Archive for the ‘Homeschool tips’ Category

Homeschooling and Housework, too

March 1st, 2011

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Homeschool moms often lament that once they find their groove homeschooling, they realize that they lost everything else they had in place in the process. Homeschooling isn’t so hard if the rest of life didn’t get in the way.

I have also heard it said in various ways that we have three areas that need our attention: great meals, quality teaching, and a clean house. However, people should not expect more than two of those to take place on any given day. I might add, a good night’s sleep to that list also.

Since schooling obviously can’t be compromised, we need to somehow figure out how to fit the other areas into our schedule at least at a satisfactory level on a routine basis. I would not necessarily consider myself an expert in this area, but more often than not I can go to bed with a clear conscience that my kids won’t get botchulism, we all have at least one clean outfit to put on in the morning, they are a day further down their educational track, and with a little creativity, we can probably find three meals’ worth of food around the house the following day, plus the half dozen snacks that they often require.

Here are some tips that I have learned along the way to maintaining order and my own sanity in the midst of homeschooling:

Set boundaries. This is a great place to start. Does your school day have set hours? You might want to avoid answering the phone or checking email during those times. Any distraction from outside the house can most likely wait a few hours until the learning goals for the day are accomplished.

Establish a routine. I know routines are not for everyone, but for me they give me such freedom, because once they are in place, life just flows. We have recently gone through a move, after having my in-laws move in, after having a baby, and life has been anything but routine. But, when my kids got up in the morning they knew they needed their beds made and clothes on. They knew what to expect from breakfast (and I knew what I was making). Even though routines need tweaking now and then, they can release our mind to worry about everything else on our plate and know the basics are covered.

Keep the morning simple. I love to have a clean house to start the day. But, if I spend the time scrubbing and nagging the kids about getting everything spotless, we won’t start school until after lunch. So, the morning is basic. Get yourself ready, eat, and clean up breakfast. The rest of the house can be clean in time for a relaxing evening together, but I needed to ignore it in the morning so school could get done.

Get everyone involved. They help make the mess, they help clean it. With the possible exception of the 9 month old, everyone has chores, and I’ll admit, even the 5 year old has kind of a lot. I need to make homeschooling a priority, which means my kids do end up doing more chores  at home than their public school counterparts. We don’t have a hired janitor in our school, so when we do a messy project, we clean up the mess. We live in our house all day long, so it needs more cleaning than the families that are gone 8-4. I need to expect some extra messes, but that doesn’t mean that I should expect to clean them all up myself. It amazes me what a beautiful job my kids can do when they take the time and get rewarded for their work (even if it is just a dose of abundant praise).

Start ’em young. By two or three years of age my kids begin to have a chore routine. It starts very basic, mostly learning self care. Making beds, picking up their room, clearing their place at the table. They have a responsibility just like anyone else. They know this and take great pride in being like the big kids.

Use your weekends. I don’t mean to ruin your weekend with cleaning, but we do take some time on the weekend to tackle bigger cleaning projects and hopefully make sure that our week starts with a fairly clean house.

Teach good habits. This takes lots of time and consistency, but when my kids habitually clean up after themselves, turn lights off, leave a place better than they found it, feel responsible for the appearance of the house, and learn to see tasks that need doing, our house is a different place. This is an ongoing process. We have definitely not arrived in this area, and I continue to grow my kids’ good habits. Reminders, group effort, lots of praise, and over time they, too, can mature into an adult that could care for a place of their own. I need to remember that I’m not raising kids, I’m raising future adults. It all has a purpose down the road.

Coming up I will share some of the specific ways I tackle laundry, meals, kids’ chores, and other areas of housekeeping. Any particular questions that you struggle with? Feel free to add them to the comments here or on facebook to hopefully get some inspiration from other homeschoolers as well.

Photo cling

August 17th, 2010

On Wednesday, August 18, Walgreen’s is offering a free photo cling, one per photo account. This is part of their seven days of deals going on this week. Note: If you are checking this on Tuesday evening, you will see their deal for Tuesday, but after midnight the photo cling should be their featured daily special.

Now, with a new school year just around the corner, I immediately thought about far more than just that cute picture of my kids languishing on my camera’s memory card.

These photo clings can be up to 11×17 in size. So, how much educational content can you cram into that space?

Here are some ideas I came up with:

– Time line figures

– Maps

– Diagrams

– First day of school photo

– School information (your schedule, expectations, inspirational quotes, etc.)

– A serene picture to serve as a mental pick-me-up on “those” days

– A flag

– Flags from around the world

– Presidents

You could even make a game out of it. Match countries with their flags, put presidents in order, put together a diagram of a flower or a model of the solar system.

I can seen your wheels turning, so go order your cling for free (you will have to pay shipping which is $5.99. Most deals you can opt to pick up in store and forgo the shipping charge, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with this product), and please share your ideas here or on our facebook page as well. And, if you decide to use it for that memorable picture from your summer vacation, it will also be well used.

Free and inspires creativity, that works for me!

Not back to school blog hop

August 1st, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop

A little fun for this “not back-to-school” time of year. I know many of you are looking for some inspiration, some fire to start off the year properly, some kind of plan to get you enthused for the year.

Emotions right now often run the gamut. Excitement, intimidation, trepidation, fear, doubt, joy. Maybe you feel excited, or maybe you wish you had more enthusiasm for the year to come.

To help us all get in the mood to not head back to school (you know, since we homeschool and aren’t going to school . . .) you can get a peak into the homes and daily organizers of some other homeschool moms over the next four weeks.

The first edition comes out this week and gives people an opportunity to share their curriculum plans for the upcoming year. If you click the icon above it will take you to the list of other blogs and curriculum sharing which start on Monday August 2. If last year is any indication, hundreds of families will participate over the next month, and they will show you many different styles, ideas, family sizes, student ages, and approaches to homeschooling.

Author: Categories: Curriculum, Homeschool tips Tags:

Free resource – Homeschool 101

May 5th, 2010

Check out this amazing deal from  the Old Schoolhouse Magazine:

Homeschool 101

Are you considering homeschooling, or are you curious and simply want to know more?

What if you were offered a commendable, complimentary class on homeschooling, taught by experienced educators and included hands-on tools for your personal use?

The course is called Homeschool 101 . . .
Would you like a front row seat?

The Old Schoolhouse® is thrilled to share this FREE resource with you—a digital supplement to the Schoolhouse Expo.

Celebrate the small things

February 3rd, 2010

marshmallowAt various times in my homeschooling career, I have discussed with my kids what most kids experience on a daily basis as they leave home for six or more hours to receive their education in the more “traditional” way.

It turns out they felt cheated in some pretty small ways, but I could see their point. For example, we didn’t take sick days or snow days, we schooled through the summer, we didn’t have classroom parties, and we didn’t have recess. You know, all the important stuff.

They did not miss the bus rides, paper bag lunches, lining up to go everywhere, having to do all their schoolwork at a desk, trying to avoid the school bully, sitting through a complete math lesson after they “got” it in the first five minutes, etc. They know they have it good, but they did have a few requests.

So, we talked about expectations and state requirements, and all that good stuff. And then, we came to the conclusion that we could easily allow for a snow day here and there.

100 day party! 007

Today, we incorporated another non-homeschool activity that we borrowed from the traditional school setting — celebrating our 100th day of school this school year. We had a fairly normal morning, and then in the afternoon we broke out some sweets (for some reason marshmallows caught their eyes) and a board game and spent some time celebrating getting 5/9 of the way through our official school year.

We still school through the summer, but on a lighter schedule, allowing for extra fun while the weather is beautiful. And, we still generally do not take sick days, but will again lighten or alter the schedule when someone needs a little rest. We do take some holidays off and sometimes get together with other families to have our own holiday party to celebrate. We even work in a recess here and there. Taking time to celebrate the small things has only enhanced our homeschool experience and has definitely worked for us.

How about you?

Do you take snow days?

Do you allow yourself Teacher Institute Days (read about another homeschool mom’s thoughts on that topic)?

Do you celebrate some of those smaller holidays (Columbus Day, Ground Hog Day, etc.)?

What fun traditions have you worked into your homeschooling plans?

We’d love to hear!

Author: Categories: Homeschool tips Tags: , ,

Encouragement from the Boyer Family

January 18th, 2010

You may know the name Marilyn Boyer. A mother of 14, homeschooling veteran of 30 years (!), with a few more still ahead of her, a writer, and a speaker at homeschool conventions.

This past weekend I joined a couple hundred other women in Oak Brook to receive encouragement and vision from Marilyn. I took many notes and came away with lots of fresh ideas and enthusiasm for loving my children and taking full advantage of the relationship we build with them through homeschooling.

Even if you could not make it this weekend, she has a wonderful gift to share on her website.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a simple link to get there, but I can give you some directions. Go to the Boyer website, The Learning Parent, and float over the “Categories” tab. From there click on “Boyer Products” or “Boyer Resources.” These should both take you to the same place. You will need to go to the second page of resources, looking for one entitled, “Educating for Eternity.”

You can purchase this resource on CD, or you can select the downloadable version for free. It does take a while to download, and as mine is currently downloading, I can’t yet tell you the wonderful information it contains. But, knowing Marilyn, this will be a great encouragement to listen to.

In this recording you will learn:

We all want our children to catch the vision for God and grow up to serve Him. But how do we begin? Rick and Marilyn Boyer, home education pioneers of thirty years, believe the Bible contains the best plan for the upbringing of wise and competent children. Seeking wisdom from God`s Word and applying it to their own lives, they have trained their fourteen sons and daughters, some of whom are now parents and passing on the vision to their own children.

In this session you will hear Rick and Marilyn- with five of their adult children- explain the scriptural method for passing on a vision of powerful Christian living from generation to generation through family discipleship!

She has such a wonderful heart and shares so sincerely about her journey as a homeschooling mom. I would encourage you to take the time to download this resource, and to check out some of the other resources they have available.

Some other resources that have caught my attention: For You The Signed (a new one that she mentioned this weekend, about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll find this on their home page), audio books by her husband “Uncle Rick,” and many other books and audio resources for the homeschooling family — Getting it all done, homeschooling with toddlers, etc.

Top 100 sites selected by users

January 7th, 2010

The following came in an email from They have compiled lots of popular and helpful links for homeschoolers and the cream of the crop come in their top 100 of the year:

Every year, compiles a list of some of our favorite educational websites for you to enjoy in a convenient list you can keep handy. You can even share this list with your friends, family and support group. We asked our 8,500 Product Testers to send us a list of their favorite educational websites that they use most often. We had so many suggestions pour in that we’ve included over 100 sites this year. Many sites that made it on last year’s list are mentioned again this year. The top five sites for 2010 include:

The Top Sites

Note: Normally we would not include commercial sites on this list. However, so many people nominated a number of commercial websites, it seemed unfair to leave them off the list and they have been included.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and peruse through the list at your leisure. Click on a site and explore it for awhile, then come back to view even more great sites. A few new aspects of our list include the category of Music, as well as a variety of relevant and fun math and science sites.

For the other 95 sites, check out their article on the top 100 sites.

Finding Encouragement

November 18th, 2009

A key to homeschooling well, on at least a somewhat consistent basis, is to maintain a vision.

Without direction, without hope, without a goal in sight, we will likely flounder, often.

Where do you find your encouragement, your refocusing? Do you have goals in writing, or at least clearly in mind for homeschooling your children?

First and foremost, we must turn to the Scriptures for their direction and wisdom. God’s love and strength come in abundance to carry us through even the toughest days.

I want to share a little secret that has helped me recover my enthusiasm time and again for what I do and why I do it. In addition to a daily quiet time in His Word, I listen to and read from fellow homeschoolers often:

Blogs — many homeschoolers blog about their ideas, their inspirations, their rough days, and their high points. I have found encouragement in reading about others’ successes and struggles. If you need to track down some good ones, check out the Homeschool Blog Awards.

Recordings — Most mornings I squeeze in at least a quick walk and while walking I listen to my MP3 player that actually doesn’t have music. It has something that inspires me far more — the workshops from the ICHE convention. I bought the whole set and put it on my player so I can listen to it in snippets each morning. Tedd Tripp’s talks could be listened to repeatedly in my opinion. So much wisdom out there, both online and through recordings.

Read books — Most homeschool moms don’t need encouragement to do this more often. 🙂 But, if you find yourself a little travel weary in your homeschool journey, you may want to restock your nightstand. I don’t always read homeschool related books, but try to always have at least one book in addition to the Bible that encourages me either spiritually or as a mother or wife. When I keep those roles in their proper perspective, homeschooling somehow remains a joy.

Homeschooling Magazines — I especially enjoy The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for its variety of practical articles as well as refreshing encouragement, there are lots of other great magazines out there, too.

What books or speakers have you enjoyed or found great encouragement in? Favorite websites, blogs, etc.? Fortunately we don’t homeschool in a bubble, and we can draw so much encouragement from each other, whether face-to-face, through the internet, or through books and recordings.

These sources of encouragement have definitely Worked for Me.

Author: Categories: Conferences, Homeschool tips Tags:

Squishy parents?

November 16th, 2009

Kevin Swanson says:

Children perpetually test the structure and foundation of the home. Some are clandestine in their test methods. Some do it with wild thrusts with sharp sticks. Some do it every 15 seconds, some every hour or two. But they all test the boundaries for signs of squishiness in one way or another. A house without consistency is squishy.

He goes on to contrast consistency and squishiness and points an unwavering finger at common “squishy” practices. As I did, you might identify with more than one of these tendencies. Threats, bargains, inconsistent punishments, and laziness should have no place in our homes.

We all slip into bad habits now and then, and we then need to repent and start over. That, too, becomes a lesson for our children to learn from. Homeschooling puts an extra dynamic in the parent-child relationship. We spend all day with our kids. That provides times to succeed and fail. We will do plenty of both.

Consistency definitely must play a key role in quality, loving, godly parenting.

Near the end of the article Swanson makes this accurate assessment, “There is no perfect parent. But there are repenting parents. This is the life of the Christian parent, and it is the best example we can hope to give to our children.” I will fail, and don’t want to hide my failures from my children necessarily. I will apologize to them for not parenting as I should have and as we together revel in God’s grace and mercy toward us, we start yet another new chapter in parenting. We all need a fresh start now and then.

Author: Categories: Homeschool tips, Quotes Tags: ,

Taking full advantage of your library

September 22nd, 2009

Formerly, I thought I had a pretty good handle on all my library had to offer:

Reading programs — great incentives in summer for individual reading and in the winter for family reading and we earn free stuff in the process of doing something we would spend our time doing anyway. And, the kids got even more excited about time spent reading.

Books — Obviously, books hold the main draw of the library. Thousands of books on any topic you could want to read on. I’m still not quite sure how I would homeschool if I did not have weekly access to the library and daily access to the Internet. I would spend a lot more money, I am sure.

Non-book items — we also enjoy magazines, CD’s, movies, puzzles, and other items the library makes available for home use through borrowing.

Online account access — We can easily keep tabs on all these items that constantly flow in and out of our house online with our account information readily available and renewable with the click of the mouse.

All those things are great. However, I recently found out I had just scratched the surface of information available to me through the library.

This summer I discovered the World Catalog (claims to have 1.4 billion items on record right now!) which I had access to from home with my library card. I can reserve a book from just about anywhere in the world and they will send it to my library for me to pick up. Now, living near a large city like Chicago, I rarely have a book sent from outside of my state, but I did recently get a book from Arkansas. If you have not learned to navigate the “World Cat” get in touch with your librarian and find out about the billions of items that you have access to through this data base.

We love audiobooks and devour a few of them each month during our errand running. Well, they come in a new format we can check out from the library as well. Playaways are preloaded auidobooks in an MP3 type device that you check out and take with you.

But, there’s more. My librarian also showed me the depths of internet options and subscriptions available through my library website. This will vary widely from library to library, but here is just some of what I can access with my library card, from the comfort of my own home (Clicking to these sites through my library site automatically enters me as a subscriber. On some I need to set up a free account to use them):

  • Online language course through Byki.
  • Book review sites
  • Online picture books, through Tumblebooks.
  • Local newspaper websites
  • Premium research databases
  • NetLibrary‘s 16,000 electronic version of printed books.
  • Naxos music library’s recordings of 85,000 pieces. (We love this one for our composer studies, no more scouring the internet for a suitable recording or trying to remember to get a recording while at the library. Immediate access from home!)

And the list goes on and on, figured I would just share a few favorites we have already used. When she started showing us this I could not believe the information that I had in front of me. All these memberships and subscriptions that I have a part of through my library card. Now, of course, as I said this will vary widely by library, but if you want your library to offer something that they do not already offer, just ask. If they can find a way to fit it in the budget, they might just do it.

Photograph of Homeschool Resource Center

Tiny, but powerful! The Homeschool Resource Center. Four walls packed with resources.

I could not talk about libraries and homeschooling without mentioning the Johnsburg Public Library. Tucked away in this small, unassuming town library is a Homeschool Resource Center that has helped homeschoolers across the country. If you live in Illinois you can drive to the library and check out items with your valid Illinois library card. They have microscopes, models, a vacuum pump, and lots of other larger items to help teach some of those tougher topics. Those items you must physically pick up and drop off at their library.

However, they have also used this $55,000 grant to stock its shelves with books, curriculum samples, and other resources that homeschoolers will benefit from. And, they are open to suggestions for new purchases as well. It would most likely be worth your time to peruse the 2000 plus items they have specifically for the homeschooler.

One last library advantage . . . If you live in the Chicago, Detroit or Minneapolis area (click city names for various local program sites), you have the opportunity to “check out” museum passes each week. These can provide for some great, inexpensive field trips for your family or homeschool group. They are first come, first served, but make sure to look into this great program if you live in any of those areas.

Enjoy more Works for Me Wednesday and Thirsty Thursday