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.