Top Ten Tips for Tackling Those Tricky Home Ed Days

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series

Top Ten Tips for Tacking Those Tricky Home Ed Days

Our home ed journey is over two years old now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel so close to my children; their education is thriving and most importantly they’re extremely happy – they have a lust for life and for all the wonderful learning opportunities it presents, but sometimes I need some tips for tackling the tricky home ed days.

Most days it’s possible to appreciate all the multitude of benefits this lifestyle presents, such as being able to follow your child’s interests and passions; allowing them more time in nature; giving them time and space to imagine, think and explore; strong sibling bonds; no peer pressure; close friendships with a whole range of ages along with the confidence to be thrown into new situations and make friends easily; the freedom to travel and take advantage of the numerous educational opportunities this presents; the chance to learn something just for the pure joy it gives you rather than because you’re going to be tested on it, making space for creative pursuits as well as the more traditionally academic subjects… I could go on and on.

And then there are days which are not so good. Days when you question whether what you’re doing is enough. Days when you need some space from each other. Days when you’re all exhausted. Days when you’re completely preoccupied with some other pressing life event. Days when no-one seems to be learning anything. Days when you wish they’d just stop asking questions (after like the millionth question of the day) and then you feel guilty because you know this inquisitive nature is exactly what you should be nurturing.

These days are in the minority, but they happen.

Self-Reflection 

Self-reflection is not something you’d necessarily assume to be an essential attribute of a home ed mummy, but it’s fundamental. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your “frustration triggers” can help you identify when things are not working and what to do about them. One of my characteristics, for example, is that once I have a plan in my head, I like to complete it. Sometimes this is a great attribute, but other times it’s a huge disadvantage.

Flexibility

At the start of our home ed journey, I’d persevere even if we were having one of the days described above. And we’d end the day having achieved very little, frustrated and unhappy. Over time, I’ve come to realise that, in these situations, the very best thing to do is just to stop. Stop what we’re doing and either rest if that’s what we need or do something completely different. Embrace the flexibility home ed offers. Change up our day, let go of the bad and turn the day around.

There are lots of ways of achieving this goal, but here are some of the strategies that work best for us when we need to tackle those tricky home ed days:

1. Getting outside and exploring nature

Just being in nature is a hugely therapeutic experience for adults and children alike. You can feel yourself breathing deeper, the layers of stress and anxiety lifting as you walk through that meadow or along that beach, and you’re left instead with a feeling of calm and serenity. As Richard Louv says in his excellent book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”  

Go and explore the woods, beach, meadows, rivers and lakes in your local area. Encourage the kids to make and pack their own picnic, and to carry it in their backpacks.

Let the children run, twist and jump in nature; climb trees; look under stones for interesting critters; build dens; and find interesting stones and sticks. If you want a little more structure or incentive for your walk, take along a penknife and a whittling book and spend a lazy few hours whittling sticks. Or sign up to eBird (an archive of bird sightings across the globe – more than 100 million bird sightings are contributed each year), grab your binoculars, bird book and notepad and take a note of all the birds you see in your local area. Once home, you can show your child how to add the birds they’ve seen and their location to the eBird tracker, thereby improving their naturalist and computing skills at the same time! Or tune into your surroundings by downloading a bird song identification app (such as Collins in the UK or Sibley Guides in the US) to identify the bird calls and songs you hear all around you. Or download Plantnet to help identify unknown trees and plant species you discover.

Or take a fishing net, pond/river life identification book and a bucket and see what interesting freshwater life you can discover. You could even teach them how to graphically represent their discoveries on your return home.  Or pack up a little bag of paints, colouring pens & pencils or chalks, paper, and an identification book, and enjoy some time drawing the nature around you. You might find they become enthused about this and want to start a nature journal or it may just be a one-off picture for your wall. Or take a little collecting bag and ask them to see what snippets of the natural world they can find to set up their own nature table back home. Encourage them to lay out the display, identify their finds and add the labels.

Or just simply walk, breathe and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors.

2. Reading, reading and more reading!

My children relax by reading. It’s their absolute favourite thing to do. As Dr. Seuss said, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax. All you need is a book.” If it’s a beautiful day, set up a picnic blanket and cushions in the garden and lay out lots of lovely picture and/or chapter books for them to select from. Or make a really simple tent by throwing a rug over a washing line and weighting down with rocks. Snuggle up together inside. If it’s a miserable day, get the duvets out, grab some hot chocolate and a few snacks, and settle in for an afternoon of joyous reading.

We sometimes forget that even older children and fluent readers still relish being read to, so enjoy cuddling and reading that chapter book together. Or, if they’re deeply engrossed in their own books, take your book and read alongside them. There’s always a temptation when the kids are fully occupied to fit in just one more job, but don’t! You need a break too, and after an hour’s reading, you’ll be in a much better head space to tackle whatever else the day throws at you.

3. Let them play

Play is vital to children (and to us adults too!). It’s how they learn. Their exploration of the world through play is what forms these wonderful, crazy, creative and imaginative individuals. “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce.

So, step back and give them the time and space to play to their hearts content. Take some time for yourself when they’re engaged in play, but also come back from time to time and just watch. Really notice what they’re doing and how they’re playing; it’ll bring joy to your heart.

4. Watch a documentary together

Our kids don’t watch TV apart from documentaries and the odd film or two, so having the opportunity to relax in front of a good documentary or film feels like a real treat. There are some excellent documentaries available, many for free on You Tube. Ours particularly love anything by David Attenborough or the Deadly Sixty series on the natural world front, and anything with Ruth Goodman on the historical front (such as Full Steam Ahead or The Secrets of the Castle).

5. Set up some art provocations

Simply lay out a few art supplies, and possibly an inspirational book and let them while away the day creating masterpieces. My two are particularly partial to me reading to them whilst they create, but if you need a break, put on an audiobook and buy yourself some free time.

6. Enjoy some time giggling together

“A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.” — Carolyn Birmingham.

Rejoice in the joy of children and have a good giggle together. Get out the joke books, or dance around the kitchen or one sure fire way to make my children laugh until their tummies hurt is to get out the Mad Libs, a super fun word game (and they can practise their grammar at the same time).

7. Take an impromptu day trip

Clearly this is not one to do if you’re tired, but if you just need a change, ditch the books, and head out for a fun day out at a museum or historical location. Savour in the delicious advantage of being able to visit these places when it’s lovely and quiet.

8. Practise some independence skills

Give them the responsibility of cooking a meal or planning the menu and shopping list for the week. Instead of whizzing through your jobs, include them and do them together slowly. The result – you get your jobs completed and the kids love being involved with the important work of running a household.

9. Play board games

We love board games in our house. Children play them because they’re great fun, but they’re also developing their logic and reasoning skills, improving their critical thinking and enhancing their spatial reasoning at the same time. Favourites in this house are Dutch Blitz, Top Trumps and Ticket to Ride.

10. Take Photos

Take lots of photos throughout the day, and just before bedtime, sit down together and go through them (if your children are anything like mine, they’ll love looking at photos of themselves!), asking them what they enjoyed learning today. Seeing the day through their eyes is a lovely way to connect with them before bedtime and gives you a greater appreciation of just how much they’ve absorbed in this hands-off, go with the flow sort of day. And more importantly you’ll end the day on a positive note, ready to take on whatever the next day holds.

Do any of these tips look like they could work for you? Have you used any of them yourself? Do you have any great tips that we can add to our bag of tricks? Comment below and let us know!

dav

 

Debbie Douse is co-author of www.fiveescapetheclassroom.com, a blog she writes with fellow home educator and best friend Cathy Smith. Their children bonded over a love of the Enid Blyton Famous Five stories and became firm friends. In the blog, they share their home ed adventures with the world.

How a Homeschool Coach Can Help You and Your Family

yourhomeschoolcoachPlanning a road map of your homeschooling is key to success. After all, we plan our vacations right down to the minute detail sometimes, don’t we? Why wouldn’t we give our children’s education the same attention to detail? I’ve coached hundreds of families since 2008 and what I have discovered about homeschooling parents/grandparents/caregivers is:

  • no two families are alike
  • we want to do the very best for our children
  •  our questions change as seasons change in our homeschooling
  • we research like crazy

A homeschool coach, whether it be for a one-time consulting session, or an ongoing support group, can be so very valuable to you and your entire family. Sometimes you might just need validation and support. Other times you’ll need specific advice on how to navigate curriculum changes, high school years, extra-curriculars, scholarships . . . the list is endless.

I can help you with all of those and more. While this isn’t about ME; it’s about YOU and YOUR unique family, it’s good for you to know of my experience and background.

In a nutshell here it is:

  • homeschool mom to two who just graduated two children
  • one daughter received talent and academic scholarships, covering her full tuition to a private school
  • another daughter published her first book at age16 and graduated early because she was accepted to The Author Conservatory, a 3-year college alternative program for writers
  • long-time homeschool consultant and evaluator (since 2008)
  • homeschool speaker (conferences, podcasts, etc.)
  • long-time educator in elementary schools and virtual schools
  • Master of Science in Education
  • experienced with special-needs students including giftedness
  • coach to hundreds, maybe thousands, of families since 2008
  • owner and administrator of Life Learning Academy, private umbrella school for homeschoolers in Florida

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what some of my families have said:

Thank you, Terri, for all of your help over the years. You truly care about people, and it shows.

 

I’m pretty sure we’d be lost without you. D____ is doing SO WELL now thanks to your guidance.

 

Our careers are so demanding, but we knew we needed to pull our kids out of school and keep them home. You have helped us navigate the world of working in high-level, high-stress jobs while homeschooling our boys and we are eternally grateful. We have an appointment set up to discuss J’s high school transcripts.

 

This coaching group was FANTASTIC! I made life-long friends here. It’s so nice to talk with others, to bounce ideas off one another and just enjoy the solidarity. We homeschoolers are a special breed of people! Thank you for being there for us and I can’t wait for the next. Please open another group soon. 🙂

My next Homeschool Helpline group begins the first week of September. Fees are $90 per person. We meet twice monthly via Zoom during September, October and November.

Grab your seat today because space is limited to only eight participants!

REGISTER NOW!

 

Tips for Making Friends When You Homeschool: For Kids and Parents

Tips for Making Friends When You Homeschool

For Kids

Tip #1

Ask your mom to take you to the local park. Walk up to random strangers and ask them if they have also wondered if a 100-kilogram astronaut falls into a black hole, what happens?

If they look scared, you know that person is not the friend for you. If their eyes grow wide with excitement, you’re in!

Tip #2

If you’re out with a homeschool group, you’re a little safer. Now you can really be yourself. Bring your Onewheel and your ukelele and don’t be ashamed of singing while playing  and riding around. Your type of friends will skate, jog, or scoot beside you. You may end up with some harmonizers.

Tip #3

Assuming that there is no dress code, wear your pajamas to co-op. All those other homeschoolers know that a 10:30 class is too early anyway.

Tip #4

If you’re too shy to break into the group of homeschoolers who seem to know each other already, don’t worry. Just sit quietly by yourself until someone notices. Homeschoolers are kind, friendly people and you’ll be included in no time.

Tip #5

Ask your friends who go to public school to give you some tips. Actually, no. Don’t do that.

 

For Parents

Tip #1

If you’re a dad, I’m sorry. When homeschool moms come together, sometimes they can’t stop talking. They don’t mean to leave you out.

Tip #2

If you see a homeschool dad, please be friendly to him. But also let him know that it’s totally okay to ignore your conversation if that’s what he wants to do.

Tip #3

If you haven’t yet found a group of homeschool moms with which to chat, and you see a group at a park or field trip, simply elbow your way in there, throw your giant lunch cooler up on the table and start sharing all those organic snacks. You’ll be accepted in no time.

Tip #4

If you ever feel like you’re on the outside, just tell the other moms how wonderful their kids are. That’s a 100% guarantee that you’ll make friends with everyone.

Tip #5

Even if you do go to the gym, please, please don’t ever dress like those mom friends of yours who drop their kids off at school and then head for their morning workout. The homeschool mom dress code doesn’t allow for that.

Soon, we’ll talk about the serious side of making friends while homeschooling. In the meantime, you can read about how much fun we have in our Your Homeschool Coach Homeschool Helpline group. Space is limited to only 8 participants at a time, so get in on the fun today!

 

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…)

Everything You Need to Know Before Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Everything You Need to Know Before Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops are very popular among many homeschoolers and they can be wonderful avenues to make friends, receive support and even expand your child’s academic horizons. Co-ops (cooperatives) are groups generally created by a number of families working together for the benefit of all who want to join. A couple of questions I get asked often are, “How can you join one and how do they work? 

Let’s explore a few things you need to know before joining a homeschool co-op. 

Benefits of Joining a Homeschool Co-op

Homeschool co-ops vary in what they offer. Some co-ops are designed to support homeschooling families by working together to organize play dates and field trips. There are many of these types of co-ops in Florida, and if you are brand new to homeschooling, these casual meet-ups can be a wonderful way to meet others and to get support. 

Such homeschool co-ops often organize and offer things like a yearly prom, regular weekly park days, field trips to various places around the state, sports teams and a yearbook to members. 

Academics

Co-ops can also be more academic in nature and more structured in the way that they are run. These types of co-ops generally require parents to pitch in somehow; either by teaching a class, assisting in a class, or providing clean up or lunch help during the day. (more…)

4 Essential Tips to Help When Your Partner Doesn’t Want You to Homeschool

what to do when your partner doesn't want you to homeschool

Your partner may not share your enthusiasm on homeschooling, and this could be a possible confrontation avenue. In most cases, the men are skeptical on whether the whole homeschooling concept will work. Before you go crazy on them, it would be important to note that they also have the best interests of your kids in their heart. As such, you have to try and understand their concerns and peacefully address these issues. The following tips will come in handy when your partner doesn’t want you to homeschool.

Stay calm and peaceful 

It does not help to get angry and frustrated because you think your partner is irrational about this subject. By staying calm, he will be able to understand that emotions are not blinding you and you are approaching the topic with a clear head. He will be forced to recognize and respect your reasons for homeschooling. Looping in the kids at this point would be essential. They will most likely have an opinion on this. Let them know how this would change their lives and evaluate if they are ready for the change.

Write down the concerns about homeschooling

Write down the concerns they have with homeschooling. Is it that they have no confidence in your ability to teach? Is it about money? Is it about time? Note down everything they come up with and understand completely why they are hesitant to come on board.

After you write down the concerns they have about homeschooling, it is your time to write down the concerns you have about having your kids schooled in an institution (public or private) somewhere. Let them understand why you decided that homeschooling would be better for your children compared to have them go to a school out there.

Homeschooling allows a deeper connection with the kids

After you have done this, make a rational analysis of these concerns and fears, and this will help you reach a solution quickly. To assist on that, you can let them know that by homeschooling, you will have the chance to experience a deeper connection with your children. This is very important, particularly in their formative years. See our blog series titled, “30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between” for the truth about homeschooling and what it might look like for your family. Discuss these things with your partner. Let him know that you’ve been doing your research.

Look at your finances and time you can spend on homeschooling

Homeschooling can have a toll on your finances if it is not done right. You need to plan and know how much time you have to do this and how much money you can afford to make this a success. You do not want to start and feel overwhelmed down the line. 

Do a lot of research to understand how much the material and curriculum will cost you and what you will need in the future. Connect with other families and learn from them. You will find a lot of support from different people and institutions who understand the concept of homeschooling well.

Talk to Everyone You Know Who Homeschools

Gather information. Ask everyone you know what homeschooling is like for them. Ask questions such as these:

  • how has it changed your lives
  • how have your kids benefited
  • what kind of time is involved
  • do they work AND homeschool
  • how much money do they spend on curriculum each year
  • what types of support groups are there in your area
  • what are the most important things they think you should know

Discuss all this with your partner.

Consider Working From Home

Perhaps your partner’s biggest concern is money. And perhaps you have already thought of this. There are plenty of ways to make money from home, you just have to be a little creative, a little flexible, and know where to look. Start a blog, search for WFH jobs using these tips, or come up with your own ideas. It CAN be done!

The decision you make should be for the benefit of the kids. It is important to have your partner’s help when doing this as it makes it all easier. If I can help with any of this, please contact me for a one-on-one coaching session. See my Testimonials Page to see how I’ve helped others make their homeschooling dreams come true.

10 Hacks for Family Fun at the Beach

10 Hacks for Family Fun at the Beach

A trip to the beach should be tons of fun, but the reality is that going to the beach with kids is a lot of work! You have to pack a ton of gear to be comfortable, snacks and drinks are a must, and then there’s the sand, which gets on everything and is impossible to remove. Luckily for you, I have some great beach hacks that will make your next family trip a breeze! (more…)

Five Simple Things You Should Know to Help Your Young Child Become an Amazing Writer

help your young child become an amazing writer
​I am often asked the question, How can I teach my child to write?  Since reading and writing go hand in hand, the best way to start “teaching” writing is by reading.  Teaching a love of writing at this early age is so important for future successes a writer. There are a few things you should know to help your young child become an amazing writer.

Scribbles Are Important

Early writing really begins with drawing or scribbling. These random marks on the page are very important beginnings to the writing process. If you watch your child, you will see that these “scribbles” soon turn into long wavy lines resembling writing. This usually happens between the ages of 2 and 4.Next in the development of writing at this age, you’ll likely see your child making letter-like markings. These won’t really be true letters, but representations of them.

Recognize Letter Strings

Around age 4 or 5 you’ll start to see real letters in strings on the page. They may or may not make real words.  More often than not, they are simply the letters your child enjoys making in non-phonetic blocks and lines. Don’t be alarmed if many of these are backward. This is totally normal.

Inventive Spelling is “Real” Spelling

When inventive spelling emerges on the page, (usually around age 5 or 6,) the fun begins! Now your child is using his or her own spelling according to how he or she makes the letter-sound correspondence.  This is my very favorite stage of writing and children are so excited to be able to put their sounds to paper and have others decipher it! One thing you can do to celebrate this success is read your child’s stories aloud. I promise, the more you read this inventive spelling, the better you will get at being able to decipher it. Hint: “speak” it as your child speaks; try to talk like your child. When my daughter was young, she had trouble with the “bl” blend and her writing at this stage reflected this.

Have Your Child Share Their Work

Children love to share their writing. Ask you child to be an author and sit in an “author’s chair” – a special chair designed for the sharing of the written word. Ask your child to sit in this chair (or wear a special hat, or other special thing to signify author’s time).  Be an active listener.  Invite the whole family. Ask questions about the story. Comment on what you enjoyed about it.

What Not To Do

It is very important not to correct a child’s spelling or grammar right now. Let them enjoy the free flowing feeling of writing without worry whether it is “right” or not. Spelling is one of those skills that is best acquired over time and does not come by rote memorization, constant correction or practice writing words correctly over and over again. (I’ll have much more to say on this subject in later posts.)

Later On

Around age 7 is when children begin to use more and more conventional spelling in their writing and spells most words correctly. Now is the time to teach simple grammar rules, which we’ll talk more about later on. All of these seemingly small things are your child’s way of showing you that they are on their way to becoming an amazing writer!

Useful Books:

This is an oldie but a goodie. It is hard to get a hold of, but if you can find it, it is gold:
Using Word Walls to Strengthen Student Reading and Writing at the Emergent Level

​Playful Writing: 150 Open-Ended Explorations in Emergent Literacy

Literacy-Building Play in Preschool: Lit Kits, Prop Boxes, and Other Easy-to-Make Tools to Boost Emergent

Reading and Writing Skills Through Dramatic Play

The following books are excellent books for teachers and are a must-have when you are teaching little ones during these early years:

Soaring with Reading and Writing: a highly effective emergent literacy program 

Teaching Beginning Writers

Curriculum We Recommend

All About Spelling

If you have an older child who is struggling with writing, we recommend our How to Write the Perfect 5-Paragraph Essay course. At Life Learning Academy, we believe that learning should be fun!

Helpful Websites

Get Ready to Read (GRTR)

International Reading Association (IRA)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL)

Reading is Fundamental (RIF)

Reading Rockets

How To Prove Your Identity As a Homeschooler: And Why You’d Want To!


Can You Prove That You Are a Homeschooler?

Has anyone ever asked you to prove that you are a homeschooler? Sometimes merchants will ask, but more often, you will be the one to ask for special perks and discounts for homeschoolers. Proving your identify as a homeschooler by having your own official homeschool ID card can save you money on homeschool supplies, admission to parks and hotels and more.

Teacher – Homeschool ID Cards

Teachers can get discounts at places like Office Depot and Barnes & Noble, so why not homeschool teachers? Well now you can prove your identity as a homeschooling family! I scoured the Internet looking for a decent, professional-looking and FREE homeschool ID template and I’ve found one here.

How to Create a Homeschool ID Card

Find some good headshots of your children. Think “passport photo” type pics. Choose a name for your homeschool and create it!

I printed our cards this on heavy card stock and laminated them with clear contact paper.  They came out great!

The template is very user-friendly, and only took me a few minutes to print cards for our whole family. You’ll use these homeschool identification cards many times, I promise!

This site is well worth browsing as it offers many other homeschooling freebies and discounts as well.

Enjoy!

Q & A With the Author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Kids Outside the Conventional Classroom

homeschool in Florida
If you’ve been homeschooling long enough, you’ve likely come across the term “unschooling.” Unschooling is one of those terms that often has the homeschooling community at odds with one another, as if there are only black and white approaches to educating our children. Many homeschooling families, chose to educate their kids at home so that they can educate kids outside the box: unschooling is just one way of (as the title reads), raising curious, well-educated kids outside the conventional classroom.

As a homeschool consultant and evaluator, I have had the pleasure of working with many unschooling families over the years. To schedule a homeschool portfolio evaluation with me click here.

To learn what you need to know before scheduling that homeschool portfolio evaluation, read this.

To join my Homeschool Helpline and get ongoing support for your homeschool life, click here. 

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge proponent of child-led learning. I have a deep respect for successful unschooling families.

When I came across the book, Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald, I knew I had to have it. (more…)

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