Do I Need a Lesson Plan?

do_I_need_a_lesson_planThere it was, sitting in my shopping bag. A gift from the educational store where I had just
purchased a myriad of homeschool supplies for the coming year. It was basic, nicely offered, but, frankly, confusing. As a homeschool parent, did I need a lesson plan?

For whatever reason, I had never thought to purchase or use a lesson plan. If I had to give an explanation for this, I would be hard pressed to provide a suitable answer. I’d just never given it that much thought. I suppose it always made sense to simply follow the books I bought. Our books came – and still come – with pages already mapped out; each marked with a lesson number. We did one lesson per day, with a total of a hundred seventy lessons during the year. Considering our books were cleverly labeled, why did I need a lesson plan?

It wasn’t until we started using unit studies to cover history and science that I finally began mapping out our lessons. It made sense to schedule how long we were to be spending in a particular unit and which activities would to be covered. I was visually able to see the expanse of our year, planning more thoroughly. While I wasn’t planning out every aspect of our day, writing down each child’s lesson assignments, I learned the value of organizing certain portions of our routines.

Did I finally dig out the planner the helpful educational store had offered? Truthfully, no. I had completely forgotten about the planner by this point. I found doing things on my computer better suited my needs. I was able to copy, paste, adjust within seconds, color code easily, and sync the information within all our devices so everyone could stay on top of things.

Does everyone need a lesson plan? I would never argue a particular curriculum or plan works for everyone. I will say having a general plan for your day and an overall plan for your year is not only beneficial, but wise. When we have direction we are less likely to stress over subjects possibly forgotten or enough time in our year to cover everything desired. Whether we choose to use a pre-printed planner from a store or use a computer based application to do our organizing, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to systematize life. Make up your own routine and put your plan into action.

We’re curious… Did you use a lesson planner? How much of your day and/or week do you put down in print? Share with us your method of organizing life and help new homeschooling families learn the art of planning!

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
~ Proverbs 16:3

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Curriculum 101: A Series Review!

Curriculum101

One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend time launching discussions on all things curriculum.

What you’ll find in this series: Encouragement, help, tips, hints, and open discussion on what’s worked for our families and what hasn’t.

What you won’t find in this series: A push toward any curriculum in particular. Our desire is to spend time in open conversation with you readers! We would love to share how we’ve taught each subject; what’s worked for us; and ways we’re still attempting to improve in each subject. What we don’t want to do is fit your child into our homeschooling box.

We’re praying you’ll join us in this adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you readers on each topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

Reading
Writing
Arts/Crafts
Bible
Grammar & Composition
Arithmetic
History & Geography
Science
PreK Helps
Music
Computer Sciences
Coding
P.E.
Foreign Language

May this series enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this time to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures. ~Cristina

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Anger Management

anger_managementBeing a kid is tough; no matter your age. You aren’t a baby, but aren’t quite able to do everything your mind can think up. Your coordination might still be developing, you’re learning new lessons and being given more responsibility. Now compound that with having not only a mom and a dad, but multiple siblings trying to help you, teach you, redirect you, and often discipline you. Even when they shouldn’t. Our children can get overwhelmed very quickly.

I can understand being upset, really I can. There are moments all of us become overwhelmed by the situation or our emotions get the better of us. What I can’t allow to happen is for this to become a habit or for our children to act out in their anger. Some healthy boundaries needed to be put in place.

While there are no fool-proof plans for helping someone overcome anger, I think there are some basic steps we can take toward reaching our goal.

Pray – Before I say a word, or attempt to work through the situation, I need to come to the Lord in prayer in order to ask for wisdom, patience, and the ability to help my child.

Understand the Problem – Until I diagnose the cause of someone’s anger, I cannot truly help them start to overcome it. I need to find the source and that will help lead us to the answer.

Walk Away From the Problem – If possible, I attempt to remove my child from the situation which is causing them to lose their cool. Sometimes just walking away for a moment helps clear the head.

Handle the Problem – It’s time to tackle the situation together. We talk, determine the best course of action, and move forward. This is a wonderful opportunity to encourage them see the problem from a different perspective – a Godly lesson, a practice in patience, etc. –  which facilitates a change of heart.

Deal with the Attitude – Sometimes the source of anger isn’t a situation, it is the heart of the person involved. There are various ways we have helped our kids deal with their attitudes: prayer, communication, time alone, and, when absolutely necessary, discipline.

Each day is a new opportunity for us to win the victory over our emotions. With every unique circumstance, we have the ability to develop a higher resistance to our own anger and choose to make the best decisions possible. It all starts with prayer and taking appropriate steps toward anger management.

We’re curious… Have any of your children struggled with anger? We’d love to hear how the Lord has given you wisdom in this area of parenting.

“’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,…”
~  Ephesians 4:26

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Our August Reads

our_august_readsA new learning year has begun, and we’re well underway.  While formal book work does occupy a portion of our day, the enjoyment of good literature and the study of the world around us is also being given equal exploration. In the midst of all the adventure, it’s time to share which reads we’ve enjoyed during the month of August.

We’ve broken down our list into categories and included our personal rating from zero to five stars. To read more about a particular book, simply click the title!

Learning Resources:

  • Basic Economics (Thomas Sowell) – This is the revised and enlarged edition of a basic_economicsnew kind of introduction to economics for the general public-without graphs, statistics, or jargon. In addition to being updated, Basic Economics has also become more internationalized by including economic problems from more countries around the world, because the basic principles of economics are not confined by national borders.
  • Imprimis– A free monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College and is dedicated to educating citizens and promoting civil and religious liberty by covering cultural, economic, political, and educational issues. The content of Imprimis is drawn from speeches delivered to Hillsdale College-hosted events.
  • A New Literary History of America (Greil Marcus) – In more than two hundred original essays, “A New Literary History of America” brings together the nations many voices. From the first conception of a New World in the sixteenth century to the latest re-envisioning of that world in cartoons, television, science fiction, and hip hop, the book gives us a new, kaleidoscopic view of what Made in America means. Literature, music, film, art, history, science, philosophy, political rhetoric cultural creations of every kind appear in relation to each other, and to the time and place that give them shape.

Children’s Books:iron_giant

  • Iron Giant (Ted Hughes) – An iron giant saves the world in this contemporary classic.
  • The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls : Journey to Jericho (M.J. Thomas) – Our time-traveling trio journeys to an ancient desert to find the Israelites preparing to enter the Promised Land. With limited time to solve the secret of the scroll, Peter, Mary, and Hank go on a spy mission to Jericho; sneak Rahab to safety; and ultimately face the scheming “man in black” as the walls of the city begin to crumble.

Parenting & Educator Helps:

  • Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying (Barbara Oakley) – A surprisingly simple way for students to master any subject–based on one of the world’s most popular online courses and read-aloud_handbookthe bestselling book A Mind for Numbers.
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook (Jim Trelease)This new edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook imparts the benefits, rewards, and importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research, The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies—and the reasoning behind them—for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.
  • The Read-Aloud Family (Sarah Mackenzie) – Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home.

How are we rating these reads? Good question! If the book has a five, whether learning or for fun, it’s clean and we want it on our bookshelf permanently. Four stars are sorely tempting us, but as our local library carries them we’re in luck. Three stars are worth a look, but we don’t see ourselves reading them too often. Two stars were entertaining, but once was enough. One star was acceptable. And zero. Well, it’s zero.

What to be on the lookout for… 

  • The three reads under “Learning Resources” are currently being employed in our daily routine. They add so much to our studies I cannot imagine doing school without them. Imprimis is an incredible free resource. If you do not currently hold a subscription, we highly recommend getting one.
  • Both “Children’s Books” reads were a great deal of fun. We had never read Iron Giant before, having only ever watched the movie. It was interesting to read the book for the first time and have an open discussion on them both. As always, Mr. M.J. Thomas has delighted us with another fantastic book in the Hidden Scrolls series. We can’t wait for the next book!
  • Learning How to Learn… was an interesting read. There were a multitude of tips on how to get the most of your learning time and a great deal of information regarding brain development. All-in-all a good read.
  • And a confession… I had never read The Read-Aloud Handbook or The Read-Aloud Family before. Not once. I do a great deal of reading aloud; always have. I’ve just never picked up these two volumes. I do not know as I learned anything new, but at least now I can say I’ve read them both and agree wholeheartedly with their perspectives.

With a return to formal book studies, classic literature is being explored in a major way and there’s more fun on the way. Join us again during the month of September as we explore a world of books and the adventure of reading. What will we read next?

We’re curious… With school activities picking up during the coming month, will finding time to read be a challenge in your home?

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
~ Psalm 101:3

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10 Ways to Fail As a Teacher

10_ways_to_failAt the start of each learning year I try to self-evaluate. As my children’s teacher, are there areas which could use some improvement? How can I help my children better understand what I’m trying to share with them? Is there anything I’m doing which is preventing my children from drawing closer to the Lord?

Perhaps my evaluation ought to begin with ways in which I could be failing. Hey, you have to start somewhere!

  1. Force Curriculum – While I’m all for exposing our children to various pursuits, and require our children learn all core subjects, there is a significant difference between mandatory subjects and forcing curriculum. Algebra is non-negotiable in our house, but I’m all for trying various companies and methods to find which works best for each child.
  2. Do Everything in a Book – Nothing frustrates a child more than having their nose stuck in a textbook all day. I need to make sure I’m offering a good balance of book work, hands-on projects, and active outside opportunities.
  3. Make Them Do Everything – I know there are a lot of awesome activities in that language arts book. It can be very tempting to make my kiddos do every-single-one. However, that might not be the best way to encourage a love of learning. I need to pick my battles and be willing to let a few stray addition problems go. On occasion. Maybe.
  4. Don’t Listen to Them – Am I talking over my kids? Constantly. Do I allow them to – respectfully – share their thoughts and opinions? Perhaps if I listened more, and truly heard them, we might get a little further.
  5. Confuse Them – Am I being too vague in my teaching? Am I explaining things fully or in a manner which they can understand? Am I teaching to them or at them? If I am teaching for the sake of teaching, with them taking nothing away, what is the point?
  6. Be Demanding – Do this! Do that! Come here! Sit down! Be quiet! (See the problem here?) None of this is being said with love, kindness, grace, or understanding. I need  to make sure I am tempering my responses, requests, and commands with affection. It helps; it really does!
  7. Offer No Free Time – I need to be careful how much time we are spending with organized activity. Too little can be an issue, but so can too much! If I want to drive my kids crazy, all I need to do is take away all free time.
  8. Refuse Questions – It’s frustrating being interrupted when we’re in the middle of a thought. But, what if the interruption leads to wonderful things?! What if we need to be interrupted because our child just isn’t getting it?
  9. Lecture Often – This topic always conjures up images of Mr. Ben Stein. Me standing at the front of the room, book in hand, chalkboard behind; I’m droning on and on regarding a topic my kids have lost all interest in, thanks to my monologue. While I’m all for a pointed lesson on a given topic, I need to evaluate whether I’m being helpful or just speaking to hear my own voice.
  10. Forget Character Training – Here’s a biggie!! While I don’t find public school teachers responsible for character training (they aren’t the parents after all), I cannot get by with this excuse. I AM the parent! It’s my job to train my child in the way he should go. Shoving through a stack of textbooks and paperwork does my child little good if I am not teaching them how to be righteous in the process.

I may release a sigh of relief; I’m not completely failing as a teacher. However, I also see areas in which I might need to relax. Overall, we’re doing pretty well. The kids love learning, we’re progressing nicely, and our family is centered on Christ. With His help we’re accomplishing more than I could have ever dreamed. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

We’re curious… What would you list as your top 3 ways to fail as a teacher!

“May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.”
~ Deuteronomy 32:2

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Do Our Children Have Personal Property?

do_our_children_have_personal_propertyUh, oh. Here it comes. My son is eagerly recalling a memory from several years ago of playtime with his siblings, and I know exactly what is going to happen next. “Mom, whatever happened to that toy?” Just as I am about to remind them the particular item in question was meant for toddlers and they are no longer two, another of my children promptly announces I have more than likely gotten rid of it; as I am want to do. Now I ask you. Why would I keep it? They hadn’t touched it for years! It seemed reasonable to remove the item in question, at least to my way of thinking. My kids, however, consider this the perfect opportunity to remind me – yet again – that this needs to stop. Some things belong to them, and they should be included in the decision to have it given away. Well, perhaps they’re right.

In a home where six people live, work, run a business, homeschool, play and sleep, space can be an issue. From time to time, it’s essential to downsize and streamline our belongings; removing items we haven’t used in ages and perhaps making room for new resources to further our family adventures. I don’t think anyone in my family would dispute these facts. No, it’s the manner in which we minimize which is in question. I have to admit, they have a point.

It made sense when the children were little that I be the one to sift through our belongings, donating what could bless others and organizing what was essential. However, the older our children get, the more it becomes evident I need to step aside and allow my children to make some of these decisions for themselves. And there are some valid reasons why.

I am a minimalist. I like the bare essentials. If I haven’t used something in a while, if the piece is not functional, or if I am just plain, old tired of it; it goes. While this might seem like a good thing – and it can be – it can also work against me. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten rid of something only to regret it six months later and curse my incessant need to minimize. Perhaps, just maybe, when it comes to my children’s things I might not be the best judge of what should stay and what should go.

My children need to learn this skill themselves. At some point, my kids need to learn the fine art of organization and minimizing. They might never pair-down to the extent I would, but neither can they rely on me to always do this for them. By purposefully setting aside time to do this as a family, they learn this skill for themselves and they have no fear something will be taken which has meaning to them.

My children have an emotional attachment. I see a bracelet my child has never worn. They see a well-loved, handmade gift from a friend. I see a doctor kit made for three-year-olds. They see a world of possibility, and childhood memories. Sometimes I don’t know which items my children have formed attachments to, and I would hate to give something away which I can never replace and has great meaning to them.

If I say it belongs to them, I need to mean what I say. How would I feel if a particular item suddenly went missing only to find it was given away without my permission? I would be hurt. My children are no different! Once something belongs to my children – whether bought or given – it belongs to them. Not me. I need to respect their right to keep that item or even get rid of it. It’s theirs. Personal property needs to be acknowledged.

It is essential to downsize from time to time. But these days re-organizing our home has become a group effort. Together we tackle our respective spaces and determine what absolutely must stay. I’m constantly amazed. You’d be surprised how motivated these children can be, cleaning better than I would have anticipated and often removing more than I would have dared. Items of value are stored with great care, and generosity is shown as they determine who would benefit from items they no longer need. Better yet, I don’t have to face accusations and our home is organized much faster than had I done this on my own. It’s an all-round win!

I’m curious, how do you tackle this tricky parenting choice?

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.”
~ Psalm 24:1

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Planning the Homeschool Year: A Series Review!

planning_the_homeschool_yearWhether you’re still in the stages of planning your school year, just starting, or you’ve been at it for weeks but still need to make some adjustments… Enjoy this fun series designed to help take the stress out of homeschooling planning!

While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our year of homeschooling. Just where do we start? When do we start?! How many school days am I required to complete? Should I stick to a routine or plan out a detailed schedule? All these questions and more fill the head when planning out our homeschooling year. Let’s take a look at each mind-boggling area of planning and break it down!

Planning Your Year
Planning Your Day
Building a Family Plan
What Do I Need?
Counting the Cost
Portfolios
Field Trip Fun, Part I
Field Trip Fun, Part II
Finding Friends
Finding Sanity

Planning the homeschooling year doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Pray about how the Lord would lead your learning, and proceed as He guides. Allow Him to be the center of your home and focus all your attention on what He wants of your family.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
~ I Cor. 14:40

Your Turn!: Which part of homeschooling is your least favorite to plan and/or organize?

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When the Kids Know More Than We Do

when_the_kids_know_more_than_we_doIt’s happened. I knew such a time would come a time in my children’s learning adventure. I just didn’t plan for it to happen quite this soon. We have finally reached that point in life when areas of my children’s knowledge have surpassed my own.

If I’ve done things well I will begin to work myself ‘out of a job’. As a parent, especially a homeschooling parent, my goal is to raise a fully functioning adult; four of them, in fact. In raising independent learners, it was inevitable that at some point they might discover things I have yet to explore. What are parents to do when their children start to exceed their knowledge? How do we continue teaching them when they absorb facts faster than a sponge absorbs liquid?

Practice Humility

Pride is hard to overcome. We’ve spent years educating our children and they have the nerve to start telling us we’re wrong? They want to explain how things are done, when events happened, and impart newfound knowledge to us parents.

Sure, we could get upset with them for correcting our poor grammar and interrupting our lessons with more detail than we prepared. Or, we could make this a teachable moment. We need to be able to swallow our pride, accept that our children are eager to learn, and continue to teach.

Teach Humility

It’s wonderful to learn new things and impart that knowledge to others who might be interested. However, we also need to learn the right time and place to share. We need to learn how to share. While our children might have learned facts we haven’t, they still need to learn how to share with kindness, grace, gentleness, and humility.

Learning new things should not fill us with self-righteous pride and arrogance. If that is the case, you have increased your knowledge base, certainly, but have yet to increase in wisdom. Wisdom is by far the more important of the two.

Be Patient

When our children wish to share all the exciting new things they are learning, expressing their interest in the topic, they can often times exhaust our patience. We need to remember that our children are learning and loving the adventure. The surest way to kill their enthusiasm is to become frustrated with them, belittle them, or refuse to hear their thoughts. Be open to hearing them and listen with attention to what they are trying to say. You never know, you might enjoy the lesson!

Show Some Respect

There is a fine line between sharing newfound information and disrespectfully tossing around facts to belittle parents or others in authority positions. Again, the purpose of increasing in knowledge is not to lord it over another and make them feel small.

When our children share with us, and others, they need to be mindful that respect remains intact. They should respect the life experience the adult has, respect the feelings of the adult being spoken to, and respect the role the Lord has given that person in their life. Yes; they might have knowledge to share, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to be rude to those around them.

Encourage Growth

It can be uncomfortable to admit our children know more about a certain topic than we do. But, to my way of thinking, this shows what a good job we have done as parents. Our children have been well-taught; they know how to find information for themselves, comprehend what they are reading, and are motivated to keep doing so. We ought to give ourselves a pat on the back and enjoy the fact that our children are learning, and we didn’t have to do a thing. Encourage them to keep up the good work. Encourage them to keep sharing what they find with the family. Encourage their love of learning.

Continue Teaching

The fact that our kids might know a little more than we do in a particular area should not prevent us from continuing on with the remainder of their learning. If we feel out of our depth, it might be time to find other ways to assist them. However, this should not discourage us from trying our best and moving forward. Things might need to change, but it doesn’t mean we need to give up. Keep pressing forward!

More or Just Different?

I’ve teased that my kids know more than I do, but, in truth, they don’t. They might have learned a few cool, new facts. They might remember dates better than I. What they’ve learned is not more, just different. Life experience and some Godly wisdom are on my side.

If your children are avid learners, take heart; you’ve done a great job in your parenting. Do not be discouraged when your children spout facts you never knew, read more books than you can, program an app that makes your head swim, and/or cook better than you on any given day. Their increase is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication you’ve put into their education. Be proud of what your children are accomplishing, and train them to use it wisely.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
~ I Peter 5:5

Your Turn!: If applicable, in what area has your child surpassed you in knowledge?

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10 Great Resources for Budding Authors

10_Great_Resources_for_Budding_Authors

“Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.”

– Margaret Atwood

Are some people born with a gift for words; able to take even the most mundane of tasks and re-form them into magical adventures? Perhaps some have a more innate ability to weave a tale, but there is still hope for the rest of us! With a few good resources, even the most inexperienced writer may soon become a budding author.

If you have children interested in becoming authors, or perhaps have children you would like to be enthusiastic about writing, here are a few resources your family might find helpful to the writing process. You’ll find a great mix of everything; websites, books, and more!

10 Great Resources for Budding Authors

  1. Writing Your Way, Don Fry – Writing Your Way shows you how to create your own unique writing process that magnifies your strengths and avoids your weaknesses. It shows you a multitude of ways to do the five key stages: Idea, Gather, Organize, Draft, and Revise. You can then design your own collection of techniques that work for you. You’ll write clearer, faster, and more powerfully, with less effort and suffering.
  2. What’s Your Story, Marion Dane Bauer – Discusses how to write fiction, exploring point of view, dialogue, endings, and revision.
  3. On Writing Well, William Zinsser – Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher.
  4. The Writer’s Way, Jack Ralins and Stephen Metzger– Based on a “whole language approach,” The Writer’s Way is a dynamic, process-centered paperback rhetoric with readings. This text recognizes that students learn best by doing–and writers learn best when inspired by compelling reasons to write, aided by strong examples, and reinforced by immediate personal rewards. With frank advice offered in a supportive, encouraging tone, Rawlins and Metzger lead students step by step through the writing process, from pre-writing to polishing the final draft.
  5. Dramatica Pro Application – So, what exactly is Dramatica? Dramatica is a whole new theory of Story. Because it wasn’t based on any pre-existing theories, much of what it has to say can sound pretty unfamiliar. Still, the amazing part is that with each new concept you learn, whole new worlds of understanding and skill will open up to you…
  6. One Year Adventure Novel – Through 78 video lessons, The One Year Adventure Novel high school English curriculum guides 9th–12th graders step by step in creating an original, fully structured, compelling adventure novel—in one school year.
  7. Young Writers Online – We’re a community of young writers, both new and experienced, dedicated to improving our writing.
  8. Seven Writing Contests for Kids – “It’s not always easy to get your kids motivated to write. One way to encourage them to polish their writing skills is to have them enter a writing contest. Sometimes just the idea of recognition is enough to get those pencils to paper (or fingers to keyboard).”
  9. Cash Contests for Kids – “31 reputable, well-reviewed, free writing contests for poets, fiction writers, essayists and more. Some legitimate contests do charge a small entry or “reading” fee, but often a fee can be a red flag for a scam, so you may want to stick to free contests — and there are certainly enough of them.”
  10. HSLDA – Every year, HSLDA offers quarterly contests in art, poetry, photography, and essay writing, open to all homeschooled students (ages 7–19). Through its contests, HSLDA hopes to offer homeschooled students the opportunity to hone their skills in a fun and creative setting that invites them to think outside the box and be rewarded for excellence.

Nab, bookmark, and peruse a few of the resources above and explore the art of writing. Stock up on paper, pencils, erasers, and/or a computer. Sit yourself down and have some fun. Writing doesn’t have to be hard; just take one word at a time!

“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.”
~ Jeremiah 30:2

Your Turn!: Calling all authors!! Share your story with our homeschooling audience. What led you to becoming an author, what have you learned along the way, and what are you currently working on?

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Searching for What Works

searching_for_what_worksI have a confession. I bought a book – a set of books, really – and they just aren’t working for us. I’ve tried to renegotiate and finagle; I’ve tried to beef them up with additional materials. But the sad, sad fact is they just aren’t what my kids need. It seems I am back to searching for what works.

You’d think after many years of homeschooling this mama would finally have it down, wouldn’t you? After all, once we find a good curriculum it ought to work for the remainder of our schooling experience. Theoretically. However, once you’ve done this a while you realize something. Kids change! What works one year, doesn’t work another. What worked for one child, won’t for another. It can be just a tad frustrating. A tad.

It can be a continual search for materials which best fit our kids needs, and our household budget. How do we determine which curriculum works best? When do we make that investment, and when do we walk away? While we seem to go through this process each year, weighing each child’s needs, there are a few constants our family stands by:

Christian Materials (or at least not anti-Semitic/Christian) – As Christians, we try to ensure our children’s learning is centered on Christ. When at all possible, we purchase materials based on our worldview.

Budget – Is this something I can do myself, find somewhere else for less expensive, or get at a discount? If not…

Longevity – Will this last for only a month or so? Can I make this stretch for more than one child? Some materials are worth the high price, even for only one child; others could be set aside for something better.

Preparation – Will this help my child be ready for whatever future the Lord has prepared for them? One child may need to be challenged in a particular area, whereas another needs something completely different. I want to ensure each child has what they need to fulfill their calling.

Time Consuming – I don’t mean for my kids, I mean for me! Is this curriculum going to take up mounds of my time in the planning, prepping, and teaching? If so, I might wish to regroup.

Challenging – This is for my kids! I want them to be stretched and challenged. (Notice I said challenged and not overwhelmed!) I want our kids to be pushed to achieve more, continuing to find their own limits.

Enjoyment Level – Lastly… While I understand some subjects might be forcefully endured, especially during high school, I like to make their learning as fun as possible. Will my kids enjoy this particular curriculum or is there something which might excite them to learn more?

While there is no perfect method for choosing which curriculum works best for our kids, the checklist above helps guide us in narrowing down our choices. Each curriculum we’ve used, no matter how long we’ve used it, has always taught us something valuable. Even if it’s just to appreciate the beauty of something else… anything else!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

Your Turn!: What are your criteria for picking new curriculum? Share your list with us and help other homeschooling families in their journey to finding new learning materials!

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