Yesterday was a bit frustrating for our oldest. He had a couple of quizzes, and one of them was the sort that required psychic ability in order to answer some the questions. The interpretation of truth was a bit subjective, and if answers were not given according to the thinking of the assessment writer, well, they were wrong. It reminded me of this humorous portion of an “I Love Lucy” episode:
Mr. Mooney: I’ve been trying to find Mr. Burns’ file. It is not under the B’s.
Lucy: Oh, I must have put it under the X’s.
Mr. Mooney: Why would you put the B file under the X’s?
Lucy: That poor little file never has anything in it!
Mr. Mooney: Well, where is it??
Lucy: Well, wait a minute. Oh, I bet I know what I did…you see, Mr. Burns, I always have trouble remembering names, so I took a course in word association. Now, “burns” reminds me of fire.
Mr. Mooney: So you filed it under the F’s?
Lucy: No. “Fire” reminds me of “stove”.
George Burns: So you put my file under the S’s?
Lucy: No…”stove” reminds me of pot roast.
Burns (to Mr. Mooney): It’s your turn.
Mr. Mooney: You filed it under the P’s?
Lucy: No, pot roast reminds me of noodles.
Mr. Mooney: Mrs. Carmichael…you’re making me angry…
Burns: She’s making me hungry!
Lucy: And noodles reminds me of my mother!
Mr. Mooney (to Burns): Your turn.
Burns: “Noodles” reminds you of your mother?
Lucy: Yeah, she made the best noodles! And I’ll be that’s where I put your file.
Burns: Under “noodles”.
Lucy: No, under “gravy”.
This is one of the reasons I love having a front row seat for educating our kids. I was able to come in the back door on that quiz, see the way some the questions were phrased rather ambiguously, and make a judgement call.
Yes, I have eliminated quiz questions. Sometimes I’ve tossed out entire assessments because there was a better way to see if my child had assimilated knowledge. I don’t think questions which ask for ridiculously detailed information are necessarily profitable. What was the name of a certain prominent person’s second cousin’s husband’s pet? Nope.
I also know our kids, and I have watched them shaping into who God intends for them to be. Because of that, I can decide if certain questions, projects, even subjects should carry more weight with regard to time and focus. Yes, we fulfill what the state requirements mandate; but we do it our own way, and reasonably. 😉
Some material is simply twaddle. I really dislike busy work immensely. Things which occupy time, but don’t serve to build or teach much of anything (except perhaps patience) are subject to educational extinction in our house.
Today, I punted a quiz. I saw my child struggling to decipher it, and making several attempts to answer the way the program wanted him to answer. He kept his cool. He did not get angry and storm off. He did not declare he hated the subject, hated the program, or hated school. He handled the whole thing maturely. So we went question by question verbally, and I tweaked the phrasing so he could comprehend more fully what he was being asked. His understanding was more complete after that than it would have been if he had guessed his way through, absently clicking buttons. He passed just fine, mom style. I commended him for his attitude and perseverance. I told him that was of more value than A’s to me.
I’ve been mingling in homeschooling circles for quite some time. I’ve found that homeschoolers can be among the most opinionated and adamant people on the face of the planet. It’s true. The same resolve that helps us remain committed to our cause can make us prickly and caustic when considering the choices of others. And it can get very ugly. I want to say a word about that.
We love the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Right now, we still have the freedom to choose how we’d like to educate our children. What we seem forget is that the same freedom which allows one person to homeschool (in whatever style they like, as long as it meets state laws ), also gives another person the freedom to choose the public school, or a private school, or a charter school for their child. That should be a unifying idea. But it’s often not. Because we like to think we are right, and if we are right, then it only follows that we are right about everyone else’s kids as well. Like it or not, that can happen.
I’m enthusiastic about homeschooling…most days. 😉 I’ve changed our approach and methodology several times. Switched up our curriculum more times than I can count, because the “sweet spot” keeps changing as our kids change and grow. I’ve considered the public school option a few times (I’m pleased to say our current location has a very small, conservative school with a low teacher/student ratio that is ideal if pursuing this option), but God keeps calling my heart home. My heart. It’s what’s right for us right now.
Here are the facts:
You are the parent of your child.
You know your child best.
You know what your home life, schedule, financial situation looks like, to make an informed decision.
You know what type of environment will help them thrive.
You know where your kids are at spiritually, and what will best help them to grow. I’ve seen some kids positively bloom in a public school experience, while for others it was disastrous.
You know whether you would thrive as a full-time home educator. Many simply don’t. And that’s okay!
You know what type of approach is going to best match their learning style.
You are prayerfully responsible for this decision. No one else.
At Schoolin’ Swag, we have parents who have chosen homeschooling as the option for all of their children. We have others who have some at home, and some in a brick and mortar school. We have still others whose children are all being schooled outside the home, and the parents wish to have resources to be actively involved in extending the educational process into their home environment, or need resources to support the academic approach they’ve selected. For instance, asking in the group for ideas for a science fair project that isn’t yet-another-baking-soda-and-vinegar-volcano. 😉
We welcome all of the above. We do not tolerate criticism of any approach. We are not “my way or the highway”. Some don’t like that, and they leave to find a more targeted group for support. Squabbling doesn’t help the cause of education. We are all in this together, in the best interests of our children, helping them to love learning.
I have friends all across the globe, successfully educating their kids using all of the paths mentioned above. I love and celebrate them all. This mom thing is hard, and tiring, and sometimes worrisome. We really should be supporting each other. We can all get a bit “barracuda” if we choose to, whether the issue is schooling, breast feeding, vaccinations, teaching cursive, having sleepovers, consuming red dye and high fructose corn syrup…the list goes on and on and on.
I think the defensiveness comes from not having our own personal mission statement formulated. Do we know why we are doing what we’re doing? What is the basis of our choices? We have to be well grounded in the whys. This will help us. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, livepeaceably with all men.” (Rom 12:18)
Homeschooling is a uniquely different-looking journey for each family. Each child is diverse in strengths, weaknesses, talents, interests, aptitudes and perhaps disabilities. So even within one family, there really is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Susie may have flourished using Sonlight curriculum while her younger brother withered on the vine with a literature-based approach. Truly, to buy one set of curriculum and expect to use it easily and seamlessly as a hand-me-down with all the siblings isn’t very realistic. It will very possibly require tweakage from child to child at the very least. Learning styles vary, and you may even find that through the years your teaching style will change also.
So, if we have this much variance between siblings in a family, it’s a given that there will be differences from family to family. Each home has its own homeschooling approach (and it may even vary from child to child what that looks like). What works wonderfully for a friend and her kids may not at all work for you. Then again, it might! How do you know?
Evaluate your style.
This is one of the blessings of experimenting with the high quality, free materials we offer at Schoolin’ Swag. You can dabble in things which are structured for a Charlotte Mason style learner (or Montessori, Classical, Eclectic, Unschooling, or School At Home…) without losing much except a bit of time and perhaps some ink and computer paper. When you find a good fit, then you can move on the invest in some books and resources. Taking a learning style evaluation can also big a big help. And you should take it along with your children, because your learning style will effect your teaching style…and it may not mesh with how your kids learn. I’ve wasted a lot of time and money this way (sort of “winging it” and finding that my student wasn’t “catching what I was throwing”).
So beware of comparison. Remember each child is unique. Celebrate it by choosing methods and materials that can encourage him or her to blossom!
In our home, I have one student who does best with an eclectic approach and lots of one on one personal interaction, while our oldest seems to thrive with a video approach with my personal input only with language-oriented classwork (mainly because of a reading disability).
Here’s the thing. I’ve had to teach myself something important before I could educate our kids well. It’s this: Do what is expedient.
What do I mean? I mean that my concept of what school should be like is not the priority. When we first started, we had a school room with desks, a board, maps, all of that. I soon learned that just because it looked like the school setting I grew up in didn’t mean education was happening. Through the years things have morphed in all directions. The kids can do their schoolwork anywhere they prefer, as long as it is clear that they are in a setting that makes it possible to concentrate. The only exception is that our youngest needs to have a flat, hard surface (read: desk or table) to do her writing assignments, to make sure she is writing well and neatly.
Educate the most effective way possible.
Now, I’m going to be honest. I “feel” like I’m teaching when I am interacting with my students. Reading together, talking about ideas, surveying the work, monitoring behavior. Our youngest is great with that. It is what she prefers. It nurtures the learning process. Not so much for our oldest, who has grown to be more independent. I plan out his schedule and put it on Homeschool Planet, and he completes things, checks off the boxes (which I can see on the parent page), and submits any work I tell him I need to see. Because I’m a teacher by nature, and did it for years on the college level, I don’t feel like I’m “teaching” our son. I need to be okay with that. Whatever is expedient for him to learn. That is what matters, especially in these upper level courses.
So, I’m choosing curriculum for next year, and struggling. I’m pretty confirmed that I’ll be using the Genesis Curriculum with our rising 5th grader. And I’m reluctantly biting the bullet and allowing our son (who will be a junior) to use an online program (state standard aligned and self grading, with quizzes and tests built into the program…it also keeps records) for his core subjects–for this coming year, that would be American Lit, Geometry, Biology, Geography, and US History 1 (pre-1850). We’ll supplement when needed, with interactive activities, worksheets and experiments. I’m reminding myself that I’m not copping out in making this choice.
These are the best, most economical choices for us for the coming year. It is also best for me personally because I’ve seen the need to streamline things for my own health and sanity. I need to be resolved in this. I’ll tell you why.
Establish your choices for your children.
At Schoolin’ Swag, we have over 4,500 homeschooling families represented. Every type of homeschooling (and combinations with charter, private and public schooling as well) exists there, every teaching style, every learning style, every preference, disability, and level of giftedness. I’ve learned through the years that homeschoolers tend to be a very opinionated, dogmatic lot, so if you are easily persuaded you’ll soon find yourself in a Slough of Despond. If I am not praying about our choices and committed to them, as Administrator of the group, I will drive myself mad being exposed to all the possibilities I see every day. This awesome unit study, that really cute lap book, the article I post on successfully unschooling, the blog posts on why Charlotte Mason is best…why your child should read McGuffy…why or why not to teach cursive…and the list goes on. My life would be one constant “Squirrel!” moment! The same thing can happen at homeschool co-ops and conventions. Here is a link to a free 40-week printable curriculum planner (it’s even pretty!) that can help keep you sane and focused!
So, in the past few years since the Facebook group has been in existence, I’ve learned to choose for my family, and then put on a pair of blinders. Instead of comparing with what everyone else is doing in their homeschools, I have been learning to watch my kids. What helps them? What has been a total trainwreck? Do we need to back up again and review instead of pressing on? Should we bypass a section because it’s too simple for them? Is the curriculum causing them to feel defeated, or is it just laziness because they don’t want to do something which may be hard an uninteresting to them? I need to have a finger on their pulses. It’s a very proactive thing, regardless of whether they are being “taught by me” or just guided while using a digital curriculum.
I’ve created a free, 4-page “Monthly Debriefing” form (it’s pretty too!) for you to use for each child. There is a place to enter (edit in Word, or print out and write in by hand) your child’s name, the curricula you are using for each subject, what strengths and weaknesses you are observing that month, progress you’ve seen (boy HOWDY it helps to see THAT in print!), and goals for the coming month.
Pay attention. Don’t compare. Do what’s best for your kids right now. It might change next semester. You may take a completely different direction next year, as a child matures and grows intellectually. Totally okay. You only need to “measure up” to your state standards and then whatever helps your child succeed. That’s no cop-out.
I’m excited about our No Foolin’ Preschoolin’ Giveaway on April 1st at Schoolin’ Swag! We have some great companies and publishers already on board. Take a peek (click the live links to browse their sites and check out their donations!):
I’m looking forward to adding more to the list! These are great helps, to enhance the time you have to invest in your Pre-K student. Life is full of educational moments, whether it is simply investigating nature or developing gross and fine motor skills through play. SO much happens through play in our little ones. We shouldn’t underestimate its importance! This is not a time to become rigidly academic. This is time for exploration. What feels cold? What smells spicy? Which is big and which is small? What does my name look like? Where does the sun go at night? How many crackers are on this plate? How do plants grow? What color is the sky? How can I say hello to my Spanish speaking friend? Which musical instrument do I like the best? Oh, so much to learn!
Teaching a love for learning is of utmost importance at this age, and fun materials can be great tools to use in accomplishing this! Cultivating a love for reading for preschoolers often happens in mommy’s lap, so we hope to offer some lovely books for your snuggle time, too!
Having preschool materials on hand can be of great help to some parents who may need a little assistance in guiding their children developmentally. Sometimes we don’t know where to start…sometimes we have so many things going on in the home, we don’t know HOW to start! I hope this event is an encouragement to you!
Our “12 Hours of Christmas” and “Homeschool Homestretch” events are done. Many happy prize winners have already received their goodies, or have their noses pressed to their front door windows eagerly awaiting them! Now it’s time to focus on my home, family and our church festivities.
BUT I wanted to share what came in MY mail today! Santa’s brown elf (not to be confused with wood elves, LOTR fans) visited us today. I know we homeschoolers get a special thrill from receiving boxes of books, so I thought I’d post a pic so we can squeal together!
I’ll be reviewing these items here after the New Year. Some of my favorite things, and I get to test drive them for free!
This felt like “Merry Christmas to me” when I opened it!
We have a great event going on right now at Schoolin’ Swag!
Today I have not 1, not 2, but THREE copies of “The Topical Bible for Kids”! These are HARD copy volumes! I have had a chance to look through this resource, and I love it. Extremely user friendly, for both kids and parents. Addresses everyday issues important to children, like anger, contentment, disappointment, envy, friends, money, school, teasing, trust and much more! The winners can choose between KJV or NASB versions. She is hoping to have an ESV version available before Christmas as well.
**This is an exclusive offer… the book won’t be available for release/purchase until November 1st. For those who don’t win, the retail price is very reasonable… $9.99! I will have an Amazon link to post after November 1st.**
To enter the giveaway, you’ll need to comment once in the thread (go join here!). I’ll give this a couple days to be public, and then I will draw winners at 9am (Mountain Time) on 10/31, via Random.org.
What is available online these days for homeschoolers is SO much more than I had starting out. I remember feeling rather lost and overwhelmed, even with the few options that were offered at the time! Here are my suggestions for getting yourself off the launch pad:
Decide why you wish to homeschool. Write those reasons down and put them somewhere that is easily accessible. This will be your version of a “mission statement”. The days will come when you question yourself, and you need to have these for reference! Trust me on this.
Get yourself a supportive network. You need this. Of course, I’ll recommend my group, Schoolin’ Swag, on Facebook! You need a place to talk with veteran homeschoolers. A place where you will feel safe to ask any question, and voice your concerns.
Do a learning style evaluation for your child(ren). I wish I had done this at the start. It would have saved me some frustration and also some cash! Find out how your child learns best, so that the purchases you make will be investments and not wasted money. I also suggest that you do this evaluation for yourself, because your learning style affects your teaching style. You may very well have to think outside your own box to most effectively teach your kids.
Get shopping! 🙂 This is the fun part. I love free resources, because if I find along the way that something is not a good fit, I’ve not lost anything except a little time in trying it out. There is SO much available now online that is free and also good quality. I will be posting many items here as I have time. For now, scoot over to Schoolin’ Swag. Every day we post freebies and blog posts that are guaranteed to bless your socks off. We have many knowledgeable people there, including my three Admins, to help you sort things out. Click on the Files tab, because there are lots of wonderful things there…and you can also use the search option at upper right (use it just like Google) to look for topics of interest.
There you go! You are already off to a great start! Stay tuned for more great encouragement!
I learned about Bouncy Bands while researching for my upcoming Specialtember Giveaway Event at my homeschool group, Schoolin’ Swag. This event will target the special needs families among our 4,000+ members, providing prizes and discounts on some wonderful products and services which address everything from autism to dyslexia to ADHD. Here is the video that caught my attention:
In combing the internet for vendors whose products I wanted to feature for the event, I was drawn to the idea of the Bouncy Bands. I’ve seen firsthand in our own homeschooling experience how movement (the right kind) can actually enhance the learning experience for children.
Children who genuinely need movement in order to stimulate their brains, often opt for unacceptable choices to get out their energy. They make multitudes of trips to the rest room, feel the need to sharpen that pencil down to a nub, rock back on the back legs of their chairs (and we all know how well that goes), tap pencils, stomp feet, or simply go into a stupor from being sedentary, and the brain just says, “I quit!”
While I’m not a fan of having kids sit at desks for very long spans of time, there are indeed periods during our homeschool day when it is necessary. I especially want this to be able to happen successfully when we have any sort of handwriting or copywork to do…assignments which require a solid writing surface for quality performance.
In the past I’ve actually used an exercise ball during school. It helped get wiggles out while doing reading and drill work, but an exercise ball is not the most stable thing in the world, and things often got out of hand. Our school “room” is part of the master bedroom, and we repeatedly had problems with hitting furniture and rolling into things! Periodically, I would opt for “wiggle breaks” where, in between subjects, I’d have our young student get up and dance around to something like “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Trouble is, it was hard to get her to refocus after that. Same thing was true of the trampoline breaks, and the ride-your-bike-for-3-laps breaks, and the do-a-little-on-Wii-Fit breaks.
Enter Bouncy Bands.
I really like this option! The Bouncy Bands come in two different sizes, one for desks and the other for chairs. The installation on our school desk was an absolute snap. Less than a minute, and we were ready for action. They are also available in two colors, royal blue and yellow. Our student liked that she could choose. It made her feel like it was more “hers”.
The day I received our Bouncy Bands in the mail, we were not doing school. We were having a sick day because our little student had the flu. But that did not stop her from wanting to test drive this new product. She sat right down at her desk, and giggled with glee, flexing and bouncing!
I love that this product is completely quiet. You hear nothing at all as the student is able to move and wiggle while working. No more creative excuses for why she needs to get up…yet again. We got our little school desk from a yard sale at our local elementary school. She enjoyed the novelty of it for a day or two, and then quickly grew to hate sitting in it. It was so stiff and rigid. Her work suffered for it, too, as she tried to write on a clipboard while constantly shifting on the couch, or a chair, or a bed. I’m so grateful for this easy solution for us both!
“I think while you are doing your school, you can have exercise! It’s pretty cool! It’s really bouncy! I like to put out my extra energy while I am doing my work, and this is very fun! Little kids are so full of energy, and if they have these they can pay attention to their teachers. It’s a really cool idea. I think it’s very comfortable, and I like that you don’t just have to sit there and be still and stiff. Having fun while doing school is AWESOME!”
Another added benefit for us personally is how Bouncy Bands help with test anxiety. Have you noticed your student nervously tapping or twirling a pencil, tapping fingers, jiggling feet and other sorts of behavior? Now we have an outlet for that little bit of nervousness, and performance is improving! As a matter of fact 87% of students reported that Bouncy Bands help them feel calmer when they take a test (and 71% of teachers agreed). Click here to view statistics gathered in a recent 2015 Survey!
This has been a win-win in our home. Actually a win-win-win-win!
My little student sits better, concentrates better, performs better.
My stress level in constantly having to reel her in has decreased a great deal!
In addition to having a set of Bouncy Bands to enjoy in our own homeschooling, I was able to share the second set with a family I know will benefit from them.
I was also given a special 15% discount code to share in my homeschooling group, as soon as this post goes live! Come grab it!!
Thank you Scott Ertl of Bouncy Bands for being such a blessing to our family, for giving me the privilege to review your terrific product, and for passing that gift on to the terrific members of my group!
I highly recommend this product! Click here to go to the site and order. They come with a 100% money back guarantee! What do you have to lose…except the wiggles? 🙂
It is not the norm to be a SAHM (stay at home mom) anymore. June Cleaver is a thing of the past. The economy is such that many ladies feel the need to work to make ends meet. If you are one of those ladies, who has to work and then come home to juggle the rest, I congratulate you! We have more single moms than ever before. Just in those times I’ve had my husband out of town, I have felt the challenges…know that I’m in the stands rooting for you, too!! I am grateful I can do what I do. We do without a lot of stuff to make it happen, but I suspect when it’s all said and done, years from now none of us will care much.
Because what I do is uncommon, it is often misunderstood. SAHM’s are viewed as unambitious sometimes. Lazy, maybe. Living a luxurious lifestyle as we eat bonbons and watch soaps. That is not what my life looks like. Here is what my day looks like:
About 7am: Make bed. Do meds. Do exercises. Put tea on to brew. Grab my daily cup of “go juice” and try to scoot through my Bible study time (typically daily reading sent to me via email from ESV, also Valley of Vision, and The Quiet Place, before the youngest gets up (she’s an early riser). Maybe…hopefully… get dressed? No, I don’t wear my pearls to wash dishes or my Sunday shoes to stock the linen closet. I’m not June Cleaver. lol
8-9am: Grab some muffins and tea. Check if anyone needs help on my Facebook homeschooling group (I pop on throughout the day to keep my sanity–I am online for most of our main school stuff anyway– since that is usually the only adult conversation I have most days, my husband being gone working most of the time), and post the freebies and deals for the day. Open Cozi calendar and check what each child has scheduled for school. Open Time 4 Learning and check that yesterday’s progress was accomplished for the oldest two, and see if any papers need to be printed for today’s lessons. Open Easy Peasy and see if anything needs to be printed for the youngest, and/or gather supplies that are needed. Get Katie’s desk set up and papers laid out for the day.
9-10am: Get kids through chores (collectively, they take care of making their beds and keeping their rooms picked up, trash, cat box, bathroom, dishwasher and the oldest does her own laundry), fed, ready for school day. Do devotions with Katie and review her ABC memory verses thus far. Older kids get started on their school day.
10-12 noon: (not necessarily in this order): Guide Katie through all of her subjects, plus handwriting her signature in cursive and memory verse in printing. Throw laundry in. Clean up kitchen from breakfast. Help Michael along with any subjects in which he needs help. Discipleship (see Deut. 6:6,7). Throw laundry in dryer. Referee (our situation allows our kids to know each other pretty well…which is a blessing, and a curse. 😉 ). Answer the phone (my husband is a pastor, so the phone is very busy). Plan supper. Read with Katie and do review of phonics and sight word cards. Referee again. Throw more laundry in. Check on our oldest to see if she needs help (she keeps her own schedule, and must turn in things by 10pm). Sweep kitchen. Tidy, pick up, tidy some more (having everyone home 24/7 means your home is never officially “tidy”…lol).
Noon-3pm-ish: Lunch, PE (which can mean anything from going to the park, walking, biking, Wii Fit, trampoline, or even this), check spelling words, have the oldest demonstrate her weekly ASL skills, assign engineering project for middle kiddo, finish up any remaining school work. More discipleship. Check records in Time 4 Learning to be sure lessons are completed and check grades. Experiments and art projects. Try to remember the rest of the laundry! Select elective activities for each day’s lesson plans for next week (Basic Cooking, Biblical Counseling, American Sign Language, Engineering). Tidy some more. Make shopping list for Friday. Answer the phone some more. Referee some more. Sweep the floor again. lol
3-5pm: Check the homeschool group for needs. Fix supper. Plan and gather resources for tomorrow’s school day. Begin to plan the lesson for Jr. Church, decide the snack, print any necessary resources. Make mental notes for Sunday’s bulletin. Tidy…again. 😉
7-9ish: Relax with the family. Work on personal writing projects.
9-10: Bed time. Mentally go through the day, realize that although you felt busier than a one-armed paper hanger, you still didn’t get everything done…and once more there are crayons, shoes, toys, socks, scattered hither and yon. Tuck everyone in. This is when we have some of our most meaningful conversations.
10pm: Fall into bed, fairly used up, but grateful.
Lather, rinse, repeat. What does your day look like, SAHM? 🙂