curriculum · future · goals · homeschool solutions · homeschooling

What is a Student’s ‘Best Effort’ in Homeschooling Look Like?

Do you ever feel like your kids give video games, television, playing, sorts, their hobbies (add your own thing) their best effort, but when it comes to school they try to quickly hurry through, doing as little as possible, with as little effort as possible?

First, in order to avoid the trap of perfectionism, let’s define what best effort isn’t.

It is not:

  • Never making a mistake
  • Always doing things correctly
  • Never taking chances
  • Never trying new things
  • Berating yourself for not doing it all, all the time
  • “topping” your highest score

So, for our purposes, what is homeschooling’s “best effort”?

A student’s best effort can be more adequately defined as:

  • Effort not limited by prior knowledge.
  • Being a willing learner.
  • An attitude of “I am willing to try.”
  • A persevering spirit to follow it through to completion.

*Important*: best effort should be defined within the students’ appropriate developmental age and personality style.  Learning disabilities also need to be considered.

For example, I have a perfectionist. When he is approaching a new math subject, he puts in the effort, he is willing to learn and try, BUT he often quits at the first sign of confusion.  

His issue is that he does not have a persevering spirit. He is used to “getting” things quickly and when he has to push harder to understand, he gets frustrated and quits.

My other student, who by the way has dysgraphia, will see a new subject and say “I don’t know what this is about. It looks confusing. I don’t want to try.”  He has an issue with being a willing learner and being willing to at least try.

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What about your child?  In which are do they need to grow so that they can achieve their best effort?

Effort not Limited by Prior Knowledge
This student sees a new topic and is willing to learn about it. They are not frightened and say “I have no idea about this topic,” or may have limited knowledge but be open to adjusting their current understanding.

Being a Willing Learner
This student has a desire to understand his world better. He is humble in his approach and not frightened of learning new information which may be challenging.

“I am Willing to Try” Attitude
This student acknowledges a lack of understand or exposure to a new topic, but doesn’t allow that to prevent him/her from absorbing it into his/her mindset.

A Persevering Spirit to Follow it Through to Completion
This student, when faced with new information or learning something for the first time, doesn’t give up.  He/she sticks with the new information until a natural end.

It is my belief that in order for your student to achieve his/her personal best, the weakest area needs to be identified.

It is said, that you can only know where you’re going, if you know where you have been. Likewise, a student cannot perform at his/her personal best until you take and evaluate your current status and where you need to grow.

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If your child struggles with one of these areas, don’t panic. Every child does.  It would be a rare child indeed that could do them all perfectly. 

These issues may, in fact, appear even when they are doing their favorite activities (like video games or drawing), but they are more willing to persevere through them because there is a higher reward of joy, satisfaction or fun.  With schoolwork, though, the reward isn’t very obvious..and let’s be honest, it just isn’t as fun!

So, the next time your child is giving you less than his/her best, evaluate which concept they are wrestling with and make a plan.

Solutions…

Some ideas for turning around one of these areas of work struggles include:

One-on-one learning with a parent (even sitting next to them if needed)
Taking a break from said topic and approaching it with a new, fresh mind/attitude
Trying a new curriculum that teaches it differently
Adding more hands-on work to the topic
Asking another homeschool parent to help teach the topic
Utilizing a group learning environment (through a co-op or group) to teach the topic
Utilizing a tutor

Hope this helps and I am right there with you!

Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

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curriculum · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · Mommas · organizing · Uncategorized

Weekly Homeschool Checklist: Keep Assignments Organized and on Track

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Now that I have reached the six (!) year mark on homeschooling my boys, there is one thing I have learned I need to do on a weekly basis to keep myself on track and organized.

Keep an assignment checklist.

If I don’t keep a list, the mornings go like this:

“Hey mom, what should I do for school?”
“How about your online work?”
“O.k.”
And then the same conversation repeats itself a half an hour later.

Why?  Because life is super-busy, and I have my own list of things to do and my lack of planning for school  is being reflected in my going to the easiest answer: online work.

But that is not fair to them, and in all honesty, it does not reflect the sort of homeschooling experience I want us to have in this house.

So, I have taken to writing down a checklist of assignments on Sunday night. This has made a huge difference in the following areas:

-getting a long-term plan (2-3 months at a time)
-making consistent progress toward completing one goal
-helps their self esteem because they feel like they are accomplishing something
-assists me in staying with something so that a concept can be solidified (think MATH)
– Gives them a VISUAL representation of their work which is easier than me explaining the list verbally

Does that sounds good to you?

This checklist takes me about 30 minutes to fill out in detail but makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

I think this list is most effective with elementary to high school age children.

Give it a try this week and see if it makes a difference for you too!

Weekly Assignment Checklist ATGT

budgeting · curriculum · homeschooling · stay home or not? · Uncategorized

One Paycheck Family: Walking a Thin Line

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Before I had children of my own, I had a somewhat (like totally and completely, actually) romantic vision of what raising them would be like. We wouldn’t need the fanciest things, the biggest house or the most modern car; we would just need EACH OTHER. As a stay-at-home mom, I imagined scrimping and sacrificing to make ends meet while my husband worked hard.

And, like….totally and completely loving it.

We decided, when my first son was born, I would stay home.  Having pretty conservative views towards child-rearing, I felt it was the right thing to do.   Stay at home, run the home and raise the littles.  I still believe those things.

But, guess what?   That means I quit my $70,000 a year job and the raises that came with upward mobility.

Now in the beginning that was cool. Me, being really a financially CLUELESS person (really clueless, people), I gladly tossed it into the wind to do something nobler – and I have not regretted it.

But me, like many, many of you moms (or dads) out there was not prepared for what raising children in the new millenia meant with only ONE PAYCHECK to keep us afloat.

The Washington Post, in 2017, tells us that it is in fact, more expensive to raise a child than ever. According to them, it costs about $13,000 a year. And the more money you have, the more you spend on them.

Now when I was holding that squirmy little boy, I didn’t want to put a price tag on his little bald head, but, in essence, now that he is a teenager, he is even MORE expensive! And you moms and dads of teens know what I am talking about (video games, shoes, clothes he constantly grows out of, etc.)

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$$ Homeschooling $$

We also homeschool.  Which I love (most days).

I have heard it said many, many times that homeschooling is as expensive as you want it to be. And while that is somewhat true, let’s be completely honest here. As your students age, the things that you want for them educationally tend to grow more expensive too.

My 13-year-old is no longer content cranking out some $8.99 workbooks and attending one co-op a week.  He loves to be around people, has an engineering brain that we want to nurture and need to learn Algebra (!).

So, while it is probably less expensive that public school (no uniforms, tuition, annual back to school shopping list, PTO, etc.), it has its own costs. (Can I get an Amen?)

My A-ha Moment

This year I had an a-ha moment. This is the “heart” (hard) part.

My husband tends to look forlorn sometimes, and for the hundredth time in a row, when I asked why he looked concerned, he said: our finances. He has always been so good at managing our finances I have rarely had to worry.  But, the last 6 months have seemed especially tough on him.

And I finally got it – we had slipped out of the habit of living as if we only had one paycheck.

I say “we,” I mean “me.”

You may not have the same approach to finances as we do and I respect that.  But my husband and I had a routine, an agreement, a “way” of doing things, and I had tossed it to the side because I got … bored? fearful? not content?  I am not really sure.

I had not been as frugal as I needed to be. I had been splurging a little too much.  I had not been denying myself as much as I should. I had been signing the kids up for events and making emotional purchases without really praying about it and running it by him as I had for so many years.

And we had hit a financial wall. Not a terrible, horrible one, but a pretty bad one.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s not ALL my fault.  I know that. I do bring in a teeny, tiny writing paycheck that covers some incidentals..but…

But, with my lack of discipline and only one-paycheck-thing, we are walking a very fine line.

As a stay-at-home parent, you feel the pressure as well? I just wanted you to know, you’re not alone!

 

 

 

 

 

curriculum · goals · homeschooling · Uncategorized

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.

check

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?

 

 

 

curriculum · gardening · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · Uncategorized

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!

 

curriculum · homeschooling · toddlers · Uncategorized

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

curriculum · first time · future · goals · homeschool solutions · homeschooling

Getting Started in Homeschooling: Writing a Mission Statement

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This is for all you Mama’s who are just getting started.

Recently I conducted a workshop for parents new to homeschooling.  Trying to be thorough, we covered a lot of different subjects:
-the legalities of homeschooling
-different curricula that is available
-the option of using classes or co-op’s to enhance your teaching
-the truth behind socialization (they get plenty by the way…).

But, the more we talked, the more I saw the moms and dads’ eyes WIDEN in disbelief.

Hopefully this post will help start you on your path to homeschooling without feeling too overwhelmed.

In order to reach any new destination you need a road map. When you walk out your door to go somewhere you have never been before, don’t you pull out your phone and type in the address so you can have directions easily accessible?

Why would we approach something as monumental as educating our children without some sort of map?

Granted, not all of us are good at planning ahead.  (Me too.)

After six years of homeschooling though, and making the mistake of wasting my time on some classes and groups I should never have participated in, I see the mission statement’s resounding value.

Let’s jump in.

Using my mission statement worksheet, spend some time thinking about/writing down why you have chosen to homeschool. 

  • Is your child unhappy in school?
  • Are they falling behind?
  • Do they have problems with bullying?

I began to homeschool because I was concerned my older, extremely inquisitive child would be dulled and bored by the public school routine.  I wanted to offer him adventure, hence the name of our school: Adventure School!

Next, think about the things/write down the things that are important to your family.

  • Is it important to you that your children read a lot?
  • Do you want them to be able to explore their artistic interests?
  • Do you feel a spiritual component is essential to your family life?
  • Do you want to make sure that they spend an ample amount of time out in nature?

Now, spend some time thinking about/writing out the things you feel you will be happy to leave behind once you start homeschooling.

  • Does your child hate getting up early?
  • Does your child despise workbooks?
  • Does you child need the flexibility to do work at his/her own pace?

When I began, although I didn’t have a mission statement, I knew it was important to me that I had time in the Bible with my boys, that we got out in nature and that school would be varied and interesting. I wanted to keep them involved in peer-appropriate activities and to teach them important life skills.

My mission statement for this school year reads as follows:

“Our family will homeschool in order to make sure that our children have enough time to foster their relationship with God as well as their interests and passions. By homeschooling, we will not only pursue academics, we will have new and varied experiences and have balanced, memorable lives. By homeschooling, we will surround our children with positive influences, maintain the home as the central hub of of their lives and teach them practical life skills.”

Here is the MISSION STATEMENT template again.

Good luck writing your mission statement and let me know how it goes!