Five Most Important Things Every Homeschooler Should Know

five most important things every homeschooler should know

You Probably Won’t Stick to “The Plan”

 

We homeschoolers have so many inspired ideas when we first begin! Who doesn’t love a new adventure, with a shiny new schedule to go along with it?I promise you, you will go “off course”. You will “follow a different path”. You will get “redirected”. It’s all okay. It’s necessary, and it leads to new adventures and new opportunities.

 

Consider This Fictitious Day

 

* 8:30 You and your children begin the day with stretching, exercise and/or prayer time. Everyone is smiling and well-rested. The bigger kids help make smoothie bowls for breakfast at 8:30 am while their younger siblings clean up their toys. Breakfast is followed by journal writing and free reading. Your group history lesson begins at 10:00 followed by a snack (which the kids prepare themselves) and a short free-play or free-time session for everyone until exactly 10:45, which leaves just enough time to fit in some handwriting practice before it’s time to involve the kids in preparing a healthy lunch. (more…)

The Importance of Reading Aloud To Your Kids

The Importance of Reading Aloud

​When I was in graduate school I learned all the reasons why reading aloud to students is so important.  Aside from the obvious, the benefits of reading aloud extends to students beyond the pre-reading stage, and even all the way up through high school.

When I did start teaching I took an inservice based upon the teaching of Jim Trelease and his book The Read Aloud Handbook. I knew intuitively that what he said about literacy was correct and I implemented many of his strategies with great success for my students.  I highly recommend his book.  It is one that you will never give away or sell because you will refer to it throughout your homeschooling years.

We love reading aloud so much that we do it as often as we can.  It is important also to read silently to a sibling, a parent or a buddy, but some of our most treasured moments in our homeschool are when I am reading aloud to my kids.

Students whose parents and/or teachers read aloud to them on a consistent basis become better readers.  Kids who are read-aloud to develop many skills important to literacy and these are only a few:
listening comprehension
reading comprehension
vocabulary building
reading fluency
proper pronunciation
grammar
and much, much more

(more…)

How to Homeschool in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

how to homeschool in florida: our comprehensive guide2020 is the year of uncertainty, isn’t it? I think there is more uncertainty among parents of children who are in traditional public schools, private schools, and homeschools. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation going around on social media, it’s no wonder you’re confused!

This comprehensive guide to how to homeschool will apply to Florida, however, many states follow similar guidelines. Check your individual state requirements before you make your decision.

Schooling at Home, But Not Homeschooling

The following three options allow your child to learn at home, and be public school students at the same time.

County School District Virtual School

Before the Year 2020 threw a monkey wrench into all of our plans, students still had the option to study their school’s curriculum, but to do so from home and online. This option requires your student to follow all the rules and regulations that they would normally follow if going to the brick and mortar classroom such as schedules, testing, etc. Obviously, more students (and teachers) are being forced into this option because of limited space in the classrooms right now.

Hospital Homebound Study

Many counties have a hospital homebound program within their public school system. This can be used if your child has a medical diagnosis which prohibits him/her to go to the brick and mortar school. This can also be a good option temporarily if your child is undergoing a surgery which will require a long recovery, or if your child has had an unexpected medical event. Contact your local school board office to learn more.

Florida Virtual School

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is considered its own school district. FLVS follows the typical calendar and testing requirements that other public school districts do. Your student will receive a diploma from FLVS. You can apply to be a FLVS full-time student if you are a resident of Florida. The deadline for the 2020-2021 year is July 31.

Homeschooling Options – Umbrella Schools and Home-Educated Students

The following options are those that typical homeschoolers sign up for. They each have their pros and their cons.

Register With an Umbrella School

When you register your child with an umbrella school in Florida, your child is counted in the private school numbers because umbrella schools are considered private schools, even though many of these are just a “cover” and do not even have a brick and mortar building. Some of these umbrellas do offer in-person classes, however, so check your options carefully. Our umbrella Life Learning Academy, allows you to homeschool on your own schedule and choose your own curriculum. We also offer report cards and help creating high school transcripts.

Register With Your County School Board

When you register your child with your county school board office, your child will be considered a home-educated student. You can begin your homeschool any time within 30 days of registering and you are free to use whatever curriculum you choose. At the end of the year (on the anniversary of when you established your homeschool by sending in your Intent to Homeschool Letter), you will provide proof of progress to your school board office. You have several options for this.including standardized testing, portfolio reviews and more. You can read more about portfolio reviews here. 

Get Straight Answers Here

Our options in Florida can be confusing, especially now that more and more people are choosing to have their children study at home. Finding answers on social media can be like herding chickens, and many people (including those that work in public schools) think they know the laws, when in fact, they don’t.

There are several pros and cons to each homeschooling option above. For example, which option allows you to get college classes for free? One does! Which option allows your kids to participate easily in public school sports? Find out more about all of this and more when you go through our Beginner’s Guide How to Homeschool in Florida: Making Sense of Our Laws and Options course. It’s only $17 and we add and update it all the time as the laws change. We also provide you with all the necessary forms and paperwork you need, depending on the option you choose.

Beginner's Guide: How to Homeschool in Florida

 

 

How to Homeschool Multiple Children

The question of how to homeschool multiple children is one of the top questions I get when I work with homeschooling families. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons why homeschooling moms book consulting appointments with me.

When I was an educator working in the elementary brick and mortar classrooms, I taught in what we called then multi-age classrooms. I had kindergarten, first and second graders together for several years and then third, fourth and fifth graders after that. As a passionate educator who had a wonderful and diverse education in the art and science of educating, teaching in multi-age classrooms was a dream.

When I decided to homeschool my own children, I followed what I knew worked in my classrooms, and I even ran a small cottage school out of my home for a while consisting of students of multiple ages. These days were some of my girls’ fondest homeschool memories.

Here are some things that I learned along the way that can help you homeschool multiple children in your own homeschool. We’ll start with the very important and less “academic” things. (more…)

Atlas of Ocean Adventures

Atlas of Ocean ADventures
Who doesn’t love ocean adventures during the summer?

Maybe you school through the summer and need some tips for tacking those tricky home ed days. If you can get away, a beach trip can be refreshing to your soul and can rejuvenate your homeschool like nothing else!

Before you hit the road, be sure to look at the atlas and decide what types of sea creatures you want to find when you get there! Also, be sure to check out these10 hacks for family fun at the beach..

With all of the restrictions this year, maybe you won’t be getting to the beach this year. No worries!  Your kids can still meet some of nature’s most fantastic ocean creatures in this beautifully illustrated exploration of the sea! This book is appropriate for all age levels.

There are over 30 scenes to explore and your kids will enjoy learning about the sea creatures through detailed illustrations in this beautiful Atlas. Maybe you can incorporate this into your Ocean Life unit study?

Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are some FREE ocean-themed printables to go along with your unit study!

Sharks Notebooking Pages

Ocean Zones Worksheets

Ocean Animals Mini Puzzle Unit 

All About Oceans Unit Study

Book Review and Craft: Little Narwhal’s Day

Ocean Fill-In Puzzle

 

Benefits of Florida Online Homeschool Evaluations

The Benefits of Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations – at a Distance!

Just this week I had several homeschooling moms ask me why I no longer portfolio evaluations in person.  I did write about this on the old blog, and I think it deserves a place here in our new(er) space as well.  Before I answer though, let me just say that I really would love to meet you, but I’d rather talk to you via Zoom or phone. 🙂 Let me explain why. 

Introvert, Extrovert, Ambivert? 

There has been a lot of talk on social media about personality types: introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts too. I have spent some time pondering this myself and I do find personality/learning style quizzes fun and interesting. I am most definitely an introvert. When I have too many places to have to be, too many people to talk to, and too many outside-the-home commitments, it can take me days to recover my energy. This is how introverts are: they recharge by being alone and quiet. 

Because I am a homeschooling mom, I don’t get much alone time, but I can go outside and work in my garden, or go hang out in the barn with my horses for a bit.  I need this. Fortunately, my family understands and lucky for me, my girls are also introverts so we “get” each other. Yet, despite not necessarily getting “energized” by our social activities, we trudge on and go to classes, meet with friends and live a joyful, full life.  I couldn’t imagine living in a household full of extroverts! 

I work from home as well, both as a homeschool consultant and evaluator, curriculum creator, and as a part-time teacher.  Both of these provide me with joy and satisfaction, but I can get drained of energy. Can you relate?

The Need for Change

I began doing homeschool evaluations and consulting in 2007.  My clients and I would meet in local coffee shops.  Since the bulk of my evaluation requests come in during the late spring and summer months, I found myself spending all of my Saturdays and three to four nights a week away from my family. They started to feel the effects of my absence.  My girls were littler then and I missed them!  That was when I decided to change the way I did things.  

Most of my consulting work was done long-distance anyway, and I had many clients from other parts of Florida and other states already doing distance-evaluations by emailing or snail-mailing me work samples, so I decided to ask my local clients to do their evaluations online too.  I knew that this would make it easier for me, but I never expected that most of my clients actually preferred doing their evaluations this way as well.  Maybe they are all fellow introverts! 😉 Seriously, though; the process is just so much more convenient and thorough for everyone involved. 

Do Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation From Anywhere!

 
Online or distance-evaluations are super easy. You can upload work samples whenever you want to, and email them to me ahead of time.  Of course, this is not the only way to show me the work that your students have done.  Over the years I have had families share their work in these ways:

* Create a blog (I love these and many of my unschooling families do this.)
* Create a private Facebook page (Love this too!)
* Create a Youtube channel (some of my families who do this are amazing and I love to see and hear the students I am evaluating)
* Scan and email samples of work
* Snail-mail work samples to me

Florida asks evaluators to have a conversation with the student as well, and the way we fulfill this requirement is via a short phone chat, or Skype session. After that, the time is YOURS for whatever you’d like to discuss. Read more about how I conduct evaluations here.

Evaluation and Consultation In One

A big perk of scheduling a portfolio evaluation with me is that you are able to ask me any questions you want to during our phone session.  Yes, the phone session is for the student; however, that time is for you as well.  One of the benefits of doing a distance-evaluation with me is that you can decide what you’d like to discuss with me before-hand and give me a heads up about it so that I can research and ponder before hand.  This is the best way to use our time together, and is the way that I have been doing consulting sessions since the beginning. Another benefit to you if you choose me as your evaluator, is that I will answer any questions you have via email all year long.  If you have more in-depth questions about a particular topic such as curriculum choices, learning styles, etc. then we can schedule a consult; however, many questions can be answered via email. 

Book Your Appointment!

Are you ready to book your appointment!  Just click here for my appointment scheduler, and choose the time that works best for you and your family.  I look forward to talking with you! Read my testimonials page to see a sampling of what some of my other families have said about working with me! 

 

Homeschooling Away from Family: Preschool Addition

homeschooling away from family: preschool editionWelcome Guest Blogger Alyssa Leanne Riggan from teachingwithfaith.com!

I am new to homeschooling (compared to others) and have been homeschooling a preschooler for the last two years. I started homeschooling my daughter when she was almost 2 years old and have enjoyed every minute of it!

To better understand how we homeschool away from family, I first need to provide some background of our family as well as why we homeschool.

When You’re Far From Family Support

When I was in high school, I wanted to go to school away from my home state of Texas because well I kinda wanted an adventure and it was hot in Texas! So I moved to North Caroline for college. This is where I met my husband. My husband and I met back in college, but did not start dating until after college. While we were dating, he talked me into going back to school to get my Masters in Education with a focus in Early Childhood Education. He was on track to get his PhD and wanted to become a professor. This path though can be very tough so he took a Post Doc position where he could and we moved to Maryland where we had our two children. Even though we found a great community there, we moved again when my husband got a great position as a tenure track Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska. We moved to our current house when our second child was only 2 months old! I have not lived near my family for about 14 years. I have learned how to make my home wherever I ended up!

We Discovered That Homeschoolers Were “Normal” 

Now a small backstory into why we homeschool in general. Our first reason we homeschool is politics. When we lived in Maryland we were not too far from DC and I found that the school systems in the area were very political. (more…)

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

homeschool in florida

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me.

This is what I say to new clients who ask about my homeschool portfolio evaluation services.

A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their portfolio evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction: WHY?!

During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to their state laws, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above for the states of Florida and Virginia, where the bulk of my clients reside.

Always check your state’s requirements.

We are so fortunate as homeschoolers across the country to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article.

The portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do homeschool portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing does have its place. I have had my girls test in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. ​

Why Choose a Homeschool Portfolio Review

Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare.

Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.

Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.

What to Expect During Your Homeschool Portfolio Review

During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the law in my state ask me to.

I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly state will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test.

As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

I offer convenient, stress-free, distance portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers in Florida, Virginia as a way for families to prove progress. I also offer portfolio evaluations to homeschoolers worldwide as an assessment tool for parent’s peace of mind.

Learn more about the benefits of distance evaluations here.

I invite you to become a part of my Homeschool Helpline group. In this small group setting you have access to my experience and expertise in a multitude of ways, which will bring you all the confidence and the peace you need for a successful homeschool.

You can read more about my coaching group here, and my other services including online portfolio evaluations here. Read about my upcoming speaking engagements here.

How to Transition from School to Home

How to transition from school to home Many more people every year are taking the plunge into the world of homeschooling. The transition from school to homeschool can sometimes be seamless, but oftentimes there can be some bumps along the way. Here are a few tips to help ease that transition.

Homeschooling is Not School at Home

Making the transition from school to homeschooling can be difficult because the idea of “school” has been so consistent for those who have had kids in traditional schooling. You may ask, How will I fill all the time we’ll have? or How will I teach x,y,z subject?  There are many ways to school at home, but in my experience as a homeschool coach for over a decade is that the least productive way, and the way to suck the joy out of learning, is to try to replicate traditional school at home.

Remembering that, here are some things you can do today:

  • Try to be relaxed about your schedule. I often recommend that my clients think of their daily routine as more of a rhythm than a schedule.
  • Know that it can take some time to find your perfect rhythm: one that works best for both you and your kids. No two homeschooling family’s day looks the same.
  • Tailor your classes and your outings to fit your child’s interests. I am a huge proponent of child-led learning. This is how you make homeschooling a joy for your whole family.

Take Some Time to Relax

Chances are, you are pulling your child out of a traditional school setting because there was some negative experience attached to traditional schooling. This is quite common among the clients that I work with. Perhaps your child has special needs that were not being met, or maybe your child was among the alarmingly growing number of kids who are bullied in school. No matter the reason, it is always good to be mindful of your child’s individual transitional needs.

Many people use the term “deschooling.” I am not a big fan of this, although I know the meaning behind it. Sometimes traditional schooling causes such a negative imprint on our children that it is hard to shake. Jumping from a poor situation right into trying to “do school” at home just won’t work. Allow yourself and your children some breathing space.

Here are some ideas for what to do while you’re allowing your child that space:

  • Read aloud to your children – it doesn’t matter what age they are!
  • Watch documentaries on your child’s favorite subject
  • Make crafts, paint, dance, make music
  • Go to the theater, symphony, museum – or take virtual tours online
  • Get outdoors!

Involve Your Children

As an educator for over two decades, I know that involving children in their own schooling helps them to take ownership, which in turn positively affects learning outcomes and children’s attitudes toward learning. Schooling should not be something that is “done” to our kids, but rather, something that our kids choose.

  • Here are some ways to involve your kids in the transition from school to homeschool:
  • Ask your children what they’d like to study – a novel idea for some kids!
  • Sit down with them and make lesson plans together. Decide on ways in which you can really dive into that interest beyond sitting at a table and looking at a book or filling out a worksheet.
  • Have your child work on a long-term project. Long-term projects are great for teaching children not only about the subject matter involved, but also are great ways to teach time management and planning. Choose one long-term project to work on that semester, half-year or year. Then let your child plan it, implement the strategy and see it to fruition.

Discover Your Homeschool Style

Research homeschool methods and discover your unique homeschool style. Research curriculum. Join homeschool groups online and in person. Ask your friends who homeschool to share with you what they do, but remember: there are many paths to a successful homeschool.

I invite you to join my Your Homeschool Coach Facebook group. I have worked with hundreds of homeschool families from around the country and have helped many successfully and peacefully transition from school to homeschooling (and vice versa.) I’d love to work with you!

I offer group coaching for your homeschool life as well as one-on-one coaching and much more. If you are in Florida, I run a private umbrella school, Life Learning Academy. I create courses for homeschooling parents and homeschooled kids here. 

No matter the reason for making the transition at this time, I’d like you to above all else, relax and enjoy this extra time with your children!

Soul Care For the Homeschool Mom

take courage soul care for the homeschool mom

Dear Homeschool Mom, You’re Worth It!

So many moms that I talk to somehow feel that if they take time for themselves, that they are cheating their children. This thinking is all wrong. There have been lots of memes in the arena about self care and what that should look like.

I disagree with many of the things that I hear and read about self-care for moms. Here’s what I do agree with: You’re worth it! I’m worth it! We’re all worth it! Give yourself the gift of soul care this year.

Reframe It

I prefer the term “soul care” to “self care.” Don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe that self care is a bad thing: no! I do think that sometimes we can lump just about everything into the “self care basket” and sometimes these things really shouldn’t be there. Do you know what I mean?

Things like allowing our kids to skip too many days of math just because our “selves” can’t take it. (Ask me how I know about this one.) Or, things like spending money on things when we promised ourselves and our families that we’d really try to stick to the budget this month. I’m sure you can come up with many more examples. But what is soul care?

Soul Care Is Different

Soul care is different. Soul care is taking time for yourself in order to make yourself better. Hear that again: Soul care is taking time for yourself in order to make yourself better.

Do you see what word is missing there? I didn’t say “Soul care is taking time for yourself in order to make yourself feel better.”

There are thousands of things that we can do to help us temporarily feel better. There are fewer things that we can do that can help us be better.

Soul Care Makes Us Better

Spending time in quiet prayer and meditation is soul care. Soul care can include things that make us feel better, for sure! However, it goes deeper than that. Eating a chocolate bar makes me feel better, but does it make me a gentler, more patient mom? Not really. And if it did, I’d buy stock in that chocolate company right away. Sign me up.

Soul Care Helps Us See the Big Picture

Ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels trying to get things done, all the while knowing that you’re running out of time? There seems to be so little time for science, math, and SAT prep. Your little kids need more play time with friends and the week has gone by again. You’re on the hamster wheel wondering how you’ll ever reach the end. Taking time every day to spend in the presence of God both helps us slow down and get to where we need to be faster. It’s a dichotomy. A mystery. But it works that way. And you’re worth it!

Take Courage!

Take courage, moms! You’re worth it. Try it for a week and see how the mystery plays out in your life. Download my 30-day Affirmation Journal for Christian Moms and see how your life changes. You’ll have more peace, clarity, and patience for all the things you need to do.

And then go get that chocolate bar!

For more help with your homeschool life, check out my Homeschool Helpline group. It can be an important part of your soul care, too!

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