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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baby · homeschool solutions · Mommas · technology

Limiting Technology: Again

There was one day a couple of weeks ago, when my kids got a wake up call.
I am not proud to say this, but I had been allowing them to watch WAY too much television.

They would wake up, watch TV, do school, watch TV, play video games then watch TV.

I had gotten into a rut.  With a new baby, I had been super tired and had not been keeping a careful eye on their technology consumption.

It happens.

But this one day, my older son got off the Wii and came in crying.  Like, really crying. He was upset about some level in some game against some “boss” he was battling. He yelled at me, yelled at his brother and was generally DISAGREEABLE.

I realized – it’s the technology.

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I have known for a long time that video games and TV watching triggers certain parts of your brain that are associated with depression, but you know, life happened and we fell down the tunnel of technology-keeps-them-from-bickering into a comfortable place where I was allowing technology to give me some much needed peace and quiet.

Maybe you can relate.

I have some friends who have completely eliminated technology from their homes – I really admire them. But I feel perhaps we are too far down the road to take that route.  

So what are we to do?

Here’s the thing. What I have learned is that we will start off with strict parameters around technology, they eventually wane and weaken.  It’s the times when the rules falter that I often need to re-evaluate and recommit to what I feel are healthy levels of technology time.

When I notice the behavior is off, and the transition time from technology to “real life” is bumpy, it’s time to employ one of my de-tox techniques.

They are:

A tightening of the belt so-to-speak. I ask them to recommit (as mommy will too) to the one hour of video games a day we allow.

I engage them more. I step up my requests to ask them to draw, write, read or do some other activity or I offer to do an activity with them.

I ask for a 2 to 3-day fast from technology. I ask the boys to choose two days that they will not be on technology all day.  Yeah, they can be long days…but it’s worth it!

Or do all three!

I often see an immediate change upon doing these things.

Can you think of any other ideas that you can share with me in the comments? 
I would love to hear your perspective.

Jenny

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

chores · homemaking · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · library · Mommas · toddlers

When Your Day Doesn’t Go As You Planned

It is partly my fault and partly just the way things worked out, but today didn’t go as planned.

I say my fault because I know I was lacking in self-discipline and I slept too long and didn’t start my morning routine on time.

But, things didn’t unfold the way I had expected either.

Have you ever had one of those days?

My main goals of the day was to make sure the kids did a good size amount of school work and to get my 2-year-old to his weekly library visit.

I was running behind. It was already 10:30 am and I wanted to get him to the library.  I got dressed and him dressed and changed his pull-up(joy).  Then we proceeded to spend the next half an hour looking for a complete set of shoes.

We had one shoe of both his pairs. One sneaker and one cowboy boot.

:/

I had both other kids looking too (impatiently because they know when I go out they can pay video games). They pooped out on looking pretty quickly leaving me to scrounge closets and look under couches.

After a running around the house with my winter coat on (getting hot), and frustrated because there isn’t an actual PAIR of shoes to put on him, I gave up.

I put him in the car and drove to Target.  

I went to Target reasoning that, after all, I had to get coffee, so I might as well get his winter boots too.

Yeah, I was the mom strolling around her 2 year old in cart with no.shoes.on.

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After we found some boots, he began to get really moody and grumpy.  But that didn’t stop me from buying a whole bunch of other stuff that I probably should have used coupons for and bought only when they were on sale.

Then he fell asleep in the car.

We never got to the library.

Happily, when I did get home the older boys had started school.

Day gets back on track? No.

Our internet pooped out in the middle of school.

So, I had to get on the phone with them and figure that out (which I did not resolve and they are coming out tomorrow).

While I was on the phone on hold I was trying to teach my 5th grader the different properties of matter.

Yes, you read that correctly.

“Ma’am, may I have the model of your modem please?”

“Density, son. D-E-N-S-I-T-Y.”

“Ma’am?”

My day didn’t go as planned.

But in the middle of Target, as I was walking toward the shoe section, with a quick detour at Starbucks, I decided something.

Instead of longing for a day I had expected, I was going to embrace the day I was given. I had a quick talk with God, and I said, “God, things aren’t going the way I wanted them to. What are you trying to tell me? Whatever it is, I will thank you for the day and do my best with it.”

I decided I would take the day as it came.  That I would not lament over goals undone, chores put off, school done through distractions…

I decided to roll with it.  I said, “Show me Lord what YOUR plan is today.”

That is so hard to do as moms. It’s so hard to let go of all the hopes we had for the day, and just BE with them, however that may look.

I did get to the library later in the day.

They did some school.

Tonight we are watching a movie together.

Do you think I will ever find those shoes?

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goals · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · secrets · Uncategorized

Secrets Homeschool Moms Keep

Shhhh!

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 (6 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!

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My kids sometimes 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.  No every lesson is a winner.

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. They have shifting moods, just like we do, so each day may be a new box of candy (to quote Forest Gump).

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.

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My kids can be a little ‘weird’ sometimes

My kids get excited about some non-mainstream things.  Like Mario and Minecraft, like the latest Youtube video they have seen about the “Secrets of Cats”, like designing their own Dungeons and Dragons game.

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.

Your kids may have interests too that their public-school peers don’t even know about (and, of course, visa-versa). It’s ok!

“If you have spent ANY time at all homeschooling,
you have regrets and wishes.”

I have regrets about homeschooling and sometimes 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 I wish I had done more or better or longer or more ….. the list goes on.

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.

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“Sometimes when my husband comes home from work,
I literally run away because I need to out of the house!”

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 literally 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 nice 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.

Secrets.

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

Jenny

 

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!

 

homeschool solutions · homeschooling · Mommas

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

 

 

 

 

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!