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!

Top Three Things to Help Avoid Homeschool Burnout

top three things to help avoid homeschool burnout

I don’t know about you, but I need all the tips I can get for how to avoid homeschool burnout. By the end of December, and again around the beginning of May, you can stick me with a fork because I’m done.

I’m tired.

I’m worn out from all the curricular AND extracurricular activities. I’m barely hanging on, and the words you’ll hear most often from my mouth those days are, “just skip it!” My homeschooling mojo has left the building. My inspiration lies wet and soggy somewhere underneath a pile of once shiny-new ideas.

I need a pick-me-up, and a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with almond milk just won’t do. I’m experiencing homeschool burnout.

I’ve been through this before. Many times. And I can help you get through your own version of homeschool burnout

Here are three things that have helped me most: (in order)

Stop Feeling Guilty

I know you feel it. You can’t deny it. We homeschool moms are the ones who begin each year with our polished new ideas, mission statements, clean schedules, new resolutions and high hopes. When we get to May and are reminded of all the ways in which our ideas didn’t pan out, we feel awful. It’s to be expected. But guilt (or remorse or regret) just don’t serve us. Throw those feelings away and replace them with a mind open to learning why those ideas didn’t pan out. For me, it’s usually because of one of these three things: (more…)

Why Play Should be an Integral Part of Your Homeschool

homeschool in florida

Let Your Children Play

Lately everywhere I turn, homeschooling parents are asking the question, “is my child doing enough to get ahead?” We are forgetting that play should be an important part of your homeschool curriculum.

The pressure on young children today is incredible. Even the developers of PBS believe that the biggest obstacle American children face in terms of education is being unprepared for kindergarten. 

No wonder parents are worried! Not only are parents over-teaching, but they are also over-scheduling, I believe it’s being done out of fear, and it’s not necessary. 

Over-scheduling

Consider this schedule: phonics lessons and grammar lessons in the morning, music and Mandarin lessons in the afternoon, and in between all of that, Moms are forcing their young children to work in newly- purchased math workbooks and insisting that they complete multiplication and division problems. The words “algebra” and “geometry” are being tossed around at play dates.

These parents really think that they are doing the right thing. They’re giving their children a “leg up” right?

They are not. Here’s why.

Developmental Milestones

First, young children are not developmentally ready to pursue such academic activities. Are some seemingly “able” to do this type of academic work? Perhaps. But a completed worksheet does not equal a deep learning for a subject matter and even if you believe that your child is ready, there is evidence that doing so is more harmful than helpful.

Take a look at this article written by a mathematician </a>for reasons why worksheets should not be used with young children.

Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

Secondly, the importance of play has been so overlooked in the last decade or two that it is shameful.  Here’s what Edward Miller and Joan Almon say in their book Crisis In The Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School.

(more…)

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