Monthly Archives

May 2017

We’ve Decided to Start Homeschooling…..but What Do We Do Now?

If you’ve just decided to start homeschooling, congratulations! Making that decision and truly committing to it is the first step in your homeschooling journey. But now, you might be thinking, well, “I’ve made the decision, but I have absolutely no idea what to do next!”

Last month I shared a bit of our “journey to homeschool story,” and probably like you, this whole concept was completely foreign to me. I had been raised going to public schools and had spent the majority of my adult life (up to that point) teaching in a classroom. However, we truly felt this was something we had been called to do, so we just went for it. There were certainly some challenges and hiccups, but we just took everything one step at a time, and God was (and continues to be) so faithful on this journey.

Thankfully, we’ve learned quite a bit along a way, and I’m eager to share these tips with you so that the start of your homeschool journey will be as smooth as possible!

  1. Spend some time researching your legal requirements

As I shared last month, we have had the privilege of homeschooling through a school, so almost all of the legal components are taken care of for us. So, I recommend looking there first. Is there a public, private, or charter school in your area that offers a homeschool option?  If so, what does it offer? Does it align with your goals and purpose in homeschooling? What kind of support do they provide?

If homeschooling through a school is not an option – or it’s not a great fit for your family – don’t fret. There’s plenty of support available. I suggest visiting the Home School Legal Defense Association website. It offers a plethora of information regarding the legal requirements for home school in your state. While some states require a minimal amount of documentation, others are stricter. It’s important to know your legal requirement before you get started.

  1. Establish a Budget

Now, this was one area I had to learn from my mistakes! I didn’t establish a budget early on and ended up spending much more than I had planned on supplemental curriculum (the majority of our curriculum came from our school), materials, school supplies, “cool” educational gadgets, books, and more (some of which we hardly used!) You don’t want to repeat my mistake. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that homeschooling is an investment – and that includes the financial component. So, work with your spouse to set aside money for a budget that will allow you to purchase the supplies you need. Notice I said need – not want. Because if you’re anything like me, when you start browsing all those teacher supply and curriculum sites, your cart fills up fast! Having a budget really helps to keep your spending in check!

  1. Evaluate Your Child’s Interests and Learning Style – and Think About Your Own Teaching Style as Well

Before you decide on a curriculum, you will want to consider your child’s learning style and interests. Does he like a hands-on approach to learning? Does she respond best to visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning experiences? Can he focus on an activity for an extended amount of time, or does he need to incorporate lots of movement and activity into the learning process? Does she process information inwardly, or does she need to talk it through?

It’s also important to consider your teaching style. Even if you haven’t been formally trained as a teacher, consider what you want your day and your instruction to look like. Do you want a more structured, scheduled routine or do you prefer it to be more relaxed? Do you want to guide instruction or do you envision it being student led?

It’s important to consider both of these factors because if either party is completely miserable, it’s just not going to last long. Prior to homeschooling, I didn’t even realize there were different homeschool methods (traditional, classical, Montessori, unit-based, Charlotte Mason, project-based, unschooling, and eclectic to name a few). So, you may want to spend some time looking at the different methods and evaluating what might be a good fit for your family.

  1. Find a Community

After asking a number of homeschool families the top things they can’t image homeschool without, one of the top responses is almost always “other homeschooling families.” Friend, this is a huge task that you are starting – and it’s not an easy one at that – so you need people who understand what you’re facing, can offer encouragement or advice, or simply be someone you (and your kids) can share life with. So, try to establish connections with other homeschool families. Look into joining – or starting your own- co-op (look for more info on that next month). But get out there and find your community!

  1. Choose Your Curriculum

Once you’ve got some ideas about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and the budget that you have to work with, it’s time to start investigating some different curriculum options. If you’re going through a school, start there and see what’s available. However, don’t feel like to have to do exactly what that school’s doing. There’s also an abundance of other resources available. A few places to start browsing could be: Sonlight, A Beka, Heart of Dakota, Time for Learning, Oak Meadow, My Father’s World, the Teachers Pay Teachers website…… the list truly goes on and on. Again, you want to choose materials that will be a great fit for your family, so don’t rush this decision. There’s also a reason I mentioned finding your community before settling on a curriculum – they are an incredible resource! Ask them to share what’s worked for them. What are the pros and cons of different programs that they’ve used? It’s likely that a large portion of your budget will be allotted to curriculum, so take your time with this one. Ask for samples, borrow guides from other families, and don’t be afraid to ask the publishing company questions.  You also don’t need to go out there and purchase huge amounts of expensive curriculum, especially when you are just starting and really figuring out what works for your family. Yes, you’ll need to purchase some, but there’s also lots of free materials available, so explore lots of options before making any final decisions.

  1. Map Out a Weekly Plan

Once you’ve selected your curriculum and have nailed down your weekly commitments (co-ops, classes, piano lessons, etc), I suggest mapping out a general idea for your week. Now, the beauty of homeschool is that there is flexibility; however, having a general idea of what your week and each day looks like will help ensure that you are meeting your legal requirements while also meeting the individual needs of your child. It’s also a time to determine when and how often you plan on teaching each subject. Do you plan on starting each day with Bible? Is it important to you to incorporate technology into your plans? Be sure to go back to your child’s learning style as you’re drafting this. If you know your kiddo needs plenty of breaks, build them in. Is your child an early riser? Maybe you want to start school earlier in the day and leave more free time in the afternoon. There’s not a right way to do this. And most likely, you will modify it as you get into the school year, but having a general idea, gives you an excellent starting point, especially if this is your first time. I also highly recommend building some “independent time” into your week. This could be quiet reading time, independent work time, or even independent play time for the younger ones. But this gives you a much needed opportunity to get some of your prepping and planning work done (or even a well deserved nap!)

  1. Get Started – and Give Yourself Grace

Like we tell our kids, “Just go out there and try it. You’ll never know, unless you try,” – the same goes for us. Eventually, you just have to start – even if you’re still filled with an infinite number of questions. Just start. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments, tweak some things, maybe even try a completely new curriculum, but you won’t know what works best for your family until you try. So give yourself plenty of grace! One method of homeschooling not working for your family? Try a different approach! Kids feeling burnt out every week? Adjust your schedule or try an alternate curriculum. Remember, there’s not just one way to do this. Find the best fit for your family, and enjoy this precious time with your kiddos!

Are you starting to homeschool this year? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your questions  – and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

Ashley

 

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting, Teaching

3 Ideas for Wrapping Up the Homeschool Year

First of all, can you believe we are in the month of May and talking about the END of the school year? I don’t know about you, but this school year has absolutely flown by for our family!

It’s about this time of year that I start trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to wrap up the year. Now, as a side note, we often do some school work and review material over the summer months, but we definitely transition from the more structured routine – we all need a break!

Since we homeschool, there’s not that final day that we have to get out the door and to the school by 8am. There’s no final bell that officially signals the start of summer. And while I am sometimes saddened by the fact that my kids won’t be a part of huge classroom parties, yearbook signings, and school-wide celebrations, I still love celebrating all that my kids have accomplished during the year and I want them to be able to participate in that summer excitement.

So, over the past few years we’ve come up with some awesome activities to celebrate the year and signal the start of summer! Here are our top 3 for bringing a whole lotta fun to the end of your school year – even if you’re not in a classroom.

1. Plan a Summer-Themed Field Trip

Since you will be jumping into summer, why not celebrate by going somewhere that screams summer? Plan a trip to the beach, a water park, a theme park ,or even the zoo! Your kids will not only anticipate these events, but it will be the culmination of your year. And the beauty of being a homeschool family is that you can actually plan it on your last day of school, you don’t have to coordinate buses, chaperones, permission slips, etc, and you are not locked into certain time parameters. As a former teacher, believe me, it’s a beautiful thing!

2. Plan an End of the Year Party

If you’re a part of a co-op, this is probably the simplest idea. As a group, agree upon a date to wrap things up and plan a party. This can be at your co-op’s normal location, a local park, a kid-friendly eatery, or even someone’s home. We usually coordinate a picnic lunch and present the kids with an of end of the year certificate, character award, or achievement award (it’s varied from year to year). Some years we have planned games and/or activities, other years it has just been a free for all! Either way, the kiddos love it, and it most certainly helps to ring in summer! And even if you’re not in a co-op, invite some of your kids friends over for an afternoon and celebrate with them – I’m sure they wouldn’t want to turn down an opportunity to celebrate the coming of summer!

3. Plan a Review Day

Now, I know what you’re thinking: a review day, fun? Yes! But the key is how you review! Think about games and activities that you student really enjoys. Then, modify those activities to incorporate some of the material you have learned over the course of the year. Does your student love board games? Then, play the game, but instead of just rolling the dice or spinning a spinner, give them opportunities to answer questions and earn extra spins, jump extra spaces, etc. If you’re not sure how to incorporate your curriculum into games, just type “learning games” or “review games” into Pinterest and you’ll see more ideas that you probably ever wanted! What I love about this idea is that not only does it bring a great deal of fun into your day, but it truly gives the students the opportunity to see just how much they have learned and how far they have come. My only word of caution with this option is this: be sure the material you’re reviewing is truly review. We want to celebrate your student, not leave them feeling deflated by being unable to answer most of the questions. Then, cap off your game time with a special meal or trip to the ice cream shop.

Thinking about trying one of these ideas or have one of your own? I’d love to hear how it goes! Comment below with your best end of the homesch

Homeschool, Parenting, Teaching