Last week we had house guests. Dear friends that we were glad to have, but a week off wasn't on the "schedule." I did what I could to stack the first week so we didn't miss much by taking most of Thursday and Friday off. The next week (Monday-Thursday) wasn't as simple.

We had a great time with our friends. Did some kayaking, fishing, camping . . . and while we were sad to see them go . . . I felt . . . behind. 

I schedule some things in the summer so our schedule (with the goal of being done before convention in May) is set before we begin. I do fill in things like which math pages we do on a daily basis, but the weeks and some subjects are set in advance. While I love the bump feature on Scholaric, too much bumping means school in the summer. No Bueno. 

So, I was slightly stressed. I didn't want to bump it all, but while E can handle some doubling up, her daily school work is already hefty. C on the other hand . . . well, doubling anything is just not happening. 

So, making myself feel better I am not bumping everything, and slowly doing what we can to "catch up" without passing my stress onto the kids. 

Breathe and carry on. Well, then as our friends leave on Thursday, and I am reminded that we had a zoo field trip planned for that Friday. Sheesh. I can't catch a break. I was sooooo tempted to cancel the field trip. I mean, we were BEHIND!!!!

And then I can hear my kids little voices are we behind? and I am reminded of how hard I worked to convince them that as long as we were diligent, we couldn't be behind. We set the pace -- it's the beauty of homeschooling. 

So, we went to the zoo. And I am so very glad we did. We all had a great time, and really needed that time to reconnect as a family after a crazy busy week. The kids learned so much as well, and I was reminded about lifeschooling! How sad it would have been for me to have stayed home to learn grammar and writing and read about science from an encyclopedia when they were able to learn the difference between apes and monkeys, learn about all kinds of animals, their habitats and behaviors, and be reminded of topics like carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. 

We left the zoo and instead of rushing home to get some "school work" completed, I decided to take the kids out to lunch just us and debrief from our zoo trip. The kids told me all about what they had seen, learned, and experienced. We were able to categorize the animals we saw, discuss, and share with one another. It was a great time, and I was reminded how important real life learning is. How tragic it would have been for me to give up this opportunity by prioritizing "school work" about learning.

Embrace learning. 
Remember it doesn't usually look the way we think it should. 

There are some families that always knew they would homeschool, and they have years to prepare...and then you have everyone else -- who finds themselves homeschooling for a myriad of reasons, and yet not an idea of what to do.

So you have pulled your kids out of school. Now what?

First, let's talk about what NOT to do. 

DON'T buy a ton of expensive curriculum.

So often new homeschoolers spend a ton of money on a mountain of shiny new curricula that never gets used. The day they come home from school is not the time to start all that fancy new stuff anyway, so take your time deciding, and buy slowly! Less is definitely more.

DON'T assume you need a box, correspondence, or a virtual school to be successful.

The highest rate of homeschool burnout comes from those families that think they must do the box, or the virtual school. These options do work for some families, and that's great, but don't assume  you are one just because you feel overwhelmed. Decide why you are homeschooling, and what you want, and find something that meets your needs. Trying to fit your family into a box it wasn't made for can be frustrating. There is nothing like a family looking forward to the flexibilty of homeschooling only to find themselves tied down to a virtual school calendar that has little to no flexibility.

DON'T panic. 
You are going to be ok. Many people have done this very thing, and they all felt the exact same way -- excited, nervous, and often inadequate. Be excited...don't panic. Transitioning to homeschooling can be intimidating, but it doesn't need to be paralyzing. There are great resources out there, but the moment those resources cause you to question and doubt...turn off the computer. 

So now that we have established what NOT to do...what SHOULD we do?

DO spend some time de-schooling. 

Don't go in thinking homeschooling will look just like your child's school classroom. It won't. It shouldn't. Homeschooling is new, and especially if you pulled your kids out of brick and  mortar school, they will need to be de-institutionalized in the area of education. Spend some time on the couch reading books, finding and researching areas of interests. Classrooms have a tendency to kill the joy of learning...try to get it back if that's the case. Read, research, read some more, cuddle on the couch, go to the library, talk, get to know your kids, read aloud as a family, let your kids get to know each other more deeply. Get them thinking that learning can be fun...that it's an experience -- not a task to be checked off. 

DO build relationships with your children

If they have been in school outside of the home, chances are your time and interaction with them will now be completely different. You need to get to know them in a different way, and they you. Take time to talk...take time to listen. Show you care about THEM, not just their education. 

DO learn about their learning styles and your teaching styles. 

Remember all that expensive curriculum you didn't buy? Get to know your kids learning styles. Research curriculum that will match their needs. And yes, your teaching style is important. You need to like it or you won't do it. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed. It CAN be overwhelming. Take your time! 

Homeschooling is an exciting adventure, but it can be overwhelming. Remember, it's a marathon not a sprint. Relax, and enjoy the journey! 

Don't forget to check out what the other Homeschool Help Series is 
blogging about their top 3 suggestions for someone who pulled 
a child out of school mid year.

Bernadette -- Switching Midstream

Transitioning to Homeschooling

by on 6:00 AM
There are some families that always knew they would homeschool, and they have years to prepare...and then you have everyone else -- who find...
Years ago when my husband and I were at a missions training center, we talked a lot about conflict styles. I came to an interesting realization during that time-- I interact one way with those closest to me and completely differently with others. I was surprised by that realization, but simply accepted it.

Years later, I am pondering that fact more, and finally . . . unaccepting of it.

Just a little over a year ago I had a heart to heart with my husband and he opened up in a way, truthfully, I had never allowed before. I loved my husband, respected him, and adored him, but I didn't show that love and respect in the way I talked to him. After he opened up to me about how he felt, what I would have considered a good marriage took a major turn, and became amazing. The last year has taken us on a major road of me learning how to truly submit to my husband, and respect him in ways I had never before -- particularly in the way I spoke to him.

Why is it that those closest to us often bear the brunt of our worst behavior? I just accepted that fact as normal for too long. Last year began my journey to change that fact. It started with my husband, and well, honestly, that was the easy part. He is a great man, respects and loves me, and doesn't constantly do things to frustrate me.

However, there are these little people who live with me that I adore, love, and cherish, but who constantly do things to annoy and frustrate me. I mean, there is only so much squealing and whining I can handle before I snap, right? And how many times can I tell one to put his or her shoes on before I yell get your shoes on NOW! Showing them respect is a little more difficult...but no less important. Because, well, when I am honest, screaming STOP SCREAMING! is just not very effective.

I grew up in a home that treated those closest to them horribly-- we completely let our guard down with one another, and never even tried to cherish one another with words. In result, I grew up to do the same in my family. No more. I realize how hurtful the lack of grace in my words was affecting my relationship with my kids.

Our children mirror our relationships with them in their relationships with others. Scary thought, eh? It was for me. I am working on seasoning my speech with grace and respect-- respecting my children in the same way I respect others. Why would they deserve less respect than the cashier at the grocery store?  The Bible calls us to respect one another-- our children are part of that "one another." It may be challenging, and I may will fail often (I seriously have failed at least twice while typing this blog post)...but I am working at modelling respectful interpersonal relationships starting at home with the most precious people in my life -- well, I'll die trying anyway...

Respecting Our Children

by on 9:38 PM
Years ago when my husband and I were at a missions training center, we talked a lot about conflict styles. I came to an interesting realizat...
The best way for a child to learn a language is through immersion. Wonderful, but we don't all have that ability or live in a foreign country, so what now? Well, see that's the problem in our home. We DO have the ability, and yet we just haven't done a good job of it.

When my oldest was born, we did a great job. So great that by age two her Spanish was better than her English, and that left her English speaking grandparents a little perturbed. When E was born we implemented the Spanish in the morning, English in the afternoon and evening approach. It was great.

At 12 months when we moved to Ecuador for a a stint, her transition was easy-- she was already completely bilingual. Well, with a Spanish speaking nanny in the mornings and spending the afternoons with us at a children's home-- speaking Spanish-- she only got English from dinner on. After a year when we returned to the States, we realized that she understood significantly more Spanish that English and only spoke a few words like ma-ma, da-da, and agua. We completely overcompensated. We began to speak English only to get her acclimated and now six years later, it is one of my biggest regrets with all of our kids.

Often I think about how to "fix" it. Take a summer and only speak Spanish? Spanish only in the afternoons? 2-3 hour daily time blocks? I have contemplated it often, but unfortunately not done much to ensure fluency in my kids.

While I have regrets about this, and while I have yet to buckle down and work towards bilingual status with them, we have taken a fun basic immersion style approach to Spanish that is doing a great job of introducing the language and allowing the kids to have fun with it.

We started last year using a spine of the First Thousand Words in Spanish, and while we haven't been as diligent as I would like with it, they are learning and we are progressing slowly. Last year we participated in a Spanish immersion co-op that was so much fun, and I will probably do that again sometime in the future!

I began creating a curriculum for our Spanish studies, but we have camped out in the first few units, going a lot slower than I intended. I will get around to finishing some day!

Here is a glimpse into our approach.

1. Basic Immersion

The best way for children to learn language is to be immersed in it, even if you only speak a little of a language, you can use what you know to immerse your child. Choose a theme or set of vocabulary and replace those words for they English words in every day speech. We base vocabulary off of the Usborne's First Thousand Words book. Each two page spread covers a different theme or room of the house. We take each room for a few weeks or even a month or more, and replace the Spanish vocabulary for the English words. For example, if your theme is "The Kitchen" you might ask your child to get a cup of agua from la cocina. As you add vocabulary, try to hold on to as much as the older words as you can. It can be a lot of fun, and kids learn so much this way!

2. Immersion Games

My kids love games! And I know they are not alone. Simple games like Pictionary, BINGO, charades, or memory make great practice for foreign language. My kids loving playing basic card games and UNO completely in Spanish. How Tall Am I? Is a great one to practice clothing vocabulary. Or "Spot it" has all kinds of great vocabulary to play with!

It only requires a few sentences of the foreign language to set the stage for the game, and then whatever vocabulary you are working on. Write out those sentences for your older kids to have a "cheat sheet" and just play often!

My children learned the parts of the body by playing "Simon Dice" (Simon Says). "I Spy with my little eye" becomes "Yo veo con mi ojito." Often while driving down the road my kids will start playing I Spanish. It's a great way to learn and practice the color words! Go Fish cards can be made for any vocabulary from numbers or colors to members of the family. UNO works great for practicing colors and numbers. Just be sure as the parent/teacher you are engaged and interacting with them requiring them to use the language. There are so many ways to engage children with foreign language, the important part is remembering, they are learning when they are having fun!

3. Music

My kids will learn anything if you put it to a song. Last year I found the Sara Jordan Bilingual Songs and my kids were hooked! I am amazed at how much vocabulary they have learned from these! We tie in what we are learning from the First Thousand Words book and often listen to the CD in the car and play games using the vocabulary at home.

Don't forget to check out what the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers have to say about Foreign Language!

Fun with Foreign Language

by on 6:00 AM
The best way for a child to learn a language is through immersion. Wonderful, but we don't all have that ability or live in a foreign co...
It's kind of a joke around our house, when my husband is asked about his role in homeschooling, he always responds jokingly: I fund it. The deeper more truthful response is my husband plays a great role in homeschooling, it's just more of the silent, behind the scenes role. It is vital nonetheless.

With a busy work schedule, we don't co-teach and as much as I would love him to take over something like science or math, that isn't realistic for us. Although he doesn't take a direct teaching role, his role is crucial.  He also does play the educator role in areas outside of the confines of our "school day." So, I ventured out and asked my husband, what do you see as your role in our homeschool? A few of the behind the scenes jobs my husband recognized as his are:

It may be a joke, but it's true nonetheless! I am well aware that you can homeschool for free or cheap, but the truth is, we don't. Our curriculum is expensive. I am a book addict and am working diligently to make my children suffer the same fate-- generational addictions, right???  We enjoy children's museums, zoos, aquariums, and real life opportunities to learn. It adds up, and my husband is amazingly supportive.

--Emotional Support
Homeschooling was his idea. Yes, I bought in quickly and we both believe that we are called to this, but ultimately I could not ask him to be more supportive of this endeavor. From being the major support and encourager of homeschooling in our family, to being the ear on the other side of the phone as I occasionally cry and whine about my rough morning or how one of the kids forgot how to read or add. He is my rock, and we couldn't do this without his support.

--Tech Support
This is no joke. In our home, we adhere to the serious stereotypes of the techy guy and the tech needy girl. I'm not tech clueless, but when I wanted to stream our science CD from the laptop to the TV wirelessly it was just way easier to ask him to set it up for us!

--Camping/outdoor coordinator (ie. nature studies)
My husband is from the country...grew up on a cattle farm. We live in a subdivision in the city. Yeah, it doesn't take much deduction to understand that my country boy goes through withdrawal often and drags his family camping. (ok ok, he only drags me . . . the children run happily along!) He takes them fishing, kayaking, hiking, and teaches them about all the many things this city girl just falls short of.

--Shop instructor
He's the project man. The kids are well informed of the many tools in the garage and how to use them. This fills a real need as these are real life needs.

--Requisitor of supplies
I always do all of my planning in the summer-- not necessarily which math pages we will do each day, but I do all my printing, filing, and organizing in the summer. This helps assure those great ideas actually get done. My husband takes that grandiose list and buys all the supplies. Many in the summer, many whenever I send an SOS text about that plaster we need tomorrow! This is a great help.

A few I would add...

--Domestic Support:
OK, so maybe no guy wants to have the title of domestic support, but goodness, I couldn't keep up without his help! I rarely fold laundry. I hardly ever mop or vacuum. I never change sheets. So maybe this isn't directly related to "homeschooling," but he does these things so I can do what I do-- teach the kids.

--Breakfast Chef
Almost every day my amazing husband gets the kids breakfast. It may seem small, but it is huge for me! He often works late and dinner is often without him, so having one meal of the day not on me is a huge help. It also allows me a little extra time in the morning for important tasks like sleeping and morning devotions.

So basically, yes. He is our silent philanthropist-- offering his unwavering support of homeschooling, and doing all he can to support us in this amazing but often chaotic adventure. We are so grateful for his role in our homeschool.

The dad's role is different in every house. Check out the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers as they share the role of homeschool dad at their house!

Many homeschoolers have felt frustration, fear, and anxiety over the subject of writing. More than any other subject, I hear homeschool moms bemoan their ability to teach this subject.

Beyond just the fear of teaching writing, we have the added pressure of comparisons to the public school writing demands. Paragraphs in kindergarten? Three paragraph essays in third? Yeah, that's not happening for most of us and then we panic. Are we failing our kids? Should we be doing more?

We push, our kids push back, and everyone is miserable. This happens all too often. Why does the simple thought of teaching writing catapult us parents into panic? And why does something as simple as a writing prompt have the ability to reduce our children to tears?

Now, my kids are little, so I will simply address our experience with our young writers. There are a few concepts we need to evaluate that may put our hearts and minds at ease.


Are our expectations reasonable? Have we built a foundation for what we are requiring? Many public school classrooms focus greatly on increased output, but have you looked at said output? Often it is riddled with non sentences, lack of punctuation and capitalization, and lack of coherence. Just because they put a "paragraph" on paper doesn't mean it was a "good" paragraph. We need to adjust our expectations. I love the concepts of classical writing because it focuses on allowing children who are just learning the mechanics of writing-- handwriting, basic grammar, and spelling, to narrate and do copywork, focusing on the mechanics without the extra struggle of original thought.

We need to meet our children where they are with writing, not where they "should" be. Writing is a skill and must be developed. A solid foundation of mechanics sets the stage for good writing.

Fear of failure

It is amazing how the fear of failure paralyses a child. I know that my oldest the perfectionist often freezes up at even the thought of getting something wrong-- which really can make writing difficult. She is a natural writer, and loves to write, but when writing for "school" she can often get overly concerned with spelling that she loses the natural flow of what she is writing. Brave Writer Free Writes are great for this. While I am setting the foundation of mechanics, she has moved onto more than just copywork, narration, and dictation. During Free Writes, she can completely forget about spelling and just "write." This allows the thought processes to flow, and her to spend more time developing her voice as a writer. Free Writes can also lift the fear of failure because there are NO expectations for a free write except that she "write."

Developmental Process

I wrote a little about this here, discussing the concept of partnership writing/partnership learning. Writing is a skill, like many things, that must be developed. We often have no problem helping with math or grammar or reading, but if we help with writing all of a sudden it is no longer their work but ours. This simply isn't true. Writing must be looked at as a developmental process.

I think the five principles from last week's post: "When Math Brings Tears" can help here as well.

1. Assess the situation  (Is it the curriculum? Is it how we are using the curriculum?)

2. Slow Down (sometimes changing curriculum is not the key, but taking a different or slower approach)

3. Build Confidence

4.Make it fun

5. Never sacrifice the relationships

There are so many great curricula out there, it can make it difficult to choose...but it's not about the curriculum. It is about teaching a skill to your child, and spending years developing it! 

A few favorites for writing in our homeschool are Writing with Ease and Brave Writer. 

Don't forget to check out how the other Homeschool Help Series 
bloggers answer the question: "Help! My Child Hates Writing!"

When Writing Brings Tears...

by on 6:00 AM
Many homeschoolers have felt frustration, fear, and anxiety over the subject of writing. More than any other subject, I hear homeschool moms...
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