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Homeschool

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

5 Things I Can’t Imagine Homeschooling Without

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, and it’s a great time to reflect on things that have worked well and things you might want to tweak for next year. As a homeschooling mom of two boys, we have had some great successes and more than enough flops, but there are a few things that I really don’t think I would have made it without.

So, I’m excited to share my list of 5 things I can’t imagine homeschooling without! Now, this list is really two-fold. It’s an opportunity to express incredible gratitude to the people and resources we’ve been given, but I also hope it will give you some insight into things that will make your homeschooling experience easier – especially if it’s something you’re thinking about trying next year.

So, here goes….

A Community of Other Homeschooling Families
I really can’t imagine trying to do this on my own. And as I talked to other homeschooling moms, this was consistently one of the top things on their lists. On days when I’m completely exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling like I’ve failed the kids, being able to talk to, be encouraged by, and simply be reminded that you’re not alone by these other mommas always re-energizes me. Not only has this community blessed me, but it has given my kids countless opportunities to develop friendships, participate in large group activities, and grow in their social and problem-solving skills. We attend a weekly co-op with 9 other families (more on this coming soon!), and it is truly the highlight of our week! I can NOT imagine trying to tackle this alone, and having other homeschooling families nearby has made a tremendous difference.

So, if you’re thinking about homeschooling, look for ways to connect. Are there other families in your community who are currently or will be homeschooling? What are some ways you can connect with them? Look into starting a co-op of your own (again, more specifics on this will be coming soon). Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – it’s well worth the effort!

Our Educational Supervisor/Teacher
We homeschool through a public charter school, specifically designed for homeschool families. Each family is assigned a personalized learning teacher who helps get your curriculum, checks in on each student’s progress, helps parents with planning and learning strategies, and takes care of ALL the paperwork/legal side of things. This is such a huge blessing! I don’t have to worry about making sure everything is documented and submitted to the state correctly. She totally takes care of all of it – gathering the information and materials she needs at our meetings. Furthermore, she conducts assessments throughout the year (so it’s not just Mom doing it), to help ensure we’re on track and give advice on things we can work on.

If you’re looking into homeschooling, research what is available in your area. Is there a school you can go through? What resources and/or services can they provide? What kind of assistance will you receive? Homeschooling is so much more than just doing some activities with your kids at home, so the more help you can receive, the easier the process will be.

A Supportive Spouse
Being a homeschool mom is a pretty thankless job. I certainly get “paid” in plenty of hugs, kisses, and smiles, but when it comes to verbal affirmation for the job I’m doing, it’s pretty few and far between. It’s primarily because no one else sees the time, effort, and energy I’m pouring into this day in and day out. However, the one person who does see it is my husband. He sees the planning, the progress the kids are making, the projects, the organization, and coordination, and he sees me do it day after day. He’s the one who takes the kids to the park just because he knows I need a break. He’s the one who cleans up after dinner because he knows I’ve been “on” all day. And he’s the one who affirms and encourages me when I feel like giving up. He does this because he knows the sacrifice I’m making to homeschool our kids. And I know I couldn’t do it without him.

So, if you’re thinking homeschool may be in your future, take plenty of time to discuss this with your spouse. Ask the tough questions to ensure you’re on the same page. Now, that’s not to say you can’t homeschool if you’re a single parent, but if you are married, you want this to be a joint decision. Because if it’s not, it will be incredibly divisive.

A Daily/Weekly Routine
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Part of the benefit of being a homeschool family is the flexibility you have in your schedule. Flexibility, yes, total freedom, no. You still have material you need to cover, there are still skills students need to practice consistently, and it’s just not going to get done if you don’t establish some type of daily and weekly routine. It doesn’t need to be planned to the minute, but having a game plan for each day of the week makes a tremendous difference. Ours is simple – we have a consistent start time, we almost always begin with a song or two, followed by Bible. We then move on to language arts before having a snack and brain break time. We then move on to math, followed by history, science, art, or other activity. Now, this schedule varies a bit day to day (like on the days we have our co-op), but for the most part, the boys know what our school day looks like – and it definitely helps me on the planning end. It’s amazing how well kids respond to routine, and I’m so thankful other homeschool moms taught me about the importance of this consistency early on!

So, make a game plan. Decide how often and on what days you need to teach each subject (for example, we don’t hit science every day, but language arts we do). Think about how long you’ll need for each subject – and don’t forget to include brain and movement breaks! Then, put together a tentative schedule for your week. Know that there will be some flex in it, but bringing some structure into your week will help everything go more smoothly. And by the way, don’t feel like you need to go from 8am-3pm because that’s what your local school is doing. Do what works for your family, especially if you’ve got younger kiddos.

Peace for the Storms
Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, is my faith in Christ. Homeschooling is hard – much more of a sacrifice than I ever imagined. Honestly, there have been days when I just want to give up. However, my faith in the Lord has given me strength, wisdom, hope, encouragement, and purpose as each day I strive to fulfill what we believe He has called our family to do. Not only does He bring peace to the storm and strength to the weak, but Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness, sacrifice, and love. And it is his example I seek to follow.

While the above five things are not any type of curriculum, school supply, or even organizational system, I can’t imagine homeschooling without them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! What are your must-haves for homeschooling? Leave a comment below – I’d love to connect with you!

Homeschool, Parenting

I Never Thought I Would Homeschool…..and Look at Me Now!

 

Let me begin by saying I never thought I would homeschool. Never. I was brought up going to public schools. My husband went to public school. We both taught at public and private schools before having kids, and my husband currently teaches at a public school. And yet, here I am, about to begin our third year of homeschooling my two boys – and for the first time, both of them will officially be enrolled in school (T-K and 1st grade)!

So, how in the world did we arrive in the homeschooling world? Well, let me begin by saying, it was NOT because we thought the public school system was doing a poor job. It was NOT because I questioned the public school system.

So, I suppose to truly understand our reasoning, you have to understand a bit of our story.

My husband and I were both working at a private Christian school when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. And this was a BIG DEAL. You see, we had tried to get pregnant for over three years, had doctors tell us it just wouldn’t happen, and then we found ourselves staring at a positive pregnancy test – tears of joy streaming down our faces.

When our miracle baby was born, I took the 6 weeks maternity leave that was allotted, but soon after, had to return to the classroom. Financially, we just couldn’t swing living on the single income. Thankfully, the campus also had an infant through preschool center, so we actually had our little guy on campus with us. But every time I saw him, my heart just broke.

I absolutely hated having to get him up early every morning. I grimaced at the fact that for at least 8 hours of the day I was not with him. And because I wanted to devote as much time as humanly possible to him when I wasn’t in the classroom, I ended up feeling like I was failing at both jobs. Have you been there?

A Leap of Faith 

So, with a lot of prayer and a leap of faith, we decided that I would leave my full-time job in the classroom and become a stay at home mom. The Lord graciously provided a job for my husband in the public school system, which meant things would be tight financially, but we could make it.

Fast forward 4 years…… I was loving being a stay at home mom to our now two boys, and the daunting decision of schooling began to get very real.

And then, I learned about what I will call “the one-third factor.”

I was chatting with a friend, whose oldest son had recently turned 6, and she made the comment, “Well, one-third of the time that I will have him at home is over.” I think my mouth dropped to the floor. Yes, I knew basic math – that 6 was indeed one-third of 18, but reality hit. 6 years old seems so young, but when you view it as one-third of their time under your roof, it’s a game-changer!

These years had already flown by so incredibly fast, the thought of them being nearly one-third over made me really start to think. Yes, I knew I could still pour into their lives beyond the age of 18, but I knew I would not have nearly the influence I once had.

So, we started to think and pray, ask questions of homeschool families, and pray some more, talk to parents who had put their kids in public school, and prayed some more. And we kept coming back to two things: time and influence.

Over and over, the themes of time and influence kept coming back in our conversations. And they ultimately became the two primary reasons we decided to start homeschooling.

Time and Influence

This was a huge factor for me. These first few years with my kids had absolutely flown by – I really couldn’t believe we were even discussing school – and from what we had heard from other parents, it only sped up from there. So, being able to spend all day, every day with my kids, rather than sending them off to school for 8 hours a day, seemed incredible. And I knew that with time came influence.

Now, looking back over the past two years, this has truly been a gift. I know that I cannot and will not ever get these years back, and the sheer quantity of time spent in the every day activities (yes, even the mundane ones) with my boys is irreplaceable. Not only have I developed such a close relationship with my boys (I mean, when I leave for Bible study for an hour and a half, you would think I had been gone a month), but the bond between my boys has absolutely flourished. And I know it is because they pretty much get to spend all day, every day together.

Then, because of the amount of time I get to spend with my kids, I have a tremendous opportunity to be a powerful influence in their lives. And this, again, is not something you can just re-create. For us, we want to build a strong Biblical foundation in their lives. We want to develop Godly character, and being home with them each day gives me so many opportunities to do this. Whether it is discussing forgiveness when a toy is broken, modeling being a servant to our neighbors or choosing to show love and kindness when it’s not the easiest thing to do, being around them all the time affords me countless opportunities to pour into their lives in ways far beyond just academics.

When asked why we chose to homeschool, our short answer is, “We know that at some point, they will go to public school – maybe next year, maybe in three years, or perhaps further down the road. But when they do, we want to have equipped them enough – spiritually, academically, emotionally, and physically – that they are able to be more of an influence on others than being influenced by them.”

And the way that we are truly able to accomplish this (or at least work toward that goal), is having that extended amount of time with them and using that time to invest in their lives and character.

Are you on the fence about homeschooling? I’d love to talk to you more about it! Leave a message in the comments below!

Faith, Homeschool, Parenting