Getting the Most Out of Field Trips: A Series Review!

Field-TripsWho doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery,  and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

What if we could make the day more simple? Wouldn’t the trip be much more enjoyable if we had a plan of attack and were better prepared? I think so. After planning field trips, both for myself and for larger groups, here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

Go out and explore! Have a lot of fun and enjoy your children while they are young; this won’t last forever. ~ Cristina

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
~ Proverbs 24:27

We’re curious… Do you enjoy being spontaneous with outings or planning in advance?

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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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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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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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A Simplified Life

Simplified_LifeBefore summer gets away from me and life once again becomes crowded with too many homeschooling resources, parent-taxi responsibilities, and an overburdened calendar, it’s time to take a moment to breathe and simplify life. Perhaps you’re feeling like me and could use a little encouragement. Join us in reviewing this fun, simple to follow series!

With these basic, easy steps, we hope to help simplify life. Join us as we share our thoughts on how to simplify all areas of our lives, homes, and learning.

A Simplified Life: Menu Planning
A Simplified Life: Chores
A Simplified Life: Homeschooling
A Simplified Life: Educational Resources
A Simplified Life: Extra Curricular Activities
A Simplified Life: Free Printables

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Why Am I Two Steps Ahead?

why_am_i_two_steps_aheadI can’t help it, really I can’t. Once the end of our learning year seems to be in sight, I am already starting to think of what comes next. I don’t wait for the year to finish, I don’t wait for summer time; I start planning the minute the urge takes over. It looks like this year is no different. We hadn’t even finished our third quarter and I was already two steps ahead.

By nature, I tend to be an overly organized person. I also tend to obsess over things and continually think over them until I’ve made myself crazy. When I consider what next year might bring, it helps to start writing things out and narrowing down decisions. This gives me plenty of time to thoroughly inspect new ideas or activities and test out concepts to see if they work practically. It also helps in being able to do research, if some of our new interests require a financial investment or a great deal of time. Once ideas are written down, I don’t have to worry about forgetting a truly awesome idea or keeping information in my head. It’s down on paper and I have plenty of time to get to it.

I also tend to write down thoughts on how our routine is currently working. Is our day Bookshelf_Feb2010running smoothly? Will our day need to be adjusted next year to accommodate our children’s needs or household schedules? What is working well this year that I don’t want to change? What is not working and needs to be revamped? Which things need a complete replacement?

Planning ahead has also helped me in mapping out our children’s educational futures. By looking in the direction our children are headed, I have a better idea of how their learning should be planned out now. If my child wants to be a zoologist, I don’t want to wait until her junior year of high school to start bumping up her science courses; that is something we need to start looking at in junior high.

The only downside I see to being two steps ahead (or three, or four), is that I get anxious to start. I become excited over new projects, new school books, new routines, and new opportunities to learn. While I understand the current year needs to be completed, I’m chomping at the bit to move on.

Above all else, I am continually praying for our coming year. No matter what new changes – and there are going to be some awesome ones – come our way, I want to make sure we are following the path He has laid before us. If I do this on my own, I know I am going to fail. With Him, this next year looks to be an excellent one!

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9

Your Turn!: When do you begin looking at next year’s routine?

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Loosing the Reins

Loosing_the_ReinsWhen our children were little, they required a lot more guidance in their learning. They needed me to walk them through a daily and weekly routine. They thrived on knowing what to expect next, what each day brought to them. As my littles have grown, however, I’ve come to realize they are wanting a little more control over their learning routine.

I like routine. With all of life’s responsibilities, good planning removes a lot of the stress and headache of trying to get everything done. The danger in too much control is that our children can sometimes feel boxed in, forced to follow a pattern which they had no say in making. As our children get older, it helps to include their input and loosen the reigns.

We started out our learning year just as we have the previous few. We had our routine in place and our electives chosen. Our ‘rotation’ spots were all picked out and mommy had the perfect plan in mind. Somewhere around the beginning of second quarter, my kids started to voice new-found opinions. Would it really be that life altering if they got to choose when they did electives?

It seems instead of doing electives at an appointed time they wanted the freedom to work on these learning areas at will. If they chose to rise earlier than everyone else, they could practice their Spanish then. Free time between learning subjects might be the perfect opportunity to sit at the piano. It wasn’t a matter of avoiding these topics, they simply wanted the freedom to choose the appropriate time themselves. In other words, they wanted a little control.

This didn’t seem like such a far-fetched request. They are getting older and have solid reasons for wanting the bulk of their afternoons free; it’s not like they are pushing off electives only to sit around doing nothing. They still plan to get things done, but in their own time. Afternoons could now be free to bake, sew, play together, and even just rest.

Part of me had doubts, but I wanted to give them a chance. So, we compromised. I would allow them the freedom to choose when they did their electives. If they couldn’t stick with it, and I was having to remind them too often, we would return to our normal routine.

Thus far the plan has worked well. My girls are cruising through their lessons with me and finishing their electives in good time. While my son needs my input and assistance a little more than his sisters do, he too is doing very well. Unless the kids are learning a new piano piece or my son needs a reading partner, they are handling electives entirely on their own. Loosing the reigns and allowing them monitored freedom was a great decision for all of us. The kids are learning to structure their own time wisely and mommy has less to worry about. It’s been a win-win change.

Now, if only I could convince them that 25 minutes if not a half an hour. Cutting corners doesn’t count!

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time,…”
~ Ephesians 5:15-17

Your Turn!: How closely do you monitor your children’s electives? Is this something you work on together or allow them to manage on their own? Share your ideas with us!

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Do You Feel Like Goldilocks?

GoldilocksSo, you’ve finally figured out your method of homeschooling. But what comes next can be even more challenging; finding the right curriculum. It leaves one feeling a little like poor Goldilocks; one curriculum is just a little too cold and others just a little too hot to handle. How does one find the right fit?

I wish I could give you a simple, straightforward, fool-proof method of finding the perfect curriculum for each child in your home. But, honestly, anyone trying to sell you that should not be believed. The truth is, there is no easy answer! Like poor Goldilocks, you just need to give it a try.

Through careful study of our children we can make the job a little easier on ourselves, to be sure. Knowing how my children learn will help eliminate numerous options; narrowing down the choices. Attending curriculum fairs, perusing material displays at conventions, and reading online forums also benefit us. A few companies are generous in offering samples and trials of their curriculum. Asking friends and homeschooling acquaintances about their experience is a good option. It’s always a good idea to see something in person and read through some of the material.

Try as we might, at the end of the day, our only option is to make that purchase and give it a go. We pray the curriculum choices we’ve made work and we do our best to not squander our funds. It’s a gamble, but we pray it pays off. Generally we do okay, but sometimes it takes a little finagling. Then we are left wondering what to do with the curriculum we now have no use for. Should we sell it off or perhaps give it away?

Even if we can find what’s ‘just right’ for this moment, give it a year or two. Just when you think you’ve got it down, your kids grow up a little and you’re making changes to accommodate their needs. Here we go again!

Does this all sound a little disheartening and discouraging? It shouldn’t! Think of it this way. We all go through this; you aren’t alone! (Well, okay, most of us. I suppose some might be getting their curriculum through a charter or buy the entire boxed set from a company, but you get my drift.) For those of you who are in the midst of this Goldilocks Syndrome, know that we’ve all been there; some of us are there once again with growing kids’ needs. We’ve all had to make those tough curriculum choices. We’ve purchased items we haven’t figured out what to do with, we have resources still in the boxes, and on occasion seek the advice of others who’ve gone before. Take heart; you aren’t alone.

Once again I find myself suffering from Goldilocks Syndrome. I have a two daughters in high school, a junior higher, and a son in the last years of elementary. Finding the perfect science and history curriculums can be a genuine challenge. This year’s course in Chemistry is proving especially difficult! I want to find a fit that’s ‘just right’ for their needs. Time to dig out the spoon and test the porridge!

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”
~ Deuteronomy 7:9

Your Turn!: Share with us your most expensive homeschooling failure, and why it didn’t work!

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When Did Busyness Become A Badge of Honor?

When_Did_Busyness_Become_A_Badge_of_Honor?As I sat visiting with a friend, I began to notice a distinctive quality to our conversation. After being asked about my oldest daughter’s college classes, we had moved into her work opportunities, then on to the general homeschool calendar. Family activities soon followed. What bothered me wasn’t the current topic so much as the pride which seemed to be creeping into my tone. Our ridiculously over-filled routine had me brimming with pride. When had busyness become a badge of honor?

The Lord used that teachable moment to remind me of something important. It is dangerous to allow our worth and value to be caught up in our routine. We are not more successful because we are busy running around town. A lot of tasks completed does not, in fact, make me more accomplished.  It just makes me more busy.

On the flip side, neither is the notion of doing nothing a badge of honor. I am not a better parent, or closer to my children, because we go nowhere and our calendar is clear. I can equally ignore my children at home as not meet basic needs by being constantly on the go.

The goal is to be content with where God has placed us. To be in the center of His perfect will. At times this will give us a full schedule, while others allow us rest. Neither has anything to do with my ability, and everything to do with God’s goodness.

A good place to start is by doing a heart check. When choosing activities, are we doing so because the Lord has prompted our hearts and moved us in this direction, or because everyone else is doing this and I am worried others will think we are failing to be sufficiently involved? Perhaps I am cramming much into our schedule for fear of missing out. If we refrain from activity, are we judging others for their busy lives while we appreciate a season of peace? Neither course of action is wise. Both lead to a prideful heart unfit for service.

When sharing, I want it to be from a heart so full of Jesus I am overflowing with joy at what He is doing. Even if what He has brought is a season of rest. What is important is not what we have done or not done, but how God is moving through that moment.

May the only thing I glory in be God alone.

But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.”
~ Corinthians 10:17-18

Your Turn!: Where does the Lord have you right now; in a season of rest or activity?

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Series Review: If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Fail-to-planI am huge on planning. Without a “vision” for my day, or my year for that matter, I can quickly lose balance of what needs to be accomplished and get overwhelmed by the surmounting tasks of the day-to-day. In order to help me make sense of life and to prioritize the multitude of tasks that fill my routine, I decided to write down a “master plan”. A guideline to help me better manage both my household and my homeschooling.

Let me be the first to remind you, this is not a hard-line 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.

Part I:   Prioritizing Life
Part II:  Managing the Budget
Part III: Adding Events
Part IV: Planning the Homeschool Year
Part V:  Putting it all Together

What works for me, might not work for you. Please feel free to read with discretion; pray about what you are hearing and then decide for yourself where the Lord is leading.

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