Help for the Reluctant Homeschool Writer

help_for_the_reluctant_homeschool_writerI can already hear it coming. First, it will start with a shocked expression taking over her face. This will be followed up by a glare; then a deep breath; and then she will attempt to talk me out of the assignment… My oldest daughter loves to write; really, she does! Furthermore, she’s good at it. She has a way with words; is able to paint a vivid picture using just a few short sentences and lots of heart. Give her free time to write and she’s a happy camper. Ask her to write a report and… well, just see the sentences above.

While I would love to toss those pesky reports into the circulatory file (trash bin), she’s really at an age where it cannot be avoided. High school is ever-present and reports seem to be the thing. Sure, I could let her off, but would that really benefit her? If she plans to continue her writing career, she might want to expand her horizons beyond story telling. If she plans to attend college (which she does), she needs to be able to write a research paper.

Whether or not our children plan to be writers or attend college – we understand not all children are called to this path – teaching our children to write is an important life skill. Why? Our children need to learn the fine art of language. They need to learn how to construct a great sentence, put thoughts together into paragraphs, and connect those paragraphs to form an argument.

Perhaps you have a reluctant writer, as we do, or are unsure of where to start in the writing process? Here are a few tips and hints we’ve learned to inspire our little writers:

Start Early – Don’t wait until high school to have your children begin the writing process. make creative writing and reports a fun part of learning as soon they are ready.

Start Small – Don’t start the writing process off with a five-page research paper. Start off with little assignments. Ask your student to construct just a few great sentences and build from there.

Keep it Simple – Once your student has the concept of great sentences down, consider having them write small papers. Teach them how to construct an opening statement, the body of their paper, and then a closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to have all the essential components and focus on one main point.

Shake Things Up – Don’t have your student write the same type of report each time; this can quickly become boring. What kind of reports might we look for?

  • Cause and Effect
  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Definition
  • Narrative
  • Critical
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Process

Topsy Turvy – Doesn’t that sound fun? If your child balks at the notion of writing a two page report or even a 1,000 word report, consider making it a challenge. Turn your child’s perspective around and have them look at the assignment from an entirely new angle. Inform you student they cannot use more than 1,000 words to make their point. One word over and they start losing points. It changes things, doesn’t it?

Make a Point – While all papers should have a main point, not all papers mean something to your student. However, they should! Pick the type of paper your child should write for this assignment, but let them choose the topic. They might want to argue for why Legos are better than MegaBlocks. They might wish to explain what Minecraft is. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the paper is, only that they learn to write well. As they mature, so will the topics and assignments.

Join the Fun – One year, my daughter was having a particularly hard time gaining inspiration for a paper. To help her out, my husband and I joined the fun. Each of us turned in a paper on the same topic! It was fun and a great learning experience. We didn’t do this each time she had an assignment, but it helped.

For whatever reason, speech and writing seem to be the two least favorite assignments of most students. Perhaps, with a little effort and enthusiasm on our behalf, our children will learn to not only appreciate the art of writing, but enjoy it. Writing can be lots of fun!

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”
~ Galatians 6:11

Your Turn!: Are you a writer? Share your tips with our homeschooling families on how to encourage a love of writing!

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“I’m Bored!”

im_boredThere used to be an old saying, “If you’re bored, it’s because you are boring!” I find myself constantly quoting this to my children whenever I hear complaints of this nature. Personally, I find it very hard to validate any claims of boredom. There are far too many things in life to do, see, experience, and accomplish for me to be bored. So when my children show signs of this malady beginning to take hold, it’s time to jump into action.

Often “boredom” is merely another way for children to express an inner restlessness. Thus, we have devised a whole list of “boredom busters” which we frequently employ when the bug decides to bite.

Boredom Busters

  • Bubbles- Believe it or not, we don’t keep these out all the time. They are kept just for such occasions and for special events.
  • Play Dough- Same concept, we keep these for those times when the kids just need something different to do.
  • Art Attack- I have special boxes of art supplies just for moments of boredom. They are filled with foam shapes, stickers, self-inking stamps, and other fun items they don’t use when doing their normal art projects.
  • Paper Dolls- We have various sets of paper dolls (and some magnetic ones) which we pull out, helping to entertain us all.
  • Glow In the Dark Sticks- You might think these only work at night, but not so! We have been known to pull them out in the middle of the day, lock ourselves in a bathroom, and spend an hour having some fun.
  • Board Games- Hey, they aren’t called that for nothin’! We have been known to dump all the pieces out and mix them up, creating completely new games.
  • Flip Side- This is a fun activity my kids like, where they lay on their backs and imagine the world upside down. What would it be like to walk on the ceiling?
  • Balloons- I keep a bag (or two) of balloons on hand at all times. It takes only a few moments and the kids have a room full of balloons to play with. This never fails to keep them entertained.
  • Face Paint- After Halloween, I make sure to pick up several face painting kids for very inexpensive. We pull these out every so often and practice painting each other’s faces.
  • Camping- We have a child’s size camping tent we pop out, this offers hours of fun with very little work involved.

It seems quite a few others experience the same dilemma. There are entire websites, articles, and blogs dedicated to eradicating the boredom bug. Wow! Thankfully, our kiddos are very good at keeping themselves entertained. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan of action, in case the boredom bug hits.

My last resort, if none of the above seems to entice? “Hey, there’s always chores!” For some reason, this always seems to work….

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

Your Turn!: What is your favorite way to battle boredom?

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The World is our Classroom

the_world_is_our_classroomI think most homeschoolers dream of having a place to call their own. You know… a dedicated ‘homeschooling’ space where the bulk of our learning gets done. While not all of us have a dedicated room to do our schooling in, we are fortunate to call the world our classroom. Learning takes place anywhere and everywhere!

Like most families, I’d love to have a homeschooling room. A special place set aside just for our learning materials, instead of having them nudged into a closet. A place where colorful charts, verses, and artwork could be proudly displayed on the walls. A place where, if learning isn’t finished, we can simply leave our projects to rest until later. It’s a lovely dream, but, for now, we work with what we’ve got. The world is our classroom and here is where you’ll usually find us:

The Kitchen Table – We don’t have a dedicated homeschooling room, but we do have a dedicated homeschooling place! If you happen to stop by on a moments notice, you’ll find us at our kitchen table plugging away at our lessons. It’s a good size and convenient for having snacks.

The Office – My husband has a ton of books, supplies, and inspiration all packed into his little office space. Sometimes you’ll find us crowding his space to do a little learning.

The Backyard – The great outdoors, filled with greenery and fresh air. If we can, we try to get outside on occasion.

The Park – Sometimes the backyard doesn’t do it. We need some leg room to run around, swing from trees, and rough-house with our friends. What better place than the park? Plus, they have basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts, and more!

The Library – If we can’t be at home, this is where we prefer to be. Our favorite place on earth. Books, games, research materials, and more!

The In-laws – Who else is going to teach us how to garden, cook, crochet, cross-stitch, craft, sew, and more? Being at my in-laws is always a treat.

The Animal Shelter – We love this special time working with local volunteers and professionals in the field of animal care. We do everything from clean the shelter, care for the animals, socialize with the animals, help with local events, and more. This even extends into fostering at home!

Hiking – There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. You’ll find us all over our state, discovering new trails and getting dirty.

On Field Trips – Museums, galleries, music centers, and more; field trips are wonderful and we take them as often as possible.

No, we don’t have a dedicated classroom, which I would truly love, but we do have the world at our fingertips. Now, if I could keep the kitchen table clean!

“Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,…”
~ Isaiah 55:3

Your Turn!: What is the most unusual place you’ve ever done ‘school’?

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Raising Motivated Learners: A Series Review!

Raising Motivated Learners SeriesOur goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

Twenty Questions
Tools, Not Products
Encouraging Contribution
Space Exploration
Take Initiative

 

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Your Turn!: Share with us how you are creating an atmosphere of motivated learning!

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I Can’t Homeschool: A Series Review!

I_Can't_Homeschoo

Homeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough.

Join us in this series of encouragement, as we share reasons families think they can’t homeschool and offer support for those unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

…..

I Lack Self Control
They Won’t Listen
I’m Uneducated

I’m Unorganized
I Need ME Time
I Have Too Many Kids
My Kids Are Too Big
My Family Will Disapprove
I’m A Dad!
My Kids Have Special Needs

God didn’t call us to homeschool because we had it all together or because we were such incredible people. He called us to homeschooling because He wanted this for our children and He asked us to be faithful. He isn’t asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us to be obedient to His call.

Each of us is still a work in progress, being molded by our Creator into something better. Allow God to use your imperfect self to bring Him glory. Step out in faith, knowing He will see you through. You can do all things in Christ!

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:12

Your Turn!: Do you already homeschool? Help motivate other families by sharing previous doubts you may have had about taking on the adventure of homeschooling, and how the Lord helped you overcome for His glory and your family’s benefit!

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Review: The Thrifty Time Travelers Series

TTT_BlogTour_18

“What follows is the guidebook, exactly as it was discovered on a sidewalk outside Frank’s Pizza in Manhattan in AD 2018.”
~ The Thrifty Guide to  Ancient Rome (Uncorrected Text)

I love books. I love history. I love hearing my kids laugh. So when I have an opportunity to combine all three into a fun afternoon of reading, you know I’m going to be all over it. This month we had the opportunity to review The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers and The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution: A Handbook for Time Travelers by Penguin Random House and Jonathan W. Stokes and we can’t wait to share this funny, educational book series with you. We’re still cracking up laughing and enjoying the multitude of lessons to be found within their pages!

Set in the distant future, The Thrifty Guides are a humorous look at what happens when we travel back in time to discover the history of the world. Both are written from the perspective of Time Corp, presenting a complete vacation package for tourists. Each book seeks to help you make the most of your trip offering locations you might wish to visit, events you could participate in, and people to have lunch with. Currently three Thrifty Guides are available: The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution, The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome, and The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece.

We received an advanced reader edition of both The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome and The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution, along with a clever “Passport for Time Travelers” which included passport stickers for both our travels and an additional passport sticker for The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece. Suggested as early reader novels, our ten-year-old son was given these books to be used during his reading time after Mom had ensured the books were both clean and met family standards.

 

Ancient RomeThe Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:

  • Where can I find a decent hotel room in ancient Rome for under five sesterces a day? Is horse parking included?
  • What do I do if I’m attacked by barbarians?
  • What are my legal options if I’m fed to the lions at the Colosseum?
Designed as a parody of Fodor’s, complete with humorous maps, reviews of top attractions (Julius Caesar’s assassination is a must-see!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Hannibal, assuming he doesn’t kill you). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.
Chapters include Roman Entertainment, Julius Caesar, The Roman Civil War, Quality Time with Cleopatra, and more! Our favorite portions of this book are “Important Warning Before Time Traveling”, “Top Five Ways to Die in Rome”, “How to Pilot a Horse”, and “Cleopatra’s Perfectly Normal Family Tree”. “People to Have Lunch With:…” is especially funny, and “Friendly Message from Your Corporate Overlord at Time Corp” is sure to have you rolling.

American RevolutionThe Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:

  • Where can I find a decent hotel room in colonial New England? Are credit cards accepted?
  • How can I join the Boston Tea Party without winding up in a British prison?
  • What do I do if I’m being shot at by a cannon?
Designed as a parody of Fodor’s, complete with humorous maps, reviews of places to stay and top attractions (Don’t miss Paul Revere’s midnight ride!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Alexander Hamilton, naturally). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.

Chapters include The Boston Tea Party, The Battles of Lexington and Concord, The Siege of Boston, The Declaration of Independence, The Battle of Cowpens, and more! Fun  features we enjoyed are “Your Odds of Being Hit by a Musket Ball” and “Your Odds of Being Hit by a Rifle”, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… to Be Shot by a Cannon”, “A Message From the Good People at the Time Patrol”, and “Letters From Time Corp’s Complaint Department”. Thrifty_Guides

Written by former teacher and rising Hollywood screenwriter, Jonathan Stokes, The Thrifty Guides were very funny, simple to read, and educational. There were a ton of fun facts, silly illustrations, and interesting notions on the concept of time travel. We enjoyed them tremendously and couldn’t wait to tell you all about these wonderful books. If you’re a fan of history, or happen to be studying any of these areas in your learning adventures, you’ll definitely want to give these books a try.

On sale now, you’ll find The Thrifty Guides to be a wonderful addition to your learning bookshelf. We had a great deal of fun reading both The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome and The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution, and look forward to searching out The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece soon!

FTC Disclaimer

Your Turn!: If you could travel back in time to any era, which would it be?

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Help, We Started Late!

Help_We_Started_LateLet’s face it, there are times in life when we all run a little behind. We arrive to appointments late, we show up tardy for Christmas dinner, and perhaps don’t get the bills in the mail on time. As homeschoolers, the one time we shouldn’t have to worry about running late is during our learning day.

Each of us is on our own schedule. We all have a routine which best meets our family’s needs. Once we have established ourselves it can be all too easy to start feeling like a failure when we vary our day or even our week. We get up a little late and it seems the whole day is out of focus. Life hands us a curve ball and school for the week is a total loss.

Instead of allowing this situation to get the best of us perhaps we need to look at this from a different angle. We are homeschoolers. Unless our state or PSP mandates a particular day-to-day routine, we have the freedom to start our learning any time we like! There is no ‘running late’ to start arithmetic and science. There is no waking up ‘late’. Apart from outside appointments, running late is nonexistent.

To take this a step further, we might even consider these occasional variations in our routines a blessing. Maybe we needed that extra sleep and our bodies are renewed. Maybe we needed those extra minutes to get the science project done. Whenever we experience a slight change in our schedule, this doesn’t mean we are failing or running behind, it means we are adjusting our day to best meet our family’s needs. Sometimes that means more sleep, sometimes that means a longer learning lesson, and sometimes – in my case – we decide our local theme park looks good today.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I like routine. I thrive on routine as a matter of fact. I am the first one to admit ‘running late’ is a frequent worry of mine. There is a time and place for having a schedule; many of us benefit from a daily plan. However, we need to plan our day; not let our plan run our day. Don’t live for the routine.

This month, as most of us head back to our learning routines, I pray we all forget the imaginary clock in our heads; the one that tells us we ‘didn’t start on time’. Instead, let us live each day to the fullest; grateful for each moment we have with our kids.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Your Turn!: What helps you get back on track when things seem to be running a little longer than you planned for?

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When Learning Isn’t Fun

When_Learning_Isn't_FunWe’re just coming off a three-week break. One which was much-needed by us all. As we prepare to launch into the second half of our current learning adventure, now would be the perfect opportunity to make adjustments and evaluate where we stand, especially areas of study which are proving to be anything but fun.

I think we’ve all been there if we’re honest with ourselves. That one area of study which brings us to tears. If not us, at least it starts our children sniffling. The lessons are boring. The book is too lengthy. We’ve done the same exercises so many times our children could do them in their sleep. We’ve heard them all. Before we throw up our hands in frustration and proclaim this area of learning to be “no fun”, let’s first take a deeper look at our situation.

Pray – Once again, we’re reminded all things should begin with prayer. Before my emotions get out of hand and I start using human reasoning to solve this problem, I want to seek the wisdom of the Lord. He knows exactly what we need.

Understand – Pride can easily be my downfall. Instead, I want to keep open communication with my children and together understand what is not working. This isn’t about the perfect curriculum which was supposed to solve our issues or my immaculate lesson plans the kids don’t appreciate. What’s important is growth and a deeper understanding of their Maker.

Evaluate – What about our lessons isn’t working? Am I pushing too hard, too fast? Are we moving too slow? Perhaps the curriculum isn’t working as well as we’d like, and a few adjustments are needed. We will not be defeated. Instead, this is a chance to make this area of study our own and do it right. We just need to figure out what that looks like.

Adjust – We start with one change, and take a step back to see how that works. Slowly, we slide one adjustment for another until we find a working system. Other times we do a complete overhaul and discover something magical. I never want to be afraid to step out in faith and move where God is working.

Persevere – “If at first you don’t succeed…” is a mantra for a reason. It might take several tries to get it right, and even then we might find ourselves needing to make adjustments again as the children grow, but every moment will be worth it. And that is a lesson in itself.

Not every area of learning is going to be our favorite, and that’s a fact. However, this does not mean these areas of study are not important or valuable in our children’s lives. I want to pray about where we’re struggling and make adjustments where possible. What I don’t want to do is quit. We’re going to try, and keep trying, until we find what works and motivates us to learn.

As we step into this new chapter of learning, I’m excited to see where the Lord is going to lead us. I look forward to watching my children grow and increase in wisdom. Will every area of study work perfectly? Probably not. But it will definitely be an adventure!

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
~ Romans 12:12

Your Turn!: What area of learning is your family struggling with this year?

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2017’s Top Posts

2017_Top_Posts

2017 is officially at an end. Before completely kissing off the old year and tipping our hats to the new, let’s take a few moments to look back on all the fun we’ve had during the past twelve months.

Top Posts of 2017

School Lunch, A Reason to Homeschool?
A Hot Topic
I Loved Morning Basket, But We Dropped It Anyway
Dwell on These Things
A Homeschool Open House

It’s been an awesome year getting to know so many of you and learning how the Lord is working through your homeschooling. Thank you for sharing your tips, words of wisdom, and links with us! We love having you join us in the adventure of homeschooling, and can’t wait to see what the coming year will bring.

Your Turn!: We’d love to read your top attractions of 2017! List two of your favorite posts that you’d like to share.

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All I Want for Christmas is… (Part VIII)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_IsAs far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

Living in America, truth be told, we are a little spoiled. Even when times get hard they are nothing compared to what some of our brothers and sisters experience on a daily basis in many other parts of the world. So it is with no little shyness and humility that I share one of the last items on my Christmas wish list. One of my personal prayers for the coming year is to finally go on vacation.

Before I have CPS breathing down my neck, or a concerned family member texting me, please allow me to elaborate. We do take breaks from learning. When I say I’d like to go on vacation, I mean I would like for my entire family to be able to take a few days break and get away from home to enjoy one another’s company. Not mom spending the day out with the kids while Pop works; not a day trip where we have to rush home so Pop can get to work the next morning. Not even a business trip turned family adventure. A genuine, we might need an airplane, vacation.

Believe it or not, with all the hustle, bustle, and struggle of the last few years, we haven’t been on an honest-to-goodness vacation in over five years. Maybe not even then. It’s about time, don’t you think?

It’s a funny thing. While I’m sure the kids would enjoy a large trip to somewhere like Disneyworld or a cruise to the Bahamas, what excites them most is renting a cabin in the woods and watching it snow. They would also like to know what it’s like to fly in an airplane. It’s not the destination as much as the traveling they want to experience. Most of all, it is undivided attention and family time they’re looking forward to. I’d like to be able to give that to them.

Before the kids all graduate, and we no longer have the opportunity, we’d like to take advantage of the years we have left and make some memories. Together we’ll learn the art of saving for a mutual goal, using our money wisely, planning the adventure, and making the most of these God-given opportunities. I don’t know where the year will take us, but I hope it’s somewhere fun.

“There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
~ Deuteronomy 12:7

Your Turn!: If you could take your family anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

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