3 Reasons Homeschool Rocked This Week

One of the great things about homeschooling is having the freedom to make your own schedule. You don’t have to start when public schools do, but you can if you want. You can take breaks that work for you and your family and you can change it when needed. I love this about homeschool.

I decided that we were going to try more of a year-round schooling approach for our first year of homeschool. We started on July 15th, so we just finished up our 5th week of school. We have one more week of school to accomplish and then we’ll be enjoying our first break of the year! Our family will also be taking a vacation during this break and I am so excited.

We had a really great week of school this week, but even so, I am ready for a whole week of no school. 🙂

So what made this week such a success? A few things.


1. Group field trip.

At the advice of veteran homeschoolers, I joined our local homeschool association for the school year. Yes, there’s a small registration fee involved and if you continue to participate in the group after your first year, you’ll be required to volunteer some time with the group, but all of this is worth it.

Thankfully, it looks like our local group is fairly active and this week, we joined the elementary group for an end-of-summer bash at a local pool! The weather was great for swimming and I was really happy with the amount of people who showed up. I hope we continue to see such good attendance.

Not only did my son get to play with other kids his age, he was excited that everyone there homeschooled, too. He loved it. We definitely plan to join in on more events like this throughout the year.

2. Games, please.

I am really happy with most of our curriculum choices this year, but math and language arts are still “iffy.” The main issue we’ve had with the math curriculum so far is the repetition.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I see great value in repetition when learning new things, but this curriculum feels like too much repetition. Even I get bored with it, so imagine what it’s like for a 7-year old boy!

So this week, I hit Pinterest for some inspiration and I found great ideas that inspired me to create my own Bingo game. It wasn’t time consuming and was super easy to execute. I don’t currently have a home printer, though that’s something I plan to invest in soon, so I just quickly hand-drew a few Bingo cards and shred some paper to use as cover-ups. In the future I’ll make some pretty printed cards, but this worked just as well, but it’s certainly not fancy. Ha!

We made up a game using a few dice and practiced addition and subtraction. My son also got some good practice in being a good sport, since I kicked his booty 3 times in the game! Haha!

Our math for the day was great practice but it was also great fun. My son said it was the best math day, ever. I am definitely going to be incorporating more games in our weeks and not just in math.

3. Another field trip. Sort of.

I’ve mentioned before that we are using Sonlight curriculum this year. One of the things they do is give us a prayer focus each week. This week we were encouraged to pray for Buddhists.

I love how we have the freedom to really dive into topics in homeschool. We’re not restricted by a rigid schedule most days and we can go as deep as we want! Like, we studied a map to locate some of the countries where Buddhism is prominent, we Googled pictures of Buddhist monks, and we had a great discussion on how we can’t work out our own salvation because all of us need Jesus.

But even better, one day we were feeling a bit cooped up in the house and decided we could use a drive. I had an idea. So we loaded into the car and made a pit stop for a few slushies. While enjoying our drinks, we drove just a little ways to park across the street from a small Buddhist temple nearby. Yes, even our tiny piece of the South has one. We discussed the architecture, the statues outside, and so much more.

It wasn’t a long field trip and we didn’t even get out of the car, but it led to some fantastic discussions with my son and it was a perfect example of a great perk of homeschooling.

We didn’t need a permission slip and we didn’t even have to schedule it, we just went! And best of all (according to my kids, anyways), they didn’t even have to wear shoes. They tried to go sans pants, too, but I drew the line there, my Friends. Even homeschool needs a few rules. 🙂

Until next week, Friends.

Another Week of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

4 weeks! We’ve homeschooled 4 weeks already! And we’ve survived!! 🙂

This week, like all weeks, had its ups and downs. Let’s start with the not so great moments.

Hard Moment #1: Nostalgia.

The local public schools started back this week and my son had a moment of missing “the old life.” Ha! He talked about missing his friends and his old school, all completely understandable, even for a kid who was excited to leave public school. We had a good heart-to-heart, committed to hanging in there for this school year, and agreed to re-evaluate at the end of the year.

Our local county homeschool association is getting back in gear this month, and I really think that getting out and doing stuff with other homeschool kids is going to make a huge difference. We’re going on our first field trip with the group next week!

Hard Moment #2: Remembering to be flexible.

Remember when I talked about the importance of being flexible? You can read about that here Well, this week I’ve had to remind myself of my own advice.

We are using Sonlight for the majority of our curriculum this year and I LOVE it. I need to do a whole post on that topic alone, but we’ll save that for another day. One of the great things about Sonlight is they provide you with an Instructor’s Guide to show you what to cover every day. But even Sonlight stresses that the Instructor’s Guide should be used as just that: a guide. It shouldn’t have the final say; I should.

This week I have really tried to embrace that. I was noticing that Luke seemed to be feeling a bit overwhelmed with certain things. Part of my challenge has been to figure out what’s going on when he’s strugglinh. Is it that he’s feeling overwhelmed because it’s truly too much work, or is he not understanding it, OR is it actually a healthy amount of work and he’s just wanting to be lazy? Ha! My answers to those questions this week have been, “Yes.”

There were times when I had to have a come to Jesus meeting with him because he wasn’t putting forth effort, times when I skipped certain assignments or tweeked assignments because I felt it was too much busy work, and still other times when the Instructor’s Guide was ready to move on to another topic, but Luke needed a little extra practice.

Once again, that’s one of the best things about homeschool: Being able to really tailor your child’s education to fit their needs!

But despite the hard times, we also had some really great moments! We continued our study on sharks this week and thanks to Pinterest, I was able to combine two ideas into one.

Luke really enjoys when we do art-type things, even though my artistic abilities are practically non-existent. But I realize it’s really important, I think, for me to try and incorporate art things into our week each week.

This week we made sharks out of toilet paper rolls. Thank you, wifemomgeek.com for the cute idea! Luke really wanted to make a hammerhead shark so I left him in charge of that and honestly didn’t have high expectations for his idea to work (I know, I know!l, but boy did he prove me wrong! I was so impressed with what he came up with! We even let Eliana, Luke’s 2-year old sister, join in on the fun. She was perfectly content just painting with us.

Once our sharks were done, we used this neat idea from Kid Minds and did a science experiment to learn about why sharks don’t sink in the ocean. Luke had the best time with this and best of all, he learned while having fun. Always a win in my book!

And speaking of books, we finished up our first read-a-loud book this week. Sonlight is a literature-based curriculum, which means there’s a lot of reading, which we love.

The read-a-loud we’ve been reading this past month has been Charlotte’s Web. I decided that I would like to attempt to celebrate every time we finish a read-a-loud. This time we commemorated the accomplishment with “spider” burgers and Wilbur “pigs” playing in the “mud.”

Even though my spider burgers could probably earn a gold medal in a Pinterest fails competition, the kids loved it, and really, that’s all that I was shooting for. 🙂

Finding Beauty in the Frustrations of Homeschool

Third week in and it finally happened. Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. “What?” you ask.

Total homeschool frustration.

It took me by surprise, honestly, because the day started so well. Rather than start our homeschool day right away that morning, I started after lunch. The kids were getting along really well and playing legos together that morning, so I decided to let them play because moments like these can be few and far between sometimes, especially when there’s a 4.5 year age gap between the two. Plus, I had been wanting to play around with our schedule to see how that affected my son’s learning or if morning is the optimal time of day for him.

The kids played, I got some much-needed cleaning done, we ate lunch, and then we started school. That went really well, too, at first. We did our devotional and talked about our prayer focus for the week and my son asked such great questions. So great, in fact, that we spent an extra 20 minutes diving deeper into the topic at hand; a homeschool perk I’ve been looking forward to! It was great! “This is wonderful!” I thought.

And then the day went south.

My son had requested that we conquer math next, so we got to it. Up until this point, all the math we’ve done so far has been much of a review for my son. It’s actually something that was starting to concern me because he was getting bored covering material he already knew. “Maybe I should have gone with a different curriculum!” I worried.

But this day we finally started on a topic that my kiddo wasn’t familiar with. But while I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized this, my son had quite the opposite reaction. He became frustrated, not because he didn’t understand the material, but because he didn’t know how to do it yet! And when he had to do the handful of practice problems to solidify this new knowledge, he had to actually put forth some effort. And he didn’t like that. It was like pulling teeth for a while to get him to get it done. He cried. I nearly cried. And we both needed a break.

So, we took a drive. And on that drive we talked it out. Eventually I gained a better understanding of the issue. My son said, “I just want to be smart.” In his 7-year old brain, his idea of “smart” was that he should be able to look at something he’s never seen or done before and be able to solve it or complete it without being taught. We had a thorough discussion on how distorted that understanding of “smart” is and talked about teaching and learning. And after we both cooled off, we came back home and got back to work.

The homeschool day ended much later than usual and much later than I prefer, but we got through it. And while it was a really frustrating day, even the frustration held homeschool beauty, if you will. When we needed a breather, we were able to take it. Even better, we weren’t confined to take that breather within our four walls. Not only that, we had the chance to hash it out and talk about the problem for as long as we needed. We weren’t restricted by time or the needs of other students. It was annoying and I hope to have much more positive moments than frustrating moments, but it’s great to be able to work it out in such a way.


In other news, we had some fun this week, too. While I’m using official curriculum for most of our schooling, I’m doing my own thing for science this year. Mostly, I’m following my son’s interest in this subject. Currently, he’s wanted to study the ocean and the many animals that live there. And what better week to study sharks than during Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week!” We’ve watched some kid-friendly clips from there, but we also made shark cupcakes, because in this house, we’ll use anything as an excuse to make cupcakes!

I found the shark figures on clearance at Hobby Lobby the other week for about $2.50 so I snatched them up. Conveniently, the names of each kind of shark were listed on the bottom of each figure, so I made a rule for our cupcake feast: When we got a cupcake, we had to look up facts about the shark on that specific cupcake. My son loved it and I was happy because I got to eat cupcakes we had fun learning.

And so, as the old saying goes, “You win some, you lose some.” This week, we definitely experienced both, but shark cupcakes redeems any bad day. 🙂

Until next week, Friends!

Making School Fun: Using Nature Walks to Homeschool

This week, our little piece of North Carolina had a slight break in the oppressive heat and humidity. Instead of high 90s and heat indexes above 105 degrees, this week has been in the lower 80s, with one day even in the mid-70s! So what better time to try out our first nature walk as a homeschool lesson, than during our cold front this week! 🙂

My intentions were to pack a picnic lunch, head to a gem of a park we’re fortunate to have practically in our back yard, read our read-a-loud chapter from Charlotte’s Web while we ate in the shade on our blanket, and then head out for a walk on some of the trails. Cue the heavenly choir! One day we WILL achieve this, but it didn’t happen that way today, my friend. The baby had me up quite a bit last night and this mama got a slower start that intended this morning. So while my 7-year old did his math and Spanish work for the day, I managed to get me, the baby, and my nearly 3-year old ready, wash and fill bottles, pack the diaper bag, and pack “nature-walk” bags for the oldest two. Soon we headed out the door for “our adventure,” as my 7-year old referred to it all morning.

When we got to the park, I sprayed us down with bug spray and strapped my 6.5-month old into his baby carrier so I could “wear” him. Then, we made the wise decision (as every parent knows) to hit the bathrooms first before finally starting on our walk.

While I don’t think all of the following details are necessary for learning on a nature walk, my kiddos always enjoy when I make things like this feel a little more exciting. This was easy to do for the 7-year old. I gave him a bright clipboard equipped with a pencil and a scavenger hunt list of nature items to try and find while we walked. He loved this!

I also found my old digital camera the other day, so I gave it to my son to share with his sister and take pictures of things along the hike. He was so excited and so was I because I didn’t have to leave the fate of my phone’s camera in his hands! Win-win! And since my 2.5-year old is perfectly content as long as she gets to do what big brother does, I handed her the same materials, except instead of a bright blue clipboard, her list was attached to one sporting her favorite color: hot pink, of course.

We took a long walk among several of the park trails. My son has recently expressed an interest in photography, even saying he wants to be a nature photographer when he grows up, so he thoroughly enjoyed snapping shots of different things we saw throughout our 1.5-hour hike. It was also a great opportunity for me to teach him some about how to use a camera, like how zooming too close or moving while taking a photo makes the picture blurry. Even though his career choice is likely to change, maybe even being something different tomorrow, we took advantage of that interest today and made it a learning opportunity as well. Check out some of his photos below:

We saw several frogs, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, turtles, lots of leaves, poison oak, ants working together to carry off a large bug for lunch, birds, and because I’m trying really hard to not pass on my legit arachnaphobia to my kiddos, we even marveled at several spider webs along the way. Ok. Maybe “marveled” is a bit of a stretch for what I did. “Looked at a spider web without cringing” is probably a more accurate description of what I did, but it’s not nearly as poetic.

We had conversations about the rings of a tree trunk being used to determine a tree’s age, different times of year being the season for different animals to be born, and how nature is such a testament to The Great Creator. My son took lots of pictures, while his sister was perfectly content to pick up every rock she found beautiful, which was basically every rock she could see.

We worked up quite a thirst on our hike so we took advantage of the concession stands at the park afterwards. It was the perfect first homeschool hike for my crew and I’m so glad we decided to do it. I’m looking forward to our future hikes at other locations and have so many great things to try out soon! There are tons of great ways to make a nature walk not only fun but incredibly educational. Today was just the tip of the iceberg for our team and I’m looking forward to sharing more of these experiences on here in the near future.

What about you? Do you incorporate nature walks into your homeschool year? What are some of your favorite ways to do this?

5 Tips for Surviving Your First Week Ever of Homeschool

Well, we did it. My 7-year old son and I started our homeschool journey this past week and we survived it! Ha! I don’t know what’s brought you to my blog today. Maybe you’re getting ready to also start your first year of homeschool and you’re looking for advice. Or perhaps you’re a homeschool guru and you’re looking to see how badly this rookie messed up.

But whatever your reasons, I thought I’d post about our first week ever as a homeschool family right after we did it so that everything-the memories, the thoughts, the experiences, and the emotions-are fresh and raw. We’re only just beginning, but I’ve already learned so much and I’m here to share that with you in the hopes that if you’re starting this journey as well, you can be encouraged and motivated, and can learn from my mistakes.

1. Start slow.

When talking with friends and others who have experience homeschooling, many of them suggested a “soft start” to the school year. They suggested that rather than trying to do every school subject the first few days of school, that I start with one or two and gradually work our way up to the full schedule. I took this advice to heart and did try to start slow. The week before we officially started our year, we started working on Scripture memorization and Spanish lessons. But when our first homeschool week arrived, I added everything else. I think I justified doing this because my son was so excited to get started, but once he realized that not everything is totally fun in homeschool, I realized I should have started slower. Next year (hopefully), I will adhere to a much softer start and I’d strongly suggest you do, too.

2. Have realistic expectations.

Our first week was a pretty good week, I think, but it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Now I am a very idealistic individual. I’m a dreamer and I love that, but it can also get me in trouble when I have grand expectations of perfection. If I’m not careful, I’ll build up some upcoming event like a family vacation so high in my mind, imagining all the wonderful things we’re going to do and see, that when my 2-year old throws a tantrum mimicing an exorcism on our 1.5-hour “family bonding” hike up a mountain because I let her skip her nap that day, it can feel like a complete and utter failure. Because in my excessive planning to make this trip “The best family vacation ever!” I choose to avoid the realities of our situation, like the fact that 2-year olds need naps, even on vacation. I know this about myself, so I worked really hard when planning our homeschool year, to dream about all the potential, but to also go into this with realistic expectations by talking with homeschool veterans, researching, and reading blogs like this one.

So when my kiddo wasn’t enjoying absolutely everything about his first week of homeschool, because I’d prepared for this reality, the struggles didn’t devastate me or render me completely discouraged. Reality is going to look different for every family, but go into your homeschool year with the understanding of your individual realities so you’re emotionally better prepared when you hit a stumbling block.

3. Be understanding of your child’s emotions.

When we discussed the possibility of homeschooling with my son earlier this year, he was all for it. He hadn’t had any really bad experiences in the public school system and was actually doing quite well there. But he wasn’t super attached to his school experiences yet, and there were many components of homeschool that really attracted him to the idea. However, even change that we’re excited about is still change, and change is usually hard, especially for children.

My son spent Kindergarten and 1st grade in the public school system and he’s used to being in school til 3:30pm during the week. While I thought a 7-year old boy would be thrilled to be done with school by 12pm or 1pm every day, that’s actually been a struggle for my son. He hasn’t loved that like I thought he would because he says, “It’s different.” There have been several other things he’s found hard to adjust to as we’ve started our year and he even shed some tears about it this week.

My initial reaction was to be discouraged and frustrated with that, especially since I’m nervous about all this! But God really guided me through this this week and reminded me that my son is nervous, too. Even all the great perks of homeschool can feel uncomfortable for my kiddo because “it’s different” than what he’s used to.

So keeping this in mind, I made checking-in with my son a priority each day. I’d ask him how he was feeling about everything, what did he like about the day, what did he not like about the day, and even asked him for his suggestions on what we could do to make things better. I think my son, though he couldn’t necessarily communicate this verbally, really appreciated that I wasn’t mad at him for not liking everything about homeschool and that I wanted his input. Be understanding and it will make for a much better week.

4. Be flexible.

I tried my best to be diligent in preparing for the school year. I went through my chosen curriculum’s instructor guide, mapped out different things on my calendar each week, gathered all the material and supplies, and tried to get everything organized. I don’t regret that planning at all, but I also recognize that not everything is going to go as planned. The sooner we can accept that fact, the better our homeschool year (and just life in general!) will be.

Even this first week, I had to be flexible and willing to adjust things. For example, I had planned to follow my instructor guide for math this week, but once we got started, I realized my son already had a solid understanding of some of the concepts we were supposed to cover this week. Rather than bore him to tears by strictly sticking to what I had scheduled for math this week, I ended up skipping some of the lessons I had planned and covering something new instead. Similarly, we spent more time covering nouns and adjectives than I had planned for because I felt my son needed more practice.

One of the beauties of homeschool is being able to be this flexible and really tailor your child’s education. It’s one of the things I am most excited about with homeschool and I can’t stress its importance enough.

5. Celebrate the victories.

Our first week of homeschool may have had its share of struggles and hiccups, but it also had some great victories! Two of our biggest goals for the homeschool year are to 1) Focus on teaching my son the Bible and 2) Improve my son’s Spanish. I am so excited that through our focus this week, my son can now recite Colossians 3:23 by heart in both English AND Spanish. Not only that, but we were really able to talk about and understand what that verse really means when doing school work and chores. Also, my husband even noticed that my son’s Spanish pronunciation has improved sooo much in just this 1st week and it’s got me that much more excited about working on this goal!

Other victories might not seem as grand, but to me they were just as important, like being able to listen to Christian music while we worked on a school craft or squeezing in some one-on-one time with my son doing school work while his little brother and sister were still sleeping in the mornings. To me, these things are priceless and I am trying to be very intentional in cherishing every good moment.

No, our first week wasn’t perfect-far from it. But while we’re trying to learn from the mistakes and set-backs, I think it’s incredibly important to also bask in the good moments, no matter how small they may seem.