helps us learn more about why we believe what we believe because even longtime Christians have doubts or questions. We will add science next week. His English is part of his World Geography but later in the fall, we will add some grammar lessons.

He and I are also watching To Kill A Mockingbird, after reading the book at the end of last school year. We watched half an hour of it, Little Miss saw a dog being killed (it was not graphic) and fell completely apart, even though she has seen much more frightening scenes in movies or shows involving dragons, monsters, or supervillains. We have decided to watch the rest with her either out of the room or wearing her headphones.

It is still raining as I write this, so I’m not sure what today’s lessons will lead to, but I can be sure that they won’t be the simple, straightforward lessons I had planned, and that, in my mind, is a good thing. Being able to wander off in different directions is one of the biggest reasons we homeschool. If one of the children becomes interested in a subject that jumps off of the subject that we are on, then we go with it. It keeps them curious and in a mode where learning is fun and not an obligation.

Hopefully I can remember that for the rest of this school year.

Homeschooling is under way

We started homeschool last week and so far it’s going fairly well. The whining from both has been limited, thankfully. We decided to ease into lessons by only working on three subjects a day during the first week for the oldest. I’m adding another subject this week and possibly a fifth by the third week.

So far The Boy is doing Bible, English, and History every day. He does Math Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Science Tuesday and Thursday. We also plan to add some grammar lessons later in the year (see my rant on Sunday about grammar if you want to know what I think about grammar *wink*. Seriously, though, I think it is important but last year we had an extensive course so this year it will be less extensive.)

We plan to add economics to The Boys homeschooling experience this year, even though the course was written for high school students. I tend to think my child is pretty smart and want to rush ahead into educational territory that might be beyond him in some ways. On the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes pull back and decide not to teach him something because I think he’s not ready but he’s clearly ready and beyond that lesson, because his comprehension is so advanced for a kid his age. My mom says I underestimate him at times and I think she’s right, but then I worry, “But what if I overestimate him and he ends up feeling overwhelmed and inadequate because the subject matter was beyond his capabilities at this development stage of his life and he doesn’t say anything because he thinks I’ll be upset???”

I don’t overthink too much. I don’t. Do I? Maybe I do. I don’t know. I’ll think about it some more and get back to you.

For the youngest, I had to ease into the sit-down work by taking breaks and allowing her to go outside when she asked to (she loves going outside since we moved to a more rural setting) and turning it into a math lesson. I suggested she go outside and collect 20 autumn colored leaves and then we would count them together when she got back.

We need to develop a unit on trees this month I think. She loves collecting leaves. I need to figure out how to collect the leaves in a book. Surely there must be DIY information somewhere about how to do this? If someone reading this knows how to do it, let me know in the comments?

Last week I was reminded Little Miss loves numbers and is a whiz at them. Whose child is she? Oh. Right. My husband’s. Because she certainly didn’t get her love of numbers from me. Numbers make my stomach do weird things and then my head goes all funny and I have to reach for a book (with words) to steady myself. The Boy is good at math but hates it. Little Miss seems to love the counting, but she is only 5 (almost 6) so what does she know?

As for curriculum for The Boy this year, we are using Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science (second edition) for science; From Adam to Us by Notgrass for History/English/Writing/Vocabulary/Bible; American Literature by Apologia (which is also being used as history and writing on some days); CTC Math online for Math; and Exploring Economics by Notgrass for economics. From Adam To Us includes several fiction books to read throughout the year, which count for literature/language arts/English. We also plan to add Wordly Wise in soon for grammar and vocabulary.

(FYI: If anyone is interested in the American Literature book, the hardcover student textbook and the student notebook, where the student answers questions, is currently 76 percent off on Christianbook.com.)

So how about all of you parents out there? Are you homeschooling this year? Virtual school through your district? Or are your kids back in the physical classroom? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what curriculum you are using if you are homeschooling.

To say watching parents clamor to homeschool in the United States is a surreal experience for me is an understatement.

When I started homeschooling my son three years ago I was looked down at by former friends and his former teachers. I remember hearing a former friend disparge another friend who had chosen to homeschool her children. I had a feeling similar things were said about me when I chose to do the same. I was ostracized as soon as I chose homeschooling over the small private school he has attended before.

Now here we are starting another year (in a couple of weeks), watching parents rushing to enroll their children in online learning or planning to homeschool their children in other ways. Most of the parents I know who are choosing to homeschool this year will be using their school district’s online programs. They will have access to their children’s regular teachers in one way or another.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

In our state the governor changes his mind about every five minutes on policies and guidelines for the schools so I’m pleased as punch we don’t have to worry about all that mess. Before COVID, we had considered sending my son to the local public school (this county is so sparsely populated it has one school for the entire county.). Now we aren’t even mulling it over. He’s staying home and I’ll be using curriculum I chose that hopefully he will enjoy. Let’s be honest, though: it’s school so he probably won’t enjoy some of it no matter how hard I worked to find curriculum I felt would provide him a proper education while also being slightly interesting.

I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who are terrified about homeschooling their children or having their children be educated online. No matter how you’re handling your child’s school year this year I am confident you can handle it, Mom and/or Dad. If you are worried about your child’s education then that already shows what a good parent you are.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If I could give you any advice at all it would be the advice I gave myself just today when my mind started racing about my need to lose weight: one step at a time. It works for homeschooling too. I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I always think I have to apply everything I’ve ever read about weight loss or homeschooling in one go. I have to do it all at once and if I don’t do it like the people I read about did it then I might as well give up. At least that’s what I hear in the back of my head on a loop and today I took the scissors to the loop.

I don’t have to start working out like a madwoman right now after years of not working out. I don’t have to eat exactly like someone online who lost 20 pounds in a month. Their body is not my body.

I don’t have to buy every single curriculum out there for my childen and fill their days so full that their head spins.

This school year will definitely have its challenges but I have a feeling parents and children alike are going to find some moments during it that they will look back on as a memory they’re glad they made. Yes, schooling at home will be hard for parents who work outside the home and sacrifices may have to be made but I have a good feeling those sacrifices are going to be worth it.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

Homeschooling my children hasn’t always been easy and I often wonder if I’m screwing them up but when I see how relaxed they are learning at home, when I see the variety of experiences they are having and when I see the struggles public schools are facing this year, I am glad we chose to homeschool and were in the position we could.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If you have decided to homeschool this year, for whatever reason, here are links to a couple other posts I’ve shared in the last few months (and beyond) about homeschooling. Some of the links might not apply now that we are moving out of the COVID situation and into a new school year, but others will.

Suddenly Homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry I can’t send wine.

More Links For Parents Suddenly Homeschooling

How Homeschooling Has Made Life Easier and Less Stressful. Well, sometimes.

Our Homeschooling Journey So Far This Year (2019)

In Pennsylvania the governor announced a couple of weeks ago that the schools will closed for the remainder of the school year. Many other states have already made similar decisions. While the teachers in most school districts have most likely already provided resources or assignments for their students, there may be some parents who would like to access some additional resources for their children.

There are many bloggers, educators, politicians, news sites and others sharing these online resources but I thought I’d help consolidate them here for any of my followers who have missed these announcements. I shared two similar posts HERE and HERE.

I currently homeschool my son but someday we may move him back to public school. Having homeschooled him, though, has helped us prepare if something like this happens again while he is enrolled in public school. I have to say that one of the only good things about the schools being closed is I get a reprieve from people in my life who don’t agree with me homeschooling my children. Now I get to tell them to stuff it because I don’t have a choice. Ha! (Sorry, I just had to add that little joke in there. I’m not really telling them to ‘stuff it.’ Well, yet anyhow. And no one has been super vocal about my choice to homeschool, so I really am just teasing!)

Our local U.S. Rep. shared this link to the Library of Congress, which is offering a variety of resources online for free.

Included in that list is the Library of Congress Youtube Channel.

A friend of ours who is a local elementary art teacher (and amazing artist) just yesterday announced that he is hosting a live art class each Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. EST. Wayne Beeman is a talented artist who has provided images for Marvel and also has a list of degrees in art education and education in general.

He created this cartoon recently based on all the toilet paper hoarding:



You can find out more about the classes and other features he is offering for children on his site and on Facebook where he details what the class will entail and how it will be run, as well as his full qualifications. Here is the page to register your student (ages 8 to 15) for the class.

He also offers drawing guides, art activities, and various art courses, including one to create comics or cartoons.

Simply because I enjoy his work, I thought I’d share one of his paintings below:

National Geographic is offering three months free of a digital subscription to their magazine (normally about $2.99 a month) and also various educational resources for free.

The National Park Service is offering virtual tours of the parks within their system (something I learned from Erin at Still Life with Cracker Crumbs.

The Penn State Extension is offering a variety of courses for free for a limited time. The courses range from topics such as beekeeping, partial budgeting, learning about your local government, and beef production and management.

School Choice Week’s website has a huge list of resources for parents who are suddenly homeschooling.

Brain Pop is currently offering free access (I’m not sure for what time frame) on their site. The site seems to offer videos, text and other resources on a variety of subjects for all ages. I’ll check it out more and get back to you on what it is all about.

Abeka, which offers Christian-based education is currently offering 25-free hours of their courses.

If you have any more links or resources parents can use, let me know in the comment section so I can share it in a future post!


American parents! How are you doing?! Are you surviving with all the kids home? I know, you love them, but it can be overwhelming when you’re not used to it.

Pennsylvania’s governor announced Monday that public schools will be out of session for another two weeks so parents may be further stretched and stressed about how to continue their children’s lessons. On Saturday I shared a post with some advice and ideas about how to tackle this hurdle.

I had already started writing another post to help parents in need of resources to help with educating their children during this time and planned to post it this week before I heard the news about the extended closure Of course, and luckily, many parents can either connect with their teachers online or were sent home with work for their children to do.

But, on the off chance some of you weren’t provided with these connections, I’m jumping off my previous post and adding a little more information and some additional links.

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If you have further links or know of bloggers, etc. who have lists of resources and ideas for parents who are homeschooling against their will (so to speak) let me know in the comments so I can include it in future posts.

When I mentioned Notgrass social studies/history curriculum this past weekend, one thing I didn’t explain is that it can be used to cover English and Bible as well because the curriculum (there are a variety of different sets for different ages to choose from) offers reading, creative writing, a “Biblically Thinking” assignment, and vocabulary.

The America the Beautiful curriculum includes various books on various subjects that can be read separately or at the same time as your daily reading to support what you are studying. These are usually classic books such as Homer Price and Little House on the Prarie and somehow tie into the history lessons the child is reading about. We have been reading other books , either for our local homeschool group’s book discussion (though we never made it to one of the discussions for various reasons) or on our own, so we have only read one of the suggested books so far (Homer Price, which we are currently reading).

Notgrass offers a variety of history curriculum for a range of ages (elementary to high school). It does cost, of course, but you could find the curriculum used on eBay or other sources (including a used homeschooling curriculum group on Facebook) and then sell it when you are done.

In addition to the resources I mentioned Saturday, we have also used Easy Peasy Homeschool in the past, which is a free homeschool site that can be used as a complete course or supplemental resources.

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For math, we are currently using CTC Math. This math site can be used for children of all ages, but we are currently using it for our 13-year old.  There are some things we like about it, but one we don’t like is that when the student completes their online assignment, the program does not show them what mistakes they made and how the teacher came to the answer. There is a subscription fee for this program, but you can choose the monthly option.

In the past, we have also used Teaching Textbooks for math. We are not using Teaching Textbooks at this time because we are waiting for them to upgrade so they no longer need to use Adobe Flash, which is being phased out of web sites in the next year and which browsers are now blocking, making accessing their lessons difficult for us at this time.

Someone has started a Google Docs link with a list of live streams and other online events and what time they are being held. Many of these are for younger students.

For my youngest, we use The Good and The Beautiful’s language arts curriculum (we haven’t used their math curriculum yet), which I mentioned Saturday, but I forgot to mention that we also use ABC Mouse, which I’ve heard is offering their service for $5 a month for the first two months because of all that is going on. We pay $10 a month to use it and it provides lessons to help toddlers, preschoolers and Kindergartners learn their alphabet, numbers and a variety of other subjects. It is all online learning and utilizes characters, games, videos and ebooks to educate.

My daughter loves it, but my one issue with it is that she likes to spend more time dressing and changing the appearance of her avatar than actually doing her school work, so I have to limit her fashionista time when we log on. We don’t use ABC Mouse every day. In fact, I don’t spend a super long time on set lessons with Little Miss. I find her attention isn’t great so short lessons broken up throughout the day are best for her. We also use everyday situations as an opportunity to educate.

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The past couple of weeks we have used a couple of the links I had provided Saturday and so far my daughter (who is a huge animal lover) has loved the live animal cams at the San Diego Zoo (she is in love with orangutans and the siamangs) and any of the lessons about animals on the Classroom Magazine that Scholastic is offering for free for the next 30 days.

My daughter has loved PBS’s Wild Kratts for a couple of years now and has learned so much about animals she simply regurgitates it now.  When we were watching the African Safari Exhibit live cam Monday I said I thought I saw some antelope and she informed me: “Normally they live on the Serengeti.”

I said, “Oh. Wow. Okay. Well, how many 5-year olds know that let alone can say Serengeti?”

She said, “Well, other 5-year olds don’t watch Wild Kratts like I do.”

So, there you go. Check out Wild Kratts streaming on Amazon with the PBS Kids app so your younger kids will know as much about wild creatures as my 5-year old does.

My daughter and I also spent a good amount of time watching the bald eagle on the live cam in Hanover, Pa., sponsored by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Just watching that eagle sit there on his/her egg (not sure if mom or dad was there Monday) was so relaxing and we plan to watch every day until, and after, the eggs hatch.

We have a bald eagle nest near us and people go to look at it, but some people yell and say we need to leave the eagles alone. They are afraid all the people looking (it’s off a main highway) will chase the birds from the nest, but they keep coming back every year so I don’t think they will. Plus, most people who take the walk to the area to see the nest are quiet and respectful, take a photo if they can, and then tip toe away. We may try to go see the eagles when the weather is better.

Michelle at Blessings by Me also suggested Super Charged Science for free and paid science lessons.

Here is another article listing tons of online learning options.

The Great Courses Plus is offering 30 free days of its online courses with the promo code FREEMO.

One of the only things I am loving about all of this craziness (because there is not much to love at all!) is that the tradition of reading to children is coming back by authors who are offering live readings of their books each night around bedtime.

Those you can follow include:

Andrew Peterson and his The Wingfeather Saga.

Miss Frizz Mobile Learning

Josh Gad on Twitter

Author Christina Sootornvant reading from her book Diary of an Ice Princess.

This site has list of a bunch of other authors/illustrators and celebrities doing the same thing.

For adults, or older children, who enjoy William Shakespeare and Patrick Stewart, he is reading one Shakespeare sonnet a day on his various social media sites.

There are tons of bloggers writing about their “suddenly homeschooling” or “continuing homeschooling” situation, including:

All Things Momma (who shares some ideas for entertaining your young children at home and educating them at the same time.);

and Kat at The Lily Cafe.

and, of course, Heather Dawn at Every Small Voice, who I mentioned in Saturday’s post.

If you have any other bloggers who are chatting about all this, please feel free to share their links in the comments and also share any other resources you know about.

If you are a parent whose children attend public or private school and now they are suddenly home you may be panicking a little. That panic may be because you know they are going to drive you crazy, or it may be because you are afraid they are going to fall behind on their lessons. Either way, you’re feeling the stress right now.

Welcome to the world of this already homeschooling mom. *wink*

Seriously, though, stay calm. It’s not as hard as you think.

Maybe your child’s teacher has already given you lessons, paperwork, etc., but maybe your child has already worked through it or would simply like some supplemental educational resources. Either way, I’ve pulled together some links and advice that might help you feel a little calmer about the situation you’ve been placed in.

Blogger Heather Dawn from Every Small Voice had some great advice about this on Friday, actually, so make sure to check out her post as well. 

One of the most important lessons I have learned from homeschooling is something Heather mentioned on her blog as well and that is that homeschooling is not going to look or act like public school and that is okay.

As I told a friend this week: The issue is that a lot of parents think homeschooling has to be exactly like public school, in that the kids have to be sitting in a class for six hours at a time. That’s not the case. Kids aren’t even in instruction time all day at school. They have recess and lunch and study hall and getting on and off buses and by the time they are done they really have only had 2-3 hours of instruction time, perhaps a little more as they get older.

Also, with younger children, everyday activities can be a chance for learning. For example, when my daughter wants to play a game or watch something on my phone she has to type in my passcode and has been learning her numbers that way. If she wants to watch one of her kid-friendly shows on YouTube, she and I search for it together, which helps her practice her letters.

On Friday my daughter and I were outside drawing with sidewalk chalk and she was practicing writing her letters at the same time.  Homeschooling creates many hands-on situations like this for every age.

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DSC_8912Unlike what some may think, homeschooling families do not simply sit at home playing video games, though they probably have more time to do that than some students since they don’t have homework. They do all of their work during lessons, which means homework is completely unnecessary. 

And speaking of lessons, some students are self-sufficient when it comes to their lessons and assignments and some students require the parent to be more of a teacher to them. Every age group and student is different. Our family has set curriculum that I research prior to each school year, but we also supplement with a number of resources, both written and digital.

We currently use America the Beautiful for our social studies; Apologia for our Science; CTC Math for math; Saxon Grammar and Writing for part of English and we read books through America the Beautiful and on our own for English.

For my 5-year old we use The Good and the Beautiful.

I won’t lie that we have been pretty thrilled with the free resources popping up for parents who have been flung suddenly into a homeschooling situation so I want to share some of the links I’ve found that have popped up recently, as well as resources we use in our regular homeschooling lessons.

So far, we have enjoyed Mo Willems, who is the current Kennedy Center Artist in Residence (literally), and is offering an art demonstration and lesson for young children every weekend day at 1 p.m.

Michelle at Blessings By Me mentioned a resource in the comments and I’m adding it here. Supercharged Science will send you science experiments via your email and explanations of the experiments, according to Michelle. Thank you to her for this additional link!

Crash Course offers digital learning on their YouTube channels related to history and science and current events. Their channel is aimed toward older children maybe 12 and up. My son has already been a little more mature than his peers so it’s hard for me to gauge the age that this would be appropriate for accurately. You might just want to watch a couple videos and see if the channel would be right for your student.  We use their videos as supplemental resources for our Social Studies and Science.

Speaking of YouTube, you can find a lot of supplemental videos there for a variety of subjects, but always be sure to vet them and double-check they are from reliable sources. 

Also on YouTube are a few videos from a farmer friend of ours. It’s good for students to understand the importance of farmers, especially right now when people are panicking about a possible lack of food. Mark creates videos to educate children and others about dairy farming. I don’t know how he even has time with all the work he has on the farm! My 5-year old really enjoyed this one.

I also saw a blog post from Cornerstone Confessions that shared a huge list of online activities to support music education.

I’m barely on Facebook, but I did happen to catch a very extensive list of sites offering either virtual tours of museums and zoos or other educational opportunities. The sites range from offering ways to learn about art, history, culture, and music and other academics to simply offering ideas for child-related activities. FYI: not all these sites or activities are free.

 

Have any tips of your own for parents who are “suddenly homeschooling”? Or links to blog or sites that do? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave links (I’ll check my spam in case any of them get kicked in there.)

 

Homeschooling: the ultimate experience in making sure a parent is humbled and made to feel completely bewildered and inadequate.

I’m not totally serious with the above definition but homeschooling my children has brought out some of my worst attributes – the biggest ones being insecurity and extreme self-doubt. This our second year of homeschooling and I have more of a grip on it all now than I did before but I still feel like I’m dooming my children to a life of sub-par education and a future of cleaning toilets. I feel this way until I speak with students who attend local public schools and then realize I’m doing okay and they’re going to make it. Take that last sentence however you want. I get myself in enough trouble these days when I try to explain myself.

This year we are using Notgrass’s America the Beautiful for history and so far we are enjoying it. I like the additional family activities at the end of each lesson, as well as the short lesson reviews that help reiterate for the students what they have already read. I think the curriculum may be a little young, in some ways, for my almost 13-year old, but I like the overall review of the lessons and will use it for at least the first part of our school year.

Last week we made Navajo flatbread (which I’ve only known as Navajo fry bread) as one of the family activities at the end of a lesson. The children helped me make the dough and spread it out and then I did the frying. They, of course, also helped with the eating. My almost 5-year old helped with making a huge mess but not so much with cleaning it up.

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For English, we are using Saxon’s grammar and writing curriculum for seventh grade and also reading various novels. I like the Saxon curriculum because it incorporates actual writing and dictation lessons into the grammar.

We are still plowing through The Hobbit, even though the local homeschooling group already held a book discussion centered on it. My son is alternating listening to it being read aloud on YouTube and reading the actual book. For my part, I am very behind on the reading and need to catch up. I may need to listen to it being read out loud as well.

Science and math have our heads spinning a little. We are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation through Physical Science but honestly, I think it’s geared toward higher grade levels. I’m going to try to keep plowing through it, though, because I know my son is bright enough to catch on. I both like and hate that it features two or three experiments a lesson. I like it because it breaks up the large chunks of text in the textbook and I hate it because I have to find the supplies for the experiments ahead of time and I’m not always the best-prepared person. Hopefully, this curriculum will teach my son science and teach me organizational skills.

For Math, we are using Teaching Textbooks for now but they have had a lot of crashes on their online program this school year so we may look for another program when our subscription runs out in November. What I like about their program is I don’t have to teach math. I have some sort of math dyslexia and I was in remedial math in high school so math is not my strong point. Luckily my husband knows a little about math so I pass that duty off to him when I need to.

We are also attending a genealogy class with the local homeschool group once a week and that has been very interesting. The man teaching the class is a fellow homeschooling parent and he’s focusing not only on the biological information we can learn from our ancestors, but also their values and the importance of passing those values down to the next generation.

I will be adding art and, hopefully, music into our homeschooling routine, as well, as the year progresses.

How about all of you? If you’re a homeschooling parent, how is your homeschooling year going? If your children attend public/private school, how is school going for them? Let me know in the comments. And if you are a homeschool parent who has curriculum recommendations, let me know because I love to find new curriculum we can consider for the future.

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