Don’t Stress Over Thanksgiving Planning
Okay, be honest. Who’s stressed out already? All the planning, preparation, coordinating can get overwhelming even when we love to do it! I’ve polled my friends and social media followers and asked what they were most stressed out about when it comes to planning for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ve read these and complied them into a few practical tips to simplify your Thanksgiving holiday.
That title got you, didn’t it?
Math. We’ve used so many different programs for math for my youngest. It wasn’t my favorite subject in school, and it wasn’t my favorite subject to teach in elementary school, either. I’ve been searching for the perfect math curriculum for as long as I’ve been homeschooling and both of my girls are in high school now.
Here’s What I Do Know
Every kid is different. Yes, you know that, too. But truly, one math curriculum does not work for another. Take my own children for example. I tried almost everything to get my eldest daughter to NOT love Saxon. She did. And still does. And she’s thriving with it. She gets that from her dad, certainly.
My youngest is just like me. She doesn’t care about formulas, and the answer, “because that’s how you’re supposed to do it” just doesn’t fly with her. Me either. We want to know why. If we could study and analyze an algebraic formula as if it were a character in a great fiction novel, we’d do well and even love algebra. But we don’t.
Math Non-Math Lovers Like
This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series
I am honest enough to admit that I never thought I would be homeschooling my boys through their tween and teen years. We began homeschooling with a year by year attitude and after my first few months I really wasn’t sure we’d be homeschooling all that long.
You can imagine my surprise when I realized my oldest was starting middle school and I was still homeschooling! I kind of freaked out a bit not knowing what to expect when homeschooling middle school but we muddled through and I realized it wasn’t much different from what we had been doing before; my teaching and guiding grew right alongside his skills and learning.
Now my oldest is just beginning his freshman year of high school at home and my younger two boys are firmly in the throes of middle school. Again I’ll admit I freaked a bit at the thought of homeschooling high school but once we sat down and sketched out a rough plan we were both excited at the thought of continuing this homeschooling journey together.
Can I let you in on a little secret??
I actually find it much easier to homeschool middle and high school!
Tweens and teens cane be such fun ages to homeschool.
- They’re fairly independent so I have a lot more free time to pursue my own interests.
- They are able to communicate to me what they’d like to learn, how they learn best, and why a particular area of study may or may not be working out for them.
- They’re funny! My boys have a great sense of humor and I get to be around them all day.
- We have such great discussions. They’re all old enough to have their own opinions about mostly everything and they love to debate with both my husband and I.
- They’re ready and willing to soak up life skills and my boys are quite helpful around the house too.
- They have developed hobbies and often surprise me with their skills.
Is it always sunshine and roses?
I don’t think any stage of parenting or homeschooling is “easy” since every stage comes with it’s own unique set of challenges.
- Tweens and teens can be moody. Their bodies are changing rapidly and their moods often reflect the hormonal fluctuations. One day they love me and school and what we’re doing and the next day everything is stupid and lame.
- My boys often think they know everything and I get lots of eye rolls, sighs, and attitudes; even if they’ve just asked for help or have asked me a question they’ll usually tell me my answer is wrong.
- Since my boys are all so close in age they either get along great or they are at each other’s throats and it can be tedious to STILL be playing referee all the time.
- I have noticed (with middle school ages in particular) that my boys can learn a set of skills one day or week and appear to have mastered it only to look at me blankly later on insisting they’ve never learned it. I’ve read up on this phenomenon and apparently this is a documented hormonal thing due to the rapidly growing body sapping the brain of energy. It’s why most middle school books don’t introduce that many new topics and instead focus on mastering and honing skills learned in elementary school.
- As independent as they can be they still need my help and it can be tough to know when to step in and help or when to let them muddle through on their own.
- So many parents stop homeschooling through the middle school years and even more stop with the high school years that it can be tricky to help my boys find all the social interaction they often crave. It seems like the older my kids get the less we find homeschoolers their age around.
Yet, I do think that many of these homeschooling challenges wouldn’t be much different from challenges all parents face in raising tweens and teens. If anything I think I’m lucky that my boys still turn to me for advice and not just to their peers and friends like I know I did. And while my boys may question our rules, values, and judgement from time to time we are still the biggest influences in their lives.
While I never pictured myself homeschooling my kids right up through college I am sure am glad I was open to the idea and willing to try.
Joanne, known as Mother of 3 around the web, has been homeschooling her three boys for 6 years. A former teacher fed up with the public school system she ventured out on her own and found a wonderful network of moms through blogging and life that have shown her what education really is.
This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series
Homeschooling your children is one of the best decisions you can make concerning your kids. Homeschooling builds family honor, bonds, and trust far beyond that of the family that public schools their children. Homeschooling allows your child to learn at their own pace in an environment you control.
Homeschooling is many wonderful things, but one thing it most definitely is not . . . is easy.
In fact, homeschooling just might be one of the hardest things you ever do.
Eight Tips for When Your Child Refuses to Do Schoolwork
It’s no secret to homeschoolers that there are days when the kids just don’t cooperate. As frustrating as it can be, these difficult days are always worth it in the end. In eight years of homeschooling, I’ve learned a few things about the kid who refuses to do schoolwork.
Below you’ll find eight tips to help you get to the root cause of the problem.
Have a heart to heart
Having a conversation is always a good starting point. Sit down face to face and try to find out what’s going on. Is this something beyond normal childhood grumpiness?
Is she bored? Maybe the work is too easy.
Does she need some extra attention or one on one time and this is her way of crying out?
Consider a change of pace
Sometimes you just need a change of pace to turn those frowny faces upside down. A special outing or playdate are always welcome changes.
Changing location from the normal school spot can help too. Doing school outside on a picnic table or the porch always excited the kids and makes school a bit more fun. I’ve even gone so far as to pile everyone in my king size bed and do school there. It’s funny what the kids consider fun.
What about a snack? I love snacks, don’t you? Having a regular snack time each day helps break up the day and establish a routine.
Consider their age and subject readiness
Like many new homeschooling mothers, I made the mistake of trying to “do school” too early. In the beginning, I rushed the kids because I was so excited to get started. I learned I had to wait until they were ready.
That thought follows through to the different subjects too. Some kids read at five. Some read at nine.
Some kids are math whizzes and others aren’t. If this attitude is coming right after a curriculum or method change, I bet your child is frustrated with the new material.
Consider the distractions
Just like us, kids get frustrated with distractions too. Is there a baby crying? A TV on somewhere? Is someone playing the piano or a video game in another room?
Cutting down on distractions has helped my freshman enormously. She just doesn’t function well with so much going on. The answer for her was to do most of her schoolwork in her room.
Ask your child if the noises and goings on of everyday life are distracting and if so, work out a plan, together.
Consider their learning style
Establishing your child’s learning style early on will cut down on much undue stress and frustration later down the line. There are many questionnaires and tests online to help you with this is if it’s not overly obvious.
I guarantee you, if your kids’ curriculum doesn’t speak to their learning style, you’ve found the source of your problem.
Consider a short break
Sometimes you just need a break. Giving them a break from school (or a break from each other!) can be a multitude of help in getting attitudes back to the good. Whether it’s just the afternoon off or the rest of the week, rest in the knowledge that this time off will be good for everyone, even you, mama.
Last, but certainly not least, try not to stress.
The work will get done in the end. Once you figure out the root problem and get it resolved, you’ll be back on the productivity track- until your next derailment – but such is the homeschooling life.
Don’t worry about the workbooks and checkboxes being done. Homeschooling is so much more than that. Trust me, when your child graduates, it’s not the workbooks she’ll remember. It will be you, and the moments you shared together.
Jeniffer is a homeschool mom of six who focuses on collecting memories instead of things. Her minimalist attitude helps her keep the house somewhat clean and fresh, delicious food on the table without breaking the bank. She stretches every penny, makes every moment count, and is never far from a good book and cup of coffee. You’ll find her journey of frugal living and homeschooling her brood at Thou Shall Not Whine.
This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series
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 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.
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!
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.
Planning 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Ask your friends who go to public school to give you some tips. Actually, no. Don’t do that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…)
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.
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…)