Secrets Homeschool Moms Keep

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Every homeschool mom has a secret…or two. You know, things she doesn’t talk about in normal conversation and especially NOT with people who don’t homeschool for fear they would not understand, or even worse, judge.
I do. You do.
Things we are a little bit ashamed of about our homeschooling journey.  I have experienced or felt all of the things we are about to discuss at some point during my homeschool journey (5 years).
The purpose of writing about it here is so that we can bring things out in the open and remind ourselves to not be ashamed of things we don’t need to be.  Also, by sharing our feelings, moms, we can get help!

My kids act like they hate school

I have said this before…I thought when I began to homeschool, my kids would be so appreciative of my efforts on a daily basis, that they would sit down, ready for school each morning with smiles on their faces.
Ha!
I know. It sounds silly.
They don’t. They still complain about school, give me a hard time, whine and resist doing work.
I had to realize…they are KIDS. Kids do that.  It’s not your fault.  It happens.  What matters is how you handle it. But don’t be surprised when it happens.

Sometimes I don’t feel like doing school… for like for a week or two

I get tired of the school routine.  I am a bit of a wander-lust, so after 2 or 3 months of the same routines and expectations…I get really bored. I need something different and interesting.   That’s who I am . That’s not wrong.  You, after all, are HUMAN, mom. You have needs too.
I have learned that if I go “school-lite” for a few days it helps tremendously. I make sure I get refreshed, it gives me new perspective and the kids can a break too.

My kids can be a little ‘weird’ sometimes

My kids get excited about some things.  Like Mario and Minecraft, like the latest Youtube video they have seen about the “Secrets of Cats.”   They want to talk about it. A lot.  It can be off-putting to me…as well as their public school friends. Because, not surprisingly, their friends have other interests.
My older son is also completely capable of holding a debate (politics!) or discussion (the merits of all the game systems since the 1980’s) with any adult.  Adults can be a little weirded-out by this. It’s actually a GREAT thing that he has this skill. And I always appreciate the adult who engages him and reacts with pleasure.

I have regrets about homeschooling or I feel like a failure

I wish that had done more outside stuff when they were young.  I wish that I had spent more time in the Bible. I wish that I had focused more on writing.
If you have spent ANY time at all homeschooling, you have regrets and wishes.  Things you wish you had done more or better.
All homeschool moms have this list.
I have felt like a failure…in many areas, mathematics, discipline, diligence… the list goes on.  But when I look back I try to focus on the things we DID accomplish.  The trips we have taken, the artistic creations that have made, and yes, even the math and language arts concepts we have pushed through
If you need help…ask for it.  There are so many moms out there that have surmounted the same challenges you are struggling with whether it’s writing, division, reading, science, and daily routines.

Sometimes I am lonely or sometimes I get sick of being at home all the time

Being at home with your kids all day long can lose it’s appeal when you really need some grown-up time. It also takes dedicated to work to keep up friendships. You have needs, and it’s perfectly understandable to express them and seek out ways to meet them.
Sometimes when my husband comes home from work, I run away (to Target)  because I need to out of the house! Just to SEE something different from my four walls lightens my mood and refreshes me.  Maybe for you it’s a long walk, or working out, or listening to music  or going for a long drive.
We need friendships. We need friends who homeschool and who don’t.  We need women to talk to about our parenting challenges, to say “Am I crazy??” to and to receive support from.  Don’t isolate!
I have really found some great friends at the children’s section in the the local library when I was there with the kids. I also am part of several support-type groups online. And then I have a group who I go out with.

We don’t mean to keep secrets.  But we feel ashamed. Don’t worry, you are in good company – every homeschooler has these thoughts and feelings.  You are not alone.

 

Evaluating Your School Year

We have FOUR MORE WEEKS of school left (I know!) and I am shifting into the mode of wrapping up subject matter and thinking about how the year went. In general, I think the year went well.

This is our 5th year schooling from home, and to be honest, I never thought we would get this far. It took me so long to decide to homeschool, and then, after I began, one of things that gave me comfort was the thought that “I can stop at anytime.”  There were days where I thought: “What am I doing?” and even this year I have considered throwing in the towel. But here I am.

This is a great time for you to evaluate how your year went.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the year.

I have started making goals for both of my boys at the beginning of each year. This helps me have loose (and I like them really loose) expectations for them.

For my both my 4th and 7th graders, I set personal goals, spiritual and academic goals at the beginning of the year and about three weeks ago, I took a look to make sure we did some of them.

Let’s talk about them in further detail.

Academically speaking, I wanted my 7th grader to strengthen his skills in the areas of division, fractions and decimal work.  We were able to get to the first two in earnest, but just touch on the last one.  I also felt strongly that I needed to start exposing him to engineering science and until about 3 weeks ago, I had no idea how we were going to get there. Then a fellow homeschooler invited my boys to participate in this program run through the Department of Defense called Starbase. Both of my boys had a week-long experience using Computer Aided Drafting and Design applications and learning about the engineering design process.

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For my 4th grader, I wanted him to improve his writing skills. He has dysgraphia, so writing in general is super tough and exhausting.  I employed a tutor one time a week this year to help him answer comprehension questions and write.  He has done a lot more this year than he would have with me alone.  And to my shagrin, he writes a lot more with her, than me.  At least it’s getting done.  She does use CANDY as a reward.

I also wanted him to start writing cursive and we just began that about 4 weeks ago.

Spiritually speaking, I wanted the younger to start praying out loud and I wanted my 7th grader to start having his own, individual time with God. He now reads every night before he starts his nighttime routine.

Some things that didn’t happen…and yes, there are definitely a few…

I wanted my 7th grader to write a biographical paper. We started to…but I don’t think we will finish it in time.

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One side note, is that although we didn’t set it as a goal, we read A LOT this year. We pushed through a ton of books and audio books.  Insert happy face.

Time to evaluate! How do you feel like your kids did?  What did they improve in? What do they need to make continual progress in?

 

 

 

Homeschool Happenings: Library Edition Greater Hartford Area

I often go to several local library sites to try and see what sort of classes and events they are offerings hoping we will find something FREE my kids will love.  Since I am already doing all that work, I thought I would share it with YOU – especially if you are a CT Homeschooler!

When I do my research, I am always looking out for unique or timely topics, things for ages 9 and up and events which are academic or will enhance an academic subject.  I will not be including things like “story times,” as most of us can find these pretty easily.

Always check out your local library’s offerings and make your presence as a homeschooler known to the librarian!  She/he may be willing to host or create programs for homeschoolers if they see the need!

Descriptions are taken directly from the library’s websites.

Enjoy!

Let’s Make a Kite -South Windsor Public Library
March 22
3-4 pm
Ages 5 and up.  We’ll make different forms of kites that you may thake home and fly. Please register for this program on 3/14 at 2pm.

Go West Young Peeps – South Windsor Public Library
March 29
3-4 pm
For children in grades K-3. Using information from PBS Learning Media, we’ll explore the rotations of the earth and shadows. No registration is necessary

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The How To Festival – West Hartford Public Library
Sat. March 25
10-3pm

“Forty or more local experts, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals will share their passions with our community. Using the library’s public spaces, both inside and outside, participants have up to 20 minutes to introduce a topic, provide instruction, or do a complete demonstration, which is repeated for a changing audience.”  (from the WH library website)

Spring Homeschool Program – Manross Library Bristol
Ongoing on Thursdays

Learn about China, Japan, Russia, Scandinavia, Mexico and USA.  Accepting new students age 5-12.

Green Screen Photography – New Britain Public Library
March 15
4pm

Age Group: Teens
Learn about special effects used in TV and movies by making your own trick photography! Community Room.

Minecraft ClubRocky Hill Library
March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
4pm

“Join kids in grades 2 to 5 to play Minecraft! Register your account to play onour server 24/7 or use a guest pass. Drop ins welcome.”
Minecraft Club – Berlin Peck Library
Wed. March 22
2-3:30 pm
Children in grades 2-12. Prize drawings and snacks provided!

 

 

HUGE LIST of Mama’s Homeschool Resources

Science, penmanship, art projects, printable planners, posters, worksheets and more!

Where do you go when you need an assist?

Is there a favorite website you download worksheets from?

A Pinterest page that always has a fantastic idea?

Below is my HUGE LIST of free resources – useful in many subjects!

Note:I tried to completely steer away from pay for services sites in most cases

Printable Planners

www.donnayoung.org
www.printableplanners.com
www.scatteredsquirrel.com

History Videos

www.youtube.com
History Channel on Youtube
www.smithsonianmag.com
www.havefunwithhistory.com
How Stuff Works (History)
www.khanacademy.com (History)
Educational History Cartoons

Science

National Geographic for Kids
www.neokids12.com
www.watchknowlearn.org
www.learninggamesforkids.org (games)
www.discoverykids.com

Math

www.homeschoolmath.net
www.schoolexpress.com
www.coolmath-games.com
www.mathplayground.com
www.multiplication.com
www.theteacherscorner.net
www.khanacademy.comwww.khanacademy.com

Make Your Own Writing Worksheets

www.handwritingworksheets.com
www.atozteacherstuff.com

Customizable Timelines

www.ourtimelines.com

Printable Flash Cards

www.mrprintables.com
www.printableflashcards.net
www.supersimplelearning.com

Art

www.kinderart.com
www.jerrysartarama.com
www.artistshelpingchildren.org
Art for Kids Hub
How to Draw and Paint
Art with Mati and Dada

Preschool Activities

www.1+1+1=1.com
www.homeschoolcreations.com
This Reading Mama
www.allkidsnetwork.com
www.enchantedlearning.com
www.dltk.com
www.livingmontessori.com

Penmanship

www.handwritingworksheets.com
Donna Young’s Cursive Practice
Penmanship Paper
www.k5learning.com

 

 

Our Family’s ‘Use What You Have’ Month

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For one month we are trying not to buy anything. We are attempting to “Use What We Have.”

This was my husband’s idea….but I am totally for it! He wants us to do a better job as a family in making use of all the blessings we already have, instead of constantly buying more things to make us content.

I totally get this.  Although I am FAR from a Minimalist, I have been de-cluttering for years…getting rid of things I will never use and peeling back the layers of stuff I have been gifted, inherited or given for both the children (and the grownups).

So what is our plan?  First of all the main tenet is that we are trying to use the things we already have in our home. So for example, instead of running out to the craft store to buy fresh paints and paintbrushes, we will dig ours out and breathe new life into them.

Let’s get more specific…

Kids Stuff: with three children, I am often OVERWHELMED by the amount of stuff they have.  Little things. LOTS and LOTS of little things…nevermind the LEGOS!  (And if you have Lego lovers then you know what I mean). So we are not buy any new toys or ‘doo dads’ this month.

House Improvements: My husband and I discussed this concept in regards to house projects. Of course, we want to paint walls, redecorate, change out rugs…the list goes on.  But we also are tight on money. Yes, we are tempted to jump in the car and ride on down to Home Depot.  But, we have quickly forgotten the 1/2 a can of paint which could be used and the pile of spare lumber we could employ.  I have an unused rug in the attic and I probably have some random piece of furniture I could repaint. You probably do too!

Pantry: I have cans and boxes of things in my pantry that are not, let’s say, the “go-to” items in my weekly cooking. But, they are perfectly good.  Oats, raisins, pumpkin, canned pears…Sounds like a good recipe to me!

Temptation and UNtraining
Ok so let’s be honest here…I have been tempted….AND I have also made mistakes already this month.  I purchased a package of Valentines doilies.  I saw them and thought: “We don’t have enough Valentines decorations” and brought it home and them it struck me, WOOPS!

I have had to start to un-train my mind from buying things.  Yes, it’s a THING!  You probably would too. But one mistake doesn’t ruin the whole month, so we will persevere.

If you’re interested in further reading on this topic check out these awesome websites:

www.buynothingproject.org
www.buynothingchristmas.org
www.becomingminimalist.com
www.savingbymaking.com

15 Great Projects to Educate Your Kids Without Them even Realizing it!

I know how you feel mom.  It’s February and you’re in a rut.  So are the kids, and they show it by not really wanting to buckle down for homeschool.

February and March are two of the worst months in homeschooling for that reason.  Those are the months that you have to FIND the energy you had tons of in September. Three more months to go! (Unless you’re a year-round schooler).

It’s times like this when you need to mix it up a little and implement a few plan B’s (or C’s, or D’s).

Try one of these “educational” (shhhhh!) ideas to gets their minds going again!

Math

Math Art by “What Do We Do All Day?”

Heart Shaped Puzzle

Tessellations/M.C.Escher

Fibonacci Sequence/Fibonacci Art/Mondrian

Concentric Circles/Kandinsky

Foldable Geometric Shapes

 

Science

Shadow Sculptures

DIY Bouncy Balls

Magnet Painting

Shaving Cream Rain Clouds

Color Mixing Spinning Tops

Kids Container Gardening

 

Handwriting

Improving Handwriting with Art

Fine Motor Worksheets

Cursive Name Bugs

 

 

Many thanks to all the awesome blogs collected on this page!

 

When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start Part II

We’re back with part two of When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start.

This is a three-part series in which I will discuss the practical steps to re-evaluating your homeschool schedule and curricula and mood to see if you need to make changes.

If you were attracted to the title of this blog post, it’s probably because you can relate.  You are tired, frustrated, irritated and down about the lack of cooperation, or the lack of (what you consider) education which is occurring on a daily basis in your school-space.

I can relate.  Some days, I am like:  “What’s the point!?” No one wants to listen, they just want to do the “easy” stuff and they has no interest in actually sitting down to work. It’s so irritating, moms!

So,what is a mom to do?

First I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about your FEELINGS.

Feelings will come with a vengeance as you go through the process of homeschooling your children.  Why?  Because we are human, and as much as we love them, our keeps make us crazy sometimes!

Some of the feelings I have heard moms reflect about include: loneliness, frustration, confusion, dissatisfaction, disgruntlement and resentment.  And that’s all before noon!  Ha!  Just kidding.

(#notkidding)

This blog post would be incomplete if I didn’t acknowledge that we feel a lot about our kids and their learning.  But, here’s the important thing (and just my humble opinion), although emotions are central and even influential in our decision making when it comes to homeschooling, they are not the only factors to consider.

The are part of the story, but not the whole story.

IDENTIFY THE CORE ISSUES AND PROBLEMS

A frank (realistic/factual) evaluation of your current homeschool situation may be necessary.  What is working? What is not working?  There could be a whole range of problems popping up.  A few examples include:

–  Kids lacking interest in the material
– Kids saying that it’s too hard/too easy/too boring
– Mom’s schedule has changed and doesn’t have time to instruct as much
– Mom is feeling disorganized and unprepared for the school day
– There is an illness/unemployment/change of family dynamic occurring in the family
– You have teenagers (no, seriously)

These are just a few things.   I have experienced all of these things in my 5 years homeschooling. So, now, take some time, with a nice cup of tea or coffee and a notebook to think this through.  Answer the following questions.

First take the time to answer this question:Why did I choose to homeschool?

Of course all our answers may be different.  Go back to what your intentions were.  What you desired before you started hitting roadblocks.

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My litle ‘distraction.’

What problems and issues am I seeing on a daily basis in my homeschool?

ex: Son complains that the work is boring and too hard
ex. Toddler is causing distractions
ex. Daughter wants to do the least possible work before she quits

Do I feel like the curriculum I am currently using is a good fit for my child? Why or why not.

ex. No, because my child needs more hands-on work and it’s a lot of reading and writing.
ex. Yes, because it’s based in literature and she loves to read.
ex. No, because my son has ants in his pants and can’t sit still.
ex. No, because mom has taken on a part-time job and needs daughter to be more independent.

Do I like the curriculum? Do I like teaching from it?

YOU CAN ASK THIS.  It’s ok.  You have to like it too.  You have to enjoy the work or else, guess what? You will hate it and avoid it like the plague.

Do I feel I need to research other options for my childs’ learning or will making an adjustment in another area suffice?

My son who has dysgraphia (handwriting difficulty) needed a change 2 years ago.  He couldn’t get through the work without pooping out. I decided to implement a keyboard for his writing instead of pushing him to write and write. A change in our schedule or his diet would not have helped that situation!

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Which pencil grip is best?

Are my children getting enough time outside of the house?  Are they spending too much time out of the house?

Is your schedule crazy?  Maybe mom in her zeal over-committed to too many activities.  Or maybe the kids need some stimulation from a different source.

Are they getting enough sleep and eating well?

This is so important.  I have a night owl. And I have had to reign him back in several nights when he wanted to stay up past midnight.

Do I feel like the choices I am making in my homeschool are in sync with the goals I have for my children?

I have a strong passion for nature. One of the things I find very important is making sure the boys and I get outside – go hiking, for walks, garden etc. If I find that our schedule is making us too tired to do these things, then that is a red flag for me.

And finally,

Are the issues I am seeing a signal that I need to pull in resources from the community?

Do you need to perhaps use the expertise of a professional?  I got an Occupational Therapist involved with my son who was having trouble writing. Does your child  need OT, Speech Therapy, or some other assistance?  A side note: This is NOT a failure on your part. Part of homeschooling, in my opinion, is using the expertise of people in the community who can help your children be successful and therefore make your homeschooling experience successful as well.

Part III will be focused on the resources you can use after you have answered these questions!

I hope this has set your mind to thinking!  I am with you heart and soul!

Jenny

Parent Review: Time 4 Learning

Today I am going to take a few moments to review for you the online curriculum known as Time 4 Learning.  I have been using Time 4 Learning for 2 years in my homeschool and I thought it would be helpful if I put down the reasons I love it, as well as the areas in which I feel some improvements could be made.

t4l

First let me tell you why I sought out an online curriculum.  Basically, at the time it came down to one word: newborn.  I was pregnant with my third son and was expecting a mid-December birth and trying to imagine what teaching my 6th grader and a 3rd grader would be like with a newborn in my arms.

It sounded pretty daunting, so I thought to myself: “If there is a time for an online curriculum, it’s now.”

It didn’t disappoint.  T4L provided exactly what I needed – an educational back bone for my children to lean back on (instead of me) for their schoolwork during the months where I would be sleep-deprived and nursing.

Two years later, I would say this is still the greatest advantage.

I no longer have to plan every single lesson prior to teaching.  T4L offers a comprehensive scope and sequence for every academic year complete with books to read, print outs etc. I assist by staying on-hand to explain or further strengthen a lesson – but – they no longer need to ask me every day what they will be learning.

On a weekly basis I review the work I would like them to accomplish and I might go online to find videos, crafts, etc to enhance the subject.  I try to individualize the lesson to my son’s interests (especially when it comes to Science and Social Studies).

Through T4L, they have a very organized, cumulative Language Arts foundation complete with grammar, poetry, reading, etc.

I also really love their guides they provide for all the books which the children are to go through during the school year which further apply writing and other elements of Language Arts to the book in which they are studying.  For example, this year, my 7th grader read “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and my 4th grader is reading “The Toothpaste Millionaire.”

In addition, the kids can pick and choose from the subjects (Language Arts, Language Arts Express, Math, Social Studies and Science) as they please and the site is extremely easy for them to navigate.

Odyssey Writer is part of the T4L subscription which allows them to write within the lesson they are learning in and submit it to the teacher.

There are some areas which I believe need tweaking and improvement.

Math– while the subject matter and order of instructions are fine, I find that they teach the lessons too quickly and expect the student to easily grab the information.  If though, the terminology is brand new, I find that they do not have enough time to understand the material. I tend to supplement with videos from online such as Youtube and Khan Academy.

No pause button– it would be nice if all the lessons were able to be paused.  A frustrated child gets more frustrated when someone keeps talking and they do not understand.

A lot of printing out – The book guides and the math packets all need to be printed out in order for them to be utilized. And, I feel for complete instruction, they really need to be printed out.  This is costly and time consuming.  But, because it is a link in your account, it is optional – and therefore under your control.

I expect we will continue to use T4L at least through next year  – my son’s 8th grade year.

Jenny

 

When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start

Let’s get the business out of the way first!  This will be a three-part series, so please type your email into the follow bar on the right hand column so you will receive notice of the next two blog posts on “When Your Homeschooling (or just Mommy) Needs a Fresh Start.”

Does this ever happen to you?  About 3/4 of the way through the school year you  have started to dread getting out of bed in the morning?  Not only do you not feel motivated to plan lessons for your kids, but you are even less interested in teaching them.  You are bored with their curriculum (and maybe they are too), you’re tired of the same routine day in and day out and you are beginning to question if you should keep doing this thing called: “Homeschooling” – she says in a snarky voice.  🙂

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Nicholas.  My youngest boy of three.

Let me continue to paint the picture for you.

You have dishes in the sink and laundry to do.  Your bed hasn’t been made all week and you have a two year old you would like to take to the library for story-time (am I neglecting him?)  You love to draw or write and haven’t touched a pencil in months.  Exercise? Ha!

But, you still have to get “school” in.

How nice it would be if that big yellow school bus would appear at your doorstep in the morning and whisk away 2/3 of your brood.

Have you ever been there?

I have. Several times.  And if you are there now, let’s talk about it.

I have had to talk myself though these times several times in my five years of homeschooling.  I have had to seek input and get some outside perspective.

There is not doubt, homeschooling is hard. Not only are you solely responsible for your children’s education, but, you are also responsible for your home as well – and if you work on top of it?  Lady, you’re BUSY!  Sometimes I begin to feel fragmented – like “Am I a working mom?” “Am I a stay at home mom?” “What am I??”

The honest truth is most of us are a little bit of both and it’s not easy to live in several different world and do a great job in all of them.

That’s why it is so important to re-evaluate your life every once in a while.  Re-evaluate the things you are currently committing your time to and say to yourself: “Is this making sense to be doing?”

Re-Evaluate.

The next two blog posts are going to be exactly about that. The process of re-evaluation.  In them, I will cover:

  • Identifying the problems and issues
  • Breaking them down into manageable chunks
  • Evaluating whether they are thing you can change or things you must accept
  • Moving forward with a new plan

I will use examples from my own life, as well as examples from other homeschoolers’ lives.

I will leave it with you for now, more to come, Jenny