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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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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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
– John 14:27

Let_Not_Your_HeartI am a worrier. Lord forgive me, but this is true. If our routine’s off by just a smidgen, I start to sweat. Mass amounts of responsibility sit on my shoulders and I start to wonder if I can handle it all. The kids are getting out of hand, acting out, and I start wondering if I’m failing as a parent. My choices in curriculum and social activities begin to weigh on my mind. And these are just the small worries.

If work is slow, paying bills is going to be tight because we are self-employed. My kids need glasses, clothes, food, and so much more. New laws in our state might force regulations upon us that usurp our parental authority. The list could go on.

It is in my nature to worry about everything and anything. I worry about having dinner finished at a good hour; using too much laundry soap; stretching our budget; whether or not I should have said those words to that person; and if I am ‘enough’ for the people who depend on me. I worry. I worry. I worry. This is who I am… on my own.

Ah! But that changes everything doesn’t it? What I am on my own cannot compare to what I am in Christ. In Christ, I am a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17) My old nature is constantly battling with who Christ is trying to help me become. I can easily slip back into a pattern of old habits, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by life; forgetting Who is in control. My emotions war with the Holy Spirit who is trying to comfort me, offering me peace during times of trial.

Overwhelmed by Emotion

If gone unchecked, emotions can sometimes overwhelm; clouding our minds and paralyzing us. We cannot see the truth for the feelings standing in the way. We have allowed reason to fall by the wayside and allowed our hearts to dictate our current state of mind.

And yet, we are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We are not to be ruled by our emotions or the turning of our hearts. What we feel is not to be our focus, but, rather, what is true.

What Is True?

The truth, as we are reminded in John 14, is that we have been given a spirit of peace. Not just any peace, peace given by God Himself! We have the God-given ability to accept this peace and move forward, but we have to choose to do so. God will not force His peace upon us. He will not shove this peace down our throats. He will not beg us to take it. We must choose to accept His gift willingly.

Let Not Your Heart…

Our emotions are not going to gain control of themselves. We need to be proactive about not letting our emotions control us. We need to rely on the Lord and ask Him to remove this stress and fill us with His peace. We need to trust He is going to see us through.

This does not mean He will always meet our needs in the way we expect; sometimes He doesn’t! Christians die, go hungry, and are persecuted – we are told to expect this (John 15:20) – instead we ask that He see us through the trial and come out of this stronger. We accept that God is in control.

On my own, I am a worrier. In Christ, I am learning to have peace; peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). My friends, let not your heart be troubled. Instead, accept the gift our Lord has freely given. Peace which fills our empty hearts, calms our sea of emotions, and confounds the unbeliever. May we choose to accept the gifts Christ so willingly died to give us and enter into a life well lived.

Your Turn!: When worried, I find it helps to pray and reorient my focus. What helps you when emotions seem to hold sway?

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Homeschooling 101: A Series Review!

Homeschooling101

On occasion, I have the pleasure of advising families who are new to homeschooling. We  talk about how to begin setting up a homeschool routine and the basics of a good education. Rather than frustrate them with long notes to take, it has been suggested I write these ideas down and make them available to everyone who might be interested.

Below, you will find a list of links to a few posts which help remove the stress, confusion, and misdirection that often comes with new territory.

As you read, please be in continual prayer about where the Lord is leading your family. Our goal is not to dictate your coming school year, but merely to come alongside you on your journey. May you find this information helpful and edifying:

“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
~Philippians 4:6

Your Turn!: Perhaps you’ve been homeschooling awhile. What is the best piece of advice that was given as you launched into your learning adventure?

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May I Take a Break Now?

may_i_take_a_break_now

“Who said you could sit down? Just look around you. I’m sure there is laundry you could be doing. Surely there are floors you haven’t mopped, messes which you could be cleaning, and activities you should be planning. If you must sit, I should see a planner in front of you, or, at the very least, a piece of curriculum you’re reviewing. Didn’t you know you aren’t allowed to take breaks?”

I wonder what gave my brain the idea that sitting was unacceptable. Why must I always feel the need to ‘produce’ something, and constantly be on the go? It’s taken me quite some time to realize that relaxing can be just as valuable as working. In fact, sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing I could be doing.

When I am constantly on the go I run the risk of overworking myself; making myself of use to no one. It is when I sit in quiet contemplation I am better able hear the voice of the Lord, renewing my strength and increasing in wisdom. I return from a place of rest prepared to serve my family and continue in the ministry to which I have been called.

The most difficult challenge is taking breaks when my husband is present and working hard. When everyone else is resting, I am less inclined to push myself as hard. But, if he is going to be working, shouldn’t I be working, too? Ironically, my husband often thinks I do too much and ought to relax more often. Why can’t I just sit and enjoy the movie and leave the dishes for later? If the kids are finished with school, why don’t I keep him company while he’s illustrating his latest project? If left unchecked, my lack of rest can become a point of frustration.

Speaking of my kids. What am I teaching them by constantly being on the go? They learn by watching me, and I don’t want them growing up with the mindset that constant activity is a necessity or that their value lies in what they are doing. In order to learn the benefit of rest, I need to set an example.

I feel the need to note… I hope it is clear I am not advocating a breakdown of the home. If you have read our page for any length of time, you know I highly recommend maintaining a clean home, home-cooked meals, and an organized lifestyle. What I am advocating is balance. There is a time to clean, and a time to rest. There is a time to organize, and a time to relax. In order to better serve in these capacities, we need to make a point of taking daily breaks.

The next time you’re tempted to put off that moment of rest for the sake of ‘doing something productive’, remember that renewing the soul and mind is profitable. Stop, take that break; then return to life’s never-ending responsibilities, ready to rock!

I hereby give you permission to take a break. Rest well!

 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

Psalm 116:7

Your Turn!: When you do manage time for breaks, how do you relax?

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Our July Reads

our_july_reads_2018

Our family has officially classified July as the busiest month of the year. With three birthdays, a comic convention, the end of our summer reading program, and a holiday thrown in it is amazing we’ve managed to get much reading done. Did we forget to mention we also returned to formal learning? But where there is a will, there is a way. And reading time was most definitely found!

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

Picture Books:

  • The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read (Irma Simonton Black & Seymourlittle_old_man_who_could_not_read Fleishman) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – An old toy maker never wanted to learn to read until his wife went away on a visit and he had to do the grocery shopping by himself.
  • Science Verse (Jon Scieszka) ⭐⭐ – What if a boring lesson about the food chain becomes a sing-along about predators and prey? A twinkle-twinkle little star transforms into a twinkle-less, sunshine-eating-and rhyming Black Hole? What if amoebas, combustion, metamorphosis, viruses, the creation of the universe are all irresistible, laugh-out-loud poetry?

Learning Resources:

  • A Ticket Around the World (Natalia Diaz & Melissa Owens) ⭐⭐⭐ – Join a young boy as he hops around the globe, visiting friends in 13 different countries spanning all six populated continents. Along the way, he introduces us to each friend’s environment and customs, and shares interesting facts about each country’s culture, language, food, geography, wildlife, landmarks and more.
  • When on Earth? (DK Publishing) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – In more than 60 specially commissioned maps, this one-of-a-kind history book shows where, when, and how history happened.

General Reading:

  • Shelf Life: Stories by the Book (Gary Paulsen) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Newbery Honor author Gary Paulsen has long been an ardent supporter of books, reading, and literacy programs. To further the cause of ProLiteracy Worldwide, he asked prominent authors to write an original story; the only restriction was that each story was to include mention of a book.

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 Little Old Man Who Could Not Read is a classic for a reason. This book is everything charming and lovely; with a special message for kids who might be struggling with a desire to read.
  • Science Verse is funny, but please note this is not written from a Biblical worldview.
  • Shelf Life was a neat read, and a lesson in the telling of short stories.

Our local summer reading program has officially wrapped up for the year, and we’re a little sorry to see it go. With a return to formal book studies, however, we’ll see an increase in classical literature and more fun on the way. Join us again during the month of August as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading. What will we read next?

“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

Your Turn!: When does your family plan to return to formal studies and book work?

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Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail: A Series Review!

Fail-to-planRecently a friend who is fairly new to homeschooling gave me a call. She had a lot of questions regarding homeschooling, but her main concern seemed to be, “How do I do it all? How do I clean my house, do my laundry, school my kids, do a million other things, and still remain sane?” My one resounding answer was organization! As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Now, let me be very clear. I am not perfect, nor do I always plan perfectly. There are many times I have needed to restructure my plan. Things change and so do my family’s needs, but the saying still stands true. I will not accomplish anything if I don’t at least have the building blocks set in place.

That being said, how do we go about setting up our schedules? I’m so glad you asked!

Prioritizing Life
Managing the Budget
Adding Events
Planning the Homeschool Year
Putting it all Together

Please keep in mind, these are not hard-lines which cannot be crossed. Rather, consider these as they were intended, guidelines. They are a starting point which can be changed and manipulated at any given point. What works for me, might not work for you. We should feel free to pray about what we are learning and then decide for ourselves where the Lord is leading.

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!
Cristina

“And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
~ Habakkuk 2:2

Your Turn!: What is the best household management tip you’ve ever received?

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Review: Bible Study Guide for All Ages

review_biblestudyguide

We love studying the Bible. So when we have an opportunity to discover new resources to learn God’s Word, we jump at the chance of a new adventure. Thanks to a review of Bible Study Guide for All Ages and their Advanced (5th & 6th grade) pages, we’re gaining a better understanding of Scripture and having tons of fun.

“The Bible Study Guide is a Bible curriculum that takes all ages through the Bible at the same time, studying some Old Testament and some New Testament each year.
Students learn the “big picture” of the story of the Bible, detailed knowledge of the Bible and, best of all, how to apply it to their lives.”
~ Bible Study Guide for All Ages

To get a full picture of what Bible Study Guide for All Ages offers, our family was provided an opportunity to review several unique resources to help us in our daily lessons. We chose to get a closer look at the Advanced Student Pages, recommended for grades fifth and sixth. We were given a physical set of the Advanced Student Pages, an Advanced Teacher KeyBible Book Summary Cards, Wall Maps and Timeline, and a Label Book.

Our family has been on summer break for the past few weeks, but Bible is an area of learning we never put on hold. Several days a week, the goal was to find a quiet spot in the house and focus on our studies. Before beginning our lessons, it was necessary to take an afternoon to look through all of the provided material and familiarize myself with the program. The Wall Maps and Timeline in particular needed special attention, as preparations had to be made in order to begin our first lessons. Once this was accomplished, daily learning progressed smoothly with preparation taking minutes and lessons being approximately twenty to thirty minutes in length; including wall map, timeline, and Bible Card portions of each lesson.

Lessons in Bible Study Guide for All Ages contain a number of daily activities. Lesson sheets are double-sided, printed on a legal-sized pad. On the first side, students are guided through either map studies or a timeline study based on the Bible lesson; alternating between the two from one lesson to another.  After searching out and reading the lesson’s Bible passage, children are then taken through a series of Bible activities such as “Remember It”, which asks questions based on the reading; “Memory Workout”; “Guess What”, offering fun background information and trivia; Timeline or Map activities; “Apply It”; and “Get Active”, which offers practical tips for applying the lesson. The back side of each lesson includes a large comic strip of the day’s lesson, in which children are guided through a series of steps to complete the comic to tell the Bible story.

The Wall Maps and Timeline set includes three large maps and a large timeline. These tools are used daily as students progress through their lessons and learn about Scripture. To assist us, we were given a Label Book which included tips on labeling our charts and specific labels for each lesson. Labels are clearly identified with corresponding lessons, and those which will be reused through the entire course. Labels require minor preparation, such as being cut out and ready for placing on charts as directed in The Advanced Teacher Key.

The Advanced Teacher Key assists parents/educators with helping children fill in their daily lesson sheets and offers helpful information to make the most of each activity. For families who choose to use the large wall maps and timeline, the Advanced Teacher Key gives specific detail as to which labels will be needed for each lesson, and when to place them on the appropriate chart. Together with the Bible Book Summary Cards, which lay out specific details regarding each book of the Bible, students are given a full picture of Scripture covered.

Using Bible Study Guide for All Ages was simple and well-organized. The program runs smoothly and seamlessly, requiring very little preparation. The variety of activities for each lesson were helpful in keeping lessons from becoming monotonous or dull. We liked the map and timeline selections in the advanced student pages, but found after several lessons that we preferred doing all such work on our lesson page itself and not using the wall maps further. However, we could see the benefit in having a large, present reminder of lessons throughout the day. The comic portion of each study was a lot of fun, and an activity we looked forward to completing each day. With a suggested age category for the Advanced Student Pages being fifth and sixth grade, we believe this to be a good fit. The lessons were too simple for all of our older children, in junior and senior high, but it was a fun experience encouraging our youngest in his studies.

While we enjoyed the overall program, we would have liked to see the curriculum begin with Genesis 1, instead of beginning with later chapters on Abraham. It is important not to assume children have an understanding of Creation nor the fall of mankind, which is essential to a solid Biblical foundation. Parents might wish to be aware that at this stage in learning the curriculum is intended to help children better understand Scripture and its place in history, and will not be an in-depth Bible study. Considering these factors, we found Bible Study Guide for All Ages to be a good survey of the Bible, helping us gain a big picture of God’s work.

 

We love studying God’s Word and learning more about the world He created. Reviewing Bible Study Guide for All Ages and their Advanced pages has been a learning experience and a lot of fun. If you’d like to learn more about Advanced Curriculum or Bible Study Guide for All Ages, please visit them at their website and on Facebook and Twitter. To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Bible Study Guide for All Ages has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

Your Turn!: Are timelines a part of your daily Bible study?

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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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