3 Reasons I’m Glad We’re Homeschooling Year-Round

Before I started homeschooling, I did A LOT of research on the topic. I learned that there are a ton of ways for people to homeschool their kids, which of course, is one of the beauties of the choice. For those who like to overanalyze everything (something I know everything nothing about 😜), it’s also one of the most overwhelming things about this choice.

One of the areas I researched was all about scheduling. I read about families following their local public schools’ calendar, families homeschooling 4-days a week versus 5, families homeschooling on the weekends, families doing their work in the mornings, others doing their work in the afternoons, etc, etc. I finally realized that I needed to make a decision about our family’s schedule.

I finally bit the bullet, and decided we were going to test out a modified, year-long school schedule. When you first hear “year-long school,” you might cringe at the thought; I know I did! But when I learned more about it, it sounded like a great idea that I wanted to try out.

It’s important to know your state’s homeschooling laws/regulations on all of this, so always check that out first before working out your schedule.

After I did this, I came up with a schedule that had us starting mid-July. We are averaging 6-weeks on, 1-week off, but of course there are exceptions to that. For example, there’s a time when we’ll only be doing school for about 2 weeks before we’ll be off again for an extended break around Christmas. There’s another time when we’ll actually school for 7 weeks straight instead of 6, but overall the 6:1 ratio is what we’ll be doing. Then, we’re scheduled to end our school year in mid-May, when we’ll probably take off for somewhere between 4-6 weeks before we’ll hit the books again.

I understand that this kind of schedule isn’t for everyone, but for us in this season of our lives, so far, we are loving it. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. Recoup and Recharge!

We have only had one of our 1-week breaks so far, but we will have our next one next week. I was a bit hesitant to try this kind of schedule at first, but once that first 1-week break came up, all my doubts on the issue disappeared! We’ve had some struggles with homeschool, but overall, I’d say we’ve adjusted really well. But even still, these 1-week breaks have been heaven-sent. It gives both my son and me a break that we really benefit from. I know some families who average 4-weeks on, 1-week off and still others, who do 8-weeks on, 1-week off. Do what works for you, but for us, 6-weeks on seems to be the right balance, not too much and not too little.

2. Evaluate and Plan.

We mostly rely on a curriculum that beautifully maps out our school schedule each day. However, I have needed to make changes to that schedule at times to fit our needs, whether that meant skipping something altogether, slowing down, speeding up, or adding activities to expand our lessons. Also, I am not using any specific curriculum to teach Science or Spanish, therefore planning for those subjects is completely up to me.

I know some amazing homeschool gurus who plan out their entire school year before they start their year, but I am not that good, and as much as I’d like to say that I will get there one day, I know myself and I know that’s never going to happen. Ha! But that is another reason why our 6:1 schedule is working so well for us.

During our last break, I dedicated some time to plan our schedule for the next 6 weeks. I evaluated our last 6 weeks, looked at what had been working or not working, and made adjustments. I looked through our packaged curriculum’s schedule for the next 6 weeks, which made me feel very well prepared. Then I took that info and mapped out field trips for our next few weeks and any extra projects I wanted to do.

I think it’s awesome that some people can sit down and tentatively plan their whole year, but the thought of doing that completely overwhelms me. Planning 6 weeks at a time is just right for me.

3. Extra flexibility.

The past 2 weeks, my kiddos have been dealing with colds that have kept them (and me) up all hours of the night. Because of this, there have been a couple of days where we didn’t school. Because of our 6:1 schedule, those days will be easily made up. We can make up a day or two during this scheduled break if we want, or during a future break if that works better. It makes it so easy and definitely takes the stress out of trying to figure out how to make up missed time when unexpected issues arise.

I know this type of schedule might not be everyone’s cup of tea or work for all families, but for us, this has definitely been a decision I’m happy we made. It might not go this way every school year for us, but right now it definitely works best. What are your thoughts? Do you homeschool year-round or are you thinking about it? I’d love to hear what’s working for you!

Memorizing Scripture Isn’t a Priority in Our Homeschool

I know. You’re probably thinking, “What is this heathen rambling on about now? Memorizing Scripture isn’t important to her!?”

Hear me out.

Memorizing Scripture is, in fact, very important to me. And we know that the Bible talks to us over and over again about the importance of knowing God’s Word. It’s our Sword, afterall, so yeah, pretty important.

So, yes, we do assign Scripture verses for our son to memorize every week. I’m even having him memorize them in English and Spanish. And while we want him to work hard to learn them, it’s not what’s most important to us.

The other night when my son was saying his prayers before bed, he asked God to help him not worry so much about things, like being afraid of the dark and other things. And as he prayed for this, he said, “Help me turn my cares over to You like that verse tells me to.”

We had been working on memorizing 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” He had learned the verse in English fairly quick, but we were spending quite a bit of time trying to memorize it in Spanish.

When it is taking more time than I had planned for him to learn the memory verse, it can get frustrating for me, I admit. But when I heard my son’s prayer that night, it was a great reminder of what’s most important.

I realized that my son might not be able to quote the verse just right yet, but he had accomplished something more important: He had captured its meaning and how to apply it to his 7-year old life.

Every time we embark on learning a new verse, we discuss it. We talk about what it means, not just what it says. We ask questions and we really familiarize ourselves with each verse. We could have the talent of memorizing 100 Scriptures this school year, but what good is that if we don’t have any understanding of any of it?

And isn’t this concept one of the EXACT reasons so many of us choose to homeschool anyway? We often choose homeschool over “normal” school because we don’t want our kids to just memorize enough to pass a standardized test and then forget everything after the test. We want them to be able to study something in depth, to really learn the ins-and-outs. So why abandon that desire when studying Scripture? Isn’t that even more important in this area?

I don’t want my son to be memorizing Scripture just to check something off our list. What I’m tryingt to lead him to is a deeper relationship with Christ. I don’t want to teach him to just go through the motions. I want to help cultivate an environment for my son that fosters connection with God. I want him to learn who God is. And one of the best ways we’re going to have any hope of accomplishing this is to study His Word. To dwell on it and soak in it and learn it well. To inscribe it on the walls of our hearts.

It’s easy to get distracted by the quantity at the sacrifice of the quality, but this was a great reminder to dig into these verses this year and stay as long as needed.

If that means he only accomplishes memorizing 1 verse a month, I don’t care. Because at the end of it all, I don’t want my son to just be able to carry his Sword. I want him to be able to use it and use it well.

A Homeschool Adventure at UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

I am not looking forward to shorter days or Flu season, but I am definitely ready for some cooler temps.

Today, our little corner of the world had an Autumn teaser with blue skies and highs around 76, a welcome reprieve from high 80s and 90-degree weather. When I saw the forecast for this the other day, I knew I wanted us to spend as much time outside as we could today.

As some of you know, we’re using Sonlight for the majority of our curriculum this year, but I also came across the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum recently. It is SUPER inexpensive and I love the ideas it gives.

Since it’s only our 1st year homeschooling, I didn’t want to throw any more on our plate right now, but I have been VERY loosely following it at times. The great thing about it is that it is built to be re-usable year-after-year with the same student, so you can definitely get your money’s worth.

Mainly this year, though, the curriculum has really inspired me to get not just my kiddos, but MYSELF, too, outdoors more. I’m not one of these “all technology is evil” kind of gals and while I do set time limits for my kids, I don’t put really strict time limits on the amount of TV or games my kids can play every day.

I’m also not someone who is super outdoorsy. There’s a homeschool nature group I’m a part of online, for example, and some of the members will post pics of spiders or snakes they’ve come across, praising their beauty and design. Meanwhile I’m over here thinking God there’s a computer screen between me and those creatures. 😉

But even still, I want to get outside more with my kids and to inspire my kids to enjoy being outside among the beauty of God’s creation. So, I’m really trying to get us out on a nature adventure at least once a week when the weather isn’t overbearing. The past couple of weeks that hasn’t really worked for us because of the heat, but with Fall right around the corner, I’m hoping we can make this much more of a reality.

So after wrapping up some of our book work this morning, we packed lunches for the 40-minute car ride to UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and headed out for our nature adventure of the week.

A few tips. First, wear tennis shoes. I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I wore sandals. I was fine, but tennis shoes would have been much better. There are some areas that were pretty steep to climb and I had to take it really slow while wearing my 8-month old and holding my 2.5-year old’s hand.

Second, the Gardens’ website gives great directions about parking, but just to reiterate, once you get to the campus, find Lot 16A. It is right beside the greenhouse and it has about 5 spaces designated specifically for the Gardens’ guests. Parking there is free, you just have to sign in at the greenhouse and provide your tag number. Thankfully, we were able to snag a spot in one of these spaces, but check out their website for other parking options if these spots aren’t available.

Lastly, I couldn’t really find any good info on stroller accessibility, but I planned to wear my baby in my Ergo carrier. I would definitely suggest you do the same if you venture here with an infant. You might be able to use a stroller in the gardens, but it wouldn’t be fun. It is mostly unpaved, there are a lot of tree roots to walk over, and there are some super narrow paths. I didn’t see anything indicating strollers were prohibited, but it sure wouldn’t be easy.

We started our adventure in the greenhouses, after a potty break of course. 😜 Here you can find all kinds of different flowers and plants. Our favorite area was the Rainforest section, but honestly, it was all fun. Some of the plants did look like they could use some love, but overall, we really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my phone last night and it died before we even made it out of the greenhouses, so I didn’t even get one picture of the actual Gardens area! I was so bummed, because there was so much to capture. Next time, I guess.

The Gardens are separated into two different areas and divided by a gravel walkway. Our favorite Garden was the Susie Harwood Garden where we found a pond with rock seating and a small man-made water feature, a gazebo, and a neat stone archway. The Van Langdiham Glen was lovely, too, though, and should definitely not be missed. I found it to be exceptionally peaceful as we walked in the shade of some magnificent trees.

All of the hike was doable for both my 7-year old and my 2.5-year old. My 8-month old started getting very sleepy and a bit fussy about half-way into the hike, but thankfully I was able to calm him down by letting him play with fallen leaves, a rock, a small stick, and a pinecone at various times througout the hike. He was using his pacifier, so I didn’t have to worry about him sticking any of those things in his mouth. Ha! Eventually, he fell asleep on me while we finished up our walk.

Exploring the Botanical Gardens could have easily been made into a whole unit study. Obviously we covered science, but we also used map skills as my son utilized a free map of the area and navigated us down the paths. Pop a squat at one of the many seating areas, and art could have also easily been incorporated by sketching a garden scene, for example. Geography was another subject to check off the list, as we learned about where different plants we saw in both the greenhouses and gardens, grew. We could have also very easily created a Language Arts lesson for the trip, such as writing a paragraph to describe the adventure. And goodness knows we got in some P.E.-some of those hills were steep!

I’d encourage anyone nearby or in the area, to take a trip to the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, but it’s definitely a great trip for homeschooling families. Did I mention that it’s free?? They do encourage donations, but you can’t beat that price for a wonderful field trip. And tonight when my son said his prayers, he said, “God, thank you for the gardens we went to today. Your creation sure is beautiful.” That right there is priceless to me and I hope we can continue to inspire that kind of appreciation this year.

Rolling with Resistance in Homeschool

In counseling, there’s a technique called “Roll with Resistance.” The technique acknowledges that change is hard and often met with some resistance from Clients. In fact, some days, the Client might not even believe they need to change anything!

If I go in there and try to force them to change, chances are, I’m not gonna have great success. Heck, I might even see an increase in the behavior we’re trying to address in the first place if I tried to tackle it that way!

In rolling with resistance, it’s a bit like a dance and I’m not always the one leading, not exactly, anyways. With this technique, when appropriate, I let the Client lead a bit and I come alongside to “dance” with them. I’m not here to get into all the details of that, but the beauty of this technique is that it often leads to the Client being willing to at least consider that something needs to change. And that is the first step to any kind of lasting change.

Well, who knew such a technique would come in handy in homeschool, too! This week I needed to review adjectives and similies with my son. Writing has not been his favorite subject this year and I’ve been trying to find ways to make it more interesting for him. I’m not looking for him to LOVE it, but I also don’t want him to dread doing it every day.

When trying to review these subjects one day this week, my son wanted to show me a new LEGO creation he had just constructed. Adjectives and similies was the last thing on his mind.

It would have been easy to tell him to put the LEGOs away, sit down, and pay attention. And maybe that’s what you would have done because that’s your parenting or teaching style. If it is and it’s working for you then have at it! I am not here to tell you that you’re doing anything wrong with that and honestly, my philosophy on judging other parents’ parenting is simple: As long as their children are not being abused or neglected, it’s not my business unless they ask me to be involved.

But that method doesn’t have the kind of results I’m looking for in our house. Now I’m not one of these completely “free spirits” who lets my children do whatever they want, so don’t get it confused. There are plenty of rules and expectations here and discipline when those rules are not followed.

But I’m also an advocate of working smarter, not harder and this scenario seemed like a good chance to roll with some resistance.

So instead of making my 7-year old review this stuff the way I had planned it out in my mind, I followed his lead a bit. He is obsessed with LEGOs these days and he could talk to you for hours about that and Star Wars.

So I looked at his new creation that he was proudly displaying and said, “That’s pretty awesome! I like how you did that. What’s some adjectives you could use to describe that thing?”

He spouted off adjective after beautiful adjective describing the size, color, and texture of his LEGO. And then I asked him to describe it to me with similies and I was so impressed with what he came up with.

It’s a simple concept, honestly; using your kids’ interests to teach. Truthfully, it’s probably nothing new to most of you! But my experience was a good reminder for me of how beautifully this works.

I still taught what I needed to teach and we covered everything I needed him to learn, but it was much more interesting to my son when we talked about what he wanted to talk about. And because he found the object of our discussion to be interesting, he was engaged in the learning and obtained what I needed him to understand about “boring” stuff like adjectives and similies. 😉

I’m really trying to incorporate this strategy as much as possible in our class. In our case that has looked like many different things, from a subtraction baseball game between LEGO figures (inspired by this game) to a 6-sentence writing assignment about Darth Vader and Yoda. It’s working wonderfully and this week was our best homeschool week so far, largely, I think, because I’m trying to follow this method as much as possible.

We’re heading off on vacation next week and won’t be doing much school, but I’d love to hear from you guys about how you incorporate your children’s interests into your school days. What has worked for you?

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!