Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Inside My Schoolroom

Pinterest moms, be forewarned!  I have had rooms like THAT, and this is not one of them!

Nor does it have to be!

For many of our homeschooling years, we have had dedicated school rooms.  I wish I had thought to take pictures of them, but way back then they were not set up to inspire my Pinterest friends, but just a space to house all of my curriculum and students! They were fun, and bright, and cheery and we loved them in that season.

But they were also visually over loading at times, took up space, and honestly, cost a lot of money.

And especially if you are teaching one student, or just for this season, they are not necessary!

Kids learn EVERYWHERE.

Including in your kitchen, bedroom, living room, back deck, or in the hammock in your yard!

And honestly, most kids like those spaces more than your Pinterest ready schoolrooms.  Really, they do!

So yes, I am in a brand new house with all kinds of space and THIS is my school room.

And this.

And this.

And this.

Basically my house- inside and out!

I do keep an area in our dining room hutch dedicated to teacher's manuals and "school supplies."  Ironically those are the same things I use as our office supplies.  I have been guilty of having about ten times that much, easily. but since beginning 34 Weeks of Clean years ago I have purged so much and realized I do not really need 400 pencils, gallons of paint and glitter, (what WAS I thinking) and stacks of notebooks.  In my quest to downsize and live simply, I have seen that our stress levels have gone down, our spending reduced, and believe it or not, we have not once not run out of supplies one time in the middle of our day.  

I house all of Colby's books currently in this oversized fabric bin from Target.

I have had that in the hutch as well, but he likes being able to just grab from the bin rather than going back and forth to the hutch so that is fine with me.  Easy peasy!

So some days we do math at the dining room table.  And sometimes we do Bible at the kitchen bar.  And sometimes we read science and history snuggled on the couch.

No matter where we are, we are learning!  And at the end of the day that is what counts!  Find what suits you and make it work.  No pressure, no stress!


Monday, July 27, 2020

Inside My Lesson Plans

How do I know what to teach?
How long should the day be?
What order do I do things in?
How does my child know what to do each day?

All valid questions!  And all pretty easy to answer, so let's jump right in!

You can and swill doubt find a TON of lesson planners out there.  There was a time when they were made specifically geared towards public school teachers, but somewhere along the way they became more open ended and homeschool friendly.  I have owned many different kinds and even used a few for a year, but honestly, I always find myself coming back to this year after year, this year included.

Yep!  A notebook. 

Seriously here's the deal.  Most curriculum comes with lesson plans, (that's how you know WHAT to teach) so you the teacher can know what to do on the next day.  And the next and the next.  Unless you are completely winging it on your own, most of the hard work is done for you.

The bigger dilemma is how to get that knowledge from you to your child.  AKA- the student.  I have been know to just use the curriculum lesson plans and make a check mark next to an assignment one it was done, but if you end up teaching multiple students multiple years, that's a lot of check marks and it gets messy! 

Not to mention some lesson plans are truly intended for a teacher and have far more information in them than your child needs and is likely to confuse or overwhelm them.

Hence, a notebook.

Each day, prior to your child sitting down for work you just list the subjects and write what they are responsible for getting done that day.  I usually write things out for a week in advance.  I have done more at one time, but sometimes life gets the best of you and you have to adjust and for me that is a lot of marking out things and re-writing things that is a waste of time.  I have learned not to get too far ahead of myself.

Each subject has a place for my child to check off once they are done. (That's how long your day should be.  All checked off- all done!)  I usually list things in the same order each day, but for the most part my child chooses what they want to do first, and so on. (Who cares what order as long as it is done!?  The exception for us would be if we ended each day in tears over the hardest subject they have been avoiding until the end.  Then I might insist we start with that subject for a while until we get our emotions under control.)  Theirs, not mine! ;)

For record purposes, I list all of the curriculum we are using in the front cover, and keep a list of all of the books we read that year in the back.  If a state ever wanted to see our "records" or attendance, I could pull it out quickly and they could easily see what we have done.

Just a side note- NO ONE has ever asked to see our records!  I have them in case, but honestly the school systems have enough on their plates usually to worry about what homeschoolers are doing.  I think through the years homeschoolers have proven their commitment to teaching and teaching well.

Anyway- the point being...if you love all things planners and fancy systems, by all means go grab one and get busy filling it in!  If it brings you joy then that is just one more way to make your day a good one.

BUT, do not feel pressured into filling in little boxes with colored pens if that is not you. 

The point of a planner is to keep a record of your day and let your student know what to do for each subject.  There is more that one way to skin a cat.   

A notebook is an easy way! ;)


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Making the First Day Special

So you have made the decision to homeschool.  You have weighed the costs, chosen curriculum and are ready for the first day. 


Let me share a secret with you.  Any first day is hard.  Whether it is the first day of work, the first day at traditional school, or the first day of homeschooling.

Nervous anticipation and unclear expectations, with a hint of excitement.  And that is just you- not the kids!  I know because I have done it about 23 times.

The BEST way I have learned to start the school year is with some kind of fun tradition.  It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but just something that says, yay us, this is going to be a fun adventure.  Remember, your kiddos are taking their cues from you- make them good ones!

Here are some ideas for you-

Have new school supplies and a few fun treats at your child's "desk" when they wake up.  We have tried to do this every year.  A few notebooks, pens and pencils, folders, stickers, even a new water bottle.  Some years I even added a few special snacks for the first week.  Especially when they were younger, they looked forward to getting up that first morning to see what was waiting for them.

Go out to breakfast.  I know several families that make a special first day breakfast, or pile their kids in the car to go out for breakfast.  What a fun way to start the day.

Buy new pajamas and school all day in them.  Hey, everyone thinks homeschoolers school in their jammies all day every day anyway, so might as well have some fun!

Take the day off.  Yep, you heard me!  Wave at the buses as they go by and surprise them by declaring it an off day!

Start with games.  Sure, they can be spelling or math games, but what kids doesn't like games?

Go on a field trip.  Many homeschoolers use Fridays as errand or field trip day.  But why not shake things up and visit your local zoo, park, or favorite business?

Take pictures of the first day.  I have to admit, I have NEVER done this and it is the one thing I wish I had done differently  Yes, they may fight you on holding that poster and posing, but they will enjoy looking back at them in years to come.

No matter how you choose to start the first day of school. I encourage you to have fun and make memories.  That is what your kids will remember once the equations and facts and figures all fade from their minds. 

School is important.
Families are more important. 


Monday, July 20, 2020

Can You Thank Me?

I am reading an amazing book called Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  It was recommended by a sweet friend and I have since texted several people a picture of it and said you need to get this book now!

So I am saying, all my friends- you need to get this book right now!

We find ourselves in a crazy time in history.  No doubt, Corona Virus is not as life-altering as some of th- things our ancestors have gone through, but for sure it is life altering in many ways.  Life as we know it is different.

Grocery shopping takes more thought and effort.
Prioritizing errands and "essential" activities takes more time.
Schools are adjusting or canceling classes.
If you wear a mask people think you are silly.
If you don't wear a mask people think you are selfish.
Opinions on how you can get the virus change everyday.
Businesses are closing their doors.
Hospitals are maxed out and so are healthcare workers.
Depression and suicides are on the rise.
Some everyday grocery and health items are hard to find.
Travel is limited and vacations are cancelled.

There doesn't seem to be much to smile and be grateful for.


Early on I saw a meme that said something to the effect of "when things get back to normal, let it be a better normal."


One of the things DeMoss reiterates in her book is that it is much easier to be grateful when things are all good or going our way.

The challenge is to be grateful when things are not going our way.  When things are hard.  When we don't understand.

Anyone else there?

The Word says to " thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ' (Eph. 5:20)


When we are grateful we feel compelled to say thank you!

God is saying "Can you thank me?"

Even when it is hard? Or hard to understand?  Even in fear?  Or sadness?  Or in the middle of a pandemic?

How can you thank the Lord today?  What are you grateful for?

For health.
Healthcare workers
Food on your table
A bed to sleep in
Delivery services and mailmen
A cool breeze
The sunrise and sunset
Teachers,Vets, Mechanics
Amazon ;)

I know my list could go on and on.  And it should!
My challenge to myself is to go to bed each night saying,

"What am I learning through this trial?"
"Yes, God, I can thank you!"

Join me and be blessed!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Planning for School

I know for many of you this is all new.  Each year you go out and buy a list of school supplies, wave goodbye as you put your child on the bus, and then wait for the bus at the end of the day to bring them back.  It has worked well for you and you and your kids have thrived.

But now this is this dumb virus wreaking havoc across the world.  And schools looks a little scarier to some.  I am sorry.

Whatever reason is bringing you to homeschooling, know that we are glad you are here.  And we are here to help you and cheer you on!  We pray you will find in time that it is not as scary as you thought, and maybe even decide that it is a blessing to your family, whether for a year or for forever.

We have been blessed by schooling our 4 kids (two college graduates, one beginning college, and one in 8th grade) for over 23 years.

I tell people all of the time, not every day is easy,
but every day is worth it!

You can do this!  Here's how...

Make the decision and don't look back!- Now is not the time to be wishy washy.  Set your mind to the task and make it happen.  Once you commit, you can let go of the stress of the decision and move forward.

Rally your kids and work together!- Kids look to us for cues on how they should feel.  Let them know this is an exciting adventure, and then make it one!  Together.

Figure out your child's learning style!- Are they hands on learners?  Do they love to read and figure out things on their own?  Do they love being taught by others, or want to snuggle on the couch with you and explore the subjects by reading all day?  Once you find out what makes your child's heart sing when it comes to learning you are ready to choose curriculum.

Register with your state- Or what ever is required where you live.  HSLDA is a good place to start to see what your state requires.  Their membership also provides you with legal protection should you ever need it.

Choose curriculum-  Yes, YOU!  Can you believe it?  YOU can choose what your child learns!  Crazy huh?  Yes, you need to find out what your state requires of homeschoolers, but then you can decide how you teach those subjects and many more.  Start with Math, Reading, Science and History and go from there.  The possibilities are endless and you never know when you will find something that excites the whole family.  Some of the fun things my kids have explored- aviation, geology, sign language, and architecture.

Some places to start looking-
Christian Book Distributors
Local homescholing groups online
Bob Jones
Easy Peasy
Schoolhouse Teachers
Bloggers- two of my favorites-
         My Joy Filled Life
         Ben and Me

Pick a start date and put it on the calendar - Many states require 180 days of learning.  Others want you to "complete" a curriculum.  Again, look at your local laws to make sure you are in compliance.  Then schedule your days on a calendar.  Here are just a few ways-
  • Monday- Thursday- Many people do this and hold Fridays for field trips, labs, or just errand day.
  • "School" schedule- This is your typical follow what the public schools are doing, holidays and all.  We elected to do this a few times when we had college kids so we could be on break when they were home for holidays.
  • Year round- Yes, learning does take place all of the time, but these learners really DO school all year, often taking larger chunks of time off for holidays or travel.
  • Sabbath school- Do school for 6 weeks and then take a week off.  This allows time to plan your next six week, travel, or just play for a week.
Schedule your day!  "Fail to plan, plan to fail"  Some people, me being one of them, love all things charts and lists.  Others are more free spirited and will go where the wind takes them.  Neither are right or wrong, they are just different.  One person's schedule may be hour by hour, while someone else's may be week by week.  Do what works for you!  Just know, one way or another- things must get done to learn!

Find a tribe, get involved and ask questions!- There have been years in which we have been quite active in co ops and various homeschool classes or groups.  There have been other years that we have existed pretty much on our own.  Each child and family has different needs and at different times.  That is ok.  But as newbie, I encourage you not to go this alone.  Especially if this is not necessarily your heart, but instead a way to get through this whole virus nonsense.  If survival is key- then survive well so you can look back on this year as a blessing, not a curse.

Remember in the end that no one knows your child like you do and no one loves your child like you do!  You can do this, they can do this and you just might find yourself enjoying it more than you thought!

Want to know what I recommend for each age?  I just blogged about it- Homeschooling Favorites for ALL Grades.


Monday, July 13, 2020

It Came Unbroken!

The master shower door, that is!

Shower door number three! 

When the box arrived I took one look at it and thought, well, we will be ordering a fourth.  It was beat up and had rips in it.  Even the delivery guy shook his head.  But praise the Lord, somehow it was in one piece. 

And yesterday Clarke spent a few hours getting it put in place.  Bye bye shower liner (that was intended to be a week fix, not a 7 week fix), hello glass doors!

Before- (though we had already removed the existing gold doors!)

Shower liner pushed to the back wall while Clarke put the frame in-

Finished product!

Needless to say, we love it and can't wait to try it out tomorrow once the caulking sets.

Now, if that front door would just show up! ;)


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Homeschool Favorites for ALL Grades

I often get asked what my favorite curriculum is for different ages.  I have to say that the list changes yearly, because let's face it, each year we are bound to find something new and improved- and yes, sometimes those things make it on my list.  There are also a handful of items that have graced my favorites list for YEARS!  After all, I have been homeschooling for over 23 years!

My two daughters have graduated from college, my oldest son starts this year and already has all but one of his general college courses completed, and our youngest beings 8th grade next month.  Point being- we have done all the grades multiple times! 

I know there are many out there that are new to homeschooling or still trying to decide if this is something you can do until the current COVID situation calms down.  I would love to give you a few words of wisdom from an OLD homeschooling mom...

YOU CAN DO THIS!  You are smart, and you are able!  And no one knows or loves your kids as much as you do.

NOT EVERY DAY IS EASY!  But every day is worth it.  You will build relationships with your kids and maybe even heal a few. 

YOU ARE NOT RUNNING A MINI VERSION OF SCHOOL!  Homeschooling and schooling at home are two different beasts.  If you are going this on your own, outside the school system, you get to call the shots.  Check out your state's legal requirements and then jump in!

IT DOES NOT TAKE ALL DAY!  Really, it doesn't.  It is dependent on how many kiddos you are teaching, their ages, your pace, and a million other details.  But you will not have the distraction of 20 other students, bath room breaks, fire drills, recess and so on!

DON'T MAKE IT COMPLICATED! If you are just trying to fill in for a year, there are many programs online as well as "all in one" programs to choose for.  They not only offer discounts for an entire level, but will have lesson plans that you can follow day to day.  Ones I would recommend you look at are-

When we began homeschooling, and for several years afterwards, we used "all in one" curriculum.  It was an easy way to get started and did not feel so intimidating.  Through the years I started finding other courses I loved and would add them to our program, sometimes doubling up subjects just to fit it all in.  After wearing myself and my kids out, I began to streamline and pick and choose with more deliberation.  Add in my years of reviewing homeschool curriculum, and I have been exposed to A LOT of programs.  I tell people often, ask me about it- I have probably used it.

That being said, yes, I do have my favorites and if I was starting all over tomorrow here is what I would use!   If I have reviewed a product in the past I have linked them to the review. Please note- I am NOT profiting off any of these products.  Just a mom sharing her experiences.

Kindergarten- Just have fun!  Really!  Learn letters, colors and explore nature!  If your kiddo love games. learn through games!  Let them help in the kitchen, talk about community helpers, read aloud daily, and snuggle a lot.  They are only young once- savor this time.  If they really want to read- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, is fun, short, and easy to use.  BOB Books are also good!  Saxon Math K is a great hands on math program and most kids find it fun to use at this level.

1st Grade-All About Reading and Reading Eggs (super fun online program your kids will LOVE!)
                  Saxon Math
                  Saxon Grammar and Writing or Here to Help Learning (online)
                  Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                  History- My Story 1 (Masterbooks)
                  READ- every book you can get your hands on!
2nd Grade- All About Reading
                    Saxon Math
                    Here to Help Learning (online)
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    History- My Story 2 (Masterbooks)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program
3rd Grade- All About Reading

                    Saxon Math
                    Hake Grammar and Writing or Here to Help Learning (online)
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    History- Elementary World History (Masterbooks)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

4th Grade- All About Reading
                    All About Spelling (very hands on) or Spelling Power (if your child is a strong speller)
                    Saxon Math AND Time Tables (simply the BEST way to learn multiplication I think!)
                    Hake Grammar and Writing or Here to Help Learning (online)
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    History- Our 50 States (Notgrass)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

5th Grade-  All About Spelling (very hands on) or Spelling Power (if your child is a strong speller)
                    Teaching Textbooks 5 (Math)
                    Hake Grammar and Writing
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    History- America the Beautiful (Notgrass)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

6th Grade - All About Spelling (very hands on) or Spelling Power (if your child is a strong speller)
                    Teaching Textbooks 6 (Math)
                    Hake Grammar and Writing
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    Memoria Press Geography I
                    History- From Adam to Us (Notgrass)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

7th Grade-  Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                    Teaching Textbooks 7 (Math)
                    Hake Grammar and Writing
                    Nancy Larson Science (non religious) or Exploring Creation Series
                    Memoria Press Geography II
                    History- Uncle Sam and You (Notgrass)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

8th Grade- Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                    Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 (Math)
                    Hake Grammar and Writing
                    Apologia General Science
                    Memoria Press Geography II
                    History- Sonlight (This is one of our favorite years that uses the A History of US series                           by  Joy Hakim)
                    READ- every book you can get your hands on! We use Sonlight's Literature Program

9th Grade- Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                    Teaching Textbooks Geometry (Math)
                    Apologia Biology or Friendly Biology
                    IEW writing
                    Foreign Language
                    US History- Sonlight or Notgrass
                    US Literature- Sonlight

10 Grade-  Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                    Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2 (Math)
                    Apologia Biology
                    IEW writing
                    Foreign Language
                    World History- Sonlight of Notgrass
                    World Literature (Sonlight)

11th Grade- Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                     Teaching Textbooks Chemistry (Math)
                     Apologia Biology
                     IEW writing
                     Government and Economics- Sonlight or Notgrass
                     British Literature

12th Grade- Wordly Wise Vocabulary
                     Math U See- Stewardship (this is a consumer math class that teaches some great                                 life skills!)
                     Apologia Physics (if your child is college bound in a science or math related field only!)
                     IEW writing

Our family also incorporates Bible into each year, either using what is provided by our Sonlight curriculum, or various programs we have found along the way. I will post on some of those next week so make sure to check back!

Keep in mind, this is what has worked for us and our MY favorites.  There are SO MANY great programs out there.  Figuring out what kind of learner your child is will help you when you start looking for curriculum.  NO child is the same and their educations should never look the same as well.  Find something that they love and fits them well, and you will be on your way to having a child who loves learning!

I pray you love teaching as well!

Got questions??  Ask away!