Thoughts On Planning Your Homeschool Year

Planning Your Homeschool YearAnd so it begins again, time to plan our 2015 – 2016 homeschool year. One of my very best friends, who also homeschools, called me the other day and asked if I had a plan. I LOVE her to death and think everyone needs a homeschool friend like her who you can get real with – anyway, we both agreed not to have the “planning” conversation again until at least the beginning of August. I told her, at the time, I was planning on Unschooling or taking a “Gap” Year – can one even do that with an 8th, 7th, and 5th grader? Just kidding … I have not gone completely off the deep end but, sometimes the thought of planning another school year can get me a little crazy. I have gleaned so much knowledge in my last 9 years of doing this … So, if you are just starting out as a homeschooler or dreading planning out your own year – please read on.

First, I will tell you we have done it all … or, at least it feels like we have. Everything from “out-of-the-box” traditional Christian curriculum, like Abeka, all the way to a Charlotte Mason eclectic mix. We have done Classical Conversations and outside classes at a local hybrid school.

What have I learned … they are all great! Each one of the programs/curriculum’s we have participated in were amazing. Now, don’t get me wrong none of them were perfect and you can always find something you wish might work better or be taught differently.

So, as you begin to plan your year and as I plan mine keep this mind – there really are not too many “wrong” choices out there. Do not compare your children and your homeschool to what everyone else is doing around you. Now, that’s not to say that you don’t ask for some suggestions or recommendations but, remember, everyone has an opinion and you must decide for yourself what will work.

We have the blessing of being a part of a large homeschool group (we have for many years). If I surveyed those families – out of 100, I would probably find 85 of them doing something different. Even those families who might be in an on-campus program one or two days a week, their days at home probably look different then their friends. Do what works for you!

Second, those cute “homeschool rooms” may be great when your kids are really little (think early elementary) but, trying to replicate a school room is really not necessary. Remember, you homeschool for a reason. If you wanted your child in a traditional public school classroom they would be there. I drove myself crazy setting up our rooms just perfectly for many years. Then my kids grew older and I found 1/4 way into our homeschool year everyone was homeschooling around the house. While some prefer the quite of their bedroom others prefer to stretch on our wood floor or a gymnastics mat as they do math or read. We still like to come together to do history and science – that is now around our dining room table or kitchen table.

I found that it is more important for the kids’ work to be portable so they each have a large wicker basket and a plastic basket – both fit into a large IKEA shelving unit. Small whiteboards, an individual pencil box, and a clipboard are necessities. All these items can easily be gathered up and taken with us outside or to a ballet/baseball private lesson during the school day.

Third, do not attempt to keep up with your friend who has the perfect homeschool room, the perfect curriculum which must equate to perfect children! Trust me when I say “no homeschool is perfect” – some are just better at faking it. I am ashamed to say I am probably one of those. Early on I would even coach my children exactly what to say if someone asked how our homeschooling was going. No more … we have struggles, my kids have strengths and weaknesses, just like any student.

Love on your children, enjoy your time together (it goes by way too fast), when things get really hard or your having a bad day – get up and get out of the house. Go for a hike, grab a snack at the donut shop, remember the reason you homeschool! We homeschool for flexibility and the ability for our children to learn with curriculum tailored to their own uniqueness.

I look back at how my mom homeschooled my three youngest siblings … my Mom and my Dad (a public school teacher – gasp!) homeschooled before homeschooling was the “in” thing to do. There were very few “out-of-the-box” curriculum’s to pick from and no big homeschool convention to attend. My three youngest siblings are awesome individuals … one of them went on to become a professional ballerina, the other is now in Sommelier school, and the third is helping run a professional football franchise. They were allowed at young ages to follow their unique path!

As we all head down the planning path for the coming school year let’s all remind each other what is important, why we homeschool, and the need to keep it simple! Happy Planning!

Have you started to plan for the new school year? Is your year already planned? What is on the horizon?

A New Year … and a new semester.

THE BEST THINGAVAILABLEDoesn’t it seem like you blink and the Christmas season is over? All too soon it is back to the everyday …

January can be a hard month for homeschoolers. There is always so much to look forward to in the Fall when it is back to school – football games, fall leaves, and holidays. Many times when we head back in January, and look ahead to that long stretch of Winter, it can just all seem so monotonous.

One way to combat the post-holiday back to school blues – plan some fun activities. Get together with friends for lunch, get a field trip on the calendar, try out a new sport – like indoor rock climbing. Just get out and away from the house!

Or, if the weather has you stuck at home – change up your homeschool day. Do school by the fire, have a day y’all stay in your jammies, find some great History documentaries on Netflix and pop some popcorn.

January is also a good month to start thinking about your plans for next year. Many hybrid homeschool programs and enrichment classes begin enrolling for the next school year in February. Give yourself some time to think about what has worked so far this year and any changes you might want to make. And, while your at it … set some goals to help you finish out this school year strong! A great way to do that is to set some SMART goals –

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Time-Based

SMART Goals Sheet

One goal my daughter, Ava Mae, has set (see her sheet above) is to memorize the whole timeline for Classical Conversations (the on campus program we do on Wednesdays). The timeline is long (encompassing Creation to Present Day) … it takes about 15 minutes for her to say it all and that is talking fast. So we set this specific goal – it is easily measurable – definitely achievable (she has been working on it since last year) – most certainly realistic for a student her age – and time based (she wants to have it memorized by the end of our Classical Conversations school year – the first week of April). Do you or your children have any goals for this 2nd semester? I know it also helps to have some sort of reward for those who attain their SMART goal.

And, I have a made this SMART goal sheet we have for our homeschool a FREE PDF download for you … just CLICK HERE. Because, I do not like printables that drain all of my color print cartridge I kept it simple but, as you can see above, your kids can easily decorate the sheet. Then find a place in your homeschool to pin it up … it is a great reminder of the goal they are working toward and the reward at the end.

Hoping your 2015 is off to a great start! What SMART goals have you set for your homeschool?

5 Fall Field Trips in the Atlanta Metro Area

5 Fall Field Trips

Want to know one of the best things about homeschooling? Field trips can be taken any day of the week and include just your family or a bunch of friends! Our family has participated in so many wonderful field trips over the years. We all know homeschoolers love to learn differently, so gather your gear, and get out of the house to enjoy the beauty of the fall.

1. Morgan Falls Overlook Park is the perfect destination for you and your friends to take the kids for an afternoon. Parking and access is free, and the park has plenty of open space for playing sports, a great playground, and a hiking trail. There are picnic facilities, so plan to pack your lunch and bring it along.

2. Few things are more of a quintessential fall activity than a visit to the pumpkin patch and corn maze. Here is a list of places in the Atlanta Metro area. Many of the pumpkin patches have already harvested the pumpkins from the field and placed them in a large, open expanse for kids to go through and pick from. Read carefully, because some locations have excellent additional activities too, for kids of all ages to engage in. Do you prefer apple picking? Here are the orchards listed for the Atlanta Metro area.

3. Why not bring science and history to a new level by visiting the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area? The park is filled with an abundance of flora, birds, insects, and wildlife, and during the Fall the leaves are amazing. There is a minimal $3.00 entrance fee, if you don’t fall under one of the exemptions. Gates are open 9-5, so plan to spend the day walking the nature trails, 19th century historic sites, and Native American archeological sites.

4. When is the last time you went to ZooAtlanta? Tourists are gone and students are back in school, which means you will have a much better experience at the zoo. Depending on your budget, you can experience just the zoo, or add in an all-day ride bracelet. Got an aspiring veterinarian in your midst? How about scheduling an encounter feeding and caring for the zoo animals?

5. Bring history to life for your students (aka ‘kids’) at the Tullie Smith Farm, which is a part of the Atlanta History Center. Workers are dressed in period dress and occupy themselves doing vocations of the era. Admission is reasonable and the farm is open 10:00-5:30 (M-Sat, opens at noon on Sunday) Kids can participate in the Civil War era daily activities of farming, or just watch. Areas include the blacksmith shop, dairy, corncrib, and smoke house, as well as the kitchen of the farmhouse. Explore the map and plan your day, as there will not be time to see and participate in everything.

Take advantage of the cooler temps that the Atlanta area offers us this time of year, not to mention the beautiful color show, and get outside! Fall is the perfect time for field trips before the yucky winter weather.

What are some of your favorite field trips?

 

Hornswoggle : A Book Review

Hornswoggle Book Review

Recently I had the opportunity to review a new book by author, Trip Hughes. The name of the books is Hornswoggle. It is a sweet story about a young girl named, Eden who purchases a mysterious egg from a peculiar little shop in the orchard near her home. Shortly after a dragon hatches from the egg but, this dragon is not like any other dragon. All attempts to help the dragon learn to fly fail as Eden discovers that not everyone’s gifts are the same, and a deep friendship is born.

Hornswoggle Book Review

The illustrations are wonderful!

“Although he did not look like other dragons, and could not act like other dragons, even though he could not fly, he was still a very special dragon.

Hornswoggle was her dragon, and she knew that they would have big adventures.”

My children absolutely loved this story! It is written well and the illustrations are adorable. A great book based on the scripture Jeremiah 29:11. I feel this book would make a great addition to any home or a great gift, think Christmas!

Hornswoggle Book ReviewAvailable for purchase at Barnes & Noble.

Homeschooling Reality

Official School Photo 2014 - 2015

Don’t you just love all those beautiful homeschool rooms you find on Pinterest. I have totally been sucked in by looking at them. 

I would love to just go and hangout in a few of those school rooms! But, back to reality … this is how we homeschool … 

homeschooling

Gone are the days of sitting at a cute school table! Embracing this change … as long as schoolwork gets done any location in our home is fair game.

So where do you homeschool?

Back to “School” … tips from a seasoned homeschool mom

It’s time … time to pull ourselves out of summer mode and kick-off our homeschool year!

There are always a variety of attitudes towards going back to “school”. While some students are very excited – others tend to be a bit unmotivated – wanting that summer schedule to never end. Even the seasoned homeschool moms struggles sometimes when the school year gets back into swing … many times it is just overwhelming when you think of the year ahead and everything that needs to be accomplished.

It is time to step back … take a deep breath … and face that new school year with a smile. Take it one day at a time … whether you have a lesson plan book filled with your whole year or just a post it with the next five minutes planned. I promise it is going to be o.k. I have done it both ways and I can assure you my kids learned just as much the years we had to wing it a little as the years when I planned everything down to the last minute of our school day.

Here are some tips and tricks for helping you kick off your school year.

Start the day off with a positive attitude.

  • Like they say, “A smile goes a long way!”
  • Get excited for the new year, your excitement for the new year will be contagious.
  • Never complain about the start of the year. Talk about some fun things you would like to do over the school year. {maybe plan a fun field trip that first week or two of school}

Get organized.

  • Out with the old … in with the new! Spend some time clearing those school shelves and packing up last year’s work. If your kids are old enough – get them involved it will have everyone transition back into school mode.
  • Set up your spaces! It doesn’t have to be a fancy school room but, having the kitchen table clean and ready for the first day is important.
  • Make sure you stock up on school supplies while there are sales … and, if you start later than your area schools – take advantage of the clearance prices! Now is the best time to get all your markers, colored pencils, notebook paper, and folders for the year.
  • Have your curriculum and schedule planned out.

Give your student(s) special treatment for the first day of school.

  • Have a fun breakfast at home or change things up and head out for donuts!
  • Some school years, when I really have it together, I have even picked out a small token gift and have it sitting on our school table.

Take pictures!

  • There are tons of fun ideas on Pinterest for staging great 1st day of school pics for homeschoolers.
  • We try and snap a pic of each child individually holding up a sign with the grade they are starting and a group shot. Some years this goes better than others …

Lighten the load.

  • Since it is the first day of school, try not to make it overwhelming.
  • Give each child a chance to settle into the new schedule and routine. Talk about what the school year is going to look like, expectations, and fun things you have planned.

Really enjoy that first day back!! Don’t think of the 180 days to come – live in the moment!

Have a homeschool question … I would love to hear from you!!

 

Summer Plans {2014}

Hard to believe how much we always cram into those last few weeks before summer begins … we’ve done baseball games, a dance competition, dance recital, and testing. So nice to have a breather for a few weeks before our summer plans kick into gear.

On tap this summer …

  • Classical Conversations Practicum/Tutor Training/Camp for the kids and I
  • Homeschool Group Book Sale
  • VBS at our church
  • 4th of July trip to Asheville, North Carolina
  • 90 hours of a ballet summer intensive for Lexi and Ava Mae
  • Baseball Private Coaching for Devin
  • Lots of swimming and fun with friends!
  • Camp Winshape for Devin
  • Two different Camp Crafty Girls days at my home
  • Hosting a foreign exchange student from France in July

After all that fun, I have a feeling we will look forward to heading back to school at the end of August! Speaking of school … we aren’t putting our studies aside for the whole summer. Devin and Lexi are working on getting all of their reading done, for the 2014-2015 school year. We are also going to start working on Latin vocabulary – doesn’t that sound like fun! Ava Mae will work on becoming a more fluent reader, so lots of reading on tap for her.

The kids can’t wait to get to our pool … I like to wait until at least Memorial Day. With the cold winter we had I cannot imagine our pool warming up before June.