To the New Homeschool Mom

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If this will be your first year as a homeschooling mom, my heart goes out to you. That first year or two can feel so incredibly overwhelming, and I wish every single mom had an experienced homeschooling mom to mentor her through those years.

To the New Homeschool Mom...you don't have to feel overwhelmed!

I went into homeschooling my children feeling very prepared. After all, I was homeschooled k-12th grade myself and I thought I knew what homeschooling days looked like. However, I must say they look totally different from the perspective of being the teacher versus the student. As the teacher, doubts quickly arise and you wonder if you are making wise choices for your child or ones that will hamper their education.

As parents we only want the very best for our children. We don’t want our children to fall behind. We don’t want them to not be reading when it seems like all the other 5 year olds around them are. So, naturally, we push and encourage, and spend hours reading reviews to find the perfect curriculum for kindergarten.

Kindergarten back to homeschool pictures!

The thing is, what if your child doesn’t need a fancy curriculum for kindergarten? What if it could actually do more harm than good?

I’m a firm believer in keeping things simple during the pre-k and kindergarten years. That actually goes into first grade as well.

Since I have six children, I’m now at the point that my little ones want to do a workbook because they see the older ones doing schoolwork, and they want to feel involved. So I get them simple workbooks to keep my pre-k children busy. Some of the books I’ve used are:

Rod and Staff About Three Set 

Horizon’s Preschool Book One and Two (I never get all the extra stuff that goes along with this, and the teacher’s guide is totally not needed.).

Simple workbooks from Costco (they are cheaper, but honestly not my favorite).

That is just to fill in for those times when all the other children are sitting at the table, and they want to be there as well.

My idea of kindergarten “curriculum” is one filled with snuggles on the couch while mom reads books, dancing around the house to classical music, finger painting at the table, dot markers with an activity book,  stickers and paper, scissors and paper to cut all sorts of shapes out, and plenty of outdoor time for play and nature exploration.

Preschool years are so much fun!

Learning can happen naturally at this age. Yes, the ABC’s need to be taught, but it doesn’t have to take 3 hours every day with worksheets and a $400 curriculum package. Instead it can happen while they help you bake and you sing the ABC song with them. Numbers just seem to be learned naturally, and usually by the time they are ready for a kindergarten math book, they know how to count and can write the numbers with help. But what if they’re not ready? Don’t stress about it. Give it some time and they will most likely come around!

While the pressure just seems to keep increasing that children should learn how to read in kindergarten, most of my children have been 7 before they are actually reading. Some of my children have been close to 8, but they are never “behind” because once they take off reading, watch out! I can barely keep them out of books and they devour everything they can get their hands on!

We use All About Reading to learn how to read, and I’ve been so thankful for this easy to use curriculum. I’ll confess, I really dislike teaching children to read. It’s a tedious job that requires a lot of patience as they s-l-o-w-l-y sound out each word. But then when you see it all start to click, what a joyous day!

My preschool age child loves to use the Pre-Reading level with All About Reading!

Right now you can follow along the All About Learning Blog as they offer a free series of cut and paste alphabet crafts for preschoolers.
ABC Crafts

If you are wanting an actual curriculum for pre-school and kindergarten age, I have two that I would highly recommend.

The Heart of Dakota Little Hands to Heaven is a really sweet book for children ages 2-5.

Little Hearts for His Glory is for kindergarten age, for children 5-7.

A Year of Playing Skillfully – This is an investment, but it’s one that would be worth it if you have several children close together! I stumbled across this company at one of the homeschool conventions we attended this spring with our businesses. We were set up very close to them, and my 7 year old daughter couldn’t stay away from their booth! She was totally in love with all of the hands on activities they had there, and I was so impressed with the beautiful pictures and lovely ideas that this curriculum has. You can actually use it for children ages 3-7.

So what about first grade? It sounds nice to keep it simple during the itty bitty years, but surely you have to get serious when first grade rolls around, right?

The only thing I do in first grade is reading, math, and handwriting. That’s it. And then I read to them whenever I can. Besides that I let them play, build legos, play dolls, be outside, and enjoy life as a child. The time for more serious book work is coming, but I’ve found that’s all they really need at this point. Younger children in a larger family might naturally pick up some history or science if you are reading it to the older ones, but don’t feel like you need a fancy science program. The one year I tried using BJU science for a first grader it was almost ridiculously simple and not worth our time.

 

If you want to spend the early years teaching practical life skills that would set a solid foundation for the rest of their life, check out Skill Trek. It’s a brand new program that just came out, and I’m excited to use it this year for all of my children! It goes through the teen years, but starts in Pre-K and has simple life skills for children to work on. Some of these life skills we just forget about teaching, so it’s nice to have it all laid out.

Learning happens in real life so immerse yourself and your children in it. Get off Facebook, shut the computer for awhile, turn off the TV, and live life. It will do your child a world of good if you bake cookies with them, read stories to them like Billy and Blaze, and then maybe set up the sprinkler for them to run around in.

Blessings on your new school year mama. It’s all going to be ok. Take a deep breath, and then go pull out a book and read to them. You will be amazed over how awesome the year will go if you focus on relationships over bookwork.

 

 

Resources For Planning A new School Year

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Even though we are still wrapping up our current school year, my heart and mind are already dwelling on the next school year that we will start in August. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the break we are going to take but I know how fast the new school year comes.

I like to use the months off of school to get recharged as a homeschool mom. The books are set aside and the stress of trying to make sure we are on track is gone. Summer days are full of reading books, playing outside, getting wet, and sleeping in. I can’t wait!

But the summer months still pass by quickly, so you need to have a plan on what resources you will use. We are blessed to have an abundance of resources, and we must use wisdom with our time.

I’m going to share with you some of my favorite books I’ve read in the past, and what is on my list to work through this year. I am a fast reader and I’m also a skimmer, meaning I can pick up a book and skim through to find what I need to read for my current season of life. I might have more on my list to read than you, but that doesn’t mean I’m reading every single word in the book.

Teaching From Rest, a MUST HAVE book for Homeschooling Moms!

If you read just one book this summer, make it the Teaching From Rest book by Sarah Mackenzie! I’m planning on reading it all over again with a highlighter in hand. It’s not a long book (only 81 pages!), but there is so much goodness found within these pages. She is Catholic (which I am not), so there are a few references to reading about the saints, etc. It’s super easy to substitute those references in your mind to reading about the heroes in your faith.

I had the pleasure of hearing Sarah speak at a conference this year and I was able to meet her. She was a delight to visit with!

 

Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clary Clarkson is one book I’ve never read from cover to cover. There is just so much to this book, and I tend to pick it up and read the sections that I’m struggling in, or needing inspiration in. I’d like to say I will read it all this summer, but I know I won’t have time. This book makes you stop and think through not just your school year, but family devotions, home life, what books your children are reading, and so much more. I highly recommend it!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins is a new book I discovered recently. I wrote a blog post reviewing it here, and I would love to see every mother read this book over the summer months! It’s such an inspiring read and the nuggets of truth you learn through her years of homeschooling are why I love this book so much.

 

If you homeschool using a Charlotte Mason Education, this workbook and DVD are great to use as you plan your new school year. I am always inspired hearing Sonya Shafer speak! I don’t use much of her curriculum (we do love her art packs!), but her DVD set on homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way is a fantastic resource! I have an older edition, and hope to watch a few of the sessions this summer again.

Somehow I’ve managed to have this book sit on my bookshelf for years now and I’ve never read it. This book actually used to belong to my mom, and I remember her reading it several times. A Pocketful of Pinecones is a story of a mom named Carol, and it tells all about her life of caring for her children, being a homemaker, and of the nature walks she enjoys with her children.

I’m looking forward to reading this book, as well as the sequel book, Lessons at Blackberry inn this summer! We are not strong in Nature Study at all, partly because of where we have lived the past four years. But I know Nature is all around us, even in a small city yard! My goal is for each child to have a Nature Journal this new school year and go on weekly walks and sketch things out.

 

A Charlotte Mason Companion is one book I’ve read several times. Here is a funny story, My mom used to be penpals with Karen Andreola years ago when they were both homeschooling. I remember reading a section of a letter she was sending out that talked about how horrible my spelling was, and she was asking Karen for ideas on how to fix it. I was so embarrassed, especially because I wrote to Karen’s daughter! Ha! Oh well. I think I’ve improved in spelling over the years. 🙂

This book can either overwhelm you with how perfect she seems to be in her Charlotte Mason education, or inspire you to do what you can. I love her ideas, even though I am not the perfect Charlotte Mason homeschooler. We use lots of living books, and I ask them what they learned from a book (so I use narrations), but know there are others out there who are devoted and use all of her methods faithfully.
The Ultimate Homeschool Organization ecourse

I’m super excited to work my way through this Ultimate Homeschool Organization eCourse this summer! I’ve met Kristi Clover several times and love visiting with her! Her organization skills are something I dream of, and I know a big part of being organized is being prepared, and having things filed away before school starts. Her energy and enthusiasm on camera is contagious, and I love that she includes printables in this course! She just updated the course and added even more videos, so I’m going to watch them all over again, and hopefully implement it this time.

When Children Love to Learn is a very practical application of Charlotte Mason Philosophy for Today. This is another book that I skim through, I take the sections I need help on and glean from those. I like that this book quotes from the original Charlotte Mason series, so you get samples of her real writing without diving deep into the series.

Finally, I plan to use the summer to write down all my thoughts and schedule things out in my homeschool planner.

I won’t be lesson planning out the whole year, but I want to write down specific things to work on, such as:

Memory lists of poems and scriptures to for the year. I never have this scheduled out, so I randomly grab things as the year goes on and that never works. It’s important to me that my children memorize scripture and some poems, so I’ll definitely be planning this out.

Reading list for each child with books I want them to read throughout the school year.

Plan out some general routines to aim for.

If you are looking for a new homeschool planner to use, you can grab a copy of our Homeschool Planner on sale through Monday for just $9.99, a savings of $5.00! 

I would love to hear what books or courses you are wanting to go through this summer! I’m always looking for a new book to read. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

A Look At How Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Year Went

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Are you close to finishing your school year? We are scrambling here to try and finish our school year. We have a big summer project planned and so we really need to be done. We are all looking forward to putting the books away for awhile!

A look back on how our homeschool year went for the 2016-2017 year.

I find that it’s best to stop and take a look back on how the school year went at the end, and decide what was successful and what was a total flop. If I wait until the new school year my brain has gone fuzzy over how the school year truly went.

So stop right now. Sit down on the couch, grab a few books and a pen and paper, and write down what did and did not work for you!

I haven’t mentioned in detail how our school year was going this year.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been disappointed?

I had another year where I felt like I just wasn’t doing enough.

But…we had a few successes in our year, and so I need to dwell on those!

I feel like my life changed when our youngest was born. Dramatically. My blogging has slowed down, my weight has never gone back to what it was, my patience has been tested so many different times. And she has definitely affected our school years. But she is only two, and so very worth it all!

So here is the list of the good, the bad, and the terrible. 🙂

What Did Not Work For Us

Let’s start with this sad list. Remember, every family is totally different, just because something is on my list that didn’t work does not mean it won’t work for you!

Tapestry of Grace is a homeschooling curriculum that can work for a large family!

Tapestry of Grace – this was the biggest blow because it was our main curriculum. After writing a review that was so gushing and favorable, we have had to stop using it. I have unique challenges of being a homeschooling mom that not everyone has. It’s hard to balance running a business and homeschooling, and the lesson planning time required for Tapestry of Grace was just greater than what I could give.

There were a few other problems we ran into. The amount of books it requires is amazing (you don’t use every book listed, they are suggestions) but there were weeks I couldn’t find any at the library and I couldn’t afford to buy all the books. This could have been worked around if it wasn’t for the last problem…

I realized Tapestry of Grace is more of a classical curriculum than what I feel comfortable with. Obviously classical education is huge in the homeschool world, but I lean towards Charlotte Mason/good literature and not classical literature. Some of the selections I just don’t agree with.

All of these things combined is what made me decide to stop. I still think it’s a great program, it just isn’t the perfect fit for us right now.

Fix It Grammar – I meant for this to be a super strong year in grammar. I wanted us to go through the Fix It Grammar from IEW, but it just didn’t happen. We did some of it, but it seemed to be the thing that went out of the lofty schedule first. I’ve recognized why that is, and I have a different grammar picked out already for the new year. It’s an excellent program, again it just didn’t work for our family.

IEW Writing – I hate to put this on the list of what didn’t work. It really needs to be on both lists. It did work, I liked the program, we just didn’t make it all the way through. I keep thinking maybe we could pick it up and finish this summer, but we have a really busy summer ahead (more on that coming later!).

What Did Work for us

Notgrass History, From Adam To Us – we were using this along with Tapestry of Grace, so when we stopped mid year this became our main history curriculum for the 2 boys (7th and 5th). Our oldest has now used all three of the elementary versions and has loved going through it. We don’t do every single assignment in the book, but we do most of them. They did the creative writing, which one boy enjoyed more than the other. 🙂 We also used the literature books, and they loved every book but one of them.

Apologia Science – Our oldest has used the General Science this year, which is a big jump up from the Elementary series. It took him a few weeks to get used to it, but he seems to have really enjoyed it. We really struggled taking the tests though, so I ended up having him use the notebook, verbally tell me things he learned and we skipped the tests for 7th grade. I’m going to work with him next year on how to take tests and prepare for them.

Israel (5th) and Carrianna (3rd) did the elementary Apologia this year and they both really enjoyed it. We do science every day so they get through two Apologia books in a school year. That works out great since we don’t start science until 3rd grade.

Teaching Textbooks – The three oldest used this and I can’t begin to tell you what a load it takes of me each day. I just ask them at the end of their lesson what grade they got, and I can tell if I might need to help the next day based on what grade they told me. I do have regrets about not putting my 3rd grader in the 4th grade. She panicked when I mentioned going a grade level above, but she had used Horizons math up to that point and it feels slightly above grade level. She gets 95% to 100% on her math every day, so I really think she could have handled going up one grade level. At least she is confident in where she is at, which is important.

The best thing we did this year was hire a math tutor for our oldest. He has been consistently “behind”  a grade level, and I’ve worked with him for several years to try and get caught back up. Math is not my strong subject, and finally I wanted to get some outside help. We hired a homeschool mom who tutors math on the side, and she was so amazing! She was able to explain things so well and he is really thriving in math. I’m so excited!! It was a big stress on me, and it just feels amazing to see him doing well in math. He is finishing the 6th grade Teaching Textbooks and we will start the 7th grade right away and not take a break over the summer in math. At least that’s the plan. 🙂

All About Reading Level 1. This is an awesome reading curriculum for Kindergarten age!

All About Reading – Our first grader has been using level 1 and I’ve seen some big progress this year. Reading has not come easily for her and we are still finishing level 1, but I’ve learned to not stress. They seem to just take off in their own time. I love using All About Reading and can’t imagine ever using a different reading program!

Rod & Staff Grammar 2nd Grade – A good friend advise me to use the Rod and Staff grammar that is a year behind the current grade level we are in. Carrianna has expressed a lot of interest in writing and I really want her to be solid in grammar skills, so we went through the Rod and Staff grade 2 book (she is in 3rd grade). It went SO well! We are almost done with the book and she has enjoyed it, and learned a lot! I’m thrilled with how the year went for her!

The Fight For Freedom History Set – This is a brand new history curriculum by Rick and Marilyn Boyer, designed for 3rd-6th grade. I originally bought it thinking we would use it for history in 4th grade. Carrianna saw it and just started in on in, and loved it! She didn’t know the answer to every single question in the student book which makes me think this still would have been better in 4th grade, but she kept coming to me all excited about all the new people in history she was learning about. I call that a success! It’s more important to me that they are excited and learning, than they know the answer to every single question.

Latin For Children Primer A – We have never studied Latin before but it’s always been high on my list to actually do. We used this curriculum for the older two boys and I think they enjoyed it! The videos are very engaging and easy to follow. If you are looking for a solid Latin program this is one I highly recommend.

And I can’t forget to mention our homeschool planner! We have received some pretty awesome reviews on this planner, and ladies love how much space they have to write on in this planner. We cut out some of the frills that make it look fancy, to give you plenty of room to write. That’s what we really need, right?

That is quite the list! I adore talking about homeschool curriculum, so I want to hear what has worked for you this year, or what you will never use again. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Tips For Attending A Homeschool Conference

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We just came away from the Nashville Teach Them Diligently Convention and I’m reminded once again of why it’s so important to attend homeschool conventions!

Even though we were only there as vendors I left encouraged as a homeschooling parent myself! There is something about the environment there, you see swarms of other families walking through the vendor hall and you know they are on this crazy difficult, yet super successful journey of educating their children at home. You suddenly rouse from your little cocoon shell and realize how many other families are out there on the same path as you.

We know in our heads that other families homeschool, and we even have friends around us. But when you are suddenly around hundreds of other families it changes things. Your spirit is lifted and it gives you hope to keep pressing on!

Life is really busy but I’m still attending our local homeschool convention this weekend as parents, not vendors. I need the encouragement and the fresh breath of new air. I want to feel the books in my hands and chat with other moms across the table.

After watching hundreds of moms walk by our booth, I started seeing what moms looked calm and put together, and what moms were super frazzled. Here are some tips I have to share based on people watching! 🙂

Sean and our two boys at our Character Badges booth! 

1. Don’t bring your young children to convention!

I know this isn’t possible, but try to leave them with family or friends! Take this one weekend to come and be encouraged without needing to deal with toddlers crying and fussing. I felt so sorry for the moms who had 3 young children with them who were unhappy. I’m definitely not of the mind set that my children go everywhere I go. I think it’s healthy to have some time as mothers to recharge for the new homeschooling year ahead.

If you have a young baby you need to bring, try to use a baby carrier instead of bringing a stroller. The aisles are normally crowded and it slows you down a lot. I love my Tula baby carrier!

2. Ditch the purse!

Bring a backpack to wear instead of a heavy purse. Or bring a cart to pull around that you can keep a small bag with just your essentials in, and then you can put all your new purchases there.

3. Bring a notebook.

If at all possible, attend the speaker sessions and write down thoughts! By the end of the weekend you will have ingested so much new information that your notes will be very helpful as a refresher when you get home.

Sean speaking on the Not Now Parenting talk for Character Badges 

4. Take pictures on your camera

I bring my phone along and snap all sorts of pictures of books throughout the weekend. While I wish I could buy every single book I wanted, we all obviously have budgets and limitations! I take pictures of books that I think I might be able to get at the library, or if it’s an item I want to research more. Instead of taking the time to write the title down, I just snap a quick picture.

5. Bring along sticker labels with your name and address.

There are so many giveaways at homeschool conferences! I know I gave away a $50 gift certificate to Deborah & Co. at our booth and had lots of ladies enter! It’s so smart to print off sticker labels with your name, address, email address and maybe your phone number on there. Then you can just peel it off and quickly enter!

Our Deborah & Co. booth!

6. Take a look at the whole map and plan out your day.

Figure out where you want to start in the vendor hall and have a plan. You are going to miss booths unless you start at one end and go clear through to the other end. Our booths were at the left hand side of the wall and we had people come up at the very end of convention saying they had just gotten over to our side! Make sure you at least quickly walk through the whole convention hall so you can discover new businesses! I found a new geography program that looked interesting because I quickly walked through the aisles and it caught my eye.

If you don’t have a conference near you, or childcare just isn’t available to you this year, make sure you still fill your tank. We put together an online homeschool conference last year and there are some amazing messages still available for you to listen to!

You still can receive access to all 12 sessions and receive the free homeschool planner! We had a physical copy printed out of the homeschool planner at the convention we just attended and everyone loved it that came by and looked.

I hope these tips helped and that you receive some fresh encouragement this spring!

 

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