Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sleep - Is It Really Necessary?

4:10 am - Son climbs into bed, steals covers and curls knees up into my back, which was already keeping me up hurting.

4:35 am - Random rooster dropped off at our house for butchering begins crowing (loudly), seemingly on our porch.

4:40 am - Husband gets up because rooster is waking him and goes outside (not sure why), then returns complaining of the child in the middle of our bed.

4:55 am - stare at the clock because it is useless to try at this point.

4:59:50 am - stop the alarm before it re-wakes husband and son. Get up and try to have my Bible study and computer time before the kids wake up. Shower, laundry, morning chores and breakfast before school begins...

Does this sound like anyone else's life? This is mine about every single day. If it is not one thing it is another. I never sleep anymore. Is this a typical homeschool mom's life?

It would be ok if I really were Supermom like I pretend to be. But the truth is, I spent yesterday's recess lying flat on the living room floor.

I would encourage you, mama, and myself, to remember the things that we are trying to impart to our children. Wisdom. Patience. Healthy living. Are we being models of this if we are worn out, cranky, lacking energy, and sending them outside at the first sign of a sunny day? I would say "no." And I would also say that I have not always been this way. As the semester wears down into the holiday season, I believe we are all wearing down. So here are some goals to try:

1) Go to bed. I'm not joking. Make sure to go to bed at a decent time, in spite of the fact that this is your only time alone!

2) Eat healthy during the day.

3) Get outside during the day.

4) Choose family holiday activities that involve restfulness - favorite holiday movies, books, coloring Christmas color books

5) Don't push yourself. If I have learned anything over the years it is that I am the only one who cares when things don't get done. Take a break if you need it.

6) Spend time in prayer and study with the one who can truly fill you up with everything you need for this task he has given you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Filling the Holiday Gaps

I don't know about you, but the curriculum I use (and I wouldn't change it!) is a little lacking in the holiday celebration area.  Looking back on when I was in school as a kid, holidays were the best because there were so many special crafts, activities and stories read during this time of year. Now getting us drowned in Christmas books and stories is no problemo for this literature-addicted mama, but the crafty side of things? Oh, dear.

Now I am sure that some of you are thinking, "Oh, that is my favorite time of year! I have so many ideas I can't do them all." Well, I am jealous of you and happy that you have such ease in this area. I do not.

But I have found a friend. I used to spend a good chunk of my time googling the different holidays and searching out "do-able" activities and crafts for my kiddos. I am determined that they aren't going to miss out because of my lack of creativity! Now, I have Pinterest. It is a creativity-lacking, homeschooling mama's best friend! I have been able to "pin" and reproduce so many ideas this year, that I must say I am proud. I believe my kids are enjoying it as well!

Once I have an idea, I can take it and run with it, putting my own twist and flavor to it. I think it should be called Pinspiration instead of Pinterest! So today I will share with you our latest project, inspired by Pinterest, and encourage you to take a look at Pinterest if you never have (if you were like me and avoided it as long as possible because you just knew you'd get addicted!).

Merry Christmas!

Hand Print Keepsakes


2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water (or more to reach doughy consistency)

Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick and press child's hand firmly enough to make an impression. Then cut dough around the hand. Use remaining dough to make other shapes and ornaments by hand or with cookie cutters. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake at 220* for approximately an hour or until the ornaments are white and solid to the touch. Allow to cool and paint them as desired! (I used basic acrylic paint)

Make one each year to remember how tiny your little one once was!

"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Busy Bliss

I want to apologize to my readers from this summer. I have not posted a single thing since school began. If you have been reading along, you will know that I promised to make this the best school year ever (Confessions of a Bad Homeschool Mom) and I have given it my all! However, being so preoccupied with our school year, I set aside blogging for a while, then I just wasn't doing it because I was out of the habbit. Then, soccer season hit (I imagine a few moms nodding here). Which brings me to now.

How is it going? Well, I must say that so far (3 weeks from half-way) we are succeeding in having the best homeschool year yet!

Do I like the curriculum we chose? I sure do! And my kids are flourishing! Princess is reading like a pro, adding three digit numbers and carrying, and learning to write the best complete sentences around! Brother Bear is reading! He can read short sound, short sentence books all by himself and is quickly learning the long-vowel words! He is beginning to add (+1) as well!

As we roll into the holidays there are so many fun things to do! I will attempt to do better at sharing, now that we are on a roll! Thanks for reading! I hope your year is the best yet as well!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What We Chose This Year and Why! 2nd Grade and Kindergarten

The homeschool blogs are buzzing this week as we all gather up our supplies, make final decisions on our curriculum, and organize our homeschool rooms! With so many options out there, sometimes it is hard to choose the curriculum that is right for you, especially if this is your first year!

So here is what we settled on this year and why!

Math - A Beka
I have used A Beka math every year with my Princess.  I love it. It is challenging, but presents the concepts in a variety of different ways to help the kids get it one way or another. When talking with other parents, I sometimes hear that you or your child must be good at math for this curriculum, but so far, it has never given us a problem!

Phonics (K) - A Beka
A Beka's phonics program worked great for my Princess, so I am now using it for my kindergartner. There are little readers that go along with it that the kids enjoy, as well as colorful daily worksheets. Both of my kids have been early readers, so this helps make any phonics program a little easier.
I also supplement the readers with other phonics readers. This year, we have Biscuit, Thomas the Engine, and Go, Diego, Go! on the schedule!

Reading (2) - Sonlight
Early on, I decided to do my own reading with my kids and to take a classical approach. I have lined out many classical novels and pieces of literature to span our years of education. My Little Princess, however, has excelled in reading and is above her reading level. This has put a hitch in my planning for this year. Why? Because she went ahead and did the 2nd grade reading last year. Why not let her go ahead? She is six years old. Many of the themes in the literature that I have chosen for the third grade level is intended for a bit more mature of an audience. She could read it, but the concepts would be a bit out of her grasp. Therefore, plan B was Sonlight.
Sonlight's literature is wonderful. They use a combination of Award Winning fiction, biographies and historical novels to round out a year that will teach your child more about the world around him/her. If it weren't quite so expensive, it could quite possibly be a first choice for me. So, for this interim-year, we have decided to do Sonlight's third grade readers.

Language (2) - A Beka
Once again, I turn to the quality education of A Beka. I just don't know of any other curriculum that does as great a job on presenting the material! One should note, however, that A Beka is a more workbook-based curriculum and may not be the best choice for more active, hands-on learners.

History (K & 2) - A Beka
At this level, Social Studies and History are very basic. I like that A Beka offers introduction to American History with a Christian perspective, rather than a more Social Studies focus. I am also familiar with A Beka's history at the upper (High School) levels and know that I will most likely use them, therefore a groundwork in that same curriculum should be a plus for my kiddos. I am thinking about using Mystery of History during a few of our Middle School years, but I will let you know at that point in time!

Science (K & 2) - Unit Studies
Choosing science this year was difficult for me. I like A Beka's science curriculum beginning at 3rd grade. We are not there yet. Up until this point, I have used Christian Liberty Press Science, however, I was not intrigued by what was offered for this next level. Therefore, I decided to try Unit Studies and do both kids together. I have heard many people talk about unit studies, but as of yet, I have not done them myself. I purchased several science unit books from Usborne that I think my kids will enjoy. I have planned out several field trips to go along with these units and found many fun worksheets and ideas online (for free!). We plan to make some of our first lapbooks this year too! (If you are in the dark about lapbooks, as I was, google it!) My favorite site that I have found to find lapbook printouts (for free!) and other worksheets is What started out as a frustration not knowing what we were going to do, has ended up with me being tremendously excited about this year's science!

Fine Arts
There is all sorts of things that you can do for fine arts! The sky is the limit! This year I found a really neat Art book called "The Usborne First Book of Art." I think it is really neat because it takes famous paintings, critically looks at them (at a child's level) and then offers a project to do based on that style or technique using regular "homeschool" art supplies!
We are also doing piano and guitar this year. We will see how that goes (this mama is not musically talented). Good thing my husband has a gift in music!

One of the hardest subjects for homeschoolers can be physical education. It is difficult to stay in shape when you are not running around a gym for an hour with 30 other children. My number one solution: Community sports. Get your kids involved in sports and it will give them many wonderful pay-outs.  In addition I found this book this year: "The Ultimate Homeschool Physical Education Game Book." What is so great about this book is that it offers a variety of sports with rules tailored to as few as 2-3 kids. I can't wait to start putting this one to use!

That just about covers what we are tackling for this upcoming school year. The kids and I are all really excited to begin - in just a few short weeks! I look forward to sharing our experiences with you as we get ready to start what I hope will be the best homeschool year ever. Any questions?

So, what are you using?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Schedule Solutions

If your child is anything like mine, then she likes to do things in her own time. When we first started homeschooling this drove me crazy! I wanted to have a set schedule with blocks of time for each subject. The problem? Princess was not wired that way. Somedays it would take her 10 minutes to do math, and then the next it would take 50 minutes. There was no way to judge how long anything would take her. This drove me crazy! And it drove my poor daughter crazy too. Once she told me that she loved everything about school except when I told her to hurry up. Oh, no! I didn't want her to have that sort of attitude about school stemming from me!

After two years (sometimes it takes us a while to get over our preconceived notions!), we figured out a way that worked for both of us! I liked to have the assignments all planned out and in order each day, and she didn't care about the clock. What I did is create this lovely "dry erase" schedule board. On each day I would write (in dry erase marker) her assigments for that day. As she accomplished each thing, she would wipe it off the list. It worked for us both! It is also a really cute feature in our school room:

It is very easy to make! I found this cute frame at our local Family Dollar store for very inexpensive. The kids and I looked through old magazines and used construction paper to create the backgrounds. (Note: the more solid and light colored the background, the better you can see your writing) Then you just write on the glass with a dry erase marker. We use a tissue to erase. It is so much fun!

Today, for Project #1 of Project Week, I added an addition to our wall planner:

I found also found this cute corkboard frame at our local Family Dollar store. I didn't have a really good place to display the kids work (really, really important to do!).  This frame is not terribly big (ie. it won't make your house look terrible!) and is perfectly decorated with pictures of my beautiful babies!

What ideas have you used to make your homeschool room cute instead of gaudy??

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Easier than Pie 4th of July Dessert

This 4th of July week has been pretty hectic, so I decided on a super easy 4th of July dessert. All you need is:

1 box blue Jell-o
1 box red Jell-o
1 tub cool whip
Some pretty clear glasses or goblets

Step 1: Make the jell-os
Step 2: Layer them, along with the cool whip, in the glasses - red, white, blue, white, etc.
Step 3: Celebrate with a cool and refreshing 4th of July dessert and some fireworks!

I will post pics later of how mine turns out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lessons From the County Fair

I am so excited! Today my two little ones will get to show their chickens at the county fair! This may sound odd for you, but my husband is an agriculture man and loves his chickens. My kids, especially the princess, have taken up that love as well. These particular chickens were bought at a day old in March and the kids have done all the work to care for and raise these little things! I am most definitely not a bird person, but I love that my husband takes the time to give them this experience!
I love the fair! I think it is a timeless tradition that brings together families and loved ones for a good time and a chance to take pride in the things they do. What I never realized before now was what a great tool the fair can be for a homeschooler! It gives them a chance to get outside the home and present the things they have worked on during the year! As for us, we get our extra-curriculars mostly outside the home through homeschool co-op, community sports, and 4-H. Fair is just the icing on that cake for us!

Here are some lessons that kids can learn at the fair:

1) Specific instruction and hands-on training in a particular subject for months leading up to the fair. This year my daughter did chickens and photography, both of which taught her tons of facts and skills she hadn't known before. Many of the 4-H projects available tie right in to many of our homeschool lessons.

2) Pride. When the kids show their projects, they present them at their best. The kids work so hard to prepare for show and it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work because others (besides parents and grandma!) get a chance to appreciate their work.

3) Not everyone can win. Let's face it, our kids need to learn that they can't always be first or the best at everything. That is real life. As homeschoolers, they don't get a lot of that. They are always the best (and only) in their class! Not receiving the ribbon can have some great lessons for our little ones!

4) Cooperation. Have you ever seen a child show their project at fair without mom or dad's help? No! Fair teaches kids to cooperate with others in their family to get the job done and get their project looking it's very best. This is a good lesson for some of our more independent children!

5) Tradition. So many families involved in fair have created a sort of tradition out of their time at fair. Whether it is buying boots and hats, having a meal together on the grounds or participating in some of the wacky events together, when done the same every year it is a way to build memories and traditions that the kids will always remember.

As I said, I have always loved fair season. Now, I just have more reason to love it and get involved with it! What do you love about the fair?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Favorite Read Alouds for Boys and Girls

Ok, so I am going to jump in here with all the buzz about Read Alouds! It is a perfect time of year for us since it is the season of the Summer Reading Program at our library. My daughter's goal this year is top reader, therefore Mom (that's me!) must find more books that have not yet been exhausted! However, while I am reading and stealing everyone else's ideas, I thought I could at least contribute our own!

I am not sure how I am going to possibly narrow down to a top 10 with as many books that are on our shelf and the hundreds more at our disposal at the library. However, I will share the first ones that come to my mind as being my kids favorites for us to share as a family:

I know I've posted this before,
but it is so cute and fitting for this post!
 1) Definite #1 is the Llama Llama Red Pajama series by Anna Dewdney. I just LOVE those books!

2) The Bear Books as we call them. They are the series by Karma Wilson including Bear Wants More and Bear's Loose Tooth.

3) Are You A Horse by Andy Rash. Great for any Cowgirl or Cowboy!

4) Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse (and its sequel Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots) by Rebecca Janni. I know it is geared toward girls, but it is SO CUTE!

5) The Biscuit series by Alyssa Capucilli - great for early readers!

6) Elephant and Piggy Series by Mo Willems are a favorite for lots of giggles

7)  Any books by Karen Beaumont are sure to provide entertainment for the whole family, especially our favorite Who Ate All the Cookie Dough

8)  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is a classic read aloud

9)  I still love Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

10) Oh, no! I'm at ten already! I suppose I will end with the Family Time Bible composed by Kenneth Taylor. These are perfect length stories to read at bed time which are told in a way that is understandable for the whole family. We love to read one of these along with every bed time story each night.

I feel like I have just scratched the surface of our favorites, but then, we are a family that loves to read. Moms, I believe the love of reading comes from demonstration. If you read in front of your kids and to your kids and show an excitement and love for reading, that will be contagious. I have also used more books as a reward for reading. When my kids have read all the books they have at home and a good chunk from the library, they get to go book shopping. My sister told me once that the reason she loves to read so much is because she remembers when we were younger (I was seven years older), before she could read, I would sit and read stories to her. She said I would use different voices for the characters and get her so into the stories that she wanted to learn to read as soon as possible so she could become a part of more exciting adventures.

Reading is the basis for learning. It is a key that unlocks the doors to every other subject out there. Most importantly, I tell my children that reading is so valuable because it is the only way that we are able to read God's Word and understand God's Will and plans for our lives. So, go forth today and READ to your little ones!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Evaluating Your Next Year's Essentials

This was the year. The first year that Princess would take standardized testing in school. I ordered the Iowa test from A Beka (wonderful to work with!) and administered the test myself at the public library. My plan - if the test turned out horrible, she is ahead a year, so we have another year to redo the grade. If it was horrible again, we were putting her in private school. Everyone knew that she would do fine, but I needed that confirmation. I need to know where we were on target and where I was lacking. The test results gave me the confidence to homeschool another year. It also gave me a visual evaluation on where we stood in our core subjects. For example, I know that we need to work a little bit more on our listening skills.

In our state, we are not required to give our children standardized tests. I also know many homeschool families that choose not to do standardized testing because they teach in a very non-traditional way that would not be accurately reflected by a standardized test. For me, because of what I consider the essentials of my homeschool, standardized testing is a beautiful tool to help me evaluate for next year. Dear homeschooling companion, as you embark on your journey this summer to plan for next year, consider evaluating and writing down what you consider the essentials. With this clearly in mind, it will help you to mold your planning to meet your own expectations. Here are mine, to get you thinking!

1) Build a foundation of biblical knowledge and demonstrate God's love and Christ-likeness in all we do.
This is our number one priority for homeschooling. This is something that they cannot receive in the public school system. There are many ways to go about this. We choose to have morning family devotions before we begin school and we also have a period of Bible study during our school day. Our class rules encourage a Christ-like behavior. There are many other ways, but you get the idea!

2) Give my children the opportunity to excel to their own capabilities in their education.
No child is equal. No child will excel at the same pace nor respond to the same method of teaching. I want my children to truly learn their material. I want them to go to college and excel. I want them to be equipped to do anything they want to do with their futures. This is why I like the standardized testing. I want to know what we need to work harder on each year so that they can compete for things like scholarships and honor societies in college.

Those are my top two. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. What do you consider the essentials? How do you plan to emphasize them in your next school year?

My baby sister receiving her college diploma. I hope to see my babies here one day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flexibly Organizing Your Homeschool

Here's the post you've all been waiting for! I know you've all been there. You get that motivation over the summer to get all of your lessons lined out for the new year. You print copies, make folders, gather supplies, and mark up your calendar. After about two months, you have scratched out and thrown out all of your hard work because things just didn't go as planned. Can you say frustration. While this is all with good intent, this is not the way to start off your homeschool year.

I, however, can not function without some semblance of organization. After trial and error, trial and error, I finally devised a way that works perfectly for me. It is simple, flexible and still keeps us very well organized. Here's how I do it:

1) Remember our discussion about time slots? I use this information to figure out how many classes of a particular subject I will have. For example, if I decided that we would do math every day and school 170 days, then I will have 170 math lessons to plan. Sometimes the number of lessons is decided by the curriculum you use.

2) I make a printout that simply numbers however many lessons (170) and a blank spot to fill in what subject we will cover, and page numbers or other activities.

3) I then, over the summer, take each subject individually and look through the books. I divide it up into however many lessons I need and decide how many pages or what projects I will do for each lesson. For example, on day 27 we might do math pages 78-79 covering double digit addition, and a flash-card review.

4) Then I don't do anything until the week before! Each week I sit down and plan for the next school week. I look at each subject and put the next weeks lessons on the planner. That way, if we aren't progressing as far in Reading as we are in Spelling, I can change the week's schedule to accommodate that. If we have a dentist appointment on Tuesday followed by Homeschool Co-op, then I can plan to do Tuesday's lessons on Monday. It allows the freedom to plan each week, or day, as it comes and still keep track of how you are progressing in each individual subject. This works fabulous for me. If you are looking for a new method to getting organized but need to stay flexible (because, say, you are a homeschooling youth pastor's wife) then try this out!

What methods have worked for you??

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Defining Your Homeschool

One of the most important aspects of homeschooling is to be able to define your homeschool. Why have you made this choice? (click here for Why I Homeschool)  In your opinion, what is the most important part of homeschooling?

One of the speakers this weekend was Todd Wilson, from Family Man Ministries. He posed a really great question in one of his sessions: If you left their school because you didn't like their school, then why do you want your school to be like their school? I know I am guilty of this. I have tried my hardest to get our school to match up to the public school system. That's when it hit me. Besides adhering to our state requirements, I have freedom. I have freedom that I have not been utilizing! Yet, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, "With freedom comes responsibility." You have the responsibility to organize your homeschool to meet the responsibilities before you - keeping in mind your child's spiritual welfare, their educational advancements, their social abilities. But all of these must come in their proper place, in the order of importance that they are to you!

You must define your homeschool. What is the most important part (and I would challenge you that the most important part is your relationship with your child.)? Whatever the most important part is, your homeschool schedule and organization and set-up should reflect this.

Above all else, I want my children to find a real relationship with Jesus Christ and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly. Secondly, I want my children to love learning and to be challenged to go as far as they possibly can in their pursuit of learning! Confession time. Last year, I was so focused on the amount of work we were accomplishing in a set amount of time that I was not showing the joy of the Lord or many of the other fruits of the Spirit that I was claiming I wanted to cultivate in my children. I was so busy with all the other areas of my life that I was pushing school through, not taking time to do extra projects or discuss what they were learning. Basically, I was sucking all the life out of our learning time. In an effort to deconstruct our homeschool and rebuild, I asked Princess Buttercup what changes she thought we should make. The dear, sweet girl replied that she liked everything about school except for me "pushing" her and making her hurry. I was so close to ruining her love for learning, which is one of my most important purposes of homeschooling! As I begin to make plans for next year, I will keep in mind our purpose, the most important parts of homeschooling, so that I can make sure that all my plans reflect this purpose.
My commitment for next year:

I vow to display the joy of Christ within me and to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, no matter how many times we have to review our addition problems.

I vow to do lots of hands on, engaging projects.

I vow to be silly, laugh and giggle as we explore the amazing world God has placed us into!

I vow to not say "hurry up" even once all year!

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. --Ephesians 6:4
What are your primary purposes for homeschooling? How does your homeschool reflect this purpose? Share with us!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Homeschool Conference Bliss!

Girl-time + Hotels + eating out + books and books and books = A Very Happy ME!

Have you ever been to a homeschool conference?  If not, then you definitely should! Here's what I got out of it:

Time away to focus completely on your homeschool planning.
While many homeschool families bring their entire family, I preferred the time away from mine so that I could browse, and consider and debate without any distractions!  There is nothing around you but homeschooling stuff, so you can really dig in and get things figured out!

So many options!
HS Conferences are a great place to find new ideas and look through curriculum.  I found so many different books and subjects that I would not have ever thought of if I had not been there.  It is SO overwhelming (but I love it!). If you aren't sure what you are going to use for each subject, it begins as a very daunting task.  There are so many ways that you can go about things!  I stayed up all night the first night, lying in bed with books and books floating through my head! I woke up the next morning without any decisions made.  The great thing though, is that you can flip through the books right there!  You can put them in your hands and see exactly what you will get if you use that material. That is a huge bonus!  I think it is so cool to see that homeschooling is such a wide spread thing, that there are so many hundreds of things to choose from.

Words of Wisdom
This was my first year to go to the conference and attend the sessions.  I got SO much out of them!  The speakers were wonderful, animated, funny and so wise!  There were many great truths that I walked away with this weekend from these wonderful individuals.  I will share some of these with you in later posts.  I and the ladies with me found that these words spoke, not only truth into our hearts, but also encouragement and confidence about our choices and methods.  It is something every HS mom needs!

A Vacation in Disguise
So I told my husband that I had to go and "work" on finding all of our kids homeschool materials and "learn" more about homeschooling during the sessions and "spend money" on all of the things that our "kids need."  What I left out was the part about staying the weekend in an awesome hotel and eating out with friends for every meal! Or the part about cruising the city with all of us stuffed into my friends VW Bug while giggling like school girls.  OR the part about staying up past midnight every night talking and sharing stories.  OR just the plain fact that I LOVE BOOKS and I love buying them even more!!!  This is what I foresee as being a cherished ritual for us moms, a time that we need in order to refresh and fill us back up. 

Next year, you should definitely save the money and block out time in your schedule to attend a conference in your area!

Do you have a conference story to share?? COMMENT BELOW!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guest Posting on 10 Days of Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Homeschooling!

When I first debated home schooling my children, I knew I had the background to school them from 3rd grade on up.  My fear, however, was the primary years. I met many home school moms who told me, oh, those are the easy years. Apparently they are not creatively challenged.
I know books. I know pencils and worksheets. I dont know play dough, paint, lacing boards and blocks...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Planning For Next Year: Last Step Before HS Conference! I am going to the homeschool conference this weekend and I am SO excited! I have shared with you how I have prepared thus far - the subject matter, state requirements, and budget. Last step: Cleaning the school room.

If you are anything like me, then you have been gathering this and that at used sales and book store sell outs throughout the year. Last week a friend of mine told me about a some books she had bought her daughter a couple of years ago for this year. This year, she forgot all about them and didn't use them. Now her daughter is passed that level and she has no use for them. I would love to say that this has never happened to me, but that would be a lie. It happens, when throughout the year your nice, organized school room turns into this:

So last week, I set to work. I cleaned out bookshelves and desks and cupboards until I had everything nice and tidy and organized. I collected a nice little pile of the books I would use next year. Now I won't buy things that I already have!

I am now completely ready for the conference! I know that even with all of my preparations, I am still going to be overwhelmed by all the options and varieties of homeschooling materials! At least I have somewhere to start! Do you love homeschool conferences?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Planning for Next Year: The Budget

Let's face it. Parents decide to homeschool for various reasons and come from various walks of life and therefore have various budgets for their homeschooling. No matter what way you go about it, homeschooling is not cheap.

Ok. I have figured out each of my children's learning styles and I have figured out our schedule. So the last factor I need before I choose which homeschooling materials I will use is the budget.

Now, full disclosure here, I am a youth pastor's wife. I don't work. Our budget for everything is minimal. What we find the most effective is to take a chunk of our tax returns each year and set it aside for our curriculum. Here are a few things to consider when figuring out your budget:

1) How much is left after you have paid your housing, utilities, groceries, gas, and other expenses? (If you are in debt, also include a portion of your family budget to go towards working your way out of that debt) I know for some of us it isn't easy.

2) Look at your list of subjects that you would like to teach next year. Most of those will require curriculum. A realistic amount for me to consider for each subject is $10-$15. Also consider that some subjects may require extra materials: art supplies, audio cds, science lab kits, etc. If you are on a more flexible budget, you may also consider the extra projects, books, kits and dvds that suppliment your subjects.

3) Decide what out-side of the home classes or extra-curricular activities you will participate in. Most will have sign-up fees or monthly costs. Personally, we are not able to do those with the monthly costs. We do things like community sports, 4-H, library story hours, and Homeschool Co-op. I have found that most of these things cost between $30-$40 to sign-up. I often forget that these things require supplies or equipment as well. For soccer we need cleats and shin guards. For T-ball we need gloves and helmets and cleats. 4-H we need whatever supplies for our projects and fair entree fees. For Homeschool Co-op we need art supplies. If you do dance, you will need shoes and costumes. These are the easy-to-forget items that you should include into your budget!

4) Think about field trips. Will you go on any? If so, how often, where and how much will that cost you? Include entry fees, parking fees, gas, food and hotel (if necessary).

5) Lastly for me, I consider what supplies I will need to stock my school shelves. I may not need each item each year, but I keep a check-list so I know what I will need to buy. Don't forget that the first weekend in August is tax-free on school supplies here in Missouri. Your state may offer a similar thing, so check it out! Here is the list I use. Remember, my kids are still in early elementary and as always, you will have differences depending on how you do it. But here is my list:
3 Ring Binders
hole punch
spiral notebooks
"fat" pencils
safety scissors
glue sticks
glue bottles
pencil boxes
white printer paper
construction paper
printing pad
index cards
push pins
reward stickers
play dough

Getting closer and closer to the Homeschool Conference and choosing next year's curriculum! Do you have any tips to share with us?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Planning for Next Year Step 2: Requirements and Time Slots

Once I am done evaluating my children's learning styles, I begin to look at our requirments, school calendar, and daily schedules. Many people do not begin to look at schedules until after they have chosen their curriculum. I choose to look at it before and after choosing the curriculum. This helps me to know how much time we have available for the "extras" and will help guide me in choosing the curriculum that will best fit our lives.

Requirements. I always begin my planning by looking at what we have to do, as directed by the state. Every state has individual requirements, so be sure to get a good look at what is required for your state. A great place to get started with this is to go to  My state law is based on number of hours in core and elective studies. I do a little math (yuk!) to even out how many hours/day I want to spend on school with how many days of the year we want to be in school. What works best for us is approximately 170 days of about 6 hours of school (give or take).

Calendar. Once I figured out how many days, I pull out my trusty calendar. I mark off the days or weeks that I do not want to be in school (Thanksgiving, Christmas break, Easter, etc). For me, the end date of school is more important than the start date. We go on an annual mission trip each year with our church in May, so my goal is always to be done a couple of weeks before the trip. So I start there and count backwards (170 school days!) until I reach what will be our start date! I also try to line us up as much as possible with our local public school. This year our start date will be August 20.
This is the part of homeschooling that is so wonderful. You can tailor those days however you want (within the requirements of your state) to fit your life! There may be any number of reasons to do any number of schedules! And it is all up to you!
Daily Schedule. Our "daily schedule" is rather loose. Princess Buttercup does not work well on a timeclock. Some days her math page may take her 10 minutes, and then the next day 1 hour on the same problems. She is easily distracted and wants to just do it at her pace. Once again beauty of homeschooling. What I find that works best is to just give her a list of her daily assignments for her to work on and allow her to work through the day at her own pace. Moving slow on some and fast on others, she always seems to get done by the end of our school time! So, when I create our daily schedule, I usually just allot an amount of time per subject that I think it should take, so that I know how much work to give her each day. I also consider all of the out-of-house things that we do - sports, library day, homeschool co-op, tutored lessons, etc. Also, being a pastor's family, we have to take into consideration Daddy's day off, which is Monday. Our school days run a little shorter on Mondays in order to spend some quality time as a family. Once I have put in all of the required subjects, I am able to see how much room is left for electives. This is the main reason I do this at this point, so that I can then go and choose my curriculum based on how much time I have to give each subject! I usually end up returning to the daily schedule and reorganizing things a bit after I have chosen my curriculum.

This step is possibly the most complicated for me and perhaps it is because I am such an over-organized, schedule-obsessed person! Many of you may even skip this step, but this is full disclosure of my preparation for the best school year ever!

Please feel free to comment on how you go about this part of the new year planning!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Planning For Next Year Step 1: Evaluating the Learning Style

As this year is winding down and I'm getting ready to attend the Homeschool Conference at the end of the month, my thoughts are beginning to turn to next school year! I need to know what I am looking for and gearing toward before I go to the conference. This will help to guide me through all of those wonderful vendors full of wonderful homeschooling material!

The first thing I evaluate at the beginning of the school year is my children's learning style. This will guide all my other planning and choices. There are many books and sites that will give you all the technical terms of each learning style, but I don't think that this is necessary. You just need to know what your child likes and works well with and what he/she does not. Think about the things that have worked well in the past and the things that were duds. Remember that you child's learning style can change as he/she develops and that every child is different.

Princess Buttercup is easily distracted and does not respond well to long, redundant assignments or worksheets. She does, however, enjoy worksheets that are quick paced and she could sit and read a book all day! Flashcards, songs, and recitations work better for her than written work. She has to have things that keep her mind engaged. And for those longer assignments, we often need headphones to block out distractions (not something you would get from public school, might I add!).

Then there's my Little Bear. He does not respond well to oral recitation or flash cards. For the longest time I thought I was starting him on Preschool too early, because he would not tell me any of the colors or shapes when I showed him the flashcards and books. Then one day he told me he liked the stars and circles on my shirt. A few days later he was organizing his Hot Wheels by color and told me what each color pile was. This happened recently as well. I have been trying to teach him to count to 20. Yesterday, while I was outside watering the garden, he and his sister were playing hide and seek and he clearly, out loud, and correctly, counted to 30 before he went to find her. He needs more hands-on, applicable lessons. He enjoys doing worksheets and motor-skill activities. He must be doing constantly. Sitting still is just not his cup of tea.

Before you make any decisions for the school year (curriculum, schedules, etc.), first take time to evaluate your child's learning style. It will cut out a lot of the hassle of purchasing things that don't work for you.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Early Readers

One of the things I am most proud of in regards to my teaching abilities, is that both of my children learned to read at age three! Little Bear just started reading this month and I am so excited!
When I first debated homeschool, I wasn't sure that I could do it during the primary years. I knew I could do it beginning at third grade because I was a third grade teacher. I knew I could do it up through high school, because I loved school and was an excellent student! But those first few years (the ones I am in!) gave me the jitters  - and still do on every other day!
My biggest fear was teaching my children to read. Why? Because I learned to read at three years old and I could not remember ever learning. According to my memory, I have always known how to read. So how do you teach someone how to do something you don't remember learning?
Well, I must have figured it out! It wasn't really as difficult as I thought. Here's what I did:
1) Teach them to sing the ABCs and READ TO THEM everyday.
2) MUST HAVE: ABC flashcards. Pick two to three letters to start off with (those in their name work great because they associate it with themselves!)
3) Keep reviewing the same cards every day until they can tell you the name of the letter and the sound it makes. Little tunes can help as well. I always sang the "the (B) says (b), the (B) says (b), every letter has a sound, the (B) says (b)." When they can get all of them right, add a few more cards to your stack. Keep doing this everyday until they can do the whole alphabet.
4) Teach them to blend two sounds together slowly, such as M and A say "mmmmmmaaaaaaaa." Then have them try it fast, "ma." Practice, practice, until they get the concept! Form as many consonant-vowel blends as you can!
5) Begin sounding out two to three letter words the same way, slow then fast. Using a phonics reader is a great resource. I find it helpful to use post-it notes to cover the picture until they have read the word. This stops them from guessing the word and it gives them some incentive to read the word in order to see the picture. I have found A Beka Book Kindergarten readers to be very good. Once again, practice, practice, practice!
6) Your child is reading! Now just practice! Give them as much to read as possible! Only move up in reading level when your child is able to read fluently through a particular level of books on the first time. Also remember to demonstrate a love for reading. This is contagious and will help them to become better readers!

My Readers!

That has been my method, tried and true on two three year olds - a girl and a boy.  What have you found that works?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confessions of a Bad Homeschool Mom

Confession time:
Over the last six months, I have attempted to homeschool, work part time, take care of my home, and partner with my husband in youth ministry. I burned out and was not doing well in any of these areas. Last week was my last day of work. My husband and I decided that homeschooling and ministry were priorities and I needed to devote my time to these, despite the financial loss we would have. We both knew God would provide, that was without a doubt. I just needed to get my priorities right.

What the school attitude in our house has been:
Sit down. Push, push, push to stay focused and get the work done. Quickly! No time for the fun little extras...just get done what we had to.
I told you it was confession time. Not pretty, is it? As if I had forgotten why I chose to homeschool in the first place!
It broke my heart when my daughter, who started school early and has always LOVED doing school, begged to do school when it wasn't school time, said to me, "I don't like school." Crush!

As I said, last week was my last day of work.  There isn't much more school left for us for this year, so here is my goal: over the summer, I want to do some awesome learning activities that are totally FUN based. And I want to plan and build for next school year. I want to research and plan and organize and create and get my kids completely excited about a new year. My daughter is going to start 2nd grade and I want it to be the best school year ever.
So I am going to share all of my findings and experiences right here with you! I would love for you to follow along, learn from my mistakes (hopefully there won't be too many!) and my successes!

I didn't always start out as a bad homeschool mom. I just let myself get sidetracked. So here is my story of how I get back on track and get my daughter to love school again!